MCM Expo, May 2012

I’ve gone to several of the MCM Expo’s now, always the ones in London (though they are also in Birmingham, Manchester and, er, Telford). The London ones are twice a year, in May and October, and go on for three days! But I only ever go on the Saturdays. One of these days I’ll book a hotel and get the full experience. Plus I’ll make some costumes!

Anyway, On the past occasions I kept forgetting my camera, but this time I remembered. I’d been looking forward to it for a year, as last October I went to an Anglo-Japanese society Karaoke night that “got out of hand” the day before. Ahem.

I woke up at the normal work time, and first went into Ely to take some ridiculous photographs. Here is the Ely funfair:

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At 7-ish in the morning, so nothing was going on

You’ll notice it is taking up half of one of Ely’s central car parks. Now while the city does have a “park and ride” it’s really not big enough to justify having one. Plus most of the shops in the centre are girly clothes shops anyway. If you have a car, going into Ely is only suitable for quickly buying some small things, otherwise you’d go to Cambridge. So really the council wants to make as much central parking available as possible, otherwise they will just kill the town off.

Of course the funfair was once held here:

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But that’s near this:

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And so people complained that having the funfair there was “disrespectful”. And once again “rethpect for peopleth sincewy hewd beweifs” was allowed to stand in the way of progress and efficiency. Sometimes I wish we were more Chinese, I really do. Mind you the government will no doubt adopt the worst parts of China, like a national firewall, in time.

Anyway, with that lot out of the way I set off for the actual event! It’s in the Excel Centre in Docklands, which is so big you probably really can see it from space! It’s even got it’s own DLR station, and as you get nearer on MCM day the trains start to fill up with people in crazy costumes, talking about anime. Oh and about which station they are going to change at – any of the three after Bank Underground station is fine, honestly!

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A friend did an ‘interesting’ photoshoot around here. You can see this building in the background XD

Having changed trains you then stay on and are taken right to the convention’s front door! Apparently via Fukushima…

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Should we be this close?

After that there’s a “bit” of a qeue. I arrived earlier than I normally do this time (11-ish as opposed to 1-ish), so the qeue was shorter. It also seemed to be moving a lot more quickly. In previous years there’d always be people stopping to take photos of each other’s costumes, but I didn’t see as much this time around. Maybe there was some crackdown on it announced on the official website.

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Spot you!

I didn’t see any queue-jumping either, in spite of the formidable, impassable barriers that had been set up:

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Some of them were even raised off the ground!

Maybe it’s not that we don’t have no friends, we just choose them better! And meet up with all 60,000 of them twice a year…

Anyway, after queueing for about half an hour – 45 minutes, and a great many hi-fives, I finally got the “Adult Entry” wristband. For some weird reason you then ‘queue’ again to have somebody put it on you.

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Ooh, aint ‘e bold

And with that, I was finally in the convention! After walking past a vast area of empty hall. Like I said, the Excel Centre is giant. I bet you could fit all of Camcon in the room that the qeue is in. Strangely, though, they rent these two rooms but the convention itself is only held in one. The other is half-filled with the queue and then is half empty. Surely it would be better to put  some stands in there as well? Leave the main hall for the “big attractions” (Marvel, Viz Media, new games etc) and have the artists and small press in the other half of the queue hall?

As it stands, the room that the convention proper is held in can get worryingly overcrowded at times. They’ve also tinkered with the layout this year. There’s a popular (and controversial) stall that sells Yaoi, which used to be in one corner, but this time was right inside the entrance. There was also a ‘walkway’ between large merchandise stalls running at 90 degrees across the people coming in. The comics area was also strangely laid-out, with the small pressers in ‘lines’, but then with Marvel against the wall, right in the middle of the far end of the lines – resulting in major blockages. Still, it was easy to get to the small press tables!

Sweatdrop Studios, who are ‘technically’ small press, but are so well-known that they could better be described as ‘medium press’ these days, were out on their own with a large stand. If I remember rightly Emma Vieceli used to be one of the main organisers of MCM, mind you XD

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I’ve been meaning to take a pic like this for ages, in-depth post coming soon!

