Friday 31 January 2014


Images copyright relevant owners

Wouldn't it be great if Annuals were kept in print in the same way as most other books?  Just imagine going into a bookshop and being able to buy the latest printing of the 1958 EAGLE Annual for boys, or the 1968 FANTASTIC Annual - or any Annual you please, in fact.  I don't know if he was joking at the time (or merely being optimistic), but LEO BAXENDALE once claimed in the pages of one of his WILLIE The KID Books (second, I think) that they were going to be kept in print forever.  If this was indeed the intention, it must've been dependent on the books being a huge success, which, sadly, didn't seem to be the case as there were only three of them.  (Must've had a three-book deal, I guess, which would've been renewed at regular intervals had they been bestsellers.  It was not to be.)

One of my favourite Annuals was the MARVEL Annual for 1973, which went on sale late, in November of '72, as opposed to August or September.  I first saw it in the window of a great shop that used to be in my town - W. & R. HOLMES - and I bought it at the earliest opportunity.  It's odd that it was released later, so could it, perhaps, have been an afterthought in the minds of Marvel?  Though it's always possible that it was published at the same time as the other Annuals and held back a bit, on account of some of the stories also appearing in the early issues of its weekly counterpart - The MIGHTY WORLD Of MARVEL.

On reflection though, it seems likely it was prepared prior to the release of the weekly as, inside, it refers to (according to DEZ SKINN in a 1979 magazine article) the comic's proposed title, The WONDERFUL World Of Marvel, which was probably changed for any one of three possible reasons.  Firstly, that it was too long; secondly, to avoid any problems with DISNEY who had a television programme of a similar name (ironic in that Disney now owns Marvel); and thirdly, that 'Mighty' just sounds better!  (It seems that there was still some indecision over the name when the cover was prepared, as the book was simply called Marvel Annual.)  Although ads in the comic showed a picture of the cover with a 1973 date on it, the actual published cover was undated.

Funnily enough, that same year ('72), another Annual was also available - WHAM! & POW! - whose weekly comics had once featured some of the very same characters as the new Marvel Annual.  Considering that the title had been Pow! & Wham! when the comics combined back in 1968, perhaps the '73 Annual (and the subsequent '74 one) was only released to redress the injustice of the superior Wham! being subsumed by its lesser stablemate, Pow!  The combined weekly had expired in 1968, and given that the contents of the later Annuals bore absolutely no resemblance to their parent comics, one wonders why they were produced at all.  (Presumably, the previous Annuals sold well.)

Curiously, the Marvel Annual bears the FLEETWAY symbol, though I'm unsure if it would've featured in any brochures of Fleetway books for '73.  Obviously it was produced at the behest of Marvel, as IPC had the means to publish and distribute Annuals, whereas, at that time, Marvel didn't.  (IPC/Fleetway also produced the '74 Annual, still bearing only the name Marvel.  "The Mighty World of" part of the title finally turned up on the cover of the 1977 edition, issued at the end of '76, though it had started appearing inside the books since the '75 Annual, on sale in '74.)

It's interesting that both the Marvel and Wham! & Pow! books had 128 pages (including covers), but that Wham! & Pow! had 30 in full-colour whereas Marvel was mostly black and white with 16 pages of spot-colour.  As both Annuals were priced at 65 pence, I can't help but feel that readers were being a little short-changed in regards to the Marvel book, which would certainly have benefitted from the inclusion of full-colour.  Marvel must have supplied brand-new proofs to IPC for the book, because I once saw some of the original ODHAMS proofs from the '60s in the IPC art vaults and they were all resized two pages-to-one, unlike the '73 Annual.

Perhaps keeping Annuals in print in perpetuity is nothing but a pipe-dream, but, with the advent of the Internet, while actual print editions might never be republished (though it's been done with the RUPERT Annuals), there's no reason at all why online versions of them couldn't be made available (at a modest price), allowing readers to print their own copies.  What do the rest of you think?  Don't be shy about having your say in the Criv-ites' comments section.

Wednesday 29 January 2014


I'm feeling fair chuffed with myself.  Here's why.  About 33 years ago, I bought a pack of 'Heritage Library' book covers, the purpose of which was to transform paperbacks into hardbacks and thereby make them look more impressive on one's bookshelf.  I duly performed the operation - which involved removing the backing from the adhesive interiors of the covers and inserting the books - on three or four paperbacks I had.

