Monday 31 December 2018


Image copyright MARVEL COMICS

Here's a question for all you cavortin' Criv-ites to consider as you prepare to 'see in the bells'. Think back to all the old cowboy movies and TV shows you used to watch as a kid (and even as an adult), and see if you can identify what seems to be a glaring historical inaccuracy in them.  (And no, I'm not talking about the men having 'short-back-and-sides' haircuts.)  Then say what you think it was in our scintillating comments section.  Hah, that's got you pondering, hasn't it?

Happy New Year to all Criv-ites!  

Sunday 30 December 2018


Images copyright MARVEL COMICS

Here's another of the fantastic five-page tales that STAN LEE and STEVE DITKO were so good at.  From AMAZING ADULT FANTASY #11, I give you... (drum roll)... The TERROR Of TIM BOO BA!  (See, LH?  Sometimes dropping a hint works.)

Saturday 29 December 2018


Images copyright MARVEL COMICS

Bashful BARRY PEARL suggested that I show this STAN LEE/STEVE DITKO strip, presumably to demonstrate just how good the two men's collaborations could be.  He even sent me scans of "The GENTLE OLD MAN!" to present for your reading pleasure, saving me all the hard work of scanning these images myself.  (Not that I could anyway, as I don't have this particular issue - JOURNEY Into MYSTERY #94 from 1963.)  All that's left for me to do now is to say - enjoy!


Remember the above from a while back?  A fellow by the name of PATRICK FORD, totally misrepresenting what my post which he links to is actually about, is still at it, in his distorting, disingenuous way.  For a start, no one has, to my knowledge, ever 'insisted' (or even suggested) that fans of old MARVEL comicbooks 'need' to appreciate Ditko's post-Marvel work.  So that's a 'straw man' argument for a start.  Also, he himself wasn't necessarily even being thought of in my original post, so why he wants to include himself under the umbrella of my prior observations is something known only to him.  However, observe his latest distortion:

He falsely claims that my original post was saying that "people who like the breadth of a creator's work are a 'worshipping society'."  I never once said any such thing - never even used the word 'breadth' - that's him ascribing his own ideas to me.  What I was suggesting was that when someone elevates a creator's solo work (in this case STEVE DITKO) over that which he has produced with one particular collaborator (in this case STAN LEE), and thinks that the way to extol that creator is to continually attack the work and person of his collaborator, then that seems to suggest an 'appreciation' of the creator in question that borders on an obsessive, almost 'religious' worship - even when it involves rejecting some of the creator's collaborative work because of a seemingly irrational hatred of the collaborator.  Let's read an example of that attitude for ourselves, again by the aforementioned Mr. Ford.  

So he hates Stan Lee so much that he won't even read some of the work collaboratively produced with Steve Ditko?  Yet he criticises those who aren't particular fans of other work by Ditko, produced with a different collaborator, even though their lack of appreciation may be more down to indifference than because of a burning hatred of  the collaborator.  One thing I'm certain of - Stan never ruined the work of either Steve or Jack (though he may have occasionally 'tweaked' it in a different direction than either man intended), and to state that he did suggests an overwhelming, obsessional regard for the 'undiluted' work of Ditko and Kirby.

Very much like a worshipping cult I'd say, considering those that share his view are in the minority.

And let me remind people on the SNYDER/DITKO site that only the few vocal individuals who constantly strive to diminish Stan Lee's work and character, and who constantly misrepresent what others say in order to do so, are the subjects of this post, not the entire membership.

Friday 28 December 2018


Images copyright MARVEL COMICS

First of all, apologies for the slight shadow down one side of each image on show here, but I couldn't open the books they came from wide enough to get a flat scan of them - not without risking serious damage.  I'll try and replace them with superior scans at a future date. Above is the original 1941 version of this story from CAPTAIN AMERICA COMICS #1 by JOE SIMON & JACK KIRBY.  Below, the 1965 version from TALES Of SUSPENSE #64, still drawn by Jack, though this time around scripted by STAN LEE.  Who dreamed up the original plot - was it Joe or Jack, or did it emerge from both men putting their heads together and dreaming it up between them?  We'll probably never know, but one thing's for sure - it wasn't Stan - though to be fair to him, he never claimed it was.

As commissioning editor, it was likely Stan's idea to produce updated versions of earlier Captain America tales.  (Or possibly publisher MARTIN GOODMAN's.)  Merely reprinting the original versions wouldn't have been as effective, as they lacked the visual impact of '60s Marvel strips and readers would probably have been disappointed by them.  Or maybe it was Jack's idea?  Once again, we'll probably never know - not that it matters much at the end of the day.  What we do know is that the 'modern' versions are far superior, mainly because Jack's art had evolved into an even more dynamic style, and Stan's scripting is a far breezier and better read than the originals, which, dialogue and caption-wise, are pretty underwhelming.

It's almost certain that Stan knew he and Jack were recycling an old plot and that, as he was scripting the tale, he felt entitled to credit himself as 'writer'.  He was!  After all, he wrote the dialogue which gave each character a personality beyond merely describing what readers could see occurring for themselves.  That's all Stan meant when he claimed writing credit - I don't accept that he was always trying to claim he'd come up with the story, nor was he trying to steal credit from Jack Kirby or Joe Simon.  It was simply that, even with a tale he hadn't provided the plot for, he was still writing the words in the speech balloons and captions, and therefore honestly believed that he was the writer.  He never denied his collaborators' creative input into stories (even ones that he'd initiated and discussed with the artists), openly saying, in Kirby's case, that Jack was as much the writer on their strips as he was. 

Think about it for a second: Stan would've had to be incredibly stupid to think that claiming a writing credit would mislead readers into thinking that he always dreamed the whole thing up by himself.  Mostly because it was at odds with his description of the 'MARVEL Method' that he freely and frequently spoke and wrote about in interviews and magazine articles, and which he must've known was common knowledge.  True, sometimes the credits read 'Story - Stan Lee' when the basic plot had been developed by Kirby or STEVE DITKO, but Stan may have suggested the initial idea, or, in instances where he hadn't, mistakenly assumed (when the art was returned to be dialogued weeks or months later) that the story was one of his.  Given his famously poor memory and enormous, rapid-fire workload, he likely just didn't recall precisely which plots were by him, and which were by Jack or Steve.

In conclusion, I don't think it's necessary to ascribe sinister motivation to Stan when credits didn't spell out each collaborator's specific and full contribution; any oversights or seeming 'credit-stealing' simply resulted from credit being attributed long after after-the-fact, when Stan had already moved on to future issues.  Even Ditko later admitted to being surprised when he saw work by himself that he had no memory of producing, so why should it be different for Stan?  Jack also erroneously claimed credit for things he hadn't done, most famously claiming that he'd designed SPIDER-MAN's distinctive (Ditko) costume when, as we all know, he didn't.  People's memories are often far from reliable, yet Jack and Steve are given a free pass on their slips, but Stan is accused of being a liar and a thief.

In the words of the song - "It ain't necessarily so!"    


Pencilled, inked, lettered & coloured by me (boasting again)

I suppose I'm just being lazy showing this again, but I don't have anything new in me today.  This first started life as a 'rough' and had different dialogue with not-so-funny punchline.  Then I drew it up properly and invited readers to dialogue it in a competition.  Then, as semi-regular commenter CJ is sure to remind me, I used my own dialogue on the finished product, utilising an old joke that had been around for years.  However, I didn't award myself a prize, and CJ didn't want one, so no harm done.  Coloured by hand with acrylic inks I had lying around, I don't think it's too bad - I've certainly seen worse by guys who get paid for their stuff.

Thursday 27 December 2018


Black Max.  Images copyright relevant owner

It's funny what you think about when you look at the cover of a book or comic from your past, isn't it?  When I cast my gaze over the cover of THUNDER ANNUAL 1972, my mind jumps back to a snowy day in December 1971 when I was given a Christmas tip of 50 pence by one of the households on my paper round.  It was presented to me in an envelope marked "milk-boy", and to this day I fervently hope that the envelope meant for me had the same amount as the one I was actually presented with, lo, all those many years ago.

(I'm not quite sure what bothers me more - the thought of the milk-boy's disappointment at possibly finding only a couple of 10 pence coins, or his triumphant jubilation at perhaps discovering a £1 note - but I still find myself hoping that the kindly couple on the top floor of that block of flats held us both in equal esteem and didn't play favourites.)

And why does that particular memory spring to mind, perhaps you may be wondering?  Well, that 50 pence took care of most of the cost of the book (60p), which I bought in the newsagents I worked for when I'd completed my round for the day.  (Incidentally, I was paid £1 per week for morning and afternoon deliveries - before and after school - Monday to Friday, plus a single delivery on Saturday and Sunday - so that tip was an extremely generous one.)

The Steel Commando

The weekly THUNDER was launched on the 10th October 1970 (dated 17th) and survived for only 22 issues, the last being on the 6th March 1971 (dated 13th) - so had been absent from newsagents' shelves for several months before the Annual hit the shops.  Work on the book had probably begun towards the end of 1970 or the beginning of '71, so it seems obvious that IPC were hoping the comic would have a good long run.  Unfortunately, such optimistic aspirations were doomed to disappointment.

The comic was absorbed by LION, and two of the most popular strips - ADAM ETERNO and The STEEL COMMANDO (as well as others) - continued for another few years and are still fondly remembered today by readers of the time.

