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:


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