Category Archives: Comics & Books

fully booked.

(Post by Colin ‘Jackie’ Jackson of Glasgow – May 2021)

Other than vinyl records and CDs, there is nothing in our house that number more than books. In my office – well, man-cave: books. In the spare room: books. In our bedroom: books. In the loft: boxes of books!

I can’t say our Diane’s happy about it. Because she’s certainly not, feeling she holds the moral high ground as one of those who goes in for all this e-Book, downloading malarkey.

Sacrilege!

Books are sacrosanct. Inviolable – especially dictionaries, from where I found that word.

I blame the schools, me. From the age of four or five, we’re taught that the ‘Three Rs’ are what’s required for our future. Reading, Riting and Rithmetic. Though not Spelling, apparently.

Reading in primary school was, as I remember it, pretty entertaining. The class library had lots of colourful books with pictures, like Herge’s, ‘Adventures of Tin Tin’ and others by Dr Seuss, featuring some Cat in a Hat.

I enjoyed reading those. I must have adapted reasonably well to the Riting and Rithmetic stuff too, as I won an end-of-year prize for something or other, in Primary Six or Seven. Chances are it probably wasn’t for memorising detail.

The prize, as were all such awards, was a book token, to be spent at a designated shop in town, who would send the chosen book direct to the school. The Headmaster and teacher would then sign a pre-printed sticky label, stating how wonderful I had been at whatever it was, and I’d be presented with my book in front of the whole school and proud parents, at the annual Prize-giving.

Actually, having been brought up on ‘yellow label’ food, even at that early age, I appreciated the ethos of value for money, and managed to stretch my prize allowance to two books. I can remember being ever so excited as I trailed my mother around the shop umpteen times before settling upon, ‘Treasure Island,’ and ‘Biggles of 266.’

That was me – hooked. I loved my comics, of course, but books, especially for reading in my room at bedtime and early morning became a passion. (God! I hate that expression … it’s not like I’m on some music or baking reality show, is it? I loved reading books. That’s it. I really did love reading.)

The family summer holiday was a great time for reading. For several years, we’d pack the rickety car to the gunnels and head off from Glasgow down to Sussex or Cornwall for a couple of weeks. Boredom on long, tedious car journeys such as those, was alleviated by reading the latest adventure of William, or Jennings and Darbishire, interspersed by the Beano and Dandy Summer Specials bought at Forton and Charnock Richard service stations on the M6 South.

Actually, in the interest of research, I recently bought copies of the ‘Just – William’ book by Richmal Compton and also ‘Jennings and Darbishire’ by Anthony Buckeridge. I have to say, I thoroughly enjoyed reading them again, almost fifty years after the first time.

I think I may have related to the ‘Jennings’ series of books (I owned and read them all, as with the ‘William’ collection too) because neighbours went to a public school, though not boarding, and I could envisage them using language such as the exclamation ”Wacko!” or calling someone a little hard of understanding, a “clodpoll.”

The language was all so frightfully posh, which I still thinks adds to the humour.

I wasn’t aware at the time, but the ‘William’ series was written by a woman, Richmal Compton, who taught at an all-girls school, and published the initial ‘Just – William,’ book in 1922. Re-reading the book this year, I was amazed at some of the words and descriptions Ms Compton used, and even more so that I understood them:

 ‘”It’s eating it,” cried Douglas in shrill excitement. After thoroughly masticating it, however, the baby repented of its condescension and ejected the mouthful in several instalments.’

By the time the Seventies came around, the twelve year old me was likely polishing off those two book series. I would join the Boy Scouts in 1971, and by collecting ‘junk’ for our Jumble Sales, I’d be given first dibs on the second hand paperback books.

This was how I first discovered the intrigue and excitement of Alistair Maclean novels and I embarked upon reading most of those.

Our Scout troop was always a good source of reading material. Being away on camp several times in the year made it easy to smuggle what were then considered ‘books of bad influence’ into my rucksack and read without fear of confiscation and grounding. Gritty books like ‘Skinhead,’ ‘Suedehead’ and of that ilk were very popular at that time.

It was also while in the Scouts that the first novel by Sven Hassel, ‘Wheels of Terror’ found its way into my possession. The author was a Dane who fought in the Second World War for Germany, in the Panzer tank regiment. Now, where Alistair MacLean let scenes of battle play out in the readers’ minds, Hassel was much. much more graphic. He related the horrors of war in a manner I had never seen in any film or read in books. So much so, in fact, that many now consider his books to be ‘anti-war’ rather than of the ‘war’ genre.

