Thursday, 23 December 2010

Merry Christmas readers

Okay, that's it, no more computer malarky while i go off and enjoy the festivities. Hope y'all have a great time and receive all you wished for.

Saturday, 18 December 2010

Rogue's back

The traditional end of year bumper edition of 2000AD is out, and nestled inside, the return of Rogue Trooper courtesy of Gerry Finley-Day and Staz Johnson.
I said before i was looking forward to it as, by having the original writer back and Staz looking like he'd gone back to the roots, it could be that we were getting an old school tale, without all the extra baggage and silliness that happened later.
Glad to see that was the case.
THIS is what 2000AD should be - action packed SF adventures that race along, with nifty ideas, nifty dialogue, great art and, wherever possible, self contained tales.
None of the ponderous, pretentious waffle that drags down so many of the strips today, not helped by muddy or downright confusing artwork.
The "lipstick" targeting device, stammels making a comeback, a brain in a jar, the return of the Neverglades, the "dead Ringer" - all great notions, set up and executed very well by Staz's art. Design-wise he seems to be chanelling Colin Wilson and Cam Kennedy, echoed again by his stong use of blacks. Which is great to see. Love his panel use too, the hovering dropship and - especially that last page (is it for sale Staz?).
To sum up, of course all comics must evolve. But really feel 2000AD has evolved TOO far and has gotten away from what made it great in the first place.
So its a lovely Christmas present to have an instance of a strip taking me back to my teenage years of reading the Prog.
Gawd bless yer guv'ners

Monday, 6 December 2010

Vulcan - 27th March 1976

Okay chums, for this trip into the past, lets go with the oddity that was Vulcan.
An oddity in that, while it was a great (and far ahead of its time) idea to collect classic boys strips, many of which hadn't been seen for a fair old time, the execution of that idea was... odd.
(1) First up, guessing shrinking the pages to about two thirds of their original size was an economic decision (it being the mid 70's, there were a lot of them), but it don't 'arf make some of the small detail in the artwork hard to make out.
(2) Colouring black and white strips. This patently doesn't make sense. If you want to repackage these strips and decide to colour them to appeal to a wider market - i don't agree but i just about see the point - then colour all of it. Not just one and a half strips. The exception, of course, is "The Trigan Empire" which is just glorious in colour and to reprint it in b/w would just be horrible.
(3) The covers. This is where it really does look like it was a cheap exercise - cobbled togther efforts comprising panel blow-ups, crudely coloured. Looking at one of these on the shelves isn't going to attract readers.
So what does this issue give us?
For a start, a blummin' awful Steel Claw cover. The portrait of Crandell is a blow up from a panel inside, the guy in the background and cityscape from another episode. All badly coloured. Tsssk.

Inside, first strip is "Mytek The Mighty" and Gogra is making the giant mechanical ape tear up telegraph poles while he strides towards a nuclear missle base. And that's about it really. What's interesting is here we have a quite common occurence in the structure of many strips - namely the surname-only hero who's made it their goal to end a particular threat and takes the lead in all attempts to do so. Black Max's adversary was Wilson. Here MYtek/Gogra's is Mason, a fella like Wilson, disbelieved at first by the authorities then the figurehead of the defence.

"The Spider" quite rightly is fondly remembered. But usually as being an arch supervillain turned superhero. What's very often over-looked is just how silly some of his tales are. And this is pretty darn silly.
He's travelled to the ocean floor along with an "apparantly reformed crook from outer space" to rescue his friends and is attacked by "Furvoids" - hate filled entities capable of destroying any object or force that has ever existed - that are fired out of the trident of the Sea God. Who turns out not to be a Sea God at all, but an "ancient mortal who pretends to be superhuman". As he's vanquished, his passing is noted with the classic "So perishes the false pretender and his terrible trident forever more!". Brilliant, barmy stuff, with top-notch art.

"Billy's Boots" wasn't my thing back then and still isn't now. Nice art though.

"The Trigan Empire". What can i say? A true classic, so deserving of all the praise its ever garnered. How i regret selling my Hamlyn collection years back.

"The Steel Claw" is the usal barmy stuff. Our hero starts by being stuck to a magnetic wall (yes really) in the home of the local Governer. Trapped there by Dr Magno (yes really), a strange bloke who looks like he's got a pair of tights on his head, it looks like he's had it when Magno orders his men to "take your time my friends! Remember, that your target is an invisble one!" To which the not too bright goons reply "That won't help Crandell now! If we shoot all around the claw some of the bullets are BOUND to hit him!" (yes really). But our hero has taken the glove of and spends the rest of the episode prancing around invisibly while they try to plug him.

"Kelly's Eye" is classic stuff, with our hero up against an evil dulpicate of himself, exact in every way except he, er, talks backwards. Anyway, Tim's lost the Eye Of Zoltec to his doppleganger and has to climb into the "Titan Suit" to anything like be a match for him. Finally, he manges to cut the cord of the Eye and, as it rolls away, we have the brilliantly barmy "Enog... Enots!" This could possibly be THE best line i've ever read in a comic.

