Thursday, 26 June 2008

The brilliance of the Lion and Thunder 1971 Christmas issue.

I got this as i needed to fill in the gaps in my collection and had never read it before.

Cor! What a treat. Not only do you get an excellent cover with most of the characters sitting down to a Christmas meal (no Black Max though. Couldn't he have been "bah! Humbag"ing in though a window?) but MOST OF THE STRIPS ARE SET ON CHRISTMAS DAY.

Can't figure out if that was the intention all year long and the writers were giving the spec in advance to do something for this issue, or the setting was shoehorned in.

Think it must be the former as none are too jarring.

Not all the strips went along with it, but this is how the one's that did went abut it:

"Carson's Cubs" - The team are spending Christmas at the eerie Troll Manor.

"Black Max" - See's the possible end of the giant King Bat by the end of page two. Page three is devoted to Wilson and the rest of 12th Squadron celebrating, with Black max slinking past to look for the remains of his pet.

"Fury's Family" - Set at Christmas. Grateful for this strip as i now know that animal speak for "lion and tiger - pull this cracker" is "Tharrga moorka throol! grikka Marrgg!" Which they then do. Dunno if you can make it out, but the tiger is actually wearing the party hat. Genius!

"Spellbinder" - Jolly japes on Christmas Eve.

"The Spooks Of St Luke's" - A Christmas mail story.

"The Can-Do Kids" - Trouble with Father Christmases.

"Steel Commando" - Set on Christmas day

"Zip Nolan" - A Christmas Eve crime

"Adam Eterno" - My favourite of these. Adam's adventure in 18th century England ends half way into page three. The rest of the tale is given over to him being rewarded with a brilliant Christmas day and it ends with him leaving, as he says, "like a Christmas Spirit". And very Christmas Carol it reads too. And so nice to see the old fella laughing and enjoying himself. Bless.

"Mowser" - Jolly japes on the big day.

Major Eazy & Rat Pack go Sci Fi?

Guess they must've been running out of ideas at this point.

Eazy and Rat Pack are up against a German scientist who's created a device that can turn any living thing into a vicious killer.

After surviving last weeks attack by wolves and deer they ended up having Turk turned against them. With yet another example of insane logic, rather than let Turk finish the job, the Germans turn off the device, take them all back to their base then turn it on Weasel to demonstrate how it works (huh??????).

Anyway, their plans come to nowt when Weazel pulls a Doctor Who stunt and "reverses the polarity" of the device so the animals turn on the Germans.

An odd and rather crappy story.

Johnny Red

Very pleased to get this 12th Feb 1977 issue.

Not only because its the proper start of Eazy being in charge of Rat Pack, but mainly Johnny Red.

"Aieee!" Count: 0

Now, i got all these issues when the first came out but only started keeping them from about '79 onwards. That means my strongest memories are of the John Cooper later episodes. While there was nothing wrong with the artwork, i did find the whole "paint the hurricane red and bung a skull on it to scare the Nazis" a bit silly.

So, nice to see again after 31 years some Coloquon-era action. And brilliant it is too. He was a master of the use of black and his hardware always looked spot on. Why can't we have a tribute book along the lines of the Brian Bolland one a coupla years back?

Also significant here is Johnny's introduction to The Falcons.

"Aieeee!" Count: Possible Russian alternative with "Haaaieeeeee!"

Wednesday, 25 June 2008


Juuuust about scraping in at the end of my remit for this Blog, Starlord was following IPC's tried and tested of "launch a title, launch a similar-themed sister title, run them alongside each other for a while, then merge the least selling of the two with the other."

So, this stablemate of 2000AD had the SF theme, a figurehead in Starlord (a nice design by Ian Gibson, but prefer the ape mask of Tharg), and the hook that each strip was created to train the "Star Troopers" (that was us lot) in all manner of future warfare/life.

Everyone knows of the "Strontium Dog" and "Ro-Busters" strips, and they were very good, but i really rated Planet Of The Damned and Timequake - especially the latter when drawn by the crimingly over-looked Ian Kennedy.

