Thursday, 27 September 2018
Comic Book Implosion: An Oral History of DC Comics circa 1976 (Tomorrows Publishing)
Keith Dallas & John Wells (w)
One of the most "infamous" events in comic book history finally gets the coverage it deserved. I recall several of the titles I purchased suddenly disappear after being promised a "DC Explosion" but given that Marvel also was shelving titles like there was no tomorrow the full extent of this did not get an explanation until some time later.
The seventies were a difficult period for comics though given the proliferation of titles that appeared even in UK newsagents didn't seem to indicate a problem. And yet there was.
By this time Charlton Comics had resorted to all-reprint issues which was pity as they had done a couple of good adventure titles like Doomsday+1 and E-Man. According to this tome Harvey Comics did the same though these were rarely seen where I lived and had no interest in anyway.
The big problem was sell through rates via news-stands in the states were becoming less profitable for both publisher and retailer. This resulted in problematic distribution with cases of comics never leaving distribution centres. The days of specialist comic shops had not yet arrived.
Two of my favourites of mine from this period are: Starfire (not the Titans character that came in The Titans) and Steve Ditko's Shade the Changing Man.
Other comics that disappeared during the "implosion" were:
There were due to be a whole range of other titles and Showcase was to revive The Creeper, but the story written by creator Steve Ditko didn't see light of day until the publication of a hardcover edition of the character a few years back.
A number of reprint titles never saw the light of day such as Demand Classics and Western Classics. New titles such as the The Vixen and The Deserter never got published except for copyright reasons in Cancelled Comic Cavalcade, of which only a couple of dozen photocopies were made and distributed to DC staff.
This book gives the full story with lots of information not just from DC staffers but Marvel as well. This was not a good period for them either as Marvel cancelled 19 titles during the same period. I collected Skull The Slayer which was eventually completed in Marvel Two-In-One.
A worthy volume for the DC fan and comic historian alike.
Monday, 24 September 2018
Judge Dredd Megazine #400 (Rebellion)
Various (w) & (a)
The 400th issue of Judge Dredd Megazine hit the newsagents this week with a bumper 100 page issue which makes a good jump on point for returning readers like myself or new readers if you haven't picked up a copy.
There's plenty to entertain with no less than seven stories inside. The first The Trouble With Harry is a hilarious take on what happened to the Royal Bloodline in Dredd's world. "Off with their heads" did you say? Brought to entertain you by John Wagner (w) with art from Henry Flint.
Next up is Lawless a black & white strip from Dan Abnett (w) and Phil Winslade (a) set in the wild lands of the Dredd universe and sees the town of Badrock preparing for the worst in Ashes to Ashes . Continued next issue...
Blunt II appears next, not a strip I am at all familiar with but tells the tale of a human and simian (?) settlement on an alien world under attack. Written by TC Edginton with art by Boo Cook it does look promising!
A more adult feature is Devlin Waugh in Call Me By Thy Name in which a dildo is used to confront the Demon God of Filth. Don't ask just read and snigger quietly... I mean Ales Kot (w) and Mike Dowling what were you thinking of!
The second continuing feature is Storm Warning in a tale laden with ghosts but one isn't dead at all. What is going on in Over My Dead Body investigated by Psi-Judge Lilian Storm. No credits on this spooky tale.
Judge Death and his sidekicks are back in Dominion in a wicked tale entitled The Torture Garden. Well what else would you expect. A horror story on an alien world brought to life by David Hine (w) and Nick Percival (a). A continuing adventure....
Finally everyone's favourite lady Judge appears in a story called Jordan Ramsey. In which Judge Anderson goes in search of a child's cry for help. A sad tale penned by Alan Clark with art from Inaki Miranda.
There's plenty of features and as usual comes bagged with a mini comic in full colour. This time with Judge Dredd reprints in full colour.
This is actually the fifth volume of the comic which adds up to 400. The first issue of this run is actually #201.
Please Support British Comics:
Order from your regular newsagent or take out a subscription:
Go to: https://2000ad.com/
Sunday, 23 September 2018
2000AD #2100 (Rebellion)
Various (w) & (a)
After a long stay in hospital and becoming housebound meant that regular weekly trips to the nearest W H Smiths was no longer possible so I've missed out on a lot of issues. Then I noticed that both the monthly Judge Dredd Megazine and the weekly 2000AD comics were jointly reaching "Jump on board" issues so off I went and took out a joint subscription. Heck they even sent me a set of 4 2000AD badges as a free gift!
The other advantage of being a subscriber is that I get sent the comic well before it gets to the newsagents on Wednesdays. Mine arrived Saturday morning in the post! And a cracking read it was too!!
This extra large edition contains 5 on-going stories and two complete short ones in a 48 page special.
Judge Dredd leads the pack with The Small House a 10 part story no-less which promises to redefine the "Dreddverse" and is set in Sino City with an under-cover Judge tracking down an assassin. Adventure extraordinaire written by Rob Williams and art by the legendary Henry Flint.
Brink: High Society is next. A story set on one the habitats where mankind has retreated following the destruction of the Earths eco-sphere and where a cult of the void is making sacrifices to the emptiness of existence. Mad f*ckers as their victim screams. A detective story from the pen of Dan Abnet and the artwork of Inj Culbard.
More Sci-Fi this time with a bounty hunter roles up in Skip Tracer:Legion by James Peaty and Colin Macneil. Problem is he gets his "man" (an alien actually) but returns to civvies only to be told his brother is dead. To be continued....
Judge Anderson appears in Death's Dark Angels a one off black & white story in which she is taken prisoner by worshippers of Judge Death in Billy Carter Block.
The second short story is a bizarre feature with Sinister Dexter in Tight Grouping. Think I missed something here. Regular readers may be able to fill me in. They return in a few weeks in issue #2109. Can't say I'm a big fan of these characters though.
Much more to my liking is a historical horror featuring the Fiends of the Eastern Front which I remember from earlier issues of 2000AD. The wolves are hungry in 1812 as French soldiers scavenge for food in Russian woods.
Finally Kingdom: Alpha and Omega finishes of this bumper issue with a scary sci-fi adventure set on a ruined world with genetic warfare meaning the results are evolving very quickly.
Please Support British Comics
2000AD is available from all good newsagents or take out a subscription:
Go to: https://2000ad.com/
Saturday, 22 September 2018
Justice League of America #127 (DC)
Gerry Conway (w) Dick Dillin & Frank McLaughlin (a)
When I grabbed this comic at random from my collection I just couldn't recall the story so it seemed like a good proposition to read. The story The Command is Chaos sees the JLA get somewhat of a pasting from the gang of costumed non-entities led by..The Anarchist.
The villain is kidnapping world leaders babbling that he wants "Anarchy and Chaos" whilst "humiliating the JLA". "No one in the World can srop the Anarchist". Ego or what. Trouble is as our heroes find out he has the ability to defeat them. Superman, Green Arrow, The Red Tornado and the Flash are all taken down in quick succession.
Meanwhile Hal Jordan, Earths Green Lantern is sleep-charging his Power Ring and is unaware of his actions. Are these events connected?
Of course they are but we don't find out until later on.
Clark Kent, Lois Lane and Steve (forget his surname) go to see a religious gathering where Simon Elis is preaching and healing. Is there a connection with the Anarchist?
Of course there is and when Superman learns of Green Lanterns problems, Kal makes the connection and try to power down the ring, which doesn't work due to a safety feature. The solution is obvious.
So Superman KO's Hal Jordan and the team head off to rescue Batman, Black Canary and the world leaders beating the Anarchist as he loses his powers and his flunkies fail.
Not one of the greatest JLA stories I've ever read but it passed the time of day which was quite late really. This issues just for completists I'm afraid and I'm a big JLA fan.
Friday, 21 September 2018
Superboy starring the Legion of Super-Heroes #204 (DC)
Cary Bates (w) Mike Grell (a)
Hailing from the seventies is this kind of odd tale that DC used to give it's readers and had one those slightly misleading covers that both exited and invited us fans inside. The Legionnaire Nobody Remembered is a mystery arising from a photograph held in the Legion's files. The key to this tale is that thee Legion will never resolve this mystery but we, the reader are told the truth.
