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Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Kid Slade Gunfighter #1

### 1957. Cover price 1/.
68 pages. B&W contents.
Thorpe & Porter

Cover by UNKNOWN.
r: UNKNOWN.

Contents:

 2 Top the Charts Every Month With Cannon Records in-house advertisement.
 3 Gun Crazy w: Stan Lee; a: Venon Henkel.
r: Kid Colt Outlaw (Marvel Comics) #25 (Mar 1953).
 7 Kid Colt Outlaw UNTITLED [B676] w: UNKNOWN; a: Ed Smalle, Jr.
r: Kid Colt Outlaw (Marvel Comics) #25 (Mar 1953).
13 American Eagle The City of Death! w: UNKNOWN; a: Joe Gevanter.
r: Prize Comics Western (Prize) Vol.13 #03 (Jul-Aug 1954).
21 The Cop Went West! text story by UNKNOWN; illustrated by Pete Morisi.
r: Kid Colt Outlaw (Marvel Comics) #25 (Mar 1953).
23 Kid Colt Outlaw UNTITLED [D587 ?] w: UNKNOWN; a: UNKNOWN.
r: UNKNOWN.
30 Rico's Secret Saddle w: UNKNOWN; a: George Olesen.
r: Dead-Eye Western Comics (Hillman) Vol.2 #08 (Feb-Mar 1952).
36 Prayer Works Wonders (public service announcement) a: Frank Frazetta.
r: Real Clue Crime Stories (Hillman) Vol.7 #06 (Aug 1952).
37 Kid Colt Outlaw UNTITLED [B-675] w: UNKNOWN; a: Jack Keller.
r: UNKNOWN.
44 The High Steppers [Show Bucker / Grandstander and The Pile Driver] illustrated feature; a: UNKNOWN.
r: Dead-Eye Western Comics (Hillman) Vol.2 #09 (Aug 1952).
45 Seal of Lightfoot w: UNKNOWN; p: Paul Reinman, i: Dan Zolnerowich.
r: Dead-Eye Western Comics (Hillman) Vol.2 #09 (Aug 1952).
51 Gun Battle! text story (uncredited); illustrated by Russ Heath (uncredited).
r: Kid Colt Outlaw (Marvel Comics) #45 (Feb 1955).
53 American Eagle Wildcat Hunters! w: UNKNOWN; a: Joe Gevanter.
r: Prize Comics Western (Prize) Vol.13 #03 (Jul-Aug 1954).
59 The Saga of Daisy Mae text story by Bob Young; illustrated by UNKNOWN.
r: UNKNOWN.
60 Kid Colt Outlaw UNTITLED w: UNKNOWN; a: Jack Keller.
r: UNKNOWN.
66 Fast Job (half page) w: UNKNOWN; a: UNKNOWN. / The Best in Thrilling Comics in-house advertisement for Race for the Moon.
r: UNKNOWN.
67 Which has the Atlas Built Body? advertisement for Charles Atlas.
68 Fear no Man advertisement for Ketsugo Complete Self-Defense.

Note: Cover is "Kid Slade, Gunfighter" while the spine reads "Kid Slade Comics" - I have chosen to use the cover title.

One of the titles not to hand at present - a review will be included when I'm set up properly.

The Avengers Vol.1 #1

22 Sep 1973. Cover price 6p.
36 pages. B&W contents.
Marvel Comics Ltd.

Cover montage:
Doctor Strange p:
r: Strange Tales (Marvel Comics) #?? (## ### ####).
Iron Man p: Jack Kirby, i: George Roussos.
r: cover element from The Avengers (Marvel Comics) #04 (1963).
Thor p:
r: Journey into Mystery (Marvel Comics) #?? (## ### ####).
Captain America p: Jack Kirby, i: George Roussos.
r: cover element from The Avengers (Marvel Comics) #04 (1963).

Free Superhero Transfers.

