Save The Dandy – A call to arms

dansav01.jpg

Again.

There’s been quite a lot written about the decline in Dandy sales lately, a lot of it in the form of mouth-foaming ravings on blog comments. These basically split into the “the artwork isn’t that great” camp and the “it’s just what the modern style is like and besides sales of everything are dropping” camp. (The third camp being bewildered casual fans wondering what on earth provoked such fury, such as me). If you ask me in amongst all the molten lolva flowing from the trollcano there were some valid points. However neither side seemed willing to accept the other viewpoint at all, meeting it with circular arguments and personal attacks. (NB: I’ll spare you the links as they were all full of swearing and I want to keep this blog clean, it’s part of my self-publishing site… at the moment the only working part!)

All of this actually made me stop caring about the Dandy. But then I thought why let that get me down? I’m jingoistic and patriotic and usually champion century-old story papers nobody’s even heard of. Of course I should be standing up for our longest-running comic!

What can we do?

Comments from people who work on the Dandy, and parents of children who get it regularly, seem to suggest that actually kids do like it as it is at present. Of course there may be room for improvement and perhaps they’d like it even better if it had 1960’s style Dudley D Watkins artwork. BUT if it goes to the wall it will never have a chance to improve. Lets get the sales up first and worry about the details afterwards.

How can we get the sales up? Well DC Thomson haven’t exactly got Marvel or DC money behind them, they can’t afford mass advertising campaigns to raise awareness of their titles. These are often poorly distributed (not seen the Dandy in Tesco for a while now, for instance) or buried under a ton of stupid toy-covered tie-in rubbish. So, let’s not rely on DC Thomson buying adverts, lets use the oldest trick in the book…

 dansav02.jpg

It was ancient when this was printed!

What trick is that? The trick that they had to rely on when newspapers and magazines were full of ads for quack remedies, there was maybe 3 radio receivers in the whole world and television was a charming theory…

 dansav03.jpg

Yes, lets advertise the comic ourselves! Lets assume out of the 7,500-odd readers that 6,500 are “regulars” and the others might get it one week and not the next. It’s possible that the regulars will know the irregulars and may be able to persuade them to get it more often. And of course there are the friends at school who may not get any comics. If anybody from the Dandy is out there it’s certainly worth a go!

And for those of us “rather beyond” the target age group, we must know somebody with young children! Comic fans are the best-placed to remind new parents that combined words and pictures help develop to literacy. You could even mention that you are trying to learn a foreign language and want to buy comics in that language, then idly add “it’s how I learned English in the first place!”

 mansave07.jpg

Koko, then something about listening… erm…

And then of course there are other comic forums populated by people who may live in Britain but who primarily read American, Franco-Belgian or Japanese comics. Are you a member? Try and get people to rally around one of their home-grown icons!

Finally there’s a slightly more unorthodox tactic. Ever hear of guerrilla gardening? What about guerrilla comic placing? I may have subscribed to the Dandy now (£15 for 15 issues and free delivery!) but, well, I don’t exactly have much room…

dansav04.jpg – dansav05.jpg – dansav06.jpg

Oh dear

…nor am I really that interested in modern comedy comics, preferring 100 year old adventure papers. So once I’ve read the Dandy’s I’ll be leaving them in places that kids or parents might find them. Because if they read it themselves and decide they want more, the job’s done! (Mind you, make sure that your “guerrilla comic placing” doesn’t get confused with “littering”! )

And before I go, that subscription link again!

http://www.dcthomsonshop.co.uk/Group-Dandy.aspx

Warne’s Pleasure Book for Girls 1940

This is one of my favourite annuals. I got it ages ago, can’t even remember where from, and read a couple of the stories in it. Then a while back I thought that I had far too many annuals from the 20’s to 50’s that I’d only half read, so decided to carry on with this one. And then I could barely put it down!

 wpb40_01.jpg

Had to be careful though, it’s in very tatty condition!

The copyright is dated 1940, but it was probably released in late 1939, intended to be bought as a Christmas present. So despite being “dated” to the year associated with the Battle of Britain and the Blitz the stories were likely all finished and arriving in the editor’s office before war was declared. It has about 200 un-numbered pages on thick cardboard-like paper, which would have been difficult to justify as the shortage of paper became more acute.

wpb40_02.jpg

The “one coloured plate” is missing from this copy!

Usually in these sorts of books the stories would all be of about the same length, but here they are varied. Some are only 3-4 pages long but others go on for 10 or more. There’s quite a lot of illustrations too, though some of the shortest stories don’t have any.

My Lady Mercury – Elizabeth Rogers

Jane-Anne Morrison wants to get a job at Hanton Morning Post as a journalist. Her qualification for the job being that she owns and flies her own aeroplane! Her rich father has died and left much less money than she expected. She’d be sensible to sell the house and plane and settle down in an office, but that doesn’t suit her!

