Saturday, 16 October 2021

Farewell to our Hero

A couple of days ago we said a sad final farewell to out beloved Hero. He was the most handsome, regal, slinkiest black cat ever, a Prince amongst felines. There's now a huge hole in our lives and we will miss him always.
Sleep well handsome boy, Big Mog, Mister Hero xxx


Sunday, 8 August 2021

60 years of The Fantastic Four

 Today is the 60th anniversary of the first issue of The Fantastic Four going on sale  -  the Big Bang of the Marvel Universe. It's hard to overstate the importance of this comic in the history of the artform, the industry and Marvel Comics themselves. Stan Lee and Jack Kirby's unheralded story of four misfits gifted / cursed with superpowers kicked off a revolution in comics, the shockwaves of which still reverberate to this day.

Of course you don't need me to tell you that. The history of the FF and of the Lee / Kirby partnership has gone down in comic book legend, and rightly so. As a tribute to Stan, Jack and all their illustrious fellow creatives ( inkers, letterers, production staff etc etc ) I'm going to post some of my fave FF issues from my collection, starting with the earliest issue I own, no. 8  -  "Prisoners Of The Puppet-Master"


Monday, 2 August 2021

The Wonderful World of the Ladybird Book Artists

Yesterday we ventured into Gloucester ( or "went up town" as we say round here ) for the first time in ages to check out the Wonderful World of the Ladybird Book Artists exhibition at the Museum of Gloucester. This indeed wonderful exhibition was curated by Ladybird Books enthusiast and expert Helen Day who did a fantastic job of pulling together hundreds of old books, items of memorabilia and, most importantly, original artwork. It was just so lovely to see the beautiful pieces of artwork from books that had brightened up so many children's early years. Sarah was moved to tears ( happy ones! ) to see so many of her childhood reading memories on display.

So many memories, so many books!

This illustration for the cover of Little Red Riding Hood by Harry Wingfield is one of the most iconic from the series and it still looks vibrant and full of life, 63 years after it was first produced.

And, from a slightly later era, just check out this full-on 1970s nostalgia-fest / feast. How many toys do you recognise here?

Unlike Sarah, I wasn't actually a huge reader of Ladybird Books as a child but I do remember this Pirates book  -  what a dramatic, superbly-rendered image! The artist was Frank Humphris, veteran of the classic boys' adventure comic The Eagle, more of which later...

Around every corner we found more sumptuous images, from rosy-cheeked 1960s kids to nostalgic fairy-tale scenes...

As well as all of these beautiful, dreamlike images I was very excited to find some old Eagle comics and some original artwork from the great Frank Hampson, creator of Dan Dare. I had no idea Hampson had worked for Ladybird Books so this was a real bonus.

And from the more realistic, historical books there were these moody pieces from John Kenney  -

( My apologies if some of these images are a bit askew. I was trying to take these photos through glass and was struggling not to have reflections of myself in the shots :-)  You wouldn't want to see that. )

It was a fantastic collection of artwork and memorabilia ( not pictured are sketches, letters from the editors, original printing "flats", invoices for work produced etc. ) and we were very lucky for it to be virtually on our doorstep. I'll just leave you with this very surreal piece, also by the versatile John Kenney:

Monday, 14 June 2021

Comics: recent acquisitions

 In our recent trip to the fair city of Hereford I was pleased to see that "Q's Comics" in the historic Butter Market had weathered the Covid storm, lockdowns etc and was still trading. I managed to pick up these beauties:
Marvel Fanfare no.s 4 and 6, Master of Kung Fu no. 113 and Bat Lash no. 4.

The Marvel Fanfares boast some wonderful artwork from the likes of Paul Smith, Michael Golden 
( with the late, lamented Dave Anthony Kraft ), Charles Vess, and a stellar collaboration between the underrated Sandy Plunkett and P. Craig Russell. How's that for a line-up? Wonderful stuff!
The MOKF, on the other hand, features some of the worst artwork I've ever seen in a mainstream comic. The perpetrators are Rick Magyar & Alan Kupperberg  -  the latter I know has done much better work but, really, this issue is dire. Doug Moench's solid scripting just about redeems it, but at least the Gene Day cover is very nice.
By complete contrast, the Bat Lash ( very happy to find one of those in the wild ) features some beautiful work from the incomparable Nick Cardy, with his Eisner influences to the fore, especially in this masterful page:

Just the thing for reading whilst relaxing in the garden on a Summer's day:

I was doubly pleased with this purchase because I did a deal to trade in one of my duplicate copes of Fantastic Four no. 44 for the above comics  -  and, in fact, I was £3 up on the deal :-)

Here's the copy I traded, safely in its ( temporary I'm sure ) new home:

I'll definitely have to get back to Q's Comics when I can, it's really a great little business and the owner is always friendly and helpful. ( Wow! Things like that *almost* make it feel like the "old days" )

Thursday, 3 June 2021

"Released" Exhibition - Hereford College of Arts

 Hello. ( Hello? ) It may sound stupid but sometimes I almost forget I've got a blog. I really should post more stuff here. ( Yeah, yeah, you've heard it all before, haven't you Dear Reader? )

Anyway, here's some artwork from an exhibition our son James helped curate recently. This was "Released", a showcase for the second year of the Fine Arts Level 5 degree course at Hereford College of Arts.

Here's James welcoming discerning art-lovers ( and anybody else, really ) to the temporary gallery in the heart of the lovely city of Hereford...

( Yes, he's developed proper Lockdown Hair since he went back to University in March. ) Below are some views of his sadly untitled but very wonderful piece of sculpture and some photos of the different stages of its construction...

This was obviously a very personal project for James, as can be seen from the description below:

We're very proud of what he's accomplished in his artwork and in the very fact that he's at University. He's the first person in our family to ever do that and, as he's on the autistic spectrum and really struggled with his early schooling, it's a real credit to him that he's done so spectacularly well.

As well as James' piece, the standard of all the other artists' work was also extremely high, so here are some further examples, starting with James' friend Callum's ultra-cool street art:

James with proud mum Sarah and Callum's skateboard collection  -

It's interesting to see how art students are still fiercely political. Back in my A-Level days ( which is as far as I took my art education ) the topical themes would have been the likes of nuclear war, apartheid or police brutality  -  now they're more likely to be gender politics or climate change.

All in all, it was a hugely impressive, interesting and challenging exhibition. James messaged earlier to say they've cleared the exhibition and locked the doors today  -  second year done, one more to go...


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