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.

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