Friday, 30 August 2019

AVAILABLE NOW! HOUSE OF SECRETS #92 FACSIMILE EDITION... NOT FORGETTING MARVEL COMICS #1000 (UPDATED)...


Copyright DC COMICS

Cop a load of this, crazy Criv-ites.  Why, it's the DC Facsimile Edition of HOUSE Of SECRETS #92, first issued way back in 1971 and featuring the first (pre-ALEC HOLLANDcomicbook SWAMP THING. With matt paper, original ads and letters, great reproduction of the story pages themselves - why, strike my stunningly handsome fizzog with a wet kipper if it's not the next best thing to owning the original issue (which I do).

Just two things though: in earlier reprints, the words 'any more' in the first panel's caption box were revised to 'anymore', and it's that amended version that appears in this issue.  Also, clumsy retouching of lettering on page 5 has changed the word 'the' to 'me', making no sense at all.  If you can live with that, then this is the very chappie for you!  You can love it, hug it, kiss it, and call it 'George'.  (Personally, I'm just going to read it and then put it back in its poly bag, but hey - you might have your own ideas on how to have fun.)

The original and facsimile - side-by-side

But that's not all - take a look below at MARVEL COMICS #1000.  (Nah, I didn't see most of the other 9,999 either.)  This is a celebration of 80 years of Marvel (originally called TIMELY, then ATLAS, but their first mag was called MARVEL COMICS), and includes MIRACLE(MARVEL)MAN and NIGHT RAVEN (yup, that's right - Night Raven) - as well as all the other Marvel heroes, I'm sure.

So why are you still hanging around this dump?  Rush out and buy both of these collectors' item classics today!

Copyright MARVEL COMICS

Just for the hell of it - a recoloured, enhanced version of MC #1

PRESENTING: THE DISPLAY CABINET OF DR. CALIGORDIE (BE CHARITABLE NOW)...



Take a look at my new display cabinet housing some of my collection of diecast vehicles.  I say 'new', but it's actually secondhand, purchased from a charity shop.  It had lain unsold for months, probably on account of its £12 asking price, which is quite expensive when compared to wall-size bookcases going for £20 in the same place.  I asked them if they'd accept a tenner (no haggling, just a straight question) and they did, but upon arriving home, I discovered a few imperfections.

Firstly, the back was coming away, no doubt as a result of cars too wide for the compartments being placed inside and then having the door forced shut.  I remedied that with an upholsterer's staple-gun to secure it back into position.  Secondly, under the price label on one of the corners, was a missing piece of veneer, which I had to disguise with a furniture pen, then varnish over.  I checked, and there was no veneer under the label, so it hadn't come off when I removed the price.

Thirdly, there were little nicks in various places, which I again had to disguise with my furniture pen.  Also, the original price labels from when the item was brand-new (before it had been used then donated to charity) were still on the box, which I hadn't previously noticed.  It had started at £15, then been reduced to £9.99, then reduced again to £7.50, which is the price the original owner had paid.  I'd paid £2.50 more than when it was new and then had to spend time and effort making it presentable.

In reality, considering its condition, it really wasn't worth more than about a fiver, but at least I managed to tart it up, and its aged and worn appearance is now no longer obvious.  And, more importantly, don't my toy cars classic collectable diecast model vehicles look great in their 'new' home?  (Which is where charity should begin, isn't it?  At least it ended there.)

Thursday, 29 August 2019

LET'S KEEP THINGS IN PROPORTION, EH? (SOMETHING THAT EVEN JACK KIRBY'S ART DIDN'T ALWAYS DO)...



Yesterday, JACK KIRBY, had he yet been alive, would've been 102.  Cue various blog writers waxing eloquent and lyrical about what a great guy he was, what a fantastic artist/writer/ideas man he was, how prescient he was about graphic novels, collected editions, the fate of comicbooks, etc.  And, of course, how he healed the sick, walked on water, foretold the future, and performed many signs and wonders. Oh, my mistake regarding the previous sentence, but it's a natural false impression that some may get, given the over-the-top deification of the man in some comicbook circles.

