Comic Code

Jun 29, 2009

“I have known many adults who have treasured throughout their lives some of the books they read as children. I have never come across any adult or adolescent who had outgrown comic book reading who would ever dream of keeping any of these “books” for any sentimental or other reason.”

Frederic Wertham – Seduction of the Innocent


“What th..?”

Superman – Action Comics

comic book stamp of approval

Books about comics have become far more than just lists of titles and artists. This one delves deeply into the changes in society as a whole that brought about the comic code and the potential destruction and then re-birth of the industry.

seal of approval book

Once to do research I had to visit a library in person. Now a few mouse clicks achieves far more. Wikipedia fills in many gaps and usually points you to further material.  My favourite Blog “I’m learning to Share”  seems to reach all the other parts that Wikipedia doesn’t.  It is there you can find this in-depth article written by Mr Wertham (before his infamous book “Seduction of the Innocent”) and originally printed in the “Ladies Home Journal”. (I hope Mr In Crowd of Learning to share doesn’t mind that I have actually shared it !!!).  I can imagine this article having an immediate impact on the mothers and housewives of the day….. far more so than any subsequent news coverage that would be generated on radio/tv/newsreels (?) over the next year or so.

what parents don't know about comic books

As with Wikipedia, another place that will become more important as time goes on is the “Internet Archive”. Loads of stuff appears here, most of which is classified as “public domain” (although I’m sure some stuff isn’t).  It is here that you can “roll back” Websites and see how they looked years ago.  They also have things available for download like this 326 page transcription of the Juvenile Delinquancy (Comic Books) Senate hearings of 1954. If you like to fill your hard-drive with old junk you can download everything you never knew you needed to hear or see from old radio shows and ancient Betty Boop cartoons to hundreds of hours of live music by the Grateful Dead !!

39 years ago today

Jun 22, 2009


No I can’t remember what I was doing 39 years ago this week. But its quite possible that I was watching the clock and waiting for the school bell before calling in at the Newsagents where I could well have purchased this issue of the weekly DC Thompson comic “Wizard” No 20 cover dated Monday 27th June 1970.


All the stories and art seemed to be done by “old” men and even in the dawning of the 70s the strips looked like they had been produced in the 1950s. In fact lots of UK comic strips at the time could be rehashed from 10 or 20 years earlier. One of my favourites was “The truth about Wilson” which was probably coming around again for the third or fourth time by the 1970s.


Often a popular concept like “The Steel Claw” from IPCs Valiant could be adapted by DC Thompsons to produce something like this similar-but-different “The Clutching Hand”.


What I do remember about the summer of 1970 is England not winning the World Cup as they had done 4 years earlier. I also recall attending my first ever pop concert to see Mungo Jerry (then at the top of the charts with “In the Summertime”).

Listen to what I was listening to on the radio at the time here.

Radio Northsea International in disguise as Radio Caroline 1970.


Jun 19, 2009


I like reading European comics whenever I come across any. I can just about get by in German. My French is very rusty through lack of use. I only know three words in Flemish and one of those is rude !!


Luckily with “Gutsman” you don’t need to be fluent in Flemish/Dutch. “Gutsman” doesn’t have any words apart from the title. There are loads of word balloons though. These word balloons contain little pictures which describe what each character is saying. All very clever.


Erik Kriek, the writer/artist breaks the fourth wall by including himself in the story. (I like how he often depicts himself wearing a Fantastic 4 T Shirt !!) He is even part of the love triangle between himself, Gutsman and Tigra. This love triangle turns into a rectangle when Erik gets drunk and mistakes Tigra’s younger sister for Tigra. Another odd thing is the way the parents of the two “heroes” wear matching superhero headgear even though they are plainly just normal folk. And Gutsman’s enemies are perhaps not flesh and blood at all but just manifestations of his inner demons.

Spinner Rack

Jun 17, 2009

spinner rack1

It’s amazing what you can find for sale on eBay. But at $2000 I think I’ll give it a miss. I don’t think that price even includes the comics !!!

