Tuesday, 15 October 2019

EDGE OF EXTINCTION, ISSUES 1-3 COMIC REVIEW



Being a comics creator outside of established publishers is not an easy life. There's plenty of great titles out there that have had the heart and soul of their creators poured into them, and if we're honset there's a fair bit of shite as well - just like anything, really. Let's just say that doing your own comic isn't generally a way to fame and fortune, but it's the best way to get your vision out there, and deeply satisfying if you're the one creating it.

Edge Of Extinction is an interesting one. Originally started in 2015, it had a rather large break between issue one and two due to the personal circumstances of writer Baden James Mellonie (which he candidly writes about in issue 2). Indie books traditionally have a slow rate of publication (for good reason), and when the series returned in July 2018 it was with intent, and issue 3 followed a mere 9 months later, with issue 4 promised any day now. Yeah, it's a slow burn, but as I say it's pretty standard. So what's it like?



I'm not normally a big horror fan, although I've certainly enjoyed my fair share. What I mean, I suppose, is I don't tend to track it down, but will happily give it a go if it comes my way. I loved The Walking Dead, and found Crossed to be a marvellously guilty pleasure, so zombies aren't a literary turn off if done well. As you may have guessed, EOE is a zombie book, but as it's by UK creators it's set firmly in the UK, in Bedford of all places. with locations taken from real life. The three issues don't fart about and we soon get to the zombies without yet having a clue why it's all happening. We get the standard group of survivors trying to stay alive and work out what's going on, mainly because that's how stories work. As I read them all in one go I got to enjoy them as a free flowing narrative, and I have to say I'm really enjoying what the lads have done so far. Nothing is rushed, with the story given priority over gratuitous corpse reanimation, and in issue three there's a real gut punch of a scene that is handled really well.



The art is handled by Paul Peart-Smith, who contributed some art to 2000AD in the 90s and has done a fair bit of work since, including curating the history of black comics exhibitiion "Black Power" as well as Horrible Histories and more. His art in issue 1 is, well, a bit scratchy if I'm honest. It does the job and is in no way offputting, but it didn't quite grab me. Fast forward to issue 2 and it all comes together much more, as there seems to be that bit more thought put into it and it works really well, improving even more for issue 3. At this point I can safely say I'm a fan.

The comic itself is very solid, with thick covers and pages that use thick paper that will stand up to a marmite stain or two (sorry guys, I like to eat crumpets whilst reading comics). For a £2.99 cover price it's remarkably well made, and this is only made better by the fact that variant covers are available by the likes of Ryan Brown (top man, top artist, top drinker), Max Millgate (top Rush fan) and more. Basically, everything about EOE shouts "Quality Product" which is always good to see, especially when it's backed up by a story worth reading.


Obviously, if you dislike zombie comics you may not get much out of this. The Walking Dead and 28 Days Later are obvious paralels, but EOE is it's own beast rather than anyone's pale imitation. The absolute best thing I can say about it is that I want to see what happens next. If you don't feel that way about a comic series then it's failed, and EOE issue 3 ends in a way that had me quite pissed off that iuuse 4 wasn't at the bottom of the pile, hissing and biting and daring me to read it. So if you want to read a really good horror comic and support enthusiastic, talented comic creators you should certainly checkout Edge of Extinction, because if you don't the zombies'll get ya!

BUY ALL ISSUES HERE!






Wednesday, 2 October 2019

"THE SHEERGLAM CONSPIRACY" By Steve MacManus BOOK REVIEW




After his successful autobiographical book on his life in comics, concentrating on his years at 2000AD ("Mighty One"), Steve MacManus has decided to take a stroll through the fiction section with the strangely titled "The Sheerglam Conspiracy", although it's clear his roots are still firmly planted in the golden years of British comics. After all, they do say you should write what you know, and Steve knows comics.

The book is set in the 1970s, at the offices of Goodenough Publications, who produce several big selling weekly UK comics such as Whaddagoal!, Frightful and Patsy (for girls, naturally). The readers are intoduced to the variety of staff and comics through new girl and aspiring artist Sinead, as she does a turn on each comic and is introduced to the odd buggers that create it.


Underneath it all we have Gloria SheerGlam, head of the Patsy team and a formidable lady to boot. She has plans to enlist Sinead into her cult that worships Wagner (not John) and Hitler whilst dressing in Liederhosen (hence the odd cover). Seriously, this is pretty bonkers stuff. Meanwhile there's the standard inter office shenanigans as well as a pair of genius Scotsmen locked in a room whilst creating a super secret new comic that will blow away rivals Tartan Comics.

Naturally, much of this is drawn from Steve's own experiences of working withing the offices of a comic publisher during the golden age, although hopefully not the cult part. The style is very similar to that of Pat Mills, whose "Serial Killer" books are set in the same type of place. Whilst Mills' books are more densely plotted, both authors seem to agree that comics in those days were made by a bunch of sex mad perverts with only a slight grip on sanity and reality.



