Thursday, 29 October 2009

Starlord 8th July 1978

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

Janus Stark - early mutant or lazy writing?

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

Valiant and TV21 - 1st Jan 1972

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.

My Biog Living Axe

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

Best Of Battle - Rat Pack

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.

Best Of Battle - Day Of The Eagle

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

Best Of Battle - D-Day Dawson

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.

Best Of Battle - at last

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.

Lew Stringers comic Blog

May i direct across the page here to "Sites Of Note" and the link to Lew's excellent site.
An authority on boys comics, a talented artist and a downright nice guy.
I hate him.

Sunday, 11 October 2009

2000AD TV Advert

Like to watch this from time to time - partly as a reminder of my yoof, partly a reminder of how the comics evolved, and partly a reminder of what Tharg sounds like.
Very posh, these Beltugese.

Saturday, 10 October 2009

Albion - Origins

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

Janus Stark - a recurring theme

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

2000AD Covers Blog

Here you go with a link to Pete Wells' excellent Blog devoted to Tharg's covers. Very informative and great fun.
Well done Pete.

Friday, 2 October 2009

Janus Stark - ashcan edition

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.

Janus Stark

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.