Monday, July 12, 2010

The Very Best of Black Bob

The collection of classic Black Bob strips mentioned here in May has now been published and, like the Dandy Wonder Dog of the title, it's a champion.

The Very Best of Black Bob is a solid value for money hardback with 208 pages for £9.99. Compiled by ex-Dandy editor Morris Heggie, who also provides an introduction and background info, the book reprints a good selection of Black Bob strips from the 1950s wonderfully illustrated by Jack Prout. Comic expert Ray Moore provides an index at the back of the collection with story titles, dates, reprint dates etc.

Inspired by the success of the MGM film Lassie Come Home the adventures of Black Bob began as a text story written by freelancer Kelman Frost in The Dandy in November 1944 and then as a picture-strip story in The Weekly News from 1946. These strips were later reprinted in The Dandy.

Black Bob
was one of my favourite adventure strips as a young child and my Mum used it to teach me to read before I started school. Even back in the early 1960s the strip looked archaic and seemingly permanently set in the 1940s, but to me that was part of its charm. That and, of course, the clever collie known as Black Bob. I grew up in a house where pets were part of the family so the fictitious Black Bob became a friend along with the dogs and cats of my childhood.

Collies are apparently the most intelligent breed of dog, and I can verify that with the collie-cross dog I had for 18 years whose memory and understanding of language was superior to that of some children. However Black Bob exceeds them all, with his sharp mind and skills able to resolve dangerous situations in tales to delight and amaze. In his very first picture strip we're told "he knew very well how to open a car door" and later goes on to stop a runaway horse, fetch a fire hose to put out a burning rail truck, and fashion a crutch for a disabled tramp.

These heartwarming tales of selflessness and bravery from a dog were, I believe, inspirational for readers of The Dandy. If a "mere" dog could be so noble then surely we, as "superior" humans, could aspire to be the same or even better. Such stories of self-sacrifice and basic goodness were the backbone of Thomson adventure strips, particularly in the Black Bob tales.

Bob is a very sympathetic figure too. Often he becomes separated from his master Andrew Glenn, sometimes lost miles away, and the stories deal with his plight to be reunited with his owner. In this way the stories really pull at the heartstrings, which is not a bad thing to bring out feelings of compassion from the readers.

Of course, all this is assuming the readers actually like dogs. Those vain souls who are indifferent or hateful of animals probably never got the appeal of Black Bob at all and won't see the point of this collection. Perhaps people who don't like "old fashioned" looking strips won't like it either. That's their prerogative (and their loss in my opinion).

However for the rest of us The Very Best of Black Bob is a marvelous book for children, dog lovers, and collectors of nostalgia. I hope it proves to be a success and perhaps, just perhaps, will inspire D.C. Thomson (and Waverley Books) to produce The Complete Jonah next year.

The Very Best of Black Bob published by Waverley Books. £9.99 r.r.p.
ISBN 978-1-84934-028-1


Kid said...

"These heartwarming tales...were, I believe, inspirational for readers of The Dandy. If a 'mere' dog could be so noble then surely we, as 'superior' humans, could aspire to be the same or even better." Assuming that comics can influence their readers, of course. And if they can influence some readers one way (for good), it seems sheer common sense to allow for the possibility that, depending on content, they may also influence others in the opposite direction. As I said - common sense.

An excellent book - I'm lucky enough to have five of the eight originals.

Lew Stringer said...

In the words of Vic Reeves "You wouldn't let it lie" would you Gordon? As I've said to you when you've pursued this hobbyhorse of yours on other posts I AGREE that comics can influence readers. Where I DISagree with you is in your belief that comics can influence them to do something nasty IF they haven't already been turned in that direction by other forces (parents, environment, peer pressure, trauma, etc).

There's a huge difference between a story making someone feel sad or happy and a story motivating them to go out and physically commit a crime.

Kid said...

Firstly, it's not so much my belief but that I allow for the possibility.

Secondly, any possible influence must be considered ALONGSIDE other possible influences - not regarded as distinct and separate "icing on the cake" once it has already been baked. That is where I believe your viewpoint does not withstand the application of simple logic.

Thirdly, your "no evidence" disclaimer (and this in itself is highly debatable) doesn't take into account the many years which may pass before any accumulative damage from various negative influences may manifest itself, making it extremely difficult to trace - with pinpoint accuracy - later incidents of disturbed or antisocial behaviour to their precise source.

The principle of "cause and effect" is a long established one. I see no valid reason why dubious or offensive material would be exempt from it merely because it is presented in the form of a comic. The question, of course, remains - exactly what qualifies as dubious or offensive material? In some cases, that may be subjective; in others, it would be entirely objective. That is why my viewpoint has always been that the jury is still out on the matter, and that it wiser not to be too dogmatic in dismissing the discussion as to the pros and cons.

