Not saying any more right now, but hopefully before long i'll be sharing something with you guys never, ever seen before and totally in keeping with this site.
Ohhhhh, ain't i enigmatic?
Thursday, 24 December 2009
Tuesday, 22 December 2009
With the snow buggering up the plans, i've a bonus morning here at home. So thought i'd give you number 4 in my countdown.
The Pow! annual of 1971 seems to be quite an oddity in that, instead of its usual mix of Marvel reprints and British humour strips, we were given 10 all new origin tales of superheroes and villains.
The were mostly patently rip-offs of established DC and Marvel characters, but given the usual for the time British bizarro spin on things. That made them distinctive but, even more so, was the fact that the art seems to be all from the Spanish studios, given them an even odder and more surreal feel.
Both aspects made a huge imapact on the 9-year old me, no more so than the tale of "Norstad - Ruler Of The Deep!".
A despot ruler of a medievil-style underwater kingdom, he's deposed, dumped into the depths, loses his strength, forms a mental link with explorer Mike, gets his strength back from him whenever Mike's asleep, gets back his kingdom, rises to the surface, runs amoke but then flees back to the depths when Mike wakes up.
All that in 9 pages.
Great, mad stuff.
And the reason for posting is this page making it my number 4. Its a combination of the image of Norstad killing the shark by sitting on it and punching it to death. And his return to his palace to find his people had been over-powered by their jellyfish slaves.
I mean, c'mon - have you ever seen anything anywhere punching a shark to death? or ever thought how jellyfish could take over a kingdom?
I know i hadn't. But spent ages studying those two panels and pondering it.
And that's why its my number 4.
Sunday, 20 December 2009
As this is my last posting before the big day, thought it apt to take a look at a staple from British childrens pressies, the annual.
So here we are with Thunder from 1972 and, inside the typically lurid covers, there's a real mixed bag - but i'll focus on the strips that float me boat.
First up, The Black Max. The nature of the annual dictated that all the tales had to be self-contained stories - easy for the comedies, less so for the drama one's. Usually they were rather substandard in both script and art but here we have Font doing sterling work worthy of the weekly and a nice, barmy tale of Max being courtmarshalled for interfering with "The Prussian Butcher"'s plans of dominating the skies. Resigned to his fate, he decides to kill the hated Wilson before his arrest, only to find Wilsons plane that he shot down actually was piloted by the Butcher, getting him out of the fix. As i say, barmy - but brilliant - stuff.
Top notch art on The Spider. I look and marvel at the crosshatch detail in the whole strip, but the standout has to be this stunning shot of the ships. SUCH effort put into it. I'm in awe.
Adam Eterno bears out what i said about the art in annuals. Rather duff stuff here, not at all what we'd been used too. Not so jarring though than if it was set in the usual Victorian/Elizebethen eras, here the total lack of moodiness is helped that its in Arthurian times and in broad daylight. Makes it more fairytale-like.
Last to thing to mention is Jet Skaters, a strip i wasn't too keen on, them coming across as some sort of Famous Five relatives. But i look at it now and still feel the urge to have a pair of those boots.
"AIEEEE!" WATCH: Its 1972, guessing before the exclamation was born. Instead we have mainly derivitives of "ahhhh!"
Tuesday, 15 December 2009
I'm sure we're all the same in that there are images from our comic reading childhoods that have stayed with us all these years.
I'm talking of snapshots from a strip that have real resonance and, in some cases, sum up what made the tale so special in just one image.
Been having a think about what are mine and have tried to boil it down to just five. And here's number five.
Hookjaw was nasty from the go but it wasn't until a few weeks in that we saw folk being despatched in manner other being chomped on. Here we have Pat Mills (really) have his stomach bitten out and his insides sucked out by a giant squid.
If that'd just been text i'd have been appalled but to actually SEE it was a huge shock and i came back to this episode time and time again to take in the horror (surely the aim of Action from the off).
Friday, 4 December 2009
Know what floats my boat from way back then but i'm kinda curious what floated yours (assuming you're about my age) sooooo.. time for a poll.
