The Bojeffries Saga

Apr 30, 2008

I wonder if there is a reason why this odd graphic novel from 1992 (expanded from the 1980s strips in “Warrior” magazine) isn’t currently available?  Written by Alan Moore and drawn by Steve Parkhouse, I love the opening section where the rent man arrives at the Bojeffries’ reality-bending household. Here is a brief resume of the family.

Even by Alan Moore’s standards this book was surreal.

Idols Magazine

Apr 29, 2008

Bill Harry had been involved in pop publishing for many years (Mersey Beat Magazine, and books about the Beatles) when he launched “Idols” Magazine in the UK in the 1980s. This publication covered a broad spectrum of Movie Stars from the Silent era to current Actors, TV, Pop Stars….anyone who someone else might idolise. Always a great read.

Syd Meats

Apr 27, 2008

Boothby Graffoe has the distinction of being the only comedian named after a Lincolnshire village. From 1988 to 1990 he had a manic weekly 2 hour radio show on BBC Radio Lincoln. An early adopter of the “zoo” format, Boothby filled the studio with friends, listeners and whoever would bring him free beer!

Very few records were played over the two hours. Much of the time was spent with Boothby’s stream-of-consciousness comedy, odd phone-ins and, most weeks, a topical humerous “sogne” (his spelling) from Syd Meats. Here are just two examples of Syd’s “art”.

Things I don’t like blues includes Syd’s misguided attempt halfway through a live performance to devise fresh lyrics only to find that “it didn’t work” !!

Snailscame about due to a news item at the time which claimed the EEC (European Economic Comunity) of which the UK is a member had reclassified the French delicacy of snails as a fish rather than as a meat. I believe the reference to “partial trousers” refers to a running joke in the show at the time regarding the torn jeans worn by Cher in a then current music video.

Syd has his own web site but his music doesn’t seem to be available there. I think its time for a Syd Meats revival.

Man of Action

Apr 24, 2008

Here is a piece of music that was played on the hour every hour for almost four years! Used as the station identification theme for the offshore pirate radio station Radio North Sea International from 1970 to 1974, this tune still sounds majestic today. It transports me back to those days better than any time machine.

The Les Reed Orchestra – Man of Action

Superboy UK Annuals

Apr 23, 2008

Superboy Annual 1956/1957

K. G. Murray of Australia produced monthly black and white reprints of some DC Comics throughout the 1950s. The main titles were “Superman”, “Superboy”, “Batman” and “Superadventure”. These reprint comics were reprinted for UK consumption both as monthly editons and also hardbacked 160 page Xmas Annuals. These Annuals were published by a company called “Atlas” in the UK with no connection at all to the Atlas/Timely (later to be Marvel Comics) of the USA.

Superboy Annual 1957/1958 

The Superboy Annuals were available for approximately 14 years, from 1953 to about 1967.  Along with Superboy stories there were always  Rex the Wonder Dog and Detective Chimp stories. Even in the mid 1960s kids in the UK could read about the adventures of Rex the Wonder Dog and the Detective Chimp when they would have already become distant memories in the States.

Superboy Annual 1964/1965

The quality of paper used in the 1960s books is diabolical. Many stories are in this odd red and black and white colour scheme.

The stories that are in colour have evidently been coloured here in the UK. It looks like a child has been using a crayon, but no thats exactly how the book was sold!!

Superboy Annual 1965/1966

Superboy Annual 1966/1967

Here is the small print from the above annual showing the connection between K.G. Murray, Atlas and Thorpe and Porter. The Superboy and Detective Chimp stories in the book seem to have been licensed from the Australian company of K.G. Murray, who in turn had licensed the material from National/DC. As usual the cover was no doubt drawn by someone in the UK.

Batman Gum Cards

Apr 21, 2008

Once the Batman TV Show began, so did Batmania.  A number of sets of Bubble Gum Cards appeared in 1966 and 1967. I collected them all and even sent off for the Albums to stick them in. Later Albums came with little pre-cut slots to lodge the cards in place which was far more sensible.

The first two series of cards were painted, probably by the same guy(s) who had painted the Civil War and Mars Attacks cards of a few years earlier. I like this Catwoman card. 

 

see also:-  More Batman Gum Cards

At about the same time as the cards a number of Colouring Books appeared. Somehow this one is still on my bookcase to this day.

