Wednesday, 17 December 2014


Someone I know still has the Christmas candle he made at our
Primary school way, way back in the 1960s.  At least, he did when he
told me this around a quarter of a century ago.  You may be wondering
whether his informing me of this fact is what inspired me to re-create my
own candle, or it was seeing my 'replica edition' which prompted his
revelation; or at least you would be if you had the same interest
in trivial detail as myself.  (It was the latter, actually.)

I used a toilet roll tube as the basis for the candle, which I
wrapped in red cellophane and then added a flame effect to the top.
Next, I smeared a polystyrene ceiling tile with POLYFILLA, sprinkled
it with glitter, and then fixed the candle and some fir cones (bought from
WOOLWORTH'S, as they were bigger than the ones I could pick up
from the street) in place 'til the Polyfilla dried.  I also added laminated,
colour laser copies of two Santas I have from back in my Primary
school days, plus some cake decorations to finish it off.  (That's
my best BLUE PETER audition attempt.)

Off course, it's of a far better quality than the one I made as
a kid all those years ago, but it's constructed in the exact same way,
with one minor exception.  Namely, the flame effect, which, back then,
would've been drawn with wax crayons, whereas I used inks, paints
or marker pens on this occasion.  (Maybe even a combination
of all three - can't quite remember now.)

Anyway, so proud of it am I that I thought I'd show it here.
I won't mind in the slightest should any of you be consumed with
an overwhelming desire to tell me how creative, multi-talented or
wonderful I am.  Go on - one little lie isn't going to kill you!

Tuesday, 16 December 2014


JINGLE BELLS, as most (if not all) American
readers will know, is not actually a Christmas song.  Well,
it is now, of course, but didn't start out that way.  Originally
(and this is for British readers), it was a Thanksgiving song
called ONE HORSE OPEN SLEIGH.  We don't observe
that celebration on this side of the pond 'though, so we've
always associated it with the Yuletide season.

The original version had five verses, two of which
are now commonly ignored as they don't really lend 
themselves to the song's adopted Christmas theme.

Anyway, here's the velvet-voiced JIM REEVES
with his rendition.  Everybody sing along now. 


Credit where credit is due dept:  I saw this over on
MARK EVANIER's blog (link in sidebar) and it's so
good I thought I'd share it with you.  I wonder what
THE KING'S SINGERS could do with it?

Monday, 15 December 2014


Incredibly, in my advanced state of age and decrepitude, I some-
times find myself looking back on my schooldays with a certain amount
of wistful yearning.  I'm not quite sure why, because I never much liked
school at the time, being an inveterate daydreamer who gazed through
the classroom windows at the wider world beyond with a longing
to be out there and enjoying myself.

My least favourite subject in school was PE (physical education
- or exercise), and I was forever 'forgetting' my shorts or gym-shoes in
order to avoid what I saw as pointless exertion.  A healthy life may be
a happy life, but I was unconvinced of this philosophy, much prefer-
ring a state of restful inactivity and thoughtful contemplation.

The PE teachers were an odd mix, the chief perpetrator of officially
sanctioned child torture being an overweight baldie by the name of Mr.
MacDOUGAL, who had a stogie permanently protruding from his facial
orifice.  He wore a blue tracksuit which showcased his distended stomach,
ample and ironic testimony of his own far from ideal physical condition.
(He bore an uncanny resemblance to actor WILLIAM MERVYN
from ALL GAS AND GAITERS, a once popular TV sit-com.)

Mr. MacDougal's favourite 'sport' was sadistically tweaking the
nipples of any pupil who incurred his disfavour -something he seemed
to take perverse delight in.  Nowadays, of course, this cruelty wouldn't
be tolerated and he'd be fired faster than a fart from the FLASH, but
things were different back then.  Such behaviour tends to confirm the
long and commonly-held suspicion that all PE teachers are perverts
of some description anyway (allegedly). 

There were two other guys (and at least one woman - to teach
the girls, presumably), one of whom had a perm and moustache that
HARRY ENFIELD's Scousers would be proud of.  (The other one
may well have been similarly styled - they tended to conform to the
same 1970s pattern of what was then considered the epitome of
manliness, but now seems overwhelmingly 'camp'.)

On the particular occasion which I am now about to relate,
I had recently been legitimately excused from a few PE periods
on account of a sprained ankle.  One afternoon, I was limping along
the corridor outside the changing rooms on my way to another class,
when I was suddenly sent sprawling onto the floor by the extended
foot of the moustachioed instructor - who'd quite deliberately
tripped me up, the b*st*rd.

He then proceeded to berate me for wearing gym-shoes (ironic
or what?), proclaiming that they weren't suitable footwear for school
(outside of the gym hall, obviously), nor part of the approved school
uniform.  I explained that I was wearing them because of a sprained
(and bandaged) ankle and they were more comfortable to wear
in my less then flexible state.

That night at home, I recounted the event to my father, who
visited the school the next day to speak to the headmaster about
the instructor's behaviour.  When the teacher next saw me, he sum-
moned me over and snarled "Next time, tell your father to come
and see me, not the headmaster!"  What a pr*ck, eh?

My father originated from a rough area of Glasgow, so it must
have been an effort of will on his part to resist taking up the offer,
but he registered his annoyance at the school.  Whether the instructor
was ever spoken to about his second misdemeanour I never found
out, but I don't recall any further incident from him.

I think it's obvious that much of the trouble which teachers
have encountered over the last couple of decades can be traced
back to incidents similar to my own (which were by no means unique),
which started a trend of resistance to any perception of unfair discipline
in the minds of then-future parents, who'd be automatically inclined to
take their kids' side in any confrontation between pupils and staff,
due to their own experience of injustice at school.  Now, of
course, things have gone too far the other way.

So what have I learned from looking back at my schoolboy
escapades?  Merely that I still hate any form of physical exercise -
unless it involves a nubile nymphomaniac with a penchant for old
middle-aged men who look remarkably like myself.  (Although
I'd probably settle for a nice cup of tea and a biscuit.)

Any schooltime scandals of your own that you'd
care to relate?  The floor is all yours.


Let's be honest, lads - if you had a woman like
HEATHER THOMAS at home, you'd never
leave the house, would you?  (Sigh!  I'd better go
out and get the shopping in then.)


If you're a BAT-FAN of a certain age and looking to treat your-
self for Christmas, here's an idea.  Why not pop along to your local
FORBIDDEN PLANET and nab these key chains (remember to pay
for them of course) of ADAM WEST's and BURT WARD's BATMAN
& ROBIN figures?!  They're just the sort of collectables that all true fans
of the 1966 TV show will love.  I won't be using them as key chains of
course - I'll be hanging them on the wall to remind myself of my
childhood whenever I look at them.

Also available are the BATMOBILE, THE JOKER, THE 
PENGUIN and CATWOMAN.  Don't miss out - trot along to
your local FP today!

Sunday, 14 December 2014


Image copyright Marvel Comics

 Christmas has come early to Castel Robsono, as Bashful BARRY
PEARL has selflessly sent me some Yuletide presents from the good ol'
USA.  Barry is one of the men behind the ROY THOMAS/JOSH BAKER
book, 75 YEARS OF MARVEL, released not long ago by TASCHEN.
being the other two contributors.)

#30, from the '60s, drawn by DICK AYERS.  The cover-layout is a bit
'all over the place' (figures on different levels), but the mag is a real slice
of early Marvel, and one I'm looking forward to reading soon.

Next (above) is STEVE DITKO'S 160 PAGE PACKAGE, published
by ROBIN SNYDER.  The contents are from 1999, and it's interesting to
see how Ditko's work has evolved over the years - not really for the better,
it has to be truthfully ('though sadly) said.  It's hard to believe that this is by
the same hand as the creative and artistic genius behind SPIDER-MAN
and DOCTOR STRANGE.  Not that the artwork is bad as such, but
it's not in the same league as Steve's earlier work.

Now look at the above little beauty - containing the first 125 pages of
art and story by JACK 'KING' KIRBY.  It's interesting to see Kirby at
the start of his career, and tracking how his talent developed into what later
became the 'Marvel style'.  Art restoration has come on in leaps and bounds
since GREG THEAKSTON originated his 'bleaching' process, and no doubt
better reproductions of these pages now exist, but it's still a great book
to have, containing as it does an interview with Jack himself.

So thanks to Barry for helping me fill out my Christmas stocking.
I, being Scottish, am by nature a complete Scrooge - but I might send
him a single MALTESER - if I'm able to find a stamp small enough to put
on the wrapper.  On second thoughts, there's no point - someone would be
bound to smell the chocolate and scoff it before it got there.  I'll close with
the illustration from Barry's Christmas card -  the sentiments of which
would make the world a better place if only we could all live by
them, I'm sure you'll agree.  'Nuff said!


While we're all here, I  might as well show you the cover of the
very book that Barry and his chums helped Roy & Josh produce,
so here it is.  Available now in FORBIDDEN PLANET - and
other comicbook stores and bookshops as well, of course.


Memories, memories.  When I was a kid, I was a member of the
Boys' Brigade for a time, who met in the hall of the church across the
road from where I then lived.  One year, we were shown a catalogue from
which we could order various Christmas goodies, and I chose a chocolate
Advent calendar with an illo of Santa on it.  There was something about
that picture that appealed to me, and I eagerly awaited its arrival.

Imagine my disappointment then, when I received a different one
to what I'd been expecting and paid for.  "They must have been out of
them, so they've sent another!" was all the female Brigade leader said by
way of explanation.  However, I never quite forgot that Santa, and many
years later (at least 20 I'd say, perhaps more), I saw a pack of three plastic
hanging Santas, identical to the one on the Advent calendar from so long
before.  (I think I obtained them from another mail order catalogue,
but it could've been from a local shop.)

That's one of them illustrating the top of this post and, as I said, it's
a dead-ringer for the undelivered one from my childhood.  I've also got
a much smaller one, a cake decoration, which I acquired too many years
ago for me to recall exactly when (although it was after the larger ones).
Every Christmas, when I'm hanging them out, a mere glance transports me
back to that church hall (demolished around 22 years ago) and I'm once
again a ten year old boy with practically my whole life ahead of me.

To borrow (and tweak) some lines of verse from
Iain Osborne's poem, HALCYON DAYS:

"Remembering with poignant joy,
the happy lad I was at ten -
And wishing I could be that boy,
if only for one day again."

Do you have any recollections of Christmases past
which you'd like to share with your fellow Criv-ites?  If
so, the comments section awaits.

Saturday, 13 December 2014


In 1982, THE DAILY RECORD started running a new comic
strip - SMALL WORLD by DON ROBERTS.  I cut out the first
one they published and put it on my bedroom wall, where, over the
course of 32 years (and two houses), it has been ravaged by age
and is now faded, crinkled, and at the end of its shelf life.

However, I'm determined to preserve its image, so earlier tonight
I removed it from my wall and scanned it, removing as many of the
crinkles and age spots as I can via the aid of computer technology.
What you see above is the result of my efforts so far.  The next stage
is to 'bleach' it, then re-ink and re-colour it so that I can then print
out a new copy to take its place on the wall.  The bleached
version is below.

I'll keep you updated when I can find the time to finish what I've
started.  If, however, you have (or know where I can get) a pristine
copy of this strip somewhere, then do me a favour and let me
know, will you?  It'll save me some work.


No, don't worry, JAMELIA isn't naked - she's
got something on.  (A rabbit, to be precise.)


Continuing our series of JIM REEVES' Seasonal
songs, here's the tall Texan with a rendition of BLUE
CHRISTMAS that actually fits the mood of the song.
(ELVIS PRESLEY's version is too much of a 'toe-
tapper' for my tastes, good as it is.) 


Image copyright Marvel Comics

Back at the end of October, reader DUNCAN MACKINTOSH
reminded me that I'd had a letter printed in SUPER SPIDER-MAN
THE TITANS #206.  Well, you could've knocked me down with
a feather 'cos I'd clean forgotten about it.  I wasn't long in acquiring a
replacement (although, now that I think about it, the person to whom
I gave my original copy back in the '70s still has it), so I thought I'd
share my Mighty Marvel Missive with those of you who didn't
see Duncan's comment a couple of months ago.  Read on...


               Dear Bullpen,

               In a recent letters page, in reply to an enquiry about "The Missing
               Link/Johnny Future" saga, you said that earlier you had considered
               reprinting this series but had decided not to at present.  I'd just like
               to say I really enjoyed these stories when they first appeared in "Fan-
               tastic", so I'd just like to say you've got my support if you ever decide
               to publish this strip.  I was privileged only to read a few stories, so I
               look forward to reading the complete set at some future date.  You
               could even arrange a battle between the Hulk and the Missing Link
               as a fill-in, because they're similar in appearance and it would
               provide an interesting story.

               G. I. Robson,

               We're particularly gratified to receive your approbation of the
               Missing Link/Johnny Future saga because we had a big hand in
               the production of it. (Yep - all those years ago!)  Those Marvelites
               currently showing such fantastic interest in Cap. Britain might like
               to know that the artist was British produced (well, apart from the
               fact that the artist was a Spaniard!)  There are no present plans
               for re-publishing the series in British Marvels...but who knows
               what the future (and no pun intended!) may hold...


The Spanish artist, of course, was and is LUIS BERJEMO,
still going strong today (as far as I know).  I'm puzzled as to why
I said I'd only read a few of the strips, because when I eventually
acquired back numbers of FANTASTIC years later, I seemed to re-
call the majority of the weekly instalments.  I can only assume that, in
between having my memory refreshed, I'd simply forgotten reading
most of them at the time of my letter.  Or perhaps, devious teen-
ager that I was, I thought that Marvel might take pity on me
for having missed these classics and republish them.

What's interesting about the response is that it's probably
by ALF WALLACE (of ALF, BARTCOS fame) who was
the editor of ODHAMS PRESS POWER COMICS back in the
'60s, and who, in the '70s, was working for MARVEL U.K.  (What's
more, it's thought that he wrote at least some of the Missing Link/
Johnny Future strips back in the day.)  So things had come full
circle for him in being once again connected to Marvel.

From my point of view, as I had gotten into Marvel stories
through the Power Comics reprints, it gives me a little thrill to
think that Alf himself answered my letter to British Marvel way
back in '77.  What puzzles me is why I ever gave the comic away
- I must've forgotten that letter pretty quickly.  (Got it back now
'though, so a big thanks to Duncan for taking the time and
effort to remind me of its existence!)

Anyway, so far I've managed to account for four letters
I had printed in British Marvel mags of the '70s.  If anyone
uncovers any others, please let me know.

Thursday, 11 December 2014


I posted a link to this song a couple of years or so
back, but it's so good that it's deserves another airing.
The song first appeared in the BOB HOPE 1951 movie,
believe, was the first singer to release it on record.  Then
JIM REEVES eventually lent his golden voice to the
Yuletide lyrics and did the best version available.
Give it a listen and see if you agree. 

Wednesday, 10 December 2014


Are you old enough to remember THE FALL
GUY starring LEE MAJORS?  Then you'll likely
also recall HEATHER THOMAS, who was  the
best thing about the '80s show.  "Can I fold that
towel for you, Heather dear?  Oh, go on!"

Tuesday, 9 December 2014


Here's the late, great JIM REEVES with a song that
sums up the spirit of Christmas.  Just listen to how long
he holds that note at the end - amazing!


The goalposts are shifting again, it appears.  The disabled,
whose plea was once that they be treated the same as more able-
bodied folks, now seem to expect preferential treatment.  The cause
of the most recent stramash is that a woman with a pushchair on a bus
refused to relinquish her seat in response to the demands of a man in a
wheelchair who wanted to board the vehicle.  As far as I understand,
the woman was already on board (in an area usually available for
prams, pushchairs and wheelchairs) when the bus pulled into
a stop where the wheelchair user was waiting.

The woman's baby was asleep, but presumably her refusal to
move was because there was no space to relocate to, rather than
from a lack of empathy for her would-be fellow passenger.  Or per-
haps his manner in 'requesting' her to move was overbearing
and ruffled her feathers somewhat.  

Regardless of the precise details in this particular case, it gives
rise to an interesting question.  If you've paid your fare, should you
be obliged to give up your seat or leave the bus to allow someone else
a space who feels that their need to get to the shops (or return home)
is greater than yours?  I seldom use a bus, but I have a congenital liver
disorder that leaves me constantly fatigued, meaning I often have to
sit down when I'm out and about.  Should I be compelled to give up
my seat to an older person who might be far fitter than me, just
because it superficially appears that they're more in need
of it - or simply just want it?

If you're able-bodied and there are no seats on a bus, surely
you just wait for the next one?  Shouldn't it be the same for those
who are disabled or impaired in some way?  Or are they within their
rights to demand that everyone else should give way to accommodate
them?  Am I being too harsh in thinking that being 'treated the same
way as everybody else' entails having to put up with the same in-
conveniences and disappointments that the able-bodied do?

What are your thoughts on this controversial subject?

Monday, 8 December 2014


To be honest, I'm not 100% sure who the artist is of this GIRL
FROM U.N.C.L.E. strip from the 1968 LADY PENELOPE Annual.
My first thought was Spanish artist ENRIQUE BADIA ROMERO,
who drew (amongst many other things) the MODESTY BLAISE and
AXA newspaper strips.  However, it could well be another artist with
a similar style - anyone know for sure?


Having enlarged the pages for further study.
I'm now pretty sure the artist is Romero.


Brrrr!  It's a cold day, so here's a hot piccie of actress
JENNIFER LAWRENCE to help warm you up.  Beats
a hot water bottle any day of the week, eh?

Sunday, 7 December 2014


Long-time regular readers may recall me recounting that it was my
family's accustomed practice to visit my maternal grandparents every
Sunday in the 1960s and '70s.  At the side of my grandfather's armchair
sat a small brass box (designed originally for coal or kindling, I suppose)
in which resided a selection of chocolate confectionery.  When the old
mantle-clock struck eight, it would be opened, and my brother and
myself allowed to choose two bars each.  One was for immediate
consumption and the other was for school the next day.

Oh, the cornucopia of tempting treats that lay before our awestruck
(yes, they did it in bar-form, too), FRY'S CHOCOLATE CREAM and
WAYS, BOUNTYS - you name it, that box had it!  It's a wonder that
I still have my own teeth.

FRY'S FIVE BOYS, of course, had nothing to do with any seedy
perverts' depraved yearnings, but was a chocolate bar with pics of five
faces, representing desperation, pacification, expectation, acclamation
and, finally, realisation that it was a Fry's bar of chocolate.  In contrast to
the name, it wasn't five separate boys, but rather five stages of the same
boy's reactions.  Originally, the bar was called Fry's Milk Chocolate,
but the advertising campaign must have struck a nerve with the
public and it was renamed at some stage.

Sources differ as to what year it was withdrawn, some citing
1972, others '76, but one thing's for sure - whenever I hear the name
or see the wrapper, I'm transported once again to the days of my child-
hood, when everybody, it seems, was far more innocent and the title of
this post had an entirely different connotation that wouldn't have raised
an eyebrow.  (For those unaware, 'Scouting For Boys' was the title of
ROBERT BADEN-POWELL's book for youngsters, published
in 1908.)  Oh, for those days again, I'm sure you agree.


Incidentally, the former Fry's factory (they merged with
Cadbury's in 1919) only closed in 2011. The boy who posed for
the original photographs was called LINDSAY POULTON,
and the bar first went on sale in 1902.


I wrote out my Christmas cards last night for all my
friends. I'd bought a box of 40, so I still have 38 left if any-
body's looking to buy some.  (Oh, what a wag I am.)  On the
subject of cards, here's the legendary JIM REEVES being
sentimental over one card in particular.  If you can relate
to what he's singing about, let's hear your story.

Friday, 5 December 2014


Funny how some things seem different in black and white, eh?
This MIKE NOBLE illustrated FIREBALL XL5 story was first
published in full colour in TV CENTURY 21 in 1965, and reprinted
in 'monochrome' in 1971 in COUNTDOWN.  When I look at the colour
version, memories of where I lived at the time come flooding back, and
when I look at the black and white presentation, a completely different
set of memories in another house six years later is forefront in my
mind.  The same tale, but two completely different sets of recol-
lections and associations - weird, eh?  Or perhaps not.

Anyway, although I've presented the colour pages in a series
of posts a couple of years or so ago, I thought I'd show the black
and white ones for all those who first experienced the adventure in this
format.  The story has been reprinted three more times since then::  in
CENTURY 21 in 1991, in (mainly) black and white (the first two pages
were in colour), a couple or so years after that in IPC/FLEETWAY's
THUNDERBIRDS comic, and again a few short years ago in one of
a series of books by REYNOLDS & HEARN, also entitled
CENTURY 21 (and also in full colour in both latter cases).

On the same subject, a few years back, I purchased a DVD
two disc set of FRANK CAPRA's movie IT'S A WONDERFUL
LIFE, containing the original b&w film, plus a colourised version.
(This was to replace a video of the colour version I'd bought back in
the '80s.)  I know some purists might disagree, but it adds a whole new
dimension to the cinematic classic when viewed in full colour.  You can
currently obtain the double-disc set from WHS for only £9.99 -
and it includes four cards and a poster.  Go on - give it a try! 

In the meantime, enjoy again one of STEVE ZODIAC &
Crew's finest comic strip adventures.  "Fire retros, Robert!"

Thursday, 4 December 2014


Here's Gentleman JIM REEVES with his rendition
of MARY'S BOY CHILD.  Are you listening, CJ?


Gentlemen, I give you - JAMELIA!
(Drool cups at the ready.)

Wednesday, 3 December 2014


If you suddenly awoke from a deep sleep to inexplicably find
yourself embarked on a train journey, destination unknown, you'd
probably be startled and wonder "Where the hell am I and how did I
get here?"  Seems an obvious reaction, right?  You wouldn't merely
open your eyes and gaze out of the carriage window as though you
expected to find yourself in transit like it was the most natural
thing in the world, would you?

In contrast, when fully-functioning consciousness (i.e. sequential
thought and memory) first dawns within us as children and we become
able to recognise our surroundings and the people around us (when we
'wake up' in other words), we simply take it in our stride and don't seem
in any way surprised or perturbed by the situation.  Not until much later
do we start asking philosophical questions about why we're here and
where we're going in this unplanned (at least from our perspective)
journey we call 'life'.  Yet, essentially, the two situations are the
same - so why such different reactions in each case?

This has always puzzled me, as has the fact that when we first
become 'aware', we have no sense of never having existed - nor do
we have one of having a specific beginning.  It's as if, in some mystical,
magical, inexplicable way, we've always been - and that we always will
'be'.  Life soon enough erodes the gossamer foundations supporting
the illusion of immortality - at least as far as the physical goes.

As for the 'spiritual', I'd like to think that my consciousness will
somehow survive the expiration of my physical body, but a nagging
doubt assails me.  You see, our conscious selves give every indication of
being inextricably bound to our physicality, seem entirely inter-depen-
dent.  Therefore, since that which we regard as the 'soul' (personality,
individuality, etc.,) doesn't appear to exist separately before birth,
why should it continue to exist on its own after death?

'Tis said that it's better to travel hopefully than to arrive (to
paraphrase Robert Louis Stevenson) - but if hope should dis-
embark at an earlier stop, the remaining miles can make the trip a
lonely one.  And what awaits us at the end of the journey?
I wish I could supply you with some profound and constructive
conclusions to my meandering musings, but I find myself ill-equipped
for the task.  If you have any pertinent observations you'd like to
make on this subject, the comments section awaits your input.

Tuesday, 2 December 2014


Well, the Yuletide season is almost upon us, so let's all try
and get into the spirit of things by listening to MR. VELVET
himself, JIM REEVES, singing BING CROSBY's biggest-ever
hit - WHITE CHRISTMAS.  Won't be long now folks - I'll link
to more of Gentleman Jim's festive songs as the big day
approaches.  Aren't you lucky?!