Thursday, June 12, 2014

General Jumbo saved my life! (Perhaps.)

When I was growing up we lived in an area where there was a bridge at the end of the street leading to the nearby fields. There was a railway line below, often used by freight trains and passenger trains. I used to play in those fields a lot, as did other kids. Some of the kids used to play down the embankment and trespass on the track. I never did. My parents had warned me not to of course, but it was something else which was the main deterrent. The Beano Summer Special 1964.

That first Beano Summer Special contained a two page General Jumbo story drawn by Dave Sutherland in which a boy had his foot trapped between the rails as the points changed. It stuck with me forever. 

Back then, when I was only 5 years old, I hadn't developed the habit of saving comics so I threw out the special after I'd read it. However, this image was so powerful that it was committed to memory...

...and I also remembered there was an oncoming train in the story...

I found that panel with the trapped foot such a powerful image that even to this day, 50 years later, it comes to mind sometimes if I'm near a railway track. Heck, it even springs to mind every time I walk over the tramlines at Blackpool! Even though there were no points on the stretch of track at the bottom of my street, the message that trespassing on the lines was dangerous still hit home.

Back then, after throwing out the comic, the details of the story were mainly forgotten. (For years I'd misremembered it as Jumbo himself getting his foot trapped.) The only panels that were burned into my mind were the one with the foot trapped and the onrushing train. I knew that in reality there would be no toy soldiers to save the day, so the message was clear: keep off the track!  Subsequently I never played on, or crossed, the track as a kid. (Or as an adult, in case you were wondering.)

As far as I know, no one was ever killed or injured on the railway line near my old house, and perhaps I'd have been safe too, but thanks to that General Jumbo story I didn't chance it. 

As I said, that Beano Summer Special is long gone but a few years ago comics historian Ray Moore kindly sent me a photocopy of that story which I'm showing here. So thanks to Ray, thanks to artist Dave Sutherland for drawing such an influential image, thanks to whoever wrote it, and thanks to General Jumbo for (perhaps) saving my life.

Images Copyright © DC Thomson & Co. Ltd. Click on the strip to see it at a readable size.

5 comments:

Phil Rushton said...

A nice story - and a fitting consequence that after one comic saved you you've spent the rest of your life saving them! :-)

Lew Stringer said...

Ha ha! Good one Phil!

paddykool said...

Great story ,Lew. Images , like particular smells can burn for life. I sometimes think that was own "comic collecting" was in part inspired by the fact that my parents never bought me the christmas Beano annuals .I always got something like the Lone Ranger from "Woolies", which would have been half the price .I can also still remember my disappointment at missing the new look Beano intro in the very early 1960's with the free squirt ring novelty.I can still see myself returning from the little shop empty-handed with my old threepenny bit in my pocket. I think it had a life-long effect on my psyche!!!!!!

Lew Stringer said...

Thanks for sharing that memory paddykool. Missing a comic must have felt like the worst thing in the world at that young age. Did you ever buy that Beano as a back issue?

Coincidentally, before I saw your comment, I was just going through a pile of various old comics and my eyes caught the cover of the new Wizard No.4 from 1970 which had a free squirt ring. Ten years after the one you missed, so I guess you'd have lost interest in it by then.

paddykool said...

Yes Lew . It was like the end of the world for a little boy back then. There was no other way to get it .There was no collector network or a back copy shops then.I never could find that issue and I suppose the"ring" if it hasn't corroded by now would fetch a high price. What I also remember is when the annuals changed from the seemingly very fat pulpy paper with really tiny detailed artwork to the glossier more laminated annuals around 1960 or 1961.By 1970 I was in a fallow comics period.Marvel had burnt out for me about then and I was getting slowly into the underground comix. I came back gradually to appreciate all sorts of comics shortly thereafter.Girls got in the way!!!

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