Saturday 29 April 2023

THE BETTER PART(S) OF VALOUR - WINTER SPECIAL 1980...

Copyright MARVEL COMICS

Surprisingly (or maybe not), only around eight UK comic titles beginning with the letter 'V' have ever been published.  Valentine, Valiant, Valour, Vanguard, Venture, Victor, Viz, and Vulcan.  (If you want to amuse yourselves, you can have a go at dreaming up other possible titles for comics beginning with a 'V'.)

Meanwhile, though, I thought I'd show you the only Special to accompany Marvel's Valour, published back in the '80s.  I never knew about this Special, even though I bought the weekly comic for a while, and still have the first three issues.  Anyway, I obtained it recently via eBay and, as always, it provides me with immense satisfaction to return over 40 years into the past and check out something I should've owned at the time, but didn't.  (I do now though!)

Any Crivvies ever buy the weekly Valour or have this Special at the time?  Feel free to express yourselves in the comments section.




CONAN and RED SONJA copyright CPI



RECOGNISE THIS FELLA?


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

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

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

                                                   Who am I?  Why...

                                                   I'm Mr. Handsome.

Friday 28 April 2023

HERE'S A STRANGE TALE (OR TWO) FOR YOU... (UPDATED)

Copyright MARVEL COMICS

Above, my newly acquired Facsimile Edition of Strange Tales #178, featuring Warlock; below, my replacement copy of the '70s original, which I've now had for decades - far longer than I ever owned its predecessor.  Happily, the facsimile has the 'continued after next page...' lines, which not all Marvel facsimiles contain.  (Which prompts me to ask... why?)

One advantage Marvel has over DC is that the reproduction of ads throughout their mags is sharper and clearer and much better looking than those of their Distinguished Competition.  DC seemingly just scan ads from published comics and, compared to their Marvel equivalents, they're not quite as good as they could (or should) be.  I don't know what process Marvel uses, but they've mostly got it spot on.  Now if only they'd publish their facsimiles on matt paper instead of the glossy stuff, they'd be 100% perfect.

I've used an earlier scan from a previous post for the image below, as I couldn't be bothered digging through a cupboard looking for the issue to re-scan.  It would look exactly the same anyway, so there's no point in giving myself extra work just to do a side-by-side comparison shot - not when I can use some computer 'trickery' to achieve the same effect.

Anyway, if you don't own this key issue from the '70s, here's your chance to rectify that situation by rushing out and buying a facsimile of it today.  Or you can always order one from eBay as I did.  (That way, you don't even have to leave the house.)

Comments, observations, and reminiscences of this issue are most welcome, if you were lucky enough to own it back in the day.  And should you like to see a three-part cover and image gallery of Warlock, you can do so by clicking here, here, and here.


And below is a 'side-by-side' image, just to make comparison easier...


And now, below, the original US issue...


...followed below by the US and UK versions side-by-side.  Some slight colour variations, but that's a common occurrence and may just be due to the vagaries of printing, regardless of whether they're UK or US issues.  Also, the US image was sourced from eBay, which may also account for any differences in the quality of colour reproduction.
 

Monday 24 April 2023

NOW THAT'S WHAT I CALL DEGENERATION...



This post was first published on my other blog (Mild & Mellow Melancholy Musings) when this site was 'resting' for a while back in 2018.  Give it a read and then I'll update you on 'what happened next' (as in recently).  The post was originally entitled 'Now That's What I Call Regeneration...', but I've amended it for this slightly edited outing.

******

Well, I said I'd do this post when I found the relevant photos, and after much searching - which has taken me months (if not years) - I've finally tracked them down.  True to form, they were in completely different places, and I had to go through hundreds, if not thousands, of pics in order to find them.  That's even harder than it sounds, because my photo wallets are scattered all around the house in whatever space I can fit them.

Of course, there's always the possibility that you'll think the result of my hunt wasn't worth the effort, but I'll take my chances.  The above photo was snapped by me around 1986, and shows the remains of a tree that had taken a pounding.  I think it was struck by lightning, and it's a shame I don't have a photo of the tree before its 'accident' as it was quite an impressive looking item. (Could be I do have a pic somewhere, but if so, I've forgotten ever taking it, never mind where it might be if I did.)

Anyway, I took the photo below sometime around the early or mid-'90s, and it shows the tree in its 'recovery stage'.  It's not exactly as it was before it endured a kicking, but I thought it was a goner back then, so it was nice to see that it had survived - and thrived.  There's a moral in there somewhere, eh?  Let's just hope that council workies haven't chopped it down after it making such a magnificent comeback.  I must take a walk along to the area and see if it's still there.  I'll let you know.  (Update: Yup, it's still standing.)


And now a sadder update: I walked past this tree twice on Wednesday 19th, first going somewhere, then again coming back.  I even gave its trunk a friendly pat on my way home, so pleased was I to see it still standing after all this time.  However, taking the same route tonight, I was gutted to see that it had been chopped down, which must've been done on Thursday or Friday as council workmen don't usually work on weekends.

I guess, going from the colour of the centre of its levelled trunk, that it must've been diseased, but it's a great shame to see it laid low after so many years.  My pat of 'greeting' turned out to be more of a 'farewell', but at least I got to see it again, tall and proud, just before its end.  Hopefully, it will regenerate once more to some degree, even if it's just a few sparse growths around its remains.  I'd write a poem about it, but, as Joyce Kilmer wrote in 1913 - "I think that I shall never see, a poem lovely as a tree."

And yet another update: Below is a photo of the tree as it is now.

Sunday 23 April 2023

JUST WHO IS HE CALLING A TOSSER...? OR: FROM ONE KID(D) TO ANOTHER...

Copyright relevant owner

The age of innocence, when certain words didn't have the same meaning as they do today, is on display in the above page from the TV Comic Annual for 1963, in which the word 'tosser' is used without a hint of embarrassment as someone's surname.  How times have changed, eh?

Talking of that particular Annual, take a look at the seller's photos (below) of one I bought recently for a mere £2 on eBay.  As you can see, it was colour-worn around the edges and didn't have a spine, but I soon rectified that.  Of course, without reference to the original spine, it probably bears little resemblance to it, but I feel I managed to create one that complements the book and doesn't look out of place.

Paeans of praise are most welcome in the comments section.

(Incidentally, there was actually a TV show called Gardening Club which ran from 1955 to '67, but none of the presenters had a name even vaguely resembling 'Roy Tosser', so it isn't a parody of any specific individual.  Update: Ah, the penny has dropped, thanks to AL's comment in the [where else?] comments section.)

******

In case you're wondering about the alternate post title, the book has an inscription inside, showing that it belonged to Bryan Kidd and was a 1962 Christmas present from his 'mammy and daddy'.  (No, Bryan, you can't have it back.)




And now for the 'after' photos.  Didn't I do well?!  Of course, I couldn't restore it to anywhere near pristine condition, but I think it's definitely an improvement on what it was 'before'.


That's not a white crease along the bottom, just the camera flash

Wednesday 19 April 2023

ARE LAMPS STANDARD AROUND HERE...?


Lamps.  Standard lamps.  Or lamp in the singular, as most households usually only have one of them.  Who among us doesn't have cosy feelings of remembrance at, as children, coming home in the evening twilight after a day out adventuring with one's pals, and then being met by the warm, welcoming glow of a standard lamp in the corner of the room, softly embracing everything it cast its light upon?  I know I do.

When my family moved house in 1983, I sometimes used to pass our former home and remember sitting in the living-room with the gleam of the standard lamp gently caressing the furniture.  Curiously, now that I'm back here, it's the first house prior to this one that my thoughts seem to dwell upon when recalling such a cosy scene.  I'd go home, pass through the back door into the kitchen, and then into the living-room, where my family would be sat watching the telly, with a wooden standard lamp sitting in the corner and emanating its mellow illuminance.

That wooden standard lamp faithfully served four or five homes before it was unceremoniously replaced with a metal one sometime in, I think, the late '70s.  I was unaware of its disposal until after it was too late to salvage it for another room, but it's that wooden lamp I see in memory whenever I recollect times-past in my mind.  It's been a number of years since our 'new' lamp has even been switched on, but last night, gripped by an all-consuming nostalgia for days gone by, I turned it on and enjoyed its comforting radiance for a few hours, recalling childhood memories from far too long ago, but which felt like only yesterday.

Any other Crivvies have similar recollections, or were standard lamps too old-fashioned to have been a feature of furniture when you were growing up?  Looking back, our furnishings seemed to have been dated compared to that of friends and neighbours, though I was unaware of it at the time and realised this fact only in retrospect.

Feel free to comment, even if only to say I'm bonkers.

******

Bonus: Below is a photo supplied by T47, which shows him circa 1959 (aged 12) reading under the light of the standard lamp he mentions in the comments section.

Monday 17 April 2023

X-MEN AND AVENGERS FACSIMILE EDITIONS...


Copyright MARVEL COMICS

Nice to see that Marvel has restored the Comics Code box to the cover of their new-printing of X-Men #1 Facsimile Edition (absent from their first attempt in 2019), but surprisingly, they haven't restored the 'Continued After Next Page' lines before the original ads throughout the story.  What makes this curious is that the Avengers mag below has them, so why one and not the other?  That aside, it's good to add these mags to my collection, 'cos these facsimiles are the only comics worth buying at the moment in my view.  Nothing else appeals to me, either from Marvel or DC, and maybe other readers/collectors feel the same.  Might be worth these two companies taking note, eh?

(Ignore any slight blemishes on the covers - I scanned them while still in their poly bags.)

Saturday 15 April 2023

SEVEN GERRY ANDERSON SOUNDTRACKS...


Copyright relevant owner

To most of us of a certain age, some of the music from the TV shows we watched as kids provides part of the soundtrack to our lives, none more so than the music from Gerry Anderson puppet programmes.  Who among us decrepit old farts mature citizens hasn't thrilled at one time or another to the stirring theme tunes of Supercar, Fireball XL5, Stingray, Thunderbirds, Captain Scarlet, Joe 90, and, er... The Secret Service?  Well, okay, that last one may not be quite up there with the others as there were only 13 episodes made, and as far as I know they were never shown in Scotland.  (At least, not at the time, but they may have been broadcast since, though I believe they were last repeated on three ITV regional franchises in 1975.)

So, Crivvies, what's your all-time favourite Gerry Anderson theme tune?  Personally, I'd find it difficult to pick just one so it's perhaps unfair of me to ask you, but it'd be interesting to read your views.  I love Supercar, Fireball, and Stingray (which I'd say are my joint favourites), with Captain Scarlet bringing up the rear (oo-er, missus), but you may have a different order.  Go on - share it with the rest of us.  In the meantime, while you're thinking about it, enjoy gazing at the CD covers to the soundtrack albums by Silva Screen Records.  In fact, let's widen the scope of the question - what was your favourite Anderson puppet show, and does your favourite theme tune belong to that show, or another?  (I like to make you think.) 






Friday 14 April 2023

ART FOR ARTS' SAKE...


Copyright MARVEL COMICS

Just for the hell of it, above is a page of Jack Kirby art, inked by Barry Smith.  Great, innit?  (From Captain America's Bicentennial Battles.)  Observations welcome!

Wednesday 12 April 2023

FABULOUS FLASHBACK - THE 'NEW' SMASH!


Copyright REBELLION

Smash! started life in February 1966 as a weekly publication by Odhams Press (becoming one of five 'Power Comics' after a little while, the others being Wham!, Pow!, Fantastic, and Terrific), but was relaunched by IPC as a Valiant-clone in March '69.  (IPC had assumed responsibilities for the comic several weeks before while it still looked like an Odhams periodical.  Then, later, one week it was the old Smash!, the next week the new one.)

