If any of you out there has purchased Black Tower Golden Age Collection vol.1 you would have found the strip Dene Vernon -The Burning Heart”. But who is Dene Vernon and why is he important to British comics history?
Firstly,his proper credit was “Dene Vernon. Ghost Investigator”. In the 1930s and 1940s the work of ghost investigators such as Harry Price [despite what people write about his work at Borley Rectory] and the great Elliott O’Donnell could be found reported on in national newspapers as well as on radio.
If they could inspire me as a teen to get involved in this type of work imagine the effect on everyday folk in the pre-TV era and before all the faking of Most Haunted and Ghost Hunters, Ghost Adventures as well as others.
But Amalgamated Press and D.C. Thomson were too “clean” to touch this type of subject unless it was a “real hoot” in a humour strip.
Gerald Swan changed all that. His comics introduced a whole group of paranormal/occult types fromKrakos The Egyptian to Robert Lovett:Back From The Dead [all subjects of Black Tower collections]. Vernon’s appearance in Thrill Comics No.1,April,1940,marked the very first truly supernatural strip series in British Comics.
Tall,lean with a high forehead and thinning hair,Vernon bore a resemblance to the young Harry Price in a way. However,his cases seem to have been pure O’Donnell and in case you are asking who O’Donnell is I give you Wikipedia's somewhat weak entry on the man:
Elliott O’Donnell (February 27, 1872 – May 8, 1965) was an Irish author known primarily for his books about ghosts. He claimed to have seen a ghost, described as an elemental figured covered with spots, when he was five years old. He also claimed to have been strangled by a mysterious phantom in Dublin.
He claimed descent from Irish chieftains of ancient times, including Niall of the Nine Hostages (the King Arthur of Irish folklore) and Red Hugh, who fought the English in the sixteenth century. O’Donnell was educated at Clifton College, Bristol, England, and Queen’s Service Academy, Dublin, Ireland. In later life he became a ghost hunter, but first he traveled in America, working on a range in Oregon and becoming a policeman during the Chicago Railway Strike of 1894. Returning to England, he worked as a schoolmaster and trained for the theater. He served in the British army in World War I, and later acted on stage and in movies.
His first book, written in his spare time, was a psychic thriller titled For Satan’s Sake (1904). From this point onward, he became a writer. He wrote several popular novels but specialized in what were claimed as true stories of ghosts and hauntings. These were immensely popular, but his flamboyant style and amazing stories suggest that he embroidered fact with a romantic flair for fiction.
As he became known as an authority on the supernatural, he was called upon as a ghost hunter. He also lectured and broadcast (radio and television) on the paranormal in Britain and the United States. In addition to his more than 50 books, he wrote scores of articles and stories for national newspapers and magazines. He claimed “I have investigated, sometimes alone, and sometimes with other people and the press, many cases of reputed hauntings. I believe in ghosts but am not a spiritualist.”
Remember that bit about being strangled by a ghost [not unique in the lore itself]. This is what Denis Gifford wrote about Vernon’s first adventure:
“..Vernon spends the night in a haunted bedroom where a weary wanderer was found on the floor. ‘A gasp of horror came as they gazed on the terror-distorted features of the dead traveller!’ Vernon saves Dick from being throttled by a grinning black monster,chained by its neck since 1785. But he had to burn the house down to do it.”
You know, I am quite sure that there is a similar O’Donnell story -though he never burns places down!
The creator of the strip was Jock McCail who also drew oriental detective Ah Wong for Swan’s New Funnies [1940-1949],Darrell King Of The Secret Service in Thrill Comics [1940-48],New Funnies  and Slick Fun . McCail also drew Get-Your-Man-Gilligan, a Western strip for the Amalgamated Press title Jolly between 1938-39.
Dene Vernon ran as a strip between 1940-1946 so must have been popular -as many of the Swan horror strips were.
It would be nice to put together a complete Dene Vernon book at some point but these old British comics are very rare to get hold of either as printed items or scans!
But, in 2011, Vernon featured in his first adventure since 1946. Yes, post-war Britain was the setting for…
The Silvermaigne line is said to go back to the time of the Ancient Britons.
Silvermaignes ancestors were part of a druidic clan based in the great forest that is today known as Leigh Woods, overlooking the River Severn entering (today) Bristol. All the members of the tribe had white hair from birth and they were known as the mwng arian (Silver Manes).
Even the druids bowed to their knowledge of demons, spirits and things of the darkness.
But at a point several centuries ago the family split and took two paths -one embraced magik for its own fight against evil. The other renounced the use of personal magik so as not to become tainted and seduced by it.
For the first time Ben Dilworth looks at the latter branch of the Silvermaigne family and what one of them endures to keep the fight Holy!
In 1984 the A5 (digest sized) Black Tower Adventure first appeared featuring some later-to-be top UK comic book and was a must-read in Small Press circles and sold so well that even the publisher does not have a full run!
The title was put on hiatus in 2007 but in 2010 was relaunched, bigger and better than ever!
This first issue of volume 2 contains: Part 1 of the mega series Return Of The Gods:Twilight Of The Super Heroes which comes in at 43 pages!Thaddeus Twatt In The Twatt-Verse -first part of a truly microscopic titanic tales (which makes sense if you read it!). And those Third Level sorcerers Kotar & Sabuta race to face The Deadly Dilemma Of Sigismund Benfriggisund! The cold war between China and Russia couldn’t get any hotter in the 1980s but one strip that appeared in the new talent comic Preview was The Phoenix Team and that story has been much requested over the years as the team, and the Soviet Red Star Squadron, stumble into The Evil of the Salamander and his master plan.
Things begin to pick up apace as Thaddeus Twatt and Tomas go on foot to explore The Fearful Fate Of Friggia. Both, naturally, oblivious to the mystery and action that continues in Return Of The Gods:Twilight Of The Super Heroes. In a more, uh, “fun” vein, we learn why using reptilean DNA to replace human limbs might not be a good idea in Out On A Limb! Of course, when dealing with criminal gangs the Crimson Cowl packs a punchline.
And how could we forget Kotar & Sabuta as they confront...The Ghost! So, you may ask, if you are old enough, “Whatever happened to the 1980s craze for Yucca plants?” Well, we learn the deadly secret in The Day Of The Yucca!
Things get grim as heroes begin to fall and the truth is realised in Return Of The Gods:Twilight Of The Super Heroes part 3. Lady Sivana and Tarot help Kotar & Sabuta tackle a nasty lycanthrope problem. With things looking VERY grim will Thaddeus Twatt and Tomas escape The Fearful Fate Of Friggia? Ben Dilworth provides not one -not two -THREE Purple Hood strips.
Is there more? Can there possibly be more? Don’t be silly -YES!!!!!
Krakos takes care of some burglars who have to “take the heat” in a very literal sense! The Purple Hood deals with a suicide banker so you have to ask how that will turn out? Kotar & Sabuta rescue a young woman in Antarctica, but what mysterious force took here there and how is it connected to Kotar? The action gathers pace in Return Of The Gods: Twilight of the Super Heroes as more mystery enfolds those taken from Earth…and those on Earth.
Thaddeus Twatt and nephew Tomas land on The Jungle Planet -and it looks as though this could be their deaths as Thaddeus realises too late what has colonised the planet!
The Thinker decides that thinking alone can get a little boring while one of China's Phoenix Team has to deal with..well, you'll see and it’s probably not what you expected!
It's the penultimate part of RETURN OF THE GODS:TWILIGHT OF THE SUPER HEROES and on Earth and in space heroes confront the invading Boarmen! Who will pay the ultimate price for defending the planet and how many will fall on Neo Olympus?
Kotar and Sabuta try to have a quiet night in but..well...you remember they are Third Level Sorcerers with enemies, right?
Xendragon (see Tales of Terror 1)investigates The Legacy of Frankenstein which might not be as straight forward as it sounds.
Thaddeus Twatt and Tomas are held by the Crystallids and we hear of their origins and get a glimpse at how the eccentric scientist may not be all he seems.
Lord of the Flies teaches a very naughty boy a lesson. No school children were harmed in the making of this comic strip.
The Iron Warrior rushes to the rescue down the Amazon way while The Bat (but probably not the one you think) and Reverend Merriwether, God's Demon Thumper put in appearances.
The final chapter in Return Of The Gods:Twilight Of The Super Heroes. Everything is finally revealed as the heroes on Neo Olympus mourn their dead and learn that one of their number must also die! Meanwhile, on Earth, things seem to be turning more favourably….we think.
Thaddeus Twatt has brace himself certain death as his past catches up with him and he faces the Ultimate Crystallid!
The Purple Hood versus The flame! And we don’t mean he has to sort out a chip-pan fire, either.
Whatever Happened ToMark Tyme? A good question because he appears to be lost in time and one German hero, Zeit Meister, survivor from a destroyed parallel Earth, is determined to find him.
Atomic Tommy has a slight alien problem to deal with and the Missing Link is caught up in it all.
Dr Sorrow has problems while Ben R. Dilworth takes us back to a re-telling of the origin of Runestone!
It's 80 pulse-pounding pages of graphic delineation! (plus an extra blank page because we’re keeping it real!).
The First part of a new series! How do you follow up Return Of The Gods after many heroes have died while others have gone into seclusion or retirement and yet heroes are needed? "The Cross Earths Caper" is how! And when we say “Cross Earths” we mean the multi-verse, time and space and….buy it and see!
In the final part of the Xendragon story our hero confronts the Legacy of Frankenstein and things could get from very bad to fatally bad.
And following his confrontation with the Ultimate Crystallid there are tragic if not fatal consequences for Thaddeus Twatt in the final part of The Jungle Planet.
Silvermaigne tracks down a vampyre. The Thinker over thinks and Dilworth’s re-telling of the origin of Runestone continues apace. Oh. And more. Well, of course there is!
At last! After cameo appearances in Tales of Terror and one strip over the last twenty years, Herbert Kirby’s THE PHANTOM DETECTIVE returns in two tales to horrify!
Plus, The Thinker...thinks DOOM! He over stresses at times but we see that as him just being a kind of cosmic pressure release valve (he does tend to fart). Meanwhile, having discovered the Iron Warrior in the African jungle, three adventurers are about to get a shock that ends in a loud “Bang!”
In the UK a wizened old man offers to give a rather over inebriated Kelvin Nolan his helmet -which creates a few misunderstandings in Kelvin Nolan and His Helmet of Power!Runestone, with the help of his science pal, George, begins totest the rune stone that has embedded itself in his hand and is in for a few surprises.
In The Cross-Earths Caper (pt.2) Bristol is, quite virtually, The Wild, Wild West Country..and Selenites threaten to destroy Earth with a huge interplanetary cannon. Why? Well, maybe a misunderstanding but have no fear –Earth’s finest from the 1920s have been unfrozen and are ready to fight. Thought that ought to be mentioned.
Yes, the one that someone has been waiting for! It may well have been you but you just never realised it.
Runestone gets to try out his new powers as he faces...The Beast of Exmoor! And believe us this ain’t no puma or leopard. That might be weird enough but this Beast is a tool of the Celtic dark god himself!
Kelvin Jones gets to try out his shiny Helmet of Power and by this point some may ask if he’s capable of even using a TV remote control.
Our heroes are on a parallel Moon and fighting off Selenites in The Cross Earths Caper! And their new mysterious companion, “Bob” deisplays some super human abilities leading to the question: who the hell is “Bob”??
Kotar has his hands full in a solo adventure while Lady Silana faces a demon of her own. The quest for the Iron Warrior continues in the Amazon and this one has a few surprises for our lady adventurers.
There is a prequel to two British Golden Age comic strips in Return To Lost Man's Gulch and more...including The Thinker and The Phantom Detective -all in the UKs TOP SUPER HERO-ACTION COMIC!
Our three lady adventurers are in the Amazon and have encountered the ape-men but are they ready for Rodney Dearth and his Iron Warrior to return?
The Cross Earths Caper concludes and for one hero it is the parting of the ways and two others face life altering situations and many months away…only to find on their Earth they were hardly gone a few seconds. Ben Dilworth concludes the re-telling of Runestone's origin.
There are lots of other goodies and this issue guest stars a gun-toting crime-buster that Elliott Ness would love - The Clock! Sit back and read Ben Dilworth’s crime-busting tale –it’s far better for you than the internet! Its just too much fun!
It was the Swinging Sixties! Britain was hip as hip could be -The Beatles ruled Pop! And everyone was looking toward a bright future…if there wasn’t a nuclear war! Middle Eastern threats,Eastern European fascists,flying saucer flying megalomaniacs and super mole machines and others threatened our little island. But we had the ultimate answer to these:The Purple Hood -International crime-smasher! Michael Jay’s Purple Hood now collected into over a hundred pages of action and text back-up. This is THE ultimate collection!
“The Kings Man” and then the international agent used by HM Government to deal with external and internal threats. Mad men with nuclear bombs.
Organised drug cartels. Power hungry dictators.
The Britton family have always been Purple Hoods.
The Purple Hood is precise and clinical in his work.
But above all else those wearing the Hood have had guidance from their consciences.
So when the military stand idly by, unable to act when civilians are massacred –when politicians only draw up policy and blow warm air…..
...does the Purple Hood –does John Britton– sit back on his hands idly awaiting a change in policy?
Or does John Britton pull on the Hood and say:
“Enough! The line is drawn and crossed!”
Time for the bad men to run. Time to hide. Or time to die!