Monday, 30 November 2015
Ministry of Space #1-3 (Image Comics)
Warren Ellis (w) Chris Weston (a)
A truly British comic about a space age that might have been by one of may favourite comic writers Warren Ellis. Combine that with fabulous art by Chris Weston and you have a great comic in your hands.
With a vague "Dan Dare" familiarity this dark story takes the reader through the growth of the British race into space with the assistance of captured Nazi rocket scientists. The Brits bomb Peenamunde after making off with their prize to prevent any information making it into either American or Soviet hands.
And so with Churchill's approval the Ministry of Space is set up.
Trouble is Sir John Dashwood, the Ministry's founder has a secret. One which could wreck the British Empire and the Americans threaten to expose it if the British bloc their first space mission in the sixties when the Moon is colonised by the Empire and Mars is next on the list.
Just where did the money come from? You will be shocked.
And the final scene in the last issue is an unpleasant reminder of an age long gone.
Long out of print and with quite a small(ish) print run this may not be easy to track down, though there is a collected edition which you may find in your local comic shop.
Sunday, 29 November 2015
Dark Knight III: The Master Race #1 (DC Comics)
Frank Miller/Brian Azzerello (w) Andy Kubert (a)
With the imminent release of the new Batman/Superman movie (also starring Wonder Woman) based on the classic Dark Knight Returns comic it's hardly a surprise that DC have decided to cash in and publish not just a sequel but the third and (hopefully) final instalment.
There's been some controversy about how much Frank Miller the original writer has actually been involved in the making of this comic with some saying he's just added his name to the project. However it's going to be a big seller despite a hefty entry price at $5.99 an issue.
This mini-series was finally released this week and like most DC fans I purchased my copy with high anticipation.
However I am disappointed.
I just finished reading this comic and left not really knowing what was actually going on, except for the Atom mini-comic attached inside. The people of Kandor (the shrunken bottled city from Krypton) have approached Ray Palmer via Supergirl because they want to be big again.
As for the rest?
Wonder Woman kills mythical beast terrorising natives, Superman seems to be sealed in ice inside the Fortress of Solitude. And that isn't Bruce Wayne as Batman.
Too many spoilers? More of a warning really.
I wasn't a big fan of the sequel which didn't really add to the general story and I think that it unlikely I'll bother at all with the bulk of this series.
An expensive white elephant,
Saturday, 28 November 2015
Over the past few weeks I have been collecting and reading a fair (albeit incomplete) run of Eagle and Tiger comics from 1985 and finally reached the Christmas issue.
The previous issue (see below) sees Doomlord, the near omnipotent alien sitting around the Christmas tree with his landlady when his obnoxious son walks out and goes to his school where a fire is strted and lives put at risk.
Christmas day is only saved by Doomlord himself helping rescue a fireman and the school janitor. He thinks humanity has potential but his boy Nox seems to have other ideas. A confrontation is being set for the future.
Meanwhile the Mekon escapes as Dan Dare frees the people of Venus from his clutches but earth remains trapped in a bubble which effects the penetration of sunlight but also oddly "traps poisonous fumes". Not sure about the scientific basis behind that at all, but this is comics after all.
The other stories continue with Shadow the escaped police dog helping to foil his new owners enemies from sabotaging their horse in a race and Max the super-computer has not only returned to his original home in Maxwell Tower but is up to his usual tricks.
Great stuff from a time when British comics were still widely available.
Friday, 27 November 2015
Witchblade #185 (Image/Top Cow)
Ron Marz/Marc Silvestri/Matt Hawkins (w) Various (a)
Twenty years of Witchblade finally comes to an end this month with this final double-sized issue. Sporting a cover by the late, great Michael Turner (reprinted from the very first issue in 1995), Sara Pezzini embarks on a quest to pass on the artifact known as.. the Witchblade.
For those of you expecting high explosive action you will be disappointed. This is a very introspective adventure involving Sara's thoughts about her journey. For those of you (like me) who have not read a copy in a while this finale is worth adding to your collection no matter how long the gap.
Witchblade was once a highly popular comic whose early issues were highly sought after and attracted ridiculous prices in the age of the speculators, whose antics nearly destroyed the comics industry and certainly drove me out the hobby for a while.
Created by Marc Silvestri, Michael Turner, Brian Haberlin and David Wohl, this title made Top Cow one of the hottest companies in town.
Sadly Witchblade sells too few copies to be viable and all the other Top Cow titles have gone the way of the dodo. Sad, but tastes change.
For me the end came when Sara left the NYPD. But even then sales were dropping. Spin off comics like Artifacts did not impress and even the Darkness had it's limitations.
I'm sure this issue will sell a few more copies than normal but for now it is the end.
Here's some covers from Witchblades "heydays".
Thursday, 26 November 2015
Brave and the Bold #72 (DC Comics)
Carmine Infantino (a) no credit (w)
One of my favourite titles back in the late sixties was DC's team-up book Brave and the Bold. Usually this was Batman plus another DC character. However there were a number of issues which paired up other DC heroes. This issue published in 1967 teamed up The Spectre and The Flash!
Now for younger readers the first problem for the writer was that The Spectre lived on Earth 2 and The (Barry Allen) Flash on Earth 1. So whilst planning a visit to Earth 2 to look up his "old buddy" The Spectre, Flash gets kidnapped by a ghostly World War 1 pilot and turned into the Astral Flash so that the Ghost Pilot (what else would you call him) can get revenge on his old squadron buddies who had declined to take up a challenge from some German pilots on the last day of the war in which he had been killed.
The battle between a mind controlled Flash and the Spectre begins.
Tame by today's standards but great fun to read and a reminder of simpler times.
Tuesday, 24 November 2015
Challengers of the Unknown (DC Comics)
Credits only given for Jack Kirby (a)
One of the joys of comic collecting is picking up back issues, some of which are not what they might seem. Published in 1973 this is actually a reprint of Showcase #11 originally published in 1957. The only credit given by the publishers is for Jack Kirby who is obviously the artist and was hugely popular back then and still has legions of fans to this day, myself amongst them.
DC went to the trouble of giving the issue a more "modern" cover (well for the seventies anyway), though the original isn't too bad at all.
The story is simple enough. Missing explorers in Antarctica, Challengers called to investigate, race of aliens plotting to destroy most of mankind, enslave the survivors and take over the Earth. Typical fifties fare.
Unlike today's comics this actually requires reading. One of the reasons old stuff is so charming. Corny dialogue but not read in under three minutes like some modern comics.
It tells a complete story in one issue, one of the reasons that I preferred DC to Marvel as a kid.
You can pick up this comic for just a few pounds whereas the original Showcase comic will cost you a lot more beer money.
Since obtaining this I have purchased the Challengers of the Unknown Archive Editions, themselves not cheap but they do collect the entire run by Kirby in two volumes and worth sitting down to read.
Here's some other covers for your delectation.
Sunday, 22 November 2015
Vampirella #1969 (Dynamite Entertainment)
Various (w) & (a)
Regular readers of the blog will know that I have a "soft spot" for Vampirella and they'd be right. I have a fair number of comics featuring this scantily clad vampire and I make no excuses for featuring the latest offering from her new publishers Dynamite Entertainment.
Starting in 1969 (hence the numbering) Vampirella her adventures have enthralled her followers for the last 45 years. Starting off as a "hostess" in the black and white "mature" title published by the now defunct Warren Comics, then Harris before finally settling with Dynamite Entertainment. Vampy has had varying degrees of popularity and even had a fan club also sadly deceased.
This latest comic features a number of short stories by different creators in an extended deluxe square-bound format.
Here's some preview pages for your delectation.
A new series is on the horizon. Watch this space.
Saturday, 21 November 2015
One of the main British comics I grew up with was Valiant. It finally ended publication in 1976 and was merged with Battle Picture Weekly, a more modern comic. These all appeared in a period when I had all but ceased reading British weeklies and was only just returning to comic reading through DC and Marvel after a gap of a few years.
Battle and Valiant is certainly a good read and I know that that Battle in it's various incarnations was one of the stronger British comics absorbing a number of other titles including the controversial Action which I'll have to get around to reading one of these days!
Picking up copies at random I chose the 11th June 1977 issue because of the cover and the story that goes with it. Unusually Panzer G-Man covers the Second World War from the perspective of a German soldier and his comrades, which given the inherent anti-German element of the British national character prevalent as I grew up was a brave move.
This comic also includes Johnny Red which has recently been revived by Titan Comics for a mini-series and I can see why. A complex adventure about a disgraced British pilot fighting alongside Russians and facing mistrust from the NKVD at a time when Stalin's rule could not be questioned. Ordinary men and women caught in a war between two totalitarian ideologies where life was cheap. Another brave choice.
