Archive for December, 2019

Requeim for our Dear Old Comics

December 1, 2019

I happened to be in the newsagents the other day when I heard him putting his order into the wholesaler and I heard him mention The Beano. When he had finished I said to him, ‘Wow is the Beano still going?’ and he confirmed that it indeed was. My mind went back to a time when Dad paid for the Beano and the Dandy to be delivered for me with the Yorkshire Evening Post newspaper, one on Tuesday and the other on Thursday. Eggo the Ostrich was on the cover of the Beano and Korky the Cat on the front of the Dandy, How I looked forward to receiving those comics. As it was wartime and even news print was rationed the newsagent only had an allocation of so many of those comics so you put your name down and waited for the day when some other lad grew out of them or didn’t pay the bill then you were on his list. Only the cover could run to colour and even that was poor quality it used to make me smile when the outline of a character would appear and then the colour of say his red jersey would appear as a splodge perhaps a millimetre away.
There were some great characters in those comics, Lord Snooty with his gang that included the perambulating babies, Snitch and Snatch, Lanky Lizzie, and Big Fat Joe. They used have altercations with the Bash Street Gang. Then there was Keyhole Kate who had developed a long nose through looking through keyholes, Beryl the Peril, Denis the Menace with his dog Nasher, Jimmy and his magic patch he had a patch on the back of his trousers if he rubbed it and thought of a place he would be transported there like on a magic carpet. These characters tended to get up to some dodgy jape but always tended to be found out and brought to justice in the end.
I remember particularly Desperate Dan, he was in the Dandy and carried six guns and ate cow pies complete with the horns sticking out of the top. I don’t suppose he would be politically correct today.

Why I remember Desperate Dan in particular is that he first appeared on the 4th of December 1937 which happened to be the day before I was born so, I could always claim that I was just one day younger that the famous Desperate Dan. I remember my aunt buying me the first edition of The Eagle, It had the space captain Dan Dare on the front cover and a picture of Mekon, Lord of the Treens. a little green man with a huge head flying around on a hover type saucer. Inside one of the feature stories was about, Harris Tweed the detective. I wish I had kept that comic I bet it would be worth a fortune today
I would invariably be told off by my dad for reading the comics next to my plate while I was eating my dinner as it was bad manners, bad for my digestion and bad grammar with all the ‘pows’ ‘biffs’ ‘wows’ ‘splats’, ‘crash bangs’ and speech balloons which accompanied the stories and he claimed that the tiny printing would damage my eyesight, but I don’t think he ever broke me of the habit. When you got to about eleven or twelve you had grown out of the picture comics and were ready to move on to the big lads written comics: The Wizard, The Hotspur, Rover and Adventure.
But before I move onto those I had better mention the comics specifically for girls. I have to admit I had to ‘Google’ to find them. Google gave me: ‘Cindy,’ ‘Vicky’, and ‘Lucy’, which I couldn’t recall and ‘Bunty’ which I did recall and ‘School Friend’ which really rang bell as it had in it Betty Bunter, the fat sister of Billy Bunter.

