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Friday, March 17, 2017

Comic Cuts - 17 March 2017

More good progress on the Valiant index. I had three uninterrupted days early in the week that I spent reading Mytek the Mighty, Legge's Eleven and a bunch of Spanish science fiction yarns. Mytek is one of the strips I remember from my youthful days as a Valiant reader in the late 1960s when Bill Lacey was the artist, but the early yarns I was reading were drawn by the mighty Eric Bradbury at his finest.

Legge's Eleven, on the other hand, was new to me. I don't know what you're like as a collector, but my early Valiant's weren't picked up in order, so I tended to look at them but not really take in the storylines. Once I had a run of copies, I'd read my favourites (The Steel Claw, Wild Wonders and a few others) but ignore the strips I wasn't so interested in, which would usually be the sports strips.

So I read the story of Ted Legge and his efforts to put together a football team and it was actually pretty good. Yes, it was silly in places, but it also had heart and humour. That shouldn't have surprised me... after all, it was written by Fred Baker who was behind Billy's Boots, which was a masterclass in how to keep a storyline compelling despite the repetitive nature of the plot's basic premise. Roughly every three weeks, Ted Legge would lose a team member and would have to find a replacement; the untried player would play a match and would be useless in the first half; Ted would figure out a tactic that would work for the newcomer and the match would be won... but tears turn to tragedy as Ted Legge would lose a team member and would have to find a replacement... and repeat the process ten times to make up the eleven-man team. During the football season they would battle to rise from the Fourth Division to Third... to Second... to First (the strip ran from 1964 to 1968), with a break each summer for another adventure.

You can see the same cycle in plenty of other sports strips. Billy needed his boots to play well and score, so the writer's chief job was to find ways for Billy and his boots to be separated before a vital match. For American comics' fans: it's why Kryptonite exists.

There's still a long way to go... I'm currently looking at copies from the 1964-66 period, so there's a decade of reading still to come. I have a feeling this might be the longest introduction yet because there's just so many great strips to talk about!

Sales of Frontline UK and Arena have spiked nicely since I dropped the price. Just to be clear, these two titles were licensed from DC Thomson a couple of years ago and the license period has run its course. I have a brief window to sell off unsold stock, after which I'll have to stop selling the two titles. There won't be any more printed, so grab 'em now while you can. I think they're really nice books and I put in a lot of effort to make sure that there was some interesting introductory material for both.

If you want to grab them, you can still get 25% off the cover price – here for Frontline UK and here for Arena – but only for two more weeks. If you don't have a PayPal account, you can pay by cheque – just drop me a line at the e-mail address you'll find below the photo, top left.

Quite a few of the titles published by Bear Alley Books are under license, ranging from five years to open-ended. I'll just have to write some more to fill the gaps.

Talking of which, I'm still trying to chase down some annuals for the Valiant index. I don't have the Valiant Book of Conquest of the Air nor the three editions of the Valiant Book of Sport. I have covers for all four, but if anyone has scans of the books or can type up the contents of the books for me, that would be fantastic. These are the last four books I need now, as I've tracked down all the other summer specials and annuals for inclusion.

As we've been talking sport and football in particular, that gave me the theme for this week's random scans. And an interesting point: there seems to be a common misconception that we Brits only call the sport football while everyone else calls it soccer. Well, here are a few books from the forties, fifties and seventies which disprove that "fact". We are, however, the only people to call it "The beautiful game".



  1. I've just discovered Bear Alley by chance while looking for information about the work of an illustrator from way back called Will Nickless. Bear Alley is a terrific find! Beautifully illustrated, informative and above all enthusiastic about the great work of writers, designers and illustrators of the past and not-so-distant past. I used to work in art schools before I retired, and it is a pleasure and an education to be reintroduced to the sort of illustration work which for me was at one time an everyday experience in the studios.

  2. While I was never too keen on sports strips I was really taken by the gimmick in early episodes of Legge's Eleven where the header illustration featured question marks superimposed on silhouettes of the team-members' heads which went on to be filled in one-by-one as new players were 'discovered' (I seem to remember that Fleetway used the same trick elsewhere on a crime series, though offhand I can't think what it was called). As a fan of American super heroes I also liked the way in which each new recruit seemed to display a kind of 'super power' - making Legge's Eleven into a sort of 'real-life' Justice League of America!

  3. Hi Max Reger - are you familiar with Will's work in the original Eagle magazine? I have some articles that I could fish out for you I'm sure