Wednesday, 26 November 2014

A Thundering return

Paid a visit to always rather lovely 30th Century Comics in Putney on Saturday, while on a weekend in London.
Went there with an express aim to fill in some more gaps in my ongoing quest to have the whole saga of "Black Max".
So, came back with this Thunder from 1970 and three Lion & Thunders from '72, and looking forward to returning to the fella, checking out "Adam Eterno" and seeing what else these issues have to offer.

Wednesday, 5 March 2014

Pow! Annual 1968

Thought i'd take a punt on an annual that i don't remember to see if there were any hidden gems to surprise and delight me.
Wish i'd not bothered with this one.
The original, UK sourced strips were pretty darn forgettable, with characters that aren't mentioned really these days - and you can see why.
Of real interest though are the US reprints, including this Spider-man strip, in very basic colours, that i remember from my Mighty World Of Marvel days:

And this Nick Fury, with appallingly garish colours:

And this Fantastic Four episode, which again i remember from my MWOM days, but for some reason the colourist has decided to do the Thing in white. Odd. Its not like he didn't have orange - its there on the wall in the next panel:

Saturday, 1 March 2014

What i was reading 38 years ago - Battle 28th February 1976

So i've had a look through my boxes to find an issue of something that was out this week way back when, and i've gone with this issue, sporting a pretty average cover:

And the inside was pretty average too. We're a couple of weeks into the run of "Action" here and, even though i don't recall it, i just know what's in these pages here would've paled completely to what i was experiencing in the other title, especially as i'd buy both and read both at the same time.
Anyway, of note for me these days is the historical retellings that "Battle" did so well, this time helped by the beautiful art of Mike Dorey:

And, of course, Major Eazy. A fantastic read at any time and this tale of the fella going behind enemy lines to play cards with the Germans is in his reprint edition. But in the actual comic we get get the colour spread - and what lovely subdued colouring, which wouldn't look out of place in modern comics now:

A short "AIEEE!" from a shot Japanese soldier in "Merrill's Marauders".
Its a "AIEEEE!"-fest in "Cold Steele". Possibly the most of them i've ever seen in one strip. We get:
a spot-on 100% "AIEEEE!" from an ambushed German,
then an even bigger "AIEEEEE!" from the bloke in the next truck.
Then another spot-on "AIEEEE!" from a snipered Englishman.
We're back with the shortened "AIEEE!" from a bayoneted German,
then his mate gives out a AIEEEEE!",
and we finish with another friend finishing the tale with another 100% "AIEEEE!".
"The Bootneck Boy" gives us the final batch with two extended's - a AIEEEEE!" and a "AIEEEEEE!"

Tuesday, 25 February 2014

POW! annual 1971 - #4 - Norstad Of The Deep

Back to this here Blog and back again to one of my favourite reading pastimes - going back to the font that is my all-time annual ever.
You may recall that, back in 1971, i'd numbered all the characters in the two page frontispiece in order of my fondness of them.
We're at Number 4 now and its odd, given my fondness for 50's SF both now and back then, that the fella didn't rate higher, as its a plotline that could've come from back then easily. And i could see Ray Harryhausen doing the stop motion work for him, in much the same way that he did for the Ymir.
Anyway, opening page finds the Big Bad Guy ruling over his undersea kingdom, bullying his subjects and an articulate, eyeballed jellyfish race called "Celebes" used as slaves:

By the end of page one he gets a warning from his son that he's treating everyone too harshly, and by the middle of page two the mutiny is in full force, despite the threat of Norstad feeding them "to the clams" and off he's bunged into an abyss (note an early appearance of a stunted "AIEEEE!" here):

Down, down he goes and, upon landing, he finds he's lost all his strength from "the sickness of the depths". What sickness? Its sure not the immense pressure down there as he seems to move around okay. This panel here of him being frightened by a squid is the first example in this particular strip of one's i used to study over and over and be fascinated by:

Meanwhile, up on the surface, fearless underwater explorer Mike Carter is searching that very abyss we now know is called "The Valley Of No Return" in his bathysphere (which they make a point of calling The Bubble. For no reason whatsoever).
Having a close encounter with Norstad, Mike accidently turns the radio up too high, the clot, which makes him pass out. At that point, the radio waves also give Norstad his strength back:

And that becomes the jist of the story - all the while Mike is awake, Norstad is weak. When he's asleep or stunned, Norstad is at his full strength. No explanation is given for just how this happens, just the stock answer of "somehow".
Anyway, two more indelible images soon come along - Norstad punching a shark to death, and his return to his kingdom only to find the jellyfish have taken over. LOVE that shocked look of the jellyfish as his table is turned over:

Soon he's off to "kill the human whose brain-power i have, so i don't loose it again!" and comes ashore in a very "Beast From 20,000 Fathoms" way, wreaking havoc until he finds The Bubble. But, wouldn't you know it?, Mike wakes up just as he's about to crush the craft, resulting in my last favourite image as he peers in through the window:

The story is then over and done with very quickly - he jumps off the ship and is immediately depth-charged.
The say he's dead but we don't see it happen and no body is shown. Whether that's just how it was, or if there were plans to bring him back should this first story prove to be succesful, i don't know.
Reading the story again,its great, great fun aand they sure don't write them like this any more.

"AIEEEE!" Watch:
Surprisingly, this early on in the decade, we have more than one:
The afore-mentioned "AIEEE!" from Norstad.
And the shorter "AIEE!" as he flees the squid.

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Charley's War - Hitlers Youth

Been a while, and i'm sorry for that - life lately has meant that reading really hasn't been on the agenda.
I'm back with a quick mention of this volume of Charley's War. Its been out for a couple of years now, and its been on the "Must Buy That Sometime" list since that, but other things tend ed to get in my sights first.
But i was up at Forbidden Planet at the weekend and they had this reduced and signed by Pat Mills too.
I don't usually mention this superlative strip here, as i figure it'd be kind of crass to feature on such a frivolous Blog.
But reason for including here is a guest appearance and mention of my all-time favourite British Boys Comic character, Black Max:

I'd be thrilled to read and see him here, but its a double thrill in that the Chris Weston version shown is actually a commission i asked Chris to do for me.
Here it is in the flesh:

And while i'm at it, here's his take on the Spider that he did for me too:

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

The last ever Battle

First up, huge apologies for no posts for such a long time, but the school holidays and all three Sprogs at home all the time means precious little in the way of reading and Blog posting.
But, the house is quiet now, so lets get back to it and I thought i'd start off again with a momentous issue - the last edition of Battle before merging with Action.
I hated titles merging - usually my favourite characters didn't survive it and, if they did, it never really seemed the same again. 2000AD is the only comic I can think of that went against that on the couple of occasions it happened there.
Anyway, the cover does the usual breaking it to us with telling us, with the "Big News" Exciting details inside!" blurb - I dreaded seeing that, knowing full well what it meant.

Anyway, inside we get another custom for such events - the hurried finishing up of stories that weren't going to continue, some done more clumsily than others: Joe Two Beans, Night Of Vengeance, Gaunt, Sea Wolf and The Bootneck Boy all had abrupt happy endings happening.
Aside from the Big News about to happen, we also get this time two things of note around the Johnny Red part of the comic - stunning as usual Joe Colquhoun art on a rather preposterous segment (can you really put a plane into reverse, come up behind the plane that's chasing you, use your propeller to rip his tail to pieces, and keep flying?), and a full page advert for the UFO Dinky toys. Really? Its 1977 - UFO had been off the screen for seven years, and yet they're still flogging the toys? Did the average reader even know of the show?

Also here we get brilliant Mike Western art on The Sarge, somewhat let down by that hideous idea of the time to colour in the centre pages with any pot of paint that's at hand: green pyramids, smoke and clouds during the day, yellow pyramids and green sky at night:

Other thing of note is this fantastic panel of a very prolonged version of the title of this here Blog. But, if I was being squashed between my sub and ship, think i'd do likewise:

A short "AIEE!" from a rapidly despatched Japanese soldier and the same again when a bunch of Americans get their raft blown up in Joe Two Beans. And then a 100% perfect "AIEEEE!" when another raft blows up in the same strip.
A lengthy as he falls "AIEEEEEEEE!" from the main bad guy in The Sarge. Guess it was a long drop.
And the squashed sailor in Sea Wolf.
'77 looks like a vintage year for the expletive.

Wednesday, 24 July 2013

Marvel Annual 1972

There's a whole bunch of annuals/comics that I've treasured ever since I read them, either one's I've kept since they first came out:

Or that I've still to track down for my collection:

And occasionally, VERY occasionally, I come across something that i'd loved dearly, but had totally forgotten about.
And that's the case with this here annual:

I was at a friends second-hand bookshop in Margate, having a natter while leafing through a bunch of british annuals, when I came across the cover above.
Time stopped.
Suddenly I was 10 years-old again, staring and staring at the Hulk lifting up that cannon against a vivid red background.
"I know this" I sort of stammered.
"Yeah, that's a great one" says my friend.
I turn the first page and, like Mr Ben in, er, Mr Ben i'm transported back in time, to be discovering the book for the first time, again.
SO many stand=out images that used to entrall and fascinate me, its untrue.
On page 3, we have this classic view of the Hulk that I remember well:

But its the depiction in the first story that I recall being fascinated and a bit horrified by. At this point, the classic Universal horror films were becoming known to me, but don't know if I made the Karloff connection by then:

That shot, and this, I still remember as being subject of much scrutiny:

And this shot of the Toad Mens underground escape I know I focussed on a great deal:

Reading again the Conan strip, the masked bad guy sent me some echoes from the past:

And Conan himself, with his natty spiked helmet and medallion, I thought cooler than cool:

On to Spider-Man now and, like all the characters here, i'm guessing was my first exposure to Marvel characters, being a tad before the Mighty World Of Marvel first issue.
The strange, red only colour palette I didn't find too jarring as I was used to that in British annuals alreay, and The Tinkerer's look was straight out of anything in Lion, Thunder, etc:

Spider-man I was fascinated by. I was already used to Batman, Superman the JLA and the Flash through the American imports in my local newsagents, but the way this guy was handled was VERY different.
The split-face affair was a very new device to me:

As i'd never seen anything like it before and I loved it, especially when we got a full-length shot:

And his nifty under the arm webbing I found especially intriguing:

Out of the other tales, the Fantastic Four one I remember responding to, not for our heroes or anything they did, but the final sad fate of the bad guy:

Lastly, an image of a character I knew nothing about at this point, but the image had me wanting to know more:

To sum up, a true classic of an annual, one i'm totally mystified as to why I forgot all about it. Won't make that mistake again.