Sunday, 22 January 2017


Images copyright DC COMICS

I was looking for some biographical information on a well-known
comicbook artist a couple of days back, and duly typed his name (or so I
thought) into the search box at the top of the screen.  Being the impatient
kind, I picked the first one on the proffered list and hit the key - only to
discover that it wasn't the individual I was looking for.

My mistake, but - many
years ago - I had a friend whose
name was very similar to that of
the artist, and, in my haste, I'd un-
consciously typed his name - Bob
Billens - instead of the intended
Bob Billings.  (Names changed to
protect the guilty, but they really
are that similar.)  The face of what
appeared to be a complete stranger
stared out at me from the screen,
and I was about to backspace to
the previous page when some-
thing made me look again
more closely.

Wonder of wonders.  It was
    the actual former friend of nearly half my life ago, apparently doing very
well in the world - if his self-penned many fine words in tribute to himself and
his achievements can be taken at face value.  Not that it matters much - he was
always his own biggest fan.  And anyway, what's a blog for if not to blow
one's own trumpet?  (And, in his case, generate a little work.)

What struck me, however,
was just how old he looked,
which is why I hadn't recognised
him at first glance.  Being the nos-
talgic sort, I just couldn't stop my
mind from rewinding back through
the long years to when I'd first met
'Bob', sometime in 1979.  As I have
to fill this blog with something, I
may as well tell you about it now.
Hopefully, I'll contrive a way of
making it seem at least vaguely
interesting before we reach
the end of the story.

Starting in February 1979,
I worked in my local Central
Library for about six or seven months.  Quite a few of the 'head' librarians
were given to looking down their noses at those who worked under them, and
to boasting about the extent of their overdrafts.  (As banks only give money
to those who have money, they considered it some sort of status symbol
to be accorded the 'honour' of owing loads of dosh.)  They really were
a tedious bunch of pretentious, insufferable poseurs.

I'd been there for per-
haps only a couple of months
when a female colleague one day
exclaimed:  "You sound just like
Bob Billens...", before explaining -
 in response to my predictable en-
quiry - that 'Bob Billens' was a uni-
versity student (just graduated)
 who worked in the library dur-
ing the Summer months.

Anyway, before long, I got
to meet Bob Billens, and - sure
enough - he did sound a little
like me.  Amazingly, he was also
a dyed-in-the-wool comicbook
geek like myself, and we soon hit
it off - talking comics and swapping opinions on what we thought of the new
SUPERMAN movie with CHRISTOPHER REEVE (which was then still
only a few months old).  We also indulged in a fair amount of secret snig-
gering at the pomposity and pretensions of our library 'masters'.

I soon grew discontented
and quit the job, but our friend-
ship continued.  However, shortly
afterwards, Bob and his wife (in a pre-
planned career move) 'upped-sticks'
and relocated to England.  We kept in
touch for a few years until, gradually,
 his new life claimed him completely
and his already steadily-waning
inclination to maintain contact
finally evaporated.

When shot-on-location
photos of Superman IV he'd
taken and promised to send never
arrived - with no word from him in
the weeks or months that followed -
it became clear he'd no intention of getting in touch again.  Not being
one to impose myself on people, I didn't pursue the matter, even
'though I found it slightly puzzling given our common interest.

Perhaps he'd simply concluded that, being hundreds of miles distant,
I could serve no further possible practical purpose in his day-to-day life
(especially after I'd given him my highly collectable SUPERMAN The
MOVIE poster) and was therefore surplus to requirements.

Also, I probably just didn't
measure up to his 'sophisticated'
new circle of posh friends and col-
leagues down South.  He'd actually
once 'hinted' as much on a brief visit
home, when he gave me an odd look
and said, "I dread to think what the
folks at work would say if they saw
you."  He tried to say it in a 'jokey'
way, but was obviously embarrassed by what he considered my lack of
sartorial elegance and less than fashionable appearance.  (Judge for
yourselves from the photo.  I think I look rather saintly.)