"Robot Archie" is a huge let-dwon after that, with crappy story, crappy art and crappy colouring.

All in all, a fun read, with some great examples of what makes these strips, er, great.

Thursday, 2 December 2010

Smash! 3rd May 1969

Second comic out of the box and its no real suprise - this title is a tad bigger and taller than the others so it'd be easier to come across first.
A real mixed bag here.
"Master Of The Marsh" was a strip i read back then only for the incredible moody artwork. And that stills holds true now - if it wasn't for it the strip'd be a right dull affair.
Next up is "Erik The Viking" starting - a curious oddity in that its actually a reprint of "Karl The Viking" from Lion. It early days for Don Lawrence on this strip but there's the odd panel or face here and there which are precursors to the magnificence he'd go on to produce for "The Trigan Empire".
After the duffness of "Nutt and Bolt", "Percy's Pets" and "The Wide World Wanderers" we come to creepiness of "Cursitor Doom". Here he's up against the ghost of highwayman Black Patch and, while the art isn't as nice as when Eric Bradbury was on it, this page is really rather good. The use of black on the ghostly figure on the left and the scratchy rain effect on the right are excellent and wouldn't look at all out of place currently in "Defoe", no?
Where we DO have Bradbury moodiness is in "Bunsen's Burner" . Another example of classic 60/70's boys comic method and why i love them so much - take a regular scenero and put a bizarre twist on it. Here we have two guys taking an ancient steam car around the world in order to gain an inheritance. Okay, a bit odd but not too implausable.
But a criminal called The Inventor has been paid to stop them. And how does he choose to go about it? By unleashing his "fantastic mechanical crab" that's how.
Because that's what you do when you need to stop a clapped out old banger. Not shoot the occupants, nor blow it up or any number of typical dastardly ways. Absolute genius and absolutely lovely art from Eric.
The moodiness keeps going over the page with "Janus Stark", a strip which had really hit its stride in terms of art which you can here is engaging and incredibly evocative despite the tale being almost all set-up and not much happening.
And that's it. Of the remaining strips, i would've mentioned "The Swots And The Blots" but, as its not done by Leo Baxendale and whoever did do it is just not in the same league, i won't.
Far too early for such an expletive.

Battle and Valiant - 13th November 1976

With us snowed in here in the village, it means no work and plenty od spare time. So, while the Sprogs are watching "The Muppets Christmas Carol", thought i'd pick a couple of issues out of the box completely at random and have a peruse.
First up, another Battle read for me.
It's an odd cover, made up of stark black and white images, with a lot of pretty prominent dotting for shading. All three look like they're copies from somewhere else - its obvious that's an Ezquerra Eazy but the One-Eyed Jack and D-Day Dawson look almost like they've been photo referenced, though gawd knows from where.
Three strips of note this time:
"Major Eazy" is the start of a three-parter, having the guy up against deep desert bandits operating out of a secret oasis. Its classic stuff with classic art by Carlos. This is my favourite - love how the centre section is the only area with solid panel lines and the way they're composed to contain Eazy being ambushed, with some lovely widescreen one's giving a real cinematic feel to the sequence. Can just see the panel of the bandits up on the dune top on the big screen.
A straight out action episode from "Darkies Mob", with the fellas attacking an air base. Again, Mike Western is using the panel to direct the reader - here these odd shaped panels really do seem to be focusing the reader towards the guy on fire (who seems to be reacting quite calmly, being his face is falling off).
Lastly we have the never really talked about "Solder Sharp". Which is odd as its pretty entertaining stuff with "Charlies War" quality art from Joe. Guess editorial and the readers didn't really take to having the main character being so unsympathetic, what with him being a coward, cheat and thief. But the funs in the scrapes he gets in to and out of. Here we have him tied down by the soviets (painful), his chest cut, then a cage of rats plonked down on him, the idea being they'll be so inflamed by the smell of the blood that they'll eat through the wooden floor of the cage to get to him.
Arnie gets out of this one by spinning the wheel he's on over to the fire, then putting his arm in it until the rope burns through. A true "you couldn't do that in a kids comic now" sequence if ever i saw one.
A nearly there "Aaaiee!" from a desert bandit being shot at by Easy. Guess it'd have been fuller if he's actually been hit.
A 100% "Aieeee!" from a blown up Russian in "Panzer G-Man". Well done that soldier.
A one E too many "Aieeeee!" from a similary blown up German a few panels on.
And at the end of the strip we have a positive glut of them - a "Aieeeee!" from a Russian being shot AND on fire, a cut-off "Aiee!" from his mate next to him and then the really rather brilliant "BATUSH-AIEEEEE!".