The SherGlam Conspiracy is an entertaining book, made more so if you are a student of British comics history or are of an age to remember buying the sort of comics it describes. It's funny and completely bonkers in equal measure, and if you are happy to let some of the more off the wall plot points go on their merry way I'm sure you'll find it a fun read, as I did. It's not that long a book so doesn't outstay it's welcome, and the ending sets up volume 2 nicely, after which you get some sample scripts from the stories you've just read about, which is a nice touch.

A solid, entertaining first novel, The SheerGlam Conspiracy should be devoured hungrily by anyone who wants a nostalgic romp through the 1970s British comics scene.

Buy From Amazon


Wednesday, 10 July 2019

TECHNOFREAK ISSUE 2 REVIEW



Hot on the heels, appropriately enough, of Techofreak issue one comes issue two, and the continuing adventures of private eye (and technofreak cyborg) John Sherlock, aided and abeted by the real star, robot cat Maurice, who again gets all the best lines as he hogs any exposition required ("Who ya talking to, ya dumb cat?" - "He's narrating. He does that"). Also along for the ride again is Neville the Private detective cum dimbulb thug, and the lovely Loretta.



In this issue the team (mnus Loretta) head to glamorous Dorking to investigate a possible rebooting of the Technofreak programme, and give the reader a little more info on where exactly he comes from, of course. Cue a mad scientist, a creepy castle and plenty of fun that ends up like a cross between Frankenstein and Scooby Doo.


One thing about issue 2 is it's definitely a step up from the first as it get straight into the action, with loads of funny lines to boot. In fact, the humour is one of the best things about it, as if the creators realize it's inherantly daft and decided to have fun with it. Tom Newell's art is really good, and the whole thing reminds me of 90s Marvel UK, with the feeling that Technofreak would have sat comfortably alongside Dragon's Claws and been just as fondly remembered.


Newell, John Charles and Barry Mayhave  delivered a strong continuation of the Technofreak story, and I feel this issue will go down extremely well with comics fans who don't want anything too serious. A quality piece of work that's a genuine pleasure to read, Technofreak is definitely something to freak out about. Now... where's my Maurice sketch...

CLICK HERE TO BUY

Monday, 1 July 2019

DOGBREATH ISSUE 36 REVIEW





Like a terrier snapping at the heels of a badger, Dogbreath issue 36 screams 'buy me as well' at anyone who has sampled the delights of the latest issue of Zarjaz, coming as it does from the same stable. Unsurprisingly dedicated to the galaxy's greatest bounty hunter, the superb exclusive cover from comics legend Colin McNeil tells you straight away that this is a good un.

This issue kicks off with 'Back To Basics', from writer Daniel Whiston and fan favourite artist David Broughton. We find Johnny hanging from the neck on a gold mining colony, with no weapons and seemingly no hope as his air is slowly cut off. Then he dies – the end! Nah... of course not, but to find out what happens you'll have to read it. It's a very good tale indeed, with a Western-y vibe that has always suited the character and first rate art from Broughton (including the least subtle Carlos tribute EVER). A great start.



Next up is that crazy Scottish mutant Middenface McNulty in 'McNulty's Law'. Kev Hopgood tells a tale of a mystery man (complete with a bag on his head) being transported through the rad wastes. Naturally, it all goes shite shaped, but you know that at some point someone is going to be told 'Take your lumps like a man', and that's fine by me. It's all a bit political (possibly an accurate picture of post No Deal Britain), with some nice art from Richard Waugh that helps carry the story. At fourteen pages it has a strong whiff of the overlong about it but it's well presnted and does a nice job of displaying the UK in the time of the Stronty Dogs. One thing bugged me a bit, and that's that McNulty does not seem remotely Scottish in anything he says – Hopgood needs to be reprogrammed with McNulty speech patterns before he does the character again, ye scunner!

Away from our regular characters next, with David Fenn delivering a Strontium Dogs tale, aided and abeted by artist Adam Caudill. It concerns the Weyland mutant prison (although it says 'HMP WAYLAND' on a big ass sign – woops!) and the sinister goings on within. Tobe brutally honest it's the opposite of the previous story, with ten pages of story squeezed into five. Caudhill does his best with a solid art style, but in the end it's one of those stories that left me scratching my head at the end, wondering who the characters had been and why I should care that much.



Seasoned scripter Matt Sharp is up next, paired with Gail Nedry for a Durham Red tale set in Egypt, so scope for plenty of crypt action. Although Red's appearance is limited to the end, it's a smart story that works very well. Nedry's art (showcased well in Rogue Trooper for Zarjaz) ,is scratchy but endearing, with a fleeting similarity to Mike McMahon in the early days. Overall this is a really solid entry that keeps things simple but stays smart regardless.