Saturday was incredibly hot, though the main convention hall was well ventilated and/or air conditoned, so it wasn’t as bad as you might imagine. I had to keep ‘topping up’ with deodorant mind you! I bought a few odds and ends including Bakuman book 11, which I promptly left behind at the stall selling a British comic called Formera. I went back and amazingly it was still there, I also bought the two volumes of Formera currently available. It “looks like One Piece”, as I said at the time. But I’ve never read One piece (and at approaching 700 chapters I’m not about to start!).

After that It was time for lunch. There’s a giant hallway running through the Excel Centre, which on this occasion was completely open (on a previous occasion half the centre was closed off for a medical conference – the look on their faces as they came through “our” bit as priceless!). There’s loads of little fast food outlets all the way along with a greater or lesser degree of seating. They’re quite “reasonably” priced too – considering they have a large captive audience in central London, anyway!

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This is just over halfway along (with the shorter part behind me, mind you!)

After that I decided to venture outside. On previous occasions I’ve never actually realised that anything was going on outside the building (mind you some of those previous occasions have been really cold). But actually there’s a big plaza and riverside area with a grass embankment to sit on, a stage set up on a lawn with live(ish) music, and a ‘dance’ area where people do silly dances like Caramelldansen. I only discovered all of this a few weeks ago when I looked at Youtube videos of past expo’s. BUT this year they moved the stage to just outside the main entrance, so you could hardly miss it!

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A girl that was doing Jpop dances

Most of the performances I saw were basically girls who have memorised the dances to manufactured pop music performing them. Except of course this is manufactured pop from JAPAN and so ,no doubt, has an ancient and noble samurai tradition behind it. I wonder if these sorts of events in Japan feature girls doing the dance moves to “Wannabe” by The Spice Girls, or something?

The reason the stage had been moved to just outside the main entrance was because there was another event going on further down, promoting the benefits of swimming. At least it had attracted additional ice cream vans and also a load of portaloo’s, so the qeues were smaller!

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Once upon a time this was all disreputable boarding houses filled with disguised detectives.

Oh and just another picture to give you an idea of the scale of the thing. The stage area is up those stairs, between them and the building!

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Desertified

I had a couple more wanders around the convention hall, bumped into a few people I know (including the organiser of Camcon!)  and bought some more bits and pieces. Including a couple of books from June Manga, who label them “yaoi”, though I understand yaoi is a term for pornographic comics. June’s comics are actually romantic stories with varied settings. One I got before was a police procedural, and this one has two stories, both dealing with love-hate relationships turning into, erm, love-love ones. Mind you the stories could do with more action, what about a tale of romance between two strangely-long-haired Desert Rats during El-Alamein?

I also got a book called One Cell from a company called Lomsofd Manga (which I kept misreading as “Lowestoft Manga”). It’s “backwards”, despite having been originally written in English. Plus the art style looks more like an exaggerated stereotype of manga, I think somebody’s having a larf! Also on the shopping list was a couple of books from Ushio, who does some very funny material in his “Japanofail” books. Oh, and another title from Sweatdrop Studios – the second part of Strangers & Friends, which is about mysterious murders in Wooton Basset.

The best thing I got, though, was a huge reprint book of Hokusai Manga, which was the first thing to be called “Manga”. One literal translation of manga means “random sketches”, and that’s what Hokusai Manga was! You’d have a couple of pages of insects, followed by Noh masks, followed by people doing everyday jobs. There would sometimes be ‘literal’ illustrations of famous proverbs and things too. Hokusai Manga was originally planned to be just one book (published in 1814 – during the Edo Period, when Japan was closed off from the world and basically a Medaeval society), but ended up running to 15 volumes published over 64 years (though the last one was discovered and published 30 years after Hokusai’s death). The books were supposed to be a kind of guide to drawing, but ended up being bought in their thousands by a whole range of people who just liked looking at the pictures. I can see why, there’s something enchanting about them. Many copies even found their way out of Japan and influenced and inspired artists in other countries.

After a bit more wandering It was time to go home. I deliberately aimed for the new part of King’s Cross station. I remember major building work going on there when I was going to Plymouth with my granny for the eclipse… in 1999! It’s kind of hard to believe I won’t ever be squeezing through a narrow tunnel of wooden hoardings next time I go.

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Don’t I have another blog for non comics pictures?

In all, a fun convention, though I didn’t buy as much as I expected to (still spent the expected, large, amount of money mind you!). Perhaps in October I’ll do the full three days!

Red, White & Blue issue 1 and Camcon

All the way back in May 2011, I decided to ‘retrospectively’ ask IPC for permission to use Sexton Blake in my Red, White & Blue comic, and got turned down! So I decided to re-launch the comic, now with a new detective called Norman Saxon, and three black and white serial comics instead of two. The initially-planned release date for the new issue 1 was July, then September. Then February 2012, and then “Camcon 2012”, which was held on the 12th of may. I was up until 1 in the morning the night before printing and stapling! This in spite of the fact 10 of the 15 comic pages had already been drawn. I’m still hoping to make the comic bi-monthly eventually, though. Mind you only the first issue has a 25,000-odd word article about the history of British comics in it, which took “a while” to do (and still has a few mistakes – see under the History tab!).

So what does the finished product look like? Well I’d already posted the cover design on here, but the final has been altered slightly – mainly to “double date” it (I wish it had ‘only’ taken those four months to produce) and also to point out not every issue will have 40 pages!

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Same price as the old 24 pagers, though!

The two serial strips from the old version have returned. The first parts of them have been re-scanned and the script has been altered slightly. I’d actually intended to re-draw a few of the worst panels, but didn’t get time in the end. Oh I also added unobtrusive “previously published” labels – more as an excuse than anything, it’s not like many people ever saw them the first time around!

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I’m planning several “fictional people in real events” stories to make the comic “educational”. Including the Falklands War, Taisho / Showa-era Japan and the Great Storm of 1987.

Joining the two old strips is a new one – The Gun. It’s actually based on my  “first” (not really, but the actual first one made no sense at all) adventure comic, which I created from the ages of about 11-15. In the old version the world has been randomly carved up into two weirdly-named armies, who are fighting World War 3 (in the vein of all those war toys with “goodies” and “baddies” from no specific country). The new version is, of course, more realistic.

Oh wait, no it isn’t! Instead a huge, brainwashing cult has captured a huge territory stretching from Zimbabwe to western China, and is now aiming to take over Europe, Russia, the Arabian Peninsula, China and Korea. No doubt certain people will take the concept of a “huge, brainwashing cult” centered around the Middle East threatening the world the wrong way. But actually the enemy are going to be more based on that sort of smug, ivory-tower, “this is the correct way to live, you uneducated plebs” person, than on Muslims (who are not all the same anyway, if you’d bother to spend 5 minutes wiki’ing it). The first part of the story just introduces the main character and explains how the war starts – the enemy are called Intersoc, and have been inspired by Eurosoc, an orwellian dictatorship that briefly takes over the EU. World War 3 in this story is fought more like World War 2, but with jet planes and cooler tanks. The lack of nuclear weapons blowing everybody back to a radioactive stone age in 10 minutes is explained away unconvincingly – but if you want to read that, buy the comic!

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There will be an Etsy shop eventually. OR I may syrup-ticiously have a small quantity on sale at the Saturday of this year’s May MCM.

Of course, the main attraction of the comic is the complete detective story in each issue. The first one is around 11,500 words long and introduces Norman Saxon. The early continuity of Sexton Blake (in fact, quite a bit of the later continuity too!) was very confused and contradictory. As I’m coming up with a new character, I have given him a solidly-defined age, house, assistant and skill set right from the start! My old Sexton Blake stories jumped around, ranging from 1900 to 2007. Norman Saxon, though, is going to be firmly set in the Victorian / Edwardian period. The first two RWB stories are set in 1900. The first Trident story will be set in 1899.

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I think I need to work on scene composition

And, of course, there is that article! The version currently available under the History tab is version 2, the print version is actually version 2.1 – it has a few minor spelling and grammar corrections. There are a few others required, though. The next online version will be 2.2 – and will also contain pictures! The only picture in the printed version is the title. The aim of the article is to give the readers (who will mainly be at these conventions for US / Japanese comics) a new enthusiasm for British comics, and so it is a bit biased and ‘fluffy’. That said I took care to make sure all the facts were correct, and certainly avoided “the Dandy was the first British comic with speech balloons”-type waffle.

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In the far future an absolutely corrected version may be printed as a book with lots of colour pictures and sold seperately.

Oh and the back page contains profiles of the characters in the RWB, both in the current issue and those coming in the near future. That’s near future issue numbers-wise anyway!

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Hopefully by the time I get to the football story I’ll be a bit better at drawing distinctive faces!

With the comics printed and packed (and my huge stack of Roy of the Rovers sorted out, finally), it was time to pack and sleep. I even got everything into one case!

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It weighed a bit.

I’d also been attempting to record a Camcon video diary, but have scrapped it for two reasons. One, when I’m “talking to myself” (or machinery) my voice goes even more high pitched and pathetic than it already is. Two, I blu-tacked the camera to the dashboard of my car and made several ‘amusing’ comments during the journey, but I’d forgot there was a delay before it started recording, so all of those clips were of me turning the camera off again! I decided to just quit while I was ahead.

In the spirit of promoting British adventure comics, I also decided to create my own T-shirt with a Phoenix reference. I also took the latest issue and showed it to a few people on the day. Conveniently my 1p comics (always a draw, once you tell people the price) and the latest Phoenix both have rampaging dinosaurs on the covers! So let’s hope the guys and gals in Oxford have a few more subscribers before long.

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I’ll wear it at the MCM later this month too!

I’ve never been one for Cosplay, though I’ve since had a few cool ideas that might not be too difficult to make. But promoting The Phoenix comes first!

Anyway, having arrived at the venue decently on time (fortunately some horrible roadworks right in the middle of Cambridge have now been finished) I went around and started to get set up. As well as RWB issue 1 I also had the only issue of my old Scum Slaughter comic and a couple of 1p comics. I needed some “padding” so took various duplicates from my collection, including a load of 80’s Roy of the Rovers, and some older Union Jacks. Also a couple of volumes of The Windsor Magazine, a Victorian Strandalike. A few people had a look at them but didn’t buy them – far too heavy!

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The only picture I took at the con proper. The table closest to the camera was for an enigmatic “Cielia” who never turned up XD.

As you can see, the room was rather small, and so the walkways were very narrow. The tables were extremely close together, me and the girl behind me kind of had to take turns sitting down because we couldn’t both do it at once XD. But then again I prefer to stand up at these sort of events, you can engage the customers on the same level. Some “general anime memorabilia” merchants were next to me, and appear to have booked “back to back” tables so they could sell to people passing on either side of them.

As I didn’t have quite so much stuff I was set up in only a few minutes. I decided to start drawing some better signs for my table, though only got one of them partly done before the doors opened. I didn’t exactly have a decent range of pens either! It’s Cambi, the Camcon mascot, with Britannia fighting off clutching zombie hands. Or would be If i’d had time to draw them. I also forgot Cambi’s glasses and boots.

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 Next time I’ll make the effort and watercolour up something proper

The con was underway! And as usual I got generally ignored XD. A few, ahem, “older” guys came to the table. attracted by the Roy of the Rovers’s. But in the end I only sold 3 RWB’s, 1 Scum Slaughter (the guy loved the look of it, wonder what he thinks now?), 2 penny comics and a couple of secondhand items. Oddly I assumed the really old ones would go like hot cakes but they didn’t sell at all, I did dispose of a Union Jack from 1932, though.

I was opposite Sweatdrop Studios, which is not the best place for an obscure comic to be! Their table(s) were mega-busy virtually all the time. Still in a quiet period Emma Vieceli did actually realise who I was from some odds and ends I’d posted on thier forum XD. I was also able to collar a Thai girl who I’d previously been talking to (along with other Sweatdrop members Sonia Leong and Morag Lewis) at the previous week’s Hanami Exhibition. She’s interested in the history of the comics of all nations, and so I was able to sell her an 80’s Roy of the Rovers. I bet “I sold a Thai girl an 80’s Roy of the Rovers” is a googlewhack and a half. She later came back to ‘complain’ that it was full of football stories XD. But I was able to persuade her to part with hard-earned money for a certain other publication with a big article about comic history in it.

Other amusing incidents include some old guy who asked me how long I’d been interested in “manga” and didn’t seem impressed with the answer of “since May 2009, and I only read one!”. Some other guy also bought an RWB off me but then seeded my table with a load of leaflets for a tabletop RPG convention. I quietly shifted them before I had people coming and asking me about it XD. Also saw a few people from my Japanese classes, but didn’t sell anything to them. They were well-warned in advance!

