Friday, 26 November 2010


...would be nice - but here's a pic of SILVER SURFER #4 instead.
(Well, a fella has to do something to get your attention!)

THOR versus the SURFER.  Image copyright MARVEL COMICS

Seeing as you're here 'though, take the time to admire this fantastic
piece of artwork by BIG JOHN BUSCEMA. They sure don't make
artists like that anymore!

Thursday, 25 November 2010


Pencils by Jack Kirby.  Images copyright MARVEL COMICS

Following on from the previous post, here are a few more examples
of the difference that colour (or, to be more precise, choice of colour)
can make to a printed page.  The first example, above, is how the cover
of JOURNEY Into MYSTERY #83 would have looked (more or less)
back in 1962.  Compare it against the much brighter, recoloured version
from the first printing of MARVEL MASTERWORKS Vol. 181991/
'92.  (Note:  A superior version, more faithful to the original, appears
in the recent softcover edition of THOR MASTERWORKS.)

Inks by Joe Sinnott

Now compare both of them to TOM CHU's version (below), repro-
duced in the TALES Of ASGARD hardcover volume, which also re-
prints J.I.M. #83's origin.  (Unfortunately, despite the superb colour-
ing, the art has been retouched in places, having been restored from the
reprint in THOR #158.  For a more faithful reprint of this classic story,
see the softcover MASTERWORKS edition, referred to above.)

Colours by Tom Chu


Art by Walter Simonson.  Images copyright MARVEL COMICS

What a difference colour makes.  Not convinced?  Take a look at these
basic, flat-coloured examples of JACK KIRBYVINCE COLLETTA
THOR stories from the TALES Of ASGARD 1984 Special (Vol. 2, No.1).
Alongside are the newly coloured, multi-hued MATT MILLA pages from the
hard-cover edition of the same tales.  (First available as a 6-part mini-series.)
The pages are given a whole new dimension, enabling them to go toe-to-toe
with many contemporary offerings available in comics shops today.

Not wishing to labour the comparison, but the difference is similar
to that of an old POPEYE or BETTY BOOP cartoon compared to the
almost 3D effect of the animation in WHO FRAMED ROGER RABBIT?
Last year, I bought the computer-coloured reprint of MARVEL COMICS
#1 and the effect was the same.  The pages seem to have become imbued
with a vitality lacking in their original printing and don't appear quite as
dated in contrast to more modern presentations.

A while ago, the U.K. mag AVENGERS UNITED reprinted the Tales of
Asgard series in its original form, and it was generally met with an indifferent,
sometimes even hostile reaction.  It seems that kids of today have been spoiled
by the photo-realistic, more complex colour-art in contemporary stories, and
couldn't quite take to the four-coloured classics of yesterday.  I'm pretty sure
that, had MARVEL/PANINI been able to present the Matt Milla versions
(which hadn't yet been done), the response would've been more positive.

I think it can only be a matter of time before Marvel start colouring all
their stories from yesteryear in this same fashion and then re-presenting
them as 'definitive versions'  in deluxe, hardcovered volumes.  As I said, it
certainly gives them a whole new dimension and might help them to appeal
to younger readers not yet steeped in the company's glorious history who
seem to have an aversion to older material.  (Hard as it is to believe.)

ISBN # 9780-7851-3921-8

The Complete TALES OF ASGARD is available now from all good
comic shops (and has been for some time).  And here, for completists,
is the cover to the original 1968 TOA Special.  (Vol. 1, No. 1.)

Art by Jack Kirby & Frank Giacoia

Wednesday, 24 November 2010


Written, drawn, lettered & coloured by Kid Robson

Unseen 'cos I've only just drawn it.  One or two people who responded
to a couple of my previous posts (and elsewhere) said that I should have a
go at drawing The DANDY's DESPERATE DAN if I wasn't too keen
on a certain artist's controversial interpretation of DD.

So, first chance I got I did.  What you're looking at is a hand-coloured
A4 photocopy, the result of some old acrylic inks I've had lying around for
10 years.  I didn't take the time to properly erase the pencil lines from the
original before I got the page photocopied, so some are still in evidence.
When I have more time, I'll 'tidy up' the colours a bit.

Original, black and white, A4 photocopy

  I've deliberately avoided going for the DUDLEY D. WATKINS
look, preferring instead a slightly more 'cartoonish' appearance - hence
my version of AUNT AGGIE looking nothing like the 'traditional' one.
It should go without saying that the 'devil effect' in frame 6 is merely
symbolic and not to be taken literally.

