Evel Knievel and the Creamy Friend!

"The Last of the Gladiators"

 

After a long absence from the blogging scene, I’m gonna come barreling back with a little slice of classic comic book history. My most recent challenge is to collect the whole run of Jonah Hex comics printed by DC from 1972 to 1985, and not only do these issues feature many terrific wild west she-nanny-guns but also a range of the most unbelievably nutty ads spread through the issues. Along with the usual adverts for other DC comics or beef jerky there is a selection of sales pitches for some of the most wonderful and amazing items available all for less than $5!

Firstly, I would like to introduce to you the Evel Knievel coin collection from Weird Western Tales #31, December 1975. This issue comes hot on the heels and white flowing cape of Mr. Knievel’s October ’75 successful attempt to jump 14 buses at the Kings Island Theme park in Ohio, and so what more could every little boy and girl in America want than their very own ANTIQUE BRONZE COIN with Evel proudly displayed leaping through the air just moments from smashing head first into the ground and breaking another collection of bones! For just $3 you could own the official evel coin, which is “EXACTLY THE SAME ONE EVEL CARRIES WITH HIM”! Now I cant help but think Knievel (“THE LAST OF THE GLADIATORS”!) might have been able to land a few more jumps if he wasnt laden down with bronze coins with his face on. A quick check on ebay reveals that this very coin is available now for just $7.35, so its increased in value more than 200% since he jumped over that rainbow into the big ol’ Intensive Care Unit in the sky.

If you’re a young man about town in the 1970’s, you want to have a quirky gimmick to make you stand out from the crowd, and to catch the eye of the ladies. It may be a pair of jeans with massive turn-ups, you may opt to wear 3-d glasses the whole time, or you may want to go that extra mile and get an unusual pet. While Jimmy on the corner had a scruffy hound dog, you want something sophisticated, quirky, exotic, something that will charm your way into the hearts and knickers of that girl next door. So why not save up £2.98 and buy…

25 live seahorses delivered to your door! Gee Wizz!

That’s right! You could be the proud owner of two mated pairs of seahorses, including one pregnant male who could give birth to up to 25 more of the fuckers! Also included is a live marine snail! It’s just given to you free! How is this possible? More quick research has revealed that seahorses make good pets, but will happily fall down dead at the slightest disturbance, from the wrong food, from a multitude of diseases they catch at the drop of a hat and from being stressed out. But they do get on very happily with marine snails. Just imagine the thrill of opening an envelope full of seahorses, snails and marine diseases! If that doesn’t get you some lady action, I don’t know what will.

For those who fail to pull anyone with the seahorses, or your Evel Knievel bronze antique coin (just like Evel himself carries with him on all his inevitable punishing accidents) then you have to resort to being a peeping tom. So what could make this easier than purchasing the latest in military and scientific technology, X-Ray Specs (yours for $1).

See the bones in your friend's hands as they smash you in your stupid nerd face and steal your lunch money.

This Hilarious jape lets you see the bones in your hands, see through your friends and amaze and embarrass everyone! Particularly your parents, who are utterly appalled that you sprang from their loins. I now quote from the Wikipedia entry on X-Ray Specs: “Part or even most of the novelty value lies in provoking the object of the wearer’s attentions. These subjects, if unable to be entirely sure that the device did not indeed allow the wearer to compromise their modesty, were liable to respond with a variety of amusing reactions.” All this fun for one dollar! I was also surprised to learn that X-ray specs were invented by the creator of that other fun novelty ‘Sea Monkeys’. Who are not monkeys, or ocean dwellers.

Also on offer in Jonah Hex #59 dated  April 1982 are two little gems which anyone would be pleased to receive. Firstly for $2.25 is a Squirrel Call: “Brings them right to you! Hand Operated!”. This ad has a little picture of a relaxed squirrel next to it, standing there waiting to be commanded. Why anyone would want to be surrounded by squirrels is a mystery to me still, but I suppose that sort of thing was all the rage in the 80’s. Finally there is pehaps the most vicious trick of the lot, and the most expensive. For $4.95 you can buy the ‘Avalanche’ Shaving Cream can. “Gallons of foam rush out and you can’t stop it! Foam! Foam! FOAM EVERYWHERE! Ordinary looking 6-oz shave cream can, but one press means one big mess. Nearly Fills  entire bathroom! Unbelievable! GREAT WAY TO ‘CREAM’ A FRIEND, FOE. Water Soluable. Wont Stain.”

After careful consideration I think this is probably the greatest way to cream a friend.

Published in: on January 25, 2011 at 1:49 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Viking Gods Vs. Good Manners! Thor vs. Captain Britain!

Boy's Knight Out.