I didn't know Mr. Kirby, but I'm quite prepared to believe that he was a very nice man, and as far as comicbooks are concerned, he certainly was (when at the top of his game) a fantastic artist and ideas man.  Writer?  H'mm, well he certainly wasn't the wordsmith that STAN LEE was, and even at its best, his scripting lacked the grace and the charm - to say nothing of natural-sounding dialogue - of his MARVEL collaborator, but he could certainly hang a story together.  Okay, some of his plots you could fly a 747 through, but he did a good job of producing ephemeral comics to amuse kids and teenagers for 20 minutes or so, and for a time he did it better than most.

However, let's look at things in context.  Jack was reputedly a voracious reader of books and magazines, fictional and factual, historical and scientific, and got many of his ideas from them.  He didn't originate the concept of DNA and cloning, or indeed time-travel, or any other concept that ever appeared in his strips.  He regurgitated what he had read, often simplifying the ingredients to their most basic level for the purpose of filling a comicbook for what was assumed to be unsophisticated readers. Remember, we're talking about comics, which, at the time Jack was prominent in them, were never regarded as being anything more than an inexpensive way of amusing kids and teens.  I wonder what Jack's reaction would've been, had the writers he'd been 'inspired' by demanded credit and compensation from him?

Jack was a great visual storyteller, but his art was also filled with inconsistencies and flaws.  Characters cast shadows that bore no resemblance to reality, sported two left (or right) hands and feet, or were sized totally out of proportion to one another.  As for his abstract and idiosyncratic depiction of musculature, well, it's perhaps as well that he never decided to be a physician or surgeon, given his seemingly elastic 'grasp' of human anatomy.  But did all that matter?  In a sense, no - not if you read one of his comics in the same way that it had been written or drawn, which was at speed, without paying too much attention to detail.  Just jump aboard and enjoy the ride while it lasts, then jump aboard the next one.

Now, I never met Jack, but like I said, I'm prepared to accept that he was a decent guy in the main - but, just like the rest of us, he wasn't perfect.  He didn't always credit JOE SIMON for his contributions during their partnership when recounting a list of his (Jack's) achievements in later years, something you think he'd have gone to great pains to do, given his perception of how he himself was denied credit for his own work.  He became bitter and angry (fueled, it has to be said, by some of those around him) at not receiving what he considered proper financial compensation for his many creations or co-creations, and unwisely (as well as inaccurately) accused Stan Lee of never having created or written anything in his life.

However, as I've pointed out a few times before, Jack knew how things operated at the time, and knew and accepted that the copyright of any feature belonged to the publishers.  That was only natural (as well as sensible), because why should a publisher shell out many thousands of dollars to launch a comicbook, only for the writer or artist to take it elsewhere if it became successful?  They'd have spent thousands and then have nothing to show for it.  There's nothing to indicate that Jack or Joe treated their contributors any differently to the established norms of the time when the ran their own company, MAINLINE COMICS.

Jack sold his creations to keep himself in a job, by which he earned a good living to support his family.  The fact that his work later appreciated in value didn't really entitle him to cry 'foul' after the fact.  Otherwise that Aston Martin D.B.5 I sold for £200,000 a few years ago and which is now worth 5 million - well, I'm entitled to a slice of that, so I am.  (No, of course I didn't - I'm just illustrating the point.)  British cartoonist LEO BAXENDALE likewise felt cheated (with no real basis in my view), but it's interesting (and relevant) to consider the opinion of another UK cartoonist, the late TERRY BAVE.

I once asked Terry if he'd ever felt cheated, and tempted to seek reimbursement for all the characters and strips he'd created (with his wife SHIELA) over the years that IPC were still reprinting, and his response was "Nah!  Kept me in a job, it did.  Who needs the grief of all that palaver?"  (Despite the quotes to indicate speech, that's a paraphrase of what Terry said as best as I can remember it, but it carries the full essence of his sentiment.)  Terry enjoyed his career in comics, enjoyed the creative process, regarded himself blessed to have worked in the industry for so long, and didn't feel cheated, or deprived, or bitter about anything. Why?  Because he knew the deal going in and accepted it - and didn't whinge about it later.

