Monday, May 25, 2015


By the early 1980s Marvel UK had progressed considerably since the company's early days of reprint weeklies edited from New York and packaged by a London office. Now based in Kentish Town Road, Marvel UK had expanded its staff and its commitment to producing home-grown material. In January 1983 they launched The Daredevils, a 52 page monthly with a mixture of reprint and brand new material.

It's often thought that The Daredevils was intended to rival Dez Skinn's Warrior, which was likely to be the case. (Dez, an ex-Marvel UK editor, had set up Warrior the previous year.) I remember Alan Moore remarking that he and Alan Davis were in the strange position of competing with themselves, as they were doing Marvelman for Warrior at the very same time they were producing new Captain Britain stories for The Daredevils.

The Daredevils No.1 kicked off with a new cover by Paul Neary, and, inside, a new 8 page Captain Britain episode (which would increase to 12 pages in later issues). 

The comic's editor was Bernie Jaye, although Alan had a large influence in suggesting feature ideas which Bernie was happy to accommodate. For example, for the first issue Alan also wrote a six page article on Frank Miller's Daredevil (being a perfect accompaniment to the reprints of Miller's Daredevil strip in the comic), and a regular Fanzine Reviews column. 

I get a little annoyed when I hear some fans today claiming that Alan Moore hates fandom. In fact it's complete bol... well, to put it politely, nothing could be further from the truth, as proven in the pages of The Daredevils. Alan had his roots in comics fandom and was always encouraging new creators. With his Fanzine Reviews pages he went out of his way to promote fanzines he'd often paid for himself. This was a big deal for those of us starting out back then. No other British comic was promoting 'zines in this way, but here was Alan Moore giving us free publicity in a comic sold on the High Street. 

Another regular feature in The Daredevils was Frank Plowright's News Feature, looking at upcoming American comics. It even promoted those published by Marvel's rivals.

Humour was provided in the form of the Earth 33 1/3rd mini-strip by the ever-brilliant Tim Quinn and Dicky Howett.

There was also an Early Artwork feature, with each issue showing the very early work of top creators such as Dave Gibbons, Garry Leach, and David Lloyd...

The first few issues of The Daredevils also featured serialized Spider-Man reprints by Stan Lee and John Romita, although these were dropped after issue 4 to make room for more British material. The comic was rapidly developing into something unique and unmissable; a publication that not only featured comic strips but embraced them with well written articles and features. 

Every issue (except No.3) featured a full colour centrefold poster with new artwork by UK talent. I'll be showing these in more detail in a few days time. 

Issue 6 saw the start of a series of Night Raven text stories written by Alan Moore, with art by David Lloyd on the first chapter and Alan Davis in following issues.

The Daredevils No.7 (July 1983) has a personal significance for me because it's where my first professional comics work appeared. Again, this was due to encouragement from Alan Moore who introduced me to Bernie Jaye at a Westminster Comic Mart. Alan bigged me up, Bernie asked me to submit some ideas to her, I sent off a bunch of What If cartoons and they started appearing from issue 7. I'll always be grateful to Alan and Bernie for giving me my first break. Here's that very first one...

Issue 8 saw the publication of a great Daredevil spoof by Alan Moore, Mike Collins, and Mark Farmer. Grit brazenly parodied the Frank Miller Daredevil strips that were appearing in the same comic. This was Mike Collins' first professional work, again thanks to Alan Moore's input. Here it is...

Sadly, despite The Daredevils being one of the most unique and entertaining comics in the UK, it wasn't to last. With sales lower than hoped, Marvel UK pulled the plug with issue 11, merging it with The Mighty World of Marvel the following month. Disappointed, Bernie Jaye and Alan Moore quit, although some new material did continue for a while in MWOM. Other writers took over Captain Britain, Night Raven, and the comics/fanzine reviews. 

The Daredevils lasted just under a year, but what a year! If you've never seen it, the issues are worth collecting. Marvel UK went on to produce more new material of course (and I went on to do Captain Wally, Robo-Capers, Combat Colin, and more for the company) but they never did another publication with such a great mixture of strips and comics features. 

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Rarest ACTION in Auction!

Back in 1976 when IPC were forced to suspend Action weekly because of its violent and anti-authoritarian content there was one issue that was halted at the print stage but never distributed. Only 30 issues of the issue dated 23rd October are thought to exist and one in great condition is currently on eBay!

