Tuesday, 30 July 2013

MEMORIES ARE FOREVER...



I've always been fascinated by how a mere glimpse of a picture
from one's past can conjure up specific recollections of a particular
time and place from so very long ago.  The above book cover photo is
just such an example, as looking at it instantly transports me back to my
father's greenhouse on a sunny summer day in the mid-'70s, where, sur-
rounded by tomato plants and the accoutrements of the keen gardener,
I sat and immersed myself in the world of BOND...JAMES BOND
as the magnified heat of the sun beat down upon me.

The book - COLONEL SUN, by ROBERT MARKHAM
(alias KINGSLEY AMIS), was already a few years old by the time
I discovered it in my local RS McCOLL's, but that didn't bother me at
all, if I was even aware of it at the time.  Unusually for me, apart from a
 couple of scenes, I don't recall much of the story itself ('though I'm sure
it will all come back to me when I read it again), but that day in the
back garden greenhouse is as fresh as if it were only last week.

The copy I used to have was printed circa 1973 or '74, but the
one I've just re-acquired is the first edition from 1970.  Not that it
matters, as the cover is exactly the same, which is why I bought it -
 to more fully re-experience the memories that resurfaced upon
sight of a thumbnail image of the paperback on eBay.

One day I plan to sit down and re-read it, when I can
devote myself to it uninterrupted.  My father's greenhouse and
tomato plants are long-gone (as is he), but some sunny day, I'll put
out a chair on the spot they once occupied and try and recapture that
glorious summer afternoon when I accompanied 007 as he yet again
saved the world - all from the comfort of a red, white and yellow
striped deckchair in a greenhouse in my back garden.

Me (and a pal) in my back garden in 1977.  My father
is reading a newspaer in his greenhouse behind me

Monday, 29 July 2013

SUPERCAR & FIREBALL XL5 - PART TWO OF TV COMIC ANNUAL 1963...



As I promised you all last time, here's the second part of the GERRY
ANDERSON content from the 1963 TV COMIC ANNUAL (released in
'62), including the game on the back cover and the accompanying spinner
and counters.  Now, printer permitting, you have everything you need
to have a go at reliving a game from your long ago childhood. 

When the FIREBALL XL5 story was being prepared for the annual,
the show had not yet aired on TV, and it's clear from the art that some
drawings of the actual craft were based on concept pictures of Fireball
at an early stage in its development, when it had a slightly sleeker design
and was called CENTURY 21.  That's right - Fireball XL5 was originally
named Century 21 and was a silvery-blue-ish  colour.  (See pic.)

It seems that the artist, NEVILLE MAIN, only had reference
to black and white photos, as the colours of the crew's uniforms don't
match up to their TV counterparts.  However, this was the first time that
Fireball had appeared anywhere, so it's a genuine collectors' item.  Not
quite up there with mighty MIKE NOBLE's supeb strips in the later
TV CENTURY 21 comic, perhaps, but a nice enough little tale for
the slightly younger readership that TV Comic attracted.

And once again, BILL MEVIN turned out a nicely drawn story of
SUPERCAR, with an effective application of colour that would've had
a greater impact on readers of the '60s than it does us, as the programme
was made and broadcast in monochrome.  That was one of the attractions
of TV21 when it made its 1965 debut  - viewers could see the characters
and craft of their favourite puppet programmes in colour, many for
the very first time if they'd missed the TV Comic publications.
  
Anyway, that's enough prattling preamble from me - we
now unleash you upon all the pretty piccies.  Enjoy.
  



******


Not from the annual, here's a concept drawing by DEREK MEDDINGS
of Fireball XL5 when it was originally called Century 21.  As you can see,
the first drawing  (as well as one or two others) of XL5 in the story below
seems to have been based directly on the visualisation above.  (In regard
to shape - especially the nose-cone - not colour, obviously.)
  





Sunday, 28 July 2013

TV COMIC ANNUAL 1963 - PART ONE...

