Friday, 23 August 2019


Here's a photo supplied by reader Terranova47 of a truck in New York City, which I thought STAN LEE fans would like a look at.  Nice to see he hasn't been forgotten by MARVEL true believers.  Excelsior!  (Click to enlarge.)



Don't know about you, but I just love this fabulous FANTASTIC FOUR illustration by awesome artist ALEX ROSS.  It reminds me so much of my own work, it just isn't true.  (That'll be because it just isn't true!)  Great picture, eh?



Another Mighty AVENGERS splash page this time around, effendis, making it two in a row - but when they're this good, and drawn by JACK KIRBY, who's gonna complain?  (Eh, what's that?  You are, Melvin?  Well, in that case, kindly leave the room.)  I first saw this page in TERRIFIC #1 back in 1967, and even though it was in b&w, it still looked great.

Of course, it still has a little of Jack's 'idiosyncratic' inconsistencies when it comes to composition (for example, RICK JONES seems to have short legs with no feet), but it remains a striking image.  What do the rest of you Criv-ites think?  (Someone tell Melvin he can come back in now.)


Copyright REBELLION.  Yup, it's over-saturated, but it's original

When it comes to reprinting strips from days of yore, I'm a great believer in doing so as faithfully as possible to their original presentations - or, at least, in the 'spirit' thereof.  Last year, a two volume set of KEN REID strips from the '60s was issued with most of the colour strips converted to grey-scale, on the grounds that, according to the publisher, it reproduced the artist's line work to greater effect.

Now, it's always possible that he genuinely believes this, but I suspect that other, more pressing factors in his decision were, firstly, the work and expense that would've been required to clean up the colour strips to a high enough standard (removing age spots, yellowing of the paper, etc.), and, secondly, the delay this would've caused in rushing the books out.

Recently, on his blog (quite a good one actually), he showed an example of the difference between a black and white panel and the same one in colour, saying that the colour had obscured the detail.  And so it had, but it wasn't exactly a typical example in my view, and the b&w version was taken from a later printing sourced from the original art, not the converted grey-scale version he'd printed in one of his books.  That's the original '60s printing above, the later '70s printing below.  There's no question that the detail in the b&w example is clearer.

If only the books had all been published from original art, as this was 

However, now take a look (below) at how it was presented in one of his volumes.  Is it any better?  Not really I'd say.  That's often what happens when you transform some colour strips into monochrome ones - you merely exchange one murky mess for another.  At least with the colour version, the original appearance of the published strip is maintained, and the mood of the period in which it was first published is preserved.  And I think that's worth doing, especially as many potential purchasers are likely to be those who originally read them back in their childhood.

Thankfully, REBELLION (who now own the copyright to these strips, but didn't at the time the books were published) have found a way to present old colour pages (from the actual published comics too) in a way that captures how readers first experienced them - while enhancing them at the same time.  (See their CREEPY CREATIONS volume to see what I mean.)  I suppose that's the difference between professional publishers and amateur part-time ones.  One has the money and the means to do them properly, the other doesn't.  Nor, it would seem, the desire either.

So what do you think?  Do you prefer to see old colour strips in the way they were first presented (with a bit of work done on them to maximise their presentation), or converted into grey-scale as a way of cutting costs to the publisher and getting them out on sale as quickly as possible?

Does this really have clearer detail than the colour one?  Nah!

I have the issue from which the above panel comes, but it's in a bound volume which I can't open wide enough to scan the complete page without damaging the book, otherwise I'd reproduce the whole strip to give you a better idea of what it looks like. However, I do have a few loose copies of other issues which I can scan, so here are a couple of pages to illustrate that, generally, the colour didn't 'ruin' the art as has been alleged - not in my view anyway.  To my eyes, the pages are far more appealing than dull grey-scale any day of the week.  And can you imagine how good they'd look once those with the required technology to enhance them got to work?  It can be done.

Thursday, 22 August 2019



Copyright MARVEL COMICS.  Published by PANINI

76 pages of Mutant Mayhem!

Colossus falls into the clutches of Lydia Nance and the Alpha Sentinel – and they have dark plans for the Russian mutant!

Featuring material first printed in X-Men: Gold #24-27.

On sale NOW!




76 pages of Marvel Universe adventure!

'The Infinity Wars' saga continues!  Warlock and the Silver Surfer have Ultron on the run, but Thanos is about to join the game!  Dr Strange gets a visit from the Black Widow! The Guardians of the Galaxy are torn apart!

Featuring material first printed in Infinity Countdown #4-5 and Infinity Wars Prime #1.

On sale NOW!




76 pages of Marvel’s hottest hero!

Deadpool teams up with Jessica Jones, then faces the mysterious vigilante called Good Night!

