Monday, December 24, 2012

CHRISTMAS COMICS: Mars Attacks Christmas

Click for larger images...
Those familiar with Mars Attacks may have an idea where this story is going. This is by Dean Haspiel – a really good cartoonist who has done loads of great work, including Billy Dogma who is a Jack Kirby inspired romantic hero, and The Quitter with Harvey Pekar.
This story is from Mars Attacks the Holidays, with stories set during Halloween, Veterans Day and Thanksgiving as well as Christmas. The other stories by Fred Hembeck, Bill Morrison/Tone Rodriguez, and Ian Boothby/Alan Robinson, are worth reading too. This one is brand new, so should still be on sale “at better comics shops”.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

CHRISTMAS COMICS: Ghost Rider

From Marvel Holiday Special 1991:
This festive tale begins with five men kidnapping four year old blind boy William out of his bedroom on Christmas Eve. Go back and read that sentence again, it's truly what this story is about. By the following sequence, William has fallen out of the car he’s been bundled into and is now running around in a graveyard begging for Santa to help him.
William mistakes the noise of Ghost Rider's chain for jingle bells and his boots for Santa's. After dispensing with the nasty men (off-panel), Ghost Rider takes William back home on his fiery bike, and the young lad believes it’s Santa’s sleigh. As alluded to yesterday, Mike Ploog originally co-created and drew Ghost Rider, but here he is presented by John Hebert in a story by Howard Mackie.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

CHRISTMAS COMICS: Mike Ploog's Santa Claus

Mike Ploog has drawn a lot of comics over the years. Ones I’ve liked include Abadazad, Frankenstein, Ghost Rider, Planet of the Apes and Weirdworld. He’s even drawn some of Eric Powell’s The Goon.
This Santa Claus comic is an adaptation of L. Frank Baum’s story. As indicated in the title, it follows his life from baby to adulthood. Here are some pages, click for larger versions...
Before the end, Death turns up for Santa...
In order to make some decent money, Ploog left comics and worked in movies. With decent income sorted out, he wrote and drew Santa Claus outwith the deadline driven processes of Marvel and DC. It was then published in 1992 by Tundra. Ploog turned out a really beautiful book here.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

ANOTHER X-MEN MOVIE

I’ve just read what’s going on with the next X-Men movie and I am impressed. I like the first two movies, but not the third, and I haven’t even watched the prequel as that seemed like a way to make another X-Men movie and not pay the established cast to be in it. But here’s what I understand is going on: 1. Director Bryan Singer is back. This is good. He’s the reason the first two movies worked. 2. It’s an adaptation of Chris Claremont and John Byrne's Days of Future Past from 1981 – probably the second most popular X-Men storyline (after Dark Phoenix, which X-Men 2 set the stage for and X-Men 3 screwed up).
3. Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen are back in some capacity. Days of Future Past is a time travel story, so they’ll probably get younger actors to play them in the flashback stuff. 4. They are! They’re using the actors from that prequel they did last year to be the young versions. That’s pretty neat and tidy, and as far as I can make out, it wasn’t the original plan. Matthew Vaughn who made the prequel wanted to do a second prequel set in the 70s. This tying up of the two X-Men series (three I suppose, if you count the Wolverine movies) would seem to be Singer’s idea. So I thought I was finished with X-Men movies, but there is hope.

Monday, December 03, 2012

GOODBYE DANDY

Tomorrow, as every week (give or take) for the past 75 years , The Dandy comic will go on sale. But the difference this time is that it will be the last edition. To pay respects, here are some choice cuts from the earliest issue I have - number 1929 from 11th November 1978. Korky the Cat:
Desperate Dan:
Peter's Pocket Grandpa:
Greedy Pigg:
Tom Tum:
Winker Watson:
Izzy Skint:
Black Bob:
The Smasher:
Desperate Dawg:
Rah-Rah Randall:
Bertie Buncle:
Bully Beef and Chips:
Looking through the comic again, I remember how much I enjoyed these stories. Nostalgia rules! More recently, the publishers have tried a few things to keep The Dandy going. There was a format and name change to Dandy Xtreme, and a revamp which featured Harry Hill. But to no avail, the sales figures were not up to scratch and now they've decided to put the old girl down. Tuesday the 4th of December 2012 will be a sad day for the UK comics industry.
UPDATE - SATURDAY 8th DECEMBER 2012 I'd be interested in seeing how sales of this last isue went, as on Tuesday I went into six different shops to pick it up, and they had all sold out. One even had a hand written notice up saying "WE DO NOT SELL THE DANDY COMIC", so they'd obviously been asked a lot of times for it too. I decided to have a look online to get a copy and saw the likes of this. £42 for the comic! Crazy. It's still for sale from the publishers online for £5.50! I ordered it there. Also on Tuesday, I was running a children's reading group and just for interest I asked them who had read the Dandy. Two of the six had, and one of those was very enthusiastic, namechecking a couple of characters.

Friday, November 30, 2012

SCOTLAND IN COMICS 12: OOR WULLIE

Here he is, Dudley D.Watkins' boy hero, published out of Dundee for decades. Watkins is rightly feted as a great artist, seemingly able to draw anything. What I've not ever seen or heard acknowledged is the fantastic format he came up with. The one page adventure starting with an opening panel which was almost a prologue to what was to come (Wullie at rest before the story starts), and I especially like the closing panels where Wullie would react to the story as a whole. That last panel left many iconic images in young readers' heads - Wullie laughing on his bucket wth his feet off the floor, or sitting in a huff with a sore bum after he'd been skelped.
This adventure is from 1946. We see Wullie was buying his copy of the Beano and the Dandy. The Dandy is currently heading towards closure after 75 years. The issue in the shops this week carries the slogan "Only 2 issues to go!" Sad.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

MARVEL STAR WARS #108 (or MUG ME, MARVEL)

Marvel was licenced to make Star Wars comics in the 70s and 80s, creating the original run which featured many creators including Howard Chaykin, Mary Jo Duffy, Michael Golden, Archie Goodwin, Carmine Infantino, Cynthia Martin, David Mazzucchelli, Tom Palmer, Walt Simonson and Al Williamson.
Being a big Star Wars fan, I read all of them. The series ran from 1977 to 1986. The next Marvel Star Wars comic was scheduled to be a series called Dark Empire by Tom Veitch and Cam Kennedy, but the rights lapsed and Dark Horse picked it up instead. They’ve published Star Wars comics since 1991. Unlike Marvel, who put out one ongoing series with limited related titles, Dark Horse have continually brought out an ever changing roster of series. It was too much to keep up with for me. I still keep an eye out for good Star Wars comics, but haven’t felt the desire to buy them all since after Dark Empire 2 back in 1994.
Now that Disney has bought Lucasfilm, speculation is rife about Marvel getting the licence back. Disney owns Marvel, so it might make sense. However there have been other Disney properties which feature in comics not made by Disney, so it’s not a certainty. And anyway I thought to myself, who cares? Doesn’t make any difference to me who’s publishing Star Wars. But then it occurred to me: Marvel could get the rights back and publish Star Wars #108.
The completist in me would find it very hard not to buy that!

Sunday, October 21, 2012

JE VEUX LIRE BANDE DESSINEE.

I’ve been aware, you may have too, that in France comics have a bigger place in culture than in Britain. I’ve also seen that there are extremely attractive books which are never translated. I've just acquired three French comics, or bande dessinee. They are "La Trilogie Nikopol" by Enki Bilal.
I chose this as it was recommended to me and I saw some prints from it at a museum. I wrote about this here. Next is "Metropolis" by Christophe Girard.
I chose this as Metropolis is one of my favourite movies. Then I have "La Piscine de Micheville" by Baru.
I chose this as I liked this artist’s style. My plan is to sit with a French/English dictionary and a grammar book and painfully slowly pick my way through these books learning as I go. I started tonight on Bilal and am enjoying the torturous process already. Bonne lecture!

Monday, September 17, 2012

THE GREATEST JUDGE DREDD COMIC OF ALL TIME

There’s a second Judge Dredd movie out just now, and this may have piqued the curiosity of some to read a Judge Dredd comic. In order to aid those wondering which one to read, I am here to write about the best Judge Dredd comic ever made.
Fungus written by Grant Grover – the pen name of the Alan Grant/John Wagner team - and drawn by Carlos Ezquerra, my favourite Dredd artist. First a group of “foraging tramps” is infected with an infectous airborne disease in the wastelands outside the city. One of the group, Grubby, makes it back to civilisation, where he is apprehended by Judge Dredd.
Single figure colouring by ten year old me. The second part of the story sees Med-Judge Kildare willingly act as a guinea pig, exposing himself to the spores voluntarily. Dredd does some detective work to find the source of the disease:
In the third part, the Judges scour the streets looking for infected individuals, and the chief judge puts out a message to the populace:
One of the infected is already known to Dredd and they have a showdown.
The ending to the story is low key, heartbreaking and funny. The entire prog is brilliant, and I don’t think it’s just through nostalgic rose-tinted glasses. What a line-up: Sam Slade: Robo Hunter by Alan Grant/Ian Gibson; Rogue Trooper by Gerry Finley-Day/Colin Wilson; Ace Trucking Co. by Grant Grover/Belardinelli and Mean Arena by A.Ridgway/M.White. Great days to be reading comics as a kid. I’m sure I read somewhere that these comics (#275-277) were the biggest selling 2000ads ever. Didn’t see any fungus guys in the Dredd 3D trailer. Disappointing.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

SCOTLAND IN COMICS 11: THE INCREDIBLE HULK

In 1975, The Hulk was trawled in Angus MacTavish’s net on Loch Fear. The fisherman in his surprise cried, “Och, mon---It is na’ possible--!” Hulk replied, “Let Hulk loose, puny human—or Hulk will smash!” Pretty soon, the Hulk had turned into Bruce Banner and gotten involved in a bizarre feud between MacTavish and a shady guy called Jaimie Macawber. In this sequence we have a castle and a kilt.
The green one was later out on the loch again with MacTavish, when their boat was cut in two. The reader is treated to the Hulk retaliating by punching the (sort of) Loch Ness Monster in the face.
The story makes no sense, a fact that annoyed Kim Thompson. Now known for his involvement with the Comics Journal, back then he was a Hulk reader who had his letter published a few issues later. "The Lurker beneath Loch Fear!" was written by Len Wein and drawn by Herb Trimpe. It was published as The Incredible Hulk #192.

Friday, August 31, 2012

WAR OF THE WORLDS - IN COLOR!

H. G. Wells' War of the Worlds is one of my favourite stories. I grew up with Jeff Wayne's musical version and loved it because it was terrifying. I was fascinated by Orson Welles' radio play and the fact that on broadcast people believed it was real, an early introduction into how powerful the media is. There's a 1970s comic book version drawn by Yong Montano that I thought was brilliant. And then the novel itself, still genuinely scary to read even though you know so many of the events therein beforehand. I bought the Classics Illustrated version from January 1955 recently, mostly out of curiosity. There are no credits, but according to John Gosling's very good War of the Worlds website it's written by Harry Miller and drawn by Lou Cameron. I was immediately pleasantly surprised by the terrific splash page with the spaceship hurtling towards Earth. Click images for larger versions.
Then, looking at the second panel on page 2, seeing the enormous burst of gas erupting from Mars, and similarly gigantic shadow on the red and green planet surface, I thought I may actually be in for something quite good here.
I am very impressed by the colours in this book. It's all standard four colour process, but there are violent clashes to evoke mood. Look at the faces on panel 2 page 10 and panel 2 page 16.
This book has shaken up my impression of Classics Illustrated. There's a middle two pages splash and energetic figure movement and explosions throughout. I expected it to be much more staid. Maybe the comic is dramatic because the story is just so good. It's hard to imagine not managing to inject any tension into adapting the scene in the cellar with the martian tentacle groping around the room.
The Classics Illustrated comics are designed to be educational tools. Following this credo, the comic ends with informative articles on H.G.Wells and Orson Welles.
The comic ends with the statement "Now that you have read the Classics Illustrated edition, don't miss the added enjoyment of reading the original, obtainable at your school or public library." Good advice!