Fantastic Four Marvel Masterworks volume 4


By Stan Lee & Jack Kirby with Chic Stone, Frank Giacoia, Vince Colletta and others (Marvel)
ISBN: 978-0-7851- 4566-0 (PB)                    978-0-7851-1183-2 (HB)

The monolith of Marvel truly began with the adventures of a small super-team who were as much squabbling family as coolly capable costumed champions. Everything the company produces now comes due to the quirky quartet and the groundbreaking, inspired efforts of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby…

This full-colour compendium – also available in digital editions – collects Fantastic Four #31-40 plus the second giant-sized Annual: issues of progressive landmarks spanning September 1964 to July 1965 with Stan & Jack cannily building and consolidating a shared universe with the FF as the central title and most innovative series of that web of cosmic creation.

As seen in the landmark premier issue, maverick scientist Reed Richards, his fiancé Sue Storm, their close friend Ben Grimm – with Sue’s teenaged tag-along brother – survived an ill-starred private space-shot after Cosmic rays penetrated their ship’s inadequate shielding and mutated them all.

Richards’ body became elastic, Sue gained the power to turn invisible, Johnny Storm could turn into living flame and tragic Ben devolved into a shambling, rocky freak.

Without any preamble the wonderment resumes here with the contents of Fantastic Four Annual #2 (September 1964) and Chic Stone inking ‘The Fantastic Origin of Doctor Doom!’

A short (12 page) scene-setter, it momentously details how brilliant gypsy boy Victor Von Doom remakes himself into the most deadly villain in creation, ruthlessly surmounting obstacles such as ethnic oppression, crushing poverty and the shocking stigma of a sorceress mother to rise to national dominance and global status…

Following a fresh batch of rogues starring in ‘A Gallery of the Fantastic Four’s Most Famous Foes!’Super-Skrull, Rama-Tut, Molecule Man, Hate-Monger, The Infant Terrible and Diablo – plus pin-ups of Johnny, Sue, Ben, Alicia Masters and Reed, the past informs the present as the ultimate villain believes he has achieved ‘The Final Victory of Dr. Doom!’, through guile, subterfuge and mind-control but has in fact suffered his most ignominious defeat…

The monthly wonderment resumes with #31’s ‘The Mad Menace of the Macabre Mole Man!’ which precariously balances a loopy plan by the subterranean satrap to steal entire streets of New York City with a portentous sub-plot featuring a mysterious man from Sue’s past, as well as renewing the quartet’s somewhat fractious relationship with the Mighty Avengers

The secret of that mystery man is revealed in ‘Death of a Hero!: a powerful tale of tragedy and regret spanning two galaxies starring the uniquely villainous Invincible Man… who is not at all what he seems…

Supplemented by a glorious Kirby & Stone ‘Prince Namor Pin-up’, ‘Side-by-Side with Sub-Mariner!’ follows, bringing the aquatic anti-hero one step closer to his own series as the team lend surreptitious aid to the embattled undersea monarch against deadly barbarian Attuma who makes his debut in FF #33.

In ‘A House Divided!’ the team are nearly destroyed by Mr. Gregory Hungerford Gideon, the power-hungry Richest Man in the World after which (following a wry ‘Yancy Street Pin-Up’) ‘Calamity on the Campus!’ sees the team visit Reed’s old Alma Mater in a tale designed to pander to the burgeoning college fan-base Marvel was cultivating.

Incorporating a cameo role for then prospective college student Peter Parker, the rousing yarn brings back demon alchemist Diablo whilst introducing the monstrous misunderstood homunculus Dragon Man.

Fantastic Four #36 premieres the team’s theoretical nemeses ‘The Frightful Four’: a team of villains comprising The Wizard, Sandman, Trapster (he was still Paste Pot-Pete here, but not for long) plus enigmatic new character Madame Medusa, whose origin was to have a huge impact on the heroes in months to come…

Most notable in this auspicious, action-packed but inconclusive duel is the announcement after many months of Reed and Sue’s engagement – in itself a rare event in the realm of comicbooks.

Issue #37 finds the team spectacularly travelling to the homeworld of the shape-shifting Skrulls in search of justice or vengeance in ‘Behold! A Distant Star!’ They return only to be ‘Defeated by the Frightful Four!’ in FF #38: a sinister sneak attack and catastrophic clash of opposing forces with a startling cliff-hanger that marked Chic Stone’s departure in suitably epic manner.

Frank Giacoia – under the pseudonym Frank Ray – stepped in to ink #39’s ‘A Blind Man Shall Lead Them!’ wherein a suddenly-powerless Fantastic Four are targeted by an enraged Doctor Doom with only sightless vigilante Daredevil offering a chance to keep them alive. The tale – and this volume – concludes in #40 with ‘The Battle of the Baxter Building’ as Vince Colletta assumes the inking duties for a bombastic conclusion that perfectly displays the indomitable power, overwhelming pathos and undeniable heroism of the brutish Thing.

These are the tales that built a comics empire. The verve, imagination and sheer enthusiasm shines through and the wonder is there for you to share. If you’ve never thrilled to these spectacular sagas then this book of marvels is the perfect key to another world and time.
© 1964, 1965, 2017 Marvel Characters, Inc. All rights reserved.

Viking Glory: The Viking Prince


By Lee Marrs & Bo Hampton (DC Comics)
ISBN-13: 978-1-56389-007-9

During the rather anodyne mid-1950s, when superheroes were in a seemingly inescapable trough, comicbook companies looked to different forms of leading men for their action heroes.

In 1955 writer/editor Robert Kanigher created a traditional adventure comic entitled The Brave and the Bold that featured historical strips. The Golden Gladiator – illustrated by Russ Heath – was set in the declining days of Imperial Rome. Courtesy of illustrator Irv Novick, the Silent Knight fought injustice in post-Norman Invasion Britain and the already-legendary Joe Kubert drew the astounding exploits of a valiant young Norseman dubbed the Viking Prince.

This last strip appeared in all but one issue (#6), eventually taking over the entire comic, until the burgeoning superhero boom saw B&B metamorphose into a try-out title with its 25th issue.

Those fanciful, practically “Hollywoodish” Viking sagas were among some of the finest adventure comics of all time and they’re long overdue for a definitive collection of their own, since the character of Jon has long been a fan-favourite, intermittently returning in DC’s war titles and often guest-starring in such varied venues as Sgt. Rock and even Justice League of America.

This beautiful, vital and enchanting tale was released to very little fanfare in 1991, but remains a worthy sequel to those early strips and also long overdue for revival and re-issue…

Scripter Lee Marrs took all the advances in our historical knowledge since the 1950s and blended them with the timeless basics of a Classical Edda to entrancing effect. Amidst a culture vibrantly brought to full life by her words and Bo Hampton’s awesome skill with a paintbrush, she has grasped a passionate but reserved old archetype and remade him as a fiery young hero of devastating charm, full of all the boisterous vigour of his mythic race, and confronted him with his worst nightmare.

In 10th century Scandinavia, Jon Rolloson – heir to Jarl Rollo of Gallund – is a perfect Northman’s son; fast, tough, fearless and irresistible to all the maids of the village. But the greatest horror of his sixteen years has finally come for him: an arranged marriage for political advantage. He must leave his home and the Viking life to wed a “Civilised” Princess. His joyous days are all done…

But Princess Asa of Hedeby is a young beauty every inch his match in vigour and vitality, and as composed and smart as he is coarse and oafish. Unfortunately, somebody is stealthily trying to thwart the match, even though Jon’s boorishness is enough to give both fathers cause to reconsider, and only the Viking Prince’s rash vow to recover a lost rune treasure and slay a fearsome dragon preserves the bargain. The wedding will proceed… Now all he has to do is find and kill Ansgar, the vilest of all Fire-Wyrms, and not die in the process…

As well as being a superb writer Marrs is an underground cartoonist, animator and computer artist who has assisted Hal Foster on that other sword-wielding epic Prince Valiant, and her grasp of human character and especially comedy elevates this classic tale of romantic endeavour into a multi-faceted gem of captivating quality. Bo Hampton has created some of the best drawn or painted comics in the medium (such as Swamp Thing, Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight, Batman: Castle of the Bat, 3 Devils, The Once and Future Tarzan), and this book is probably still the very best of them.

One of the most accomplished and enjoyable historical romances ever produced in comic form, Viking Glory deserves to be on every fan’s bookshelf. Let’s hope that it’s on DC’s shortlist for a swift re-release.
© 1991 DC Comics. All Rights Reserved.

Challengers of the Unknown by Jack Kirby


By Jack Kirby, France “Ed” Herron, Dave Wood, Roz Kirby, George Klein, Bruno Premiani, Marvin Stein & Wally Wood (DC Comics)
ISBN: 978-1-4012-7719-2

The Challengers of the Unknown were a bridging concept between the fashionably all-American human trouble-shooters who monopolised comicbooks for most of the 1950s and the costumed mystery men who would soon return to take over the industry.

As superheroes began to return in 1956 here was a super-team – the first of the Silver Age – with no powers, the most basic and utilitarian of uniforms and the most dubious of motives… Suicide by Mystery.

Yet they were a huge hit and struck a chord that lasted for more than a decade before they finally died… only to rise again and yet again. The idea of them was stirring enough, but their initial execution made their success all but inevitable.

Jack Kirby was – and remains – the most important single influence in the history of American comics. There are quite rightly millions of words written (such as Paul Kupperberg’s enthusiastic Introduction and John Morrow’s pithy Afterword in this superb Trade Paperback and eBook compilation) about what the man has done and meant, and you should read those if you are at all interested in our medium.

I’m going to add a few words to that superabundance in this review of one of his best and most influential projects which, like so many others, he perfectly constructed before moving on, leaving highly competent but never quite as inspired talents to build upon.

When the comics industry suffered a witch-hunt-caused collapse in the mid-50’s, Kirby returned briefly to DC Comics where he produced tales of suspense and science fiction for the company’s line of mystery anthologies and revitalised Green Arrow (then simply a back-up strip in Adventure Comics) whilst creating the newspaper strip Sky Masters of the Space Force.

He also re-packaged for Showcase (a try-out title that launched the careers of many DC mainstays) an original super-team concept that had been kicking around in his head since he and long-time collaborator Joe Simon had closed their innovative but unfortunately ill-timed Prize/Essankay/Mainline Comics ventures.

After years of working for others Simon & Kirby had finally established their own publishing company, producing comics with a much more sophisticated audience in mind, only to find themselves in a sales downturn and awash in public hysteria generated by an anti-comicbook pogrom spearheaded by US Senator Estes Kefauver and pop psychologist Dr. Frederic Wertham.

Simon quit the business for advertising, but Kirby soldiered on, taking his skills and ideas to a number of safer, if more conservative and less experimental, companies.

The Challengers were four ordinary mortals; explorers and adventurers who walked away unscathed from a terrible plane crash. Already obviously what we’d now call “adrenaline junkies”, pilot Ace Morgan, diver Prof Haley, acrobat and mountaineer Red Ryan and wrestler Rocky Davis summarily decided that since they were all living on borrowed time, they would dedicate what remained of their lives to testing themselves and fate. They would risk their lives for Knowledge and, naturally, Justice.

The series launched with ‘The Secrets of the Sorcerer’s Box!’ in Showcase #6 (cover-dated January/February 1957 – so it was on spinner-racks and news-stands in time for Christmas 1956).

Kirby and scripter Dave Wood, plus inkers Marvin Stein and Jack’s wife Roz, crafted a creepily spectacular epic wherein the freshly introduced doom-chasers were hired by the duplicitous magician Morelian to open an ancient container holding otherworldly secrets and powers.

This initial story roars along with all the tension and wonder of the B-movie thrillers it emulates and Jack’s awesome drawing resonates with power and dynamism, which grew even greater for the sequel: a science fiction drama instigated after an alliance of leftover Nazi technologists and contemporary American criminality unleashes a terrible robotic monster.

‘Ultivac is Loose!’ (Showcase #7, March/April 1957) introduced a necessary standard appendage of the times and the B-movie genre in the form of brave, capable, brilliant and beautiful-when-she-took-her-labcoat-off boffin Dr. June Robbins, who became the no-nonsense, ultra-capable (if unofficial) fifth Challenger at a time when most funnybook females had returned to a subsidiary status in that so-conventional, repressive era.

The uncanny exploits then paused for a sales audit and the team didn’t reappear until Showcase #11 (November/December 1957) as The Flash and Lois Lane got their respective shots at the big time. When the Challengers returned it was in alien invasion epic ‘The Day the Earth Blew Up’.

Uniquely engaging comics realist Bruno Premiani (a former associate and employee from Kirby’s Prize Comics days) came aboard to ink a taut doomsday chiller that keeps readers on the edge of their seats even today, and by the time of their last Showcase issue (#12, January /February 1958) the Questing Quartet were preparing to move into their own title.