Lastly, I'm not getting into an argument about it - I think the logic of my point of view is self-apparent to any impartial person who has not already made up their mind on the matter. (By impartial, I mean those who do not have a vested interest in ensuring that comics are perceived as being completely blame-free.)

Lew Stringer said...

It's a little insulting to suggest that a viewpoint opposing yours is only down to having a vested interest in comics. I'd hold the same views about Penny Dreadfuls, video games, and rock music; three things that the media have also blamed juvenile delinquency for, and I have no "vested interest" in those.

(Incidentally, don't YOU have a vested interest in comics, being a professional letterer and resize artist?)

I've already agreed with you several times that the influence of comics must be judged alongside other input. As I've said, I don't think comics could trigger someone to do something bad unless that person has already been damaged by other sources. As I said back in March when we had this discussion the first time: "I'm saying that only people who are already "damaged" by their environment or experiences will be affected adversely by a comic, but we shouldn't censor horror comics just for a small minority."

We've covered all this long enough Gordon. As we agree on the basics I'm not sure why you're still pursuing it. I'm not going to agree on every small point with you any more than you're going to agree with me so let's drop the subject.

Kid said...

I'm quite prepared to drop it, but in reiterating your viewpoint, I still do not believe you have actually addressed the pertinent points of mine. However, be that as it may.

Why do I "still pursue it"? Because of the glaring logical inconsistency in insisting that comics may only have a harmful effect if the person is "already" damaged. What I'm saying is that it's not unreasonable to allow for the idea that certain material (in comics form) works in CONJUNCTION with other factors - not SEPARATE or DISTINCT from them AFTER the damage has already been done. And also because of your prejudiced and provocative labelling of my original responses, in what I can only assume is an attempt to portray me in as bad a light as possible. See my blog for more details.

And I find it interesting (and astounding)that you discount everything in which juveniles are interested (and which is aimed specifically at them) as having anything to do with the way in which they think or behave if it happens to be negative.

My "relentlessness" springs from the strong impression I have that you have not fully grasped what I have been attempting to say (based on your responses, which seem, to me, to circumnavigate the pertinent points I have tried to make), although I must allow for the possibility that I have failed to express myself or convey the content of my message in an effective manner. In short, it may be my fault.

That is why I have persisted with it - so that nobody need be in any doubt as to what I am actually trying to say. However, you're right - I've flogged it to death. If there's anybody out there who doesn't understand me by now, it's not for my want of trying.

I shall graciously allow you the last word (on your blog) - but try and avoid taking a dig, eh?

Lew Stringer said...

Obviously some comics are totally inappropriate for even the most well-adjusted children. You wouldn't show a Milo Manara sex comic to a child for example, or give a four year old a copy of Punisher Max. My point has always been about comics that are *aimed* at children, and I don't believe kids' comics could damage children unless their minds have already been disturbed by real-life events.

Horror comics *might* give them trauma if that's all they're exposed to. As I said to you months ago on this blog:
"If, as in your scenario, a child is only exposed to a diet of explicit horror comics and no lighter balance to cheer his outlook then that's hardly the fault of the comics is it? That's like saying if a child was only exposed to Janet and John books throughout his life he'd only develop minimal reading and comprehension skills. Of course he would, but that wouldn't be the fault of the books, it'd be a failing of his parents or guardians not to provide more balance in his reading matter."

I don't know why it matters to you so much that you want me to share your exact beliefs and I'm past caring now Gordon. We've exhausted this topic. Thanks for your time.

Kid said...

I do not want you to share my exact beliefs - I merely want you to understand exactly what they ARE before you dismiss them. Couldn't resist taking that dig and once more misrepresenting what I was actually saying and my motivation for saying it, huh? You seem to do that too often for it to be accidental.

Also your comparison between Janet and John books and horror comics does not really bear too much scrutiny. A child may well have a "balanced reading diet", but one particularly gruesome horror story may have all the more potent an effect simply because of the contrast to the child's usual fare.

Anyway, I'm done trying to have a logical and reasoned discussion with someone who seems incapable of comprehending the concepts of logic and reason. You may as well just invent what I believe on the subject and argue against that. That's what you seem to have been doing up to now anyway.

Over to you and you're inventive way of reinterpreting what I actually said.

Oh, but before I go - on the subject of the BLACK BOB book: my local Waterstone's only got three copies in - and they say that the publishers have no more copies in stock. Therefore, the book has either had a limited print run, or is selling very well - or maybe even both. I'd advise anyone thinking of getting a copy to grab the first one they see. (Pay for it, of course.)

Lew Stringer said...

Kid, I do understand your point. I just don't agree with all of it. You've flogged that particular dead horse until it's turned to glue. You've expressed your views here numerous times now (on this thread and on the Horror Comics and Redtop threads) and you always end up getting surly. At least you haven't posted abuse this time like you did before. (And don't give me the "it was only in retaliation" nonsense. Anyone following those discussions in full could see that wasn't the case. Your reaction was well over the top.)

