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


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.


Monday, 3 December 2018


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  (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.


Wednesday, 26 September 2018


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


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!

Wednesday, 29 August 2018


Following the interesting yet confusing 'The Vigilant' publisher Rebellion delves into another of their intellectual properties, this time from the worldof video games, where Sniper Elite is into it's fourth game as I write. Personally, I haven't played any, but bad games don't tend to get four incarnations so it must be pretty good, I suppose.

The fomat, like The Vigilant, is in the U.S comic style, though with fewer pages and a lower price tag of £2.99. Oddly, there is no price anywhere on the cover, and I hope whoever is responsible got a swift kick up the arse. The script, by 2000AD griup editor Keith Richardson does it's job pretty solidly, intrpducing us to Karl Fairburne, who is parachuted into France to help fight those dastardly Jerry's what? In the course of this, the first issue of three, he meets up with the resistance, encounters the enemy and still has time to give us some personal history in a flashback. It's good stuff, and ably brought to life by artist Patrick Goddard. It's not a children's comic, and no punches are pulled, with Rebellion doing their best to make the U.S comic section in WH Smiths a veritable minefield for parents of young children. Mind you, kids these days will probably love a german taking a piss and getting his thriat cut - I know I'd have enjoyed in the the Seventies.

A good read throughout, I'm looking forward to the nest two issues. Fans of Garth Ennis' War Stories and the like should certainly pick this up. Don't let the fact it's a video game tie in put you off, Sniper Elite pulls no punches.

Thursday, 16 August 2018


Well, this was an unexpected move from Rebellion, publishers of 2000AD and curators of the Treasury Of British Comics. Some bright spark realized that they now have ownership of tons of classic British comic characters and had the idea to create a sort of super team from them. Let's be fair, it's a great idea and full marks for giving it a go. You probably won't find this with 2000AD, though, as it's in the smaller format normally reserved over here for Marvel and DC  reprints (on the High St, anyway), so if you want it make sure you check there as well.

The smaller format makes for a very attractive product here, and The Vigilant looks excellent, with thick, glossy paper filled with beautiful art and colouring. The main strip takes up half of the comic and introduces us to the nine main characters. the first thing you notice is the lovely art from Simon Coleby (Judge Dredd, the Authority etc), really helped by Len O'Grady's colour. The images leap off the page and are easily the best thing about the publication. The story, by fellow Brit Simon Furman (Transformers, Dragon's Claws and much more) is not so great. This isn't a quick read, as it's quite complex and mystical, and those who try and skim through will just end up confused. I read through a second time and tried my best to follow everything but still ended up a bit baffled, although I was entertained nonetheless. There has been criticism that there's too many characters, and this is certainly valid - the whole thing would have worked just as well if you cut three or four of them. In the end, I enjoyed reading the main strip, and would like to see more, but it needs to be made more accessible to all ages, especially given it's placement in the racks.

The second half of the mag is filled with three strips concerning individual team members. The writers and artists are different to the main story, but everyone does a great job. New character Yao and 70s stuntman stalwart Blake Edmonds (Death Wish) have tales that take place within the main story, as they have been temporarily sucked through a dimension hole. I had to comb my way back through the main story to see where this happened because it's not remotely clear. Anyway, the strips are both pretty cool,l with Tao getting an origin and Edmonds in a parallel universe. The final strip features the Steel Commando and fills in his background for those unaware of what the frack he actually is. It's the best of the three and has a lot of heart to it, as well as a cameo by The Young Ones. these short, self contained strips add plenty of value to the title, and I look forward to more in future issues, dealing with different characters.

Overall, The Vigilant can certainly be considered a success by all concerned. Whilst the main story needs to be simplified a bit and be made a LOT clearer as to what is going on, it still works and retains a wonderful Britishness missing in the plethora of U.S reprint titles. The best thing is to go out and try it for yourselves, supporting a new British comic and having some fun in the process.

Thursday, 2 August 2018


Blimey! Publisher's Rebellion are certainly pulling out the nostalgia stops with this one, originally published in Jet (and Buster after readers got 'great news') from1971. Although there are many strips from this era that are mature, interesting and intelligent, Von Hoffman's Invasion can charitably be described as a 'yarn' at best.

The plot, such as it is, concerns Nazi scientist Von Hoffman, who may as well shout 'Bwah ha haaa!' every time he appears, so evil is he. After being locked up at the end of the war for being anasty Nazi, he finally gets out and swears revenge on the Allies, specifically England. he is armed with a spray that not only enlarges any animal but also allows him to control them so they do his every bidding (Bwah ha haaa!). The only problem is that the effect is unpredciatably temporary. You'd think another problem would be that he'd run out of the spray, but this never happens, no matter how may giant spiders/dogs/beetlees etc he makes. this endless loop of him making giant things, causing havoc and escaping is repeated over and over again with scant character development or forward plot movement, with only the introduction of some meddling kids (who no one believes, natch) giving any real pause for thought.

Although written by weekly comics legend Tom Tully, Von Hoffman's Invasion is bloody awful. The mad German for some reason calls a Woodlouse a 'Cheese Roller', even though it's strictly a colloquial UK phrase, and tries to stop England winning the 'Global Cup' at football later on. His accented speech gets irritating, and if I wasn't going to review it I probably wouldn't have bothered finishing it. The saving grace is artist Eric Bradbury, who delivers quality visuals that don't lack for accuracy in the animal department.

Von Hoffman's Invasion is not fun enough to be a comedy and too silly to be a drama, ending up all alone in the middle with no mates. Repetetive, daft and dull, this is the first time Rebellion's British Treasury of Comics has come up wanting. This is one treasure trove that should have been left buried.

Buy It Here!

Tuesday, 10 July 2018


Considering that 2000AD is over forty years old now, it's admirable that there are fanzines that manage to bring new and interesting content from creators who are just happy to get their story or art accross and to share their love of some of the galaxy's greatest characters. Never less than entertaining and a literal breeding ground for future stars of the parent comic, Zarjaz once again has a scrotnig cover from a current 2000AD/Megazine art star, this time Steven Austin, who gives us a lovely interpretation of Torquemada after he's been lobbed down into the alien pit.

Inside we get 6 very different stories, spread over 40 pages or so, starting with the aforementioned Torquemada, as Lee Robson has him as victim of a coup resulting in the also aforementioned lobbing into the alien pit. 'Heads You Lose' is a pretty decent story, illustrated by 'zine regular Steven Denton. The art is certainly good enough, but I can't shake the feeling Denton could have used a smaller tip, as the thick(ish) lines are a little muddy on the A3 page size. Oh, and in case you are wondering how Torquemada could ever get out of the alien pit, so am I, and I've re read it several times. Bonus points for shoehorning in 80s pop names,

Nest up is a fun little strip called 'Judge Fudge & His Pals', where Mega City's finest are re imagined as confectionery, in what I assume is a Justice Department cartoon aimed at getting kids to grass people up to Judge Pal. Jonathan Dhenry certainly has fun with the visuals, which are clear, clever and worth taking time over. Scriptwise, it's a quirky and funny with a chortlesome take on a classic Dredd moment fans should love, so full marks to Matt Sharp also.

Things take a nasty turn with Lizzie and Conor Boyle's Button Man tale - 'Lucky Day'. It's dark and violent with a neat script from Lizzie and classy art from Conor. It's a separate tale to the main Button Man arc, and although there is some slight confusion (to me, anyway) as to exactly what's going on it's still a well told, gripping tale with art that separates it from the rest of the magazine in a good way.

Back to Mega City 1 for a one off Anderson story next, which sees poor old Cass visited by ghosts of the past for the billionth time. This isn't a criticism, mind you, as 'Facing Evils Past' is a dark story from John Osbourne which shows just what you can do with 6 pages and a fertile imagination. He's helped out by David Peloe, who's art suits the story well and flows clearly from page to page. I don't recall hearing of the protagonists named at the end before, and feel the idea could certainly be explored more in a follow up.

