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Captain Clyde Annotations - Part 1

Incredible scenes over the past couple of days, as the heretofore unknown (to me at least) website started posting huge chunks of Grant Morrison's long-lost Captain Clyde comic strip, originally printed in Glasgow local newspaper The Govan Press (and, for a time, its sister papers the Clydebank Press and the Renfrew Press) from November 1979 to November 1982.  As of this writing, we're at strip 66, so just over a third of the way through the 150 page run, with plans - it seems - to put the lot up.

Morrison was 19 and, like his hero Chris Melville, terminally unemployed when the strip began.  The Govan Press paid Morrison £4 a strip initially (about £20 or $26 in today's money), rising to £6 (basically the exact same amount of money, accounting for inflation) by the time the run ended.  When that end came - 3 years almost to the day since the strip began - it was in the middle of an epic saga of Captain Clyde versus Satan, truncated to just 11 installments from the original 30, and cruelly replaced by a syndicated Tom & Jerry strip, with extreme prejudice.

It struck me reading through the first few chapters that there's a lot of Scotland-centric and/or extremely dated contemporary references in there, so as someone who was barely born when the strip started, isn't Scottish and has literally never been to Glasgow I thought I'd be the best person to walk you through it...  Yeah, actually, feel free to help me out with that as much as possible please.

The annotations are numbered as per the strips/pictures on the site; there are some I've missed out because I couldn't think of anything to say about it beyond (usually) "here is a big fight".  There's also - so far - one strip from the run that either wasn't scanned or wasn't uploaded with the rest; I've put that up below as a special treat.  30-odd pages this time around; another one of these and I should be caught up to what's up so far, and the other 80-odd strips should fill maybe another 3 or so pages of annotations, content depending.  I'll try not to drag it out if I can avoid it.

If you just can't get enough of that Captain Clyde action, you can read a full CC-centric interview Tony O'Donnell conducted with Morrison here, from October '85's Fusion #7


001 - From what we have of Captain Clyde, its pretty hard to pin down exact publication dates, but my back-of-a-fag-packet maths (based on knowing the correct date for ~4 out of 150 strips, all in the last third of the run) suggest this first one probably appeared Saturday, 10th November 1979.

Panel one shows the actual Govan Cross underground (subway) station in Govan, Glasgow.  Extensive renovations - including the demolition of all of the old above ground buildings - began on the station in 1977 after cracks were found in its roof.  The new station seen here opened in April 1980, some months after this strip appeared.

The Quatermass film the workman is referencing is Quatermass and The Pit, the classic tale of Something Gruesome emerging from below a London Underground station.  Adapted from the Nigel Kneale-penned TV series first shown on the BBC in 1958/59, the 1967 Hammer film adaptation had been shown on BBC 2 on August 1979, just a couple of months probably before this strip was drawn.

The thing lurking in the subway tunnel is a Dero.  More on them next time around.

002 - The demolition of Glasgow's Victorian slum tenements was nearing completion by the end of the 1970's, many of them replaced by high-rise tower blocks that foster the same kinds of problems in the 21st century that the buildings they replaced did back in the 19th and 20th.

006 - Chris's "giro from the labour exchange" is his unemployment cheque.  The picture on the wall behind Alison in panel two is a 1970's-vintage poster map of Middle Earth from Lord of the Rings.

That's the Kelvin Hall in panel six, then a concert venue, now an exhibition centre.  Chris and Alison are walking along Byres Road in panel seven, but I don't know what shop they're supposed to be walking past (come on man, gimme a break!)

I *think* this strip appeared not long before Christmas 1979 - the 15th of December to be exact - and that the paper either wasn't published or was Captain Clyde-free on the Saturday before Christmas and the Saturday in-between Christmas and New Year (this seems to be the case in subsequent years too).  The brief mention of Christmas clearing Chris out, cash-wise, in strip 008 (what my arcane calculations reckon to be the second strip back after the holiday break) seems to very vaguely bear this out.

I wonder if the 'The End?' bullet there means Morrison only got the gig for six weeks initially?  Seems the people of Govan, Clydebank and Renfrew enjoyed a bit of localised Claremontian super-heroics alongside their TV listings enough for it to return after Christmas anyhow; good for them I say. 

Part 2

007 - Get yer Marvelman 'superheroes in the real world' stuff right here.

Bearsden is a suburb in the northwest of Glasgow and is (or was) I think, the posh end of town.  We get our first look at Quasar here, though we won't see him in costume until strip 020.  I'm sure Morrison said somewhere (though I can't find it at the moment) that Quasar was based on one of his old teachers.  Marvel's superhero Quasar - previously known as Marvel Man - also debuted in 1979, so I'd imagine actual quasars must have been in the news for some reason?

The Professionals was a violent 'crime-action' drama from Avengers-creator (Steed and Mrs Peel, not the super-heroes), Brian Clemens.  It ran on Friday nights on the ITV network from 1977 to 1983.

008 - The oddly-specific book Alison is reading is Sweet's Anglo Saxon Primer by Henry Sweet.  Teenage Morrison was probably aware of it due to him being a huge Lord of the Rings nerd.

All three of the pre-split Buzzcocks' LP's, Another Music in a Different Kitchen, Love Bites and A Different Kind of Tension - released over a period of just 18 months - were on the shelves by the time this strip appeared.

009 - Inexplicable water-treading for two weeks as Captain Clyde pops out to get walloped, then returns home to finish his origin story. 

Hillhead is another station on the Glasgow subway, just near the city centre.

010 - Paul Cook is the drummer in the Sex Pistols.  Morrison really flaunting his punk credentials these last few weeks.

Somewhat unbelievably, there really was a minor earthquake that struck Glasgow on 26th December 1979, centered just across the border in the English town of Carlisle.

This week marks the first appearance of the new Captain Clyde logo, that I (cough, cough) borrowed to make the logo of this very website, way back when.

011 - Captain Clyde's jaunt to the Peak District in Derbyshire was inspired by a real-life trip Morrison took to the region the year before; Morrison's diary account of which also provided raw material for his St. Swithins Day strip, published ten years later in 1989.  The tale that follows over the next few strips is *heavily* indebted to Chris Claremont and Herb Trimpe's origin of Captain Britain from October 1976's Captain Britain Weekly #1.

The 4,000 year-old Arbor Low stone circle in Bakewell, Derbyshire is a real place you can visit, as long as you pay the farmer who owns the land it's on a £1 entry fee.

013 - Magna, from the Latin ‘magn’, meaning "great". His whole deal is very 'the king in the grove' from Sir James George Frazer's book on comparative mythology, The Golden Bough.

Chris loses his shit after getting punched again, same as with the Dero back in the first strip.

015 - I'm going to guess Elen is some sort of Welsh/Celtic deity from the Welsh epics The Mabinogion, via Evangeline Walton's four novel fantasy retelling, written in the 1930's but not published until the 1970's (the first book in her tetralogy is called Island of the Mighty, which is also the title of the story in JLA Classified #1).  There's a bunch of references to Elen Luyddog - or Elen of the Ways - on the internet, but it’s almost all contemporary New Age stuff, I can't really find anything predating the strip here apart from some very dry mentions in an academic journal called the Celtic Review. The mention of her being the goddess of "The Old Straight Tracks" is a reference to Alfred Watkins' proto-Psychogeography book of the same name, first published in 1925.

017 - In Captain Britain's origin, he is asked by Merlin to choose between an amulet and a sword as his object of power.  As Chris figuratively does here, Cap chooses the amulet.

Jackanory is a long-running kids TV show, where celebrities would read aloud a story from a book over a number of afternoons.  While the show itself ended in 1996, the format is still going strong, with Tom Hardy doing one back in 2016.  Not in his Bane voice unfortunately.

018 - The name 'Captain Clyde', as recounted in Morrison's Supergods, was dreamt up by the paper's editorial department before Morrison got anywhere near the strip.

"Be seeing you", a little nod to The Prisoner there.  See Grant started early on that one.

'Parkinson' is Michael Parkinson, a renowned interviewer and chat show host who had shows on both the BBC and ITV, now retired.

018A – There’s a strip missing from GlobalVariables’ collection here, between 018 and 019.  Ah, here it is…

From the Clydelsdale Press.  Big thanks to Peter Watson for the scan

Facing closure though still in use when this strip appeared in 1980, the pedestrian part of Glasgow's Harbour Tunnel did indeed close later that same year (due to Deros murders obvs).  The vehicular part was closed and filled-in in 1986.

Still beating that 'mention something in the TV listings in the strip' drum, long-running US soap Dallas had been on UK screens since September 1978.

"Jings, crivvens, help ma boab!" is an exclamation from the extremely long-running (since 1936!) Oor Wullie and The Broons comic strips, from the Scottish Sunday Post newspaper.

019 - As mentioned in Supergods, Chris's dentist Mr. Paul is based on a photo of Morrison's actual dentist, also called Mr. Paul.  This whole bit has been mentioned a few times by Morrison as pre-empting the 'realistic superhero' trend of the 80's, and fair play to him, I can't think of anything else that was doing stuff like this at the time.

020 - Our first proper look at Quasar in costume.  His mask is similar to the one worn by Algol the Terrible in the Morrison-written (and drawn) Starblazer #15, published by fellow Scots D.C. Thompson just a few months before this strip appeared, in November 1979.

The Lyceum is a now-closed cinema and bingo hall in Govan.

I've seen this over-lapping ring effect a bunch of times before, but I just cannot place where.  Annoying.

023 - "You!  People of Glasgow!"  I love Quasar's plan to destroy Glasgow first - in a week, seemingly regardless of what anyone does or gives him - and only *then* move on to London, New York, Paris etc.

The go-go checks functioning as a little visual rim-shot/sad trombone there.

Like it says there, that's the City Chambers, the Glasgow City Council Offices.

024 - Glasgow University tower in the foreground there, must be where Alison is studying.  Behind Quasar here in panel 4, 5 and 6 is a 1970’s Philip's Chart of the Stars, though I'm struggling to find one that matches the design here.

025 - "It went wrong", it did like.

026 - Crookston Castle, another local landmark, is in Pollok, about 5 miles southwest of the city centre.

027 - Lucozade is a kind of fizzy energy drink specific to the UK.  Absolutely laced with sugar, historically people have tended to drink it when they're ill.

028 - You have Mars bars in the States though right?  Quasar has finally caught up to everyone else and realized his plan is rubbish.

031 - "An me wi' a bad leg tae" ("And me with a bad leg too") is a Billy Connolly bit I think?

032 - Johnstons, the dry cleaners, a fixture of High Streets up and down the land.

034 - I think the flying figures in the right two panels are Byrne X-Men swipes?

035 - The Kingston Bridge is back in Glasgow city centre, about 8 miles from Clydebank shopping centre.  Way to go, Captain Clyde!

037 - Quasar is foiled/exploded and Captain Clyde gives the cops some gyp as we reach the end of another arc. 


Next time around, the Deros!  The Hammer of Hell!  And the Sinister Circle!  Be there, same Cap-time, same Cap-channel…

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