(And yes I know the above picture is blurred……I tried to enlarge a teeny tiny picture to see what comics were on the rack !!)

spinner rack

Bond Equipe GT4S

Jun 13, 2009

Bond Equipe GT4S

My first car was a Triumph Herald 13/60. This was shortly followed by a Bond Equipe GT4S. Although I have fond memories of this vehicle it really was in diabolical condition for a 10 year old car. Bond Cars of Preston built a few thousand of these hybrid coupes between 1964 and 1970. This particular model featured a glassfibre body upon a Triumph Herald chassis with a Triumph Spitfire Mk 2 1200cc twin carb engine (Mk 3 1296cc for the years 1967 – 1970). Unfortunately they also used the metal Triumph Herald bulkhead, floorpan and doors. With zero rustproofing in those days and only a cursory coat of paint they rusted away from the underneath faster than an early 1960s Vauxhall Victor.

Bond Equipe GT4S2

British cars were evidentally easier to sell in the 1960s. Amazingly 2505 Bond Equipe GT4S cars were produced.There were also 444 of the earlier GT model and 1431 of the later (bodily revised) Equipe 2 litre in Mk 1, Mk2 and convertible form. I still own a 1967 Equipe 2 litre Mk 1 in white and rust (which is a story for another day).

PS: If you’re looking for more stuff about Bond cars (in their three and four wheel versions) go here.

PPS: Of course when I was younger/stronger/stupider it seemed to be a good idea to fix the rust by seperating body and chassis for easy access. A junior hacksaw blade “soon” cut through the mounting bolts and then it was the “simple” task of a person grasping each rear wheelarch and lifting. Nothing happened. I then remembered the handbrake cable was still connected. Once that was disconnected the car was in two halfs !!!


PPPS: Yes I know the rear outriggers under the boot floor are “wrong”. As far as I’m aware even when the cars were new these parts were unavailable. You just had to buy the Triumph Herald/Vitesse items and shorten them to suit. Also note the toe-in of the rear wheels without the weight of a body. Braking and/or taking your foot off the accelerator at speed on a tight bend in many of the early models of Equipe/Herald/Vitesse/Spitfire or GT6 could re-create this effect with dire consequences. To prevent the hassle of being upside down in a ditch or embedded in someone’s front garden wall the solution was to hang on tight and accelerate around bends !!!  Often the vehicles handled better with the weight of four occupants or (my own favourite solution) two or three paving slabs installed in the boot !!

John Otway

Jun 8, 2009

ITEM: I’ve often been known to champion the underdog here. Wait, wasn’t that a TV show circa 1956 (and a comic strip in “Buster” ten years later) ???……no that was Champion the Wonder Horse or am I thinking of Rex the Wonderdog !!)

John Otway has continued to snatch defeat from the jaws of success for thirty years. His first “hit” Really Free may have ended up as his only hit. However he has always had a loyal following of fans. For a birthday treat a few years ago they decided to get him another hit record. This was achieved by releasing a CD with a “live” B side (Yes I know CDs don’t actually HAVE B sides! …Track Two then…) which featured the voices of all the audience at an (excellent) live recording of “House of the Rising Sun”. The NAMES of everyone at the concert were included on the sleeve also. Consequently all participants bought multiple copies. That was sufficient to propel the A side “Bunsen Burner” into the lower reaches of the top 20.

Anyway despite having graced the UK pop charts with two “hit” singles John Otway still prides himself on being the world’s most successful failure. This quite interesting audio file in hissy mono from the radio gives some background details.


Perhaps It’s just me but I find all John’s music very enjoyable, particularly the ballads like “Place farm way”,the up tempo stuff like “Beware the flowers because I’m sure they’re gonna get you yeah” and especially the aforementioned live version of “House of the rising sun” which could well be the best ever version of this much-recorded tune. This CD has been playing in my car for the last 2 weeks and I’m still not fed up with it!!


When the UK offshore Pirate radio stations were silenced by the British Government on August 14th 1967 there was a gap of a few weeks before the BBC finally launched their own “all day pop music station” Radio 1 in September 1967.

This photograph was evidentally taken just before the launch of Radio 1. Some of these new DJs (some of which had transferred from the pirate stations) wouldn’t last very long at the Beeb. Others would have long careers there.

Tony Blackburn (Presented the first Breakfast show. Still in radio.)
Jimmy Young
Kenny Everett (Would move from Radio comedy to TV comedy.)
Duncan Johnson
David Rider
Dave Cash
Pete Brady (Used to host the kid’s TV show “Magpie”.)
David Symonds (Went on to Radio 4.)

Bob Holness (Would go on to present TV’s “Blockbusters”.)
Terry Wogan (I wonder whatever happened to him?)
Barry Alldis (Went to Radio Luxembourg. Died 1982.)
Mike Lennox (Moved to Canada.)
Keith Skues
Chris Denning
Johnny Moran
Pete Myers

Pete Murray
Ed Stewart
Pete Drummond
Mike Raven (Left to work in “Horror Movies”.)
Mike Ahern (Went back to Australia.)
John Peel (Worked for Radio 1 for umpteen years until his death.)