Now, what this is is not what you think now, looking back through rose-tinted what-nots, but more which title had the biggest impact on you waaaay back then when you were a Sprog and reading each issue for the first time:
Now, what this is is not what you think now, looking back through rose-tinted what-nots, but more which title had the biggest impact on you waaaay back then when you were a Sprog and reading each issue for the first time:
Saturday, 28 November 2009
A delve back into this really rather neat collection and the next strip up is Major Eazy.
I've spoken before about this guy on this here Blog and i stand by it, but here we get a few tales collected together and they're just brilliant - a graphic novel collecting all the tales together would sure be a "buy on day of release" product. So we get the introductory tale, one with Eazy postponing a battle so he can have a shave and one where he overules his superiors, deeming their choices a folly.
Great stuff. Rather irreverant humour alongside a subtle anti-war message makes this one of my favourite strips from that era. And the Ezquerra art has vastly improved on his early work on "Rat Pack".
As an aside, i read these tales at the same time as the collected "Cursed Earth Koburn" tales collected in the Ezquerra GN, written by Gordon Rennie. And its odd - while everyone at the time praised the notion of transplanting the character from WW2 to Dredd's world (and that's certaily the case with Carlos' brilliant updating), the personalities are really quite different.
Koburn has his own way of doing things, but does what he's told. Eazy doesn't give a damn and does whatever he wants to do. Only occasionaly does that fit in with what the authorities want.
Tuesday, 17 November 2009
I know, i know, Defoe is current 2000AD and not in the 68-78 year range of this Blog.
But decided to say something here, not because its joint best strip in there for the last few years, but for the art by Leigh Gallagher.
In my book, Leigh is the natural successor to artists known for their stunning, moody b/w artwork such as Bunn, Font and Bradbury.
Leigh has gone on record as saying the artist that inspired him the most was Jose Ortiz on The Thirteenth Floor but, to my mind, his work on Defoe really recalls the work of Francisco Lopez on Janus Stark.
Both brilliantly use heavy black to convey mood, both use ultra-fine lines to detail a panel and, as seen in the examples here, both can create stunningly atmospheric city scenes, along with truly unique characters.
Thanks Leigh for keeping the spirit of the comics i grew up with alive.
Sunday, 8 November 2009
Thursday, 29 October 2009
Thought i'd have a look at an issue at the very end of my 68-78 remit for this here Blog, an issue with a cover date of just a day after my 16th birthday and about the time i left school and became an adult (whatever that is).
So here we go then:
Absolutely no idea who did this rather abstract cover but, with the many artists from the Spanish studios prevalant at this time, i wouldn't be suprised if it came from those stables.
MIND WARS - A strip that really never went anywhere and took a long time doing so. And its strange - here we have 5 pages of the dreaded Jugla arriving at Earth, attacking it, then total war above the capital. The invasion is depicted in just 2 panels, while the war is, incredibly, just one.
The rest of the strip is devoted to endless whittering,pondering, and spouting of some really naff dialogue.
Still, Redondo's art, as usual, is top-notch.
RO-BUSTERS - A true classic of a strip, worthy of the praise heaped upon it for some of the tales.
Easy to overlook though that some were rather duff and just plain silly. Good example here, what with Ro-Jaws and Hammerstien finding out the leader of the robot band is human by discovering his y-fronts (really) and them crashing a song and dance number and no-one noticing. I'm hoping Pat Mills actually intended it to be just a bit of fun.
A trait of Pat Mills's writing is how he uses modern technology and current media prevalants. Which is all well and good - but don't 'arf date the strip. A while back we had the ABC Warriors bickering which was the best rock band, here we have references to Max Bygraves and Julie Andrews. Anyone under the age of 30 who picks up the graphic novel might have to Google.
Art here is pretty duff, but in keeping with the duff tale.
Lovethe next bit - Starlord gving out tips for his soldiers hardware. Grenade holders made out of egg boxes, "mini-nuke" grenades from sewing reels, and a "sub-space communicator" from two matchboxes stuck together.
How i miss those times.
STRONTIUM DOG - Still early on, so out and out SF strips, before focussing on Johnny and his past. And a true classic it is, with Ezquerra firing on all cylinders and a lovely colour spread.
PLANET OF THE DAMNED - I really like this strip. Think it was the sheer nastiness of it, the way characters are disposed of so quickly and easily, and how the art (by Azpiri) so suited the tale.
Bit like Zombo now.
TIMEQUAKE - A strip that always seems to be overlooked. Get past the Dredger clone spouting the crappest, cliche lines and its not half bad. Here Martin Bormann esacaping from the end of Nazi Germany by killing and replacing a Time Control operative taking a stroll back in time. Nice easy SF for a newly 16 year old with nice art by Salinas.
An almost-there "Aieee!" from some sap blasted by Johnny Alpha.
Thursday, 22 October 2009
Something i'm noticing as i go through these tales is how Janus gets himself into a right old fix that his rubbery bones can't get him out of - and then utilises some weird talent never seen or referred to before to save him.
Two examples here:
He's in a cage with an attacking lion. He can't squeeze through the bars as he hasn't time and anyway, there's guards on the other side. What does he do? "summons a powerful new weapon to his defence... the weird hypnotic gaze".
The other example isn't getting him out of a fix, rather a way of providing payback to the fiend who'd so cruelly tormented him when he were a nipper. Rather than just fetching the Peelers, "the power of the universe seemed to leap from Starks' finger-tips"
What's going on here? Had the writers all along had him down as a multi-powered character? Or is it a case of needing to get out of a fix or needing to add something a bit different to make things more thrilling?
I'll be keeping and eye out for more finger-tip action and hypnotic gazes as i continue on
Wednesday, 21 October 2009
Lets have a random dip into me back issues box and see what we come up with shall we chums?
Starting off with the usual dreary cover which put me right off buying it in the first place, we have the following:
CAPTAIN HURRICANE. Never, ever read this strip. Think back then, even as a 9 year old, i'd decided war was war and comedy was comedy. And its a talented strip that can combine the two. And this ain't it.
YELLOWKNIFE OF THE YARD. A strip that started this week and i've never heard of before. And i can see why - a pretty duff tale of an American Indian becoming a detective at Scotland Yard with even duffer artwork. And the usual for the period racism - on the level with Little Plum, but in a dramatic setting. Can't ever see this being given a graphic novel.
JANUS STARK. Much more like it. The start of a new tale and here he is taking "... time to show his incredible feats to more humble communities cut off from the main world. In a tiny crofters village in the Scottish Highlands..."
And show off he does, interrupted by a hermet who the villagers reckon is a werewolf. Thats the first page. Here's the second, where Janus is attacked by the Wolfman. I've never read this strip and don't have part two but i'm reckoning, even though the beastie is wearing the hermits clothes, its all a deception. As far as i know, the supernatural never truely appeared in this strip. But i may be wrong. What's incredible here is that we have the set-up, characters introduced, a mystery, a bit of action and a setup for the next episode all in two pages.
RAVEN OF THE WING. A tale of a gypsy footballer. Not for me.
STAR TREK. An incredibly duff two-pager, with appalling art. Tssk.
THE SWOTS AND THE BLOTS. How i loved and still love this strip. Even when Baxendale was on the Bash St Kids, he never showed the sheer lunacy on display here. Brilliant, genius stuff that SO needs collecting. My children love this strip, though they find the usual ending of the teacher whacking the heck out of one of the kids backsides rather puzzling.
THE RETURN OF THE CLAW. Deeply into Crandell's SF phase now, with him battling alien robots. Not too good.
KELLY'S EYE. Rather a good tale this, where Kelly and the prof have travelled to an alternative Earth where their counterparts are nasty bad guys. Lovely art and a nifty sound efecct. "Spluunch" indeed.
Not a ramble on a comic true, but the big 2000AD site is having a show us your alien from the comic contest, so thought i'd dig this fella out from the back of the display cabinet and put him in.
Made it in the first place as, and i've mentioned this often enough here, when the Prog started Dan Dare was my favourite strip - and it was down to Belardinelli's brilliant design work, especially of the Biogs.
A stunning creation, worthy of a ressurection.
Saturday, 17 October 2009
Ahhh, this is where i settle down and REALLY start enjoying the book.
I've mentioned this strip quite a bit already here, so there's not a lot more to say on my thoughts for it.
What's interesting here is that we have the first few episodes and how quite crude Carlos Ezquerras art is. No idea how long the fella had been an artist before taking on this project but here, while the layouts are great, the faces and hardware really aren't up to scratch. Its curious - they're recognisably Carlos' work but look almost half finished.
No matter, it doesn't detract from the enjoyment - and there's a lot to be had. Highlight for me is Turks almost Wulf Sternhammer utterances as he dispatches Nazis - here we have him advancing on the German machine gun post holding a massive boulder above his head (as you do), havign enough breath in him to blurt out "Tremble Germans!" before flattening them, and choking a soldier to death with a lovely "Squirm German". Never noticed these before. Will have to have a look out to see if they crop up any more.
"AIEEEE!" WATCH: An "Aieee!" from one of the machine gunners squashed by Turks boulder (serves him right - a great big bear of a bloke advancing on you with a rock held above his head and you can't hit him????)
Another "Aieee!" from a bloke blown up.
A rather cut short "Aiee!" from a guard.
Moving on, we come to the much more enjoyable adventures of Mike Nelson. Can remember enjoying this back on its original run, partly due to a 13 year-olds spy obsession with the Man From Uncle and Bond shenanigans and partly by the crimingly over-looked art of Pat Wright.
His art stills holds up here in these representitive tales but reading as an adult, i can tell now how much its swiping from Day Of The Jackal.
Still, rollicking good fun.
"AIEEEE!" WATCH: None at all, not suprising as it has a curiously low body count. He is a covert ops guy after all.
Next up, "The Bootneck Boy", a tale i didn't take too back then - and things aren't changing now. Of interest to me only as being a prototype for Charleys War
Monday, 12 October 2009
The book kicks off with one of my not-so favourite strips but an excellent, informative intro for it by then editor Pat Mills.
STUNNED that Dawson was the top character for a good while over the likes of Rat Pack.
Onto the strips and the first is the first. And here we hit the "went with it as a kid, but the adult in my goes huh?" wall (WWIAAK from now on). Dawson is shot on the D Day Landings and gets a bullet near his heart which'll reach it within a year right?
But who tells him this?
Some medical bod on the beach (we don't even know he IS a doctor - he just has the red cross armband) who tells him that.
How does the guy know?
Its a warzone, they're in a landing craft, he has no equipment to do any such examination. And if he did - cleanliness is right out the window (if the boat had them) so Dawson'd be dead a lot sooner than a year once the infections spread.
Anyway, passing over that, we have Dawson's first displaying of noticing something no-one else can spot, despite being shot and (presumably been opened up by the quack) - the boats going to be shelled.
Up he gets and out he jumps and off he swims.
Now, its the end of the world for me if i stub my toe but this guy is some sort of superhuman - gawd, what'd he be like if he hadn't been shot?
The first strip ends with him beginning his whole "i've nothing to lose i'm on borrowed time" mantra that he spouts every week. I suppose it meant to be noble but really comes across now as whiny. If you feel that bad about it, tell folk and get shipped back home you twonk.
Really, not too much pleasure from this batch, aside from Dawson machinegunning down a bunch of American troops who turn out to be Nazi's in disguise, spotting them because "their uniforms were too neat".
A slightly shortend "Aieee!" in episode one.
A 100% "Aieeee!" from a paratrooper officer as he's shot and falls down a well.
Stunned to actually find its finally out - waiting for its been like reading first run Miracleman all over again.
But, the waits worth it.
A bumper soft cover edition featuring a nice diverse selection of strips from the titles history,along with looks like nice informative introductory pieces, all other reading material has been put aside for now.
So expect ramblings on it quite a bit here.
I'll start though by just saying how nice it was to go into my local bookshop and see multiple comics.
I wish it, and the proposed solo collections, every success.
Titan i salute you.
Sunday, 11 October 2009
Saturday, 10 October 2009
I've got real mixed feelings about this publication.
When Albion was announced i was over the moon - my favourite characters were coming back.
But, although the project was obviously done with a lot of research and enthusiasm, it wasn't what i was hoping for.
So, when this follow-up reprinting tales of some of the characters was announced, again i was over the moon.
Again i was disappointed.
Lets start with the cover shall we?
Brian Bolland is a God in my opinion, everything he does is pure genius - whether his very early work on Dez Skinn's Hammer magazine, through his 2000AD work, his move to US publishers and into his computer generated work.
But here? Dunno. Cursitor Doom, Dollman and his puppets are spot on. Tim Kelly dosn't quite look the cherub faced buffon of the strips. And Janus Stark. Just WRONG. He's got the hair, nose and eyebrows just right. But he's just not strange enough in my mind, this is just a guy with odd hair, eyebrows and a big nose, nowhere the etherial, downright odd character in the strips.
Onto the contents and first up, Kelly's Eye. I've said before that i never took to the strip, thinking him a bit of a drip.
And it doesn't change with the story presented here. And an odd choice to represent him, being a tale set in the South American jungle rather than the more suitable city set one's.
The House Of Dollman. Never read the strip first time out as it was in Valiant, a comic i never bought (think it was the naff covers putting me off). So i'm reading it as an adult, which isn't helping as the childlike acceptance of the preposterous has long gone. And, boy, there's some odd stuff here.
We have a guy who works for the secret service - fine. He has a bunch of robot dolls as his allies - far-fetched, but in keeping with 60/70's boys comics. No problem there. He controls them from a device on his belt - fine, no probs. He can control said dolls when he can't see them or even nowhere near them - er... He uses ventriloquism to put words in their mouths - deep psychological problems with the guy, but i can accept that. And he uses said voice throwing to make them speak EVEN WHEN HE'S NOWHERE NEAR THEM...
Oh dear, oh dear. Think if i had read this strip, the 8-year old me would have given up on it being too absurd.
After Janus Stark come s Cursior Doom. Again a character i never read, but wish i had - lovely stories with brilliant creepy artwork from Eric Bradbury (HOW scary is the good guy????) - and sure it would've made a real impact, as well scaring the crap out of me.
Tuesday, 6 October 2009
Re-reading his exploits, the same notion keeps cropping up again and again.
Namely, the story begins with him boastful, egotistical, vain and really rather self-centered.
But at the end he's usually to be seen leaving behind something to aid the folk he's helped that week, either watching from the sidelines or, as in these two very similar cases, wandering off without waiting for praise or accolades.
I'm sure its a case of, as in Adam Eterno's invulnerability and D Day Dawsons dodgy ticker, having to establish week in and week out a characters traits for potential new readers.
As i've said before, it can make for a bit of a slog when reading a number of episodes if a strip in one go, but this one is really rather charming.
Saturday, 3 October 2009
Friday, 2 October 2009
I'm going to start looking at Mr Stark with this oddity.
I bought it quite a few years ago on eBay and its a collection of strips, shrunk down to about half the size of a British comic, with a card cover and the title crudely glued on.
The seller maintained he didn't know the origin of it, having bought it at a boot sale. Think he was telling porkies there - he was selling quite a few of these of various other characters both when i bought mine and after.
Anyway, despite it origins, its a handy way of getting a Janus fix all in one go. First strip is an origin tale but i'm unsure if its the very first episode, or a retelling from later.
Its quite along episode for its time, clocking in at 5 pages and has, in quick succesion, the staples of future tales: Janus' lock picking skills, his elastic body, his public performing, putting himself through ghastly ordeals to escape,his massive ego and - quite a regular occurance - bringing a crook to rights then distributing his wealth to those who need it while walking off into the distance.
About time i got round to this fella.
After Black Max, he's my favourite British comic character and, like Max, its down to the effect the incredibly evocative b&w art had on me back in the early 70's.
With Janus and Adam Eterno, they were my first introduction to stories in Victorian settings and they're responsible for my interest in all things from that period, be it Sherlock Holmes, Dickens, the Jack the Ripper murders, the writings of Henry Mayhew etc.
So where to start with Janus? Of course its the art by Solano Lopez, excelling himself here both with the moody vistas of London and the downright strangeness of Stark himself.
First the street scenes.
I'm constantly stunned as i re-read these tales at just how much detail Lopez puts into just one panel - you'll have buildings, cobblestones, mist effects, people and all the other details. All accurate, all brilliant.
And then there's Janus. Reading the stories he comes across as very much a Holmes character and with the ego to match. But physically he's more a caricature of Holmes - the forehead is even higher, the widows peak more pronounced. But his hawk-like nose and arched eyebrows make him really rather unearthly and etherial.
And then there's the ordeals he puts himself through.
I'll be detailing these at length but, for now, i'll just say that the appeal of this strip was waiting to see just what he had to endure week after week. As an 8 year old i found them both unsettling and fascinating, and they still have that effect on me today.
The mark of a good strip is that it leaves a mark.
Wednesday, 30 September 2009
Glad to say the latest issues of these excellent 2000AD fanzines are now available. Really, to call them that is to do them a huge disservice.
To me "fanzine", 2000AD especially, brings back memories of the photocopied, really rather crude affairs of the late 70's/early 80's such as "Friends Of Tharg".
Both them and these share the common passion for the strips and characters that prompts the creation of the titles, but with Dogbreath and Zarjaz, everythings been notched up a huge degree, producing very slick, very polished looking publications.
And, with Art Droids guesting from now and then, they come across as kid sisters to 2000AD rather than fan titles.
Very much recommended (apart from the strips wot i wrote).
Tuesday, 29 September 2009
Got issue 10 and 11 the other day and have just finished 10.
Two highlights for me.
Captain Britain. Well, he did debut within my 1968-1978 remit and he was supposed to be British. He wasn't though was he? Hideous, crappy scripts and plots with even more hideous, crappy art. It wasn't till Dave Thorpe and Alan Davis came on board and revamped it that things for me got interesting. Even more when Moore arrived on the scene. But that's after '78 so i'm not going to witter on.
Other feature is Axa. Again, only just falling within the remit, starting as she did in 1978. I followed of course for Romero's brilliant, beautiful artwork. It couldn't be for the scripts, which were the most obvious, derivitive, cliche plots going. But entertaining in a pervese way as we waited to see how the gal would loose her clothes this time.
It was like a serious, SF version of Cupid Stunt.
Lovely, indepth feature by Tony Ingram.
Friday, 18 September 2009
What a fantastic cover - worthy of an Airfix box in my opinion - shame the strip it comes from isn't anywhere near as exciting and dramatic.
Other strips here include the usual set-up from D-Day Dawson. Now, i don't remember each week being pretty much the same through neccisity (must've been my age) but i'm thinking, should it ever be collected in a graphic novel one day, its going to get very boring very fast.
"Return Of The Eagle" stands out solely for the appalliness of the artwork - as bad as the baddest Dredger ever got over in Action. And, looking at it, it could be the same *ahem* "artist" responsible.
Much better is "Rat Pack" which, although its a pretty dull tale of the retrival of an unexploded bomb, has the usual lovely art from Carlos Ezquerra. Now, THIS needs the graphic novel treatment - a hardback Titan affair a la "Charlies War", collecting all the Ezquerra and Belardinelli tales? I'm first at the queue.
A 100% "Aieeee!" from Mike Nelson's victim in "Return Of the Eagle" as he falls backwards over a table.
A rather over the top "Aiee!" from a Nazi officer who'd been dazzled by a motorbikes headlight in "They Can't Stop Bullet!" Wimp.
And then a double-whammy in "Sergeant Without Stripes" as a Japanese guard exclaims "Aiee! he throws bomb!" as he sees whats about to happen, then the fully furnished "Aieeee!" as he's blown up by it. Sterling work nameless guard, you're the first i've come across to have two utterances in one strip.