The irony of him becoming
the same kind of status-seeking,
social-climbing snooty snob as
the former library colleagues he'd
so often claimed to despise and
regularly heaped scorn upon isn't
lost on me.  It would be on him
'though, but that's usually the
way of such things.

That reminds me - I really must
track down a replacement for that
Superman movie poster one day.
One that doesn't look quite so old
and as tired as Bob Billens.

(And 'Bob' - if by some remote
chance you ever happen to read this - I'm sure you'd like to know that 'Big
Rosa' sends you her regards.  I can't speak for anyone else 'though.)


And no doubt you'll all be pleased to know that I've now
obtained a replacement poster of the one I originally bought
way back in January 1979 in the ABC Cinema in Glasgow.

Saturday, 21 January 2017


Now JENNIFER BEALS is what I call a woman.
And I'm probably what she calls...a word I can't publish
on a nice, polite blog like this one.  I don't care 'though,
I still love her anyway.  And be honest - so do you!


Image copyright DC COMICS

Of The UNKNOWN spectacular splash page for you to drool over,
Criv-ites.  I could waffle on for a bit so that you feel you're getting full
value for money (?), but that would merely serve to delay you from
clicking on the image to enlarge  it for a more detailed study.

So what are you waiting for?  Click away.

Friday, 20 January 2017


Here's JULIE NEWMAR from before she
played CATWOMAN in the 1966 BATMAN
TV show.  She still looks like the cat who got
the cream to me.


Images copyright MARVEL COMICS

I have to confess that I've lost track of modern comics.  The
characters don't seem to be the ones I grew up reading, whether
they be MARVEL or DC mags.  Why the powers-that-be would
jettison decades of continuity and alienate long-time fans seems
a stupid thing to do, but what do I know?  I'm just a guy who's
been contributing towards their success for many years.

Surely there must be a way of attracting new readers without
chasing away older ones?  And this new title is a step in the right
direction.  It's set in the time when the original AVENGERS had
WITCH had joined CAPTAIN AMERICA to become the
new team.  (I just love that 1960s corner cover box!)

I'd first read the original stories when they were reprinted in
a British periodical called TERRIFIC back in 1967, and reading
new adventures of the same line-up (starting from when they first
formed) makes me feel as if I'm a kid again, sitting with a pile of
comics in the back garden of the house I lived in at the time.

If you hail from the same period as myself and enjoyed The
Avengers when you were a youngster, then you're sure to love
this comic as much as I do.  So here are the first three covers to
whet your appetite.  You'll find #3 in FORBIDDEN PLANET
and all good comic shops now - and, if you're really lucky,
they might still have #s 1 & 2 as well.  Happy reading!

And, as a bonus, below is how I first encountered the
new team of Avengers way back in 1967.  Just a shame
they got the colour of CAP's sleeves wrong.

Thursday, 19 January 2017


Image copyright DC COMICS

As a 'tatster' for an upcoming 12 part round-robin series,
SPECIAL #1, with reprints of two JACK KIRBY stories, plus
two 'previously unpublished (which isn't quite true, but take it
up with DC) classics'.  The cover comes from Kamandi #32
(a 'Giant' issue) and is a neat little item for Kirby fans.


Don't look so distressed, ABIGAIL.  Just because I
had to cancel our date tonight because I'm washing my
hair, doesn't mean that we can't go out another night.
So don't despair.  (Women - they're so insecure.)

Wednesday, 18 January 2017


The long-vanished hospital shop of my childhood, teenage years
and young adulthood.  Demolished sometime back in the '90s 

I've a nagging suspicion that I may've told this tale
before.  Or perhaps I intended to tell it but then forgot.
Either way, I can't find it on the blog or remember which
of those two possibilities is the right one, so I may as
well tell it now - or again - whichever is the case.

When I was a teenager, me and my pals were quite
adventurous in our, er, adventures.  We explored places
we had no right to be, convinced in our fevered imagina-
tions that we were agents of U.N.C.L.E., or The Three
Investigators, or 007 - or any fictional characters
with whom one associates 'living on the edge'.

We explored building sites, office blocks, the local
Civic Centre - before, during and after working hours.
We investigated hotels, restaurants,  churches - even the
local hospital and surrounding out-buildings.  You name it,
any place we shouldn't have been, we were on it like a rash.
For we were - The Adventurers!  (Seriously, that's what
we called ourselves.  Or maybe it was just what I called
ourselves and the others merely humoured me, but
hey - that still counts in my book.)

Let's just pause for a moment while I savour the
thrill of what I deludedly (but willingly) like to believe
was my exciting everyday life as a teenager, but (sadly)
know I'm likely romanticising just a bit.  But we had
our moments, and one such moment was this.

Sometimes there were three of us, but on this par-
ticular evening, there were only two - my good self and
a mate who, for the purpose of this tale, we'll call Adam
Cowie.  We used to drop into the local hospital shop to
check for (and buy) various American comics and black
and white mags that, somehow, weren't regularly or
readily available from other newsagents.

There used to be more trees here, but they were felled to make
way for car parking areas.  Again, none of this exists today

Having done that, we next decided to investigate
an out-building partially concealed by a wooded area.
It was one of several annexes once used as wards, but at
the time of this tale, used mainly for storing medical sup-
plies and maybe also by administration staff.  We gained
entry through the door, which yielded (undamaged)
under pressure from our determined selves.

We wandered the corridor, exploring the various
rooms, and I happened to notice that all the windows
were tightly secured with string, tied around the handles
to prevent them from being opened.  My pal had just ex-
amined a bag containing a variety of medical implements
and put it down again, when we were suddenly aware of
what sounded like soft, slow footsteps, stealthily
making their way along the corridor.

Discovery meant trouble, for who'd ever believe
we were merely indulging our over-developed sense
of curiosity by doing a bit of exploring without criminal
intent?  My friend (as usual) sh*t a brick, but I was made
of cooler stuff.  I'd noticed a pair of small surgical scissors
in the bag my pal had been looking at, so I extracted them
and quietly cut the string around the handle, replaced the
scissors, then we both made a rapid escape through the
open window frame and vanished in a cloud of
dust over the horizon to freedom.

Phew!  It had been a near miss, but once again
we had evaded capture by the combined agents of
S.M.E.R.S.H., S.P.E.C.T.R.E., T.H.R.U.S.H. and
HYDRA, and were free to fight yet another day.  Well,
that's how things seemed to my fertile imagination,
but then again, I always was a bit of a nutter.

Ah, those were the days.  

Tuesday, 17 January 2017


What can one say about the obvious
charms of ABIGAIL RATCHFORD that
wouldn't sound redundant?  You can see
what a stunner she is for yourselves.

(Never off the 'phone to me, begging me
for a date.  What's that, nurse?  Time for my
coloured 'Smarties' did you say?  I like the
red ones.  Can I have a red one?)


"Any spare change, guv'nor?"  The above character would sure
give you a fright if you chanced to encounter him in a bright alley,
never mind a dark one.  Not quite sure how MARVEL got away with
this one, as zombies and the undead (or are they both the same thing?)
weren't supposed to be allowed by the COMICS CODE, but it gave
Big JOHN BUSCEMA the chance to turn in a spectacular splash
page.  And hey - that's what this series is all about! 

Monday, 16 January 2017


The most accurate TB2 model I've seen

Okay, I've dusted down my THUNDERBIRDS models and
taken a few new photos, so here's the results.  TB1 was difficult
to do justice to, because the silvery surface tends to reflect the
light (the daylight that is, I didn't use my camera flash), so this
is the best I can do with this one for the moment.  Enjoy.

The wings pull out.  It looks far better than the photo suggests 

Third up is TB4.  I'll show 3 and 5 another time


For the life of me, I can't think of any-
thing to say that does KATE UPTON's
beauty justice.  Apart, perhaps, from...

Sunday, 15 January 2017


As it's the 50th Anniversary year since POW! first went on
sale in 1967, it's the perfect excuse for me to take the lazy route
by reprinting a post which includes not only the cover of #1, but
also the debut covers of the other four Power Comics.  And
guess what?  I've even thrown in the very first instalment of
The CLOAK!  How's that for generosity?


The first two didn't begin life as 'POWER COMICS' - that happened
somewhere along the way after they'd started reprinting MARVEL strips,
but the next three began their runs with the big bold badge emblazoned on
their covers.  For a while, all five weeklies were published concurrently, but
eventually WHAM! merged with POW!TERRIFIC with FANTASTIC,
then Pow! with SMASH! and, finally, Fantastic also merged with Smash!,
which became the sole surviving Power comic until it was revamped
and relaunched (without Marvel reprints) in March of 1969.

Here then are all five first issue covers for you to drool over.

THE CLOAK first appeared in POW! #18 on May 13th (dated 20th)
1967, drawn by Birmingham-based artist MIKE HIGGS.  It had a different
look to other strips in the comic and, given its spy/mystery/horror-themed
stories (albeit in a comedy vein), proved popular enough to last nearly two
years.  It started in Pow!, continued in POW! & WHAM!, then SMASH! &
POW!, and finally ended in SMASH! (Incorporating FANTASTIC#162,
March 1st (dated 8th) 1969.  I remember the strip mainly because I fancied
LADY SHADY, the Cloak's EMMA PEEL-style sometimes sidekick.
(Wotta bod!  Makes me want to marry a drawing.)

Anyway, for all you Cloak fans out there, here's his first appear-
ance  from the swingin' '60s.  He's turned up at least a couple of times
in recent years - first in the back of a self-published comic by a former
assistant of Mike Higg's, and then in the pages of CRIKEY!, a (now
defunct) mag devoted to British comics and their creators.


Something I noticed only recently is that a panel from the very
first appearance of The CLOAK (POW! #18, cover-dated May
13th 1967) was clearly based on the front cover of MAD #1 (cover-
dated October-November 1952).  Or could it be no more than mere
coincidence?  Doubt it, but as it took me nigh on 50 years to spot
it, I don't suppose I'll be getting a BLUE PETER badge for my
keen observational skills anytime soon.



It was MARGARET NOLAN's gold-painted,
undulating body in the credits of GOLDFINGER,
not SHIRLEY EATON's.  Credit where credit is
due - especially in the credits in this case, eh?

Saturday, 14 January 2017


couple or so years ago I became, for a brief time, a
member of a British comics forum.  The forum had an 'edit'
option on its comments page, which meant that, however care-
ful the writer had  been during composiition, any errors in spel-
ling, punctuation or grammar he'd missed could be corrected
after submission.  Naturally, it would be stated that the
comment had been edited, and precisely when.

It's a handy thing having such a facility, and I've
never tried to hide the fact that, on this very blog of mine,
I continually edit and revise my posts - not only for the sake
of clarity and conciseness, but also to make the overall shapes
of paragraphs more aesthetically-pleasing to the eye.  In fact,
I've seen myself revising a sentence and thereby reshaping
a paragraph, more because it makes the result look
better than because it makes it read better.

Most changes are mainly of style rather than
of content.   When it comes to corrections, it varies.  If
I notice a mistake, I usually just amend the text, rather than
adding an updated footnote.  This is simply because any future
readers might bail out halfway through a post, taking the error
with them as fact.  If anyone draws my attention to an inaccu-
racy, I'll fix it, and acknowledge the contribution in the com-
ments section.  I've even been known to do all those things
at once:  fix the goof, add a footnote saying I've fixed
it - and mention it in the comments section.