An unusual entry comes next, as Mark Howard tackles the subtle madness of Bix Barton, Master Of The Rum & Uncanny. It's always been a bit or a marmite strip, mixing humour and the occult along with a decidedly and deliberately dated hero, and kudos to Howard for managing to get it right here. Simon Bennett Hayes provides the art, and whilst he does a fine job we again have thick lines that make it appear muddier than it is on aa smaller page. In his favour, though, he manages to get a great deal in each panel where required. Bonus points for the title: 'RumMothers Do Ave Em'.

Finally we have part 2 of 'Desecendants' by Robomonkey 147, with a concluding part to come in issue 32. In part two we follow Linda Bronson's droid as he seeks revenge for her death on the Judge system, whilst within that system Cadet Bronson becomes directly involved. Suffice to say it's as good as part one and I look forward to seeing how it all ends.

As usual, this is a solid issue of Zarjaz with a decent mix of stories. Sometimes in fanzines there can be ropey art or poor scripts, but editors Dave Evans and Richmond Clements keep a lid on this one like it was their own baby, probably because it is. Copies are available at only three pounds Earth money, just click on the link!


Saturday, 30 June 2018

BELLA AT THE BAR - Volume 1 Review

Whilst Rebellion's Treasury Of British Comivcs has so far focussed on titles aimed at either boys or boys and girls, 'Bella At The Bar' is their first release that was originally a straight 1970s girls comic story, with no sci fi or horror elements. That said, it's a wise choice, as the story was  very highly regarded and as a reult is remembered fondly by thousands of ladies who will have sympathised with the titular Bella every on every step of her journey.

Like many stories of the time, the lead character's troubles are cause by horrible relatives. Rarely was this the parents, and whilst stepmothers and stepfathers were a popular choice in this case it's Bella's aunt and uncle who treat her like dirt so she has something to fight against and ultimately rise above. Bella Barlow works for her uncle as a window cleaner, with him and her aunt teating her like a slave at home as well. There's no mention of what happens to her parents, but it's not really important. What is important is that Bella has a natural gift for gymnastics (not the law, if you were thinking that the 'bar' in the title was a legal one) . Whereas her guardians won't let her do it unless they can make a few quid, Bella's determination leads her down a few different paths (all filled with obstacles, naturally) in her quest to just be the best gymnast she can be.

Write Jenny Mcdade, who would go on to find fame by adapting 'Supergran' for TV amongst other things, joined UK girls comic Tammy and proceeded to knock it out of the park with this one. Similar to strips like 'Roy of The Rovers' or 'The Leopard From Lime Street', 'Bella At The Bar' shows a knack for making you want to read the next instalment straight away until you've finished the entire book. Bella herself is very likeable, a plucky little cockney ragamuffin, whilst the bad guys will have the reader booing internally with every curled lip, put down and cruel act. The art, by John Armstrong, is uniformly good throughout, with his figurework bringing the gynmastic scenes to life most effectively.

I know full well that I'd have enjoyed this as a lad, even if I wouldn't be seen dead reading a copy of Tammy, but I'm rather surprised at how much I enjoyed it as a 49 year old grumpy old man. There's a tad over 100 pages here, and like 'The Leopard From Lime Street' before it I was itching to read more of Bella's trials and tribulations. The cut off point is a natural one, though, with Bella actually getting a win for a change, though I'm pretty sure it doesn't last. Released on 12th July, this is definitely one for all those who didn't have a sister to nick comics off, and those who remember Bella with the fondness her strip deserves.

Buy HERE From The 2000 AD Shop

Thursday, 28 June 2018

JINTY Volume 1 - Land Of No Tears/The Human Zoo

When I was a kid, I saw all the girls comics on the shelves like Tammy and gave them a wide berth. After all, I was a boy, and boys didn't want to read stories about ponies, ballerinas and cooking. Yuk! Completely unknown to me there was a wealth of science fiction and cruelty nestled within the innocent looking covers, as girls comics focussed on making it as nasty as possible for thir strips' protagonists, because that's what female readers seemed to thrive on. Okay, so the heroine won in the end but not before she'd had the metephorical shit kicked right out of her first.

