Friday, November 12, 2021

Comic Cuts — 12 November 2021

The hunt is on! I'm not the first to embark on this trail, I'm sure, but I'm trying to track down the infamous appearance by John Sanders on Nationwide. The daily news show was a mix of news, interviews, and pre-filmed inserts, not unlike today's One Show, although not as relaxed. Nationwide had desks, presenters wore jackets and ties, and they were straight-laced and humorless as they tackled the day's talking points.

The specific episode I'm after featured John Sanders interviewed alongside Brian Glanville by Frank Bough. I've read people's recollections or had it described to me and no two accounts match. Did one of the presenters tear up a copy of the comic? Did Sanders walk out? What was said by Bough that might have different implications, given his later downfall?

Nationwide was broadcast live, and no off-air recordings were made by the BBC. Inserts, such as shots of the National Liberal Club, may still exist as they were shot on 16mm film, but the in-studio interviews with politicians, newsmakers and film stars were all live to air and dissipated into the atmosphere forty-five years ago — unless someone recorded it on video at home. Looking around various websites and forums I couldn't help but think this was unlikely. One poster noted that a run of Nationwide would fill 2,000 video tapes... and who would buy, record and store that many videos?

But wait... I've since discovered that some tapes exist in the archives of the BFI. I've no idea how many, or whether they can be viewed by the public even if they do hold the episode I want to see, but it's another step along the trail to find out what actually went on that night. I have an enquiry in with the BFI to see if they can help, but no word yet. Mind you, thanks to Covid and the volume of enquiries, it took the BBC a month to get back to me. Firing enquiries into the void of website contact forms is like throwing messages in bottles into the sea. I do so with few expectations, but it feels so good when one comes back with a reply.

I took a day off the main article to write something about one of the artists I especially liked when I started buying Action: Horacio Altuna. He had the right stuff for Dredger — an exceptional figure artist who could handle the action of fist-fights, crashing vehicles and running gunfights. He helped establish the mysterious spy as Action's second most popular character. If I'm honest, Dredger was my favourite character in the paper, followed by 'The Running Man' and 'Hellman'. This was forty-five years ago, don't forget, but certainly that was how I remember it as I was re-reading the strips recently. I'd be interested in hearing what others remember from when they were kids, or maybe what they found to be best as older collectors of the comic.
OK, so I set up a poll on Facebook on Wednesday to find out which strips from the first issue were the favourites — I specified the first issue for a reason, and I'll try holding a second poll that will bring in some of the later strips.

And the winners are:

1) Hook Jaw (39.6%)
2) Dredger (25%)
3) Hellman of Hammer Force (18,8%)
4) The Running Man (10%)
5)= Blackjack, Play Till You Drop!, Look Out For Lefty
8)= Sports Not For Losers!, The Coffin Sub
More Action thoughts shortly. But first it's "gas safety check news update" (the news you've all been waiting to hear... ). The gas safety inspector was back on Saturday morning with a small part for our gas boiler which means we can now set the timer to turn the boiler on and off automatically rather than setting the temperature on the thermostat and walking all the way upstairs to the boiler and switching it on manually. The problem — which we've had to put up with for seven or so years because nobody could identify what it was — turned out to be a safety feature!

The digital clock was flashing "0.0" and has done for seven years. Nobody could figure why. Well, it was a microchip telling us that there was no gas pressure... but there clearly was and the actual sensor could sense that there was, so it didn't shut down the boiler, which would be the proper procedure if there really was no gas pressure. However, the flashing warning "message" overrode the clock, which meant that, while everything was working perfectly OK, the clock was inaccessible.

Finally, we've got the clock working and I can set the timer to turn the heating on and off correctly.

Now, the oven... that's another matter entirely. That has a small metal spur close to each gas ring which is meant to heat up to show that the flame is lit. You have to hold the gas knob down for ten seconds to give it time to warm up before releasing the knob. If it hasn't warmed sufficiently, it shuts off the gas flow to that ring.

Unfortunately, it is taking far too long to warm and sometimes we're stood there holding the knob down for 30-40 seconds and, when you let go, the flame goes out as the hob cuts the gas flow. It's touch and go which rings will work and sometimes we're trying to heat the smallest saucepan on the biggest ring and I've had to make a big pan of stew on a smaller ring. Not the most efficient way to do it. And the grill is burning off... well, something... each time we try making toast it sets off the fire alarm even before the toast has fully toasted.

We spotted the first fault when the gas was connected and we're now ten days on and still no news of when the fault will be repaired. The gas inspector has given them a nudge, so hopefully we'll hear something soon.

And just to add to our woes, we had a power cut on Tuesday, so we had to light the gas with a match... got through a dozen of them before we got the hob to work!

Writing about Action got me thinking about why I read Action and I think I was the perfect petri-dish for Pat Mills' experiments in trying to revive British boys' comics — a reader who was unhappy with the then current state of boys' comics. I had not long given up reading Valiant as I was not pleased with the new strips that had taken over from my long-running favourites (Steel Claw, Wild Wonders, etc.). But I was still a comic reader, keeping up my weekly fix by reading Vulcan, which had a lot of my favourites in reprints of adventures I hadn't read. But when Action came along it filled another gap, namely for the characters we heard about that appeared in movies but weren't allowed to see as 13-year-old kids.

The classic case is Jaws. Although it was 'A' rated, I didn't have an older brother to take me to the cinema, but I knew all about the movie through newspapers, advertising and TV. Similarly, we got to hear about films like Magnum Force with Clint Eastwood and Death Race 2000 with David Carradine from the same sources but with no hope of seeing them because they were 'X' rated. Action gave us those tough heroes that we wanted but weren't getting in Valiant or Victor, or even Battle or Warlord as they concentrated wholly on war stories.

I have been thinking about why Mel and I have been watching a lot of Antipodean panel shows recently and why I write about trivial things, like our problems with gas boilers and overs, in such detail yet still manage to retain an audience for these columns. I think it's the same reason. For Mel and I we're watching topical comedies that touch on the same problems — chiefly the global pandemic — but the humour comes from them ripping into their governments and home grown idiots flaunting safety laws. We can laugh longer and harder at 7 Days or Patriot Brains (hosted by Bill Bailey) because they don't carry the same weight of despair that Have I Got News For You or Mock the Week has discussing the deadly ineptitude of our government which might kill me and my loved ones. (Keep it light, Steve!)

And I think you can apply that to this column. You and I may face similar minor problems on the rocky path of life, but because they're not happening to you and I'm choosing to air them, that gives you permission to have a laugh, sympathise, tut or react in any way your want. Think of it as a public service. (Just don't ask how we're managing to watch TV in New Zealand. That's for me to know and for you to find your own VPN.)


  1. John Sanders says in his autobiography that he walked out of the studio during that Nationwide interview, if that's any kind of (small) help.

  2. That's the kind of rumour I'm trying to confirm, as nobody else has said that. Similarly, one person remembers Frank Bough ripping up a copy of the comic... but Sanders doesn't.

    1. He doesn't mention that, sure enough, but (unless you've asked him in person) that doesn't necessarily mean he doesn't remember. Or perhaps he walked out before it happened? Anyway, best of luck with your search.



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