So back to the afore-mentioned comics forum.
If I spotted a typo or grammatical error in one of my
comments, or just saw a way of saying the same thing in a
clearer way, I'd sometimes 'edit' my comment.  Not to alter
the meaning, but to polish the presentation.  I'm sure I wasn't
the only one.  There was one lengthy comment I kept refining
as, no sooner did I think it finished than something else occur-
red to me to say.  However, as it was in the early hours of the
morning, it was unlikely to have been read (and it certainly
hadn't been replied to),  so I continued to sculpt and to
mould it 'til I was satisfied.  However, I didn't alter
its tone or intent - no back-pedalling.

Now, as I was later advised by the site-owner,
one of the moderators had never wanted me to be al-
lowed to join in the first place, and was prejudiced against
me.  He suspended the edit facility for every member,  then
tipped off another member that he'd done so because of me.
When I enquired about the missing edit facility, the favoured
member jumped in to say it was because I 'kept changing my
comments', thus demonstrating that he had inside ('though
innacurate) information.  The site owner later conceded
it appeared obvious that the individual was being
privately supplied with internal info.

Regular readers know what eventually happened
next, so I'll skip past all that to avoid repeating myself.
(Details can be found here.)  No doubt you'll be wondering
why I'm airing the topic again  Well, about a year or so ago, I
received an email from a comics-blogger who'd once been an
editor at a prominent publishing company.  He explained that
he objected to something I'd written and had taken the 'pre-
caution' of taking a screen-grab, as I was 'well-known' for
'editing' my blog posts - 'something we all do', he later
stated, seemingly unaware of the glaring absurdity
of his inconsistent double-standards.

When I challenged him and asked him to provide
even one example in support of his claim, he recanted
and apologised, 'though his subsequent attitude caused me
to doubt the sincerity of his apology.  However, I was left to
wonder whether there was a link between his mistaken per-
ception that I altered my posts for the unethical purpose of
misdirection or deception, and the malicious misinfor-
mation promulgated by a disgruntled, disingenuous
moderator on that other comics forum.

So, I freely admit (and always have) that, in my
fruitless quest for 'perfection', I edit, revise, correct,
update and polish my blog posts, to make them as factual,
informative, entertaining, and as visually appealing as they
can possibly be, but I don't alter them to say the opposite
of what I'd originally published in order to escape any po-
tential embarrassment, consequence, or legal penalty
which might ensue from anything I'd written.

And yes, I may well edit this post - if it occurs to
me how to convey the exact same 'content' in a better,
smarter, funnier (and shorter) way than I have.  However,
the purpose of the post and the message contained therein
will remain intact.  Improvement of expression is no bad
thing - so long as the original spirit or intention isn't com-
promised.  Some people would do well to bear that in
mind before making unfounded  accusations.


(And indeed, I've now pruned it back, as there was
 too much repetition of details provided in the link.) 


KEN REID was among the cream of the crop of British cartoonists,
and, looking at the above strip, all the exquisite detailing for which he
was justly renowned is still evident.  However, although this is a lovely
page, I think I see a hint of the beginning of the later decline in Ken's art,
in that the panel compositions are mainly 'side-on', making the charac-
ters appear one-dimensional.  The inevitable result, alas, of being
drawn mostly in profile.  As I said 'though, still a lovely page.

Friday, 13 January 2017


It was the long, hot Summer of 1977.  (Ever noticed how all
Summers seem long and hot in the hallowed halls of memory?)  40
years ago, but (astonishingly) as fresh and alive in my mind as a lover's
whispered goodbye.  Myself and two friends were making our way to the
local YMCA, where one of them was moving into for a few months before
relocating to Cornwall to begin his training for a (short-lived) career in the
Royal Navy.  The sun beat down upon us, a gentle breeze caressed our
heated brows, and, from the speaker of a small radio one of us carried,
came the 45 rpm version of BOND '77 by MARVIN HAMLISCH,
who had written the soundtrack of the soon-to-be-released
blockbuster biggie, The SPY Who LOVED ME.

I purchased the single (which I still have) that same day, from
the record department of my local BOOTS The CHEMIST (the
shop whose employ I'd left only a few months before), and my next ac-
quisition was the original soundtrack LP the instant it became available.
At the appointed time, I also dutifully trotted along to the local cinema
(called, unsurprisingly and unimaginatively, 'The CINEMA', which
had the largest screen in Scotland) to see the 10th JAMES BOND
movie in the 15 year-old series which had started in 1962.

Bond girl Caroline Munro
Back then, in the days before
home video had become the latest
'must have' possession, the only way to
see a movie more than once (not count-
ing repeats on TV) was to trot back to
the cinema for another screening, which
I usually did - again and again and again
- 'though only with movies I'd enjoyed,
obviously.  I no longer recall exactly how
many times I went to see The Spy Who
Loved Me, but I know I saw MOON-
RAKER four times two years later, and,
in between, I'd seen SUPERMAN The
MOVIE a staggering seven times (five
in the ABC in Glasgow's Sauchiehall
Street, twice in my local cinema)
before I was fully sated.

Anyway, on my last visit to see The Spy Who Loved Me,
I spied (no pun intended) the manager, Mr. BOB JOHNSTONE,
in the foyer as I made my way out.  On a spur-of-the moment whim
(and what other kind is there?), I approached him and politely asked if
I could have the poster as the movie was at the end of its run.  Much to
my surprise he acquiesced, and duly set about taking it from its display
case before pressing it into my eager  hands.  I still have it to this day,
'though, sadly, Mr. Johnstone has 'retired' to that great cinema club
in the sky and 'The Cinema' is now a Bingo hall (and has
been for longer than its 20 years as a cinema).

So, here's to the Summer of '77 - long since vanished into
history, but the spirit of which yet lingers and is only a thought
and sometimes merely a dream (or even just a movie) away.


MICHELLE KEEGAN smoulders in
her slinky black dress, looking sultry as all
get-out.  Now that's what I call style!


Dr. WHO copyright BBC TV

There's a great free gift available with the February issue of
DOCTOR WHO MONTHLY (#508) - a complete adventure of
the good Doctor, first published in weekly instalments back in 1972.
The mag also contains an extremely interesting and entertaining in-
terview with TERRENCE DICKS, script editor during perhaps
the most popular decade in the BBC TV show's history.
Was it really 45 years ago I read these stories in the pages of
COUNTDOWN?  I guess so, but it only seems like a couple or so
years ago at most.  I've read them since then of course, in MARVEL
U.K.'s DOCTOR WHO CLASSIC COMICS, published monthly in
the 1990s.  In this new reprinting, they're described as being 'cleaned
up', but whether it was done for this outing or the previous one isn't
stated.  The pages do look good, but, oddly, the original spine
crease is still visible in the magazine's centrespread.

A minor oversight however, and don't let it put you off pur-
chasing this ish and reliving one of The Doctor's greatest comic
strip adventures featuring his greatest foes - The DALEKS!
Available now in FP, WHS, and all good newsagents.

Thursday, 12 January 2017


Images copyright DC COMICS

I tend to think of  JIM STARLIN as a MARVEL artist,
probably because I first saw his artwork on the cover of The
MIGHTY WORLD Of MARVEL #2, and, with an occasional
exception, it's been mainly Marvel mags I've seen his art in ever
since.  However, here's a 1978 DC comic I picked up just a few
weeks back which features Jaunty Jim's take on SUPERBOY

but below is a trio of pages by Jim Starlin himself.  I'm bound
to say that the cover masthead is the most boring I can recall
ever seeing on a DC mag - or, in fact, any mag by any U.S.
publisher.  Anyone think I'm being too harsh?

Anyway - on to the pretty piccies...

Wednesday, 11 January 2017


From the same issue of BUSTER & JET as last time, here's
another strip drawn by REG PARLETT, who was a superlative
cartoonist.  Everything he drew looked funny!  Remember to
watch out for more comic antics soon, Criv-ite chums!


Now isn't that a face to wake up to?
And the rest of her ain't bad either!  Okay,
CANDY, go and make me a wee cuppa tea,
there's a good girl.  (What, me sexist and
condescending?  Never!)