Saturday, 31 May 2008

Black and White art, then and now

Its kinda interesting that quite a few of the more popular artists working today, such as Jock, Dom Reardon and Kev Walker use black an awful lot to create mood, in a way not dissimilar to what we were seeing back in the 70's.

No more so than with Frazer Irving, a true inheriter of the crosshatch crown.

Friday, 30 May 2008

Artie Gruber

Talk has turned over on the 2000AD Forum to Artie Gruber, main bad guy of the Harlem Heroes in the very earliest Progs.

How i loved that character. Not personality, but the stunning design that, once again Massimo came up with.

Loved the design so much i melted my Action Man's face over the gas ring and stuck on kit bits to have own version.

Also pictured is the sketch Rufus Dayglo kindly did for me a few years back.

Janus Stark - ashcan edition (sorta)

Very odd this.

Its a collection of the first 20 or so tales, printed at half the size of a standard UK comic.

I got it off eBay years ago and the seller reckoned he'd picked it up at a boot sale and feigned ignorance of its origins.

Have my doubts about that - he was selling similar collections of other characters and, soon after i got my one, he was selling another. A bit sus.

Anyway, until someone does a Charlies War style reprint, its a nice way of having them together.

Lion and Thunder 6th & 13th Oct 1973

Just got these from eBay, and what a let down - no Black Max.

Instead, i've got a typically barmy Adam Eterno - cursed to travel thoughout eternity righting wrongs, an immortal that can only be killed by gold, he must get pretty hacked off coming across gold in a dangerous form every blummin' time he materilises.

Aside from the excellent artwork, the appeal is to see how the writers get him into more and more outlandish situations.

Here he's in modern day London, being menaced by mutated giant stag beetles. Not a a threat to him at all, but the bampot notion is that they've been eating gold from the bank vaults and therefore have gold dust on their jaws. Genius!

The rest of the strips are pretty poor, but its capped off with The Spider vs Spider Boy and some stunning examples of crosshatching by Reg Bunn.

Monday, 26 May 2008

Action - why i went off it

Mention Action and every time folk'll say how great it was.

Which is true.

But no-one mentions how rapidly the artwork went downhill.

No more so than on Dredger. Look at this - a mere 2 months down the line and its sunk this far.

Action - why i loved it

Ace stuff. Can't see any kids comic ever doing anything like this again.

Pow annual 1972 - inside art

Thought i'd show a couple of examples before i put it back into storage.

The first is the reveal of Aquavenger.

As i say, there's elements of Aquaman, but the origin is more Shazam, as he's given his powers by "Neptunus The Hermit" and all he has to do is say his superhero name.

The second page is from Norstad, and that shot of him punching the shark has always stayed with me.

Thunder annual 1972

Again, another annual that i used to pour over as a 10 year old. Lost it yonks ago but, thanks to the wonder of the 'Bay, i have a lovely condition copy.

It must be said, a lot of it i wasn't a fan of and still aren't - factual pieces, sport and especially the Steel Commando, but there's some great stuff in here.

Top pic is from "Dusty Binns", which is a character i didn't like at all, but this tale of the search for a replacement vase i remember with real affection.

Next is from a factual piece and i've included it to show just how perceptions of what dinosaurs looked like have changed in such a short time.

After that its a page from "The Garden Of Fear" a story of a man and his son accidently shrunk down to tiny size at the lab at the bottom of the garden, and their perilous journey back to the house.

I've shown this page as it really creeped me out as a nipper and can't help but think of the tale when i hear the words "wolf spider".

And next, the very first episode of "The Black Max".

Well, doesn't get much than this for me - the first apperance of Von Kloor and he's releasing the first of his bats from a compartmant behind him (which looks like it could just about hold a small man but contains a bat bigger than the plane. But we'll ignore that).

And later on he guns down the bat with the immortal "My new killer-bat is a failure! And the price of failure is... death!" Brilliant.

Janus Stark

Got a lot to say about this fella, but that's to come.

All i'll say here is that he's my second favourite.

Part of that is the Victorian setting (which set me on the road to being a fan of Holmes, Verne, Wells and the likes of Mayhew chronicling the reallities of the East End then), part of it is the striking apperance of the character (which i'm resembling more and more as my hairline recedes) but mainly its for the bizarre situations and methods of escape he'd use.

Haven't got the tale where he manages to squeeze through something like a 6 inch pipe but my memory of that is so strong its untrue.

The start of 2000AD

As the remit for this Blog is '68-'78, it includes the first year of 2000AD.

Now i'm a big fan of Tooth and the first 3 or 4 years especially.

I would've bought the first couple of issues anyway as everyone did back then as they always had free gifts.

But i've always been a fan of SF and this promised that genre mixed with Action and Battle so i was in heaven.

Oddly though, to begin with, i didn't rate Dredd too much and MUCH prefered Dan Dare. It wasn't the character (never bought the Eagle, so didn't read Hampsons version till much later) but the STUNNING art by Belardinelli.

I'd already seen his work on Rat Pack over in Battle and it'd stood out there, being totally different to the other art on that title. The amount of detail he'd put into just a cliff face was just astounding.

But here his imagination was allowed to let fly and boy did he deliver. No more so with the Biogs. This was some real strange stuff.

Still think that today. And that's why i've made my own Living Axe. Massimo, you were a genius.

Pow Annual 1971

This is the only annual that i own that i've kept from my childhhod and not had to rebuy on eBay - hence the tatty state.

And the reason i kept it is that i cherish it so, so much.

Its an odd annual as Pow the comic was a collection of American reprints, but this annual has stand alone tales of characters that, as far as i've been able to find out, were created for this publication and were never seen again.

I can see why - many of them were blatent rip-offs of existing characters.

Second pic is the opening two pages which give a guide to whos who (along with my 9 year old ratings). Lets see who we have. Left page first:

"Aquavenger". A mix of Aquaman and Shazam. I rated him 1'st.

"Norstad". A strange strip this. Norstad is the bad guy, and not a very smart one. Rated 4th.

"Electro". Well, its Electro, but a goodie. He comes 5th.

"Kash Pearce". A time travelling cowboy riding a robot horse. Yes really. I not suprisingly didn't rate him.

"Magno". Magneto dressed up in a mix of Captain America and Thor's outfit. He's 2nd.

Right page:

"Chet Blair". An American Indian who at night dons this lovely outfit to fight crime. 8th.

"Marksman". Very odd - in skills he predates the Punisher, and there's similarities to Bullseye costume too. He's third.

"Mr Tomorrow". Basically Lex Luthor from the future come back to 1971. And he's 9th.

"Crag Taylor". Very dull. Only his name is interesting. But back then i made him 6th????

"The Phantom". Lovely dark artwork of a very Diabolik character. Comes 7th.

Friday, 23 May 2008

The Spider - in colour

Brilliant study by fellow Spider fan. Chris - you the Man.

The Spider - where the new versions started

The idea of getting the new generation of artists came from nattering to Jock at a Dreddcon sketch session.

I'd gone there with the intention of asking different artists to have a go at some of my favourite characters and Jock was a natch for the Spider as he's tops with the ol' black and white.

So this is the start, and what a great start it was

The Spider - 21st century incarnations

He's # 3 in my list of fave characters. But he's figuring more in my life than #1 and #2 right now as i've a goal to get as many artists as i can to do their interpretations of him.

So here you go with two from the recent Bristol Comic Con - a lovely Alfred from Paul Grist and a wickedly funny version from D'Israelli.

Adam Eterno site

I will be getting round to the big guy in due course but, in the meantime, here's an ace site devoted to the fella:

Vulcan - how i loved this comic

I mean, The Steel Claw, Mytek The Mighty, The Spider, Trigan Empire and Kelly Eye all in one comic?


Ok, the colouring was a bit off but it was still an amazing collection.

Smash annual 1972

Smash was an odd comic. A mix of strips, some British, but mainly American reprints.

So i never bothered getting it.

But the annuals on the other hand...

No sign of the American stuff, but plenty of classic fare from over here.

This annual i poured over continually. So much so that when a bought one again on eBay, it all came flooding back.

Especially "Attack Of The Killer Toys", which there's a page of here. I chose this page as it really disturbed me as a 10 year-old - its the mad scientists goggle glasses and those murderous robots that did. What i'd give to own a page of this.

Also from the annual we have a stand alone tale of Janus Stark (much musings on him to come) and a page of the brilliant Swots and the Blots. Bash Street Kids rip-off to be sure, but its Baxendale in full flight.

Brilliant publication. Buy it and do yourself a favour.

Action - nice while it lasted

Lets see. Febuary 1976, i was 13. Just about right i'd say for this one to have the impact it was supposed to.

And boy did it - suddenly comics had an edge greater than ever seen before and here we were in the playground reading strips that were downright nasty.

Back then i kinda (70's talk again) liked Dredger, but after a few weeks i got bored with the same sort of set-up and pay-off each week (and the art went downhill REAL fast there).

No, my fav's were Hookjaw and Hellman. And here have example's from that first issue.

Hellman, 'cause i was still into war strips via Battle's Johhny Red, Charlie's War, Rat Pack and Major Easy. But as you can see here Mike Conroy's art was as dark as Joe Coloquen on Charlie's War, but even grittier.

And Hookjaw because, again, the bad guys are the more interesting. Abd you don't get any badder than him.

Interesting to see here with this first ever shot of him, how small he is - no swallowing divers in one gulp yet.

The Black Max - the greatest British character

So lets start with my number one character and, typical of the titles and period i'm on about, the best and most interesting ones are always the bad guys.

He's not interesting character-wise (apart from the bampot notion of aiding Germany in WW1 by using a squadron of giant killer bats. As you do) and really is just there to be thwarted whilst muttering "curses" and suchlike.

No, the reason he gets the vote is the barminess of the idea, along with the most stunning black and white artwork by (mainly) Alfonso Font. A master of the use of black, he created some brilliantly moody art on this strip, along with some excellent military rendidions - but mostly the stunningly eerie character designs for the bats and the Black Max himself, Maximillian Von Kloor.

Alfonso, i salute you.

Why another Blog. An introduction.

To answer that is to delve back to my childhood.
The family maintain i could read before i started school, and it was mainly on DC comics, especially Batman. Don't have any recollection of that - aside from one issue, which i'll come to in due course - but what i have plenty of recollections of are the comics i was reading in the late 60's right up to adulthood (?) in the late 70's.

British Boys Comics.

Yup, every one i could get me grubby mitts on i devoured (except, for some reason i can't fathom, Hotspur). The beauty of them was the diverse range of subjects on offer. If it wasn't a war comic like Battle and Warlord or action like, er, Action, each title would have drama (read and loved), comedy (ditto if it was Leo Baxendale or Ken Reid), mystery (ditto) and sport (avoided like the plague).

A large part of the appeal were the often outlandish set-ups and characters, but mainly it was the fantastic art on offer, with some of the moodiest and downright scary black and white work ever. The love of this style resonates now - to me, British comics should be b/w and never colour.

So, the point of this Blog. With the likes of the Albion mini series and many classic characters turning up in the excellent Jack Staff, i figured there'd be plenty of the sites on the Net springing up to showcase this brilliant back catalogue.
Aside from a couple of nifty sites (which i'll get to in due course), that hasn't really happened.
Feeling an urge to set down what i think of this alternative Britain, i've gone ahead an created this here Blog.

What you're gonna (always "gonna" from now on - we're in the 70's see?) get are my thoughts on my favourite characters and titles. Its a one sided fanboy view, a love letter to 1968 - 1978.