I note that some blog writers are claiming that Jack has been vindicated by time, seeing as how some of his later work, regarded as failures when it was first published, is now being reprinted in hardcover volumes.  This proves, they say, what they knew all along, that it was just the rubes who were too dim to realise what masterpieces Jack was producing.  Well, no (simply).  What it proves is that once 'cult status' has been built up around a figure by dedicated fans over the years since he died, then an interest has been generated in his work, not that the work was necessarily or automatically deserving of unqualified success back in the day.  It also proves that, given the growing industry in collected editions of material that has already been paid for, there is a market to be exploited and an appetite to be developed that will need fed.  I have a lot of Jack's original comics, as well as many and various editions of reprints of the same material.  I find that it doesn't read any better or worse now than it did at the time I first read it, decades ago.

So Jack was a nice guy, who may have believed (or held hopes of) how the comicbook industry would develop in the future, but I'm sceptical that Jack knew  - he couldn't 'know'.  But just for argument's sake, even if he did (and remember, he'd have been aware of what other countries were doing in the field of comics publishing, so there was a template), it wasn't necessarily because he thought that his comics were intrinsically deserving of such treatment (deluxe collected editions, blockbuster movies, etc.), merely, perhaps, that he was cynically aware of just how 'big business' eventually gets around to mining and exploiting absolutely everything down to the very last molecule. In short, if there's money to be made from something, they'll find every which way to make it.  Jack certainly knew that.

Jack was a fine man by all accounts, and a great comicbook creator, but let's dial down the more 'godlike' attributes that some fans and former associates are prone to ascribe to him, eh?  However, that'll probably never happen while there are people and publishers with a vested interest in promoting (and sometimes exaggerating to the point of deifying) his achievements in order to sell books by or about him.

Let me tell you what I know.  This post well receive a lot of visits, that's for sure.   However, whether or not it'll generate a lot of comments depends on you.           

Monday, 26 August 2019

MIGHTY MARVEL BULLPEN BONEHEADED BOO-BOOS...


Copyright MARVEL COMICS

Forgive my laziness, fellow Criv-ites - I do have a colour printing of this tale, but I can't be bothered digging it out, so this b&w reprint from CREEPY WORLDS #68 will have to do for the purpose of this post.  This story involves there not being enough air on a luxury space yacht to sustain six men after a meteor collision, but there is enough to keep five of them alive.  You can probably work out how the Captain solved the problem from the dialogue in the panel below, but look at the visual boo-boo which threatens to offset his solution.

The silly plonker lights up a pipe - thereby consuming the very air that he's trying to conserve.  Now he'll probably have to find a way to dispose of someone else to make up for his mistake.  (Or he would've if the story hadn't ended in the very next panel, preferring to overlook the Captain's cock-up.)  The last thing you do when you're trying to save oxygen is smoke - what a pillock, eh? 

Sunday, 25 August 2019

HERE'S A SMASHING 'MYSTERY' FOR YOU TO TRY AND EXPLAIN...


Copyright relevant owner

Just for fun, here's a little mystery for you to work out.  It's not a mystery to me 'cos I know the answer, but let's see if you can explain it.  I own two copies of the above SMASH! Annual for 1975 (issued in '74), which was the second-last one for the comic that had been merged into VALIANT in 1971.  Below are two versions of three panels from inside the book, one from each of my two copies.

Forget the variation in the spot colour - that's simply down to the vagaries of printing and is quite common.  As you can see though, the first panel in each row is slightly different.  Can you come up with a possible explanation for it?  Put your thinking caps on, Criv-ites, and give it a go!  



And now - the answer:  But first, this post has had a good many hits, but only two comments.  Surely imagination isn't as rare as all that?

Anyway, the answer is simple, as all answers are when you know them.  The first Annual I bought was price-clipped, which meant the strip on the other side of the page had a bit missing.  It wasn't even a neat diagonal cut, but rather, as the price had been enclosed in a circle, it was almost a square (with a round edge) that was missing.

