Markley’s Fevered Brain: Blast From The Past From Across the Pond

Wayne Markley

Wayne Markley


by Wayne Markley

I love comics from all over the world. I have written many times in this blog about comics from Spain, Japan, France, Italy, Brazil, and many other places. This time I am going to discuss comics from England that are all at least 25 year old. Why? I can here you asking yourselves. The reason is, like in other genres, there have recently been a number of reprints released here in America reprinting classic British comics. Also, the creators include many well known in America, such as Alan (V for Vendetta) Moore, Dave (Watchmen) Gibbons, and Pat (Marshall Law) Mills. There is also the fact that all of these books reflect a very different style of storytelling than you would find in American comics, where the stories are generally four to six pages long and are serialized to tell a bigger story, but because of the brevity of the stories, the writers have to employ a very different style than what is used in American comics. The style reminds me a great deal of the three panel newspaper strip. These four book range from adventure to science fiction to action to girl’s horror. All of them are very good and some of them are great.

Monster

Monster


Monster ran in the pages of Scream (issues #1-15 and Scream holiday specials and annuals) and in the pages of Eagle #128-158. It was created and first written by Alan Moore even though he left after the first issue. After that it was written by Rick Clark, a pen name for John Wagner and Alan Grant. It was drawn briefly by Heinzl (AKA Alberto Giolitti, the artist of Gold Key’s Turok, Son of Stone and Star Trek), and later by Jesus Redondo who did the majority of the strips. The story is about a young boy named Kenny and his uncle Terry, who is a deformed monster of a human with extraordinary strength who was kept locked up in the attic for most of his live. Upon the death of his parents, Kenny discovers Terry and frees him. Sadly, Terry has no idea of his own strength and over the course of time and having a very violent temper, he kills a number of people. The basic story is Kenny and Terry on the run from the police who are always on their tail and almost catching them. Kenny and Terry do everything they can to try and get to a doctor in Scotland who claims he can help Terry. The story goes on in short 6 to 8 page chapters, but the pacing and the suspense never stop. It is truly a page turner. The story has a distinct direction and covers most of England as well as Australia, as that is where both Kenny and Terry land up. This whole story reminds me a lot of The Fugitive, as whenever they find safety or trust someone, something goes wrong. I really enjoyed this story as it was fast paced and filled with surprises. The art was sketchy and at times not what I traditionally like, but it works for this story. Another thing I really enjoyed was at the end there are three prose stories from the Scream Holiday Specials which tell the conclusion to Terry’s story. There is a bit of Frankenstein thrown in this tale, but it never feels clichéd. Overall I would highly recommended it. From Rebellion.

Dan Dare: The 2000AD Years Vol. 1

Dan Dare: The 2000AD Years Vol. 1


Dan Dare: The 2000AD Years are two hardcover volumes collecting all of Dan Dare’s adventures from the pages of 2000AD. Most people forget Dan Dare, the long running science fiction hero who has been a mainstay of British comics for almost 70 years, first appeared in the pages of 2000AD before the more famous Judge Dredd. He appeared on and off from issue #1-126. These two volumes come in at almost 650 pages (well over 300 pages in each volume) and the reproduction and design are superb. Both volumes are beautiful to look at and are a large part of British Comic history. The stories are very typical science fiction with all sorts of menaces from space worms to evil duplicates to Dan Dare’s ongoing foe, the Mekon. These are not groundbreaking stories by any means, but there are some great moments here and there, mainly due to the art of the Dave Gibbons, who had a long run on the strip, before the fame he would later gain with Watchmen. The art is clean and crisp and perfect for this type of strip and it is a nice follow up to the Dan Dare of the 1950s and ‘60s. At different times, the art was also done by Garry Leach, Brian Bolland, Trevor Goring, Brian Lewis, Kevin Gosnell, and others. Most of the stories were written initially by Pat Mills, and later by Gerry Finley-Day, Steve Moore, Nick Landau (who now owns Titan Books, a major publisher of British comics and graphic novels), and others. These two volumes are a nice trip down memory lane where science fiction was action packed with clearly defined good guys and bad guys. These books are great for fans of traditional sci-fi, such as Buck Rogers or Flash Gordon, and the art is beautiful all the time, and at times breathtaking. Both volumes are also from Rebellion.

Hook Jaw

Hook Jaw


Hook Jaw is one of the oddest characters in comic history. The story was about a great white shark with a harpoon scar who loves to hunt the corrupt and greedy. It is important to remember that these strips were originally printed in the 1970s in a British comic called Action. The concept of a great white shark hunting people in a comic designed for kids created such an uproar at the time the comic was banned for a while. Reading this collection of all of the Hook Jaw strips, it is kind of hard to figure out why it was banned as it is fairly mild by today’s standards. Hook Jaw was written by Pat Mills (again) and Ken Armstrong. It was drawn by Ramon Sola. He first appeared in Action #1 and only lasted through issue #38. All of the stories were 4 pages, generally two pages in color and two pages in black and white. The stories were not really about good or evil as Hookjaw was a force of nature, not really a bad guy or good guy. Obviously the reason for this character was the popularity of Jaws movies in the ‘70s and Mills does a good job of taking a fad at the time and making it into an interesting read. This is not the greatest strip ever done, and it does not have the clean art that you will find in the Dan Dare books, or the passion that is in the pages of Monster, but you do get an action packed collection of short stories that will at times have you feeling a little uncomfortable, but always entertained. 160 pages of both color and black and white art in a very nice oversized hardcover. As a bonus, there are a number of articles about the history of the Hookjaw and Action comics. This hardcover also includes stories from the Action Special and Action Annual.

Misty Vol. 1

Misty Vol. 1


Misty is another Pat Mills creation that ran from 1978 to 1980 for a total of 101 issues before it merged with Tammy and ran for another four years. As was the tradition, these were mostly four page stories serialized over a number issues to tell a complete story. What was unique about Misty was it was a comic for girls and it told horror stories, along with Miss T which was a comic relief strip. There are not any real reoccurring characters in Misty, as they are just long form stories told in short chapters. For the last 30 years this strips have been sought after by collectors as they were very good stories with nice art. Recently Rebellion started issuing trade collections of these Misty stories, and instead of reprinting the comics as they were printed (four or five stories per issue, all continued), they are reprinting complete stories from multiple issues. The first volume includes two long stories, The Moonchild and The Four Faces of Eve. There is also a second volume with two more stories, this time written by Malcolm Shaw, entitled The Sentinels and The End of the Line. The art is obviously designed for female readers, as it is loose, not deeply detailed, and flows like an American romance comic. To be fair though, the horror aspects of the stories do work as there is a sense of suspense in a number of the stories and the final outcomes of the tales is not obvious. Overall I enjoyed both volumes of Misty and I hope they keep doing them.

Misty Vol. 2

Misty Vol. 2


I really enjoy reading these pieces of comic history that I was aware of but never had seen. Thanks to Rebellion and Titan we now have a chance to read British comics that many of us were thought lost to time. So far all of these books have lived up to the reputations I have read about them, admittedly to different degrees. Monster was overall a great read. Dan Dare is great to look at and the stories are up and down, but never bad per se, just a bit clichéd. Hook Jaw is something that has to be read to fully be appreciated as it is so unlike anything you would see in American comics (which can be said for all of these books). Finally Misty is really enjoyable as when did you ever get to read horror stories in comics aimed at girls? (There are some, but not many). The one thing that really struck me was the format of British comics, where the stories are 4 to 6 pages long and serialized. That really makes the writers to have a style unlike their American counterparts. It forces the writers to have a much tighter style and to plot stories that tell a story in a short periods of time and not drawn out over months, much like the classic American adventure newspaper strips.

This wraps it up for this time. I hope you try some of these books. I think you will be surprised how good they are and what a fresh change it is in terms of storytelling. Everything I have written here is my opinion and does not reflect the thoughts or opinions of Westfield Comics or their employees. I would welcome your thoughts and opinions on this blog though. Have you read any of these books? What did you think? What are your thoughts on the different type of storytelling? I can be reached at MFBWAY@AOL.COM or on Facebook at Wayne Markley. Till next time…

Thank you.

 

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