‘The Menace of the Ancient Vials’ was defused by the usual blend of daredevil heroics and inspired ingenuity (with the wonderful inking of George Klein adding subtle clarity to the tale of an international criminal who steals an ancient weapons cache that threatens the entire world if misused), but the biggest buzz would come two months later with the first issue of their own magazine.

Challengers of the Unknown #1 (May 1958) was written and drawn by Kirby, with Stein on inks and presented two complete stories plus an iconic introductory page that would become almost a signature logo for the team. ‘The Man Who Tampered with Infinity’ pitted the heroes against a renegade scientist whose cavalier dabbling loosed dreadful monsters from the beyond onto our defenceless planet, before the team were actually abducted by aliens in ‘The Human Pets’ and had to win their freedom and a rapid rocket-ship (sphere actually) ride home…

The same creators were responsible for both stories in the second issue. ‘The Traitorous Challenger’ is a monster mystery, with June returning to sabotage a mission in the Australian Outback for the very best reasons, after which ‘The Monster Maker’ finds the team seemingly helpless against super-criminal Roc who can conjure and animate solid objects out of his thoughts.

Issue #3 features ‘Secret of the Sorcerer’s Mirror’ with Roz Kirby & Marvin Stein again inking The King’s mesmerising pencils, as the fantastic foursome pursue a band of criminals whose magic looking-glass can locate deadly ancient weapons, but undoubtedly the most intriguing tale for fans and historians of the medium is ‘The Menace of the Invincible Challenger’ wherein team strongman Rocky Davis is rocketed into space only to crash back to Earth with strange, uncanny powers.

For years the obvious similarities of this group – and especially this adventure – to the origin of Marvel’s Fantastic Four (#1 was released in November 1961) have fuelled fan speculation. In all honesty I simply don’t care. They’re both similar but different and equally enjoyable so read both. In fact, read them all.

With #4 the series became artistically immaculate as the sheer brilliance of Wally Wood’s inking elevated the illustration to unparalleled heights. The scintillant sheen and limpid depth of Woody’s brushwork fostered an abiding authenticity in even the most outrageous of Kirby’s designs and the result is – even now – simply breathtaking.

‘The Wizard of Time’ is a full-length masterpiece of the art form and opens with a series of bizarre robberies that lead the team to a scientist with a time-machine. By visiting oracles of the past rogue researcher Darius Tiko has divined a path to the far future. When he gets there, he intends to rob it blind, but the Challengers deftly find a way to follow and foil him…

‘The Riddle of the Star-Stone’ (#5) is a full-length contemporary thriller, wherein an archaeologist’s assistant uncovers an alien tablet bestowing various super-powers when different gems are inserted into it. The exotic locales and non-stop action are intoxicating, but Kirby’s solid characterisation and ingenious writing are what make this such a compelling read.

Scripter Dave Wood returned for #6’s first story. ‘Captives of the Space Circus’ sees the boys shanghied from Earth to perform in a interplanetary travelling carnival, but the evil ringmaster is promptly outfoxed and the team returns for France “Ed” Herron’s mystic saga ‘The Sorceress of Forbidden Valley’, wherein June becomes an amnesiac puppet in a power struggle between a fugitive gangster and a ruthless feudal potentate.

Issue #7 is another daring double-feature both scripted by Herron. First up is relatively straightforward alien-safari tale ‘The Beasts from Planet 9’, but it’s followed by a much more intriguing yarn on the ‘Isle of No Return’ as the lads face a super-scientific bandit whose shrinking ray leaves them all mouse-sized.

Concluding Kirby issue #8 (July 1959) offers a magnificent finale to a superb run as The King & Wally Wood went out in stunning style with a brace of gripping thrillers – both of which introduced menaces who would return to bedevil the team in future tales.

‘The Man Who Stole the Future’ by Dave Wood, Kirby and the unrelated Wally Wood, introduces Drabny – an evil mastermind who steals mystic artefacts and conquers a small nation before the team dethrones him. Although this is a tale of spectacular battles and uncharacteristic, if welcome, comedy, the real gem here is space opera tour-de-force ‘Prisoners of the Robot Planet’, (probably) written by Kirby & Herron. Petitioned by a desperate alien, the Challs travel to his distant world to liberate the population from bondage to their own robotic servants, who have risen in revolt under the command of the fearsome autonomous automaton, Kra

These are classic adventures, told in a classical manner. Kirby developed a brilliantly feasible concept with which to work and heroically archetypical characters. He then tapped into an astounding blend of genres to display their talents and courage in unforgettable exploits that informed and affected every team comic that followed – and certainly influenced his successive landmark triumphs with Stan Lee.

But then Jack was gone…

The Challengers would follow the Kirby model until cancellation in 1970, but due to a dispute with Editor Jack Schiff the writer/artist resigned at the height of his powers. The Kirby magic was impossible to match, but as with all The King’s creations, every element was in place for the successors to run with. Challengers of the Unknown #9 (September 1959) saw an increase in the fantasy elements favoured by Schiff, and perhaps an easing of the subtle tension that marked previous issues (Comics Historians take note: the Challs were bitching, bickering and snarling at each other years before Marvel’s Cosmic Quartet ever boarded that fateful rocket-ship).

But that’s meat for another book and review…

Challengers of the Unknown is sheer escapist wonderment, and no fan of the medium should miss the graphic exploits of these perfect adventurers in that ideal setting of not-so-long-ago in a simpler, better galaxy than ours.
© 1957, 1958, 1959, 2003, 2017 DC Comics. All Rights Reserved

Battle Picture Weekly Annual (1976)


By various (Fleetway)
ISBN: 85037-266-6

For most of the medium’s history British comics have been renowned for the ability to tell a big story in satisfying little instalments which nevertheless left the reader hungry for more. This, coupled with superior creators and the anthological nature of our publications, has ensured hundreds of memorable characters and series have seared themselves into that dim corner inside most British adult males that houses the all-important Little Boys’ Psyche.

One of the last great weekly anthology comics was actually dedicated to a single theme: the all-combat Battle, which launched as Battle Picture Weekly on 8th March 1975, and through the traditional forge of absorption, merger and re-branding (becoming Battle Picture Weekly & Valiant, Battle Action, Battle, Battle Action Force and Battle Storm Force) carved itself a place in British comics history.

