Thursday 22 February 2024


Copyright DC COMICS

When I recently decided to obtain a replacement for my own long-gone 1980 UK Superman Annual, I ended up buying four of them from different eBay sellers to try and get a decent-condition copy I was happy with.  One Annual was part of a trio sold as a single lot, so along with the 1980 Superman Annual, I now also possess the 1983 one (in pretty good nick), plus the 1984 Batman Annual, neither of which I owned before.

The Batman book required a bit of cosmetic work to the cover (colour touch-ups, ironing out corner dunts, etc.,) as well as erasing the results of colour pencils to a few interior non-story pages, but it was worth the effort as it contains some nice Batman tales, as well as sporting a cover by Dave Gibbons.  I could simply buy a better condition copy of course, but this one was never really in my sights so I can live with it just as it is.

Tell you what, though... rather than tell you about the contents, why don't I show them to you?  Well, the splash pages at least, just to give you a taste of the book.  If you had this Annual back in the day (or even the original US monthly comics where the stories first appeared), feel free to share your unique memories of it/them in our crying-out-for-attention comments section.  (Don't be heartless and disappoint it now, y'hear?)

Monday 19 February 2024


Images copyright relevant and respective owners

Okay, peeps, for a change of pace from my dreary, weary, woeful waffle, here's a thought-provoking guest post from Gene Phillips about the nature of time and memories - assuming I understood it, that is.  Hopefully, this will inspire you to think, and having 'thunk', express your thoughts in the comments section.  Read on, MacDuff!


"Time is simultaneous, an intricately structured jewel that humans insist on viewing one edge at a time, when the whole design is visible in every facet."

"Why couldn't the past, present and future all be occurring at the same time -- but in different dimensions?"

The first quote comes from one of the most famous graphic novels of all time, the 1986-87 Alan Moore/Dave Gibbons WATCHMEN, and the sentiment expressed, about the relativity of time, is "intricately structured" as one of the narrative's main themes.

The second comes from a very obscure Stan Lee/Jack Kirby story in AMAZING ADVENTURES #3 (1961), "We Were Trapped In The Twilight World!"  It wasn't reprinted until the twenty-first century and I doubt that even its creators remembered it after they tossed it out within the pages of a title that was finished in three more issues, being renamed AMAZING ADULT FANTASY from #s 7-14.

Not only was "Twilight" probably tossed off to fill space, the idea of the simultaneity of past, present and future isn't even important to the story's plot.  Shortly after the handsome young theorist expresses his time-theory, he drives away with his girlfriend.  A mysterious, never-explained mist transports them both back into Earth's prehistoric past.  While the two of them flee various menaces, the scientist theorizes that entities from the past sometimes entered the mist and showed up in modern times, so that ape-like cavemen generated the story of the Abominable Snowmen.  Grand Comics Database believes that "Twilight" is one of many SF-stories plotted by Stan Lee but dialogued by his brother Larry Lieber, so, failing the discovery of original Kirby art, there's no ascertaining which of the three creators involved generated the line.

In both stories, the simultaneity of all times has one common function: to cast a light on the limits of human perception.  But is there any truth in it?

In the sense of the bodies we occupy, not really.  Our common experience as human beings is that our bodies are totally enslaved by the unstoppable progress of the future, remorselessly eating away the present the way age eats away at our bodily integrity.  And yet, one organ in the body defies future's tyranny and that's the brain.

Only in the brain are past, present and future truly unified -- though one may question if Moore's correct about how "intricate" the structure is, even assuming that the paradigm applies only to fully functioning human brains.  And time is only unified in terms of a given subject's own memories.  I don't necessarily dismiss such things as "memories of a past life" that are usually cited in support of reincarnation, but those type of memories are not universal enough to draw any conclusions.

My ability to "time-travel" in my memories is similarly limited.  I can summon a quasi-memory of being on a family vacation and finding MARVEL TALES #11 at an out-of-town pharmacy.  That comic book would have been on sale in 1967, probably a few months prior to its November cover-date.  I think this was probably the first SPIDER-MAN comic I bought, but my memories of reading the comic for the first time aren't that specific since I didn't get into buying superhero comics until the debut of the BATMAN tele-series in early 1966.  That show would have finished its second season in March 1967, at which time I might have felt venturesome enough to sample a superhero I'd never heard of.  Now, for me to be correct on that score, I would have to have bought MARVEL TALES before the 1967 SPIDER-MAN cartoon debuted that September, since it's also my memory that I watched that TV show when it first aired.  But can I be absolutely sure that I didn't see the cartoon before buying the comic book?  Not in the least.  I seem to remember that I'd bought enough back issues of SPIDER-MAN or MARVEL TALES that when the cartoon debuted, I recognized how some of the cartoon-stories had been adapted from the originals, but that memory is not reliable.

