Monday 30 July 2018


Published cover.  Images copyright MARVEL COMICS
As most readers will know, there are two FF #1 covers;  the cover that was published in 1961 (above) and the cover as it was originally drawn (below - known as the "missing man" cover - though that should really be in the plural), which was the version most often utilized in MARVEL reprints up until the recent MASTERWORKS, OMNIBUS and Trade Paperback editions.

The published version featured the addition of a policeman at the end of the street - and some alterations and additions to the passers-by on the right-hand side of the cover.  Exactly who was responsible for the amendments is, at present,  unknown.

Stat of original art by JACK KIRBY & GEORGE KLEIN

Was it JACK KIRBY or DICK AYERS who drew them?  Perhaps Ayers inked over Kirby pencils, which would explain why he was credited as inker of the complete cover for many years, until GEORGE KLEIN came to be regarded as the man behind the embellishment duties. Perhaps one day we'll find out for certain.
What most fans don't realize however, is that there is also a third, hybrid, version (below).  This was the reprint of FF #1 used for the GOLDEN BOOK & RECORD Set in the mid or late '60s. This cover had the original, unaltered passers-by as originally drawn by Kirby, but the policeman (a redrawn version) had been added to make it look like the original printed version from 1961. (The price, number and date had been removed though.)  Interestingly, considering the debate about who inked the first issue, Dick Ayers is credited as inker on the back of the record sleeve - although his surname is misspelled as "Ayres".)


Side-by-side comparison

Sunday 29 July 2018


Here's a pair of items I acquired a short while ago that will be of interest to YOGI BEAR fans - a salt and pepper shaker set in the image of the HANNA-BARBERA bruin.  I don't know anything about their history, but I'd guess they're early items of merchandise going by the colour.  Some Yogi merchandise from the early 1960s was often of a darker brown than its cartoon counterpart, and sometimes even had a 'shirt-front' under the tie.  It took a while before any kind of consistency was introduced to the various Yogi items available to '60s shoppers.

As you can see, Yogi's nose hasn't been painted on the shakers, leaving me with a dilemma - to paint or not to paint?  I've decided to leave off for the moment, but I may yet succumb to the temptation.  (You might have to strain your eyesight to see his tie due to the camera flash, but it's there sure enough.) 

Know anything about their history, like year of production, manufacturer, or country of origin?  If so, feel free to enlighten me in the comments section.

Saturday 28 July 2018


Probably the most stunning
woman of the 1970s is LYNDA
CARTER.  She truly is a wonder!
(I wonder when she's gonna call
 and ask me out on a hot date.)


I was gently brushing the dust from one of my classic collectables earlier today, when something occurred to me.  I had originally owned this particular item back in 1967 or '68, but the one I currently have is a replacement I obtained in the mid-'80s.  I probably owned the original for no more than two or three years at the most, while its present-day stand-in I've now had for around 33 years.  Strange, because it still feels like a fairly recent acquisition, while the one I had as a kid seems to have been part of my childhood for far longer than it actually was.

It's the same with comics.  I remember buying the first issue of the 'new' SMASH! in March of 1969, but before the week was out I'd sold it (along with the free gift) at cover price to one of my classmates, BILLY MONTGOMERY, who'd missed out on buying his own copy earlier.  I sold it to him mid-week, intending to buy a replacement before issue #2 came out on the coming Saturday.  As it happens, I didn't manage to obtain one 'til over 15 and a half years later (October 13th, 1984, from an Edinburgh comics shop, to be exact), but I remembered practically every page as if I'd seen it only the day before.

Amazing, isn't it?  I'd only owned the original comic for three or four days at the very most, yet it had made such an enormous impression on me that when I think back, it seems that I had it for far longer.  And, just like the previous item to which I referred, those few days don't seem any less than the nearly 34 years I've owned its successor.

Which brings me closer to the point.  "Hurrah!", cry countless thousands of rabid readers.  (If only.)  I was listening to a radio play a number of years back, in which someone quoted a line very close to the following one: "The memories of childhood are without time and without end."  Or it may've been "...without end and without time."  (I've tried to trace its source, but to no avail so if anybody knows its origin, feel free to let me know.)