The results were not quite so impressive as I'd imagined and I immediately regretted my rash action.  Too late, alas - the new covers couldn't be removed from the books without inflicting major damage, so I just had to live with them.  One of the volumes was a paperback of The Wind In The Willows, which I vaguely noticed was now the precise dimensions of an actual hardback edition of the book I also possessed, but it was to be quite some time before my mighty brain 'joined the dots' and came up with a rescue plan.

Anyway, to cut a long story to a slightly shorter (but still too long) one, the other day I rediscovered said transformed book and decided to restore it to some semblance of normality.  I dug out my copy of the 'genuine' hardback and scanned the dustjacket, and then printed off a replica of it, resulting in a perfect fit for the compromised edition.  All I need do now is obtain a clear protective sleeve for the dustjacket, and the book's integrity will be fully restored.

Don't believe me?  See for yourself in the accompanying photos.  Not a bad job at all, if I say so myself.


Images copyright DC COMICS

JIMMY OLSEN was never a regular buy for me when I was a kid, though that changed when JACK KIRBY took over for 15 issues back in the '70s.  One that sticks in my mind however, is the above one - #97 - bought by my brother during my family's holiday in Largs in 1968.  He also purchased FANTASTIC #70, featuring the first half of the origin of The INCREDIBLE HULK.  This was the first time ODHAMS had reprinted the tale, having begun with issue #2 when the strip debuted in SMASH! in 1966.  However, the GARGOYLE part of the tale had appeared back in Smash! #27, cover-dated August 6th 1966, as a self-contained story, out of sequence with, and seemingly unconnected to, The Hulk's origin tale.)

To digress for a moment, this was a peculiarity of Odhams: They didn't bother with SPIDER-MAN's origin from AMAZING FANTASY #15, instead starting with ASM #1 when the series appeared in POW!.  Nor did they commence with DAREDEVIL's origin in Smash!, reserving an abridged version of the tale for the 1968 Fantastic Summer Special.  I'd have to check, but I don't think they published the first-ever AVENGERS story either, though I could be wrong on that one.  As far as I can remember, the only characters that they definitely printed from their very first issues were The FANTASTIC FOUR, THORIRON MAN, X-MEN and DOCTOR STRANGE.

On that '68 holiday, I also acquired a bendy CAPTAIN SCARLET figure and a STEVE ZODIAC & ZOONY The LAZOON on a jet-mobile toy.  Whenever I look at my replacements of either the Jimmy Olsen or Fantastic comics, or the Steve Zodiac toy (I haven't got 'round to replacing Captain Scarlet yet), I'm instantly transported back in time to our holiday residence for that year, which was the ground floor flat of what was essentially a Glasgow-type tenement, complete with the 'luxury' of an outside toilet in the back courtyard.

One day, my brother bought a trick dog-poo, which we placed on the pavement outside the front of the building, then stood around trying to look nonchalant so that we could register the looks of disgust on the faces of passers-by.  It went largely unnoticed, to the extent that somebody accidentally kicked it as they passed, sending it skiting along the path.  'Twas my idea to pour some water over it, to give it the appearance of a more realistic, freshly-deposited doggie-jobbie, but that failed to attract any more attention than before.

We were to return to Largs two more times, in 1969 and '71.  No doubt I'll regale you with the background to some of the comics and toys I bought on those occasions at a future date.  (You lucky 'Criv-ites', you!  I really shouldn't spoil you so much.)

Image copyright MARVEL COMICS

Since first posting this, I've been back to Largs, and below is an example of the type of tenement we stayed in, where me and my brother perpetrated our doggie-poo trick.  Ah, memories!

Tuesday 28 January 2014


My first-ever strip appeared in my local newspaper around 1975 or '76, I think.  (I'm sure it pre-dated my GORDIE GOOSE full-page strip in the BOOTS NEWS.)  It was called E.K. KID, consisting of a single tier of three panels, and earned me a whopping £5.  To be honest, it wasn't very good, but hey, a fiver back then wasn't to be sniffed at.  Mr. ERIC BARR (now sadly deceased) was the discerning editor who tried to encourage a relatively recent school-leaver in developing his talents.