Contents:

.2 Count Dracula's Deadly Secret advertisement for Wall's ice lolly; a: UNKNOWN.
.3 The Avengers Captain America Joins The Avengers! w: Stan Lee; p: Jack Kirby, i: George Roussos (uncredited), lettered by Art Simek.
r: edited from The Avengers (Marvel Comics) #04 (1963).
13 Hi There, Adventure Lover! (three quarter page) introduction. / 144 Different Stamps FREE! advertisement (one eighth page) advertisement. / Free Stamp Collector's Outfit (one eighth page) advertisement .
26 The Insult That Made a Man Out of 'Mac' advertisement for Charles Atlas 'Dynamic Tension' book.
27 Dr. Strange "The Origin of Dr. Strange" w: Stan Lee; a: Steve Ditko, lettered by Sam Rosen.
r: Strange Tales (Marvel Comics) #115 ().
35 The Adventures of the Cresta Bear advertisement; a: UNKNOWN.
36 It's Disneytime Again advertisement for Disney Storybook, and Movees Starter Packs.
The cover, picking out iconic images of featured characters, is surprisingly effective given disparate sources, though the overdose of text is awful. Not only does the text manage to give the issue the appearance of a high street marketing leaflet, it is also done in a range of styles which clash horribly - this is what a comic-book designed by an eight-year-old looks like, and in no way encourages confidence. This is not a good start.
A tale destined to become a milestone in the Marvel age of comics!

Bringing you the great super-hero which your wonderful avalanche of fan mail demanded!
Stan Lee, despite his numerous faults, knew that wowing readers with hype worked. In many ways Lee's style anticipates the trend for "moments" being emphasized above cohesive storytelling, with splash pages and melodrama overshadowing narrative clarity. Thor, Iron Man, Wasp, and Giant-Man stand (in costume) to greet Captain America (also in costume), who has decided to join the Avengers. Do these people live in their costumes? When do they wash them? It is moments such as this opening scene which fundamentally breaks the genre's credibility for me.

Unfortunately we do not get to see Cap being given a guided tour of the Avengers' mansion, as the story immediately goes into a flashback showing Cap's journey from ice-cube to being revived. When he comes to his senses, he has his own flashback to WWII's climax, recounting events that led to him being frozen. Interestingly, he is aware that he was worshiped by Eskimos - a fact he could only have known if he was aware of events around him while frozen. Nestled flashbacks are an extremely difficult writing trick to pull of well, and this shows how not to do it. With each passing panel we are moved further from the beginning of the story, further from immediacy.

When the Avengers are turned to stone, but Captain America's first impulse isn't to investigate the strange statues - checking out the attractive women gathered nearby instead, then wandering off in order to look at modern buildings. A police officer directs Cap to a nearby hotel, where he somehow gets a room despite being in full costume and having no discernible money. The dialogue here really stretches credibility, as he states that he has never seen television, despite WRGB having broadcasted from the General Electric facility in Schenectady since 1928. There were many exhibitions of the technology, and shops had televisions on display - especially in New York, where Cap is from.

Rick Jones breaks into Cap's hotel room (his criminal skills are on a par with Doctor Doom), and despite Rick's insistence that he needs help finding the Avengers, Cap is more interested in the fact that Rick is the spitting image of Bucky. Cap quashes his emotional outburst (resisting the urge to ask Rick to put on Bucky's tights for, uh... nostalgic reasons), and sets off with the youngster to a dark room. Sorry, a darkroom, where they look at perfectly innocent photographs together. They discover that one of the photographers who greeted the Avengers on the docks was wielding a gun of sorts.

Cap says they need to find the man, and Rick alerts the Teen-Brigade. These eager teens start snapping candid photographs of men for Cap to peruse at his leisure, but Cap finally discovers the man he is after by staring through windows like a peeping Tom. Smashing his way into the room, the strange man's gunsels open fire, but Cap's shield quickly dispenses with their weapons. They flee when they discover that their employer is an alien, then we are privy to another flashback in which the alien's story is laid out - from a far distant galaxy, the alien's ship crashed on Earth centuries before, embedding itself in into the bottom of the sea.

During the narrative, Cap works out that the gun - which can turn people to stone for one hundred hours - and the alien's hair were responsible for the Medusa legend, and that Namor was behind the attack, convincing the alien he would free his ship in return for taking out the Avengers. Cap convinces the nameless alien to restore his new friends, promising that he will free the ship in exchange for his assistance. The Avengers are restored, then set out to get the ship from its location under the sea, which Thor accomplishes easily. Before they can celebrate, Namor and his warriors attack the Avengers.

