Tuesday 26 April 2011

Vulcan - 4 Oct 1975

Lets have another dip into this title shall we? Have said it before, but Vulcan was way ahead of its time in being a weekly anthology of reprints. Sure, Marvel UK had been doing it for a while, but that was American reprints and here we have UK originated titles. A great idea, which i'd love to see being produced right now - but minus the dodgy colouring.
Okay, lets dip inside:
First up, its that big lunk and big hunk of metal that is "Mytek The Mighty". Just two pages here with a shadowy, unseen shape that may or may not be the fella sinking a ship and going after the professor. Ah yes, the professor. What do we make here in the 21st century of an Egyptian scientist called "Professor Fez" who - wouldn't you just know it - wears a fez. At all times. Even when climbing into bed. Hmmmmm... Still, FANTASTIC art by Eric Bradbury, especially these terrific eyes. The awful colouring here has lessened the impact somewhat though - will have to try and track down the original B&W version.

Next up, "The Spider", which is the usual terrific stuff. Here not only do we have The Spider, but also The Executioner (a musclebound baddie with a "punishing heat ray" stiched onto the top of his balacava) and The Silohouette, the mysterous leader of the bad guys, who acts just like The Hood did back in the 40's Batman serial. Brilliant artwork, which goes to show how the oft-cited Lenoard Nimoy comparison to The Spider is quite a superficial one. There's something not quite right about his face that i can't quite put my finger on. The proportions are right but i think that its the eyes being a tad too small and the nose a tad longer than normal that's doing it here.
"Saber, King Of The Jungle" comes across as a Tarzan rip-off, especially as he ends up in quicksand - something everyone seemd to fall into at some point in every Tarzan film and episode of the TV show that i can think of.

Back on track with "The Trigan Empire", with absolutely beautiful art from Don Lawrence. I can remember very well this episode, with the strangely boggled eye octopus-like robot appearing for the first time.
"Steel Claw" was a bit dull, being mainly exposistion as Crandell tries to figure out who the web-handed foes are all about.

By far the best is "Kelly's "Eye", a strip i've not mentioned that much here as i've always considered him to be a bit of a drip. But this art is just stunning and hugely elevates the tale. Very, very atmospheric as Tim goes up against Count Varga, a "human vampire". Lopez was firing on all cylinders here and i can't think of anyone who'd have been better suited for it.
Last up, "Robot Archie". Oh dear.

Sunday 24 April 2011

Don Lawrence and Judge Dredd

According to Judge Dredd The Mega History, "The first major Dredd cover on 2000AD [Prog 18] was yet another "rip-off" that angered Carlos Ezquerra. Old hand Dom Lawrence drew the cover, but could not get the Dredd figure right. So Ezquerra's figure from Bank Raid was cut out and dropped into Lawrence's Brainbloom farm."
Looking at the cover yep, that's the Bank Raid shot used yet again and can see why Carlos would be annoyed by that.
And that's typical Dom's work on the Brainbloom's faces, with very Trigan Empire buildings in the background.
But where's his Dredd?
Guessing they would have whitewashed it out, a photocopy of Carlo's one pasted in and then the whole thing touched up.
Just hoping they'd have done it to a photostat of Dom's art and the original is tucked away somewhere, waiting to be seen one day.
What a shock that would be to folk after all this time and i'd love to see what he'd done. "Could not get the figure right" from a giant like Dom Lawrence? Can't believe that - guess it was just something more radical than what they expecting back in those early days when Pat Mills was trying to get an established, consistant look to the strip.

Wednesday 20 April 2011

Artist overload - Battle Action 28 Jan 1978

Blimey, what a corker this issue is - fantastic work from fantastic artists with every strip showing off stunning art:
Joe Two Beans by Eric Bradbury
Johnny Red by Joe Colquhoun
Spinball Wars by Ron Turner
Major Eazy by Carlos Ezquerra
Hellman by Mike Dorey
Dredger by Joe Cooper
The Sarge by Mike Western
Really, if anyone wanted to show someone what was so good about Boy's War Comic art, this'd be an excellent example.
A truncated "AIEEE!" from inside a blown up German armoured car in Hellman.
And a frankly unneccesary "AIEEEEE!" from a German soldier who'd only been shot in the shoulder in The Sarge. Wimp.