By 1984, my latest creation - PERCY PROON - E.K.'s No. 1 LOON - had already made a couple of appearances in the local rag, so I produced a third helping for possible publication.  It was rejected for being "Too verbose and too violent", though this could simply have been Mr. Barr's coded way of telling me it just wasn't very funny.  I never got a chance to do any more, for later that same year I met IPC's STEVE MacMANUS at a Glasgow comic mart, who promised me some lettering work on 2000 A.D.  A couple of months or so later, at the beginning of '85, my full- time career working for the 'big guns' had begun.

However, that wasn't the last to be seen of Percy.  When I was re-sizing strips for the WHIZZER & CHIPS and BUSTER comic libraries, I would often draw in 'E.K.'s No. 1 Loon' to fill up some space.  (There are a few examples below).  Regarding the above strip, it was drawn with a felt-tip marker and lettered with a fountain pen, and is a nice, clean, nothing brilliant drawing.  If I were doing it today, I'd vary the thickness of the outlines and give the characters circles around their eyes, because 'dots' alone restrict facial expression to some degree.

Anyway, the above strip has finally made its debut after thirty years of languishing neglected in a cupboard.  Hope you like it.  (First one to say "You should've left it in the cupboard" gets slapped!)


Image copyright MARVEL COMICS

(Today's post is taken from Roddy Weed's blog and is
published with full permission - take it away, Roddy...)


Hi, fans - I'm RODDY WEED and I'm back yet again with a few
fascinating facts (that you already know) and loads of fantastic throw-
away theories to amaze & astound you ('cos they're so far-out) on
this, the world's greatest blogazine - DIAL 'B' For BULLSH*T

Think you know the origin of the FANTASTIC FOUR?  Well,
IRoddy Weed, am about to give you the real, honest-to-goodness
lowdown on the true origin of the fab foursome created by STAN LEE
and JACK KIRBY in 1961.  For instance, did you know that the actual
prototypes of the FF were ROBIN HOOD & His MERRY MEN?  Hard
to believe?  Well, IRoddy Weed, writer of the greatest blogazine in
the history of the world, am going to prove it to you right now.

ROBIN Of LOXLEY, also known as the outlaw ROBIN HOOD,
had four main comrades in his band of SHERWOOD FOREST fol-
and MAID MARION.  Pay attention now, while I exclusively reveal
the astounding, irrefutable conclusions of many minutes of pains-
taking research and several seconds of convoluted contemplation
on the pertinent points which prompt my cataclysmic claim.

REED RICHARDS is clearly based on Robin Hood because
he's the leader of the group in the same way that Robin is chief
of his merry men.  Also, his stretching ability mirrors the expanse-
spanning reach that Robin's arrows allow him in his quest for
justice, enabling him to smite his enemies from a distance.

BEN GRIMM is obviously an amalgam of Little John and
Friar Tuck; John is grim-miened (hence Ben's surname) and a
man of great strength, while Tuck, despite his ungainly appearance
(just like Ben's) has a heart of gold and is possessed of a noble spirit
that echoes his modern-day counterpart.  Likewise, Ben's orange-
hued epidermis is reminiscent of Tuck's ruddy complexion.

JOHNNY STORM is undoubtedly Will Scarlet - the colour
of his fiery alter-ego being the living embodiment of Will's surname.
Just like Will, Johnny is sometimes a bit hot-headed (wilful even),
further confirming the uncanny similarities 'twixt the two men.  No
doubt Will often used flaming arrows to lay his enemies low just
as Johnny has done when tossing fireballs at the bad guys.

SUSAN STORM is inarguably the modern-day equivalent of
Maid Marion.  Firstly, she's the only permanent female member
of the group (like Marion) and, furthermore, she eventually wed
the group's leader, providing persuasive proof that the FF were
(perhaps - maybe - probably - oh, what the hell - definitely)
inspired by and based upon Robin and his outlaw band.

Unconvinced?  Consider PRINCE JOHN then.  Patently the
archetype on whom the FF's arch-foe, DOCTOR DOOM, is based.
Just like John, Doom lives in a castle;  just like John, who conceals
his true persona under the guise of benign ruler of a country, Doom
hides his true visage under a mask.  And in the same way that John
hates Robin and his band and tries to kill them, Doom's mission
is to wipe Reed and his team from the face of the Earth.

The similarities are simply stunning, and 'tis only IRoddy
Weed, who - despite all these glaring clues staring everyone in the
face for years - has recognised their significance and pieced them to-
gether using my highly imaginative and creative cranium (and a few
reefers) to educate and enlighten your dull and dreary lives and
save you from the tedium of your vapid, pointless existence.