More Strontium Dogs now, as Mark Keenan and Scott Twells bring back the potato headed Spud Murphy, and yes, there is a chip pun included. In 'One Patoot, Two Patoot', we get a slightly muddled story of murder on a patoot farm. What's a patoot? Some sort of alien vegetable, and that's all you get from me. It's another strip that may have benefitted from an additional page to flech out a couple of things, but has a decent core story and nice art from Twells.



Matt Sharp returns for the last story, another Strontium Dogs tale 'What Goes Around', this time assisted by artist Matt Sandbrook. Their story of a couple of executions is a simple concept but one that's remarkably effective. The art is really good, although the main character could have been more distinctive, and there's very little not to enjoy here despite the pitch black story idea (or maybe because of it).



As ever, Dogbreath is certainly worth picking up if a little less structured than Zarjaz. The art throughout is worthy of attention and there's decent writing that may have flourished better in a couple of cases with an an extra page to play with (that could have been taken from' 'Weyland' tbh). Personally, I wanted another cool Johnny Alpha story, but that doesn't detract from the enjoyment the stories included provide. 

It can be bought from the Futurequake website HERE

Wednesday, 26 June 2019

ZARJAZ ISSUE 34



Remember that little tingle excitement that you used to get when 2000AD would drop through the letterbox? Me, I don't get that tingle any more, although I still thoroughly enjoy the prog each week. The thing is, the tingle has returned (new Star Wars title? Return of The Tingle? Naaah...), and it's connected to the one and only ZARJAZ, the long running 2000AD fanzine. Each issue is guaranteed to feature original takes on classic characters and a few surprises on top, starting this issue with a cracking cover by 2000AD artist Neil Roberts as seen above.

The cover leads the reader into the opening story, a rare fanzine outing for everone's favourite grumpy Robo Hunter, Sam Slade. 'Guy, Robot' sees Sam, Hoagy and Stogie up against new robo hunting rival, a robot called Guy (hence the painful title pun). Alan Holloway's script captures the personalities of the main characters very well, as well as the humour of the original strip, whilst Denis Vermesse's art pushes Sam and co even more towards noire with great flair and detail. A solid story with a classic payoff, this should keep fans very happy.


Dredd crops up in two stories, namely 'Double or Nothing' and 'Iron Chief''. In the former, Mega City gamblers find something new to wager on - Judges, whilst the latter sees some criminal get more than they bargained for when they steal from Justice Department. Both stories are nice, neat one shots, with 'Double Or Nothing' being the more humerous. The art, from Jack Davies and Tom Bonin respectively, is of a good standard, suiting Mike Lynch and Santiago Mayaud's scripts down to the ground. Zarjaz always gives good Dredd, and these are no exception.


Perhaps the standout story in this issue is 'Harlem Heroes: Feat Of Clay', written and drawn by John Farrelly. Iit's a six part story to be serialized in Zarjaz, with the first two parts in this issue. The story is a prequel, concerning young John Clay, later to be known as Giant,  his introduction to Aeroball and his rough family life. As a Harlem Heroes (original series) fan I was looking forward to this and it doesn't disappoint in any way. As any good serial should, each part left me wanting to read the next one, and this is an instance where the long gap bewteen Zarjaz isssues is gonna grate. Great script, great art and a great contribution, this is going to be popular.


In a sideways move but a welcome one, there's also a text story in this issue, featuring Judge Anderson. I'm not generally a fan of text stories featuring comic strip characters but a good tale is a good tale, and Matt Sharp provides a rather decent, dark story here. Aided by some nice illustrations from Gail Nedry, 'Tom's Diner' breaks up the issue very well, adding a slab of minutes onto the reading time if savoured properly.



The surprise for issue 34 comes courtesy of Santiago Reyaud (who also writes a Dredd) and Barry Renshaw as they resurrect Night Zero, an android cab driver who does, um, stuff. Look, it was a long time ago and I barely remember it. Luckily, it's fully accessible to new readers (or forgetful ones), as we see the hero, Tanner, being drawn into  a crazy guy's murderous intentions because he's that sort of cabbie. The smart story with a little twist impresses, whilst the art is a little blocky but quite suits the story and clearly shows the action.

Another blast from the past is Bix Barton, still wibbling on about the rum and uncanny with the help of his cane, Michael. Mark Howard again brings us a tale of fourth wall breaking that will have readers scratching their heads and laughing out loud, also managing to bring back a character from 2000AD history that will delight ancient squaxx like me. Simon B Hayes' art is pretty decent all round and this strip is a nice sidestep overall.


Finally we get a two page Strontium Dog story from artist/writer Brian Corcoran, and it's a perfectly condensed tale that doesn't waste too much time bringing the reader to the end gag. The art really stands out as well, full of detail yet never overcrowding the panels. A perfect way to end the issue.

