I’ve called this awful piece of lazy rubbish ‘Frantic Thingies’ because that’s what I called it on my semi-complete Contents page at the front of the book. But really it’s two separate pieces, linked only by being related to a magazine called Frantic. Frantic was a wacky, broadly satirical magazine in the vein of Mad published by Marvel UK from 1979 to 1981, mainly consisting of comic strips and funny articles reprinted from various American comics like Crazy and Not Brand Echh. And I loved it. Loved it to absolute death. For almost a whole year. There are better examples in future Topic books, but this is, I suppose, my first attempt to express to the world how much I loved Frantic. And, I suppose, how much I loved funny things altogether. The first page - Gnatman and Rotten Meet Stuporman - might almost seem impressive until you realise I copied the characters from somewhere else. Gnatman and Rotten featured in the first Frantic Summer Special from 1979, while Stuporman is in the first proper monthly edition published in February 1980. They don’t appear together, so I suppose that’s my idea, but it’s not a great one. The Green Sparrow (obviously a take on DC character Green Arrow) is also in Frantic No 1, though it’s only a passing mention and the idea that he tweets all the time was added by me. Other than that, there’s not really much going on here. The second page - which I’ve called a ‘Checklist’ - is just a weirdly-formatted list of contents for the first two Frantic specials. Weirdly enough it doesn’t even mention Gnatman and Rotten, so it’s not much use as a list of contents, and it isn’t much of a checklist either. I imagine I intended to continue through the next few issues, but got bored and did something else instead. Or, more likely, realised how rubbish it was and decided to quit before it got any worse. So I was going to leave it there. But then I realised, this is actually pretty important. It hadn’t occurred to me before writing this just now, but this is the first deliberately funny thing I wrote in any of my Topic books. I’d written a couple of overtly humorous stories in my English book and started finding ways to spice up dull reportage with jokes, but this is something slightly different. This is me trying to directly grab you by the lapels and shout “I LIKE FUNNY!” right in your face. It’s me trying to engage with something that’s already funny and somehow reproduce it, or even add to it. It’s me taking something that’s funny and starting to dissect it and display its constituent parts, so maybe I can understand what funny actually is and somehow become better at being funny myself. I’m telling someone else’s jokes, for sure, and definitely nowhere near as well. But I’m also trying to tell them in my own way. There isn’t much humour in this Topic book, on the whole - not deliberate humour at any rate - but this lazy, scrappy display of love for Frantic is an augur of things to come, when whole books will be filled with my own stupid characters and spirited attempts to be subversively zany. It’s the beginning of an obsession which eventually came to overwhelm me and dictate the shape of most of my adult life. This page is the beginning of who I am. And it’s an absolute pile of horse shit.
March/April 1980
TERM 2 The birth of the 1980s - Blake’s 7, Blondie and battles in space
TOPIC 1 He knows the names of all the dinosaurs
Dinosaurs 1 Space Travel Ships Sport Dinosaurs 2 Judge Dredd: The Blood of Satanus Captain Carnivore A-Maze-Ing! Star Poster: Super Jesus The Micronauts: Giant Karza The Origin of Electro Optical Illusion Time Frantic Thingies Men in Space Topic Book Word Find Puzzleman Evel Knievel: Fury Falls More Puzzlers Star Poster: The Hulk 1 Grobschnitt’s Page Captain Starlight Star Poster: The Hulk 2 The Yellyog Gang The Adventures of Puzzlemaster Jupe Woman Line Pin-Up: Doctor Doom Lazer Lash The Human Maze Three Squares Raven Mad Marvel Sketches Robschnitt’s Age: 1 Snotty Notty Space Battles Metalorian Man Robschnitt’s Age: 2 The Superhero Sports Day Captain Kirk & Pywal Carbo-Catalogue How Dumb Are You? The Space Invaders: 1 Pin-Up: The Empire Strikes Back The Space Invaders: 2 Gi-Gant-Ic! Index
Frantic Thingies
Fiends of the Eastern Front Vampires, paraphrased from 2000 AD
THE ORIGINALS
Peter Pooper vs Gnatman and Rotten The Origin of Stuporman
Faded Notes for Eraserheads Another thing I’ve only just noticed today (February 2022, almost 42 years after it was originally written): it might be difficult to see unless you can display it on a super-hi-res screen, but erased pencil marks at the top of the page reveal I was originally going to write a story about Kenny Everett’s cartoon sci-fi hero Captain Kremmen (though I’ve misspelt it ‘Kremman’). An explosion in the top left corner announces the title - ‘Kremman of the Star Corps’ - alongside crude pictures of Kremmen and his sidekick Carla. It’s amazing to still be finding new things in these books after 40-odd years. We weren’t really supposed to rub things out in our books (begging the question of why we so often had to write in pencil), but this book seems to be full of stuff like this. Why did I erase it, rather than drawing a line under it and starting again? I don’t know. Maybe I wanted to meet certain standards and the stuff I erased didn’t cut it in some way I don’t understand now. Maybe I wanted the book to make some kind of sense? Maybe I saw it as a coherent piece of work that shouldn’t be ruined by stupid half-baked ideas and unfinished snippets? You stupid fool, Shepherd! Don’t you realise that’s what Topic books ARE??!!
HELP ME KEEP THIS WEBSITE ALIVE
Grobschnitt’s Page Meet Grobschnitt, the dome-headed Harbinger of Mischief
Apeth (from Ota Sbees) Ritern ov thu perpal geriller
Exploring the Underworld Eight boys go exploring in a dangerous cave
TERM 3 1980 continues with the embassy siege and The Empire Strikes Back
Puzzlemaster Help Puzzlemaster escape the clutches of the Martian spacelords!
Captain Starlight Know your Starlight superheroes with this amazing fact file!
The Yellyog Gang Meet my latest hideous bunch of nutty nightmare fuellers
Lazer Lash An exciting criminal spy adventure in a world made of lasers!
Woman Line Which of these five squiggly lines leads to the woman?
Frantic Thingies
March/April 1980
Captain Carnivore Gary Shepherd is hunted down by a deadly flying meteor
The Origin of Electro Waen Shepherd, TV Star, turns evil and drains the city!
Super Jesus A special pin-up of your favourite Nazarene webslinger
Giant Karza! Arch-enemy of the Micronauts grows to super size!
A-Maze-ing! The most unbelievable maze you’ve ever seen in your life!
I’ve called this awful piece of lazy rubbish ‘Frantic Thingies’ because that’s what I called it on my semi- complete Contents page at the front of the book. But really it’s two separate pieces, linked only by being related to a magazine called Frantic. Frantic was a wacky, broadly satirical magazine in the vein of Mad published by Marvel UK from 1979 to 1981, mainly consisting of comic strips and funny articles reprinted from various American comics like Crazy and Not Brand Echh. And I loved it. Loved it to absolute death. For almost a whole year. There are better examples in future Topic books, but this is, I suppose, my first attempt to express to the world how much I loved Frantic. And, I suppose, how much I loved funny things altogether. The first page - Gnatman and Rotten Meet Stuporman - might almost seem impressive until you realise I copied the characters from somewhere else. Gnatman and Rotten featured in the first Frantic Summer Special from 1979, while Stuporman is in the first proper monthly edition published in February 1980. They don’t appear together, so I suppose that’s my idea, but it’s not a great one. The Green Sparrow (obviously a take on DC character Green Arrow) is also in Frantic No 1, though it’s only a passing mention and the idea that he tweets all the time was added by me. Other than that, there’s not really much going on here. The second page - which I’ve called a ‘Checklist’ - is just a weirdly-formatted list of contents for the first two Frantic specials. Weirdly enough it doesn’t even mention Gnatman and Rotten, so it’s not much use as a list of contents, and it isn’t much of a checklist either. I imagine I intended to continue through the next few issues, but got bored and did something else instead. Or, more likely, realised how rubbish it was and decided to quit before it got any worse. So I was going to leave it there. But then I realised, this is actually pretty important. It hadn’t occurred to me before writing this just now, but this is the first deliberately funny thing I wrote in any of my Topic books. I’d written a couple of overtly humorous stories in my English book and started finding ways to spice up dull reportage with jokes, but this is something slightly different. This is me trying to directly grab you by the lapels and shout “I LIKE FUNNY!” right in your face. It’s me trying to engage with something that’s already funny and somehow reproduce it, or even add to it. It’s me taking something that’s funny and starting to dissect it and display its constituent parts, so maybe I can understand what funny actually is and somehow become better at being funny myself. I’m telling someone else’s jokes, for sure, and definitely nowhere near as well. But I’m also trying to tell them in my own way. There isn’t much humour in this Topic book, on the whole - not deliberate humour at any rate - but this lazy, scrappy display of love for Frantic is an augur of things to come, when whole books will be filled with my own stupid characters and spirited attempts to be subversively zany. It’s the beginning of an obsession which eventually came to overwhelm me and dictate the shape of most of my adult life. This page is the beginning of who I am. And it’s an absolute pile of horse shit.
THE ORIGINALS
Peter Pooper vs Gnatman and Rotten The Origin of Stuporman
Faded Notes for Eraserheads Another thing I’ve only just noticed today (February 2022, almost 42 years after it was originally written): it might be difficult to see unless you can display it on a super-hi-res screen, but erased pencil marks at the top of the page reveal I was originally going to write a story about Kenny Everett’s cartoon sci-fi hero Captain Kremmen (though I’ve misspelt it ‘Kremman’). An explosion in the top left corner announces the title - ‘Kremman of the Star Corps’ - alongside crude pictures of Kremmen and his sidekick Carla. It’s amazing to still be finding new things in these books after 40-odd years. We weren’t really supposed to rub things out in our books (begging the question of why we so often had to write in pencil), but this book seems to be full of stuff like this. Why did I erase it, rather than drawing a line under it and starting again? I don’t know. Maybe I wanted to meet certain standards and the stuff I erased didn’t cut it in some way I don’t understand now. Maybe I wanted the book to make some kind of sense? Maybe I saw it as a coherent piece of work that shouldn’t be ruined by stupid half-baked ideas and unfinished snippets. You stupid fool, Shepherd! Don’t you realise that’s what Topic books ARE??!!
HELP ME KEEP THIS WEBSITE ALIVE
Grobschnitt’s Page Meet Grobschnitt, the dome-headed Harbinger of Mischief
TERM 3 1980 continues with the embassy siege and The Empire Strikes Back
Captain Starlight Know your Starlight superheroes with this amazing fact file!
The Yellyog Gang Meet my latest hideous bunch of nutty nightmare fuellers