The free badge give-away was much nicer than usual and i've still got my one - the best in my opinion, the robot squad.

What also made it stand out were the back page photo features, with modelwork by my good friend Martin Bower (model maker for Space 1999, Alien, Blake's 7, Dr Who, Flash Gordon etc). And for which he didn't get paid incidentally...

Black Max landmark

Issue 26th December 1970 of Thunder and episode 12 of Black Max. Significant in that its here that anyone other than Wilson comes across the Bats and lives - two Allied airmen find Max's plane with the hidden compartment and release the King Bat but manage to flee.
Also have to add the latest "what're the odds eh?" moment from Adam Eterno - he's in the thick of it in WW1 and up against a German officer in hand to hand combat, which shouldn't be a problem but - oh NO! What's this? He's got a solid gold ceremonial sword!
I know i keep harking on about the amount of gold that seems to be everywhere Adam goes (maybe he's in alternative universe where's its as common as steel is in ours) but don't get me wrong - i love the character, the concept and the art (but not in these issues for that last one here).
"Aieeee!" Count: 0

Major Eazy barminess

1 January 1977. the new year is seen in with this frankly mental bit of logic. Eazy's captured and refuses to talk. What does the Captain do? Shoot him? Torture?

Nope. He ties him upside down to the bonnet of his car and drives headlong towards a wall.

Haven't got the next issue and SO want to know how he gets out of it (monies on Tewfik blowing out the tyres).
"Aieeee!" count: 0

Thunder - 21 November 1970 - uber-barminess from Black Max and Adam Eterno.

Still slack jawed from the madness of this issue.

"Black Max" continues the dog fight between him and Wilson. Wilson is shot down and scrambles out of his plane. What does Max do? Open fire? Land and persue? Get the rest of his squadron to do it for him? No, he signals them all to back off, flies back to his airbase, gets in his bat-carrying palne, flies to his secret base, loads up his King Bat, goes back to where Wilson crashed, Wilson is still there, and sets his Bat on him. Who chases him into a mud filled crater. Thinking if Peter Jackson had made a film of this strip, this plot detail wouldn't feature.

Not quite as barmy as the above is "Adam Eterno". Here he's in the Wild West, up against The Yellowstone Kid, the most ruthless gunslinger around. Adam's cacking it as the Kid just so happens to have solid gold revolvers but - phew - they fire regular bullets. I mean, what're the chances of that eh?

"Aieeee!" Count: 0 for both

Monday, 23 June 2008

Battle & Valiant - "Wanted by readers who like their action DARING, DANGEROUS and DEADLY"

Postie's just delivered a few back issues of this title, so lets have a look at the earliest - 13 November 1976.

Strips that i don't bother with much: "The Bootneck Boy", "The Black Crow", "D-Day Dawson", "Panzer G-Men" and "One Eyed Jack".

"Darkies Mob" i'm gonna leave for another time and a section to itself.

That leaves two to peruse.

"Major Eazy". A welcome start of a 3-parter. SO much better than the self-contained 3-pager - by the time you've established the hook of the character, there's a limit what you can do in such a short amount of space. Here though its quite a nice set-up: Eazy and his unit lie in wait for a Panzer division that never arrives. Going to find it, they find whole unit wiped out. Eazy sets off alone to find the attackers, finds them to be arab bandits at a secret oasis and is abandoned in the desert to die. Odd that he doesn't take Tewfik with him, but guessing it'd keep it simple to not have an arab sidekick with him when he's going up against arabs. Aieeee! Count: just the derivitive "aaiee"

"Soldier Sharp". Love the fact that the "hero" of this strip is such a cowardly, treacherous weazel. And Joe Colquhoun's art is delight as usual, very very similar to "Charley's War" and the tone is too. This time, Arnie's going to be executed by the Russians. Tied to a cartwheel, his stomach is cut and a wooden cage of rats is tied to his belly. The idea being the rats'll knaw through the wood and into his entrails. Luvverly. "Aieeee!" Count: 0

Saturday, 21 June 2008

New version Billy The Cat

Thought you might like to see another example i have of the new generation of artists taking on classic characters.