Also: the next level of our crazy interactive game 'You Are Deadpool'!

Featuring material first printed in Deadpool #9-10 and You Are Deadpool #4.

On sale NOW!



Copyright DC COMICS

I guess MARVEL's Facsimile Editions have proven popular, because now DC COMICS have gotten in on the act with the first release of their own series of classic reprints.  As with the Marvel ones, all the original ads are included, and, best of all, the entire contents are printed on non-shiny paper, more reminiscent of the way comics were done back in the day.

One slight niggle is that the reproduction quality of the ads doesn't seem quite so sharp as in the Marvel issues (it's not terrible though), but the story pages themselves are crystal clear and rich in colour.  So grab a slice of the past and buy this issue as soon as you can.  It's far less expensive than an original copy.



Back between 1972 and '74, me and a couple of pals used to clamber over the roof of an ancient pub in the Old Village quarter of our town (usually at night, but not always).  Joined onto one end of the pub was an old building, of which only one upstairs room (or maybe two) was used by a dentist.  If memory serves, the dentist's place aside, the rest of the building had bare floorboards and stairs, and gave the impression of being quite dilapidated.  How did I know?  I once clambered in through the open window of the upstairs toilet and explored the place a little.  Fearless, me!  

So when I first saw the above splash page in b&w in the pages of MARVEL UK's AVENGERS weekly, it reminded me of the interiors of that very building, and that's always the place I think of whenever I see this image of The Mighty Avengers (and irritating 'groupie' RICK JONES) striding through the run-down, rubble-strewn room. See? Association is a powerful thing. However, it's not just my personal memories that inspire my appreciation of the piece, but the fact that it's a neatly-composed picture that causes quite a splash.  Hey, maybe that's why it's called a splash page, eh?

And, in case you were wondering, the old building was eventually refurbished (many years ago, in fact) and is once more a residential abode.  However, below is a photo taken in the late '70s or very early '80s of the window (after it had been boarded up) where I gained access back in 1972 or '73.  Ah, memories!

Tuesday, 20 August 2019


Here's an intriguing little item that I saw on some site or other (forget which) - a MATCHBOX BATMOBILE.  Only thing is, as far as I'm aware, Matchbox never made a TV Batmobile, so I suspect this is a clever 'custom' job using a MATTEL Batmobile.  If so, whoever did it has made an excellent job of creating the box and blister-pack - in fact, I'd buy this if it were available.

However, maybe I'm mistaken and Matchbox did indeed issue the Batmobile at some stage.  Anyone know?


Actually, it could be legitimate, as I've just remembered while replying to reader McScotty's comment that Mattel owns the Matchbox brand, so they could simply have repackaged a Mattel Batmobile under the Matchbox name.



Although they're not everyone's cup of tea, I really like the early, more simple tales of the Mighty MARVEL superheroes, even with the loopy lapses in logic that they sometimes displayed.  That's probably because, having read them as a kid, I equate them with my childhood and can therefore never be too 'down' on them.  However, when one has a blog to feed, one can't let personal sentiment get in the way when choosing a subject to write about, hence this present post about TALES Of SUSPENSE #44 from way back in 1963.

Actually, I first read the main story when it was reprinted in FANTASTIC #8 in 1967, then again in CREEPY WORLDS #62, then MARVEL COLLECTORS' ITEM CLASSICS #7 (both of which predate Fantastic, but that's the order in which I read them back in the '60s), and also a few years later ('74) in SPIDER-MAN COMICS WEEKLY #58.  I've also got the tale in MASTERWORKS, OMNIBUS, and EPIC COLLECTION volumes, as well as its original printing in TOS #44, so it's only natural that, being so familiar with the story, if there were anything that didn't quite add up about it, I'd have noticed.  And I did.

Okay, so here's the plot.  TONY STARK/IRON MAN visits the past with a revived, 2,000 year old mummy called KING HATAP - known to history and friends and foes alike as The MAD PHARAOH (misspelt 'Pharoah' in its original presentation, and several subsequent reprints).  Hatap, while being besieged by CLEOPATRA's soldiers back in ancient Egypt, had consumed a serum which placed him in a state of suspended animation resembling death. Naturally, as he'd intended, his enemies assumed he'd taken poison to escape his comeuppance (they were only half right) and laid his body to rest. 

(Of course, if he'd been embalmed according to custom, his internal organs would've been removed and placed in jars to be interred alongside him, but there's a couple of preemptive allusions [for the benefit of any readers who know their stuff] as to why this process was sidestepped.  Just as well it was, because if he wasn't dead before, he certainly would've been after.)