This is IRoddy Weed, creator of the world's greatest blog-
azine, signing off for the foreseeable future - so that you'll all miss
     me and pine for my return.  (What will you do without me?)     

Monday 27 January 2014


It's amazing what one can find whilst digging through cupboards.  Case in point, the set of cards which now adorns this page.  I must've been 19 when one of the drivers (I think) for the BAIRDS department store stockroom I worked in, asked me to draw a set of cards for a game he'd come up with designed to teach kids road safety.

I can no longer recall if I gave him copies before I left the store to work in my local library, or if he ever pursued his idea, but I was quite proud of the pencilled prototypes which you now see before you.  I think I've still got the rules of the game, so perhaps I should approach a games company and see if I can get them interested.  Of course, then I'd have to try and track down the game's originator, and I'm not sure if he's still alive after all this time or, indeed, even what his name is.

Where's SHERLOCK when you need him? 


Image copyright MARVEL COMICS

For those who may be interested, I finally managed to find the photocopy of my letter published in The MIGHTY WORLD Of MARVEL back in 1977 - so, as promised, here it is.  I'd forgotten the number, but I also uncovered a copy of a later letters page reply which identified the particular issue - #226.  Now all I need to do is discover in which number the reply was published and I'll be a very satisfied man.

Unfortunately, the copy of my missive is far too faded to reproduce well, but I managed to discern what it said and retyped it so you can read what my younger self was saying in 1977.



                Dear Marvel,

                It is well-known by comic fans today that Marvel is the world's largest
                and most popular comic book publishing company compared with all
                the other companies in this field of artistic endeavour.  It is also well-
                known that Marvel characters are supposed to be more realistic than
                characters portrayed by competitors.  In Marvel the characters have
                money problems, romantic hang-ups, feelings of inadequacy, vanity,
                jealousy, fear, etc.  In Stan Lee's best-selling book, "Origins of Marvel
                Comics" he comments about the role comic books play in our society 
                today.  He says, "Or call it (the comic book medium) perhaps a rem-
                edy, a pictorial tonic to relieve the awesome affliction that threatens
                us all, the endlessly spreading virus of too much reality in a world
                that is losing its legends, a world that has lost its heroes."

                Well, it is my opinion that "the endlessly spreading virus of too much
                reality" has finally infected the media which was originally created to
                provide an escape from it.  Or, if you prefer, to offer relievement from
                it.  Let me digress for a moment.  You meet a friend who has just been to
                the cinema and when he starts to relate how the hero, who was wrongly
                imprisoned for a crime he didn't commit, escapes from jail, overpowers
                two guards, hijacks a truck and finally brings the real criminal to
                justice, you immediately think it's a film worth going to see.

                But what happens when you see the film and find out that this action
                only takes up forty minutes out of two and a half hours viewing time,
                and that the rest of the film is concerned with the hero's mother taking
                a heart attack, his father running off with the next-door neighbour's
                wife, his brother joining the army, someone feeding poisoned milk to
                his cat and finally strangling his budgie?  You'd probably go looking
                for your friend with a double-barrelled shotgun.

                Now, if that was reversed, and there was two hours of exciting car
                chases, cliffhanger exploits and other death-defying feats, with the
                hero's personal  life only taking up a half-hour scattered throughout
                the picture, then perhaps you'd think it was a really enjoyable picture,
                and you'd  probably invite your friend out for a drink the next time
                you meet him.

                And now, in case you're wondering what all this has to do with Marvel
                comics, I'll explain.  It used to be, in Marvel, that the story was con-
                cerned with the hero trying to capture the villain who set out intriguing
                traps, made sinister schemes and plotted the hero's downfall.  Occasion-
                ally, the personal lives of the characters would be hinted at in order to
                inform the reader that, although it was a superhero mag, the people in
                it were normal, with faults and follies the same as we ourselves.

                Nowadays, I have noticed a growing tendency in your mags (especially
                American) to have the story centered  around the heroes' personal lives,
                with an odd super-villain or two thrown in to provide a bit of action, and
                to remind us we're reading about superheroes.  Don't misunderstand me,
                I'm not saying cut out private lives altogether, all I'm asking is don't play
                them up so much.  A bit of soap-opera is okay once in a while in an odd
                magazine or two, but when you pick up at least ten or twelve mags
                regularly every month and you read nothing but  "O Henry" type of
                stuff, it gets kind of boring.  After all, what would YOU rather watch,
                a James Bond movie or "Crossroads"?

