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Wednesday, December 31, 2014

New Year COMIC CUTS (1949)

Just time for one last post this year, and here's the issue of Comic Cuts dated January 1st 1949. Yes, this issue would have been in the shops 66 years ago, at the end of 1948. Long-time visitors to this blog may remember the cover from when I showed it a few years ago, (which I think may be by Reg Parlett) but I'm showing a few more pages from it tonight. Some dialogue in that cover and the character's attitude to foreigners is pretty bad by modern standards.

Like several comics of the time, Comic Cuts had only 8 pages, which were 50/50 text stories and strips. Here's a text story for New Year's Eve with Kenton Steel, Ace of 'Tecs...

With only 8 pages Comic Cuts had to give value for money, and its centre pages were crammed with short strips. I usually show just one or two individually but to demonstrate just how packed it was I've scanned the entire centre pages this time. Click to enlarge, and you may have to click again to see it full size...

That's all for 1948, er, I mean 2014! See you again next year!


A quick plug for the Comicraft New Year's Day Font Sale which takes place all day on Jan.1st. Comicraft produce the best comic book fonts in the business, so if you're doing your own comic, or you want comic style fonts for whatever project you might be working on, go to the best! (I use them for the Blimey logo and bits in the sidebar.) Buy the fonts, download them, and start using 'em!

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

New Year SMASH! (1969)

Here's the cover to the New Year edition of Smash! dated 4th January 1969, so it'd go on sale on the 28th December 1968. The popular Swots and the Blots were the regular cover strip by this time, drawn by Mike Lacey. The strip continued over the page...
Not many of the strips were actually celebrating New Year. Some of the humour strips just seemed be be using the cold weather as a plot. However, Bad Penny combined references to the New Year as well as a plot involving snow. "Jumping jellybabies! It's 1969!" Artwork by the ever-brilliant Leo Baxendale...

The Cloak began a new adventure that week. No Hogmanay reference as such, but it did feature a Scottish villain, - The Phantom Piper! It also contained the return of the stunning Lady Shady who became a regular member of The Cloak's team. Creator Mike Higgs also introduced The Cloakster in this episode, giving us males an excuse that we were only buying it for the car articles and not to gawp at Lady Shady's cleavage. 

Smash! had a good mixture of content in those days. Sadly it was the last man standing as regards the five 'Power Comics' and the recent merger with Fantastic had brought in reprints of Marvel's Thor by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby...
...along with reprints of Lee and Kirby's The Fantastic Four, which had arrived via a merger with Pow! As you can see, the panels had been rearranged and edited from the original American format to fit approximately two US pages onto one of Smash's large pages.
With this being Smash! it also featured Batman of course, reprinting the American newspaper strips of the time.
A few home-grown adventure strips were also in the comic, including Brian's Brain, drawn by Barrie Mitchell...
Ken Reid was getting into the swing of his run on The Nervs with this excellent two pager. For me, these strips represent Ken at his greatest.

On the back page, Sammy Shrink in a post-Christmas story about a late present. Nice clear storytelling by Terry Bave, who would soon become very prolific when IPC launched their own humour comics.
As you may have noticed from the indicia on page 2, IPC Magazines were now in charge of Smash! instead of Odhams. Sadly, a few weeks later, they'd make their presence felt and they'd transform the comic into an unrecognisable form as a traditional boy's adventure weekly. As readers at the time we didn't know that of course, enjoying The Cloak, The Nervs, Batman, and the Marvel reprints, unaware that they'd soon be gone from the comic forever. The sixties were definitely ending. 

...but 2015 is about to begin! My thanks to you all for following this blog over the past 12 months and may I wish you a Happy New Year and hope that you continue to read (and comment) for as long as it lasts. We can never predict what a new year will bring us but we can only hope for happiness, good health, and prosperity. Here's all the best for 2015!      

Birdman and The Standout Chameleon

Most of you will be familiar with the work of cartoonist Trevor Metcalfe. He produced hundreds, probably thousands, of pages for various humour comics published by DC Thomson and IPC. Above is one of the strips he created, - the excellent Birdman and Chicken for IPC's Krazy Comic. This is from the 1977 Christmas edition.

