More Outer Space

April 30, 2009

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The phrase “You don’t judge a book by its cover” certainly applies here. At first glance you’d assume that this UK black and white reprint album was going to contain at least some old Charlton Science Fiction comic strips. Actually the Charlton connection begins and ends with the cover (borrowed from Outer Space No 19 from 1958….you never know, there may be a test later…..). And I’ve never heard of the “Comic Bureau” that gives a ficticious seal of approval to this book. At Half a Crown (2/6d) it would have been an expensive purchase in 1959/1960 when the average price of a UK comic would have been a mere 3d or 4d !!

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The whole book comprises of an assortment of UK Science Fiction comic strip reprints (mainly “Captain Future”) originally drawn (and written ?) and self-published (as Gould-Light Publishing) by Norman Light in his “Spaceman” comics in the early 1950s.

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Actually they are quite well done and it is a shame that this was the last time Captain Future or Bill Merrill of the Scientific Investigation Bureau (by Ron Embleton) would be published or even ever be mentioned again until Mike Higgs’ “Great British Fantasy Comic Book Heroes” compendium of 2009. (see an earlier blog)

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Alter Ego

April 29, 2009

ego Somewhere in between the original “Alter Ego” fanzines of the 1960s (I’ve a few of those) and the current incarnation published by TwoMorrows (I must have most of those), Roy Thomas was involved in this fun comic of the same name. alter-ego1 alter-ego41 Roy Thomas and Heroic are currently re-presenting this whole mini series on the Internet.                                                alter-ego

Normalman

April 25, 2009

I’m currently re-reading this 12 issue series that (scarily) I bought a quarter of a century ago. It reminds me of the good old days when things were “normal”. In 1984 (the year) George Orwell’s 1984 (the novel) vision of the future hadn’t come to pass. Now it has !!

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Normalman is special because he is the only puny person on a world full of superheroes. Alan Moore may have done Top 10 but Valentino was there first.

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I’m a sucker for comics that pay humorous homage to other comics. Yes, why did those early Atlas/Marvel comics have such thick ink lines around the cover word balloons ??

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Although Jim Valentino would go on to be involved in Image Comics and ShadowHawk/Shadowline my favourite comics of his were the three autobiographical comics he produced early in his career.

Black Cat

April 22, 2009

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The first and best Black Cat was this Harvey Comics heroine often drawn by Lee Elias. She didn’t actually have any super powers…unless you count the ability to hurtle about on her bike in a skimpy costume without apparantly feeling the cold !! She was however an expert in Judo and martial arts as well as having a “secret identity” as a movie star. As the fad for super heroes waned in the 1950s she traded her motorbike for a horse. Towards the end she no longer even appeared in her own comic when it was renamed “Black Cat Mystery” !!

One of her highly effective ways of defeating the villains was by landing on top of them from a great height !!

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In 1963 Harvey tried again with The Black Cat. Finding back issues of these comics in the late 1960s sent me on a quest to obtain (then amazingly reasonably priced) Golden Age comics featuring this character.

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I wonder why the last panel was printed sideways ?? It looks like it really ought to have been a full page pin-up.

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The Black Cat’s “Judo Tricks” were evidently popular enough to be mentioned on the covers. Actually I practiced all these on my younger brother and they would prove to be of value when used against a real potential mugger who didn’t expect me to push him backwards whilst using my leg to sweep his legs off the ground. Remember that one. Thanks Black Cat !!

Mystery in Space

April 18, 2009

Once upon a time on a planet far far away I collected DC’s “Mystery in Space”. Eventually I had an unbroken run of issues 50 to 110. I then began chipping away at the earlier issues as money and visits to Comic Marts allowed. I also owned most of the British black and white reprints that had been issued in the mid 1950s under the “Strato” imprint. Since then most comics featuring Adam Strange have passed through my hands up to the most recent (and boring) incarnation in the re-vamped “Strange Adventures” (which incidentally features a return of that odd character known only as “The Weird”). 

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So imagine my surprise this week when I came across a previously unseen “Mystery in Space” book. This hardbacked Annual was published in the UK in 1967 or 1968. Published by Thorpe and Porter at the time when they were producing the “Double Double” magazines it followed the same format (yet for twice the price!!)

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As the cover shows Adam Strange (taken from the cover of MIS 95) you’d expect the majority of the book to feature that character. What you actually get is six complete (by complete I mean with their covers..adverts..the lot !!) DC/ACG comics re-bound within the hard outer covers, only one of which was DCs Mystery in Space (No 110 which was the final issue until the early 1980s). MIS 95 is nowhere to be seen !! For the record the rest of the interior consists of :-

 mysteryinspace1102    challengers55    unknownworlds551    adventuresintounknown172    adventuresintounknown166    worldsfinest165

Without seeing another copy of this book I don’t know if every issue featured the same six comics but owning a number of the the “Double Double” softbacks (see an earlier blog) I suspect that although the first comic may be the same every time there is a strong possibility that the rest of the contents varied depending on what unsold comics were cluttering up the warehouse. Around this time there were also a few other “Annuals” of collected comics published by Thorpe and Porter featuring The Metal Men, Green Lantern and Aquaman on the covers (contents unknown). Another forgotten footnote in comics history.

How Loud is Loud ??

April 15, 2009

You’ve heard of a “decibel” as a description of a unit of sound but did you realise that the “bel” bit of the phrase comes from Alexander Graham Bell…one of the pioneers of the Telephone ?? They needed a scale (Bel) to measure how the volume of sound degraded over different/longer lengths of telephone cable. As the sound pressure of a Jet engine is 10 million times stronger/louder than virtual silence the decibel (dB) system is used to make the Bel scale more manageable. This gives a range of 0 to 140 which is the average level of sound a human being would normally ever be exposed to.

I’ve visited the Rolls Royce jet engine test facility and stood next to a speaker at an Iggy and the Stooges concert and after both experiences my head was still ringing two days later. These days I prefer the 10dB sound pressure level of rustling leaves !!

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Super Adventure Comics

April 13, 2009

Throughout the 1950s these comics (along with Superman, Batman and Superboy comics) were printed in Australia and imported into the UK. The covers, though printed in Australia, were unique to the UK solely by virtue of a different price. In 1950 these comics cost 6d in both the UK and Australia. By 1957 the Australian price had increased to One Shilling (via 8d and 9d) whilst the UK issues continued at 6d, hence the requirement of different covers. The back cover also carried local adverts too.

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For much of the ten year run these DC reprints had black and white interiors. For 1956 and 1957 colour interiors were tried. The colouring was evidently carried out in Australia, often with hilarious results. I haven’t checked but I can’t ever recall Clark Kent wearing a bright yellow suit. Surely it was always blue !!
These comics often had covers uniquely drawn by Australian artists which adds some interest to them.

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Incidentally, for many years after the monthly comic had disappeared from the UK’s newsagents an annual hardback Xmas Annual entitled “Super Adventure” was still published annually. Did I mention that there was only one each year ??