What I like about Thor is the simple fact that he is a man who willingly goes into fights armed with nothing but a big hammer. Just imagine it, not only being in the middle of a war with Frost Giants armed only with a hammer which requires you to be within a foot of your enemy for you to do any damage with it at all, but your also Thor, Prince of Asgard and expected to be right in the thick of any battle. And all you have is a brick on the end of a stick with which to swing as hard as you can into the villains face.  And he is also God of Thunder, so while he is bashing your elbows inside out, he is also making a dreadful noise and making it rain on you. I honestly don’t know why anyone would ever have a fight with him.

And do you know what I like about Captain Britain? He’s British, and he drinks big pints, and he isn’t afraid to wear a skin-tight costume. And he doesn’t need to carry a hammer to start any s#!t. He just gets busy with the fists! POW!

So, that said, who would win in a fight?  Lets ask ‘Thor: The Mighty Avenger’ Issue 4! Written with wit by Roger Langridge, and pencilled with panache by Chris Samnee, this series is a completely new set of tales without any need for knowing history or back-story of any of the characters. As far as I can tell it’s aimed at re-introducing young folk and comic readers of all ages to Thor before his big new film comes out next Spring. The basic premise is that Thor, the young and hot-headed prince of Asgard has been kicked out of the golden realm eternal and sent to earth to learn humility. But he doesn’t remember quite what it was he did wrong. He is found by a lovely young lady called Jane Foster who handily works in a museum and is an expert on all things Viking. Thor saves her from the advances of a dastardly villain Mr. Hyde, and once Jane realises Thor actually is the god of legend, she agrees to take him in and teach him about the world, and work on finding a way for him to get back home.

This issue happily gets away from any soap-opera, man-out-of-place plot contrivances to focus on Thor and his three friends who come to visit him from Asgard. Apparently they can come visit him, but the only rule is they must not tell him why he has been exiled or how to get back home. Naturally, when your friends come round to see if you can come out to play, you immediately leap onto your chariot driven by ‘Toothgnasher’ and ‘Toothgrinder’ (who are both giant goats) and head off to Norway to go to a pub.

Ahh! “But where does Captain Britain fit in?” I hear you groan! 

A Friend To All!

Haha! It turns out that Thor’s friends (The Warriors Three, Hogun, Volstagg and Fandral) are absolutely terrible at reading maps, and they end up not in Norway, but in Britain. Happily for us, Thor learns humility by realising he doesn’t know where he is, and goes to ask for directions in a pub. And who should be out for a drink with his own chums but Brian Braddock! And who is this beautiful blond Mr Braddock? He is Captain Britain!

Naturally all hell kicks off when the bar lady mis-hears Thor’s requests for the ‘way to Trondheim’ (“we havent got any waiter called Trondheim. And we don’t call them waiters…”) and Captain Britain steps up to the God of Thunder who carries A MASSIVE HAMMER, and he asks him to step outside. Sadly, the Captain is then punched right through the door.

One short scuffle later (in which I’m sorry to say the Captain gets sat on by a fat man, and one of the giant goats eats someones bicycle) and Thor learns that he shouldn’t start fights just because he is lost, and they all head back into the pub for a booze up! ‘Just a Quick One’ turns into a whole night of it, and as we follow a terrifically drunk Thor back to his parked goats we discover he drank so much he was sick all over poor Capt. Britain, and all the Norse Gods decide the Captain is “a lovely fellow…Lovely Lovely Lovely”.

So, then they get home, and Thor says goodbye to his chums who have to get back to Asgard, and Thor is met by Jane Foster who has also been out on the town with her friends and she is all drunk as well! They have all been at it! And how does this tale end?

I Made A Friend

Thor tells Jane he had an ace night out, and that he made a new friend! Oh Man!!! Call me old-fashioned, Call me soppy, Call me a prize donkey, but there is a part of me that just melts inside to read about how this poor old chap Thor, lost and alone and confused in the modern world has made his first new friend in Captain Britain. Not only is it a coming together of my two favourite heroes, but it is an actual bit of characterisation that we can all relate to! Thor has started his first day at a big new school, and he has made himself a new pal! I feel very proud of them both, and I hope they will continue to go round to each other’s house to play in the garden.

And then the artwork! Goodness me, I’m quite sure you can’t actually tell from the photos in this article just how wonderful the art by Chris Samnee actually is in this series. His work is terrifically simple and cartoony, an economy of lines which is very bold and creates an instant visual impression. It captures the comedy and vibrant life in each panel, and my god can this chap draw some heart-warming hugs! The best thing is that his pictures actually look like they belong in a comic. It isn’t trying to be photo-realistic, it’s not trying to look wide-screen, or cinematic, or hip, it’s just trying to tell an amusing and exciting little story. And the bold colours that bring these pencils and inks to life bounce of the pages like coiled springs. It’s absolutly wonderful to see that such a simple, bold and direct artistic style can be so effective in today’s comic box where it seems every panel has to be passed through 9 different Photoshop filters before hitting the page.

It is just a Lovely Lovely Lovely issue to read. Its made me smile, and laugh, and want to punch the air in victory and also want to phone up all my friends and invite them out for a drink up.

So, Thor Vs. Captain Britain. Who won? Well, I don’t think we will ever know.