In the WATCHMEN chapter referenced, Doctor Manhattan can foresee future events as accurately as he can recall memories of the past -- or at least, whatever past experiences are important to Moore's narrative.  And in "Twilight," the protagonists live through the past so as to clarify events in their present, but total narrative clarity is denied real people.  However, what our functioning memories do preserve are not just every single experience we have, but the important experiences.

Humans can travel in time from Significant Thing #1 to Significant Thing #4566 via chains of mental association, though some of these associations might be subconscious.  I once noticed that Robert E. Howard's barbarian hero Kull first appeared in print in the August 1929 issue of WEIRD TALES, about three or four years before Siegel and Shuster collaborated on their landmark hero Superman.  We know that Siegel named Superman's dad after himself, making "Jor-L" out of the first syllable of the author's first name and the last syllable of his last name, but whence comes "Kal-L"?  Did it come from... "Kul-L"?  Even assuming that Siegel read the Kull story, there's no way of knowing if he consciously remembered reading it, but if he read it, maybe something about the hero's name appealed to Siegel and he simply recycled that appeal when it came time to name his own hero.

We do not know if anything survives the demise of our physical forms.  But while we are alive, it's entirely logical to build up our stores of significant memories, whether we can take them with us or not.  To borrow from the title of an old English poem, those memories provide us with our only "triumph over time".

One last Significant Thing: the last issue of Marvel magazine AMAZING ADVENTURES was cover-dated November 1961, the same date assigned to FANTASTIC FOUR #1. So that arbitrary date becomes something of a threshold between the Old Marvel Way of doing things, and the New Approach, which would, as I've argued elsewhere, have saved the medium of comic books from extinction.


Any thoughts, Crivvies?  Let GP (and the rest of us) read them now!

Sunday 18 February 2024

CRYIN' COCKLES AND MUSSELS, ALIVE, ALIVE-O! (Or: Sea Shells On The Seashore)...

Let me see, now... I think it was either in 1965 when I was on holiday with my family in Rothesay, though it could well have been the following year when we holidayed in Kinghorn - I'm not quite sure after all this time.  Regardless, we were walking along the beach one day and my father was picking up a few cockle and mussel shells and putting them in one of his jacket pockets.  He also lifted a piece of what I can only describe as 'slate'.  Later, in Woolworth's, he bought a packet of Humbrol paints that came in little glass vials (remember them?) and some glue or resin, though I forget exactly which kind.

Next, he attached the mussel shell to the slate, then affixed some smaller shells around the join, and when everything was safely and securely attached, he painted them.  Hey, presto - instant home-made ashtray.  When we returned home at the end of our holiday, the ashtray made the journey with us, and as my father was a pipe smoker, often made use of his handiwork - as did my mother, who smoked the occasional cigarette.  (Hands up those who thought I was going to say she was a pipe smoker too?  Cheek!)

Sometime in the early or maybe mid-'70s, I noticed one day that the slate base had been replaced with a sturdier, heavier base and I assumed that the original one had broken, perhaps as a result of being dropped or my father requiring it for some other purpose.  I never found out the actual reason, but it seems reasonable to assume it was one of those two possibilities.  Some of the shells had also been broken over the years and the paint on them was no longer as bright and shiny as it had once been.  I'd always intended to spruce it up a bit, but the decades came and went without me ever getting around to it.

However, several months back, a pal and me visited Prestwick, where I picked up a few small shells from the beach, realising that they were the very chappies I needed for whenever I finally got started on 'tarting up' the ashtray.  Not that it had been used in many a year as I've never smoked, and visitors usually go outside if they're 'gasping for a fag'  Anyway, long story short, I applied myself to restoring the ashtray's cosmetic appearance over the last couple of days and now it looks better than it has for a long time.  I used acrylic paints on the shells as acrylic dries quicker than enamel, then coated them with acrylic varnish.

That's the finished result in the photo atop and bottom of this post and I have to be honest and say I'm quite proud of it.  Just think, it goes all the way back to my childhood close to 60 years ago, and I associate it with at least three houses (maybe four) I've lived in over that time.  As I said, it no longer fulfils (and hasn't for an extremely long time) the function of an ashtray, being retained mostly for its cosmetic appeal (to my eyes, if not yours), as well as the welcome memories that one glance at it can bring.  It's a familiar 'face' from the past and it's got a free home with me for the rest of its (and my) days.

Any similar reminiscences, Crivvies, of items from your childhood?  Then we're 'all ears' (so to speak), so share them with the rest of us in the comments section.

