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Monday, September 24, 2018

Preview: BLACK MAX Volume 1

After the ridiculously manic over-reaction to American comics imports in the 1950s, (see here) horror comics for kids were effectively banned in Britain under the (Children and Young Persons) Harmful Publications Act. However, publishers knew that children loved monster stories, and that a well-told horror comic wouldn't really do them any harm. They were prevented from blatantly publishing horror comics, but did manage to inject elements of such stories into their traditional adventure comics. 
One such strip was Black Max, a serial that ran throughout the short-lived Thunder anthology weekly in 1970/71, and then into the merged Lion and Thunder. Black Max was basically presented as a war story, featuring arial combat in World War One, but it was its horror element that was its main attraction. 
Episode one art by Eric Bradbury.

That horror came in the form of giant mutated bats created by evil scientist Baron Maximilien Von Klorr, who used them to attack the Allied forces. Written by Frank Pepper and Ken Mennell, it was one of the more memorable series in Thunder, and deservedly became very popular with the readers. (On a personal note, it was also a favourite of my dad's, who started reading comics again a few years before he died.)
First page of episode two. Art by Alfonso Font.

Now, Rebellion are collecting the early chapters in a book to be released on October 4th. Black Max Volume 1 reprints all the episodes from Thunder, plus the first few months of its continuation in the merged Lion and Thunder. The artwork is by the amazing Alfonso Font (who also provides an introduction and new cover), although the episode from Thunder No.1 was drawn by Eric Bradbury. (Presumably Bradbury's episode would have been drawn for the dummy issue of Thunder, and he may have been too busy to do the series once the comic got the green light months later.) Bradbury of course was a master of atmospheric horror in British comics. Font's style is lighter, but equally dramatic and his bats are the stuff of nightmares.

Black Max is a superb collection. Alfonso Font's work deserves to be seen and appreciated by a modern audience so I hope comic shops have ordered this marvellous book. If your local comic shop won't stock it, you can order it directly from the publisher here:

CREATIVE TEAM: Frank Pepper, Ken Mennell (w) Eric Bradbury, Alfonso Font (a)
RELEASE DATE: 4th October (UK) 24th October (US)
PAPERBACK, 115 pages
PRICE: £10.99 (UK) $16.99 (US)
ISBN: 9781781086551

Ace fighter pilot Baron Maximilien Von Klorr is the scourge of the skies, menacing the Allied forces during the bloodiest battles in WWI. Skilled, ruthless and in possession of two giant, mutated kingbats who fight by his side, Von Klorr AKA Black Max is almost unstoppable. Only the brave pilots of the Royal Flying Corps, including Lieutenant Tom Wilson, oppose the Black Max's complete dominance of the air. Thrilling supernatural war comics from the pages of classic British comics Lion and Thunder!

Available in print from: book stores, Amazon, and comic book stores via Diamond


B Smith said...

I'm sure it'd sell better if it came with a free Black Max's Bat attached to the cover :-)

Lew Stringer said...

Wouldn't that be great? I still have mine from 1970. One of the best free gifts of the time.

David Simpson said...

I read Black max then, and loved it. I've read it again recently, and it holds up very well.

Also good was its sequel Secrets Of The Demon Dwarf in which Max's ally Doktor Gratz, after decades in suspended animation, wreaked havoc on modern day Britain, with Alfonso Font's art getting more and more out there. Hopefully this, and the rest of Black Max, will eventually be reprinted.

Lew Stringer said...

I'd forgotten about the Demon Dwarf, if I saw it at all. Was that in Lion too?

The longevity of these books depends on how they sell of course. I hope they're doing well.

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