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Archive for the ‘Books and Magazines’ Category

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Posted by Big Boo on January 26th, 2011

Asterix and ObelixI first remember coming across Asterix the Gaul at primary school. I would have been about six or seven and was looking through the school library for something to read, when I came across this annual sized book with a cartoon character on the front. I picked it off the shelf and started flicking through it and was immediately excited to discover that the school library contained a comic book!

Scarcely believing my luck I headed back to my chair and started looking through the book, whose title and plot details sadly elude my memory now. The first thing that struck me was that there was a great deal of use of the letter ‘X’, a letter which to me seemed rarely used back then. I struggled a bit with some of the character names, but the story seemed pretty exciting, with a group of villagers fighting against some Roman centurions.

The main character, Asterix, felt a little like Popeye the Sailor Man, one of my favourite cartoon characters as a boy, especially since he only became strong when he drunk a magic potion, but I have to say I found the man mountain that was Obelix far more entertaining.

I certainly enjoyed reading the book, but given it appeared to be the only one in the school library (I guess it must have been donated) and I never seemed to be able to find the books in either shops or public libraries, I never got to read any more of them. I do remember having a friend at some point when I was a bit older who had some of the books, and got to flick through a couple more then, but that book remains the one and only Asterix story I have ever read.

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Photo Stories

Posted by Big Boo on October 13th, 2010

Photo StoryPhoto Stories may not be a product of the Eighties (I believe girls magazines such as Jackie were running them as far back as the Sixties and possibly earlier) but they certainly went through a wave of popularity back then.

Your average Photo Story is little more than a comic strip presented with photographs rather than hand drawn images. Speech and thought bubbles, and other related captions, are superimposed over these images to provide the dialog and inner thoughts of the characters in the story.

Photo stories were especially popular in teenage girls magazines as they were an easier way of depicting stories that their readers would find interesting. They also felt more grown up than hand drawn art work, which given that the subject matter of a lot of these stories was that of “Who’s that dishy guy” or “I’ve got a crush on him” made a lot of sense.

Whilst girls magazines inevitably come straight to mind when thinking of this style of comic strip, they were by no means limited to just this area. Some of the boy orientated comics also featured photo stories, the most notable I can think of being Doomlord from The Eagle, but I have a feeling there may have been some in the football related comics too from time to time.

I’m presuming teenage magazine still carry these stories today, but one sure place to find one is in tabloid newspapers. The Sun’s Dear Deirdre’s Photo Casebook features in the papers Agony Aunt pages, although I’m convinced that the only reason it’s there is to give The Sun even more excuses (as if they needed them) to print pictures of scantily clad women (and men).

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Posted by Big Boo on September 27th, 2010

2000adI’m not quite sure how, but for some reason I managed to completely miss out on the legend that is the 2000AD comic. I really don’t know why I never got into it, as it was all about spaceships and aliens and that kind of thing, so I should have loved it. The best excuse I can think of is that when I used to buy comics I somehow thought that 2000AD was for much older kids, and by the time I was that age comics had lost their appeal to me as I was heavily into computer magazines.

I was first introduced to 2000AD by some school friends, who were talking about a character named Judge Dredd, surely the most well known name to have come from the comic’s pages. What they were describing just didn’t sound like it should be a comic book, as I expected comic books to be full of either slapstick comedy or superheroes in the Superman or Batman mould.

I couldn’t work out from what my mates said whether Judge Dredd was supposed to be a hero or a villain. He was supposed to be a policeman, judge and jury all rolled into one, but given some of his actions he didn’t sound particularly lawful at times. However, given the state of things in Mega-City One, his kind of justice was probably a necessity – I certainly wouldn’t want to live there!

Interesting though it sounded I still wasn’t tempted to get a copy of the comic myself, simply because I didn’t realise there was way more to 2000AD than just Judge Dredd. Over the years it has seen a great variety of comic strips written and drawn by some of today’s best known comic book authors. I’m not a big comic fan, but I have heard of Neil Gaiman and Grant Morrison, who were just two of the many.

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Captain Cobwebb and the Quogs

Posted by Big Boo on August 13th, 2010

Captain Cobwebb and the QuogsToday’s post is about one of those things I distinctly remember liking as a child, yet when I try and remember the details everything is a bit hazy. I’ll start by telling you what I remember.

I would have been around ten at the time, still at primary school, and at the end of the day the teacher still used to read the class a story, though being as we were that bit older it was a longer story split over several days or even weeks. At one point a book was chosen to be read that kept the entire class enthralled. That book was called Captain Cobwebb and the Quogs.

Now, I couldn’t tell you exactly who Captain Cobwebb was, because as far as I can remember the heroes of the story were two young boys. I might have completely mis-remembered the plot, but it went something like this. The two boys stumble across an underground realm inhabited by sinister creatures called Quogs. The Quogs were presumably spider like in some way, because I distinctly remember the boys being caught and bundled up in a silky cocoon of some sort. Obviously they escape, and bring about an end to whatever nefarious plan the Quogs had in mind.

A bit slim on details I know, but there is one very specific detail I do remember, which is that at one point the boys needed to supply a pass phrase to get inside a locked door. It was a very silly pass phrase made up of lots of gobbledy gook words, and it went like this:-

Is it not a fact that stangipostril skiddibumperies of the collywoblic neuroproxis, are metatarsely plod-lodricate.

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Stocking Fillers - Suppliers to Father Christmas
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British Eighties “Funny” Comic Books

Posted by Big Boo on July 12th, 2010

Dennis and GnasherI’m sure most of us, at some point in their childhood, had a period where they were an avid reader of a particular comic book. Of course there are several kinds of comics, and you may well have been a fan of one or more of these at different times.