Sadly none of the features I associated with Valiant have survived the merger. Even the indomitable Captain Hurricane has just a cameo appearance on one of the readers pages. The Steel Claw nowhere to be seen...
Still times change. Tastes change and this war-story orientated comic is well worth picking up.
Other stories include Darkie's Mob, Hell Island, Joe Two Beans ( a "Red" Indian at war) and Rat Pack.
Another British title to add to my growing list of "wants" for my collection.
Sunday, 15 November 2015
Back in the sixties and seventies before the days of "political correctness" and "safe spaces" boys were boys and girls were, well you know the score. As a young lad I wouldn't have been caught dead reading soppy girls comics. Neither would any of my mates.
However for the publishers these titles were big business, many girls comics outsold the ones for boys and most women will have grown up reading Bunty, Sally or one of the many published back then.
Following the announcement by Rebellion (publishers of 2000AD) that they have purchased the rights to Misty, I decided to have a look since on fan pages this comic does get of a lot of raves especially..from the lads!
Misty is essentially a horror comic with great writing and art. The stories were a mix of continuing features and complete short stories.
The copies I picked up were from towards the end of the 101 issue run and featured the first two parts of The Body Snatchers which was set in a girls boarding school were the teachers seem to be changing personalities and had been told to sat away from the old mansion.
But our heroine makes the mistake of taking her suspicions to the headmistress...will she be the next victim.
One short story featured the Girl Who Knew Fairies but no one believed. Too old to believe in fairies right? Then why go down to the woods at night.....
So OK, this was a comic I should have picked up, at least when my girlfriend was out!
Saturday, 14 November 2015
Doctor Who: The Eighth Doctor #1 (Titan Comics)
George Mann (w) Emma Vieceli (a)
Titan comics have launched their fourth on-going Doctor Who title, this time featuring the adventures of the "missing Doctor" played by Paul McGann who made just the one episode/film and only made one further appearance in a "prequel" to the Time Wars storyline on BBC's "Red Button" channel.
Broadcasting history can't be changed but the adventure of the eight Doctor can now be told in comic book form, though it has to be said the writers have taken into account the numerous audio adventures made by Big Finish which were sold on CD and some broadcast on BBC Radio7/Radio 4 Extra.
This story is a omplete "one off" introduction for new readers and introduces a new companion Josephine Day who the Doctor finds squatting in his cottage (who knew he had one?).
Trouble is that forces are at work that brings her imaginative paintings to life threatening the locals.
Is the Doctor to blame?
A worthwhile addition to Titan Comics line. And remember although primarily aimed at the American market through Diamond distributors this is a very British company.
A worthy start and is now on my "pull list" at 30th Century comics.
The "missing years" audio adventures available from Big Finish Productions
Sunday, 8 November 2015
One of the longest running boys comics, Lion, merged with a the short lived Champion comic in 1966. Oddly Champion was described as the "companion paper to Valiant" but was merged with a different title. The publishers did the same with Hurricane when it ceased publication and was subsumed by Tiger. I'd guess Lion was the one that needed a circulation boost at the time.
The first few issues elude me but I decided to pick this comic up from the issue dated 17th September 1966 as it had a cover that announced the return of the Phantom Viking. In a story line reminiscent of Marvel Comics Thor, Olaf Larsen found a helmet (rather than a hammer) which when place on his head gave him superpowers including flight. The mild mannered if not complete wimp of a teacher then went on to fight crime...on the seafront!
Also continuing in this issue was The Spider who beats the Android King with the help of fellow criminal The Exterminator and then decides to reform and fight crime much to the consternation of all his minions bar two and complete disbelief by the police.
The inevitable World War Two story featured Trelawney of the Guards who commits a minor mutiny to prevent being promoted to being an officer. And of course there's Robot Archie, this time wandering around the jungle in a boring machine fighting criminals escaping in a hover car. All futuristic stuff that must have wowed Britain's young readers back in those days before men landed on the moon.
Other strips included Code-name Barracuda an agent of the United Nations fighting one of those bizarrely named international organisations back in the sixties WAM (War Against Mankind). No idea either.
Zip Nolan, Mowser the aristocratic cat plus Texas Jack (a western story) fill out the issue.
Oh there's also the inevitable football story which I would have skipped over then and did so today.
Worthwhile reading, but Lion was one of the better British comics.