Captain America, however, merely sits back, enjoying the spectacle - imagining what he could have done with a man such as Namor back in the day.

Namor reveals that he has taken Rick hostage, which finally prompts Cap to stop daydreaming and enter the fight. It is a battle swiftly concluded as the alien has concluded his repairs, and is readying his ship for take-off. Iron Man scolds Cap for waiting so long to use his his fists, and Wasp reveals that she was 'powdering her nose' during proceedings. And yes, that is actually the phrase she uses.

Iron Man then proposes to Captain America. That he join the Avengers, that is. Meanwhile, Rick is conflicted: "He's the greatest guy I ever met - and I can tell he wants me to be his partner! But what about - the Hulk? He's sure to return some day... and when he finds out that Captain America has replaced him - will anything be able to stop him then??!"

There is no more infuriating opening that one which is never revisited. Without the splash page of Captain America entering the mansion this could have been a straight-forward story, but by framing it as a flash-back builds in the notion that events of the past will have bearing on that moment. To completely disregard the present in favour of staying with what has happened previously means we are left wondering what occurred past that moment. I'd like to imagine that Cap asked if he could have a room near Rick's. Or Wasp - he isn't too choosy.

Bad plotting is bad plotting, irrespective of medium or genre. The Avengers story here is lumbered with an over-abundance of easy get-out clauses for characters to enjoy - had they simply sat around chatting with Namor and his forces instead of engaging in fisticuffs the outcome would have been identical. The actions of the alien through the ages isn't explored in any detail, nor the fate of Eskimos at the beginning of the story, leaving far too many loose ends.

Without pausing, the issue moves on to another reprint:
In answer to an avalanche of requests, we present:

"The Origin of Dr. Strange"

Who is he? Where does he come from? How did he get his powers?
In India, land of mystic enchantment, we find a haggard figure entering a strangely silent chamber - Doctor Stephen Strange, for it is he, asks the man inside if he is "the Ancient One," who is said to have healing powers. Strange is told that he has has to prove himself worthy, as the power of magic must not be wasted on those who are undeserving. Ancient One uses his powers to peer into Strange's brain, into his memory, to learn the truth, seeing his life in America as a famous surgeon.

Having completed a successful operation, Stephen celebrates by lighting a cigarette and disregarding a colleague who tells him that his patient wants to thank the surgeon who saved his life. Moving forward in time, Ancient One sees the car crash which changed Stephen's life - nerve damage to his hands leaving him unable to perform surgery ever again. One day, when hanging around on the docks (as he does) he hears two men talking about a man with the ability to cure any manner of affliction.

Having seen enough, the Ancient One tells Strange that he sees within the surgeon a spark of decency which he might be able to fan into a flame. Ancient One offers Strange the opportunity to study with him, but is refused. A convenient snowstorm means Strange can't walk out on the offer, and he soon witnesses the proof of the Ancient One's magical abilities - and happens upon Mordo using black magic to attack his master. Bound and gagged, he is unable to warn about the threat within, but the Ancient One sees and knows all...

An effective and well-paced story which reveals pertinent details of Strange's past without overdoing the magic elements. Use of nine-panel pages works well, with enough variation to maintain visual interest. Although Mordo is too one-note villainy to convince as a rounded character, the personalities of characters are all clearly defined, with scenes set in Strange's past - being hilariously rude - the highlight. If there's one strip calling out to be written, it is Strange's story prior to his accident.

On This Day: 23 Oct

2000 A.D. (Fleetway Publications) Prog 650 (28 Oct 1989) *new look*

Game Zone (Dennis Publishing) vol.2 #1 (Nov 1992).

My Experiences in the Third World War and Other Stories: The Best Short Fiction of Michael Moorcock Volume 1 by Michael Moorcock. (2014)

First Appearances:

Fr1day (Rogue Trooper) in 2000 A.D. Prog 650 (28 Oct 1989).

