Tuesday 29 August 2017


In this, the 100th year of JACK KIRBY's birth, the man has been getting a great deal of attention recently - and deservedly so.  When Jack was good, he was excellent, and when he was great, he was sensational.  However, reading online articles about what a creative genius Jack was, and how he was a prophetic visionary who influenced just about every aspect of popular culture - well, it leaves me feeling a little uneasy at times.  I just can't help thinking that some of it goes just a little too far.  Admire the man if you want, recognise and respect his creative contributions throughout his cosmic career in comics, but remember that he was merely a 'king' and not a god.  There's no need to 'deify' him, and some of the retrospective re-evaluations of Jack's work tend to paint a portrait that doesn't always faithfully resemble its subject.  It removes the warts, refines the pores, and adds a few extra inches (if not feet) in stature; it turns plaster into marble, and polishes over cracks to give the impression that a solid bronze bust is a priceless gold statue.  I'm speaking multi-metaphorically of course, but you get the idea.

When it came to action, Jack Kirby at his peak was unbeatable.  His pages pulsated with life, and every panel flowed into the next with seamless ease, resulting in almost unparalleled sequential storytelling.  Even when characters just stood around talking for a page, a sense of impending drama simply oozed from every picture.  You'd get long shots, medium shots, close-ups, and views from the balcony.  A page was a stage to Jack and he dressed it accordingly.  Sure, his characters cast shadows that bore no resemblance to either them or reality, and sometimes they had two left hands or feet and the relative sizes of players weren't always proportionally consistent, but, boy - did his pages sing.  Yeah, knees were square, fingers each had around six joints, eyes were often on a different level, and feet were the size of shoe boxes, but every panel made an impact that was nearly off-the-scale.  There's no doubt that Jack was a major force to be reckoned with in comicbook storytelling, and there's no getting away from that fact.

But a Jack Kirby page was a Jack Kirby page, and if his abstract musculature and idiosyncratic anatomy didn't quite appeal to your artistic sensibilities, I can quite understand why.  When measured against the contemporaneous artwork of NEAL ADAMS, JOE KUBERT, CURT SWAN, BERNIE WRIGHTSON, etc., Jack's '70s work had a distinctly cartoonish quality that seemed somewhat out-of-step with those around him.  In my (not so) humble opinion, his CHALLENGERS Of The UNKNOWN pages inked by WALLY WOOD were far superior to anything he ever drew in KAMANDI, because they were much more illustrative and far less abstract.  Sadly, over time, age and illness took their toll on Jack, and his later projects, like HUNGER DOGS, are best passed over with no more than a cursory glance.  Those who would disagree with my seemingly harsh (though I'd say 'honest') assessment will point out, as evidence to the contrary, that most of Jack's work - even those mags which were regarded at the time as commercial failures (like the FOURTH WORLD series) - are currently available in expensive reprint volumes.  Well, of course they are, but that's no surprise - the work has already been paid for and there's a hungry book market to feed.

And remember, over the years, a cult has been built-up around Jack, not only by those who truly respect him, but also by those who benefit from keeping his name alive and exploiting his legend and legacy.  There's always been money in nostalgia from a publisher's point of view, and, that apart, it's completely understandable that many of today's comic creators, whose childhood was set against the tapestry of Jack's lesser DC work, are constantly reviving those concepts so that they can get to play in Jack's sandbox.  Some people hail the Fourth World series as Jack's masterpiece, and who am I to tarnish the shine of their childhood joys?  However, to me, Jack's DC work was mainly an interesting, mildly entertaining interlude, which pales into insignificance against his '60s MARVEL collaborations with STAN LEE.  I say 'interlude', but, sadly, the truth is that 'act two' of Jack's career at Marvel never really took off, even if it was later shoehorned into Marvel continuity by those loath to jettison anything created by 'King' Kirby.

And now we get to the crux of the matter.  Stan Lee and Jack Kirby.  You may think that even if some of the accolades currently being heaped on Jack's crown are prone to hyperbole, then so what?  It's merely redressing many years of imbalance where Jack received what was perceived by many to be a detrimentally disproportionate share of the credit and glory for his role in co-creating the Marvel universe.  And there's something in that, to be sure.  Whatever it was that Stan did (which is not to be construed as Stan's contribution being a mystery), he probably wouldn't have got to do it had Jack not been part of the equation.  Likewise, Jack's contribution probably wouldn't have been held in such awe at the time (and today), had it not been for Stan's significant input.  Let's face the facts.  Jack's art had always been what it was: dynamic, power-packed, well-composed, interesting - just about anything good you care to say about it.  So what marks the difference between the strips he created and wrote by himself, and those he did with Stan Lee?  The answer is staring you in the face - Stan Lee.