It was itself combined with Eagle on January 23rd 1988, after 673 blood-soaked, testosterone-drenched issues, having carved its way into the savage hearts of a generation, consequently producing some of the best and most influential war stories ever.

Annuals began immediately and this forward-dated first volume was released in the autumn of 1975: an action-packed compendium featuring opening salvos of some of the very best creators in Fleetway’s international stable and offering a bonanza of war-tinged fact and fiction features: (presumably) a winning blend of such writers as Pat Mills, John Wagner, Gerry Finley-Day, Tom Tully, Eric and Alan Hebden and artists such as Colin Page, Pat Wright, Giralt, Carlos Ezquerra, Geoff Campion and others I’m not savvy enough to recognise…

The literary and graphic conflict diamonds open with a full-colour text-&-picture spread explaining ‘Crete – The Airborne Invasion’ after which vivid strip vignette ‘Two Pints for the Panzers’ (perhaps painted by Carlos Pino?) details a brief Dunkirk skirmish between a deadly Nazi battlewagon and a few infernally devious Tommies…

A brace of prose recollections entitled ‘This Amazing War – Sailing Home!’ and ‘The Invisible Eye… is Shut!’ neatly proceed into monochrome adventure ‘Petty Officer Perkins’ with a bureaucratic quartermaster accidentally saving a British patrol from Japanese ambush through his small-minded penny-pinching whilst ‘The Escapers: Jail Break’ recounts an amazing true tale of a Mosquito raid to liberate Gestapo prisoners…

Legendary, Dirty Dozen-inspired misfit antiheroes Rat Pack (by Finley-Day and perhaps Fred T. Holmes?) muster next, sinking a docked Italian battleship with their usual gritty overkill, after which ‘Boys At War: A Medal for Badgie – Trumpeter Stanley Waldron, DCM, RFA’ honours in prose the achievements of a remarkable young warrior whilst ‘The Experts: The Sniper’ recounts a forgotten tale of the Anzacs in WWI…

Switching to red and black duo-hues, ‘Brothers in Arms’ reveals how two eternally squabbling heirs to an English Baronial Seat bury their animosity in the forge of combat before ‘This Amazing War – Underwater Strike’ regales the avid readership with an exploit of submarine combat.

Looking like early Eric Bradbury ‘Battle Honour: Sixty Minutes of Glory’ was probably culled from Fleetway’s long-running War Picture Library and detailed the valiant holding action of doomed Merchant cruiser Jervis Bay and is followed by text feature ‘The Escapers: Only One Got Away’ which details the astounding true story of German POW Franz von Werra whom no British, Canadian or American prison could hold…

‘Private War’ then details a clash of wills between supposed allies as a commando and British naval officer put personal animosities ahead of the life and mission of a Coast-Watcher stuck behind Japanese lines before ‘Boys At War: The Youngest Rifleman – Rifleman Ronald Bassett, KRRC’ details the accomplishments of a wilful 15-year-old youngster who enlisted three years too early to fight in WWII…

‘Fun Parade’ offers a wealth of cartoon military mirth whilst ‘Lofty’s One-Man Luftwaffe’ (by Kev O’Neill?) finds the undercover cockney still sabotaging the German Fighter Group he’s flying with as Nazi Air Ace Major Ranke after which ‘The First Great War’ is reviewed in an informative text-&-painted illustration feature.

‘Rogues Gallery’ offers visual insight into enemy aircraft ‘Mitsubishi A6M Type 0 Zero’, ‘Junkers 87 Stuka’, ‘Junkers 88’ and ‘Bachem 349 Viper’ and precedes a fictionalised account of the North African campaign via ‘The Experts: The Long Range Desert Group’ whilst ‘The Seventh Earl’ reveals how members of a group of the Canadian Parachute Battalion on a mission in occupied Holland become entangled in a transatlantic succession battle in England…

Geoff Campion’s classic ‘Private Bolt – a Bad Soldier’ details the grim life, controversial service career and glorious end of a true fighting man and leads off a section of short combat strips, followed in close order by ‘Dutchy’s Battlewagon’ which sees a driver in the Western Sahara teach the Afrika Korps a few lessons about desert warfare and how a D-Day soldier offsets one sensible anxiety against a silly but crippling phobia in ‘One Man’s Fear’

Text feature ‘The Escapers: The Trojan Horse’ re-examines the mythic tale of POW ingenuity before ‘Tiger Cubb’ (Mike Western) pits Tibetan-trained British boy martial artist Johnny Cubb against sadistic Japanese invaders in China and ‘The Red Knight: Baron Manfred von Richthofen’ blends fact and legend in a biographical strip before the military annals conclude in spectacular fashion with ‘A Game of Bluff’ as British agent and French Resistance fighters unite to uncover a traitor and expedite the D-Day landings…

This bombastic blend of action, tension and drama hasn’t paled in the intervening years and these gripping gems are as powerful and engrossing now as they’ve ever been…
© IPC Magazines Ltd. 1975.

Captain Scarlet Annual 1969


By various (Century 21 Publishing /City Magazines Ltd)
No ISBN:

During the 1960s Gerry Anderson’s high-tech puppet-show dramas revolutionised kids’ TV, and their comics tie-ins did exactly the same for our pictorial reading habits.

TV Century 21 (the unwieldy “Century” was eventually dropped) was patterned on a newspaper – albeit from 100 years into the future – and this shared conceit carried the avid readers into a multimedia wonderland as television and reading matter fed off each other. The incredible graphic adventures were supplemented with stills taken from the TV shows (and later, films) and a plenitude of photos also graced the text features and fillers which added to the unity of one of the industry’s first “Shared Universe” products,

Number #1 launched on January 23rd 1965, instantly capturing the hearts and minds of millions of children, and further proving to British comics editors the unfailingly profitable relationship between television shows and healthy sales.

Filled with high quality art and features, printed in gleaming photogravure, TV21 featured previous shows in strips such as Fireball XL5, Supercar and Stingray to supplement currently airing big draw Thunderbirds. In a bizarre attempt to be topical, the allegorically Soviet state of Bereznik constantly plotted against the World Government (for which read “The West”) in a futuristic Cold War to augment the aliens, aquatic civilizations and common crooks and disasters that threatened the general well-being of the populace. Even the BBC’s TV “tomorrows” were represented by a full-colour strip starring The Daleks.

Although Thunderbirds did not premiere on TV until September (with Frank Bellamy’s incredible strip joining the line-up in January 1966) Lady Penelope and Parker had an earlier debut to set the scene, and eventually the aristocratic super-spy won her own top-class photogravure magazine in January 1996.