The bidding ends on 31st May and at time of writing (23rd May) the bids have already reached £521. Far too high for my pocket but it'll be interesting to see how much it finally goes for. 

If you want to bid, or just follow the auction, go to the phil-comics page by clicking here

My thanks to Hibernia Comics for bringing this to my attention. Images taken from phil-comics' eBay page.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

SCORE 'n' ROAR No.1 (1970)

With their first new boys' adventure comic Scorcher having been established for several months, IPC launched another football weekly on Saturday 12th September 1970. Score 'n' Roar used the same gimmick that IPC's Whizzer and Chips had pioneered a year earlier; two 'rival' comics in one. 16 page Roar was inside 16 page Score and could be separated by opening up the staples.

Kicking off the new comic the first strip was Jack of United, superbly drawn by Barrie Mitchell. A fairly standard football strip about two rival brothers but the interesting thing was that the plot concerning Jack's brother Jimmy continued into his own strip, Jimmy of City, in Roar.

Unlike Scorcher's newsprint format, Score 'n' Roar had the benefit of expensive photogravure printing. This enabled an excellent reproduction of photographs and the comic took full advantage of this by including several feature pages. Score had its opinion page written by 'The Captain'. I'm presuming the chap in the photo may be the comic's editor Dave Hunt. Can anyone confirm or deny this?
Cannonball Craig was somewhat like Scorcher's Billy's Boots in that its star was a youngster who was useless at football until aided by artificial means. In Billy's case it was his magic boots, and in Craig's case it was... wait for it... nuclear irradiated bubble-and-squeak! The artwork on this first chapter is by Mike Western, but Mike White drew later episodes.

Here's how Roar was bound into the centre of Score...
Roar's first strip was the aforementioned Jimmy of City by Barrie Mitchell, continued from Jack of United in Score...
Roar had its own opinion page headed by 'The Inside Man'. I'm pretty sure that the photo is of Bob Paynter, group editor of IPC's humour comics. He was a bit greyer when I knew him but that was 14 years later. I doubt Bob actually wrote the column but comics often used photos of staff members in this way. 
The great Tom Kerr was on board, illustrating the two page Peter the Cat strip. The name was inspired by real-life goalkeeper Peter Bonetti who was nicknamed 'The Cat', but the strip is not about him. 
The centre pages featured Mark Your Man, an Agatha Christie style mystery involving a process of elimination of the suspects. Art on episode one by Geoff Campion, but John Catchpole drew later episodes...
A supernatural three-pager next, with Phantom of the Forest about a ghost footballer. Art by Eric Bradbury, but Jesus Blasco drew later episodes. (I'm guessing that so many of the strips soon lost their original artists because the first episodes would have been produced many months earlier for the dummy issue and perhaps they couldn't fit the extra workload in regularly.)

The Mudlarks next, with art by Ted Kearon.
Back to the second half of Score for the next strip, and the one that was destined to become the most popular and enduring. Here's the very first episode of Nipper, illustrated by the Solano Lopez studio giving it a bleak, grimy look befitting the setting of the fictional industrial town it was set in. Nipper was actually written more like a story from a girls' comic, with an aspect of pathos and the underdog's struggle against his situation. He even had a cruel guardian. Clearly this touched a chord with readers and the strip survived for many years, transferring to Scorcher, and later Tiger, when the comics merged. I don't know who the writer was on these early Nipper strips but Nat Munger is a great name for a bad guy!  

After the grim despair of Nipper, the comic lightened things up for its last strip with Lord Rumsey's Rovers, a comedy drama drawn by Douglas Maxted (although another artist soon took over in subsequent weeks).
Overall, I felt that Score 'n' Roar was a better comic than Scorcher. Its stories seemed stronger and the better paper enabled good photo features. It soon added a humour strip, Trouble Shooter by Graham Allen, and you can see an example of that on a post I did seven years ago (click here). Sadly the comic didn't survive for long. Its paper quality declined and merged with itself in 1971, dropping the Roar part of the title, and then Score merged into Scorcher with the issue dated 3rd July 1971. 

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Promotions in pink

As many of you will recall, decades ago D.C. Thomson always used to promote new comics and free gift issues by including four page A4 inserts in the centre pages of The Dandy and The Beano. (An idea also later used by IPC.) These inserts were printed in navy blue ink on pink paper so they always stood out. Their design was a masterclass in how to sell a comic, with dynamic layouts, exciting logos and announcements that were hand lettered to great effect.