As usual, Zarjaz manages to throw everything it can at the reader without missing a beat. The return of old favourites plus those nearly forgotten makes it a heady mix of thrills that Tharg himself would be proud of. Long may it continue.

ZARJAZ Issue 34 can be bought from July 1st at: https://www.futurequake.co.uk/zarjaz/

Friday, 21 June 2019

ROY OF THE ROVERS: THE 50s - COLLECTED EDITION REVIEW



Goold old Roy! There's a phrase that you'll know very well if, like me, you followed the golden haired hotshot's adventures over the years. Publisher Rebellion have scored a credible brace by not only giving us new adventures (see my reviews elsewhere) but also chucking out some collections of Roy's earlier adventures, starting with the very genesis of the character in the 1950s.

Roy Of The Rovers was given the esteemed front (and back) cover spot in Tiger weekly ('The Sport & Adventure Picture Story Weekly'), a comic aimed at boys who wanted to read thrilling tales of heroism and footie. Debuting in September 1954, Roy was popular with readers, eventually getting his own comic, but that's for another day. Although created by Frank Pepper, he only wrote a handful of strips at the beginning, and the remainder of the 140 pages are supplied by UK comic legend Joe Colquhoun, for some reason supplying art and script as Stewart Colwyn. It has to be said that he does a fine job of making the reader want to find out what happens next after the two page weekly instalment, and he sets up many of the tropes that would roccur in the strip for the next few decades. Although the art is very of it's time, not like Joe's beautiful 70s work, it's decent enough with plenty of nice detail throughout as he gets into it.


Story wise, we follow Roy as he joins the legendary Melchester Rovers as a lad, going from the reserves into the first team through sheer talent and determination. We meet team mate Blackie Gray, who is a constant throughout the strip's history, and a few others readers from the 70s and 80s will recognise. Each instalment is two pages long, consisting of a colour front page and black & white rear page, never failing to whet the appetite for the next one. Naturally, much of it involves Roy battling nasty types trying to hinder his career and shining on the pitch, often scoring the traditional last-kick-of-the-game goal. My only rea gripe is a story is set up that culminates in a trip to South America with the team, but there's then three months of strips that are cut out, with a new thread starting when they return. I can only assume there was missing material, but it's vexing! I assume Roy gets kidnapped whilst abroad, as this happened quite regularly.


This is the first time I've had the chance to experience Roy's early days in print, and I thoroughly enjoyed it throughout. There's nothing big or clever about this type of strip, but if well done it's just a joy to read, with thrills and spills and plots that vary the sublime to the ridiculous. If, like me, you enjoyed Roy's later years in his own comic, then I can guarantee you'll enjoy this, and whilst you're at it buy Williams and Willsher's new Roy stuff for the grandkids.

 ROY OF THE ROVERS: BEST OF THE 50's IS RELEASED JULY 25TH BY REBELLION, WITH THE BEST OF THE 60's FOLLOWING 22ND AUGUST





Tuesday, 14 May 2019

SECTOR 13 ISSUE 5 (A 2000AD Fanzine)



The lastest issue of Belfast based fanzine Sector 13 certainly grabs the eye, with a superb Rogue Trooper (well, Venus Bluegenes anyway) cover made from live cosplay and digital tinkering. It's a cover that makes you want to see what's inside and so does it's job perfectly. Of course, regular readers will be wanting to take a look anyway, as Sector 13 is a high quality fanzine that has been getting better with each issue. It's A4 size with 42 thick, glossy pages and sumptuous colour, not your usual fanzine by a long shot.

Issue Five kicks off, as usual, with a Dreddworld photo story featuring the Sector 13 cosplayers, a motley crew of perps and ne'er do wells who meet up to get drunk and discuss knee pads. What they also do is star in very impressive photo strips that look great considering this is done on a budget. 'When I Lost Control' features the unexpected result of an EMP blast let off at Ed Norton Block by a known seditionist. It's a tight, interesting story with plenty of nice small touches, featuring character development for one of the strip's regular characters, Judge Knight.

'The Lament Of Gravlax' is next, and despite the title it's a rather silly four page humour story written and drawn by the very talented Cat Byrne. Basically, Aliens want to abduct some humans but because of all the PC nonsense on their planet they have to be subtle and kind about it, no 'zap bam boom' or death rays allowed! It's a wonderful antidote to the seriousness of the photo strip, and Byrne has a knack for humour that combines well with the colourful, cartoony vusials that jump off the page. Excellent work!

The third strip introduces the reader to a new title character, the excorcist Judge Whatley, who is not the barrel of laughs you might think. A demonic wossname is threatening the city and only Whatley and his apprentice West can stop it. A standard type of set up from writer Peter Duncan, but the devil is in the details, and this is an extremely good story that has a dark twist that left me hungering for the next issue. The black and white art, from Joseph V Parangue, is very impressive, reminding me quite a bit of 2000AD legend Boo Cook, and I can't wait to see more of his stuff.

