Sunday, 13 October 2019

EVERYTHING YOU THOUGHT YOU KNEW ABOUT SPIDER-MAN IS WRONG...


Copyright MARVEL COMICS

Y'know, something about SPIDER-MAN's origin that never really gelled with me was the idea that he had the proportionate powers of a spider - simply because he was bitten by a radioactive one.  He certainly manifested similar abilities, though didn't possess the natural physical 'equipment' to produce his own webbing, making the first movie ridiculous in that respect, despite STAN LEE thinking it was an improvement.

Therefore, if (for the sake of discussion) we accept the original notion that he got his powers from the spider, he could obviously only replicate its abilities in as much as his own human make-up would allow him to.  But if that's true, then how did he manage to walk up walls while wearing gloves and (originally) thick-treaded boots?

Furthermore, whenever he was crawling on a ceiling, wouldn't his weight have brought it down - especially in offices where polystyrene ceiling tiles hid the electrical wires for air-conditioning and overhead lighting?  It doesn't really make much sense.  (I hear you - does any superhero concept?)  But we're not stuck with the 'official' explanation if we don't want to be.

My own opinion (despite what the comics may now suggest) is that it was simply the radiation that imbued PETER with enhanced powers, not the spider - it was merely the 'messenger'. The radiation allowed him to transcend his human limitations and do things that he otherwise wouldn't be able to.  Walking up walls? That was as a result of Peter having some kind of 'psionic' force that allowed him to defy gravity.

You see, in my view, because Peter saw the spider, it had a psychological influence on the way he understood and explained his enhanced abilities.  Potentially, if he hadn't been limited by his own perceptions of what a spider can do (enhanced strength, speed, the ability to cling to surfaces), he might have manifested even greater powers - like being able to fly for example.  (Even his so-called 'spider-sense' is merely a form of ESP.)  

What I'm suggesting is that the spider was merely the conduit for the radiation that gave him his powers, not the source itself.  The radiation affected his metabolism, increased his strength and speed, and also imbued him with the ability to develop just about whatever enhanced attributes he could imagine (within reason).  Now, though, his powers have become established and can't evolve further.

Anyway, I think there's great story potential in my idea.  I'd love to see a tale where Peter discovers he's a 'child of the atom', not the spider, and that the arachnid merely influenced how he interpreted his radiation-induced powers, and wasn't the genetic source of them itself.  What say the rest of you Criv-ites?  Let loose the dogs of dissent in the comments section.

WHEN JACK KIRBY GOT IT WRONG...


Copyright MARVEL COMICS

JACK KIRBY, for all his strengths as an artist, also had quite a few weaknesses.  His covers had impact, but sometimes they weren't that well-drawn and didn't always bear scrutiny.  Jack was a lazy artist in some ways - not that he didn't put a lot of 'detail' into his pencils, but he often never took the time to draw things properly.

Controversial you think?  Well, consider the facts.  Was it really beyond Jack's skill as an artist to look at how STEVE DITKO drew SPIDER-MAN and reproduce Spidey's webbing in his own drawings?  Was he really incapable of looking at how SUPERMAN's hair and 'S' symbol were drawn by CURT SWAN and replicate them in his own strips?  I don't think so, he merely couldn't be bothered trying.  That's laziness.

But look at all the detail in surviving stats of his pencils, you say.  Yeah, but it was 'pseudo-detail', intended just to fill space - dashed off with the broad end of a pencil with no finesse.  A lot of the time it worked, but a lot of the time it didn't.  Generic squiggly lines to denote the gleam of armour or metal, areas of abstract shapes to denote shadows, but bearing no relation to what cast them.

Take a look at the cover of AMAZING FANTASY #15 (above) for example. Spidey's mask looks okay, but that's down to Ditko inking Jack's pencils.  However, that left arm and hand are far too long, and the webbing on the sleeve is in the wrong place.  Also, his right leg (even allowing for foreshortening) is too thin compared to his left, his boots appear to be of different lengths, and the guy tucked under his arm is a dwarf, whose legs look as if they're growing out the front of his lower abdomen.

So bad is that KARLOFF-faced figure, that I've often wondered whether that was the way Jack drew him;  could Steve have redrawn the legs under instruction from Stan? Surely he'd have done a better job?  Yeah, the cover has impact, but it's far from being one of Jack's better drawings.  What say the rest of you?

Kirby pencilled Supe's face okay - it was the hair that never looked
right, and the parting sometimes jumped from one side to the other

Saturday, 12 October 2019

BABE OF THE DAY - SYBIL DANNING....



