Tuesday, 30 March 2010

"Measure the louse for the hot seat while I take these two babes out where they can fight over me!" Crime Mysteries No. 3, September 1952

What-ho, pals. Welcome back to the fusty virtual corridors of THE HOUSE OF COBWEBS. Where have I been? Never you mind. But, in the interim period between this and my last posting, I have been engaging in a possibly futile attempt to get my life together (cripes!) and sort out some important matters. I even considered putting my comic collection in alphabetical order. But it's trickier than you first think, when, flushed with the gay excitement of a new day, you first contemplate the hefty crates of decaying tat. Do you sort by publisher? Is there really any point in it? I came to the conclusion that probably there isn't. Though I had an entertaining time reacquainting myself with issues of Super Duck, The Partridge Family, and many others, I was forced to conclude that my collection is a bit of a raggedy-bag of low-grade, tatty, falling to pieces comics, the unavoidable consequence of many years of not having enough cash to secure the kind of 'key issues' that 'serious' collectors would, by now, have 'slabbed' in plastic cases with official CGC gradings (9.5, NM+). There will be little for fortune-seekers to flog some years hence when they cart my lifeless body from my garret.

But every now and again a collector on a budget manages to pick up a valuable item for much less than 'guide' price. As is the case with this issue of Crime Mysteries pictured above, snapped up for just five quid at one of those seedy comics fairs I so enjoy. What a terrific pre-code cover! Of course, it has nothing to do with anything within. So, let's take a look inside.

We begin with The Seance of Horror. Which isn't really a horror tale at all, despite this lurid splash-panel. In these days of post 9-11 terrorist anxiety, it's intriguing to recall there once was a time that you could travel on aeroplanes with toothpaste, pencils, bottled water, shampoo, and...ticking briefcases.

Artist Marcus Rocke (or Marcus? Or Rocke?) has his limitations (faces, human bodies, that sort of thing), but is splendidly adept at extreme close-ups of ill-fitting trouser wrinkles and shoes with no socks, something today's so-called 'artists' could learn from.

Yes, the evil medium blew up the plane. Time for crusading criminologist Lance Storm to do a flying rugby tackle at the turbanned ruffian.

And what is to be his punishment for blowing up a plane?

Yes, that's right, a sock on the jaw. Take that! Even if he has a girl's long nails. Next comes my favourite story in the issue, The Fantastic Dr. Foo.

Of course, the flatfeet are entirely incapable of sorting this out. They need to call on the services of the sagacious Dr. Foo, and his ward, the beautiful Nalya...

Hmm, yes, you sure have a way with words, Dr. Foo. You tell 'em. Whatever it means.

Seems like Nalya is something more than Dr. Foo's 'ward', don't you think? Various pseudo-oriental high jinx ensue, before the climax - featuring another great shoe-close up. With some baggy white sports socks in evidence this time.

But there's more to Foo than just this talk of worms and eagles. There's the helio-electric battery, for starters.

What else can you produce from beneath your robe, Dr. Foo? Or is that strictly between you and Nalya?

Yes, turn it on, I say! Turn on that helio-electric battery!

That's the stuff. Now let us turn our attention to the Glamor Girl of Hollywood, Queenie Starr.

The fascinating thing about Queenie is that she seems entirely blase about the whole 'casting couch' approach to stardom. She'll do anything for a whopperoo, even if it involves canoodling with sleazy murder-suspect film directors, seen here cravatted and crotchety after the leading lady is bumped off...

Admittedly, our saucy heroine does rifle through his drawers looking for clues, but, blimey, Queenie sure is devoted to her job...and, when she solves the mystery...

And maybe she'd better climb right up on Sol Arnim's knee, and all, because...that's Hollywood!

One breathless page later, here comes Jerry Jasper...

The story is nothing to write home about, but I do admire Jasper's pizazz when, having solved the crime, he gets the girl and the murderer's girl, who would seem to be just a tad fickle, in one fell swoop, the dirty dog...

Is it just me, or has there been some rather loose morality going on in this issue of Crime Mysteries? Is this a good example to set to the nation? We've had a mass-murderer punished by a sock on the jaw, Dr. Foo pimping his ward Nalya down by the docks, Queenie Starr smooching it up with all and sundry just to get ahead in Hollywood, and dear old Jerry Jasper cracking crime just so he can get it together for a three-in-a-bed with some sleazy dames. In fact, upon consideration, I feel positively unclean. Which must be why the last page of the comic features this public service announcement...

Well, I'm off down the church or synagogue of my choice. Praise the Lord! Please be seated. Today's reading will be from Crime Mysteries.

You'll find this reprehensible publication in THE HOUSE OF COBWEBS.

Thursday, 18 March 2010

"Ha Ha! Very unfunny!" Freddy comics are bad comics...yet still I buy more of them

Because you demanded it: another rollicking moment from the strange, sick world of Freddy,Charlton Comics' chilling Archie rip-off. I won't bore you by telling you what's going on here, but one thing is for sure: he's not selling copies of his own magazine. Nah, dey ban not goot!

You may recall, chums, that I mentioned the fact that I had been tempted, against my better judgement, to purchase further copies of Freddy, following my fascinating blog posts about the oily-haired twerp here and here, but had not done so owing to the fact that I refused to pay £4.00 each for copies at a comics fair. You remember, right? No? Just humour me, anyhow.

Well, it just so happened that there I was, at the same stall some months later, and the stall-holder (who used to run a comic shop, but now works in Sainsbury's, apparently) was having an "everything with a little red sticker on it is half price" sale. Unsurprisingly, his previously £4.00 copies of Freddy had still not been snapped up. Reader, I bought them. Here they are; I beg your indulgence while I interject some random observations.

Another strange cover from D'Agostino. Wearing those "trunks" it is perhaps no wonder that the sword fish is keen to give him a friendly prod up the sit-upon. And, though the comic book might perhaps be somewhat below par, you should buy it anyway because there are coupons worth $3.37 in this issue. Incidentally, in case you were wondering, I can confirm that the comic book is not all that it might be; and, unfortunately, the coupons are no longer valid. But I still bought it, however, so what does that say about me? You don't have to answer that.

Freddy's overdone the magic mushrooms in this special libido-overload issue.

Aha, no wonder he was getting hot under the collar. Though you might wonder what this statuesque dream-doll is doing hanging out with drippy Fred. Especially when he's started a fire on the ice in the middle of a frozen lake. Inside...

Hey mom, how come you're the same age as I am? Don't ask awkward questions. It is all part of D'Agostino's master-plan. Talking of which, where's our Jughead-rip-off pal, Stuff? Here he is!

I must confess to being somewhat confused by this wordplay. "Holy Cow" isn't generally spelled "wholly cow", and either way, it isn't pronounced "woolly cow". And besides, it's not a cow, it's a dog. I guess Stuff must be confused because of that ice-bag on his head. Or could this be the rottenest joke in the world?

Hey, here's an idea. Why not get another character to repeat the same rotten joke again, then get Freddy himself to remind the readers how rotten it is? Very unfunny! But somehow it makes sense in the strange world of Freddy.

Unfortunately, though, pals, overall none of these newly acquired issues of Freddy reach the dismally sublime heights of surreal ineptitude that marked the one we examined previously. But they have their moments. Like a chucklesome story about killing animals, with this pay-off panel:

Nice elk, madam. We even have "plop-cloud" end of story fainting, a venerable comic strip technique dating back as least as far as Mutt & Jeff circa 1907.

And this bargain-basement hep cat crops up all over the shop. It's Nick the Beat, here appearing in Like, Let's Dance.

Like, the story is as tired and throwaway as you'd expect of, like, any tale written in approximately thirty seconds on the back of an envelope entitled Like, Let's Dance, but, like, I must confess that I have a sneaking affection for Nick the Beat. Happiest when upsetting uptight aged schoolboys whacking his bongo with a hearty Bong! Bonga! Boom!, I wish I were he. If only he'd had his own comic.

Now, how about some hand grenades? Guaranteed to break the ice at parties.

I think I'll have the "Pineapple" as it is famous through three wars. And an "egg", while you're at it.

I didn't realise that, in his heyday, Freddy had his own letters page. Hard to believe that anybody wrote in, right? And that's what "a girl by the name of Linda Hartman" thought too...

On the contrary, I think Linda Hartman must have been an unusually astute young lady. Whereas young Marilyn (they're the very best ever. I've been buying them for a long time and will continue to buy them) may perhaps have been an unhappy child, and (all my friends and I love "Freddy" comics) a loner at school.

The Charlton office boy seems almost to be blubbing into his $3.37-worth of coupons in his drippy heartfelt response...

Though Freddy pretends not to be "mad" at Linda it nonetheless seems to me that there is the underlying implication in this tearful reply that Ms. Hartman is anti-American, a Communist, and a thoroughly bad sort, and should be pelted with stones in the street. If there were any "loyal" Freddy fans to do it, of course. Which I doubt. I think most of the letters were made up. Probably including this one.

I'm with you, cue-ball. Leave him there. That about wraps it up, don't you think?

You'll find these marked-down copies of Freddy in the HOUSE OF COBWEBS.

Saturday, 6 March 2010

In which I get an award

Greetings readers. I had planned to bring you the final unwanted chapter in the story of my relentless search for further back issues of Charlton Comics' unloved 1960s Archie rip-off, Freddy. But I'm afraid that will have to wait. Please try and be patient.

A certain Mr. Coniam, a 'blogger' who appears to have a great deal of time on his hands, if the huge number of blogs he writes is anything to go by, has unexpectedly awarded me The Creative Blogger Award.

I usually have no respect for awards at all, and affect to despise both those who give them and those who receive them, but I'm making an exception in Mr. Coniam's case. Any man who writes a blog entitled The Marx Brothers Council of Great Britain as well as another solely devoted to the intricate analysis of every forgotten Dennis Wheatley novel (in order, no less) is obviously a man of discerning taste who both knows what he's talking about and truly understands and savors both the futility and the joyous, pointless excitement of wallowing in pop-cultural history, while your everyday life crashes and burns around you. So, despite even his misguided suggestion, amongst the comments following one of my posts, that Morecambe and Wise's Night Train to Murder is "magnificent", I remain pleased to accept this award. Unaccustomed as I am to public speaking, etc. The British are coming!

Apparently, though, it's not as simple as that. These awards are beastly things, something like chain letters. I can't just accept it and be done with it, and go about my business. In order to receive it, I have certain duties to fulfill, all of which revolve around the number seven. But instead of having to promise to send loads of creeps from my junior school class 5p each, I am now supposed to reveal 7 facts about myself, and award further awards to 7 other 'bloggers'. Complicated, eh? And does anybody really give a toss about moi? Besides, the concept of a 'fact' is inherently problematic. I ask you. To tell you the truth, I could live without it.

Anyhow, here goes. Let's start with the 7 blogs lucky enough to receive awards from me. Blimey. I feel exhausted already.

Ideally, I'd give awards to all the "followers" up there on the right who read my blog, of course, including that mysterious chap Jerry who doesn't seem to have one of his own, but has a rather fetching picture of a budgerigar as his 'icon'. But I'm afraid I can't. So I apologise in advance. Here are the lucky nerds who get The Creative Blogger Award from me (if they, or you, care):

The deranged ramblings of British trash film-auteur par excellence and connoisseur of all things smutty Fred Karno, who has himself been churning out zero-budget film rubbish of the highest order since the 1980s. One day the mainstream media will surely discover him and proclaim him as a genius, as Stan Laurel did for Marcel Marceau. I fear, though, it may be some time after his demise, unfortunately. Mr. Karno doesn't post as much as he ought to, but you're sure to find some obscure saucy film-fun at his blog.

Splendidly poetic and perceptive travel writing, social commentary and pondering on existence from the enigmatic I AM PENTAGON. He doesn't write enough, either. But take a look! His latest, after about a decade of silence, is all about a graveyard. That's the stuff.

