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.
June 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……
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??).
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 !!
July 17, 2008
I admit to knowing virtually nothing about John Spencer Publishing. I bought a few of these black and white comics around 1966/1967 from the local newsagents when I’d exhausted their supplies of “proper” comics. According to the always knowledgeable Steve Holland (who has scans of a few more John Spencer Publishing comic covers at http://www.bearalley.blogspot.com ) there could be a couple of dozen issues published across five or six different titles.
The material appears to be English (or European?) rather than American in origin. The artwork is crude yet effective. Some of the horror elements seem quite gruesome. If these stories are reprints I have no idea where they originally appeared. Perhaps they aren’t reprints. The E-Type Jaguar drawn here was first seen in series one form at the 1961 Motor show I believe.
There were three other companion comics available published “at regular intervals” whatever that may mean. I doubt that many still exist. I am aware of people who collect the Miller/Atlas/Alan Class comics but does ANYONE collect these obscure and un-loved books I wonder? I’d love to learn more about this forgotten comic publisher.