I added a patch, but as I didn't know what the missing piece of art looked like (not yet having bought my second copy), I just drew what I thought it might look like.  I 'cheated' a little for this post by upping the contrast so that the join wasn't visible, but if I'd left it in, it would've been pointless asking the question.  (Whaddya mean you want a refund?)

LITTLE NEMO AND ITS INFLUENCE - GUEST POST BY BARRY PEARL...


Images copyright respective owners

The Mighty (though Bashful) BARRY PEARL has done it again.  Here's his latest guest post for Crivens!, written specially for the purpose of giving you all a break from my woeful wafflings.  (He's got your well-being at heart, you see.)  All the images were supplied by Barry himself, and it takes a lot of time to dig out the relevant books and scan them.  So be sure and show your appreciation (if you'd be so kind) by leaving a comment after you've read the results of all his hard work.

******

I never claim to be a comic book historian; I like to be considered a “discoverer.” There is so much in this medium to be discovered.  In the late 1970s I “discovered” one of the greatest strips of all time, “Little Nemo in Slumberland”.  Created during the first decade of the 20th century, Zenas Winsor McCay drew Sunday strips like no other.  They are just unbelievably beautiful and imaginative.

If you can, see these strips (above and at foot of post) in a larger size.  (Click to enlarge, then click again for optimum size.)  I have put up some of the books they are contained in.  I love the Taschen book and the Nostalgia Press, along with the Sunday Press books.


In his Taschen intro, Alexander Braun shows the connection of this strip to Steve Ditko and Jack Kirby (and even Bill Gaines). I've put up that page from Taschen as I thought that part would be fun to read.  I also put up scans from the Kirby book and  the Ditko story that he refers to.


Alexander Braun: By the early 1950s, Sigmund Freud's teachings on psycho-analysis had arrived at the center of society, more so in the United States than in Europe.  The idea of depicting the analysis of dreams in the form of a comic practically seemed unavoidable especially after the pictorial creations of the Surrealists: Dali’s motifs, in particular, enjoyed a great deal of popularity.  To do so, it no longer had to be in the same tradition as McCay's work.  Rather, illustrators sought to come close to medical plausibility.  They wanted to tell "true" stories from the unconscious mind and to decode these for their audience.


In 1952, the studio of Joe Simon and Jack Kirby, together with their closest colleagues, Mort Meskin and Bill Draut launched the strip The Strange World of Your Dreams for Prize Publications.  Mort Meskin, in particular, was a driving force behind the project.  He had read Freud's writings, had been a patient in a sanatorium, and practiced a form of ther­apy developed by the Austrian psychoanalyst Wilhelm Reich, who had fled from the National Socialists in 1939 and emigrated to New York, where he then continued his work.  As dream experts, the team surrounding Jack Kirby introduced the character Richard Temple, to whose New York address readers could send their dreams to be analyzed.  If a dream was chosen to he adapted into a comic story, the submitter would receive $25.  Whether the money was ever actu­ally paid out, and whether there really was a Richard Temple, has never been determined, but seems rather doubtful.


It soon became clear that the comic book series that appealed to an adult readership would not find enough readers.  Alter just four issues, the experi­ment was brought to an end in 1953.  The target audi­ence had simply been too imprecisely defined. With the cover artwork, the creators flirted with the style of the extremely successful horror comic books of the time, but they could not and did not want to be as explicit.  Aside from this, they had had women readers in mind while launching this topic, but women preferred the romantic comic books that had been launched by the Simon/Kirby studio itself beginning in 1947.


(After) the 1954 passage of the Comics CodeEC Comics, in particular, tried to develop new topic areas for comics,  Thus the publisher William Gaines (1922-1992), who had experience with therapy him­self, made an attempt with the comic book series Psychoanalysis in 1955.  This endeavour to make the decryption of dreams useful for comics did not find a large enough audience either and was also cancelled after only four issues.