This one is by the brilliant Dylan Teague, who did this with no advance warning and with no reference material at all

Censorship in "The Black Max"?

Been reading this later tale of the fella, the one where he has an army of Bat People.

And its curious - whenever there's a full shot of the these naked new baddies, there's always a convienent black shadow in the nether regions.

I've included a pic to show what i mean.

Thing is, i figure if Font was drawing in a European style and including "bits", wouldn't the Editor have told him to pack it in?

In which case, the shadowy areas wouldn't be needed anymore.

But week in week out they're there.

So, what's the story?

All the art was done upfront before publication and they noticed it to late? They were happy just to cover it up? There wasn't actually anything there and Font's drawing just a lot of hair?

Friday, 20 June 2008

2000AD - Prog 44

Thought i'd dig a back issue out at random to have a read and came up with this very dog-eared Christmas issue from 1977.


Nice tale and nicer art from Ian Gibson on Dredd. This was an interesting time in Dredd's evolution, as his world was expanded and here we have the Lunar Base and Judges. Note the pathetic attempt to be a colourist.

Lovely moody B&W from Mike Dorey on Invasion.

Huge Star Wars influence starting up on Dan Dare, with a feral version of Ming The Merciless as the chief baddie.

And the usual top notch work from Belardinelli on Invasion. Again, note crappy colouring - plus felt tip gore.

What a muppet.

Thursday, 19 June 2008

June 1968

Lovely informative piece by Lew Stringer over on his Blog about what comics were out this week 40 years ago.
Take a look:

Thursday, 12 June 2008

Strips i wrote now available in Forbidden Planet!

Yes indeed, colour me one chuffed Fanboy.

Been writing Strontium Dog strips for "Dogbreath" this last year and, blow me down, the latest issue is now being stocked by FP.

Cor! Well done Dave and co.

Want to get along there and see it for meself.

Available direct as well:


So, had to come up with a name for this Blog.
What better than my favourite sound effect from my kiddie reading (and still in use now). Having a bit of a research it seems that the most common is one "A", one "I" and four "E"'s followed by any number of exclamation marks.
Thought for a bit of fun i'd make of just how often i come across it during my reading.
So, to kick off, lets take a look at the very first issue that Battle merged with Valiant - 23 October 1976:
"One Eyed Jack" - a slightly derivitive "Naieeeeee!" Showing off a bit i feel, what with starting with a "n" and a massive six "e"'s. But the guy's just been blown up by his phone so i guess we can excuse him.
"Darkie's Mob" - a truncated "Aieee!" from a Japanese grunt.
"Panzer G Man" - an elongated "Aieeeeee!" followed by an "Aieeeee!"
"Soldier Sharp" - first sighting of the four "E"'s.
"The Black Crow" - "Aieeeee!"" from a little girl shot in the hand while playing piano (yes really)

2000AD's Dan Dare

This version of the fella has almost universally been villified but i really can't see why.

Sure, he's nothing like the original, but i'm guessing he was never meant to. 2000AD was launched off the back of Action and they knew their target audience sure wasn't those that read the Eagle.

So, in both titles, we got gritty action from gritty heroes. And Dare was no different at all, if anything the Belardinelli version of the character could've been redrawn as Dredd or John Probe and the tale would've to read alright.

As i've said before, it was Massimo's brilliant design work of the Biogs that made Dare the best strip for me from the off.

He was slowly nudged out by Dredd, until that is Dave Gibbons came on board as artist and the story arc of the Lost Worlds saga began.

How i loved it.

The clunkiness of the Flying Fortess, the excellent Eagle scout craft (complete with comic logo. A nice touch. Gibbons?), Hitman, having page on on the cover and some brilliant story ideas along with some brilliant art.

