Thursday, 29 December 2011

Strip magazine issue 2

Finally got down to my local comic shop and picked up this latest issue.
Reading it, the oft-cited "we're filling a gap in the market" really does ring home and you're left wondering why on earth these anthologies were ever done away with.
So great to see not only new, original British strips, but also the championing of small press titles and, with this issue, local small stores.
Long may they continue.
Read-wise, of the new strips, "Recovery Incorporated" and "Age Of Heroes" are still tops but favourite, of course, is "Hook Jaw".
This is proving to be a multi-level, multi-pleasure experience as:
(A) We get to read the strip again
(B) We get to compare and contrast the two lettering styles
(C) We get to do ditto with colour or not.
Especially interesting this time for me as we've two of my all-time favourite panels from the strip.

This one i'd rate #4 on my list. Even reading it first time round, i recognised it for the copy of the photo that it was, it being an iconic shot used in pretty much all the books that were churned out in the wake of Jaws' success. Most publishers would i guess, if they were using it, would use it as is. Its a true mark of the bods in charge to come up with the outrageous notion of a diver swimming right into it. Would love to know how it came about - did the script say "diver swims into the maw" and Sola decided to use the image, or was he given the image after it inspired Mr Armstrong to write the moment.
It still is a fantastic moment in colour:

with the now bright white of the teeth really standing out. Only niggle is that if the speech bubble hadn't been moved then we'd see more of them. But can understand why it was done and it doesn't distract at all.
This is my #2 panel,a classic iconic moment - if you wanted to sum up the strip in one panel, this would do it:

I used to stare and stare at it for ages, horrified by the snapping limbs and stunned by the length of the beast compared to the bloke.

In colour, it still has impact, the red making it more so, but the colouring on the face has rather obscured the face, alas.
Still, a terrific read and can't wait for more.
None. Can we have some please?

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Merry Christmas to y'all

Okay folks, up at an unearthly hour in the morning to travel to France to see family, then back again Christmas Eve eve.
So, very best wishes to you all and i'll see you back here soon.

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Merry Christmas from... 1970

This time out we have a festive cover, though being Thunder, its a factual piece and therefore, to an 8 year-old, boring.
Inside we're still at the point where no-one belives Wilson about the Black Max and here we have him running from a court-martial, only to run into - literally - Max in the woods he's hiding out in. He's saved by some Tommies inadvertantly letting Max's bat out of his plane and we get, yet again, "the incredible Tardis plane or the ever growing Bat" as the creature goes from being small enough to fit in the tiny cargo box to being bigger than the plane itself in the space of just one panel:

"Adam Eterno" is set in WW1, which you'd think would be a the setting for some really dark, gritty art. Not so with this artist alas. Its all very light and forgettable, but the story itself is of note as it strays from the usual formula. Instead of the usual plot device of plonking Adam down in a time period just moments before it all hits the fan - something Slaine would do again and again decades later - here we have the start of a tale, with Adam being introduced as a stretcher-bearer, although he's not named and, if you're not a fan already, you wouldn't have a clue he was the hero of the tale. Its not until he's survived a bomb blast and the onlookers identify him as "Private Eterno", that we're tipped off to what's going on.

Seems he's been fighting for a coupla weeks and that fact that he never sleeps and has survived countless bullet hits is making him a bit of a pariah. That looks like its all at an end though with the arrival of "General Von Gruber" who also can shrug off bullet hits. And is armed (what are the chances eh?) with a solid gold sabre.
Much moodier art is on "Fury's Family", a strip i didn't care for, but there's no denying the effectivness of the art:

There's a few strips that mention Christmas in a panel or two, but "Phil The Fluter" has the only proper Christmas tale, although the moral of it is a tad dodgy, given the time of year. Its Christmas Day, Phil's parents haven't got round to getting a tree, so off he goes to the local woods to dig one up. When the owner of the woods tries, quite rightly, to stop him stealing one, the flute's used to dunk him in the river. So the guy in the right gets a dunking, but the tea leaf gets his tree using unfair means.