Warren’s Eerie No 1

Apr 21, 2008

In the late 1960s I was the proud (?) owner of the first 20 issues of Warren’s “Creepy” magazine. I also had most issues of “Eerie”. Eerie No 1 however eluded me. I didn’t know then that there hadn’t actually been an Eerie Number One as such. The series had officially begun with issue No 2 !!!

Due to the success of “Creepy” Jim Warren was planning a companion magazine. He heard rumours that a rival company (Perhaps Myron Fass ?) were about to launch a horror comic/magazine using the name Warren had chosen. The story goes that to beat them to the punch, Jim  Warren hastily assembled an “Ashcan” edition of Eerie No 1 containing reprints from earlier issues of Creepy. Enough copies were printed and “distributed” to supposedly secure the trademark of the title “Eerie”. 

This all seems odd to me as there had already been at least two comic books in the early 1950s in the USA and another in the UK that had used the title “Eerie”. It wasn’t until Creepy Issue No 81 when I saw this editorial that I discovered the story of the missing Eerie No 1 and that pirate copies had been produced. I admit I’ve still never seen one.

 

PS: As of March 2009 you can purchase a hard back book collecting the first six issues of Warren’s Eerie (with presumably more volumes to follow). This book surprisingly contains Eerie Number One.

I couldn’t resist buying this comic recently. I owned a copy when it was first issued in the mid 1960s and immediately wished I’d spent the money more wisely. It was quickly disposed of. Now it just seems a nostalgic purchase. I was a big fan of “The Man from Uncle” and “Danger Man” on TV and “James Bond” on the big screen at the time and this was evidently a cash-in on the fad for secret agents from the UKs Thorpe and Porter.

There was only ever this one issue of “The Man from S.U.N.D.A.Y” with very good reason. The art is supposedly by Mick Anglo who had spent the previous ten years drawing  a quite acceptable  “Marvelman”. Perhaps he drew “Charles Rand” in the dark as the character’s heads, arms and legs don’t seem in the right proportion to their bodies.

To the best of my knowledge “Charles Rand” never appeared anywhere ever again. So he must therefore be the World’s most secret Secret Agent.

Vulcan

Apr 15, 2008

Vulcan was a weekly UK comic that lasted for a mere six months from September 1975 although I understand it had a “soft” trial launch in Scotland earlier that year. Despite benefitting from slightly better quality paper than many of the comics of the time it failed to find a large enough readership to prevent it merging with Valiant in 1976. It contained nothing but reprints…many of which were by then 10 years old.  I’d already followed “The Steel Claw” in Valiant. “The Trigan Empire” had appeared in Ranger and then later in Look and Learn through the 1960s.

Note the free gift of  a “Potato Gun”. Things like that always enticed me to purchase first issues. The various prices on the cover confirms that UK comics were sold in all english-speaking territories around the world except the USA.

Valiant

Apr 14, 2008

“Valiant” was a weekly “boys paper”, as they were quaintly known in those days, published between approx 1963 and 1976 in the UK. Some of the legendary characters within its pages were Captain Hurricane, Billy Bunter, Kelly’s Eye, The Wild Wonders, and my personal favourites The Steel Claw and The House of Dolmann.

Early issues sometimes had text stories such as this.

When circulation declined it was the practice to combine the poorer-selling title with another from the same publisher. As many comics were delivered by the local newsagent this combining of titles meant (hopefully) no fewer sales for the shop or publisher. This happened frequently  in the 1960s and 1970s. Valiant paired with or took over Knockout in 1963, Smash in 1971, TV21 also later in 1971, Lion in 1974 and Vulcan in 1976.

A few of these characters appeared rcently in the DC comic Albion. One that seems to have been forgotten is Adam Eterno. Here he fights Glurg the Jelly man !!

Finally Valiant itself was absorbed into Battle in the autumn of 1976. At about this time the science fiction anthology comic 2000AD began. I think 2000AD must be about the last “boys paper” still being published in the UK in 2008. And still set in the future even though its already 8 years in the past !!

Joe Guy

Apr 12, 2008

Joe Guy was America’s foremost hero. What, you’ve never heard of him? He appeared in a few issues of “The Rook”. What, you’ve never heard of The Rook? He appeared in Warren’s Eerie as well as in his own self-titled black and white magazine-sized comic book. What, you’ve never heard of Warren ? I must be getting old !

