Desert Island Comics Episode 1 – Kenny Penman
A little holiday fun for everyone… while the country was sweltering in the heat late in May, we sent out a question….
“what comics would make life on a desert island bearable“.
You may accuse us of ripping off the idea from a certain long running radio show, and we’d completely agree.
Interestingly, the whole Desert Island Discs archive is online at the BBC and searchable. I had a quick go, wondering how many famous comic people had been featured, and which famous faces picked something comic related for their book or luxury. And the answer is very few, although in truth I didn’t spend that long searching.
Posy Simmonds is there of course, as is Raymond Briggs, Scarfe, Steadman, Ronald Searle has been done twice, Carl Giles is very popular, picked by organists Florence De Jong and Robin Richmond and actor Dennis Price, and it shouldn’t come as a surprise to find comic loving Paul Gambaccini picking the complete Carl Barks Library, but who would have guessed chubby cheeked West End crooner Michael Ball would choose Gaiman’s Sandman as his book? Or that Phil Collins would be a Far Side fan? But no Spiegelman, Crumb, Moore, Eisner, Addams, Kirby. Oh dear.
But anyway, back to the matter in hand…. we thought it might be nice to find out what various comic folks out there just couldn’t possibly do without on the latest Forbidden Planet International location… a desert island somewhere in the middle of an endless sea, where the sun shines all day, the breeze rustles through the trees, and the famous sound of Sleepy Lagoon comes floating over the island, making you question yet again…. “where is that f-ing orchestra?”
So, here we go, the first FPI Blog Desert Island Comics, and because he was awake at the ridiculous hour I sent it out, no doubt planning dreams of comic domination for Blank Slate Books, the honour goes to the spiritual daddy of the FPI Blog, the publisher of Blank Slate Books… Kenny Penman….
Desert Island Comics Episode #1 – Kenny Penman:
1. Avengers 14
This was my favourite comic as a kid. For one thing it had the MMMS box on the front – I was obsessed with that and still haven’t forgiven my mum for refusing to send money off to the states “It will never come back and you will have lost the money”, hmm – Mum – really? In it, the Wasp nearly dies – until the last page I thought she surely would. Great Kirby cover and whilst Heck not Kirby did the interior art, it stands out in memory, vividly – still.
2. Fantastic Four 39
The FF without powers going up against Von Doom – surely there can be only one result. But no, “A blind man shall lead them”. Mostly as a kid i was a team book guy but loved DD. Whilst I didn’t know it then i especially liked Wally Wood’s DD as was involved here. The story was a sprawling 2-parter and DD showed that with application and initiative you can defeat the odds and put the FF back on top. Thrilling.
3. Fantastic Four 69
Often the FF worked best when it was based around Ben Grimm’s, understandably not always positive view of himself as a mass of rocks trying to make his way in the world. This was the first Marvel I bought new from the stands aged 9 (I had a collection of 2nd hand ones before this). Kirby’s re-imagining of a King Kong poster that serves as the cover – blew my mind then – it still does today.
4. The Mighty Thor 118
Arguably some of Kirby’s best work was in this and the issues of Thor from around this period. The main strip was always dynamic and involving and the lush Tales of Asgard was appearing as a back-up. This issue introduced the Destroyer and there never was prior, and possibly still hasn’t been since, a more fitting foe for the mighty one. When the Destroyer raised his eye visor – I shivered.
5. Doctor Strange Vol 2 12
The comic that brought me back to comics as an 18 year old. One of the very last comics i read and loved in my first run round was the Thomas/Colan story where Clea discovers snow and kisses Strange for the first time – somewhere around Doctor Strange 175. I then retired them to teenage years of sports, booze and girl chasing before seeing this in a newsagent as I nipped in for some juice. Picking it up I was mind boggled all over again by Englehart’s trip into mysticism. I bought it, read it and bought 150 Marvels in the next month – in the course of which I turned some school common room friends on to comics – hi Neil, Graham and Ewan. I’m still buying them.
6. Dark Knight Returns 1
I know that subsequently Miller has made this seem less like a deconstruction of the character and more an opening call in a descent into paranoiac, right wing mublings but I still remember the impact of the first issue. I’d loved the Daredevil tales and this just seemed to bring it all together and show Miller emerge as a comics genius. I loved the pages packed with tiny panels, the huge single page images and the tone of the deeply cynical Batman acting as counterpoint to the endless TV coverage of decay. It felt like a comic for now. We sold many, many hundreds of each one from our tiny first store in Edinburgh and suddenly it felt like comics had arrived.
7. Love and Rockets Vol 1 #4
My partner was always a few steps ahead of me in terms of seeing where comics were going and was always trying to get me to wean myself slightly from superheroes and onto the meatier stuff. I wanted to like things like RAW but found the whole proposition slightly scary then. We had heaps of Amsterdam Free Press books in our store and he did get me looking at things like Little Nemo and Basil Wolverton. I kinda liked Love and Rockets from the get go but still had reservations. This one nailed it for me – ‘100 rooms’ was sprawling but packed with interesting and likeable characters, Maggie was the girl you wished you could turn your girlfriend into (sorry Annette for the years of Vertigo like trying to mould you ) and to top that off ‘Heartbreak Soup’ was beginning to establish itself as something that was going to be with me for a long time. This comic changed my life. Without it there would be no Blank Slate.
8. Trains are Mint 1
Ollie East’s first self-published comic was the match that lit the touch paper on doing some publishing. I was in a phase of buying a few small press things for a bit of a read and this hit my floor. I’d never seen anything like it – to this day – and Ollie has improved by leaps and bounds – I still think the man is a unique comics maker. It was something I thought the world should see and Blank Slate was born. Ollie’s been regretting it ever since! His upcoming book ‘Swear Down‘ is a touching, raw, deeply honest and personal memoir of the birth of his son and the experiences he and his wife Claire went through. It’s going to be essential reading.
Luxury – peace of mind
And if I needed a single record to soundtrack it all it would be Talking Heads 77