Monday 25 March 2024

Part Two Of Nostalgia Meets Modern Technology - Guest Post By Dr. Andrew May...


In a previous guest post on Kid's blog, I talked about some of the positive benefits that modern digital technology can offer, even for old-timers like myself who spend a lot of time mentally living in the past.  In particular, I love the way that, now I've got more time on my hands, it lets me engage in creative activities that I've always had a hankering to do, but lack any natural talent for.  During a recent side discussion with Kid, I remembered two other examples of this from a few years ago that may be worth mentioning.  The first concerns the Avengers issue pictured above, which was one of the first Marvel comics I ever bought, while the second relates to Fireball XL5, which was the first sci-fi TV show I ever watched.  If that isn't nostalgia, I don't know what is!

Another advantage of no longer having a day job is that I have time to write books on various subjects, and back in 2019 I did one called The Science Of Sci-Fi Music.  One chapter of this deals with the 12-tone method of writing music, which as well as featuring in the soundtracks of movies like Planet Of The Apes and Dr. Terror's House Of Horrors (not to mention various Tom and Jerry cartoons) was also used by Frank Zappa in a couple of his songs.  When I discovered this, I vaguely recollected seeing an ad for one of Zappa's albums  in a comic-book I read as a child.  I eventually tracked this down to Avengers #50 as pictured above (though I imagine it appeared in other comics around the same time), and the album in question turned out to be "We're Only In It For The Money" by The Mothers of Invention.

Having dug the comic out, I decided to do a short video of me flicking through it, complete with a specially written soundtrack courtesy of modern technology.  I scoured the internet for MIDI clips of various songs from the album (four of them: "Who Needs The Peace Corps?", "Let's Make The Water Turn Black", "The Idiot Bastard Son" and "Mother People"), imported these into a music-editing program, made various adjustments to make them fit together in a reasonably harmonious fashion, and then changed the instrumentation from a rock band to a full concert orchestra.  Here's the result:

Another chapter of my sci-fi music book deals with "algorithmic composition" - in other words, programming a computer to write music - and this led to another nostalgia-laden experiment.  One musical form that particularly lends itself to algorithmic composition, because its rules are so prescriptive and mathematical, is the fugue.  This hasn't had any great popularity since the early 1700s (because even when written by a human it tends to sound like it was cranked out by a machine), but I thought I'd have a go at a computer-generated fugue anyway.

The only real input the program needs is a starting melody, so for fun I chose one of my favourite tunes from my childhood, "I Wish I Was A Spaceman" (sung by Don Spencer) from the Fireball XL5 end-titles.  The program itself was constructed using OpenMusic, a free app that's specifically designed for algorithmic composition.  You can see it in the background to the video which follows - the "Fireball" input tune is up in the top left-hand corner, while the other inputs along the top row are lists of acceptable rhythmic units and chord progressions.  Everything below that was generated by the computer itself, and (to my ears, at least) the end result does sound like a pretty convincing little fugue!

When I originally posted this on Facebook in 2019, I invited suggestions for other tunes I could plug into the program, but I didn't get any takers.  I'll make the same offer now, although I can't promise I can still get the program to work!  In fact I love these "X in the style of Y" experiments (I've also done rock and electronic versions of classical tunes, as well as orchestrations of pop songs as in the Zappa example).  So requests are always welcome!

Sunday 24 March 2024



Ah, the memories the above cover evokes, 50 years after buying my original copy in 1974.  This one is a replacement, but I've owned it for a considerable time now, probably at least a couple of decades, if not longer.  Although cover-dated March 30th, it would've gone on sale on the 23rd, so I'm only a day late in celebrating its initial appearance half a century ago.  Got any reminiscences connected to this ish, Crivs, with which you can regale the rest of us in the comments section?  Then get typing, 'cos we're all dying to read something interesting around here.

