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Friday, July 20, 2012

Comic Cuts - 20 July 2012

After taking most of the weekend off and enjoying one day of not bad sunshine – we went down the pub, thank you, and had a generally lazy day – I've actually felt quite refreshed and this week I've had the writing equivalent of a spring in my step. The file obituary I was working on for The Guardian is now finished and I have returned to Mike Western: A Life In Comics.

I had a fairly substantial chunk of this written last year when computer problems forced me to put the book on hold but I'm determined this time to get it finished. Some of you will know that I did a booklet about Mike way back in 1990 for which I (with Mike's approval) turned his words from our correspondence into an autobiographical piece, to which I then appended a series of notes about the strips he had worked on. It is this latter segment that I'm expanding. Over the years I have found various ways to read a lot of more Mike's strips than I had back when we were corresponding. I'm working on the principal that there are roughly three generations of fans who will know Mike's work. The older generaion will remember him as the artist of 'Johnnie Wingco' in Knockout in the 1950s; then there are the baby boomers like myself who caught up with Mike when he was drawing 'The Wild Wonders' in Valiant. And then there's a slightly younger crowd who know his work from Battle, Eagle and Roy of the Rovers.

With luck and a good tail wind, you'll get a good idea of the storylines of everything Mike drew from my much-expanded commentary. I'm also adding quotes from a few people who worked with Mike and some background provided by his family, all of which adds up – I hope – to as complete a picture of his working life as you could hope for.

Our column header this week feature's Ian Kennedy's cover from the first issue of Football Picture Story Monthly, published by D. C. Thomson in 1986-2003. It ran for over 400 issues, of which I have a paltry 11. My problem is that I'm trying to track down Mike Western's contribution(s) which I suspect may have begun in 1993. I have recently spoken to the former editor of Football Picture Story Monthly who is certain that Mike did contribute . . . but it's now a case of tracking down those contributions. So if you have copies and think you might have spotted some of Mike's work or you have issues and you don't know what Mike's work looks like, let me know via the address below my photo above left. The picture above is NOT Mike Western, by the way. I wanted an illustration and this one is by Mike White. Update: Thanks to Chris Barnett, I now have some confirmed sightings of Mike Western's work in FPSM in 1996. At least five back-up stories. But don't let that stop you looking as there may be more to be found.

Over on Facebook – yes, I now have a Facebook page if you missed last week's account of how I accidentally signed up – I mentioned that I was sorting through some photos when I spotted one of a shelf taken shortly after we moved house and the books on it hadn't moved since. I was bitten by the tidyup bug and, while I have the books off the shelf, I'm scanning the covers. So today's random scans are part of a cluster of biker exploitation books that I have been running daily on Facebook.

The following are a few books about biking and Hell's Angels.

Zen and the Art of Motor Cycle Maintenance by Robert M. Pirsig
Corgi 0552-10166-4, 1976.
---- [2nd imp.] 1976; [3rd imp.] 1976; [4th imp.] 1977; [5th imp.] 1978; [6th imp.] 1979; [7th imp.] 1979; [8th imp.] 1980; [9th imp.] 1981.
---- [10th imp.] 1981, 373pp, £2.25. 
One of the most profoundly important bestsellers of our time. The fabulous journey of a man in search of himself.
"I think Mr. Pirsig has written a work of great, perhaps urgent, importance ... read this book." Philip Toynbee, The Observer
"The most explosive detective story of high ideas in years." Newsweek
"A brilliant and original book ... a pathfinding attempt to examine and solve our contemporary ills. Everybody should read it." P. J. Kavanagh, The Guardian
"Profoundly important ... full of insights into our most perplexing contemporary dilemmas ... intellectual entertainment of the highest order." New York Times
"The most exciting book I have read in years. It is challenging, exhilerating, dramatic and classic." Vogue
"A hypnotist's crystal ... sparkled with diamonds." Richard Bach, author of Johnathan Living Seagull
"An unforgettable trip." Time
Double Zero by David Collyer
Fontana 0006-23204-3, 1973, 224pp, 40p.
---- [2nd imp.] May 1973.
Rev up and ... off
__These were the instructions given to David Collyer at the start of his unorthadox ministry as chaplain for a club for the unclubbable Rockers, Hell's Angels and Mods in Birmingham.
A fantastic story
__How he avoided being killed or maimed for life and yet persisted in his love and duty to these violent young people is nothing short of miraculous,
No punches are pulled
__Murder, sex, drugs, death on the road, thieving, malicious damage, and all the turbulence of ignorant and undisciplined youth are the scene. No attempt was made to preach or to moralize. The author literally became 'one of them'. But throughout the narrative there is a response to a religious need and a will to service for others which makes this not only a breathtaking but also a very moving book.
Hell's Angel by Brian Greenaway with Brian Kellock
Lion Publishing 0867-60360-7, 1982, 144pp, £1.50.
Brian Greenaway was president of a Hell's Angel chapter.
__He was violent, full of hate, deeply into drugs.
__Then, in Dartmoor Prison, he had an experience which changed his life.
__In this powerful, real-life book he tells his story.
Inside by Brian Greenaway with Clive Langmead
Lion Publishing 0867-60658-8, 1985,
---- [2nd imp.] 1989, 125pp, £2.99.
Brian Greenaway knows prison life from experience. Chelmsford, Winchester, then four years in Dartmoor.
__He knows how hard it is to stay human in 'the time machine'.
__But something happened to Brian in prison that gave him hope. Nowadays he goes back inside voluntarily – to share this hope with today's cons.
__This book, the sequel to the bestselling Hell's Angel, is both his story and theirs.
Buttons: The Making of a President by Jamie Mandelkau
Sphere 5804-1, 1971, 157pp, 30p.
This is the true story of Buttons, President of the London Chapter of the Hell's Angels, England, as told to Jamie Mandelkau.
__Buttons traces the rise of the leader of Britain's Hell's Angels from his days as a rocker, through his visit to the United States where he received his Angel colours, to his return and subsequent adventures in Britain. It is not a book for the squeamish: Hell's Angels are not always gentle, nor does their life style always reflect the accepted norms of society. It is, however, an honest account of one part of the New Culture.
Freewheelin Frank by Frank Reynolds as told to Michael McClure
New English Library 2599, Oct 1969, 110pp.
Hell's Angels are the most savage, lawless motorcycle gang that ever roared along American roads. This is the first book about Hell's angels by a Hell's Angel.
__Here are the facts about their weird codes of honour, their brawling, their drug-taking and their fantastic sex orgies.
__Freewheelin Frank Reynolds has been a leading member of Hell's Angels since 1961. He reveals why he is an Angel, how he became one, and the startling philosophy that is the most important part of a Hell's Angel's life.
A Place in Hell: The autobiography of Wild Bill Henderson as told to H. R. Kaye
New English Library 2707, May 1970.
---- [2nd imp.] Aug 1971.
New English Library 0450-01330-8 [3rd imp.] Aug 1972, 125pp, 30p.
This is the incredible autobiography of 'Wild Bill' Henderson – a Hell's Angel who pushed dope, raped women, terrorized 'squares' and lived in a jungle of crime, violence and sadistic warfare.
__Now a respectably married man – this is the story of his dark days; the almost indescribable thrill of owning and riding a motorcycle, what Hell's Angels really stood for, the senseless violence, the way out orgies, the unbelievable initiation rites, the runs, rumbles and deaths. Here is the truth, never before fully revealed, never before in such shocking detail!
__We dare you to read this book, and come out of it unchanged, unshaken by the sickening sexual madness and violence of the thousands of Hell's Angels who found a place in Hell.
Wheels of Rage by Kurt Saxon
New English Library 0450-01841-5, Jun 1974.
---- [2nd imp.] May 1975, 158pp, 35p.
The Hell's Angels are aptly named, for this not-so secret cult has grown in number and a violence that has reached screaming headlines across the U.S.A. No-one is safe from the chaos and destruction they wreak.
__Some say the members are sick, others see the Angels as the answer to our materialistic, and deadly safe world where there are no more heroes, no more challenges.
__This is the story from the inside; the secret rites, the joy of speed, the frenzy of violence that shock and threaten the fabric of our society.
Next week will see the adaptation of Westward Ho! continuing. Saturday, I think I have some notes on an artist featured amongst the Guy N. Smith pictures I've recently posted... Sunday could well be another gallery of classic biker fiction – written by people who had probably never been within a hundred yards of a motorbike, but knew that was also true of the people buying the books!

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