The centre pages (and the next two!) are given over to a second Gronks story, following last issue's 'Legend Of Snarki'. 'The Gronk With No Name' is unconnected apart from the titular character's race, and we meet a Gronk who just isn't like the other Gronks, starting with the fact he's hanging out in a spaceport bar. Alan Holloway's script once again blends pathos with action and humour, while artist Ed Doyle (a known Gronkophile) delivers bright, colourful images that suit the story down to the ground. Your poor heartses will never be the same!

A short interlude, called 'Interlude' (ya see what they did?) is next, following on from the photo story as Judge McBride investigates a recent case converning Judge Knight. Donna Anita Black's Simon Harrison-esque visuals work very well with Peter Duncan's script, effectively filling out Knight's story a bit more, making you realize why he has become disillusioned with Justice Department.

We return to the darkness next, with another Excorcist Judge story, this time featuring Judge Merrin, sent to apply Judge boot to a demon's backside in 'The Terror Of Titus Tower'. Firstly, the strip looks great, with lovely clear black and white art from Morgan Brinksman. Secondly, it's another case of what is a standard set up being built on with clever twists and a satisfying pay off, so thumbs up for writer Mark Keenan as well. A great one off strip that made me think a bit more of what exactly is inside a cloned Judge.

Things get very silly for the next two pages, as Davy Francis' 'Revengers: Deadend' throws a few laughs around with a throwback to the likes of MAD magazine as some robot superheroes go nuts at a screening for the new Revengers movie. It's very daft but funny with it, but looks quite messy, like he sent the Editor a few pages out of an A4 notepad, with the result being we actually miss the final pay off line that is cut off by the page size. I'd have liked to see it redone on white pages, although it's still a good laugh with plenty of nice touches.

Finally, we return to the story of Judge Knight, and I can't go too deep into this without spoiling the ongoing plot. It does a decent job of setting up the next chapter in his story which I assume will continue next issue, and Sector 13 has to be appluded for this approach which has resulted in a magazine you have to take your time with to follow the story properly. Peter Duncan scipts again, and whilst I find Scott Twells' art a bit rough, it's rough in a McMahon sort of way, and fans of the old master should certainly appreciate it. Composition wise I've no conplaints, though, as it's all well handled and well told.

So that's Sector 13 issue 5. It's a ludicrously solid read, with thrills, humour and theological discussion. I genuinely think that several strips would be very at home if you found them in 2000AD itself, and as ever the photo strip is very well done. The fact that the story from it is continued throughout the mag is testament to the ambition of the people involved. Available through the post or at various conventions (such as Lawless May 18th in Bristol), it's well worth picking up.



Thursday, 11 April 2019

COR! & BUSTER HUMOUR SPECIAL


As someone who has entered their second half century, I'm well placed to remember British humour comics, having grown up with the likes of Monster Fun, Whoopee!, Whizzer  & Chips, Beezer, Krazy and many, many more. It seemed that every other month there'd be a new title unleashed as another was sucked into another comic to make room. The all conquering behemoth was Buster, which ran from1960 to 2000, swallowing up a multitude of other titles along the way. Headed up by Buster himself (originally billed as Andy Capp's son) it was a constant delight. One of the comics that ended up as part of Buster was Cor!, a similar title that launched in 1970 and ran for four years, and Rebellion have dug out characters from both (and more) to give today's kids a taste of some classic characters.

It all starts off extremely well with Sweeny Toddler getting a page to himself as "Sweeny's Soap Box", with a funny few lines to get you in the mood for his main strip on the following three pages. Writer and artist Tom Paterson dserves tons of credit for starting off this revival with as much talent as was ever seen in the original comics. It no doubt helps that he is an old hand, having drawn Sweeny before, as well as Grimly Feendish, Buster and more. The strip is genuinely funny for both kids and adults, with tons of visual gags squeezed in around the story of Sweeny going to nursery for the first time. I'd happpiy read a whole volume of this (there's one coming soon, readers!), and to say it's worth the entry fee alone isn't an exaggeration. Me like!



Monster Fun was one of my favourite comics, and when it merged with Buster I happily went with it. One of the strips was Kid Kong, unsurprisingly about an oversized gorilla who was definitely NOT King Kong's son, as that would get Universal's lawyers on the phone (but he was, really). Obsessed with bananas, he returns courtesy of scribe Alec Worley and artist Tiernon Trevasllion. The wonderfully banana-centric plot concerms Kid and Gran (who he lives with) going to Banana Con, the convention for banana lovers. Of course, Kid scarfs down too many "Dragon fire bananas stuffed with curried baked beans" and hilarity, as they say, ensues. It's a silly little tale, good fun and with a decent payoff line. Trevallion's art does a decent job and the script is light and fun.