Joe Guy discovers he is the son of Superman and doomed aviatrix Amelia Lockhart. Eventually he arrives at the Fortress of Solitude and meets his father for the first time along with the others living there.

It seems that in 1963 whilst travelling through the time barrier Superman accidently witnessed his own demise at some future date. This so unnerved him that he has never left his Fortress of Solitude since that time. All the heroic feats performed by Superman since then have been performed by Superman robots. Can Joe defeat this approaching menace, change history and prevent his father’s death? Did DC ever notice this story?

This was all set out over four 8 page stories in “The Rook”. There were enough ideas here for an on-going series. In fact, the writer Jim Stenstrum was full of ideas. He wrote “Thrillkill” and “Sherlock Holmes” as well as “Joe Guy” and other “humorous” fare like “Rex Havoc and the Ass-Kickers of the Fantastic” and “The Super Abnormal Phenomena Survical Kit”.

  

 

 I rate Jim Stenstrum’s writing up there with Steve Gerber and Alan Moore. Like many other comic book creators he moved into animation directing “Scooby Doo” cartoons amongst other things. I think his Warren work would make fantastic animations. How about it Jim?

Warren produced some of my favourite comics from the mid 1960s to the early 1980s. Actually I wasn’t really that interested in horror comics, but luckily the Warren  anthology titles also covered other genres like fantasy, science fiction, and sword and sorcery. “Creepy” was mostly horror. “Eerie” also had science fiction. “1984/1994” was “adult” similar to “Metal Hurlant/Heavy Metal”. Vampirella was…a sexy female vampire basically. There were a number of one-shot magazines over the years and “Famous Monsters of Filmland” completed the line-up. 

 

In 1980 you could still purchase those early (very limited animation) Marvel cartoons in glorious black and white or colour in Super 8 (or even Regular) Film reels. Actually, thinking about it I didn’t own a (BetaMax/BetaCord) Sanyo Video Recorder until 1981.   

 It has been said that the only reason for the Warren comic books were for the 20 odd pages at the back advertsing the weird and wonderful (mainly SF and horror related) products Warren sold under the guise of The Captain Company. That is being very unfair. Just look at the talented artists to be found within the pages of Creepy 75 for example.   

How can you go wrong with art by Wally Wood, Alex Toth and Neal Adams? In fact Creepy 75 contains one of the most famous stories ever issued by Warren. “Thrillkill” from 1975 written by Jim Stenstrum and illustrated by Neal Adams was ground-breaking and all too realistic.   

 

This week’s reads

Apr 7, 2008

I’ve been looking through some boxes of old stuff recently.Mainly I’m trying to find my old Jonathan King 45rpm singles but I’m forever getting side-tracked as I unearth things I’d forgotten I still had. My first thoughts were to put this rubbish in the bin/on EBay. Instead I started reading these books and really enjoyed them.

The extremely short lived MF Comics were from Myron Fass. He specialised in odd magazines about UFOs and the like. Often he would produce one-shot magazines to cash in on whatever was the topic of the day. In the mid sixties as Marvel Comics took over the world numerous companies tried to emulate them like Tower and Archie/Radio/Mighty. How Myron thought he could get away with stealing a well-known name like “Captain Marvel” for the hero and “Doctor Fate” and “Doctor Doom” for two of the villains I’ve no idea. Even “Elasticman” and “Tinyman” are derivative. The story was written by Carl Burgos, who was the guy who wrote the original Timely “Human Torch”. Like the Torch, this ersatz Captain Marvel was an android. Rather than bursting into flame he “split”. Just as dangerous as setting yourself on fire. Don’t try this at home kids!  

This comic was a solo Wally Wood effort apparantly mainly sold on Army bases. It would have benefitted from an editor (and a writer) . Wally did lots of “Cannon” he-man stories. I prefer the more humerous side of him as seen in “Dragonella” and “The Misfits”. Wally wrote an editorial asking for feedback. There would only be one more issue and I believe that came out a few years after issue No 1!!

Now back across the atlantic. My groaning shelves still hold a number of Annuals like this.

  

In the UK annuals were an annual Xmas treat. Usually first on sale around September in good time for massive Xmas sales. Aunts/Uncles/Parents would buy these books for children of all ages. If you were lucky you’d get the “Dandy” or “Beano” Annual. If you were unlucky you’d get the staid but worthy “Boy’s World”. Even by 1963 Dan Dare seemed old-fashioned.