She doesn’t make much of a good impression on her ogre of a manager to begin with. For a start she doesn’t have a camera! However she procures one from another reporter who is escaping to the colonies, and is soon sent off to cover her first assignment – a stricken ship that’s stuck on a rocky shore and being pounded to pieces. As she circles over it she can see that the rescuers on shore are unable to get a line to the ship and rescue the stranded sailors. She quickly lands and offers to fly over and drop the line for them.

wpb40_03.jpg

Planes could do that sort of thing then

The line-drop is successful and the sailors are saved. She duly writes up an account of the wreck and submits it, however her manager is angry. She didn’t put anything in about the brave pilot who dropped a rope and rescued the crew! She grudgingly admits exactly who that pilot was… and the job is secure!

The Servant of Kali – May Wynne

Myrtle has travelled out to India to join her cousin Auriel Manton. Superstitous villagers nearby believe that an old woman who lives on her own is a were tiger who carries away children to devour. If they do murder the woman then the British governor of the district will probably exact a harsh punishment, which will result in a violent uprising.

The old woman’s son then shows up, saying that the villagers want to sacrifice the old woman in the name of Kali (the goddess of death and rebirth) to stave off the attentions of Devi (apparently the god of Cholera… not sure if that’s really believed in India!) . However he then says that Myrtle looks just like Kali, and with a little make up and the aid of a secret passage which he has discovered in a nearby ruined temple (beleived to be haunted) his mother could be saved.

As the sacrificial ceremony rises to fever pitch the villagers are surprised to see Kali herself emerge from the forest! The goddess claims that the old woman is her faithful servant, and that the village witch-doctor is a liar. The old lady and her son end their days in peace and comfort, showered with gifts from the villagers who are glad they didn’t make a tragic mistake.

 wpb40_04.jpg

What would happen when they noticed “Kali” hanging around the governor’s house isn’t recorded.

Understudy – R.C. Barnard

Vivienne and Pamela Marsh are twins but very different. Vivienne is popular, beautiful and effortless, whereas Pam is shy, quiet and a hard worker. The story is narrated by “Micky”, who tells of Vivienne writing a nasty poem about a teacher. The teacher gets hold of it but Pam, as usual, takes responsibility (and the detention) so that her sister can play in an important tennis match.

Coming up is a play about Bonnie Prince Charlie. Vivienne is booked to play the prince (it’s an all girl’s school, after all!). Pam is understudying (or “the backup”) for a minor character. Micky goes to visit Pam to borrow a dictionary and is invited to tea with one of their mother’s old school friends. Viv isn’t able to go because she promised to visit and friend, and her understudy for the play, called Ione.

They duly visit the woman, Miss Charlotte Miggs, at her house called Pixie Hollow. They expect her to be “school marmish” but actually she is very friendly.

wpb40_05.jpg

This artist is about as good at distinctive faces as, well, me.

Mrs Miggs insists that Pam is a good actor, as the conversation has turned to the play. But Pam says she’d be scared to act in front of a large audience. The girls also notice a lot of pictures of a myserious “Charles”, who appears to be something in theatre.

As the play approaches Vivienne and Ione go off together again, and stay late at Ione’s house. Her brother offers to rush them back to school before curfew, but “rushes too much” and crashes the car. Neither girl is badly hurt but neither can act either. Vivienne insists her sister takes over her role in the play! She does so and is a huge success. Mrs Miggs and two men are watching it, and at the end the girls discover one of them men is Charles Court, a famous playwright, and the other is a celebrated literary critic who gives Pam a special mention in his write up of the play for the local paper.

Things Do Happen – M.A. James

This story revolves around a group of boy scouts and girl guides called The Kitterlings, after their masters Tom and Tabby Kitterling. They are on a tour of “the desert” and actually finding it quite boring. However that all changes when they stop at an oasis and are taken hostage by a tribe of Arabs! They are made to drive their bus to a fortified town where they are kept hostage, the Arabs apparently thinking treasure is hidden somewhere in the bus.

wpb40_06.jpg

You can see why Commando artists like desert stories!

After a few days in which nothing happens all the young men of the city ride out to fight another tribe. At their meal that day an ancient man counts them all. The man touches them to count them and they realise he must be almost blind, and decide to try and escape.

Later a woman called Fatima reveals she can speak English and wants to help them get away. At their meal that night Tony hides while Stephen is counted once, darts under the table and then is counted again, the scheme works – meaning somebody can escape unnoticed!  Fatima’s granddaughter has a house with a window that looks out on the desert, so Tony is lowered from it by rope. He waits the night in a nearby Oued (or Wadi) and in the morning Fatima brings him a “stray” donkey. He rides into the desert and finally meets a search party. They return to the city and find the fighting men have not come back, so they easily free the other and continue their holiday… all the better for that bit of excitement!

