Knight and Squire

Sep 30, 2010

I like to think that I’m an easy-going person. I can laugh at life’s numerous absurdities, or smile inwardly at the nonsense I face daily, say nothing and move on. I’ve grown to expect the Country/Planet to continue to go to hell in a handcart. But sometimes it’s the little things that drive me to despair. Have you looked at the Subtitles on TV recently ?? They are supposed to help the hard-of-hearing. They seem to be produced by people who are short-on-braincells. What is going on ?? Are they produced by robots who can’t decypher anyone’s accent. If they are written by real people then those real people must be locked in a room without a TV. One glance at the screen would give them a clue that “No is time for the whether four cash” isn’t right. News and Sport are incomprehensible gibberish and if I thought I’d get through I’d ring up and complain…..

Then later I’m reading the back page editorial in a recent DC comic about the upcoming “Knight and Squire” miniseries written by Paul Cornell. Having re-invented just about every “hero” ever featured in their comics since WW2 I suppose it was their turn. Briefly featured in an early Batman comic (No 62) as an armour-clad UK version of the dynamic duo I presume they’ve now been updated to the modern day. But my blood boiled when Janelle Siegel, Assistant Editor (whoever he/she is ) said:-

I received the first script only to have to respond “Could you please translate some of this slang for me?”……so you’ll be seeing an additional text page at the end of every issue explaining certain ….Britishisms……we wanted to make sure the issues were fun and approachable for fans anywhere.

I have read umpteen DC etc comics from the age of 6 upwards and have managed quite well without a page explaining “Americanisms” !! Does the whole world have to continue dumbing down ?

PS: As usual the villains look the most interesting characters…..

Nuff Said 23

Sep 23, 2010

If you click on the picture once or twice it might enlarge enough for you to make out the names. How many do you recognise?

Cops and Robbers

Sep 20, 2010

Help !  I’m still trapped in a room full of T.V. Boardman Annuals. They’re stacked on my desk at work (because that’s where my scanner lives). For a brief moment I considered scanning every page, but common sense prevailed…that way madness lies. I even considered asking Dawn to scan every page..but she’d only get mad with me too. So I just picked out one text story from the 1957 Okay Annual.  By Jack Trevor Story’s standards it’s rather mundane. It even contains a spelling mistake on line 18. Vandalising vehicles was evidentally not just the modern pastime I thought it to be…..

Cops and Robbers by Jack Trevor Story



Sep 17, 2010

In the 15 minutes free time I’ve had today I’ve acquired some more 1960s “ye-ye” girl music. And very fab it is too. France Gall and Sylvie Vartan are the ones everyone has heard of but there were 100s of others such as this cute chanson that I just can’t get out of my head. It almost makes you want to jump up and dance like Adam West.

State of the Ark

Sep 15, 2010

Despite all the stuff I’ve managed to dispose of in the last few years I’ve still kept three Reel to Reel tape recorders…even though one of them (an Akai 4000DB) doesn’t work. I thought that perhaps I ought to have another try at repairing it. In theory it shouldn’t have failed as it is the newest (from circa 1977), least used and most expensive (dolby noise reduction and stereo) tape recorder I’ve ever owned. Amazingly, updated versions of this machine were still available until as recently as 1984. The early 1960s Cossor machine in its cream “suitcase” case (which may even be valve-powered as it takes so long to “warm up” !!) still never misses a beat. It has that wonderful “warm” sound which you don’t seem to get any more. Perhaps something to do with the sheer weight of the chassis or its limited frequency response ?? But it doesn’t appear to have any meaningful way of me connecting it to an amp or speakers let alone my computer. So transferring old recordings to mp3 is left to my (t)rusty Philips 4302. But this small tape recorder, although reliable is merely a 2 track machine that won’t accept reels bigger than 5 3/4″ in size. Hence my need to restore the Akai 4000DB to health. I’ve a stack of 4 track 7″ reels I’d like to play for one final time just to see what treasure/rubbish they contain….

So I was pleasantly surprised to find someone selling not just the appropriate replacement belts but also detailed instructions on how to fit them. Once the mechanics are removed from the cabinet It’s not all that easy to even see the drive belt let alone remove and replace it. I won’t mention how I put it all back together and then found a ball bearing on my tool tray…assumed the worst….thought I’d missed refitting a ball bearing on the end of the flywheel….took the whole thing apart again…. found that I had refitted the ball bearing after all…and had to put it back together once more. Such fun. Anyway the important thing is that the Akai now plays tapes once more. I quite enjoy the sensation of threading a tape around the head and onto a spool. But it’s difficult fast-forwarding to find anything in particular. You just have to let the tapes play through in real time. Hard to imagine that once upon a time this equipment was state-of-the-art. Now it’s state-of-the-Ark. But at least it was designed to be repairable. You couldn’t dismantle and repair an mp3 player…….

More Okay

Sep 14, 2010

One last note about the T.V. Boardman Annuals. I understand that they originally came with paper slip-covers. Can’t say I’ve ever seen one still intact though. And also that they were pretty much available exclusively through Woolworths stores.

As these Annuals were undated there seems to be some discussion about which ones were published when. Elsewhere on the Internet this seems to be the accepted order:-

1952 AJAX ADVENTURE ANNUAL (Elephant cover)
1953 ADVENTURE ANNUAL (The Robot Empire)
1955 OKAY ADVENTURE ANNUAL (Saurian Expedition)
1956 OKAY ADVENTURE ANNUAL (Last stand of Major Wilson)

The only slight problem I find is with the 1956 Okay Adventure Annual. It is full of very early (1940 ?) Quality Comics comic strips like Clip Chance, Rusty Ryan and Hugh Hazzard. It is probably correct that the book was available Xmas 1956 but even then it must have looked incredibly old-fashioned. It does however contain a rare text story called “Wulfric of the Fens” written by the legendary Jack Trevor Story (see elsewhere on this blog for more on this under-appreciated writer).

PS: Now I’ve had a chance to flick through the 1957/1958/1959 Annuals I find that they too dredge the bottom of the barrel with mostly early 1940s Quality Comics strips mixed amongst the UK-sourced text stories.


Sep 13, 2010

What’s in a name ?? T.V. Boardman’s “Ajax Adventure Annual” of 1952 was re-named “Adventure Annual” for 1953 and then became “Okay Adventure Annual” for 1955 to 1957 and finally “Okay Annual of Adventure Stories” for 1958 and 1959. Yeah, I know……. who cares ??….


Sep 11, 2010

We have a long tradition in the UK of seeing Annuals still appearing years (or even decades) after the comic the Annual was based on ceased being published.

“Okay Comic” was a short-lived (1937 – 1938) publication from T.V Boardman Ltd that would re-appear as an Annual from 1953 to 1959 (often under the “Popular Press” imprint). The comics (which mostly consisted of reprints of american newspaper cartoon strips) must now be extremely rare. The Annuals, (usually called Okay Adventure annuals) thanks to those sturdy card covers, have survived in quite reasonable numbers and can still be picked up for £5 – £10 depending on condition. As they contain reprints of Quality Comics material such as Doll Man and Plastic Man mixed amongst the usual text stories they are certainly a cheap way for someone to acquire genuine “Golden Age” comic stuff that was actually printed back in the “Golden Age” . Also worth looking out for are the  “Ajax Adventure Annual” of 1952 and the “Spaceways Comic Annual” and “Adventure Album” from circa 1954. Perhaps even more collectable still are T. V Boardman’s “Buffalo Bill” Annuals. Once again based on the earlier comics these books appeared every Xmas from 1949 to 1961. When I was youger they also appeared in every junk shop and jumble sale I visited. Oh for the days when if something was old it was worth less than the new stuff, not more…….

Incidentally T.V Boardman had nothing to do with television but rather was the initials of the publisher, one Thomas Volney Boardman. After “Okay Comic” he would go on to publish a number of other comics with familiar tiles like “Smash” and “Feature” reprinting  Quality Comics strips such as “Blackhawk” and “The Spirit” as well as (also now very collectable) home -grown comics like “Roy Carson” and “Swift Morgan” along with crime and science fiction pulps and paperbacks through the 1940s and 1950s.

The 1953 Adventure Annual and the 1954 Spaceways Annual are the best of the bunch. Later Annuals had far fewer pages, less UK comic strips and older/less interesting Quality Comics strips. Why the same cover was used for two different books is a mystery.

Nuff Said 22

Sep 9, 2010

The instructions are as follows:-
1. Point remote at subject
2. Push any button on remote
3. Hope for the best

What was CDi ?

Sep 6, 2010

By the time the audio CD format was up and running 20 years ago the boffins were well on their way to introducing video on those little silver discs. Previously the only way to watch a full length feature film on a disc was by the Laservision format. Those bulky LP-sized analogue discs with their equally bulky players never captured the public’s imagination and remained a technological dead end.  Eventually ways were found to cram analogue films onto 4″ discs which became known as VideoCDs or VCDs. This was another format that found limited success here (although in some parts of the planet VCDs were hugely popular as they were cheaper to produce/copy/pirate than Video tapes).

The Philips CDi was the next step on from VCD. It was an interactive multi-media technology that combined sound and video on a CD that was designed from the outset to be viewed on your main TV rather than via a games console. The key to the whole thing was the ability of the technology to permit random access to any point on the disc. This had first been tested by coupling a Laserdisc player to a computer. Once this had proved to work the next stage was to combine this concept into a new machine that utilised a standard sized CD in a player that looked like a Hi-Fi seperate rather than a tacky games console. Of course the main use of a CDi player was still to play games. The novelty was navigating around the screen using a wireless remote control rather than by using a computer keyboard or a wired joystick. 

The Philips CDi format was available for the relatively brief period of 1992 to 1998. Too late they realised that the success or failure of any machine depended on the software available to use on it. Without a stream of new games being developed solely for the CDi player people soon became bored with the ones they already owned. More people were buying computers and by 1998 the DVD all-digital format was ready for release alongside the now much improved games consoles like Dreamcast and Playstation.

I was one of the relatively few people who purchased a CDi player when the format was first introduced and at the time I actually enjoyed the experience.  Somewhere on my shelves must still be games like “Mad Dog McCree” where you could have gunfights with real cowboys rather than cartoon characters and the “Vegas Girls” adult poker game. At one point Philips even offered a modem and a “Net on your set” CD which used the CDi player to access the Internet. In theory this was a wonderful advance for the TV set in your lounge in the mid 1990s. A slow modem, dial-up access and “typing” an eMail one letter at a time with your remote control on a virtual keyboard made it more of a novelty than a useful tool though !! When you think what you can do with the current batch of mobile phones you realise how far we have come in a decade and a half !!  The next big thing over the next year or so will be the final convergence of TV and Internet with Internet enabled TV sets or set-top boxes. Where we will be in another 10 years I hate to think. By then a CDi player will be about as useful as a wind-up Gramophone.