Friday, 31 August 2018

MARIE SEVERIN & GARY FRIEDRICH - R.I.P.



Sad news that MARVEL legend MARIE SEVERIN has passed away at the age of 89.  One of the greats, and I'm lucky enough to have her autograph on a KULL The CONQUEROR comic (#6 I think).  More sad news - GARY FRIEDRICH, who co-created GHOST RIDER and wrote a whole kaboodle of mags has passed away at the age of 75.  We of a certain age can take a measure of consolation that their work will live on, and that we can return to it again and again.

For a fuller account of their careers, take a look at MARK EVANIER's blog - the link is in the sidebar on the right.

Tuesday, 28 August 2018

REWORKED REPOST: SUE AND ALICIA - PEAS IN A POD?


Images copyright MARVEL COMICS

When the November-dated first issue of The FANTASTIC FOUR debuted in August of 1961, there was a suggestion that BEN GRIMM carried a torch (no pun intended) for his teammate SUSAN STORM.  That was repeated in FF #4, but I can't recall if there were ever any further examples between that fourth issue and the eighth, in which we were introduced to ALICIA MASTERS.


You all know the story.  The PUPPET MASTER lures The THING into his clutches via one of his radioactive clay figures, and is then surprised to find that SUSAN STORM has also turned up in his lair, having invisibly followed Ben there to see where he was going in his trance-like state.  Gassing Sue into unconsciousness, Alicia's step-father persuades her to (unwillingly) impersonate Sue, to whom she fortuitously bears an uncanny resemblance, and then sends her back to the BAXTER BUILDING with Ben - as a "little prank".  (And gasp at just how quickly The Puppet Master knocks up a duplicate costume.)


It's clear from JACK KIRBY's art that Alicia has her hair cut 'n' dyed (by her father - is there no end to the man's talents?) to match Sue's, but STAN LEE's dialogue refers to it as a wig.  (However, when Alicia pops up again later in the tale, although her hair is back to its natural colour, it's still styled after Sue's, which is shorter.)


But why does The Puppet Master go to all this bother?  What does it achieve, other than to send his step-daughter into possible danger?  As he later reveals, he had the 'foresight' to create a puppet of Sue, so why not just put her under his control and send her back to the Baxter Building with Ben?  In fact, why even bother to do that?  Why didn't he just put all four of them under his power and have the FF come to his apartment, where he could destroy them at his leisure?  Or just have them 'top' themselves in their skyscraper headquarters.


Anyway, Ben might not win Sue's love, but he does end up with a Sue Storm lookalike, which is an interesting scenario I'd like to have seen explored to some degree.  However, no one ever referred to Sue and Alicia looking like twins after that one issue.  (Years later, in a back-up tale in FF #118, writer ARCHIE GOODWIN revealed that, in an alternate universe, Ben actually did marry Sue, as, on that world, he was Mr. FANTASTIC, and REED RICHARDS was The THING.)


H'mm, one thing's for sure.  I'm either giving the matter too much thought, or Stan and Jack didn't give it enough.  Which do you think it's likely to be?  (Be gentle with me.)

Sunday, 26 August 2018

BABE OF THE DAY - LYNDA CARTER...



Here's the lovely LYNDA CARTER to remind you what a beautiful woman looks like.  You might not know this, but Lynda keeps a framed photo of me by her bedside to remind her what a handsome hunk of manly-man looks like.  Of course, she won't be the only woman who does that, given my handsomeness.  (Oh, have to go - here comes the nurse with my medication.)

Friday, 24 August 2018

OVER THE HILL, MICHAEL (UPDATED)...



This will no doubt be described as a 'personal attack' by the individual concerned, but it's actually nothing more than a justifiable response to someone by the name of MICHAEL HILL, who seems to have a fondness for misrepresenting (and outright distorting) facts, instead preferring to veer off into fantasy in his rabid attempts to impose his view of things on the rest of comics fandom.  I'm not necessarily describing his rationalisation for vilifying one of the chief architects of the MARVEL AGE, but rather his way of dismissing those who don't share his views.  

A few posts back, I republished an old piece about STAN LEE, JACK KIRBY, and STEVE DITKO.  You can read it here, and I would ask you to pay particular attention to the comments section, and specifically the submissions of Mr. MICHAEL HILL, who accused me of being 'disingenuous', 'moving the goalposts', and all sorts of other skulduggery, all the while maintaining throughout his arrogant and disrespectful accusations that he was engaging in a civil debate. Clearly his idea of civility is different from mine.

Then someone by the name of 'TRUTH' left a comment taking a little dig at me.  I clicked on the name and the Blogger Profile it took me to was that of Michael Hill.  He appears to have changed the name on his comment before submitting it, but had carelessly neglected to change the name on the Blogger Profile linked to it.  When I clicked on the name of a comment submitted under his own name, it likewise linked to the very same Blogger Profile (that of Michael Hill), exactly the same in every detail (set up date and number of visits) as the one linked to 'Truth's' name.