Anyway, Hatap, having woken up in the present day, has a magic golden charm which enables him to travel through time, so he decides to go back to the past (along with Stark) and have another crack at attacking Cleopatra and her army, against whom he had rebelled back in the day.  Once there, the bold Tony escapes, changes to Iron Man (for, unlike his visit to KALA's Netherworld the previous issue, he's brought along his attache case this time), and eventually beats Hatap before the Pharaoh can escape to the future (our present).  Using Hatap's magic charm, Stark then returns to his own time before his transistor-powered chest plate which keeps his heart beating runs out of electrical energy.  Got all that?  Good!

But wait a minute.  If Hatap has a magic charm which allows him to travel through time, why didn't he use it to escape Cleopatra the first time, instead of putting himself into suspended animation?  H'mm, perhaps he could only travel to the future (our present, remember) because, having woken up there, he'd already been?  No, that doesn't wash, because if writer R. BERNS (ROBERT BERNSTEIN), had been aware of his lapse in logic, he'd surely have included a bit of expository dialogue to explain things.  (Something like:  I couldn't use the charm before, because I can't travel to a time where I've never existed.)  However, that wouldn't have prevented him from simply travelling a couple of days or so into the past and sidestepping Cleopatra that way.  (Although, admittedly, then we'd have had an entirely different story - which wouldn't have included the Golden Avenger.)

It's not clear whether the incongruity is due to Bernstein's script or to STAN LEE's plot, but it looks like Stan may have tried to dilute the absurdities of the story once it had been drawn, particularly in regard to the magic charm.  When Tony Stark and Hatap are whisked back to the past in a horse-drawn chariot, Stark refers to it as a hypnotic spell, and the chariot as non-existent.  Sure, it's still magic, but the imagery is relegated to mere 'window-dressing', courtesy of Hatap for the sole purpose of impressing Stark.  Well, who'da thunk it - a bad guy with a sense of the dramatic! Incidentally, DON HECK's art is top-notch here, unlike his later, looser, 'floaty' style of the '70s and '80s.  

Anyway, despite the plot not quite withstanding scrutiny, I actually consider this tale one of my favourites.  What about the rest of you?


Bonus material:  There was some last minute amendments to the lettering in a couple of places, which actually highlights the error they were meant to correct.  In one instance, Stark's archaeologist friend asks: Did you know that because of his uncanny knowledge of Black Arts and his ruthless crimes, he was called "The Mad Pharaoh" ?  The name was originally enclosed within quotation marks, but letterer SAM ROSEN placed the question mark within the quotes (unlike me), instead of outside them. Someone obviously spotted the error and had the closed quotes removed before publication, but not the opening ones.  Why not simply put the end quotes in the right place and move the question mark?  Who knows.

But what about the story's title some of you may well be wondering.  After all, the screamer (exclamation mark) is within the quotes.  Ah, yes, but the exclamation mark is meant to be part of the title to lend it emphasis, hence its inclusion within the quotes.  However, when a person is asking a question about a name, the question mark is outside the quotes as it's not part of the name.  For example, were I to ask you whether you liked this particular tale, I'd say:  Did you enjoy the Iron Man story, "The Mad Pharaoh!" ?  (Trust me, I'm a doctor.)

Also, Fantastic #8 spells 'Pharaoh' correctly in a banner on the (X-MEN featured) cover, but fails to correct the spelling inside.  MCIC #7 corrects the spelling, as did the first editions of the Masterworks volume containing the tale.  However, when Marvel decided to make the Masterworks more archival, the spelling mistake was restored.  Only thing is, they didn't have original uncorrected proofs to hand, so they merely relettered the misspelling.  The problem with that is they missed a couple of instances, and the 'restored' relettering was executed with less precision than the original corrections.

And finally (you'll be glad to hear), it looks like the upturned sword that Hatap falls onto at the story's end has been removed from the panel (it can be seen in the previous one, not shown here), with Iron Man describing (for the readers' benefit) what is happening.  This was no doubt due to objections from the COMICS CODE, but as Hatap was falling towards the sword and wasn't actually depicted being impaled on it, they were perhaps being a tad over-cautious on this occasion.    

Any thoughts, Criv-ites, let's hear 'em.

Monday, 19 August 2019


Recently, Bashful BARRY PEARL's family visited the MARVEL UNIVERSE Of SUPERHEROES Exhibition at the FRANKLIN INSTITUTE in Philadelphia and took loads of photographs.  Barry has kindly shared them with me for use on CRIVENS!, as he knows many of my readers (including me) will never get the chance to visit the exhibition to see it for themselves.  So here, courtesy of Barry and his family, are a few of the highlights for your viewing pleasure.  Remember, any members of Barry's family in the following photos aren't part of the exhibition, though they may well be superheroes.  Enjoy. 

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