Drawn merely for my own amusement, the copyright of Desperate
Dan remains the property of D.C. THOMSON & Co., Ltd.  The weekly
Dandy ceased publication in December 2012 after 75 years, but Dan
and all his comic chums live on in Annuals and Specials.

(Post updated on January 12th, 2014.)

Saturday, 20 November 2010


I recently acquired this LOUIS MARX clockwork robot as a
replacement for the one I had as a kid.  Interestingly, it was originally
manufactured in two sizes - a small and slightly larger version.  It also
came in different colours - red, blue or gray (and maybe even black -
I'm not sure).  Sometimes the red one had gray arms and blue or black
legs, and I'm sure the others had variable colour schemes as well.
A little beauty, ain't it?  Hands off - it's MINE!


Art by Jack Kirby
Back in 1973, I was
surprised to see quite
a number of copies of
THOR #1 gracing
the spinner-racks of
various newsagents in
my home town.

This Annual was dated
1965, which - in 1973 -
was more than half my
life away. Furthermore,
I had first read the main
story (THOR Versus
HERCULES) in the
Special published by
in 1968.

Anyway, even as a mere callow youth - I recognized that this
mighty MARVEL masterpiece was a genuine collector's classic
and well-worth buying. Why had it taken eight years to make an
appearance in shops 'though?

As most of you will know, American comics came over to this
country as ballast, so could potentially lie about in the holds of ships
or darkened warehouses for months or even years before finding their
way to newsagents' outlets - hence the occasional  spotty distribution
of  some issues. If that is what happened in this case ('though it's by
no means certain), then, ironically, the black and white reprint of
this story was on sale a whole five years before the original
colour publication.

However, regardless of whether it was the first U.K. appearance
of this issue or simply the discovery of a few misplaced copies, it
was a welcome addition to my growing collection of U.S. comics
and I was glad of the delay.

Strange to think that erratic distribution
sometimes had its advantages, eh?

Friday, 19 November 2010


BBC Pebble Mill Studios, Birmingham

About six years or so ago, I accompanied a friend on a business
trip to Birmingham and, whilst there, took the opportunity to visit the
famous BBC PEBBLE MILL studios.  PEBBLE MILL AT ONE was a
daily lunchtime show that originally ran from around 1972 or '73 until
1986.  (It was revived in 1991 to 1996 - simply titled "Pebble Mill" -
with a new cast of presenters).

Donny MacLeod
I remember watching the original
incarnation back in the '70s, either
on my dinner-break during school or
work, and there was usually at least
one feature or interview which  was
interesting enough to delay me from
stirring from my chair when I should
have.  The original presenters (I think -
no research spared) were MARION FOSTER, BOB LANGLEY, DAVID
SEYMOUR and DONNY MacLEOD.  In fact, big Donny once presented a
programme about the MOD (a huge festival about Scottish and Gaelic music)
from my home town, and - if memory serves - I think I actually saw him
wandering about my local shopping centre at the time.

Anyway, there I was, sitting in my friend's car, outside the now
nearly deserted studios.  (Although there still seemed to be a trickle of
traffic in and out the main gates, suggesting that it was not yet completely
abandoned.)  Parked in the very street that I (and a significant portion of
the population) had hitherto only ever seen through the studio windows
as Marion, Bob, Dave or Donny interviewed some second-rate celebrity
eager to plug his or her latest book or record.

Pebble Mill logo
I couldn't miss the opportunity.
Leaving my friend in the car (he was
too scared to accompany me), I got out
and wandered over to the unmanned
security booth outside the main gates
of the entrance to the car park.  I smiled
into the camera, gave a thumbs-up, and -
open sesame - the gates swung inward
to allow me access.  I was in.

I spent the next 20 minutes wandering around the back of the studio,
exploring the famous gardens from which PETER SEABROOK had
presented his segment of the show.  (I now wish I'd lifted that
abandoned plastic watering jug as a memento.)

Emboldened by my easy invasion of the Mill, I made my way around
to the front of the building, just in time to see a security guard returning
with his lunch from a nearby cafe or snack van.  "Any chance of seeing
inside, mate?" I ventured.  "Sure, c'mon in", he replied.  (Friendly lot, those
Brummie natives.)  And so it was that I found myself in the actual reception
area of those iconic studios - the same reception area that absolutely every
major star (and quite a few minor ones) who had ever appeared on the show
would have had to pass through on entering the building.  I spent the next 10
minutes chatting with the guard and his colleague, and then - remembering
that my friend would probably be wondering what had happened to me -
prepared to take my leave.  However, not for nothing am I known as
"Gordie the Bold" amongst my compatriots - I wasn't finished
pushing my luck yet.  "Any chance of a souvenir?" I asked.

And that, dear readers, is how a magnificent, two foot long BBC
RESOURCES magnetic-strip sign came to adorn the door of my fridge.
I came, I saw, I conquered - and I left with a trophy.  A trophy, I might add,
which now resides in the very house in which I originally viewed the show
back in the '70s.  Anyone who regularly watched the programme was as
familiar with that Birmingham street (a cul-de-sac) as the one outside
their own window - unlike most viewers, however, I was actually there.
Sadly, the building was demolished in 2006 - and thus vanished
yet another iconic landmark from the '70s.

The Pebble Mill site as it is today


Images copyright MARVEL COMICS

Who created the SILVER SURFER?  If you know anything
about comics you'll probably reply "JACK KIRBY" - but you'd
be wrong!  Well, you'd be right - but you'd also be wrong.
Confused?  You soon will be!

Truly it was Jack who originated and introduced the idea of GAL-
ACTUS having a silver-skinned herald on a surfboard who searched
for suitable planets to supply his master's need to feed off their energy -
no argument there.  However, a character does not really come to "life"
until he is presented in his fullest and final form to the panting public.  In
other words, it's not necessarily the initial, basic idea in someone's mind
which defines a character (or concept) - it's what appears on the printed
pages of the published magazine which establishes how he (or it) is
perceived by the world at large.

So - who is the Surfer?  The Silver Surfer, formerly NORRIN RADD
of the planet ZENN-LA, sacrificed himself to Galactus by swearing to
serve him if he would only spare the Surfer's home planet from destruc-
tion.  That was all STAN LEE's idea - even the name "Silver Surfer"
is said to have sprung from Stan's fertile mind.  (Apparently Jack had
only referred to the character as "the Surfer" in his margin notes.)

Jack obviously envisaged the Surfer as having had no prior existence
before Galactus created him by means of his "power cosmic".  That's why
the Surfer had seemingly never considered the consequences of his actions
on the millions of beings who had perished as a result of him serving "the
big G".  It wasn't until his encounter with BEN GRIMM's blind girlfriend,
ALICIA MASTERS, that he developed a sense of empathy for other
living creatures - it was only then that he discovered he had a "soul".

Stan, on the other hand, thought the Surfer would work better as
a noble, tragic figure if he had made some kind of heart-rending sac-
rifice on a quasi-religious scale.  Norrin Radd had essentially "died"
in order to save every living person on his world - the comparisons to
CHRIST are obvious - and serve to elevate the Surfer to an almost
saint-like status - a "saviour" even.

True, there's an inherent dichotomy in this concept of Surfy's
origin.  Surely one who cared thus for the inhabitants of his own
world would not so randomly and recklessly doom countless billions
of other intelligent life-forms to cosmic destruction?  We are left to as-
sume that Galactus has exerted a subtle influence on the mind of his her-
ald, clouding his conscious mind to the fate he inflicts on hapless plan-
ets as he scours the cosmos.  Galactus has caused the Surfer to forget
his past, enabling him to act as his official "food-finder" with a clear
and untroubled conscience.  Until, of course, Alicia's tenderness
helps reawaken his former and forgotten "humanity".

Well, it's arguable, I suppose, as to what version of the Surfer
works best, but it's Stan's concept of the character which has per-
meated and defined the comic-buying public's perception of who
the silver-skinned sky-rider is and how he came to be.  So, who
created the Silver Surfer?

Stan Lee and Jack Kirby - but not necessarily in that order.

Wednesday, 17 November 2010


Duncanrig Senior Secondary School when it opened in the 1950s.
Designed by Sir Basil Spence.  Mural by William Crosbie

Well, you've read about DUNCANRIG art teacher Mr. BOB
BELL in a previous post - now let me tell you about Mr. SLOSS.
Funny thing about teachers, isn't it?  Most of the ones you liked, you
somehow knew their Christian names; the ones you didn't like or who
were unremarkable, you only seem to remember their surnames
or the fact that they were called "Sir" or "Miss".

A close relative of Mr Sloss
Without meaning to be un-
kind, Mr. Sloss looked like a
neanderthal:  thick, greasy hair,
a permanent 5-o'clock shadow
would've been proud, and dense,
bushy eyebrows from under which
he would fix you in a Karloffian
stare as if he was wondering what
you'd be like to eat.  That was the
other thing about Mr. Sloss.  His
enormous girth (shirt hanging over
his belt to complete a dishevelled
appearance) was ample testament
to the fact that he loved his grub
and had never gone without a
good meal in his life.
The art rooms were at the back of this block
I should perhaps
here explain (in
case things are done
differently nowadays)
that we had several
double periods of art
throughout the week
at our school.  One
day they'd be in one
teacher's class and
another day they'd
be in a different one,
and so on.  On this
particular day  it was
the turn of Mr. Sloss
to experience the unbridled joy of teaching our class absolutely nothing about
art.  We were given the task of drawing a still life (various boring, inanimate
objects which usually included an orange and a vase amongst them) and,
like the good pupils we were, we dutifully applied ourselves.

Because I was particularly good at art (I always got a double "A" in
exams) I would invariably finish before anybody else, and such was the
case on this occasion.  Mr. Sloss came over to view the result, and noticing
a minuscule hole in the paper from a sliver of wood on the lid of the desk (a
hole which would have been rendered invisible with the slightest pressure
from a fingertip), said, "Can't you even draw without getting a hole in the
paper?" - and promptly ripped up my drawing.  "Start again" was all he
said.  So I did - but even given my speed, my picture was not quite
finished before the end of the lesson.

The next art class I had a day or two later was under the auspices of
Mr. McLEAN, the head art teacher.  As I was getting on with whatever I
was doing, he suddenly said, "Gordon, I've been getting complaints about
you from Mr. Sloss."  Noticing my puzzled look, he went on, "Don't worry -
he isn't accusing you of swinging from the lightbulbs or anything, but he
says you haven't been applying yourself and are well behind the other
pupils."  Surprised, I explained to him what had happened and
assumed that would be an end to the matter.

Cut to the next time I was in Mr. Sloss's class.  I was just applying
the finishing touches to the drawing I had started previously when along
comes the man himself - who takes a quick look - then grabs it and rips it up.
"That's nothing like it!" he says, indicating the collection of objects on the table
in the middle of the room.  You guessed it - the next time I'm in Mr. McLean's
class, he informs me that once again Mr. Sloss has been complaining that I'm
still lagging behind the others.  I was astounded - and could only mutter
"Well, I wouldn't be if he didn't keep ripping up my drawings."

Another view of the famous mural by William Crosbie

Now, the usual procedure upon entering Mr. Sloss's class was this:  the
pictures we had previously worked on were left in a pile on a desk near the
door - for each pupil to search through for their own before assuming their
seat.  (Each picture had the pupil's name on it.  Other teachers preferred to go
'round the class, placing the pictures on the appropriate desk.)  The next time
we entered his class, the pictures were conspicuous by their absence.  For a
moment we wondered why, but the mystery was soon solved.  "Take your
seats and I'll call you out to collect your picture" he said.  This was
a first - he had never done this before.

He then proceeded to call out each pupil in turn to the front of the
class to collect their picture.  "Gordon Robson" he eventually announced,
so out I went to claim my pencilled masterpiece.  As I approached, he held
out the sheet of paper for me, and, naturally enough, I reached out my hand
to receive it.  Suddenly, he yanked it back, ripped it up and threw it on the
floor behind his desk.  "Absolute rubbish!" he bellowed - "Start again."

That did it - I'd had enough!  I told Mr. Sloss exactly what I thought
of him in no uncertain terms, interrupting him as he was trying to address
the class.  The fury of my outburst must have taken him by surprise because
he didn't know how to deal with it - so he simply ignored it, as I continued my
outraged vent about victimisation in my best "CALIMERO" fashion.  Surely
I don't have to mention what Mr. McLean's topic of discussion was when
next I saw him?  Yup - Mr. Sloss's unhappiness with my work in his class.
Curiously, there was no mention of me having 'spat the dummy'.

View from one of the art classes
Hard to believe?
Wait - that's not the
end of it.  There was
an art class exam, held
across all the different
art classes we had.  In
other words, part of our
exam would be in one
class on one day, part
of it in another class on
another day, and yet
another part in - well,
you get the idea.

Because I'd been off ill on one of the exam days, myself and some
other pupils who'd also been absent, were allowed to sit the part we'd
missed on the first available occasion.  I'd already received the results of
the previous portions of the exam, and they were extremely respectable.
I fully expected a top score when I'd completed the remaining session,
so I was looking forward to it.

Mr. Sloss oversaw the exam that day, although he must've been
filling in for another teacher, because it wasn't his usual classroom -
it was Mr. McLean's if I recall correctly, but I'm not 100% sure.  Any-
way, myself and the few other pupils were taken into the room next door,
where we were left to draw a girl posing on a stool.  (A wooden stool - be-
have yourselves.)  As usual, I produced not only a good drawing but also
an accurate likeness of the girl herself.  When the time was up, we trooped
back into the room whence we had come.  Mr. Sloss looked through the
drawings, then held one up - "This one's good, whose is it?"  I recog-
nized it immediately - "Mine, Sir!"  Without looking up or saying
anything, Mr. Sloss dropped his hand as if a wasp had stung it.