I didn't actually obtain the subsequent two Annuals until many years later (probably around 25 years later, in fact), being unaware of their existence at the time (my attention was probably distracted by the arrival of the MARVEL annuals), so their covers don't have quite the same significance for me as the 1972 one.  (Presumably the first Annual sold well enough to warrant further editions.)  However, for the sake of all you hungry completists out there, I herewith present all three cataclysmic covers anyway - enjoy!

Adam Eterno

See also here and here for more about Thunder.


There were no individual Holiday Specials for Thunder, alas, but the comic's name shared joint-billing on three Specials from 1971-'73, based on the weekly title (Lion) which absorbed it.  So, just because I love to spoil you, below are all three covers from these very collectable comics.

Wednesday 26 December 2018


Let's say it was 1970 - though it could have been 1969 or 1971.  It's hard to be precise after so long a time.  I bought a SANTA CLAUS figure containing sweets, scoffed them, and then used the figure as the Christmas ornament it was always intended to be.  I bought it from a shop called CORSON'S, which still existed up until February of this year, whereupon the owner (who I remember working in the shop as a teenager when it belonged to his parents) retired and sold the premises, though it still operates as a convenience store under a new name and owner.

But that's by-the-by.  If I remember correctly, the plastic bottom half of the Santa got heat warped (maybe I sat it too near the fire - can't quite recall anymore), and it was reluctantly dispensed with after a while.  When I was down in Southsea in December of 1978, I saw two of them in a shop window, but they were there only to provide festive decoration and weren't for sale, being the personal property of the shopkeeper.  I tried to talk him into selling me one, but he was resistant to my offers of mucho money.

I saw another one on eBay just recently and considered bidding on it, but I got distracted and it was sold before I could make an offer.  However, I 'borrowed' the seller's photos and I'm sure he won't mind me using a couple of them here.  I'll keep an eye out for another and make a bid should one come up, as I continue in my quest to re-acquire things I once had and would like to have again.  (It's good to see my old Santa though, even if only in a photograph.)  

Did you ever have this particular Santa, readers, and do you have any seasonal reminiscences about it that you'd care to share with the rest of us?  If so, the comments section awaits your visit.

Tuesday 25 December 2018


Christmas selection box Santa

I was supposed to go to my primary school Christmas dance that December night in 1968 or '69 - I'd already paid my 6d - but the thought of having to undergo the embarrassment of prancing about with a bunch of soppy girls far outweighed the tempting delights of ice cream, mince pies, soft drinks and whatever other seasonal delicacies were on offer that particular evening.  The dance lessons in the school hall which had been sprung on us on the run-up to the occasion were bad enough - what with me falling over my two left feet and having about as much rhythm as an epileptic on speed - but the prospect of the actual event was more than I could bear.  So I did the only thing I could - I claimed I had a headache and wasn't feeling well and thereby avoided the whole sorry spectacle altogether.

Later, when it was too late to attend the party, I staged a miraculous recovery and trotted over to the shops across the road from my house and spent my pocket-money on, I seem to remember, a selection box and a selection stocking.  (Or was it only the stocking?  I think it was both.)  I no longer recall if they were by Mars or Cadbury's, but the cardboard backing to the stocking (unless I'm mixing them up) had a cut-out Santa puppet which I actually assembled but never kept.  However, I did snip and save the illustration of the Santa, plus the one from the front of the box.  Funnily enough, for years I had associated this night with also buying a copy of TV21, which I recollect having a fleet of FIREBALL XL ships taking off on the left-hand side of the page, either on the cover or centrespread, but the only page I can find that that fits the description doesn't match the year, so I suspect I'm mixing two separate but similar evenings into one.

Christmas selection stocking Santa puppet illo

I'm not altogether sure, but I suspect the year of the party may've been '69 rather than '68, because that would've been the last Christmas that those of us due to attend secondary school after the summer holidays of 1970 would see in our old primary.  I therefore think that the dance aspect of the party was to better prepare us pimply-faced youths for our adolescent dealings with the opposite sex as we approached the next great stage of our scholastic lives.  In fact, now that I think of it, there was probably a dance every end-of-year for pupils of a certain age. Younger kids would doubtless have a party with games on a different night, while older ones had to endure the humiliation of having to foxtrot for their treats.

Cut to 1972 or '73, in another house in a different neighbourhood.  My mother was putting up the Christmas decorations and dressing the tree, when I heard her say "Oh, I'll put these up!"  In her hands she held the two cardboard Santas which I'd cut out in a different decade and had neither set eyes on nor thought about since the night of the Christmas dance several years before.  I took a look at them, and at some stage over the Festive period, tried out my new red El Tempo fibre-tip pen on them for no particular reason I can recall.  They adorned the tree every year from then on, and occasionally it would occur to me to regret having 'defaced' them with the marker-pen. Ah, impetuous youth that I was, alas!

