Monday, 31 October 2022

TV21 #242 - THE FINAL ISSUE...


What a boring cover.  Copyright relevant owner

I recently purchased the last issue of the first series of a comic which had started its publishing life as TV Century 21 and ended its second series as just TV21.  Not that I needed it, as, truth to tell, I have every ish of the celebrated periodical on data disc (for easy access to images for the blog, rather than having to dig out individual issues), but I also own numerous original numbers of its various formats, including the first full year's worth, when it was still a title to be reckoned with.  However, with the passing of time, how the mighty fell - and then some!

The last issue (242) is pretty dire, to say nothing of dull, as it no longer contained as many colour strip pages as in its heyday.  (Only Thunderbirds is in colour [2 pages], other colour pages being used for features and ads.)  When artists of the calibre of Mike Noble, Ron Embleton, Eric Eden, and Richard Jennings were drawing full-colour strips for the comic in its early days, it was hard to beat and had real impact, but with their departure, it went into decline.  True, Frank Bellamy was still drawing Thunderbirds right up to the end, but though his art remained competent and professional, it was now uninspired and wasn't enough on its own to maintain the comic's popularity (in my humble opinion).

I've seen it stated that TV21 eventually 'lost' the rights to do strips based on Anderson shows (which suggests that permission was withdrawn from them), but that's probably just a shorthand way of saying that it relinquished the license as, with the waning interest in Gerry and Sylvia's TV shows, the publishers (now IPC instead of City Magazines) simply thought it no longer warranted the expense of paying for something that failed to attract readers in large enough numbers to make it worthwhile.  This would perhaps explain why the disappearance of GA strips in the comic was a gradual and not a sudden one.

Never has Captain Scarlet looked so dull - bring back Embleton or Noble

I said that the last issue was dire - and so it was, but it'd been like that for quite some time so wasn't unique to the final ish.  The second series, renumbered from number one, lasted for 105 issues, with the last of the Anderson strips (Joe 90 and Thunderbirds) ending in #36 and #38 respectively, whereupon the weekly became, for a while, more like a standard comic in the vein of Valiant or Lion.  Before it finally 'died' (merged into Valiant, ironically), the comic had started to reprint Marvel tales of Spider-Man and The Silver Surfer, along with some of their western and humour strips.  (At least Mike Noble had returned as one of the artists on the Star Trek strip, which survived the merger, though now drawn by John Stokes.)  

It had started with a bang, but finished with nary a whimper.  A sad end to a once-fine comic, but the 'real' TV21 had died long before its final issue went on sale.  Just look at the unimpressive headline font and underwhelming photo-illustration on the cover.  Pretty disappointing, eh?  Comments welcome.

Incidentally, despite what I said in the first paragraph, these pages are scanned from my newly acquired issue of the comic, not sourced from my data disc.  (Can't remember where it is for the moment.)

At least it's in colour, but it's hardly Bellamy's best work

"THREE WEE WITCHES ON THE GREEN..."



Just for fun, here are three frightfully fiendish iconic images suitable for Hallowe'en.  First up, an AURORA ad from any number of DC COMICS mags from the 1960s - followed by the box art (painted by JAMES BAMA) of ol' FRANKENSTEIN's and DRACULA's plastic model kits by the selfsame company.  (AURORA, that is - not DC.)

Don't you just wish you had these two little beauties in your collection?  (I have.)

Okay, so I lied about the witches - sue me.

Sunday, 30 October 2022

FAVOURITE COMICS OF THE PAST PART FIFTY-NINE - FANTASTIC FOUR #55...


Copyright MARVEL COMICS

Behold The Silver Surfer on the comic's cover above.  Assuming that I purchased my original copy of this issue of Fantastic Four in its proper numerical sequence (which I can't 100% swear to due to the erratic nature of distribution back in the '60s), I suspect that this was my very first exposure to the erstwhile sky-riding herald of Galactus, who I next encountered in FF #s 57-60.  Having said that, it's always possible I had the latter four issues (or some of them) before #55, due to some US comics turning up on UK shores months, sometimes even years, after they were first published.  However, in an attempt to keep things simple, we'll give events the benefit of the doubt and assume I acquired this issue within its proper time frame.

There were two nearby shops from where I could've purchased this issue.  One was R.S. McColl's across the road from my house, and the other was Corson's*, a little further up the road in a different street, but I'm pretty sure it was from Corson's I acquired the title under consideration.  Bear in mind the significance of this ish; it was the first time the Surfer had made a return appearance since his debut in the 'Galactus Trilogy' (FF #48-50), so it's now regarded as a pretty hot comic among collectors, and the cost of obtaining one in a condition as good as the one featured here certainly reflects that.  Y'know, I've got several reprintings of this tale, but I simply had to own an original again to replace the one I had as a kid, which is why I recently reclaimed it into my possession.

(*Funnily enough, there was also a branch of Corson's next to the newsagent's across from my house, but that Corson's didn't have a spinner-rack of US comics for me to browse through, so I had to trek slightly further afield.)

Back then, I remember looking through the comic (after buying it) as I approached my house, and certain interior images now trigger memories of the street and surrounding environs as they were in my day.  Once again, the view of the horizon as it then was from the top of the road where stood my home meets my gaze, and long-departed (flitted, emigrated, or deceased) neighbours and friends yet live there, and go about their daily doings as they did so long ago when I was a mere boy.  Truly, comics can be a doorway into the past in such a tangible way that I'm glad I fell under their spell so many decades ago.  (I just wish it weren't quite so many decades.)

Anyway, that's more than enough self-indulgent guff from me, so enjoy the pretty piccies and remember your own personal recollections of this classic from yesteryear.  And if you feel like sharing them with your fellow Crivvies, then you know where the comments section is.




Saturday, 29 October 2022

WISH YOU WERE A SPACEMAN? THEN THIS IS THE BOOK FOR YOU...


Copyright relevant owner

Arrived today, My Fireball XL5 60th Anniversary Comic Anthology volume, containing all the XL5 strips from TV Century 21 and Countdown, plus 17 pages of new art and story by Lee Sullivan interwoven among them.  With interesting features and cover galleries, this is currently the best book in the world universe and may well remain so for a long, long time.  However, never mind what I have to say, read the scintillating spiel on the back cover, below.  (Click on image to enlarge, then click again for optimum size.)  Available from The Official Gerry Anderson Store right now!

On a personal note, it's hard to believe I watched this Gerry Anderson puppet show on its first run 60 years ago.  I think it's always been my favourite of the Anderson 21st century shows, with Stingray and Captain Scarlet a close second and third.  (Loved Supercar too, but it wasn't set in the 21st century.)  Just think - almost all of what made up the '60s, I was around when they first appeared.  The Beatles, Bond and Batman, and whatever else people of a certain age associate with that era - well, I was there!  (Okay, Batman first appeared in 1939, but his iconic status was cemented in the '60s with the Adam West/Burt Ward hit TV show.)

I think I've got most of these Fireball strips in other various reprint volumes (as well as many original issues), but it's great to finally have them all between the covers of a single deluxe hardback book.  Order yourself a copy today while they're still available. 

Wednesday, 26 October 2022

REGURGITATED RAMBLING REMINISCENCES...


King's Reach Tower in Stamford Street

Talking of KING'S REACH TOWER (as I was when this post was first published) reminds me of when myself and the previously-mentioned (and sadly late) KEVIN BRIGHTON were getting into the elevator on our way down to (or way back from) the seemingly football pitch-sized IPC staff canteen.  (No doubt I exaggerate, but it was bloody huge.)  As we stepped into the lift, it was so full that there was only room to stand facing in the way as the doors shut behind us.

So we're face to face with a bunch of people blankly staring out at us, while we self-consciously stared back at them.  It was too good an opportunity to miss.  I raised my hand to my mouth, cleared my throat, then said: "I suppose you're all wondering why I've called this meeting..."  A split-second's silence while the penny dropped, then the elevator erupted into laughter.

Kevin Brighton and his pal Del in the IPC canteen

I've used that line a number of times over the years in similar situations and it always gets a response.  Casting my mind back, I even recall where I first got it from.  It was around the mid-1970s and a fellow named JOHN HATTLE (my boss at the time*), was relating pretty much the same scenario as the one above (with himself as the protagonist, obviously), in the car park outside a pub near his shop where I worked.  I don't know if he'd appropriated it from a movie for his own purposes, or it was a genuine, on the spot 'ad-lib' as he stepped into a lift.  Anyway, there I was, ten years later (though it seemed far longer at the time), regurgitating a one-liner from my past.  That wasn't even the first time I'd used the line, having done so a few times since I'd first heard it.

(*Or maybe it was just after I'd recently left his employ, but was signwriting a van for him.)

However, recalling the situation today, it made me realise how often we store things away in our minds, sometimes for decades, ready for use at a moment's notice whenever the situation demands.  As someone who sometimes sports a beard, I'm used to people commenting on it when I grow it back again, usually along the lines of: "I see you've grown the beard back, eh?"  (I guess they must lead really boring lives for such an event to be considered worth remarking on.)  I usually respond with: "This one's false - the real one's in my pocket!"  It was only when watching a MAN From U.N.C.L.E. 'movie' a while back that I was reminded of where I'd nicked the line from, so many years before.

A post this dull needs glamming-up a bit, so here's Bob Paynter's secretary, Caroline

Back in 1982, I sent a 'cassette-a-letter' to a friend who was temporarily living in Bournemouth at the time.  We replayed it about a week ago* (to much merriment at the sound of my young voice) and I was surprised to hear myself tell a joke I'd only then-recently heard, and which I still tell today, thirty forty years later.  It made me realise how many of the jokes I tell nowadays are of a similar vintage.  (Note to self: Must learn some new material.)

So what's the point of this self-indulgent reminiscence you may be asking yourselves.  Only this:

We really are products of our past, aren't we?

(*Well, it was only a week ago when I first published this post ten years back.)

******

Sadly, King's Reach Tower has lain empty for a few years since IPC Media moved out in 2007.  I understand there are now plans to add six floors, reclad the exterior, and turn it into luxury apartments.  I'll always remember it as it was though. 

Saturday, 15 October 2022

ROBBIE COLTRANE, R.I.P.


Actor Robbie Coltrane

The sad news that actor Robbie Coltrane died yesterday cast my mind back to the fact that we had a family connection to him (of sorts), which is perhaps worth recounting again in this repeat of an old post.  I never knew Robbie himself, but I remember his father (our doctor) coming to my house, and my mother taking me to his Practice in Rutherglen (where she and her parents were from).  Anyway, rest in peace, Robbie, and if you were even half the gentleman your dad was, then you must've been a very fine gentleman indeed.

****** 

Isn't it funny the things that stick in your head as the years go by?  I remember one day, back in the late 1960s, my brother asking our parents about his middle name.  It turned out that he shared the same middle name as our grandfather on my mother's side.  This led me to ask from whom mine had come.  "You're named after Doctor McMillan", I was told.

DOCTOR McMILLAN - Doctor IAN McMillan - (now sadly deceased) was our family doctor whose Practice was in Rutherglen. I remember him as a tall, thin, kindly-faced gentleman, with grey or white receding hair and spectacles (or maybe that was his partner, though I'd have seen both of them, I'm sure).  I also recall sitting in his waiting room on occasion, and, before that, him coming out to our house to attend to me when my mother splashed a kettle of boiling water on me when I was an infant.  Don't worry, it was an accident.  (Well... that first time anyway.)

Doctor McMillan was the kind of doctor that older people often lament doesn't exist anymore.  On many an occasion, I'd hear my mother extolling his virtues as a doctor and as a person to visiting friends.  Both of my parents thought extremely highly of him and were much saddened when he died.  They held him in such genuine regard and affection that he must've been a very fine man indeed.  It's safe to say that, as far as my parents (and doubtless his other patients) were concerned, a lot of doctors have since been measured against him - with no doubt quite a few found to be severely wanting.

Imagine my surprise then, when, sometime in the early '80s, I read a profile about actor ROBBIE COLTRANE in a local newspaper and discovered that he was the son of our old family doctor.  Robbie's real surname is actually McMillan - he took the name Coltrane from the famous jazz saxophonist JOHN COLTRANE.  I wonder if John put up much of a fight?  (Little joke there.)

So there you go.  I'm named after Robbie Coltrane's dad.  What's even more strange is that my father was called Robbie.  Thoughts of a NEW GENESIS-APOKOLIPS 'pact' spring to mind, but as to which one of us is ORION and which is MISTER MIRACLE I'll leave for others to decide.

(You must've known I'd squeeze some kind of tenuous comicbook link in there somehow.)

******

Got a favourite Robbie Coltrane movie or TV performance?  Pay tribute to the big man in our comments section, should you feel so inclined.

Friday, 14 October 2022

THE SAVAGE SUB-MARINER #67... (UPDATED)


Copyright MARVEL COMICS

Hell's bells, I just received a bit of a shock, Crivvies.  I mentioned in a previous post that I'd recently purchased Prince Namor, The Savage Sub-Mariner #67, and that I had a reprint of the comic given away with a figure of ol' Subby a few years back.  I'd have guessed around 7 or 8, but looking at the indicia after digging it out 10 minutes ago, I see it was published in 2002 - 20 years ago.  The original mag came out in 1973 and I had a copy of it at the time (and by copy, I don't mean reprint, facsimile, or replica), so I bought the one with the action figure (no, Melvin - it's not a doll) nearly 30 years after the first printing.

So, where does the shock come in?  I just can't believe it was 20 years ago I bought the one shown below, as it doesn't seem like anywhere near that time - how wrong can a fella be?   (Though it's always possible I didn't obtain it 'til a year or two after it came out.)  I'm not quite sure whether the interior pages were printed from scans of the published '73 issue, or the original colour negatives (or maybe a bit of both), but the reproduction is bright and clear, and renders my acquisition of the original almost redundant if I just wanted the story to read*.  However, it's the ads and letters page which makes the difference, as all true collectors know.

(*Update: Actually, the original ish prints a couple of pages out of sequence, whereas the reprint has them in the proper order, so that's a plus.)

Anyway, thought I'd let you see both versions, along with the figure (again).  Any of you Crivvies got either of these comics, and what did you think of Namor's new costume?  And have you ever been astonished to discover that something which you thought was a relatively recent acquisition has actually been in your possession for a far longer part of your life than you realised?

This version of the cover was how it was originally drawn, but was amended to make Namor's
costume in the published cover (first image) slightly darker and give it more visual impact

For a better comparison, click to enlarge, then click again for optimum size

I suspect (can't remember) Namor's belt and wrist bracelets were once the same gold
colour as his trident, but have 'tarnished' over time.  Whaddya think, Crivvies?

DC AND MARVEL FACSIMILE EDTIONS...


Copyright respective owners.  (DC COMICS and MARVEL COMICS)

Here's a few fairly recent releases of Facsimile Editions by DC and Marvel that you might be interested in acquiring.  The bottom of the art on the covers of Action Comics #1 and Detective Comics #27 has been extended to compensate for the differences in page size between mags back then and now, but you'd think they'd get someone who knew what they were looking at to perform the task.  The bottom of the guy's elbow on AC #1 isn't where it should be (making the arm too long), and the raised lower arm of the gunman on DC #27 is on the outside of his upper arm, instead of the inside.  Those flaws apart, they're well worth acquiring and that's my very own copies you're looking at.

It's worth noting that these reprints excite me more than any modern comics I can think of - and I already own various versions of the stories, in individual and also collected formats.  What does that tell you about contemporary comic mags, Crivvies?  Feel free to wax lyrical in the comments section.