Now comes the part that still rankles, nearly 40 years later.  When
I received the "final" results of my exam, the revised marks were the
exact same as they'd been before - that part of the exam hadn't been in-
cluded.  It's obvious that my drawing from that day had 'mysteriously'
disappeared and was never seen by anyone other than Mr. Sloss.  Now
who could've been responsible for that, I wonder?  Answers
on a postcard please.
One of my old art classrooms in 2007 - then being used for English

I once mentioned this bizarre behaviour to Mr. Bell, whose
response was simple - "Some of the art teachers are jealous of
you, Gordon" was his frank reply.  He looked embarrassed by the fact
- embarrassed for them, that is.  This cast my mind back to the first time
I'd encountered animosity from Mr. Sloss.  The class had been instructed
to acquire sketch pads, and - due to financial constraints - I'd been a little
slow in doing so.  My solution, after much bullying and threats of corporal
punishment from Mr. Sloss, was to remove the cover and slit the spine of a
spare, blank-paged jotter I had, fold it in half and then staple its new spine.
Next, one night at home, I drew a futuristically-clad figure amidst some
Kirbyesque-looking  machinery (conjured up from the depths of my
fertile imagination), lettered 'sketch pad' along the top, breathed
a sigh of relief and rested from my labours.

A day or so later, in art class, Mr. Sloss asked if I'd got myself a
sketch pad yet.  "Yes, Sir" I answered quite truthfully.  He looked disap-
pointed.  "Let me see it" he demanded.  I handed it across.  He studied the
cover for a moment, and then said "Who drew this?"  "Me" I replied.  Mr.
Sloss was having none of it.  "Nonsense," he raged, "if you could draw like
this, you should've left school ages ago and got a job."  It wasn't meant as
a compliment, and at 14, leaving school wasn't an option available to me.
"I repeat, who drew this?" he demanded.  "Me - if you don't believe me,
you can ask my dad" I said.  (I'd drawn it in the livingroom in front
of the TV, and my family had been present at the time.)

"Ask my dad," mocked Mr. Sloss - "that's what children say!"  (As
I said - I was only 14.)  "I'll send it over to Mr. McLAUGHLIN at the
technical block and see if he recognizes what technical manual you copied
this from" he threatened, as if he expected the fear of discovery to make me
throw up my hands and confess to the crime of plagiarism. "Fine" I replied,
quite unconcerned.  He gave me a dirty look in return.  "Go and sit down!"
he ordered in defeat, tossing my sketch pad to me contemptuously.

Now, as you sit there reading this, perhaps you're wondering if
an adult teacher could really be so spiteful, mean, bad-minded, petty
and contemptible, but I can assure you that, in relating the above events,
I haven't engaged in the slightest bit of hyperbole or distortion of the facts
whatsoever.  It's all 100% true and accurate, and when I read nowadays of
all the trouble that teachers have to put up with from pupils, I'm reminded
that, back in my day, the shoe was often very much on the other foot.
Two wrongs don't make a right, of course - but you have to marvel
at the irony, eh?

 So - like Mr. Bell, Mr. Sloss also left an impression on my youth-
ful psyche.  Unlike Mr. Bell, however, it was for all the wrong reasons.
Poor Mr. Sloss - I hope he finally came to terms with whatever demons
tormented him and found a measure of peace.  I've no idea whether
he's still alive or not.  Nor do I much care, to be honest.

A couple of years ago, a newly-designed Duncanrig school (now
referred to as a High School rather than as a Senior Secondary) opened
next to the old one, which was then demolished to make way for houses
and flats.  However, 'though the original building may be gone, the mem-
ories still remain - and, despite any impression to the contrary you may
get from reading this post - most of them are pleasant ones.  Handy
thing, rose-coloured spectacles.

Tuesday, 16 November 2010


THOR the Mighty - from the cover of FANTASTIC
Annual 1968.  Image copyright MARVEL COMICS
  Perhaps I'll get some
stick for this, but believe it
or not, when I was a young
lad at primary school, I was
regarded as the best artist in
my class, if not the whole
school.  Now before you fall
about laughing, that wasn't
(and isn't) a figment of my
imagination - it just happen-
ed to be the consensus of
opinion amongst  teachers
and pupils alike.

Naturally, there must've
been a few artistically
inclined individuals who
resented and disagreed
with this generous assess-
ment of my abilities, but -
if so - they remained
the (silent) minority.

However, I couldn't really take credit for my place atop the heap.
After all, I was merely regurgitating the styles of artists of the calibre of
whole host of others.  Because of that, my drawings tended to have more
impact and therefore made a lasting impression.  What follows is an
example of what I'm talking about.

One day I and two other pupils (JULIE CUNNINGHAM and
BILLY McCLUSKEY) each produced a drawing or painting which
were regarded as so good that we were taken around the school to show
them to the other classes.  Billy had drawn (in pencil) a scene of two boxers
pounding it out in the ring (he was a big fan of, and maybe even related, I
think, to a famous boxer of the same surname), and Julie had  drawn (also
in pencil) a lake scene with swans gliding over the surface.  Both were very
nicely done, if I remember correctly after 40-odd years.  As for myself,
I had painted a picture of THOR, standing on a mountain top
and holding aloft his hammer to the heavens. 

Every class we visited, the result was the same.  We'd stand in a
row whilst the teacher indulged in a bit of preamble, and then raise our
pictures for the class to see - only to be met with cries of "Look - it's Thor -
Wow!" and similar exclamations of awe and wonder.  Now, truth to tell, my
picture was probably not much better-rendered than Julie's or Billy's - but
the subject was more dynamic (and in colour) and, consequently, almost
guaranteed to draw the attention of everyone in the room.  Hardly any-
body took a second look at the the pictures of my two despondent
classmates - some never even took a first.

Poor Julie and Billy - they must have hated me.

Anyway, what's the point of the story?  Merely that I often look back
on those days and wish that I was as good an artist now for my age as I
was then.  For a 9 or 10 year old I was "hot" - as an adult I barely qualify
as lukewarm.  What's the old saying?  Ah, yes, I remember.


'Nuff said.

Monday, 15 November 2010


Enlarged, cropped scan of image below

First of all, you'll have to forgive the quality of this painted
cartoon - on account of it being enlarged from a two inch image
in a photograph taken at an angle through glass, resulting in it being
slightly distorted, stretched, and not too clear.  It didn't help that I used
shiny gold acrylic ink to paint the helmet, buttons and belt-buckle, as
it reflected the flash, but the actual framed picture is really quite nice.
It's a caricature of a friend's kid, and the proud parents were as
pleased as punch with the result.  In fact, I was too.

Framed & mounted original


A real Boy Wonder.  Everyone
wonders if he's a real boy
There's an old saying:
"Those who can, do;
those who can't, teach."
Before we get to the main
point of this post, let me now
relate the tale of how I found
this saying to have a fair
amount of truth to it.

More years ago than I
care to recall, in art class at
school one day, our appointed
task was to paint a portrait of
the person sitting next to us.
The person sat next to me was
a lad by the name of MORRIS
ORR, so he consequently be-
came the wholly uninterested
beneficiary of my artistic as-
pirations (and I his) as I duly
set about immortalizing him
in watercolours, via those
circular and curiously pungent tablets of which schools were once so fond
(and may still be for all I know).

It was a perfect likeness (if I say so myself - and I do), but I was less
than happy with my attempts at Morris's lips, which I had painted in an
almost comicbook style.  That is, the line of the upper lip with the shadow of
the lower lip underneath it, rendered in slightly darker flesh tones.  However,
I was stricken by a desire to emulate the 'Old Masters' and portray every
crook, cranny, curve, crevice and crack of Morris's gob in vivid detail, so
I therefore painted over my first attempt and sat back to wait for it to
dry before having another go.

As the teacher (Mr. McLEAN) made his way around the class gazing over
our shoulders, he mistook my temporary lack of activity for uncertainty on
how I should proceed.  Looking at my painting, he said, "Having trouble with
the mouth, Gordon?  Here, let me show you a little tip."  (Behave - it's not that
type of story.)  Taking my brush, he then proceeded to paint an inferior version
of my initial attempt at little Mo's mouth.  "There, that's how you do it," he
said, in a rather self-satisfied tone as he made his way back to his desk.

It was at that point I realized that this teacher had nothing to
teach me.  Here was I, eager to ascend to a higher plateau of artistic
accomplishment, only to be hindered by someone who was content
to keep me at the level from which I was trying to advance. 

Fortunately, however, not all art teachers were like that - which
now brings us rather neatly to the Mr. BOB BELL mentioned in the
title of this rather nostalgic - if self-indulgent - "little" piece.  (Feel free
to marvel at the skill with which I cleverly contrived to craft the
consequent comparison.)

