Thursday, 7 December 2017

PAT MILLS/KEVIN O'NEILL - "GOODNIGHT JOHN BOY"- Book Review



If you are an avid reader of this little blog (surely there's one) you may remember I reviewed Pat Mills and Kevin O'Neill's debut novel earlier this year, and having thoroughly enjoyed it I was happy to see the sequel arriving so soon afterwards.

'Goodnight John Boy' sees anti hero Dave Maudling still toiling away at Fleetpit Publishing in mid 1970s Britain. As an editor, he is able to subvert his readers by putting in genuine ways to make lethal devices/poisons within the pages of daft boys own romp 'The Caning Commando', but whereas he intended for his hated readership to off themlselves he has discovered they are instead utilizing the methods against adults who most definitely deserve it. As he comes to terms with this, Dave is also still trying to find out who murdered his sainted mother, as well as attempting to indulge is rather unhealthy fur fetish and get it on with the lovely Joy.

It was a mad life in British comics of the 70's and the authors were there to experience it. As a result, this book continues the trend set in the previous one of mixing facts with fiction very satisfactorily. The two are best known for their work on 2000AD, and as such the latter part of the book involves Dave preparing to set up a new science fiction weekly called 'Space Quest'. Indeed, art imnitates life a lot when it comes to the comic stuff, and it brought a smile to my face when the subversive, violent "Aaargh!" is deemed to nasty for kids and scrapped, only to be brought back in a heavily sanitised form, just like Action in the 70s.

Storywise, I was certainly kept gripped. It's not an action fuelled romp, more a wander round the backstreets and mucky clubs. We see Dave finally discover his backbone and become more of a likable lad than before, and also there's plenty pertaining to the abuse of children by authority figures. Crikey! Despite this subject being rather near the knuckle it's refreshing to have authors not afraid to tell it like it is, although it's not horribly graphic or anything. Elsewhere, there's actually plenty of chuckles throughout, as it's peppered with memorable, slightly mad characters, not to mention more stories from The Caning Commando that had me giggling at their absurdity.

If you enjoyed 'Serial Killer' there's no doubt part two will be devoured with equal gusto, and like me you'll be waiting expectantly for the concluding volume. The quality hasn't dipped in the slightest, and it was no chore to rip through it in two sittings. Fans of British comics history will find more to enjoy than those not aware of how it all went down, but even newcomers will find a satisfying, amusing read. Think Tom Sharpe meets Robert Rankin in a dark alley and you're half way there. Kudos to Mills and O'Neill for keeping this going, so give them your support and give it a go.

https://www.millsverse.com/

Thursday, 16 November 2017

FACEACHE VOL 1: THE FIRST 100 SCRUNGES - BOOK REVIEW



Ken Reid is deservedly a bit of a legend in British kids comics of yesteryear. If you're of a certain age you will have come accross many of his creations as I did when I was a kid. There was Frankie Stein, Jonah, Roger The Dodger (Great dodge, eh readers!) and perhaps the most fondly remembered of all, Faceache.

First appearing in Jet in 1971, Faceache moved to Buster and stayed there until Reid died in 1987. Contained here are, as it says in the title, the first 100 single page strips, starting with Jet. For those who never had the chance to read it, Faceache is a boy who can manipulate his face and body into almost any shape, the more grotesque the better. Naturally he uses these talents to con people out of cash or sweets (often ending up a croppe) or in many cases he's just out for revenge on a miserable adult or a bully.  The 'scrunges' of the title come from the sound effect used when he contorts his features, and although it's a northern slang word for filth it fits perfectly and will stay with you for the rest of your life, probably because it's such fun to say. Scrunge. See!


What follows after the nice introductions (from Alan Moore and Reid's son Antony) are 100 very silly and very creative giggle fests. The joy of Reid's work was always his illustrative genius, and he had a way with detail that put him up on a par with Leo Baxendale as one of the most innovative creators of the times. The amount of fun on each page is breathtaking, as are the wonderful forms that Faceache takes every week. I'm amazed at how much I enjoy it over 40 years later, to be honest, and am convinced that even today's litte 'orrors would have a lot of fun with this. Given the choice of another crappy modern annual or a scrumptious, scrunge filled hardback copy of this (for only £14.99 readers!) I know what I'll be buying this year.