Wednesday 14 February 2024


Today, as all good Criv-ites are surely well aware, is Valentine's Day.  I've never received a Valentine's card in my life, nor have I ever sent one, but many people will be waiting in eager anticipation of a card from a loved one (or an anonymous admirer) popping through their letterbox, and probably as many people will be anxiously fretting over not getting one and what it says about just how they're regarded by others if they don't.

However, today my mind can't help but think of my late pal's widow, Heather, whose husband Matt (known as Moonmando to long-term readers of Crivens) passed away in a local hospice exactly a year ago today from inoperable liver and bowel cancer.  It must be difficult when others about you are basking in the glow of getting a Valentine's card when the only person you'd really love to receive one from is no longer around to give it.

So, readers, as you savour the reassurance of knowing you're adored, spare a thought for Heather and those like her to whom this date isn't a cause for celebration, but rather a painful reminder of a heart-aching emptiness in their life.  (Though that pain isn't restricted to only one day.)  It's tough when your time is up and you have to depart this world, but I sometimes wonder whether it's even tougher for the ones you leave behind. 

Tuesday 6 February 2024


In all my life it could never be claimed by anyone or myself that I was ever fashionable when it came to the clothes I wore.  For example, look at the flared trousers I'm wearing in the above photo taken in 1978.  I was around 19 and flares had been out of fashion for two or three years as far as I recall.  However, this post isn't really about fashion, it's just me self-indulgently reminiscing about my past and marvelling at how recent these photographs feel to me, while at the same time seeming as if they were taken long ago and far away in an age now lost to history.  (As all ages eventually are in the fullness of time.)

Despite my hyperbole I can yet recall where these pics of me and my then-pal were taken though.  The first two were on the roof of a derelict farmhouse and riding stable which later became a pub called Whitehills Farm.  (It closed only a few months back.)  The photo-booth pic was taken in my Town Centre post office, and is, I think, the only one (barring his wedding photos in Portsmouth that same year) of the two of us together at the same time.  Looking at the first two, it reminds me that, even as 19 year-olds, the pair of us still explored places we had no right to be.  Dangerous places too, as the building was a ruin and could easily have collapsed under us.  

These days my memory isn't always as reliable as it used to be, so I was unsure whether these pics were taken before or after his marriage until I re-read a letter from him postmarked January 16th, asking why he hadn't heard from me since the 'big day' (thus before).  So, 46 years ago captured in a few photographs, prolonging the moments and the time they depict long past their natural shelf-life.  Truly, a camera is a brilliant invention - probably one of the most remarkable in human history.  It can be a pleasant experience looking through old photos, but sometimes also a painful one, as we're reminded of those who are no longer around and just how old we've become.

I've got thousands of photos and it's sad to think that they only really mean something to me as nobody else would be interested in them.  So many moments frozen in time that will one day be discarded when I'm no longer around to look at and enjoy them.  'This Is My Life', but it's a life that cuts no ice with anyone else when it comes to preserving a photographic record of it.  It's quite a sobering thought to realise that, in the great scheme of things, we're really not as significant as we'd like to think we are.  Ah, 1978 - where did you sneak off to when I wasn't looking?  And that goes for every year before or since.

Do you enjoy looking through your old photos, readers, or are your past fashion mistakes and embarrassing hairstyles something you'd much rather prefer to forget?  The comments section awaits your input if you'd like to visit.  Don't be shy now.

Monday 5 February 2024


Certain trees have been an important aspect of my life over the decades, not only as 'signposts' to memories of the locations in which they stood, but also reminders of the times in which I first became aware of them.  The first was actually a fallen tree on which I played at Fireball XL5 as a 4 or 5 year-old kid, and the next (two houses later) was the main one on which the neighbourhood kids had elected to hang a rope to provide a 'swing' for all those who enjoyed such a pastime.  (What boy didn't?!)

Then there was the one down the road from me in the area we flitted to halfway through 1972, which I passed on a daily basis to and from school for the next two-and-a-half years, as well as sundry other times.  It stood on the edge of a burn (narrow watercourse), which had two metal barred 'fences' at different angles to one another where two separate channels of the burn met, to prevent 'flotsam and jetsam' being carried into the tunnel that the water led in to (and out of) whenever it was in full and furious flow.

As a shortcut, I used to regularly walk over the three or four foot long, two or three-inch wide top of one of those fences to reach the other side, without pause or uncertainty, and I did so with such aplomb that I impressed even myself.  (I know what you're thinking - "He's easily impressed!")  I couldn't do it today because my sense of balance is completely shot, but when I returned to the area (and house) in 1987 after four years elsewhere and resumed using that same route to and from my home, I found that, after an initial hesitation, I could again routinely walk over that strip of metal with the same ease and assurance as previously.  So my balance was pretty much the same at 28 as it had been at 13.  No mean feat if I say so myself.  (And I do.)