                                                                                                                             Gordon Robson,
                                                                                                                        Glasgow, Scotland.

                We-e-e-ll, from time to time we've had criticism tossed at us, hurled
                at us or gently pushed across the table at us.  But to you, Gordon,
                goes the distinction of being the very first critic to suggest that we
                have too much REALISM in the mags.  That "realism" is one of the
                cornerstones of Marvel.  How do we defend it without defending
                Marvel itself?  So at this stage we're gonna wait for the reaction
                from Marveldom.


And here's the reply from LANCE HANSON a few issues later:


                Dear Sir (and Gordon Robson),

                I absolutely disagree with Gordon Robson's letter in MWOM 226
                about comics having "too much reality".  He wrote, "Which would
                you rather watch, a James Bond movie or Crossroads?"  I would
                watch  James Bond.

                Well, it is my opinion that "the endlessly spreading virus of too
                much reality has finally infected the media which was originally
                created to provide an escape from it, " he wrote.  Very silly.  If I
                wanted laughable comics I would buy them.  But I don't, I buy
                comics to think about what I am reading.  I buy my comics for

                If Mr. Robson wanted reality in Marvel, why not buy "Howard
                the Duck"?  Take peter Parker, student at a university.  The death
                of Gwen Stacy shook him, but he soon got out of it..  His friendships
                and hardships with Mary Jane Watson.  His super-hero career does
                not affect him in any way.

                Gordon, make a choice.  Either take a risk of embarrassment and
                read "Funny" comics or read comics filled with signs of reality.
                Think it over again.  You might feel differently.

                                                                                                                                 Lance Hanson,
                                                                                                                   Dudley, W. Midlands. 

I'm sure I replied to Lance's letter, but no longer recall whether it was published or not.  Going by his response to my James Bond comparison, it seems plain that he didn't quite get what I was saying.  In fact, I'm far from convinced that he quite got what he was saying either, as his logic lacks cohesion, based, as it is, on a misunderstanding of my basic point.

Looking at my letter all these years later, I can only wonder why I used an obsolete word like 'relievement' instead of 'relief', but apart from that (and using the word 'media' instead of 'medium'), it wasn't too bad, considering.  So, how do I wrap this up?  Ah, I know... "Make Mine Marvel!"


UPDATE:  Since first posting this, I've now acquired a replacement copy of the actual issue.  It's like holding a little piece of history in my hands, which helps roll back the years to 1977 as if it were only a couple or so years back.  Incidentally, I now realise why the photocopy of my letter was so faded - the letter itself as printed in the comic wasn't too sharp to begin with.  Still good to have the 'original' back in my possession though.

Sunday 26 January 2014


Copyright D.C. Thomson & Co., Ltd

Today's The SUNDAY POST has another great giveaway magazine - The BROONS FAMILY TREE - with another album to follow next week.  Featuring strips by the talented KEN H. HARRISON telling the 'origins' of the Broons, this free mag will be sure to delight fans of the only artist since DUDLEY D. WATKINS to do full justice to the aforementioned Scottish family and Oor WULLIE, who first appeared in the paper's FUN SECTION way back in the '30s.

Unfortunately, the designer has gone for the cliched option of making the pages look as if they're part of a family album, which is slightly intrusive and distracting.  The first and last pages would've been fine - but all the way through?!  When is D.C. THOMSON going to learn that 'less is more' and stop compromising the integrity of a comic page with needless clutter?  Some of the pictures also look like they've been resized, and the guttering between panels - as in last week's magazine - is far too large, lending a disjointed look to the finished result.

Still, it's Ken H. Harrison, it's the Broons, and it's free -so despite my few critical reservations, well-worth having.  Rush out and buy your copy of The Sunday Post today!  

Just look at Maggie Broon - no wonder I fancy her!  Well done, Ken

Saturday 25 January 2014


Images copyright MARVEL COMICS

Amazing, isn't it?  "Er... what is?" you ask.  I'll tell you.  I recently purchased the SPIDER-MAN volume in the series of HACHETTE partworks featuring MARVEL stories, and was pleased to see a recoloured printing of Spidey's debut story from AMAZING FANTASY #15.  (I told you about it here.)

This version had originally appeared in a 2012 reprint of AF #15, which had been released as part of the ol' web-spinner's 50th Anniversary.  I'm a sucker for such publications, but it seems to have slipped under my radar at the time - because I knew nothing about it until I saw it in the Hachette edition.