To get back to the lad’s comics; once again you had a long wait for the newsagent to be able to put you on his supply list; it was a seller’s market. Finally I started to receive The Wizard and The Hotspur, they were worth waiting for. To me most of the authors of those stories were top class; they kept you glued to your seat and the adventure ones finished on a cliff edge waiting for the next episode. Usually there would be about half a dozen stories in each issue: an adventure story, a public school story a football or cricket story depending on the season, one about athletics, probably one about the war which was ongoing at the time, perhaps one about someone with super powers. The tales had more than one string to them to keep the story flowing like ‘Limp along Leslie,’ he was a lad, lame in one leg, by day he was a shepherd in the Scottish hills where he was training his sheepdog to become a champion and at the same time as bamboozling everyone on the soccer field with his limping gait and finally, aspiring to play for Rangers.
Other football stories featured the famous, ‘Roy of the Rovers’ and ‘The Cannonball kid’ Usually there would be a picture drawn at the beginning of a football story showing a goal keeper making a prodigious diving save or the ball steaking into the very top corner of the net within inches of the post and the crossbar. One football story that stands out for me is: The tale about a rich mystery man who because of his immaculate appearance grew the nickname ‘Gorgeous Gus’ This guy bought a football club and paid massive transfer fees for all the positions except centre forwards. Everyone was excited who would be the mystery centre forward? It turned Gorgeous Gus was going to play centre forward himself. He used his own dressing room and appeared on the pitch for the first match, immaculately turned out with golden hair, golden boots etc. He wouldn’t chase the ball make any tackles but when they passed the ball to him he would hit it with such tremendous power that he scored a goal from anywhere on the field no matter how far he was away from the goal. If he got a speck of mud on himself he would go off the field and put clean kit on. These ‘boys own’ stories are still strong in my memory when even stories considered to be classics have faded.
Another series was ‘V for Vengeance’ about a British spy who managed to get to be second in command of the Gestapo and saved many lives [a likely tale]. Yet another was Jonny Appleseed a gentle American backwoodsman who had a vocation to plant apple trees all over America. For some reason someone was out to kill him but he had a protector that he wouldn’t recognise because he was violent and he hated violence. This guy was called ‘Slocum of the six knives’ and he followed Jonny at a distance keeping out of Jonny’s sight But anyone who tried to do Jonny harm would end up with one of Slocum’s knives in his back.
Yet another was ‘UGG! He was a cave man reanimated, he was stronger than any human and friendly to the main protagonist of the story but he carried a cricket bat in lieu of a club and when he went into action his war cry was, ‘The Clicker bar turns in my hand is the war cry of Ugg cracker of sculls,’
The ‘Tough of the Track’ was a working man and distance runner who rode about on a motor bike and side car with a highway code in his pocket which he would wave at folk who cut him up, He trained on fish and chips then went on to win all his races. One last one before I move onto my favourite, ‘Smith of the Lower Third’ Smith was the son of a grocer who won a scholarship to a upper class school where all the rest of the boys were toffs he had to fag for a ‘Flashman’ type prefect who was very cruel to him, but as with all these tales the underdog usually won through. But there was one episode that stands out for me it was the inter house athletics tournament and Tom’s house were poorly off for runners apart from one lad: Numb Ned. They knew Ned could run but Ned’s hobby was dozing in his old arm chair, they couldn’t budge him out of it, running in races was the last thing on his mind he never moved unless forced. Now It just so happened that a local furniture shop had the most luxurious, reclining chair in their window, it had all manner of head supports arm supports trays for drinks and soft music for dozing (there was a picture of it in the comic) So they showed Ned a picture of the chair and said they would have a whip round and buy it for him if he would run for the house in the races but that he couldn’t sit in it until after he’d won the race. Ned couldn’t wait to get sat in the chair so he won every race on the card just so he could quickly get back and doze in his chair. I suppose anyone who read those old comics had a particular favourite. So, who was my absolute favourite? It was Wilson of the Wizard of course.

Wilson lived outdoors on Ambleside moor in Yorkshire he always wore a black old fashioned running costume. He had managed to slow his heart rate down and was now one hundred and sixty years old. He couldn’t always be found but when he did appear, usually to help the country in the Olympics or something of that ilk he always accomplished some phenomenal feat at running, jumping, whatever. No one had reached the summit of Everest at the time so Wilson did it without oxygen and in his old running suit when he came down folk asked him if he had reached the summit and he replied, ‘That is a secret between me and the lady’. He was such a gentleman. Then he went and bowled the Australians out taking all ten wickets before lunch. He used to explain in the Wizard how to relax and slow his heart rate down to achieve all these feats. I tried it myself and actually had an out of the body experience I found myself floating up to the ceiling; I guess I was actually on the astral plain?