Births:

Manny Curtis (1924); Gary Erskine (1968); Aaron M. Fitzwater (1978)

Deaths:

Antonio Canale (1991)

Notable Events:

The Sacred Armour of Antiriad computer game, packaged with accompanying mini-comic, released in 1986.
2000 A.D. began running multiple full-color strips, with Prog 650, in 1989.
Bryan Talbot gave a talk at Eccleston Library, Lancashire, in 2008.
The "Supper With Supermac" evening in 2011, at The Apple Inn, Lucker, with former Newcastle United and England soccer star Malcolm Macdonald raising money for charity, was the venue for Simon Donald's stand-up routine. The event raised £1,100, with money going to purchase sports equipment for St Mary’s Church of England Middle School.
Mark Gatiss was a castaway on Desert Island Discs, on BBC Radio 4, in 2011.

Monday, October 22, 2018

Blast! #1

Jun 1991; Cover price £1.50
76 pages. Colour and B&W.
John Brown Publishing, Ltd.

Edited by Stuart Green.

Mr. Monster cover by Simon Bisley.

Contents:

 2 Metal Hammer - the Biggest and Best Hard Rock / Heavy Metal Magazine magazine advert.
 3 Incoming... text introduction by Stuart Green. / Contents / Indicia.
 4 Mr. Monster Lair of the Lizard Ladies w: Michael T. Gilbert; a: Simon Bisley, lettering by Fred Nurney.
11 Willy Roach - He Goes by Coach (half page) advertisement for EuroLines. a: (uncredited). / C&T Eyewear advertisement.
12 Star Trek: The Next Generation clothing advertisement.
13 Concrete Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous w:/a: Paul Chadwick, lettering by Bill Spicer.
r: Dark Horse Presents (Dark Horse) #01 (Jul 1986).
21 More than Just Comics advertisement for Deadline magazine.
22 The Ceremony Has Begun advertisement for The Doors film.
23 Torpedo Every Dog Has His Day w: Sanchez Abulli; a: Jordi Bernet, colouring by Dondie Cox.
r: De perro a perro from Creepy (Toutain Editor) #34 (Apr 1982).
27 /  1 Speakeasy Insert Kevin Costner photograph (Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves).
28 /  2 Mega City Comics advertisement.
29 /  3 Liverpool Comic Mart & Film Fair (quarter page) advertisement. / Birmingham Comic Mart & Film Fair (quarter page) advertisement. / UKCAC 91 (half page) advertisement for UK Comic Art Convention 1991.
30 /  4 Speakout text introduction (uncredited). / Comic Views reviews by John Smile.
31 /  5 King Ink comic chart.
33 /  7 Speakeasy Newsline (half page) advertisement. / Experience Natures Secret High with Yuba Gold (half page) advertisement.
34 /  8 Free Comics! (quarter page) advertisement for Planet X. / Direct Contact Dating (quarter page) advertisement. / Mr Extra, on the brink of defeat once more at the hands of Jane (5½) and Tilly (6¾) (half page) advertisement for Meanwhile.
35 /  9 Book Views reviews. / Twitch City UNTITLED ["I fink I'm Kured!"] w:/a: Bambos.
36 / 10 Nu Earth (quarter page) advertisement. / Gotham City Comics (quarter page) advertisement. / The Sheffield Space Centre (quarter page) advertisement. / Worlds of Wonder (quarter page) advertisement.
37 / 11 Comic Fantasy (quarter page) advertisement. / Back-Issue Comics Manager Required (quarter page) job advertisement. / Titan Distributors Comic Mart (quarter page) advertisement. / Cosmic Comics (quarter page) advertisement.
38 / 12 Prince of Thieves interview by Alan Jones.
42 / 16 Scorched Earth advertisement.
43 / 17 Phaze II The Dead Zone would like to present "Sex in the U.K." advertisement.
44 / 18 The Number of the Beast Simon Bisley interview by Gordon Rennie.
46 / 20 The Gloucester Comic Book Fair (quarter page) advertisement. / Rainbow's End (quarter page) advertisement. / Comicbook Marketplace Special Edition - Saturday June 15 (quarter page) advertisement. / Comicbook Marketplace - Sunday July 14 (quarter page) advertisement.
48 / 22 Classifieds
50 / 24 Forbidden Planet advertisement.
55 Portobello Trust - London Cartoon Centre (quarter page) advertisement. / Needing Direction? Life Lost it's Meaning? Lacking Moral Fibre? (quarter page) advertisement for Electric Soup. / Genuine Ex-Tour T-Shirts - Cult Movie T-Shirts (half page) advertisement for BMS.
56 For over fourteen years... advertisement for Titan Distributors.
57 Axel Pressbutton Famous For Fifteen Minutes w: Pedro Henry (Steve Moore); a: Steve Dillon.
63 Hey You! in-house advertisement for Blast! T-shirts. / Subscribe Now!.
64 ...Let's Follow Him! w:/a: Peter Bagge.
r: Neat Stuff (Fantagraphics) #01 (Jul 1985).
66 There are no others advertisement for Titan Distributors.
67 Lazarus Churchyard The Virtual Kiss, part 1: Fracture w: Warren Ellis; a: D'Israeli.
74 Incoming...30 Days next issue feature.
75 Attention! Fear Want You! subscription advertisement for Fear.
76 The Face advertisement.

Simon Bisley's art is an attention grabber - a minimalist background emphasises the power of his painting perfectly, though the cover text (by way of dialogue) could have done with a white outline, highlighting red against blue better. Blast!'s logo is, disappointingly, rendered in a font which doesn't quite work, looking as if it has been vertically stretched to an alarming degree. This is our first indication that, for all the talent brought together for the title, there's a hurriedness to proceedings... a certain lack of attention to detail.

Mr. Monster - beautifully illustrated by Bisley - is a mad, violent, and extremely funny strip, which would be better served with more space. It's an irreverent, wonderful complete story (common sense in a launch) which has a great pay-off. Concrete is a welcome addition to the line-up, with a tale which feels familiar, yet contains a surprising amount of heart and intelligence. Going through a small mountain of mail received after appearing of the Carson Show, as Ron is exposed to the full range of reactions to his participation on the television show.

Agreeing to attend a party invitation, he is confronted by a single mother whose son's eighth birthday party is in full swing. The best line is about John Ritter's appearance a year before, which is entirely believable - if anyone would do a cool appearance at a kid's birthday party, it would be him. Concrete has a lot of fun with the concept, and ends on a very amusing note. One of the all-time greats of American comics, and its inclusion here is appreciated.

Torpedo is from the "hard boiled" school of writing, and many influences are clear. There's something indefinably off about the strip, and it doesn't gel into a convincing or engaging story, partially due to the endless text boxes which drive forward the narrative. The colouring is far too garish for the setting, and I have a suspicion it would read better if reproduced in black and white.

Axel Pressbutton reappears here - the planet Scrofula, in the 31st century, where television has begun broadcasting directly into the brains of viewers. Axel interrupts an interview in the street, and producers request that he be brought into the studio to exploit his status as a famous assassin. Things go wrong extremely quickly, and the bodycount is... well, its an Axel Pressbutton story, so we aren't expecting rainbows and kittens, are we?

The ...Let's Follow Him! two-page comedy strip isn't as funny as it could have been, though it is a joy to Bagge's work. Managing to fill in a lot of character detail with little effort, the strip does exactly what the name indicates.

The opening installment of Lazarus Churchyard, with a suitably macabre and off-beat lead character in the titular Lazarus. Four hundred years old, and effectively immortal thanks to a plastic bonded to his body, he has to investigate a spate of deaths in order to get his wish... death. The cyberpunk setting contrasts nicely with the rest of the strips, and the artwork by D'Israeli compliments Warren Ellis' script perfectly.

There is very little prose in Blast! (a solitary introduction), and the heavy use of color indicates that what Fleetway was doing (in response to Trident) had been taken into consideration when putting the title together. There's an interesting, though disjointed, collection of strips, but nothing screaming "break-out hit" aside from the Concrete reprint. When you have creators of this caliber involved, it isn't surprising that the comic is still relevant and massively appealing, but a more focused aim might have helped.

I'm not sure who the target audience for the title was.

Now to the Speakeasy insert.

Wisely using the Rian Hughes logo, there are hints of the classic Speakeasy formula, but it is so diluted that it might as well have taken a different name for this:
Speakeasy has a ten year history as a news and features magazine distributed exclusively to specialist comic shops. In that time it has never stayed still, appearing in various formats: from a xeroxed A5 fanzine it became a fold-out broadsheet before graduating to its previous incarnation as an A4 glossy.

Now Speakeasy has mutated into BLAST! a monthly comic magazine dedicated to bringing the best international comic strips to a British audience. Our pull-out editorial section - which will be distributed free to British comic shops - retains the name Speakeasy and its original brief: to promote comics and the culture that they reflect. Over the coming months we will continue to bring you the exclusive interviews with the biggest names in comics and genre film and literature, while keeping you up to date with the significant releases in all three mediums.

It is unfortunate that the paper is so awful, as the shiny white pages of the regular magazine was so impressive. This is a step backwards, but as it is a free insert I'm willing to accept that something had to give. Troublingly, we don't even get the full experience of the title here, omitting several of the main draws. Grant Morrison is nowhere to be seen, and there are far, far too many adverts.

That the change included a heavy film interest is annoying. I read film magazines to find out about films, and I want comics information from comic magazines. There's still a comic strip in this incarnation (Twitch City), though it isn't as immediately amusing as Pedantic Stan. There's a Simon Bisley interview to make up for such a radical change to the formula, but too much has been altered from the magazine. There are parts I really miss from the standalone magazine, and their absence makes this extremely frustrating to read.

A sad decline for a highly-regarded title. Change, we are reminded, is not always for the better.

Captain Britain Vol.1 #1

13 Oct 1976. Cover price 10p.
36 pages. Colour & B&W.
Marvel Comics Ltd.

Edited by Larry Lieber & Neil Tennant.

Cover p: Larry Lieber (signed); i: Frank Giacoia (uncredited).

Free Captain Britain mask.

Contents:

.2 Captain Britain UNTITLED [] w: Chris Claremont; p: Herb Trimpe; i: Fred Kida, lettering by Irving Watanabe, colouring by Marie Severin.
.9 A Personal Message from Stan Lee introduction.
10 All the Excitement of the Battlefield from Atlantic advertisement.
11 To Celebrate the Launch of Captain Britain (half page) announcement. / Fun Jokes (quarter page) advertisement for novelty catalogue. / Free Stamp Collectors Outfit (eighth of page) advertisement for The Bridgnorth Stamp Co. Ltd. / Free Complete Stamp Collectors Outfit (eighth of page) advertisement for Philatelic Services.
12 The Fantastic Four One From Four Leaves Three! w: Stan Lee; p: John Buscema, i: Joe Sinnott, lettering by Mike Stevens.
r: edited Fantastic Four (Marvel Comics) #110 (May 1971).
17 Get These 4 Great Mags Everyweek! (three quarters page) in-house advertisement for Super Spider-Man, Planet of the Apes and Dracula Lives, The Titans, and The Mighty World of Marvel starring The Incredible Hulk and the Avengers / Free Next Week... Captain Britain Boomerang!! (quarter page)
18 Have you got a meccano tank, plane, horse, jeep, submarine, skyscraper, motorboat, showboat, racing car, railway-engine, taxi cab, windmill, cable car set? (half page) advertisement for Meccano. / Marvel T-Shirts (half page) in-house advertisement.
24 Captain Britain's Fun Page puzzles. w:/a: Owen McCarron.
25 A Marvel Masterwork Pin-Up Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. a: Jim Steranko.
r: cover from Strange Tales (Marvel Comics) #167 (Apr 1968).
26 Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. From Hell -- Fury! w:/a: Jim Steranko, lettering by Jerry Feldman.
r: cover from Strange Tales (Marvel Comics) #159 (Aug 1967).
31 A Marvel Masterwork Pin-Up Captain Britain! p: Herb Trimpe, i: Fred Kida.
32 Win These 3 Great Mogul Toys advertisement.

Splashing out on full-colour pages, with which to showcase Captain Britain, makes a real difference to the title as a whole. Flat colouring really doesn't matter, and gives the strip the feeling of belonging to the same tradition as Captain America, Spider-Man and other US characters - this is a British character with firmly American roots. Lieber's cover design looks back to mid-sixties US covers for inspiration, and - compared to other British launches - shows great restraint in text placement.

Opening somewhere on Cheviot Hills, our fledgling hero faces off against Reaver and his associates. There are (Duddo?) standing stones making interesting background scenery for a action-packed sequence, as Reaver states that Cap is all that stands between him and enough power to rule the world. Reaver's forces don't stand a chance against the strength and reflexes of Captain Britain, who casually swats them away.

A highlight of this is the thought balloon: "I'm a physicist, not some... Super-hero!" Was a Star Trek re-run playing in the background when this was written?

Instinctively stating that Reaver can call him Captain Britain, we get treated to a flashback origin story - not the most elegant manner in which to impart this information. This section doesn't work quite as well. Darkmoor Research Centre, a top secret nuclear complex half-hidden on the lonely moor, is a bustling, futuristic facility which looks more like a hydro-power plant designed by a madman. That it is only half-hidden is an interesting fact - what was wrong with completely hiding it? Did they run out of time? Did they run out of money?

Brian Braddock, working as an assistant to Dr. Travis - a pipe in his mouth throughout, hopefully unlit considering his location - gets told that the complex is on the threshold of developing a practical, safe fusion reactor system which will solve the world's energy crisis overnight. Their conversation is interrupted by shooting from outside, and a nearby wall collapses as Joshua Stragg - the Reaver - enters in a futuristic tank to kidnap the assembled scientific minds.

Dr. Travis is killed in the assault, and Brian flees - abandoning his pipe - with Stragg's men in hot pursuit. Crashing his motorbike off a cliff, Brian has a vision of two immense faces. Informed that he is in an ancient circle of power, Brian learns that he is going to be judged on peril of his immortal soul. He is then told to choose between an amulet and a sword...

Which is where the story breaks off, sans a satisfying conclusion.

It feels like an American reprint, especially given the uncomfortable break just as things are getting interesting, a matter not aided by the very large panels more befitting a younger audience than intended. Still, this is a nice change from endless reprints, so must be applauded.

The Fantastic Four story continues on from material published in Titans, which is simply unacceptable in a launch issue - stories should feel fresh and exciting, and not immediately tie to other publications which are not assured to still be available. Facing certain death in the Negative Zone, Reed attempts to save himself as the rest of the team watch on via the Visi-Scanner.

Having been deprived of the opening part of this adventure I can't say that I care much how Reed survives (as he must), though it is an attractively-drawn tale with enough style to validate its inclusion.

Steranko's work is always appreciated, though (once again) we begin mid-story - there is no alteration to remove a "see last ish" reference in an opening text box, making me wonder is the decision to include the strip in this title was a last-minute decision. A couple of pin-ups - Nick Fury and Captain Britain - are also included, but special mention must be made of the free gift. There's a distinct lack of blue mouthpiece, but it is a great-looking mash when flat.

An unfocused and slightly scrappy first issue, but with an appeal which transcends its limitations.

Swiftsure Vol.1 #1

May 1985; Cover price 70p.
32 pages. B&W.
Harrier Publishing.

Edited by Martin Lock.

Cover by Bryan Talbot.

Contents:

.2 Swift but Sure Introduction by Martin Lock. / Contents / Indicia / The Twenty Year Party text feature by Alan Moore.
.3 Lieutenant Fl'ff Arrival w: Martin Lock; p: Dave Harwood, i: Mark Farmer.
.9 Dandy in the Underworld 1: A Fall from Grace w:/a: Stephen Bakersville.
16 Ram, Assassin The Assassin w: Martin Lock; p: R.F. O'Roake, lettering by Richard Starkings. Logo by Nina Y. Sutcliffe.
22 Rock Solid, Space Hero Brazen Invasion, part one, w:/a: Lew Stringer.
25 Codename: Andromeda, part one, w: Bill W. Ryan; a: Dave Harwood.
32 People are Talking! advertisement.

A very detailed (though non-indicative) cover by Bryan Talbot graces the first issue of Swiftsure, an alternative title with mainstream aspirations. Alan Moore provides commentary on the state of comics c.1985, and is in fine form. Martin's editorial is very cheerful and optimistic, which is so refreshing that I'm willing to forgive the punny title.

Arrival begins with a large image of H.M.S. Repulse and rather a lot of text. It is a nice enough opening, but the name of the lead character bothers me: Fl'ff. Go on and say it out loud. Yeah. It really helps a strip if the protagonist doesn't have a name which immediately inspires a dozen jokes. Anyway, the uniform designs are functional and thought through (without tacky fanservice), the setting is intelligent (it is refreshing to see direction indicators on elevators), and the background detail is quite busy.

This should be a top-notch strip. And yet... nothing much happens. Fl'ff and Kale board the Repulse for their new assignments, settle in, and are sent on an away mision (on the last page) to investigate why the H.M.S Bromsgrove hasn't been in radio contact. The general feeling is that of the pre-credits sequence for the pilot of an SF series which is still testing the ground to see how solid the foundations are - more aggressive storytelling, with some incident of note, on the first page would have kept it from seeming so slow and tentative.

Definitely a story which needs to be read in one sitting rather than in bite-size installments.

There is a humerous opening narration, accompanying some beautiful illustrations, to begin Dandy in the Underworld. Set on the planet Orpho, where humanity lives in domed cities atop stilts to protect them from the natives. James Daniel Delaney has been found guilty on all counts, and sentenced to unarmed combat with an underworlder. If he emerges victorious his full rights will be restored, but if he loses he will be exiled to the underworld. It is a foregone conclusion that he will not be victorious.

Approached by Biddle (of Biddle, Biddle, Biddle and Grout), Delaney is tasked with conducting an investigation into the underworld. If successful he will be given his freedom, and one of Orpho's top agents has been tasked with assisting him in order to make sure he succeeds. Her name is A, and she is not the most sociable companion for such an exuberant individual.

A very impressive introduction to the characters and setting, with a great sense of humour running through the script. The visual assuredness is impressive, as is the world-building. This is a place I want to know more about, and Delaney and A are extremely well-defined considering how brief the strip is.

Set in 2584, on a colony-world of Safe Haven, far from Earth, Ram: Assassin is the story of Ramel Kerina. Having a female assassin come as a surprise to the characters is somewhat odd. The scratchy art suits the story, but there is a persistent sense that this is set in a nebulous time in the past rather than the far future. O'Roake's art reminds me especially of Dungeons and Dragons illustrations from the period.

Rock Solid is funny strip about an inept space hero, though the artwork is not as detailed as in the similar Dash Decent. There's a certain roughness here, which shows how long ago this appeared, but it is a fine start to the story.

Who doesn't love a story which begins with a scientific experiment gone awry? Codename: Andromeda opens with the Orgill Drive being tested aboard the spacecraft Newton, when a meteor punches through the delicate heart of the device under observation. Project Manager Gribbins and researcher Canning die immediately, along with twelve others, Kris Prescott also died, and her remains - seared by heat, then shrivelled and frozen by the vacuum of space - floats onward, many light-years from Earth.

Her corpse is recovered by Captain Brown, an alien responding to the energy flash, and placed in a robo-doc where she is restored to life. Transported to Earth by the alien technology, Kris is somehow restored, her new body formed from Stonehenge's stones and soil by force of will. It is a remarkably dark beginning, with aliens which never quite manage the ability to communicate, some gruesome implications inherent in their technology, and a central character who is remarkably composed given all that has befallen her.

Solid strips, with intelligent writing and great art. There are rough edges, but nothing serious enough to raise concerns.

If only all first issues were this good.

On This Day: 22 Oct

Wildcat (Fleetway Publications) #01 (22 Oct 1988 - 04 Nov 1988)
The Mighty World of Marvel (Panini Publishing) vol.4 #01 (28 Oct 2009)

First Appearances:

Scarlet O'Gasmeter (Hewligan's Haircut) in 2000 A.D. (Fleetway Publications) Prog 702 (27 Oct 1990).

Births:

William St. John Glenn (1904); Rowland Emett (1906); Jim Lawrence (1918); Sid Bicknell (1922)

Deaths:

Gerald Swan (1980); Bert Hill (1986); Kenneth Ody (1990); Robert Nixon (2002); Martin Aitchison (2016); Steve Dillon (2016)

Notable Events:

A Dan Dare exhibition began at Bourne Hall, in Ewell, in 2001. It would finally end on the fifth of January the next year.