Tuesday, July 08, 2014

Marvelman in Blackpool!

It's not often you see a superhero visit Blackpool, but that's just what Marvelman did in No.104 of his weekly comic back in August 1955. Blackpool was the main holiday destination for working class families back then, and this story takes place in 'Wakes Week' when factories closed for a fortnight and the resort would be packed.

I'm sure that this issue must have been a big seller in Blackpool that week, but is it an accurate depiction of the town? Let's see. (Click on each page to see it larger.)

The cover is certainly spot-on, with a rendition of the Tower and surrounding buildings that is extremely accurate. I suspect it's traced from a photograph but all the same it's a good illustration. 

Inside the 28 page comic, only the first 6 page story is connected with the cover. I'm not sure who the artist is. Ron Embleton perhaps? The splash panel shows Marvelman and Gargunza in dodgem cars. The impact of Gargunza hitting his jaw on the car isn't exaggerated. Those 'bumper cars' could be extremely dangerous as they had no seatbelts. I saw this happen to a little girl in the 1960s at Blackpool, with the impact completely smashing her teeth. An unpleasant and haunting sight. I always felt very sorry for that girl and I hope she had a happy life afterwards. 

Page two sees Gargunza arrive in Blackpool by ship. Wait. What? Blackpool has no port, so although the view from the beach in panel 2 is very accurate, Gargunza walking from the sea carrying his cases is plain daft. Panel 4's view from the top of the Tower looks right, but panel 6's unspoilt coastline is nothing like Blackpool. The shelter is fairly accurate for the period though. (Gargunza's invention causes people to topple over. I don't think it'd take much for that to happen in Wakes Week!)

Page three sees Gargunza head towards the market. I don't think there was an outdoor market in Blackpool in 1955 but perhaps it simply means the many stalls along the seafront. 

Page four continues the chase into the Tower Ballroom. Looks right.

Page five sees Gargunza try to flee in Blackpool Zoo, and there was indeed a zoo in the Tower in those days. Not sure if it featured a gorilla but it works for dramatic effect.

Page six and Marvelman's up Blackpool Tower. The railing is considerably higher in reality but that's just a bit of artistic license. 

Of course Marvelman in Blackpool is just a bit of fun and not intended to be a truly accurate portrayal of the place, but even so it's not a bad job. I'm sure it gave a lot of kids a thrill that week if they were on holiday there.

On the back cover of the issue is an ad for numerous jokes and novelties. This was a standard advert on L.Miller comics, but coincidentally it suits this issue perfectly as most of these items would be widely available in Blackpool joke shops in 1955. 



mj said...

Was it unusual, Lew, to be specific about holiday locations? By the way, article in English Heritage mag shows New revamped Blackpool seafront, have you been lately?

Lew Stringer said...

Yes I was there one day last week. I always make sure I visit at least once a year to see how it's changed, and just to enjoy a day on the coast really.

It wasn't unusual for some strips to be specific about holiday locations (I've featured Blackpool in my strips numerous times over the last 30 years) but unusual for a superhero story to be set in Blackpool. A wise move though, as no doubt it helped sales in that area that week.

George Shiers said...

Nice to see this based at Blackpool - my Dad grew up there in the 60's and 70's so I'm sure he'd like to see this.

Colin Jones said...

What really annoyed me about the dodgems was the way some people would deliberately bump into you when the point is to dodge 'em - they are dodgems NOT "bumper cars". That's a terrible story about the girl smashing her teeth, Lew. Those seaside attractions were fun but could be dangerous - I assume that nowadays they'd be a lot safer with health and safety regulations.

Lew Stringer said...

I must admit we always called them 'bumper cars'. Some people were too vicious behind the wheel though. Yes, I'm sure you're right and there are more restrictions today. At least they have seatbelts now.

George, that's interesting to know. I had a holiday in Blackpool every year in the 1960s so I may have even passed your dad on the prom. :)

John Pitt said...

Good to see an original Marvelman strip. The very first superhero comic I ever bought was either a MM or a Young MM, I can't remember which. Prior to that I had only seen/ bought Classics Illustrated and Dell comic books. But one day 2 school chums brought a load of DC comics to school and told me where they were sold. But that first visit I didn't have enough pennies, so I had to settle for the cheaper B&W book, which wasn't very memorable. The next time I got my first DC comic though, which I'll NEVER forget - Batman gets unmasked by the Joker under a street light! I was hooked!

Lew Stringer said...

Is this the one, John? Batman 148, from June 1962?


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