Here's one of those inserts that would have appeared in either The Beano or The Dandy in September 1966. (I kept the ad but not the actual comic!) I can't remember if I bought The Hotspur that week. I didn't really follow that comic until 1969, but the advertised stories Test Pilot Z and The Black Hawk sound intriguing.

I understand that these four page inserts (often thrown away) are now more collectable than the issues they appeared in! I kept a stack of them for years then foolishly used them as firelighters ages ago! 

Commando comics on sale May 21st

Thanks to D.C. Thomson for the info and images...
Commando Issues 4811-4814 — On Sale 21 May 2015

Commando No 4811 – Fighting Frank
While London stood stolidly in the face of relentless Luftwaffe bombing attacks, petty criminal and expert safe-breaker Frank Raymond was on the run. He only stopped running when he enlisted in the Army.
   Though Frank had joined up as a last-ditch, desperate attempt to save his life, he’d actually found his calling. He even went on to join a tough Special Forces unit — one which would soon have a use for his particular set of skills…

Story: George Low
Art: Rezzonico
Cover: Ian Kennedy

Commando No 4812 – Sky Tiger
He led his squadron into the thick of the fiercest dogfights — and yet he always came back without a scratch. He took fantastic risks, for he seemed to bear a charmed life.
   They called him “Lucky” Lane, but even his own men came to hate and fear the young Squadron Leader, because they knew every time they took off, one of them would die. It wouldn’t be Lane, though…for he wore the Tiger Ring…

The cover of a compact graphic novel (for that’s what Commando is, isn’t it?) can do a number of things; illustrate a scene from the story, or a character or try to sum up everything in the story in a single image — like here. Over and above those things, though, the cover should most of all make you want to buy the book.
   Ken Barr’s artwork fulfils than function as much now as it did when it was first seen in 1965 by your then youthful editor. After all, you are going to buy the book, aren’t you?

Calum Laird, Commando Editor

Sky Tiger, originally Commando No 148 (January 1965), re-issued as No 767 (August 1973)

Story: McOwan
Art: Medrano
Cover: Ken Barr

Commando No 4813 – Ramsey’s Raiders
They were a motley bunch — two Scotsmen, one Englishman, one Welshman, one Irishman and an Australian. Led by the unconventional Captain James Ramsey, they were known as the Special Raiding Force, and their job was to operate behind enemy lines in North Africa. They wrote their own rules, and their specially armed jeeps packed a real punch.
   They were good at their job — very good — and the Germans had every reason to fear Ramsey’s Raiders!
I know this “By Special Request” issue is a bit earlier than usual but there are a number of good reasons for that. First, this story — the maiden Ramsey’s Raiders tale — has had more requests for a fresh airing than any other book during my tenure as editor. As it’s now ten years since the Raiders first broke cover, I reckoned it was time.
   The second (and third, I suppose) reason is that we’re going to issue a pair of brand-new Raiders adventures in the next couple of months so re-living their first raid is a great way to raise the curtain for new and seasoned readers alike.
   Yes, that’s right, a new pair of Raiders’ stories is heading your way. You’ll enjoy them, I know.

Calum Laird, Commando Editor

Ramsey’s Raiders, originally Commando No 3854 (October 2005)

Story: Ferg Handley
Art: Keith Page
Cover: Ian Kennedy

Commando No 4814 – Past Crimes
When Captain Rod Tyler was sent to the war in Indo-China as a British observer with French forces, he found himself with the losing side in a savage guerrilla-style conflict. Not only that, he became piggy-in-the-middle between a bull-headed Foreign Legion officer and an alleged Nazi war criminal!
   Just what had he let himself in for?

What would happen if a soldier was convinced that one of his so-called comrades was a former war criminal but had no evidence to prove it?
   That’s the intriguing premise at the heart of this tough tale set during the war in Indochina. The French Foreign Legion’s motto is “Honneur et Fidelite” (translated, perhaps, unsurprisingly, as “Honour and Fidelity”) — and the story is about both of those things, where “fidelity” really means “loyalty” or “duty” as opposed to its modern meaning of “faithfulness”.
   So, then, Past Crimes is a fairly left field entry for Commando but it certainly works, thanks to Markham’s script, veteran Denis McLoughlin’s interior art and Ron Brown’s emerald-hued cover.

Scott Montgomery, Deputy Editor

Past Crimes, originally Commando No 2375 (May 1990), re-issued as No 4001 (April 2007)

Story: Markham
Art: Denis McLoughlin
Cover: Ron Brown

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