Sunday, August 31, 2008
Classic UK reprints hit the shelves this week
The 14th book in Titan Books' ongoing and much appreciated Modesty Blaise collection has been published. Green Cobra collects three complete newspaper strip serials from 1979-80 written by Peter O'Donnell. Artists this time are John Burns and Pat Wright.
As with previous volumes, the book features relevant anecdotes and bonus material. Lawrence Blackmore recounts the strange story of the Evening Standard editor suddenly and inexplicably demanding John Burns be sacked from the strip, a demand the same editor then repeated in regards to Burns' replacement Pat Wright. (The next book in the series will feature the artwork of Neville Colvin who replaced Wright.)
It's another worthy collection for any fan of classic newspaper strips. The scripts carry the story along effortlessly and the artwork by Burns is superb. (Wright's style takes a little getting used to, coming in halfway through a serial, but is nevertheless slick and professional.
Collectors of classic British comics material are spoiled for choice these days, compared to how the situation was a few decades ago. Of course, 30 or 40 years ago we had a thriving comics industry so most fans were too busy buying the new stuff, so perhaps the current crop of books are trying to fill that gap in the market.
However, it's more likely that the following four books (all launched this week) are trying to appeal to a wider audience than the hard core comics enthusiast. Why else would Hospital Nurse Picture Library: Love on Ward B be published, if not to appeal to an audience looking for a "gimmick" gift, perhaps a post-modern irony Christmas present for a nurse or doctor friend?
Another book collecting vintage material from Fleetway girls' titles is The Best of Boyfriend which, at 144 pages, is thinner than Love on Ward B's whopping 400 page brick, but is in hardback. Again, more likely designed for its "cheesy" appeal than for anything else, but perhaps worth a look to see which veteran Fleetway artists are involved?
A book more likely to interest mainstream comic fans is The Best of 2000AD. This 384 page hardback reprints selected episodes of many of the older strips from 2000AD, such as Harlem Heroes, Shako, Flesh, and, naturally, Judge Dredd amongst others.
If classic war books are your thing you may be interested in Commando: Bandits at 12 O'Clock, published by Carlton Books and reprinting another batch of DC Thomson thrillers.
If that wasn't enough to burn a hole in your wallet, another War Picture Library collection is already out; Against All Odds is a massive 776 pager, edited by comics historian Steve Holland.
Lastly, not a book but a monthly comic, the latest issue of DC Thomson's Classics from the Comics, out now, includes the first Tough of the Track episode from Victor, way back in 1962.
Soon, The Best of Battle and the 1950s Roy of the Rovers Archives collection are due, along with a second Look-In book. It's a pity DC Thomson's Comics in the Classroom is seemingly the only classic humour collection this year so far, - but next year may see a Best of Buster compilation from Titan that will hopefully redress the balance.