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Monday, 11 January 2016

Guess What? It Started As "Who Are Your Favourite Comic Book Characters" and Turned Into An Epic Comic Nostalgia Ramble!

Well, I needed to post something a bit fun because the news lately has been BAD.  And as my eye sight is causing problems so typing a new item is a bit much.....a re-post plus new images!


I know that it's a question comickers ask each other: "Who are your favourite comic book heroes?"

For me it is a mixed bagged.

Super hero-wise it has to be Captain America.  The original Golden Age/Silver Age incarnation and not the mess that has been created by unoriginal writers with no idea of what the character stood for.

Even in the UK Captain America stood for something with kids: truth, equality and fighting for what is right.  When we got older, of course, we got more jaded and even Cap lost the faith for a while after "The Secret Empire" storyline.  Oddly, take away that new costume from the movies and Chris Evans version is near spot on as you can get to the original character.
Go figure.

Saturday mornings and TV cartoons.  I guess The Impossibles -Fluid-Man, Coil-Man and Multi-Man and their ilk had an influence.  Frankenstein Jnr was about a kid whose father was a scientist....and the kid was in charge of a huge robot -Frankenstein Jr! (you guessed??).

Never saw a Space Ghost or Birdman  cartoon until the advent of the Cartoon Network in the UK and looking after my niece.  But there was something else I liked doing while watching cartoons (DON'T even think it.  I was too young for that back then) reading comics.

That brings me to another favourite super hero (yes -The Impossibles, Frankenstein Jr and others made it into at least one UK annual -Super TV Heroes....

mmm....let me check my shelf....nope. two annuals: The Super TV Heroes Annual and The Impossibles Annual.   So they were in comics, too....I need to take a Sanatogen to get my train of thought back....

Right.  My next comic hero was from the time of watching cartoons. Even as a kid I would not go for the "standard" comic like other kids....US comics were hard to find back then.  However, on a spinner rack in a now no-longer-exists Jarman's newsagents in Mina Road, St Werburgh's I found.....CAPTAIN MARVEL!

Now, this was before Marvel Comics introduced the Kree born character in Marvel Super Heroes #12 (1968?).  He was a light skinned minority Kree race (they were all blue-skins) who rose in ranks due to his heroism  -hey, Marvel, remember those days?  Anyway, this was an (initially) memory swiped super android that landed on Earth  Published by Myron Fass Enterprises -I've outlined all of this in other posts such as:

Anyway, here he is:

Looking at some of the characters I later created the good Captain M and supporting characters did have a very fun influence on me.  I have the complete series now and can enjoy all the goodness and positive vibes whenever I want.

An innocent age before video/computer games and the internet.  A time when kids freely roamed the streets and played in parks, on bomb-sites (yes, London -we got blitzed, too!) and TV was a minor distraction because of Dr Who and Adam Adamant!

Now don't get thinking that I only read American comics.  Uh-uh. No way. Of course, I need to add that one of my favorite UK comics was a reprint from Top Sellers of the Gold Key Tarzan comics.  Man, we wuz mad-loved up for Tarzan ...Ron Ely in the TV series cemented the characters popularity.  I think Ron was then re-booted and became Doc Savage in a movie!

I say "Top Sellers" but it was a very confused and, uh, "shady" operation if some are to be believed as they also operated as World Distributors and Williams.  I did wonder whether Williams was a connection with the German comics company of the same name but it is all very murky (surprise)

The art style in these Tarzan books I really liked and when you combined Tarzan, the jungle and a Lost City full of Romans....I mean: how the hell could you go wrong?!!

And then we had Korak Son Of I could bottle the nostalgia I'm feeling right now. I woke up in pain and feeling very down regarding comics and now I'm buzzing.....ah.  There's a loose electric wire by my chair.

But Jarman's held other treats for me.  There were very slim black and white Man From U.N.C.L.E. and Girl From U.N.C.L.E.  comics.  I thought they were UK originated material but I think, again, it was Gold Key comics...I have one cover-less Girl From U.N.C.L.E. comic stored in a box somewhere.  Forty plus years of constant moving and a few, uh, thefts, have left me with no more.

However, Jarman's (you see why I associate Jarman's and St Werburgh's with fond memories?) also introduced me to...The Purple Hood!

Stop laughing and quit the double entendre jokes!

This costumed character had no super powers but had a mini helicopter and the latest fad being mini cameras (really, it was back then though I never saw or used a small spy camera that attached to a tie or lapel until the 1970s and this was all pre0-digital age) he had a neck collar fitted with one.  When you think that it is only in the past few years -in the last year as far as UK police go- that police, soldiers and even rugby football referees have started recording using mini cams on their outfits the Hood was ahead of his time.

Okay, people keep saying the art by Michael Jay is not "Marvel or DC standard" -well feck you.  Fun and adventure and a good story to keep you entertained was what we liked. Jay drew as well as he could as an illustrator for John Spencer pulps as well as horror comics and, besides the Purple Hood, he drew The Adventures Of Mark Tyme.

The Purple Hood....I just love him.  Uh, not "Biblically" just as a character in a comic.  Let's move on. The Hood's alter ego, Lee Briton, guested in a very early Black Tower Adventure (vol. 1) story starring the Avenger....he was a bank manager (undercover?) but donned the outfit to help fight Intercrime.  And he's cameoed ever since though Ben R. Dilworth has helped develop the character beyond the mere "crime fighter international" and looked at how the purple hood is a generational thing: the family line having been "The King/Queen's Man" going waaay back.

