This is the first in what I hope will be an ongoing flashback series. When I get grumpy, one of the first things I try to do is get out of my not so happy place. And an easy way for me to do that is to dig out my comics and look through them and enjoy the stories.
And seeing as I now have a blog, I thought the best idea would be to look through my collections to see what I have that would have been for sale a few years back to get me back in my happy place so that I can post something that would cheer myself and my reader up. And the first box I came across featured my Victors from 1975. So I dug out issue 754 to see what stories the junior verson of myself would have been reading in that summer holiday 40 years ago. And as I go through the stories, I can almost hear the strains of The Chi-Lites asking “Have you seen her?”
As I look at my copy of a Victor comics, it reminds me that, for me, one of the signature ways of identifying the Victor comics up to the 1300s, when Jimmy Grant took over the cover, has always been the true story cover. And for this issue, it was A Present From The Kaiser, illustrated by Anthony Coleman, which was the story of how Second Lieutenant Stuart Vernon managed to snaffle a downed enemy aircraft from No-Man’s Land on 26th October 1915. This was the type of story that I always attributed to the prodigious memories of the D C Thomson staff. Can you imagine my crestfallen expression when I learned that these stories owed more to the tastes of Dundee librarians than to the expertise of the D C Thomson staffers?
And suddenly, I have my happy face on, as I am now able to share the knowledge that I have been fortunate to have been able to accumulate in my mind about the creation of comics that have helped to form me. But I digress, as I now need to explain why the true stories and features owe more to Dundee Librarians than they do to D C T staffers.
I had originally thought that the stories and articles featured were due to the interests of the editors of the time. However, as I collected the comics and dredged my mind for my memories of D C Thomson’s papers, I then thought that the features were due to what stories had featured in the Dundee Courier or the Sunday Post archives.
Then I was lucky enough to meet George Low and he explained to me that staffers would be sent en masse to the local branch of Dundee Library to research potential true stories and articles. Those stories/articles where the staffer was able to come up with the most detail would be put forward for scripting and eventual publication. A more prosaic answer to what I thought was a planned method of getting us kids to buy into the D C Thomson model of how the world was. But considering that it brought me articles such as the The Needle Of The Nile, which I believe was illustrated by Jeff Bevan, then I am happy with whatever method brought me those eclectic articles. And I say thank you to the countless generations of those that have served in the libraries of Dundee to have ordered those books and periodicals that the D C Thomson staffers perused on a monthly basis.
Now let’s have a look at the rest of the stories that were in this issue. And there are a lot with nine stories. Seven of these were ongoing serials and two were stand alone episodes. Let’s ease ourselves in gently and look at the two stand alones.
First up is Figaro! which was drawn by Tom Bannister. Figaro was the leader of what has to have been the worst bandit gang in the west. Their plans always went wrong. One of them almost always ended up in jail and it was rarely a happy ending for Figaro, his gang or his donkey Pedro. I must admit that I still think that Pedro was one of the funniest characters ever. In this episode, Figaro tried to impersonate a known criminal known as Big Bad John. And for those of you that know your novelty records thinking that this character sounds familiar and are wondering how a character from a 1961 song ended up in a 1975 comic, well that is fairly easy to explain. Figaro was originally printed in Topper in the 1960s so references to the 1960s in any Figaro strip is not surprising.
The other stand alone is The Secrets of Section Six. The artist that has drawn this is Anthony Coleman. This is a series that I am not familar with, but it reads very much like Bishop’s Boffins from the Hotspur. This is a department that is being given the weird and wonderful problems of the war to solve. And each episode is a problem to solve by the final frame. The only difference seems to be the name of the characters and the artist, which makes me wonder if these were reserve scripts that just never got used in the Hotspur so they were rebranded and used in the Victor.
I have just realised that I am up to almost a thousand words on this post and I have barely begun to discuss the ongoing serials so I am going to finish this post here and start preparing part 2 for your delectation.
All art (c) D C Thomson.