Saturday, 25 February 2017


I dunno who told EMILY PROCTER
that those gloves match that outfit, but she's
been misinformed.  I was gonna say that her
top fits like a glove, but you'd maybe think
I was suggesting she's got five nipples.

Friday, 24 February 2017



This image is getting to be a familiar sight on CRIVENS!,
but hey - what a belter, right?  I only bought the first issue of the
regular 2015 DYNAMITE comicbook because of ALEX ROSS's
'homage' to JOE KUBERT's original 1975 DC COMICS cover,
but I recently acquired the collected edition of the six-part series
and it was a nice little read.  I felt I'd just picked up from where
I'd left off back in the '70s when I was a teenager.

There's a couple of instances where the letterer has skipped
a word, which requires re-reading to catch the meaning, and the
art has some minor problems where cars (very nicely rendered)
and people aren't always proportionate size-wise, but all-in-all, if
you're a fan of pulp heroes in general and The AVENGER in
particular, then you'll enjoy this softcover volume.

Check out your local FORBIDDEN PLANET or regular
comicbook store, where you're sure to find a copy of this book
sitting on the shelves.  Remember to pay for it before you leave
'though, as it's always embarrassing being rugby-tackled on your
way out the door when you've forgotten to hand over your cash.
I wonder how long it'll be 'til HOLLYWOOD sees the poten-
tial in this property for a big-budget movie?  We'll see.

Incidentally, I'd put a clear protective cover on the book
not long before scanning, which slightly reflects the scanner's
light.  Hopefully, it doesn't impair your visual enjoyment, but
I wasn't going to risk damaging the book by taking it off and
putting it on again.  (I knew you'd understand.)


Images copyright MARVEL COMICS

As you can see, the cover of STRANGE TALES #183 is an
enlarged segment from #130.  I first saw JACK KIRBY's art for
this on the cover of its latter printing, not its original, although I'd
read the story contained therein in an issue of TERRIFIC back in
the '60s.  Because I'm a generous guy, I thought I'd show you both
versions, so don't say I never spoil you - because I do!  Which
version do you prefer, frantic ones?  Share, share, share!

Thursday, 23 February 2017


From the pulsating pages of POW! #8 (March 11th 1967), comes KEN
REID at his brain-blasting best with DARE-A-DAY DAVY.  Were readers'
dares genuine?  I wouldn't bet DONALD TRUMP's hair on it (mainly because
there's doubt about that too), but who cared?  This was comic strip mayhem at
its lunatic finest, and whether you've read Davy before or not, you're bound to
find something in this page to enjoy or my name isn't FRED FLINTSTONE.
(What's that you say?  My name isn't Fred Flintstone?  Well, whatddya
 know?!)  Trust me anyway - you'll still enjoy this palpitating page.


I just love the colour red - how could
I not when it looks this good?  Of course,
RHIAN SUGDEN might just have a
little something to do with that.


Images copyright REBELLION

As it's 2000 A.D.'s 40th Anniversary, I thought I'd celebrate a
little Anniversary of my own.  Namely, the 32nd Anniversary (as near
as dammit) of the appearance of the first strip I ever lettered for the mag.
It seems like only yesterday in memory, but I was still a young man around
my mid-20s when I lettered this tale in the Walsingham Guest House
in Southsea, sometime in January 1985.  (Although I may have started
it in the Wansbeck Hotel in London the day before.)  Ah, happy
days.  So - "Extra!  Extra!  Read all about it!" below.

(Actually, it's 32 years to the day since the above issue went on
sale.  It's dated March 2nd, which means it appeared in newsagents'
shops on February 23rd.  I didn't realise that when I decided to re-
post the piece, it's simply an amazing coincidence.  Wow!)

Not counting paid jobs I'd done since still at school, my very first
'big-time' professional freelance lettering job was for IPC MAGAZINES
in 2000 A.D. - a strip called 'EXTRA! EXTRA!', which appeared in Prog
407, cover-dated March 2nd, 1985.  (It wasn't my first published IPC job
however - that was a CAPTAIN KID - The PINT-SIZED PIRATE page
in WHIZZER & CHIPS, which I lettered one night in the 2000 A.D.
office before going home to my bedsit in Southsea.)