In case you were wondering, the barcode is on the back cover


Thursday, 13 October 2022

BABE OF THE DAY - SUSAN STORM MULTIPLE TIMES OVER...


Copyright MARVEL COMICS

Above is a recent comic I bought purely because of the cover.  It portrays various versions of Susan Storm, alias the Invisible Girl, who, for reasons too complicated to go into, pretends to be married to Reed Richards.  Thankfully, however, I can see right through her, and I know she secretly loves me and longs to be my wife.  I'll wait 'til she asks though, as I don't want her to think I'm easy.

(Now, someone tell me how I can get out of these long-sleeved pyjamas tied at the back.) 

Monday, 10 October 2022

KULL THE CONQUEROR/DESTROYER OMNIBUS...


Copyright MARVEL COMICS and ROBERT E. HOWARD PROPERTIES

Kull The Conqueror magazine had a rough time from its earliest days in the comics publishing world.  The Marvel mag was cancelled three times (inclusive of its final issue) in its 29 issue 'career', which began in 1971 and ended in 1978.  Also, its name was changed from Kull The Conqueror to Kull The Destroyer with its 11th issue, which is why the Omnibus edition carries the latter name instead of the former, the mag having been known under the 'Destroyer' appellation for 19 issues as opposed to 'Conqueror' for a mere 10.

Ross Andru (penciller) and Wally Wood (inker) drew #1, and Marie (penciller) and John Severin (inker) drew 2-9, with #10 being pencilled by Marie and inked by Frank Chiaramonte.  During the comic's first period of cancellation between #s 2 & 3, a Kull 5-page story (The King And The Oak) graced Conan The Barbarian #10, and a 10-pager drawn by the Severin siblings appeared in Monsters On The Prowl #16.  And lest I forget, there was an out of sequence 'try-out' Kull story in Creatures On The Loose (previously Tower Of Shadows) #10, illustrated by Berni Wrightson which preceded Kull's own mag.

Now, here's the thing.  As far as I recall (and it's usually pretty far), I only ever bought the first ish of Kull and I don't remember ever seeing any further issues until I acquired #s 2-11 (in stages) many years later.  That's not to say I was completely unaware of all the character's early adventures as I read several of them in b&w when they were reprinted in the UK 18-issue weekly, Savage Sword Of Conan in 1975, but Kull #1 was the only US issue I had at the time, purchased brand-new circa 1973 when it first(?) arrived on UK shores.  I yet remember the day I bought it and from which shop, and perusing its four-colour contents on the way home.

However, to get to the point, with my recent purchase of Marvel's Kull Omnibus volume (from 2021), I've now returned to the '70s and read every Kull tale published in that decade (or transported the '70s to the present day - you can take your pick) and a sense of accomplishment fills my soul.  As I'd never read the majority of them before now, I feel as if I've engaged in the act of time travel and completed a long-unfinished task, however fanciful that may sound.

Anyway, if you're a Kull fan, you'll likely enjoy this massive tome, with first-class reproduction that far exceeds the Dark Horse collections scanned from published issues around 10 or so years ago.  Take a look (below) at what's included in this latest collection and grab one while they're going.

Saturday, 8 October 2022

EXTRA! EXTRA! READ ALL ABOUT IT...


Copyright MARVEL COMICS

Fantastic Four #224 was given an extra number of strip-pages, but with the tale already having been prepared with a lower page-count, reprints of pin-ups were used to fill the void.  (The next issue, #225, had a longer tale.)  I've published the fourth pin-up out-of-sequence (above) as I'm a big Susie Storm fan (and ladies first, right?), but I now realise I've got this pin-up several times over.  It first appeared in FF #10, which I've got, Fantastic #17, which I've also got, and MWOM #11 - yep, got that one as well.  The page has also been reprinted in Marvel MasterworksOmnibus and Epic Collection volumes (all of which I have) so I'm not short of this particular image.

Anyway, thought you all might like to see the extra pages from FF #224, just in case you don't have the issue yourselves.






Cover of issue in which the feature page pin-ups were reprinted


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