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.