Regardless of the exact wording, I know exactly what it means.  When I recall my childhood, it's often difficult to remember events in their proper sequence, or the exact duration of certain periods of time.  Whether I had a comic or toy for six days or six months, it all seems the same to me in retrospect.  Same goes for houses.  As a child, I once lived in a house for just over a year, but when I think back on it, my time there doesn't seem any less than the four years I spent in the house before, or the nearly seven years in the one after.  Don't get me wrong - I know there's a difference - I just don't feel there's a difference.

According to the Good Book, "One day is as a thousand years to the Lord, and a thousand years as one day."  When I think back to the days of my youth, I kind of know what that must feel like - although obviously on a much smaller scale.

"Without time and without end" - if only life  itself were like that.  Wouldn't it be great?

Friday 27 July 2018


Looking back and trying to place events in their proper time frame years after the fact can sometimes be a difficult task.  When we're able to associate a particular incident with a specific, cover-dated periodical (for example), the job becomes a lot easier; however, without such an aid, accurate attribution of when things occurred can seldom be an exact science.  Unless one has a meticulously recorded diary, that is - and all too few of us do.

The event I am about to share is insignificant in the great scheme of things; as is so much of what we regard as important to ourselves, and which we often imagine, in our vanity, to have far-reaching implications of immense profundity beyond our own finite sphere of influence and existence.  Don't we all consider ourselves, sub-consciously (or unconsciously even), to be the centre around which the entire universe revolves?  Of course we do.  And it's the occasions when we're reminded that such is not the case which often cause the biggest frustrations in life.

The following recollection is one of immense triviality.  (If such a stark contra-diction in terms can be permitted.)  It is a tale of no consequence, banal, mundane, uninteresting - to anyone but myself, that is.  I offer it in the hope that you may be able to relate to it, inasmuch as it may remind you of a similar circumstance in your own life, and that you may take comfort from the fact that you are not so removed from the common condition of humankind as you may sometimes think (or fear).


When I was a boy, my parents had a porcelain ornament which I took note of almost as soon as the power of sequential thought and memory first dawned within me.  It was a little log, on which pink and yellow petals, underscored with green leaves, were arranged in a splendored-display along the glazed brown bark which gave home to them.  I was probably only about 3 years old when it first introduced itself into my consciousness.

The seasons passed with regular inevitability, so let's now jump to either 1970 or '71, when I was in my first year at secondary school and aged about 11 or 12.  I was also two houses removed from the one in which this particular ornament had first come to my attention.  Even at that young age, it represented a link to my cherished past which I was reluctant - nay, unable to relinquish.  I lived in and for the past; I 'looked back' to such an extent that I should have turned into a pillar of salt long before reaching the age I then was. 

One night, by prior arrangement, two classmates (who'd invited me to a youth club in the school across the road from the one we attended) called in for me.  I'd previously been a member of the Boys' Brigade in this school some years before, and was looking forward to reacquainting myself with its interiors.  The two lads were STUART MacDONALD and AIDEN DICK (wonder if he had a brother called 'Tiny'), and when they rang the front doorbell, in my haste to put on my jacket, a flapping sleeve knocked the small ornament from its place atop the wooden fire surround, whereupon it smashed to pieces on the tiled surface below.

I was dismayed and my parents were understandably annoyed, but with the callousness of youth, I suppressed my guilt (a temporary condition) and made my way with my two companions to our destination.  As it turned out, I didn't stay long at the club; a combination of melancholy at unwittingly destroying the glazed log, dissatisfaction with the club itself, and anger at finding that the dastardly-duo had only invited me along in order to try and swindle me out of my entrance fee.  (An attempt that was doomed to failure.  They would have needed the A-TEAM to accomplish that - and they weren't around back then.)

I never forgot that ornament.  The years passed and I grew to adulthood, but, periodically, I would recall that night and cringe with shame at my part in the little log's destruction.  If ever I was at a Jumble Sale or Christmas Fayre, I would keep an eye out for one to replace it - but I was never successful in my aspiration.  It must have been about 32 or 33 years later that I saw its double in a charity shop, and - despite the unrealistic price that such establishments seem to place on much of their stock these days - I readily handed over my cash.

Well, I've had that replacement for around 15 years now.  I look at it every so often and my guilt at the murder of its twin is assuaged somewhat - though never completely.  It's strange to think that most of my life has been lived in its absence, because now that its doppelganger graces the same shelf-space the original would have occupied had it survived, it's almost as if history has been magically rewritten to include it in my memories of the time when it wasn't around. 