If, for the sake of discussion, we leave out Stan for a moment, and imagine that Jack had created, scripted and drawn all the Marvel characters he worked on - by himself - what would the difference have been?  I'd suggest that there's a strong likelihood that most of those characters wouldn't be around today.  Sure, the art would've looked just as dynamic, just as imposing, just as pleasing-to-the-eye as it had always done, but that alone was never enough to ensure the success or longevity of a Kirby comic.  BOYS' RANCH, FIGHTING AMERICAN, The STRANGE WORLD Of YOUR DREAMS, and most of Jack's '70s DC and Marvel mags amply testify to that fact.  What separated '60s Marvel books from their competitors was the characterisation, the dialogue, the humour, the irreverence, the continuity - most of which came from Stan in the early years (with notable contributions from LARRY LIEBER, and later, ROY THOMAS).

It should also be remembered that, if not for Stan promoting his collaborators and singing their praises, 'King' Kirby would likely never have been crowned, and his name might be even more obscure today among the general public than some claim it to be.  (Sure, Jack had already enjoyed name-recognition with previous collaborator JOE SIMON, but the new wave of readers in the 1960s would have been largely unaware of his various past accomplishments.)  Likewise, Stan would probably never have had the opportunity to show what he was capable of without Jack to inspire him to rise to the challenge.  They both needed one another to bring out the best in each of them.  Strawberries are nice, and cream is nice, but together they're sublime.  'Twas the same with Stan and Jack.

Then why, you might ask, did Stan make more money out of Marvel than Jack did?  Well, Stan was a salaried employee of publisher MARTIN GOODMAN's company, whereas Jack was a freelancer - a position he preferred, it should be noted.  And though, in the latter stages of their collaboration, it appears that Jack was mainly the 'ideas' man, when you get down to it (to a certain extent), ideas are ten a penny.  It's not so much having ideas that counts, but what you do with them, and Stan often seems to have known what to do with them far better than Jack himself did.  Jack had so many ideas (especially over at DC), that he often couldn't discern which ones were 'keepers' and which ones weren't.  In an ideal world, Jack would have been better compensated for his Marvel work, but he took the 'king's shilling' (no pun intended) in order to make a living, and though he later came to consider himself underpaid, he did very well for himself by the standards of the day.  He certainly made far more than the average wage of the time (though he also put in more than the average hours).  I once read somewhere exactly what Jack earned, translated into what it would equate to today, and believe me, it wasn't insignificant.

And now we come to MARK EVANIER.  In the main, Mark Evanier strikes me as the kind of guy who, if he says it's Christmas, you hang up your stocking and decorate the tree, but I sometimes think he was too close to Jack to be entirely objective about him.  He adores Jack, loves Jack, sees him as almost like a father figure (and the words 'almost like' may well be redundant there), and, out of all diehard Kirby fans, may well be the one who has been fairest to Stan Lee.  (In print at least; he tends to play to the anti-Stan fans a bit at his Kirby panel discussions.)  Mark has said (and I don't doubt his veracity or sincerity for a second) that Jack predicted back in the '60s that his characters would one day be the subjects of big-budget movies, and that he also knew his comics would eventually be reprinted in expensive collected editions in the future.  Well, that future is now upon us, but does it prove that Jack was a prescient prophet, or that he merely recognised the inevitability of 'big business' (like GODCORPS) mining everything around it in order to make a buck, regardless of any inherent worth - or lack of it?

Remember, modern movie-makers saw more potential in HOWARD The DUCK as a big-screen outing before they ever detected any in the characters Jack created or co-created.  And don't forget that the very first CAPTAIN AMERICA movie from 1990 was a great big steaming pile of poo.  The financial potential of a comicbook character is often realised not by any inherent worth in the original material, but by how well it is executed on screen by the creative-types behind the movie; it stands or falls on their vision (and ability to deliver), often moreso than that of the character's creator.  It would be theoretically possible to take a really lame character, seemingly devoid of any obvious promise, and make a successful movie franchise out of it - if those behind it had the imagination, the budget - and, of course, the required talent.