It all starts in the 75th Century (for the uninitiated Legion stories are set in the 30th Century) a student peeps into the past for his project, a Superboy Biography. Trouble is he sees Superboy rejected for membership of the Legion which is not how it happened. His father examines the scene and realises that the instrument used to observe the original event gave off rays that changed history.
Dad then explains to his son the danger posed to their future through the use of the ancient game of Dominoes. Sigh, all that technological advancement and Blue Peter style explanations are still the best!
Dad goes to talk to the Science Court to find a solution whilst son heads to a restricted chamber in their home which contains a transmitter that will take him back to the past where he hopes to sort out the problem himself.
Appearing out of nowhere in the Legions Council Chamber Anti-Lad demands entry to the Legion and proceeds to take on Lightning Lad, Colossal Boy and Cosmic Boy taking each down in order. However Brainiac 5 thinks (rightly) that Anti-Lad is lying.
Stealing into Anti-Lads quarters they discover his secret. All the powers come from his visor which uses Kryptonite in it's circuits. Moreover soil found on his boots comes from the 20th Century, and conclude that this impostor sabotaged Superboy's trial and then took his place.
Disappearing back to his own time he leaves a post-hypnotic command for the Legion to forget his visit and implant the thought that Superboy should be given another trial.
The future is assured but no-one will recall any of this, except one teenager in the far flung future.
There is also a back-up feature Brainiac 5's Secret Weakness. As we all know the walking computer is in love with Supergirl and seemingly disappears from the Legion with her. However not all is as it seems.
His "Supergirl" turns out to be a robot Brainiac 5 built whilst sleepwalking (suspend disbelief these are comic book stories) who is programmed to love him. Barely escaping a radiation danger the real Supergirl saves Brainiac 5 and the robot "dies", very much in love.
She was programmed that way.....
Thursday, 20 September 2018
Lion Summer Special 1976 (IPC)
No Credits (w) & (a)
One of the great joys of summer holidays was the appearance of the giant special issues of British comics. The publication of a Lion Summer Special was a treat in itself since Lion no longer existed and had been merged with Valiant, an event that caught me by surprise but this was the beginning of a new age of comics and old fashioned boys papers were slowly disappearing though in 1976 still had some life left in them!
Sixty-four pages of adventure and humour awaited the intrepid reader, though disappointingly the Robot Archie story was a text piece which did not appeal. I wanted to read a book I would and did, but this was a comic and I wanted comic strips. Never understood why the publishers did this except perhaps to save costs?
Nevertheless there were great stories inside. Trelawny of the Guards appeared several times in WWII adventures which were a staple diet of British comics even in the seventies. The longest feature was the spooky The Devils Artist, split in two parts within the comic. Great story, great art. This had obviously been appropriated from another comic but I've no idea which.
Steel Commando had an appearance and recently was revived in Rebellions Vigilant one-shot. This was set in occupied France and except for the robot was a typical WWII yarn.
Humour had it's day with Mowser and The Spooks of St Luke's in one page stories that always raised a wry smile from even this old git!
The rest of the comic was filled with all those one page "did you know" type features and err... fishing tips.
Lion Summer Specials appeared between 1967 and 1980.
Sunday, 16 September 2018
Action Summer Special (IPC)
Various (w) & (a)
Action started life as a very controversial comic due to it's violent content. The press hounded IPC until Action was suspended for 6 weeks before returning in a much more traditional fashion as a "boy's paper".
I've never read any of the early issues and only a couple of the later ones, but was familiar with Hook Jaw due to the reprints in the short lived Strip! monthly. I rather liked Hellman, the tale of a German tank commander.
However for now I decided to treat myself to a reasonably priced summer special. Besides the Jaws inspired Hook Jaw story there was also Spinball which was a product of it's time with all these Death Sport movies (only ever saw the Arnie one myself). It was readable but nothing special to commend it.
Dredger, a secret agent was much more to my liking and set in a circus. Here the skills of an agent proved useful as a crack-shot act, shooting fags out his mates mouth. Rather him than me!!
In the same vein Code Name: Barracuda was given a feature split into two parts due to it'd length which saw Barracuda refuse to work for the Russians and then having to rescue the scientist they wanted him to protect in the first place.
