Wednesday 4 December 2013

Charley's War - Hitlers Youth

Been a while, and i'm sorry for that - life lately has meant that reading really hasn't been on the agenda.
I'm back with a quick mention of this volume of Charley's War. Its been out for a couple of years now, and its been on the "Must Buy That Sometime" list since that, but other things tend ed to get in my sights first.
But i was up at Forbidden Planet at the weekend and they had this reduced and signed by Pat Mills too.
I don't usually mention this superlative strip here, as i figure it'd be kind of crass to feature on such a frivolous Blog.
But reason for including here is a guest appearance and mention of my all-time favourite British Boys Comic character, Black Max:

I'd be thrilled to read and see him here, but its a double thrill in that the Chris Weston version shown is actually a commission i asked Chris to do for me.
Here it is in the flesh:

And while i'm at it, here's his take on the Spider that he did for me too:

Wednesday 18 September 2013

The last ever Battle

First up, huge apologies for no posts for such a long time, but the school holidays and all three Sprogs at home all the time means precious little in the way of reading and Blog posting.
But, the house is quiet now, so lets get back to it and I thought i'd start off again with a momentous issue - the last edition of Battle before merging with Action.
I hated titles merging - usually my favourite characters didn't survive it and, if they did, it never really seemed the same again. 2000AD is the only comic I can think of that went against that on the couple of occasions it happened there.
Anyway, the cover does the usual breaking it to us with telling us, with the "Big News" Exciting details inside!" blurb - I dreaded seeing that, knowing full well what it meant.

Anyway, inside we get another custom for such events - the hurried finishing up of stories that weren't going to continue, some done more clumsily than others: Joe Two Beans, Night Of Vengeance, Gaunt, Sea Wolf and The Bootneck Boy all had abrupt happy endings happening.
Aside from the Big News about to happen, we also get this time two things of note around the Johnny Red part of the comic - stunning as usual Joe Colquhoun art on a rather preposterous segment (can you really put a plane into reverse, come up behind the plane that's chasing you, use your propeller to rip his tail to pieces, and keep flying?), and a full page advert for the UFO Dinky toys. Really? Its 1977 - UFO had been off the screen for seven years, and yet they're still flogging the toys? Did the average reader even know of the show?

Also here we get brilliant Mike Western art on The Sarge, somewhat let down by that hideous idea of the time to colour in the centre pages with any pot of paint that's at hand: green pyramids, smoke and clouds during the day, yellow pyramids and green sky at night:

Other thing of note is this fantastic panel of a very prolonged version of the title of this here Blog. But, if I was being squashed between my sub and ship, think i'd do likewise:

A short "AIEE!" from a rapidly despatched Japanese soldier and the same again when a bunch of Americans get their raft blown up in Joe Two Beans. And then a 100% perfect "AIEEEE!" when another raft blows up in the same strip.
A lengthy as he falls "AIEEEEEEEE!" from the main bad guy in The Sarge. Guess it was a long drop.
And the squashed sailor in Sea Wolf.
'77 looks like a vintage year for the expletive.

Wednesday 24 July 2013

Marvel Annual 1972

There's a whole bunch of annuals/comics that I've treasured ever since I read them, either one's I've kept since they first came out:

Or that I've still to track down for my collection:

And occasionally, VERY occasionally, I come across something that i'd loved dearly, but had totally forgotten about.
And that's the case with this here annual:

I was at a friends second-hand bookshop in Margate, having a natter while leafing through a bunch of british annuals, when I came across the cover above.
Time stopped.
Suddenly I was 10 years-old again, staring and staring at the Hulk lifting up that cannon against a vivid red background.
"I know this" I sort of stammered.
"Yeah, that's a great one" says my friend.
I turn the first page and, like Mr Ben in, er, Mr Ben i'm transported back in time, to be discovering the book for the first time, again.
SO many stand=out images that used to entrall and fascinate me, its untrue.
On page 3, we have this classic view of the Hulk that I remember well:

But its the depiction in the first story that I recall being fascinated and a bit horrified by. At this point, the classic Universal horror films were becoming known to me, but don't know if I made the Karloff connection by then:

That shot, and this, I still remember as being subject of much scrutiny:

And this shot of the Toad Mens underground escape I know I focussed on a great deal:

Reading again the Conan strip, the masked bad guy sent me some echoes from the past:

And Conan himself, with his natty spiked helmet and medallion, I thought cooler than cool:

On to Spider-Man now and, like all the characters here, i'm guessing was my first exposure to Marvel characters, being a tad before the Mighty World Of Marvel first issue.
The strange, red only colour palette I didn't find too jarring as I was used to that in British annuals alreay, and The Tinkerer's look was straight out of anything in Lion, Thunder, etc:

Spider-man I was fascinated by. I was already used to Batman, Superman the JLA and the Flash through the American imports in my local newsagents, but the way this guy was handled was VERY different.
The split-face affair was a very new device to me:

As i'd never seen anything like it before and I loved it, especially when we got a full-length shot:

And his nifty under the arm webbing I found especially intriguing:

Out of the other tales, the Fantastic Four one I remember responding to, not for our heroes or anything they did, but the final sad fate of the bad guy:

Lastly, an image of a character I knew nothing about at this point, but the image had me wanting to know more:

To sum up, a true classic of an annual, one i'm totally mystified as to why I forgot all about it. Won't make that mistake again.

Wednesday 19 June 2013

Lion and Thunder 28th August 1971 - the thrill of a squirrel

Thinking it time to fill in a bit more of my Black Max knowledge, I've just picked up this issue.
The cover boasts "Sinister Air War Thrills" with Max:

And the strapline up top also promises a "Grand New First War Spine-Chiller", but its odd in that two of the three pages of the strip are given over to a conventional war strip of Wilson being wounded in battle and sent back to London to recover:

Its only when the page is turned that we get our supernatural fix, with this fantastic sequence of the Giant White Bat breaking in to kidnap the scientist:

But, wouldn't you know it, plans are thwarted when that whacking great monster is scared off by the brainboxes pet dog:

And the strip ends on this superb panel of an incredibly moody London skyline and Max realising somethings wrong. Bet that's a spooky castle affair he's living in:

In the rest of the issue, not much to report, all kind of dull. Even, oddly, Adam Eterno.
The only other highlight for me is Fury's Family, a strip I've never cared for but always take a look at because of the incredible art it always sports.
This time I saw something so outlandish I had to go and read the strip, and i'm glad I did as it has a feature so bizarre and odd and a true example of why I love the 60/70's British comics.
Join me as I fill you in.
Fury needs to stop the bad guys car as it heads off down a road that has no turning for ten miles.
Off he runs to the nearby telephone pole, with a starling sat on the wire.
"Theep Theeka! Skreek Skree Throoka! OUICKLY, speckled black one!" He calls out. Doesn't much sound like bird speak to me, but off the bird goes, pecking at the wire, sending a signal down them.
A few miles away the message is heard by a bunch of starlings, who respond with "Skree! Theep Thep Thikka!"
And then, "From starlings to squirrels and from squirrels to the far-ranging stags..." the message is passed on, with the stags causing a rock slide to block the road and stop the bad guys.
Genius, genius stuff and, if you ever wanted to see a squirrel talking to some stags, here you go:


Tuesday 28 May 2013

Scary Fairy Tales

Never was a fan of Whizzer and Chips. Too much not very funny comedy, with unappealing characters depicted in art that really didn't float my boat.
Can remember reading "Superdad" as I had a - sort of - superhero fix in there, Ghost Town was okay, but only as a vague nod to the brilliance of the eerie tales that i'd been enthralled by in other titles:

And "The Pirates" gave me a Bash St Kids-esque fix:

But "Scarey Fairy Tales"? Now you're talking - sheer and utter genius from Mr Baxendale, plain and simple. To illustrate the point, here's a couple of examples from the 1976 annual. The truly great suffering, that Leo could dish out so well:

Along with my absolute favourite from this time, The Good Fairy. That she has Popeye forearms is fantastic as it is, but where she's got her name emblazoned? What childrens would dare do that now?

Saturday 11 May 2013

Rogue's Gallery

Before I move on, thought i'd show you what the gallery of superhero's from the "Super Security Bureau" consists of.
If you thought the names were bad, take a look at what they look like:

Sunday 28 April 2013

POW! annual 1971 - #5 - Electro

Coming back with another look at the characters from my favourite annual of my childhood, made different from any other look back of mine as i've got a direct link to what i was thinking when i was nine, in that i'd numbered them in order of preference on the brilliant frontispiece.
So, we're at Number 5 and Electro. Guessing on par with Magento for "Rubbish Name For Someone Who Has Electrical Powers", he's just about the most derivitive of all the hero's in this book.

His origin is pretty close to DC's the Flash but, minus the chemicals addition in Barry Allan's case, he's just some poor bod who gets hit by lightning. While standing on a power plant. Its not explained why he wasn't just fried, not even his clothes are singed, especially as he's just taken "a billion volt blast of electricity" but live he does and "he's charged with enough electricity to light the whole city!" Just some lame-o comment of "maybe the generator he was working on set up some kind of counter current." Hmmmm....

Anyway, he's soon well, and seems to now have the powers of Marvel's Magneto. Which is noticed straight away by the Super Security Bureau, a sort of Man From Uncle for superhero's whose recruits so far include (shout their names with pride) "Mini Man", "Mr Whizz", "Flame Man" and, my favourite, "Iron Dog."
Eddie's recruited and, to not make him stand out, is given the equally rubbish name of "Electro - The Power Man".
And as soon as that happens, he then comes to the attention of "The Great Dynamo", Surf City's number one villain, with just as rubbish a name and a look totally swiped from Janus Stark:

Like many of these tales, the set-up is the most memorable and the rest of the story is a bit of a plod. With this one, the sequence that i remember the most is this three panel affair, introducing the Dynamo's "robot creatures shaped of solidified electric current" (double hmmm...) and his nifty wheel vehicle:

Other than that, we've just got Electro's brillaint penthouse pad which, for some unexplained reason, is made all of glass:

And that's it, the rest is just dull. I'm guessing i put him at Five because of the art, which is lovely, and the quirky designs but i don't think i'dve been a fan of the character if he'd have continued, which he didn't, although it sure ends like the Dynamo would have been Electro's nemesis a la Lex Luthor or the Joker:

Saturday 20 April 2013

New "Someone Old, Somone New" piece

Been a LONG time since there's been an update, due to artists commitments, but very happy to say there's a new one there right now. Either follow the link in the bar ofn the right, or go to

Tuesday 12 March 2013

Savage Sword Of Conan

I'm sure i've brought this subject up before here - are Marvel UK titles considered British comics? As far as i'm concerned they are: (A) They're reformatted to UK comic size, (B) they have UK letters pages, (C) they're have UK adverts (D) most crucially - they're in B&W over the original colours. To this day why i can't read any Marvel superhero comic, along with their Star Wars strips, in colour. They just look wrong to me. In the case of "Conan", along with "Dracula" and "Planet Of The Apes", having them in black and white helped immensly with the tone of the strips, giving added gravatas and mood to a strip that might've not been there to begin with. Personally, this was my first taste of Robert E Howards hero and Barry Smith's art, at the time, was pretty darn neat. It wasn't till the later monthly titles with art by John Buscema and, at the same time actually reading the novels that spawned the tales, that i realised how reedy Smiths version was. And then Alfredo Acala came on board - and the definitive version was born, one i imagine whenever i re-read the books today. But this is a page for UK titles, so lets stay on track - a typical early Smith tale from 1975, showing a rather crude, slim Conan, but great dynanism all the same. But best thing though are the ads - did we really want to "support our super-heros"? by not missing out on this "tantalising treat" of a badge/patch combo for a mere 70p?

Wednesday 6 February 2013

Return of the (Black) Max

Its occured to me lately that i've not featured any Black Max for quite a while. Think that its because, subconsciously, i was blocking him out. When i started this here Blog, it became quite a love letter to my favourite ever Britsih comic character and a while back, deep down, i chose to veer away away from him. But, think enough's time passed now, so went ahead and bought me an issue lacking from my collection - Lion & Thunder 8th Jan 1972:
Although my choice of issue was a random one, it turned out to be rather fortuitous, at least with "Black Max". Turning to the tale, we start with the aircraft of both sides being batted (ha!) out of the sky by "a shrieking, whirling wheel of air":
Max gets one of his Giant Bats to check out something coming out of the ground, something i've seen before in later episodes:
Its the craft of Doktor Gratz, "The Mad Dwarf":
So here we have the first meeting of Max and his future ally, and eventual replacer for him in the comic. Elsewhere, we have "Adam Eterno" and a setting that's just crying out for the magnificent art being produced on the strip, the Great Fire Of London:
But, its odd. Most tales of the Big Guy follow a trusted formula: (A) Escape gold-themed death trap, (B) Plot advance, (C) Gold-themed deattrap. Here we have neither. It starts with Adam being hung up to be consumed by the fire, and ends with him in more non-golden peril, but seeing a vision of a chair of gold. Most odd. "AIEEEE" WATCH: None.