And as Anderson’s newest creations launched into super-marionated life, their comics exploits filtered into TV21 and even their own titles.

Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons was originally broadcast from September 1967 to May 1968, sold to 40 other countries including the USA, Australia, New Zealand and Japan. In case you aren’t au fait, the series details the struggle between super-security agency Spectrum and disembodied intelligences from Mars. After an Earth survey mission resulted in the accidental destruction of a Mysteron City, the invisible aliens declared a vengeance war on humanity, using their ability to reconstruct matter and reanimate the dead.

Their prime agent is Captain Black, resurrected after he destroyed the Martian base, and their major obstacle is Captain Scarlet. The latter was killed by Mysterons too, but when he was brought back to life, he threw off the alien programming and fights for Spectrum. Thanks to the process, Scarlet can detect the presence of “Mysteron-ised” agents and cannot be killed…

Progressively multi-ethnic and considerably darker in tone, the series made a seamless jump to strip form in TV21 – under the auspices of creators such as Alan Fennell, Mike Noble, Eric Eden, Ron Embleton, Howard Elson, Don Harley, Scott Goodall, Frank Bellamy and Frank Langford.

There were three annuals during the1960s first run and this middle edition – released for Christmas 1968 – employed the company’s policy of total immersion in the subject matter. Every strip, story, fact feature and photo all worked under the assumption that the reader was enjoying a piece of journalism, not drama…

Opening with a Contents spread teeming with series stills, the thrills come quickly following as full-colour strip ‘The Mysterons Will Destroy International Engineering’s Workshops’ finds Captains Scarlet and Blue striving diligently to stop an insidious scheme to eradicate the company supplying Spectrum’s incredible vehicles, after which the first of three quizzes tests your potential as a Spectrum Agent in ‘Counterpoint 7 part 1’

Following cartoons and jokes in ‘Spectrafun’ schematics and blueprints for a new patrol jet are revealed in ‘Spectrum Research SPJ’ before ‘We, the Mysterons Will Destroy the Entire Northern Hemisphere’ finds our heroes racing against time to stop the deliberate detonation of Earth’s mothballed nuclear arsenal.

A text-&-photo profile of ‘Captain Black’ then segues into prose thriller ‘We, the Mysterons Will Cause a Germ War Throughout Earth!’ wherein the indestructible agent faces a diabolical biological weapon. Balancing the tension comes the specs for ‘Spectrum Research Saloon Car’ and an exploded cutaway technical feature on the ‘Spectrum Clam Sub’, after which colour strip ‘We, the Mysterons Will Destroy Kalipur’ results in a partial victory for the extraterrestrial aggressors…

A tense prose yarn sees the Free World’s greatest freelance spy hired to breach the ‘Security’ of Earth’s most advanced organisations including W.A.S.P. and Spectrum, after which a rapid response is called for in strip form when ‘In Six Hours Time, We, the Mysterons, Will Assassinate Colonel White!’

Faux road ‘Signs of Fun’ and details of Scarlet’s jet pack in ‘Spectrum Research SPV’ leads to photo feature ‘Operation Jigsaw’, disclosing how agents like Captain Ochre are recruited before prose yarn ‘We, the Mysterons Will Destroy World Peace!’ shows just how devious the implacable aliens can be…

More technical info follows: designs for the ‘Spectrum Research Helijet’, an exploded view of a ‘Spectrum Hovercraft’, anticipate strip thriller – and Martian triumph – ‘We, the Mysterons, Will Use Wallis Simpson to Flood the Atlantic Tunnel’ (by John Cooper) before more tests in ‘Counterpoint 7 part 2’

An exploded view of Spectrum’s ‘Radar Van’ and more ‘Spectrafun’ gags segue neatly into plans for the ‘Spectrum Research MSV’ and Mike Nobel’s enticing strip ‘Tomorrow Morning as Big Ben Chimes, the City of London Will be Destroyed’ sees Captain Scarlet perform one of his most daring feats…

More ‘Spectrafun’ leads to the job assessment concluding with ‘Counterpoint 7 part 3’ and details of ‘Spectrum Research Angel Craft’ before the future shocks spectacularly end with Cooper’s cataclysmic strip saga ‘We, the Mysterons, Will Destroy the New Houston Oil Depot!’

Crisp, imaginative writing, great characters and some of the most evocative science-fiction art of all time make this a must-have book for just about anybody with a sense of adventure and love of comics. This fabulous album is a superb example of the quality of those old British comics and there can be no greater argument of the necessity for a new and permanent collection of these strips books.
© 1968 Associated Television (Overseas) Ltd.

Logan’s Run Annual


By anonymous, illustrated by David Lloyd (Rainbow Book/Brown Watson)
No ISBN

British Comics have always fed from other media and as television grew during the 1960s – especially the area of children’s shows and cartoons – those programmes increasingly became a staple source for the Seasonal Annual market. There would be a profusion of stories and strips targeting not readers but young viewers and more and more often the stars would be American not British.

Much of this stuff wouldn’t even be as popular in the USA as here, so whatever comic licenses existed usually didn’t provide enough material to fill a hardback volume ranging anywhere from 64 to 160 pages. Thus, many Annuals such as Champion the Wonder Horse or Lone Ranger and a host of others would require original material, or as a last resort, similarly themed or related strips. Logan’s Run was one that relied on solely British-sourced talent for both solutions…

Following a successful 1976 movie adaptation of William F. Nolan and George Clayton Johnson’s dystopic novel, the concept was adapted to television in a 14-episode series starring Gregory Harrison, Heather Menzies, Donald Moffat and Randy Powell.

The premise was simple and traditionally effective. When state enforcer – AKA – “Sandman” Logan discovers the shocking secret of his enclosed past atomic war city-state (all citizens enjoy a perfect sybaritic life until they turn thirty at which time they are expected to die) he escapes into the wilderness with dissident Jessica to find a mythic paradise dubbed Sanctuary.

As they stumbled from one fantastic enclave of survival to another, the “runners” were relentlessly pursued by Logan’s dogmatic and implacable former partner Francis

All of this is superbly recapitulated in duo-coloured opening strip ‘Logan’s World’ by the magnificent David Lloyd in his pre-V for Vendetta days, after which a photo pin-up and maze puzzle ‘City of Domes’ leads into prose thriller ‘All in the Mind’ (possibly written by Steve Moore, as is the rest of the book) wherein the wanderers stumble into an all-female settlement dominated by a vile male telepath…

More photos and games take us to another prose tale with Lloyd providing full colour illustrations. ‘Reawakenings’ sees the fugitives and their trusty cyborg companion Rem fall into danger after entering a long-abandoned museum and giving entirely the wrong impression to its ancient robotic Caretaker…

Photo text features follow. ‘Star File: Gregory Harrison alias Logan’ offers an interview with the show’s star whilst ‘Logan’s Forerunners’ explores previous large and small screen Sci Fi hits including Star Trek, Flash Gordon, Doctor Who, Planet of the Apes and Close Encounters of the Third Kind and wraps up with eponymous board game Logan’s Run

Drama resurfaces in full-colour strip ‘Sunrise… Moonset’ with the runners encountering a hidden sect of devout Samurai just as the relentless Francis traps his prey and forces a final showdown…

‘Depths of Terror’ is another prose-&-colour illustration escapade as the Runners are lured into a mountain cave and almost become food for some extremely unpleasant mutant pets, and is followed by fact-features ‘Rem and the Robots’ – discussing the differences between cyborgs and fully mechanical man-servants – and ‘Space Age Travel’ highlighting the vehicles of Logan’s world after which pin-up ‘Deadly Truce’ leads into ‘Logan’s Runners’ providing interviews with Heather (Jessica) Menzies and Donald (Rem) Moffat.

The action concludes with another two-colour Lloyd strip as ‘City of the Nighthawks’ finds the wanderers in peril of their lives after entering a settlement infested with vampire-like cannibals before one last photo pin-up page and another maze challenges the reader to ‘Find Your Way to Sanctuary’

Packed with monochrome stills, publicity bumph and a variety of non-comics material, annuals like these proliferated in the late 1970s and pretty much became the standard form for the following decades: combining celebrity cachet and cheap production costs in books about popstars, TV shows and even sports stars. Nevertheless, the early albums do feature strips world and illustration from young mega stars such as Lloyd, John Bolton, Paul Neary, Alan Davis and many more.

If you ever see annuals dedicated to long-gone shows like Kung Fu, Kojak, Grange Hill, The Professionals or so many others, do yourself a favour and look inside before passing on to the next back issue bin. You may be pleasantly surprised as well as nostalgically overwhelmed…
© 1978 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.

The Children’s Annual


By Alan Clark (Boxtree)
ISBN: 978-1-85283-212-4

The comic has been with us a long time now and debate still continues about where, when and exactly what constitutes the first of these artefacts to truly earn the title. There’s a lot less debate about the children’s annual, a particularly British institution and one that continues – albeit in a severely limited manner – to this day.

It’s a rare person indeed who never received a sturdily reassuring colourful card-covered compendium on Christmas morning, full of stories and comic-strips and usually featuring the seasonal antics of favourite characters, whether from comics such as Beano, Dandy, Lion, Eagle and their ilk, or television, film or radio franchises and personalities such as Dr Who, Star Wars, TV21, Radio Fun or some hallowed star of a bygone age.

There were even sports annuals and beautifully illustrated commemorative editions of the fact and general knowledge comics such as Look and Learn, and special events such as the always glorious and awe-inspiring Rupert Annuals.

The history and development of this glorious holiday tradition are lovingly shared by the enthusiastic and erudite Alan Clark in this wonderful book. Never lapsing into too much detail, Clark introduces his subject – always lavishly illustrated – offers a tantalising taste and then moves on.

His goal is always achieved. Once you’ve seen, you will want to see more. This kind of nostalgic paean is our industry’s best weapon in the fight to build sales, both of new material and back issues.

When was the last time you bought something old or untried at a comic shop? Give your Nostalgia Vision a workout for a change, and if you’re still a little dubious, this book should be your guide to tip the scales.
© 1988 Alan Clark.

Lion Annual 1974


By many and various (Fleetway)
No ISBN – SBN 85037-067-1

Being almost universally anthology weeklies, British comics over the decades have generated a simply incomprehensible number of strips and characters in a variety of genres ranging from the astounding to the appalling. Perhaps it’s just personal bias based on being the right age at the right time, but the 1970s adventure material from Fleetway Publications seems to me the most imaginative and impressive of a long line of pictorial pleasures.

Fleetway was a small division of IPC – then the world’s largest publishing company – and had, by the early 1970s, swallowed or out-competed all other English outfits producing mass-market comics except the exclusively television-themed Polystyle Publications.

As it always had been, the megalith was locked in a death-struggle with Dundee’s DC Thomson for the hearts and minds of their assorted juvenile markets – a battle the publishers of the Beano and Dandy finally won when Fleetway sold off its dwindling comics line to Egmont Publishing and Rebellion Studios in 2002.

The 1950s had ushered in a revolution in British comics. With wartime restrictions on printing and paper lifted, a steady stream of new titles emerged from many companies and when the Hulton Press’ The Eagle launched in April 1950, the very idea of what weeklies could be altered forever.

The oversized, prestige package graced with lush photogravure colour was exorbitantly expensive, however, and when London-based publishing powerhouse Amalgamated Press retaliated with their own equivalent, it was (understandably) a more economical affair.

I’m assuming they only waited so long before the first issue of Lion debuted (dated February 23rd 1952), to see if their flashy rival periodical was going to last…

Like The Eagle, Lion was a mix of prose stories, features and comic strips and had its own cover-featured space-farer… Captain Condor – Space Ship Pilot.

Initially edited by Reg Eves, the title eventually ran for 1156 weekly issues until 18th May 1974 when it merged with Valiant. Along the way, in the traditional manner of British comics (which subsumed weaker-selling titles to keep popular strips going), Lion absorbed Sun in 1959 and Champion in 1966; even swallowing Eagle itself in April 1969 before merging with Thunder in 1971.

Despite its being one of the country’s most popular and enduring adventure comics, Lion vanished in 1976 when Valiant was amalgamated with Battle Picture Weekly.

Despite the weekly’s demise, there were 30 Lion Annuals between 1953 and 1982, all targeting the lucrative Christmas market, combining a broad variety of original strips with prose stories; sports, science and general interest features; short humour strips and – increasingly from the 1970s – reformatted reprints from IPC/Fleetway’s vast back catalogue.

This edition is technically the penultimate “proper” Lion Annual. In May 1974 the long-running title was merged with Valiant as very much the junior partner.

Valiant itself would be absorbed into Battle Picture Weekly two years later but although the title itself was on its uppers, the Christmas Annual market worked on different principles and retailers seemed ever-eager to see familiar names when stocking up on one-off big-ticket items.

The memory of many defunct comics survived for years beyond their demise because publishers kept on banging out hardback collections for titles parents and retailers remembered from their own pasts.

Lion Annual 1974 was released in Autumn 1973, the 21st volume since the comic began. There would be nine more before the hallowed name finally vanished from vendors’ shelves…

Boasting the traditional blend of full-colour, duo-tone and monochrome sections, this titanic tome kicks off in procedural manner and rainbow hues as ‘Spot the Clue with Zip Nolan’ (art by Ted Kearon) finds the motorcycle cop spectacularly solving theft at a logging camp after which a prose outing for ‘The Spellbinder’ (probably written by Tom Tully and spot-illustrated by regular strip artist Geoff Campion) reveals how young Tom Turville and his ancient alchemist ancestor Sylvester accidentally activate – and thwart – a terrorist fifth column menacing Britain…

‘Mowser the Priceless Puss and his Enemy James the Butler’ sees Reg Parlett’s cosseted kitty score another hilarious win in his ongoing war with malign manservant (and obnoxious, obstreperous, uppity snob) James after his cat-loving boss suggests a picnic, before ‘Secrets of the Demon Dwarf’ (Alfonso Font art) finds time-displaced WWI mad scientist Doktor Gratz still trying to reverse the result of the Great War by attacking modern-day Britain with robot stormtroopers, mole machines and his infamous armoured Zeppelin…

Campion’s ‘World Beaters: Peugeot Bébé’ delivers a fact-filled profile of the tiny foreign car after which Ian Kennedy depicts ‘Paddy Payne and the Battle of Eagles’ with the Air Ace seconded to the Maginot Line and embroiled in a grudge match between obsessed officers on both sides fighting to retain or retrieve a hotly contested battle standard…

‘Mowser’ then puts paid to James’ spotless reputation and – following two pages of general ‘Jokes’ – prose thriller ‘The Giant Dog of the Mause Valley’ explores the legend of a mythical hound before a bunch of irrepressible youngsters dubbed the ‘Can- Do-Kids’ thwart a conniving property tycoon in text treat ‘Moving House’…

Created by E. George “Ted” Cowan & Alan Philpott, The Jungle Robot debuted in the first issue of Lion in 1952, before vanishing until 1957. On his triumphant return in the 1960s as Robot Archie, “old tin bonce” became one of the most popular and long-lasting heroes of British comics.

Here the amazing and iconic automaton and his hapless handlers Ted Ritchie and Ken Dale find themselves fighting fake sharks and cunning gold thieves on the Amazon River in a sterling strip limned by Ted Kearon, after which photo-feature ‘Waterspeed’ outlines the intrinsic allure of powerboats.

Another ‘Jokes’ selection segues into sinister drama ‘The White-Eyes’ with wicked mad mastermind Ezra Creech using his super-strong zombie mind-slaves to steal army weapons and further his war against humanity. Happily, plucky teens Nick Dexter and Don Redding still have the measure of the malign maniac and his shambling myrmidons…

After ‘Mowser’ enjoys a spot of fishing, ‘The Spellbinder’ returns in strip form to lay a few unhappy ghosts at a Suffolk stately home after which another Campion ‘World Beater’ – ‘Meganeura Super Bug’ offers a glimpse at a prehistoric dragonfly before we all head back to WWII where schoolboy strategic prodigy ‘General Johnny’ (illustrated by Renato Polese perhaps?) sees the modern Alexander caught behind German lines and forced to fight his way back to safety…

Fire alarm foolishness makes ‘Mowser’ all warm inside and out after which ‘The Last of the Harkers’ finds hapless last surviving heir Joe and his ghostly coach attempting to reclaim a dead ancestor’s trophy and title for the Arduous Training and Obstacle Course in Glen Sporran. Joe was attempting to recover all the clan’s past prizes as a legal requirement to save the family seat, whilst villainous speculator Bert Swizzle saw the contests as his opportunity to take over the ancient pile…

This time, the rogue thought swapping dummy ordnance for the real thing would stop Joe, but he couldn’t be more wrong…

Brits of this period much preferred fantastic villains and antiheroes to straight do-gooders, and prose yarn ‘The Shadow of the Snake’ here heralds the return of an extremely popular serpentine super-crook.

Angus Allan & John Catchpole’s had begun the ophidian epic in the weekly Lion in 1972; cataloguing outrageous crimes of mad scientist Professor Krait who could transform himself into a reptilian rogue with all the assorted evolutionary advantages of the world’s reptilian denizens.

Here the bizarre bandit’s plan to plunder a bullion train is countered by his mortal nemesis and former lab assistant Mike Bowen, who regularly advises the bewildered, overmatched police…

A text examination of Alexander Selkirk – ‘The Real Robinson Crusoe’ – leads into a moth-eaten episode for ‘Mowser’ after which ‘Spot the Clue with Zip Nolan’ monochromatically features the canny cop scotching a criminal scheme operating as a civil war re-enactment whilst prose account ‘Anchored to a Blazing Hurricane!’ retells a shocking event from the Battle of Britain.

Following a prose outing details Robot Archie liberating a Burmese ruby mine from river pirates, photo-feature ‘Do It Yourself War’ celebrates table-top military gaming, ‘Mowser’ meets a snooty pedigree mutt and a full-colour match starring underage professional footballers ‘Carson’s Cubs’ (art by Fred T. Holmes) details how a subversive dietician can wreak more havoc than a bent referee on a successful team…

Stuntmen brothers Joe and Sandy then earn their title as ‘The Speed Kings’ after stumbling into a plot to sabotage a powerboat record attempt whilst text thriller ‘Noah’s Ark’ reveals how survivors cope with a flooded world before this walk down memory lane wraps up with the surely prophetic ‘“Stop this Man” Say the Camelot Clan’ wherein wealthy American speculators plan to turn the entire United Kingdom into a giant gasworks.

Only a disparate and slightly bonkers Historical Preservation Society stand in their way, but these fulminating little Englanders have a few tricks up their sleeves and the latest foray – to pave over Loch Ness and build a power station – flops for the strangest and most obvious reasons…

This is a glorious lost treasure-trove for fans of British comics and lovers of all-ages fantasy, filled with danger, drama, hobby-data and diverse delights, illustrated by some of the most talented artists in the history of the medium. Track it down, buy it for the kids and then read it too. Most of all, pray that somebody somewhere is actively working to preserve and collect these sparkling and resplendent slices of our fabulous graphic tradition in more robust and worthy editions.
© IPC Magazines Ltd. 1974. All rights reserved.