Official Shop Link

Wednesday, 1 November 2017

BRUCE DICKINSON – 'What Does This Button Do?' - BOOK REVIEW



One of the criteria for writing a good autobiography is that it helps if you have led an interesting life, and Paul Bruce Dickinson has certainly done that. Another is actually being able to write the bloody thing well enough to make it fun to read, and blow me if he hasn't gone and done that as well. 

The book landed in my lap with the satisfying thump of 350-odd pages, satisfyingly unintimidating yet beefy enough to get stuck into on a cold afternoon. Dickinson's mantra of 'No births, marriages or divorces' is interesting, and he never divulges any of that information about himself, or indeed anybody else, concentrating on much more interesting stuff. For 'more interesting stuff' read 'school, Iron Maiden, solo stuff, flying and cancer' – in that order. Existing fans will likely be well aware of these five stages in his life, but this doesn't make it any less interesting to finally get the truth about, for example, exactly what he did to his headmaster's beans that got him kicked out of public school.

Dickinson has always come across as a man happy to speak both his mind and the truth, and this comes across throughout the book, as does his continuing amazement at a life that has given him opportunities and obstacles that have all been grasped and embraced or despatched as appropriate. The early days of Maiden are given suitably in depth treatment, and as his career goes on he wisely scales back the Maiden stuff, such as in depth album introspection, and wanders off into other interests and experiences, most notable fencing, his solo career and, in the latter part of the book, flying. The last section concerns his battle with cancer, and it's brutally frank and often laugh out loud, as Dickinson spares no faecal detail. It's like watching highlights of a football match, in that I was cheering him on even though I knew what the result would be. 


'What Does This Button Do' is a quite a read, and of course the perfect Christmas present for any Iron Maiden fan. As with Bruce himself, though, there's so much more to it than Iron Maiden, and I can honestly say that he is a genuine role model and inspiration for his sheer determination to attack life with determination, honesty and a sense of humour. Short hair, no tattoos, no drugs (well, not these days), this is what rock and roll is all about!

Thursday, 26 October 2017

MISTY VOLUME 2 - Graphic Novel Review



After the relative delights of Misty Volume 1, it's nice too see further stories getting the same treatment, and as ever Rebellion publishing have been quite careful with their selections.This time they've concentrated on writer Malcom Shaw, who penned both of the serials contained here, and once again it's a nice treat for anyone who misses the comic.

Whilst Misty was ostensibly aimed at the fairer sex, it was still highly accessible to boys, a fact evidenced by the sheer amount that have since admitted to reading their sister's copy each week. It ran for an impressive (for the late 70s) 101 issues before being swallowed by Tammy, and because it never had any regular stories it's influence on the sister title was minimal. What it did have was plenty of dark, horror themed serials that have left a mark on many people's memories. As we all know, girls' comics could be very nasty, and Misty was almost a bit of relief from some of the sadistic stories of other titles, as rather than have cruelty for it's own sake the emphasis was on storytelling, and if a bit of nastiness was there too then go for it.


The first half of the book is taken up by a story that many readers have been clamouring for, "The Sentinels". The sentinels of the title are two identical high rise tower blocks (proper 70s stuff here), one of which is empty because, you know, strange things happen in it. Our heroine is Jan, and her family is made homeless. Desperate, they move into the deserted tower block and, well, strange things happen in it. Where the reader may have expected a spooky tale, the reality was far more bizarre, unexpected and creative. You see, it turned out that within the tower block there was a portal to an alternate Britain where the Nazis had won the war and still ruled over us, the bastards. Unsurprisingly, Jan goes through and get mixed up in all sorts of stuff, including meeting her own alternate world double, and the drama unfolds.