But, hey - I'm not trying to 'do down' Jack Kirby - certainly not in this, his centenary year.  No, I'm merely trying to keep a more realistic sense of perspective about him.  Never met the man, never saw him, never spoke with him, so I'm not as 'close' to him as those who knew, or worked, or lived with him are.  (Though his name and artwork were almost a constant presence during my comics-buying youth.)  However, one usually has a better sense of perspective about something the farther away from it one is - simply because it can then be seen in a wider context.  Sometimes that applies to people as well.

Happy 100th Birthday, Jack.  Wherever you are, you can rest assured that you did us and yourself proud.  You and Stan created something of lasting value in your Marvel characters, and, to my mind at least, you each deserve equal credit for them.  They would never have been what they are without both of you.


(Those, if any, who've read this post more than once may have noticed a few amendments between readings, as I've been refining the text where I feel it could be expressed in a more articulate, clearer, and smoother way.  Oh, the power of being your own editor - it's intoxicating.) 

Monday 28 August 2017


Images copyright MARVEL COMICS

As you all know (and if you don't, you should, 'cos I mentioned it earlier), today is what would've been JACK (King) KIRBY's 100th Birthday.  Therefore, I thought it would be nice to show the 100th issues of Jack's (and STAN LEE's) most famous MARVEL characters - namely The FANTASTIC FOUR and The MIGHTY THOR.  So without any further ado, here they are.  Do you have the original comics shown here?  I do! 

Tell you what - let's make it a threesome.  Here's CAPTAIN AMERICA #100 (formerly TALES To ASTONISH), but it's really the first ish of his own title in the Marvel Age.


Nope, I'm going to resist the temptation to
make a joke about lovely ELKE SOMMER's cup
size, as that would be just far too obvious.  (What?
I'm talking about her drinking cup!  Sheesh.)


Had JACK 'King' KIRBY still been with us, he'd have been celebrating his 100th Birthday today.  Well, in a big sense, he is still with us, and probably will be for at least another 100 years.  Happy Birthday, Jack.


I've just scoffed a KitKat with a luverly cup of char - a Nestle's KitKat, though I'm old enough to recall when they were by Rowntree's.  This started me thinking as to how many of today's young adults grew up never knowing anything other than Nestle's KitKats, or Nestle's Caramacs (which used to be made by MacKintosh's), and other familiar confectionery items from childhood that were once the product of other companies.  Remember Raspberry Ruffle bars, made by Jameson's?  In the early '90s, Cadbury's name suddenly started to appear on Ruffle bars, though I'm unaware as to whether they bought out Jameson's or already owned them.  After a short while, it changed from plain (dark) chocolate to milk chocolate, and it wasn't very long before the bar disappeared off the shelves, seemingly forever.  (I don't know why they didn't just have two versions of the bar, one plain, the other milk, but there you go.  H'mm, now that I think about it, maybe they did for a while, before phasing out the plain one and just leaving the milk.)

However, nothing is forever, and a few years later, Ruffle bars resurfaced, again bearing the Jameson's name, but this time manufactured by a company called Monkhill Confectionery (which, it turns out, was owned by Cadbury, but for how long that was the case, I just don't know).  Today (still with the Jameson's name on the wrapper), they're produced by a company called Tangerine (who bought Monkhill from Cadbury in 2008), proving that you can't keep a good chocolate bar down.  One of the things I really miss about the legendary Woolworth's is that I can no longer purchase (from their renowned Pic 'n' Mix counter) individually wrapped Raspberry Ruffle sweets in whatever quantity I want.  However, they are available (still in individual wrappers) in bags from pound shops and, no doubt, other stores.

Talking of Rowntree's (as I was in the first paragraph), the last time I looked (not too long ago), the only sweets still carrying the name was Rowntree's Fruit Pastilles.  (Just found out that there's also Rowntree's Randoms, whatever they might be.  Oh, and we mustn't forget Jelly Tots.)  In fact, some years ago, I purchased a tubular, zip-up pencil case which looked like a giant-size tube of Fruit Pastilles.  I dimly remember seeing some item of confectionery bearing the MacKintosh name only relatively recently, but can't for the moment recollect precisely what it was.  Toffees perhaps?  Anyone know?  As well as Caramac, MacKintosh used to make Quality Street, Rolo, and Toffee Crisp, as well as a few others, I'd imagine.  Anyway, Rowntree and MacKintosh merged in 1969 to become - you guessed it - Rowntree MacKintosh, but Nestle bought them over in 1988.