Betcha ol' BASIL FAWLTY wished that his Sybil had been as gorgeous as this one, eh?  Criv-ites, I give you the sensational SYBIL DANNING!  Drool cups at the ready - commence drooling now!

Thursday, 10 October 2019

MR. HANDSOME...

                                             

                                                I am the handsomest of men,
                                                the ladies look, then look again;
                                                I'm toned and fit, and tall and dark,
                                                in my blue eyes resides a spark
                                                which makes them tremble deep within
                                                and lets me turn their hearts to 'sin'.
                                                If truth be told, I'm quite a tease,
                                                but women's eagerness to please -
                                                to play the game of 'birds and bees'
                                                and do their utmost to appease
                                                my appetite for pleasures rare -
                                                lets me perform with style to spare.

                                                I am Adonis come to life,
                                                all women wish to be my wife.
                                                I conquer hearts with languid ease
                                                and watch them go weak at the knees.
                                                Whenever I pass through a door,
                                                I laugh as their chins hit the floor.
                                                E'en Sapphic slaves can't help but 'turn'
                                                so filled with lust for me they burn,
                                                their 'lady love' they all do spurn
                                                and nevermore will they return
                                                to their past wicked wanton ways,
                                                such is the power of my gaze.

                                                My skin is firm and tanned and smooth,
                                                my honeyed words do serve to soothe
                                                the fever in their lustful hearts,
                                                pierced by cherubic Cupid's darts.
                                                I cannot fail, I am God's gift
                                                to women who require a 'lift'
                                                to make them feel desired and young
                                                by one so manly and well-hung,
                                                who charms them with a silver tongue,
                                                whose name and fame are so far-flung -
                                                for me they'd all lay down and die...
                                                and do so with a grateful sigh.

                                                Who am I?  Why...

                                                I'm Mr. Handsome.

AMAZING FANTASY #15 FACSIMILE EDITION - THE GOOD AND THE BAD...


Copyright MARVEL COMICS

AMAZING FANTASY #15 Facsimile Edition is a nice little addition to the series, but I have to be honest and say it's not quite as good as it could be.  However, first let me tell you what is good about it.  The SPIDER-MAN strip, unlike many previous 'doctored' reprints, is reproduced from faithful source material, with none of the clumsy amendments, alterations, or restorations that earlier re-presentations suffered from.  (Update:  Having re-examined the pages and contrary to my earlier impression, the back-up tales are not derived from the same sources as the 1992 MILESTONE EDITION, being slightly sharper and less blurred.  However, to my eyes, the main strip still seems a tad superior in the reproduction stakes.)

SUE STORM making an 'appearance' in the ad's most recent incarnation?

What's more, for some curious (no doubt PC) reason, an image has been omitted from one of the ads, and the indicia has been moved from the inside cover to under the splash page, leaving too large a space where it originally sat.  Also, the cover COMICS CODE stamp has been deleted, which I think is a step too far, as keeping it would help capture the 'spirit of the age' in which the mag first appeared.  Plus, the bar code box is too prominent - it could be smaller, as it was on the Facsimile Edition of FANTASTIC FOUR #1.

Perhaps it was felt that she was too full of 'adoration' in her manner,
but isn't that the whole point of the ad - to attract adoring women?

Those few gripes aside, I'd still recommend it, as it's the closest that most of us will come to ever owning anything resembling the original 1962 comic.  Pick one up as soon as you can, because these mags sell for at least twice the price on ebay once they're no longer available - sometimes even more.  And they'll become collectables in their own right that will further appreciate in value as time wears on.

Why not keep the (new) indicia where the original was, like in the
Fantastic Four Facsimile Edition?  Why compromise its integrity? 

FAMOUS FIRST EDITIONS 'FRAUD'...


Copyright DC COMICS

The cover above comes from the interior of a FAMOUS 1st EDITION reprint of SUPERMAN #1 (though the comic itself was un-numbered), published by DC COMICS in the late '70s.  (The reprint that is, not the original.)  I eventually had a few copies of this issue (some sold without their cardboard covers by Glasgow news-vendors), and, inevitably, I cut one up to stick the cover and various panels on my bedroom wall.  (This was obviously before the days of home scanners and printers.)

That was nearly 40 years ago, and it was only around a year or so back that I replaced the faded, wrinkled, and mottled original with a brand new copy, printed from a scan of one of my two other issues of this mag which have been in my possession since almost as long as the one sacrificed to adorn my wall.  I was gazing at it earlier this evening when, from deep within the innermost recesses of my mighty mind, a memory was resuscitated, a recollection that I am now about to relate to you.

You've read about 'Bob Billens' on Crivens! before - or, at least, you have if you're a regular, long-time reader.  That's not his real name, but it's close enough for anyone who knew him to recognise him should they read this.  As I've recounted before, I once worked in my local Central Library for about six months, where I met a summer worker who was also into comics.  That was Bob.  One day, he asked me if I'd seen this particular reprint, and I replied that I'd seen it advertised, but never laid either hands or eyes on an actual published copy.

Bob said he'd bring his copy in to show me, which he did a day or two later.  As I was leafing through it, I noticed that several pages near the back were creased in a sort of 'half-rip', the result of a fault in the ream of paper they were printed on.  I pointed this out to Bob, but he dismissed it as unimportant, as that was the way it had left the presses, it wasn't a later infliction.  Bob considerately offered to order one for me from his supplier in Bournemouth, so I duly handed across the cash and waited patiently for its arrival.  What a top bloke, I thought, going to all that bother on my behalf when he didn't have to.

When it arrived and was handed over, I noticed it had the exact same damage to the exact same pages as his copy and good-naturedly 'challenged' him about it.  "I see you've kept the copy I paid for and substituted your own for it," I said, but he denied it, and seemed a bit huffy at the suggestion - but it was an affected display of huffiness, not a genuine one, so it was obvious that he had indeed 'pulled a fast one'. Now call me a thicko (woaaahh, not all at once), but it wasn't 'til sometime later that it occurred to me that his offer to procure me a copy was merely so that he could deliberately effect such a switch - it wasn't a later spontaneous decision.  Otherwise he'd simply have given me his supplier's address and let me order my own.

What a b@st@rd, eh?  Thing is, I couldn't prove the 'switcheroo', so had to let it slide or risk the friendship.  (Some friend, eh?)  I've always been a wee bit wary ever since of anyone volunteering to do me a 'favour', as I've found that, often, it's more themselves they're intent on doing a favour for, rather than me.  It's not always 'built-in' at the time like the event I've just described, it can be a later development. You know, they'll offer to sub you a pound if you're short at the till when buying your shopping, then a week later, they're asking you for a loan of a tenner.  (Never seems to happen the other way around.)

So always beware someone offering to do something for you, seemingly out of the goodness of their heart.  Sometimes, of course, the offer can be completely genuine, but other times there's a catch - which may not be obvious to you at the time. "There's no such thing as a free lunch!" is the old saying, and if I had a pound for every time I've found that to be true, I could dine like a king at least once a week.

Oh, and in case you're interested, below is the cardboard cover (front and back) to the reprint itself, which is a faithful facsimile except for its size. 


Friday, 4 October 2019

THE TITANS ANNUALS 1977 & '78...


Copyright MARVEL COMICS

Originally, I scanned these two Annuals with the intention of adding them to the final part of The TITANS Cover Gallery, which appeared on the blog around four years ago.  However, I've now also decided to give them a post of their own, hence them appearing here for your personal perusal.  That way, you won't have to trawl through the archives to find them.  What a great guy am I.

Update:  I thought I'd posted these Annuals before, but couldn't find them when I searched through the blog earlier and assumed I was mistaken.  However, I've just discovered that I posted them back in 2016, so that's twice now that I've scanned these images.  I could've saved myself the bother and simply republished the earlier post.  Ah, well... 











Thursday, 3 October 2019

MIGHTY MARVEL COLLECTORS' EDITIONS CHECKLIST - ON SALE NOW!!!


AVENGERS UNIVERSE #5

Copyright MARVEL COMICS.  Published by PANINI

76 pages of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes!

The Shadow Colonel and his Legion of the Unliving attack the Avengers – and the Ghost Rider is their weapon!

Featuring material first printed in Avengers #16-17, Avengers: No Road Home #1-2.

On sale NOW!

£4.99.

 ******

WOLVERINE & DEADPOOL #5


76 pages of Marvel’s toughest heroes!   Three great stories!

New story!  Mysterious murders take place in the frozen north – and Wolverine is the chief suspect!

X-23 battles the Midwich Cuckoos!

The final showdown between Deadpool and the Black Panther!

Featuring material first printed in Wolverine: The Long Night #1, X-23 #5 and Black Panther vs Deadpool #5.

On sale NOW!

£4.99.

Wednesday, 2 October 2019

HI THERE, MY NAME'S STEVE - STEVE SUPERMAN... AND I'VE GOT AN IDENTITY CRISIS! CAN YOU HELP?


Copyright DC COMICS

I think it was JOHN BYRNE - way back in the mid-1980s when he (and others) revised SUPERMAN's origins in the wake of the CRISIS On INFINITE EARTHS series - who first posed the question as to why anyone would ever suspect that Supes might have a secret identity.  Sure, it was traditional for masked heroes (and villains) to have other identities - that's why they wore masks to conceal who they really were - but KAL-EL didn't wear a mask, so why would anyone suppose he might be hiding who he really was - or even that there was a 'really was' to hide?

Although Byrne's reasoning seems logical at first, it begins to disintegrate when you think about Superman's early years.  (His 1930s early years, that is - when the whole idea of LOIS LANE suspecting CLARK KENT of being Superman was first introduced.)  To begin with, Supes was a vigilante wanted by the police.  Nobody knew his name (it didn't take a genius to figure out that it was unlikely to be Superman on his birth certificate), nor did anyone know where he lived, so he obviously didn't gad about in his costume all the time.  If he did, it wouldn't be hard for the cops to trail him back to his house after his weekly shopping trip to the supermarket and try and arrest him.

Therefore, he most likely had another name, but was obviously keeping it a secret. Presto!  That's a secret identity right there.  And he must've had a place to live which nobody knew about, so he was a figure who, as far as his everyday existence was concerned when he wasn't leaping about in his 'work' clothes, was concealing his true identity from the world.  Even when he started having a better relationship with the authorities, he never said "Call me Steve" (or whatever) in response to anyone addressing him as Superman.

However, Byrne's version of Supes was never a vigilante, so let's just allow, for the sake of discussion, that no one would have any reason to imagine he had another identity.  First though, I'm not convinced we're on solid ground going down that route, because if he didn't disguise himself in his 'off' hours, his neighbours would've been bound to cash-in on the fact by selling their story - "We're Superman's Next Door Neighbours!" - with photos of him sitting out in his back garden in a tee-shirt and jeans.  But let's pretend otherwise.  Let's just accept that no one ever looked at Superman and thought that he might become someone else when he hung up his cloak at the end of the day, or wondered about where he lived and what he did when he wasn't catching criminals.  (And to be fair, it wouldn't have occurred to them on his first few public appearances - but eventually they'd have started to wonder.)

However, that's not how the whole Lois suspecting Supes being Clark came about.  It was the reverse of that - she looked at Clark and realised that he bore a resemblance to Superman - and that he was never around when Supes was (and vice versa).  Well, you can't have one without the other, obviously, because if Clark is Superman then the reverse is also true.

What about SUPERBOY then, when he was retroactively fitted in to Clark's continuity and history?  Surely no one had any reason to suspect him of being other than who he was?  Au contraire.  People knew he must live in SMALLVILLE, but not precisely where - and they also knew that they'd never seen him attend school in his costume (or any other outfit).  He surely had to have a disguise then, and was hiding amongst them.  To me, it seems the most natural assumption in the world for them to make - within the confines of a comic designed for kids.    

I therefore propose, my learned Criv-ites, that it's consequently not quite the stretch of imagination that Byrne suggests it to be (if it was him) to assume that Supes would've had a 'civilian' identity.  To me, it would seem even more unlikely if he didn't.  Anyway, what's your own opinion on this topic, readers?  Feel free to voice your view in the comments section.  You don't even have to do so under your real name - you  can use your secret identity.  (All the best people have them.)

Tuesday, 1 October 2019

OUTER SPACE IN THE 1950s - GUEST POST BY BARRY PEARL...


Images copyright relevant and respective ownere

Space may not have been the final frontier, it may have been one of the first. Especially in comics!

Unless you're old enough to have read comics in the 1950s (I'm not) those comics have been unavailable to you, in any quantity, until now.  Even DC and Marvel have stopped reprinting much from that time.  In our current decade PS Publishing and Gwandanaland have been reprinting many of these comics, giving people like me their first opportunity to read them.


I wish I could tell you that I discovered this with great thought, but I really noticed it when fixing up my bookshelf.  (That's it below.)


I knew that super-hero comics died out mostly before the 1950s, and that crime, horror and jungle girls mostly replaced them.  What I didn’t realize is how many comic books were devoted to outer space, space travel and the world of the future. Years before Sputnik and manned space flight, but during the time of a lot of Sci-Fi movies, there was a ton of “Outer Space” comic books.  Many “fantasy” comics would also include space and alien stories too.  Even the comic strips added Jack Kirby’s Sky Masters. And, in 1964, even Dick Tracy got in on the act by adding Moon Maid to the strip.


Interestingly enough, the “Outer Space” heroes, Superman from Krypton and the Martian Manhunter, spent little time in space during that period. Later, of course, Adam Strange, a super-hero, had stories in Mystery in Space, and Green Lantern belonged to a Universal Corp.

I've included some interesting scans from that era, including the batch of comics PS has put out.


Below is a list of comic books (not strips). It's not complete or comprehensive, but gives a basic idea of just how many titles were out there.

Airboy Comics * Astonishing Tales (Marvel Boy) * Captain Video * Fantastic Worlds * Flying Saucers - Avon (1950) * Flying Saucers Comics - Dell (1967-1969) * Forbidden Worlds * Journey Into Unknown Worlds - Marvel (1951) * Lars of Mars * Lost Worlds * Mystery In Space - DC * Out of this World * Outer SpacePlanet Comics * Space Busters * Space Detective * Space Man - Dell (1962-1972) * Spacemen (July 1961) * Space Mysteries - I. W. Publishing * Super Comics (1958) * Space Patrol * Space Worlds * Spaceman: Speed Carter * Strange Adventures - DC * Strange Tales * Strange Worlds * Tom Corbett Space Cadet * UFO Flying Saucers - Gold Key (1968-1977) * Weird Fantasy * Weird Science * Weird Science Fantasy #26 - E.C. (1954)



Monday, 30 September 2019

SAID THE LETTERER TO THE BISHOP...


STRONTIUM DOG and related characters copyright REBELLION

Are you all sitting comfortably?  Good, then I'll begin.  Don't be fooled by the intro though, for 'tis no fairy tale I'm about to relate, but rather the complete and unvarnished truth.  When I began my full-time freelancing career in the world of comics way back in 1985, I was (depending on one's point of view) either lucky or unlucky enough to do so just as the old way of doing things was coming to an end.

Lucky perhaps, in that I had at least a taste of how things had been for decades, unlucky maybe, in that around two years later, it all changed for the worse.  What happened?  Robert Maxwell happened, that's what.  He purchased IPC's Youth Group from IPC, and from that point on, the decline of a once-proud comics industry accelerated in its head-on collision course with and to oblivion.  Robert Maxwell may not have started that decline, but he sure as hell did nothing to stop it.

Once upon a time, freelance contributors to IPC were paid on acceptance of their work.  Once you turned in your job, the editor began the process which resulted in their accounts department sending you a very welcome cheque. It usually took around a week to ten days, a fortnight at the very most.  Sometimes I hadn't even spent the previous one when the next one arrived.  I was in Heaven, but it wasn't to last.  As far as I know, editors could begin processing invoices through the accounts department almost immediately.  It certainly appeared to be the case. 

Once Maxwell was in charge though, contributors were paid on approval.  That meant an editor, if he was busy, might stick your recently returned job in his desk until he had time to 'approve' it, which could take a couple of weeks depending on his schedule or how concerned he was with making sure you were paid in a timely fashion.  But there were other problems, namely that Maxwell's accounts department felt that contributors having to wait 30 days to be reimbursed for each job was no great hardship.  To clarify, that was 30 days between each job, even ones submitted within a few days of each other - or even on the same day.

So if a contributor turned in three separate jobs over the course of a few days (or, as I said, even on the same day), the first might take a week to receive approval, which, added to the 30 days it took accounts to pay, meant that you could be waiting over 5 weeks to get paid for one job.  The second job might not get approved for yet another week or even longer, but even if they were all approved on the same day, it didn't seem to facilitate a speedier settlement.  Further complicating matters was that I believe there was a schedule as to when editors could submit invoices to accounts.  If so, I don't know the precise details, but let's just say they were told to send up invoices on the 30th of each month. (Or maybe their accounts department just wouldn't process invoices before that [or another] date, regardless of when they received them.) 

Either way, that meant that if you returned a job on the 29th, even if the editor submitted your invoice right away, if another job was returned on the 31st, payment for it wouldn't be processed until the following month - meaning that you could be waiting two months for that particular payment.  Even if three separate invoices were submitted to accounts at the same time, they'd process one that month, the second the month after, and the third the month after that.  This meant payment for a week's work could (and often did) be spread over three months.  They seemed to think that as long as they were paying you something every 30 days or so, they were fulfilling their obligations. However, when you add in the sheer incompetence of Maxwell's accounts department, not even that was ever certain.  And having to wait a month or more for £100 when you'd earned maybe £300 in one week on different jobs doesn't pay the bills.

Also, if you returned a job on the 1st of the month, your invoice might not go to accounts (or perhaps just not be processed by them) 'til the 30th (or whatever date it was), and then you had to wait another 30 days to be paid.  I can understand Maxwell wanting to keep his dosh in the bank for as long as possible in order to earn as much interest as he could, but he never gave a second thought to how that impacted on contributors.

