Wednesday, 8 January 2020

BILLY'S BOOTS Volume One




Released: 6th February 2020

Originally the title of a daft Tiger strip in the early 1960s, Billy's Boots was repurposed in Scorcher in 1970, which is where this volume joins him, right at the start of his very lengthy adventures. Fred Baker was to become a veteran at this sort of strip, going on to write the likes of Tommy's Troubles and Hot Shot Hamish, amogst others, but there's something iconic about Billy's Boots that allows it to overshadow his other work.


the Billy of the title is young Billy Dane, a lad who loves football but is pretty rubbish at it. By the end of the first two page chapter, however, he's found a rather old pair of boots in the attic (he lives with his Nan) and discovered they somehow allow him to kick like a pro. This, essentially, is the plot, and we follow Billy as he strats playing for hsi school team and more, with the boots not only making him pass, shoot and dribble better, but also literally making him run to the right area of the pitch. Basically, Billy Dane is a big fat cheat but unsurprisingly it's not presented that way!



As with any continuing strip there is a need for drama, so Billy's life is never smooth. He gets bullied, loses the boots, loses them again, has them fall apart, moves to up North where people don't like soft southern shites etc etc. It's just one thing after another, though as a reader you never really fear for him. What you do is carry on reading to see just how he gets out of whatever scrape fate has chucked him in. Billy's a decent, honest boy, so you always root for him whatever happens. Watching over him is the boots' former owner, the legendary 'Dead Shot' Keen, and when he's on the pitch Billy finds the boots make him play exactly as 'Dead Shot' would have done. Yes, this is now a horror story about a big fat cheat who has haunted football boots! Strewth!



In this 112 page volume we're presented with art by Colin Page, Mike Western and Tom Kerr, all of whom do a great job, and it's nice that the whole thing is in colour, as Billy was lucky enough to get the star treatment back in the day. It's entertaining throughout and a fine example of a fun sports strip that won't give anyone nightmares unless they REALLY think hard about what's going on in it. Personally, I love it, and hope we get the aforementioned Tommy's Troubles and Hot Shot Hamish (as well as Mighty Mouse, please) in the near future. Rebellion may be dipping into their treasure trove carefully, but once again they've showed great skill in selecting this lad for the first XI.


Treasury Of British Comics shop














Thursday, 2 January 2020

SECTOR 13 ISSUE 6



Never mind all the fuss over Brexit, one thing that's stablein Ireland is the Belfast based 2000AD fanzine Sector 13. doing their best  to take the worlds created in the comic in new directions and succeeding nuicely.



Printed in A4 size on nice, thick stock, Sector 13 always impresses before you even open it up. The Sector 13 fan group has a good few cosplayers amongst it's numbers, and a couple are used to nice effect on the photo cover, with Simon Crockett and Graham Alexander doing a good job as Titan inmates. Zarjaz!





The mag starts off with a continuation of Judge Knight's long walk from the previous issue. We were left with a revelation about organ leggers and other skullduggery, and the first strip carries on where that left off, although with a handy one page recap. The story actually continues directly into teh second strip, titles 'Home', though now it shifts to photo-story mode, and features some very impressive visuals. It's gripping stuff, and certainly left me wanting more. Scott Twells' minimalist art in the first part is quite effective (especially when there's a big explosion), and the photo strip follow up benefits from great costumes and model work.


'Borrowed Time' is next, a twisty slice of light horror that would have been at home is the pages of Misty back in the day. Morgan Brinksman's uncluttered, clear art compliments Julia Round's script nicely, and all in all the story works very well.



We're introduced to a couple of new Strontium Dogs next, as Billy Camo and Hurt Box hunt a mutant terrorist. This is an interesting one, mainly because writer WD McQuaid has managed to create an original planet and race of aliens, coupled with the very interesting Hurt Box. Between it all there's a strong story here with a pleasing conclusion, although I have to say I found Patrick Brown's art a bit too scratchy for my tsates although it does get the job done.



'Coltard The Conquerer' follows, and it's a funny one off about the daily doings of a galactic dictator. It's not easy being a dictator, especially with the likes of Blade Braxtin always trying to spoil things with his heroics and square jaw. It's aperfect few pages of daft after some serious stories, and Glenn Matchett's sperkling script is lifted even higher by Cat Byrne's wonderful, colourful cartoony visuals. A perfect example of self contained silliness, this is my favourite thing this issue, and I like the fact evil space dictators wear bunny slippers.



A bit of a coup next, as 'Horse Sense' is a fantasy one off written and drawn by 2000AD alumni Will Simpson. It tells of an unnamed hero and his horse Phoebes, as he bascially goes into an old temple and fights a bunch of monsters. Narrative-wise there's not much going on, as the whole point seems to be that if we had as much sense as horses we wouldn't go off fighting monsters. That aside, though, it really does look glorious, with Simpson's black and white action scenes jumping from the page. A light tale, masterfully executed.



The final entry is another self contained future shock, 'Lethal Weapons', written by Ed Whiting (his first for Sector13). It concerns an arms dealer who has to think of a new way to do business in a world that's attained peace. It's pretty good, though a had me scratching my head a few times, and Mike Slattery's art is a good fit. Logically, it doesn't hold up, but the pay off is original and I still enjoyed it.

So there you have it, as Sector 13 swerves away from 2000AD for half the mag and is none the worse for it. What you have is the best of both worlds, all wrapped up in high production values. As ever, this comes reccommended, and if you haven't tried any have a go at getting back issues if they're available.








BUY IT HERE!




Thursday, 7 November 2019

ZARJAZ ISSUE 35



Borag Thungg fellow 2000AD fans, it's that time again, as a new issue of Zarjaz is lovingly crafted and stuffed so full of thrills it glows in the dark. Featuring a superb cover by 2000AD John Davis Hunt featuring everyone's favourite softly spoken sniper it looks great, but what's inside...

The first strip sees the cover star getting a short and sweet four pager, as Joe Pineapples gets to play at 'D1VORC3'. Zarjaz stalwart Richmond clements delivers a tight script with a nice little twist on the final page, whilst Alex Paterson's visuals are excellent.


Next up, as ever, it's ol' stony face himself, in Dave Hailwood's homage to cheap monster movies, as Judge Dredd tackles, of all things, a giant slug in the VERY appropriately titled 'Judge Dredd Vs The Slug'. Featuring some really nice visuals from Brett Burbridge, the light hearted story is a decent slice of Dredd that's fun and features a couple of nice homages to classic trashy movies. Although the final panel, for me, doesn't work at all, I really enjoyed this one.

 

Unusually for Zarjaz there's a two parter this issue that features Mr Blue Skin, the ever popular Rogue Trooper. Daniel Whiston has crafted a time traveling tale that sees Rogue going back to the WW1 trenches to, um kill some mutants, or not, or something else. I've read this a few times now and I still don't understand the plot, genuinely. The basic idea is a fun one, and Michael Walters excels on art duties, but the end result doesn't satisfy like it should.


It's the return of a very old character as we get to the middle of the mag, as The Visible Man features in Matt Sharp's 'Comic Rock' revival, suggested by the classic and much covered 'Blue Moon'. Short (two pages), sharp and amusing, it's a nice break that's handled very well by artist Michael Walters.


Next up we have 'Feat Of Clay'. In fact, this issue features the third and fourth part of John Farrelly's Harlem Heroes prequel, which I was looking forward to after gushing over the first two last issue. The story continues as young John Clay starts his Aeroball career and events get even more dramatic. Once again it's the issue's highlight, compelling and well told with decent art that excels during action sequences. the only downside, once again, is the wait until we get the final parts.


The last strip this issue sees another old school character, but perhaps one people never expected to see again, as the greedy space monster Bonjo (he's from beyond the stars, don't ya know) returns to cause havoc. Although more brainless than ever (we last saw his brain being stepped on by M.A.C.H Aardvark), Bonjo is stopped in his rampage by none other than Captain Klep and Dash Decent, who's shrink rays set off a very unusual, very topical and very funny course of events. Matt Sharp's script is spot on, making me giggle a good few times, whilst Ed Doyle provides perfect art that captures the story's cartoony vibe.


All in all, another good issue, long may it contunue

Feat Of Clay 9/10
Bonjo 8/10
Joe Pineapples 7/10
Dredd 7/10
Comic Rock 7/10
Rogue Trooper 6/10













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