The Dandy Book 1982


By various
No ISBN:

For many British readers – comics fans or not – the Holiday Season means The Beano Book, but publisher D.C. Thomson produced a wide range of weekly titles over the decades, most of which also offered superb hardcover annuals.

Way back when, most annuals were produced in a wonderful “half-colour” which British publishers utilised in order to keep costs down. This was done by printing sections or “signatures” of the books with only two plates, such as Cyan (Blue) and Magenta (Red) or Yellow and Black.

The sheer versatility and range of hues provided was simply astounding. Even now this technique inescapably screams “Holiday Extras” for me and my aging contemporaries. This particular example boasts the barely-yesterday year of 1982 (and would have hit shop shelves in late August 1981) when printing technology was still expensive and complicated, and full colour a distant dream.

Until it folded and was reborn as a digital publication on 4th December 2012, The Dandy was the third-longest running comic in the world (behind Italy’s Il Giornalino – launched in 1924 – and America’s Detective Comics in March 1937). Premiering on December 4th 1937, it broke the mould of its traditionalist British predecessors by using word balloons and captions rather than narrative blocks of text under sequential picture frames.

A huge success, The Dandy was followed eight months later on July 30th 1938 by The Beano – and together they utterly revolutionised the way children’s publications looked and, most importantly, how they were received.

Over decades the “terrible twins” spawned a bevy of unforgettable and dearly-beloved household names to delight generations of avid and devoted readers, and their end-of-year celebrations were graced by bumper bonanzas of the weekly stars in extended stories housed in magnificent hardback annuals.

As WWII progressed, rationing of paper and ink forced “children’s papers” into an alternating fortnightly schedule. On September 6th 1941 only The Dandy was published. A week later just The Beano appeared. The normality of weekly editions only resumed on 30th July 1949 but before long the bonnie books were once more an unmissable part of the Christmas experience.

The frolicsome fun begins on the inside front cover as veteran star Desperate Dan (illustrated by Charles Grigg?) gets the ball rolling with some typically macho pancake racing endeavours – which wrap up with a powerful punchline at the show at the end – before Korky the Cat graciously introduces the forthcoming festivities.

Rather than the usual set of gag-favourites, this edition properly commences with light-drama yarn ‘Tufty’s Lucky Terrier’, revealing how a lonely lad’s school sporting career takes a bold turn thanks to his beloved pet pooch…

The Smasher is a lad hewn from the same mould as Dennis the Menace and in the first of his vignettes (drawn by Hugh Morren or perhaps David Gudgeon) the bombastic boy carves a characteristic swathe of anarchic destruction to beat sporting bullies and win a heaving table full of goodies to scoff. Then well-meaning cowboy superman Desperate Dan (limned by Peter Davidson?) moves heaven and earth to join the town band in another typically destructive and traumatic extended outing…

Larcenous snack addict Tom Tum (Keith Reynolds) keeps fit by outsmarting and burgling his parsimonious neighbour whilst Grigg’s Korky the Cat confounds a gamekeeper before popping back to introduce cartoon puzzle ‘A Super “Ice” Scream from Korky’ after which feuding fools The Jocks and the Geordies (Jimmy Hughes) renew their small nationalistic war in a wax museum infested with dull exhibits and nasty teachers…

David Mostyn’s Bertie Buncle and his Chemical Uncle finds the prankish lad having fun with his inventive relative’s super vacuum cleaner, and Harry and his Hippo (Andy Fanton?) sees the exiled African animal outsmart his human hosts to secure a warm bed on a cold night before mighty pooch Desperate Dawg (George Martin) spars with a circus strongman.

Jack Silver (by Bill Holroyd) then finds the alien schoolboy and his human pal Curley Perkins still on fantastic planet Marsuvia and battling a giant thieving Fuzzy Face covertly employed by super-villain Captain Zapp.

A game of cowboys goes typically wrong for Bully Beef and Chips (Gordon Bell?) whilst Tom Tum briefly indulges in tape-recording fun before reverting to hunger-fuelled type, Korky renews his decades-old conflict with the house mice and Peter’s Pocket Grandpa (Ron Spencer) sees the pint-sized pensioner creating a chaos-prone circus act using white rats as his savage beasts.

Korky’s Gallery of Schoolboy Howlers precedes Holroyd’s young DIY enthusiast in The Tricks of Screwy Driver, after which Greedy Pigg (George Martin), makes his mark as the voracious teacher (always attempting to confiscate and scoff his pupils’ snacks) switches targets and swipes the headmaster’s dinner instead.

Radio-tagged golf and cricket balls cause carnage in Bertie Buncle and his Chemical Uncle after which Desperate Dan clashes with a cow-pie snaffling escaped circus lion and George Martin’s Izzy Skint – He Always Is! finds the youthful entrepreneur failing spectacularly to monetise the family dog.

More food theft preoccupies The Smasher before Korky tests your wits once more with visual brainteasers in Here’s a Hoot! Spot the “Owl”! and Holroyd – or perhaps Steve Bright – conjures up equine excitement starring schoolboy Charley Brand and robotic pal Brassneck when the manmade schoolboy wins a racehorse and opts for a career as a steeplechase jockey.

Bully Beef and Chips finds both terroriser and perennial victim suffering from poetry homework even as Greedy Pigg comes to a slippery end in pursuit of illicit dinners. The Jocks and the Geordies play nocturnal pranks on UFO spotters and The Tricks of Screwy Driver result in an uncontrollable powered snow cart and icy duckings all around…

Desperate Dawg then employs a giant cowbell to stop a stampede, Korky’s crockery mishaps win him a most unwelcome new job and Peter’s Pocket Grandpa foils a jewellery heist with his micro roller-skating skills before the show closes with Izzy Skint – He Always Is! who sagely allows thieving bullies to defeat themselves in another masterful mirth moment from George Martin.

Stuffed with glorious gag-pages and bursting with classic kids’ adventure, this is still a tremendously fun read and even in the absence of the legendary creators such as Dudley Watkins, Leo Baxendale and Ken Reid, there’s still so much merriment on offer I can’t believe this book is nearly four decades old. If ever anything needed to be issued as commemorative collections it’s such D.C. Thomson annuals as this…
© 1968 D.C. Thomson & Co., Ltd. All rights reserved.