Saturday 16 March 2024


 I don't recall giving Lynda Carter a key to
my home, but when I got back from the shops the
other day, there she was, reclining on my settee.  I'm
not one to let an opportunity go to waste, so I got her
to rustle me up a bacon buttie and a cup of tea.  She
had the same, as I'm not a stingy host.  Y'see? 
Proof that I know how to treat a woman!

Friday 15 March 2024


Airfix skeletons, that is.  I've got more than that if I count ones by other makers, but Airfix ones will do for now.  (After all, I have to keep something in reserve for future posts.)  The first one was bought around the late-'60s, from newsagent's R.S. McColl's in the shops across the road from me.  The manager was Mr. Smith, who'd been manager of a newsagent's called Chamber's in a previous neighbourhood in which I'd lived.  'Twas he from whom I'd purchased my TV21s in the mid-'60s, and 'twas also he from whom, a few years later in my then-current area, I'd bought Countdown, containing reprints of some of the same strips from TV21.

But that's by-the-by.  The second skeleton I bought (again from McColl's) came in a longer box as it included a metal rod by which the wall mount could be transformed into a display stand for Skelly to hang upon while resting his feet as he did so.  The first box had been smaller and mostly black, but the second version was longer and largely blue-ish, with a different illustration of 'Mr. Bones'.  I must've had 3 or 4 skeletons at different times over the next few years, but they each eventually vanished as most childhood playthings do - sometimes without you even realising they've gone until much later.  (The last one I had as a kid was in 1969.)

I bought a replacement skeleton in the late '80s or early '90s, which I've still got, but I couldn't resist the allure of them and have bought another couple in the last few years, each one being the longer box version.  Today, at Castel Crivens, a replacement arrived for the very first one I owned, the smaller black box kit, renewing my memories of when I obtained my first one.  If my powers of recollection yet serve, it was on a day when my mother, with me in tow, visited a sort of jumble sale in the Murray Hall, held by my grandparents' Darby & Joan club, of which they were members, though not in attendance that day.

'Twas there I also received a certificate for some flower bulbs I'd planted, as well as buying several unboxed Marx Dalek Rolykins, which I stored in Skelly's box until we returned home.  First, though, we visited my nearby grandparents to show off my certificate, which I still have to this day (somewhere).  The photo heading this post is of my late '80s/early '90s skeleton, which is the only one I've built - the others remain unassembled in their boxes.  The other photos I've culled from the Internet to save me having to scan my own boxes, as I'm a lazy b*gg*h who prefers taking the easy option whenever possible.

After all, there's no guarantee that any of you will actually read this post, so why should I knock myself out preparing it?  (To which you could reply "Why should we bother reading it if you don't knock yourself out preparing it, eh?"  Oh, I'm a fool to myself, giving you the ammunition with which to shoot me down!)  So, did any of you have an Airfix skeleton when you were kids?  If so, share your reminiscences of building your bony friend with the rest of us.  ("It's alive!")

Thursday 14 March 2024


Copyright DC COMICS and, more importantly, GOD

'Twas on a Saturday or Sunday in April (I think) of 1983, that a pal (by prior arrangement) roped me in to wallpaper his kitchen in his house in Irvine.  First, though, we shot into Glasgow, where among my purchases were DC's Limited Collectors' Edition of The Most Spectacular Stories Ever Told... From The Bible and Marvel's Francis Of Assisi comic.  Between hanging wallpaper and scoffing a fish supper, I browsed through my acquisitions (after washing my hands) and was particularly pleased with the DC periodical due to the quality of the art.

Well, I say 'periodical', but although it was intended as the first in a series, no other issues ever materialised, so I assume it didn't sell as well as was hoped for.  I still have my original copies of both publications, which have stood the test of time far better than me, though I haven't looked at the Marvel Francis comic in quite a few years now (at least).  Back in 2012, I noticed that DC had reissued the Bible Collectors' Edition in hardback and I thought about buying it, but didn't.

