Wednesday, 26 June 2019
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
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