Does anyone else miss the original manufacturers' names on their favourite sweets, or am I (as usual) the only one?  And is it just me who still calls Snickers by their original name of Marathon?  Ah, KitKats, Fruit Pastilles, Smarties, and Jelly Tots - they'll always be by Rowntree's to me.  (I notice they've now dropped the apostrophe from their name.)  And Caramacs, Rolos, Toffee Crisp, and Quality Street by MacKintosh, natch!  What can I say?  I just don't like change (on the whole).  Nestle's should have stuck with Milky Bars - after all, the Milky Bars are on them.


(Regarding the original Raspberry Ruffle bars, back in the '60s, they used to come on a little cardboard tray (like Bounty), wrapped in a deep red cellophane wrapper, lined inside in the middle with a strip of silver foil.  Anyone remember that?  I used to amuse myself by peeling the silver strip of foil from off the back of the cellophane.)

(Below - some of the above-mentioned items.)

Sunday 27 August 2017


I'm at the foot of this extract.  (I masked off  the subsequent names) 

I turned five years old towards the end of 1963, but didn't start school 'til early '64. Around five months later, my family moved to another house a few minutes down the road, which meant that, out of the one year, nine months I spent at my first primary school (before we moved house yet again), I lived most of that period in that 'second' home.  (I'll refrain from indulging in an examination of why five months of school days in one house seems, in retrospect, no lesser duration than the 16 months of school days in the next house, as I don't want to drive you all nuts - or away.)

Anyway, some time in the early or mid-'90s. I revisited my first primary school, and was astonished to find that it still had the school records from my days in its possession.  The kindly headmistress generously let me borrow them to photocopy (before they were forwarded to Education department HQ - which should have received them years before), and while poring through their ancient pages, I was surprised to find that there was no record of our ever having moved house in '64.

That means, as far as the school was concerned, I lived in the same house for all the time (21 months) that I was at that school, whereas, in fact, only five months fell under the umbrella of my old address.  (Had the school ever had cause to write to my parents, the letter would've gone to our previous house and they'd never have seen it.)  It didn't seem right to me, so I carefully pencilled in the address of our 'new' home so that the records were correct, and that other house was officially recognised - even if it was around 30 years after the fact.  (I did that after photocopying the pages however, so it's not in my copies.)

My one regret is that I didn't photocopy the relevant pages in colour, as I only had access to a black and white copier at the time, but at least I have facsimiles of the school record of admissions from my relatively short time there, before my family moved to another neighbourhood and I attended another primary school - at which I spent five and a half years before going on to secondary school.

Anyway, I'm sure you must find all this riveting, so I've enclosed a few extracts from the records to illustrate this post.  Don't get over-excited now.  What I find interesting is that names I didn't know then, I knew later, as some of them popped up in my second primary, and others in secondary.  Even some that I did know ended up going to one or both of my later schools.

The previous post was a 'Journey Into Mystery' - this one has been a 'Journey Into History'.  (Gosh, I'm sharp, aren't I?)

This time I'm at the top.  (I masked off the preceding names)


Images copyright MARVEL COMICS

One of my all-time favourite origin issues is JOURNEY Into MYSTERY #83 - introducing The MIGHTY THOR (or THOR The MIGHTY as he's referred to inside the mag).  That's the cover of my very own copy you're looking at up there, which first came out in August 1962.  Well, that's not quite true, because although it was cover-dated August, it actually went on sale in May of that year.  "Wait a minute," I hear you cry, "there's no date on the cover!"  Yup, but there was on the US issues, which were printed first; then the cover plates were amended to include a UK price and remove the month from the issue number box.  As these comics came over to our shores as ballast in ships, we didn't get them until many months after our American cousins, so it was pointless having a date on our copies (which were printed on the same presses as the ones for US readers).

Below is the 1966 GOLDEN BOOK & RECORD SET reprint of the above comic, and as you can see, some of the detail of Thor's hair has been lost.  Inside, the splash page was printed in black and white on the interior side of the cover, and the final page of the origin story had the last panel omitted, with the other two being extended to fill the space.  The 'drawing-up' of the soldiers helmet and head is rather clumsy (see further down), but I doubt that many readers noticed it back in the day - unless they had the original printing to compare it with, that is.

