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Friday, June 09, 2017

Comic Cuts - 9 June 2017

If like me you're fed up with the election, I'll try to keep this column politics-free. I don't have a clue how the voting went, as I'm writing this Thursday morning, long before the polling stations close. We have a ritual for days like these which involves heading out to vote and then rewarding ourselves with fish & chips. We have two very good fish & chip shops here in Wivenhoe, one of which has won national awards. Of course, we use the other one because it's closer, but the service is friendly and the portions are generous. What more could you want?

I managed to put in an enjoyable couple of days on the Valiant index, adding another 1,500 words to the introduction (now standing at roughly 39,000 words) about the tail-end of the original run of 'The Steel Claw'. This was the era that I first read Valiant, so I remember some of the stories very fondly, although now that I've got some distance from that early excitement I must admit that some of the situations Louis Crandell found himself in were daft in the extreme. (See below... this is the first episode I read when I found a copy of Valiant (8 Feb 1969) belonging to the older brother of a schoolfriend I was visiting. I started buying Valiant in late November or early December 1969, when I was 7.)

It's one of the reasons why, when asked what my favourite strip was from my childhood, I shouldn't really say 'The Steel Claw'. What I actually mean is 'The Return of the Claw' which took the character back to basics; the suited superhero who could punch through walls and gasped "Great dynamos!" every five minutes was dumped in favour of a miserable, haunted Louis Crandell facing dangers he had no desire to face. The new strip was drawn by Jesus Blasco... and this was the first time I was seeing his version of the character as, back in 1969-70, Carlos Cruz was the regular Claw artist.

The Claw departed again in 1973, but in 1975 Vulcan began reprinting all the early adventures drawn by Blasco. For the first time I discovered how Crandell joined the Shadow Squad. The stories were so brilliant that, aged 13, I "novelised" one of them, the neatly hand-written story taking up thirty or forty pages of a large notebook. Sadly, the notebook was thrown out when I moved out of the family home and into a shared flat.

I rather wish I'd kept it. For someone who can't throw anything away ("just in case"), I was surprisingly unsentimental about personal stuff. Very little has survived from that era apart from a couple of school projects - one on trees and one on Winston Churchill. The one I wish I still had was the project I did on a science fiction magazine called Outlands, but it was handed in for marking and I never saw it again.

It was a project that ran away from me... I was heavily into science fiction and had just discovered Mike Ashley's History of the Science Fiction Magazine in paperback. (I was aware of some of the history as I was a reader of Science Fiction Monthly, whose posters adorned my walls when I was a kid, and Mike had written a series for that mag. on the subject.) To cut a long story short, I decided to write about British SF magazines, started researching the subject (which involved a couple of trips to Dagenham where the British SF Association had their library) and the more I read, the narrower the focus became. So from "all" SF magazines it became "early" (1930s to 1950s) and then, eventually, it boiled right down to one magazine that had one issue in 1946.

Forty years later I still let projects get away from me. The Valiant index is just the latest of a long line!

Random scans today for some reason on the subject of change...


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