Barracuda faced a wacky villain, a "sinister albino" who was an agent of WAM (War Against Mankind) the kind of stuff we used to love from James Bond (Spectre) and The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (T.H.R.U.S.H.). Great story.
Much of the Special is filled with those one page features such as Epics of Sport, Great Escapes and so on., some more interesting than others. There are also a couple of war stories such as Mission Executed and Escape by the Skin of his Teeth.
Worth picking up but beware Summer Specials tend to cost more.
Action lasted 87 issues before it was merged with Battle in 1977. The specials outlived their parent comic until 1980.
Thursday, 13 September 2018
The Creeps Spooktacular: Annual 2019
Various (w) & (a)
Hot on the heels of the publication of The Creeps #15 comes the 2019 Annual with no less than 11 great stories from previous issues of The Creeps, all from before Diamond started distributing them and at last making the mag available in the UK.
As a big fan of both horror comics, the Warren tradition and black & white formatted magazines this was something I just couldn't miss purchasing. And I wasn't disappointed.
The first story from The Creeps #5 Ghoul Boys written by Artie Godwin with art from Nik Poliwko finds the kids exposing the activities of a local ghoul before and going home to a slap up meal! Violins by Nicola Cuti,writer and artist M. Ramlan follows with ghostly apparitions getting revenge for their murder. Originally published in The Creeps #7.
Horrors of the screen come up in Nightmare in Nitrate from Creeps #4 by Don Glut with art from Mansyur Daman. Then there's a science fiction yarn The Sands of Life written by Artie Godwin with artist Reno Manquis. Picking up survivors of a long dead race is not always a good idea.... also from The Creeps #4
Readers will be mortified by The Talking Dead by Don Glut & Nik Poliwko is reprinted for your pleasure from The Creeps #8 and there's a twisted western The Desperado from The Creeps #3 from the very busy Artie Godwin with art by Mansyur Daman. Gunslingers get their devilish rewards!
Clowns are some peoples biggest phobia, which won't be cured in this horrific tale simply entitled Clownin' Around as schoolkids sneak out the big tent for a lark that may well be their last brought to you by the pen of Lloyd Smith and the pencils of Nik Poliwko, another Creepy regular. From Creeps #8
Next up is a helping of damsels in distress and wicked mages as our hero heads for the castle to free a beutiful maiden. This being a horror tale means there's a wee bit of a twist. I wouldn't eat any meal on offer herein. Castle of Horrors is regurgitated from The Creeps #7 in a story by Artie Godwin
A second helping of science fiction is served up in Life Cycle by Artie Godwin (told you he has been busy) with art by Jason Paulos.
There's two final tales to add to your nightmares as a paedophile gets his just reward in The Darkest Corner with spooky art from Peter Aymard and written by Artie Godwin. Eternal Life is not always what it's cracked up to be in the final tale of revenge by Artie Godwin and art from Alex Williamson. Stories from The Creeps #1 & #2 respectively.
Not a dud story in this bumper package. Well worth picking up to read just before you go to sleep.
Wednesday, 12 September 2018
Captain Britain #1 (Marvel UK)
Various (w) & (a)
In October 1976 Marvel Comics UK launched a bold experiment. A truly original British superhero in full colour called Captain Britain. And what's more he even had his own comic co-starring the Fantastic Four (in glorious black & white) along with Nick Fury: Agent of Shield.
At last us Brits had a hero exclusively for ourselves. Now I have covered Captain Britain in previous posts having collected a number of the weeklies, monthlies and mergers with other titles. Only now have I finally got my hands on the first issue, but also the free gift that went with it.
A Captain Britain Mask!
Creators Chris Claremont (writer) and terrific art by Herb Trimpe were parised iby Stan Lee in his "soapbox that week which also played tribute to Marvel UK employees including one Neil Tennant who went on to be a Pet Shop Boy!
Obviously the first issue gives part one of our hero Brian Braddock's transformation into Captain Britain after an attack on the scientific centre, Darkmoor.
Oh and Reed Richards of Fantastic Four is somewhere in the Negative Zone facing dangers galore whilst Nick Fury is seemingly having a break...