Monday 18 April 2011

This Week In... 1971

Thought i'd start an occasional feature of having a rummage through the back issues to see what the nipper-me would've been reading this week all those years ago.
Starting off with 1971 and the 9-year old me would've been:
Dismissive of the likes of Carsons Cubs, Fury's Family and Steel Commando.
Would've absolutely thrilled though by the latest from Black Max. Reading it now, its barmpot barmy but then i would've taken it SO serious - Wilson's plane is being carried away by a couple of the Giant Bats, his comrades racing to rescue him. Looks like they'd do it too - if not for four more Bats appearing from nowhere, carrying a STEEL NET, which they then procede to hang up like a tennis net for the Allied planes to crash into. Barking stuff.
Jet Skaters i didn't like, figuring they were a right bunch of drips. But the boots were good and the arts nice, with always nifty aerial shots looking down to the ground.
Adam Eterno is ace, with him ending up in the one place in time he shouldn't be - an Aztec golden city. Stunning art here by Lopez, with this terrific central portrait of the big lunk.
Not a mutter.

Action - the end

Here it is, 16th October 1976 and the last issue before being taken off the shelves and lobotomised.
Looking at beyond that classic Ezquerra cover, there's some still inflamatory stuff going on alright.
Not on Hookjaw, the strip you'd think you'd think would have it, as the artwork is just so darn poor, with even worse colouring. The artist has swiped Sola's shot from inside Hookjaw's mouth as he eats the diver, but all that does is make you yearn for the fella back on the strip. Would've been a great help - but no matter how great that could've been, it wouldn't detract from the fact that the mayhem's taking place off the coast of THE ISLE OF WIGHT...
The oft mentioned bottling from the terrace's is back again in Look Out For Lefty, which i'm sure is one thing that set alarm bells ringing this issue.
Final straw must be though Kids Rule O.K, with these two sequences here. First up is the very first panel where Roker asks of our hero "Where'd ya like it - across the fingers or straight down into ya face?" Pretty strong stuff now for adults, let alone back then for us sprogs. And then we have the last few panels this week as the new bad guys make their appearance - Police Cadets laying into the gang with their truncheons.
Whether bad timing or editorial deliberately pushing it, doesn't really matter - high up eyes were watching the title and the above couldn't help but get a reaction.
A real shame.
Personally, i'm gutted that Hellman was a casualty as his tale on the Russian Front was really picking up a gear, with this issue his nemesis Schwarz defecting to the Russians, taking Hellmans crew with him. Sure, the tale continued on the titles return, but it was in a watered down incarnation, nowhere near as good.
A difficult to accomplish when you're wearing breathing apparatus "AAAAAEEEEE!" from a diver in Hookjaw.
A spot-on "AIEEEE!" from Schwarz in Hellman, who then produces a longer "AIEEEEEE!" twice, then back to "AIEEEE!". Would say he was right crybaby but they're all fake cries to make Hellman & co think he's being tortured by the Russians.
And then we finish with a real "AIEEE!" from a Russian trooper.

Wednesday 13 April 2011

The Dan Dare poster magazine.

Here's my bedroom late 70's.
Pride of place "Issue 1" (hah!) of the, quite common at the time, poster magazine, this time of Dan Dare. Gawd knows what happened to it, but going through the albums, i came across it and thought it'd be nice to have another one 30-odd years on.
Got one for only 3 quid on eBay and it's nice to see the magazine part again.
It's a bit of a fluff piece with the only mention of the "2000AD magazine" being how Dare was back, drawn by "Roman artist Belardinelli", but its nice to see the Frank Hampson blown up big with okay colouring.
Ditto Massimo's, but this time the colours are far more garish, but it works better on the poster itself.
Never noticed before, but the red eyed creature on the right seems to be a Biog head on some sort of an alien centaurs body
Lovely stuff - thinking of seeing if anywhere in town can do me a photocopy so i can frame it without the fold lines evident.

GIMME FIVE! - Carl Critchlow

Very veratile is that Mr Critchlow - painted artwork for role playing and collectable card games, brilliant work for 2000AD such as Judge Dredd and his own co-creation Lobster Random and his deliriously 100% own creation, Thrud The Barbarian, he's a top talent and a tale by him is always notched up to another level. Very pleased to have Carl join the ranks.

Beano, Dandy, Beezer, Shiver & Shake and Warlord

Beano and Shiver & Shake

The 3 Bears, Little Plum, The Bash Street Kids and Sweeney Toddler.

I think it was Leo Baxendale who drew all of the above in the late 60's, early 70's - if not whoever took over from him as well as whoever drew 'Union Jack' Jackson in Warlord and Ken Reid (see next answer)

Not a strip, but my very favourite thing of all was 'Creepy Creations' from the back page of 'Shiver & Shake' drawn by Ken Reid which went on to become 'World Wide Weirdies' after it merged with Whoopee.

Tuesday 12 April 2011

Steve MacManus interview

Very nice, very informative interview over on David's Blog:


Oh, for the discovery of previously unknown video footage of those heady, creative mid-70's days.