By the mid-Seventies I needed some respite from all these tales of horror and killing. I had recently found a new favourite TV show, and so when heading off on holiday one year, I bought the first of my M.A.S.H. books. (Yeah, I know … it was kind of ironic, I suppose.)  

A little ‘aside,’ here: being a fan of the television version of M.A.S.H. actually worked well when it subsequently came to reading the books. I already had a clear visualisation of the characters, their accents and their little foibles, so all that simply uploaded to my mind as I read. My imagination could put its feet up for a while.

This of course does not work the other way around, does it?

Over the past fifteen / twenty years, I have read over thirty of Terry Pratchett’s ‘Discworld ‘novels. Each and every character occupies a little bit real-estate in my head. They are like neighbours and we’ve always gotten on pretty well.

Then, in recent years, television hijacked the popularity of these tales and served up various watery versions of the books. The viewer is dictated to in so far as character portrayal is concerned. Rather than put its feet up a while, ‘imagination’ could head down the pub for a few beers.

It’s the start of the slippery slope, I tells ya!

To this day, I resolutely refuse to watch a television adaptation of a Terry Pratchett novel.

Sorry, I digress as some other wee short-arse used to say.

In 1975 / 1976, I was in my final year at school and studying for a Sixth Year Studies certificate in English. I was allowed pretty much a free rein in choosing what my dissertation was about. I entitled mine: ‘Life and Death as portrayed by Ernest Hemingway.’

Cheery little sod, wasn’t I?

The downside though, was that I also had to study various Jane Austen novels and plays by Bertolt Brecht. And that Shakespeare dude, too.

So, all in all, that was my reading pretty much tied up for the best part of a year.

Strangely, I have no recollection of what I read in the three and a half years left of the decade after leaving school. I went straight into work, and evening study for Banking exams. I assume, between that, my sporting commitments, nightclubbing, dating and drinking beer there was little time to read anything other than my weekly editions of Sounds magazine and Athletics Weekly.

As The Seventies wound down and the Eighties beckoned, it seemed the time was right to turn the page on a new chapter of my life.

Television!



***********

corr!! look-in, readers! sounds like jackie has got a beezer, here.

(Post by Colin ‘Jackie’ Jackson of Glasgow – May 2021)

As we grow older, it can be all too easy to dismiss or forget the excitement of youth.

Actually, it’s easy enough to forget just why you went upstairs, never mind how you felt as a kid some fifty-plus years back.

Knowing what I’m about to write about, however, has rekindled that feeling of anticipation; of expectation and fulfilment.

Comics.

Comics nowadays are big business. Huge. The proliferation of Comic-con exhibitions around the world is quite staggering, attended by millions of devotees not only of traditional comics, but of movies that then spawned hand-drawn story versions. And vice versa.

We now also have the massive popularity of anime / manga.

Back in the late Sixties and early Seventies, it was a different story

‘Oh, can it be that it was all so simple then?’

Well – probably not, for by that time, thirty years on from popularisation of comics, there were new worlds and universes being created and populated by heroes and villains from both Detective Comics (D.C.) and Marvel.

Those comics and characters though, were generally outwith easy access by us here in UK, unless we had kindly relatives living across the Atlantic who would post the occasional Batman or Superman issue.

No, within the restricted world that small boys and girls inhabit until they turn into teenage monsters, the magazine section of the local newsagent was universe enough.

I’d have been seven years old when my dad brought me my first comic. It was issue #1 of TV21. Published in the style of a newspaper from the future, it was the creation of Gerry and Sylvia Anderson and featured stories from all my favourite television programmes: Fireball XL5; Stingray; Thunderbirds and Captain Scarlet.

Issue #1 – TV21

I built up quite a collection, but parents do that ‘clear-out’ thing, don’t they, and unfortunately I now have no copies to reflect upon.

However, I did recently manage to buy a hardback covered collection of stories that featured in the original comic, so, happy days!

The excitement of youth I mentioned is no better highlighted than the year I was given a shilling (that’s 5p for any young whipper-snappers reading this) as a birthday treat. I dare say I was also given some other kind of presents, but it’s the monetary treat that remains foremost in my memory.

