Back when I was a kid, stumbling across a comic, pretty much any comic, was like finding a gold nugget. The Great Aunts used to have stacks of Women’s Weeklies featuring Mandrake the Magician, the cousins had a treasure trove of Beagle Boys and Scrooge McDuck and the barber generally had bundles of my favourite at the time, The Phantom.
There never seemed to be consecutive copies so the stories didn’t flow too well but that was almost a secondary consideration. I was a sucker for the Ghost Who Walked, lived in a Skull Cave with his dog, Devil, and flew around the world fighting crime. I’d have killed for a Skull ring that punched a skull imprint into bad guys’ jaws. (Green Lantern rings came later.)
Today, following a quick rip through Wikipedia, I’ve learned that one author, Lee Falk, wrote Mandrake and The Phantom. He must have been a predecessor of Stan Lee, who seemed to be responsible for many of my favourites (Fantastic Four, Mighty Thor) as I grew older.
Interestingly, while I was at Bike Club last night I got chatting with the lads about books that got them reading as boys. One of my fellow after-dark crazies cited the Beagle Boys, Casper and Richie Rich as providing his early motivation to read, followed by the Hardy Boys. Comics were and still are an important way into literacy for many boys.
Another mad biker said he’d been reading the re-released Famous Five books to his kids. We all had fond memories of Enid Blyton’s gang of young sleuths. I know the Hardy Boys have had a make-over as a graphic novel series and recently learned the Famous Five have been modernised in book form and animated for TV. Once a good story, always a good story.
Anyway, here’s a pic from a family holiday earlier this year. It reminded me of the Skull Cave and made me want to dive back into boyhood adventuring. Given that I’d just been pulverised surfing, I had to make do watching my son clambering around the cliffs…