Another old favourite is Faceache, who started off life in Jet from 1970, a creation of comics legend Ken Reid. He is a bit of a twatty little boy who can change his face into almost anything, often accompanied by the classic "Scrunge" sound effect (a bunch of the single page originals have been collected in a rather spiffy book that is highly reccommended). This time round he's had a bit of a makeover as Steve Mannion has given him a non-scrunged face that looks as grotesque as some of his monster faces. He's been teamed up with another Ken Reid creation (from Monster Fun), Martha's Monster Make Up, featuring a girl called Martha who has make up that turns anything it touches into a monster (well, duh!). Writer Ned Hartley delivers a neat little two pager that Mannion's art compliments nicely, and it should certainly get a chuckle or two out of the readers.



Yet another Monster Fun title (Hmmm... maybe this should have been the Buster and Monster Fun Humour Special) is Gums, who is a great white shark that needs false teeth. His nemesis Bluey, a surfer dude, keeps stealing them so as to render the shark harmless. That was the plot, every week, and so help me it was always fun so what the heck. Lizzie Boyle and Abigail Bulmer tackle this one, with Bulmer providing clear art that would be quite at home in The Beano. The script is pretty run of the mill but does a good job of retaining the original's humour with a totally up to date plot.

The first duffer comes in the form of a two pager featuring X-Ray Specs, in which a kid called Ray has glasses that allow him to see through stuff. It was always a bit of a naff strip when it was in (where else) Monster Fun, and things haven't improved much as Ray goes afer his Dad's wedding ring that falls down the plughole (really?). Sammy Boras' art is decent enough, with large, clear images, but Grainne McEntee's script is not big or clever or even funny.

I have to confess that I don't remember the next strip, a Buster original (I think) called Deadly Hedly, about a vampire detective. I was encouraged by the art fron Neil Googe, who provides the brilliant visuals for 2000AD caper Survival Geeks, and so approached it with good humour. With references to the fact the strip has been mothballed for a fair number of years and an opening exchange worthy of Morecombe and Wise, it's clear Paul Goodenough had his tongue in cheek when writing this, realising it would be read by old buggers as well as kids. It doesn't really go anywhere in it's two pages but is simple fun and full of (after)life.

There's 2 pages of child friendly puzzles next, after which comes a fruity foursome consisting or Ivor Lott and Tony Broke along with their female counterparts Milly O'naire and Penny Less. As you can probably guess, oen of each pair is poor, with the other rich (and a total twat). Ivor and Tony are the first characters here to orginate in Cor!, whilst the other two came from Jackpot, launched later in 1979 but not averse to a bit of recycling. 2000AD editor Matt Smith provides the story, whilst Tanya Roberts does a decent job, even if the lines are a little thick and the colours (in my download preview, anyway) too muted. It's... well, it's an okay strip but it never takes off or does anything too fun, and the end is just daft rather than fun daft,

Things get interesting now, with a three page look at some of the classic titles of yesteryear that is followed by a strip called "Who's In Charge" that brings together a multitude of characters that have just been discussed (pay attention, children!) as they argue about who should edit a new comic. It's only three pages but John Freeman's fun script is enlivened by Lew Stringer'senergy filled artwork. It points to a new comic being released at some point in the future, and I hope it's not just for the strip's plot, as it would be great to see a 'proper' comic joining The Beano and The Phoenix that concentrates on characters not free gifts.



Out of the pages of Krazy (and later Whizzer & Chips) comes Hit Kid, in which a trenchcoated kid gets revenge for children who have been wronged by bullies, parents, miserable adults etc. In a nice twist, Hit Kid has quit, with bullies running rampant, but his son appears to take over the mantle and deliver justice wherever needed. A snappy script from Robin Etherington keeps the fun coming and really works well with David Follett's art. Although only two pages, it introduces the character perfectly, gives him something to do and even gives a little giggle at the end. Ivor Lott and pals should have been this good.

One of the more unusual Buster merges was when it swallowed Oink! comic in 1988. Oink! was a pig based, rude humoured comic that did a good job of being funny to kids and adults alike, eventually finding itself condemned for being a bit too adult for it's own good. Although not an Oink! strip, "Swines Of Anarchy" is Oink! in everything but name. Very respected comic artist Pye Parr does an excellent job on The Feek's story of a pig biker gang at war with a monkey biker gang. It's lots of fun with a couple of bits that kids will snort at as intended. Definitely brings home the bacon, this one.