Not an utterance nor a variance

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Merry Christmas from... 1972

Back in '72, so lets see what the 10 year-old me was reading shall we?
Well, nothing to do with the festive period for sure here - not one strip even mentions the time of year, let alone wishing anyone festive greetings.
Instead, we have in the way of highlights here:

Adam Eterno resolving the problem of how to cope with a gold-topped tower falling towards him in Napleonic times. Which he does by being shot, thereby moving just out of the way of the tower. Worthy of a 50's serial get-out that. Excellent art but a so-so tale.

"Secrets Of The Demon Dwarf" continues the Black Max sequel, and has the British fighting the Germans still going on in the 60's. Pretty duff stuff if it wasn't for the fact that it was a Max sequel and that, somehow, there's still a Wilson to thwart the dasterdily plans.

Best of all though is "The Spider", which, as always, has stunning art, though this tale of him vs the Android Emperor is pretty foregettable.
Not a very distinctive issue then.

Thursday, 24 November 2011

POW! annual 1971 - #9 - Mr Tomorrow

Right, at number 9 we have Mr Tomorrow, "Criminal From The Future!". Take one look at him and, yep, that's Lex Luthor in his nifty prison garb, but even more so when he's in suit and tie.

Its 2971 and the worlds worst criminal is on trial. Oddly, he's not named at all but, anyway, he's sentenced to "be cast into eternity" - which means being put into a box with a chair in it, the dreaded "Time-Ejector". Its not made clear just what ejecting into time involves, nor what casting into eternity means, but it must be terminal as they do keep going on how he's going to perish. He doesn't though - at the moment of the big event "the current doesn't seem to be regulating corectly" and he's sent back to present day America.
So far so good.
Except he goes on a crime spree, robbing banks across the world and can't be caught as "To me, everything here has already happened. I can live in history and remould it to my wishes as i already know what they're going to do next!".
Now that means either (A) He's a genius who has totally recall of all events that happened 900 years before, or (B) In the future he'd already learnt of what's to happen in the past and gens up on it.
Either way is strectching it, yes?
Anyway, ne notches things up and demands that he be made world leader and at that point things stretch to breaking point:
The authorities agree that he can't be stopped as "he never stays in one place long enough". To which one bod pipes up with the bampot "But you're forgetting one thing. This man must sleep!"
Eh? What?
What has that got to do with anything?
It gets even more bizarre - after they've decided they've got to find him then catch him asleep, Mr Tomorrow somehow knows and decides all of a sudden that he mustn't sleep. Kinda odd, if he has got foreknowledge, that he decides that right at the point the good guys point out that's how to get him.
So, anyway, he builds a super bomb but in the end blows up with it as he can't find his pills to stay awake and crashes his plane.
And it ends with the bod going "When it old you i wanted him asleep i was hoping he'd be foolish enough to try and stay awake".
So there we have it - Mr Tomorrow is from the future and, being from the future, it means he knows everything as it happens, everything that's said as its said.
Dear, oh dear.
As usual with this annual, its the art that made the impact (certainly not the plot here) and this one panel i was always fascinated by, even though its just a bit of perspective i found it odd and faintly disturbing.

Which sums this whole annual up.

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

2000AD 11 Feb 1978

Not visited Tharg's periodical for quite a while, so lets have a delve shall we?
Mr Dare is on the cover, replicating his Eagle days, and, boy, Star Wars was showing its influence in this tale - "Laser Swords", "Dark Lords" and a "Star Slayer Empire" - but its still a rollicking read and back then my number one tale. Looking at it now, the "Stomm" expletive seems odd outside of Dredd's world and the character himself could be anyone. In fact, in the action scenes, the way Dare carries himself and his innner monologues, that could be Johnny Alpha or even Dredd fighting there.
"Visible Man" was terrific, then and now, not for the plot - which is a bog standard man on the run tale - for the terrific art by Montero. It really is terrifically gruesome, each episode usually having a frame to show off Frank's predicimant, and here we have him wolfing down some wedding cake:

Brilliant Dredd tale by John Wagner under the nom de plume of "Howard", with brilliant early Dredd art by Brian Bolland. Its an excellent tale with an excellent premise - war between America and the Sov's is fought out by two small bands of warriors on Luna-1. Its got excellent action for sure but its unusual for the time in that it end with a proper anti-war message, literally rammed home by Dredd:

"Invasion" is still plodding on, but its got lovely, gritty art, which i thought was by Mike Dorey, but turns out its J. Clough. That look on Savage's face as he stands there with the rocket launcher is a classic:

And last up we have "Inferno", a truely naff tale - but Belardinelli's art is still oustanding.
Can't think of anyone else who could draw a simple fire extinguisher firing look so weird and unique:

Oddly, considering the action going on, none.

