Wednesday, 16 December 2015

Compliments of the Season, Christmas Card 1870

A greetings plate stuck onto the inside front cover of George Buday's 'The Story of the Christmas Card' that was first published in 1954. 

Born in Hungary in 1907, Buday lectured on graphic design at the Franz Joseph University. After emigrating to Britain in 1937, he worked as a book illustrator and as an author. He was elected to the Royal Society of Painters-Etchers (RE) in 1953, and a fellow of the Society of Wood Engravers a year later. He died in 1990.

London's Victoria & Albert Museum holds some of Buday's own designs for Christmas Cards. 

Odhams Press, Long Acre, London

This rather strange 'Compliments of the Season' snowman card dates way back to 1870, and is my favourite of all the cards collected in Buday's slim 48 page book. 

This image was printed in black and white and measured just 5 x 8 cms, so it would be intriguing to know exactly what the original card looked like. 

Season's Greetings!

Saturday, 12 December 2015

Young Love #52, DC Comics, 50 Years Ago

I expect that every collector has a a bunch of favourite items that they've picked up over the years. These don't have to be the rarest, the most valuable or prized artefacts in your hoard, but they're the pieces that you're just pleased to have come across and filed away.

I began collecting American comic books as a twelve year old around 1973. Back then my faves were the Marvel superheroes, especially The Fantastic Four, Spiderman, Daredevil and Captain America which I'd discovered a number of years earlier in pared down black and white strips reprinted within British comics like 'Fantastic' and 'Wham!'.

Ever since, I've continued to add comics to what remained of my original collection - the ones that had not been passed on to younger siblings of friends and neighbours. Nowadays I've all sorts of titles spanning different genres and eras, but I've always had a particular interest for the comics that date from the 1960s - a decade dubbed the 'Silver Age' by the specialists. One of the comic book artists that I always admired is Gene Colan (1926 - 2011), who was nicknamed 'genial' or 'gentleman' Gene by Stan Lee, his boss at Marvel Comics.

For this post though, the comic book that I've selected is one of Gene Colan's many essays in romance stories for DC Comics, the company that was Stan's mega rival. It appeared a year before Colan had hopped over to join Lee's expanding team of key artists that defined the iconic look of Marvel's Universe which thrilled me to bits during the 1960s and the first half of the 1970s. Along with Gene Colan, who couldn't fail to be bowled over by the brilliance of Jack Kirby or Steve Ditko or John Buscema or Jim Steranko, and the mind-blowing cosmic worlds visualized by Frank Brunner or Jim Starlin.

Anyway, DC's Young Love No.52 was published exactly half a century ago in December 1965. I bought it for the cover, though in fact along with the 'splash' page, it's the only part of the comic that's actually illustrated by Gene Colan. I was drawn to the bold background colours, and those two 'before and after' panels. The joyful pigtailed girl-next-door transformed into a sophisticated 60's vamp, bathed in pitch black. Amazing stuff, and a concept that seems to be way too adult-looking for the readership of such a title!

All my troubles began on the day I looked like THIS! Fantastic...
The interior newsprint page has opted for softer colours, and different lettering from the glossy cover

Unlike the majority of Gene Colan's superhero art, his romance work for DC (and later on, several love stories for Marvel too) are all relatively unknown to US comic book enthusiasts - and they're sadly quite hard to track down here in the UK as they weren't distributed beyond America, except perhaps its military bases overseas. My guess is that the demand may just not be big enough to justify a reprint anthology of Colan's work in the likes of 'Secret Hearts', 'Girls' Romances', or 'Heart Throbs', but not having everything easily accessible makes it more exciting to discover his superb romance gems tucked away in DC's 12 cent priced four-colour originals.

Saturday, 28 November 2015


An advert for the ABC Cinemas' Saturday morning Minors Matinees - this one dates back to October 1972. I remember going quite regularly to Saturday morning pictures at this time. Usually rather noisy affairs with kids being dropped off by parents, and often very rarely in time for the beginning of the screenings. So there'd more than often be a racket all the way through the ABC Minors song sing-along , the shorts, the trailers - and which continued well into the main feature as well!

According to the history books, these kinds of matinees had begun in the early 1920s, and the screenings for young folks continued into the early 1980s. But in reality the audiences had dwindled way before then, as had the amount of cinemas left who had bothered to put on kids matinees. So perhaps that's why the ABC decided to run this promotion?

Some of the special Children's Film Foundation titles which we'd be watching on a Saturday morning are still cherished today - such as 'The Boy Who Turned Yellow', which was made by cinema legends Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger in 1972. 