There have been other trees that meant something to me as 'markers' in my life and maybe one day I'll write about them, but for this post, the one at the bottom of the street is the focus of my attention because, after nearly 52 years, it was blown down by the fierce gales that much of the country has been subjected to over the last several weeks.  It survived the second-last one from around three weeks or so ago, but, alas, it fell victim to the most recent one a week back.  I was in a friend's car and was dismayed to see it no longer standing tall and proud as we passed its fallen form, but I made a mental note to try and get some photos before council workmen come to dismember it and cart away the branches and trunk.

As you can see from the photos, I managed to capture its image before it disappears forever.  I do actually have quite a number of photographs I took of the tree in its heyday (I guess I must've known, deep-down, that it wouldn't be there forever), but they aren't to hand at the moment for me to show them here - when I find them, I'll add them to the post.  I wasn't really too surprised to see it had finally succumbed to the elements, because it actually stood in quite a tenuous spot with not a lot of earth and soil around two sides of it.  I think I was more surprised that it had survived as long as it did, as I always feared that council workmen would fell it as a potential hazard even if it managed to withstand the gale-force winds that assailed it every so often.

For quite a number of years now, whenever I passed it on my perambulations, I would reach up and touch the ends of its overhanging branches (which hung over the pavement on the street-side of the burn) in greeting and appreciation of its continued presence (in fact, I did so only a few weeks back), as it was like an old friend from my past as well as my present - though, sadly, no longer my future.  I was always relieved and gladdened to see it still stretching towards the heavens after a storm, but now I'll never be able to pass the spot again without a sense of loss and sadness at its absence.  Daft as it sounds, if trees can be aware of their surroundings, I wonder whether it will miss me (or anyone) as much as I'll miss it when it's finally removed.

So here's to another soon-to-be-vanished aspect of my past.  They become more frequent the older I get, but such is life, I guess.  Do any of you ever feel the same about once-familiar local 'landmarks' from your day-to-day life that are no longer around?  If you can relate to this post in any way, feel free to leave a comment - otherwise I'll suspect you're ignoring me because you think I'm as barmy as a big box of biting, battling badgers.

Sunday 4 February 2024


Copyright DC COMICS

It's a highly unusual situation for me to look at an item and have absolutely no hint of an idea as to when and where I first bought it, but such is the case with the above Annual.  Note that it's an 'official' Superman Annual, though as far as I know, there were never any unofficial ones - certainly not in the UK at least.  It's dated 1980, which means it went on sale around August or September of 1979, but however hard I try, I just can't recall where I obtained it from or in what year.  Was it 1979 or sometime in the early '80s?  Did I buy it new from a shop or by mail order as a 'back issue', or did I get it in a jumble sale?  Perhaps a friend (yes, I do have some) gave it to me - I just don't have a ruddy clue.  I find this incredibly irritating as I've always prided myself on having a good memory, but this is a book that somehow slipped through the cracks.

What I do remember is I gave it to a a pal by the name of Bob Billens (or something close to that) in the early '80s, after I'd already extracted two pages that made up a Superman poster, plus a third page by Curt Swan (possibly first published in a US mag) showing how to draw Superman's face in a variety of expressions.  I was going to throw the book out, but he said he'd take it instead, regardless of the extracted pages.  I still have those pages, though I substituted the poster, which was on my wall, with a print-out of a scan of it a few years ago.  Recently, I got the urge to track down a replacement, but I couldn't even recollect what the cover looked like.  I looked at UK Superman Annuals on eBay, and there were a few which showed images of some of the contents.  When I saw the double-page poster I knew that was the one I was searching for.

So that's another item from my youth returned to the fold, 40-plus years after owning my original, and it's good to have again.  It reminds me of that friend (before he proved to be a bit of a d*ck - no, I don't mean 'duck'), as well as a time in my life when it seemed that the world was my oyster and I had unlimited time to 'cultivate' it.  Funnily enough, although I extracted the poster in the early '80s while living in my current house, it wasn't until my family moved to another in 1983 that, around a year later, it went up on a wall in my new bedroom.  As regular readers know, we returned to our previous home just over four years after flitting from it, where the poster assumed the spot on the wall it was intended for had we never moved elsewhere.  Strange when you think about it, eh?  It ended up where it began, and maybe that's precisely how it should be.

Any thoughts, theories, observations, or accusations (y'know, like "You're bonkers, Robson!") made welcome in our comments section.

A page in a similar vein to this one appeared in SUPERMAN #245 for Dec '71/Jan '72 

Below, a print-out of a scan of the original poster done a few years back, occupying the same spot on the wall as its predecessor.  It's still there to this day.  The main difference is that this is a one-sheet poster, whereas the original was two pages, with an 'invisible' horizontal join in the middle. 

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...