Monday 11 April 2011

"GIMME FIVE!" - Colin MacNeil

Top bloke, top artist, Colin's been with 2000AD since the late eighties and, aside from his brilliant work on Judge Dredd, has also produced stunning work on the likes of Strontium Dog, Shimura, Vanguard, Fiends Of The Eastern Front and Devlin Waugh. He's currently illustrating Insurrection in the Megazine, working in black and white which is lovely to see.
Colin has the accolade of longest answers yet and very entertaining they are too. Many thanks to the guy for putting me on to characters i'd never even heard of.
Go Colin:

Thinking about it there were a lot of comics in my childhood. My very first comic I have vague memories of was called "Twinkle". This was the late 1960's and Twinkle was a comic for pre-school/kindergarten ages. However it was the turn of the 70's that comics really began to make an impression on me. Comics such as the Topper, Beezer and Sparky. To me the real classics of early 70's humour comics for kids, much more than the Beano and Dandy which I also read from time to time, but weren't really favourites.
As I got a bit older it was the likes of the Victor, Hotspur, Warlord, Fireball, Commando, Battle Library, Vulcan and Look and Learn (Maybe not technically a "comic" still has it's place as having great strips in it) that took up my interest.
As the 70's wore on it was Action that became the comic of choice, that is until The Galaxy's Greatest Comic. I was 11 when 2000ad first appeared, I'm much older than that now, but I still get 2000ad now.
You'll notice that all the comics mentioned are British comics, there aren't any Marvel and DC comics listed. I had seen American comics but they never really made an impression on me. I grew up in Inverness and deliveries of American comics were VERY erratic. You might start reading a Silver Surfer or Spiderman or whatever comic for a couple of issues and then you wouldn't see that title again for 6 months, so would be unable to follow a story. Pointless! I seem to remember hearing that newsagents at that time would be sent a random selection of American comics, the ONLY comics you could get reliably every time were British comics.
Oh dear, I seem to have rambled a bit there. On with the next question.

By the fact that I still get 2000ad 34 years later must mean that it has to be my favourite... However,...
The comic which I have an emotional(?) connection to has to be Warlord... or the Victor. To me these two are almost inseperable. Victor told tales about the men of my father's generation, they were "real" stories. Stories to be proud of. Warlord took this world of war and told new exciting tales. Victor was Richard Todd in "The Dam Busters" while Warlord was Clint Eastwood in "Hogan's Heroes". So, what is my fav comic of my childhood? It has to be Vic-Lord!

Hmm? Well, there are quite a few I have fond memories of. There was "Klanky" the robot in the Sparky, I really wanted a robot like him when I was a kid. There was "The Wolf of Kabul", though I could never quite decide who I wanted to be, the English boy or the Afghani orphan. "Clicky Ba!", a fearsome war cry indeed when you're six and running through the streets pursuing your mate who's pretending to be a Russian Imperial spy. There was a while where Lord Peter Flint, the Warlord,(from "Warlord") captured my imagination. Now, he was cool! "Black Bob" was, and still is, one of my favourites. My grandfather was a sheep farmer, so I guess it's a nostalgia thing. I enjoyed "Nick Jolly - The Flying Horseman", "The Black Sapper" and "Red Star Robinson". I also liked "The Numbskulls", "Puss and Boots" and "General Jimbo". I'm not really getting any closer to an answer am I? oh! I've just remembered, "The Trigan Empire". Damn! I really liked loads of stuff! I suppose, since the ONLY character which I really made an effort to collect was "Black Bob", then my Favourite would have to be "Black Bob".
Yes, yes! I know! "what about Dredd and the rest of 2000ad?", I hear you say. Yes, Dredd is very important. He's the reason I draw comics today, but it's those comics from when I was very young that made me interested in stories, interested in the world around me. They made me want to be an artist. 2000ad made me want to be a comic artist.

I never, and still don't, know who most of these artists were. I Never knew their names, no one did really at the time. It was just the way things were.
I'm fairly sure that there is one name, for me, that stands out from all others. Don Lawrence. His work on "The Trigan Empire" was ...mindblowing to me as a child! The use of colour and light is just so....inspiring. I would spend hours just looking at the artwork. Just gazing at it, wondering how anyone could get so good at drawing. I was mightily impressed by his illustration work as well, in "Look and Learn", but it was when I first saw "Oh, Wicked Wanda" that I knew he was a master artist. To me "Wanda" is THE most perfect comic strip drawn, EVER. I'm not considering story, it's all about the art. If I can someday draw something, even half as good as that, then I'll die happy.