Over the years I've sort of regretted that decision, and when I saw one on eBay recently, I immediately snapped it up!  It arrived today (and there's a story about its delivery with which I may regale you one day) and I'm as pleased as Punch to finally own it after all those intervening years (12 to be precise).  Joe Kubert gets star billing on the reissue, but I'm unsure whether he drew the whole thing, with Nestor Redondo inking the main chapters, or whether they both illustrated their own individual segments.

Whichever, it doesn't seem quite fair that Nestor's name doesn't also appear on the cover, so to redress the balance somewhat, I'm showing a couple of interior pages which bear his imprint, but none of Joe's - he's 'confined' to the covers.  Any of you Crivvies ever buy this back in the day, or wasn't it your kind of 'thing'?  Regardless, what do you think of Mr. Redondo's two pages below?  Are you suitably impressed, or does the subject matter prevent them from ringing your bell?

Comments welcome (as if you didn't know).

Below: The front and back covers of my original copy, first published in 1975, but not obtained by me until 1983.  I'd only ever seen it in ads prior to that point.  The Francis Of Assisi mag (not shown here) was published in 1980, so I was a bit of a 'Johnny-Come-Lately' in these two instances.  (Story of my life.)


That Diana Rigg - I dunno
what anyone sees in her!  (Lesson 1 in
'How To Use Irony In Everyday
English'.  I'm a master!)

Wednesday 13 March 2024


Copyright relevant and respective owners

Above is a nice little book that I imagine all fans of Dan Dare would like (and will probably already have).  Got it for a mere £5.99 (RRP £16.99) mail order and it's a nice 'companion piece' for the Fireball XL5 volume I acquired recently.  It came out in 2013, but my copy is brand-new and unread, and though I'm not a massive Dan Dare fan, it's the sort of book I'll enjoy having a browse-through from time-to-time.  And look at that cracking colour illustration below by Don Harley - great, innit?

The Mekon, Dan Dare, and Frank Hampson


Copyright BBC TV and the Estate of TERRY NATION

I already own many early episodes of Doctor Who on DVD, including the first serial featuring The Daleks, but when I saw this colourised, 75 minutes-long edited version on sale, I snapped it up.  Haven't watched the main feature yet, but took a look at the 'making of' documentary and found it interesting.  The colour seems to me more like an old MGM movie than a contemporary colour TV show, though that's merely an observation, not a criticism.

I'd have thought that the best way to edit the original seven 25 minute episodes down to 75 minutes in total would be to follow the template of the Dr. Who And The Daleks movie from the '60s, so it'll be interesting to see if that's what the BBC have done when I finally view the 'film', or have they gone in another direction?  Time (most apt in the case of the Doctor) will tell.

In the meantime, here are some screen-grabs until I can tell you what I think of the newest addition to the Doctor Who legend.  Incidentally, I know 'silver' is the correct colour for The Daleks' 'waist bands', but does anyone else wish they'd rendered them gold as they were in TV Century 21 and other '60s representations (Dalek Annuals and toys), or is it just me?

Who else thinks that Carole Ann Ford looks like Valerie Singleton?

Saturday 9 March 2024


Smudges on the right of the cover, which aren't on the original.  Copyright DC COMICS  

Here's a trio of recent Facsimile Editions from DC Comics you may be interested in acquiring, if you haven't already bought them.  First up, above, is Detective Comics #411, featuring the first appearance of Talia Al Ghul.  The original of this issue has quite a hefty asking price on the collectors' market, as do the next two, so these facsimiles are a relatively inexpensive way of obtaining key issues.

Next, above, is Green Lantern/Green Arrow #87, which is where John Stewart made his debut as a new addition to the Green Lantern Corp.  I wish the facsimile had retained the sideways spine banner declaring the comic's 'bigger & better' status, but for some reason DC opted to omit it.  Why they do such things to what is supposed to be a 'facsimile' is beyond me.  (Unless it was omitted for a previous reprinting.)