Its first incarnation lasted 162 issues, its final form survived for 95 issues, before being merged into Valiant with the cover-dated April 3rd 1971 number.  So, to celebrate 54 years since the new version first appeared (cover-dated March 15th), above is the cover to the first relaunch issue.  Did you read Smash! back in the day?  If so, what are your memories of it, fellow Crivs?

You can't keep a good comic down dept.  Below is the 2020 Smash! Special published by Rebellion.  Have you got yours?

Tuesday 11 April 2023

THE FAMOUS FIVE - A VANISHED AGE...


Copyright HODDER & STOUGHTON Ltd

Did any of you Crivs ever read Enid Blyton's The Famous Five books when you were younger?  The group's name 'Famous Five' was tacked on later, the original story titles being just 'Five On A Treasure Island', etc.  A while back I bought a boxed set of the first ten books (there being 21 in all, not counting short stories) and eventually worked my way through them - perhaps not something to which I should admit to all you adults out there.  It later occurred to me that I'd probably read more of the Five's adventures as a 'grown up' than I ever did as a kid, and the realisation took me somewhat by surprise.

How many did I actually read in my childhood, towards the end of my primary school days and perhaps, possibly, maybe, even into my first year in secondary?  Know what, I can't remember with any certainty, but it was probably no more than about four or five at most - if even that.  Yet somehow I have the impression that the Five (Julian, Dick, Anne, George, and Timmy the dog) and their intrepid excursions into mystery, intrigue, and even danger, were a significant feature of my life at that time.  Funny that, eh?  It's similar to thinking back to childhood TV shows and feeling that we regularly watched every episode instead of the occasional 'dipping in' that was more likely to be the case.

I have to say that I was surprised about just how absorbing and thrilling the books are, as I really only bought them out of a sense of nostalgia, with no real intention of reading (or dipping into) any more than one, two at the most.  My sense of expectation was therefore not very high, but dated as they are (despite some mild revisions designed to obscure the fact), they're a 'jolly good' read.  Revisions?  Yes, such things as old money (pounds, shillings, and pence) changed to decimal currency, and shorts turned into jeans, but despite these changes, one is still swept along by the force of Enid Blyton's imagination and storytelling skill.

The books I have are copyright 2016, though based on the text from editions published in 1997, so they don't include further amendments instituted after that date, of the sort that have been publicised in the news recently.  To be frank, I think it's a waste of time making any changes at all, as the stories should be regarded as 'time capsules', capturing a vanished age as if in amber.  They can change 'shorts' to 'jeans' and 'shillings' to 'pence' all they want, but the absence of any mention of mobile 'phones, computers, iPads and the like, means that the stories still read like something not quite anchored in the here and now.  Also, the original illustrations (by Eileen A. Soper) usually portray the Five in jackets (or pullovers) and shorts, not jerseys and jeans as in the revised text.

Using the original drawings tends to suggest that the publishers are straddling the fence by trying to cater to the nostalgia market as well as young readers of today, because if they're going to update the text, it would surely be better to have new illos more in keeping with the modern age*.  I say 'surely be better' from the publisher's viewpoint, but frankly I'm glad they kept Soper's drawings, even if some of them are a bit ropey.  And they don't seem to have thought things through properly, as in one instance, the revised text describes one character as wearing jeans, then goes on to say that her legs are tanned from the sun.  Remember though, she's wearing jeans, so mentioning the colour of her shins is surely redundant.  Obviously, the discrepancy didn't exist when the unaltered text matched the illustrations.

(*Some previous editions from a good few years back do have more contemporary drawings, but [to my eyes] the '50s 'flavour' of the tales is somewhat compromised by their inclusion.)

Had it been left to me, I'd have retained the original text and simply had a note at the beginning of the books saying that they were written in the '50s before the invention of mobile 'phones, computers, and all the other accoutrements of modern technology.  Once the readers understand the context, they'd have no problem immersing themselves in adventures set in a time known better to their grandparents than to themselves.  And think of the things they'd learn in the process.  Education as well as entertainment - the best of both worlds.

Somewhere in this overstuffed house of mine are three or four hardback FF (no, Melvin, not Fantastic Four) books published in the '50s and '60s, one of which may be the original copy I had at the time (late '60s), the remaining ones being obtained from jumble sales in the '80s or '90s.  I can't help wondering if I'd have found the stories as enjoyable if I'd been reading them for the first time as an adult, without the pre-existing sense of familiarity with the characters from my childhood.  True, I may never have read the majority of the tales back then, but I feel I know the characters and that they're contemporaries from that period, and that I was simply continuing a journey begun in my youth, with friends I hadn't seen for a while.  That make any sense?   

Anyway, thought you might like to see the covers of the first ten books.  Feel free to comment if you find yourselves inclined.









Tuesday 4 April 2023

REFLECTING ON A REFLECTION...


Regular readers may remember me mentioning the house I and my family lived in between 1983 and '87, before moving back to our previous abode, the one in which I now reside today.  A friend of my brother stayed in the spare room of that other house for around 9 months or so before getting a place of his own, and my brother moved into a flat after around 3 years, leaving just myself, my parents and the dog in a house that was far too big for us.  Then, by a fortuitous quirk of fate, our former home became available so we returned to it after 4 years and 3 months away.

It had been madness to move to that other house from the start, as I was 24, going on 25, and my brother was 28, going on 29; did our parents think we were going to live with them forever?  Interestingly, a few years ago, I found a letter from the council, which revealed that my parents had already started looking for another house only a year after moving into the new one.  Anyway, while still in that other house, I eventually 'inherited' both rooms that had once been occupied by my brother and his pal, meaning I had 3 rooms to myself on the upper floor.

In the middle room, the open doorway looked out onto a vertically-long mirror on the hall wall opposite, reflecting part of the interior of the room, which looked remarkably similar to the layout of my bedroom in our previous (and now my present) home when I was in the hallway and looking through the open door.  In our new home I'd lie on my spare bed (my main one was in one of the adjoining rooms), gazing at the reflection, and pretend that I was looking into my old room as it afforded me some pleasing feelings of nostalgia.

However, before I continue, let me first explain something so that you can fully envision the picture I'm trying to paint in the paragraphs directly following the one below.

Nowadays I sometimes use my bathroom as a kind of 'workshop' whenever I'm repairing old comics or giving them a slight colour touch to restore their visual appearance.  I'll sit on the toilet seat (with the lid down) and with a board across my knees, and apply my restoration skills to whatever comic requires my attention.  The reason for this is because the bathroom window is on the left side of the seat, and the natural daylight which streams through usually compensates for my slight colour-blindness by enabling me to better match whatever colours need touching up (oo-er, missus) and/or applying Chinese archival repair tape.

Obviously, because I'm not in there using the facilities for their usual purpose, I don't bother closing the bathroom door, which means that I can look out across the hall landing at my room on the other side.  When my bedroom door is also open, it looks like the reflection in the mirror of my former room in the previous house, though in this instance I'm looking at the actual original view, not a reversed image of it.  Incidentally, the mirror nowadays hangs on the hall wall downstairs, where it was originally situated before we flitted in 1983 and then relocated it upstairs across from what became a spare room for me.

Anyway, I just thought it odd that what was previously a reflection of a former 'reality' is now once again the reality itself, and when I remember this, I'm reflecting on what was at one time a mere reflection.  In that other house I missed my old room, and now, in this house, I miss the reflection that resembled it - even though I'm reunited with the original.  Surely there's some kind of irony or significance inherent in the situation, though perhaps I should have spared you the tedious detail of my reminiscence?  I'm sure you'll tell me - either in a comment or by an all-pervading lack of any response at all.

Admit it - you don't get this kind of deep, psychological introspective nonsense pondering of such trivial matters on other blog sites, do you?  What do you mean, "Thank goodness for that!"?



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