Hmmm? Dunno, well I do know, but they've brought it back already,..sort of. One of the last great strips of my "childhood" was "Invasion" in 2000AD. I didn't list it above because I wasn't really interested in the character of Mr Savage, but I was interested in the world around it. I had grown up with a plethora of war stories, but they were stories from the past. Here was a story of the future, imagining what "our boys" could do today in the future, as it were. I guess it's a harking back to my father's generation, wondering if we could do what they did.(My father's generation being that which served in WW2.)
When I heard it was coming back I was both happy ...and slightly "huffy" at the same time. I REALLY wanted to do the sequel to Invasion, but, twas not to be.
I didn't, couldn't, read it for the longest time. Eventually I read it. A teleporting tiger! Whit? A teleporting tiger? Yup! Whit? A teleporting tiger!?!!
Suffice to say I didn't continue, though when the invasion of the UK finally happened I HAD to look.
Fishguard? Holyhead? Aircraft carriers THAT close to shore, Higgins boats? Higgins boats? WTF Robots don't need no steenkin' higgins boats! Where were the assault subs rising out of the surf, crashing up the beach disgorging metal death to the enemy? Where were the men? Where was the pride?
Ah! Sorry! Sorry! Got a bit carried away there. So, apart from "Invasion" , what strip would I do? Not "Trigan Empire", my memories are too precious of that. "Black Bob" also.
Part of me would really like to do "Klanky". Another part something like "Union Jack Jackson". Another, the simple adventures of the "Black Sapper".
As a wise woman once said, "I don't really know!"

March Of The Toys

This Smash! annual was, and is, a real memorable one in that it contained just about the moodiest Eric Bradbury art i've ever come across.
Of course, didn't have a clue back then who he was, nor who this bloke "the evil Dr. Droll" was all about. All i knew, and loved, was the morbidly grotesque art that was going on here. I'd already had experience of strips with animated toys in them, courtesy of General Jumbo, but here they were bad guys and, boy, they were bad.
Can remember pouring over the art, just studying it, with the highlights being the shopkeeper getting it (if it wasn't for the SF trappings, this page could be from A Christmas Carol), the tiny robots with their "Invader From Space" logos (so similar to tons of of toys i had at the time) but, above all, Dr. Droll himself.
Eric excelled himself with this guy, who was both disturbing and grotesque in just a long shot, never mind the HUGE close-ups Mr Bradbury frequently put in. Guessing he figured they'd have more impact, and he was sure right.
Top image for me then and now though is this shot of the Doc trundling around in his "Cosmobile". That huge eyed villain squashed under that bubble canopy in a far, far too small vehicle was so bizarre i kept coming back to it again and again.
How weird. Anyone else at any other time would have a craft that matched the bad guys ego - massive, assertive and threatening. Here he's in a "toy space tractor".
I'll review it later - for now, i'm a 10-year old again, just gazing at it.

Tuesday 5 April 2011

GIMME FIVE! - Steve McManus

Again, i'm stunned, chuffed and awed to have someone instrumental in the creation of the comics i loved growing up being on here.
Actually more so than with Pat Mills as, back then, i had no idea who Pat was as i got my weekly comics.
Steve i certainly did, as he welcomed us each issue, regaling us with his exploits of the last week, tales of drunkeness and pranks. In short, the sort of thing we grubby urchins wished we could do.
He was also Action's "Action Man", being sent off on really not very action packed assignements.
All good fun though, which fitted in perfectly with the strips.
So here's Steve. Only four answers, but what great one's they are. And... it's Action Man!

I was born a London lad in 1953. I had three elder brothers, the oldest being ten years older than me, so while I didn't read it, I remember as a nipper copies of The Eagle being around. There was also a spectacularly visceral comic book version of the Old Testament which used to keep me quiet and probably sparked my interest in the medium. From there I went on to enjoy the Beano and The Dandy.
By the age of nine I had come across DC Comics in the local tobacconist. Green Lantern, Superman, etc. After reading them I would put them in a drawer...little did I know I was becoming a collector. But, a year later, I received orders to proceed to Devon and at the age of ten I found myself deep in the countryside, the only connection to the outside world being a Saturday trip to the nearest town, Totnes. At the school, two other inmates I knew received a weekly comic through the post. One was Hotspur. The other was Buster. There were no American imports to be found in the newsagent's in Totnes so I chose Valiant because I liked the quirkiness of its characters. Little did I know I was appreciating the unique writing skills of Tom Tully who scripted most of that title. By the time I was twelve though it was 1965, the times they were a'changing and I was fast losing the habit of reading a comic. How odd then that, eight short years later my first job in comics was.......on Valiant!
In the Eagle: Harris Tweed.
In the Old Testament: Samson.
In the Dandy: General Jumbo
In the Beano: The Numbskulls.
In the DC Universe (don't laugh) Green Lantern.
In Valiant---extremely difficult, let's review the field:
Captain Hurricane--4/10
Mytek the Mighty--5/10
Kelly's Eye--5/10
Wild Wonders--6/10
Legge's Eleven--6/10
House of Dolman--7/10
Adam Eterno--7/10
Raven on the Wing--7/10
Jason Hyde--8/10
The Steel Claw--9/10!
On Valiant, a dead heat between Eric Bradbury and Mike Western.