There were comics aimed more at boys (e.g. The Eagle, Roy of the Rovers etc.) and those aimed at girls (e.g. Twinkle, Bunty etc.). There were the more US style of comic book, normally smaller in size and generally about superheroes, but my particular favourite genre was the good old fashioned British “funny” comic, such as The Beano, The Dandy and Whizzer and Chips.

Some of these comics had already been running for decades by the time I started reading them, and some are still going strong today. Changes have obviously occurred as the years have gone by, with some titles merging with other comics, characters being dropped (and possible reinstated) and of course the move from newspaper style paper and two colour images to the glossier, full colour pages a lot of comics have today.

Without doubt the two prime examples of this style of comic book were The Beano and The Dandy. The Beano tended to appeal to the more mischievous child, what with its lead character being Dennis the Menace. The Dandy was more likely to appeal to the more well behaved youngster, as its main characters were Desperate Dan and Korky the Cat, who tended to get into trouble accidentally rather than on purpose!

These subtle differences in the characters meant that a lot of kids would become devotees of a single comic only, and arguments in school playgrounds over which comic was “the best” could get quite heated!

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The Monster Books

Posted by Big Boo on April 28th, 2010

monster ellen blance ann cook quentin blakeBoth Li’l Boo (my wife) and myself have fond memories of the Monster books from our early childhood. Like the books featuring Roger Red Hat and company these books were a series which many primary schools had for helping teach children to read. They were written in the early seventies, but schools being schools they were still to be found in libraries well into the eighties, and probably beyond.

The books were written by Ellen Blance and Ann Cook, who drafted in the help of children to make the text read as if a child had written it. Illustrations were provided by Quentin Blake, who’s sketchy style suited the books brilliantly. From the illustrations Monster was vaguely humanoid, but must have been at least eight feet tall. As if that wasn’t enough to make him stand out in the crowd, he was also a pretty shade of purple.

From day to day monster didn’t wear clothes, or if he did it was a skin tight lycra jumpsuit. In common with many cartoon characters who generally wear nothing, he did wear clothes to aid with the storytelling. For example, in one book he goes for a bike ride, and wears a T-Shirt and shorts to do so.

Monster lived in a house with his friend, a little boy who was always just referred to as the Little Boy. The pair got up to all kinds of adventures as the Little Boy taught Monster about the world, and Monster helped people out with the aid of his magic umbrella, which could turn into different objects appropriate to the story.

At first the big purple Monster was all alone in a human world, befriended only by the Little Boy and other children. Before long though, a “girlfriend” for Monster was created, named simply Lady Monster. She looked almost exactly the same as Monster, except she had long hair (Monster was bald) and she normally wore a dress – at least she had grasped the concept of covering yourself up! Unsurprisingly Lady Monster also had a little child friend, who was called… The Little Girl. No prizes for guessing that one!

A few years back we tried tracking down some copies of the Monster books, which we managed to do both in the UK and the US. We ended up with some duplicates of a couple of the stories, and in particular one book (Monster and the Toy Sale) was interesting to see the difference in the two versions. The UK version mentions a “traffic policeman” whilst the US version uses the phrase “traffic cop”. I guess UK book publishers were a bit more prim and proper back then than they are now!

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I-Spy Books

Posted by Big Boo on March 24th, 2010

i spy booksI was browsing around my local bookstore the other day when what should I spy (sorry, couldn’t resist) but a display of I-Spy books, with the friendly fat face of the Michelin tyre man beaming up at me from the front covers. I was instantly whisked back to sitting in the back of the car, looking out the window as we travelled along, hoping to see a crane or an AA van or some other thing that I could then tick off in my I-Spy book.

The I-Spy series were very similar in style to the Usborne Spotter’s Guides that I’ve written about before. The I-Spy books were generally smaller in size (I hasten to use the word pocket sized since most things described as such tend to not quite fit into pockets as well as they might suggest they do) than the Usborne equivalents, and tended to be about subjects that you were more likely to see whilst travelling, such as cars, the highway code or going on a train.

The premise was the same though. The book was full of pictures of different objects and things that you had to spot. A little box next to the object allowed you to tick it off as “spied”, and depending on how rare the object was garnered you a different number of points.

Simple and for the most part a lot of fun, although you couldn’t help feel looking through the objects and thinking some of them were incredibly unlikely that you would ever see. For example, I don’t think I’ve ever seen that triangular highway code sign that has a car going off the end of a pier into some water. I’m sure they must exist, I’ve just never seen one.

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The Moomins

Posted by Big Boo on February 24th, 2010

moominsMoomins are odd looking creatures who most resemble hippos, and were the invention of Finnish artist Tove Jansson. The originally started life in a series of books, the first of which appeared in 1945. This book was called The Moomins and the Great Flood, and it told how the Moomin family came to live in the Moominhouse in Moominvalley.

The main hero of the stories was Moomintroll, who was a young inquisitive Moomin who was fascinated by the world around him. His mother and father, Moominmamma and Moominpappa, also featured heavily. Moomintroll had a large extended family who often came to stay, including a female Moomin called, no not Moomingirl or something like that, but bizarrely The Snork Maiden?!

Other frequent guests of the Moomins were Snufkin, a wandering lad who played the harmonica, and the frankly scary Little My, who seemed to have a permanent scowl on her face and who got irritated about things very easily. Little My lived almost permanently with the Moomins, and despite being a bit disruptive at times could often be useful to have around.

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