Access to the Blogger Profile linked to both names (Truth and Michael Hill) has now been removed, as you'll discover if you click on them, doubtless a pathetic attempt to try and cover the trail back to his door.  Too late!  He now denies that Truth was him, thus ironically proving that he is indeed a stranger to the truth, but not in the way that he intended.

When someone goes to such extremes, they demolish any shred of credibility they may have (even if only in their imagination) and stand revealed as someone who simply can't be trusted.  He is now trying to bluff it out, claiming that someone else must have used his Blogger account, which he says he hasn't used in years.  However, all his comments to this blog are submitted from his Blogger account, which, as far as I understand, he has to sign-in to in order to do that.  (I know I have to.)

So, as to who did exactly what in the Stan, Jack, and Steve controversy, well - that's still a matter of hotly-contested opinion, and each man is entitled to his own view on the subject.  However, on the question of disingenuity, moving the goalposts, distortion, fabrication, and outright lying, there's no doubt as to who did that on my earlier post - that was Mr. Michael Hill, whose meagre shred of credibility (if indeed he had any) is now in tatters.

Well done, Mr. Hill - the best 'own goal' I've ever witnessed.

******

Perhaps Mr. Hill would like to properly explain and demonstrate the method by which someone could 'hijack' his Blogger Profile.  Also, he should complain to the relevant channels about his alleged 'identity theft' and ask them to investigate and identify the culprit - there must be a trail.  I certainly have nothing to fear from such an investigation - him, on the other hand...  He should put up or shut up!  But he won't, will he?  Nah!  

Thursday, 23 August 2018

THE RISE AND RISE OF STAN LEE - GUEST POST BY BARRY PEARL...



Bashful BARRY PEARL has graciously deigned to write a guest post about STAN LEE for Crivens!  (In case you didn't know, that's Stan above, to the right [from our point of view] of that incredibly handsome and sophisticated individual whose name escapes me for the moment.  Oh, wait a sec - now I remember.  It's that suave, sexy, manly-man, Kid Robson.)  So without any further ado ('cos it's all done), let's read what Barry has to say about 'The Man'.

******  

Let's start with one important fact:  The decade of the 1960s was Marvel's most creative period, especially during the first five years.

I'm often puzzled by people who try to diminish the accomplishments of Stan Lee by asking "What did he do after Steve Ditko and Jack Kirby left?"  The question is ambiguous and suggests that they don't understand Stan's job at Marvel in those days.  Stan was not only a writer, but also editor and art director for much of the decade, and the reason the question is ambiguous is because Steve Ditko left in 1965, five years before Kirby did in 1970, and we need to count those years, though many detractors don't.

Of course, an equally valid question may well be "What did Kirby and Ditko do after they left Marvel?"

No matter what fans want to think, producing comics is a business - the art and story come second.  Stan's job was to make money for Marvel, produce comics on time, and increase sales, something which he did very well.  Even Jack Kirby said that his job was to "sell magazines" - not necessarily to create good ones, but to sell them.  In 1960 Marvel was selling 16,000,000 copies a year.  By 1966, Steve Ditko had left and, even though he was no longer on Spider-Man and Dr. Strange, Marvel was selling 35,000,000 comics a year.  Without missing a beat,  Stan assigned Spidey to John Romita and added many aspects to the character that Ditko had abandoned.  Aunt May looked younger, Peter Parker became handsome, and he got a girl-friend or two that he could actually keep.

The new team not only produced great stories (I loved numbers 39 and 40, Romita's first issues), but they'd soon also created a great villain - The Kingpin.  This version of Spider-Man garnered new readers and became a college sensation, drawing in older readers who'd abandoned comics a decade earlier.  Spidey became Marvel's biggest seller, and by 1970, Marvel's total annual circulation had increased to 60,000,000.  Five years after Ditko left,  circulation had doubled.  That was Stan's job.  If you're going to blame him later, than you have to credit him now.  With circulation up and more money coming in, publisher and owner Martin Goodman enabled Stan to recruit not just Romita, but also Gene Colan and John Buscema at higher page rates than Marvel had offered before.  Iron Man and Dare-devil were further developed and sold more comics with the team of Lee and Colan, while Buscema added not only to Spider-Man, but did well with everything he touched. 


Whereas, with DC, their wartime heroes existed on an alternate Earth to their modern counterparts (a necessary device for the sake of modern continuity), Timely's wartime heroes shared the same universe as the contemporary Marvel characters.  Marvel had it easier though, by virtue of their '60s heroes having no earlier doppelgangers.  The concept of a single, unified Marvel Universe was Stan's vision, and it allowed for cross-pollination in various mags.  While some artists, including Ditko, didn't appreciate putting in guest stars, Stan loved the idea and did it often;  with circulation increasing it would've been hard to quibble with this approach.  Stan's vision has been incorporated into the last ten years of Marvel movies with incredible success, and those movies have taken in over 17 billion dollars worldwide at the box office.

From the very beginning of the Marvel Age, Stan injected many adult themes into the stories, including the cold war, unemployment, handicapped people, and ageing, etc.  This was something that Marvel's main competitors didn't do.  He even retitled Amazing Adventures to Amazing Adult Fantasy, and advertised it as "The magazine that respects your intelligence".

Lee wanted to push the limits of creating comics so he and Romita produced the black and white Spectacular Spider-Man magazine, aimed at older readers and released without the Comic Code's seal of approval.  Marvel also published the first Savage Tales, another mag for adults that was also outstanding.  Sadly, Goodman cancelled them both, being fearful that he'd run into trouble with the Code.  It took courage then, in 1971, for Stan to publish a three-part anti-drug story in Amazing Spider-Man #s 96-98.  The issues were published without the Comics Code approval, which no other publisher or editor had done before, and there was a risk that dealers wouldn't put mags on the stands that didn't bear the Comics Code stamp.

Stan was the editor of at least 16 comics a month during the 1960s, and writer for about half the stories.  At DC, several editors produced only five or so comics a month, and of them, only Robert Kanigher wrote.  So, beginning in 1965, Stan hired Roy Thomas.  Roy worked his way up to The Avengers, partnered with Buscema, Sgt. Fury with Dick Ayers, and The X-Men with Neal Adams.  Roy and his various partners produced great comics that sold well.

Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. was at first handled by Jack Kirby, but assigning it to Jim Steranko was an inspired move.  The mag didn't have the highest circulation in the Marvel stable, but readers were extremely loyal and kept buying the book.  Over at DC, reprints were often from a generation earlier, whereas Lee, in 1965, started reprinting tales of relatively recent stories.  This catered to new readers and brought them up to date with what had gone before.  Oh, and I loved Not Brand Echh, which at first was a funny, satirical look at Marvel comics, and, as time went by, the entire comics industry.  It's worth reiterating that by the end of the '60s, circulation had reached 60,000,000.


In 1968 Marvel was bought by Perfect Film and Chemical and Goodman was no longer the owner.  Jack Kirby left in 1970, and although his last year at Marvel was hardly inspired, it was still Kirby.  According to Mark Evanier's biography of Kirby, the new owners wouldn't negotiate with Jack, nor did they try hard to keep him, which was foolish on their part of course.  After Jack departed, Stan took an extended vacation and didn't write.

The new owners had a new direction for the company:

1)  Initially, no more continued stories,  disrupting what had been established over the last decade.

2)  They wanted, instantly, a huge amount of new titles, to compete one-on-one with DC.

3)  Whereas comics initially had 24 pages of art, then 20, eventually it went down to 19 with two half pages numbered separately, keeping the count at 20.  DC had used half pages before, but it was a first for Marvel.

4)  The prices on comics almost tripled, going from 12 cents to 35 cents in just a few years.

5)  The black and white line was started.

6)  They wanted to expand into the international market.

7)  Under Stan, characters (except for Captain America and Nick Fury) appeared in only one comic, enabling their authors to control their continuity.  Soon, most title characters had to appear in two books, with different authors, thereby complicating continuity.  (Spider-Man eventually appeared in three titles.)

Stan had to adapt to changes of this kind, so how did he cope with this burden?  Stan worked with Roy Thomas and created a big hit with Conan The Barbarian and later Kull The Conqueror.  Marvel returned to horror with great talent in Chamber Of Darkness and Tower Of Shadows, and launched The Silver Surfer to new heights with John Buscema.


But here's the BIG thing:  In 1973 Stan Lee became publisher, a fact ignored by his detractors.  This was a big step up in his career, as it meant more money and prestige, with no writing or deadline pressure.  He increased Marvel's overall circulation to 70,000,000.  This is what businessman are paid to do, and Stan did it admirably.

By the early '70s the industry wasn't attracting many new readers and total sales were in general decline.  This means that Marvel's new readers came at the expense of DC.  Under Stan, Marvel's sales exceeded DC for the first time, and have remained that way ever since.

There were successes in the mid-'70s, with Stan introducing many noteworthy new comics.  In 1972's America it took courage to produce Luke Cage, the first African-American hero to have his own national title.  Of course, by having to produce so many new titles in so many genres, there were, inevitably, also many failures.  Unlike Goodman, Stan was not the owner and had to follow instructions.  With so many new titles there was no time to develop new talent, and the bookkeepers often decided which titles had to be cancelled.  However, often within a failure there is success.  The magazines of the mid-'70s mostly failed, but Conan, Deadly Hands Of Kung Fu and a few others were successful, though Marvel did lose most of its female readers.

Roy Thomas, in Comic Book Artist #2, 1998, talking to Stan Lee, said  "There was a great drop-off in female readers in the early '70s.  We came up with three strips for which you made up the names and concepts:  Shanna The She-Devil, Night Nurse and The Claws Of The Cat.  (We were) trying to woo the female readers back."  Stan Lee said "The failure of The Cat was my biggest disappointment."