The strip was written by PETE MILLIGAN and drawn by the late
JOSE CASANOVAS, who sadly died in 2009.  To be honest, I'm sur-
prised it turned out as well as it did.  I didn't have the right 'patch-paper'
so the lettering came out a little scratchy-looking and was also a tad too
large.  I remember STEVE MacMANUS being quite pleased with it
'though, especially the newspaper headlines.

And thus began my full-time, fifteen year career working for the
'big boys' - not only IPC but also MARVEL COMICS (the British and
American divisions).  Anyway, I thought that some of you might enjoy
seeing where it all began.  (Is it just me, or does anyone else think that
Casanovas' art is slightly reminiscent of RON TURNER's?)

I'd like to think that I improved over the coming months once I
'found' my style, but, all in all, it wasn't too bad a beginning for someone
starting out in the world of comics.  Technology can be a wonderful thing,
but I can't help but feel that some of the art has gone from lettering now
that anyone with a keyboard and access to computer fonts can do what
once used to lie only within the province of calligraphic artists.

The original scans were a bit 'ropey' (pun intended), so
I've replaced them with  far clearer ones.  The pages don't
look pixelated now and are a lot easier to read.


One thing I pride myself on with this blog is that it's
honest.  When I 'review' a comic or book, I'll tell you what
I think about it with no fear or favour.  Looking at a couple
of other blogs who on occasion cover some of the same stuff
that I do, I'm struck by the fact that they never say anything
even remotely negative about any of it, instead just trotting
out the publishers' supplied spiel about their product.
Why's that do you think?  I'll tell you.

The couple of blogs I'm thinking of are by people con-
nected to the comic companies in some way, either by doing
freelance work from them in order to make a living, or relying
on their 'patronage' by way of being given advanced publicity
and images on upcoming or recent products.  They're essen-
tially in those companies' pockets, and won't risk incurring
their disfavour by giving you an honest, unbiased view
on any of the stuff they're featuring.

So if you want to read mere advertising, these other
blogs fit the bill.  If, however, you want to read an honest
opinion about any of the stuff publicised on this blog, then
congratulations on your taste and discernment.  You might
not agree with my review of a mag or book, but at least it
wasn't written merely to sook up to any publishers.

So come to CRIVENS! - the honest blog!


(This, of course, is an unabashed plug for my blog, and
is therefore completely biased in its favour.  But hey - it's
 an honest bias and not one I deny - so there!)


Here's a cute babe to kick-start the day -
JERRI RYAN.  Now, what was the name of
that book I asked her to get me?  Ach, forget
it.  Who wants to read at a time like this?

Wednesday, 22 February 2017


Images copyright MARVEL COMICS

Are you a comicbook fan?  Are you a MARVEL fan?
Are you a DAREDEVIL fan?  Well then, Melvin, you're
luck is in, as the newest EPIC COLLECTION of ol' Horn-
head is now available from FORBIDDEN PLANET and all
good comics shops.  This is volume 3, but don't panic, volume
2 hasn't been released yet.  (They publish them out of sequence
for some curious reason.)  Anyway, read the spiel on the back
cover (below), sell the wife or girlfriend, then rush out and
buy this 'must-have' softcover book right away.

(You know it makes sense!)


Images copyright MARVEL COMICS

For all those who haven't yet latched on to MARVEL's
The AVENGERS .1 series, above is the latest issue's cover
to whet your appetite.  On sale now at FORBIDDEN PLANET
and all good comics shops.  If you're fortunate, you might still
be able to pick up previous issues, but if not, start saving for
the soft-cover collection.  There's bound to be one.


Here's the sultry SALMA HAYEK to
remind you what a real woman looks like.
So put away that bicycle pump you use to
inflate your 'girlfriend' and set your sights
higher.  Salma is 'goddess' level - so per-
haps not quite this high for you yet.


Images copyright REBELLION

Hell's teeth!  Has it really been 40 years since 2000 A.D.
landed in newsagents' shops all across Britain?  Yup, sure has.
I must admit that 'though I took great professional pride in free-
lancing for IPC's top-selling title, it never really appealed to me
as a reader.  I far preferred MARVEL U.K.'s line of weekly
periodicals, short-lived 'though some of them were.

I probably gave up on 2000 A.D. after #3, the last of the
initial free gift issues.  The comic was too bleak, too negative,
too dystopian for my tastes.  There was nothing about any of the
future scenarios displayed within its pages that was desirable, and
in which any sane and sensible person would want to live.  PAT
MILLS, the creator of the comic, had nothing but disdain (if
not outright contempt) for superheroes, whereas it was my
ambition to become one.  (Haven't given up hope yet.)

The cover of #1, 1977

So 2000 A.D. wasn't for me.  I collected a short run of
issues around 1979, but jumped ship again when it reverted
to cheap newsprint after having enjoyed superior printing for
a while.  I didn't pick it up again until I began freelancing for the
comic at the beginning of 1986, and the only real 'thrill-power'
I ever experienced was seeing my name in print (or getting
paid), as most of the stories failed to impress me.

Oh, they were competent and professional, but trying
just a bit too hard to be 'down wiv the kids', who, it seemed
to me, were attracted to the mag not for any quality of writing,
but for the violence.  (I was once in a newsagent's, when I over-
heard two kids trying to persuade their parents to buy them an
issue.  "It's great - you see people getting their arms and
heads chopped off and being blown to bits!")

Cover of the 'dummy' issue

However, 40 years is 40 years, and I'm glad to see that
2000 A.D. yet survives.  True, it sells nowhere near as many
copies as it did in my day, and I suspect it's being kept going (on
'life-support') more for the potential exploitation in other media
(movies, games, etc.) of its properties, than because of any profit
brought in from the comic itself.  I still have a fond affection for
it 'though, even if it's more from a former contributor's perspec-
tive than a reader's.  Which is why I made a point of picking
up the 40th Anniversary Special when I saw it today.

I have to be honest - looking through its pages, I don't
feel particularly motivated to read it.  Murky, muddy colour
in the JUDGE DREDD strip, and trying far too hard to be wild
and wacky, but in an embarrassing, 'drunk uncle at a party' way
that doesn't do it any favours.  SLAINE rips off takes inspiration
from the BLACK KNIGHT fight scene in MONTY PYTHON &
The HOLY GRAIL and displays neither wit nor wisdom, serv-
ing only to reinforce the juvenile (if not infantile) humour aspect
that permeated the title many years back, when writers who re-
garded themselves as too good for 'children's' comics started
trying to be clever for their own amusement, and proved
only that they were too far up their own @rses.

It was good seeing JOHNNY ALPHA and DURHAM
RED again, drawn, as in my day, by CARLOS EZQUERRA,
but it felt odd seeing the strip without my lettering.  (After this
post, there's no chance of that ever happening again, eh?)  To
be frank, this issue seems altogether irrelevant and superficial,
and I'd be surprised ('though not unhappy) if 2000 A.D. ever
manages to match The DANDY's or The BEANO's 75
year, British record-breaking run.

However, don't let me put you off from joining in the
40th Birthday celebrations - buy a copy today and make up
your own minds.  Then give me hell in the comments section.
"Unleash the dogs of war!"  (But don't dare dirty the
carpet with paw-prints or doggie-poo, understood?)

See?  Even THARG can lie

Tuesday, 21 February 2017


I asked MADDIE to help me with some-
thing earlier on, but she said she couldn't as
she had her hands full.  Always got an excuse,
that girl. I don't know why I keep her around.
(Must be some reason or other, but I just
can't think what it could be.)

Monday, 20 February 2017


The teacher's table sat in front of (and parallel to) the stage

I was rather shy and introverted as a primary school
pupil and didn't mix well with my fellows.  Back in my day,
it was the practice to pair off with a classmate when en route
to anywhere in the school by saying "Take!", and clasping the
hand of the favoured (or simply available) choice of partner
before making our way (in a double-filed line) to which-
ever part of the school we were led by the teacher.

One day (in 1966), the bell rang for dinner, and the
playground emptied as the throng of kids made its way
into the corridor outside the dining hall, pairing off while
awaiting permission to enter.  (I'm unsure why we were in
the playground at dinnertime, but we were.  Perhaps we
were the second wave of hungry diners that day.)

Anyway, I hung back because I didn't have a pupil to
pair off with - for two reasons.  Firstly, no one picked me,
and secondly, I was just too shy to put myself forward.  My
brother found me lurking in the corridor and enquired why I
wasn't in the hall filling my face.  I explained my situation and
he took me to see Mr. Curry, the janitor.  Wishing to avoid
embarrassing me by saying "He's too shy to go into the hall
by himself", he just said  "He was at the far end of the
playground and didn't hear the dinner-bell."

Mr. Curry took me to the door of the hall, opened it
and actually whistled to the teachers sat at the 'top table'.
Mr. Halliburton, the depute head looked over, and Mr.
Curry nodded at me in a contemptuous manner.  "Didn't
hear the bell," he explained as  Mr. Halliburton came
over, in a tone which suggested "a likely story".

Without saying a word, Mr. Halliburton grabbed me by
the back of my collar and, no exaggeration, my feet barely
scuffed the stairs as he ascended to his classroom on the top
floor.  There, he administered several strokes of 'the strap',
with such severity I had the wind knocked out of me.  Then
he dragged me back down to the hall and said to one of
the dinner ladies "Give this boy his food!"

Ignore the doorway on your left.  It was the doorway to the side of
it on your right from which Mr. Curry hailed Mr. Halliburton

I'll choose my next words very carefully.

What a nasty, sadistic b*st*rd!  No sympathy,
no empathy, no clue about how to deal with kids who were
a bit self-conscious or introverted.  How he was ever allowed
to be a teacher, never mind a headmaster (as he later became)
remains a complete mystery to me.  I met him at various times
in my teenage and adult years, and although I was always per-
fectly polite to him, I never forgot the appalling way he had
punished my 7 year-old self for merely being a bit shy and
lacking in confidence.  Schoolkids today don't know
just how fortunate they are, that's for sure.

One of his two sons was in my class in secondary
school, and I always felt a bit sorry for him.  Not that he
was a sad individual or anything like that, but I have the im-
pression that he copped a fair bit of grief simply for being his
father's son.  Mr. Halliburton hadn't been well-liked by quite
a number of pupils, and poor Neville would've had that sit-
uation to deal with, unfortunately.  Probably the opposite
of his primary school days I imagine, when none of his
classmates would've dared touch him for fear of in-
curring his pater's sadistic and unholy wrath.

I last saw Mr. Halliburton around 9 years or so ago,
but he was pretty ancient and I'd be surprised (although
undismayed) to learn that he's yet alive.  If it's not already
happened, it won't be long until it's Mr. Halliburton's turn to
see 'The Headmaster'.  I'm not so bitter over my experience
'though, that I'd begrudge him being accorded the under-
standing, insight, and mercy that he seemed incapable
of displaying towards his unfortunate pupils.

   Hey, maybe I'm a better person than I thought.


Incidentally, there's a subsequent incident involving
Mr. Halliburton where I defied his attempts to strap me
     again.  I'll tell you Criv-ites all about it another time.     


Jenny Auld - I think - enlarged from a group photo

Just learned that a retired teacher from my old secondary
school passed away last week.  JENNY AULD was her name,
and she was a well-known figure around the town as she seemed to
have lived for centuries.  I can't remember if I was ever actually in
her class, but I have an impression that she filled in for absent
teachers on a couple of occasions, so she was in 'mine'.

Thinking of a particular 'encounter' I had with her makes
me smile to this very day, as it reminds me of my teenage youth
around 1973 or '74.  A new indoor shopping complex had not long
been completed in my town, and there was some low scaffolding
attached to a wall at the side of the opening to the underpass
which led into the new retail centre known as The Plaza.

Me and a friend by the name of 'Adam Cowie' (who
regular readers will know as 'Billy Liar') were swinging like
a couple of monkeys on one of the scaffolding bars one Saturday
afternoon, when who should turn the corner but Jenny Auld her-
self.  She looked at us quizzically and then said "Must you?"
in a mildly-reproving (but not totally unfriendly) tone.

My friend and I looked at one another for a second, then
returned our gaze to her.  "Yes - we must!" we said in mock-
falsetto voices in unison - then burst out laughing.  She raised her
eyebrows as she passed, but I thought I could detect the hint of
an amused smile about her lips.  We did wonder if we might
get 'pulled up' at school on Monday, but we weren't.

Even to this day, if ever I hear an exasperated parent
enquire of their unruly offspring "Must you?", I can't suppress
the small voice in my head that automatically responds "Yes - we
must!"  Then I smile to myself, and for a moment I'm back in the
early 1970s, when my town was a smaller, younger and better
place than it is now.  (Just like me, come to think of it.)

Here's to Jenny - may she rest in peace.

Sunday, 19 February 2017


Pin-up of The THING, FF #2.  Images copyright MARVEL COMICS

Are you in for a treat!  No, that's not a question, it's a
statement of fact.  ALAN McKENZIE, writer, editor, and a
former wearer of 2000 A.D.'s mantle of THARG, has graciously
written the following guest post which you're now about to read
(if you're smart).  I'm making a rod for my own back here, because
after you've read Al's post, the ones I write in future might seem
disappointing by comparison.  Never mind, I'll just have to
up my game.  Ready?  Okay, Al - take it away.


I was thinking about The Thing recently.  Mostly because I
was writing a post over on my 'Marvel in the Silver Age' blog, all
about the Human Torch stories in Marvel's Strange Tales mags
of the early '60s.  Back then, it seemed that no one could agree on what
The Thing looked like.  Even Jack Kirby drew him in different ways
in different titles...or so I thought.  But as I started to look at different
comics that included the character during those formative years,
it seemed more and more like there was a definite timeline.

Narrow doorways?  Then how did he get into the store?  (From FF #1)

In the first few issues of Fantastic Four, Jack Kirby was draw-
ing The Thing like a big shapeless lump of orange clay.  This 'mud-
slide' Thing would last just a few months before Kirby started to tinker
with his appearance.  So in the first issue of FF (dated Nov 1961, on sale
in Aug), Ben Grimm's monstrous alter ego looked...well, kinda monstrous.
There's no real shape to him.  His head seems to join directly to his shoul-
ders without the benefit of a neck.  I'm guessing Kirby's thinking here was
to make him look like a heavyweight wrestler, or an over-developed body- brown underpants.  And he acted all monstrous, as well.  He
seemed constantly in a bad mood and there was a real sense of danger
to the character.  There was also a weird undercurrent that he
fancied Sue Storm and wanted her for himself.

Yeah, right.  Lose your temper, reach for a tree.  I do it all the time

It's been said elsewhere that the cosmic quartet are based on
alchemical elements.  Mister Fantastic is Water, because his body
can flow into any shape.  The Human Torch is Fire, of course.  The
Invisible Girl is Air.  And The Thing is Earth...which fits his 'mud-
slide' appearance.  The second issue of FF (dated Jan '62) included a pin-
up of The Thing, which gave us a really good look at the character, pen-
cilled by Jack Kirby and inked by George Klein.  There's no reason to
think that Klein was in any way stamping his own version of The Thing
on top of Kirby's original pencils.  This would have been the way
Kirby was drawing the character at this point.

The THING rips off his costume.  Be still my beating heart

With FF #3 (dated Mar '62), there was a bit of a shift away from
super-powered individuals in street clothes.  My guess is that Stan
Lee wanted the characters to have costumes - or maybe it was publisher
Martin Goodman - but anyhow, first chance he got, The Thing ripped
his costume to shreds, so there's not much doubt on where Kirby stood.
('Though, on the pencils for page 7, Sue was wearing a mask, her intention
being they'd all cover their faces - but it was erased before inking.)  There
wasn't any real change in FF #5, except that The Thing was now in blue
underpants and black booties.  He was still the same old mudslide, pen-
cilled by Kirby and inked, for the first time, by Joe Sinnott.  Below,
left, is a nice page of original art from FF #5 which better shows
how the character looked at this point in his development.

In FF #6 (dated Sep '62 - above, right), inked by Dick Ayers for
the first time, The Thing has lost the boots and gained a neck.  There
seemed to be a move away from the mudslide look and Ayers was inking
Ben Grimm as though his skin had the texture of dinosaur hide.  And this
look would persist for the next year and a bit, so I'd always believed that's
what Kirby had intended.   But here's something startling I noticed.  Take
a look (below) at how Jack drew The Thing on the cover of FF #7 (dated
Nov '62), just a year after his initial appearance.  It's the 'blocky' Thing
readers would later come to know and love, but more commonly asso-
ciate with the character's look in 1964.  And we know this is what
JK intended because he inked his own cover pencils on #7.

Meanwhile, inside the mag (above, left), The Thing is still inked by
Ayers to look like he has dinosaur hide.  Over the next year or so, we'd
continue to have the dinosaur-hide Thing in the Ayers-inked stories.  I'm
not saying Ayers invented the dinosaur-hide look though.  In fact, below
is a pencil sketch by Jack likely done in the early part of '62 which shows
otherwise...but I do think Ayers was responsible for keeping the dino-
saur-hide Thing going (possibly at Stan's instruction) long past the
point when JK had moved on from that particular look.

1962 pencil drawing of The THING for

There he goes, ripping off his clothes again - swoon!  (FF #18)

With FF #18 (dated Sep '63), the blocky Thing made yet an-
other appearance, on the cover (above), inked by Paul Reinman
...though inside the comic, we still had Ayers' dinosaur-hide Thing.  It
wouldn't be until Ayers was moved onto other assignments by Stan,
that George Roussos (as Bell) would come in - at FF #21 (dated
Dec '63) - and start inking The Thing the way that Jack Kirby
was pencilling all his blocky glory (below).

The rocky, blocky THING that fans came to know and love

And simply because I came across them while looking for
images for this article, above is a Jack Kirby pencil drawing of
The Fantastic Four from 1965 (Marie Severin redrew The Torch
figure), and a later one from 1977, both depicting the familiar blocky
Thing.  Much, much later, other hands - John Byrne, I'm looking at
you - would revive the look of good old mudslide Thing for an enter-
taining run of issues (during his tenure from FF #232, dated Jul 1981 -
#293, dated Aug '86).  In #238, Mister Fantastic tried once again to
cure Ben's condition...the outcome was that The Thing reverted
to his original, mudslide appearance.  The condition would last
for a couple of years before The Thing mutated again...

...but that's a tale for another time.


And a great big Crivens thanks to Al for taking the time and
trouble to write this fascinating guest post.  Feel entirely free
to register your appreciation in our comments section.


You can write your own caption for the beautiful
BERNADETTE PETERS.  I'm off for a lie down.

Saturday, 18 February 2017


A TV show I loved in the 1970s was ROOBARB
& CUSTARD, narrated by RICHARD BRIERS.  The
animation was shaky (deliberately so), the storylines were
mental, and the theme tune was brilliant.  I was glad to see
some comic strips based on the show in the TV COMIC
Annual for 1977 (which I bought near the end of '76),
so I thought you might like to see them too.

(TV Comic Annual 1977 - the gift that keeps on giving.)


I don't know if BARNEY BEAR ever appeared in
a comic strip in America, but he had his own page in the
weekly TV COMIC here in Britain.  The strips featured
in this post were drawn by BILL TITCOMBE, one of
the finest cartoonists this country ever produced.

So, enjoy a 'threesome' of Barney Bear strips from
TV Comic Annual for 1977 (issued in '76).  Go on, have
a laugh on me.  (On, I said, not at, you rascals.)

(Note that the stories have an element of wit about
them, usually lacking in today's offerings.  If they were
still writing them like this, maybe more people would
be buying what few British comics remain.)

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