Tuesday, April 22, 2008


Picked this up for a few pennies a week or two ago:

I still vividly remember the first time that I didn't buy this. We were on holiday in Torquay, summer 1971, when I spotted this on a spinner in a newsagent in the town centre. I'd been a total Marvel Junky up til that point, but I loved Jack Kirby's artwork, so when he left to join DC I started picking up some of his Fourth World comics.

I can see that day now, clear as anything; bright summer sunshine; busy streets; my dad in his green towelling 'casual' Fred Perry style top, stretched slightly by his rapidly expanding waistline lol; mum in a summer dress; me haggling to buy some comics. I was only allowed one - the cover of this Challengers Special really caught my eye, but I was comics savvy enuff to realise that even tho it was sporting a new Kirby cover it was actually a collection of reprints (tho beautifully inked by Wally Wood!) - still, I really loved the cover, but then I spotted an early issue of New Gods and nabbed that instead.

See, every holiday and day-out from my childhood is indelibly labelled by the comics I picked up - that's how I remember and link back to them. As a child, they were my conduit into a future packed with incredible possibilities; and as an adult, they've become a soft-focus pipeline back into my own past.

I had a fantastic childhood. No, really, I'm not embarrassed to say it was fucking incredible. We didn't have a great deal of money, but jeez, we had a really great time... but sometimes I remember the things I didn't buy and that makes them somehow seem even more valuable.

God, I can almost smell my Dad's aftershave even as I write this.

Reading this battered old comic and writing about it - I can even see the Torquay guest-house we stayed in and the breakfast/dining room - no Basil Fawlty jokes please! In fact, I can recall staying-up and sitting in the shared living-room to watch Monty Python's Flying Circus, which, back then, I thought was the best thing ever. I can't stand Monty Python now, but I still love Kirby's art and the way it took me so far out of myself - so far that I never really came back. I fucking worship the man.

In the evening we walked round the gardens by the pier...I remember it being 9:30-ish and getting dark, but the flower-beds and the palm-trees were lit up with coloured lights - I thought it was so fantastic. And to this day, I still trip out when I see gardens lit-up with multi-coloured lights. (Fast-forward to the mid-90s: I remember an out-door cinema and bar set up in someone's garden in Santorini; there were lights in the bushes. It was so wonderful I nearly cried.)

See, Kirby still transports me. But back in time now.

These days, I spend holidays and days-out in tense hostage-negotiation style talks with my own two daughters, but the roles are now reversed. Me: "Can I please, pleasssse, pleassssssse have a quick 5 minutes in this comic-shop/records-shop/book-shop and I promise I won't be long and we'll go straight to the beach/theme-park/cafe afterwards. Honest."

Ahhh, it appears the circle is finally complete.


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