I wonder how many of these people are still working in Radio (or even still alive……?)

PS: I was initially surprised that Jimmy Savile wasn’t on this photograph but it seems he didn’t join Radio 1 until 1968 after spending most of the 1960s at Radio Luxembourg. Johnny Walker is another of those DJs with a long BBC career who you think would have been there at the beginning of Radio 1 but of course in August 1967 he stayed aboard Radio Caroline and only re-surfaced at the Beeb in 1969.

Loose Ends

Jun 1, 2009

ITEM:   WordPress gives you some basic statistics about the numbers of visitors to your blog. I seem to get a reasonable number considering the odd subject matter and my amateur IT skills. There’s a daily running total of how many “clicks” are made but that could be a few people looking at lots of stuff or many different people arriving here by mistake and clicking away to somewhere more suitable. Other stats available list the different catagories in total visits from the most to the least. This is interesting if only for the fact that  the majority of the subjects I’ve most enjoyed mentioning on this blog languish way down at the bottom of the list. There’s no accounting for taste……

Spectre Stories 03

ITEM: For instance nobody seems very interested in John Spencer comics. They have no value and little merit. The fact that they aren’t much cop is the very reason I am on the lookout for more!


For the record Spectre Stories was one of 4 titles issued by John Spencer Publishing. The other three were Fantasy Stories, Macabre Stories and Strange Stories. Each lasted for approx 6 issues. Much of the odd artwork in Spectre Stories Number 3 was allegedly completed by Michael Jay (although the artwork reproduced above from No 1 isn’t by him…it looks more like the work of Ron Embleton). John Spencer Publishing were better known for their range of pulp paperbacks which were churned out monthly under the imprint of “Badger Books” by just a handful of prolific writers. The paperbacks were mostly Horror or Science Fiction and as they were numbered as if they were monthly magazines some people collected them in the 1960s (and even today??).

Spectre Stories 01

ITEM:    Last year I mentioned L.Miller & Son Comics of London. Between the late 1940s and approx 1966 they published numerous black and white comics in the UK, mostly reprints of Fawcett and Charlton comics (especially Captain Marvel and many many Cowboy comics). They did however commission some UK sourced books..most notably Marvelman who ran from 1954 to 1963. The “& Son” part of the company was Arnold Miller who also published his own stuff as The Arnold Book Co. An extremely unexpected place to find an exhaustive index of all the Miller/Arnold comics ever issued is within Nos 15 and 16 of Peter Normanton’s UK Horror magazine  “From The Tomb”. The index along with a  fascinating article is by Frank Motler. There’s even a photo (thanks to Alan Austin and Steve Holland) of the less than scintillating premises where these comics originally emerged from !!


ITEM:    Still talking comics I’ve just finished re-reading some early issues of the small circulation UK underground(ish) A5 magazine “Escape” from the 1980s. One contains this fascinating article by Alan Moore regarding his first ever visit to the USA (and Marvel and DC of course). I hope they won’t mind my sharing a couple of pages here.

ITEM:     I see that Joan Alexander died recently. She wasn’t quite the first Lois Lane but evidentally a very popular one appearing as the damsel in distress and the thorn in Clark Kent’s side for more than 1600 episodes of the american “Superman” radio serial. Superman’s popularity must have been virtually instantaneous as the radio show began in 1940 and along with many of the other famous fictional characters on the radio moved over to TV in the early 1950s. Of course I never ever heard any of the Superman radio show episodes until this very week when I discover there are a number of  “Old Time Radio Serials” now sloshing around the Internet as mp3 files.


ITEM:   Another subject that is belatedly receiving more coverage on the Internet along with more interesting downloadable mp3 files is Offshore Pirate Radio. As far as Europe is concerned this probably all began in Denmark in 1958. In the UK it began in 1964 with Radio Atlanta and Radio Caroline. They quickly joined forces to make Radio Caroline North and Radio Caroline South. They, and numerous others, sailed on the crest of the 1960s pop music explosion in the UK. Here is an audio clip from Radio Caroline of an advert for the NME from perhaps 1965. It may have been the swinging sixties but doesn’t the announcer sound as if he’s just escaped from the BBC’s Light Programme or Third !!