Tuesday, 22 January 2019

TECHNOFREAK ISSUE 1 Review



Technofreak is a labour of love, and a long labour at that. the idea gestated about a decade ago, changing and evolving until finally we have an actual comic. The brainchild of (mostly) cover artist John Charles and writer Barry May, although they function here as co writers and creators rather than writer an artist. The art, based around Charles' designs, is handled by Tom Newell, a relative newcomer to the scene hoping to make a sizable dent.

The story concerns private eye Jon Sherlock, the technofreak of the title. He can do all sorts of, well, technical things, very useful in the future London setting. Interestingly, the most memorable character is Maurice (More-eece, like the french say), a sentient robiot cat with a knack for exposition. thrown into the mix are the thuggish Neville Brady, another, less cyborgy private eye, and the lovely Loretta, once Jon's squeeze, now Neville's and now missing presumed somewhere. Put simply, our hero has to find his ex girlfriend with the help of Maurice and the hindrance of Neville, a man who maims first and asks questions if he remembers.



The vibe I get from Technofreak is of 90s UK Marvel comics, especially in Newell's art style. It's not the prettiest but it has a certain charm and certainly gets the job done. The story itself doesn't take any risks and is agreeably easy to follow with several fun moments that let you know this is a comic that you're suuposed to enjoy and then recommend to a friend. As i've mentioned, it's Maurice that stands out, but that may just be because cats are awesome, so robot cats that shoot lasers may be even more awesome. John Sherlok himself is a bit bland, with Neville coming accross as the world's worst private eye and Loretta basically a standard femme fatale with a wardrobe of bikinis.



So Technofreak issue one is not deep, but it sets up the main characters very well, looks fine and is entertaining. The mark of a decent comic is would you want to read another issue straight away, and I certainly would. I want to see what happens to Jon, Loretta and Neville, and I want to see if Maurice catches any robot mice. Most of all I want to see an independant bunch of creators build their brand whilst delivering a fun, eminently readable comic. Check it out, you might find yourself pleasantly surprised.


Buy HERE (Sunday Lunch Comics)



Thursday, 27 December 2018

ROY OF THE ROVERS - "KICK OFF" (Graphic Novel)




Good afternoon, football fans. It's a pleasure to welcome you once more to 'Footy Fan Focus' with me, Des Limeham...

And me, Johnny Grotson. Today we're looking at the rebirth of a player many had thought they would never see grace a pitch again, the inimitanble Roy race, also known as Roy of The Rovers.

Indeed, Johnny. Roy's career kicked off...

It's a bit early for that sort of pun, Des.

...sorry Johnny. Roy's career started way back in 1954 in Tiger, getting promoted to his own title in 1976. We thought it was all over when he was taken out of the game in 1995, and apart from some substitutions in Match of The Day magazine it certainly was.

Listeners may be wallowing in nostalgia at this point - I know I am! I fondly remember Roy captaining Melchester Rovers to many a title and cup victory, often with last minute goals. he was shot, kidnapped and generally mucked about over the years, but through it all he was always our Roy.

Except maybe when he signed two blokes from Spandau Ballet, eh?

Well, yes, but it proved he was fallable, Des, and no doubt added a few teenage girls to the readership as well. 



So what's the sory with this new book, Johnny? Surely a one legged pensioner isn't going to attract many young footy fans!

You've hit the nail right on the head there, Des .Luckily, writer Rob Williams has jettisoned Roy's history and rebooted the whole football match from scratch. Roy is now a seventeen year old chancer who breaks into the first team of a Melchester Rovers bereft of players and languishing at the bottom of League Two. Mention is made of the glory days of old, but at the moment this is a teanm that seriously needs a rocket behind it, Roy's Rocket if you will.

 So does this mean we're going to see more old characters rejuvinated? Maybe 'The Hard Man' Johnny Dexter, 'Mighty Mouse' or even Gordon Stewart, the 'Safest Hands In Soccer?'

Funny you should mention them, Des...

You told me to, Johnny

Yes, yes... anyway, an interesting fact about the new strip is that the coach of Melchester Rovers is none other than Johnny Dexter himself (who hasn't mellowed, by the way) and the manager is none other that Kevin 'Mighty' Mouse. Roy's team mates include familiar names such as Loty Peake, Vic Guthrie, Paco Diaz and in goal is a young Scottish lad by the name of Gordon Stewart. It's a smart piece of tactics from Williams, and one that will bring a smile to many old faces including mine.



I must say, Johnny, that I was very impressed by the art myself. New signing Ben Willsher, previously a team player at 2000AD, has produced a nice, friendly, uncomplicated style that will entice youngsters. It's a bit more cartoony that his Judge Dredd work, but it fits the subject matter and sizzles with energy when required.I wouldn't be surprised if the lad drew for England one day.

Indeed, Des, and while you were lookig at the pretty pictures I was thoroughly enjoying the script, which is both exciting and funny throughout. Most of the giggles come from Johnny Dexter if I'm honest, and there's nice interplay between Roy and his new Team mates as well.

I see that instead of a comic this is an actual hardcover book, and it's not too big at just 56 pages. This worried me at first but I realised that this makes it the same size as two full issues of your standard Marvel of DC comic at about the same price or cheaper, meaning it is cracking value and sits on your shelf next to all the old annuals.

It remains for me to say, Des, that at the final whistle 'Roy Of The Rovers: Kick Off'' was as enjoyable to read as the old classics themselves without being in any way dated. Personally, I'm eagerly awaiting volume two in March, and hope that there's many more to come. Any final words from you, Des?

I like the pictures, Johnny.

I love you like a brother, Des, but you're an idiot.

Ha ha, you kill me Johnny...

Buy for only £4.50 At Amazon! SCORE!




Tuesday, 18 December 2018

THE GREAT BIG COMICSCENE ANNUAL 2019 REVIEW



We all remember the joy of a meaty annual at the end of each year, usually crammed full of strips that in many cases weren't good enough for the weekly it was representing. In the case of The Beano or Dandy single page strips would be handily enlarged so they could be stretched out to ensure the publisher got the most bucks for the smallest of bangs. Annuals aren't so much of a thing now, but new mag on the block ComicScene has decided to take the bull by the horns and offer an annual so huge it puts the efforts of the good old days to shame. With great girth comes great price tag, though, and before you shell out your £20 you might be wondering if it's worth the investment.

As far as the physical quality goes, there's little to compalin about. Not only is there 300 pages of strips contained within, but the paper is of a high grade and the printing clear as you could want. Turn the book over and you can read a 'widescreen' sci-fi serial by accalimed creators Simon Furman and Geoff Senior (Dragons Claws, anyone?). Previously unreleased, it's a solid 40 page prequel to their online series.


Elsewhere, the material veers from very impressive to quite woeful. The standouts are a trio of stories from the well respected Flintlock magazine, all writtten by Steve Tanner. Each of these historical tales is a gem, particularly the full length "Lady Flintlock" with lovely art by Anthony Summey. It's the sort of tale that made me vow to investigate the parent magazine in future, so it does it's job well.



The problems start when you get to self published stuff that has obviously never been through the grubby hands of a good editor. You get spelling mistakes, overlong tales, stories that just stop with no resolution.... it can be a frustrating read, that's for sure. John Erasmus' "Happy App" is a nice little future shock, and I was amused by Mike Higg's "Ninja Monkey' and the lovely looking 'Hail To The Cheif' by Peter Duncan and Andrew Pawley. Also of note are a few of Pete Doree's "The Kids From rec Road" strips which are always fun. Special mention goes to Claudia Doyle, who wrote the simple but properly structured "Galactic Man" when she was just 11, and was lucky enough to have a talented dad (Ed Doyle) to draw it up in full colour.


This annual is indeed an admirable attempt to bring a load of comics to the people, I hope that if we get another one next year a bit more restraint will be taken with regards to the content. Showcasing strips from small press magazines is a good way to go, with adverts as payment. We could even see some from the Zarjaz and Dogbreath 2000AD fanzines, for example, or one of the many well edited publications from Owen Watts (The Big O). There's a little too much 'If you've drawn it we'll print it' here, but one still can't argue with the noble intent or sheer wealth of stuff inside.






BUY IT HERE, KIDS!


Monday, 3 December 2018

TURBO JONES COLLECTED EDITION




It's Treasury Of British Comics time again, and 2019 sees the release of Turbo Jones, a character that many will not be familiar with. Turbo (must have been an odd christening) was the star of the short lived, bi-weekly comic Wildcat saw out end of the 80s with it's paltry twelve issues. After a typical hatch, match and despatch merger with Eagle in 1990 Turbo's adventures continued for a while before bowing out gracefully.



The story of Turbo Jones converned Turbo's conclusion that the Earth was doomed (We're doomed, I tellls ya), and the fact that none of the big nobs believed him (see Trump and climate change). He arranges for a massive ship called Wildcat (hey! That's the comic's name!) to be built, so that the human race can search for a new planet. Was he right? Well, as the Earth blows up not long after the colonists have left I'd say he was spot on!



The idea of the Wildcat comic was that it would have several strips, each one following a different main character on the quest for a new world. It's an ambitious and pretty smart idea when you think about it, but obviously something didn't take with the public. Masterminded by editor/writer Barrie Tomlinson, the Turbo Jones strip was lucky enough to be illustrated by the great Ian Kennedy, whose brilliant art elevates some poor scripting in places. Turbo's three main associates were Loner, an ex-mercernary who pays for the whole thing with his lottery winnings (really), Kitten Magee (stop sniggering at the back), a mysterious woman with secrets and stuff, and Joe Alien, who is an alien.



Collected here are Turbo's strips in their entirety, so whilst we are introduced to the others they just disappear to do their own thing. Turbo himself is a bit of a Dan Dare character, all heroic and manly, aided by his companion Robo. Now Robo is quite obviously a chimpanzee that has been cybernetically augmented so he can speak, reason and do helpful electronic stuff. The thing is, he's referred to as a 'Robot' throughout, even by himself, and it's REALLY irritating. Take a look in the mirror, Robo, you're a bleedin' chimp with metal bits glued to ya!



Anyway, Turbo and Robo visit a few different planets and invariably end up getting involved in local affairs, The message seems to be that most aliens are bascially dicks. It's all rather entertaining, though, and when the scripts fall down, which they do a few times, Kennedy's art is always there to drool over. Apparently the comic was aimed at a younger reader than 2000AD, which by then was proper teenage aggro stuff, but it's not a 'kiddy' story and is quite acceptable today for any age. The main problem I have is that for an Editor Tomlinson lets some very poor scripting through the net, with logic going out of the window a few times.



This is the first time I've ever encountered Turbo Jones, aside from reading an article or two, and I enjoyed it more than I thought I would. It's the sort of thing that would have a made a great Saturday evening show alongside the likes of Battlestar Galactica dn Buck Rogers, just in comic strip form. Whislt the scripts are sometimes flawed they are still entertaining and contain a few very decent science fiction ideas, and as I've stated the art is as good as you could want. Hopefully if this one sells okay we'll find out what happened to Turbo's crew mates in a future volume.

Turbo Jones is released on Jam 10th 2019







Wednesday, 31 October 2018

ZARJAZ! ISSUE 32



Zarjaz  (Betelgeusian for 'Excellent") is a long running independent fanzine, dedicated to all things 2000AD and noted for the quality of it's contributors, some of whom have gone on to make the leap to the granddaddy of British science fiction comics. Each issue is lovingly compiled by editor Bolt-01, and it's a hard nosed grexnix who doesn't find something to enjoy in each issue.


Issue 32 kicks off with a wonderful Rogue Trooper cover by Paul Williams, one of the Zarjaz alumni to now work for the real deal (as it were), and he does the blue skinned battler justice, naturally. this leads on to opening story, a Rogue Trooper story, "Silent Night", by Matt Sharp, illustrated by Alex Paterson. It's a corking way to start the issue, and uses a clever plot device that means that most of the action is without sound effects or dialogue. Thankfully Matt Sharp does an excellent job and the result is a pleasure to read and a perfect one off for the character.


A break in the strip action sees a three page tribute to the Lawmaster himself, Judge Dredd co creator Carlos Ezquerra, who took the Long Walk recently. Featuring Zarjaz creators words and pictures it's very touching and reflects the love and respect we all had for the man who will be fondly remembered for many, many years to come. Appropriately, the next strip is a Dredd one, as Alan Holloway and artist Andy Lambert bring us the light tale "Work In Progress". It's a throwback to the old days of the strip, focusing on the citizens rather than the judges, with Dredd himself appearing in only four panels. A fresh take on the need for Mega City One's unemployed to have a hobby, it's light, original and shows Andy Lambert to be one of those to watch in the future if the crisp, clear linework displayed is anything to go by.


Next up is a highly unique take on the world of "Flesh", taking part in the offices of the corporation bosses as they review a recent taping of the cooking show "Masterflesh". Despite the (brilliant) pun it's not a silly story, and writer David Fenn channels his inner Pat Mills very well. Artist Uwe De Witt does a fine job of balancing the satirical and gory moments, resulting in a nice, complete strip that successfully builds on the background of it's inspiration.


Everyone's favorite cool robot Joe Pineapples comes next, in a solo strip from writer Lee Robson titled "37". Concerning Joe's 37th assassination for the X-terminators, it is similar to the opening Rogue Trooper story in that the art is essential to carry a story with precious little text. Luckily, Alex Paterson does a bang up job of a script that's bursting with action, with the finished result my favorite strip in what is an exceptional issue. Above all, it focuses on what essentially makes Joe the cool character he is, and nails that tricky line with ease.



Although nearing the end of the issue, the thrill power doesn't let up as we return to Dreddworld for a strip starring Judge Anderson. I love a dramatic full page opener, and this doesn't disappoint, as Russ Leach immediately makes the reader sit up and take notice with a picture of a father slapping a young girl and saying he never should have had her. It doesn't tell you anything else and made me immediately want to find out what was going on. The resulting story is a simple one but no less effective for it, and writer Keiron Moore can be justly proud of doing a great job of not only telling a compelling mystery but of rounding it off with a tear jerking finale.


Dredd's universe stays with us for the last two stories, with "Boatman" coming under the "Tales Of Mega City One" banner. It's another almost dialogue free script, from Steven Fraser this time, and is a sort of mutant fairy tale that's quite affecting in it's own way. At first I wasn't too sure, but after a re read I really started to appreciate the sweet story for what it was. Jack Davies provides very nice art, and the whole thing reminds me of the Bob Byrne stories that one appeared in 2000AD.


Last but not least is part three of "The Descendants", Robomonkey147's generation spanning tale set in Mega City One. If you've read the first two parts you'll not be disappointed with this conclusion, which ties up the story ends in a well drawn and emotional way. It's certainly a good way to round of what is probably the best issue of Zarjaz! I have ever read. There's not a duffer in sight, in scripting or art, and I can genuinely say that if the work here was scaled up and released as an official publication it would put some of the parent specials to shame.

CLICK HERE TO PURCHASE FROM FUTUREQUAKE


Wednesday, 26 September 2018

MAZEWORLD



Between 1996 and 1999 readers of 2000AD were treated to this unusual tale from the mind of Alan Grant and the pen Arthur Ranson, previously respected collaborators on Judge Anderson stories. Ranson's realistic depictions had garnered him plenty of well deserved praise, and this creator owned series was the next step in a successful collaboration.


At the time, I remember not being too excited over Mazeworld, as although the art was superb the story seemed quite leaden, perhaps not suited to being read weekly. This is the first chance I've had to read all three series at my own pace, and I'm happy to say it has improved with age for me. The story concerns Adam Cadman, the last man to be hanged in Britain in 1964 (not a real person, though). Cadman's hanging goes wrong, and whilst his physical body goes into a coma his spiritual self is transported to a medieval type land called Mazeworld. The hood he was wearing is now firmly attached to him and he is greeted as the fabled "Hooded Man", sent to free the peasants from tyranny. Over the three series Cadman finally comes to accept that Mazeworld may be more than a coma dream, and has to fight for his life and our own reality.

Mazeworld is a very good story that keeps readers guessing as to what the whole point of it all is before rounding off the final series quite satisfactorily as all finally becomes clear. There's plenty of magic involved and Mazeworld itself is a well realized fantasy world with supporting characters that have well drawn out personalities. It's a given that Arthur Ranson makes it all come alive, and as I'm a fan of his art style I delighted in the beautiful full colour pages.


If you've never read this one then you're certainly in for a treat with this volume. Lovers of quality fantasy will have a ball, as will fans of original, smart comic books. It's not a stone cold classic, but Mazeworld is one of those books that will make you appreciate how much a bit of hard work can elevate a comic story. Full marks to Grant and Ransom, this one has stood the test of time extremely well.

Buy From The 2000AD Shop

Thursday, 13 September 2018

MISTY VOLUME 3 - "WOLF GIRL"



And so the Treasury Of British Comics rolls out another volume from the much missed girls' comic Misty, and whilst previous stories have featured a variety of well known creators this time it's all a bit of a mystery. Whilst Spanish artist Eduardo Feito was a veteran of UK girls' comics, the identity of the writer has been lost to the mists of time. In an era where the likes of 2000AD were happily slapping creator credits on stories, it's unusual that a major serial such as 'Wolf Girl' lies unclaimed, (and not in an Alan Smithee sort of way), because it's a pretty good tale.



The story is set impressively fast, and in the first couple of segments we see baby Lona orphaned by a car crash, after which a wolf raises her for 2 years before she is found and returned to civilisation. Cut to a decade or so later, and Lona is behaving rather oddly - some would say feral. Unusually for a girls' comic character she hasn't got evil parents, but instead her personal peril comes from the fact she is unaware (initially) of her wolfy heritage. Cue howling at the moon, snarling at bullies and being able to communicate with wolves. Lona then goes on a voyage of self discovery that takes her from the suburbs to the forest.


As a story, Wolf Girl is a lot of fun, if rather silly when you actually think about it too much. Feito does a good job on both humans and lupines, with his art being pretty stadard for the time. Fashion of the times is apparent with tank tops and mutton chops, and at one point Lona is menaced by what looks like Leo Sayer and John Craven. It's quite a short strip, coming in at just over 60 pages, so the rest of this volume is made up of one off stories - all wolf related. These four stories are all from unknown authors (making the whole book a mystery), and are all well worth a read if you enjoy Twilight Zone-esque horror tropes.



Overall, 'Misty Volume 3: Wolf Girl' is a decent read. The main story isn't supernatural in theme, but the extra material makes up for that in spades. Whilst nothing to howl from the rooftops about, Wolf Girl is nonetheless a perfectly enjoyable slice of comic fantasy.

Buy It Here!