It is likely that, through his frequent change in employers, Robert McCay (Winsor's son) also met Steve Ditko who, in terms of age, could have been his son.  After graduating from art school, Ditko first worked in Jack Kirby and Joe Simon's studio beginning in 1953, then for Charlton Comics, and finally for Atlas Comics, the precursor to Marvel Comics, where he developed The Amazing Spider-Man with Stan Lee beginning in 1962.  A very remarkable story for the 26th issue of Tales to Astonish dates back to December 1961 - five months be­fore Robert McCay's death.  A man dreams that he floats out of his bed and his window.  Startled  he awakes only to discover that, once again, he begins to float -yet again trapped in a dream, and so on.  Can we be sure that we wake in reality and not just in another dream?  This kind of fantasy exposition that is not con­cerned with the cause and decoding of the dream but carries the absurdity of dreams to its own sake is in keeping with the spirit of Winsor McCay.






Saturday, 24 August 2019

THE HOLLOW WIND OF SLEEPY WILLOWS (THAT'LL DO, IT'S CLOSE ENOUGH)...


Copyright DISNEY

I've related before about how, in 1970, I spent my last primary school afternoon at my local cinema, which was hosting a prize-giving ceremony for the winners of an inter-school art contest that had taken place in Glasgow Art Gallery some months before.  As I'd been a participant (without being informed I was in a contest - I just thought it was a special treat for 'arty' pupils), I was therefore also at the presentation.  (And no, I wasn't a winner.  I don't think my picture of a battling pair of GIGANTOR-style robots was what the judges were looking for.)

At the cinema (which had the largest screen in Scotland, and was the first purpose-built cinema in the UK since World War II), WALT DISNEY's animated cartoon short of The WIND In The WILLOWS was screened, though I no longer recall if it was before or after the prize-giving.  One thing I do remember was turning around in my chair at some point during the 'ceremony' and being surprised to see a fellow pupil called ROBERT (or ROBIN) GOLDIE who'd been in my class when I first started at that particular primary five years before.  (And afterwards too.)  I always thought he was the double of HUCKLEBERRY HOUND, but in human form.


What surprised me was that he was wearing the uniform of another school, and it was only then that I realised I hadn't seen him in quite a while.  Probably two years in fact, as in 1968, some of the pupils at my school were moved to a new one in another area which was closer to where they lived.  I obviously must've just subconsciously assumed he was still attending my school (though in another class), for me to have been surprised to discover he wasn't.  Seems fitting though, to have seen him on my first and last day of primary, even if the latter occasion wasn't actually 'on site'.  I seem to have a vague recollection of seeing him again at secondary school a year or two later, but I don't think I've seen him since.

Anyway, this post isn't about him, but about the film.  21 years later (1991), I saw it was available on video and immediately purchased a copy, along with The LEGEND Of SLEEPY HOLLOW, also by Disney.  Although I didn't know it at the time, both shorts had originally been released as one feature in 1949, under the name of The ADVENTURES Of ICHABOD And Mr. TOAD.  The Ichabod segment was narrated by BING CROSBY (who also sang), and the Mr. Toad one by BASIL RATHBONE (who didn't sing).


I only bought them together because they were clearly complementary in style and substance.  In the original version, the first segment segues into the second, but later on, they were divided into two separate shorts and shown on US TV, and eventually made available to cinemas.  That's not to say they were both screened together though, only that they were no longer 'joined at the hip'.  New titles were created bearing the original literary names of the books, and some slight editing was seamlessly performed to remove any references at the end of the first part to the second, and also at the beginning of the second part to the first.

Several years back, I bought the DVD of the original 1949 feature for the superior quality that the format provides, but I also wanted separate discs of each segment, though I don't think they were available in the UK at that time.  Well, they are now (and have been for a while, apparently), so I recently bought them, and was delighted to be able to watch The Wind In The Willows as I first experienced it (but in better quality than VHS), a kick in the pants short of 50 years ago.  Just think, if I hadn't seen the cartoon back in 1970, I may never have picked up the book to read on seeing it in my secondary school library around a year later, having recognised the title from the animated short.


What amazes me is that it took me 21 years to obtain a video of the film after first seeing it as a primary school pupil, and another 28 years to finally obtain that separate version on DVD.  Strangely, the latter (and longer) period of time seems less than the former (and shorter) period that preceded it.  However, I've dragged you all down that road many a time before, so I'll spare you on this occasion.  My consideration for others is as renowned as my modesty.  And let me tell you, I've got a lot to be modest about.

