In general, these second-hand shops charged 6d (that's 2.5p in today's money - though adjusting for inflation it's actually about 30p). My pocket money was 2/6, so I could afford to buy five comics for that. Or three if I was buying them new from a newsagent. Caution was often called for.
Of course, I didn't spend all my money on comics. Another favourite pastime for kids back in the 1960s was to go to Saturday Morning Pictures. My local cinema was the ABC on Wellington Street, Woolwich, and every Saturday morning we'd all troop off for three hours of entertainment - a feature film, cartoons, a serial chapter and even birthday celebrations. All for sixpence.
|Top left: An ABC Cinema of the period. Top right: The Woolwich ABC as it is today (sad).|
Bottom left: An ABC Minors birthday invite. Bottom right: The classic glow-in-the-dark ABC Minors badge.
|Back in the 1960s a tribal custom was to sing your tribal song at the top of your lungs.|
When it got to the last line, all the kids hollered "A-B-C" as loudly as they could.
|Though I didn't know it at the time, Batman's early 1964 revamp was|
down to Julius Schwartz and Carmine Infantino, who'd so successfully
revived The Flash and Green Lantern five years earlier.
|The Batman chapterplay was pretty action-packed and though Batman's costume was a bit saggy, |
I enjoyed the serial immensely. There would be many more superhero serials in my future.
The other product that vied for the attention of the neighbourhood kids during 1965 was bubble gum cards. I somehow managed to miss out on the Mars Attacks series. And I didn't know anyone back then who had any. It may have been that they just didn't make it into our area. But we were very aware of the Civil War News series from AB&C. These were a set of pasteboard cards, about 80mm x 55mm, depicting often gory scenes from the American Civil War, rendered in glorious, full-colour painted artwork.
|The Civil War News gum card set was much-loved by my generation of kids. |
Extremely gory and painted, in part, by the Mars Attacks artist Norman Saunders,
these images were deemed quite unsuitable for children by an outraged popular press.
|As noted on the wrapper, Civil War News cards cost 2d |
and came with a free Confederate Dollar banknote.
|So successful was the first Beatles set of cards that card company |
AB&C immediately released a second set.
|The Man from UNCLE cards were in the same format|
as The Beatles cards - black and white photos with a
signature overprinted in blue.
Two bottles would net you a used comic. Three would get you a new one off the newsagent's spinner rack. Money was just lying around next to dustbins in those days ...
But back to the main story ... by this point I was on my way to building a pretty good run of Tales of Suspense featuring my hero Captain America, along with a good run of The Avengers, also with Cap.
Most of these I had sourced in my immediate neighbourhood, in and around Woolwich, in south-east London. It wasn't the best area for finding American comics. The nearest newsagent to my house was an old-fashioned shop at the top of Frances Street, all dark wood interior with elderly proprietors. They would have no truck with any new-fangled American nonsense, so I couldn't get my Marvel Comics there. There was the paper shop on Kingsman Parade near the south end of Frances Street that did have a single spinner rack, but carried mostly DC Comics. And there was the newsagent behind Woolwich Arsenal Station that I mentioned in an earlier post. All in all, pretty slim pickings. Luckily, I had a bike.
Casting my net wider, I travelled westwards along Woolwich Church Street, through lower Charlton which was a dead loss for likely newsagents, until I hit Greenwich and found a small print shop that had a pile of American comics in the window. Leafing through the pile, under the watchful and distrustful eye of the elderly proprietor, I pulled out a few issues of Tales of Suspense that I needed.
|The little print shop was somewhere about here on |
Trafalgar Road in Greenwich during the 1960s - now long gone.
|A two-part Spider-Man extravaganza from Stan Lee and Steve Ditko -|
featuring the return of Doctor Octopus (I hadn't been aware he went away at this point).
|Spider-Man battles the hulk as part of the Avengers joining process.|
And fights Doc Ock in the back end of the book. Brilliant!
Another Marvel I uncovered on my travels around south-east London was a copy of Fantastic Four 30. This one featured an alchemist called Diablo, a villain criticised by some fans because his potions never really worked very well. Buried in a vault beneath his medieval castle somewhere in Transylvania, Diablo manages to take control of Ben Grimm and turn him against his team-mates. Even by issue 30 of "The World's Greatest Comics Magazine", the idea of Ben turning again the rest of the FF - having already been pretty testy for the first six issues then actually going rogue in issues 8 - was getting a bit overworked. Yet Stan (or Jack) would return to this one again and again, notably in Fantastic Four 41-43, 51, 68-69, 111 - and that's just the Silver Age stories ...
|Another beautifully composed cover from Kirby, enhanced by Chick Stone's |
classy, smooth inking style. The premise - The Thing looking more human - is
immediately engaging. We need to know what's happening.
Stone was active with Marvel for about a year during 1964-5, inking Kirby's work pretty much exclusively until mid 1965, when he suddenly disappeared from Marvel Comics. I've not been able to find an authoritative explanation for this and can only assume Stone was offered a better rate from another company. After Marvel he continued to ink for ACG and started producing artwork for Dell (The Flying Saucers), then did a long stint for Archie Comics through the 1970s, returning to Marvel as an inker around 1978 on the Thing team-up book Marvel Two in One.
But during that one year period, Stone turned in some exemplary work on just about all the pencil work Kirby did ... the key books he inked were:
- Avengers 9 (Oct 64) - 14 (Mar 65), 15 (cover)
- Fantastic Four 28 (Jul 64) - 38 (May 65), FF Annual 2 (Sep 64)
- Journey into Mystery 102 (Mar 64) - 114 (Mar 65), 115 (cover)
- Sgt Fury 18 (May 65)
- Tales of Suspense 59 (Nov 64) - 66 (Jun 65)
- Tales to Astonish 57 (Jul 64), 63 (Jan 65), 67 (May 65)
- X-Men 6 (Jul 64) - 11 (May 65)
- Patsy Walker 115 (Jun 64) - 116 (Aug 64)
I've read elsewhere that FF30 was completed in a bit of a rush, due to scheduling problems, but in the first half of the book, Stone's inks are as good as anything he ever did. Especially good are pages 2 and 3. The detail and the quality of the inks enhances Kirby's pencils beautifully, and unlike later inkers, all the faces Stone inked still look like Kirby faces. And also unlike later inkers, Stone took the time to ink the backgrounds fully, instead of just erasing stuff he didn't want to spend time inking.
|Especially well done here is the inking on Johnny's and Reed's faces on page 2|
and the Burgomeister's face on page 3. The backgrounds are beautifully filled in too.
|By this point in the story, you can see that Kirby and Stone's artwork isn't quite as detailed |
as the earlier pages, but it's still very efficient storytelling, very slickly inked.
Next: How the Bullpen Bulletins made Marvel the Market Leader