Friday, May 19, 2023

Comic Cuts — 19 May 2023

I think I might be close to figuring out when I started reading Valiant. I know it was some time in 1969 but I haven't nailed down a date. I can tell you the date of the first copy I ever saw, which I remember seeing at the home of a schoolfriend.

The last time I started thinking about this, I thought I must have started buying copies for myself in November or December of that year, but I have been working on scans of Mytek the Mighty and I'm now convinced that I remember reading the story which begins with Professor and Dirk going in search of a missing submarine, and there are panels that feature Mytek walking underwater and being tangled in writhing tendrils of seaweed.

Those episodes date from September 1969, so it might be around that time that I started buying Valiant. I've probably mentioned this before, but the way I came to read Valiant was due to reading James Bond. I had an eye operation when I was 7 and, with my eyesight corrected, I began reading everything I could lay my hands on, which meant my dad's paperback novels. He read John Creasey, Dennis Wheatley, James Hadley Chase and Ian Fleming, thrillers by Alistair MacLean, lots of westerns... bar the westerns, I was reading what he was reading.

A friend and I had been to see a James Bond double-bill at the cinema, so I was keen on James Bond and wanted to read Goldfinger, which my dad didn't have—he would regularly take the books he had read into work and hand them out to anyone who wanted them. Maybe it was seeing books that I wanted to read being disposed of that turned me into a hoarder.

The quest to find that Bond led me to visit another schoolfriend whose brother was said to maybe have a copy. I don't remember whether he did or not, but he did have some old Valiants, which I borrowed and read from cover to cover in short order. The first issue I read was dated 8 February 1969... and this is the Steel Claw story from that issue that I remember so clearly...

My choice of what I read hasn't changed much since I was seven! I'm reading Mytek the Mighty as I clean up the artwork, and I have just started reading an old hardboiled paperback, One Is A Lonely Number by Bruce Elliott that was reprinted a few years ago by Stark House. How tough is this book? "Even Cornell Woolrich and David Goodis would find this book a downer," says Ed Gorman in his introduction. That's a book that I need to read.

The reason I managed to get hold of a copy is because I have just written an introduction for an upcoming Stark House reprint. It is for Sinister House by Charles G. Booth, who was one of the pioneers of hardboiled crime writing. I did some research into Booth a few years ago when I was thinking about updating The Mushroom Jungle, an ongoing project that won't be happening any time soon, but which I would love to get to at some point. What interested me was that Booth was English, but made it in America writing stories for the likes of Black Mask.

You'll have to wait until February next year to find out what I discovered about him. That's when the book is due. In the meantime, I might look into Bruce Elliott, who turns out to have been a friend of magician Walter B. Gibson (of The Shadow fame) and spiritualist skeptic Bill Gresham (of Nightmare Alley fame). He certainly kept good company.

The grass we sowed a couple of weeks ago has grown in patches, so I'm planning to sow some more. I knew this wasn't going to be easy and I'm very pleased by the fact that any grass has grown at all, but by following the instructions on the last box, I may have spread the seeds too thinly on the ground. I have another box, and we can, apparently, sow seeds all the way up to September. Hopefully by then the bald areas of former grass will be lush with new growth!

With Mel working from home, we have dropped back into our old ways. I'm making more stews and I even baked a banana bread... it feels uncomfortably like lockdown again.

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