It's all very complicated and maybe I don't (and never did) quite understand exactly what their method was, but I've tried to work out things logically and explain it all as best I can, however confusing it might sound.  Maybe it was one factor of their system more than another, maybe all factors were equally at fault, but regardless of the cause, there's no denying that the end result was far too many freelancers having to wait to get paid for far longer periods than under IPC's regime. There was certainly never any dispute that there was a problem - it was admitted in several letters to freelancers.  When I find them I'll add them to the post.  

Up until then, I'd never had an overdraft in my life, but because of the sporadic nature of payments, I had to open an overdraft facility at my bank in order to ensure that I had funds to return jobs.  (And eat, and pay the rent, etc.)  The bank eventually refused to give me overdrafts because, whenever I assured them that I'd been assured my payment would be in my bank account by a certain date, 9 times out of 10 it wasn't.  On one occasion I even had to ask an editor to 'phone my bank to assure them that the cheque (or bacs payment) would be in my account by a certain date, so that I could go into overdraft mode in order to return a job.  (It wasn't.)

Like I said, I have letters sent to all freelancers by editors, apologising for the ineptitude (my word, not theirs) of their accounts department, and page rates were even raised by way of compensation.  As I remarked when I detailed these events in a previous post, that merely resulted in us waiting for higher amounts of money that never came by the due date.

So why am I telling you all this again?  It's context for what I'm about to tell you next. Steve MacManus, then editor of 2000 A.D., once told me in the pre-Maxwell days, that, even though I was mailing my jobs in from Scotland, I was more reliable at meeting deadlines than some other lettering artists who returned their work in person.  I was very proud of this fact, and when my ability to maintain this eventually became threatened by tardy payments, I was extremely concerned.  My freelance work was my only source of income at that time, and I had no wife's wages to rely on to tide me over.

Here, due credit should be given to Alan McKenzie and Richard Burton (then on 2000 A.D.), who allowed me to use IPC's Red Star account to return jobs when my payments were overdue.  This wasn't something that could continue indefinitely however, so I bombarded Maxwell's accounts department with earnest entreaties to try and sort out their payment system.  I knew that unless things changed soon, my career was likely to take a downturn.

This now brings me to one David Bishop, and why my freelance work for Judge Dredd Megazine came to an abrupt end.  I was continually chasing payments and having to remind him that my ability to return jobs was dependent on being paid in a timely manner.  This was a genuine expression of concern on my part, not a threat to withhold jobs unless or until I was paid.  In other words, I feared that I might eventually find myself in the position of being unable to return jobs if I had no money, not that I'd be unwilling to.  This did not stop Mr. Bishop from later spreading his own disingenuous version of events.

He even had the temerity to say to me in a letter that my "continual inability to meet deadlines" was a "constant frustration" to him.  If it were true, I can see why he'd be frustrated, but he was confusing my continual expressions of concern about missing deadlines with the act itself.  I believe I missed a deadline on only one occasion, and that was due to illness.  I had 20 pages to return to him (not all the one job), but I contracted either Blepharitis or Conjuctivitis (forget which - I suffered from both on occasion) in my left eye and simply couldn't work.  I was supposed to have the pages in for a Friday if I recall correctly, but didn't manage to return them until Tuesday. Are letterers the only people who are not allowed to be ill? Furthermore, several of those pages were given to me only because he couldn't get anyone else to do them (all too busy apparently), so I was trying to do him a favour by helping him out.

Missing an occasional deadline can be less of a problem than it sounds, because editors usually always leave themselves some spare time with deadlines, in order to circumvent any difficulties caused by them not being met.  "I'll say Monday, but I don't actually need it 'til Thursday or Friday" was their way of thinking.  However, in the interests of full disclosure, I did tell Mr. Bishop that there was one job which wasn't a priority with me in returning, and that I'd send it back when I could.  Sounds bad, doesn't it?

Except for the fact that it was a job I was re-lettering for free out of the goodness of my heart, and which had already been published.  Here's what happened.  I think it was a Strontium Dog story that I'd been lettering, could've been some months before.  Due to one episode arriving too late to send to me (or maybe because it was more expedient), it was given to Johnny Aldrich to do.  I had lettered all the episodes up to that point, plus also the ones which followed in regard to that particular storyline.  Whenever the story came to be eventually reprinted by Titan Books, the episode by Mr. Aldrich would've stuck out like a sore thumb.  I therefore volunteered to re-letter the episode gratis so that it would be consistent with the others on either side of it.