Mr. Bell was a different box of spiders altogether;  cheery, rotund,
enthusiastic and friendly - not unlike one of those jolly uncle figures in
RICHMAL CROMPTON "WILLIAM" book.  What's more, Mr. Bell
thought I was a 14 year-old artistic genius - which elicited no protest from
me as, quite frankly, I was of the same opinion.  (Much like BENJAMIN
DISRAELI, who once said, "My idea of an agreeable person is a person
who agrees with me.")  Mr. Bell had arrived at his elevated evaluation of
my abilities after watching me draw a figure of a musclebound superhero
in class on one occasion, prompting him to pronounce my picture
as "anatomically perfect."

Ah, but there's more.  It had long been Mr. Bell's ambition to draw for
comics, and he'd even once submitted some samples of his sequential art-
work to D.C. THOMSON in an attempt to find favour and approval.  Sadly,
it wasn't to be and he was met with polite rejection (if such a thing is possible).
He brought the pages in to school to show the class (or perhaps just show me,
because I was also a comics geek) and he could certainly draw, so it wasn't a
lack of ability which had led to DCT declining his services.  More likely was
the fact that the influence of  DUDLEY D. WATKINS - and other artists -
was too pronounced (perhaps giving editors the impression that he was
a mere 'copyist'), rather than because his pages weren't any good.

One day he brought in a box containing a pile of comics, including
quite a few British editions of MAD magazine.  He kindly let me take one
home with me to read at my leisure, and - when I evinced my liking for said
magazine - even more kindly said I could keep it.  Wotta guy!  The magazine
in question was the one illustrating the top of this very post, and contained
a witty parody - drawn by the superb MORT DRUCKER - of the BAT-
MAN television show from 1966.

He was also a great admirer of the GERRY ANDERSON programmes -
and I remember him once telling me that, whenever he saw art director BOB
BELL's name in the closing credits, he always felt a pang of disappointment
that it wasn't him.  What a difference to his staid, stuffy, and static "arty-
farty" colleagues, whom he effortlessly outclassed and outshone.

About six or seven years after leaving school, I ran into another
(former) art teacher from the same period, who - when I enquired after
Mr. Bell - informed me that he'd died two or three years before.  Although it's
been about 30 years since I learned this, I still sometimes find myself hoping
that he was mistaken and that Mr. Bell is still very much alive somewhere,
drawing comic strips to his heart's content.

Sadly, I never got to tell him just how much I enjoyed being in his
class, or how much I appreciated his lavish praise, encouragement, and
enthusiasm - but, whenever I look at that terrific NORMAN MINGO il-
lustration adorning that particular cover of MAD, I can't help but think
of DUNCANRIG's very own Mr. BOB BELL.  He was just what a
teacher should be.

Here's to you, Mr. Bell (or can I call you Bob?) -
wherever you are.  You made a difference.

Friday, 12 November 2010


It's commom knowledge
that STAN (The Man) LEE
sometimes rejected JACK
(King) KIRBY's initial cover
ideas and asked him to come
up with another approach.
Such was the case with
perhaps on the grounds that
the good ol' FF - being
covered with a coating of
plaster - were not quite as
dynamic (or recognizable)
as Stan felt they should
have been. (And a stunted
seemingly sprouting from
the menacing MOLECULE
MAN's back wouldn't
have helped.)
A few years back (1997
 to be precise), THE JACK
a stat of the pencils of the
unused cover, and I was
consumed with a desire to
see it in finished form. I
enlarged the THING slightly
(Jack often drew him too
small, compared to his
original towering stature in
FF #1) and "fixed" Alicia's
position in the background. I
also decided to render the
foursome without the plaster
coating, the better to be
able to see them. TJCK
printed it in one of their
issues, but I forget which
number. Once again, there
are a few areas which could
stand improvement (the MOLECULE MAN lettering in the cover blurb for
example) and maybe one day I'll eventually get around to doing it.
Anyway, I thought you might like to see how FF #20's cover could have
looked. (And maybe even does, in an alternative reality somewhere.)


Don't you just love it when someone does something really clever?
Here's an example of what I mean:  feast your eyes on the cover of the
very first FIREBALL XL5 ANNUAL for 1963/'64 (above).  Now cast
your awestruck orbs on the cover of the DVD collection containing all 39
episodes, released a year or so back (below) - see what they've done?
I think it's really cool, and a nice way of bringing things full circle.