Needless to say (but I'll say it anyway), it's a good feeling to be reunited with a familiar object from childhood and I derive a mixture of comfort, pleasure, and satisfaction from its presence.  It's as if I've redeemed myself (however slightly) for some heinous sin, the shame of which has haunted me for most of my life and from which I thought I'd never be free.

Is there a moral to this story?  Or even a point to it, as some of the more critical amongst you may be wondering.  I'm sure there is, even if it's as difficult to articulate as providing precise dates for the foregoing events is elusive.  However, my work is done.  I've given you the clay; 'tis now your task to reflect, to ponder - then fashion it into whichever shape you think may serve you best.

Thursday 26 July 2018


Facsimile of 1939/'40 edition

I'm a sucker for facsimile editions of classic annuals, comics and books, the originals of which would doubtless be far beyond my meagre financial resources to afford.  My latest acquisition is a facsimile of the very first BEANO book for 1940, which now joins the ranks of my replica editions of the first DANDY, BROONS and Oor WULLIE books.

However, the word 'facsimile' is often misapplied, because unless the item looks more or less exactly like the original (with a discreet distinguishing note that it isn't), it's arguable as to whether the description is an apt one.  Take the recent 'replica' of the first issue of the Beano: it's four pages short, PEANUT the mascot has been removed, and its held together by staples instead of glue.

The facsimiles of the RUPERT BEAR books are probably the best examples of a true replica.  In making the books, every effort was made to reproduce not only the appearance but the very feel of the originals, and they really are top class.  In the case of the Beano and Dandy books, D.C. THOMSON produced them in collaboration with different publishers two years apart, and they're different sizes. The Beano is an inch or so shorter than The Dandy tome, though the image-size on the pages of both books is exactly the same, with only the margin around the image being larger in The Dandy's case.

So which, if any, is the closest in size to its original incarnation?  I'm looking into the matter and will let you know when (or if) I find out.  Of course, if you've never seen or owned the original book, it's probably more the content you're interested in than the presentation, so the fact that a facsimile doesn't capture the exact appearance or dimensions of the original won't much matter to you.  However, in the case of the Rupert books in particular, certain aspects are extremely important in conjuring up childhood memories to those who read them when young.  The paper, the feel, the smell, the size, the look, etc., are essential ingredients in re-creating accurate impressions of the past.

Personally, the only difference I don't mind is when an old book had shoddy binding and was prone to fall apart - if publishers want to improve that aspect in a replica edition then I won't object at all.

Anyway, what follows is a variety (from my own collection) of authorised, official facsimiles, replicas and reissues which were intended to capture the spirit of their originals to some degree or other.  Hope you enjoy them.  (I'll add any that I've forgotten or temporarily mislaid at a later date.)

Oh, and here's a question for you.  Would you be happy with a facsimile of a book or annual you wanted, or would you prefer to do without if you couldn't have the original?

(All images copyright their respective owners.)

Facsimile of 1938/'39 edition

Facsimile of 1938/'39 edition

Facsimile of 1939/'40 edition

Facsimile of 1936 edition

Facsimile of 1937 edition

Facsimile of 1938 edition

Facsimile of 1939 edition

Facsimile of 1949 edition

Facsimile of 1922 edition

Facsimile of 1923 edition

Facsimile of 1964 edition

Facsimile of 1965 edition

Facsimile of 1965 edition

Alice's Adventures In Wonderland
Facsimile of 1866 edition

Alice Through The Looking-Glass
Facsimile of 1872 edition

Facsimile of 1896 edition

Facsimile of 1921 edition

Facsimile of 1921 edition

Facsimile of 1921 edition

Facsimile of 1921 edition

Facsimile of 1942 edition

Wednesday 25 July 2018


Images copyright D.C. THOMSON & Co., Ltd

Got back from the shops a little while ago with the 44 page Birthday Special of The BEANO (though we're not supposed to use the definite article nowadays), and my first thought upon browsing through it was "Just what the heck were they thinking?"  I haven't read it yet, but I don't feel inclined to because of the super-oily, smug countenance of so-called comedian DAVID WALLIAMS grinning inanely from far too many pages.  I'd thought (and hoped) that DCT had abandoned the use of second-rate celebrities from their comics after the debacle that was The DANDY, but no - they're still at it, trying to bathe in the reflected 'glory' of just about anybody who's ever been on the telly.  Hasn't it ever occurred to them that 'celebrities' probably scare off as many readers as they might attract?  Which makes it all a bit pointless really.

NIGEL PARKINSON, whose art I generally like, has far too many pages in the comic even for my tastes, giving the entire issue a 'samey' feel to it, though presumably that's because he's seemingly the only cartoonist capable of catching a consistently recognisable likeness of Walliams.  However, I'd have liked to see a bit more variety of art-styles in the comic.  At least we're spared the usual collection of cheap tat that comes with 'special' issues, but only because they went down that route the week before.  Apart from the good news that the DENNIS The MENACE Fan Club (now the Dennis and GNASHER Fan Club) is back, there's really nothing about this issue - apart from the date - that suggests anything special about it.  And the shame of it - Dennis and Minnie relegated to 'support acts' to Walliams on the cover of their own comic

One other thing: I thought that the relentless use of full colour on every page was quite overwhelming (the only thing that was), and found myself wishing that it had a few black and white pages with a bit of spot colour interspersed throughout, just for a bit of eye-relief.  (Variety is the spice of life they say.)  All in all, an unimpressive and underwhelming 'special' issue that really had nothing special about it.  I recently acquired a 1966 Dandy Annual and a 1967 Beano Annual, which were vastly more diverse and entertaining.  The Dandy Annual in particular had a good selection of artists whose styles were different, but mostly of the same professionally high standard.  Perhaps the publishers should give me a go at being the guest editor next time - I'm sure I could improve on whoever oversaw this unremarkable effort.

However, regular readers will probably enjoy the issue, but it wouldn't surprise me if many of them were left wondering whether it really needed 44 pages to mark the comic's 80th Anniversary.  Got to squeeze those extra pennies out of them somehow though, eh, DCT?

Anyway, for all that, Happy Birthday Beano - nice to see that you're still around.

Monday 23 July 2018


Images copyright relevant owner

I stepped back into the '70s today, when I received the above issue of BUSTER & JET, cover-dated 1st January 1972.  Nowadays, comics usually go on sale at least a week before the date on the cover, but back in the '60s & '70s, it was sometimes just a few days (depending on the publisher), as must've been the case here.  Otherwise it would've been on newsagents' counters on the 25th December and that's just not likely considering the day.  There was still a week between issues though, it's just that the cover date didn't always correspond with reality, which has created all sorts of problems for comics historians later trying to establish exactly when a periodical went on sale.  The cover says 'Every Monday', but it may well have been in the shops on the Saturday, so it can be really confusing at times.

But I got sidetracked, as that's not what I intended to talk about.  I bought this comic for a mere 99p (wotta bargain) and what a little gem it is.  Art by ANGEL NADAL, KEN REID, LEO BAXENDALE, REG PARLETT, TERRY BAVE, JOHN STOKES, DOUG MAXTED, SOLANO LOPEZ, and others, make this a delight for the eyes and a joy to read.  I no longer recall if I was still buying the merged comic at this stage in '72, but if I wasn't, I surely should've been!  With this issue, Ken Reid's QUEEN Of The SEAS from SMASH! was reprinted, and PEST Of The WEST from WHAM! appears to be a regular feature as well.  I really struck it lucky with this comic, which I only bid on in a PHIL'S COMICS auction on a whim!

This 36 page comic was real value for money back in the day.  Costing a mere 3 new pence, it was absolutely chock-full of fun and adventure.  VON HOFFMAN'S INVASION, FISHBOY DENIZEN Of The DEEP, SAM'S CITY JUNGLE, GALAXUS The THING From OUTER SPACE, and The WIZARD Of FOOTBALL supplied the action, while The SLUDGEMOUTH SLOGGERS and The ASTOUNDING ADVENTURES Of CHARLIE PEACE both provided fun and adventure in equal measure.  For outright humour, BUSTER'S DREAM WORLD, RENT-A-GHOST Ltd., The HAPPY FAMILY, BUSTER GIGGLES, CLEVER DICK, SMILER And DIMPS, BONEHEAD, MASTER-MIND, The KIDS Of STALAG 41, BOB-A-JOB, Queen Of The Seas, BERTIE BUMPKIN, TATTY MANE KING Of The JUNGLE, CONVICT 4321 OUTT, Pest Of The West, and FACEACHE fulfilled that function admirably.  

I've decided to show a few choice pages to give you a taste of the issue, but I'd like you to take a good look at the Rent-A-Ghost Ltd. page in particular.  In my previous post I mentioned the visual shorthand employed in comics in order to convey character information at a glance, and the Scotsman is a fine example of this.  Could he be described as a 'racial' (but not racist) or ethnic stereotype?  Well, that's one way of putting it I suppose, but I just regard him as a convenient comical caricature, designed to cut to the chase in telling the reader who and what he is; there's no malicious or demeaning intent.  True, some Scots may take exception to this cliched depiction, but most of us can laugh at ourselves, as well as other nations' perception of us.  Just thought I'd throw that out there for your consideration - and it's a complete coincidence that the strip ties in to my previous post, as I had no idea what the storylines were when I purchased the comic.

Anyway, I'm off back to the '70s - why not come along for the ride?!


I now own all three Annuals pictured, but in '72, all I had was the THUNDER book.  Can't
recall if I saw the other two, but the titles seemed like ancient history by then, their weekly
comics having expired two or three years earlier - which seems far longer when yet a youth


Image copyright D.C. THOMSON & Co., Ltd

Further to my recent post about the exclusion of a black character called 'PEANUT' from a facsimile of the first BEANO, I thought I'd expand on the topic a little.  Someone sent me a 'cut and paste' of a newspaper article (DAILY TELEGRAPH I think) about a facsimile of the first DANDY Annual which was printed back around 2006.  The facsimile (which I have) has a strip called SMARTY GRANDPA (who looks for all the world like GRANDPA BROON and is drawn by DUDLEY D. WATKINS), wherein he helps a group of singers that he refers to as 'NIGGER MINSTRELS'.

Now before anyone has an apoplectic fit over my use of what is nowadays referred to as 'the N-word', I am merely reporting the facts of the case and, in regard to the aforementioned Dandy Annual, not using the word with the intention to insult or offend anyone.  D.C. THOMSON caught a little flak for not editing the word from the speech balloons, but this is what their spokesman said in response back in 2006:

"Obviously, sensitivity at the time did not consider this to be inflammatory at all.  It is a true facsimile copy and we don't feel it is something we should edit.

The position that we have adopted is that this annual is of its time.  We would not have published this word in the Dandy of today.

We should celebrate the fact that we live in a time where such ideas around race are no longer seen as appropriate and our society does not condone this kind of language.

But if anything, it is promoting racial harmony.  Smarty Grandpa earns money for his pals for a slap-up feed because they couldn't do it.  I don't think he says anything that can be considered racially prejudiced."

And the spokesman is absolutely right.  Back in 1939 in Britain, the word 'nigger' didn't have the same inflammatory, derogatory connotations that it had in some parts of the United States.  The word has a long and convoluted history, and basically derives from the word 'negro', which itself was derived from the word 'niger' and innocently referred to people of a dark-skinned complexion.  People of the Southern United States pronounced the word 'nigra', and it was their dialect that that made the word sound like 'nigger'.  The word hasn't always been seen as pejorative either, sometimes being used in an endearing way, depending on exactly which part of the world one lived.  Even negroes at one time used the word without perceiving it as demeaning, and many negroes still use it today - though they usually pronounce it as 'nigga' or 'niggah'.  "In many African-American neighbourhoods," says ARTHUR K. SPEARS (in Diverse Issues In Higher Education, 2006), "nigga is simply the most common term used to refer to any male, of any race or ethnicity."  "The point" he later says, is that the word (nigga) is "evaluatively neutral in terms of its inherent meaning; it may express positive, neutral or negative attitudes."

But should we use it - even when examining its history in posts like this - if it causes offence to some people?  I certainly wouldn't refer to a black person by the name, especially not face-to-face, though simply out of politeness and regard for their feelings, not out of fear.  But offence is a strange animal, to be sure.  I know two Muslim shopkeepers, who sometimes called me (and other customers) 'honky'.  Were they being offensive and did their use of the word reflect a negative attitude to white people?  To be honest, I didn't care.  I took it in good humour, and if I wasn't offended then no harm done, regardless of the intention of the speaker.  Perhaps someone else would have been offended, but that illustrates the problem.

For example, the word 'Jock' is often used by English people to describe Scottish people.  I don't view it as an insult, but I know of some Scots who do.  (In fact, I heard tell of one English cartoonist who referred to two visiting Scots as "two f*cking Jocks" when announcing to someone (I forget whether it was at an event or elsewhere) that two Scottish gentlemen had dropped in to see him.  He was unaware that the duo had assumed they were meant to follow him (thinking they were still standing where he'd left them, out of earshot), and obviously used the description in a pejorative manner.  So how do you define a word which can be intended to be offensive (depending on context and tone) or used with no malicious intent at all?

Should a word be 'censored' just because you take offence at it, even when no offence was intended?  And if someone else doesn't perceive any offence in the word - even when it's being used in reference to them - just how do we decide?  Should we allow those who are seemingly determined to take offence at the drop of a hat (and yes, such people exist) to define and dictate to the rest of society how it should speak or think?  (And I'm not talking here about swear words where there's usually a consensus of opinion on them.)

However, don't misunderstand me.  I'm not suggesting for a second that use of the N-word is acceptable in today's society in contemporary times - I'll leave that discussion to others.  But when literature or movies from a different era, where certain words that are 'of their time' and which weren't viewed as (or intended to be) offensive are re-presented in their original form, then in the interests of historical accuracy, their contextual integrity should be preserved.

In comics, there's a certain visual shorthand which is often called into play.  In English comics, visiting Scotsmen are usually portrayed as wearing kilts, sporting Tam O'Shanters, having knobbly knees, and clutching gnarled walking sticks.  There are some Scots who find such 'shortbread tin' depictions offensive, believe it or not.  (The same Scots, ironically, who wear kilts at weddings.)  I'm not one of them.  (And, incidentally, in Scottish comics, visiting Englishmen are usually depicted as being snooty, nose-in-the-air, well-dressed snobs, so at least there's balance.)  Back in 1938 in Britain, 'Peanut', while arguably a racial stereotype, wasn't intended to be a racist stereotype, and I believe there's a difference.  I'm sure that most black people who are aware of this wouldn't be offended by the character in his historical context, and we shouldn't patronise them by assuming that they automatically would be.

Historical items should be viewed in their original context, and pandering to well-meaning but deluded, politically-correct numpties who wish to sweep anything that might cause offence under the carpet is what's truly offensive in situations like this.  Apparently, in the case of Smarty Grandpa, the newspaper article reported only three people being offended by the facsimile Dandy Annual, one of them from The Glasgow Anti-Racist Alliance, who probably only became aware of the book when they were approached for comment and whose response was only to be expected.  (The other two were a Jamaican and his white wife.)  These people really should get a life - there are far worse things in the world to take offence at than a reprint of an old comic strip.

Another thing that occurs to me is that, like myself, some collectors who purchased BEANO - 80 YEARS Of FUN, will have done so because a 'facsimile' of the first issue was advertised as being included.  However, as the comic was missing four of its original 28 pages and was digitally manipulated to delete Peanut from the masthead, it's not a true facsimile and therefore constitutes false advertising.  It would be a different matter if it had been listed as an 'abridged, altered, near-facsimile' (or some such description), but to call it a facsimile when it's really not amounts to nothing more than deceit, regardless of the reasons for the makeover.

So who's with me?  Say "Aye!"  (Though feel free to comment even if your response is a resounding "Nay!")

Friday 20 July 2018


Characters copyright DC COMICS

Currently on sale on eBay, the seller says: "Can't say a lot.  Don't know a great deal about it... no rips or tears."  One of the pictures he shows reveals a tear at the bottom of the cover's crinkled spine.  Guess just how much he wants for this dog-eared, spine-creased comic without the original free gifts?  £180.  Considering he admits to not knowing much about it, we can surely be forgiven for thinking he's being a tad optimistic, to say nothing of opportunistic,  In short, a chancer!

I reckon if it was in pristine condition with the 3 free gifts, it might be worth a third of the asking price to a buyer seeking to complete the 14 issue run.  What do you reckon, readers?  (And in case you were wondering, I've already got this issue three times over.)


Sad to learn, from browsing through STEVE HOLLAND's blog, that JIMMY HANSEN, ace cartoonist on such characters as BUSTER, SHINER, RICKY RAINBOW (which I lettered), and DENNIS The MENACE (as well as numerous others), died on Tuesday 19th June from cancer.  No doubt many comics fans who grew up reading his strips will feel that a little part of their own lives has departed with him, but at least his work survives in back issues that those who were wise enough to hang onto theirs can return to again and again.  Condolences to his family, friends and fans.  See Steve's post on the artist here.  

Thursday 19 July 2018


Images copyright D.C. THOMSON & Co., Ltd

Just sat down with my anniversary boxed set of BEANO - 80 YEARS Of FUN, and am hugely disappointed to see that now the 'PC Brigade' are rewriting history.  Think I'm kidding?  Take a look at the facsimile cover of the first issue above.  PEANUT, the little black boy who adorned the masthead has been excised from existence.  The joke page which features him is also missing.  (As are another 3 pages from what was originally a 28 page periodical.)  So much for it having any archival value to collectors or historians.

What's the problem?  The first issue has been reprinted several times over the years and Peanut has always been present, so why is he absent now?  Racially sensitive perhaps?  Maybe even offensive?  Bollocks!  A cartoon drawing of a black boy should be no more offensive to a black person than a picture of DENNIS The MENACE or FRED FLINSTONE would be to white person.  What black people should be offended by is Peanut being written out of history as if he never existed.

The reprint even has a note inside saying "Some pages may contain references which are of their time, but would not be considered suitable today."  Yet they omit Peanut, who - as a cartoon caricature - in no way could be considered any less suitable than any other comic strip character, white or otherwise.  Take a look at him in a pic from one of the excised pages (below).  He's a cute-looking wee fella whose inclusion was never intended to demean black people and surely wouldn't have been considered offensive to or by them at the time.  (I think it's safe to assume that they have a sense of humour as well as perspective.)

Every single person who had a hand in the insulting decision to whitewash (no pun intended) Peanut from the comic's history should be lined up in a corridor and given a severe kicking for their seriously unsound, politically correct, pathetically patronising attitude.  Remember a few years back when various council bosses and business managers issued an edict that their employees shouldn't swap Christmas cards with the word 'Merry Christmas' on them?  Only cards with 'Seasons Greetings' or some equally anaemic, non-specific message should be used, for fear of offending Muslims.  The Islamic community's reaction?  "Don't be daft - we don't care!"  This is yet another example of that kind of stupidity.

Here's how the 2008 book, The HISTORY Of The BEANO, addressed any potential controversy:  "It (The Beano) has always been a child of its time, however, and as one looks over 70 years of Beanos, there is some content that would no longer be thought acceptable.  When The Beano was first published in 1938 , the drawing of 'Peanut' appeared on the front cover, something that would never be contemplated today.  To place The Beano in the context of the time, we keep the image of Peanut in this history but we certainly do not wish to cause any offense by so doing."  See?  Informative and educational at the same time.  That's surely the best way to do it.

The boxed set itself is otherwise excellent and good value for money, and if you're a Beano fan, you're sure to love it.  However, if you expect the facsimile of the first issue to accurately capture and reflect the spirit and humour of its time, then be aware that its archival and historical integrity has, sadly, been seriously compromised.  Below is how the cover looked back in 1938.  It would be nice if Thomson's could remember it for the next big anniversary bash.


Images copyright MARVEL COMICS.  Cover art JACK KIRBY & DICK AYERS

One of the drawbacks of the much-vaunted 'Marvel Method' was that, occasionally, the words didn't always match what was going on in the pics - or vice versa, if you prefer.  Writer STAN LEE usually tailored his script to the art, and on the odd instance when he diverged (for whatever reason), he would have a panel or page redrawn to fit the direction in which he wanted the story to go.  It has to be admitted though, that sometimes things didn't quite gel and that glaring inconsistencies managed to sneak past the proofreading process.  Such an example is the one below from The INCREDIBLE HULK #5 - take a look.

Okay, got that? According to RICK JONES (the inevitable teenage sidekick), TYRANNUS and BETTY have already passed through the opening which the boulder now blocks, this being the route by which the villain first reached the surface.  However, peruse the following panels and see if you can spot the 'loopy lapse in logic' which Stan, as both writer and editor, failed to see. 

It's obvious from the first panel that Tyrannus and Betty are still making their way up the mountain (from the other side, presumably), not descending into the bowels of the earth.  And when The HULK and Rick return, the boulder has been moved.  However, if Tyrannus was already on the other side of it, who moved it and why?  The scene as dialogued just doesn't make sense.  It's clear that JACK KIRBY intended Bruce and Rick to detect tracks leading from the boulder, not to it; and while they made their way back to the lab, Tyrannus arrived and moved the rock, which is why it wasn't in place when ol' Greenskin and his teenage chum returned.

 Here's how certain dialogue and captions should read:







(Etc., etc.)


Obvious when you apply a little logic, isn't it?  Still a classic story though, and one of my all-time favourites.

For more Loopy Lapses in Logic, click here and here.


(In case there's anybody out there unfamiliar with the 'Marvel Method', this was when the writer would supply the penciller with a brief synopsis (or both of them would work out a basic plot), which the artist would then illustrate, perhaps adding some ideas of his own to 'flesh things out'.  Then the writer, usually following explanatory margin notes by the artist, would script the dialogue and captions, before sending the pages to be lettered and inked.)

Wednesday 18 July 2018


Regular long-term readers may recall me mentioning my family's custom of visiting my maternal grandparents every Sunday afternoon for tea, and their itchy, red bed-settee that we used to sit on as I read whatever comics I'd taken along to while away the hours.  As is no doubt obvious from the name, the settee (which looked just like a settee) could be folded out into a bed to accommodate visitors who might have to stay overnight for whatever reason.  Indeed, one Sunday night in their previous home in Rutherglen, we were astounded to find on the point of departure that a thick impenetrable fog had descended, making it impossible to see and resulting in us having to stay until the next day.  The bed-settee was pressed into service, and I'd imagine it fulfilled the same function for others on the odd occasion.

It's amazing the amount of comics I associate with that settee; issues of TV CENTURY 21, DETECTIVE COMICS, BATMAN, SUPERBOY, SUPERMAN, FANTASTIC, WHAM!, POW!, MWOM, SMCW, and just about any other title you care to name.  I'd always take at least one comic with me on my visits, perhaps acquired on the Saturday or that very day - or even through the preceding week.  I liked to dwell on my comics, immerse myself in them, drink in their four-colour or monotone magic, and lose myself in the fantastic fables they presented in their palpitating pages to a receptive readership.

The years passed (as years do) and eventually my grandparents moved into an old-folks home, and some of their superfluous belongings passed to us.  Amongst other things, we took possession of their itchy, red bed-settee, which sat in my brother's room for several years in two different houses.  When he eventually got his own flat, he didn't take the settee with him and it was left to gather dust in his old room.  Again, regular readers will perhaps remember that, after four years in another house, we returned (sans sibling) to our former abode, the one I now inhabit.  The settee moved back with us, but unfortunately, we had acquired so much other furniture in the four years we were away that there was really no room for it and, sadly, it was soon quietly dispensed with.

Even today, while poring over some of my old comics, I'm suddenly reminded of the old bed-settee, and realise that I'd once read whatever comic I'm looking at on that very settee, more than two-thirds of my lifetime away.  I've got a slightly blurred photo somewhere of me sitting on the settee, with which I hope to adorn this post (if I can find it), plus a couple of other random snaps of it shortly before its enforced 'retirement'.  A few of the comics are the original ones I had back then, and several are later replacements, but I'm struck by the fact that, in some instances, I read the originals and their replacements while sat on that same red settee, many years apart.  It's now been gone for over 30 years, but sometimes it still seems like part of my life - especially when I'm reading comics or annuals that I remember reading back in the '60s, '70s and early '80s, sat on that sadly-missed, itchy, red bed-settee.

Now here's another question: Is there an item of furniture, or anything in fact, that your mind returns to whenever you're re-reading a comic or book from your long-gone youth?  Do you suddenly give a sigh at the thought, and wish that you could have it back again, and regret, as I do, that for almost every new purchase in our lives, an older possession, representing so many memories and associations, must sadly be 'sacrificed' at the altar of acquisition in order to accommodate it?  Do tell.

Above, the disassembled parts of the settee, a couple of months or so after moving back to my present abode.  Ah, the memories that the sight of it evokes.  The photo at the top of the post was taken in the previous house, but I remember the settee in my grandparents' possession from several of our houses before that.  (Incidentally, tired and grumpy-looking as I may appear, I was still only in my 20s in that pic.)  I should also mention that the settee was only itchy because of the material it was made of, not because it was 'unclean' or anything.  I mainly remember it being itchy from when I was a youngster and still wearing shorts, because then the bare skin of my legs came into contact with it.  'Twasn't so bad when I started wearing long trousers (at the age of 20 - he joked).


And below are some of the comics I associate with the settee.  I'll add more from time to time as I remember them.

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