Next up is a 1999 German edition, and I've included an interior page (further down) so that you can see how it looks in a foreign language.  On the whole, the re-lettering throughout the tale has been done with some proficiency, and the balloon shapes don't seem cluttered or squeezed, which can sometimes happen when one language is exchanged for another.  One of the things I tried to do (and usually succeeded) when re-lettering a strip in another tongue, was to ensure that the pages looked as if they had been created that way.  I've seen some pages by lesser letterers (don't scoff - they exist) with words crammed right up against the balloon or caption outline, making the published result look terrible.  This one manages to avoid that. 

Now here's an interesting thing I only just noticed while looking at these covers in preparation for scanning.  If you compare the cover below with the ones above (best to enlarge them to their full size), you'll see that the detail is much sharper than even J.I.M. #83's cover.  This surprised me, because I'd expected the original printing to be better - but no, it isn't.  In the cover below, you can see individual brush strokes that just reproduce as blobs of black in the 1962 presentation.  If you want what is probably the best-ever single issue printing of this classic tale, then you should do your absolute best to get your hands on the issue below.  It's dated October 2017 in the indicia inside, so (at time of typing) might well still be available in your local comics shop.  

Okay, I know I've shown these before, but what follows is an original production stat of the cover as JACK KIRBY and JOE SINNOTT drew it, along with an amended version by me.  As you can see, initially there were more STONE MEN (later revealed to be called KRONANS), five of whom were deleted because STAN LEE thought the cover was far too cluttered, resulting in Thor being visually overwhelmed by them all.  I thought too many Kronans had been removed, so therefore digitally played around with the stat to produce the cover as I'd have done it.  (Click image to enlarge, then click again for optimum size.)  Hey, MARVEL - are you reading this? Next time you reprint this ish as a single comic, use my version of the cover - no charge!  Okay, that's it for now, the other pages are accompanied by footnotes to explain things as you go along.  See you all next time, culture-lovers.

And now, a selection of interior pages - with footnotes...

Original printing.  Note the misspelling of Thor's name

1966 reprint, with two panels on bottom tier extended

Didya know that Thor was multi-lingual?  You do now

2017 reprint.  Simply glorious

Saturday 26 August 2017


In my blog list is a blog called OPOBS (or opobs - lower case - to be exact), run by a fellow called MIKE.  He's been kind enough to comment a few times, and I've likewise left a few comments on his site.  Mike's blog hasn't had any new posts for some months, though one appeared recently to explain his inactivity.  Alas, Mike has been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and, unfortunately, nothing can be done as he had a violent reaction to chemotherapy and he's decided to accept whatever time is left to him without trying to prolong it.

It strikes me that Mike might appreciate people visiting his blog and wishing him the best, letting him know that, even though they might not know him, he's in their thoughts and prayers at this trying time.  Why not take a moment to leap over to his site (here) and say something nice to a chap who must be feeling pretty low, though I'm sure he's doing his best to keep a stiff upper lip in the best British tradition.  Go on, reach out to a stranger who's in a bad spot and let him know you're touched by his plight.  (Remember, a stranger's just a friend you do not know.)


Update: Sadly, Mike passed away on October 23rd 2017.


Look at this little beauty - a 1/32 scale diecast model of the 1966 TV series BATMOBILE, manufactured by a company called JADA TOYS.  It's similar to the MATTEL ELITE version from 2009, but not quite as detailed, but at only £7.99 via eBay, plus £2.99 p&p (£10.98 in total), it comes in at quite a bit cheaper than the Mattel model (which I've also got).

Well, that's not quite true in all cases - it very much depends where you buy it from.  I've seen it advertised at various prices, ranging from around £18 right up to £40.  You can buy one from a seller in the States, going for a mere £5.24, but p&p is £41.54.  Then there's one from Australia, selling for (gasp) £31.13 - plus postage at a whopping £49.01.  I think some sellers just make their prices up as they go along.

So I was very lucky to get an absolute bargain from JACKSON MODELS & RAILWAYS, but I think I bought their last one.  Don't despair if you can't find one at a reasonable price, 'cos I've decided to share mine with you - even if it's only in the form of photos.  (I gave the car a wipe, but the second I placed it on the carpet it attracted a few specks of dust - try and overlook 'em.)  

Friday 25 August 2017


The beautiful DALIAH LAVI graces
us all with her sweet presence today, fellas.
(Now where did I put my drool cup?)


Images copyright LUCASFILM/DISNEY

Something I never realised when I published my INDIANA JONES post the other day is the fact that I must've bought some of the early issues (around three, I guess) while I was living down in Fratton in Portsmouth in the early part of 1985, which was at the start of my freelance career.  I find it surprising that I associate this run with the house I was living in back home at the time, but none of them with my small (but cosy) bedsit room in Fratton.  I must've been buying them automatically and simply tucking them away, unread, in my suitcase for when I returned home.

In fact, 1st (maybe 2nd issue too) apart, I don't think I read any of the others, and it was only two nights ago that I sat down to read all eleven issues - plus the recently acquired Christmas Special - of Indy's short-lived British monthly magazine.  I only managed to obtain numbers 6 11 in the last couple of years, and, 33 years after the series was first published, I've finally gotten around to reading them all.  Spooky or what?  Some of the spelling amendments (color to colour, etc) are extremely clumsily executed, and the typeset lettering on the covers is boring as all get out, so maybe that's why the mag failed to maintain an audience.  It could've (and should've) been a lot more exciting looking, though I do like the first cover, which is the one I mostly remember.

Anyway, it's a good feeling to be able to wipe away 33 years of one's life and return to an earlier time, even if it's only a far too temporary sensation and the 'deleted' years return in very short order.  And, because I needed to write about something in order to give all you pantin' Criv-ites something to read, I thought I'd share my imaginative impressions of so long ago with the rest of you.  Ain't you lucky?!

Wednesday 23 August 2017


Images copyright MARVEL COMICS

These two mags came out around a week or so ago, and the variant cover editions feature two former full page images from comics of the past, by none other than JACK (King) KIRBY.  If you're lucky, you may still be able to find them sitting on the shelves of your favourite comicbook store, so rush 'round and look for them today.  (And why not buy yourself a nice strawberry tart if you're anywhere near GREGGS?  They're delicious!)


Image copyright LUCASFILM/DISNEY

Back in May of 2015, I posted a cover gallery of MARVEL UK's monthly INDIANA JONES mag.  I'd just recently acquired a missing issue (#6), and also #11 (though I may have got that later), but I didn't yet own the Christmas Special.  I borrowed the image from eBay so that the gallery was complete, but it was only a couple of days ago that I was finally able to acquire my own copy - so here it is!

Although it was probably advertised in the monthly, I no longer remember if I knew about it back in 1984, but if I did, I'd forgotten all about it in the intervening years until I first saw a copy on eBay (which pre-dated the eBay image mentioned above). The fact that I didn't buy a copy back in 1984 means that I certainly never saw it in the shops, but now, nearly a whopping 33 years after the fact, I've rectified the oversight and now have a complete collection.  Let me tell you, it's a strange sensation to realise that so much time has elapsed, because it doesn't feel like anywhere near as long as that.

Because this Special belongs in 1984, I can practically 'see' it in the room of the house I lived in back then, with such clarity that it seems almost like a memory, rather than merely my imagination.  I took a look at my 2015 cover gallery before preparing this post, and when I saw the cover of the first issue, it was as if I was back in that room again, 'cos even after all this time, that's where I associate it with.  As I've said before with other mags, it's time travel, pure and simple.  If you'd like to see the other covers in the series, click on this link, and refresh your own memories of 1984 - if you were around back then, obviously, and buying this monthly mag.  (I've now replaced the borrowed image with the one above.)

Are there any missing issues from years ago in your collection that you plan on acquiring sometime to plug the gap?  If so, let's hear all about them in our captivating comments section, frantic ones, and what period of your life they represent to you.  Or feel free to tell your fellow Criv-ites how you felt when you previously acquired a long-missing issue.  Was it a satisfying sensation or a bit of an anti-climax?  The floor is now yours (if you want it).

Monday 21 August 2017


Those of you a few years either side of my own age will probably remember MB Bars.  As MB stood for Monster Bar, when you asked for an MB Bar, you were actually asking for a Monster Bar Bar - which is daft when you think about it.  I first started buying MB Bars from a newsagent's called Chambers in a street named Chalmers Crescent, back around 1963/'64, on my way to school and sometimes after.  (And probably weekends too, come to think of it.)

20 years later, I was back in that same shop and was amazed to see that it still sold MB Bars.  Now, I'd probably bought a few in different shops over the years as I grew up, but I hadn't seen them in ages, so to see them on sale where I'd first bought one quite appealed to my sense of nostalgia.  This time they came in a cellophane wrapper (with the name, ingredients, and maker's name), and when I asked why, I was told it was because of EU hygiene regulations (or some such equivalent).  They were still made by the original manufacturer as far as I recall, and I bought quite a number of them over several weeks.  I'm not quite sure when it happened, but they suddenly disappeared one day and it was a good few years before I saw them again.

They reappeared in one of my local shops sometime in the mid or late '90s (without the wrappers), and are still available today (they are in Scotland anyway), though usually only in small, independent sweet shops.  (This time round, they come in clear cellophane wrappers with no markings.)  However I believe it's a different manufacturer that now makes them and the quality isn't quite as good.  Whether they're using the original moulds or new ones cast from an actual bar I'm not quite sure, but they look the same as they did in the '60s.  Think I might buy one today - just for old times' sake.

(You'll be happy to hear that I'm not going to make a joke about having a monster in my trousers when I had an MB Bar in my pocket, because that would just be crass, wouldn't it?  Snigger!)

Sunday 20 August 2017


Copyright relevant owner

It's good news for Lionel Hancock, a 'Crivens!' reader who was looking for the instalment of The LEGEND TESTERS from SMASH! #20.  I knew I had the comic in my bound ODHAMS file volumes (which I wouldn't be able to scan without risk of damaging the spine), but couldn't remember if I had an individual issue. Turns out I did, after emptying a cupboard to check, so here it is, LH - all yours.  Click on the images to enlarge, then click again for optimum size.  Then left-click and use the 'save as' facility to store them in your computer.

You know, there are some comics bloggers who refuse to help out others who are looking for a favourite strip from childhood.  It's their comic, they say, which they paid for, so if someone else wants an image from it, let them buy their own copy! This conveniently overlooks the fact that not all old comics are readily available, and even ones that are, the prices asked for them are not always ones that people feel comfortable paying (or can afford).  It also ignores the fact that, in a lot of cases, they bought their comics years ago when the cost of back issues was far lower, whereas prices have skyrocketed over the years since they purchased their copies.

Also, those selfish bloggers publish other old strips on their blogs, and some of them are bound to be ones that someone's been looking for.  Therefore, what's the difference if somebody asks for a specific image?  To refuse on the stated grounds is just pure bloody-minded selfishness in my view.  Or posing.  Why not simply say that they don't have time to look through their vast collections for individual comics in order to supply images to the many people who request them?  That wouldn't be a lie, because I certainly couldn't (and wouldn't be prepared to) do that if I were getting deluged by requests for particular strips on a regular basis.

Anyway, LH, happy to be able to help you out on this occasion (but don't get greedy).


How do you condense a 12 year period into a couple of days?  You decide to watch all ROGER MOORE's JAMES BOND movies in a two day film-fest.  I haven't done it yet, but I intend to do so at some stage before I get too much older.  Roger played Bond from 1973 to 1985, which was very nearly half my life up to when he relinquished the role.  Consequently, that 12 year duration seems far longer than a similar period would appear to me today.  For instance, the last 12 years have gone by (wait for it) faster than a fart from The FLASH, so 2005 feels far more recent than it should do.

That 12 years from '73 to '85 saw a lot of changes in my life; the usual kind that everyone experiences to be sure, but no less memorable on an individual level for all that.  I was a schoolboy for Roger's first two Bond outings, worked in a variety of jobs (with periods of unemployment) for the next four, and was a full-time freelancer for his swan-song.  I was also living in a different house for the last two films.  Friends came and went during that time, the face of my town was transformed (not always for the better) over the period, and world events would require several paragraphs to do them justice.  (Relax, I'll spare you the details.)

The same thing can happen with books, too.  For example, I've bought the hardback volumes of The BROONS and OOR WULLIE every year since the series first came out in 1995 (for '96) - 22 years ago.  Apart from the fact that it doesn't seem anywhere near that far back, it's an odd feeling to see such a short area of shelf space representing 22 years of one's life.  How can 22 years fit into a width of less than two feet? Ach, well, no use labouring the point, but the fact that the collected acquisitions of a person's entire life could probably be fitted into one room (if it was all boxed and stacked floor to ceiling) testifies to just how insignificant a dent we make in the overall scheme of things.

Anybody else ever ponder such things? Feel free to contribute your thoughts, theories, feelings and philosophies to our comments section.

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