The room was cold in the morning, but later in the day I discovered the painful way that one whole side of it was made of thick glass – it was like an oven! At least I wasn’t facing the window, I felt sorry for those guys. As time went on the number of visitors dwindled away and I went on a buying run of my own. I didn’t get much as there was a “last flicker of the candle” rush of people just as I’d extricated myself from behind the tables XD.

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The 9th Art book I actually got for free, it’s a regular(ish) anthology of comics creators from Cambridge and Oxford. I doubt they’d like what I’d send them, though! “White Violet” is one of Sweatdrop’s most interesting sounding comics, but one I’d somehow not bought until now. Vampire Freestyle is an adorable and amusing series by Jenika Ioffreda, who is insanely dedicated and attends ALL the cons! Even otherwise-unrelated craft fairs and goth conventions XD. I’ll do a proper review of the series one day. Sidekick appears to be a series of comics in which the main character keeps jumping genre (and mocking them). In the first one it’s a slice-of-life type story, but in another issue he finds himself in a sci fi space battle. A western looks to be on the cards too! Also there’s Fantasy World, which I’ve barely looked at (good, clean art though), a Sonic sketch and the conbook. The conbook also contains a short strip and a one-page cartoon about comic collecting, by me! There’s a few other bits of incidental art and loads of little Cambi designs.

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Oh and I got kitty/squirrel ears. They make my own ears look even bigger!

After the con closed down there was a break of an hour or so, in which I took my case back to the car (that was fun, I had to drive out of the space, chuck the case in, and then park again – in a multi storey! Lucky it wasn’t busy). After that I ate, did a bit of drawing on a big roll of paper, saw some other friends and watched a little anime in the tiny, boiling hot screening room. I don’t normally like anime but, well, there was nothing else going on. Also Dominion Tank Police has entered my “must watch” list. It’s cheesier than Space Mutiny!

Later on there was some singing and that. Zonic, aka Ziggy Newman, the organiser of the con, performed some of her own songs. Some of these involve putting words to music from the Sonic the Hedgehog games! Then the Cambridge-based clubnight Psychocandy rounded off the night with a load of geeky music including club remixes of the Nyan Cat music, a metal version of the Ghostbusters theme, Twilight by ELO and of course The Timewarp XD. Didn’t hear the Mandelbrot Set song, but you can’t have everything, eh?

The Young Ladies’ Journal

I’ve wanted to so a series of “overviews” of comics for ages now, but held off because I wanted to have a “good range” of issues from a title’s run before writing the article. BUT that was taking too long, and for some papers may prove nearly impossible, as they are very rare. So I’m just going to go for it!

These overviews are really being created so that people googling the name will have some big pictures and general information to look at. They aren’t going to be super-in depth, I’ll leave that for looks at individual stories, or titles that I do have large runs of.

The Young Ladies’ Journal

Not much has been written about girl’s comics, in comparison to those aimed at males. Most of what has been written writes off everything that came before Misty (or, if the author is feeling particularly risqué, Jinty or even Tammy) as worthless. Of course,I’m not going to be toeing the right-on party line, so lets look at a girl’s comic from 130 years ago!

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No title or price on the ‘cover’. It’s possible that the individual issues were sold wrapped in another cover, which might have been covered with adverts.

The Young Ladies’ Journal, published by E. Harrison from 1862 (NB: Assumed from the fact Volume 20 came out in 1882)  contained 3 serial text stories, with large instalments of 2-3 pages, as well as complete stories of a similar length. Scattered around these were small articles on random subjects, for instance about animals or tidbits of foreign culture.

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Small article about Sardines at the bottom.

The stories were not exactly profusely illustrated, some had no illustrations at all. Apart form the large picture on the cover, it seems to have been standard practice to only have one other story illustration inside. They were usually well-drawn, though all in the same style. At the time there appears to have not just been a ‘house style’ for illustrations in story papers / penny dreadfuls, but an “only style”, that everybody used!

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Not always of a very exciting incident, either.

While the story illustrations were few and far between, every issue contained a two-page spread with pictures of the latest fashions on one side, and patterns, decorations and furnishings on the other. The illustration style probably not-entirely-unrealistically depicting the hourglass figure women acheived with dangerously tight corsets. I’ve seriously only ever seen one person with a shape like that naturally (well, I’m presuming naturally), if it was as ‘common’ then the manufacturers of such torturous devices must have been doing a roaring trade.