In the first two mags, the reproduction of the ads are of a mixed quality; some are crisp and clear, others are obviously scanned from published original issues and are not quite as bright and colourful as the strips themselves.  However, in The New Teen Titans #1 facsimile, above, there are no such problems, as every page is presented with crystal clarity, just the way you'd expect in such an iconic number.


One of the good things about the DC facsimiles is that they've now started placing the barcode boxes on the back covers in an unobtrusive manner.  This, along with the fact that they print the interior pages on non-glossy paper, makes them handsome additions to anyone's collection.  Below, are the splash pages to the above issues.

The indicia appears on the inside cover of the facsimile, not under the splash page.  I don't
have the original to compare, but it looks like the bottom of the page has been extended

Monday 4 March 2024


Here's my newest girlfriend, who bears
a remarkable likeness to Wonder Woman
actress Lynda Carter.  If you swallow that, I'm
also the president of a Nigerian bank and have a
fantastic financial opportunity for you.  Simply
send me all your personal bank details and
 I'll make me you extremely wealthy.


Copyright DC COMICS

Saw this hardback 2021 reprint of the 1973 Official Metropolis Edition Amazing World Of Superman over on Rip Jagger's blog, and even though I've got a couple of originals stashed away somewhere, I leapt straight over to eBay and bought myself a copy for a steal of a price (in my favour).  It even contains the map, which is printed on thicker paper stock than the '73 version, so if you missed this super collectable item back in the day, now you have the opportunity to remedy the situation.  Cop a gander at some of the contents, then get busy tracking one down for yourselves.

And just so you know, the hardback is a few millimetres smaller than the original, but the image size on the pages is around an inch to an inch-and-a-half smaller than the '70s printing (wider margins, you see).  However, the reproduction quality is excellent.

This b&w story was later coloured and reprinted in a couple of books, namely Secret
Origins Of The Super DC Heroes
and Superman From The '30s To The '80s.
The pages were added to at the sides to fit the different dimensions, but it was executed
reasonably well, though I thought the balance of some panels was slightly compromised

And here's the coloured splash page from a subsequent reprinting

And below is one of my original editions...


Copyright relevant owner

Not long arrived at Castel Crivens, the Fireball XL5 World Space Patrol Technical Operations Manual.  You don't need to read my witterings on this one - if you're a Fireball fan the pictures will speak for themselves.  Nice to see the TV Century 21 Astran 'jelly beans' included in the 'official' history of WSP continuity, as well as Fireball's prototype, C21, don't ya think?  It also mentions planet Uraniture, where Steve Zodiac and his crew encountered some sinister snowmen in a classic TV21 tale.  Available from The Official Gerry Anderson Store

Saturday 2 March 2024



Y'know, something about SPIDER-MAN's origin that never really gelled with me was the idea that he had the proportionate powers of a spider - simply because he was bitten by a radioactive one.  Sure, he certainly manifested similar abilities, though didn't possess the natural physical 'equipment' to produce his own webbing, making the first movie ridiculous in that respect, despite STAN LEE saying that he thought it was an improvement.

Therefore, if (for the sake of discussion) we accept the original notion that he got his powers from the spider, he could obviously only replicate its abilities in as much as his own human make-up would allow him to.  But if that's true, then how did he manage to walk up walls while wearing gloves and (originally) thick-treaded boots?

Furthermore, whenever he was crawling on a ceiling, wouldn't his weight have brought it down - especially in offices where polystyrene ceiling tiles hid the electrical wires for air-conditioning and overhead lighting?  It doesn't really make much sense.  (I hear you - does any superhero concept?)  But we're not stuck with the 'official' explanation if we don't want to be.

My own opinion (despite what the comics may now suggest) is that it was simply the radiation that imbued PETER with enhanced powers, not the spider - it was merely the 'messenger'.  The radiation allowed him to transcend his human limitations and do things that he otherwise wouldn't be able to.  Walking up walls?  That was as a result of Peter having some kind of 'psionic' force that allowed him to defy gravity to a limited extent.

