Comic heroes have been lost in time
Published at 09:07, Monday, 27 February 2012
OVER the past week or so, I have been conducting a lively debate with various people about the comics of my youth.
I don’t mean the Beano and Dandy, splendid organs that they were, but the ones aimed at slightly older boys.
I’m going back to the late 1950s/early 60s when there was no Cartoon Channel, Cbeebies or indeed any television at all during the day.
There were no DS’s or other computer games either, so when the delights of birds nesting and stone fights had faded, and there were no more sticklebacks to catch in the stagnant, green-scummed pond down the road, we read.
I was – and still am – a voracious reader, and had read every book in the children’s section of the town library by the time I was 10.
My favourites were the thick yellow volumes of Billy Bunter stories by Frank Richards, now outrageously banned from the nation’s bookshops.
The blatant racism, fattism, snobbery and casual violence went way over my young head – it was just a window into a school which was nothing like the Broken Cross County Primary School that I attended.
There were gowned masters in mortarboards, there were dorms, there was prep, there were tuck shops and parcels from home – and there were fags.
One of my early heroes was “the Bounder” – the caddish, cigarette smoking Herbert Vernon-Smith – but there were also the odious Coker of the Fifth, notorious for his “short way with fags”, and the languid Lord Mauleverer, the kindly trainee aristocrat who owned most of Hampshire.
I soon moved on to comics like the Victor and Hotspur, a weekly treat to bury myself in.
Both were particularly strong on sport, with football well to the fore.
While they never produced an enduring hero of the stature of the Tiger’s Roy of the Rovers, there was an entire team of memorable footballers to keep the pages turning.
Who could forget Gorgeous Gus, aka the Earl of Boote, a decorated war hero and top toff who bought Redburn Rovers and turned them into world beaters?
He played centre forward, but spent most of the game sitting on his ornate throne at the side of the pitch, being fanned by his manservant Jenkins.
When the time came he would stroll on to the field, and win the game with a cannonball shot which as often as not carried the goalkeeper into the net with the ball.
Other footballing heroes were Dozy Danny Lorimer, the narcoleptic Mancaster United striker who had a habit of falling asleep at inopportune times, and Limp Along Leslie, who had one leg shorter than the other, which allowed him to bend in free kicks with the sort of South American sorcery that Beckham could only dream about.
And there was the mysterious Pickford the Goalmaker, who was reincarnated every 30 years or so to take his team to assorted cups.
Perhaps the biggest hero though was Alf Tupper, the Tough of the Track, the welder who trained on fish and chips, and waged a constant war against the toffs from the posh local athletics club.
I seem to recall he won one cross country race despite stopping halfway round to rescue a man who had fallen down a mill chimney with his welding gear.
I was a little too late for Wilson of the Wizard, another legendary athlete who ran three minute miles as well as climbing Everest in his spare time.
It wasn’t all sport though; there were lots of adventure stories too, including the exploits of H.K. Rodd, the Wonder Man.
He was an orphan brought up as an experiment by two scientists on a remote Scottish island, where he was trained to develop extraordinary mental and physical powers.
And what about Bill Sampson, the Wolf of Kabul, who roamed the North West Frontier?
The Wolf frequently tried to pass himself off as an Afghan but was always being given away by his blue eyes.
However, he was always rescued by his Oriental companion Chung, whose only weapon was a cricket bat bound with brass wire known lovingly as Clicky Ba.
“Clicky Ba turns in my hands” were the last words many Afghans ever heard.
Running alongside Victor and Hotspur were pocket-sized war comics, with picture stories of chirpy Tommies confounding hulking Germans and goofy Japanese.
They don’t write lines like “Take that, sausage noshers!” or “Share this among you, cabbage crunchers” any more!
Published by http://www.hexhamcourant.co.uk