Sunday 29 October 2023


Copyright relevant and respective owners

It only seems like two or three years back since I heard that several facsimiles of famous IPC/Fleetway and DCT comics were being issued with The Guardian and The Observer newspapers, but I only learned of them after the fact and never managed to obtain any at the time.  Thank goodness for eBay, eh?  I now have all seven of them, which I managed to acquire recently for a very reasonable price (far less per issue than a new comic would cost nowadays).  They were issued in 2009 - a staggering 14 years ago, though it sure doesn't seem anywhere near as long as that to me.  These facsimiles were published when several people I knew who have since died were yet hale and hearty - where did the time go?

Interestingly, the DCT comics have no interior references to the fact they're facsimiles, whereas the IPC/Fleetway ones do.  In 2009 Egmont owned the copyright on titles and strips which were later acquired by Rebellion.

Anyway, thought you might like to see them so no sooner said than done.  If you had any of them at the time, what did you think of them?  Comments welcome.

Thursday 26 October 2023


Copyright non-existent

Crivs, you'll never know what it took for me to resist adding 'Or Then Again, He May Not' to this post's title, but suffice to say I'm exhausted by the mental battle that went on in my head while I wrestled back and forth with my conscience.  This current post surely proves that if you visit this site often enough, you'll eventually find something worth reading  - and have you struck it lucky today!  (That's a statement, not a question.)  Doctor Andrew May has done all the work with this post, so all that's required is for you to read it, and then show your appreciation for his efforts in our comments section.  Take it away, Andrew...


There's a great site called Comic Book Plus [ ] that has a huge repository of good-quality scans of old comics that are now in the public domain.  These are comics where no one saw fit to renew their copyright when it expired, so you won't find anything from DC or Marvel there, but there are plenty of gems including (due to a legal cockup) the whole line of black and white Skywald magazines from the 1970s, such as Nightmare and Psycho.  There are also dozens of Charlton comics from the 1960s, including the one pictured above - Unusual Tales #46, cover-dated August 1964.

I'm showing you this one because it leads into the main topic I want to talk about in this post, namely the use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in the creative arts.  This has become something of a hobby-horse of mine over the last few months, and I'm really grateful to Kid Robson for giving me the chance to air it here.  Anyway, this issue of Unusual Tales includes a 2-page text story (by Joe Gill, probably) that addressed this exact topic almost 50 years before the mainstream media started getting all excited about it.

The story recounts what happens when an inventor comes up with a fiction-writing computer and sells it to a pulp magazine publisher.  His sales pitch emphasizes the economics of the thing: "We save the money we pay to writers.  In addition, it sets up the type and does the printing, editing and binding.  So we don't have to pay any person a salary."  He also demonstrates how the machine can be programmed to write in different genres, such as romance, sci-fi or Western.  But when it's put to work, the computer gets its wires crossed and comes up with nonsense like "Elizabeth took Jose in her arms and bit his nose.  Then she turned upside down and took the first spaceship for Mars.  Heartbroken, Jose took out his gun and began to smoke it."  Far from being a disaster, however, the result is a hit with readers, who like the humorous novelty of it.

This makes two really good points about AI, first as a threat and then as an opportunity.  Mainstream journalists tend to focus on the "threat" aspect - not surprisingly, because they're the ones whose jobs may soon be done more cheaply by computers.  But there are opportunities in AI too, such as the one highlighted in the story, where it breaks new ground by "thinking outside the box".  There are opportunities, too, for those people who may have creative aspirations that - prior to AI - they couldn't do anything about, because they lack the necessary artistic skills.

I'm very much in this latter category, which is why I've taken to AI so positively.  I don't have any difficulty writing prose, because that's basically my job, but I've used Bing's chatbot to create song lyrics, which is something that's way outside my comfort zone.  Here's an example that I liked enough to put on YouTube: The Zen Matrix [ ].

That video also uses AI-generated art, courtesy of Bing's free Image Creator service.  You just type in a short textual prompt and the computer comes back with four matching pictures.  For this particular video, I used a number of prompts like this one: "A young woman in the lotus posture, imagining that she is in a Matrix-like computer simulation, in anime style".  The prompt for the lyrics was "Write a song called Zen Matrix from the point of view of someone who has discovered through meditation that they are living in a simulation, using esoteric and surreal imagery."

I can understand why someone with genuine artistic talent might be worried or angered by this sort of thing, but from my point of view it's fantastic.  Here's another example.  I've always wanted to produce a comic of the kind I used to love in my younger days, and Bing Image Creator gives me the chance to do just that.  You can see the result below.  I was so pleased with it that I wrote an article around it and sent it to Fortean Times magazine, who published it in their July 2023 issue.  So "professionally published comic book creator" is another item I can tick off my bucket list!

Click on images to enlarge, then click again for optimum size

Another type of computer tool that's much better now than it used to be is text-to-speech voice synthesis (partly thanks to the use of AI to parse text on a phrase-by-phrase rather than word-by-word basis). When Kid recently wrote some posts in the style of Stan Lee, I mentioned in a comment that you can turn text into a pretty reasonable facsimile of Stan's voice via the Fake You site [ ] (you can use this for free without signing up or logging in, but if you try at any time other than 8 or 9 am UK time, you may end up in a long queue).

Going back to the Comic Book Plus site I mentioned at the start - another advantage of all their comics being in the public domain is that, not only is it legal to download the comics for free, but you can also use, adapt or alter them however you want.  So I had the idea of taking a story out of one of them, putting the dialogue through the Fake You site, and creating a kind of animated cartoon.  Unfortunately, I couldn't get this to work in a convincing way when characters need to be speaking with any kind of emotion in their voice, so I went for a "documentary" style story with a single narrator doing a voice-over instead.

The story I picked was a short feature by Steve Ditko from another Charlton comic, Konga #7 from July 1962.  As some of the Fake You voices are better than others, I just went for the most convincing one I could find, which was Tom Cruise (although I deepened it slightly, to make a better fit with the narrator's appearance as drawn by Ditko).  Anyway, here is the result - my favourite effort so far on the theme of "nostalgia meets modern technology"!


C'mon, Crivvies, don't let me down.  Be so good as to take a few moments to leave a comment to show that you appreciate Andrew's time and effort in writing this post especially for readers of this blog.  And I'm sure you'll find something interesting at the links he's provided.

Tuesday 24 October 2023


Mr. CURRY was the janitor of the second primary school I attended.  He lived in the end house of the fourth row down from mine, straight across from the school, and his house came with the job.  Imagine my surprise when, a year or two after we'd flitted to a new house and neighbourhood, I noticed that Mr. Curry had become janitor of the primary school just around the corner from us.  His house (that again came with the job) stood in splendid isolation in the school grounds.

Before flitting, I'd been a secondary school pupil for nearly two years, but Mr. Curry was still a regular sight on account of him passing my house to or from the pub on the far side of the shops across the street.  It was therefore a tad strange when, after we'd flitted, he again became a regular sight to me in my perambulations around my new neighbourhood, either when I passed the school on my way to the town centre, or saw him walking home from his local public house.  He liked a drink, did Mr. Curry.  Died quite a few years ago now.

Let's now jump back to when I was yet living in my former neighbourhood and was still a primary school pupil, sometime around 1968, give or take a year either way.  While gazing out of the window of the annexe huts across from the main building one afternoon, I saw Mr. Curry taking a kick at a Golden Labrador dog which appeared to be seeking shelter in the doorway.  His kick may have connected, but I couldn't say with certainty after all this time.  I was shocked to see an adult behave in such a heartless manner towards one of man's best friends, and felt sorry for the poor animal.
The very doorway.  The school was demolished nearly two
years ago.  (Nine years as of 2023.)  Photo taken circa 1984

Later that evening, coming back from a pal's house, I saw that the dog was again sheltering in the school doorway.  Had it been abandoned?  Was it lost?  Or had it tracked down its young master to the school and was now faithfully waiting for him to emerge from the building, not realizing that he'd gone home several hours before?  I told my father about the dog, and, along with my brother, we went down to the school and brought the dog home with us.  It was a friendly animal, and hungrily scoffed the cold link sausages we fed it from the fridge.

My father, who worked for the police, arranged for them to collect the poor dog and house it in their kennels 'til collected by its lawful owners.  He later informed us that the canine had been claimed, but even at the young age I then was, I wondered if he was telling us what had actually happened or what he knew we wanted to hear.  Many years later, I saw inside the station kennels for strays, and they were the dirtiest, smelliest, vilest quarters imaginable.  To think that, if the dog wasn't reunited with its owners, it had spent its last days in such conditions is awful to contemplate.

I never much liked Mr. Curry after that, though, truth to tell, I hadn't much liked him before, but he fell even further in my estimation from then on.  Strange thing is, whenever I see a Golden Labrador now, I can't help but think of that poor beast from so long ago, and still find myself hoping that it was a happy ending all round for the dog and its owners.

Sometimes there are some things we're better not knowing, don't you think?  Just in case.

Sunday 22 October 2023


"Those were the days, my friend, we thought they'd never end..." is something me and a pal used to sing around the time of Mary Hopkins' hit single of the late '60s.  Or maybe it was just a little later (though not by much) when my pal and myself belted out those lines as we gadded about the streets enjoying ourselves.  (Hey, give us a break, man, we were only about 9 or 10 years old, no older than 11.)  Occasionally, in later years, we'd still warble bits of the song, as it reminded us of when we were kids with forever seemingly ahead of us.

Those days did end though, after my pal joined the Royal Navy in 1977 and seemingly started to hold me in lesser regard than previously.  Whether it was by sometimes not visiting me when he was back home on leave (though he usually did - as far as I know), or not coming to see me when I moved down to Southsea (at his request) for 3 or 4 months at the start of 1981, he appeared to be distancing himself from me as he immersed himself in his new life.   Were there aspects of his marriage that he didn't want me to know about (his wife left him after about two-and-a-half or three years), or was he worried that I'd inadvertently 'blow the gaff' on the lies he told everybody about himself if I met his new friends?

Who knows, but I was always puzzled as to why he bothered to invite me to visit (and even stay) with him in his new location when he evinced absolutely no inclination to have anything to do with me when I took him at his word and accepted.  Perhaps his wife had thought it a good idea and he was only trying to 'keep her sweet', or maybe he thought (and hoped) I'd never accept, but whatever the reason, he treated me like a bad smell for the entire duration of my stay.  That's why, without telling him of my intention, I decided to have nothing more to do with him when I last saw him in a canteen in Haslar Hospital in Gosport towards the end of April 1981.

I last heard his voice in 1987 when it emanated from the speaker of my Panasonic telephone answering machine as he pretended to be a Detective Chief Inspector in the Hampshire Police Force, so even his last words to me were a lie.  He just wasn't the same person I'd known as a kid and teenager - or maybe he was and I'd just never noticed at the time.

Anyway, as regular Crivs will perhaps know, 5 weeks ago today, I discovered he'd died around 10-and-a-half years back, so if there'd ever been a chance of me burying the hatchet (there wasn't - I was too angry and disappointed in him) it was now gone forever.  And yet I find that I still have fond memories of him when we were kids, teens, and young adults, and I have a better opinion of who he seemed to be then, than the absurd fantasist and liar he 'became' after joining the Navy.  Or maybe it's simply that my fond memories are more of my childhood than of him, and he merely 'benefits' from the association?

As I said, I last saw and heard from him in the '80s, which is a hell of a long 'separation' for two people who'd once been such firm friends (or at least I'd always thought so) and faced all sorts of adventures side-by-side as we explored office buildings, schools, hospitals, hotels, pub rooftops, and all sorts of other places (after hours) in which we should certainly never have been.  'Side-by-side'?  Well, that's not quite accurate - he was usually a few feet behind me as I led the way, urging him to follow in my footsteps.

He was especially a few feet behind me on the night we were jumped by a gang.  As I faced up to them he cowered at the back of me, then did a runner as I got belted over the head with a big bit of heavy wood.  I was outnumbered by at least 6 to one, so on that rare (and only) occasion, I thought it best to follow my pal's lead and make myself scarce, following in his wake as he disappeared over the horizon.  At least the huge lump on my head got me some time off work the following day.  (This would've been around early 1975 when I was still 16, in my second job since leaving school.  It was a local Co-op in case you were wondering.)

So in memory of happier times, I dug out an old primary school photo he'd given me back in 1978, copied it, framed it, and placed it next to an old primary school photo of myself (same school) on a nest of tables on the hall landing.  Mine, as you can see, is black and white while his is in colour.  I could've made it b&w to match my pic, but why deny him his moment to outshine me and put me in the shade?  It's not something he ever managed to do while he was alive, so I can afford to be generous.

And there you have it!  Two childhood friends who once seemed inseparable, finally reunited, side-by-side - even if only in framed old photos atop a table in a hall landing.  It's not much perhaps, but it'll have to do, won't it?

(Tiddely pom).


Any friends ever let you down, to the extent that you completely disassociated yourself from them?  Tell all in the comments section, Crivvies.  C'mon, it's no fun if no-one joins in!    

Friday 13 October 2023


Keith Giffen, co-creator of Rocket Racoon, sadly passed away on Monday (9th), aged 70.  Another sad loss to the world of comicbooks, alas.  Condolences to his family, friends, and fans.  

Thursday 12 October 2023

A.A.B. Update... (The Last Word)

In case anyone's interested, I've added yet
another update to my post about the late A.A.B.,
which can be accessed by clicking this link.

Friday 6 October 2023


The delightful Denise Milani just popped in for a
nice cuppa char and a biccie, Crivs, so I'll have to take my
leave of you for a wee while in order to give her my full and
undivided attention.  It's just as well I got in a packet of
chocolate digestives - she deserves only the best.

Thursday 5 October 2023


Copyright D.C. Thomson & Co., Ltd

Today (Wednesday as I type, though it'll be Thursday by the time this post is published) I finally got around to finishing something I started over 40 years ago.  Back at the end of 1982, I decided to buy, every week through 1983, each new issue of The Dandy, The Beano, The Topper, and The Beezer so that I'd have a full year's run of all four comics for posterity.  After around four months my family moved to another house and neighbourhood, yet I continued with my weekly quest to obtain each new issue of all four comics.  (Incidentally, at this time The Topper and Beezer were no longer tabloid size, but the same dimensions as The Dandy and Beano.)

Through no fault of my own I missed three issues of The Dandy and one of The Beezer, though I managed to buy every one of The Topper and, I think, The Beano.  I say 'I think' in the case of the latter, because when I made a note of the missing comics at the end of that year, I also included the Christmas Beano for 1983, though I suspect I may've just wanted a spare, due to the fact that I regarded and stored my Christmas issues as a 'separate' collection.

True, this was mainly down to me usually buying only the yuletide numbers anyway (free gift issues aside), and I likely wanted another one to include with the year's run, though why I simply didn't buy two issues at the time, I'm not quite sure - maybe it just didn't occur to me until afterwards.  Anyway, as regular readers know, four years after flitting to that new house, we returned to our old one and all my comics (new and old) accompanied me.  Over the years, however, it always rankled me (when I remembered) that I didn't have a full set of two of the four weeklies, but I always intended to get around to completing them "before too long".

Well, the decades passed, but today I finally ordered the absent issues from eBay and they should arrive within the week with any luck.  (If not, hopefully by the start of next.)  Then I'll venture into the loft and dig out my boxed collection of all four titles and insert the previously missing numbers into their respective spaces.  So it may have taken me 40 years to complete my collection of these four D.C. Thomson weekly comics, but I still feel a sense of accomplishment now that I'm at the end of that particular journey.

It really shouldn't have taken me so long, but it was a case of 'out-of-sight, out-of-mind' - until I'd rediscover my list of absent issues and say to myself "I really should track them down".  Way back then I'd originally intended to order the required back numbers from DCT themselves, but you know how it is; once I put that list down, my determination to obtain them swiftly dissipated until the next time.  There were quite a few 'next times', but I finally got around to it in the end.

Regular readers will be used to me saying, in regard to long-ago events, that it only seems like yesterday, or last week, or a couple of years at most, but cliched though it is, it certainly doesn't seem anywhere near as long as 40 years.  I must confess to having a feeling of satisfaction that I completed those respective collections in the house where they began all that time ago, but I'm probably the only person in existence to see some strange kind of significance in that fact.

Are there missing gaps in any of your collections yet to fill, and just how long have they been 'incomplete'?  Comments welcome.


Update: Well, whaddya know - the comics arrived today, Saturday 7th, and thereby took me back 40 years into the past and enabled me to put right a situation (missing issues) that should've been dealt with at the time.  You know what they say though - better late than never.  I only hope I've got at least another 40 years ahead of me, though I'm not taking any bets on it.  (Click on images to enlarge, then click again for optimum size.) 

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