You see, in my view, because Peter saw the spider, it had a psychological influence on the way he understood and 'rationalised' his enhanced abilities.  Potentially, if he hadn't been limited by his own perceptions of what a spider can do (disproportionate strength and speed, the ability to cling to surfaces), he might have manifested even greater powers - like being able to fly for example.  (Even his so-called 'spider-sense' is merely a form of ESP.)  

What I'm suggesting is that the spider was merely the conduit for the radiation that gave him his powers, not the source itself.  The radiation affected his metabolism, increased his strength and speed, and also imbued him with the ability to develop just about whatever enhanced attributes he could imagine (within reason).  Now, though, his powers have become established and can't evolve further.

Anyway, I think there's great story potential in my idea.  I'd love to see a tale where Peter discovers he's a 'child of the atom', not the spider, and that the arachnid merely influenced how he interpreted his radiation-induced powers, and wasn't the genetic source of them itself.  What say the rest of you Criv-ites?  Let loose the dogs of dissent in the comments section.

Friday 1 March 2024


You'll remember me showing you some A3 cover enlargements I'd framed back in November 2022 (see here), and mentioning that there was one picture I couldn't photograph because the Christmas tree was blocking sight of it.  I said that once my decorations were back up in the loft, I'd show a snap of the pic (a poster) and now, after my decorations being in my living-room for more than a full year, they're now all safely ensconced back in the attic.

So - here's the pic - though, unfortunately due to where it was positioned (on the side of a display cabinet), I couldn't get a good shot of it without the clear plastic within the frame reflecting the camera flash, as well as the wall (and other things) the picture is next to.  So I moved the pic to another wall (temporarily) and took another snap, which is slightly better.

Anyway, I said I would and I have, so here it is.  Don't say I'm not a man of my word (though I'll admit it does sometimes take an inordinately long time for me to fulfil it).

Incidentally, I used another browser to access my blog, which is how I was able to add the above image.  The previous post yet applies.


Suddenly, whenever I try to add a photo to a new post, I get an 'error occurred' message and I can't add any images.  Any other bloggers finding the same thing or is it only me for some unaccountable reason?

Upon checking, it only seems to be happening when I use Microsoft Browser.

Update: I've fiddled about with things, reset settings to their default values, and it now seems to be working again.  However, I've no idea as to what caused the problem to begin with.  Strange, eh?  I've now added the 'offending' image to the post.


Copyright DC COMICS

A nice Brian Bolland drawing adorns the cover of the UK Official Superman Annual for 1983 (issued towards the end of '82), and though I've not reproduced them here, the endpapers inside the book sport a double page illo by Dave Gibbons.  I have to say that I find Vince Colletta's inking of Jim Starlin's pencils in the first story quite pleasing in this instance, though many of you might disagree with me as he wasn't everyone's favourite inker.

It's interesting to note that the first 'part' of what was originally three separate issues of DC Comics Presents (#s 27, 28, & 29), has 17 pages, the second part has 16, and the third part has only 15.  Part two has therefore had what was probably a recap page omitted to avoid repetition (though it might be another page entirely), and part three has had two pages omitted for, I assume, the same reason*.  This 'vandalism' was an all-too-common practice in these London Editions/Egmont Annuals which would've likely prevented my from buying them back in the day had I noticed as I'd have considered them incomplete.

(*I think I actually have the original US comics, but, if so, I forget where I've stored them so am unable to check at this present time.)

I got this book recently as part of a set of three (of which I really only wanted one), and as I showed you the 1984 Batman Annual last week, I thought it only fitting to share this one with you as well.  Incidentally, I've presented the splash pages in the order they originally appeared, as the Superboy tale was 'sandwiched' between the second and third parts of the main story, so don't go thinking I've mixed them up.  Feel entirely free to share any reminiscences you may have of this Annual in the comments section, Crivvies. 

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