This is the second DVD release of this cult programme;  there was
one a few years back which, rather nicely, had the XL5 logo on the
discs, but contained no extras.  This time it's got extras galore, plus a
fantastic TV CENTURY 21 booklet by ANDREW PIXLEY, de-
tailing the history of this GERRY ANDERSON 1960s' classic.

If you don't already have it, add it to your Christmas list now.

(And it might be wise to start saving for the colourized
collection - there's bound to be one eventually.)


Pencils by Kirby, inks, colours & lettering by Robson

 Thirteen years ago, The JACK KIRBY COLLECTOR printed
a stat of a pencil drawing of ORION - and asked readers to send in
their inked version of the pic.  I never got around to it at the time, but
later - and for my own amusement - I used a sheet of tracing paper to
ink the piece and then decided to have a go at colouring it as well.  I
only had some acrylic inks and felt-tipped pens, so that's what I
used.  So here it is (above) in all its glory.

For good measure, shown below is the black and white
inked version.  When I get a chance, I'll dig out the issue
of JKC and post the copy of the pencils.

Inked with Windsor & Newton #3 sable brush

Thursday, 11 November 2010


Pencilled, inked & lettered by KID ROBSON

Here's another unseen page from the archives.  This one's
25 years old and is scanned from a photocopy rather than the
original art.  (Most of the stuff in my files comes from photocopies,
the originals having been given away or misplaced over the years.)
Consequently, it's not as sharp or as detailed as it otherwise would
be.  This was intended for a fanzine produced by the now defunct
comics shop A.K.A. (Also Known As), run by JOHN McSHANE,
the late PETE ROOT and BOB NAPIER, three luminaries in
the Glasgow comics scene.  (I think little STEVIE MONT-
GOMERY also became involved at a later date.)

The cover was produced in a hurry between lettering assign-
ments for 2000 A.D. and other IPC publications, so it's not as
'finished' as I would've liked.  (The floor and cape are desperately
in need of some shadows.)  The issue this cover was intended for
was never published due to a lack of material, so it's languished in
my files until now.  First person to say it should've stayed there
   gets a cheap laugh, but loses their BLUE PETER badge.  

Wednesday, 10 November 2010


A more polished version of Jamie Smart's Desperate Dan

As regular readers will know, there are certain aspects of the
new DANDY I'm not keen on.  JAMIE SMART's DESPERATE
DAN strip has come in for a bit of a kicking elsewhere on the inter-
net, and I have to admit that I'm not its biggest fan either.  It's all just
a little too rushed-looking and roughly-finished to suit my tastes.
(Although not so much in the above pic - read on.)

However, intrigued by those who claim to like his artwork, I
had a look at his website and I was surprised to see that his style
seems less jarring on characters I haven't seen before, and even has
a certain rough-hewn charm.  In fact, even his Desperate Dan strips
on his site seem to have had a bit more care and attention lavished
on them.  (The illustrations on this page are "borrowed" from
over there.  Let's hope he won't mind.)

So I had another look at the first couple of issues and - guess
what?  That's right - they still didn't work for me.  Perhaps he was
under pressure and had to produce his Dandy pages in a hurry;  or
perhaps he's experimenting with a rougher, more organic look -
who knows?  Well, he does, but he's hardly likely to tell me.

Another slightly smoother look

What I will say, however, is this.  To all those old-timers who
aren't too keen on his Dandy pages, take a look at his website.
Divorced from familiar characters we all know and love (and let's
face it, who - with the possible exception of KEN H. HARRISON
- could compete with DUDLEY D. WATKINS?), his pages don't
seem as jarring as they do in DCT's relaunched comic.

If DAN had to have a new look, I think I would have
preferred to see TOM PATERSON or HUNT EMERSON (I
liked his LITTLE PLUM - ooer, missus) have a go at him.  I still
don't think Jamie's style (or, to be more precise, the version of his
style that he uses on DD) quite works.  However, if he just shaved
off some of the rougher edges from the strip and it had a more
consistent lettering font, I feel that much of the criticism it
has received might be dissipated somewhat.

I'm sure Mr. Smart cares not a jot for my opinion - and
that's perhaps how it should be.  However, I'm also sure I'm
not the only one who hopes that he may yet see the wisdom in
aiming his strips not only at new readers, but the older ones
as well.  That way everybody's happy.

Tuesday, 9 November 2010


One of the "must-have" toys of the '60s

Surely there can't have been a kid in the '60s who didn't have
this fantastic battery-operated HYDRO PLANE speedboat?  As
well as playing with it in ponds, baths and sinks, it also came in use-
ful as a handy fan on hot summer days at the seaside.  They just
don't seem to make toys like this anymore.
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