The Midnight Mystery – B.L. Cormack

This is the best story in the book, and the first one I read when I picked it up again! Eve Warren and Mary Marsden are on holiday in a small village in Cornwall. They stay with Mary’s father Dr Marsden in a small inn run by a Mr Treloar. At night Mary, with her head full of romantic ideas about smugglers, can’t sleep and hears a strange tapping coming from the church across the road. In the morning Jake Treloar explains that it was caused by a rope knocking against the church flagpole, which happens when there’s an east wind. Later they are exploring the church and find an ancient door. Up pops Jake to explain that it leads to an old staircase in the tower, but is now locked for safety.

That night it’s Eve who stays awake and hears the tapping. Later she hears horses. She wakes Mary and they watch several horses amble their way through the village with nobody to attend them.

 wpb40_07.jpg

I love this moody, moonlit picture.

The next morning Jake explains that the horses belong to gypsies who are camped near the village. Eve and Mary wander off to visit them. On the way, though, Eve says there’s something mysterious going on. First of all Jake didn’t explain why the horses came back later on with their saddle bags loaded, he also failed to explain why the “unused” door handle was oiled and not dusty. Plus the rope that taps in an easterly wind had actually been tapping in a westerly wind… and tapping in morse code!

They reach the gypsy camp and there learn that it’s on the land of a Farmer Mead, who is very rich in a time when other farmers are struggling, he even owns an aeroplane! That night they stay awake and listen to the morse code tapping, which says “OK” over and over*. They sneak out of the house, being surprised by the cat, and see the horses wandering along again. Eve also sees somebody creep into the church, and follows. The mysterious door is now open, she enters but then hides in a narrow niche as somebody comes down the stairs and passes her. Then he slams and locks the door! Eve leans back in the niche in despair, but then finds the back of it is another door, leading to a narrow tunnel crammed with barrels of smuggled brandy!

 wpb40_08.jpg

Guess who?

Meanwhile Mary follows the wandering horses. They travel down the road to a closed door in a walled garden. Mary sneaks through and finds herself in Farmer Mead’s private aerodrome, and his plane is just coming in to land! As expected the pilot and navigator are smugglers! They run the plane into it’s hangar, then load up the horses. Mary then acts and slams the door on them, locking it with the key they left outside. She then races back to the village, uphill most of the way, and wakes Dr Marsden. They catch Jake Treloar in the act of unloading the horses as they pass back the other way, then race to tell the excise officer all about the plot. In the meantime Eve shows up, having muffled one of the bells in the church and slid down the rope!

*-Despite a snooty (aren’t they all?) letter in Spaceship Away stating that the phrase “OK” wasn’t used in Britain until at least the 1960’s

Trespassers Will Be Prosecuted  – Hilda Harris

This is an odd one, it starts out as another spooky mystery story and then, er…

Anyway, Noreen, Margaret and Cecile are staying at a bungalow built by Margaret’s father, and are trying to dig a lily pond. Meanwhile some boys camping up the road, one called Sandy among them, constantly offer to help. Cecile sends them packing, angrily saying the pond will be finished the next day. They also discuss a fourth boy at the camp who they have only ever seen at a distance.

Later the boys paddle up the nearby river and begin fishing on the opposite bank, so they can watch the girls and make the odd cutting remark. Cecile fails to persuade them that it’s private property, so decides instead to “see about dinner”, instead doubling off to un-peg and flatten the boys’ tents! However as she creeps around their camp an arm pokes out from under one of them and grabs her hand. The boy inside tries to accuse her of stealing, and then says it’s a shame she and the other girls can’t be more sociable to his friends. She promises to do that if he will let her go, and he does. The only clue to his identity, however, is a strange ring on one finger.

She returns to the bungalow and recounts what has happened. The girls wonder if the boys are shielding an escaped convict or some such person. However they have almost finished their pond, and dug a channel almost up to the river with which to fill it. The next day Cecile hears about a mad bull that escaped the nearby farm recently, and a brave stranger who rescued a young child from it. That night they hear strange noises in the garden, which their imaginations take to be the sound of a dead body being dropped and somebody digging a hole to bury it in. However then a fierce storm breaks and they forget all about the other sounds.

When Noreen wakes in the morning she stretches out her hand and touches… water! They only then realise the river that they dug a channel up to was higher than the level of the house. That’s what the boys were trying to warn them about! One of them turns up on a boat, and Cecile realises he is the mysterious fourth one. Back at their camp the boys explain that Margaret’s father had taken them camping the year before, and had irritated them by playing his cornet. One night they had buried it, only inches from where the girls had been digging their pond! All seven of them agree to patch up the riverbank, then retrieve the dreaded instrument and re-bury it miles away!

An Exciting Night – Marjorie Cleves

Agnes, Cassie, Peggy, Nita and Stella are young girls at a boarding school. They are planning a midnight feast but don’t know where to hold it. The dorm is too risky as they were nearly caught before, and the gym is usually locked and close to the teacher’s rooms. Then Peggy decides to hold the feast in the “sanny” – the sanatorium, the schools sick-rooms which in those days before widespread vaccinations were separated from the school proper for safety.

