As previously established though I love British comics I am not the world’s biggest fan of the output of publisher DC Thomson which tended to skew to a younger audience than their chief rival Fleetway. But I am not completely immune to their appeal; in the past I’ve written about my love of two adventure strips that appeared in the boys weekly The Beano, Billy the Cat and General Jumbo. Over the years they appeared with less and less frequence as the weekly became increasingly humor centric but new stories did appear in the comics oversized annual, The Beano Book, all through the 00′s. Thanks to a helpful scanner I’ve finally been able to read them and now so can you.
What both features have in common is pure and simple premises crazy rice in wish fulfillment. Which is amply demonstrated in this nice little General Jumbo story from 2006′s Beano Book; I would explain more, but what I mean should be instantly self-evident .
Then we have Billy the Cat; I’ve long been a proponent of the idea that the only people who would “really” fight crime in costumes are children, something the creators of the strip clearly believed as well.
And finally, here’s a Billy the Cat/General Jumbo crossover from the 2008 Beano Book written by Kev F Sutherland and drawn by Nigel Dobbyn. I am of the considered opinion that this is awesome sauce.
Time to dig in to the Comics Tunes mailbag (not a real bag) and read some of our recent made-up emails. This spurious email comes from an AOL address so you know it’s going to be good:
Dear D.J. David B.:
You did a great job writing about Catman a couple weeks ago, but what about Batman? Isn’t Batman more popular than Catman?
Good point. I’ll get back to Batman this week. Here’s another ersatz email from a total stranger:
Nice work on the Catman tribute. Any chance of a song about Batman?
Yeah, good idea. And now, another email from a faux fan:
Your blog sucks, dude! It’s terrible. Worst. Blog. Ever. By the way, when are we going to get a Batman song?
Thanks for the constructive criticism. I’ll get right on that if you just give me a minute. We have room for just one more contrived email:
Dear Most Wonderful Person:
I am writing to you from Nigeria where a person with the same surname as you left a big sack of cash on a bus and I wanted to give it to you as soon as you can confirm your identity by giving me your name, address, date of birth and Social Security number.
Thank you so very much.
That’s it for the mailbag. Now a tribute to Batman who turned 75 this year.
Click to enlarge.
Click the link below and listen to the umpteenth version of the Batman theme.
Bonus! A groovy Batman video of the same song. Look at those dancing girls go-go-go! Click the picture to see it all.
It’s out! The new movie from Marvel. No, not Captain America: Winter Soldier. No, not Amazing Spider-Man 2. No, not Guardians of the Galaxy. (That’s coming in August.) I’m talking about X-Men: Days of Future Past, the third of four Marvel movies this year. Is it just me or does it seem like Hollywood is trying to kill the goose that laid the golden egg?
Anyway, if you haven’t seen the new X-Men movie yet, it’s a hoot and a half! We learn that Professor X and Magneto are really brothers, and the Cyclops and Marvel Girl are Wolverine’s parents from the future. And it’s finally revealed that The Beast and Iceman are the ones who put Professor X in a wheelchair but not before having children who, in a weird time paradox, grew up to be themselves as well as their own worst enemies. All of which proves that Xavier is his own grandpa. Wow!
I guess I should have said “spoiler alert” first. My bad.
The world hasn’t been the same since the first issue of X-Men introduced Magneto way back in issue #1, only to return in issues 4, 5, 7 and 18. What’s Magneto’s appeal? His powers? His evilness? Or just his magnetic personality? Personally I think it’s the cool helmet.
Naturally, to tie in with all this X-citement over X-Men (see what I did there?) I have a song to share with you. It’s the X-Men theme and it has been recorded so many times already it was hard to pick which version to use. Let’s just assume this is the best rendition, shall we?
Click the link below and enjoy this X-cellent song.
On my short list of comic strips I wish King Features should start running in the Vintaage section of their website is Barney Baxter in the Air by (Not That) Frank Miller. It was a pretty prosaic airplane strip about a not particularly attractive plane crazy kid who was always having standard issue aviation adventures until like everybody else of the era he got swept up into WWII. It started in 1935 and lasted (surprisingly) until 1950, a fairly healthy lifespan for a strip. It’s perfectly understandable if you’ve never head of it because though fairly popular in its day it’s only appearances in other media consisted of a couple of comic books reprints and a Big Little Book.
The plots were basic, the “characters” nearly non-existent, but the art…oh, gosh, could this Frank Miller draw pretty. Airplanes, girls, animals, the guy was just gold.
About the most interesting thing about the strip was its comic grotesque sidekick Gopher Gus, who looked more than a little like Popeye crossed with chinless wonder Andy Gump. Gus was your standard colorful old prospector type who made an unlikely career switch by becoming a surprising competent pilot after meeting Barney. Though it’s clear from the second panel things after the end of the war science fiction elements creeped into the strip as Barney and Gus somehow made it to the moon.
And here’s the final Sunday from 1950, the art still looking darn good.
Now that the excitement of Amazing Spider-Man 2 has died down, it’s back to business as usual. For those of you who came in late, that means exploring the nexus of records and comics. We call the result Comics Tunes and you should too (just to avoid confusion).
Our premise is that there are a load of records about comic book and comic strip characters and we want you to hear every last one of them. Of course, some characters have been immortalized in song more than others.
Spider-Man, for instance, has quite a number of records about him, mostly versions of the theme from the 1967 Spider-Man animated TV series. Batman is the king, though, with more songs than any other comics celeb, and most of those are adaptations of the theme from the 1966 Batman TV series. But what about those other costumed characters that didn’t have a TV series? Are there songs about them? Yes, just not as many. In fact, this may very well be the only song about Catman. You’re welcome.
Enjoy this cover gallery of Catman and then dance off your blue suede shoes to what may be Catman’s only song.
Starting in the late 50′s science fiction and fantasy elements started popping on the covers of various Archie comics but that’s usually where the fantastic elements stopped; inside the comics it was pretty much business as usual in Riverdale. But that started to change in the 60′s when the publisher, never afraid to latch onto a passing trend, started to introduce some of the outre genres that were all over the zeitgeist into their output; monsters, space, super spies and superheroes.
Everybody (and by “everybody” I of course mean certain old fanboys) remembers the Super Teens…
…and The Man From R.I.V.E.R.D.A.L.E.
…but not The Kreeps.
In 1965, the year this comic was published, The Addams Family and The Munsters were on TV so naturally Archie had to meet a family of monsters. This is a comic I’ve wanted to read ever since I saw the cover somewhere online, partially because it’s freaking cool, but also because it also always struck me that Archie missed out on an obvious opportunity when they didn’t have a teenage monster enroll in Riverdale High during the monster boom. I realize I’m standing on unsteady ground when I complain that a story (by person or persons unknown, according to the Grand Comic Book Database) about a family of monsters “doesn’t make sense”. But “Archie Meets The Kreeps”, as the GCBD have dubbed it, really doesn’t.
First I have to question the creation of the teen witch Wendy; magical girls were of all over the place in ’65 (Bewitched, I Dream of Jeanie) but Archie didn’t have to go even that far afield for “inspiration”. Their very own teenage with Sabrina had been making regular appearance inArchie’s Madhouse since #22 in October 1962, Plus there’s a “twist” on the final page that flat out doesn’t make sense; I like to delude myself that I’m an expert on 60′s pop culture but the “Jerry Tuna” gag flew directly over my head. The closest I can come up with is its some kind of play on the singer Jerry Vale — it took a helpful poster, Ed O’Toole. to explain to me it was a reference to the Starkist ”Charlie the Tuna” ads. And I’m old enough to remember them too.