 
 
I now bestow upon you the first of a two-part presentation of the
GERRY ANDERSON content of the TV COMIC ANNUAL for 1963.
We start off, 'though, with a non-Anderson MIKE NOBLE illustrated
adventure of THE RANGE RIDER. Is there anything the man can't
draw? And BILL MEVIN does a great job on the SUPERCAR story
which follows it, capturing the spirit of the TV show perfectly!
  







Saturday, 27 July 2013

OFFICIAL - DENNIS THE MENACE IS GAY...



What you're looking at is BEANO sub-editor IAN CHISHOLM's
first sketch of DENNIS THE MENACE, drawn on a cigarette packet
when the idea of the character was first being discussed.  (Followed by
the first-ever strip drawn by DAVID LAW.)  The name was nicked from
a once-popular song called DENNIS THE MENACE FROM VENICE,
about a gay gondolier, although obviously the word was used in its old-
fashioned sense, and not in the way it's more often used today.

What with a gondolier and a sailor having such a hand in
Dennis's 'birth', it's obvious that the young scamp must come
from seafaring stock.  Maybe he'll join the navy one day.

******

(And, lest it isn't clear to some people, it's the gondolier
called Dennis who I'm alluding to in the title of this post, not
the famous comic strip character from The Beano.)

Thursday, 25 July 2013

BEANO AND DANDY SPECIALS - ON SALE NOW...

 
 
was in my local WH SMITH's yesterday and, not seeing it on
display, I asked whether they had THE BEANO 75th BIRTHDAY
SPECIAL. "It never came in today, although it was supposed to - it'll
probably come in tomorrow", was the response of some disinterested
assistant. That meant, of course, that it was sitting in the back shop,
waiting for someone to extract the digit and put it out on sale.
 
I was in again today and there it was, so I ventured to ask about
THE LAST EVER DANDY SUMMER SPECIAL as I dug out some
dosh to make my purchase. "They don't publish The Dandy anymore",
I was told in response to my query. "Yes, I know - but this is a special
bookazine called...etc., etc.," I explained, rapidly losing the will to live.
"I'll ask one of my colleagues if she knows," he replied, and, with me
in tow, made his way over to where she was.
 
 
We'll be here all night if I relate the back-and-forth dialogue that
ensued - did I mean The Beano?, they don't publish The Dandy any-
more, blah, blah, blah - so I'll cut to the chase. Eventually the woman
said: "I'll take a look in the back because, if we might have it, I know
where it'll be kept." A few minutes later she returned, holding half-
a-dozen copies of the aforesaid publication that, according to her
and her colleague, hadn't existed a mere five minutes before.
 
If I hadn't asked about it and not taken no for an answer, I can't help
but wonder if it would ever have made it out to the shelves, or simply
sat in a corner somewhere in the back shop until being returned to the
distributor. What a way to run a business. WHS staff seem to regard
most of their magazines as a nuisance, forgetting the fact it's one
of the primary reasons for the company's existence.
 
 
Anyway, I finally purchased the two Specials, and in the main,
they're worth the dosh. One thing I find irritating about DCT's reprint
books and magazines however, is the way they 'busy' up the pages, instead
of just having plain and simple white margins 'round the strips as they were
originally published. They often have something obscuring part of the strip
or simply adding clutter to the pages and it drives me up the wall. Are you
listening, Dundee publishers? Stop ruining the strips at once! (Having
said that, these two mags aren't as bad as on previous occasions.)
 
Clearly, the two publications should be similarly priced at £5.99,
but DCT seem to have have shaved £1 off The Dandy Special (£4.99)
and added it to The Beano one (£6.99). Perhaps they knew WHS would
be hiding the former in the back shop and this was a way of cutting
down on their losses? (Yes, I'm joking!)

Anyway, two Specials that every Beano and Dandy fan should
have in their collections. The Dandy is marked #2, following on from
last year's, so no doubt there'll be more in the future. (Probably not
with the word 'Summer' in the title 'though.)

Wednesday, 24 July 2013

GOOD NEWS: THE BEANO TURNS 75 YEARS OLD. BAD NEWS: 60 YEAR-OLD ROGER THE DODGER IS MURDERED...


Images copyright D.C. THOMSON & Co., Ltd

Picked up the latest issue of The BEANO today, celebrating 75
years of publishing.  Took a quick look through it and was glad to see
that they've now switched back to an upper case lettering font which,
despite claims by some, does not give the impression that everyone is
shouting - and is also much easier to read.  (And just looks better!)

The bad news 'though, is that long-running stalwart, ROGER
The DODGER has been murdered - and replaced with a strange,
alien-looking creature that seems immensely juvenile in both art and
lettering.  Having ditched the nursery look in the rest of the comic,
whatever possessed DCT to let the artist letter his own work?


The lettering, which is not much more than a scrawl, and the
balloons, which are far too large, dominate the panels, and are
not only sore on the eyes but utterly uninviting.  I didn't even bother
trying to read the strip, which is populated by basic, unappealing,
bug-eyed jellyfish-type doodles, 'illustrated' in the 'How to Draw
Comics Quickly and Without Much Effort' style that the
artist is (in)famous for.

The editor, the same man responsible for the decisions behind
the demise of The DANDY, doesn't seem to have learned much
(apart from in the lettering dept - bar one), from his previous mistakes
and seems determined in trying to convince us that, when it comes to
what comic art should look like, he knows best.  We can only hope
that what is so far only a small irritating rash does not turn into the
same full-blown terminal disease that doomed The Dandy.

Fingers crossed, eh?


R.I.P. ROGER The DODGER.
1953-2013.

"We Shall Remember Him."

FUN WITH RUPERT...


Images copyright EXPRESS NEWSPAPERS Plc

"Oh, RUPERT, RUPERT The BEAR - everyone sing his name!"
So ran the theme tune to the lunchtime TV show which aired between
1970 and '74.  However, as most fans know, the correct way to refer
to the bruin is simply Rupert Bear - without the definite article.

Created by MARY TOURTEL and making his debut in The
DAILY EXPRESS on November 8th, 1920, Rupert soared to even
greater heights of popularity under ALFRED BESTALL, who took
over the strip in 1935 until 1965.  (Though he continued to draw
covers and endpapers for the Annuals for years afterwards.)

Rupert's newspaper strip usually consisted of two illustrated
panels (four in the Annuals, in two tiers), with text underneath, in-
stead of incorporated into the art like other comic strips.  However,
back in 1988, the first of three RUPERT FUN books was released,
featuring the little brown bruin's adventures in the more 'modern'
form, with captions and speech balloons within the panels.

The first two were hardback (48 pages, including covers), with
the third being cardboard covered, with a 48 page interior page-
count.  Along with repackaged reprints of earlier strips, the books
also featured puzzles and games, and were full-colour throughout.
Costing only £1.99, they represented extremely good value
for money, and it's a shame the series didn't continue.

So, just in case you've never seen them before, here are the
covers of all three books, along with a small selection of interior
pages from the first.  Hum the theme tune while you look.

******

Click here for more about Rupert.







Monday, 22 July 2013

RON TURNER'S CAPTAIN SCARLET...



As promised a few posts back, here's the CAPTAIN SCARLET
adventure drawn by RON TURNER from the Annual for 1968.  Any
comments by me are pretty redundant, as you can see for yourselves
what a fantastic artist he is.  I'm unsure whether he ever drew SUPER-
CAR anywhere, but he did most of the other GERRY ANDERSON
characters and vehicles.  FIEREBALL, STINGRAYTHUNDER-
BIRDSCAPTAIN SCARLET and JOE 90 as well.  And just
think - once you've enjoyed this tale, there'll be another one
along in just a few posts time.  You lucky readers you!




Sunday, 21 July 2013

"WITH FRIENDS LIKE THESE..."



How do you choose your friends?  What qualities or attributes do
you look for or expect in those individuals with whom you socialise
or make time for in your lives ?

Why do I ask, you may be wondering, so I'll tell you.  I've been
reading a few blogs by professional comicbook contributors past
and present, and one of the things that strikes me is that quite a few of
them have one thing in common.  Which is?  Arrogance!  It may be an
arrogance concealed by a cloak of humility or politeness, but it still lurks
beneath the folds of that cloak just the same.  Of course, sometimes it
isn't cloaked at all, and the person concerned may come across as an
utterly odious and obnoxious character - and often is.

That arrogance rears its ugly head when someone - even a long-
term friend or acquaintance - happens to voice an opinion different to
that of the blogger.  I recently read one blogger say that he wasn't sure
he considered someone a friend anymore, because he'd received an email
from him concerning some controversial matter that didn't agree with his
own view of the situation.  He might not have articulated his altered
attitude in precisely that way, but that was the essence of his
reasoning, sure enough.

Another blogger, a one-time minor player ('though status is
relative, I suppose) in the lower echelons of comicbook history,
has no hesitation in calling anyone a bigot who doesn't see things
his way on (but not retricted to) the topic of homosexuality.  If you
have reservations about same sex marriage or gay adoption, based on
religious, cultural or historical traditions - even if you believe in tolerat-
ing dissenting opinions to your own and aren't calling for anyone to be
spat on, abused, jailed, beaten or strung up - then, according to this
belligerent individual - you're an intolerant bigot who he doubtless
wouldn't cross the road to pee on if you were on fire.  (Perhaps
it's simply a facade, but it's certainly a convincing one.)

This led me to ponder my own views on friendship.  Do I
associate only with those whose opinions on various topics are in
accord with my own?  Do I resent dissent and shun anyone who might
hold completely opposite philosophies to the ones I embrace?  Well, no,
actually.  I have friends who live totally different lifestyles to my own and
align themselves with beliefs and practices that I don't happen to share,
but as long as they aren't obnoxious in expressing why they believe (or
do) as they do then there isn't a problem.  This doesn't mean that we
never discuss controversial subjects, but we always do so with a
respect for the other's point of view.  (Or, at the very least, the
other's right to hold - and express - that point of view.)

So why do some comicbook contributors behave as they
do, with such an arrogant, pompous and even superior attitude
towards those they seemingly look down their noses at?  (Some, of
course, don't necessarily express their views in an openly disdainful
or hostile manner, but it's pretty obvious that it lies at the heart of
their thinking, whether they're aware of it or not.  I think I under-
stand*, so let me digress for a moment in order to explain.

When I was a freelance contributor to 2000 A.D., believe it
or not, I was frequently asked for my autograph.  Not because I was
deserving of such a compliment in my own right, but because of my
(admittedly) minor association with Britain's cult comic and its iconic
characters.  I was bathing in reflected glory, in other words, not my own.
Had I been the office tea boy, the fans would probably still have sought
my signature on scraps of paper, so ardent were they in their desire to
'connect' with the object of their adoration.  (The comic, not me.)
Fortunately, I was smart enough to realise it and never let
the attention go to my head.

However, some individuals who experience repeated instances
of people lapping up every uttered syllable as if it's the wisdom of
the ancients, and whose fans eagerly seek to ingratiate themselves with
them because of their connection to a particular comicbook character or
company, eventually start to believe that they're important and that their
opinion (on any subject whatsoever) counts for something.  It's not long
before they come to regard such adulation as their due and, because of
the understandable reluctance of some fans to fall out of favour with
their idols, they soon get used to never being challenged on their
 various 'divine pronouncements'.

