The first collections of classic UK comic strips from Steve Holland's Bear Alley Books are out now. Cursitor Doom and The Phantom Patrol collect strips from, respectively, Smash! and Swift from the 1960s.
I confess I didn't buy Cursitor Doom as I already have the strips in the original comics, but I did go for The Phantom Patrol and was very impressed by the book. The format is the same as Titan's Modesty Blaise and James Bond collections; softback, laminated cover and nice white interior pages. There are a few teething problems; the printer has overdone the magenta on the covers, spoiling the excellent Chris Weston cover a little, and one of the pages came loose on my copy. However, these are minor quibbles and I certainly didn't feel I hadn't gotten my money's worth.
The book collects the complete run of The Phantom Patrol strips which appeared in Swift weekly from February 1962 to March 1963. The story is typical of the imaginative plots that appeared in British weeklies of the period: a British infantry patrol and their tank are transported back in time to fight alongside warriors of the past. The script was by Willie Patterson and the artwork by Gerry Embleton.
What came as a pleasant surprise was how well the artwork is reproduced here. Scanning from old comics often produces substandard results, with linework disappearing or muddying up, depending on the restoration process. However, Steve Holland obviously knows his stuff, and has put in long hours to ensure the art here is clear as can be. The printing is digital, so if one looks closely there's slight pixelation, but it doesn't distract the reader. The pages that were done in a grey wash come out superbly too.
This is quality work from a period when British comics were at their peak. The launch of Eagle a decade earlier had raised the bar for UK comics and adventure strips not only began to proliferate but also started to feature top class artists who really knew how to illustrate good dramatic boys' comic strip fiction. By 1962, when The Phantom Patrol appeared, the standard was very high.
With a limited print run of just 300, The Phantom Patrol is sure to be a rare treasure enjoyed by a lucky few. To make sure you're one of those fortunate readers, order your copy today from Bear Alley Books:
The back of the book gives us a glimpse of an upcoming volume from Bear Alley. The title isn't mentioned but the image shown is a panel from Slave of The Screamer, a strip with artwork by Jesus Blasco which ran in Valiant around 1970. There will also be two volumes of Johnny Future coming soon, and a humour collection (top secret as yet), so it looks like Bear Alley will be reviving lots of nostalgic memories in the months to come.