And, finally, it doesn’t do a very good job of introducing the other members of the family; they don’t even bother giving Mr. and Mrs. Kreep given names. But it still seems kind of odd that the publisher just gave up on the concept after just one go, but this appears to be The Kreeps one and only appearance in Archie Comics; though of course five years later an entirely different “family” of monsters was spun-off of the animated Sabrina the Teenage Witch; Groovie Goolies,
It’s a hit! Amazing Spider-Man 2 is a bona-fide blockbuster with quite a few blocks literally getting busted in the film. I finally got to see it and I have to say it wasn’t half bad.
I’m still uncomfortable with the changes they have made to the character and the story but then, who cares what I think? I’ve been a Spider-Fan for 50 years (yikes!) but I’m not really the target audience for this film. Or any film! Movies are made for young people and what do young people know or care about those first few issues by Steve Ditko? This version of Spider-Man seems to start when Jazzy Johnny Romita took over the comic book and it goes from there. I vividly remember being shocked and upset by that transition at the time. I guess I’m still not over it. But there has been a lot of water under the bridge since Spidey lost his glasses and gained a spit curl. And lots of fine artists have come and gone, like Jim Mooney, Gil Kane, Andru & Esposito, and all the rest. So get over yourself D.J. David B., and enjoy the movie for what it is! Classic cover gallery to follow. Then enjoy the theme music from the summer hit.
Click the link below and relive Amazing Spider-Man 2.
As previously noted I don’t know a lot about British publisher DC Thomson, their comics or their characters. For instance, I barely even knew there had been one crimefighter named Red Star let alone two. The “Golden Age” version of the character was Red Star Roberts. He started life in prose stories in the weekly Wizard as a suited, mask wearing vigilante who fought crime in Paragon City USA who earned his name by leaving a red star on criminals foreheads (and not because he was a Communist). He eventually graduated to comics:
The 70′s version, Red Star Robinson was Tommy Robinson, a regular seventeen year who fought crime under the guidance of the mysterious Watcher who provided him with an android gentleman’s gentlemen named Syrius Thrice and a vintage flying car. Unlike The Iron Teacher, who starred in a sprawling serial that seemed to go on forever, this Red Star’s adventures were generally limited to two-parters that were to the point as they were silly and strangely appealing.
For the record I wouldn’t have known about the original Red Star if not for an article on the always excellent British comics website Down The Tubes titled “A Different Type of Star — Rejuvenating DC Thomson’s Red Star for a New Era”(http://downthetubes.net/?p=14809). It goes on to say that The Glasgow League of Writers has partnered with the publisher to create new versions of some of their classic characters for the digital magazine Comic Review. This version of Red Star has been re-named the Scarlet Star (so as to avoid confusion with DC’s Russian sometimes Teen Titan, though frankly, I can’t imagine even one out of three people currently reading DC Comics would have any idea who that is). From what I’ve read online the new version, which will be written by Sam Read and drawn by Leonie Moore, pretty much splits the difference between the two version (though one assumes they’ll be no flying car in this one). Naturally, I am keen to see it.
Did somebody mention Spider-Man? With the wall-crawling, web-slinging, totally amazing Spider-Man appearing on the silver screen, it’s perfectly apropos (French, doncha know?) to spotlight your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man right here where comics meet music every Tuesday. I haven’t seen the movie yet (maybe tomorrow) so don’t spoil it for me. All I know is, Peter Parker is a lot less geeky and nerdy than he used to be, but at least he has web-shooters now instead of oozing spider-goo from holes in his hands. Gross!
First we’ll honor Spidey with a gallery of classic comic covers, then we’ll celebrate the ol’ web-spinner with a cover of the TV show theme song. (See what I did there?)
In many ways I’m a standard issue comic book guy of a certain age; when it came to comics I grew up with a laser like focus on superheroes, but I was also obsessed with all of the other stuff on Steve’s List of Always Super Cool Things*. Like robots. British comics have since their beginnings been hip deep in mechanical men, take for instance Tin-Can Tommy, a humorous ‘bot from a 1947 issue of The Beano.
But robots could also be taken seriously, like one of my all-time favorite British comics character Robot Archie.
As well as a robot who predated him by decades, one who (if I was going to be absolutely honest) may very well have inspired the creation of Robot Archie. A character I’ve been semi-obsessed with for years in spite of the fact that up until now I’ve only been able to read about him, all on the strength of a name, which seemed so wonderfully strange and exotic to my ears, and a genuinely inspired idea; A robot teacher — what a concept.
The Iron Teacher began life as a text story character in 1941 in the weekly Hotspur in back when British “comics” weren’t exactly, comics, altogether anyway. They were known as “story papers” for good reason; the stories told came in both text and sequential storytelling form, and not infrequently both in Prince Valiant style strips that mixed the two. As previously noted in America the transition between pulp magazine and comic book happened within a number of years,but in Britain publishers hedged their bets by creating a hybrid faux penny dreadful with comics format until at least the 60′s. And publisher DC Thomson clung to it up until the early 1970′s.
In his original incarnation he looked as he did above, that being quite a bit like the American comic book robots Electro, Bozo the Original Iron Man, Flexo the Rubber Man and Mekano (who appeared only once in Wonder Comics #1) who most likely inspired his creation.
Information about this prose version of the character on the web is pretty scarce, but we do know he was invented by a hunchback inventor named Jack Sim (who, since hunchbacked characters in popular culture who don’t ring bells are so freaking rare I’ll just go ahead and assume was “inspired” by the original boy robot inventor Johnny Brainard, the teenaged hunchback dwarf hero of Edward S. Ellis’ “The Steam Man of the Prairies” published in 1868). The Iron Teacher was super strong, nearly indestructible and could temporarily blind opponents with a flash of a purple light from his eyes, though due diligence compels me to reveal he wasn’t actuallyj a robot, but rather just a remote control operated appliance like Bozo (and Japan’s Gigantor). He fought the usual assortment of Nazi’s, crooks and monsters, but what made the character so special was he also lived up to his name by protecting and educating children.
In spite of the fact that the superhero and science fiction boom had been over for years for some reason DC Thomson decided to promote some of their more fantastic characters starting on the cover of The Hotspur, though the interiors remained exclusively the province of WWII soldiers, (proper) footballers and plucky young boys in various perilous situations. This included a slightly revamped version of The Iron Teacher who, for some reason in this incarnation looked quite a bit like a water heater, and was controlled by “secret agent Jake Todd” – which is all we’re ever told about him. We never even learn what country or organization he works for. Todd also provided a voice for The Iron Teacher, for some reason. I honestly have no idea why they needed to pretend The Teacher was an autonomous other than to, you know, mess with people. Unless the organization Todd was working for was ashamed they didn’t have a proper working robot.
As previously established I’m not the biggest fan of the output of DC Thomson. Along with the fact they seemed to be intended for a slightly younger readership their comics always struck me as being rather dull, painfully old-fashioned and the art sketchy to the point of looking almost unfinished. That having been said I rather liked the following Iron Teacher story by person or persons unknowns (it’s certainly several steps up in quality from the rest of the contents of this comic) even if in this outing he doesn’t get the opportunity to do a whole lot of educating. This is mitigated somewhat by the fact The Teacher gets to smack sense into a bunch of theoretically extinct giant critters.
But for some reason these more fantastic characters were only allowed to appear one at a time — as this adventure of The Iron Teacher ends it sets up the coming of Red Star Robinson which is about a teenage crime fighter with an android companion and a flying vintage car making it…Crimebuster meets Kid Eternity by way of Chitty Chitty Bang?! I mean, seriously, what the hell?
I’ve posted Steve’s List of Always Super Cool Things before but it recently dawned me that I had foolish left one; space. So here’s the revised list: