Thursday 13 December 2012

Merry Christmas from Tharg

Things are getting real busy now as we near Christmas and i may not have time to post again before then, so thought dig out a Christmas-themed cover comic. Prog 44 then, and a brilliantly barmy cover it is, Kev O'Neil showing his forte - outrageous action, superbly executed. Dredd's the only holiday-set tale, albiet up on the Moon, where he's serving his duty as Luna Marshall, and he's having to face an old enemy. Who's not exactly a threat - page one is the set-up,, its not until halfway down page two that Dredd speaks to him via Vid-phone, and the sap's arressted at top of page five. The last page and a half is given over to Walter showering Joe with pressies - and the old softie returning the favour with a tap for his Droid. Lovely, lovely stuff, which ends on Dredd actually smiling. Don't think there'll be anything like a repeat of such things again in the Prog
"Invasion" has truely stunning art by Mike Dorey. If "Action" had continued, wouldn't it have been great to see art like this in there?
Said it before and i'll say it again - pleeeease can we get the Dan Dare/Dave Gibbons tales collected and reprinted? Its SUCH great stuff and deserves to be out there on the shelves, garnering a new audience.
And while on great art, Belardinelli does it again on "Inferno". Really, could anyone else have done these characters justice?
"AIEEEE!" WATCH: A shortened "Aiee" from a Volgan, soon to be flattened by a circus tent (yes, really). HURRAH!!!! What a Christmas treat - a 100%, all there "AIEEEE!" from a Star Slayer, stabbed by Dan Dare

Saturday 8 December 2012

Sark The Sleeper

Well, that's a let down - the next few issues of Lion & Thunder that i'd bought were right dull affairs, even Adam Eterno. Where's Black Max when you need him? At the 15th Dec issue though, a new tale begins, one i don't remember and have never seen written about anywhere:
"Sark The Sleeper" is unusual in that its a SF tale in this title, normally the nearest we get to it is the odd alien popping up to confound our heroes. Also unusual is how this first episode drops straight into the story - no formal introduction to the two characters and no place setting other than "It was unknown, unexplored territory - on all sides the jungle lay, evil and menacing." in the first box. Of course, this is intentional for the twist at the end of the three pages - the two medieval-appearing lads shelter from jungle beasties and find themselves in a laboratory and awaken "The Sleeper", a mythical God-like being to them, who turns out to be a regular joe who they've accidently woken up aftera thousand years in suspended animation. It jolly good stuff - very Twilight Zone, with a touch of Planet Of The Apes about it. And the arts nice too. No idea who's it by, but still nice:

Tuesday 4 December 2012

POW! annual 1971 - #6 - The Esper Commandos

At Number Six we have the annuals only stab at a superhero team - the Esper Commandos. Coming across as a mix of the X-Men and tellys The Champions (and pre-dating tellys Tomorrow People), it consists of folk (or "mental Freaks" as their boss so compassionatly calls them) who have certain mind powers - Crag Taylor with the ability to lift things with his mind, Slim Parker can read minds, Big John Slansky can transport himself with his mind and, in a classic example of how un-pc things were back then, "Goggles Grant" - who wears glasses. And can make folk see what he wants them to see:
Reading it now, its hard to see why i placed it as high as Six. Its a pretty duff tale, involving the rescue of a kidnapped nuclear scientist, but i'm thinking it was the art that held all the appeal. Guess this was my first exposure to the work of Enrique Badia Romero and i'd eventually be familair with his work on Modesty Blaise and AXA, but this was the start and i remember loving it and its another case of "fascinated by one panel in a tale" here - used to just look and look and look at Goggles impersonating a crab:

Wednesday 28 November 2012

Lion and Thunder 24th November 1973

Just bought a bunch of Lion & Thunders off of the 'Bay real cheap - 99p - as they're in pretty ropey condition, covers and page edges pretty rough:
But the insides are okay, so i'll be taking a look at each in turn shortly. First issue is, spookily, from this week 39 years ago and features one of those rather naff covers, where it looks like the figure is an englargement from a panel, rather than a specially created piece. Here the Spider's coloured yellow, which i've seen done before, but just doesn't look right at all:
The mix inside is the usual affair - true classics alongside not so memorable fair. I'll skip by "Spellbinder", prefering as i do, Catweazle and have a quick look at "The Team Terry Kept In A Box". A story i don't remember at all and have never seen an article on anywhere, its a textbook example of tales from these times - take a conventional strip theme (footballing) and add a fantasy element, here Terry Turner finds a box of 3D photos of a football team, which come alive when he turns a knob on the Viewmaster-like device. Hmmmm... So he can summon footballers. Who then play football. Think i'll move on. Next thing of note is another strip i don't remember, and is SO bizarre that i had to reread the opening text twice before it sunk in just what i was reading. "Marty Wayne. He's Heading For Fame!" has this premise (and i'm not making this up, promise): "A lull in work for MI6 had given Marty the chance to concentrate on his showbusiness career. He was presently appearing in a TV show called The Impersonators". Yep, a spy hasn't got much work on, so becomes an impersonator on the telly? My heads threatning to implode at the sheer lunacy of the notion, only held back by being distracted by the awful, awful art. No idea who the culprit is, but i recognise him for being the same guy responsible for "Dredger" going down the pan over in "Action" when the first artist left:
"Adam Eterno" art is always fantastic but after that tosh, its elevated even higher. Its not too good a tale though - our hero is helping a guy trying to get inheritance back and there's a bit of highwayman action, but its pretty standard action, with no outrageous set-pieces the strips famous for. Until we get to the last panel and Adam, surviving all manner of tortures, shrugs off the thought of being garrotted until up pipes one of the torturors: "Use the garrotte! The GOLDEN ONE kept for traitors who are high-born!" Gulp goes Adam
Another strip i don't remember, "Lost In Limbo Land", another outrageous premise - Barry Smith is reading a book on Norse Mythology when he's hit by lightning and transported to the realm of Norse Gods and Monsters. Don't recall it at all, but the arts interesting, coming across as a cross between Lopez and Eric Bradbury:
Last up is "The Spider versus Spider-Boy", which i've already covered before. "AIEEEE!" WATCH: Nowt

Monday 19 November 2012

Marwood coffee shop

Bit of an aside here, but we were in Brighton yesterday and popped into Marwoods, a cafe my Sister has been on at me for ages to visit as "its right up your street". Boy is it - great food, great staff and great atmos, brought about by the tons of retro goodies strewn all over the place. Real fun to eat my Ken Dodd fry-up while reiminiscing over this toy, that toy, that phone, that picture etc etc. And a nice bunch of comic art too. Highly recommended if you're down that way.

Wednesday 7 November 2012

Strip magazine - Issue 5/6

Finally, finally got me mitts on this issue and what a corker of an edition to mark the end of this first phase - a double sized issue with a VERY nostalgic cover strap line: "Don't miss Hook Jaw - he won't miss you!". Ah, its like its 1976 all over again. Having a read of the bumper episodes, "The Devil's Hertitage" pips "Age Of Heroes" to the post for favourite new tale this time and i'm guessing its down to me reading a lot of "Blake & Mortimer" just lately and "Devil's" does seem similar in tone and art style. Hoping this'll be released as a graphic novel at some point, as i'd like to read it all in one go, in one edition. Of course, best of the bunch is "Hookjaw" and, as usual, there's the multi-level joy of (A) reading it in a just-bought comic, (B) on lovely glossy paper, (C) taking the tale as presented, (D) comparing the new coloured strip with the old B/W, (E) comparing script changes. So, what's of particular note this time round? Well, in the first of the two episodes here, we've this classic sequence, with the shot of diver "Pat Mills" floating away with his guts all gone being one of my Top Five Action iconic moments. How i used to pour over and studying this page, morbidly fascinated by it:
Move forward 35 years and there's been changes to just this one page: "Pat Mills" is now going under the name of "Matt Hills" (why? Did Pat object after all this time?. The explanation of how a squid "drinks its victims alive" has gone in favour of it having just a razor beak, which doesn't make sense now in the art: Pat/Matt is hollow - where'd his insides go? And there's a bunch of script changes, which i can see the sense in - reading an old copy from back then, that style of script certainly suits as its a product of its time ie explaining everything and real gung-ho out-bursts. But the new script is tailored for the new reader reading a new comic. Which is fair enough.
The other episode i'm most pleased about as, not only does it have another iconic shot on panel 1:
But the rather underwhelming outburst of the guy being eaten ( i make more of a fuss than that when i stub my toe) has ben replaced by a very close to home "AAIIEEEE!":
John had let me know it was coming yonks back and i was chuffed to bits to see it then, even more so now to see it in print. I am a happy bunny. Also of note here is what i was on about re the scripts - the originals look really rather corny compared to the much more naturalistic replacements. So, a all in all, a good end to Phase 1. Shame there'll be no more Hookjaw in Phase 2 but (A) its not that far away before the art takes a serious nose-dive in quality, as does the script, so maybe its for the best, (B) We get Dredger instead - ahugely under-valued character. And i can't wait to see Carruthers severed head come out of that box in colour.

Monday 22 October 2012

The Beano annual 1972

I've rather unfairly been ignoring the Beano, focussing more on true boys comics rather than titles that appealed to both boys and girls. But, with the new annuals in the shops now, i thought i'd have a return to when i was 10 with this edition. When talking Beano, there was always a bunch of strips that i read, but didn't really enjoy: Minnie The Minx, Dennis The Menace, Roger The Dodger, Lord Snooty, Biffo The Bear. Then there were strips i enjoyed, but instantly forgot: Pup Parade, Little Plum, Bash St Kids. And then there were those that i adored and read over and over again: The Three Bears. Total and utter genius in just a few pages and it didn't matter that the scheme was always the same - it was like Tom & Jerry cartoons, you know how its going to pan out but the joy was going along for the ride to get there. Here we have the usual extravagance of the time, devoting two whole pages of the annual just to have the Three Bears welcoming the readers:
There's two tales of the Bears here, with exactly the same plot,them trying to break into Hank's store while he's away. The second tale has a happy Crimbo ending and, was it just me, but didn't a slap-up feast in comics always look SO much better than any amount of food served up in our real world?
The other tale i adored was Billy The Cat. Here i had weekly superhero adventures, so much different to the American reprints i was ingesting - characters, locations and set-ups that i could relate to much more than the likes of Marvel and DC were giving me. I could actually BE Billy - just needed a crash helmet, black togs, rucksack and be good at sports. I thought. Billys two tales here are a bit of an oddity. After another unnecessary, but brilliant opening page:
We start with Billy talking directly to us readers from the comfort of his deck chair, letting us know about his latest exploit of stopping a burglar and sorting out "five toughs". When he's done with that, he lets us know he'll have another tale for us after the next two pages - which are given over to a Billy The Cat drawing guide:
He's back to let us know how he'd mistaken a Fire Brigade house fire simulation and rescued a dummy. Two real light tales, with very light art - there's an awful lot of blank, white spaces in those panels, but it works a treat with the stories. Great Stuff. "AIEEEE!" WATCH: Not suprisingly, none.

Tuesday 9 October 2012

POW! annual 1971 - #7 - The Phantom

About time i returned to this countdown and i think this takes the Number Seeven slot not for the hero, but the bad guy of the tale - a wall climbing, dart-firing villain called The Bat, sporting a cape Batman would be proud of and in the habit of leaving folk his calling card - a picture of a bat with "The Bat" over the top of it - in case folk didn't realise who'd robbed them. Anyway, our story centres on Jim Maguire, crime reporter, who - stand by for yet another bizzarro plot/device/set-up that makes these stories so special - needs to stake out a chemical factory where he thinks the Bat will appear, but has to attend a fancy dress ball, sneaks off while still in his natty outfit, gets to the factory, is chased by the Bat's men, falls into "electronic equipment", survives that, tumbles into a "huge drum containing a chemical powder" and emerges super-strong, glowing in the dark, and is mistaken for The Bat.
Anyway, he captures The Bat in a real humdrum tale and sets off on his new life as a crimefighter. Humdrum just about sums it up - The Bat is the only reason then and now for reading it as visually he's really neat. But now, as an adult, i can see the European artist was completly lifting from European superhero villain, Diabolik:

Wednesday 19 September 2012

Valiant - 28th Feb 1970

Well, that sure was a surprise - popped into one of the local charity shops today and there was this copy sat all by itself on a pile of cookery books:
Had to have it, so lets see what's inside shall we? As usual, i'll skip "Captain Hurricane" as its a strip i never cared for back then and have do desire to revisit now. After that its "The Nuts", a comedy strip i didn't bother with as, back in '70, i was firmly into Leo Baxendale's work in other titles and they don't exactly compare do they? Next, "Kelly's Eye", a strip i've passed over before, and will do here, as he's quite a drip. But may do a feature when the premise of a tale is worth noting. "Raven Of The Wing". Hmmmm... One of those "football strips with an angle to stop it being Roy Of the Rovers" that seemed to be in every title back then. The angle here is that the lead character is "a gipsy boy" - as if that should make a difference. I haven't bothered with it, but did notice it as it has some excellent Lopez art - especially this last panel:
An excellent example of the artists character work and darn menacing to boot - would anyone dare put imagery like this into kids comics today? Next up, "College Cowboy". Pass. "World In Peril". Pass. "The Steel Claw" follows, and what a treat this is - in just two pages (!) Crandall's all-too visible steel hand is trapped by a pitchfork, he escapes and follows new villain "The Wraith", a bad guy who also turns invisible, except for his"... spectacles... The only thing that didn't vanish". Seeing a pair of glasses going "C-curse it..!" as he realises he's been rumbled is a treat. More so The Wraith ducking into an opticians to blend in. Anyway, Crandall gives up, goes to a telephone box (remember them?) to report in and then we get another one of those "no WAY would you show kids that these days" moments as the Wraith positions a live electrical cable in front of the door for when our hero emerges.
Next, "The House Of Dollman", another strip i've been over-looking. And i don't know why - the strip is very similar to "General Jumbo", in which our hero has a whole bunch of animated toys/mechanical folk at his command. Where this strip has the edge over Jumbo though is the bizarre and really quite distburbing notion that Dollman's artificial friends can't actually talk - its Dollman doing it as he "often amused himself by throwing his voice into the mouths of his puppets". Yes, really. They bicker and banter, often without Dollman being anywhere near. Strange. This episdoe has the puppet Hovero, handless and therefore useless, accidently being sold at a jumble sale, only to save the day when the days takings are stolen.
Its all very Toy Story in feel, with great Eric Bradbury art and the favourite strip this time round with my Sprogs, who i've let read. The rest of the issue is pretty forgettable, but it ends on a high with this back cover Sugar Smacks ad:
I remember this cereal for its TV tie-ins, mainly Captain Scarlet and UFO, and partially Star Trek, but don't remember these gifts at all. "AIEEEE!" Watch: Nowt.

Thursday 6 September 2012

Major Eazy - Heart Of Iron

Was given this for my birthday by my good friend Ian and, boy, was i pleased. So, SO nice to start seeing other classic boys characters of the seventies given the same decent amount of care and respect and presentation as Charleys War has had for so many years now. Well done Titan Books and thank you very much. Its strange reading it though, in large chunks of this hero, with no intervening strips of other characters. First thing of note is just how much Daly is a support act - almost like Ernie Wise to Eazy's Morecombe - and what a likeable charcater he is. Sure, he doesn't exactly develop over time, but his loyalty to Eazy is without question. Second up is what a surprise to not have that many tales that i remember Eazy for - him being discovered doing something unconventional, then told to do something, then does something unconventional that gets the end result, but his own way and usually better than if he'd just done what he'd been told. Usually in an amusing way. There's a bunch of them here to be sure, but we soon get a seriousness creeping in to the tales and, before long, we're almost in Charleys War or Darkies Mob territory: assisting suicides, shooting a woman in the back:
a massacre in a church of women and children:
and a fair bit of racism to boot. Also of note is how Carlos' art changes for a while, guessing he was having an experiment with different techniques:
In all, a great read. I like the serious tales but must say i prefer the more lighter one's as that's how i remember the fella. And glad to see his opposite number being in here, Major Leicht. The explanation of what his name means is a bit clumsy, but guess was neccesary.
Expect looks into some of the tales soon.

Friday 31 August 2012

Modesty Blaise in Manchester

While in Manchester last month, we went to the brilliant Solita - great food, great atmos and a whole wall of Modesty Blaise. Smashing.

Monday 13 August 2012

New art for you

Happy to say, i've just a new "Someone Old, Someone New" pairing to reveal. Address is below, or follow the link on the right of this page

Saturday 11 August 2012

Charley's War at the Tank Museum

Back from holidays, which was all great fun. A very unexpected and delightful surprise when at the Tank museum at Bovington in Dorset was to stumble across a cabinet of Charley's War art. It was there to illustrate just how accurate Joe was with his art, with actual items from WW1 alongside his depictions. A lovely treat to be nose to glass with his stunning art.

Thursday 26 July 2012


Off now for two weeks of adventures - see you soon.

Tuesday 24 July 2012

A spin-off project

You may be aware of my "Someone Old, Someone New" project. Actually, i had another idea before that one, which was to do with this Bat-cover. Its my Number 1 image from my childhood Bat-reading, an image that's stayed with me all these years and, even now, looking at it i get a deep down, emotional reaction to it. So, i thought it'd be nice to ask artists to have a go at their own version of it. As long as the three characters were there and were doing what they're doing, how they went about it and what it'd look like is totally up to them. Very pleased to say that i've my first two now. If you care to pop over to my Bat-Blog, you'll see them in all their glory:

Friday 6 July 2012

Battle - 15th May 1976

With an awful lot of comics from the 70's, i've got a vague memory of the covers. Not so with this one that i've just rebought. Great innit? Inside we get the usual "how they heck did they manage to get all that in 3 pages?" way of telling a self-contained story. In the case of Major Eazy, he has a fight over a card game, almost shoots dead soime MP's, gets orders to get an expert to Toragli, finds its one of the cheating card players and goes up against a German tank an d truck before getting there. Great stuff and, again, more examples of just how mature these tales for children were. Look at this MP just about to give a soldier a beating for brawling in the street:
Other things of note here is just how bad Belardinelli's art is when coloured:
Everything's just lost - that top image of the ship would've been fantastic in black and white. When you turn the page and do get the B&W, biggest thrill, and note really in the same league, is Turk going up against a sumo wrestler in a Japanese training camp. Yes really:
Nasty bit of violence if Eagle Flies East. '76 is the time of Action, but its often overlooked that Battle was coming out with equally strong stuff at the same time:
"AIEEEE!" WATCH: A short "AIEEE!" from a tumbling German in D-Day Dawson. And a 100% perfect "AIEEEE!" from his mate a bit later. A "AAIEE!" from the torturor in EAgle Flies East