Four of them – Agnes out of action with tootache, creep over to the supposedly empty building and hold their feast. However suddenly they hear small feet running upstairs – somebody is there after all! The next second the fire alarm goes off. Peggy and Nita rush upstairs rather than out of the window to safety, and discover the nurse with several frightened young children. They also discover that it’s the sanny that is on fire! The nurse can’t handle the young children on her own, but the older girls turning up allows them to all be escorted to safety. They have to come clean to the headmistress, but their heroism saves them from punishment!

The Shadow of a Dream – Mary Gervaise

Margery-Anne rants at her brothers Tim and Tony, and her cousin Jerry, after they kill a vixen she had rescued some years before and named Amber. She decides to go out rather than stay in her room, as her father ordered, and wanders down to a nearby wood with a stream running through it. As she walks into the wood she also walks back in time to the Sixteenth Century and meets Mary, Queen of Scots. Like ya do.

wpb40_09.jpg

Oh and also transforms into her ancestor who lived in those times

The sixteenth century Margery-Anne is in a similar position to the twentieth century one, her dove has been killed by the falcon owned by one of her father’s guests. She realises these women are those guests and argues with them, not realising to begin with who the queen is. When she realises she is shocked, but the queen sets her mind at ease. They then talk for a while. The queen laments that there is not enough tolerance in the world, while Margery-Anne sometimes lets slip odd strange words such as “rheumatism”.

The queen gives her a ring, and the world seems to spin. Margery-Anne then wakes up in the twentieth century again, finding she had tripped and knocked herself out. She apologises to her family for getting so angry at them and they forgive her.

The Twins’ Adventure – Dorothy Burdett

This one is set in thirties South Africa, you can well imagine what it’s like so I’ll spare you the details that other blogs would obsess over. Anyway Wilhelmina and Berta Van Dyne live at their father’s farm. One of their old servants, Methuselah comes running up to say that Maggie, the prize cow, has gone missing. They tell the manager of the farm (their parents are away) who says she’s probably just strayed. Then Methuselah also goes missing and the manager assumes he has stolen the cow, along with various other items that have gone missing.

The girls find Methuselah in the stables, though, and he says he went off and discovered the missing items in a valley at a “farm” run by Piet, who used to work on the Van Dyne’s farm but was always stealing things, so got sacked. Piet says he has started his own farm with the “excess” stuff from the Van Dyne’s farm. The girls lament that he has not had “white man’s teaching” which would make him realise that taking stuff without paying for it is always stealing. Piet also says he has control over the other farm workers with his “magic”, which “is the colour of fire and falls like blood”.

They ask to see the “magic” and Wilhelmina realises it’s just a bottle of iodine. She goes back to the farm and returns with some other chemicals that remove the colour from iodine. She then offers to test Piet’s magic with “ordeal by water”. He accepts, having all his followers around him by now. She pours on the chemicals and turns the iodine transparent, or to the eyes of the uneducated “into water”. Piet’s followers realise that “white man’s magic” is stronger than his, and desert him. Later he gets a job at another farm where the workers have all been taught at a mission school, and so might have a sobering effect on him.

The Capture of the Note Forgers – James Taylor

Rod and Flossie Thaxter are the children of the local policeman, Inspector Thaxter, in a small sleepy village by the sea. A detective called Murchison has come down to investigate the source of forged notes that appear to originate in the district. The enthusiastic children, especially Rod, want to help, but he refuses them. Rod is bored with building a wireless set and decides they should try and run the crooks down themselves, starting by sailing to a small island in the bay.

They take their little boat out, but are annoyed to find the police launch there already. Rod goes ashore but runs into Murchison, who sends him away. As they sail back they discover a heavy fog has come in. They decide to stop and drift with the tide, as there’s less chance of hitting anything that way. They eventually run up against an anchored boat, and Rod can hear printing presses at work inside!

 wpb40_10.jpg

Always print in a well ventilated space!

Rod sneaks aboard the ship and quietly closes and bolts the hatches, trapping the forgers inside. Then he tells Flossie to row back to land and fetch the police. The forgers realise they are caught and begin to throw incriminating evidence overboard, but it drifts towards land and is picked up by the police. For their neat bottling-up Rod and Flossie later receive a new wireless.

The Coming of Kitty – Emmeline Carr

Kitty Denville is a new girl at St Sybils. She is sharing a room with Bertha Weston and Flora Mould. Flora is a bit of a snob, and especially upset about Kitty coming to the school, because her dad was a bricklayer and made his money by working his way up through the trade. Kitty arrives and gets a very frosty reception from Flora, but the other girls like her. She’s also very good at Netball, and after a practice match gets a place in the school team.

Flora doesn’t see the practice match and assumes the team will do badly, especially as the player Kitty replaced knew Flora’s methods better. An important match arrives and St Sybil’s win the toss, Kitty starting the play. She passes to Flora, who fails to catch the ball and soon the opposing team are walking all over them.

At half time Flora decides that obviously “something” is wrong with the team, with a pointed glare at Kitty. Kitty however suggests they just need to be faster and attack constantly. The rest of the team agrees and so they put this into practice. Flora even makes an effort and at the end they manage to even the scores and finally win 7-5. The narrator (who isn’t named) is then surprised to see Kitty and Flora chatting away like old friends!

Pluck! – Courtenay Hayes

An elderly colonel is talking to his friends around the fireside about an elderly couple he met in his young days in Canada. He relates a story they told him about when they were young and Britain was only just starting to conquer that vast, frozen land.

The couple, the Frasers, had married and then gone off to Mr Fraser’s farmstead. They had a tough journey but finally arrived. Mr Fraser showed his new wife how to load and fire a rifle, then went off to collect firewood. He came back later with his leg badly crushed from a tree that fell on it. He is able to gasp “I’ve seen a trapper” before collapsing.

Mrs Fraser decides she can’t leave the farm because she’d only get lost, but there’s plenty of food and water. That night the house is besieged by huge grey timber wolves. They snuffle around the barn door and drive the cow within mad. In the morning she can’t feed the cow, so has to shoot it along with the calf it has wounded. She skins the calf and hauls it’s body up into the rafters, then goes to tend to her husband. In the night terrifying noises come from the barn, the door of which she’d accidentally left open, as the wolves have a feast.

The next day her husband is better and no longer raving. He explains that the trapper has gone for help from a large settlement, and teaches her to aim properly. The next night passes much like the one before, but the night after the wolves have run out of beef and decide to try human! Mrs Fraser is ready and waiting and shoots down the leader of the pack as soon as he shows himself. The other wolves take off and don’t return, not even to eat their former leader. The next morning help arrives.

 wpb40_11.jpg

Ahh the idyllic log cabin existence

The colonel ends his story by saying that tigers can’t compare with women in times of trouble!

The Joker – Irene L. Plunket

A girl called Naomi Dewhurst arrives at school and longs to make friends with the popular girl, Marcia Gavan. However according to her dorm-mate Queenie Stevens Marcia thinks she is plain and stupid. Then twists Naomi’s words to make her sound arrogant and so turns most of the other girls against her.

However Marcia herself doesn’t seem to mind the shy Naomi. Also one of the prefects, Theresa Marney, complements Naomi on her fielding, she has several brothers and always plays cricket with them. However Naomi is still dreading an upcoming fancy dress ball as she has nobody to go with. She decides to go as a joker, so nobody will recognise her and she can ignore them all. The dance comes and she gets to ridicule Queenie. She then talks to Marcia who tells her that she doesn’t want Queenie to move into her room after all, and never said the things Queenie had accused her of. This is a wierd one!

Sent Off The Field – Emmeline Carr

Ann trevors and the narrator of the story change schools from Cliff House (Presumably not the one from the Bessie Bunter stories!). Ann is brilliant at hockey and the captain of the school’s team, Dora Brierly, offers to try her out. However Ann has promised her parents that she’ll study hard at the new school, so turns it down. Because of this the fourth loses an inter-house match with the fifth.

Later on a player called Rita Fay gets angry at the teacher/referee during a game against Greyton school and is sent off. This also means she is banned for a month. With several other players ill an upcoming match looks like it will be a disaster until Ann is told by her form mistress that it’s good to play the odd game now and then. Rita isn’t happy about a new, un-tried girl having a place in the team, and isn’t shy about telling everybody.

Then just before the big match it snows heavily, postponing the game and allowing Rita back into the team. She is surprised to find that both her and Ann are in the team, and she has to do a bit of a U-turn. However in the match they make a great combination and score the winning goal. After that they are the best of friends

The Strike at The Green Pits – Maud Morin

Kitty Barton, a guide in a small mining village, is taking food to the poorest families in the village, who can’t feed their children because they men are on strike and so aren’t being paid. She is the daughter of the mine manager, but her nanny used to be the wife of a miner and so is organising handouts to at least keep the children fed. Kitty looks in on an old lady in the village, then carries on to the town of Haford, despite being warned that the strikers there are looking for trouble.

She arrives at the town and one miner won’t even let her in his house. Then when she is helping another family she hears of a deputation of the younger and more determined strikers are off to her father’s house to “make him see reason”. Kitty’s four brothers and younger sister are playing cricket when they see the strikers approaching. They run inside and close all the shutters in the windows.

wpb40_12.jpg

Signed illustration! Didn’t notice that until just now

The strikers arrive while the nanny is still trying to persuade Mr Barton to stay indoors. A few of them throw some stones at the house, and he steps out onto the top of the porch to address the crowd. Kitty meanwhile has climbed up some vines and stands beside him, when a stone thrown from the back of the crowd hits her. The crowd are stunned that they have been responsible for breaking a girl’s arm, and shuffle away. They “catch it hot” from thier wives and, later, the owner of the mine comes and makes a settlement. The men’s wives have the last say, though. They say it was Kitty who settled the strike!