Coincidentally, the film was released the very same year that all those readers of Sandie, Buster and Lion comics had cut out their vouchers and got a seat in their local ABC cinema for just 5 New Pence...

I spotted this advert in SHOOT! magazine, published by IPC Magazines who were based in Farringdon Street, London EC4.

Thursday, 5 November 2015

Anglo Gum & Digger Tobacco, London E1

Another of my photographs taken over 25 years ago. A derelict newsagent's shop in Spitalfields, London E1. Adverts covered in grime affixed to what I recall were barred basement windows. 


Back in March 2015, I posted the Basutoland Footballer, a product of Anglo's long run of trade cards that often accompanied their gum. Anglo-American, founded in 1929, was a subsidiary of the famed confectionery giant Mackintosh's of Halifax, Yorkshire. 

Player's introduced their DIGGER brand in 1917. Dubbed after a term for an Australian soldier - though "digger" had actually derived from the name given to prospectors of the 19th century gold rush era. The tobacco itself was grown in Africa, India or Canada, and smokers could buy it in a multitude of formats including: flake, mixture, shag, and pigtail.

Once upon a time..."The Best in their Class"

These glass-backed adverts would almost certainly have been destroyed when the time eventually came to refurbish the property..

Thursday, 15 October 2015

What's on TV, Little Dot? February 1969

Spot the ball? Stumbled on a real dotty comic cover - though sadly online, and not the real thing. 

Reminded me of what it was like to be TV addicted in my childhood exactly around the time this issue of Harvey's Little Dot was published...

Fast forward to the tail end of 1978, and listening to T.V. Smith's classy lyrics to The Adverts single 'Television's Over'.  

This was one of those songs from the era that continues to have a great influence on my world view. Skillfully, Smith renders an unsettling, dystopian vision of TV addiction ineffective

The song begins with the classic line "Time to pull out the plugs...", and it ends:

 "Television's Over, Now I feel no Hunger, We feel no Hunger"

Little Dot #121, Harvey Comics, February 1969
"Tonight I see the screen, But not the pictures on it" T.V. Smith, 1978

Monday, 5 October 2015

London Transport Publications 1960s

Sometimes a collection can comprise of as little as just four examples of a similar object - in this case they are a part-set from London Transport's very own publishing house, which was based at their (soon to be vacated) headquarters at 55 Broadway, Westminster, SW1. 

During the 1960s, London Transport issued some beautifully designed editions, which I'm sure can now be heralded as classic artefacts of the time. The four that I've got are: three 10 x 17 cms pocket-sized paperback books, accompanied by a 14 x 21 cms booklet.

What I like about them is a simple and solid house-style, and that each one is boldly colour-coded: black, pink, green, and blue.

Cost Two Shillings and Sixpence, this was a revised and expanded version of a then out-of-print booklet issued a decade earlier.

Back cover of the 28 page booklet

Back Cover, 1963

Author - John R Day. His final sentence in the book reads: "the story of the Underground has many future chapters to be added"

The Foreword begins: "London's countryside is experiencing a mild revolution; motorways and road improvements are altering the face of the land faster than any time since the war"

The woodcuts on the cover and inside title page by Eric Ravilious 
 Ian Nairn's 'Modern Buildings in London' 1964. The cover was designed by Peter Roberson.

Back Cover. The book was printed at The Curwen Press, Plaistow, E13

Ian Nairn, the brilliant and outspoken architectural writer, explored most of the buildings in this book from the top deck of a bus. For more about Nairn's work, do check my 'After You've Gone' entry 'Your England Revisited', August 2014.

Examples of modern buildings include: Alton West Estate, Roehampton, Eros House, Catford, Newbury Park Underground Station, Sceaux Gardens Estate, Camberwell, St Paul's Church, Bow Common.

London Transport made it clear within that "the choice of buildings and the comments on them are Mr Nairn's, and not the publishers". Also that any mention of a building "does not imply that access to it may be obtained".

All four of these publications were sold at the time via London Transport's Travel Enquiry Offices at St James's Park and Piccadilly Circus Underground Stations, Eccleston Bridge (near Victoria Coach Station), and the City Information Centre by St Paul's Cathedral. Or post-free from it's Publicity Office in Marylebone Road...

Wednesday, 30 September 2015

JAMES DEAN a biography, Ballantine Books, New York

For my third and final post on the actor James Dean (1931-1955), who died on this date 60 years ago, I've selected the front covers of the very first book to be written about his life, by the screenwriter William Bast (1931-2015).

