Friday, 16 December 2011

"The World Will End in 1983!" A Random Rummage Through My Comic Box

An anonymous commentator who has used my critique of Pudgy Pig for his research project into Charlton humour comics (a project he's mysteriously carrying out despite the fact he doesn't like them very much - I salute you, sir - and, though you don't specify, I'm somehow sure you're a sir rather than a miss) has stirred me to return to the 'blog-o-sphere', where we can all share that same joyous futility of expression, disguised by a nebulous idea of 'community', while never leaving our bedrooms. 

I note that while I was away 'Blogger' have fiddled with things to make it all a bit less straightforward to do, and it's all a bit uglier behind the scenes, but I remain undeterred. I will never alter my fonts, add fancy backgrounds, or make any kind of stylistic changes at all. The more obsolete this looks, the better I shall like it. So there. Meanwhile, while they come up with new ways to make it harder to keep things exactly the same, I'm easing myself back in with some brief rummages through the comic box. I had some crazy idea that I might catalogue all the rotting periodicals therein on a computer 'spreadsheet' (who says I'm not 'hep'?) Another glorious exercise in empty industry...I haven't got round to it yet.  But it's a good chance to pull a few comics out and take a look.

If you scoot back up to the top there you'll see issue two of the early 1970s Gold Key series, O.G. Whiz. As you can see, he is the boy boss of the Tikkletoy Company (reminds me of an episode of The Monkees where they used that idea) and you won't be surprised to discover that I bought this one purely on the strength of its bizarre cover. A reversal of the ol' secretary sitting on the boss' knee chestnut, but with a vaguely perverse twist which inevitably I find appealing. The comics inside are an entertaining late work by the legendary John Stanley (I think) but can't quite live up to the weirdness of the exterior.  Now, talking of weird exteriors...

Might I draw your attention to Exhibit 2 above? I don't know about you, but I can never resist comics with gorillas robbing banks on the cover. This is a British 1950s reprint of Australian Mandrake the Magician newspaper strips, by Lee Falk, I believe (that chap who famously did The Phantom - but I always thought Mandrake was a more interesting creation). In this case, the innards are just as odd as the outards, and I can heartily recommend this old nonsense. Note the claim that these are "new adventures" (they're not) and the wonderfully awful efforts of the editorial hacks at L. Miller (the British publishers) to resize a small panel of artwork to fit their superbly badly-designed cover template. Such charming amateurism is neither attempted nor accepted these days. I love the awful criss-cross lines on the 'floor', the bank clerk's swollen hand, and his glasses flying in the air. Splendid. I have another issue of this somewhere that, if I recall correctly, features giant worms. 

Here's another terrific cover. However bad Charlton humour comics were, you can't complain about their space/horror/mystery titles, which were invariably fascinating and often very good. As is this one, Space Adventures, a 1980s comic reprinting what looks like 1950s or 60s material. These were the kind they used to sell in the newsagent down the end of my road in the days of my youth; maybe I saw this one down there. I didn't buy this back in the day; this was a fairly recent purchase. I can't remember what's in it exactly, but I remember I enjoyed reading it. It probably includes a thinly-veiled story about the Cold War, and cautionary tales about the inhumanity of a giant computer and some robots, and a man who invents a time machine but then naughtily uses it to win on the horse races. You know the sort of thing. What a cover, though. I guess they're supposed to be fighting, but I prefer to imagine they're doing some kind of groovy extra-terrestrial disco-dance at the interplanetary palais, while a green-afro'ed dance-contest space-judge checks their moves and looks on approvingly.

And finally - an ill-fated but rather excellent Jack Kirby magazine-format comic book from the early 70s, Spirit World. There are some wonderful and experimental tales of ghostly weirdness and witches inside, yet for some reason the kids failed to dig it. I paid £3 for this (wondering at the time whether it was worth it) but I'm told this is quite a desirable and scarce item. Note that it has been reduced from twelve and a half new pence to five pence, and the relish with which the 'rubber stamper' plonked his 'brand' between the spooky eyes. Note also at least one prophecy which failed to come true on the cover. Sadly, my copy did not come with the free Giant Poster of the Occult World. If it had, you can be certain it would be straight up there on the wall next to my Cycling Proficiency Certificate. 

I hope you have enjoyed this brief rummage amidst the decaying newsprint...and that we might meet again some day, here in THE HOUSE OF COBWEBS.