I know what you're saying regarding comics and agree with part of it. I simply don't agree with *every* little point. People don't all have to share your p.o.v. you know.

You don't agree with my p.o.v. That's fine. I don't expect everyone to agree. That's life!

Kid said...

What people who followed the discussion can see for themselves is that you are totally divorced from reality when it comes to giving an accurate assessment of what actually happened.

You really seem to have a problem with seeing things how they really are. Your contemptuous dismissal of 2,900,000 newspaper readers, not to mention anyone who might hold the same opinion as myself, is what constitutes abuse, Lew. Your sneering, sniping, smug, supercilious comments; your insinuation that I am lying or deluded in my recounting of the "telephone incident"; your condescending, patronising, superior attitude towards people you seem to regard as oiks - that's what constitutes abuse. And you have the cheek to downplay your own insulting remarks by referring to them as a "silly generalization" while laying it on thick with a trowel about the "abusive" nature of mine.

Your continued habit of distorting and twisting what I am actually saying and inventing and apportioning motivations to me that are not based on any recognizable reality, and then using them as the basis of what you imagine to be scathing wit - THAT'S abuse, Lew.

That's exactly how you come across in your comments on this subject, and for me merely to make the observation that that's how things are does not qualify as abuse in anyone's language - except yours, it seems.

Publishing "not for publication" comments after saying you weren't going to; publishing insults against me, then deleting them while restating the insult in your "explanatory" remarks; your sarcastic, scornful, impertinent, insulting tone which permeates your whole attitude towards me - that's abuse.

You abuse good manners, logic, reason, common sense, respect, and basic decency, with your rabid desire to portray yourself as some sort of martyred victim by continually trying to rewrite history and alter people's perceptions by describing my comments as "aggressive, abusive, ad hominem attacks". There is one occasion where I had a mildly ironic go at you (the "either of the above" remark), which was in direct response to a catalogue of sarcastic, sneering jibes from you in which you implied I was an insane liar who had lost his marbles. So yes - any digs I made WERE in retaliation to your own offences.

And STILL you flog this myth in your closing comments that I'm trying to bully you into agreeing with my point of view - despite me saying numerous times that this isn't my intention. Regardless of what I say, you persist in trying to portray the complete opposite. If anything, all I'm trying to do is cajole you into giving a better defence of YOUR point of view because, to date, you have singularly failed to do so.

Just what planet are you from, Lew? It certainly isn't Planet Reality. I am reluctantly left with no option but to assume that you either have mental health issues, or are just trying to seriously wind me up for the sake of it. I can think of no other explanation for you habitually ignoring what I actually say, and substituting your own fanciful and wilful misinterpretations of the facts.

Lew Stringer said...

"Publishing "not for publication" comments after saying you weren't going to"

You're mistaken. What actually happened is that I said I wasn't going to publish any more of your comments (as they'd gotten abusive, not "mildly ironic" as you see it) but when two other people commented on you I thought it best to relent and let you have a right to reply. You did NOT mark your comment "not for publication". You sent it to this blog. It wasn't a personal e-mail I published.

I can't edit comments sent to this blog. I can only publish or reject them. I thought it would pacify you to publish it. Obviously not.

Regarding the rest of your latest rant, I suggest you move on, stop projecting your own flaws onto others, and seek some peace of mind. As you've continued to post off-topic attacks here no further comments of any kind from you will be published on this blog.

Lew Stringer said...

As Gordon (Kid) Robson has now decided to carry his grievances about this situation over to his own blog I've now removed the comment of his from my blog that he claims he didn't intend for publication. I've also removed comments from myself and others pertaining to that. Hopefully that will pacify him.

All other comments will remain for people to see the discussion in context so they can make up their own minds on the matter regarding who was being abusive to whom.
The debate took place in the posts entitled
"1954: The year Britain got the Horrors over comics"



"Lowbrow redtop calls for Beano ban"


I'm posting those links solely for reference. No further comments from Gordon or about him will be published on this blog.

Now, time to draw a close to this unpleasant situation and move on I think!

Uncle Creepy said...

Mind boggling!! Way to go Lew.

Keep up the good work

Ginger said...

Phew. Who'd run a blog? Lew you have my sympathies. You've been more than fair in allowing a balanced view to your opinions on comics. Don't take any crap.

The Black Bob book was a treasure. Do you know if there will be a follow up this year, or anything along the same lines?

Lew Stringer said...

I haven't heard of another Black Bob book, and there's nothing listed on Amazon for this year. There is another Best of Victor book though. This time it reprints old annual stories.

Anonymous said...

Lew, Do you know if there was a Black Bob Annual published this year? I enjoyed the one they did last time.

Lew Stringer said...

No, there wasn't one this year. I think last year's was intended as a one-off celebration of the character.

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