Monday, 23 April 2018

The Art Of British Comics (in the 70s)

According to Steve MacManus in his excellent autobiography The Mighty One, the traditional age range for comics readers in the late 70s was the 8-12's (making my golden period 1977- 81).  Looking back for that period of British comics (when there were plenty of them about), there was a lot of impressive cover art and a lot of it remains vivid in my mind.  Mostly coming from DC Thomson or Fleetway, they were on newsprint with limited colour but delivered plenty of fun on a weekly basis.  Nothing like them really exists now (take a look at the shelves in any supermarket to see what I mean) and that, I think, is a great shame.

So to make up for the lack of hand-drawn colour on the shelves these days, here are a selection of covers from the 1970s.


My favourite comic growing up, I wrote a retrospective on Bullet which you can read here
The first issue of the "seven-penny nightmare" I remember seeing

The first issue of 2000AD I can remember buying...

Monday, 16 April 2018

The Crusty Exterior Ride Again!

The Crusty Exterior is a group of friends, united in their love for the horror genre, books and, of course, a good curry.  The core of the group - James Everington, Phil Sloman, Steve Harris and me - met up for the first time at Andromeda Con in 2013 (see my report here), though Steve & I go back much further, first corresponding in the late 90s when he ran a newsletter called The Inner Circle.

On Saturday, the Crusty Exterior rode again with a few new members as we met up in Leicester.  As well as the original four, this time the ranks included Stephen Bacon and John Travis (who made the mini gathering for Steve H’s birthday last year), Jay Eales, Tim Jarvis and Linda Nagle.
In The Ale Wagon, from left - me, Tim Jarvis, James Everington, Phil Sloman, Jay Eales, Steve Bacon, John Travis
I parked at Highcross and met a completely lost Steve B at the clock tower near Haymarket.  After hugs and a quick catch-up, we wandered along to meet the rest of the party and picked up John on the way, then Jay directed us to The Ale Wagon pub, where Phil, James and Tim were waiting.  As we waited for Steve H and Linda, we caught up, talked writing and books, drank, laughed and effectively set the template for the day.  Jay went off to find the stragglers, the rest of us went outside to wait for them and there were more hugs when we finally saw them.  Plus Linda had made us cupcakes, which went down well with everyone.

Phil points out some titles as Steve checks for them on his database.
John doesn't look at all convinced...
We walked through the centre and had lunch at Holly’s Coffee Shop on St. Martin’s Square and decided to walk as we ate, though as each of us got served we went outside and starting eating waiting for the others.  My club sandwich was fantastic but, of us all, Phil clearly showed his cosmopolitan roots by having crayfish!  Our hardy band went up New Walk (where we spotted one happy chap wandering down wearing rabbit ears) and, at the museum, stopped to enjoy Linda’s cakes, which were delicious.  We also got to tell the Andromeda stories - that we couldn't find a curry house in the middle of Brum (and so had an Italian) as well as the excellent "yeah, Steve broke a seat": "I really didn't..." tale which, I swear, gets funnier every time I hear it.  

After a short break - and zigzagging between rugby fans heading to the Tigers ground - we kept moving up the hill.  Steve B & I walked at closer to my normal pace and soon found ourselves ahead of the group and we chatted about my thriller novel, which he recently read to critique.  Once we’d reformed, we cut across Victoria Park and the group broke off into various changeable iterations, as we found ourselves chatting with just about everyone.  Tim told James & I about his teaching Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde to his students - all three of us loved the story and that led us onto Stephen King’s Danse Macabre, where James & I had each first discovered mention of it.
Outside the Help The Aged bookshop with the Steve's and Linda

Phil with one of his purchases, the cover of which
I suggested looked like Mr Benn on drugs...
By now, we’d reached Queens Road and the two great secondhand bookshops there - Age UK and Loros.  We hit the former first and all of us picked something up, suggesting titles to one another and chatting about our finds.  Steve H, who collects hardback first editions, found a couple of likely candidates but decided not to buy them after checking his database on his phone.  Yes, Steve has a book database and you know what, it sounds like a terrific idea to me.

We then trooped across the road to the Loros, where there was plenty more chat (and James found the Futura edition of Danse Macabre I have, though it was in much better shape than mine, which has been read and re-read almost to the point of being killed).  More purchases, more suggestions, more laughter and then we left, heading back across Victoria Park towards town.  As is my wont, I’d been taking photos all day but then asked a young woman walking her dog if she’d take a group one.  On Facebook a while back, James pointed out that none of my blog reports include comments about the poor unwitting passersby I co-opt into taking pictures, so that’s why I’m mentioning her (wish I’d asked her name now).  It’s also because, as we stood there posing, John offered to hold her dog for her.

Jay led us to the Marquis Of Wellington pub on London Road where, because it was a lovely afternoon and we were seating nine, we sat out in the beer garden.  We took the end booth, pulled over a couple of chairs and that was us for two hours, enjoying the weather and company as we drank and talked.  Conversation ranged across the board, there was a lot of laughter and plans were hatched for future meet-ups.
In Victoria Park, with Steve B, Phil, Jay, John, me, Linda, Steve H, Tim and James (with thanks to the nice lady walking her dog)
Since we wanted to eat in plenty of time for Phil to catch his train, Jay took us up to the Rise Of The Raj restaurant on Evington Road and as we’d managed to beat most of the rugby crowd (who’d gridlocked the London Road junction) we got a table upstairs without any trouble.  As we settled down, the laughter picked up straight from the pub, conversation was breezy and the food was excellent.  Steve B and I had the same starter, which had more of a kick than I’d been expecting, the main courses were quick and tasty and the time flew.  We covered a lot of topics, as ever and it was nice to discuss The House Next Door (which I wrote about here) with horror fans (only James & I had read it), as we talked about books that weren’t necessarily explicity supernatural but which contained a sense of mounting dread.  Some intriguing titles came up that it'll be fun to explore.