Captain Britain was a great comic and with the back-up stories should have been a roaring success. It joined Super Spider-man, Planet of the Apes & Dracula Lives, The Titans and The Mighty World of Marvel on the stands. Maybe it was one too many for the pockets of British kids. It lasted just 39 issues, even changing format towards the end as colour was far too expensive.
In June 1977 the inevitable happened. Captain Britain merged with Super Spider-Man with #231 sharing the comics title for a 23 issues until #253.
Captain Britain was not lost forever. Brian Braddock went on to star in many more stories in monthly British anthologies and eventually graduated to the American market
Some previous posts on Captain Britain:
Captain Britain Summer Special
Captain Britain Monthly #1
Super Spider-Man and Captain Brtain
Excalibur: War Weird III
Marvel UK: Daredevils #1
Tuesday, 11 September 2018
Terrific #1 (Power Comics)
Various (w) & (a)
The final title from the "Power Comics" range from Odhams publishers, Terrific arrived not long after Fantastic in April 1967. In the same "midway" format it also retailed at 9d. With five titles on the market, two of which were presumably aimed at older readers with perhaps more pocket money meant they were in danger of competing with themselves.
A lot of readers were collecting the U.S. colour comics where they were available and though they were more expensive at a shilling for the average sized editions (I forget how much the Annuals and 80 page giants cost) that may have affected sales. Nevertheless it was not long before someone at Odhams finally did an audit and found their comics line was actually losing money.
However for 43 wonderful editions readers were treated to tales of the Sub-Mariner, the Avengers and Doctor Strange.
The first issue had three stories the Sub-Mariner's first solo adventures in Tales to Astonish #70, the Avengers oddly from Avengers #6, though prefaced with several two page features on Captain America and other heroes that readers may not have been familiar with.
The final story was from Strange Tales #110 (who didn't even warrant a mention on the cover!) and was the origin of Dr Strange with wonderful art from Steve Ditko which actually looks great in black & white.
For some reason Terrific dropped the date of publication on the cover which may have been an attempt to keep it on the shelves longer. Terrific only lasted 43 issues and less than a year before being "merged" (as is the British tradition) with the higher selling Fantastic, but this only put off the inevitable.
Power Comics were being wound down for a sell-off. The final comic of a superb line of titles that entertained this child in the sixties.
Monday, 10 September 2018
Fantastic #1 (Power Comics)
Various (w) & (a)
Regular readers of this blog will know that I have a particular interest in the "Power Comics" range of titles published by Odhams Press between 1964 and 1969. These comics introduced many readers to the Marvel superheroes with Spider-Man & Sgt Fury appearing in Pow!, The Hulk in Smash! and the Fantastic Four in Wham!
These titles also contained humour stories (Georgie's Germs, Eagle Eye etc) and some original adventure material. Fans were treated to an original Hulk story in Smash! that only recently was made available to U.S. readers.
The first three "Power Comics" were all traditionally formatted British comics and cost around 6d, the average price on the market to sustain sales. The launch of Fantastic came as a surprise. Not only did it feature long stories of Marvel Characters, it was in a smaller format halfway between the respective sizes of British & US comics. A 40 page black & white package that cost a whooping 9d!
Fantastic treated British readers to three Marvel Features. All first appearances from Thor in Journey into Mystery #83, X-Men #1 and Iron Man in Tales of Suspense #39.
Fantastic went on to last 89 issues merging with it's sister title, Terrific the last of the "Power Comics" as of issue #52.
As with all things Power Comics came to rather an abrupt end as Fantastic merged with Smash & Pow! Pow! had already consumed Wham! leading to the publication of Smash! and Pow! incorporating Fantastic. Rather a mouthful of a title.
The sole surviving Power Comic, Smash! was purchased (along with the Eagle) and totally transformed into a more traditional British "Boys Paper". The Eagle was merged with Lion, though Dan Dare was the only strip to survive the merger.
All Power Comics are worth picking up and collecting. Alan Class anthologies aside, these comics (including the Eagle which published Tales of Asgard) introduced many readers to Marvel back in the sixties. Later on Marvel would start up it's own UK publishing outlet, but that's another story.