Friday, 18 October 2013

Millie the Model meets the Gears


Following on from my Pop Pic Library post in May, here's another 1960s comic twist on the burgeoning beat music scene. This time from the USA - and the pages of the great Marvel Comics, at the time when a series of 'British Invasion' bands were idolised by the record-buying teens of that nation.
Marvel's Millie the Model had been strutting the catwalks since the end of WW2, but by the mid-60s she'd become infatuated by swinging with the most happening band around - The Gears. A half English, half American combo - whose groovy "go go" sound is - and I quote the band themselves - "one big explosion", and "compared to us, the Hydrogen Bomb is a firecracker".
Millie Collins gets to hang out with The Gears - a fab foursome with the "hard-driving Liverpool Sound". She'll pop on a miniskirt as she dances to their ever-boppin' never-stoppin' beat, and she even gets to sing on stage with them. The Gears make their US television debut on 'The Red O'Hara Show' (Issue No.135) which sees them dazzling the audiences, and landing on the front page of 'Variety' - the headline proclaiming "Gears Great A Go-Go!".

It all began in February 1966

No 135 - Millie and the Gears make a splash

Go, Girl, Go

I hear this combo really swings - and swing it does

September 1966, and Millie visits Swinging London

Oh, what a let down. I bought issue number 141 on the strength of the Millie & The Gears team-up cover - with the expectation of glamourous Millie exploring London's grooviest spots. But instead, she just ends up partying in a dreary countryside castle owned by the father of an aristocratic secret agent. It may have been fun for her (and her American readership), but I was looking forward to seeing Marvel-style realisations of the swinging City...

...but then after scanning the above page, it became very apparent that the creative team behind 'Millie the Model' had no intention of even bothering to conjure up the London look. In this rather hopeless bottom panel, we have a green double decker bus - and a Routemaster it ain't - and the most useless rendition of a London Taxi ever! So perhaps the castle was a better location after all...

Anyway, nearly a year on, in June 1967, the Gears are back on the front cover - and this time in Marvel's  'Modeling with Millie' Issue No.54. The comic would actually turn out to be the very last issue of  Millie's spin-off title, but it did have a "Positively a Roof-Rockin Happening" finale...


The Music is Gonesville

The Gears are touring the States again, and get a six page story set in ABC television studios, and enough lines for their 'greatsville' lyrics to fill up the musical speech bubbles with such crafted lines as....

and Millie "shakes to the beat on Carnaby Street" on stage, as a guest singer (dressed in a strip-strap swinging style, designed by reader Gina from Brooklyn) for a band that for a couple of years had captivated the hearts of Millie and her female followers, and then silently slipped out of fashion.
it's a mod, mod, world

Perhaps those who know far more than I do about Millie's backstory will have an insight into what happened to the American-born half of The Gears. We're told that they're Joe and Russ Brockman, who in fact went to school with Millie in Sleepy Gap, Kansas - and were always feuding - just like the Davies brothers of The Kinks (who were less kookier than the Gears).

Maybe the Brockman boys were handed their draft papers, and sent out to Vietnam?  Perhaps only to re-emerge as a bluesy rocking bar band after their return - but by 1973 Millie the Model comics were no more...

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