As everyone knows, the Pearly Stockwell adventure series was published by IT Comics and in their early days the company really struggled. Pearly and the Missing Magic Ring was a desperately misguided attempt to reach a wider audience with the Pearly Stockwell series.
Without even the slightest hint of professional shame, Pearly is ‘allowed’ to discover a magical kingdom while clearing out one of her wardrobes. Never one to refuse a challenge, Pearly sets off to see what she can find.
Unsurprisingly, Pearly finds a world gripped by a struggle between the forces of good and evil. Grimdulf Gloompants leads the good guys. He is a long-bearded wizard who rides a giant talking lion. A one-eyed witch called Sharon is in charge of the bad guys.
As the plot thickens, Pearly and the Interesting Twins are asked to deliver an important message to someone important quite far away. On the way, they are captured by a gang of nasty Noblins and imprisoned.
Everyone manages to escape but Pearly gets separated and begins to wander lost in an underground network of caves.
Even loyal readers of the comic book series found it hard not to consider cancelling their subscription at the moment that Pearly stumbles upon a ring and, without thinking, puts it in her pocket.
Unbeknown to her, the ring is the property of a pathetic-looking creature called Gallop who manages to trap Pearly in his dank, dismal, fish-stinking lair.
‘You have something that is very precious to me,’ says the pathetic-looking Gallop to Pearly, without even a faint glimmer of irony. ‘It is mine, it is.’
‘Is it?’ replies Pearly quick-wittedly, stunning the pathetic creature with the authority in her voice. ‘How precious exactly?’
Gallop isn’t sure what to say.
‘Very precious,’ he ventures, ‘very precious, indeed.’
But Pearly has the upper hand now and probes the pathetic creature further with her penetrating questions.
‘Just how precious?’
‘How precious is very precious?’
‘But is that precious enough?’
‘I don’t know.’
‘Why don’t you know? I thought you said it was precious?’
‘Then why don’t you know?’
‘I do! I do! I do!’
Gallop gets very angry and it is at this point that Pearly knows she has him.
‘You don’t know, do you?’ she says.
‘No,’ says the pathetic-looking creature pathetically.
‘I’m going now,’ says Pearly firmly. ‘Don’t try and follow me.’
Gallop says nothing. He sits snivelling on a slimy rock. Pearly leaves to find her friends and continue the great adventure.
It was only by sacking the writing team, promising faithfully to never ever do anything like this again (and also offering a year’s free subscription to every reader) that IT Comics survived the fallout from Pearly and the Missing Magic Ring.
Now in its twelfth season, the premise of Paint Tales is a simple one: a single tin of paint is followed from the factory where it is made to the place where it is used, via the shop where it is sold.
For enthusiasts of the programme, the joy of the journey is immense and somehow almost immeasurable. As a result, Paint Tales has now become a global, if somewhat esoteric, phenomenon. Discovering that the tin of paint you thought was going to be used as a humble undercoat turns out instead to be the final flourish of a ceiling in a converted bathroom can be close to life-changing for aficionados of the programme.
For anyone else, the premise of the programme is almost as disturbing as actually watching an episode and both the existence and continuance of Paint Tales has become a major topic of cultural debate. For some it is the ultimate guilty pleasure, for others it is the producers who should be feeling guilty.
Many media experts believed that Concrete Superstar was going to be the next big thing in format television but the programme only ran for a single season. As a result, the five episodes that do exist have achieved cult status.
Each week, Concrete Superstar challenged three celebrities to lay the perfect concrete patio. Aided by experts, a whole range of stars of stage, screen (both big and small), music and anywhere else mixed, shovelled, poured, levelled, screed, bull-floated, hand-floated, rounded (if required), cut-in, and broomed their concrete in a race against both the clock and the other contestants.
The locations chosen were both indoor and outdoor and for the second season, it had been proposed that the programme go to different locations around the world so that factors like local building customs, union regulations and temperature extremes could be brought into play. Sadly, however, this was never to be.
Many people (but sadly, as it turns out, ultimately not enough many people), found Concrete Superstar really exciting because you could never really tell which one of the chosen celebrities would be the best at pouring concrete just by looking.
For example, who could have known that Dame Circular Rosetwine, opera singer and biscuit entrepreneur, would beat upper body muscle model and self-confessed DIY enthusiast Flint Roland in the first episode?
‘I thought I had it in the bag,’ said Flint afterwards, ‘until one of the production crew told me that I had poured the concrete upside down. It wasn’t until I had ripped everything out and started again that I realised they had been pulling my leg.’
In the second episode, renowned aristocratic bad-boy ventriloquist Sheridan Shaw and his foul-breathed puffer fish puppet, Puff the Puffer Fish, lost out to one-time pop sensation Dorothy Sister, lead singer of the reasonably-famous (and reasonably-named) Dorothy Sisters.
Puff the Puffer Fish refused to cooperate during the aggregate mixing phase and allowed Dorothy Sister to win by a technical default, even though she had managed to bury one of her high heels beneath a crazy-paving slab.
The adventures of a supercilious six-year old child detective who solves crimes with the help of the three Gordy boys, Wanderley, Windy and Wes, (who call themselves the Interesting Twins) first came to my attention via the Pearly Stockwell and the Interesting Twins Wonder Detective Comic Book Super Series, a reasonably unsuccessful series of black and white comics published by the extremely obscure IT Publishing.
As you will know if you have read the series, Pearly moves to Fallstown following a commuter train tragedy that killed her parents. Fallstown is a small place in the middle of nowhere that is somehow a perpetual magnet for all minds and matters criminally oriented. Pearly doesn’t have much to bring to her new home apart from the fortune she inherited from her parents and her big city ways.
Appalled by an unfortunate incident which resulted in her suitcase being mistakenly switched, Pearly takes it upon herself to establish a detective agency by placing an advertisement in the Fallstown Provider looking for like-minded individuals.
‘Experience not essential but you must have a belief in truth, justice and an aching desire to find out things’
Her advertisement is answered by the Interesting Twins and the rest is history.
The comics only ran for a single series before the paying public decided that Pearly’s big city ways were just too much for them. For completists everywhere here is the full list of published titles:
1. Pearly Stockwell and the Letter from the Past
2. The Octopus and His Evil Plans for Pearly Stockwell
3. The Lost Treasure of Fallstown
4. Pearly Saves the Seaside
5. Windy Wins the Deadliest Race of his Little Life
6. Pearly and the Merchant Bankers
7. Pearly and the Missing Magic Ring
8. Here Comes the Interesting Twins to Save the Day
9. Pearly Meets the Ghostly Angler
10. We Really Hope You Can, Pearly Stockwell!
11. Pearly Stockwell and the Letter that Was Hidden But Everyone Could Really See
12. When Toyshops Attack
13. Pearly and the Harvest Moon
14. Pearly Stockwell and the Fate of the Fête
15. Pearly Breaks a Leg
16. The Circus has Lost a Clown
17. Pearly Lose the Plot, Or Does She?
18. Pearly Squares the Magic Circle
The comic book series was turned into an audio book series and if you scour the thrift shops or look online you might still be able to find the recordings somewhere.
There has been a very recent upsurge in interest in Pearly Stockwell and her adventures and I even read a rumour somewhere that there might be plans for reviving the series. There does also seem to be some very recent online activity.
Currently these are only rumours but they do also extend as far as tentative suggestions about a screenplay also being produced. I will look into this and if I hear any more on this topic I will let you know.
Until then, beware The Octopus and ‘his eight mean legs of greed, theft, evil, selfishness, anger, violence, meanness and insanity’.
Pearly Stockwell is a six-year-old girl who solves puzzles, saves the day and achieves countless major triumphs that are forever beyond the adults who populate the world of these stories. Wes, Windy, and Wanderley Gordy are the Interesting Twins and the fact that there is actually three of them and that they aren’t twins is apparently what makes them interesting.