But at least Captain Britain didnt sick up on anyone like Thor did.

Published in: on October 1, 2010 at 10:36 pm  Comments (1)  
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How I Got My Superpowers…

If anyone read my first ever post about how I got into comics, then I’m afraid I have an apology to make. It was a load of bollocks. I’ve only just remembered exactly when it was I became a comic fan.

And it wasnt even from reading a comic. The first time I got excited about comics was from this little picture here.

SUPER POWERS 95!

‘Waddingtons Super Top Trumps Marvel Super Heroes’ made me the man I am today. Please have a look-see at this website here http://www.ultimate-top-trumps.co.uk/waddingtons.htm for more information on all the sets released by those crazy cats at Waddingtons.

You will notice this range of Marvel Top Trumps was released between 1988 and 1992. So chances are I was between 2 and 6 when I first set my beady eyes ‘pon these chaps with their flashy pants and their enticing names. Enticing names which I got wrong. Nick Fury, Marvel’s super-spy (strength: 20,  Weapons: 6) had what looked like big fuzzy sideburns in his picture, so he became my favourite card, and was rechristened Nick Furry.

In the villains pack we also used to have there was a character called ‘The Mad Thinker’. (I’ve only in the last 3 months actually read a comic with him actually in, so I can now confirm he does actually exist after 18 years of thrilling mystery.) But anyway, since the Mad Thinker used to look like he had some muddy stains on his otherwise green overalls he became known in my mind as The Mad Stinker, and he was so mad he used to be covered in his own popsy-bangsies. The Mad Stinker is a crap card as well, with a hight of only 5’11” and Super Powers of Zero, the big shitty dick-head. The worst card of the super heroes was, and still remains, Elektra. She had a shit picture, shit strength (20) and no super powers. It was the unwritten rule of any game we played as a family (my older brother and my older sister, I think it was my older brother Hugh who was instrumental in actually purchasing the cards to begin with) that anyone who had Elektra in their hand while playing was guaranteed to lose. In fact, this unwritten rule then carried on to Secondary School when I used to play with my chums at break time, and without my ever mentioning the fact Elektra was shit she was declared a bad luck card by all other players and she was habitually left in my bag when we started a game since she spoilt the otherwise carnival atmosphere.

Interestingly, the big hero of today Iron Man is a fairly mediocre card, with strength of 25 and zero super powers. He does make up for it though with weapons of 20. Weapons was always a good area to play if it was in the double figures, since many marvel heroes shun weapons in favour of snapping necks with their bare hands. 

I’ve just done a quick check, and of the cards I still have, (Thor is missing sadly) The Thing, The Hulk and The Silver Surfer are the best cards to have. All are nice and tall, over the 6′ mark, all are heavy (particularly the silver surfer with weight ‘UNKNOWN!’ which was a mystical and fabled magic word in our games meaning it could beat any weight, the only concession to this great power being that it could only be played in defence and never as an attacking stat) and all have enormous strength and super powers. I’d say Silver Surfer was the best card though.

The only character that I do not recognise nor have ever read about is ‘The Gardener’.

Back in the '80s a gardener could have his own top trump. Nowadays you have to be a Jet, or a Tank.

Gardener is a bit of a sly old bugger. Just look, super powers 70! And he is over 7 foot tall!  And two weapons, which I think must be his stick and his orange purse.

Curiously I have absolutely no idea who the artist of these cards is. But what I think I’ll do is take them along to my comic shop (http://orbitalcomics.com ) and see if any of the nice chaps and chapesses there know who it was. I shall let you know.

You will also be pleased to know that new Marvel top trumps are still being produced, and I’m sure at some point I’ll tell you all about them too.

Driver For The Dead!

Seatbelts frighten the life out of him.

What was I expecting with this comic? Not a great deal, to be honest. It was published by a company I knew very little about, and by a writer (John Heffernan) I’ve never heard of. But, I did like the title ‘Driver For the Dead’. It sounds like the sort of thing that is going to be so dreadful its got to be a comic classic. One of my favourite DVD’s is a film called ‘Flight of the Living Dead’, so you can imagine my joy in finding a comic which may be ‘The Transporter’ mixed with ’28 Days Later’.

But this comic isn’t all silly! It’s Absolutly fucking Terrifying and absolutely fucking Awesome. Straight away we are thrown into the middle of an ‘Exorcist’ style possession of a little boy in the middle of Alabama, with an old voodoo witch doctor man who looks a load like Morgan Freeman (he is even named Moses Freeman) turning up to save the day and exorcise the child. Immediately we are thrust into a world of african curses, cats nailed to walls, voodoo dolls and children vomiting up snakes. It is full on creepy stuff! Then as soon as we think this Moses Freeman chap is going to be saving the day and being this mysterious ‘Driver for the Dead’, he ends up getting chomped in half by a lizard monster demon, and as he chokes to death on his own juicy gore, he hands over a business card to the parents of the possessed child.

The name on the card?

ALABASTER GRAVES

DRIVER

Hooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo Man! Suddenly, this sneaky little comic bursts into overdrive! Alabaster Graves drives a hearse that looks like it has been modified by BA Barracus, for the Ghostbusters, using Iron Man’s technology. Its got turbos, and huge exhausts and an engine so big you can barely see out the front windscreen, with a skeleton acting as a front grill, and a huge tombstone acting as a spoiler. And this little beauty is called, rather sweetly ‘Black Betty’.

We soon learn Alabaster is no ordinary undertaker. He undertakes the jobs that no one else would want to undertake ( ahh haha!). We meet him as he is racing to get the body of a vampire’s victim buried before sundown. He has exactly 4 minutes to behead and then bury the victim in a churchyard. The churchyard is exactly 5 minutes away. Naturally,  all hell breaks loose.

And naturally, since this is a comic, the ‘Black Betty’ also doubles as a mobile weapons cabinet, so Mr Graves shoots himself a vampire to death using incendiary bullets to burn the flesh off its chest exposing the heart, then high velocity rounds to pierce it. FUCK YOU TWILIGHT!!

From then on Alabaster Graves is hired to transport the body of Mr Moses Freeman to his final resting place, with the late Mr Freeman’s niece for company, but since Moses is such a powerful sorcerer, all of the magical community are out to get his body and consume his abilities! And Away We Go!

This comic is so stupid, and so exciting, and so frightening and so fun that I just couldn’t turn it down. It took me a couple of days before I managed to hunt down a copy, which is the first issue of a 3 part series by Radical Comics. ITs an independent comic company, so it is a little more expensive an issue at $4.99 (so about £3.80  I think I paid in the end) than I usually would spend on a story I had no idea about, but the good thing about Radical Comics is that they seem to publish all their issues in a sort of magazine format rather than as a comic. By this I mean rather than being printed on usual comic paper, it’s all done on nice glossy magazine style pages, all good and thick, so it feels like your holding something big and professional in your hands. It’s also a bigger page count than you can usually expect from the average mainstream comic, 58 glorious full colour pages, compared to the usual 22! And its all nicely square bound like a proper magazine, with a spine and everything, rather than just a page folded in half & held together with a staple.

It’s a quality read in every sence. Particularly considering the best sense of all, Sight! This book looks amazing! Luckily, I do know the artist, Leonard Manco from other comic series, mainly from his work on Marvel’s ‘Blaze of Glory’, and his work here is extraordinary. It has a fully real life style, but with the otherworldly magical extras rendered in a serious and believable way, about as close as I can describe it is that its like watching Jurassic Park for the first time. It’s obviously not real, but by god this monster madness is believable. You can see people have shaving rashes, and all their suits are threadbare, and sunken eyelids from nights awake, and then you get giant snake monsters and floating green witches leaping out of trees, it’s just magnificent escapism excitement.

I always feel like I should support these independent publishers work, and like them despite the quality of the comics they put out, but in this instance Radical  Comics have put out a work of art which is superior to mainstream Mega-Publishers like Marvel and DC in every way. For $1 more, they have produced a comic 250% bigger than the average, on better quality paper, with better quality art, with a more interesting story. They have beaten any comic publisher in almost every way, yet still I doubt if this comic was even noticed by most comic shop regulars.

Well, fuck ’em! That means there is more left for me!

 

Published in: on August 13, 2010 at 10:56 pm  Leave a Comment  

IRON MAN NOIR #4! EXCELSIOR!

Flaming Fists of Fury!

 

So here it is! The final issue in the four-part series that has been keeping me on my toes for the past quarter of a year, and what a ride it has been! We have been from the mountains of Norway to the depths of the Mediterranean Ocean, to the skies of New York, all to punch up a bunch of nutcase Nazis! So what happened this month?! Shitting hell, it turns out Baron Zemo is just a pseudonym used by the head of the Nazi research program, carried on by each successive victim of the ZEMO compound, and the latest victim is dear ol’  Tony’s dad! 

Then, as Tony gets smacked about like a ragdoll by Nazi robot ‘Arsenal’ its revealed his mechanical heart is finally giving up, with its dropping power levels flashed up in each panel and dropping steadily with each Iron fist to the face of the SS! Then Bang! Pepper Potts is smacking a lady up in the head, and Tony transforms into a damned great motorcycle, and they smash out of the castle onto a zeppelin! Naturally its on from there to victory via more jetpack fun, oricalchum trident lightning vs Zeppelin fleet experiments and submarine rescues. And then right as we think it’s all over, Tony is called in to face the one and only Dr. Doom!!! 

Writer Scott Snyder and artist Manuel Garcia have managed to achieve the impossible and have looked into the imagination of a 13-year-old boy, and pull out the most perfect comic book story of all time. And make no mistake, any one who reads comic books has the brain of a 13-year-old. Its 22 full colour pages of enormous robot suits punching at each other, while everything flammable blows up, and the only victims are Nazis, so it’s all absolutely guilt free! And man, the art is utterly superb! There is one panel I was looking at, and I couldn’t work out why it was so evocative and harrowing, and then I  realised what it was. While all the explosions and chaos is going on, Tony Stark has red rimmed and blood-filled eyes, a tiny detail added by the colourist to show that this man is fighting in a suit of armour while in the middle of a massive heart attack, yet still standing! 

The whole series has been coloured with these sort of brown and yellow sepia tones, so the blood and the fire stand out as these great bright streaks of vibrant colour from the page, and the red-headed Pepper Potts is similarly depicted as bright, clear and flawless, the literal clean bright center of each panel she is in, ready to carry Tony through despite is rusty, dented and lumbering suit and failing heart. So good on Marta Martinez (colourist extraordinaire) for brilliantly capturing the flavour and the feeling of a 40’s pulp adventure mag. 

Man Adventures!

 

I’m terribly sad this mini-series is over. Its been a jolly little indulgence in a sea of overly serious and overly self-important series. With every issue, every page, and every panel, this story knew it was a comic book. A little ten minutes of escapism with robots and fantastical lands and impossible escapes and happy endings. It appealed to the 13-year-old inside me, and I know I will read, and re-read this series, and it will be always as exciting and dynamic and enthralling as every classic adventure story should be.

Published in: on August 4, 2010 at 10:11 pm  Leave a Comment  

Ridin’ the Rawhide Kid…HARD!

All Leathered up, with nowhere to go.

Backs to the walls, pardners, the Rawhide Kid is back in town. In March 1955, outlaw Johnny Bart swaggered into Atlas comics, and he didn’t leave the saloon for 151 issues. Better known as the Rawhide Kid, Bart tamed the west one outlaw at a time. With the arrival of the railroads, and superhero comics, the western heros galloped off into the sunset, and weren’t seen again. That was, of course, untill July 2002, when the old west heros were reassembled for one final huzzah, in Marvel Comics (Atlas comic’s grandson) ‘Blaze of Glory’. The classic Marvel western hero’s were given a new lease of life, and Johnny Bart was no exception, even achieving his own miniseries as a sequel to ‘Blaze of Glory’ a year later in ‘Apache Skies’. The no-nonsense Bart was last seen disappearing into a cloud of acrid gunsmoke at the scene of a colossal shootout and train crash. Was this the end of the Rawhide kid of legend?

Well, Yes….. and No. He wasn’t seen riding the plains untill late 2005, when he trotted back into the west in a big way. A Big, Fabulous way, in Slap Leather!, the western mini-series to end all mini-series. The Rawhide Kid had finally come out, he didnt just wear chaps for work, he wore chaps for pleasure too. The Kid was the first openly gay cowboy.  But don’t let that fool you into thinking he was a big softy! If you would so much as just look at him funny as he drank his chardonnay, and he would knock your teeth so far down your throat you would be rechewing yesterdays jerky.

And now he is back, in an all new mini-series, and he is painting the West a jolly pink colour! The Sensational Seven  series is a 4 issue story, focusing on Rawhide as he has to assemble a team of 6 ne’er-do-well’s (both real personalities from American history, and Marvel western characters) to rescue the Earp brothers who have been captured from the Town of Tombstone and held hostage by Cristo Pike in Fort Pecos! So with help from Anne Oakley, Doc Holliday, Kid Colt, the Two-Gun Kid, Ghost Rider and Red Wolf, Johnny Bart sets off to kick some ass and take some names!

Two issues down into the series, and it is an absolute thigh-slappin’ good time. Written by Ron Zimmerman, and drawn by Howard Chaykin, (who is rapidly becoming my favourite artist working at the moment), the story zips along at breakneck pace, while still allowing plenty of character moments to properly introduce each character properly. We get scenes of Rawhide taming the town of Tombstone since the loss of their sheriff Wyatt Earp, a clear 2 page intro to each of his new posse, and a nice little set up for the Earp brothers who are played as moronic feuding but very close brothers in their tiny jail cell.

Rawhide Kid’s sexuality, while known to his outlaw chums, still seems to be a bit of a mystery to the general populace, who all seem to marvel (pun pun pun!) at his terrific dress sence. (Quote “Honey, I was BORN well-dressed, and they’ll lay me in my GRAVE well-dressed”) But never is it taken as a source of mockery or gay-bashing. In fact, Mr Rawhide is leading the way in the bashing stakes, taking out a gang of cowboys without breaking a sweat. He actually punches a huge hulking thug of a man clean out of his boots, which remain floating in the air in classic Warner Brothers cartoon style. In fact, this fight scene begins with about the best pre-fight quip of all time: “Lets get this over with, I’m having my shirt buttons shined at two.” And it isn’t just Rawhide who gets his chance to bash some heads together, we also have Doc Holliday (my all time favourite western drunkard) shoot up a bar, and stab a thug in the head with a hairpin, all while smoking and drinking and dying of consumption.