What you may not know is that Trevor's grandson is also very talented. Self-taught artist Jordan Dean "Mystery" Ezekude has written and illustrated a children's book, The Standout Chameleon. Naturally, Trevor is very proud of his grandson's achievement, particularly as Jordan has autism. You can find out more about Jordan and his book, and order your copy, by visiting Amazon here:

My thanks to Trevor for letting me know about the book and my best wishes to Jordan in his work. 

Monday, December 29, 2014

Captain Universe No.1 (1954)

Independent comics proliferated in the UK in the years after World War 2. There were still restrictions on certain imports, including American comics (although some did filter through) so British publishers gained the rights to produce UK reprints of many US titles. They also created their own American-style comics, and numerous British superheroes began to appear. One of them was Captain Universe.

Captain Universe No.1 appeared in 1954 by The Arnold Book Company, a publisher based in London's Piccadilly. It was drawn (and perhaps created?) by Mick Anglo, who that same year had created Marvelman. There were similarities to Marvelman too, with Captain Universe's alter ego shouting a magic word to transform into the hero, and the character's seemingly infinite powers.

Here's the story to read for yourselves. It's a strange dreamlike tale with random occurrences and a cheery disregard for basic science. Captain Universe himself proves to be quite brutal, who ends up destroying an entire world! "It was a hard decision to make" he claims, even though we've just seen that it clearly wasn't. As for the 'Horror Plant' of the title, - it appears in just one panel and the Captain dismisses it with "G'wan! Lay off!". Some horror! 

Other stories in this 28 page comic feature Lt. Mike Miller of Homicide and a Western with Rocky Colt and Red Feather. Here are the opening pages...

There's also a one page True Space Facts page by Denis Gifford, who seemed to be in everything in those days!
One thing that Captain Universe didn't have in common with Marvelman was longevity. Issue 2 was the last. However, he did turn up decades later in a cameo appearance in The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen by Alan Moore and Kevin O'Neill, as seen here

You can read the story from Captain Universe No.2 in the book Great British Fantasy Comic Book Heroes, published by Ugly Duckling Press.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Marvelman Annual 1960 (p.1959)

Marvelman was probably the UK's most popular superhero, as not only did he have a weekly comic in the 1950s to early 1960s he also had several hardback annuals. (As did his companion crime-fighter Young Marvelman.) I recently bought a copy of the Marvelman Annual that was published in 1959 and thought I'd show a few pages here.
This 96 page hardback was published by Len Miller and claims the illustrations are all by Mick Anglo, although that wasn't the case. I suspect that some of the strips are the early work of Don Lawrence, who drew a lot of the Marvelman strips back then.

The book has a good mixture of strips, text stories, puzzles, and a four page Flip and Flop humour strip by Denis Gifford...

There's also a Doc Holliday strip reprinted (and translated) from a European western comic. It's illustrated by the Spanish artrist José Gonzalez, who a few years later would produce fantastic work on the Vampirella comic.

It has to be said that the Marvelman stories were notably daft, and often contrived. Sometimes due to tight deadlines no doubt, but sometimes deliberately so. For example, in the 10 page story Pipe Dream, Marvelman's arch enemy Gargunza invents a method of time travel... using a bong pipe! 

It's hard to imagine the creators of the strip were innocent as to what bong pipes were used for, and Gargunza certainly goes on a 'trip'. Even more amusing is that when Marvelman discovers the pipe he wastes no time in trying it out himself! 

Anyway, here's the full story for your entertainment. Due to the printing limitations of the time, the strip switches from colour to black and white throughout, which is pretty trippy in itself. Don't do drugs, kids! 

The endpapers also highlight this story, with a crazed looking Gargunza inhaling from the pipe. I can't help wondering what, if any, reactions there were at the time. Just a few short years after that ridiculous outrage over horror comics, and there's a story with children's favourite Marvelman using a hookah pipe. However, I guess if it was okay for the caterpillar in Alice in Wonderland then it was considered okay for a Marvelman Annual. It still seems strange to modern eyes though, and I doubt any such scene would appear in an annual today.  

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