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Friday, January 01, 2010

Happy New Year! Three comics of bygone Hogmanays...

If all goes to plan due to the miracle of t'internet, this blog post should go live in the first minute of 2010 while I'm still out celebrating, so if you've just woken up from your Hogmanay parties I'd like to wish all readers of this blog a Happy New Year. I hope you've enjoyed the posts so far and will continue to visit throughout 2010. Now, in typical Blimey! fashion let's take a look into history, and at three comics of New Years Past...

Firstly, an issue of Mickey Mouse Weekly dated January 1st 1938. This was a double celebration issue, for not only was it the New Year's edition it was also the 100th issue of this highly successful comic. Published by Odhams, Mickey Mouse Weekly must have seemed like the cream of the crop of comics back in the 1930s, - tabloid sized, 12 pages, and photogravure printing with four pages in full colour.

Inside, the comic leads off with a text story The Time Machine, illustrated by Basil Reynolds.

Basil Reynolds was also the artist of the page three strip, Skit, Skat and the Captain. Reynolds' work looked quite advanced for the period, and doesn't really look antiquated even today. Looking at the inking style and little touches that Reynolds added to his work (such as the beads of sweat shooting off his character's brows) I wonder if he was an influence on Ken Reid's work.

The centrespread of the weekly is a neat but busy collection of American newspaper strip reprints.

Page 9 of the comic features another top artist of the period; Reg Perrott (who I mentioned here the other day) once again showing his skills as an aviation artist with the strip Wings of Fortune. Fantastic grey wash work. Again, this strip seems ahead of its time stylistically and wouldn't look out of place if it had appeared in Eagle 20 years later.

Moving on a few years to Comic Cuts dated January 1st 1949 and its nicely designed New Year logo. Arthur Martin was the original artist on cover strip Sammy and Shrimpy but this one doesn't look like his work. The tone of the strip plays on the bigotry of the times and not in a subtle way.

In one of the strips inside, Ferdy the Funny Farmhand finds that comic happenstance enables events to backfire on a bully.

On the back page, another bit of racial stereotyping in Pinhead and Pete by Bertie Brown. Thing is, the strength of the strip is the white and black characters are shown as friends but the gags would work just as well without the racial slurs. It just goes to show how prejudiced and bitter Britain was towards outsiders back then, even if it was only meant in fun. Although comics cleaned up their act decades ago, sadly such attitudes still exist in our society even today.

Moving further on, we come to a comic dated 31st December 1977 and the first New Year edition of 2000AD. Cover by Brian Bolland depicting Dave Gibbons' version of Dan Dare.

2000AD was still a young comic at this time, just 45 weeks old, and its material was raw and full of energy. The Judge Dredd series at this period concerned Dredd's tenure as a marshal on the moon colony. This episode drawn by Ian Gibson and written by John Wagner.

I always liked comic strips that ran across the centre spread, and Dave Gibbons never failed to deliver impressive work this way on his Dan Dare strips.

Hyped-up in-your-face action was how 2000AD defined itself from other comics. The "traditional" adventure comics such as Valiant and Lion, brilliant in their day, were dead. 2000AD offered a more vibrant and modern approach. Here, M.A.C.H. Zero tackles M.A.C.H. 1 head on, story by Steve McManus, art by Ramon Sola.

This year will see a slight change to this blog. There'll be more emphasis on comics of the past, and less on current material. I simply don't have time to cover old and new comics with the attention they deserve, so I've decided that Blimey! should stick to its original concept on being a nostalgia blog. I feel it's important to cover the history of British comics before those long-extinct titles are forgotten altogether. (Although I'll still be plugging a few new things, and still have a handful of items sent me that deserve to be reviewed here so they'll appear soon.)

However, I'm sure other blogs will continue their excellent approach to covering new material. John Freeman's Down the Tubes blog and the Forbidden Planet International Blog Log are two essential blogs to read. More links can be found to the left of this posting.


George said...

Happy New Year to you as well Lew.

Reverting to a more nostalgia/retrospective focused blog suits me fine, especially as the UK market is hardly exploding with new content these days, outside of nursery and/or marvel titles anyway.

Can I suggest you occasionally dip in to the library of your writing over the past 25+ years and reprint the occasional article or two? What was then-contemporary reads very interesting now as a historical piece. I say this on the back of recently receiving Fantasy Advertiser 88 through Ebay (now 26 years old...) and thoroughly enjoying the Best of British piece by Kev O'Neill about the then-new Eagle reprints of Nemesis. I'm sure there's a lot of gold buried in those mid-80s British fanzines.


Lew Stringer said...

That's not a bad idea George. I'd completely forgotten that article that Kev and I worked on! I'll dig out some old fanzine stuff sometime. There's an article on Mike Higgs I did back then too.

Dave Whitwell said...

I think the Sammy and Shrimpy strip was drawn by Albert Pease, although it could be someone else imitating his style.

Really enjoying the current run of articles, Lew.

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