But Stan did give it the old college try.

There's no question that Lee, Kirby, and Ditko did outstanding work and nothing like that has happened since at any company.  While Ditko and Kirby continued drawing and writing, Stan's career took a successful turn up the company ladder.  Stan's later trajectory didn't parallel the other two - it was more perpendicular.


******

And many thanks to Barry for taking the time to write this guest post specially for this blog.  You can find the link to Barry's own site in my blog list on the right-hand side of the page. 

Wednesday, 22 August 2018

A FANTASTIC-LOOKING FACSIMILE OF FANTASTIC #1...



Have you ever craved a pristine-condition issue of FANTASTIC #1 to replace your long-discarded one from childhood?  Unless you struck it lucky, you'd have to pay around £60 for a fairly decent one, but there's currently a brilliant-looking, brand-new facsimile copy over on ebay for a mere £12.  Check out the accompanying photos to see what it looks like.








Monday, 20 August 2018

CAN I HAVE YOUR JOHN HANCOCK...?



I wouldn't really describe myself as an 'autograph hound', but I do have a few famous signatures.  Namely, BOB HOPE, ROGER MOORE, RIKKI FULTON, JOHN NOAKES, STAN LEE, WILL EISNER, MARIE SEVERIN, BRIAN BOLLAND, LEO BAXENDALE, TERRY BAVE, BRIAN SIBLEY, and, er - THARG.  Oh, and I've also got ROBERT BARTHOLOMEW's 'autograph' on a letter somewhere.  (That's BART from ALF, Bart, and COS fame to all you POWER COMIC fans.)

So, fellow Criv-ites - do you have any 'John Hancocks' and, if so, which ones are you proudest of?  Boast a little in the comments section.

******

And in case anyone is wondering about the title (some anonymous would-be commenter has already tried to suggest a sexual connotation), JOHN HANCOCK was an American known for the prominent way in which he signed his name on the Declaration of Independence, hence his name becoming synonymous for the word 'signature'.    

Saturday, 18 August 2018

BABE OF THE DAY - LYNDA CARTER...



The photo is in black and white - and it's a
black and white fact that LYNDA CARTER is
an utter BABE.  Who can argue with that?

RAMPAGING REPOST: STAN, JACK, OR STEVE - OR WAS IT ALL THREE?



I sometimes feel sorry for STAN LEE.  Not that he needs my sympathy by any means, but it must be hard to constantly be on the receiving end of concerted attempts to diminish or deny even the slightest bit of creative input from him on anything he ever worked on with JACK KIRBY or STEVE DITKO - or anyone else for that matter.

There are some diehard Kirby and Ditko fans who maintain that their artistic heroes were responsible for everything good that ever came out of MARVEL in the 1960s, and that all Stan did was edit the pages and dialogue them.  Notwithstanding all the redrawn Kirby pages which seem to suggest that Stan's involvement was far more than that.

However, just for the sake of argument, let's imagine for a moment that both Kirby and Ditko created all the characters they worked on and were responsible for all the plotlines, leaving Stan's contribution as no more than scripting the tales from Jack and Steve's margin notes.  Got that notion fixed in your head?  Good.  Now consider this.  Nothing that either Jack or Steve worked on after Marvel ever had the same kind of impact as the body of work they produced while collaborating with Stan.  That would suggest that Stan's involvement, even if only 'mere' scripting, was the 'secret ingredient' that had a disproportionate effect on the finished result.


Stan Lee, in effect, was the vital factor that transformed many competent but ordinary comicbooks into the dynamic Marvel masterworks that so many people fondly remember today.  Had Jack and Steve scripted their own strips, it's extremely doubtful, going by their few later limited achievements, that Marvel would have become as successful as it was in its glory years.

Who came up with the idea of THOR?  Jack said Jack, Stan said Stan, and LARRY LIEBER (Stan's brother) said Stan (with input from himself - the names DON BLAKE and URU, for example).  But does it matter who came up with the initial concept?  Surely it's what's done with it that matters?  How it was 'dressed up' and first presented to the public in JOURNEY Into MYSTERY #83.  The finished result was a product of Stan, Jack & Larry, so in that sense all three can legitimately claim to be co-creators of the character.  (Larry hasn't ever made such a claim as far as I know, but I noticed he was credited alongside Stan and Jack on the recent Thor movie.)


Take DOCTOR STRANGE.  Critics of Stan seize on his frank comment that the then-upcoming mystic master's first appearance was "Steve's idea" as proof that Ditko created the character and not Lee.  However, even ignoring Lee's obvious input to the 'DR. DROOM'-type origin a few issues later, it's clear that Strange is nothing more than a reworked Droom figure (by Stan and Jack - and actually inked by Steve), so SD can hardly be said to have come up with anything new, merely regurgitating Stan's original concept.  Certainly, regardless of who first came up with the idea, Doctor Strange - as he is perceived by the comics buying public today - is as much a creation of Stan as he is of Steve.

That's why it's simply much easier (and no less accurate) to say 'by Lee & Kirby', or 'by Lee & Ditko', because the nuts and bolts of exactly who did what is probably much more complicated and may never be known.  One thing's for sure - all three creative titans were never better than when working with their respective collaborators, their body of work providing a perfect example of something being greater than the sum of its parts.

'Nuff said.
     
Image copyright MARVEL COMICS

Wednesday, 15 August 2018

REFLECTIVE REPOST: ONE LAST WALK...


Zara Thustrasia

When I was much younger than I am now (a child in fact), I subscribed to the notion of 'best' friends.  There's an irony in the concept of course, because a best friend isn't someone who is necessarily 'better' than other friends, but is instead merely one whom we like more than the rest.  Over the years, I'm sure I've been a better friend to some people than those they'd regard as their 'best' pal, but I'm never going to be eligible for the position.  (Not that I'd want or even try to be.)

So I long ago abandoned the idea of best friends - as far as people go.  However, anyone who has ever had a dog will know that the only species on the planet fit to qualify for such an accolade is the canine one.  Dogs are always genuinely glad to see us, never bear a grudge for however many times we've scolded them over some doggy-misdemeanour, and their chief delight in life is to lie at our feet or by our side and simply bask in the  pleasure of our company.

My dog passed on to the great 'Kennel Club in the sky' twenty years ago come November.  ZARA was her name;  a black and gold German Shepherd of the most placid temperament imaginable.  She lived for twelve years, seven months, and I still remember the sound of her, near the end of her days, trying to drag herself up the stairs to my room simply to be with me. (When I heard her, I'd go downstairs and carry her up.)

What a poseur

She had cauda equina, a condition which 'fused' the nerves  in her spine together, making it difficult for her to walk.  I'd noticed it was getting worse and mentioned it to the vet when Zara was getting her annual booster jags.  "She'll be fine for years yet!" he'd said.  Seven or so days later, she could hardly walk, so I took her back and the first thing he said on sight of her was:  "That dog should be put to sleep!"  I reminded him that only a week before, he'd said she was in fine form.  "A lot can change in a week!" he muttered.  X-rays revealed that she'd also developed internal tumours, for which nothing could be done.

I explained that, as long as she wasn't in any pain, putting her to sleep wasn't an option I was prepared to consider at that time.  He gave her a course of tablets, but said that they'd only be of short-term benefit.  A fortnight later, for the first time, she had difficulty breathing.  It was the night of November 25th, 1998 and I'd hoped Zara might see one more Christmas at the very least.  I fetched the Christmas tree down from the attic and put it up in the livingroom, switching on the tree lights so that she could watch them twinkling in the gloom.

When morning came, I rang the vet and then carried Zara up to my room, and placed her on my bed to make her as comfortable as possible.  When the vet arrived, Zara lifted her head to look at him - then looked at me, licked my hand, and laid down her head with a sigh - almost of relief.  After examining her, the vet confirmed it'd be better to put her to sleep. Still clinging to some forlorn hope, I said that if there were any other options, regardless of expense, I'd prefer to explore them first.  He shook his head sadly.  "No, it's time" he said.

Zara as a pup

I signed for the lethal injection, which the vet then went out to his car to fetch.  When he returned, he said:  "Her circulatory system is 'down', so I'll have to inject it straight into her heart.  It isn't going to be pleasant - you might want to leave the room."  I was holding Zara's paw and stroking her head, determined to be with her to the end.  It was the least I could do - she'd always been there for me.  "I'll stay" I said.

The vet administered the injection, stood back and watched.  After a while, he said:  "I'm sorry, this has never happened before - she won't die."  Consumed with guilt, I protested that if she could resist a lethal injection, maybe something could've been done for her after all.  "No, she's got a strong heart, but she needs more than that to survive" he replied.  Finally, he'd no choice but to fetch another injection to administer.  Zara eventually breathed her last, to the sounds of 'Walking In The Air' from a wind-up Snowman doing its slow, circular dance close by.

I then had to help the vet put Zara in a bag and carry her out to his car.  I'd arranged with him to have her privately cremated in a place called 'Elysium Fields', but it couldn't be done until after the weekend.  On the appointed day, a friend, who was a minister, ran me through, and Zara was laid out on display before me.  She looked like she was sleeping, but she was frozen solid.  I stroked her fur for one last time, before my friend said a few words and read a poem over her, and she was then taken off to be 'attended' to.

Having fun in the back garden

I didn't know that the process would take two hours, so we sat in a cafe until it was time to collect her ashes.  I was struck by how long they retained their warmth - as if, in some strange way, life itself yet lingered.  Four years later, I finally scattered them in the back garden, where her spirit probably runs around snapping at wasps to this day.

I probably shouldn't divulge this, but on the day I scattered her ashes, I first looped her lead through the handle of the bag that the box was in, and took her for one last walk around the places she'd known and loved when she was alive.  I don't know whether anyone noticed me taking a carrier bag on a lead for a stroll - I'd have got some strange looks if they had, but it was something I felt compelled to do.  If you've ever had a dog, you'll understand;  if not, you'll think I'm completely bonkers.  (Not that I was dragging the bag behind me, mind you - it was by my side.)

Two best friends - in one last walk together.  What could be more fitting?

******

ZARA THUSTRASIA ROBSON

May 3rd, 1986 - November 26th, 1998

******

 "Well! I've seen men go to courageous death
In the air, on sea, on land!
But only a dog would spend his breath
In a kiss for his murderer's hand.

And if there's no heaven for love like that,
For such four-legged fealty - well!
If I have any choice, I tell you flat,
I'll take my chance in hell."

From "Rags" - by Edmund Vance Cooke.

Monday, 13 August 2018

RIP-ROARING REPOST: FRANKENSTEIN: THE TRUTH THEY TRIED TO HIDE...



You're looking at old photos of a corpse unearthed in 1901 that proves the FRANKENSTEIN legend is true.  Apparently, MARY SHELLEY based her 1818 tale of horror on rumours of an artificial man, created by German resurrectionist and surgeon LIPAR OFLO in 1800.  In 1869, Hungarian KAJOK VASALAS, intrigued by the persistent assertions that the novel was based on true events, spent over 30 years investigating the claims and, with the financial backing of a group of sympathetic seekers after truth, finally tracked down the cadaver, which was preserved in an air-tight, salt-filled casket in the cellars of The Royal Czech Society of Sciences.

(The 'experts' could not dispute that here, indeed, was a being stitched together from the parts of other corpses, but doubted that such a creature ever actually drew the breath of life.  Until, that is, the remains of half-digested food were found in its stomach. )

It turns out that JACK PIERCE, credited with creating the make-up for BORIS KARLOFF's portrayal of the monster in 1931, actually used photos of the corpse as reference.  Pierce came originally from Greece and his real name was JANUS PICCOULA;  his uncle, DEMIS PICCOULA, was a high-ranking professor of the Society, and supplied him with copies of the photographs upon learning that UNIVERSAL were planning to produce the movie.  However, when the other members saw the success of  the horror classic, they threatened to sue Universal unless a substantial amount of money was donated to Society funds.  A deal was eventually struck, on the condition that no mention ever be made that the visage of Universal's monster was anything other than an original creation, and that the corpse's existence should not be revealed for at least 80 years.


But why would Universal be afraid of the truth becoming common knowledge?  Presumably because the film, despite its huge commercial success, came in for much criticism at the time from church groups, appalled by the suggestion that mere Man was capable of usurping the role of the one true Creator.  If it were ever to become known that the motion picture was based on demonstrably true historical events, the public backlash against the studio would have been immense.  It's also likely that the Society would have claimed copyright of the image and deprived the studio of millions of dollars in merchandising potential.

However, the truth is now out!  In order to meet the cost of preserving the DNA-tested and authenticated remains, the Society has gone public with the story, Universal's arrangement having only been legally enforceable until 2011.  A major television documentary is now in the works, telling the true story of  facts concealed from the public from as far back as 1931.

Truth, as they say, is often stranger than fiction.

******

The corpse is currently stored in refrigerated conditions in what is now known as The Academy of Sciences of  the Czech Republic, formerly The R.C.S.S.  A BBC documentary, FINDING FRANKENSTEIN:  The TRUE STORY Of A  MONSTER, will be screened in November.



*   *   *


And now, an important word from our sponsor:

Yes, you're right - it's complete and utter rubbish!

The photos are 'borrowed' from ROBBY's CLASSIC MOVIE MONSTERS blog.  The monster was made by MIKE HILL, and the photos were taken by STAN WONG (with a little tweaking from me).  So, did you fall for it?  Nah?  Oh well... next time.

INCREDIBLE HULK ANNUAL 1979...


Images copyright MARVEL COMICS

I only learned of this Annual's existence a few short weeks ago when I saw it on ebay, having absolutely no recollection of ever having seen it back in 1978/'79.  I've got the 1977/'78 Annual so I bought this one to keep it company on the shelf, but the one that arrived was not exactly the same as the one pictured in the listing.  Can you spot what's different about it?

As you can see from the picture below, my copy is missing the words 'Annual 1979', which means that it was doubtless printed for sale abroad.  This was quite a common practice for IPC Annuals, as they were shipped abroad at a later date than they were sold in this country, but it's the first MARVEL Annual I've seen amended in this way.  Unlike IPC Annuals though, which merely deleted the year while leaving the word 'Annual', the whole line has been removed and a clumsy 'add in' has replaced it.

If nothing else, it makes for an interesting curio, but I'd have preferred to have received the original version.  Any Criv-ites got any other Marvel UK Annuals that have been amended in this way?  Tell all, folks! 


As you can see below, the contents page was also amended.  The book could possibly remain on sale for years without the date on it.


And below is the back cover of both versions, sans title.  Wouldn't make a bad pin-up, would it?

Sunday, 12 August 2018

THE 'MYSTERY' OF THE MARX BUMP'N'GO DALEK...



When the MARX TOYS 'TRICKY ACTION' DALEK (more commonly referred to as the Bump'n'Go) was first released in 1964, it wasn't too long before its shape was refined slightly and a few changes instituted.  The first version had a wider 'midriff', the eye stalk was longer and had a red ball at the end of it, and the casing was sprayed silver.  The earliest incarnations of the first version had a blue base and silver appendages, but this was very soon changed to a black base with black appendages, and there wasn't any great length of time between the two.

At some point, and I'm unable to determine exactly when, the shape of the Dalek was amended to a slimmer midriff with thinner bands, and the appendages were altered, with the eyepiece being slightly more accurate and in scale, and the plunger having a 'crink' straightened out.  The gun was also slightly amended and the Dalek colour was now a silvery-grey plastic instead of sprayed.  It may be that these changes were only instituted to distinguish the later large friction-drive model from its Bump'n'Go companion, but the redesigned chassis was soon pressed into service for the Bump'n'Go as well.      


However, it could be that the BBC requested the changes to make the model more accurate, although possibly it was because (and I'm speculating here) Marx thought that the slimmer version was easier for kids to grip with their small hands.  The lines of the thinner bands were sculpted a little smoother than the previous wider ones, and it has to be admitted that the streamlined version is a tad more reminiscent (head excepted) of the way the Daleks were first illustrated in the TV CENTURY 21 back page comic strip.  In profile both models look pretty much the same, though you can see in the photo below that the space between the bands on the first Dalek isn't quite consistent.

If there's anyone reading this who knows the facts behind the changes in the second version, feel free to enlighten me, as I'm sure my fellow Criv-ites would be interested as well.  I've never yet read a definitive explanation for the revisions (though the reasons for the appendages being altered are obvious), so perhaps nobody knows for sure and it's all down to guesswork.  Did you have this toy as a kid, readers, and what are your memories of playing with it?  (Incidentally, the second Dalek in the photos is a DAPOL reissue, but apart from the Bump'n'Go mechanism and the interior lighting, the shape and appendages are the same as the original revised version.)   

Incidentally, that's not a crack in the second Dalek's
head, it's just a colour streak in the plastic

THE RETURN OF THE FABULOUS FANTASTIC FOUR...


Images copyright MARVEL COMICS

So the FF are back - and it seems as if they've never really been away.  An enjoyable first ish, but pretty much same old, same old.  SARA PICHELLI's art is nice, and it's good to see The THING portrayed as the huge, er - 'thing' - that he was way back in 1961, but I'm not too keen on the amiable, friendly-looking, 'teddy bear' face, much preferring the heavy-browed, glowering Thing of FF #51.  There are several variant covers, but I plumped for the SUE STORM one as I've fancied her since I was a boy.  (Note the clever way I avoided saying I carried a 'torch' for her - oops, ruined that, didn't I?)

Available now - be sure to pick up a copy.

Thursday, 9 August 2018

BORISOPHOBIA...



Let me start this post by saying that I'm not a fan of BORIS JOHNSON (or any politician come to that).  He often comes across as a buffoon, though maybe that's a role he plays on purpose so that his political opponents will underestimate him (or for some other undetermined reason).  However, I believe the manufactured stushie over his comments about burkas reveals just how sorry we've become as a nation in recent years.

We Brits have always had the ability to laugh at (and among) ourselves.  The 'Englishmen, Irishman, and Scotsman' jokes that were once so popular were testament to the fact that we didn't take ourselves too seriously.  If an Englishman referred to a kilt as a 'skirt', there were no accusations of 'Celticphobia' suddenly flying around, with calls for an investigation.

Johnson's comments about pillar boxes and bank robbers were an attempt at humour, and however misjudged some people might consider his remarks, their response should surely be "T*sser!" and then to dismiss it from their minds.  I'm bound to say though, that in the pursuit of comedic comparison, the opening in a burka surely can be said to be reminiscent of the slot in a pillar box, and people who cover their faces could humorously be said to resemble bank robbers (but that's not the same thing as saying that they are bank robbers - or pillar boxes for that matter) - in much the same way that nuns are sometimes compared to penguins.  We don't hear nuns (or penguins) making a fuss about that though, do we?

There are two agendas at play here.  The first is a political one, where those scared of Johnson's alleged eye on the top job are exploiting the situation to try and kick the legs out from under him and scupper his chances, and the other is a cultural/religious one, where certain people within a minority section of our society, who are determined to take offense at everything, claim that they're the victims of Islamophobia - or any other ethnic/social/religious-phobia you care to mention.

It's a way to force us to bow the knee to them and elevate their 'sensitivities' (and demands) above everyone else's.  Ordinary, everyday British people are on the defensive, afraid to question, criticise, or even comment on any aspect of immigrant or ethnic cultures that isn't in accord with what have long been regarded as 'traditional British values'.  (And there's a phrase I never thought I'd type.)  We've now been manipulated into being so scared to cause offense to certain groups (and the current 'Gingerbread Man' controversy is a prime example) - even when none is intended or anticipated - that strange customs and practices, at one time foreign to our shores, are allowed to take root and grow unchallenged.

So some people claim to be offended by Boris's remarks and, sensing blood, they now circle like vultures - not just waiting for the victim's expiration, but pecking at its flesh in an attempt to hasten its demise.  It's time this nonsense stopped!  There's one right that no one has - or should have - in this world, and that's the right to be not offended.  (Yes, I typed that right - read it again.)

Do the English think kilts look like skirts?  Then let them say so and we'll all have a laugh about it.  Do Scots think that the English are snooty snobs?  Then let them proclaim it and we'll all chuckle over it.  If immigrant or ethnic communities want to feel integrated (and perhaps many don't), then the chief British characteristic they should adopt is a sense of humour and the ability to laugh at themselves - and to allow others to laugh at (and with) them.

Remember the movie LIFE Of BRIAN?  Some Christians took offense, but it sparked an interesting and (mainly) civilised discussion.  You'll never see an Islamic equivalent of 'Brian' in today's Britain (for fear of giving 'offense' obviously, and the stushie that would ensue), and surely that should be regarded as a step backward.  No minority within our society should be allowed to exercise that type of control (through fear of how they might 'kick off' as a result of any perceived insult) over the majority, but our 'leaders' are too scared to say so, never mind do anything about it. 

The agenda is control, readers.  Certain people in pursuit of that agenda are trying to exert influence over what we can think and say, and the method they're using is the claim of being offended whenever they hear something they don't like, or don't want others being able to say.  We shouldn't let this current situation with Boris become a weapon for those who wish to impose their ideas of how society should be on the rest of us.

Any thoughts on the matter?  I now declare the comments section open.  Who's going to be the first person brave enough to raise their head above the parapet?           

REMINISCING REPOST: WHEN TITANS CLASH, ETERNITY BECKONS...


Images copyright MARVEL COMICS

Picture the scene:  The living-room is lit by a standard lamp in the far corner, which casts its soft, warm glow over the fixtures, fittings and furniture - as well as the inhabitants, of which I am one.  Adding to the gentle light are the diffused rays from the coal-effect fire and the flickering images from the TV screen.  Father sits reading his paper, whilst mother stands behind him, ironing, and glancing occasionally at whatever's on 'the box'.  Sibling is out somewhere, either visiting friends or perhaps even working on his car in his lockup across the road.


As for myself, I'm sat beside a large brass 'log-box' in which was once stored coal for a 'real' fire, both in our present house and in the previous one.  On the floor, at my feet, sits a collection of comics, some of which were purchased, mail-order, from DAVE HERN of Bournemouth's WONDERWORLD COMICS, which, as far as I know, is still going strong (hopefully).


It's around 7 or 8 o'clock on a dusky Autumn evening and, outside, the 'tang' of the season permeates the air with its distinctive aroma peculiar to the time of year.  Inside, peace and tranquility reign supreme, and all seems right with the world.  It's the year 1981 - or perhaps even '82 - and in my blissful state of ignorance, I'm unaware that, in a year and a half or so, my family will once again be moving to yet another house in another neighbourhood, with all the inconvenience, turmoil and trauma that such events always bring.  (Regular readers will know that we returned to our previous abode four years later.)


But for the moment, all is as it should be.  Contentment and harmony are the order of the day as I leisurely peruse some of my recent four-colour acquisitions.  It's entirely possible that I may be compressing separate-but-similar evenings into one, but it seems to me, looking back from this distance in time, that amongst my comics stash that night were the very ones whose images adorn this hopefully poignant post.


Sometimes, nowadays, I'll try and re-create and recapture a hint of that narcotic night so many years ago - and, occasionally, I even succeed.  However, it's only ever a brief taste, self-consciously indulged in (like a guilty pleasure) before the moment fades like a phantom's fleeting passing in the mist.  I still have the comics, but not all of the other participants of that long-ago picturesque presentation have survived to reprise their previous roles in the play.  One by one they fell by the wayside, victims of Time.  (As we all must do one day, difficult as the idea is to accept.)


And so I take my leave of you for now, in the hope that my reminiscence, accompanied by such valiant visual images, has helped to summon some memorable memories from your own dim and distant days of yesteryear.  The ghosts of the past are always present - but sometimes we must strain to see them, or hear their siren call.



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