Sunday, 8 April 2012

Oh yeah

I suppose I'd better add that this blog has well and truly run out of steam! I now post more general articles about British comics (all titles and eras, but mainly from 110 years ago) on my newer blog:

Monday, 10 November 2008

Blog update

Having re-discovered the Story Papers Index ( i have now added the correct publication dates to all issues so far.
Also the large majority of my collection of UJ's all come from the same source, one collector who has added bits of brown paper to the inside front covers with a list of names. I didn't know what those names meant until i bought a volume of assorted 1904 issues from the same collection much later on - they are the names of the illustrators! However the volume of the first 25 issues doesn't list which illustrator did which issue, so i can't match them up. I have however added an illustrator slot for issues where i can.

Tuesday, 4 November 2008

Issue 6, Vol. 1 - 1st June 1894

Issue 6, Vol. 1

Published: 01/06/94
Price: ½d
Author(s): Captain Vernon Derwent
Illustrator(s): Unknown
Main Story: Fighting For The Flag – A Tale of the Famous Ashantee War (Captain Vernon Derwent)
Cyril Hastings, a young man who was found as a boy abandoned in a marsh and taken in by a Squire West, asks the squire if he may marry his daughter, Dorothy. This whips the squire into fury, as these are very class-conscious times, and he demands that Cyril leaves his house and never returns. This upsets Dorothy, who is in love with Cyril, but pleases an unscrupulous Captain Ferney, who wants Dorothy’s hand for himself (and, more likely, the large sum that will come with her when the squire dies). The Captain escorts Cyril from the house, and they quarrel all the way. Eventually they resolve on a duel with pistols, and agree to meet at the boat-house in the mansion grounds in an hour.
An hour later, Cyril walks to the boat-house, but another man has got there before him, Tom Sell, a deserting soldier desperate to be rid of his tell-tale uniform. He sees Cyril coming and conceals himself in the shadows, ready with a lump of wood. As Cyril enters he is knocked senseless and his clothes are swapped with Tom’s. Tom starts to wonder if he has killed Cyril, so throws him into the fast-flowing river to be on the safe side, and makes to leave the scene. As he does, Captain Ferney appears behind him – and the captain is Tom’s own commanding officer! Mistaking Tom for Cyril, he says “So I find you shirking from your engagement!” Tom, believing he is caught, turns and fires the revolver he has taken from Cyril, almost killing the captain. Tom then runs from the scene, leaving the smoking weapon behind him.
The sound of the shot alerts those at the mansion, and they rush to the scene, having half-expected a duel to take place. However the captain has not even drawn his weapon, and the pistol which a servant saw Cyril taking is laying on the grass, smoking. The party all draw the obvious conclusion of attempted murder, though Dorothy does not believe it and remains by the captain’s side, waiting to hear his version of events as soon as he is well enough. However as the captain did not see his attacker's face, he simply says that Cyril shot him, which causes Dorothy further upset. The captain then says he must contact the police and put then on Cyril’s track, Dorothy is worried by this, and agrees to marry the captain if it will buy his silence. The captain agrees. However before the wedding can take place he is called upon to travel to Africa to help in the war against the King of Ashantee.
Meanwhile, Tom Sell has discovered the name of Cyril Hastings in the stolen clothes, and adopts this name whilst in London. However he is soon arrested for theft and gives that name, so going to prison under the name of Cyril Hastings. This fact makes it into the papers which causes the Captain more satisfaction, as he now expects no obstacle to his marrying Dorothy.
The real Cyril, meanwhile, is not dead but has in fact been revived by the sudden plunge into the cold river. He floats a considerable distance before struggling to the bank and climbing out. In his confused state he barely notices his clothes are different, and his only desire is to get back to the hall and re-challenge Captain Ferney. However at that moment he is waylaid by some Military Policemen who, in the darkness, believe he is Tom Sell. In an ensuing fight the wound given to him by Tom Sell is re-opened and he collapses from blood loss.
Cyril wakes up in a military hospital, where he attempts to convince the Sergeant, Hodge, that he is not Tom Sell. However the combination of uniform and similar measurements, as well as a similar face, convinces the soldiers that he is Tom Sell and is merely confused after sustaining his head wound. The Sergeant says normally Cyril could be shot for his desertion, on top of numerous other charges built up by the real Tom Sell, but as the regiment is travelling to Ashantee they need every man they can get. After a lengthy argument Cyril discovers his commanding officer is Captain Ferney! However the Captain, realising the advantage of having absolute power over Cyril, refuses to reveal his true identity.
Cyril is punished for the desertion by being confined to the cells for part of the voyage to Ashantee. Once out he rapidly turns the name of Tom Sell from being one associated with laziness, alcholism and other vices into one associated with bravery and heroism. And by the time the ship reaches Africa “Tom Sell” is a favourite with all on board… except the one other who knows his real identity, of course!
Having been ashore for some time, Cyril is told to lead a small patrol into the jungle to hunt out a group of Fantees, another tribe who are mostly friendly to the British, but whose king wishes to join the king of Ashantee in rebellion. Cyril takes two Kossoes, native hunters, into the jungle with him, and these lead him unerringly to the camp of some rebellious Fantees. Boldly Cyril walks amongst them, relying on “being white” to be enough to awe these natives into swearing loyalty to Britain once more. There follows a short fight in which Cyril is reminded that “numbers tell, even though they be black ones”.
Cyril is held bound up for a while in the enemy camp, though he is able to engage the chief in a conversation. The chief is overconfident in the abilities of the king of Ashantee, and asks Cyril to join their side. Cyril says he would be able to decide more easily if he wasn’t tied up. In the midst of pretending to swear loyalty to the rebellious King Kalkalli, the camp is raided by British soldiers led by Captain Ferney! Seeing Cyril in amongst the enemy is enough excuse for the captain to order Cyril to be hung as a traitor. As Cyril is left hanging from a tree, the soldiers move away. The sympathetic Sergeant Hodge is one of the last to leave, and feeling sorry for “Tom Sell”, takes careful aim and shoots the rope holding him up.
As the captain returns to the regiment, glad to be rid of Cyril once and for all, he finds that the army are marching on the rebel city of Coomassie. Twice they engage the enemy at small villages, capturing them with ease. Meanwhile the king of the Ashantee resorts to all sorts of soothsayers, idols and spells to try and drive the British back, without any effect. Eventually the troops force their way down a narrow path and into an Ashantee camp near a town called Amoaful. The fierce battle produces two genuine heroes, the first is Captain Ferney, desperate to get the war “over with” and return to Britain. The other has a grimed face, torn uniform and seems travel-weary, but charges around the battlefield fighting like a tiger, saving lives and destroying the enemy in all directions. Eventually Coomassie is captured and the Ashantee king flees with the rest of his army. Sergeant Hodge believes that the unknown brave man who fought alongside them in the battle, and saved the Colonel’s life several times, was the spirit of Tom Sell. Captain Ferney walks in and warns the sergeant not to encourage a belief in “idle fancies”, but leaves, worried that Cyril Hastings may still live.
Later that night, the rank and file soldiers are awakened by a huge fire in the city, a fine house which had been occupied by the officers is on fire! Once again Tom Sell appears in the midst of the troops and plunges into the burning house to rescue the occupants. Captain Ferney, on an upper floor, resolves that both of them shall go to their death, and they fight amongst the flames before finally the entire house collapses around them.
Back at Merecliff hall, Dorothy is awaiting the return of the victorious troops and, she expects, captain ferney with them. A lawyer enters, representing the estate of the late Sir Percy Hastings, a rich and eccentric man who has died recently. It turns out Cyril is his son! Squire West, who had turned Cyril out, is now filled with regret. But on the other hand he is still confused that Cyril (who is really Tom Sell) could have turned to crime. The lawyer wishes for the Squire and Dorothy to see “Cyril”, who refuses to see them, just to make sure of his identity. The two agree, and discuss Dorothy’s engagement to Captain Ferney when the news arrives – the captain is dead! Despite being pulled from a burning building by a brave soldier called Tom Sell, he died of his wounds a few days later. Dorothy has to feign upset, but in reality is rather relieved.
Tom Sell leaves prison and is conducted to the lawyer's office. Smart enough to know that if he plays his cards right a large amount of money will come his way, in the guise of Cyril Hastings. When it is suggested he visits Dorothy and the Squire he finds numerous reasons to put the visit off. Eventually his excuses run out, and Dorothy and the Squire must travel down to London. There a surprise is sprung on the Squire, Dorothy saying she has met Cyril and still wishes to wed him. But this time it is the real Cyril, the heroic soldier who has just returned from Ashantee, now to a wealthy life and a comission as an officer. With everything explained the Squire allows Dorothy to marry Cyril, whilst he has an interview with Tom Sell, who still claims to be Cyril. This interview goes rather uncomfortably for the latter, who is rather glad to be taken back to prison, this time for fraud. Meanwhile Cyril returns to the manor with Dorothy and the Squire and recounts his adventures in Ashantee during a happy party.

Other Stories:
The Red Queen's Warning (anon)
Ironeta, the queen of the Pequot tribe of Red Indians in South America, has a dream from the "great spirit" telling her tribe not to go into battle with the "pale men" who have entered thier land. Her brother, Eagleheart, refuses and does battle with the British. The entire tribe but Ironeta are wiped out, she then commits suicide when the British soldiers approach.

The main story is the UJ's first "proper" war story, and the extra thread of mistaken identity and seperated lovers makes it even more interesting. An exciting and fascinating story, and one i remembered well as i was re-skimming it to write this review. The attitudes to class and race contained in it are very old-fashioned though, bloodthirsty scenes of battle in which the "savages" are wiped out with ease are the order of the day, in both the main story and the short one included at the end of the book (which is less than one page in length).
The editorial announces a "scheme", in which readers are encouraged to get thier pens out and go through this UJ, and the previous issues, and write what they think about them in the margins, "less of this", "more adventures" etc. And then send them in to the editor so that he can judge which kinds of stories are liked best, and have an idea of what elements to include in them. He offers a book as the prize for the most neatly-marked copy, though does not mention what the book actually is, other than "it will afford many week's pleasant reading".
Following this, there is a lenghty answer to a reader who wishes to throw up his office job and go farming in America or the Colonies. The editor generally advises against this, but says if his correspondent does wish to leave for the empire, to try South America rather than the USA. He follows up with some incedental comparisons of the USA compared to Britain, which makes fascinating reading in modern times, to think that the average American earned less than half the average Briton. America is also described as having a population that will "shortly double" Britain's. I think nowaways they have at least 4 times as many people. Britain is also said to have the largest tonnage of shipping in the world, whilst the USA has almost the smallest. A more up-to-date sounding statistic is that Americans go bankrupt more often than Brits. So some things never change, eh? [/half arsed attempt at Have I Got News For You?].
The editorial also mentions numerous engineering projects around the world in which Britain has a share, such as great canals and railways. The editor also proudly announces that the UJ is a paper which "a man can take home to his sister". Weather she'd want to read it is another matter.

Tuesday, 21 October 2008

Issue 5, Vol. 1 - 25th May 1894

Issue 5, Vol. 1
Published: 24/05/94
Price: ½d
Author(s): Harry Blyth
Illustrator(s): Unknown
Main story: The White Slaver (Harry Blyth)
The story begins with a lengthy and extremely melodramatic description of a house called Hawkscot on the coast of Northumberland. The house is right on the cliff, with a ladder leading down to a cave and the mooring-place for a stout Yawl. Two men descend the ladder, one named Peter Wraith, the other Dod Panton. The two are thieves and tonight aim to rob a Colonel Melville of a beautiful jewel known as the "Sacred Cross of Issa". A third member of their gang, named Sim, is to meet them at the colonel's house with a trap so that they can make their escape. The two discuss their plans, pointing out that they have meant to live respectably, but wish to steal the gem in order to restore it to it's rightful owners, a tribe of Malays.
Meeting Sim, they drive down to the Colonel's house, Stoneywall manor. Reaching the mansion and silently scaling the walls, the two soon come to the library and effect entrance through a poorly secured window. They just as easily open the desk where the gem is hidden and secure it, but at the same moment are disturbed by Frank Melville, the colonel's son. He is struck down by the butt of a revolver in the struggle and presumed killed. The two thieves decide to take his body with them, so that they may dispose of it in some way and thereby escape hanging. They ride back to Hawkscot and hide the body in the stables, whilst convincing Sim that nothing is amiss, fearing that if he knew murder had been done he'd set half the country after them. Once Sim is gone they discover that they have not killed Frank Melville but only stunned him! Neither feels up to actually murdering him in a cold-blooded way, so they decide instead to keep him prisoner for a short time, until a sailor they know called Gray Murdoch can get them out of the country.
Even as they talk, Gray Murdoch rolls up offshore aboard his brand new steamer, which he has on tick, remarking "there's not a more substantial ship afloat, she's built from keel to mast of paper". Dod and Peter welcome him into their home and ask him to take Frank to some far-away port and dump him, in order to buy the two enough time to collect the money for the Sacred Cross of Issa and escape England forever. Gray says he is heading for Africa next, to try his hand in the "black ivory" trade, better known as slave trading. He says that "white ivory" can fetch more, and agrees to take Frank aboard for the sum of £100. However as the money is counted out the old woman who had been feeding the prisoner rushes in to warn the three that hordes of policemen are heading towards the farm. In the ensuing struggle to get the prisoner away to the ship, Frank pulls away some of Dod's clothing. As Peter stuffs money from around the house into a sack, Dod notices the gem is missing! It was in the pocket pulled away by Frank. The two thieves rush down to the cliff and see the boat already being pulled back to Gray Murdoch's ship, the Weasel, with it's prisoner aboard. Frank is considerably confused by the latest turn of events, he had presumed he was going to be drowned when he was taken to the cliff edge, not put aboard a ship. Presuming the Sacred Cross, still in his hand wrapped in cloth, is a weapon of some sort, he hides it. Dod Panton, swimming towards the ship, is left behind by Gray Murdoch, who wishes to avoid a police chase at this moment in time. Dod can only float and shout curses until the police arrest him.
Frank is thrown into the hold of the ship and left to suffer during a violent storm, but is then hauled up on deck for fresh air by Gray Murdoch and his Portuguese first mate, Nicolo Posola. After Frank recovers he is called to the captain's cabin, where Murdoch tells him that Dod and Peter wanted to drown him, but Gray had his life spared. He says Frank must join him on a cruise and then will be taken back to England and given his freedom... as long as he obeys orders whilst aboard ship! Frank agrees, but says he would rather die than be involved in any criminal or malicious actions. The captain appears to agree and Frank leaves to begin his duties aboard ship... little knowing that in actual fact the captain intends to have him sold as a slave! Shortly, various articles marked with the name Weasel are thrown overboard and left to float, whilst the ship is re-painted and renamed the Flying Dart. This causes suspicion among the crew, so the captain and his mate bring the crew on deck and tell them in barely-disguised language that they intend to become pirates and slavers. One crewman called Joe Johnson objects, and is made to walk the plank! Frank steps in and demands the sailor be saved, agreeing to help Gray Murdoch in whatever comes in the process. Joe is saved from the sharks but Frank is terrified of what he has now agreed to do – slavery and piracy! Joe thanks him and agrees to stick by his side rather than take a chance to escape at a port.
The ship shortly puts into Lisbon and Gray Murdoch takes Frank ashore in order to use him as secretary whilst meeting some merchants. A celebration is in full swing in the port, and the two stumble into a parade, becoming unavoidably separated. Frank is eventually precipitated through a rotten wooden gate and into a beautiful garden. There he meets three women who take him to their father, Signor Corregidor, who asks Frank to stay with him for the day. Frank agrees, hoping he can later slip away and find a ship going to England. He has a telegram sent to his effect, and spends the rest of the day dancing with one of the women, Thersa. Later he leaves the house and falls in with some celebrating Englishmen, who put him up for the night in one of their hotel rooms. In the morning he again visits Signor Corregidor, and throughout the whole week. At last he resolves to sail back to England and goes to settle up his hotel bill, using Portuguese money given to him by Gray Murdoch. However this money turns out to be fake and he is arrested. As he is led from the hotel a British sailor shots at him to run to the end of the street and board The Golden Snake, a ship just setting off. Frank does so and leaps aboard just as the gang-planks are being withdrawn. Only then does he find the ship is captained by Gray Murdoch!
The pirate reveals that he sold his old ship and bought the new one cheap, as she is better suited both to the waters of the Congo, and for concealing the "merchandise" on board. Frank also learns that Joe Johnson has been left behind, leaving him no friends aboard. The ship sails to the Congo and picks it’s way through wild and dangerous African rivers. Gray Murdoch boasting of the ‘glory’ of hunting man for sport and of his association with a well-known Portuguese slaver called "The Gray Tiger". Frank thinks fast and decides that if he can bring this man to justice, it would do the world a great favour, and so resolves to remain silent and compliant until he can come face to face with this dread villain. The ship finally anchors in a hidden creek, and Frank becomes largely ignored, as there is no way for him to escape and travel through the jungle alone. His free run of the ship does allow him to get hold of a brace of revolvers and a flask of brandy spiked with laudanum.
The Captain, mate, Frank and two of the crew leave the ship and row down a small river, eventually arriving at a lake in the centre of which is a large island. A hidden landing stage is guarded by an African who is happy to receive a kick from the first mate. The five walk up a path further into the island, Gray Murdoch now being led by Nicolo Posola. It turns out that the mate is the son of the Gray Tiger, who greets him joyously, for this is the hidden camp of the notorious slave trader. Two long, large huts contain the slaves, which are shown to the sailors. One of them, pirate that he is, can’t stand to see the awful scene and Frank feels that this man will be an ally later. Frank then finds out that he is to be made a slave himself, Gray Murdoch offering Frank, who can be held to ransom, for all the African slaves and some gold. The Gray Tiger eventually agrees and a feast commences.
Frank bides his time until night, when the revel is in full swing, and he is joined by the two sailors. They both believe in slavery, but still won’t hold with torture. Not exactly friendly allies but the best Frank can work with, he arranges for them to free the slaves whilst Frank takes care of the sentries by giving them the drugged brandy. Once the three make their escape the slavers will be at the mercy of their former captives. The plan is put into effect, and for good measure Frank and his comrades decide to spread panic in the camp by firing the jungle on the island.
The dried foliage catches fire easily, but as the fire starts Frank and the two sailors, Bill and Joe, hear hearty British cheers and gunfire ringing from the other side of the flames, the navy is here! And what’s more, so is Colonel Melville, Frank’s father. Frank shouts out that he will row around, but is recaptured by Gray Murdoch who is escaping in another boat. Threatening the two sailors with charges of piracy and hanging, they once again join the slaver’s side. The four regain the hidden ship and sail for Malaya, even though fuel is short and the captain must reach the Malay Archipelago ahead of the British ships. Frank is now closely watched, and the British ship is not seen for some time, which makes him begin to lose hope.
One day, the British ship, Avenger, is sighted. Frank notices before the captain, who berates and then shoots the look-out for not spotting it. The Golden Snake is still well ahead of her rival, though, and short on coal. Murdoch resolves to put in at Cape Town, sell the ship and make good his escape with the money. The Engineer, who comes up with the plan initially (and is then told by the captain that he had already thought of it first!), wishes to be paid as well. He then asks what is to be done with Frank, to which Murdoch replies he knows of a Malay priest who lives in the suburbs, and who can hold frank hostage until "his father has paid me his last soverign!".
The captain and engineer continue to haggle as time goes on, both distrusting the other and concentrating on making sure they get thier share of the ransom. At last the reach Cape Town and Frank is drugged and taken ashore, awaking in a splendid house owned by the Malay priest. This priest happens to belong to the tribe who revered the Sacred Cross of Issa, and the priest therefore wishes to sacrifice Frank, as he is the son of the Colonel who stole it. Gray persuades the priest to hold on for three days whilst he makes the arrangements to collect the ransom, however he then returns after two days demanding Frank is put to death, as all his plans have failed and he simply wants revenge. Frank is taken to the altar and made to stand, whilst the priest raises his ornate knife. "Well, why don't you strike?" asks Frank "I am anxious to show you how an Englishman can die". I want those to be my last words. As the knife is bought down, it hits the Sacred Cross of Issa in Frank's pocket, tearing the material and causing the stone to fall to the ground. The priest and his Malay congregation interpret this as a sign from the gods and spare the young man's life. At the same instant Frank points to Gray Murdoch, saying he is the evil one, and Gray is sacrificed in his place.
Whilst this goes on, Frank rushes from the temple and straight into his father, who has arrived on the scene with armed men. His father explains that Dod Panton confessed all the details of the case as soon as he was arrested, and this put Colonel Melville on the track of Gray Murdoch. He arrived in Lisbon three days after Frank had left and met Signor Corregidor and both his daughters (note that the Signor had three earlier in the story!). Peter Wraith, the other thief, is explained away as having fallen as he descended the cliff. The Colonel and Frank decide to leave the Sacred Cross of Issa with the Malays and turn for home, though Frank wishes to stop off in Lisbon on the way!

Other Stories: None

Notes: Another mess of a story from Harry Blyth! Whilst not as bad as some of his works (issue 11 of the Halfpenny Marvel being a case in point) there are still some bizarre moments, such as the Malay priest's knife hitting the Sacred Cross of Issa in Frank's pocket and allowing him to escape execution (why not just show them the gem as soon as it is mentioned?). Frank's recapture after the battle at the Slaver's camp stretches credibility a bit too.
The story ends quite high up on the last column of page 15, the rest of the column being taken up by a "fascinating facts"-type feature, including statistics about the stock of paid notes in the Bank of England (they filled 13,400 "boxes", and would cover the area of "a fairly large town" if laid flat). Another concerns a drunk officer at an army barracks who looks in on his men as they are walking on thier hands, but in the morning puts it down to drink - and so the soldiers escape a reprimand! A small advert for the Halfpenny Marvel also features, encouraging readers to buy "back numbers" from the newsagent - a practice which is impossible today.
The editorial also mentions this, remarking that the previous issue sold out so fast a reprint was ordered and dispatched to newsagents, so that readers who missed out may still be in with a chance. A method of obtaining fresh water from springs under the sea is also mentioned, and then there's a section on how large and ferocious animals are terrified of mice and rats (so always keep some in cages whilst adventuring in the Congo, chaps!). The article also mentions the famous "Driver Ants" (aka Army ants) which live in West Africa and move in one huge mass, devouring all living things before them.
The following section mentions a fish from Britsh Columbia which can be caught, dried and burned for light. The editor wishes he had some of these fish on hand on "a foggy November day, when the gas goes out suddenly every two hours". And finally the next story is mentioned, an army story set in the Ashantee war.

Sunday, 7 September 2008

General update

I have now added some small "cover scans", though as most of my UJ's are bound in books, they are not scans. And as most of my UJ's don't have covers, they are actually pictures of the first page of the story. Also though they "appear" like they can be clicked on to reveal a bigger picture (i was going for 650 pixels wide), it doesnt actually work. I'll have to find out how to do that later.

I have also discovered the hosts of my proper website offer blogs, so i may start another one over there. This one will be called "British Comics Miscellany" and will be very image-heavy. It'll also feature bits of everything in my collection from 1894 up to the very latest 2000AD, Commando or Viz.

Thursday, 4 September 2008

Issue 4, Vol. 1 - 18th May 1894

Issue 4, Vol. 1
Published: 18/05/94
Price: ½d
Author(s): Maxwell Scott
Illustrator(s): Unknown
Main story: The Phantom Dwarf - or, The Mystery of the Isle of Life (Maxwell Scott)
A small town on the Yorkshire coast called Sandy Wyke is being battered by a fierce hurricane-force storm as the story opens. Most residents are content to stay indoors (presuming thier roofs are not blown away), but the crew of the local lifeboat station remain on the promenade, looking out to sea to spot any ship in distress. Suddenly a ship rounds the nearby cliffs forming the edge of the bay, though there is no sign of life aboard her a crowd of willing helpers leave thier homes to help launch the lifeboat on it's dangerous mission. As the crew prepares the coxwain steps outside again to talk to a coastguard, who is watching the ship through a telescope. She is heavily damaged and a man is aboard, so the lifeboat, the Darby and Joan, is launched at once.
Remaining on the shore, is a "gentlemen of the truest type", Richard Ensor - or Dick, as the story comes to call him. He lives in nearby Dangrave Hall with his uncle, a former Colonel, and normally travels but has returned home for the present and wishes to watch the brave lifeboat crew in action.
The boat is rowed furiously out beyond the ship, and then allowed to drift towards her with the current. The bowman prepares to throw a rope to the ship so that the lifeboat can come alongside, when one of the ship's masts collapses, the upper part coming down upon the bowman and killing him instantly. The shocked crew are too stunned to move for a moment, and the boat is carried back to the slipway from which she had been launched moments before. The crew are unenthusiastic, but Dick leaps into the bow and encourages them to fresh effort, and once more the Darby and Joan is launched. This time reaching the sticken vessel, where Dick spots the survivor, an aristocratic looking man desperatley clinging to a brass-bound box. The line is thrown twice, but the man is hesitant to let go of the box and secure the rope. On a third attempt Dick uses a grappling iron instead, and after it grips he hoists himself aboard the ship and is soon bringing the stricken man and the box back to the boat.
Dick recieves attention in the press after the daring rescue, and he recieves many letters, however only one is important to him, it comes from Elsie Wilmott, a girl he is in love with. He would like to marry her but her father, the town doctor, forbids it. Dick doesnt know that this is because of trouble stirred up by Colonel Ensor, who would recieve the hall and all Dick's wealth if he was to die unmarried. The Colonel had originally tried to break up the young lovers, but after being threatened with eviction has adopted this more devious approach.
The story travels back to just after the rescue, when Dr Wilmott is called to attend to the man rescued from the ship, who is in a delirious state and speaking an unknown language. The doctor decides rest would be the best thing, and gives the man a sleeping draught. After this he travels to see Professor Marmaduke Saville, who knows why he is coming already - after having had a dream many years ago that he would one day be called to interpret the speech of "a man dragged from the brink of the grave". he says also that the propechy decreed the man would have a large affect on his life, though he didnt know if it would be for good or ill. Either way he decided to go to the hotel where the man is resting, and meet his fate.
At the hotel the lifeboat crew are being entertained by thier friends after the daring rescue, the professor heads to the upstairs room and meets the rescued man, whom he finds is an Italian of around 30 years of age. The man awakes and demands the box, which the professor fetches, asking what it contains. The Italian tells an amazing story - it contains Amrita, the elixir of eternal life! Given to him by an eastern mystic by the name of Abdallah-Sina, each drop of it confers 100 years immunity from death in any form, the Italian needs to take a new dose quickly or he will die! However, the cruel professor refuses to hand the amrita over, even when told the box also contains the formula for making more, so that both he and the Italian could live forever if they wished. The town clock strikes ten, marking 100 years and one hour since the Italian last took a dose of the formula, the man is convulsed with pain and shrivels into a blackened skeleton with a few scraps of brown, dried skin hanging off it. However, the spirit of the Italian lives on, as The Phantom Dwarf!, a similarly hideous spectre which bursts from the corpse and knocks the elixir of life from the professor's hand, breaking the bottle. The professor himself passes out, and when he comes around the room is dark, and the ghost has gone.
An inquest into the bizarre death is held, but the professor manages to conceal the important document, and claims the Italian merely called for the box repeatedly before his strange and sudden death. The professor, on his own, translates the formula and discovers that it primarily needs five ingredients, all of them are expensive and difficult to obtain. However the Italian happens to have had a flask containing them already, evidently collected over the 500 years of extra life he has been granted. The final ingredient is a precious stone hidden on a remote island and worshipped by natives. For the formula to be made the seventh daughter of a seventh child must dip the stone in the mixture seven times, at the end of which she will die and the formula will be complete. The professor finds the island on a map (it is in the north Pacific), and wonders what the Italian, Giovanni Borelli, was doing sailing to England. However this is answered when he discovers a charter for an Italian-crewed steamship which was to have made the voyage to the island proper. With this, he decides to impersonate Borelli himself, and make the voyage. All he needs is the seventh daughter of a seventh child... and he discovers one while in conversation with Dr Wilmott- namely, Elsie!
Cabling to the captain of the ship, the San Stefano, he has the captain bring her to a small bay near Sandy Wyke. Meanwhile he goes to the same church that Elsie attends and, catching her eye, hypnotises her to come to the ship at the end of the service. Dick meets her outside the church, and is hurt when she ignores him and walks in a trance-like state out of the town. Suspecting foul play, Dick follows, and is terrified by the sight of the Phantom Dwarf, which appears to be trying to tell Elsie to turn back. When this doesnt work it turns it's attention to Dick, but in his frightened state he simply backs away, before being hit by Saville and left in the road. By the time he regains consciousness the ship in the bay is far out at sea. Dick staggers home and is found by his Colonel uncle the following day, babbling about what he has seen, still in shock. The Colonel sends for an unscrupulous Doctor Witt, who, with the help of a conspiracy of similarly crooked medical men, has Dick declared insane. This plot involves a 'maddening draught', Dr Wilmott witnesses Dick after this has been administered too, and the plotters gain an impartial witness to aid thier story.
Dick is persuaded to travel to a nearby lunatic asylum, where he is told Elsie has been taken. The Colonel insists he travels in a carriage so that he doesn't catch a cold after his own recent "illness". The carriage travels along a cliff road, but the horses then inexplicably halt at a paticularly dangerous section. The Colonel and the driver both try to puzzle out what is wrong with the horses, when the Phantom Dwarf appears, the terrified animals bolt and the coach is plunged over a cliff with Dick inside! He manages to spring clear of the doomed vehicle and undress himself in the water, before attempting to swim to safety. However a current carries him out to sea and he is eventually picked up by a fishing boat from Sandy Wyke. A storm breaks over the small vessel, crewed by a father and two sons. A large wave breaks over the ship and the two sons are carried off, this drives thier father insane and he attempts to murder Dick. He knocks our hero down after a struggle, and raises a marlinspike, but this forms a lightning conductor and is struck, the current killing the fisherman and knocking Dick unconscious. He awakes later to find the storm has largely abated, but his memory is blank! It is in this state he is rescued by a screw-steamer named Scotia.
Meanwhile, Professor Saville reaches the Isle of Life, the location of the mystic stone which is nessescary to create the elixir. The San Stefano anchors in the mouth of a river on the island, and the professor takes Elsie, still in a trance, ashore alone, one of many eccentric acts he has performed on the voyage, which by now excites no interest in the crew. The Professor comes upon a tribe of Arabs in the jungle, who show him to his luxorious quarters inside a palace hidden within the crater of an extinct volcano. On the opposite side of the crater is a cave protected by a wall of fire. This is where a smaller, taller crater containing the place where the elixir is made can be found. The leader of the Arab tribe, Alsofi, tells the professor that the ritual can only be performed during a full moon, ten days away, and that he will instruct the San Stefano to moor in a safer place whilst they wait. Ten days later, and the ritual is ready to begin! Alsofi shows Saville and Elsie across to the cave, and has them immerse themselves in a pool which provides temporary protection from fire. This allows them to pass the flame barrier and enter the cavern where the elixir is made...
Dick, meanwhile, is hauled aboard the Scotia and taken care of by the captain's brother, a doctor who is paticularly interested in memory loss. The captain mentions that the bo'sun was himself picked up very close to the spot, the sole survivor of another wreck, a few weeks previously. The ship continues on her voyage to San Francisco, but a hurricane pushes her up to the north Pacific, and the captain has to proceed slowly as the region is unexplored. Meanwhile Dick has recovered well but has still lost his memory. On a dark night, when the moon is almost full but remains hidden behind a bank of cloud, the ship accidentally sails into the mouth of a river and runs aground, listing badly. Dick rushes to escape an inrush of water and jams his head in a port-hole. The ship lists slowly further, with Dick's head sticking out and drowning being threatened with every moment. The rest of the crew escape and are able to swim around and console him, but can do no more. Just as the water reaches Dick's chin, and he prepares to die "like an Englishman", the boilers of the ship explode violently, huge cracks forming, including one right through the porthole where Dick is trapped! he swims to the surface after being carried under a short distance by the sinking debris, and emerges to a scene of devastation - almost all the crew killed and all thier stores lost. They decide to camp on the island and see what day brings.
The morning finds the crew trekking inland, where they can hardly beleive thier eyes as they come across an anchored ship - The San Stefano! After a meal Dick passes the day wandering the ship, finally finding Elsie's cabin and a book of hers. This opens the floodgates of his memory, and he rushes to talk to the officers of the ship. After sketches are made and compared, the sailors realise "Signor Borelli" is an impostor - Marmaduke Saville - and agree to help rescue Elsie from him.
They take a boat and sail upriver, coming across and fighting the Arabs just outside the cave which leads to the crater. Dick chases the last arab through the cave and emerges into the crater just in time to see Marmaduke Saville and Elsie Wilmott pass the wall of fire! Fighting off the Arab, Dick then comes up against Alsofi, however a timely intervention of the Phantom Dwarf causes the chieftain to flee into the night. Dick is dropped, by luck, into the magic pool, climbs out and passes through the wall of fire. Professor Saville has already begun the dread ritual, having made Elsie take the precious stone from a state representing a woman who at first seems to be happy, but also seems weary - as if offering the beholder eternal life but warning him not to take it. Elsie is about to dip the stone in the liquid for the seventh and final time when Dick bursts in on the scene, his voice breaking the hypnotic spell and making her drop the stone. The angered professor goes to pick it up, but as it can only be touched safely by a seventh child of a seventh child, it bursts into flames and adheres to his hand. The Phantom Dwarf also appears to torment him, and he plunges into a hideous pit of black lava at the centre of the crater to escape his torment. This causes the volcano to begin to erupt! Dick leaps up onto the statue, taking Elsie with him, as the lava from the pit rises higher and higher, and the crater is filled with choking fumes. By the light of the phosphorecent scum on top of the black lava, Dick notices that the walls of the crater are rather jagged, and he and Elsie begin a desperate climb to escape. They are able to climb so far, but there are no more hand-holds and they find themselves awaiting death, when the lava rushes through the cave with the flame-barrier (that had collapsed at the start of the eruption), and the level is reduced. A violent explosion as the lava touches the river in the larger crater causes rock wall above Dick and Elsie to fall outwards, providing them with a way down the mountain-side to safety.
The two rush back to the San Stefano as she is preparing to leave, and the ship sails away from the Isle of Life as fast as possible, under a cloud of volcanic ash. When they are about five miles distant a further series of explosions blasts the island into dust. The ship arrives in San Francisco and Dick and Elsie, after cabling to Dick's uncle and Dr Wilmott, take the trans-continental railroad across to New York, where Dr Wilmott meets them. He then tells Dick that his uncle, upon recieving the cablegram after beleiving Dick dead, went mad and was confined to the very asylum he had tried to get Dick admitted to.
Other Stories: None
Notes: A complex and exciting story, though one that could not very well be written in these days of global positioning, imaging satellites and greater understanding of science. I actually read this a long time ago, but looking back through it to write the review, i can now see the similarities to the much-later Indiana Jones series, inspired by the same source (Rider Haggard), as this story was.
The editorial makes further mention of this famous author, pointing out that at the time his brand-new stories where issued at 2'/6, "a price beyond the reach of the general reading public" (that is, the working-class 'urchins' who would have bought the Union Jack for a halfpenny). So they endevoured to produce a story "after the style of Rider Haggard" for a cheaper price. They also make mention of the fact this story is firmly rooted in fiction and imagination, making the implication, as they did in issue 2, that most stories in the U.J and Halfpenny Marvel, are in fact based on real life (!).
The editor also mentions that he has "made an addition to our staff in the shape of a member of the interviewing fraternity" . This "Mr Union Jack" is planned to interview great statesmen and soldiers, live aboard a Navy ship, go down in a Diving-bell, become a Tommy Atkins etc etc, and write about his experiences. However in these 25 early issues i have the name is only mentioned once more (from what i've seen on a flick-through anyway, i havent read every issue yet!), so this feature does not seem to have taken off any further.
The next issue features a tale called "The White Slaver" by Harry Blyth - the real name of "Hal Meredith", creator of Sexton Blake!

Sunday, 4 May 2008

Issue 3, Vol. 1 - 11th May 1894

Note: This blog has not been updated in ages, so i have decided to revive it. However from now on the reviews will be a lot shorter and more to the point, which will hopefully mean more regular updates. I have now decided to go through my collection roughly in order, so i will be doing the first 25 issues to start with then jumping forwards to the next point in my collection (currently a few single issues then another bound volume of several from 1906).
RWB News: My artistic skills are improving slowly but i still can't get my head around perspective, so decided to "cheat" by making maps using high contrast textures in a Doom editor, then printing a screen capture and tracing the outlines. This requires the use of a lightbox though, and i'm buggered if i'm paying Argos prices, so i may try to make my own. how hard can it be (famous last words said in Irish accent). This temporary block is actually why the blog is being worked on XD.
In other RWB news, i have decided to add another serial to the fray, Sarah Millman! she's a detective in Homonia, a country of the future built on the east coast of Siberia. However the future is going to look like an exaggerated version of the 1930's-1950's, with mobile phones. Oh, and it's going to be in colour!

Issue 3, Vol. 1
Published: 11/05/94
Price: ½d
Author(s): S. Clarke Hook
Illustrator(s): Unknown
Main story: 'Neath England's Flag (S. Clarke Hook.)
Off the eastern coast of Africa lays the warship HMS Albatross. Her flag at half mast and her crew solemnly burying thier captain at sea. A fever which has struck the vessel has left her young leiutenant, Horace Eastwood, in command. The following day he addresses the crew, until then ignorant of the ship's mission: to combat the slave trade. He goes on to say a missionary by the name of Henry Stanley has sent a message to England mentioning a ship called the Tempest, beleived to be a slaver, and which has already sunk one British vessel.
A storm blows up that night. battering the Albatross and almost driving her onto the coast, but the crew manage to sail out to sea, where they spot a strange vessel after many hours of sailing. Chasing the ship, they fire thier guns many times as a signal to stop, but without response. Eventually as the storm breaks the mysterious ship hoists up the Egyptain flag and slows. Horace deciding to board her even in the rough seas.
He discovers the ship is named Sea Foam, and is captained by an apparent Russian called Kolaski. The leiutenant asks to see her cargo, a request met with suspicion. But still the two officers descend below decks, finding a cargo of weapons, and a whip with dark stains on. Kolaski attempts to explain all this away, not convincing the Briton who openly accuses him of being a slaver. The Russian relents and promises to remain still until the morning when further checks can be made. Horace returns to his own vessel and a watch is kept on Sea Foam's bow lantern, however later in the night a sailor notices that there is no vessel supporting the lantern! Investigating in a boat the Britishers find the lantern supported on a raft, the slaver has escaped!
few days later, Albatross is anchored in the mouth of a river close to a settlement called Kenda. Horace travels inland alone to find the plantation owned by Henry Stanley. However when he arrives the owner is not there, so he travels back to the ship. Darkness falls as he travels through the jungle and he is set upon by a lion, but is then rescued by another plantation owner, Jack Bruce. The two camp for the night in the jungle, Bruce saying that he employs 200 natives, though not as slaves. He doesn't beleive they are anything but "lazy rascals", though. But such ideas where not regarded as shocking at the time. Horace and he return to the ship in the morning, then set out again for the plantation after eating.
The story shifts to the plantation, which is raided by the slavers. The men working there, along with the visiting daughters of Henry Stanley, Edith and Eveyln. A lengthy passage bears repeating as it sums up Britain's horror of slavery even back in 1894, a view certain historical revisionists would be eager to have us forget:
"Upon the plantation where two hundred negroes, fifty of whom where men. Yet these men where held at bay by half thier number of the Sea Foam's crew. It is true that the sailors where fully armed. Yet what Englishman would stand by helplessley, and watch the scene which followed?
Other countries have deplored slavery, and shut thier eyes while thier subjects carried it on. But England has more than deplored it. She has scattered her millions broadcast; aye, and with her strong right arm she has crushed the awful wrong. Other nations may look upon us as fools for such action - even other nations who have benefited by our charity; but though the world may scoff, such deeds as England has done will bear fruit so surely as wickedness will be punished"
The foreman of the plantation, a black man known as Tom, fights against the slavers at first, killing three armed only with a spade. Kolaski raises his revolver but Tom's wife knocks it aside, and is shot herself in response. Tom is about to kill the captain when he is knocked out by another slaver. After looting the plantation buildings the slavers take thier leave with thier hostages. Shortly afterwards our heroes arrive on the scene, finding Tom still there. After he tells them what has happened, the dead are buried and all three set out to hunt down the slavers.
Aboard the Sea Foam, the daughters of Henry Stanley are held in the cabin, whilst the plantation workers are herded below decks. However they break out and almost succeed in capturing the ship before being driven back by rifle fire. One remains above decks ready to fight, but is eventually caught and tortured to death. Meanwhile Albatross sets off in pursuit, and the following morning comes within sight of two ships near an island. The larger of the two is the dread slaver-warship Tempest.
There follows a fierce battle, in which Albatross becomes stuck on a sandbank and is seemingly at the mercy of Tempest, but Horace decides on a brave plan, and piles his bluejackets into boats, and makes an attempt to capture the larger vessel! Boarding her with miraculosly small losses, a terrific struggle breaks out, it is inconclusive until a lucky shot from Albatross holes her below the waterline and her crew take fright and can't escape fast enough. The Sea Foam sails up and fires on Albatross, but then retreats after picking up the crew of Tempest.
A large slave plantation is on the island, and it is there the captives have been landed. The owner of the plantation expects an attack from the bluejackets, and prepares an ambush. The sailors make thier attack despite the volleys poured into them, and soon have the slavers on the run. Horace and the plantation owner meet in battle, the owner running into the jungle after being wounded in the arm. Horace finds Edith and Evelyn in a small house, and returns them to the ship.
Meanwhile Tom has come ashore and is rushing into the jungle after Kolaski, armed with an axe. He comes upon the slave plantation and leads a rebellion against the owners, who return from the jungle. With tom at thier head the slaves massacre thier better-armed enemies, before travelling to the shore and Albatross. The vessel is repaired and floated off the sand bank, returning to mainland Africa to set the former slaves free again. Horace also finds himself captivated by Evelyn, though thinking her engaged to Jack Bruce he avoids her, concentrating on the hunt for Kolaski.
In some days time the Sea Foam is sighted again, chased and sunk. Her crew escaping in boats and making thier way to shore. Horace is lightly wounded but refuses to see the surgeon, so Evelyn binds the wound instead. Then the Bluejackets follow the slavers ashore, camping near a river that night.
Tom scouts ahead then returns to the camp, warning of an impending attack. When the attack comes Horace is ready and volley after volley is poured into the enemy ranks, before the brutal fighting becomes hand-to-hand. The slavers retreat until dawn, when the attack again. The Bluejackets have formed square, but are almost broken by the furious onslaught. However rallied by thier gallant Lieutenant they break the slaver's charge and run them into the forest. Tom chasing down Kolaski and fighting a final battle with him. Tom is wounded but the slaver is killed, Tom staggering back through the forest and finding his way to Jack Bruce's plantation, where he is met by the elderly missionary Henry Stanley, who binds his wounds.
Some days later, Jack Bruce invites Horace to his wedding, however thinking he is to be married to Evelyn, the girl he loves, Horace finds an excuse to leave. However as the two men talk it turns out Jack is to be wed to Edith! and Horace decides to stay, now 'suddenly' realising his ship needs some more repairs. And a double wedding takes place upon the plantation.
Other Stories:
The use of the British navy, then the most powerful in the world, to actively battle against the slave trade is a fact sadly forgotten today, teaching and writing on the subject concentrating entirely on the details of this evil practice and the efforts of the abolitionists in Britain. Indeed listening to some views you'd be mistaken for thinking Britain was the primary culprit in Slavery!
The editorial is a short one in this issue, and concentrates mainly on the life of "Jack Tar" (a nickname for British sailors, like "Tommy Atkins" for soldiers) at sea. Though in this issue's story the ships are powered by sail and battles fought with cutlasses, the editor mentions that "engines and boilers do all the work" (though in these steam-powered days a stoker may have disagreed!) and that "The next naval war will be fought with machine-guns, torpedoes and rams" (in the days of the Ironclads, between the wooden sailing ships and all-metal steam warships, ramming became the tactic of choice, though was rendered obsolete again rather quickly). Mention is also made of the various pets kept aboard ships, in particular one was mentioned as carrying a lion cub and baby alligator! The editor acknowledging that "Neither of these animals will form desirable shipmates when they grow up"!
Mention is made of the story in issue 4, The Phantom Dwarf. Which is described as an "Imaginitve story". Having read it i can say that description certianly fits! The story is also mentioned as being "Of the Rider Haggard type". A name which i have personally only just Wikipedia'd seconds ago. Apparently he created Allan Quartermain, an inspiration of Indiana Jones, though. Not a connection i would immediatley have made with The Phantom Dwarf, but i can kind of see it now. Judge for yourself when i get the review up!