As a big Western fan, I am a loyal devotee of the DC Comics western Jonah Hex, which - somewhat implausibly - is being made into a film after being cancelled in the late '80s then more recently revived. A fine fellow called Dwayne writes a splendid blog about it all, and has provided detailed analyses of every issue of his adventures. He's also keeping a careful tally of how many owlhoots Hex has offed over the years. And it's plenty. Now he's dealing with the spin-off comic Hex , which saw the scar-faced bounty hunter in a post-apocalyptic Mad-Max rip-off future. You know you need to head right on over!

Ever wanted to live your life in the wholesome style of Enid Blyton's immortal George, Anne, Julian, Dick and Timmy the dog (woof!)? Of course you did. You didn't? Well, here's your chance. From choosing the right brogues for the Famous Five look, to chasing children who won't wash with carpet beaters, by way of how to make ginger-beer scones, it's all charmingly documented here in lovingly eccentric detail.

And relax. A chap called Drake does this one. I'm not sure how to accurately sum it up in a couple of sentences, but suffice to say a recent post devoted to a photo of a cute redhead in a tight outfit ("am I shallow to melt over a pic like this?" says Drake. Yes, you are. But I'm more than happy to reprint it here) follows immediately after a post about Top Cat advertising Kellogg's Corn Flakes in the 1960s. I feel a distinct affinity for Drake's worldview.

Keep up the good work, Drake! I salute you!

Nostalgia, incisive analysis and humorous comment on old comic books, the main things that make life worth living. And Pat, who writes this, was the first blogger to post an encouraging word of comment on my humble blog (a friendly disagreement about Donald Duck comics, I seem to recall). I'm sure he has plenty of awards already, but here's another one for his Bat Cave. I often spend my lunch hour reading Silver Age Comics. It's jam packed with important information I can't afford to miss about gorillas in comics, Ace the Bat-Hound and Superman's Pal Jimmy Olsen's signal-watch (zee-zee-zee).

If there's a theme running through my choices it's a certain degree of - shall we say - eccentricity going on here. And Mr. Dartman is no exception. There's all kinds of crazy stuff to be found in his World of Wonder, and as this is where I obtained a copy of the deleted rock n' roll album Chuck Berry '75, I feel I must give Mr. D an award - even if he contravenes all health and safety regulations by also making available the tragic post-Monkees travesty LP Dolenz, Jones, Boyce and Hart. If you don't believe how bad it is, just take a look at that sickly picture above. That should give you some idea. Yes, I just had to have it! But I regretted it.

So there you are. Sorry I could only do seven. And now, finally, the facts about me. Stay awake at the back, there. Just give me the facts, ma'am.


1. This is the first award I've won since I took first place in the London Borough of Hounslow 'Peace' poster competition (it was the 11-13 age group, about 1982, I think).

2. My winning picture, exhibited in Hounslow Civic Centre, was a ghastly watercolour painting of a war scene, complete with mushroom clouds, death, destruction, etc., melting into a giant cup with a CND symbol on it.

3. The prize was a book token for Ten Pounds. Or something. I may have spent it on the first British edition of Herge's The Blue Lotus.

4. Despite my pride at such an honour, the event was nonetheless tinged with regret. Which I will now attempt to convey to you.

5. In the following week's Middlesex Chronicle they mistakenly said that a drippy girl from a posh school had won first prize, and had a picture of her gloating in front of her painting instead of a picture of me gloating in front of mine (which, frustratingly, I believe could be glimpsed at the edge of the picture).

6. I was forced to wear my ill-fitting school uniform to the prize giving ceremony, and had a 'bowl' haircut. The newspaper made sure to publish a group shot, which wholly demonstrated this, though at the same time I was partially obscured behind someone's shoulder.

7. Just like The Gallery on Take Hart, they did not return my picture, presumably depositing it, along with all the others - with relief - in a dustbin as soon as Hounslow Council's Leftist agenda had been fully satisfied by its well-publicised exhibition.

I hope you enjoyed that intimate glimpse into my private world. You will not find my prize-winning poster in THE HOUSE OF COBWEBS. Normal service will be resumed as soon as possible.