So what's the point of this post?  Well, aside from reliving a particular part of my past for my own indulgence, it also serves to give you something to read during an idle moment, and to help fill your otherwise dull and dreary day.  (Or is it just me that has those?)  I'm thoughtful that way.  And it should also go without saying that I heartily recommend both films (in whatever version) to all Criv-ites everywhere.

Friday, 23 August 2019

CALLING CRIV-ITE COLLECTORS OF KELLOGG'S CHARACTERS...



The very first SOOTY figure I ever had as a lad was a grey one, included as a free gift in a packet of KELLOGG'S cereal.  Today I received a replacement for it, and by that mysterious, magical, mystical method I've referred to before, it 'became' the actual item I had way back in the early '70s.  Don't ask me to explain how it works - it just does.  (In my mind anyway.)

We usually got Corn Flakes when I was a kid, occasionally Weetabix, and when there was a coveted free gift included, Sugar Smacks or Sugar Puffs.  (Which were the same thing in all but name, and even that was 50% the same.)  I've looked up the Sooty figures on the Internet and, apparently, they were giveaways with Coco Krispies in 1973.

This perplexes me somewhat, 'cos I don't remember ever getting Coco Krispies, but it's conceivable we did on that occasion because I wanted a Sooty.  But what about the year?  When I look at Sooty (and even in memory for decades), I see him in the house we lived in until June 1972, which would mean I had him for a few months before that at the very least.  I can see him in the living room, my bedroom, etc., and I find it hard to believe I didn't acquire him until 1973.

So Kellogg's collectors, could the 1973 date attributed to the Sooty line be for a reissue, or is my memory of having Sooty earlier than that simply a delusion, brought about by me associating him with earlier cereal characters (like CRATER CRITTERS or NEPTUNE & His SEA-BED SERENADERS) that I did have in my previous house?

If you will, do me a favour and rack your brains on my behalf.  Are Sooty and his pals (SWEEP, SOO [spelt SUE by Kellogg's], KIPPER, and BUTCH) definitely from 1973, or were they available before that, perhaps in another cereal?  I'm bewildered by how I could associate these figures for so many years with one particular house, if they weren't issued until sometime after we flitted from it.  Can you help?

STAN LEE KEEPS ON TRUCKIN'...



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.)

THE FABULOUS FANTASTIC FOUR BY THE AWESOME ALEX ROSS (UPDATED)...


Copyright MARVEL COMICS

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?

And below is the JACK KIRBY/JOE SINNOTT splash page from (as Comicsfan reminded me) FF #83 that inspired the talented Mr. Ross to produce his valiant version - with the addition of SUE RICHARDS.


SPECTACULAR SPLASH PAGES #23...


Copyright MARVEL COMICS

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.)

COLOUR OR BLACK AND WHITE SHOULDN'T BE A GREY AREA...


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

MIGHTY MARVEL CHECKLIST - COLLECTORS' EDITIONS ON SALE NOW!


ESSENTIAL X-MEN #18

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!

£4.99.

******

MIGHTY WORLD OF MARVEL #19


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!

£4.99.

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DEADPOOL UNLEASHED #4


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!

£4.99.

BATMAN #232 FACSIMILE EDITION...


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.

SPECTACULAR SPLASH PAGES #22...


Copyright MARVEL COMICS

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!


And there's more!  (This blog is like a movie - you should never leave until the end credits are over.)  Below is the recoloured version used as a variant cover on Avengers #672.  I think it's a beezer - how about you?

Tuesday, 20 August 2019

THE MATCHBOX BATMOBILE - FAKE OR FACT?



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?

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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.

LOOPY LAPSES IN LOGIC DEPT - "THE MAD PHARAOH!" (MAD? HE'S FURIOUS!)


Copyright MARVEL COMICS

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 #68, then MARVEL COLLECTORS' ITEM CLASSICS #7 (both of which predate Fantastic, but that's the sequence I remember reading them in back in the '60s - though it's possible I read MCIC before CW), 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?


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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.
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