Sunday, 13 November 2011

Captain Pugwash in the flesh

Not very on-topic, but he was great and a part of my childhood, sooo:
Rye art gallery are just to start running a collection of original art by the brilliant John Ryan - creator of "Captain Pugwash", "Mary, Mungo & Midge" and "Sir Prancelot" among others.
Will be nipping down to be 10 again and advise you to do the same if you can.

Friday, 11 November 2011

Spelling it out with Hookjaw

Blimey, it wasn't until i went on the 2000AD Forum to see what other folk thought of Strip that i learnt that, as well as being coloured, the lettering had been changed.
Never noticed it as i was so keen on studying the full colour - and i certainly didn't need to read it, as i'm darn near word perfect on this opening episode.
I can see why they did it, and they did it well, but i do prefer the standard for that time, typed text and those odd straight-lined speech balloons.

Looking closer, its rather curious as its not just a straight erasing of the original and putting a new one in.
In many cases the speech balloon has been moved elsewhere in the panel to allow for it, resulting in some of the art being covered up.
And the old balloon has been removed, either uncovering some previously unseen art or, if they were working from stats, drawing new art. If that's the case, its been done very well.
A good example is here, where the divers air tanks were originally obscured but are now on view:

Another alteration is to change some of the script itself:
As the unfortunate Bannion makes it to the surface, we originally had just the one balloon going:
"It's Bannion! What-? He's blown up!"
But now we've got two:
"Wait - there's Bannion!"
"Hell! He's BLOWN UP!"
And we've got the odd word removed here and the odd extra exclamtion mark added there.
But the oddest change is to remove some of the boxes with descriptive text. We've lost "The injured Great White turned savagely" and "Bannion dropped his weight belt" and "While the sharks finished Bannion, Mason surfaced"
Now, can understand why they'd remove them all, as that way of story telling is kind of dated now, but why remove some but keep others.
I'm hoping we're going to have a nice, indepth article in a future issue explaining the thought processes and decision making that was involved.

Thursday, 10 November 2011

Had a Strip

So, finally got me hands on one, sat down with a coffee and a bagel and had a good read.
Ticks all the right boxes for me straight away with John's editorial stating the aim was (A) have an action/adventure comic for all ages out there, (B) a way of publishing our childhood heroes again.
And they've certainly hit the mark on both counts - its a comic i'd be happy with my 11 year-old reading (and he will) and the feel of the characters, plots, script and art all seem continuations of the titles we all bought when nippers, before they died or "grew up".
Highlights for me?
"Age Of Heroes" The setting and premise are right up my proverbial, with lovely art by John Ridgeway. Lovely colouring too. I don't really need colour in my British comics as that's how i prefered my strips back then, but the colours used are pretty darn good here in Strip and i don't mind them.
"The Iron Moon" is terrific fun, with some great design work - may well have a go at making my own helicopter-thingy.
"Recovery Inc" is my favourite of the new strips, Mia coming across as Modesty Blaise equipped with Black Widows tech. Lovely, action packed stuff with superb art - more please.
"Hookjaw". Was inevitable that it'd be my number one wasn't it? Must say, was dreading a full-colour version - the original two page colour spread was garish and over the top and a product of its time, bit like the bright red blood in the Hammer films - but its done really, really well. Nice, subtle colours used well and sympathetically to the art, allowing the detail to still be seen. Top work fellas!
Sadly none. It's only a matter of time before it pops up in "Hookjaw", but it'd be nice if it pops up in the new strips eh?

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Combat Encounters Of A First Rate Kind!

Not apparent in this here cover shot, but that's the pun-tastic tag line to this issue of Battle Action from June 1978.
Behind the rather odd Ezquerra/Western/Cooper montage cover, we find:
Joe Colquhoun on "Johnny Red". Need i say more? Not really, but i will. His art here is truly up there with the best he did on Charleys War, raising this rather pedestrian episode up tons of notches. Only thing noteworthy in the script is this mouthfull from a Spitfire pilot, who warbles on while having a dogfight with Johnny. Talented multi-tasker and no mistake: "Its no use running Redburn! I know you're wounded and my spit can fly rings round that soup strainer you call a plane! You're coming back to face the music!"

Next up is "Hellman" and, again, top notch art from, for me, the best artist there was for this character - Mike Dorey. He always did incredibly gritty art but here, with these tales set on the Eastern Front, it suits the strip even more. And this train crash here also shows how well he could do action. Quite stunned to re-read this. From his very first tale, Hellman's been seen as a decent German, appallled by the Nazis in control. Its been a running theme, with him equally fighting them as much as the Allies. But here, we have a tale set in a concentration camp. A brave move, although we never see any of the inmates or the atrocities, the horror felt by Hellman's troops is handled well, and is played as straight as could be.

Skipping over "Spinball Wars" (as ever), we've "Major Eazy". Its not that good really - four pages telling the tale of Eazy and co going into the desert, blowing up a bit of road, covering it with sand, then waiting and watching as the German tanks roll over it and sink. Nice art by Carlos though - but who thought coloured speech balloons were a good idea?

"Dredgers" kinda dull, with so-so art from John Cooper.
"The Sarge" was good, with nice art by Mike Western and the squabbling of The Sarge's troops was similar in feel to the lighter episodes of Mike's ultimate gig, "Darkie's Mob".
All in all, an okay issue.
The most elongated utterance i've yet come across with a Russian "AIEEEEEEEEEEEE!" from Dorey's train crash in "Hellman".
A "Naieeeeee!" from a bloke run over by a bike in "Spinball Wars". Also there, we've a "Aieeeee!" from his team mate being blown up.
What is it with elongated one's this time? "The Sarge" has "Aieeeeeee!" fron a sniper being shot out of his tree.

Monday, 7 November 2011

POW! annual 1971 - #10 - Kash Pearce

As i've mentioned here before, if there was one copy of a title i could keep that would sum up my childhood comic reading, it would be this annual.
I loved and cherished it, being totally enthralled by the thrills inside - a mix of high thrills, odd plots, odder heroes and even odder villains.
And slightly disturbing artwork which made it all the more intriguing. The 9 year-old me wasn't to know that was due to the European artists that were used - all i knew is what i was reading seemed vaguelly like the Marvel heroes i knew from the UK reprints, but they had a slightly bizarre quality to them.
As i say, i've always cherished the book, one of only two that i've kept from my childhood right up to now.
And you can see here, on pages two and three, there's a nifty rolecall of the characters, to which i'd added my ratings of them:

So thought it'd be an idea to look closer at each one and see why i rated them as i did.
First up is "The Time Rider", Kash Pearce, who comes bottom of the list and i'm guessing i valued so little that i couldn't even be bothered to put a 10 alongside him.
Having a re-read, i can see why: Mr Pearce is a "million dollar rancher - and genius! Among his many incredible inventions, the mechanical horse!"
So, a loaded genius who, rather than setting himself in a lab benefitting humanity, choses to be a rancher. On a robot horse. Hmmmm...
He bungles an attempt to catch some bank robbers, gets told off by the police for interfering, goes off in a sulk and ponders at home: "If i had been back in the old west i'd sure have shown the law how useful my horse could be"
The lightbulb pings on as: "Hey! Why NOT go back to the wild west? My time transporter's almost finished..."
So, a genius inventor, with a robot horse and a working time machine, choses to be a rancher. Double hmmm...
Off he goes then, all garbed up, back to 1877 to defeat the dastardly Buck Sawyer. Which he does in an incredibly predictable, dull way. The only things of note? See the bottom of this post.
The only thing that i can really recall before re-reading this today are the daft fruit machine handles that pass for controls of horsey:

Oddly, yes there is one and, boy, is it odd. We get an "Aieee!" from one of a bunch of native americans who're chasing our hero. He exclaims it as, i kid you not, the horse farts smoke in their faces.
Yep, a smoke screen produced from a bum-hole. VERY surprised the kid version of me didn't note that - surely it would've been the height of comedy back then?

Saturday, 5 November 2011

One day i will have a Strip

As i'm sure many of you will be aware, the oft-put back Strip Magazine went on sale in comic shops last Weds.
Had mine on order at my local one and could've picked up then, but decided to wait until tomorrow, when they are having a mini-con.
But had to change my work rota so i'm now working.
So went to get it today.
The owner had sold all his copies bar mine, but asked if i'd mind giving it up as someone going to the con hasn't got a local comic shop and was after one. So would i mind letting him have mine and i'll get my copy finally next Weds?
Said sure, so expect a ramble after then.

Friday, 28 October 2011

Look-In - May 1974

A title i've long over-looked and i really dunno why - guess it was a staple of most kids reading back in the seventies as it gave you a weekly dose of your favourite shows, albeit in FAR more ambitious adventures than the show that spawned the strip could ever hope to achieve.
Case in point here, "The Tomorrow People", which has the Jaunters trekking around a jungle planet for two pages. If Thames had tried that, it'd be all cardboard tubes for trees and an awful lot of plastic plants i guess. And the ape-like aliens would've been a couple of moth eaten gorilla suits loaned from the Benny Hill show or sumsuch. Nice art though, which i'm guessing is John Burns?

"Kung Fu" is better, by being an American show, thereby having a decent budget and even more decent locations the crew could visit, making the strip here being much more do-able. Again, nice art. Martin Asbury?

The other strips are all familiar stuff, though for the life of me i don't know why they'd be considered for comic adaptations: "Bless This House", "Doctor In Charge!","Micheal Bentine's Potty Time" etc.
One strip i didn't recognise at all was "The Kids From 47a" as i don't remember the show whatsoever. And i'm not the only one - the tale of some children leaving at home alone while their mum's in hospital is so obscure, there's not one clip of it on Youtube.
Looking at the TV ratings at the back, its interesting to see what the 12 year-old me was watching on Saturdays back then.
The kiddie bit went:

9.55 Captain Scarlet
10.20 Forest Rangers
11.00 Funky Phantom
11.30 Tarzan
12.00 World Of Sport
6.00 New Faces
7.00 Sale Of The Century
7.30 Kung Fu

"Funky Phantom" started ringing bells. So thought i'd refresh me memory by looking for it on Youtube. God, wish they'd been alarm bells ringing - i'd forgotten it for a reason:

Finally, i chose this issue to feature the title as 1974 is a looong way away now but i can so clearly remember even now waiting for that issue to come out as i SO wanted that Kung Fu medallion. And can still very clearly remember buying the issue on the way to school - then losing the medallion on the way. And the upset of being in the playground where i was seemingly the only one there not standing and admiring their new bit of fabbo jewellry.
Though looking at this ad on tips how to wear it, at least it saved me looking a pillock:

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Lofty's One-Man Luftwaffe

Just been reading a Battle from 1975 for the first time since then, and its a pretty duff affair.
Even the usually reliable Rat Pack was poor - dull story with dull art.
Two things to note though:
1. Lofty's One-Man Luftwaffe, a story i don't recall in the slightest. Its typical British boys comic fare, of having a highly unlikely and outlandish setup that the hero is plonked down in to. In this case, Lofty Banks has escaped from a prison camp by posing as a German air ace and ends up flying for the Germans. Why he doesn't just fly his plane to the Allied lines and surrender i guess must've been addressed by now.
Or not.
It has another bampot premise in that the Germans have painted their airfield blue so it'll look like a lake from the air and the hills around said "lake" are actually fuel dumps.
In the midst of this hilarious nonsense there's an awful lot of cliche lingo. Of course, at this time, that was pretty common for the Japanese and German characters but here its the turn of the English and there's SO much iof it, you can't help feeling there was a point to it.
If so, i don't see it. What's the point of all the "Drat"'s and "Dashed"'s, calling each other "Bunny" and the downright Ripping Yarns "Drat- He's not going to give up. Better nail the cheeky perisher"
2. The other thing of note is the end of the installment of "Day Of The Eagle", which has Mike Nelson failing to stop Hitler pressing the button that detonates the worlds first nuclear bomb.
Will have to track down the next issue to see how that pans out.
Quite a bit this time:
A cut short "Aiiee!" coming from a downed German fighter in "Lofty's"
Almost the same again with "AIEE!" from a German guard in "Rat Pack". Wonder if its the same unfortunate chap?
An odd "NAIEEEE!" uttered twice in "The Flight Of The Golden Hinde"
And a 100% "AIEEEE!" from "The Terror Behind The Bamboo Curtain"

Saturday, 8 October 2011

Cheap Thrillpower at The Works

Just a quick heads-up for any UK readers - The Works have got the rather nice hardback Best Of Judge Dredd and 2000AD's for only £6.99 each.

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Action - 10th July 1976

Another pick-up from 30th Century was this issue of Action that'd i'd not re-read since, i guess, when it first came out.
Lets have a look shall we?
First up, Dredger and, as usual, it sure don't waste no time - in THE VERY FIRST PANEL we've learnt that Dredger and Breed are at the "Hampshire Agricultural Fair", that the big guy's intent on shooting a member of the East German delegation, which is giving Breed the wobblies.
Brilliant stuff to do that in the very first panel, but the rest of the tale doesn't live up to it - pretty poor script with even poorer art.
Next, Green Grudges War has Belardinelli's art, which is always welcome. But that's it, and Hells Highway is the usual dull stuff.
But it picks up again with Death Game 1999, which has "Al Rico", the half cyborg baddie featured. He's apparently has his metal parts covered with strips of "artificial skin" to stop his team mates freaking out, but he looks the same to me. This guy is a bit of curiosity, seeming to pre-empt Judge Dredd by having an adversary of the hero called "Rico" and this "half cyborg with a psychotic hatred for a sports team" was in place long before Artie Gruber appeared in Harlem Heroes.

Hookjaw features some garish colour pages, which also seems to bend scale to its will, having the bad guy managing to get practically half a submersible in its mouth.
Back in scale for the next page though, which has a classic, and often used, rendition of someone chopped in two:

Only other thing of note is this classic ad for the Palitoy action figures. Buts its strange though - can understand the Apes bit, with the TV show on around about then, but - Star Trek? Surely it'd finished its re-reuns by then?

A really rather over the top "AHIEEEEEE!" from someone who'd been having a bit of trouble getting into the stadium for the match in Death Game 1999.

Friday, 16 September 2011

Major Leicht

This guy i only very vaguely remember, and i knew him as the German version of Major Eazy - but didn't have any issues of him since i were a nipper.
But me and the Bronze repaid a visit a while back to 30th Century Comics, and i bought this issue of Battle for the really lovely Ezquerra cover of the Main Man.

Pleased to have it for just that reason, but doubly chuffed to find it has Leicht in the strip.
And, being Eazy, it was typicaly off the wall.
He's in Italy just as Germany surrenders and is determined that he'll beat the Yanks to the Brenner Pass, seeing as he's fought for it and they're just there for the glory.
He meets his equivilant on the way and both decide to put such silly trivial things as war to one side to beat the Nazi's, who're are determined to blow up the very bridge the Americans plan on using to get there.
Its typical Battle barminess - neither has the means to stop the gun from doing the dasterdly deed, so instead drop a grenade-laden tank against the dam wall, blowing it up to wash the bad guys away.
It ends with Eazy indeed beating the Americans to the objective, but Leicht is mentioned no more.
No idea if he appears again, but the tag at the end saying from now on there'd be the early adventures of Eazy, guess that was it.
The only other thing of note this time is the incredibly vivid depection of a Nazi lookee-likkee of Churchill being blasted by Mike Nelson in "The Eagle Must Die!"

A short "AIEEE!" from a German in "Yellow Jack"
A really rather over-long "AIEEEEE!" from a Nazi in "The Bootneck Boy", who'd only been thumped by a rifle. Wimp.