Thursday, October 31, 2013

Biffo's Halloween Turnip


The celebration of Halloween as a commercial venture is relatively new to the UK, only really taking hold over the last 20 years or so. These days you'll find a whole aisle in supermarkets taken up with Halloween merchandise. This wasn't the case years ago, and Halloween was a very low key affair. All you needed was a turnip and a piece of string.

Comics didn't celebrate Halloween at all back in the 1960s but there would sometimes be one or two strips at the end of October that would touch upon it. Here's the cover to The Beano No.1319 (October 28th 1967) by the great Dudley D. Watkins showing Biffo the Bear and his pals and their 'turnip lanterns'. Yes, in Britain it was the tradition for turnips to be carved out, not pumpkins! So, if you can't get hold of a pumpkin today, or the shops are charging too much, buy a cheap turnip instead and revive the old tradition.

(Yes, that's the actual copy I had 46 years ago. I had The Beano reserved at my newsagent every week, which is why he wrote my name on the top.)

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Happy Birthday to Leo Baxendale!


This Sunday, October 27th, is the 83rd birthday of comics genius Leo Baxendale, the creator and original artist of Minnie the Minx, Little Plum, The Bash Street Kids, Clever Dick, Eagle Eye Junior Spy, Grimly Feendish, Willy the Kid and numerous others that have graced British comics. 

Leo retired from mainstream British comics in the mid-1970s but his style was so influential that it's still evident in the work of many artists who followed him. And I include myself in that as Leo's work was hugely inspirational to me when I was younger (and still is). 

I used the term 'genius' above, and I truly consider Leo to be one of the handful of people who have genuinely shaped the direction and style of British comics over the years. Some critics unfairly compare modern cartoonists to Leo and find us lacking, but the truth is people like Leo Baxendale, Ken Reid, Roy Wilson, and Dudley Watkins were giants back then too, even compared to artists of their own generations.

For my own little celebration of Leo's work, here's a few pages he drew way back when. At the top of this posting is a Minnie the Minx page from The Beano No.852, November 15th 1958. (As with all images on my blog click on them to see them larger.)

Next up is the very first Leo Baxendale artwork I saw as a child. This Tiddlers strip from Wham! No.77 (4th December 1965) fascinated me as a 6 year old, and I still remember looking at this cover as I was walking around Nuneaton's JC Smiths store (now Debenhams) with my mum. I was immediately hooked by Leo's work and became a fan for life. 




Finally in this brief selection, here's a very funny Swots and Blots two-pager by Leo from Smash! dated 30th August 1969. The inventiveness and comic violence in this is fantastic, and that punchline (literally ending with a punch) is a real laugh out loud moment.




I met Leo once, back at an event in Preston twenty years ago, and he was a real gent and good company. I hope he enjoys today and will enjoy many more birthdays still to come.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Christmas covers are coming...


My thanks to 'Big Bad Bri' over on the Comics UK Forum for bringing this item to my attention this morning. On November 4th Phil-Comics is to publish a special book under license from DC Thomson. The Dandy and The Beano: Classic Christmas Comics Covers 1937 - 1969 is a bit of a mouthful of a title but it clearly explains what it is. The covers of every Dandy and Beano Christmas issue from 1937-69 reproduced in all their full colour glory and at full size. 



Now it could be argued that the 'classic' years might also spill over well into the 1970s or 1980s depending on the age of the collector. However it cannot be denied that the 30 plus years represented here will feature some of the finest Christmas covers published by DC Thomson with artwork by such greats as Dudley D. Watkins and Charlie Grigg. I'd venture that due to the age and rarity of the items most covers will be new for the majority of us.



The book is hardback and limited to just 1000 copies priced at £20 plus postage. I've just ordered my copy and you can grab yours while they're still available from Phil's website here:
http://www.phil-comics.com/christmas.php


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If you want more Christmas comic goodness (and who wouldn't?) you'll be pleased to know that DC Thomson have recently published two 'Christmas Crackers' editions in the 'bookazine' format. (Magazines with firm card covers.) Each title reprints various Dandy and Beano strips from over the past 75 years and are available now from WH Smith.



Monday, October 21, 2013

Classic Comics on the cards

Egmont have just released two smartly produced box sets of postcards from their Classic Comics imprint. 70s Girls' Comics: 100 Postcards and Battle: 100 Postcards are exactly what they say on the tin.... or rather sturdy cardboard box. Each set features 100 quality postcards depicting covers or images from some of the top comics of the 70s and 80s. 


As the title suggests the Battle set focuses solely on Battle Picture Weekly (and its later incarnation Battle-Action). There are some superbly dynamic covers here and the reproduction is excellent. Classic characters such as Major Eazy and D-Day Dawson are shown in all their glory. Some cards feature images from the strips so we get crisp reproductions of artwork by Joe Colquhoun and Eric Bradbury amongst others.

Art by Geoff Campion.


Art by Carlos Ezquerra.