"The Sentinels" truly is a bizarre, dark and highly entertaining read. Mario Capaldi's art is decent and effective, whilst Shaw handles the script deftly, never allowing the reader to second guess the plot or give up due to any inherant silliness. It's the first time I have read it, and I'm not surprised that it's so often touted as one of Misty's best tales.



The second half of the book is taken up by "End Of The Line", a decidedly more bonkers story in every respect. Yes, more bonkers than a 1970s tower block with a portal to an alternative earth in it. In this one Ann is a young girl still mourning her father, who disappeared (presumed dead) whilst healping to construct an extension to the London Underground. He's alive, naturally, and Ann has to investigate and put herself in all sorts of danger before she uncovers the truth. Interestingly, the blurb to the story says she encounters a time portal, but this is actually not correct, as you will see when you read the story. I don't want to go into too much depth so as not to spoil the plot, but trust me when I say the reason for her father's disappearance is probably the last thing you would expect.



Whilst "End Of The Line" is again entertaining, the sheer insanity of the plot makes it by far the lesser story of the two. It doesn't help that John Richardsoin's art is not all that great, although it serves it's purpose. Unlike with The Sentinels, I found my mind wandering, and the convoluted plot means you'll be thinking "What?" to yourself more than once. No wonder the copywriter got confused!

Overall, Misty Volume 2 is well worth picking up. The quality of The Sentinels more than makes up for the average End Of The Line, and it's a delight to see stories like this reprinted with due care, if not neccessarily attention to detail.

Pre Order HERE





Thursday, 12 October 2017

100 BEST VIDEO GAMES (THAT NEVER EXISTED) - Book Review




Well this could have been a pile of rubbish, really. Author and possible twisted genius Nate Crowley offered to dream up an imaginary video game for every like he got on twitter and found himself doing over a thousand. From that came this book, which has been lovingly put together with glorious fake box art and screenshots to illustrate some of the funniest video game ideas around, many of which you can imagine being made by money grabbing gits with no idea about video games.

 

The bar is set straight away with "Look, Are You Coming In or Not", a 1980 game for the Coomodore PET (it sez here) in which you play a cosmonaut on a rather leaky space station trying to stop all the air leahing out. The problem is that there's also a cat on the station who constantly wants you to open the closed doors to let it out, then of course wants to come back in again. It's a brilliantly silly idea. and this level of inspired lunacy carries on through the book. How about "Beastenders" (Mega Drive 1992), where an alien carrier ship full of bioweapons crashes in Walford and it's down to Phil Mitchell to clean things up armed only with a claw hammer and a 'face like a cross thumb'. If either of these made you chuckle then this is the book for you. 


Each game is given a detailed, and funny, description on one page, with the opposite one presenting some cool box art or a screenshot. The amount of bonkers detail Crowley goes into with some games is quite staggering, and it's quite clear this is a man who delights in the details. Fake software houses are invented, new genre mash ups explored, and cliches stood on their heads, like the fact that the game "First Person Shooter" (PC, XBox One, PS4 - 2014) is about a time traveller who goes back to shoot the first ever person. If you think that's mad, then "Dance Dance Industrial Revolution" (Arcade, PS2 - 2010) will blow your mind.


"100 Best Video Games (That Never Existed)" really is a joy to read, best consumed in small doses, ideally on the bog. Obviously aimed at video game fans, the more you know about the industry the funnier you will find it, although Nobby Noobpants will still find plenty to chuckle about. It's not all gold, as a few barely raise a smile, but considering the sheer volume contained within, Crowley's hit rate is extremely impressive. The biggest problem is that I now REALLY want to play "Judge Dredd's Windy Day" (NES, C64 - 1986), but I can't. Boo!

AMAZON LINK

Wednesday, 27 September 2017

THE DRACULA FILE - Graphic Novel Review



Mwah ha ha haaaa.... and words to that effect. 'The Dracula File' came at us poor innocent souls back in the 1980's courtesy of Britain's first home grown horror comic 'Scream'. Not as nasty as those EC comics that caused all they hysteria in America (and ruined comics for a while), Scream was a brave attempt to try something new, so of course it didn't last nearly as long as it should have. In actual fact it only lasted a measly 15 issues, delivering macabre fun from a wet, windy March through to a no doubt just as wet and windy June of 1984.



We've already have the Alan Moore initiated 'Monster' in collected form, and once again Rebellion have used admirable judgement to bring another cracker kicking and SCREAM-ing (ahem) onto our bookshelves. The Dracula Files is not, as I thought, one off stories about vampires and other mythical munchers, rather it' a continuous saga featuring the bloodsucker of all bloodsuckers himself. Set during World War 2, we find Dracula being taken in by the British (dur) as a defector, and of course they bring him back to Blighty. Dracula isn't that grateful (who'da thunk it) and proceeds to create mayhem as he feeds. He does the old turning-into-a-bat trick as well as using puny humans as brainwashed servants, and as he gains a foothold a KGB vampire hunter gets ever closer until...



And that's it, gentle readers. You see, because Scream only pasted 15 issues the story was never finished. There's a few bonus strips from specials included, but we will never know just how long Gerry Finley-Day and Simon Furman intended to drag (drac?) out the story. My guess is 'as long as we can get away with', and I think it's safe to assume that Dracula would not get killed but would go into hiding and come back after a suitable rest of ten issues or so. Such is the way of comics.



The Dracula File is a blast, really, even if it was never finished. The glorious art by Eric Bradbury still impresses, and Finley-Day masterminds a rollicking yarn that manages not to repeat itself as Dracula is thrown into a world that, although unfamiliar, doesn't seem to faze him one bit. It's nothing ground breaking but instead a nice twist on a familiar tale delivered by talented people. Hats off to Rebellion (yet again) for buying up the rights to all these old classics and giving old and new fans the chance to discover or rediscover them. Fangs a lot guys (grone).

Released 18th October

Buy It HERE


Wednesday, 20 September 2017

MARNEY THE FOX - Graphic Novel Review


Blimey, this is an old 'un allright. Way back in 1974, Buster ran a dramatic nature serial for a couple of years, hidden amongst the silliness of the likes of Faceache and the title charater. 'Marney The Fox', however, was anything but filler, making a lasting impression on thousand of readers, many of whom will be delighted at this chance to revisit it.


 A collaboration between writer M Scott Goodall and artist John Stokes (who never met once whilst working on it), the strip takes the reader down to ground level as it follows the life of an orphaned fox cub named Marney. The first thing that anyone notices about it is always Stokes' art, which is pretty breathtaking for a weekly serial in those days. He admits that he took longer to do it than other projects even though the money was no better, and boy does it show. Marney's woodland world is brought to us in beautiful detail, helping bring the story literally to life.


Goodalls scripting is also of a high quality, but those expecting a fluffy nature romp will be sorely disappointed, as young Marney is shat on from a great height with alarming regularity. Orphaned in the very first episode, the poor little bleeder staggers from one near death experience to the next, only to escape and get another good kicking from life immediately after. It can genuinely be quite daunting to read, and as an animal lover I had to take breaks from Marney's almost unrepenting misery. Think more "Watership Down" than "Wind In The Willows".

 

That's not to say, however, that it's not a good read. Obviously Marney gets out of his many scrapes, as there wouldn't be a strip without him, and Goodall's inventiveness in not repeating himself is admirable indeed. Mankind naturally comes accross as mainly evil bastards, but it's good to see that Marney also encounters his fair share of kindly humans (and animals) to try and balance out the gits. There's not a lot of laughs here, and it's not as much of a page turner as "The Leopard From Lime Street" (also a Buster strip), but it's very hard not to reccommend "Marney The Fox" as it is a fine example of quality British comics that deserves to reach a wide audience.

Released on 5th October 2017

Buy It Here


2000AD Thrill Cast About The Book HERE