Tuesday, 27 April 2021

TRULY SCRUMPTIOUS...



If you've always wanted a Corgi Chitty Chitty Bang Bang in your collection, then you may be interested to know that the iconic model was reissued for the modern 'adult collector' in 2018.  Unlike it's previous 'budget' reissue some years back (2005 I think), this one has painted and spring-loaded wings which pop out when the brake lever is pushed forward, plus a full complement of four figures.  Alas, no jewelled head or tail lights as per the '68 original, and the bonnet strap is printed on rather than being a plastic attachment, but this is a very nice model and available for a modest £24.95 (plus postage) direct from Corgi.

I now have four versions of this Corgi classic; an original '60s one, a '90s reissue, one from approximately 15 years ago (which had unpainted pull-out side wings and one figure), and now the 50th anniversary one which arrived at Castel Crivens earlier today.  And that's not counting my three Corgi Juniors, or my SEG super large version, which is around 14 inches long, not including the front and rear wings.  This of course means that I have 8 Chittys in total, but I always was a greedy boy.

Anyway, should you like one, you'll find it on the Corgi website, but you'll have to Google it, 'cos I'm off to my scratcher.  In the meantime, what's your favourite Corgi or Dinky TV/movie tie-in cars of all time, and would Chitty be one of them?

Monday, 26 April 2021

A KING'S REACH SHOULD ALWAYS EXCEED HIS GRASP...


Copyright REBELLION (and JOHN SANDERS, presumably)

I really enjoyed my regular visits to King's Reach Tower in London's Stamford Street for the first two years of my comics career.  It was a great building and I couldn't help but feel important whenever I walked through its exalted portals - or revolving doors actually, if memory serves.  Then the Youth Group moved along the road to Irwin House, and I remember holding the front door open for John Sanders as he entered one afternoon when myself, Kevin Brighton (art assistant), and Marc Jung (Buster's assistant editor) were going out for lunch, up to the cafeteria in KRT.  Mr. Sanders looked as if he'd imbibed a little too much, and I later learned it was probably due to him drowning his sorrows when a new football magazine he'd already got the green light for was cancelled at very little notice.  Apart from maybe a couple of nods and a polite "Morning", or seeing him wandering around corridors from time to time, that was my total experience of the gentleman in my time freelancing for the company.

Now, having just read his autobiographical account of his career in comics, I feel like I know him a little better, and I found his book an enthralling, behind-the-scenes glimpse at his involvement in iconic comics like 2000 A.D., Action, Misty, Starlord, and numerous other titles he had a guiding hand in during IPC's glory days before Robert Maxwell got his hands on the Youth Group and, in pretty short order, dismantled it until it was a pale shadow of its former self.  If you're interested in such history, you're sure to enjoy this volume as much as I did, and it sheds light on such topics as creators rights, ownership of artwork (and reprint fees, or the lack of them), and what goes on in the development of a comic up until the point of fruition.  The logic of the 'hatch, match, and despatch' philosophy is explained, and it certainly seemed to work, otherwise it would've been abandoned pretty early on and not repeated for so many years.

A couple of pedant's points, but Esther Rantzen is referred to as Esther Ransom in the book (that's life I suppose - see what I did there?), and 'minuscule' is spelt 'miniscule', but that's a tiny error that a lot of us have made when we're typing too fast, so nothing to get upset about.  I always had the impression that the Youth Group was sold to Maxwell before it moved from Irwin House to Greater London House, but I assume Mr. Sanders will know these facts better than me, so I'm not going to argue about it.  One thing that strikes me though is, had Mr. Sanders not planted the idea in IPC's mind to sell the Youth Group, Maxwell would never have had the chance to buy it.  Does the author ever feel that he may've been partly responsible in hastening the Youth Group's doom? 

I don't see the book on the Treasury Of British Comics website, but perhaps it's available on the 2000 A.D. store.  If not, you can order it via one of various Internet sites, as I did.  Definitely worth a read. 

Sunday, 25 April 2021

BATMAN, AGENT OF S.H.I.E.L.D. ?


Copyright MARVEL COMICS

Y'know, I've seen this cover a few times before.  I'm sure it's reprinted in one of my two-part S.H.I.E.L.D. Special Edition mags from the early '80s, but I'd never noticed what appears to be The Batman in the bottom left-hand corner until Fantastic Four Follower referred to it in the comments section of the previous post.  Well, I likely saw the figure (unless it was removed from reprints), but I just never clocked it looked like Batman.  Was anyone else aware of the Dark Knight Detective on the front of a Marvel comic or is this as much a surprise to you as it was to me?  In fact, is it even meant to be Batman, or is it merely a coincidental resemblance to another character inside the mag? 

