Saturday August 25thWe start this story in Blackpool, where I am enjoying my annual summer holiday with my Gran. We went every year for the last week of August from 1976 to 1983, then again in 1985 and 87, each time staying at the Kenbarry Hotel on Albert Street, which was run by a bloke called Barry. Barry just happened to be the son of one of my Gran’s next door neighbours, which meant we were always welcome. I never found out who Ken was. The last time I went there it was closed for refurbishment and had changed its name to The Blackpool. I understand it was also once the subject of a reality TV programme of some kind. But presumably under different management.This may well have been the same summer that I got an autograph from Darth Vader. It’s also likely the same week Gran bought me a Palitoy Star Wars Cantina. I almost certainly visited the Tower, the Doctor Who Exhibition and the Pleasure Beach. Coral Islandwas still new, having opened in 1978. The arcades had Space Invaders machines, but this was still an exciting novelty. Everything else is a mystery.
Sunday September 2ndAfter almost a year of inactivity, the Yorkshire Ripperclaims another victim, his eleventh murder in four years (though at the time it was assumed to be his twelfth). Barbara Leach was discovered in an alleywayin Bradford in the early hours of Sunday morning. In context, the infamous hoax letters and tape were sent over the period of 1978 to 1979, with the tape arriving on George Oldfield’s desk on June 17, 1979. This threw the Ripper hunt completely off course, and by August 1979 the police believed the Ripper’s home town to be Castletown, near Sunderland. They were wrong, but only two people actually knew that.
Saturday September 1stProbable date for return home from Blackpool. I like to think that Mum and Dad moved house while I was away, and everything was miraculously ready for me upon my return. No one has any memory of whether or not that’s true. But Mum told me that, when she asked for time off work to move house, her boss at the sweet factory refused. So she told him to go to Hell, walked out and did it anyway. The following week she was sent a letter of apology and asked very nicely if she wanted her job back. This may have had something to do with the enormous respect many of those who worked there still had for her father and grandfather, who had both worked in senior blue collar positions at the factory before her.
Monday August 27thLord Louis Mountbatten is assassinated by the IRA and 18 British soldiers are killed in County Down. I remember talking to Gran about it as we walked round a department store (probably Lewis’s) in Blackpool. Gran explained that Lord Mountbatten was Prince Philip’s uncle and was therefore a member of the Royal Family. I struggled to get my seven-year-old head around why someone would want to kill a member of the Royal Family and who these IRA people were that I kept hearing about.Here’s a BBC documentaryabout it from 2019.Thursday August 30thStar Wars Weekly No 80 – features a Green Cross Code Man ad on the back. The Green Cross Code Man was, of course, played on TV by the real Darth Vader, David Prowse, whose likeness appears in the ad.
In the evening: an exciting new series of Doctor Whobegins with Part One of Destiny of the Daleks. Written by Who veteran Terry Nation, it promises thrills galore as the Doctor and his newly-regenerated companion Romana return to Skaro, the home planet of the dreaded Daleks, where a mysterious excavation is taking place which threatens to alter the fate of the entire galaxy. Looking back on it now, this story’s pretty rubbish, but at the time, it was event television. Not only was it the first story to feature the Daleks for four years, it was also the first story to feature Lalla Ward as Romana, and the first story script edited by Douglas Adams, who would become much more famous for other things as the years wore on. It also introduces the Movellans, one of the very few species of black aliens in Doctor Who (though, typically, one of them is a white woman blacked up).
The Spectacular Spider-Man Weekly No 339 - a Marvel weekly published under the editorship of Dez Skinn, who spent only two years in the position but had a palpable impact on Marvel’s range of titles. This one has already been through two rebrandings in less than nine months, having started the year as Super Spider-Man, before changing to the more prosaic Spider-Man Comic and, just a month ago, to the more flamboyant Spectacular Spider-Man Weekly. In another nine months it will change again.Hulk Comic No 27 - one of the more fondly regarded titles from Dez Skinn’s so-called Marvel Revolution, this weekly mag managed to forge its own unique identity, at least for a short while. Most of Marvel UK’s output merely reprinted strips that had already been published in Marvel’s US range, but in black and white instead of colour. Hulk Comic stomped all over that by publishing not one but four new strips by British writers and artists each week - with brand new stories from The Hulk, Nick Fury, Black Knight and Night Raven, alongside more traditional reprint material. When I was little and bought these things regularly, it never occurred to me that the stories were reprints, but Hulk Comic still stood out as something different. I remember responding particularly well to Night Raven which, by this point, has already been dropped from the roster. I wonder if this is why I no longer read it?
Marvel also published monthly magazines alongside its weekly titles, but which day of the month they came out is virtually impossible to work out. They were usually Thursdays, but which Thursday is anyone’s guess. On this occasion however, there’s a clear date given in ads in several different comics for at least one new monthly magazine: Marvel Superheroes - ostensibly a brand new mag, but confusingly also a continuation of Marvel Comic, which itself used to be called The Mighty World of Marvel, and had been going as a weekly mag since 1972 - which is why the first edition is actually No 353. The first of these new-look comics was published on August 23rd, so it’s still brand spanking new when I arrive in Fairburn, and I’ll assume it’s out on the fourth Thursday of every month from now on until I hear otherwise. I didn’t buy it at the time though so I’ve no idea why I’m spending so much time going on about it. Other Marvel Monthlies around this time:•Rampage No 15•Starburst No 13•The Savage Sword of Conan No 23