A veteran of several different titles (and yes, including Monster Fun), Frankie Stein is a bumbling monster forever getting on the tits of hs 'Dad', the scientist who created him. As usual, the poor Professor is being eaten out of castle and home by greedy Frankie and so invents a growth ray, like you would, to make all their vegetables bigger. Naturally, everything goes all Pete Tong, with Cavan Scott's script keeping things barrelling along in a silly way that's still bettter than Von Hoffman's Invasion (an old boys comic strip with stuff growing big). Speaking of Hoffman, Mike Hoffman's art works very well here, although the pastel colours do seem a bit soft.

Another lesser known character is Disappering Trix, a girl who turns invisible when she blinks. In the two page strip by Karl Stock and Andy Clift she helps the town sort out an invisible monster, though why only she can do it is very unclear. There's a couple of decent gags about the readers imagining the action (because it's an invisible monster), but overall Trix should have stayed disappeared.

There's a nice two pages of horoscopes next, featuring lovely Ken Reid creations with a silly rhyme each,  strangely called star signs when Horror-Scopes was begging to be used. After this it all goes a bit odd, as Fuss Pot meets Captain Crucial in the weidest match up of the comic. Fuss Pot is, well, a very fussy girl who originated in the 1970s, whereas Captain Cricial is a cool superhero from mid 90s Buster. It's a pretty mental two pager that certainly crams alot in and is lots of fun to boot. Full marks to Lee Langford and Edward Whatley for managing to make this work.

Hire A Horror comes next, a strip that never survived the merger between Cor! and Buster. In it, people can hire a horror (these literal titles, eh readers?), at which point things predictably do not go as planned. In the new strip, penned by The Feek (nope, no idea), a man wants to stop the heavy metal band next door keeping him awake. A simple set up that gives plenty of room for big, colourful fun (provided by artist Mick Cassidy)

After a new Creepy Creation from Brett Parson, we come to the final strip. This chap is the oldest of the bunch (apart from Buster himself), first appearing in an issue of Wham! in 1964, as the nemesis of Eagle Eye, Junior Spy. Yes, it's the lovable bad guy (and obvious basis for Groo in Despicable Me) Grimly Feendish. Another slice of genius by Leo Baxendale, Grimly is brought to delicious life by Sweeny Toddler artist Tom Paterson, and he again does a masterful job on the single page story. Ned Hartley matches him with a neat script, and to be honest it's the perfect way to finish this trip down memory lane.

If you've got kids, then buy them this as it's full of funny, silly, inventive strips featuring characters who still deserve to be loved today. If you're just an old fart who used to buy these comics in your misspent youth then buy it anyway, as there's enough genuinely funny stuff to go along with the nostalgia.  Everyone wins here, and if you don't like it just hire a horror to go and bust up Rebellion HQ. Sorted.



Tuesday, 26 March 2019

"FRAN OF THE FLOODS" GRAPHIC NOVEL REVIEW



It's time to delve into the Treasury Of British Comics again, as publishers Rebellion trawl British girls' comics of the 1970s to unearth hidden gems that only our big sisters will remember. Appearing in the disarmingly named Jinty throughout the most of 1976, Fran Of the Floods manages to warn people about the dangers of global warming before it was even a thing. Thank writer Alan Davidson ('Little Miss Nothing', 'The Valley Of Shining Mist') for that.


The floods in question aren't just a case of people canoeing down the high street for a few days. Fran lives in Hazelford, not taking much notice of the dire warnings of excess rain coming from further down south. Instead of preparing for a national emergency life goes on as normal, with a school concert and squabbles with her sister, until the rains come and refuse to go away. Even though they are on relatively high ground, Hazelford is soon submerged, and Fran is separated from her family, trying to survive as best she can.

 


She sets out on a quest to get to Scotland, where she hopes to find both her family and higher ground, and it's this quest that provides the bulk of the story as she runs into groups of survivors both good and bad and is reunited with a school friend, Jill, bringing conversation and shared peril into the narrative. Phil Gascoine brings the scripts to life very well, with a style that is pretty standard for the time but nonetheless clear and highly readable.



'Fran Of The Floods' has it's flaws, like the world's stupidest doctor, but it's a surprisingly robust series with a sound basis for the frak weather that has stood the test of time. It's neither a girls or boys strip in the end, just a story that happens to have a girl as the main protagonist. A fascinating piece of comics history that has certainly earned it's right to be reproduced today.

BUY DIRECT FROM REBELLION






PAUL ZENON - "LINKING RINGS" DVD



Paul Zenon is a magician. No, scratch that, because it's not that simple. True, he may have started as a magician, all those years ago in Blackpool, but he's won awards for comedy as well as magic, is a prominent skeptic and bullshit detector, an actor, and also appears on Countdown to liven up Dictionary Corner. So, yeah, Paul Zenon is a magician, but like in all the best tricks things are not always just what they seem.