El Tempo Marker Pen

In the late '80s or early '90s, I decided to reverse my handiwork of years before and once again took a red Tempo marker pen to the red areas of the cardboard Santas.  My careful applica-tion had the effect of wiping the previous marks of the tip edges from the surface, whereupon I then applied red Rotring ink to completely restore them to an unblemished state.  A fine craft knife enabled me to trim any excess card outside of the lines that my less than skilful 10 year old hands had missed back in the '60s and hey, presto - my two Santas looked better than they had in a long-time.

I sometimes wonder if anyone who attended the event actually recalls much about it after all these years, apart, perhaps, from vague impressions, whereas one look at my pair of 'selection Santas' takes me right back to that night in '68 or '69, and also another one in '72 or '73.  Perhaps I should've gone to the party, but I can't help but feel that my non-attendance made the evening far more memorable for me than would otherwise have been the case.  And it's probably a fairly safe bet that I'm the only person from school who has two tangible reminders of that evening to help me remember my experience of it, as opposed to anyone who actually went to the thing and awkwardly tripped, tumbled, traipsed and toppled around the varnished hall floor in pursuit of bruised and battered tootsies.

Happy memories - perhaps the best Christmas gift that Santa - or anyone - can possibly give.    


For many years I thought this was an exclusive JIM REEVES song as I'd never heard anyone else sing it.  Then, around ten years ago, I bought a CD which had ROSEMARY CLOONEY (I think) singing the same song.  It's a fairly safe bet that Rosemary's version predates Jim's, but his is the better version I'd say.  Just listen to him hold that note at the end.  Pure class.


It was 1972 or '73, getting on towards Christmas.  I'd just acquired two different Santa 'cake toppers' from a shop called W. & R. HOLMES, which was one of the absolute best shops in my local town centre.  One of the Santas was on skis and was identical to one once given to me by a neighbour (ROBERT BAIRD) two or three years before when I lived in a different house in another area.

The second Santa was smaller and, unlike the other, was more of a 'cartoon'-type figure.  I had them both for a relatively short time before they vanished into the limbo that inevitably claims most items from our youth.  In 1977, a mere 4 or 5 years later, but seeming like a lifetime (after all, I'd gone from schoolboy to working man in that time), I obtained a replacement for that second Santa in a local shop (R. S. McCOLL's) across from where I worked.

When I was in Portsmouth in 1978 to be best man at a then-friend's wedding, I saw the same Santa in a newsagent's and bought it for my pal.  Why?  Because he'd been with me when I got the two Santas from W. & R. Holmes on that Saturday morning back in the early 1970s so it somehow seemed fitting (even though he probably didn't remember it).  Whether he kept it or not I have no idea, but I still have my 1977 replacement and it's been part of the Christmas decorations every year since then.  (That's 40 Christmases in case you're counting.)

So, in yet another self-indulgent fit of sentimental reminiscing, I decided to give you the backstory just so I'd have an excuse to show a photograph of that little Santa.  As you'll have guessed by now, that's him at the top of this post.  It takes me right back to that crisp Saturday morning in the early 1970s just looking at him.  Long may it be so.

Have you got an old Christmas decoration that you'd never part with?  Go on - tell us all about it. 


I have this theory that, with a lot of things in life, people are trying to relive, re-experience, various earlier points in their history.  For example, those who get together as adults for a drinking-session with their pals, whether it be in pubs, houses, or underpasses, are trying, sub-consciously, to recapture the thrill of when they were teenagers and embarking on rebellious 'forbidden fruits' for the very first time.  Those who attend football matches are, in their heart of hearts, hoping to catch a glimmer of what it was like when their father took them to their first game and brainwashed them into supporting the team that he supported.  (I always cringe when I see toddlers wearing Celtic or Rangers [or any team's] strips, as it means they're being programmed practically from birth in the bigoted ways of their father, determined to perpetuate his own blind allegiance to a football club as if it were a religion.  Sad.)

Not convinced?  Well, a large percentage of kids who collect stamps, or go train-spotting, or build model aeroplane kits, or just about anything you care to mention, still pursue those same pursuits when they're older.  I'm probably a perfect example of what I'm talking about.  As a kid, my interests were toys and comics, and as a doddery old fart mature adult, I still have the same interests.  Not only the same interests though, as I've obviously added new ones over the years to my repertoire of 'hobbies' - as do other people, I'm sure.  Yet we never quite abandon our first ones.  Although I used to buy new comics (not so often nowadays), I still bought reissues of old comics that I'd read in childhood and adolescence.  Take the TRUE BELIEVERS comics I've been acquiring recently - I have those stories several times over, but I get a certain thrill in having them again in a new presentation, and can only conclude that I'm trying to relive the experience of when I first read them.

Christmas is another case in point.  Although it's a tradition we repeat every year, we don't just do it for our own kids (if we have any) or only because custom demands, but also to try and re-experience the magic that the season was once filled with when we were children.  We're probably, without fully realising it, trying to relive our own childhood through that of our kids, and it's the glow of Christmases past which illuminates those of the present.  So have a little think about it.  Every time you engage in a regular pursuit that you enjoy, it's not only to experience the new 'buzz' that it brings, but also to (sub-consciously) re-experience an earlier one.  After all, the two aren't mutually exclusive.  Or am I over-thinking things?  If you understand my vaguely-expressed haverings, feel free to let me know in the comments section.


Here's the mighty JIM REEVES with a song that expresses the true meaning of Christmas - SILENT NIGHT.  Just listen to the quiet power of his voice, especially in the third verse.  Truly, one of the greatest (if not the greatest) vocalists of the 20th century.  And his records still sell even to this day, 54 plus years after his untimely death in a 'plane crash.  Merry Christmas everybody.

Monday 24 December 2018


Images copyright MARVEL COMICS

Here's a little Christmas gift for you all - some more covers of TRUE BELIEVERS comics reprinting some of the best MARVEL tales of the Fabulous FANTASTIC FOUR.  I've even thrown in a WHAT IF? cover, making five festive fabaroonies for you to drool over.  (Hey, lookit me - I just created a new word.)  The latter mag came out a little while ago, the former four are new releases waiting to be liberated from your local comics shop, which can be accomplished by the handover of just a tiny smidgeon of your hard-earned dosh.  Or you could do what I did and buy them via ebay, though it'll cost you a little more.  As always, the choice is yours, but don't hang around - some of the previous TBs are appreciating in value pretty fast.

Well, that's another year almost over - have a Merry Christmas, all you cracking Criv-ites! 


Opened my curtains this morning to see a sprinkle of fine frost
covering the ground, so with a little piece of luck, maybe we'll get
what JIM REEVES is dreaming of - a WHITE CHRISTMAS.
Let's all hope so.  Click that arrow to hear him sing about it.

Sunday 23 December 2018


Image copyright MARVEL COMICS

Well, it may have taken me around 40 years to get there, but yesterday I finally finished a journey begun in 1977.  That was when I purchased the first issue of a new MARVEL mag called OMEGA The UNKNOWN (as well as the following four issues over the next few months), but for some strange reason I never bought another issue after #5.  This was probably due to me never seeing #6, and if I ever saw subsequent issues (can't recall whether I did or not), the fact that I'd missed one would deter me from buying any more.  (For me, back numbers weren't so easy to acquire as they are today, as I didn't know about comics fandom, comic marts, or comics shops which sold them.)

What I also didn't know at the time was that there were only 10 issues in total due to poor sales (a fact I only learned around 5 years ago), and the series finished on a cliffhanger without a proper ending (but with a promise that there'd be one in future issues of The DEFENDERS).  So, just a few days ago, I decided to track down the absent numbers from my collection and complete the set.  And there they all were on eBay sure enough - but there was also something else.  Namely, a 2005 collected edition containing all 10 comics, plus the two issues of The Defenders in which the loose ends were 'tied up'.

It made more financial sense to buy the book so that's what I did (though I'll still purchase the remaining 5 individual comics at a future date), and I read it at various intervals throughout the day until I was up to speed with the events of Omega's '70s adventures.  Although writer (the late) STEVE GERBER (with MARY SKRENES) had intended to pen the finale, he left Marvel before doing so and the task fell to other hands (STEVEN GRANT).  It's likely that the published wrap-up differs from how Gerber would've resolved matters and I'd have preferred to read his version, but at least I finally reached the finish line - even if it took 40 years to do so.

(It seemed that Omega was meant to be the adult incarnation of teenage protagonist JAMES MICHAEL STARLING, possibly from the future or perhaps in a BILLY BATSON/CAPTAIN MARVEL type way, but the enigma was never satisfactorily explained because the mag's short run prevented it from being fully developed.  Grant's two-parter was likely just a hastily-devised, expedient, 'brush the dust under the carpet' way of appeasing readers who wanted some kind of conclusion to the storyline.)    

Anyway, as I said, a voyage embarked on in 1977 was eventually completed in 2018, and the gulf between the two points seems like no time at all, though the realisation of just how much water has passed under the bridge since then also calls out to me for attention.  That's one of the paradoxes of time - some past events can sometimes feel like only yesterday and a 100 years ago at almost the exact same moment, as both perceptions wrestle for recognition on the mattress of memory.

So dear readers, what's your longest period between starting and finishing a series, whether it be comic, book, or TV serial?  And was journey's end worth the wait or prove to be somewhat of a disappointment?  Do tell.

Click for Omega Cover Gallery Part One.  Click for Part Two.  

Friday 21 December 2018


In the words of the song (SILVER BELLS in case you were wondering), soon it will be Christmas Day, so this post is rather appropriate.  Not that it contains any earth-shaking content (when do they ever?), but I feel like wallowing in nostalgia for a bit, and I'm sure you won't mind coming along for the ride.

The Santa in the above photo is from a set of four I bought in WOOLWORTH'S back around the mid-'80s.  Every year since then they've been trotted out to add to the festive cheer in the living-room, adorning the wall-clock above the fireplace for many a Christmas now - though I originally hung them from the old tree (which pre-dates my arrival on the planet).

It's a classic Santa Claus design, very similar to the one associated with COCA COLA.  And though I didn't acquire the figures until the mid-'80s, I can easily imagine them as part of the Christmases of my boyhood back in the '60s, accentuating the yuletide mood of houses that they never once saw the insides of.  Strange that, eh?

Anyway, I assumed when I bought them that they were a relatively new product at the time ('cos I'd never seen them before), but perhaps they're an old item that appeared in shops every Christmas for decades.  Does anyone else have them, and if so, can you recall roughly what year you first got them?  Let me know in the comments section, will you?

(And remember - it's only four days to Christmas.) 


Okay, it's that time of the year once again for SANTA CLAUS to raise his bearded head, and provide me with all the excuse I need to indulge in the kind of personal nostalgia which regular Criv-ites always find so enthralling.  (And even if you don't, you got in here for free so you'll take what you get and be thankful for it.  Don't you just love it when I'm masterful?)  Anyway, here's the story.

Back in the '60s, after school one day, a classmate by the name of RAYMOND BENNIE (may even have been Benny, can't remember) invited me back to his house.  During my visit, I noticed a stuffed Santa figure, which was probably a cat's plaything, although that never occurred to me until many years later.  Raymond kindly said I could have it, and so little Santa came back home to live with me.

He immediately fell victim to terrible abuse, as me and my brother utilised him to play 'dodge ball'.  I'd kneel on my bed and try and hit my bruv with Santa by throwing him across the room at my ducking and diving sibling.  Then he'd return fire from his bed, chucking Santa back at me as I tried to avoid being hit.  Eventually, SC became a bit loose around the seams, so I undid his stitching and took him apart, intending to sew him back together again and tighten and tidy him up a bit.

Alas, it never happened, and eventually poor old 'cotton wool' Santa suffered, I assume, the fate of most things in a state of disrepair, and was unceremoniously discarded without even a thanks for the moments of enjoyment he had afforded me and my older relation.  I think I still had his pieces when I spied his twin in a back garden across from the house of one of my mother's friends whom we were visiting one day in 1968 or '69.  (Early '70 at a push.)

I'd just acquired my second QUERCETTI FIREBALL XL5 parachute toy from a superb shop in Rutherglen, called JOHNNY'S, and it had overshot it into a neighbour's garden as I played with it in the backyard of my mother's friend.  As I went to retrieve it, I noticed the double of my stuffed Santa lying on the neighbour's back lawn.  It did occur to me for a second to 'liberate' him, but my virtuous nature won out.

Anyway, I've never again seen another duplicate of that Santa since then, but several years back I bought the one in the picture at the top of this post, merely to 'fill the space', as it were.  Apart from the fact that it's a Santa Claus, he's really nothing like the one I used to have back in the '60s - but he reminds me of him, if you know what I mean.

I sometimes wonder if Raymond Bennie, who emigrated down under with his family in the late '60s, ever thinks back to the stuffed Santa Claus that he (or his cat if he had one) used to have once upon a time when we were both young and innocent and thought we had forever.  And does he recall giving him to me - or even remember my name?  Probably not.

I occasionally think of Raymond and wonder what he's doing now.  More often, however, I think of that Santa and wish he were still mine.  There are two other Santas I wish I still had - maybe I'll tell you about them one day, too.

Merry Christmas when it comes. Ho ho ho!

Raymond Bennie in July 1967


Time now for another track from the singer with a voice as soft as someone who could walk through snow and leave no footprint - JIM REEVES.  Do you remember (or still have) the first Christmas card that your 'significant other' gave to you?  Jim does.  Listen to him tell you about it.

Thursday 20 December 2018


Largs, 1971.  During a fortnight's holiday there, I bought three things that I yet remember to this day.  Not necessarily in the order acquired, I purchased a witch keyring, a cheap ACTION MAN knock-off (in a deep sea diving suit, I think), and a little plastic deer.  The last two items were bought in the same shop though not necessarily on the same day, the first item's place of purchase is beyond my ability to recall.  Oh, and I also remember buying at least a couple of issues of KNOCKOUT, a comic that had only come out in June.

So where am I going with this you may be wondering.  Well, in previous posts, I've posited the idea that if we live somewhere for several years, and buy something only a year or so before moving, in retrospect it feels that we had that something for the entire time we lived there, not just the latter stages of our occupancy.  That's because we associate the item with the place, and as we lived in the place for years, the association feels of equal duration.  Does that make sense to you?  That's how it often seems to me anyway.

But there can be exceptions - kind of.  I was surprised to learn that a BEANO I associate with my current house in September of 1972 was bought in my previous home in February of 1971.  I was amazed to discover (upon re-acquiring the issue around three years back) that I must've owned it for at least a year and seven months, though goodness knows how long I had it beyond that.  Until I saw the date on the replacement, I assumed for years that I'd bought it only that week or the week before in September of '72.  (If you're interested in that story, see here.)

Same goes for that little deer bought in Largs in June or July of '71.  I mainly associate it with my previous home, but there it is on the card table in the top photo, taken in July of '72.  (It's to the right of the flowers in front of a little vase - see close-up above.)  I'm staggered to learn that, at that point, I'd owned it for just over a year, as I just never thought I'd had it for so long.  How long did I own it in total?  Couldn't say - could've been another week, another month, or another year, but I just don't remember.

And that's it, I'm afraid.  All I wanted to say was that I'm sometimes staggered to realise that I had something for far longer than I thought I did, just as I'm equally staggered to learn that something I feel I had for yonks, I actually had for no more than a few days. (Like the first revamped 1969 issue of SMASH!  For that story, see here.)  Don't get me wrong though; on a conscious level I know I had that Smash! for only around 3 or 4 days, but on another level it feels that I had it for far longer than that.

So readers, wanna play?  Is there anything that you once owned which, thinking back, seems like you had for longer than you actually did, or (conversely) something which feels like you had in your possession for a far shorter period than you seem to remember?  If that makes any sense to you, astound us all with your recollections in the comments section.       

Tuesday 18 December 2018


Front page of hand-lettered promotional leaflet, sans address &
'phone number

As regular readers of this humble blog should know by now (all four of them), your fearless host has never been one to avoid subjects of a controversial nature.  So, let's once more leap into the fray and tackle the topic of the role of computers in comics, and whether or not they've taken some of the 'art' out of the process of producing them.  With that subject in mind, I once enquired of a computer-colourist if he'd be able to colour a comic the traditional way, by hand.  "No!", was his short and honest answer.  Apparently, he didn't think he had sufficient ability and was therefore dependent on technology to enable him to make his comic contributions.

Technology has taken over in other areas too.  Lettering, for example.  Most comics nowadays are lettered by computer fonts, enabling practically anyone who can type (which is just about everyone) to overlay speech-balloons, text panels, sound effects and logos onto a comics page.  All of which most of them would be unable to create by their own hand to a satisfactory professional level.

From the reader's point of view I don't suppose it matters so long as it's done well, although I find all those perfectly elliptical balloon shapes quite tedious.  I prefer the spontaneity of hand-lettering (again, when it's done well), because it permits the letterer to accommodate the artist's layout in a far more personal and sympathetic manner than computer fonts can allow for.

When I used to earn a full-time living from lettering many years ago now, I took great delight in making speech-balloons fit in spaces that one would think had no room for them, and to do it in such a way that didn't seem forced and awkward-looking.  For the most part I succeeded, and derived immense satisfaction from making a page look as if art and lettering were an 'organic' whole.  I find that a lot of computer-lettering looks as if it isn't part of the artwork, but rather some 'disembodied' shape that floats over the surface of each panel.

Promotional leaflet's centre-page spread of hand-lettered logos

A few years back, I briefly considered returning to comics work and had a go at computer-lettering with some fonts someone lent me, just to see what the process was like.  How mind-numbingly tedious compared to the joy of handling an actual page of art and affixing the lettering directly onto the page or acetate overlay (for colour work) in such a way as to make it a 'finished' piece.  I soon abandoned the exercise as it afforded me not even an iota of creative satisfaction.  I felt like a secretary.  (Which is fine if that's what you want to be.)

I should make it absolutely clear that I have no problem with genuine hand-letterers putting their fonts onto a computer programme and going down that route.  After all, these guys have been in the trenches for years and earned their stripes, so anything that makes their job a little quicker or easier is not something I'm going to grudge them.  Legendary 2000 A.D. calligrapher TOM FRAME eventually resorted to computer-lettering (I believe his deteriorating eyesight made it increasingly difficult for him to continue in the 'old-fashioned' way), but he'd earned the right to do so, and it was his own lettering style he utilised.

It niggles me though, when I see some of the newer people called letterers when they should more properly be credited as typographers - or in some cases, just plain typists.  After all, they couldn't letter by hand if their lives depended on it.

If you can't play the game, then don't wear the name.


(Agree or disagree?  Feel free to let me know, but try and do it without cussing.  You know how sensitive I can be.)
Back page of hand-lettered promotional leaflet

Monday 17 December 2018


Here's a 'Babe of the Day' at no extra cost - PENELOPE CRUZ

The subject of 'piracy' seems to get some people hot under the collar, going from a discussion on a certain comics forum a while back.  (That's the one I resigned from and was then 'banned', after the fact, "for leaving", by an over-zealous, biased moderator - even though the site owner invited me to rejoin.  Running true to form, a disingenuous detractor of mine continued for some time to maliciously mis-represent the facts of the situation over on his blog in an attempt to malign me.)

But that's by-the-by; more pertinent is how one defines 'piracy' in relation to comics.  Some people sell discs of comic collections on eBay, comics that the copyright holders (if they can actually be identified) don't seem particularly interested in exploiting for financial gain.  It seems to me that some so-called 'piracy' can have positive benefits which, in certain circumstances, mostly outweigh any negatives.

To give you an analogous example: I'm a JIM REEVES fan (don't shoot), and on occasion I've made compilation discs for my own use which I've occasionally duplicated to give to friends.  No money is involved, except for what I spend in buying the originals (not for the purpose of copying, merely for my own enjoyment) and then on the blank tapes or discs when it occurs to me that someone I know might enjoy listening to a sample.  I don't even let them cover the cost of the blank disc, should they offer.

I know from experience not to lend originals because they won't be returned in the condition lent, regardless of how well the borrower may think they've looked after them.  So in the case of my own music collection, being able to occasionally burn a disc for someone to see if they might like it is a handy thing.  As I said, I don't charge, and in some cases, the other person has become a fan and then bought other recordings by the same artist, thereby increasing sales.  So who loses in that situation?  Certainly not the record company, who lose no money by me giving a compilation copy to someone who wouldn't have bought an original disc in the first place.

With back issue comics it's a similar scenario, although collectors prefer to own the originals, and in most cases only resort to facsimiles or disc collections as a stop-gap, until such time as they manage to track down an acceptable-condition original at an affordable price.  In my case (and I'm sure it's true with most folks), if I really want a particular series and it's released in an authorised print edition, I'll buy it - even if I already have it in disc form.  If I don't buy it, it's because I'm really not that fussed about it, though I may have it in digital form merely because it was available.

In that instance, as it's something I wouldn't have bought anyway, me having acquired it in digital form from the Internet doesn't deprive the publishers of income.  I'm sure most of us own something that we don't mind having because it was free, but would never have purchased otherwise.  Obviously, I'm not talking about new material (whether it be comics, music or movies) bought by one person for the purpose of copying for friends (or selling to strangers) in order to spare them having to buy an item they'd willingly pay full price for if there was no other way of acquiring it - I only mean out-of-print comics, books or old records that aren't currently available and don't look like being at any time in the future.

In the case of facsimiles of old back issues, no surviving contributors are deprived of any royalties as they were paid for their work outright.  Nor are the publishers losing out if they don't have any intention of reprinting the stuff as it first appeared.  And, if the publishers ever do decide to reprint their back catalogue in some form or other, the vast majority of avid collectors would readily buy it, because they'd want the 'official' package with its superior printing on quality paper, along with the informative introductions, prefaces and appendices - regardless of however many digital discs or 'pirate' facsimiles they may already possess.  Those that wouldn't clearly don't want it enough to spend money on it anyway.

In short, what I'm saying is that whether or not I buy an official collected edition is determined only by how much I like the material - not by whether I already own it in digital form.  That isn't a factor.  I bet it's the same for most of you.

I note with interest that one of the more vocal opponents of so-called 'piracy' has no objections to people scanning their own collections and making digital copies available to friends - so long as no money changes hands.  What real difference does it make?  The contributors would never see a penny in royalties anyway - even if it was an authorised publication, and those chasing their nostalgia fix could well be dead before the current copyright holder (if even known) extracts the digit and decides to make the material available to an ageing and ever-diminishing audience.

What must be remembered is that the current crop of new reprint editions now on sale are aimed at a readership whose interest has been kept alive by Internet comics blogs; and digital discs and amateur facsimiles have fed the appetite for vintage material in the absence of proper print-editions - until some publishers took note and realised that there was still a market for it.  A limited one, admittedly, and ever-decreasing, but one that would probably have long since perished had it not been for a dedicated group of enthusiasts stoking the fires and keeping the spluttering flame alive.

So ignore those po-faced, self-righteous critics who are lucky enough to be able to afford those scarce back issues for themselves, but loudly decry anyone whose only option is to obtain the much-missed, long-sought reminders of their childhood by the only means open to them until something better comes along.

I don't know about you, but I've always considered the "I'm all right, Jack" attitude of the 'haves' towards the 'have nots' to be a particularly ugly one - whether it be with regard to money, security, status, or even just comics.

What say the rest of you?

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