JAMES DEAN was published by Ballantine Books of New York, it was subtitled  'A Biography', though in Bast's words it's really "designed specifically as a personal description" of his friend as he knew him. The cover photographs for both the dust jacket of the hardback and the paperback edition each use an image from the famous portraits of Dean taken by Roy Schatt. 

Today, the hardback is rarely seen and commands a high value in the collectors market, but the 35c paperback is fairly common as it must have sold hundreds of thousands of copies following its publication in 1956. 

Ballantine's Hardbound Editions retailed at $2.75

Walking on West 68th Street, New York, 1954

In 1957, one year after Bast's 'biography', the next book on James Dean was a cheapo 25c paperback issued by New York's Popular Library - these days well remembered for their pulpy crime novels with wonderfully fetching cover art - which aimed to capitalize on the cult of Dean. 

Unlike Bast's pioneering attempt, this one slipped through the cracks of history, almost without trace: Popular Library W 400

However, Dean fandom continued to thrive during the 1960s, but with no further books - until the publication of David Dalton's acclaimed biography 'The Mutant King' in 1974, which was without doubt instrumental in igniting a mass revival of interest in all things Dean. 

And in the subsequent decades, filmographies, further biographies, umpteen newspaper and magazine articles, photograph books, academic essays, TV and radio documentaries, fanzines and fansites continue to explore every conceivable aspect of the legend of James Byron Dean...

Still available to listen: You're Tearing Me Apart: Rebel Without a Cause at 60

Friday, 25 September 2015

The Triumph & Tragedy of Jimmy Dean

---NOW following on from my previous post, here is very likely the earliest example of a comic strip telling the story of actor James Dean, who died 60 years ago this month. 

It was published in 1956 within 'ELVIS AND JIMMY' a rather odd magazine which is split into two distinct sections. The first half is a series of black and white photographs accompanied by an article called 'How it Feels to be Elvis' written by a journalist from a Memphis-based newspaper. 

Published by 'The Girl Friend - The Boy Friend Corporation', New York

The second half is a 32 page black and white comic strip entitled 'The Tragedy and Triumph of Jimmy Dean', made up of 70 panels drawn by Lou Cameron, perhaps best known at the time for his work on horror comics and the long-running series 'Classics Illustrated'. Cameron eventually became a prolific writer of crime and western novels.

The idea of using illustrations rather than photographs is explained in the opening panel which suggests that a photographer would inevitably not have been on hand to document such personal moments in Dean's life. Instead, his story is captured in ink by Lou Cameron - who quite possibly could have written the piece as well. 

It's ironic though that Dean was in fact one of the most oft-photographed stars of his day, but perhaps it was cheaper to hire a comic book artist than shell out for over 30 pages of costly press or archive photos?

However, it's a fascinating piece that came out in the flurry of hastily put-together one-off tribute magazines in those first years after Dean's passing - and here is a selection of some of Cameron's panels, beginning with the funereal-style opening page:

The right half of the final panel - which is a two page spread. Hovering in the sky above the wreckage of Dean's Porsche Spyder on Route 466 is a portrait of the dead star by the artist Norman Nodel.

For the price of 50c, 'Elvis and Jimmy' readers could send off for a special 10" x 8" copy of Nodel's portrait. Unlike the magazine which is not too uncommon, these art portraits must be exceedingly rare now...

Sunday, 20 September 2015

The Life and Death of James Dean in Amazing Pictures

A rather unusual combination of comic strip and photographs was published by 'Top Spot' in September 1959, four years after the death of actor James Dean - which will very soon be exactly 60 years ago.

There had been an enormous output of magazine articles around the world about the life and times of Dean in the those early years after his tragic, untimely death at the age of just 24 years old. This one was printed in the UK by Fleetway Publications, and was distributed as far as Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Rhodesia and Nyasaland (now Zimbabwe and Malawi). 

'Top Spot' was also a short-lived effort - and in its two-year run there's a heady mix of comics, pin-ups of cinema starlets and short adventure stories. All squarely aimed at a male teenage market who had perhaps moved on from reading comics like Lion or Buster.

In this interesting five-page spread, there's a rather barbed final statement aimed at Hollywood itself - that it should "be blamed for cheapening Dean's greatness as an actor". But significantly, six decades on Dean's acting method is still clearly an influence to today's aspiring performers...

Enjoy the piece - and you should be able click on each page and view them as larger images...


You're Tearing Me Apart: Rebel Without a Cause at 60

It's impossible now to separate the cult of James Dean from the film that defined a teen-age. 
The mystery and mystique of Rebel, drawing on rare, never heard archive - and the making of a legend: