Monday 27 June 2011

From the Vaults: 2000 ‘Fox Tales’

Back-story for something that happened in the past… when I was 12 a newsagent failed to notice the ‘not for sale to children’ disclaimer on the cover of an issue of Zit and this catapulted me into the previously unknown world of ‘adult’ comics. Suddenly after years of reading comics for my own age group I was amazed to see comic characters in scenarios I had never seen before. From then on I would casually (along with other titles such as Viz and Smut) buy the comic, (but only if the newsagent failed to miss the before mentioned disclaimer!). Zit started production in 1991 and featuring such characters as Lambrusco the alcoholic sheep, Glassman and the Man Who Collects Eyeballs. Fast forward nine years to 2000 I was taking a degree in Illustration and attempting to get into comics, sending off my portfolio and submissions to every publisher in the British Isles only to receive numerous of rejection letters in return. Most were just photocopied letters simply saying, “thanks but no thanks” but two very generously took the time to break it to me gently and explain their reasons Beano editor Euan Kerr (of whom I intend to address in a future post) and Dave Iddon editor of Zit who very kindly sent me a hand written letter explaining that the comic had just narrowly missed being axed the previous October and that they couldn’t except submissions at that moment in time. He then added,"As far as your work goes I’m afraid we can’t except contributions at the moment regardless of the quality (and your work IS very good) It’s just a case of having no cash available to pay for it! 
I will always be grateful to him for that paragraph as it meant it wasn’t a complete waste of time, “we would gladly pay you for it (because it’s very good) but we haven’t got the money to do so”. Yes, it would have been wonderful if he had accepted it and published the strip but this was a close second. Unfortunately Zit ceased publication two years later and opinions vary over its contribution to the British adult comic scene, personally I look back on it with fondness. I kept the letter and I read back over it a few times these past eleven years reminding me to keep at it, so thank you Mr. Iddon.Nine years later I submitted ‘Fox Tales’ again, this time to to Poot! and it was rejected again…Anyway, here it is for your viewing pleasure! Enjoy. 

I must mention Ryan Davies’s delightful site Two Headed Thingies. He is doing an excellent job documenting all the lesser-known British adult comics. Follow this link and find out more.

© Arfon Jones 2011. All images are copyrighted throughout the world.

Tuesday 7 June 2011

Monster Memories: ‘Monster in my Pocket'

This is a photo of me aged 12 (Reading issue #28 of the Beezer and Topper) taken by my grandmother in March of 1990 and if you look carefully on the table in front of me you can see an issue of News of the World’s Sunday Magazine. I recognise it because this particular issue started me off on an obsession that I carried throughout the early 1990’s, Monster in my Pocket. Many of you will no doubt be aware of or even remember the Monster in My Pocket toy line released by Matchbox in 1990. Small, soft plastic figures in a variety of colours representing various monsters from fiction and mythology with its own assigned  point value on the back of the figure itself. Sunday Magazine had on offer that week a voucher for our very own free Monster in my Pocket! The article informed us that “those mini monsters are back! And here’s your chance to get the latest inch high uglies in their new neon colours absolutely free thanks to Matchbox Toys!
All we needed to do was cut out the coupon and present our “terrifying token” at any Woolworths store! And that wasn’t all apparently there was also a mystery monster (indicated with a star on its back) and if we found it and returned it to Matchbox we would receive £50 worth of Matchbox toys! I really wanted to get to Woolworths and claim my monster but there was one minor drawback, it was Sunday I would have to wait almost an entire week before I could redeem my voucher (My mother only visited the town that had a Woolworths store on Saturdays). I patiently waited for the week to pass, hoping that they hadn’t run out of monsters. When Saturday finally arrived, my mother drove me into town, I hastily made my way to the Woolworths music counter (assigned the important job of redeeming vouchers) and presented my token. I was handed a box and told, “there is only a few left, pick the one you want”. I plunged my hand into a box consisting of around ten Invisible Man figures and one Ghoul and he was the one I picked making him the first of many monsters that I walked out of Woolworths with over the next three years or so.
I bought single and double packs collecting all of series 1, 2 and some of series 3 swapping them along the way and learning about each individual monster. I also had the 1992 annual, Top Trumps card game, stickers and album and 3 of the 4 Monster in my Pocket Howlers* (when a button was pushed the "eerie light-up eyes" would glow and the figure made a sound) but eventually stopped collecting them. I didn’t stop buying them because I had outgrown them (I actually moved on to collecting Mini Boglins shortly after) I simply stopped buying them because the range no longer interested me. In later years I learned that having offended Hindu communities, by releasing divinities as "monsters" Matchbox played it safe by releasing insects, dinosaurs and aliens instead (the one and only occasion that I wasn’t interested in collecting something dino or alien related!) But never the less I still look back on those early figures with great fondness, they shaped my interest in all things monster related. I still have them all and the various other Monsters in my pocket items that I previously listed. I even kept the page that had started me off, saving it in my scrapbook of which I still have to this day! Did you collect them? Which one was your favourite?

*2016 15/01/2016 Update Monster in my Pocket Super Scary Howlers were a range of plastic figures with LED eyes and as I mentioned before the eyes would glow and the figure made "scary monstrous sounds" when a button located on the base was pressed. There were 4 in the range to collect and "scare the wits out of your freinds!" The Werewolf ("with howl"), The Vampire ("with eerie laugh"), The Monster ("with monster growl") and The Swamp Beast ("with eerie swamp scream") and each sold separately, sadly Woolowrths had sold out of the Monster before I was able to pick one up for myself. But I am pleased to report that 24 years later, I managed to track one down and complete my collection!

© Arfon Jones 2011. All images are copyrighted throughout the world.


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