There was no definite schedule as to when it would be reprinted and it had already appeared in the comic, so its immediate return was not essential.  I therefore told Mr. Bishop I'd return it at the earliest opportunity, but wouldn't be able to do so until I had my hands on some cold, hard dosh.  No threats to withhold it involved, contrary to Mr. Bishop's later spurious claim.  With hindsight, my offer to re-letter the strip was probably pointless, as the expense of re-shooting the negatives was unlikely to be approved by the higher-ups, but my heart was in the right place.  In the end, I returned it as it was, having become disillusioned by the editor's lack of good will.

If you haven't bailed out by now, I salute your fortitude, but we're in the final stretch now.  One day, my father did something thoroughly selfish and inconsiderate - he died.  I then had to look after my mother and ensure that she was coping, and try and make life easier for her my taking her breakfast up to her in bed, doing the shopping and keeping the house tidy. When a parent dies, it reminds you of your own mortality, and you tend to find such thoughts weighing on your mind.  I found it difficult to apply myself to anything with the same diligence as previously, and returned one job to Mr. Bishop in which I had ended every sentence (except for questions) with an exclamation mark.  Mr. Bishop wasn't happy. He certainly wasn't incandescent by any means, but it provided him with the opportunity to revel in his 'editorial authority', so he took it.

Now, before I continue, I should perhaps explain here that it was once a traditional practice in comics for all non-question sentences in comics to end with an exclamation mark - sometimes even several.  The reason being that full stops didn't always reproduce properly, resulting in confusion to the poor readers, who found themselves reading two or three sentences as one.  And so it was ordained that all statements should end with what those in the trade call a 'screamer'!  That tradition had abated in recent years, but I wanted you to understand the reasons behind my thinking in what transpired next.

Rather than have to double-check every sentence as I lettered, to save time I simply ended every statement with a screamer.  My heart wasn't in the job and I found it difficult to apply my full attention to it.  Questions still ended with question marks, but sentences that ended with full stops joined the ranks of those that concluded with a screamer.  At the end of the day, it really didn't make any difference to the meaning of the script. Readers would've been none the wiser.  Surely it was no big deal?  Mr. Bishop seemingly thought otherwise.  "It took Kevin Brighton (art assistant) two hours to go through the strip and white out the exclamation marks" he said.  Now, with all due respect to Kevin, if it took him two hours, he was ripping the piss!  It was a ten minute job at most.  It probably hadn't even taken me two hours to letter the full story, and it was done to my usual high standard (which by that time came naturally to me) - except for a few extra exclamation marks.  (Not more than one per full stop sentence though.)

Now, in regard to Mr. Bishop's editorial 'qualifications', I found myself unimpressed. Apparently he's also a writer, but not ever having read any of his stuff I can't say whether there's any merit to his work or not.  On the comics he edited though, it always struck me that he was filling the position of nothing more than 'traffic manager' and making sure they got sent to the printers on time.  Scripts he sent me often had spelling mistakes, grammatical errors, and punctuation oversights. I corrected them all automatically, but informed him whenever I did so.  Never once did he ever take issue with me saving him the time or trouble of getting Kevin (or whoever) to fix what he should have spotted before he sent me the scripts (that was part of his job, after all).  In fact, there's no guarantee he'd have spotted them after I returned the jobs, even had I left them uncorrected.  (He's credited with 'discovering' new talent, but he'd have had to be deaf, dumb, and blind not to, as 2000 A.D. and the Megazine were the only real game in town when it came to UK action/adventure comics.  That's where talent naturally gravitated to.)

Anyway, I patiently listened to Mr. Bishop's pompous lecture, and had I simply said something like "Sorry, it won't happen again" it's more than likely it would've been the end of the matter.  However, let me tell you something about Mr. Bishop - his smug tone annoyed me.  He was enjoying finally finding fault with a strip I'd returned after all the times I'd found faults in the scripts he'd sent and was determined to rub my face in it.  Did I lose my temper?  Did I insult him or question his parentage?  No, I merely said "I don't know why you're making such a big fuss over such a trivial thing, Dave.  One mistake measured against all the times I've spotted and corrected yours, thereby saving Kevin having to do it, surely outweighs my uncharacteristic lapse in this one rare instance?  Gimme a break - my father's just died and I've got more important things to be concerned with!"  You could have heard the proverbial pin drop.  Mr. Bishop curtly informed me that he would no longer be availing himself of my services and hung up.