All too soon, it was time for Phil to catch his train - everyone exchanged hugs and handshakes, then he was gone.  The rest of us left not long after, Tim taking off quicker as his train was due first and the rest of us gathering at the station as we said goodbye to James and John.  Jay headed off to get his car and I led Steve B, Steve H (still carrying the few remaining cakes from earlier in the day) and Linda back to the Highcross car park.  More hugs, then Steve B & I went up to floor 6 (we’d parked across an aisle from each other without realising it) and said our goodbyes. 
In the Rise of The Raj, with Phil, James, Linda, Steve H, Tim, John, Steve B, me & Jay
The day went really well, everyone got on brilliantly and the conversation and laughter flowed easily, plus all of us picked up some decent books.  As gatherings go, you can’t ask for much more than that.  Roll on the next one!

p.s. Just in case you were wondering (as Tim, John and Linda all were - we told them in the Raj), the name of the group was explained in the previous Crusty post here.

Monday, 9 April 2018

Look-In Cover Art

In 2016 I wrote a Nostalgic post about Look-In, a much loved magazine of my childhood.  Looking back over those old covers was a marvellous experience, reminding me of TV shows and films I'd forgotten and helping me see where some of my interests (not least The Six Million Dollar Man, Blondie and behind-the-scenes stuff) were shaped and honed.

In keeping with another of my interests, most of the Look-In covers in the 70s were painted in acrylic by Arnaldo Putzu.  An Italian artist working in London, he made his name creating cinema posters in the 1960’s for the likes of Morecombe & Wise, Hammer (Creatures the World Forgot and The Legend of the Seven Golden Vampires), the Carry On series and Get Carter (which I wrote about here).  Though other artists sometimes contributed artwork (including Arthur Ranson), his cover reign ran from 1973 through to 1981 and still looks glorious today.

Interestingly enough, my strongest memories were sparked by the covers from 1978, when I was nine (all of forty years ago) and so, with little other encouragement needed (as ever), here's a selection of that wonderful artwork.

One of the first issues I ever had - and it yielded at least one Six Million Dollar Man poster for my bedroom wall!
Huge in the 70s, Abba were frequent cover stars.  I've picked this one in particular because I love the fact their clothes are either unfinished (probably the real answer) or stylised (probably the official answer)
My favourite Bond and my favourite Bond film (which I wrote about here)
Star Wars had just opened nationally when this was published.  I was very, very eager to see it!
One of my first glimpses of the skateboard phenomenon, along with rising excitement for the World Cup
I'm assuming Benny Hill was very happy with this cover...
The promised poster of Debbie Harry probably ended up on my bedroom wall too
My parents used the term "hit parade", I don't ever remember doing so, it was always the Top 40 to me
Everyone of a certain age is probably, as they read this, hearing "Julian, Dick & Anne, George and Timmy the dog..."
I loved Return Of The Saint!
CHiPs (my sister and I used to ride two-abreast on the street, pretending we were Jon & Ponch). Lee Majors is looking a bit fluffy here, isn't he?
Ah, The Book Tower...

for more, there's a great Look-In archive on Facebook here

Tuesday, 3 April 2018

Even more matte paintings (part 5)

As regular readers of this blog will know, I'm a big fan of matte paintings in films and have written about them a few times in the past (you can find the others on this link).  Since I enjoy compiling these posts - and they seem to go down well - I've had fun tracking down a few more (including one by the brilliant Albert Whitlock).  There are some excellent examples of the craft here and, once again, I've tried to highlight those that are invisible effects, extending real-life situations which I hope you'll be surprised by.


Earthquake (1974)
Directed by Mark Robson
matte painting by Albert Whitlock (see other posts about him here)

Star Wars (1977)
Directed by George Lucas
matte painting by Harrison Ellenshaw

Superman (1978)
Directed by Richard Donner
matte painting by Les Bowie

Dragonslayer (1981)
Directed by Matthew Robbins
matte painting by Christopher Evans

Tron (1982)
Directed by Steven Lisberger
matte painting by Harrison Ellenshaw

Gremlins (1984)
Directed by Joe Dante
matte painting by Rocco Gioffre

Young Sherlock Holmes (1985)
Directed by Barry Levinson
matte painting by Michael Pangrazio

Stand By Me (1986)
Directed by Rob Reiner
matte painting by Ken Marschall

Monster Squad (1987)
Directed by Fred Dekker
matte painting by Matthew Yuricich and Michelle Moen
leaves in the foreground were added optically
Rain Man (1988)
Directed by Barry Levinson
matte painting by Mark Sullivan

Psycho IV: The Beginning (1990)
Directed by Mick Garris
matte painting by Ken Marschall

Bugsy (1991)
Directed by Barry Levinson
matte painting by Mark Sullivan

Harley Davidson and the Marlboro Man (1991)
Directed by Simon Wincer
matte painting by Rocco Gioffre

Memoirs Of An Invisible Man (1992)
Directed by John Carpenter
matte painting by Christopher Evans

There will be more matte paintings posts...

thanks again to