And Mark Tyme has certainly also had an influence.  The Search For Tyme has yet to be concluded and will be a Black Tower book, hopefully, in 2015 (but as we are dealing in time it doesn't really matter).  I only wish my now thirty years search for Wood (the writer) and Jay had yielded results..but I don't give up (oh, both books are in collected editions!).

Yeah, there was something about purple.......

Anyway, regarding British based characters I wrote two posts: one on "The Improbability Of The British Super Hero" -showing that they were not improbable but could and had been done.

The other...was in response to some journalistic nonsense that asked "Where are all the British super heroes?"

I have The Jungle Robot, the first adventure of Robot Archie -come on:1960s and robots!- in it's Lion Picture Library version of The Green Peril...I picked it up from David A. Johnson for about 15p at one of the Bath Marts in the 1980s.

Seriously, kids in the 1950s and 1960s (the latter in my case and, yes, I wrote "1960s" NOT "1860s") robots were everywhere -visiting schools, at the Sunday School at the Baptist church at the top end of Sevier Street (St. Werburgh's), in shops, on TV in question: where are they now -hiding and waiting for the right moment?

UK artist -and another VERY under-rated one- Shane Oakley pencilled and George Freeman inked, Robot Archie amongst others for that Wildstorm series Albion.  Not much story-wise (oh, what might have been!) but lovely art and if you get a chance to see it in black and white, do -it's gert lush!

Occasionally, at anther now no-longer-there at the top of Hepburn Road and Stokes Croft, the St. Paul's area which links to St. Werburgh's, when I went in to buy a pack of Plastacine and a comic I might find a gem.  The Mighty Avengers or Fantastic Four even The Sub-Mariner.  I was not a big DC comics fan -I mean, fer cripes sake, until Kirby got to DC in the early 1970s I never saw a single black character.  Marvel had a fair few.  Now, to me skin colour is not something I even think about because it would be like saying "and some humans are...female??" BUT I went to school and was growing up in an area where there were Indians, Italians, West Indians -just read the Phil Latter interview with me!

I never read these things but it is almost like a "Posting-Cross-over"!

Despite the lack of whatever, I did manage to grab gems such as the annual  Justice League of America cross-overs with The Justice Society of America. Oh, man, I got my Plastacine and by the time I'd finished I had Thor, Captain America, the "Golden" Iron Man joining up with members of the JLA and JSA as well as UKs Billy The Cat or Billy Whizz  -hey, another thing for you kids to note, we never had action figures of super heroes so we made our own!

Now, in that Phil Latter interview, and elsewhere, I noted that I got to read German comics while I lived in Dalborn (wow, this IS getting nostalgic), Germany.

Of course I had no idea that the comics were based on Franco-Belgian and Nederlands comics -Wastl, Lasso, Silberpfiel, Buffalo Bill and others -including Bastei's ghost comics -Gespenster Geschichten and Spuk Geschichten. All of these I've written and posted about so many times!

When I suddenly realise I am writing about 50+ (I started on comics when I was about 4-5 years old-eek), 45, 35, 25 years ago I start getting very depressed. WHY are there no cos-players dressed up as Billy Whizz (STOP laughing!), Billy The Cat or...or any of the old weekly comic characters?  Probably because most comic fans are under 40 and only know Marvel and DC and "Yeuoow! Black and white old time comics??  The 1960s? That's like Queen Victoria, right?"

But I got to see the best years of the UK comics, weekly and monthlies, as well as German comics -and through them saw some of the best Franco-Belgian and Dutch comics- and US comics including the smaller Indies like MF Enterprises and even Archie and The Mighty Crusaders -you never read that post?

So even as a kid I was looking for and buying non-mainstream comics including black and whites when colour comics were around.


Because I feckin' LOVE comics.

 Of course, the Small Press of the 1980s saw me correspond with people in a LOT of countries and that meant I got to see lots of (when it was one country) Czechoslovakian comics, Polish comics, Russian comics such as the Tarzan (see, still with the Tarzan!) ones I posted about here:

Let's just say I have read a lot of comics.  I have written and drawn a lot of comics. I have written about a lot of comics.  In what other area could I become far, far from earning a living and still see great work by the likes of David Gordon, Charles Cutting, Jon Haward, Donna Barr and many others?

Derna Liquid Messiah
And, again, there is my love of the lost UK Golden Age comics of publishers such as Gerald Swan and the creations of William A. Ward, the McCaill Bros., Harry E. Banger and many others.

A lot of the Collected Books I produce do not make money.  They are "works of love" (that is why I'm not rich!) and before I retire, apart from seeing the final part of the Dark Childe Trilogy, I want to do something special.  Not sure what just yet.  We'll see.

This started as a quick posting over four hours ago and look what happened.  Another "Hooper Ramble" but I hope it makes something very clear.  If you have kids then get them into reading comics -get some of the old Essential or DC Showcase Presents -mix and match black and white comics with colour ones. Hey -modelling clay like Plastacine is still out there.  So are drawing books and crayons.  Get your kids to read and enjoy comics.  Make their own characters or existing characters out of Plastacine.  Get them to draw their own comics.

Comics should be fun.  Kids will find out about all the crap stuff when they get older.  And if you are a "grown-up kid" then keep reading what you enjoy reading.  Cosplay.  Draw your own comics for fun -and if you can afford action figures to play with do so!  Hell, it's going to take many decades and the utter destruction of thousands of plastic action figures before that toy in the box is worth a few dollars!


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