Well, I just had to have the actual issue, not only because it also contained a recoloured reprint of The AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #1, but because it's simply a great little addition to the collection of any true Marvelite.  So I tracked one down on eBay and sat back to await its arrival, which happened to be this very day.  Guess what though?  The splash page art of AF #15 has been slightly cropped to accommodate the rather lengthy indicia, to my mind somewhat compromising the story's presentation.

That means that the Hachette version is more complete than the Marvel issue it's reprinted from, which is a strange state of affairs to my way of thinking.  So, if you have the recent partwork and were thinking of obtaining the 2012 issue, the former is actually a better presentation than the latter.  One thing the comic has going for it though, is, as I said, a re-coloured reprint of Spidey's first issue of his own mag, so it's worth getting it for that.

Cropped splash page, alas!  Stan and Steve's names are missing

Anyway, here are a few pages from my newly-arrived acquisition, just to let you see what delights you're missing.  Surely my gargantuan generosity knows no bounds?  (Unless you're asking for my very last ROLO - push off, it's all mine.) 


something worth reading, as well as many fine publications relating
to British comics which you're bound to find interesting if you're a fan
of the genre.  Still got unwanted Christmas cash to get rid of?  Then
why not visit Steve's site now and see what's on offer?  Just click
on the link in the first line to be whisked straight there!

Friday 24 January 2014


Copyright D.C. THOMSON & Co., Ltd

If you missed out on THE BROONS magazine in THE SUNDAY POST recently, my local newsagent was supplied with a stack of them - but no newspapers to go with them.  I'm sure I could negotiate an acceptable price with him (including post & packing) for anyone desperate for a copy, so contact me via the comments section if you're interested.  I use comment moderation, so your details will remain private.  All dosh will go to the newsagent's, not me, so relax - I won't see a penny of it.

Containing poems by ROBERT BURNS, features, and comic strips (by DUDLEY D. WATKINS, KEN H. HARRISON and PETER DAVIDSON), it's a nice little collectors' item, so grab one now!

Thursday 23 January 2014

Wednesday 22 January 2014


Mobile 'phones?  Mobile ruddy 'phones?  Don't get me started!  Am I alone in considering them to be the most irritating, infuriating, antisocial invention of modern times?  Help me salvage some rapidly-fading remnant of my hard-pressed sanity and tell me that I'm not the only person on the planet who thinks so.

Don't get me wrong though.  Mobiles are all very well - in their place!  And that place is for making or receiving important calls which, if missed, could leave us knee-deep in the soft, smelly brown stuff.  The trouble is, however, that very few calls or texts actually fall into that category.

The telephone, once a practical and useful tool, has now been demoted to a mere toy - an idle distraction for the easily bored and the feeble-minded, who can never be content to simply be alone with their thoughts on account of not having any to begin with; who have absolutely nothing to say worth saying, but, thanks to the workings of a perverse fate, now have the technology with which to say or text it anyway.

Example: "wot r u up 2  did u c big bruv last nite  c u l8r"

Just think - all over the world, literally millions of people are exchanging such pointless, badly-spelt and punctuation-free drivel countless times a day.  And simply because they can, not because they actually need to.

"But if people are using their mobiles to keep in touch, then in what way are they being antisocial?" you might ask.  Pay attention the next time you see a group of people anywhere.  It's not uncommon to see friends or partners oblivious to one another as they gab or text away on their mobiles to someone else.  Why not just go out with the person on their 'phone if they'd seemingly rather talk to them at the expense of whoever they're with?

That's why they're antisocial.  They drive a wedge between actual physical company and divert the attention of those who should be interacting with each other, as opposed to some ethereal voice or illiterate text on a mobile.  If you were out with some friends who barely spoke a word to you because they were engrossed in deep conversation with one another, it's a safe bet that you wouldn't be too impressed by their manners.

So in what way is it any less rude to ignore those you're with to talk or text on a mobile to someone else?  That disembodied master or mistress whose imperious summons (heralded not by a heavenly fanfare, but rather a tacky and irritating ring-tone) must be answered immediately and cannot be ignored.

Well, excuse me, but I've always thought that technology was supposed to be at our disposal and for our convenience, not the other way around.  Hear that mobile ring - see its slave give a convincing impression of someone who's just had a tub of itching powder dumped down the back of their neck as, seemingly in the throes of spasm, they frantically check every pocket or aperture that fashion provides in order to obtain their regular fix of 'mobile madness'.