Saturday, 7 November 2015
Scooby Doo Team Up #13 (DC Comics)
Sholly Fisch (w) Dario Brizuela (a)
One of the more memorable and still popular kids cartoons was Scooby Doo. A new series is out in the United States shortly and like a lot of these types of shows Scooby Doo has generated a lot of comics over the years. The franchise currently belongs to DC Comics, who publish not one one but two Scooby books.
This issue (out now) caught my attention because of the appearance of mainstream DC superheroes, The Phantom Stranger, Deadman and The Spectre. This comic is obviously aimed at the younger market so expect more Super-Friends than Justice League!
Nevertheless this was a fun break from the angst of of mainstream comics as the Phantom Stranger turns up at he Scooby Gangs house asking for help to find missing ghosts.
Where to look? A ghost town of course!
A previous issue featuring Batgirl, Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy picked up a lot of attention and ended up attracting ridiculous prices on E-Bay. I doubt this will but comics should be about having a bit of fun and this certainly fits the bill.
Oh and here's a clip from the seventies when the Scobbies met Batman. Well it is Saturday morning!
Friday, 6 November 2015
The Hangman (Dark Circle Comics)
Frank Tieri (w) Felix Ruiz (w)
A loving husband and father. A devoted wife and adorable little girl. The dream. Except Gabby has left her bunny in the trunk.
Daddy has his victim tied up in there. Shut your eyes Gabby dear......
Strawberry Jam? What is that for?
Actually it's the most sinister use of strawberry jam that I've read like....ever. Daddy's a hit man for organised crime and he's earning his and his family's keep.
But someone is watching...
The latest offering from Archie's new Dark Circle line of comics is a real treat. The only fault I could find with it is that it ended. I want more, now! So hopefully they'll keep to the monthly schedule.
Archie have marked this as a "Teen+". Personally I'd rate it "Mature". You'll see why when you hear about "Daddy's" next job. Gave me nightmares it did!
Thursday, 5 November 2015
Johnny Red #1 (Titan Comics)
Garth Ennis (w) Keith Burns (a)
Titan Comics are a British company producing comics in the American format. Amongst their growing range of titles are no less than three (soon to be four) monthly Doctor Who comics. Their latest offering is a mini-series highlighting Johnny Red a character that will be familiar to readers of the long gone but not forgotten weekly Battle comic published back in the seventies and eighties.
Johnny Red tells the tale of a pilot who flew a Hurricane on the Eastern Front alongside Russian Yak fighters in World War 2.
This modern rendition sees rich collector Tony Iverson purchase the wreck of a Hurricane for restoration but discovers this is no ordinary plane and did not take part in the Battle of Britain but has a far more intriguing history.
In Russia we meet Sargent Rodimitz who tells the tale of Johnny Red and back in time to Stalingrad we go...
Monday, 2 November 2015
The new crop of "Annuals" are hitting the shops ready for Christmas, but they are just not up to the standards I expected as a child/teenager. Over sized and in colour but thin on content with very restricted comics material. Shame really.
Back in the day we were treated to quite weighty tomes. Not perfect but plenty to read and entertain in the winter months when going out was far to cold in the country. The Lion Annual 1971 is one that appears familiar and yet I have no memory of buying it which may seem odd but we are talking about 45 years ago after all.
The Lion was one of the better boy's comics which had been launched in the fifties but was sadly to end in the mid-seventies when it merged with Valiant, IPC/Fleetway's flagship title.
Starting off with Gargan, the tale of a boy and the last Yeti searching for a stolen magic mirror to stave off death and disaster, was one of the charming adventures that only ever seemed to appear in British comics. Monster goes to the rescue, is misunderstood and hunted until the truth is cleared.
Followed by Zip Nolan, the US motorcycle cop where the reader was invited solve the mystery with a panel giving the main clue ,along with Robot Archie saving the day in ancient Rome, hi-jinks with Mowser, Lion's aristocratic pet and a number of one off stories including Last of the U-Boats there is plenty of fun to be had.
Sadly Dan Dare (Eagle had merged with Lion in the sixties) only appeared in a text strip. I never understood why comics insisted on publishing these. We read comics for... comic strips. Books were for text stories. There were a few too many in this edition for my liking.
However the one-off and complete The Menace of the Killer Plants was worth the price of entry alone. A Triffids rip-off to be sure but entertaining. I'm sure this was a reprint. Do any readers know it's origin?
The Annual ends with two familiar strips Turville's Touchstone and Oddball Oates. A worthwhile addition to anyone's collection.
The Lion Annual outlasted the comic itself which folded in 1974.
First and last Lion Annuals: