Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Coolest Comic Covers: Lady Penelope and Joe 90

When it came to cover designs for comics, Century 21 produced some excellent ones for City Magazines. The flagship title TV Century 21 was groundbreaking with its futuristic newspaper design of course, but the comic's companion titles looked great too. For example, above is the cover to Lady Penelope No.1 from January 1966. Its contemporary style instantly made other girls comics look old fashioned. (And the cover design would change from week to week just to keep it looking fresh.)

Even Joe 90 Top Secret looked more exciting and modern than most other boys comics when it was launched in January 1969. Here's the cover to issue one, with artwork on the strip by Frank Bellamy...
The interesting thing is that Century 21 didn't follow what IPC, DC Thomson, Odhams, or anyone else were doing with cover design. They ignored formula and did their own thing. Admittedly Joe 90 didn't last long but both TV21 and Lady Penelope had respectable runs. Cool-looking comics for the coolest decade.

(By the way, I don't have copies of these issues but the adverts for them in TV21 were clear and sharp enough so I scanned those, enlarged them, and cropped off the advertising stuff that was around the cover images.) 

Incoming: Commando Nos.4779 to 4782

This blog is all about the past, present and future of British comics so let's take a trip to the future! Well, two days from now anyway, when these issues of Commando go on sale on Thursday 29th January. My thanks to DC Thomson for sending the images and details...

Commando No 4779 – Evil In The East
The jungle can be a hostile place, besides the strength-sapping heat and humidity, dangerous animals and plants abound.
   This counts double if you’re a confirmed coward, born and raised in London, separated from your comrades and being pursued by a deadly assassin.
   That was the position that “Jelly” Jakes of the Convict Commandos found himself in. let’s be honest, he had every right to be terrified.

Story: Alan Hebden
Art: Manuel Benet
Cover: Manuel Benet

Commando No 4780 – Fighting Fury
He was only a skinny little guy, about five feet nothing at all…but, by jiminy, any Nazis who ran up against Private Sam Small were out of luck.
   While his ammo lasted, Sam shot them; then with his empty gun he clubbed them; when it was in splinters, he started in with his bare hands!
   Only one man knew what drove that little guy to such a fighting fury — only one found out the terrible secret of Sam Small — and here he tells Sam’s amazing story.


Hiding behind Aldoma’s magnificent all-action cover is one of the most idiosyncratic Commando stories you’ll ever read. Told in the first person, and an American first person at that, it chronicles the acts of a man with a death wish over a very short period of time. These are traits not normally associated with Commando and, indeed, very difficult to get right. But right they are here, very right indeed.
   Sit back, suspend your disbelief and enjoy this roller-coaster ride in the thick of the action in the company of ace reporter Jim Dawson.
   By the way, we had noticed Jim’s similarity to Robert Mitchum.

Calum Laird, Commando Editor

Fighting Fury originally Commando No 159 (April 1965), re-issued as No 747 (June 1973)

Story: Wilding
Art: Martin
Cover: Aldoma

Preview: http://www.commandocomics.com/latest-issues/29th-january-2015-collection?issue=4780 

Commando No 4781 – D-Day Dodgers
In 1944 someone named the servicemen in Italy the D-Day Dodgers; as though somehow the war they were fighting was a cushy number compared to the battles in France. Outraged, one national newspaper decided to expose these loafers once and for all.
   That’s how reporter Perry Potter and his photographer Chalky White came to be standing on a freezing airfield in “sunny” Italy. The weather was just the first of the eye-openers the pair was going to see.

Story: Alan Hebden
Art: Vicente Alcazar
Cover: Ian Kennedy

Commando No 4782 – Tempest Fury
In the summer of 1944, a frightening new weapon was unleashed against the war-weary British — the dreaded V1 flying bomb.
   Sergeant-Pilot Jamie Collins had a personal score to settle with these robots of death. So when his squadron-leader grounded him after yet another display of reckless flying, it didn’t stop him.
   Where there were V1s, that’s where Jamie wanted to be, at the controls of his hard-hitting tempest fighter. Orders or no orders…


Scott the Deputy Ed is on holiday so I get to write the intro to this story from our 25-year-old collection. Growing up with Commando in the 60s there were no creator credits on the books but there was one inside artist whose style stood out. Very individual, angular, with strong, strong blacks and peppered with skilfully-employed Zip-A-Tone — the sheets of dots which provide shading. To me the style looked just right for Commando. His name? Gordon Livingstone.
   I still think that, which is why you’re getting another chance (or a first chance) to read Ken Gentry’s crackling air/ground story and marvel at the magnificent economy of composition that is Ian Kennedy’s cover — there’s nothing there that doesn’t have to be.
   This really is a mini-masterpiece. Should I let Scott read it?

Calum Laird, Editor

Tempest Fury re-issued as No 2420 (November 1990), originally published as Commando No 1092, (January 1977).

Story: Ken Gentry
Art: Gordon Livingstone
Cover: Ian Kennedy

TV21 No.2 Highlights (Today in 1965)

UPDATE: In an earlier version of this post last night I said that every week from now on I'd be showing a few highlights from the issue of TV Century 21 that went on sale exactly 50 years ago that day. However, after sleeping on it for a few hours I realised what a crazy notion that was. Not only would the idea get old very fast, not only would it take until September 2019 to complete, but many TV21 strips are available in reprint collections anyway, so most fans who want them already have them. 

Still, now that I've done the work for this one I may as well re-post it. As I said on the original post, I don't actually have a copy of TV21 No.2 so what I've done is find a few pages from various sources. The cover shown above is actually from an eBay shop selling fridge magnets of all things! 

The Stingray strip by Ron Embleton ran across the centre pages of TV21 No.2. In its absence of the actual comic I've scanned the reprint of it from Stingray the Comic No.1 (1992), which ran across two pages, hence the gutter. Nevertheless it still conveys the impact of Embleton's dynamic and colourful artwork. 
On the back page of that issue, the origin of The Daleks continues with art by Richard Jennings. With no comic to scan from I've used the appropriate page from Marvel's The Dalek Chronicles instead, but the result is the same. This is the strip that first appeared exactly 50 years ago today on Wednesday 27th January 1965...
I'll still be revisiting TV21 from time to time, but the plan of doing it every week like clockwork was just one of those mad middle-of-the-night ideas that seemed good at the time but not so appealing in the cold light of day. I'm sorry if anyone is disappointed by my change of mind. I'd rather keep this blog operating like a rackety old TARDIS so that readers never know what to expect from week to week. What year will we visit next? Wait and see!

Monday, January 26, 2015

Captain Hurricane arrives!

VALIANT No.1. Cover by Geoff Campion.
I was never a fan of war strips and I must admit I often used to skip the four pages of Captain Hurricane that were at the front of Valiant every week. However it can't be denied that he was a popular character, lasting the duration of the comic's 14 year span. 

In the early days he was depicted in a more 'straight' adventure style but after a while the art and stories became more exaggerated. The main artist was R. Charles Roylace, who drew both the strips I'm showing here today, although other artists such as Jack Pamby and Fred T. Holmes also filled in from time to time. Looking back at it now, the strip does have a certain charm, could be very funny, and it's certainly well illustrated, although some of the racist remarks made by Hurricane towards Germans and the Japanese make one wince today.

Without further ado, here's the very first Captain Hurricane story from Valiant No.1, dated 6th October 1962, (scanned from a photocopy)...

Now a story from ten years later, from Valiant and TV21 dated May 27th 1972. This exaggerated, more humourous style, is the one that most readers will remember...

Captain Hurricane was a character very much of his time, when war strips appeared in virtually every boys' adventure comic. By 1976, when Valiant merged into Battle Picture Weekly, he'd had his day. Presumably not as popular as he once was, and perhaps too jocular for the deadly serious Battle comic, the strip was dropped and he only appeared in the merged comic as a mascot on the letters page, eventually being phased out altogether. He later turned up alongside other old comic characters in the mini-series Albion written by Leah Moore and John Reppion, illustrated by Shane Oakley. 

FRANKENTHING: A new Banx creation!

Many of you will be familiar with the work of Jeremy Banx, inventive creator of excellent strips such as Burp, Mr. Bignose, and Hector Vector and his Talking T-Shirt for Oink!, co-creator of The Driver for the original Toxic, and cartoonist for the Financial Times amongst other publications. Now he's unleashed another creation upon the world in the form of Frankenthing.

Frankenthing is a new comedy horror e-book written by Banx, profusely illustrated with his expert penmanship. It's available for the Kindle for just £1.99. (And there's a Kindle app for the iPad so you can read it on that instead if you wish.)

Here's the description of the book:

Dr Frankenstein tries to make a friend for his Monster. But it’s not so easy. The locals have locked up their cemeteries, they’re patrolling the streets and even the village butcher won’t serve him anymore.
So he makes one from something the castle cat (called Igor, of course) dragged in from the garden. Even though he hasn’t a clue what the something is.
Thus Frankenthing is born.
Frankenthing and the Monster become great friends. They play and laugh and dance. But Igor is lurking. He enjoyed killing Frankenthing so much the first time; he can’t wait to get his teeth and claws stuck in again.
Written and illustrated by award-winning cartoonist Jeremy Banx, FRANKENTHING is a humorous horror story filled with jokes, quirky characters and bizarre plot twists. For children and adults of all ages.

It's a great read and Banx's artistic skills are better than ever. A must for fans of his work and for anyone interested in a good fun story with an edge to the humour. To go to the Amazon page to buy it click here
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