The first volume from Jinty (zero chance any 1970s boy would pick that up, right?) collects two stories that certainly fit the mould, with science fiction and hardship going hand in hand. First up is "Land Of No Tears" by Pat Mills, who would later go on to create some of the best stories in 2000AD. In the strip, Cassy Shaw is a schoolgirl with a damaged leg who has to wear a surgical shoe. the problem is that she's also a right cow, using her minor disability to gain sympathy and get out of trouble. As this is girls strip we know she's in for a hard time, but in this case we're looking forward to it!

Under the anasthetic during corrective surgery (which she doesn't want because she will be treated like anyone else) she goes through the standard space warp/plot device and awakes in a mirror world where anyone with a slight defect is a third class citizen and emotions are supressed. Lumped in with other rejected girls, she determines to show the up-their-own-arse perfect people that those they look down on can be just as good as their "betters". Subtle as a brick and with plenty of nice touches, this is very decent story with plenty of "What the hell?" moments. An old hand when this was published in 1977, Mills effectively nakes us root for Cassy as she learns her life lessons, and that's what this type of story is all about, innit.

Second story "The Human Zoo" is thankfully cut from a different cloth, giving the volume a more fleshed out feel. the science fiction element is ramped up to eleven by writer Malcom Shaw as sisters Shona and Jenny are abducted with their classmates after a trip to the zoo and taken to another planer where - gasp! - the aliens put humans in zoos!! Okay, so you could see that coming, but the old sci-fi role reversal ploy is played very well as the sisters are treated very differently as they accept the situation in their own way. Of course, there is nastiness aplenty as the aliens treat humans as we would dumb animals (they are telepathic and so don't see our noises as speech). The underlying moral, hammered home with a sledgehammer,  is unsurprisingly that we shouldn't treat animals badly. Regardless of any unsubtlety it's a cracking story that must have thrilled British girls back in the day and can happily do so again.

Special notice must go to the art, supplied by Guy Peeters on both strips. Clear and well laid out, he brings a great realism to the stories, with the only downbeat being a mysterious character in "Land Of No Tears", although when we learn their secret the werid look becomes more understandable. All in all, the writers were lucky to get him to flesh out their scripts.

"Junty Volume 1" is a cracking slice of 1970s comic history, with great art and involving stories. It's not mad science fiction but it's also certainly not remotely what I imagined these comics were doing at the time. Accessible to both male and female readers of any age, Rebellion must be thanked for giving these strips a fresh airing thanks to their treasury Of British Comics imprint.

By from the 2000AD SHOP

Tuesday, 29 May 2018


With Rebellion's acquisition of a horrendous amount of back catalogue from Fleetway, there's a renewed interest in the output of Britain's legendary comics group. A perfect time, then, for this smart publication to be released, delving as it does into Fleetway's golden years (and some rusty ones, too). Publisher Hibernia has already impressed with previous publications, but have outdone themselves with this 100 plus page perfect bound love letter to our youth.

For your money you certainly get a rounded selection of features. There's one on girls comics and their surprising depth (and popularity), a 'Roy of The Rovers' piece, plenty on the relaunch of Eagle in the 1980s, a stunning piece of unpublished art from Massimo Bellardinelli's 'Mars Force', and interviews galore with major figures from the UK comics scene, all of whom seem really lovely! Gil Page, Scott Goodall, Dez Skinn, David Hunt and the great Barrie Tomlinson are a few of them, and every one has plenty of stories to tell in their own way. One linking theme (apart from comics) os that they all seem to have loved what they did, which is nice to know.

Also inside is a sixteen page example of the sort of strips that came out of Fleetway, like the wonderful 'Hot Shot Hamish', the unusual 'Glory Knight: Time Travel Courier' and the downright awful 'Amazing Three'. As a single company now owns them all, it's exciting to wonder what they may put out as a collection next, following on from the wonderful 'One Eyed Jack', 'Leopard From Lime Street', 'Misty' and 'Marney The Fox' to name a few. Rest assured they will all be reviewed here!

The Fleeyway Files is not a cheap purchase at fifteen quid including postage, but if, like me, you have an interest in British comics of the latter half of the last century you will absolutely adore it. Lovingly put together and resaeched by people with a genuine affcetion for the maerial, The Fleetway Files is a must for anyone who has ever dreaded the words 'Great new for all readers inside'...