February 28, 2010
The following nonsense appeared in The Times newspaper’s page 2 Leading Articles/Editorial on Saturday 27th February 2010. I quote:-
There is a market failure in superheroes
“If all the superheroes had a fight, who would win? In the market place the answer is Batman. An edition of a comic in which Superman made his debut in 1938 sold last week for $1 million. That was then trumped by Batman’s debut comic from 1939 that raised $1.07 million, the highest price ever for a comic book.
But, really, can we just accept the verdict of the market like this? Batman is an interesting character with a tragic back story. The death of his parents gives him the motivation to spend his life righting wrongs in Gotham City.
But there is a problem. Batman is no more a bat than you are. He can’t fly. He doesn’t navigate by echo location. He can’t hang upside down. He just puts a bat costume on. He’s not even really a superhero at all because he has no magic powers. he’s a sort of cross between a CID officer and a Swiss Army penknife.
Superman does have the powers. He can fly, he has X-ray, heat-emitting, telescopic, infra-red and microscopic vision and he can blow out air at freezing temperatures and cause high-speed winds. He also has a cause. Superman is a social activist, fighting crooked businessmen and politicians and demolishing rundown tenements. But it’s hard to know why he bothers. He has the Y-fronts but not the why.
Spider-Man is the only one with both magic powers and a story to tell. He can shoot adhesive spider web, has toxic stingers and can stick people to his back. His enemies, Electro, Mysterio and the Sandman, all have magic powers themselves. And he’s doing it all in memory of his beloved Uncle Ben whose murder he witnessed and might have prevented. Now that is a superhero.”
February 23, 2010
This UK comic (actually more of a “boys paper” than a comic) ran for 89 weekly issues in 1963/1964. I recall purchasing No 1 with its then-exotic free gift of a “wristwatch” compass. I proudly wore this for weeks, and if anyone asked me the time I could say “north east” !!
Eventually Boys’ World combined with the similar-looking but much more popular “Eagle”. There was a lot of “combining” poorer selling comics with another title in the 1960s as it was a sure-fire way to keep the majority of the readers. As so many comics were delivered by the local newsagent along with your parents’ newspapers you just found a different title in your letter box which the publishers (and newsagent) hoped you would continue with.
PS: The “Pike Mason” strip featured the unmistakeable art of Luis Bermejo (later to be seen in Warren Magazines). “Wrath of the Gods” was apparently NOT written by Mike Moorcock as is often claimed.
PPS: One other free gift in a 1960s comic I recall was a cardboard “Guy Fawkes mask” (in “Buster ” I think) with elastic bands to hook around your ears to hold it on. I always thought that it was this free gift that gave Alan Moore his idea for “V for Vendetta”.
February 23, 2010
February 17, 2010
Collecting isn’t just a male preserve. Have you seen how many shoes and handbags most women accumulate? But it is true that men as the hunter-gatherer are the main hoarders of “stuff”. Before I came to my senses I had a garage full of bits of old cars. I once kept the back half of a Triumph Herald car sitting at the bottom of the garden. The intention was to throw the bootlid away and make it into a garden seat!! At one time I saved all the Programmes from Pop Concerts and Football matches I had attended.
In this interesting book Hunter Davies gives some thought to the reasons why people collect things and what motivates them to start (and stop) collecting. I suppose he had to do something on wet Saturday afternoons when the local Football team were playing away!! Funnily enough I own four of the six items pictured on the cover of this book. Blow Football games and William Books must be in many attics. Hunter has an enviable collection of Beatles memorabilia. It did help that he met them in the late 1960s when he produced the first in-depth book about them. He was also present in studios when they were recording and was able to pick up disguarded (?!!?) scraps of paper containing now-precious hand-written lyrics etc.
Hunter writes a monthly column in The Sunday Times called “Mean with Money”. Certainly, not throwing things away can have financial advantages…but only if you keep them long enough for values to rise I fear. If only I’d hung on to all my childhood comics until now!! But fashions come and go and they might just as well have remained worthless newsprint. He even concedes that collecting stamps is an ultimately pointless exercise although it kept him well amused whilst he was actually doing it.
I’m not sure if collecting stuff now for the future will make your fortune. Certainly not comics. This week both the X-Men and The Fantastic Four UK monthlies have started again at Number One. How long will it take before those issues have any real value? Never, I should think. The problem is that everything gets saved nowadays. People collect toy cars, keeping them in their pristine unopened packets. That never happened in the 1950s, so if an ancient boxed Dinky toy has survived it is consequently valuable. I sometimes wonder if future generations will have the slightest interest in the Victorian furniture and large gloomy paintings that so often feature as “valuable collectibles” in TVs “Antiques Roadshow” and the like. All you can do is collect things that you actually like and if they appreciate in value then that is a bonus. But if WW3 arrives, Victorian furniture, toy cars and comics won’t be much use to anyone …………
February 16, 2010
February 12, 2010
In 1973 I was well on the way to owning a complete set of Marvel Comics from 1961 to 1970. I was missing the first 3 FFs and a few Strange Tales featuring The Torch but I certainly had a full run of Spiderman, Daredevil, Xmen, The Avengers etc. At that point I decided I had outgrown comics and sold them all for what seemed to be a reasonable amount at the time but in hindsight……..
Then, as now, some comics were more popular than others. Nobody wanted to buy my stacks of Patsy Walkers, Gunsmoke Westerns, Sgt Furys, Archies, Dells, Mighty, Gold Key, Alan Class Comics, or TV21s (!!) . I couldn’t GIVE my Busters, Valiants, John Spencer comics and similar away so I just threw them out. I then went off to College (and almost immediately began buying/collecting comics all over again !!)
Now my collecting is virtually on hold but I sometimes buy random odd books I remember from those days. Like these. I’ve just acquired the complete run of this title….all two of them!!
I can’t add any details to the history of John Spencer Comics. A handful of diferent comics with titles such as “Spectre Stories” appeared in my local newsagents in 1966/67 and sat on the shelf unsold and unwanted for many months mixed amongst a heap of Alan Class Comics of unknown vintage. They didn’t seem the best use for my precious Shillings. I had a big enough job of keeping up with purchasing the endless parade of new UK comics that appeared weekly on the counter ( I collected “Number Ones” at the time) competing for my money with the heaving spinner rack of Marvels and DCs.
Curiosity must have made me buy a few John Spencer comics. I was a big fan of the TV show “Time Tunnel” then currently showing. I think the writer of “Mark Tyme” also took his inspiration from that too.
In his first adventure our hero bemoans the fact that he forgot to bring a weapon with him. Later when he realises that his “wristwatch” time control is malfunctioning he curses the fact that he didn’t bring his toolbox (or his glasses!!) with him either. Not too smart then!
By the end of issue 2 Mark Tyme was lost in the space-time continuum for ever…or until the Internet was invented. If you Google his name you can find one or two people writing about his less-than-scintillating exploits along with details of another two-issue John Spencer hero known as “The Purple Hood”.
PS: John Spencer comics were an offshoot of Badger Books. They churned out horror and science fiction paperbacks throughout the 1960s. Lionel Fanthorpe was responsible for writing a goodly number of them and it seems likely that many of the horror strips in Spectre Stories etc were adapted from earlier paperbacks. A visit to this site is the best place to see dozens of covers and even some John Spencer comics.