So, when the day comes (as it inevitably must) that someone dares
disagree with them, their noses are put seriously out of joint.  It's the
"Don't you know whom I am?" scenario, writ large.  (And I know just
what you're thinking - "So why are you such a pompous buffoon,
you Scottish git?"  Well, do what you're good at, I always say.)

Seriously 'though, many of the people these contributors cast off
wouldn't disown them for holding an opposing point of view, so just
who then are the real intolerant ones, the bigots, as these self-styled
'models of tolerance, fairness and goodwill' are quick to call anyone
who fails to see eye-to-eye with them on their 'pet' issues?

That's the problem with only choosing your friends and
acquaintances from those who share your likes, dislikes, tastes
or opinions.  You're not choosing them for themselves, but rather for
the reflection of yourself that you see in them.  That makes you your
own favourite person - which may be hardly surprising, but doesn't
necessarily make you a particularly good judge of character.

Just saying.

******

(*Of course, the people to whom I refer may always have been as
they are, but there seems to be a pattern behind their attitudes which
I thought would be interesting to explore.  Feel free to disagree - I
    won't fall out with you or ban you from the blog - unlike some.)    

GASP! JOHNNY FUTURE FLIES AGAIN IN A SUPER SUNDAY SPECIAL SELECTION...

 
 
Here we are with the final part of the current JOHNNY FUTURE
adventure, wherein he battles the bombastic brutality of CAPTAIN
CAVEMAN! Well, not quite - but surely a close relative of the classic
cartoon character, except rendered somewhat more realistically.
 
Johnny's taking a holiday for the forseeable future, but if you'd
like to see more of FANTASTIC's  British 'Man of Tommorrow'
(as daringly drawn by ace artist LUIS BERMEJO) then let me
know in the comments section. Every vote counts.
  


Saturday, 20 July 2013

"KIMOTA" - WITH ONE MAGIC WORD...PART ONE (?)



A few years ago, I was asked by someone acting on behalf of the
then-current copyright owner of MICK ANGLO's MARVELMAN
as to whether I'd be interested in lettering some pages for submission to
MARVEL, as part of a proposal to interest them in buying the character.
Well, of course I would.  It was all very hush-hush, and I had to sign a
confidentiality clause which would be in effect during negotiations,
and until they had been concluded one way or the other.

Well, we all know what the result was.  Out of courtesy to both
Marvel and the previous copyright owner (and I know there's still
a lot of controversy over who actually owns what and whether anyone
had the rights to sell in the first place), I've held off from featuring any
pages here, waiting for Marvel to do something with the character first
- apart, that is, from publishing reprints of '50s stories that I don't
imagine a lot of Americans will be much interested in.

However, as certain promises made to me by a certain person
have not materialised, and as that person seems to be 'unavailable'
and has not responded to requests made to their representative that
they contact me, I no longer feel inclined to extend any further
courtesy or consideration than I have up 'til now.

So what you're looking at is an exclusive!  It's one of the pages
of the proposal submitted to Marvel, written and drawn by someone
who prefers to remain anonymous, and lettered by myself.  One of the
Marvel head honchos described the pages as "model comic art" (and
had a few nice things to say about my lettering as well) during a
'phone conversation with me a couple of years back.

I should make it clear that the above page (and the other ones yet
unseen) do not necessarily represent any plans Marvel may have for
the character or intended storylines - the writer/artist merely gave his
imagination free rein, unhampered by any corporate restrictions on his
creativity (because there were none).  Should Marvel ever get around
to doing anything with their CAPTAIN MARVEL imitation (the DC
COMICS one, formerly FAWCETT), it's highly unlikely that any
ideas or plotlines suggested in the sample pages will be used.
 So, with that in mind, enjoy the above page.

******

And it's just come to my attention that Marvel intends to
 make an announcement about the character soon. 

"HEAVEN IS A VERY SMALL PLACE..."


The Town Centre in the 1960s

Ah, where do the years go?  Y'know, it sometimes galls me that
there are places I can no longer visit because they simply don't exist
anymore.  Once upon a time, I would drag myself from bed, get dressed,
washed, brushed, have breakfast, and set off for school in the mornings,
subliminally absorbing the details of my surroundings as I did so.  When
I wake up nowadays, I do so in the same room as I did when I was 13,
but my school no longer exists and the route along to where it once
stood has changed in quite a number of ways as well.

Even the shopping centre I once explored in wide-eyed wonder
has changed beyond all recognition, having quadrupled (at least) in
size and been roofed over to protect shoppers from inclement weather.
Ironically, although it's now larger, many of the best and biggest shops
have moved to an out-of-town retail park where the rents are apparently
cheaper, leaving the original centre with numerous empty premises.
Indeed, many of the newer units built in the last few years have
never been occupied since completion.

Outside W. & R. Holmes.  (Out of shot to the right -
you can just see part of the shop sign)

I miss certain shops, havens of my youth, where I'd idle away
the minutes looking at books, toys, comics or annuals.  I still have
quite a few items (or replacements) from my childhood, with which I
associate the places I first purchased them.  SUPERMAN From The
'30s To The '70s, The MIGHTY WORLD Of MARVEL Annual
1973, EL TEMPO marker pens, PRITT glue sticks, and a whole
host of other items instantly transport me back to W. & R. HOLMES,
a bookshop, stationers, toyshop, tobacconist, art department, etc.,
which has never been equalled by any subsequent would-be
replacements since it closed its doors in the late '70s.

And what about that old standby that everyone of a certain age
must surely miss as much as I do?  WOOLWORTH'S, where every
child of the '60s and '70s obtained some of the best toys ever released
at that time, to say nothing of two ounces of PIC'N'MIX whenever one
wanted some some jelly babies, dolly mixtures or jap desserts.  'Woolies'
was usually the place my elasticated black plimsolls were purchased for
gym classes in primary school.  No such thing as designer trainers for
kids back then - Woolworth's was a great 'equalizer' when it came
to blurring the distictions between better-off families and the
not so prosperous ones.

W. & R. Holmes - now that's what I call a shop!

R.S. McCOLL's was another haunt of mine in bygone days.
'Twas in McColl's I obtained my first MARX friction-drive DALEK
(1967), my CORGI TOYS diecast orange bubble-car (1969 or '70),
The INCREDIBLE HULK Annual #2 (1973), a TITCH stapler that
sits to the side of me as I type (1978 or '79), and a COCA-COLA sign which
still adorns my wall to this very day (again, '78 or '79, I think).  In the early
or mid-'80s, it moved from the premises it had inhabited since I was a lad
to another unit further up the street, and 'though I still frequented it for
years afterwards, it was never quite the same.  (Although I did buy
my very first brand-new ACTION MAN there in 1984.)

Well, I could go on and on, and perhaps some of you think I'm
going to, but I'll call it quits with this last little thought.  If someone
were to ask me what my idea of Heaven is, I'd have to say that my
home town exactly as it was in 1969 or '70 would come pretty close.
To be able to walk the streets and run through the green fields I knew
as a child, to visit the shops I liked from my earliest days and which
could always be relied upon to supply the simplest and the best of
pleasures - well, that sounds pretty heavenly to me.

R.S. McColl's is under the awning to the left of the
pillars.  Further up the street is Woolworth's

Sometimes, in dreams, I once again wander the familiar haunts
of my youth, where long-vanished people and places welcome me
warmly and invite me to spend some time with them.  However, such
moments are fleeting, and the harsh reality of the here-and-now lies
in wait to disappoint me when I awaken to a new day.

******

We thought there was no more behind
But such a day tomorrow as today
And to be a boy eternal.

William Shakespeare

******

So, any places from your childhood or teenage years that you
wish still existed, or do you prefer things the way they are now?
 Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section. 
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...