So much for that Sherlock Holmes 'Improve Your Observational Skills' kit I bought years ago.  Maybe I should ask for a refund?!

PART FOUR OF KID'S KLASSIC KIRBY KOVERS - THE FABULOUS FF (WITH BONUS)...


Copyright MARVEL COMICS

Dunno about you, but I thought the four part tale contained within issues #90-93 was an absolute belter and a half!  I seem to recall reading somewhere that it was a Star Trek episode in which the crew either go back in time, or land on a planet which bases their culture on 1930s America, that inspired Jack to dream up this plot.  (Doesn't mean that Stan didn't contribute, Lee-haters, so down, boy!)  In our previous post, we saw the covers to #84-87, and Jack purportedly was influenced by The Prisoner TV series when he dreamt that one up.  Whatever would he have done without a TV, eh?

Anyway, if you've got a favourite cover within this lot, be sure to share which one (or ones) it is with your fellow Crivvies.  You know how nosy we all are.







Bonus: In between Kirby abandoning the mag and Buscema taking over, John Romita drew four issues of the good ol' FF.  I only have one original ish (though I have the others in a Masterworks volume), so I though I'd show it here.  I must admit I bought my original copy of this number (the one below is a replacement) purely out of lust over the pic of Susie on the cover.  Ah, young love.  (Looks a bit like Paige Spiranac in the previous post, eh?)  

Saturday, 24 April 2021

BABE OF THE DAY - PAIGE SPIRANAC...



Nah, Paige, that's the worst impression of a teapot I've ever seen - you're supposed to hold up one arm like a spout.  What's that you say, you're not a teapot, you're a trophy?  Okay, can't argue with that - you certainly are.

KID'S KLASSIC KIRBY KOVERS PART THREE - THE FABULOUS FF...


Copyright MARVEL COMICS

Okay, having taken a short detour to cop a gander at some Big John Buscema FF covers, it's now time to return to some more by Jack 'King' Kirby.  Is it my imagination, or does the colouring on the accompanying covers look a little 'dull' and sombre in comparison to Big John's in the previous post, which seemed a tad brighter and more vibrant to my eyes.  Maybe it was a change in colourists, or just a change in direction, but I have the distinct impression that Marvel comic covers in the '70s  seemed more 'colourful' (you know what I mean) than in the preceding decade.  Or could it simply be that my '60s FFs have lost their lustre due to the effects of age and that the '70s mags will eventually follow suit?  Anyway, should you wish to contribute your views on the matter (or anything resembling it), your participation will be very welcome.   







Thursday, 22 April 2021

CRIVENS' BOMBASTIC BUSCEMA COVERS - THE FABULOUS FF...


Copyright MARVEL COMICS

Just because we're only halfway through our Jack Kirby FF cover gallery doesn't mean we can't start another one featuring the legendary John Buscema, so here's a few to get us started.  I think I enjoyed Big John's take on the Fantastic Four every bit as much as Jack's, and by this time, with Jack over at the Distinguished Competition, John's art had reset the Marvel 'style'.  Having said that, John would likely have eventually supplanted Jack as Marvel's premier artist anyway (if he hadn't already), as JK's art was beginning to look not quite as dynamic, or as fluid, or as well-composed as it had once been.  Still great of course, but one could see the 'erosion' setting in.

Anyway, marvel (yup, pun intended) at how John handled the cover duties on ''The World's Greatest Comic Magazine!' (or 'comix' as it became for a while).  Incidentally, some of the comics below weren't cut 'straight' at the time of publication, but rather than waste time and effort (and my life) trying to compensate, I've displayed them just as they are, squinty warts and all.  I can assure you that they were placed on my scanner with utmost precision.  Anyway, if you've got a favourite, then say so, effendi.






PART TWO OF KID'S KLASSIC KIRBY KOVERS - THE FABULOUS FF...


Copyright MARVEL COMICS

Here we are yet again with some more fab Fantastic Four covers from when Jack Kirby was still the principal artist on the series.  As before, feel free to say what your favourite/s is/are, and talk about why it's/they're significant to you.  These images are from a period when it seems that Marvel weren't using dialogue balloons on the covers of the FF, but they did later return to the practice.  Some fans love characters conversing on the front of mags, some hate it, and others don't bother one way or the other.  What's your preference, Crivvies - would you rather see covers unadorned with dialogue (not counting the occasional caption or blurb), or do you think they're more interesting or appealing with the heroes and/or villains indulging in a bit of banter?  Our captivatin' comments section awaits your valued contribution.  






Wednesday, 21 April 2021

KID'S KLASSIC KIRBY KOVERS - THE FABULOUS FF - PART ONE...


Copyright MARVEL COMICS

Thought I'd show you the first of what's going to be a four part cover gallery series featuring my earliest issues of Fantastic Four when Jack Kirby was drawing the mag.  Of course, I have reprints of all the issues in various collected editions, but these are my actual individual original comics with no 'tarting up', unlike my usual practice where I diminish minor (and sometimes major) blemishes.  No, here they are in all their unretouched glory.

It may appear that a few of the spines are too closely cropped, but that's mainly caused by the cover art curving around the spine and onto the back cover, so there wasn't a lot I could do about that without taking ages trying to compensate for it.  For the nit-pickers among you, three covers over the four parts are from individual facsimile issues from several years back, so have fun trying to spot them.

Incidentally, in case you're reeling from the shock of seeing the above ish of FF #1, relax.  It's actually a '60s reprint for Golden Book & Records, which came with a dramatisation of the tale, and yes - I do have the record.  Marvel released a new facsimile a couple or so years ago, with great reproduction, and for all those (like me) who probably couldn't afford an original 1961 issue, then the facsimile makes a very nice alternative indeed.

Anyway, that's enough yakkin' from me, I now direct your attention to the cataclysmic covers within this post.  If you have a favourite and want to share which one it is with your fellow Crivvies, feel perfectly free to do so in the comments section.  And don't miss part two - coming soon! 







Monday, 19 April 2021

BABE OF THE DAY - PAIGE SPIRANAC...



All I can say is roll on that Lottery win, because it's amazing how attractive I'll suddenly become to Paige Spiranac (and countless hordes of other women) when I have 77 squillion quid to play with.  Yes siree!  

Saturday, 17 April 2021

THE TWO FACES OF JACK KIRBY'S SUPERMAN - WHO'S TO BLAME?


Copyright DC COMICS

One of the things that disappointed (if not infuriated) a great many Jack Kirby fans was when DC Comics had Al Plastino redraw most of Kirby's versions of Superman and Clark Kent in Forever People #1.  Why hire Jack to draw Supes and then make him look nothing like a JK drawing?  It was certainly a step too far in that instance, but I think they made the right call when they got Murphy Anderson to ink the Man of Steel's (and Clark's and Jimmy Olsen's) head and face in subsequent issues of Jack's Fourth World series.  The figures were as Jack pencilled them, but the characters faces looked as how they appeared in other DC mags, which was okay in my book.

Jack's main failing was in the way he drew Kent's/Supes' hair; it was seldom consistent from panel-to-panel and sometimes looked like a bad combover - or even a toupee!  Also, he tended to draw character's eyes on an uneven level, though this could've been rectified at the inking stage, and I bet Mike Royer fixed that quite a few times when he took on the task of rendering Jack's pencils in indelible black, just as he did with the the hair and the 'S' emblem on Superman's costume.  (Jack drew the 'S' in an 'abstract' way, which Alex Ross repeated a few years down the line.)

Apparently, Jack wasn't exactly happy with the way his drawings were being altered (when alerted by assistants Mark Evanier and Steve Sherman), but didn't complain to DC about it, preferring to keep schtum on the matter.  Anyway, the matter wasn't an issue once Royer came on board, as he made whatever fixes were necessary to keep characters 'on-model' while retaining the distinctive Kirby style.  However, to all those who resent Murphy Anderson's 'fixes', I feel bound to say that it was Jack's own fault that they were considered necessary.

Was it really beyond his abilities as an artist to take note of how Curt Swan drew Superman's hair and replicate it?  (The same might be said when it came to drawing Spider-Man - just look at what Ditko's doing, for crying out loud.)  He was capable of rendering good likenesses of TV and movie stars, as witnessed by the several cameo appearances at SM Studios in FF #9, so all he had to do was observe how Superman's hair and shield were meant to look and draw them like that.  So then why didn't he, instead of inwardly resenting the changes that DC instituted?  Give them what they want, Jack, and then they wouldn't have to change things.  It's not as if he didn't know what DC wanted, as they asked Evanier and Sherman more than once to remind him.

Was Jack perversely refusing to draw on-model in order to inconvenience DC, who had to take extra time and effort to make things 'right' before publication?  Frankly, I doubt it, because then he wouldn't have felt justified in resenting such changes to begin with.  So, as big a fan of Jack that I am, the blame for any alterations that many of his fans objected to lay at Jack's own door, not DC's.  And let's not forget that Jack often made changes or corrections to other artists' work at Marvel, so he was hardly being singled out at DC, who only altered Jack's pencils when he continually failed to give them what they were paying him to give them - they weren't doing it out of spite.

So if you're one of the fans who'd have preferred to see Jack's DC work untouched, just remember that the reason you didn't was mainly down to Jack, not his employers.  Agree or disagree?  The comments section awaits your worthy input.    

Friday, 16 April 2021

VON HOFFMAN'S INVASION...


Copyright REBELLION

Okay, hands up all those who remember Jet.  (I think there was also an iced lolly by the same name at some stage, but it's the comic I'm referring to today.)  Like Thunder before it, it also lasted for only 22 issues, but in memory it seems it was around for longer.  You see, I have a distinct recollection of reading it at the dining table before before going to school (having bought it from the shops across the road first thing in the morning) on quite a few occasions, but perhaps I've merely been remembering the same one or two instances innumerable times over since then.  Leaves me wondering how many other times I might've done that, giving me the impression that some things happened more often than they did.

Be that as it may, I thought I'd belatedly direct your attention to the first collected edition of Von Hoffman's Invasion, a strip which appeared in Jet in 1971, and continued in the pages of Buster when the two comics were merged at the conclusion of Jet's short span.  I only received my copy today (dragged my heels a bit there), but it takes me right back to the house and neighbourhood where I was living at the time - and, of course, Eric Bradbury's art is always wonderful to behold.  I was lucky enough to letter his art on a few occasions during my freelance comics career, and it was a thrill to 'connect' with an artist who's drawn so many strips I'd read as a boy.

You may think I'm doing a 'Stan Lee' here, but a good while before Rebellion acquired the rights to so many UK classic comics characters from yesteryear, I lamented here on Crivens that publishers didn't seem to view the vast archives of British strips from the past as being worth anything in the way that US strips are, and suggested that it would be nice if such treasures (and I used that very word) were made available in handsome collected editions.  Then arose Treasury Of British Comics and the very thing I wished for came true.  Naturally, I like to think that they got the idea from me.  (Well, it's not totally impossible that I helped plant the seed.  Shut up - I prefer my version.)

Anyway, if you remember Jet, you might want to consider adding this volume to your collection - it's still available.

COMIC MEMORIES - HAPPY OR HORRIBLE...?


Copyright MARVEL COMICS

The Fantastic Four #150 is a comic that conjures up memories of me sitting reading it on my grandparents' itchy red bed settee on one of my family's weekly Sunday visits.  By this time we were living just 5 minutes round the corner from them, as opposed to the adjoining neighbourhood we'd stayed in for almost 7 years up until June of 1972.  Not that such a snippet of information is important to you, but it's relevant to me.

Anyway, it turns out that regular readers CJ and McS also have personal associations with this very same issue, and it reminded me of how comics and their covers can often be gateways to pleasanter times in our past, and the guardians of cherished memories of people, places, and events that are dear to us.

However, it just occurred to me that some comics must surely have sad or even unpleasant associations that we'd probably prefer to forget, though I can't think of any in my own particular case.  So here's a question for all you Crivvies to ponder, and answer if it's not an 'ordeal' for you to remember.  Are there any comics in your past that conjure up unhappy occasions, and that you can't look at or think of without being saddened by the recollections that they summon?

Or can comics only connect us to halcyon days of yore, as opposed to horrible days?  What say ye all? 

Thursday, 15 April 2021

LET'S JUST TAKE A MOMENT...



I had to get up early this morning to facilitate my boiler's annual check, and, once that was over, I sat on the bench in my open front porch under a lovely blue sky, listening to bees buzzing and birds chirping as a neighbourhood cat by my side on the bench greedily consumed the food I'd so considerately provided.  It reminded me of the springtimes of my youth, when all I cared about was getting my UK weekly and US monthly comics, as eternity seemingly stretched out in front of me and I thought my life would always be the same in the future as it was then.

Maybe it's not really the case, but the world seems like a far noisier and busier place these days, what with people playing radios for all to hear in their front and back gardens, kids screaming their lungs out at completely unnecessary levels, and the sound of increased traffic permeating the air, so that rare moment of peace and tranquility was very welcome and, as I said, a nice reminder of simpler, less hectic times.  I almost felt like digging out a back issue from the '70s and extending the moment by burying my nose in its contents.

When was the last time you had such a moment, fellow Crivvies, and, like me, were reminded of a distant age, when the simplest and best of pleasures could be found within the enchanting pages of a weekly or monthly comic?  And if any particular periodical conjures up memories of the type I've just described, when you likewise thought that forever lay in front of you, which one was it and what made it so special?  Revive your past in the comments section before your recollections dissipate like morning mist in the rays of the summer sun.  



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