The art work by Chaykin is note perfect for the western setting. Apparently (according to Wikipedia) Chaykin is a follower if the Howard Pyle art school (and if you don’t know Howard Pyle, I suggest you google him immediately if not sooner, as he is a classic book illustrator of the early 20th Century) and it certainly shows in his panels. The Hero’s are all square-jawed and handsome, the villains all have sinister dark faces, and everyone is covered in a fine layer of dirt and grime as is fitting the dusty landscape and rough living of the Wild West. And by god the ladies are busty.

Lovin’ the Sloppy Snowjobs!

Hello, I’m George, and I’m a fan of the GI Joe film. In fact, I saw it for my birthday last year, and It remains one of the best cinema trips I’ve ever had. Good lord I was so pumped up and over-excited after seeing that film, I could have played a banjo with my nutsack. And luckily for me, IDW publishing had just bought the licencing for the GI Joe characters and had started a whole new series of comics! The GI Joe comics have been going since I believe the 80’s when the cartoon and toy series was at its peak, and its licence has been passed from many different publishers over the years, after starting with Marvel. But IDW are behind the recent relaunch (I say recent, but its been going for about 18 months). The GI Joe Origins series has recently been releasing a number of done-in-one issues, introducing various heros and villains by different writer and artist teams. Its been a top way for me, as a new reader to the world of GI Joe to work out what the hell is going on, and who the devil is who. So then, Issue 15: SnowJob!

I was looking at this cover on the train on the way home from work, and something was niggling at the back of my mind for a long time. This swaggering ginger haired wally looked very familiar. And it wasnt untill I got home that I realised I already had a comic about his chilly willy. Ladies and Gentlemen, may I introduce the 8th March 1986 edition of Battle Action Force!

WAR AND ADVENTURE EVERY THURSDAY!

 

Yes indeed, apparently GI Joe has been masquerading as Action Force in Britain since it was originally released. My brother had bought a box of Battle Action Force comics many years ago at our Granny’s village fete, and this box had been kept at Granny’s bungalow for us to read when we came to stay with her. Low and behold, I have had a comic published before I was born sitting on my shelf for years, and featuring on the cover the very same skiing sniper whose jolly red beard and tennis-racket shoes (I’m absolutely positive those snow shoe things don’t actually exist in real life, because I’ve never seen anyone actually wear them outside of a cartoon) are now staring at me out of a lovely new issue. But is the damned comic any good?

Luckily, there’s snow news like good news! Hah! I had to sneak that in there. It’s a fucking awesome issue. Since there is very little cause for adventure while being stuck in the antarctic, the issue kicks off with Snowjob (the codename for this particular GI Joe operative, who apparently is jolly good at dressing warmly and most likely wrestling with polar bears) being recalled to America from the south pole, to under-go a target shooting proficiency test at headquarters. On his way back to base, he is instructed to stop off in South America to protect the President of Venezuela, who has become the target for assassination. Bloody typical. So anyway, Snowjob is suddenly thrown out of his depth into operations in one of the hottest regions on the planet, with only his snow gear for company. Que plenty of A-Team style modifications of polar gear and ski wax in a jolly showdown between the terrorists and the Arctic warrior! Its 22 pages of romping action as Mr Job has to muddle his way through international politics, hot weather and gun fights, all in the capable hands of Merrill Hagan (writer, never heard of him) and Klaus Scherwinski (artists, who is an utter whizz with a pencil and paper, but I think this is his first bit of published comicbookery).

The art has a fantastic detailed, but blocky style, lots of angular edges and sharp corners, so Snowy has a nice square-shouldered, hard as nails profile, and the city looks all hot and sweaty and grimy, all helped along by the rich muggy colour palette. I also realised that as the action hots up, the comic panels change from straight forward squares and rectangles, to being these sort of twisted, jaggy holes punched in the page, slanting around and pushing over the top of each other in a mad rush to tell the story, and it is fantastic. Never once confusing whats going on, and always capturing the dynamic movement of the scene. We even get a nice little bonus page featuring some original pencil sketches by Scherwinski, showcasing his production of a page from pencils to inks to colours.

The GI Joe series has been a really nice fun little addition to my comic box each month, and it has only really been in the last few weeks that it has turned from being a series I will look at when I have the time, to being the comic that goes to the top of my pile to read on my way home from work. I’m sure they can all rest easy at IDW publishers knowing that their snowjob issue is a hell of a lot more entertaining than the Battle Action Force anyway.

Published in: on June 22, 2010 at 9:37 pm  Leave a Comment  

Iron Man Noir #3! IIIEEEEEEEEE!

There is no other comic book ‘m buying regularly that I look forward to so much as this little beauty! Once again, that Iron bastard has knocked me for six with an issue that kicks seven shades of ass! From the delicious cover by Mike Fyles (who I think must be new to the comic world, since so far as I can tell, this is the first series he has worked on) to the opening page recap, to the smack down robot fight, to the climatic reveal on the last page, its 32 pages of giddy comic nuggets of fun. Take note writers, this is exactly, EXACTLY the sort of story comic books are invented for. Now I’m sure your all very pleased with your Watchmen, and your Dark Knight Returns, but fuck me if they ain’t a bit heavy going. What we all secretly want to see is a man in a suit of armour fly around and blow up Nazi castles. And this is exactly what we get!

After the nail-bitter of an ending last issue, we get to see how Stark, Rhodey and Namor escape from the exploding Lady Dorma. Naturally, ‘coz this is the best comic book series of all time, we learn that the Lady Dorma is actually just a shell, covering up the real Dorma vessel, a very League-of-Extraordinary-Gentlemen-esque mini submarine! (Bang, its captained by Namor, the submariner! Christ, I’ve only just worked that little reference out…this book just keeps on giving!) So off they float, keeping tabs on the bad guys who are now in possession of both the Trident of Orichalcum, but also the beautiful Miss Pepper Potts! Crivens!

They trace the naughty villains back to a castle on the coast, and after a bit of chatter with Rhodey and Stark, they fill Starks heart with electricity, and wack him in the suit to go and bash some heads together. Problem is, he only has enough electricity to power the suit for 4 hours, and after that time he’s gonna drop down dead. Uh-oh!  But no fear! Rhodey isn’t going to abandon Tony in his hour of need, and so, he joins his brother-in-arms in his own version of the Iron Man suit! Hot diggedy dog! Its Iron Man and War Machine! HOOOOOOO!

Then there is some exciting lady whipping action, and a load of explosions and quips and dying Nazi stormtroopers (By law, all germans have to shout “Gott in Himmel! IIIIIEEEEEEEE!” when they die) and then Bang! Another classic final page plot twist! Not only that, but we get a nice little flash back to the young Tony chatting with his dad, but also a little bit of a reveal of the Noir universe’s Thor! And War Machine has a Vickers machine gun mounted on his shoulder. Good lord Manuel Garcia can draw the hell out of a robot fist fight. His artwork has a little bit of a manga-style in some ways which usually puts me off, but I think it works really well here. The muted colours also get the pulpy-adventure vibe going too, so its easy to get caught up in the story. And there is one page with the two suited heros leaping out of the zeppelin air base, and its about the most vibrant, popping little panel you can imagine, it feels like these chaps are literally falling out of the page. And the War Machine armour just looks insane! He is a bit more streamlined and narrow from the Iron Man suit, but his helmet looks like a black skull so he looks the business.

I seriously cant say this enough, it’s easily the best series I’ve read in years. I hope to goodness that enough people are buying this little fellow to warrant a second series, because I’d love to read more adventures by this creative team with these characters. Reading this issue was like reading a comic for the first time, simply because it made me feel all young and over-excitable again. I very nearly tried to high-five the chap next to me on the train since I was loving it so much, but instead I had a big swig of Tesco own brand lager (yum yum yum) and giggled. My only problem with this series is that next month sees the final issue, and without knowing I’ve got a little treat like this waiting for me in my comic book box each week, It’s going to be a very hard to get all keyed up and giddy about another book for quite some time.

Kick your Ass! Kick your Face! Kick your Balls into Outer Space!

Published in: on June 21, 2010 at 10:11 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Thrusting into the Black Void!

There’s been a corner of the comic book universe I’ve been ignoring of late, and so now I’ve directed my telescope away from my neighbours bathroom window, and refocused it into the corner of the galaxy where the Marvel Universe is gearing up for its latest epic showdown!

For the past 4 years or so, The Marvel Universe has had a little corner dedicated to the adventures of a number of its intergalactic and space-based heros. Starting with the Annihilation series in 2006, there has been a number of intergalactic wars and invasions which, while never impacting on the Marvel earth-bound comics, have been absolutely shattering the events of everything beyond the horizon. And so the latest addition to this intergalactic saga is ‘THE THANOS IMPERATIVE!’ (again, it’s a title that needs to be exclaimed by a big rich booming voice.)

In the last 4 years of publishing history the cosmos has been ravaged by wars. Civilisations lay in tatters. The intergalactic peace-keeping force known as the Nova Corps have been wiped out, with only one survivor from the vast number left alive, who has taken the name of Nova. Nova now shares his brain with the nova corps databank artificial intelligence, which is driving him up the wall. There is also a new team of heroes formed to keep an eye on space, to take up a bit of the slack for Nova, and these are The Guardians of the Galaxy. There headquarters are inside the dead head of a huge god-robot thing, which is run by Cosmo, one of the first russian dogs into space, which was converted by radiation into a telepath. But anyway, I digress.

In the last epic war-story, a huge bomb was detonated, tearing a huge rift in space into a separate dimension. This dimension (called the cancer-verse) is a realm where death has ceased to exist, and endless life is now the order of the day, so it’s all chock full to the brim with matter, and so its forcing its way through into our dimension. Naturally, it’s all terribly bad news for our dimension, where the natural order of things would go completely out the window if the balance of life and death is changed. So, as if by magic, our galaxy’s ‘avatar of death’ Thanos has been summoned (bought back to life, but that’s another 8-issue series I can’t discuss here) to go on an invasion into this cancer-verse to stop it spreading into ours. But all that unchecked life-force has brought Thanos to a standstill and he has slipped into a coma, leaving the Guardians of the Galaxy to face the dimensional opposites of themselves in a fight for their lives, or deaths!

Christ, I’ve been reading these damned books for the last 4 years and I’m still a bit confused after all that. But that’s not a reason to ignore this new series! Firstly, its written by Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning, the two (BRITISH, Zing!) writers who have been directing the entirety of the Marvel Cosmic world since the first Annihilation series, and they have an absolutely cracking sence of humour, and adventure and of characterisation. The cosmic universe is a huge epic playground for these authors to explore, and they always manage to wring the humour and excitement from every page. For example, the Guardians of the Galaxy have as part of the team, a huge tree-man, called Groot, who turns up in every fight shouting ‘I! AM! GROOOOT!’ while stamping on the bad aliens. The team also has a talking raccoon weapons specialist, called happily Rocket Raccoon, who carries enormous machine guns and laser pistols, and who is usually carried around by the tree. There is also an alien called Bug, who is a massive pervert.

So! Usually, with these space adventures they get very complicated and confusing. Happily, with Abnett and Lanning, it’s always a very nice easy story to understand, and depending on how many of the different series you follow, you can get as deep or as straightforward a story as you like! The Thanos Imperative is a 6 issue mini-series, which can be read in and of itself as an exciting little adventure into the cosmos, but for readers of the past war stories, you get a nice big epic story, full of nice plot points picking up on previous events, and the welcome return of some previously lost characters! Ace!

And the artwork is a fantastic window into this bright, warm, buzzing electric universe! Artist Miguel Sepulveda’s frames crackle with energy and power, the characters burst off the page as they plunge into endless vistas or star-filled horizons, and there are murky shadows sneaking round the bright costumes just so we know it’s not all brightness and light! The final splash page with the guardians facing off against their opposite numbers is a fantastic example of the artist and colourist coming together to produce a big, bright but foreboding image, as if a gladiatorial fight was lit only by lightning and huge bonfires it glows out from the page and you can feel the heat of the battle about to break loose!

It’s full on escapist, silly, space-age, nutty fun. The sort of book you wished you could have read when you were 8 years old and still had weekends free to play with your lego and build spaceships.

And if that doesn’t win you over,  it has a Raccoon in a robotic battle suit.

I love drunk pussys.

Achewood. Its online for free, because legally, they can't charge you to watch a cat get picked up by his package.

I’m trying something new here with this review, since for the first time ever I’m gonna talk about a comic series that you can actually read for free right now. Achewood is an online comic series that has been running since 2001, written and drawn by Chris Onstad. It features a collection of animals, and a couple of robots who live in a town called Achewood.

http://www.achewood.com

Its updated every 3 or 4 days, and its completely free to read! Though you can turn up and start reading the series right now, it’s probably better to either start at the beginning, or jump to a story line, easily found in the drop-down menu on the first page. Discussions in drawing rooms and pantrys up and down the nation have confirmed that ‘The Great Outdoor Fight’ is a good story to start with, and if you’re not a fan of reading comics online, this story arc is available in a lovely hardback edition for about a tenner, with a load of jolly extras!

So then, what the devil is it all about? Golly, its essentially about a group of friends who are either cats, or bears (but there is also a special little 5-year-old otter, Phillipe) who enjoy drinking, fine food, hanging out at their rich cat friend’s pool house and looking at the internet. It’s a comedy, with each strip being a little joke or sketch, but they all build up (usually) into a longer running theme or story event. If you like drawings of a cat wearing a thong, your gonna be into Achewood. There is also a tiger with a massive handlebar moustache who likes heavy metal, drinking Jack Daniels and being obnoxious to the elderly english bear he lives with (called Mr. Bear).

Todays Thought for the Day.

That cheerful chap above is Ray Smuckles, he is the ringleader of the gang, a rich entrepeneur, the brainchild behind ‘Chatsacks’ the fake rubber testicles you stick on your phone so it looks like your mobile has nuts. He hangs about all day wearing a black thong, and drinking, but he will occasionally wear a hat. As befitting an online weekly cartoon series, the illustration is all nice and simple line art, minimal shading and no colour, but that all adds to the silly charm.

I hope his nuts weren't loose.

So there we are! What more can be said about this series? It’s an absolute treat! And its free! So I’d recommend, more than any other comic I write about, check this one out. www.achewood.com I read the whole lot from start to finish in one weekend, and I was chuckling out loud the whole time.

And if anyone out there is strong enough to pick me up by my cock and balls, please leave a comment with your contact details.