Speaking of the artists brings me to the only minus point of these postcards. There are no artist credits on any of them (apart from the images that were signed or feature the original credits). I appreciate that these sets are not aimed solely at comic fans (I imagine most will be bought as nostalgic Christmas presents for parents) but it would have been a nice extra just to let the buyers know the names behind their favourite comics of childhood. 

Art by Carlos Ezquerra.


Art by Mike Western.

The 70s Girls' Comics set features covers and art from several titles: Tammy; Misty; Penny; Jinty and Sally. The Misty covers provide the most striking images with their dark and moody themes and they're contrasted nicely by the lighthearted artwork of John Richardson for Tammy. The Jinty covers are perhaps the weakest in composition but no doubt readers of that comic will be pleased to see their inclusion here.


All in all both of these postcard sets are very nicely produced. The boxes themselves have a great 'distressed' design (war-torn 'metal' on Battle and 'yellowed' paper on the Girls' set) and are strongly constructed. 


Both sets are reminders of what a strong comics industry we used to have in the UK before most publishers veered towards magazines with editorial or activity content instead of strips. And these were only a few of the comic titles. Hopefully these postcard sets will sell well enough to ensure more of them. 

There are certainly more than enough powerful Battle covers to easily form a second box set but I'd also like to see a humour comics set (Cor!!; Whizzer & Chips; Whoopee!; Wow!; Buster etc) and an adventure set (Action; Tornado; Jet; Speed; Eagle; Scorcher etc). Time will tell.

Art by John Richardson.


Battle: 100 Postcards 
Published by Egmont. Out now.
ISBN 978-1-4052-6837-0
Price £14.99

70s Girls' Comics: 100 Postcards
Published by Egmont. Out now.
ISBN 978-1-4052-6838-7
Price £14.99



Saturday, October 19, 2013

Free Inside! (Additional)


As a sort of extra to the blog posts about comic free gifts that I wrote a few years ago here's a nice cartoon I've just noticed from the 1960 edition of the Daily Sketch Cartoon Book. I suppose free gifts in comics were starting to increase at that time and with ads for them appearing in newspapers (and on TV) they'd be ideal for comment. Especially when you can tie it in with the space race.

The cartoon is by Harry Hargreaves (1922 - 2004). More info about the artist here:
 http://www.tonystrading.co.uk/galleries/comicstrips/hargreaves.htm

If you missed my postings about comic free gifts you can find the first part here:
http://lewstringer.blogspot.co.uk/2010/11/free-inside-part-1.html

Friday, October 18, 2013

Review: Thunderbirds The Comic Collection


This came as a nice surprise yesterday, when Egmont sent me a review copy of their massive hardback Thunderbirds: The Comic Collection. This heavy 288 page book carrying Egmont's Classic Comics imprint reprints the Thunderbirds serial strips that were drawn by Frank Bellamy from September 1967 to July 1969 for their original publication in TV21. There's also a serial by John Cooper from 1970, and four Lady Penelope stories from the sixties by Eric Eden, again from TV21. As a bonus, there are superb cutaways and features illustrated by Graham Bleathman that were first published in Thunderbirds The Comic around 1991.


The book is printed on good glossy stock, which serves the reproduction well. It looks like the pages are shot from the same sources used for Thunderbirds the Comic in the nineties. So although the quality isn't quite as good as the original TV21 comics (or indeed the original artwork), it's still very good indeed and only close comparison with the 1960s comics would show any difference. Bellamy's artwork still looks great, as can be seen from the photographs here that I took of the book.



The Thunderbirds strip by John Cooper is one that Egmont had coloured in the 1990s (its original appearance in TV21 was in black and white). The colours aren't a patch on Bellamy's work but they don't distract from the story. 


The three Lady Penelope serials are her very first adventure, Mr.Steelman, from January - April 1965, The Isle of Aaran Riddle from Sept - Nov 1965, and her last TV21 story, The Vanishing Ray, from Nov 1965 to January 1966. There's also a bonus four page story from the 1965 TV21 Summer Extra.


Hardcore fans of Gerry Anderson's creations will probably already have most of these strips, either in TV21, Thunderbirds The Comic, or the more recent Century 21 books. However, for the completest, or new fans, or people who threw out their old comics, or people interested in British comics in general, this book would serve as an excellent way to obtain a good proportion of classic strips in one package. It'd also make a brilliant Christmas present for introducing a new generation to the delights of such quality material. 


Egmont have also released a set of postcards in a sturdy, illustrated collectors box. Entitled Thunderbirds: 100 F.A.B. Postcards these 100 well reproduced cards feature scenes from various Thunderbirds episodes and also include the title sequence, countdown, title frames, and all. Again, an ideal Christmas present, or just a good treat for any fan of the series. 



Thunderbirds: The Comic Collection 
Price: £25.00
Published by Egmont, October 2013
ISBN: 978 1 4052 6836 3 

Thunderbirds: 100 F.A.B. Postcards
Price: £14.99
Published by Egmont, October 2013
ISBN: 978 1 6893 6


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