The Queer One of The Family – Francis Cowen

Lesser blogs would be laughing up their sleeves already, but I’m better than that.  Anwyay, Nora Harwell is the youngest sister of a large family and is usually just fetching and carrying for them. She is usually left out of their games so makes her own fun by running off to the lonely moors to hide in trees or look at the countryside. She also discovers “her own secret” in the gallery in their mansion, The Moss.

Later on the family hits hard times and rents the mansion to a rich steelworks owner, while they move out to a farmhouse on the estate. The other children enjoy it at first, but gradually come to see the steelworks owner, Mr Stillson, as a kind of enemy. They are offended when later they spot Nora daring to actually talk to him!

A few months later and it’s nearly Christmas. Nora goes missing! The family scour the snow-covered countryside for her but can’t find her. Her older sisters Joan and Betty look in at their old home. Mr Stillson is having a party, but hasn’t seen her. However he does say that he once found her in the gallery, and she had been there to have tea with them on occasion.

About three in the morning Nora turns up, perfectly fine. She is sent to bed straight away, but as she shares the room with her sisters they get the story. When she was young she found a moving panel in the gallery, and a “blue lady” inside. She was there when the party started and so couldn’t get away until it finished. In the morning she finally has to reveal this “great secret” to her parents, who go and look at the secret room for themselves.

 wpb40_13.jpg

Nora looks kawaii

The “blue lady” is actually a famous painting, thought to have been destroyed in a fire a hundred years before. It was possible that a butler, who was injured during the fire and died shortly afterwards, had stuffed the paintings in the room to save them from the fire and from looters. There they had lain forgotten even when the gallery was rebuilt around them. The family are able to sell the pictures and so reclaim their old home.

Both Sides of a Question – Ethel Talbot

Molly Hobbs is the daughter of a farmer, and a bit of a romantic. But then she lives in a house that was built in 1550, so can’t really help it. She imagines the great fire of london and the plague being discussed under the rafters of the dining room. He father tells her that the farm has always been in the Hobbs family, only one Hobbs ever left it – he sailed on the Mayflower in 1620. He then idly mentions that some rich Americans had offered to buy the farm, but of course he had turned them down.

Molly is full of contempt for Americans, they are all rich and have flash cars she thinks. The next day she cycles to Plymouth, when she meets an American girl who is looking for the place that the Mayflower sailed from.

wpb40_14.jpg

Presumably that’s an imported huge American car!

They find the stone and look at it together. Then the American says “I wish dad’s dollars could buy this!”. Molly gets angry, accusing Americans, they who ran away to become rich, of always wanting to buy British things belonging to those who stayed behind and stayed poor. The girl says that it was hard work for those people who went, that “dollars came later” for some of them, the ones who survived! She also points out that one of the first colonies that later became the USA was called New England.

The girl then says that her ancestors came from the area and were called Hobbs, and Molly mentions she had an ancestor of that name who went. They then find out that they both have exactly the same name! American Molly says it was her father who wanted to buy the farm, but would of course not press it now he had been turned down. The British Molly returns home, realising the world is a small place after all!

A Chapter of Accidents – W. H. Morris

Joan and Peter are exploring the countryside while on holiday with their family. However later on a heavy mist rolls in and obscures everything. Then Joan stumbles and hurts her leg. Peter helps her along and they finally find an empty cottage, so both go inside. By now it’s night time and they don’t know where they are. They clamber up to the attic (by ladder) so that they might see any distant lights better. Then some men come along. Peter is about to call out when he realises they are smugglers! The house is built over an old tunnel that communicates with a river some distance away, allowing smugglers to land their goods unseen.

The mean leave and Peter realises where they are. A bell-buoy is out in the river and a coastguard boat is moored near it, they can just see it’s lights. Peter runs off and finds an abandoned, elderly boat. He helps Joan into it and they begin to row out to the coastguard’s ship. However the current in the river and the age of the boat makes them instead crash into the bell-buoy. The boat sinks like a stone and the two are left clinging to the small platform, being deafened by the bell. It’s not possible to shout to the coastguard as they are still too far away. Then Peter has the idea to muffle the bell, the silence is noticed and some of the coastguard come to investigate. The two are rescued and tell their story, and the smugglers are foiled.

Esmeralda & The Egg  – Mary Gervaise

Sybil Anderson and Jane Meadows are trying to persuade the new French girl, Esmeralda Lafayette to run in the egg and spoon race at their school sports day. However she doesn’t want to. Nancy Irene Bartlett, or “NIB” has the idea that Esmeralda doesn’t want to run in the race in case she comes last and looks foolish. They spot her in the town and try and persuade her to race again, this time buying her some sixpenny ice creams to clinch the deal!

 wpb40_15.jpg

*Inevitable mention about how 6d is 2½p as if inflation doesn’t exist*

They manage to convince Esmeralda to run in the heat at least, though she is afraid her hands would shake too much and she’d drop the egg. However later, for some reason, she announces she won’t run in the final race. She is in Coventry even more after that.

When the day of the finals arrives the three girls go off to a room to fetch some chairs, and overhear the games mistress talking to another teacher. She is ranting about how the cheating French girl had glued her egg to the spoon! The three girls then rush forwards and confess that actually it was them that put glue on the egg. They wanted her to win to cheer her up. The teacher, however, had discovered the glue and confronted Esmeralda with it, who was speechless, having not known anything about it. The teacher took this to be a sign of guilt and then… the last page is missing! >.<

The Girl With Long Hair – Marjory Royce

wpb40_16.jpg

The age of short-haired “flappers” lasted for years didn’t it?

The senior girls of St. Mauds are starting their own magazine. Jackie Edwards, Dorothy Gold and Phyllis Bond all push Joyce Warrender, the captain, into editing it. Joyce reminds them that she’ll have to be “a sort of Mussolini” and that she’ll “order contributions and you’ll have to supply them”!

At that point the long-haired Sylvia Aubrey comes in. She’s quiet and shy and always aware that she stands out among all the short-haired “flapper” girls in the school. She overheard some of the conversation and would be a far better editor for the magazine than Joyce would. But she’s in the fourth, which is the middle school and so is an outsider! She vows to edit the magazine before she leaves the school… which will be in two terms, when she is sent to another school in Paris (never mind, I’m sure ‘for some reason’ that won’t come off!).

hitler.jpeg

Paris, two terms later

She hears other girls grumbling that they have no good ideas for serial stories or articles, and wishing they’d never started the thing. She tells her friend Linda that she’d like to write one of her own stories and leave it on a table for the others to find, but that’d be too stuck-up.

A pageant is coming up in the town, but the girls of the school are forbidden to go because diseased poor people will be there(!). The seniors wish they could write about it, but daren’t go. Sylvia decides to sneak out on her own at night to see it, write a report and leave it on Joyce’s desk. She puts this plan into action that night, but on the way out of the school she remembers the motto about maintaining the honour of the school, and turns back. If the seniors and teachers found out she broke the rules to get her report it wouldn’t be worth it. However just as she returns she is caught by a teacher and sent to the headmistress. But instead of being punished as she expects, she is actually requested to act in the pageant as a last-minute replacement, being the only girl at the school with long enough hair. And so the report is written after all!

50 years of Commando coffee table book

On Monday I had the day off and decided to go to the National Army Museum in London to see the Commando exhibition. Because it wasn’t a weekend (like it is when I go to comic conventions) the Underground was actually working! The museum itself is a fair walk from the station, past the Royal Chelsea Hospital. The houses round that way are nice mind you.

 comexhib05.jpg

When I rule my own country this is what the narrowest streets will look like.

Anyway after the walk I reached the museum, which has a banner outside advertising the exhibition. It did start on the first of this month though, the banner may not stay until the end! The museum itself is deceptively small on the outside, the inside is full of maze-like small rooms crammed with informative exhibits. The actual army exhibition part goes forwards in time as you climb the stairs, the first hall is about the New Model Army, for instance, whilst the one closest to the exhibition (on the top floor) is about 40’s and 50’s National Service.

 comexhib06.jpg

comexhib07.jpg

The Commando exhibition itself is actually quite small, and confined to one room. It’s primarily original cover artwork, which is no bad thing as the work of Ken Barr, Jose Maria Jorge et al is beautiful! There’s a mixture of ages too. DC Thomson are great at keeping their original artwork, which allows for top-notch reprints. They even have the original art for the very first issue, which will be reprinted shortly. You aren’t supposed to take pictures, and a small bloke who might have been a Gurkha caught me XD. But here’s one of the ones I managed to smuggle across the lines!

 comexhib08.jpg

50 years old and it looks like the paint’s barely dry!

Apart from the cover artwork there’s actually disappointingly little else, but only so much of a “serious” museum can be turned over to “mere” comics. There’s a very brief history of boys’ adventure comics mentioning The Boys’ Own Paper (with a 1916 monthly issue on display), examples of Commando’s IPC competitors, a mention of The Victor and a copy of “Battle Action Force”. This latter was an odd choice, Battle Picture Weekly (later Battle Action) is regarded as one of the greatest British comics ever, but Battle Action Force was just a stupid toy catalogue disguised as a comic (though unfortunately a sign of things to come).

There’s also one small cabinet featuring some authentic Commando equipment such as a silenced Sten Gun, a Commando knife, a few berets (and a helmet with a nasty-looking hole!). Behind it is a painting of the famous Saint Nazaire raid, which virtually immobilised Germany’s best battleships for the rest of the war.

Unfortunately there’s almost no interior artwork (I’d love to see the fine lines of Jose Maria Jorge up close!) but there is some more curious items – examples of the “transparencies” that used to be laid over the artwork. These have the comics logo, the knife and the title painted on them. They also have the cover of issue 11 “Closer Than Brothers” assembled with it’s transparencies, as it would have been back in 1961 for the printers! Of course today all of that is added to the art digitally instead.

One final important detail is that a couple of the descriptions lament the fact that comics are not taken seriously in Britain, and that the hard work of writers and artists deserves to be recognised and remembered much better than it is. Hopefully this display will be a small step in that direction!

In the museum’s shop the 50 Years a Home for Heroes book is on sale. It will be in bookshops at the end of the month. It’s about as thick as an annual but very large!

comexhib15.jpg

Like so

As well as a general history of Commando, it also contains articles on writers and artists (“general overview” articles rather than ones for individuals, unfortunately) with some amusing anecdotes and insights into their working methods.

 comexhib17.jpg

With scattered-around bits of cover art. Here’s where keeping the originals comes in handy!

There’s also 6 reprinted stories, with 4 pages to each page at original size! Plus the covers are reproduced in colour (unlike the various other reprint books).

 comexhib16.jpg

Why yes he does have a story in there!

Finally the reprinted stories have introductions with big blow-ups of the cover art and detail on the stories, such as how they were developed with the writer, editor and artist. These pages look magnificent, and the whole book is printed on thick, heavy matte paper that really shows off the art.

comexhib18.jpg

Must be about the original size of the paintings!

Despite it’s small size this exhibition is well worth visiting. The nearest underground station is Sloane Square. From there go left down the street in the picture above, then left again and right at the crossroads past the Royal Chelsea Hospital, then just go straight! Entry is free and there’s plenty else to look at in the building too.

Roy Race gets tough on hooligans

With the “recent” (well recent by the standards of how often I update this thing) riots in Britain I thought this might be timely, I was going through a big pile of comics I got the other week and discovered an issue of Roy of the Rovers from 1980 dealing with “the British disease” of football hooligans. The days of mass brawls on the terraces (in fact, the days of terraces full stop!) are so long gone it’s kind of hard to believe they ever existed… showing things can improve! But when this comic came out hooliganism was at it’s height and people must have wondered if things were ever going to get better.

 royh01.jpg

Roy race, as well as being the star of the main story in the comic, was also it’s “editor”.

A full page has been given over to an editorial “by” Roy Race, who for the purposes of the comic “really” existed! He even mentions how his own club, Melchester Rovers, is tackling the hooligan problem. Many of the measures mentioned were being adopted by real teams, and the FA in general – for instance creating all-seater grounds (at the time only one existed in Britain), encouraging the whole family to come and watch the game and banning people convicted of violence. There’s also several harsher suggestions including locking hooligans in their own fenced-off section, and even concentration camps(!)

royh02.jpg

Boers, Hooligans… same thing!

Another feature of the comic in those days was Roy’s Talk In. There was a phone number that readers could ring and “actually” talk to Roy Race! (or at least a bewildered temp at IPC who has been thrust into a room with a phone and the odd back issue of the comic). Here it’s given a two-page spread with various suggestions recieved from people.

royh03.jpg

But wait, what’s that down the bottom?

Down the bottom of the page is a picture of a stadium that was to become one of the most infamous names in British football – Hillsborough. Various anti-hooligan measures such as fencing-in the crowds resulted in a fatal crush in 1989 when Liverpool fans crammed into one area of the stadium, and several suffocated. This disaster was also initially blamed on hooligans, with one ambulance driver being told “They’re still fighting” when he tried to drive in. It was this disaster that was the final nail in the coffin for the terraces.

royh04.jpg

 Several of the suggestions made on this pages did end up being put in place over the years.

royh05.jpg

The fences didn’t work but the “identity cards” did, in that various ways are in place to keep convicted hooligans out of future matches.

royh06.jpg

Five years later English clubs were in fact banned from European competitions because of hooliganism. They were not allowed back until 1990!

royh07.jpg

Unfortunately Sheffield Wednesday didn’t keep the standing areas closed off. It’s a difficult balancing act between people kicking off outside because they can’t get in and risking violence inside. The balance has thankfully been achieved with a tough “no ticket – no entry, so don’t bother coming!” policy.

Apart from the all-seater stadiums, better crowd control, ticket allocations and CCTV, one of other main reasons that hooliganism died out was that it was made unfashionable. Once hooligans were treated with a “boys will be boys” attitude, but nowadays anybody boasting about starting a fight among decent football fans will find themselves in Coventry pretty quickly! I bet “Roy” didn’t see that coming despite jokingly suggesting it.

 royh08.jpg

One place hooligans aren’t mentioned in this issue is the Roy of the Rover strip itself! That features Roy trying to get hold of a new goalkeeper. However the manager of the other team wants a whole two million for his best custodian, which is way too much!

royh09.jpg

“The curse of inflation, Roy!”

Hooligans had featured in the strip before though, in 1977…

 royh10.jpg

Almost doubled in price in 3 years! Now that is inflation.

royh11.jpg

“Sixty thousand people didn’t pay to watch you lot running around the pitch!”

 royh12.jpg

“Some day Titan will reprint my first year in the team as a collected book. Get that down in writing, officer!”