Still such pictures might appeal to “loligoth” fashion devotees. Well they’re not going to be playing the loligoth-themed videogame Rule of Rose any time soon, thanks to sickening aintellectual articles in the false-patriotic Daily Mail, written by knee-jerking, sub-telligent underscum who see “lolita” and assume “sex with children”. Yet these supposed ‘defenders of Britain’ allow no-win, no-fee companies, the real threat to this country, to advertise in the paper as much as they like.

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Anybody want any more?

Other regular features included “One Thing and Another”, a joke column with short gags and longer funny anecdotes. There was also “Grains of Gold”, with uplifting moral advice and examples, and short poems. A section called Pastimes contained word puzzles.

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Wall o’ text. I ought to have called this a story paper blog with occasional comics XD

Also, as with many periodicals of the era, there was a “correspondence” column. These contained replies to reader’s letters, omitting the letters themselves. Readers often used pseudonyms, to whom the replies would be addressed. Even these names can be an interesting insight into the era a paper was published in. In Boy’s papers of the 1900’s you frequently see names such as “electric” and “photographer”, for instance. The advice given in these columns was always wide-ranging. Often it would be of a general nature, and so the reply would go into detail about, say, a famous musician or craft technique. Though other times would be a vague “there are cases where applications of the kind are useless”.

Of course, today’s “answers to correspondents” is called Google!

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Readers could also buy “patterns” from the office, presumably those of the dresses featured in recent issues.

On the back of each issue is some music, occasionally with words, but more often just a tune. At the time the accomplished middle and upper class daughter was expected to at least be able to play the piano, entertaining the family in the withdrawing room after tea. I wonder if I could bung some of these tunes into a MIDI-making program and see how they sound?

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Most I can play on the piano is the Jaws theme.

I’ve not yet read any of the stories (and there’s an admission you’ll never see in any of those other articles that write off all pre-70’s girls’ comics as worthless), but they all seem to revolve around the couple who face endless obstacles coming between them and true love. One of these obstacles being held prisoner by Malay women, for some reason or other. This one is written by George Manville Fenn, a well-known writer of Boys’ Own adventure stories! In fact he wrote the lead serial in another paper that I’ll get round to reviewing sooner or later.

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Those are the most casual guards ever

Other stories are the more commonplace “country gent” style popularised by the Bronte sisters earlier in the 19th century. Still I’ve read a similar story from the 1920’s that could easily have been written in 1802, so little reference does it make to telephones or motor cars (the use of which would have wrapped up the plot in about 5 minutes, mind you).

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 “Frightfully sorry, I thought I’d hide in the bushes and make pheasant-like noises, knowing that the hunt was coming this way. I don’t see any way in which that could be dangerous.”

Mind you I do fancy reading one story, called “His Prettiest Daughter”. Mainly because the woman in it has short, boyish hair. It must have been very unconventional for the time, but it’s the sort of thing I go for, so I’d definitely consider her the prettiest!

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The attention to detail on that furniture isn’t half bad either. Furniture companies these days don’t put in half the effort the artist has put in to merely draw it.

 Occasionally the fashion pages would have several “modeled” dresses arranged in one illustration. The backgrounds to these were often brilliantly done, though the average reader probably hardly even noticed it.

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The frontispiece to the volume mentions that it contains colour plates, but these are missing from this volume. It’s been privately bound in a marbled cover, so must have been left out. Though I understand some papers such as Chatterbox charged extra for their plates, so whoever bought these originally may simply not have bothered. The “full size patterns” don’t seem too  “full size” either. Perhaps they were some sort of folded sheets included with the issues that have also since gone missing.

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“Toilet” at the time referred to washing and putting on make-up (for women, or disguised detectives).

Just as an additional bit of information, like Union Jack, The Boys’ Friend and so on, the serial stories were not contained within one volume, but could begin in one and end in another. For instance the story about the woman held hostage in Malaya actually started in volume 19. That’s for sale on ebay right now, should anybody fancy it XD (Especially if they live nearby and we can swap ’em at some point).

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Mind you, there’s an empty space right there.