This mobile madness, however, isn't confined only to adults.  Teens and children as young as 11 or 12 are falling victim to Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI), brought on by continually texting their friends.  RSI?  That's got to be one hell of a lot of texting!

How sad.  Where kids once merrily played together in fields and parks or each others' gardens, they now spend a disproportionate amount of time in their rooms texting (or emailing) their pals, instead of interacting together face-to-face.  And, just like 'adults', when they are with their pals, they often ignore them while they text friends who are elsewhere.

"A fool and his money are soon parted" runs the old saying.  Considering the obscene profits reaped by mobile 'phone companies from the exchange of  unnecessary communications between simpletons, it's plain to see that this maxim is true many millions of times over.

So, let me ask you all a question.  Do you possess a mobile 'phone - or does a mobile 'phone possess you? 

Tuesday 21 January 2014


Copyright relevant owner

It was 1975 or '76 - I was 16 or 17 years old and working in the warehouse of my local BOOTS The CHEMIST.  On my day off one Saturday, having been paid my hard-earned wages the day before, I treated myself to some ASTERIX The GAUL softcover books, which have been in my possession ever since.  I've long meant to upgrade to hardback, but, somehow (aside from an Omnibus or three), have never quite gotten around to it.

I'd decided to purchase them because I remembered looking through a French edition in my school library one lazy, hazy, summer afternoon in 1973 or '74, which already seemed like the dim and distant past to me by the time I came to be a working lad with a bit of spare cash to spend.  I recall being much impressed by the artwork, so I suppose it was inevitable that I would eventually buy copies for myself when I spotted them in my local branch of JOHN MENZIES while browsing in their book department one day.  (Though I have a nagging suspicion I may have bought some in Boots itself.)

In the mid-'80s, when I was commuting to London every week during my freelancing days at IPC, I was given some file-copies of RANGER magazine (which I still have) by one of the editors, and was surprised to see that it had reprinted some of the Asterix strips in 1965 under a different title: BRITONS NEVER, NEVER, NEVER SHALL BE SLAVES.  The setting was changed from Gaul to Britain and Asterix was renamed BERIC The BOLD, and OBELIX became DORIC, the son of BOADICEA.  Their shield-riding leader, CHIEF VITALSTATISTIX, was called CHIEF TUNNABRIX, which I happen to think is actually a far better name.

I was equally surprised to later learn that, just over a year earlier ('63), popular boys comic VALIANT had reprinted the first Asterix adventure under the title of LITTLE FRED - The ANCIENT BRIT With LOADS Of GRIT.  It would be 1969 before Asterix landed on these shores speaking English under his own name, and his full-colour books have enjoyed immense popularity ever since.  If memory hasn't failed me, I bought nine albums on that afternoon back in 1976, got another one not too long after, and acquired six more over the next three years or so, completing the first 16 in the series.

As everybody and their brother will doubtless already know, Asterix the Gaul was created by RENE GOSCINNY and ALBERT UDERZO and first appeared in the French magazine PILOTE in 1959.  The art is simply superb and I can think of a few cartoonists working in British comics today who'd be well-served by following Uderzo's example of how it should be done.  The English versions were translated by ANTHEA BELL and DEREK HOCKRIDGE, and later, I think, by Anthea herself, though I've no idea who currently performs the task.

Here then, in honour of the gallus little Gaul, is a cover gallery of those 16 softcover books in my collection.  I've probably got a few other tales in my hardback Omnibus volumes, but one day I really must get around to obtaining the full set.  If you don't have any Asterix books of your own, run out and buy some today!

Update: In 2004, the books were revised, being relettered and recoloured (or perhaps just using plates with the original French colouring), and the results are (mostly) a vast improvement when compared to the previous English-language editions.  Uderzo also redrew the two introductory pages, and at some stage he produced a new cover, though I'm uncertain whether this was for the revised edition of 2004 or was done later.  The new cover is shown below, first by itself and then alongside the original to better facilitate direct comparison.

Incidentally, the new UK edition featured the redrawn rendition of page 35, produced by MARCEL UDERZO (Albert's brother) in 1970 when the original plate was lost, whereas previous UK volumes had used a blurry image of the original page sourced from an earlier French printing featuring Albert's version.

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