So there's gratitude for you!  And don't be fooled - it wasn't because I'd added a few extra screamers on what turned out to be my last job for him - it was because I ruffled his feathers by pointing out that he made far more errors as an editor than I ever had as a letterer.  His vindictive spite not only caused him to stop supplying me with work, but also prompted him to spread his not quite accurate version of events as to why.  Other letterers made mistakes that I'd sometimes had to fix (when I was down in London), some even lost artwork, but none were ever 'let go' because of it.

Well, there you have it!  The real reason why my freelancing career for what was by then know as Egmont ended.  Steve MacManus was kind enough to supply me with a contact number for the team producing Warhammer and one or two other publications, and I got quite a bit of work from them for another couple or so years, but I'd started to become disenchanted with the comics 'industry' by then.  For nearly 15 years I'd invested so much enthusiasm and hard work into the periodicals I worked on, only to find that, at the end of the day, it was all for naught and that my livelihood was in the hands of some jumped-up little pip-squeak who'd no appreciation or gratitude for all the work I'd put into making him look good (or at least adequate).

And friends... the story is true.  I know, because I was that soldier letterer.          

Friday, 27 September 2019

BABE OF THE DAY - LYNDA CARTER...



What I want to know is why the lovely LYNDA CARTER has never been a BOND Girl.  She has all the necessary qualifications - and then some.  In fact, it can be truly said that the woman is a wonder!

Thursday, 26 September 2019

CONAN JOINS THE SWAMP THING IN BEING UPGRADED (UPDATED)...


Copyright MARVEL COMICS.  Look at the edge on your right

If my memory hasn't deteriorated beyond reliability, it was on Monday, June 13th 1994 at The Glasgow Royal Concert Hall that I met BOB HOPE for the second time in my life (the first being at The Edinburgh Playhouse on Saturday, October 13th 1984).  That second occasion was also the night I bought CONAN CLASSIC #1 from the basement comics shop in The Virgin Megastore earlier in the day, along with a few other comics, which, ensconced in a bag, were carefully stuffed down the front of my trouser's waistband as I was photographed with the great man and his wife, DOLORES.

The thing about that issue of Conan (the last time MARVEL printed the Cimmerian's stories in colour before DARK HORSE acquired the copyright to them for a while) was that it wasn't cut 'square' (if such a thing can be said about an oblong comic).  On the mag's 'open' side, the cut ran at an angle, resulting in it being less wide at the bottom than the top by three millimetres.  I'd often wondered over the intervening years whether they'd all been cut like that, or if I'd just been unlucky enough to get one from a bad batch.

Well, now I know they weren't all similarly affected because, today, I acquired a duplicate issue and it's cut symmetrically, so I've now added it to my 11 issue collection of the title.  I'll still keep my original copy of course, as I had it on me when I again met Bob Hope, but more than 25 years after the fact, I now have one that fulfills my demands for near perfection.  What can I say?  I'm so happy!  Not that I really needed it as I have CTB #1 and about a dozen TRUE BELIEVER reprints of the tale (as well as other incarnations), but my original copy's imperfection always niggled me down through the years, so I'm finally able to lay that ghost to rest.

Copyright DC COMICS.  Hard to spot ripples on cover, but see the
portion of interior page below for damage right through the mag

But as comedian (allegedly) JIMMY CRICKET used to say - there's more.  Back in 1986, I bought The ROOTS Of The SWAMP THING #1 from AKA BOOKS & COMICS in The Virginia Galleries in Glasgow.  Thing is, every copy they'd received from their supplier (I was told) was water damaged at the base of the comic, running all the way through the issue.  Just like with Conan, I have the original issues, various previous reprints (and subsequent ones), but over the years, whenever I looked at the mag, the water damage bugged me.  Anyway, to cut a boring story short (though no less boring), last week I obtained a stain-free copy (along with the other four issues) and now have two sets of this particular series.  (Actually, I have three, because around a week before, I'd bought another set, but they weren't quite in the condition advertised.)

What can I say?  The 'collecting compulsion' is a powerful one, and is beyond resistance when it comes to upgrading inferior issues for better condition copies - finances permitting, of course.  Have any of you ever found yourselves in a similar situation, Criv-ites?  Tell the rest of us all about it in the comments section.

All pages are rippled and water-marked

Oh, go on then, seeing as how you insist.  Here (for the umpteenth time) is the photo taken on the evening of my second meeting with Bob Hope.  There's a bag of comics under that jacket, tucked into my waistband.  If I recall correctly, it included a back issue of F.O.O.M. (#4 I think), as well as Conan Classic #1 and others.  And here you thought I was just a fat b@st@rd, eh?

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