"Linking Rings" is not a magic show, rather it's a show about magic. It's ostensibly a tale of two people. The first is Jim Collins, Harry Houdini's right hand man and the one responsible for many of the sneaky tricks that allowed the great man to perform what would have seemed like miracles. The other is Zenon himlself, a boy who wandered into a Blackpool magic shop in the early 1970s and, in a way, never left. There's the odd bit of unshowy magic here, (notably in the way Zenon always seems to find a ready supply of alcohol), and of course the titular linking rings make an appearance, but it's really just a man on a stage telling a compelling story of his life and that of a man who's talent was not to be noticed as much as possible.

I'll be honest, I didn't expect this to be so moving, as Zenon lays his history bare with style and no small amount of humour. Collins' story is fascinating, and new to me, but The Adventures Of A Young Magician In Blackpool manages to be the better tale, probably because it's so personal and not gained from books and photographs. Zenon takes everything slowly and clearly, surrounded by appropriate props from the eras he talks about. Lighting and effects are used sparingly and very effectively to compliment the narrative, and I get the feeling this must have been a cracking show to see in the flesh, like experiencing a sixty minute time warp before returning to the unmagical world outside.

"Linking Rings" is a unique and very entertaining DVD, a compelling snapshot into Paul Zenon's early life and that of a man who has fascinated him for many years. Magic? Not really. Magical? Absolutely!

Pucrchase HERE



Saturday, 2 March 2019

ZARJAZ - ISSUE 33 REVIEW



ZARZAJ - ISSUE 33




Borag Thungg, readers. Once again it's time to take a look at the longest running and best 2000AD based fanzine, the mighty one itself - Zarjaz. Made from blood, sweat, tears and a crazed devotion to the source material, Zarjaz has rarely failed to impress and it's no surprise that it has been a springboard for future talent through the years.



As ever, the excellent cover is provided by a 2000AD regular, in this case Patrick Goddard (Savage), with colours by Steven Denton. It features a suitably scabby Angel Gang, and it's these low down varmints that kick off the issue inside with a tale that sees Pa Angel find gold on their farmland. Naturally, other people want the oil, but it isn't smart to try and get the Angel gang to give up anything, let alone a load of 'black gold'. It's a solid tale from Alec Robertson, with slightly cartoony art from David Parsons. Overall it's a decent read and it starts off the issue well.



A very quick trip to Maga City One comes next, with the daft single page story "Leading the Blind" by Alan Holloway. Taking us back to the days where the purpose of a Dredd strip was a bad pun in the final panel, this does it's job well, aided and abetted by some really nice art from Dan Goodfellow.



George Pickett is next, giving us the Future Shock "Gods Of The Hunt". It's a very smart story about hunting species to extinction, revenge and deception that has a twist that genuinely works. Sam Weller provides decent art that has some nice touches, and this is one of those stories that would not be at all out of place in 2000AD itself.



We return to Mega City One next for a proper Dredd strip featuring a rare foray into strip art by popular artist Lyndon Webb. He manages to breathe life into Rich Clements script for "Attack On Labour Camp 45" concerning Dredd's visit to a Cursed Earth labour camp that's gone dark. The story itself doesn't really give too much in the way of narrative but has some nice lines (including a great final panel) and plenty of action. Oh, and there's dinosaurs, so yay for that!


Getting something new out of Pat Mill's Nemesis The Warlock is Santiago Mayaud, who delivers a first class script that sees a Termight cosplay competition end in disaster. Amusing and exciting, with decent art from Adrian Bamforth, it's a definite high point here, featuring the debut of the strip's title character: "Trashquemada".


Next is "Death Takes A Holiday", coming under the "Tales Of Necropolis" banner. Judge Death has taken some time off in the radlands, and is interrupted by a preacher. Robomonkey47 handles script and art duties admirably, although the pay off isn't totally clear, to me anyway. It certainly feels like he's setting up three characters that come in late as a future strip, but their jumping to a conclusion with no evidence seems off.


A rare character in the magazine is Slaine, and it's nice to see him so well envisioned by artist Christian Navarro in the light tale "As You Wish". The art is dark and a little gritty, like the Slaine of old, which is appropriate as the story takes place when he was an outcast, wandering with the dwarf, Ukko. It's Ukko who is the focus of the fun story, as Slaine starts treating him nicely, much to his surprise. It's a snappy script from Alan Holloway, complimented well by the art. Nothing deep here, but a treat for fans of the character.


The final strip is another Dredd one, showing the love people have for the character along with the endless possibilities he has for scripters. "Rogue" sees Ed Whiting deliver a tight script that gives us something new and interesting, always a challenge in such a long running strip. Betrayal, undercover ops and body hopping come into play, and it's a strong read from start to finish. Artist David Broughton, as always, really helps with his energetic artwork using grey hues to good effect in a non colour strip.

So that's isssue 33, and as always if you're a fan of 2000AD you really should give it a go! While you're at it you can get the latest Futurequake as well.

Buy It HERE







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)