Here's a classic from 25 March 1978. Only 3 months from the cut-off of my 10 year parameter for this Blog, but what a great way to start to finish things.

Wednesday, 11 June 2008

Major Eazy

I loved, loved, LOVED Major Eazy.

The killer combo of Carlos' Ezquerra's art and Alan Hebden's laid back sardonic scripts of a laid back sardonic hero who has no respect for the chain of command, doesn't seem to have any noticible uniform and taken to sleeping though battles, made him very quickly go to the top of my favourite Battle characters.

And for him to have a whole chunk of his tales as a prequel, along with crossing over to another strip and leading them (Rat Pack) sure made him unique.

Here's my earliest tale, from 28 Feb 1976, where he crosses the line to play cards with the Germans during a stalemate, then risks everything during a massive bombing raid to get back his pistol that was nicked.

Cooler than a very cool thing, he cries out for a Titan reprint. A few years back though, we were treated to another version of the character as 2000AD launched "Cursed Earth Koburn", moving him to Dredd's world. Brilliantly produced by Gordon Rennie and Carlos, it didn't last nowhere near long enough.

Battle - 3rd January 1976

The earliest noticible issue i own right now.

Excellent cover by Ezquerra which gives a hint at what he'd done if he was given the Hookjaw gig. Alas, he's not on Rat Pack inside. No, its this pretty duff stuff.

Made up for by the excellent, crimingly overlooked Mike Dorey's work on "Return Of The Eagle" and this ad for the brilliant "Major Eazy".

Lion and Thunder 1st July 1972

So how did the follow-up issue fare?

Well, "White Eyes" cliffhanger of the hero dangling from a river bridge over an awaiting Great White shark has him just climbing back up. The thrill of it. And then he's attacked by birds, but they only manage to rip a sleeve off his jacket. That's it - given up on that one.

"Black Max's" is resolved by his and Wilsons spiralling planes being caught by the Bat People and carried to the ground. And wouldn't you just know it, as the Bat People are about to finish off Wilson once and for all with their "death dealing power waves" (which involves a bit of pointing and going "kiiiiikkki"), the fuel tanks explode and they flap off.

"Adam Eterno". Just as i recover from the outlandishness of last weeks bear in a hood wearing a gold spiked collar, i get the double whammy of the follow on featuring a solid gold serpent with fangs of death awaiting Adam in the shop he has to go to. This strip is really revealing itself to be another Batman tv series - enjoy it as a child for the thrills and the action, and again for a different reason as an adult.

70's ads - number 2

Two reasons for posting this here.

1. Up until i saw this yesterday, i'd completely forgotten a staple food of my childhood - "Chivers Jelly"

2. Collect 16 panels from the packs and Chivers will send you FIVE REAL GOLDFISH IN THE POST. Yes really. They'd actually send round real fish to your house. Love the "But don't forget to have a tank waiting for us when we arrive". It really is another world now.


It was ineveitable that i'd get round to this title eh?

I bought every action comic that came out in the 70's, either for the first few issues till the free gifts ran out (Bullet) or held on for a while in the hope that the art would improve, but it never did (Warlord).

Battle though i got from the off and right up until it became Battle Action in the 80's.

Trouble was, it never occured to me to keep my comics until 2000AD came out. So i had none until 76/77 then a couple of years worth till i gave them away.

So, its eBay to the rescue, and this is the earliest i have right now.

And what a let-down - only two strips that i rate/rated ("Day Of The Eagle" and "Rat Pack") and the art was pretty poor on both.

Biggest thing of note is the advert on the back -#258 of "They wouldn't get away with that these days".

Tuesday, 10 June 2008

Lion and Thunder 24th June 1972

Thanks to the wonder of eBay, i'm ten years old again - postie's just delivered issues of 24 june and 8th/15th july.

So, what's the 24th June like then?

Well, covers pretty crappy. Dunno why they always insisted on a factual front page. Its not as if its like Look and Learn on the inside. Surely they would have upped sales with shots of their heroes plastered there?

First strip inside is Spellbinder. Never read thsi as a nipper, but thought i'd have a go today. Very suprised at the premise - an early 70's tale of a boy's secret friend - a wizard from centuries before. Catweazle anyone?

Skipping over Carsons Cubs we come to a pretty much forgotten tale - "The White Eyes Strike Again!". Coming across with strong echoes of Invaders Of The Body Snatchers and The Midwich Cuckoos, its a tale of a town whose inhabitants and wildlife, after inhaling a gas, turn them into "White Eyes", ferociously strong killers. And led by a typically British Boys Comic named arch crook "Ezra Creech". Not a lot happens in these two pages, and the art is basic at best, but love the cliffhanger shown here - the hero is about to be tipped off the bridge into the river. A British River. Where a Great White Shark awaits. Hmmm...

After another non-read strip, we're into "The Black Max". Chuffed to be able to fill in the gaps on this later tale of Max Kloor. He's junked his Giant Bats and now has an smallish army of Bat People. Once again, Wilson is tracking him down and, once again, no-one believes him. Until this issue that is, as the Bat People attack a British unit in broad daylight. Nice cliffhanger with Wilsons plane ramming into Max's in mid-air. As usual, lovely art.

"The Spider". A classic tale - Return Of The Spider - but i've got it in King Of Crooks so gave it a miss.

Last strip is "Adam Eterno" - and its a classic. Beautifully moody art and one of those bampot bad luck situations the big guy's always finding himself in. He's in 18th century London and on the trail of a criminal leader known as the Black Hood. He tracks him down to a barbers shop where lurks a hooded figure. The figure turns and... its a blummin' great bear wearing a soild gold spiked collar.


Saturday, 7 June 2008

The Beano - Special Collectors Edition

Blimey, good timing or what?

Post the Ken Reid piece, go off to Adsda - and this is sitting thereamongst the childrens comics.

Because of that, i was expecting a fluff piece but, even with it being image-heavy, what text there is is suprisingly informative. And doesn't stint of the contribution the comic on the propaganda front during the war.

As i say, its heavy on the images - and what images!

Reproductions of all the major strips through the 40's and 50's, appreciations of Leo Baxendale and Ken Reid, and, favourite of all, some of the adventure strips.

Sadly, General Jumbo only gets a one panel reproduction, but we do get a complete first episode of Billy The Cat. Boy, what a Spidey rip-off - nerdy hero living with his aunty, having an alternative hero life at night. Never realised it was so blatent.

It cost £4.99 and is well worth seeking out. Go get it

Friday, 6 June 2008

Ken Reid

When i were a nipper, too young to be thinking about the folk that were writing and drawing the things i was lapping up, somethings i did understand:

Carmine Infantino was the ONLY artist for Batman, Curt Swan for Superman. If the artist changed on any of my favourite UK characters it wouldn't usually be as good, i could spot a Baxendale strip a mile off even if i didn't know his name at that point.

Ditto Ken Reid. The man was a genius at bizarro stuff although it was reigned in on strips like Rodger The Dodger and Jonah. Crept in on affairs like Jasper The Grasper and more so with Frankiestien and went into overload on the excellent Face Ache.

But it was with these one-off pin-ups that i feel he really went to town. I poured and poured over the detail in these for hours and hours. The man was an undisputed genius, waaaay ahead of his time, and he needs far, FAR more in the way of acknowledgement of his place in UK comics history.

Tuesday, 3 June 2008

The|Spider's character

Reading the King Of Crooks, Vulcan and Lion & Thunder, its clear as day that the fellas clever, arrogant, boastful, vain and - that's about it.

He's not, not, thrice times NOT Hannibel Lector in spandex.

So why, in 2000AD's Action Special and more lately in Albion, have they decided to go that way?

Really don't understand it. Paul Grist is much nearer the mark in his excellent Jack Staff