With this grand sum clasped firmly in my hand, I recall running up Monreith Avenue to Jamieson’s the Newsagent, various budget permutations filling my head.

Spent wisely, I’d be able to buy a Beano AND a Dandy for 4d each (1969 prices) and still have 4d left for sweets. That’d be sixteen Blackjacks / Fruit salad chews …. or maybe I’d buy a couple huge gobstoppers.

My parents weren’t fans of either these two comics and did their best to discourage me.

(That went well, I don’t think! To this day, I treat myself each Christmas with that year’s annual.)

We did though come to a compromise in that I was allowed to read such ‘rubbish’ comics if I also read Look and Learn, which they would buy for me. It was actually a very enjoyable read, and the predictions of life in the future (2001) as detailed in this edition from August 1971, weren’t too far from the truth …. apart from nuclear reactors in the basements of houses and the envisaged postal system!

I think on this occasion, Dennis the Menace and Desperate Dan were more credible.

The importance of this deal, however, was not that I’d be more educationally equipped for secondary school, but that it gave a green light to both sets of grandparents to treat my sister and myself with comics whenever we visited.

For me, it was the Beezer from one and Hotspur or Victor from the other. These covered all bases; humour and mischief, to action-packed deeds of heroism and killing Johnny Foreigner. For a while around 1971, I’d be given copies of Tiger, which combined all of the above and threw in some football related strips. (Comic strips – not football strips. The free gifts were often pretty impressive, but didn’t extend to that level of generosity.)

 My young sister would look forward to her copies of Twinkle and when a little older, Bunty and Judy. I can remember her faithfully cutting out the image of the young girl on the back page, and then ‘dressing’ her in the similarly cut-out items of clothing.

We were easy amused in those days.

Another favourite for me, though I didn’t actually buy many copies, was Scorcher. This was very football-centric with a combination of comic strips and magazine type articles on the sport. It was a bit more ‘grown up’ in its presentation than the more conventional comics.  

Scorcher first hit the newsstands in January 1970, four months after I started spending my pocket money on Shoot! the first issue of which was in August the previous year. Choices had to be made. Shoot! won.

SHOOT! Issue #1

I still have a box with seventy- six copies stacked away in the loft. I just counted them.

In the early to mid-Seventies, as a stepping stone towards the more credible music magazines, I’d occasionally shell out a whole 5p on Disco 45, just so I could learn the words of ‘Run Run Run’ by Jo Jo Gunne. (Duh!)

My sister, Rona, was by now besotted with Donny Osmond and David Cassidy, so naturally Jackie magazine was delivered to our house each week.  (I’ll bet I’m not the only bloke who sneaked a read of the photo stories!)

It wasn’t all about Donny and David and Bay City Rollers, though. I can remember articles and posters of Roxy Music, Sparks and Bowie.

I mean … Rona told me about there being articles and posters of Roxy Music, Sparks and Bowie.

I wouldn’t admit it then, but almost fifty years later, the Jackie inspired CD collections are never far away from my player.

And then it was the big-hitting music papers. Everyone had their favourite. Some would swear by Melody Maker, others would go with NME (New Musical Express.) For me though, it was Sounds. Perhaps because of the colour poster that would be the centrespread of each issue, but just as much for the bands and genres it covered.

At the same time, I was heavily into my running, so Athletics Weekly became a regular. I still love the look and feel of that magazine. Much of it consisted of results from meetings throughout the UK, but there were always a few really interesting interviews and features.

In the early / mid Seventies, athletics was still considered a bit of a minority sport. I well remember, then, feeling well chuffed to see the Crossroads character (Stan Harvey?) frequently having a copy of the magazine protruding from the breast pocket of his work overalls.

I haven’t counted the number of copies, but I still have two boxfuls in the loft!

In the four decades that have followed The Seventies, my love / obsession with magazines has not diminished. Thankfully, for the sake of preserving the eaves of the house, much of my reading is now online. Only Record Collector arrives via the letterbox these days.  

This may be practical, but I also find it sad. Perhaps I’m slightly odd, but I miss the feel of the paper; the attraction of the vivid colour, and the sexiness of the artwork. I miss the physical side of reading magazines and comics as I missed playing vinyl records.

I also miss the smell. Surely you must also hanker after that dusty, mixed aroma of newsprint and ink in a paper shop?

OK – so just me, then.

More than anything though, I miss the excitement I felt as a kid on new issue day.

I can see another rummage in the loft looming.