Zombies etc (yup, some Walking Dead in there….)


Over at CBR this week they are running a ‘Week of the Dead’ special to celebrate ‘The Walking Dead’ hitting issue #50. Interviews with Kirkman & Adlard, and best of all, a 5 page preview of #50…

Interview with Robert Kirkman
Interview with Charlie Adlard
and the big one…….
A preview of Walking Dead #50

and also, over at the comicbookreview site, there’s a review of an intriguing new comic by IDW called ‘Zombies! Hunters’, which is basically big game zombie hunting. Review here

Great British Comic Strips Part I – ‘The House of Daemon’ (Eagle, 1982-83)

Following on from my ‘Tower King’ article, we go back again to the early days of the relaunched Eagle comic, and after the conclusion of ‘The Tower King‘, the following weeks issue saw the arrival of another illustrated strip, again rendered by Spanish artist Jose Oritz. Entitled ‘The House of Daemon’, it was written by 2000AD stalwarts John Wagner & Alan Grant (best known for Judge Dredd). Running for 5 months from issue no.25 (September 11, 1982) to issue no.47 (February 12, 1983), this was a creepy and bizarre horror tale, one of the best Eagle produced.

The story of a dream house that becomes possessed by an evil spirit, its nightmarish and dreamlike qualities were vividly brought to life by Oritz, a gifted artist who really could depict evil very well. The evil spirit (the ‘Daemon’ of the title) traps the architect who designed the house (Elliot Aldrich) and his wife (Cassandra – who the house was built for) and they are left at the mercy of his demented plans. As ‘Daemon’ has the ability to transfer the rooms in the house into his own evil creations, the strip takes off an all sorts of tangents. For example, the kitchen became a recreation of the Vietnam conflict, with the punishing environment being labelled ‘Hells Kitchen’ by the GIs fighting within it. Their enemy are labelled ‘The Gimps’, a creation of Daemon. They are seen in the page scan below carrying a door across ‘Hells Kitchen’;

All sorts of horrors awaited those trapped in the house, and death lurked around every corner as the dimensions of the rooms bent to the will of ‘daemon’ to become wide open spaces or dark, tiny & claustrophobic areas, all filled with terror, such as these huge caterpillar-type creatures ;

Over the course of the story, Cassandra, the architects wife and one of the main recipients of the malevolent Daemons’ evil, was revealed to have psychic powers. This empowered the embattled prisoners of Daemon, enabling them to fight back, by overcoming their fear of the environments Daemon created, showing them up for the mind-altering games that they were.

Eventually Daemon is revealed as a powerful dark sorcerer from the 26th century. He is, in that future, effectively imprisoned in the ‘House of Daemon’ by 3 wizards from that same future, who combine their powers to keep him incarcerated. This all becomes apparent when Cassandra locates the 3 wizards in the lounge, part of which is a ‘sanctuary’ for them, protected from Daemons evil.

Daemon, despite his jailing, has managed to go back 500 years and his evil intent is to torture and imprison those in his future jail. At the stories conclusion, they
track down Daemon to the attic, where a surprise awaits them – those thought killed by Daemon are actually alive, all part of Daemons mind games and reality altering powers. The physical form of Daemon is poisoned by Cassandra, and the modern day prisoners of his evil plans manage to escape. finally, Elliot Aldrich and his building firm proceed to surround the house with high brick walls, to keep unwitting visitors away, and to isolate Daemon until reality and time catches up with him in the 26th Century.

As if inspired by this strip, Grant & Wagner went on to create another dwelling-based Horror strip within a year when ‘The Thirteenth Floor‘ debuted in ‘Scream‘, and fittingly, ended up at Eagle when the former title merged with the latter. It went on to become another of Eagles most popular strips.

I remember ‘House of Daemon’ being, like The Tower King, a great read and better than a lot of the stuff that 2000AD was publishing at the time. ‘House of Daemon’ would have been a great addition to ‘Scream’ comic as well, but as it is it rankls amongst the very best that Eagle offered. Also, like ‘The Tower King’, I do not believe this has been reprinted. I think its time someone put these 2 titles together in some sort of trade paperback. They’d have my business for sure.

Links!!

Wiki entry

Brief forum discussion on this strip and ‘The Tower King’

Mail order Movie Soundtrack advert from back pages of Marvel UK comics (1983)

Anyone who used to read Marvel UK in the early 1980s would probably remember this advert, and it is just an excuse really to print it to show the Soundtrack album covers.

This is taken from 1983, from the back cover of a copy of the Uncanny X-Men reprints. Some great fantasy, action, horror and sci-fi soundtracks listed there – Mad Max 2, The Beastmaster, Xtro….

Post Apocalypse VI – The Tower King (1982)

The relaunched Eagle comic of the early 1980s was an unusual beast as it took one of the popular elements of popular girls titles such as ‘Jackie’, the photo strips, and incorporated it into most of their stories such as Doomlord and Sgt Streetwise. There were very few that were illustrated, one being the flagship title, ‘Dan Dare’. Another one of the early illustrated titles in this relaunch was ‘The Tower King’, and it was beautifully rendered by the Spanish artist Jose Oritz. Oritz also worked on the brilliant ‘House of Daemon’ strip for Eagle, which I plan to do an article on in the future.

‘The Tower King’ was a bleak post-apocalyptic tale set in London that had enough originality to make it interesting and raises it above the atypical ‘after the bomb’ type scenarios that post apocalyptic fiction tends to rely on.

The premise was that a malfunctioning solar satellite affects Earth and as a result the production of electricity ceases. Britain, and specifically London, is in the midst of a terrible winter, and with its infrastructure decimated, descends into chaos. The story focuses on a man, Mick Tempest, an ex-soldier who quickly emerges as a leader, organising his neighbourhood into a functioning community.

As the story progresses other characters, such as Lord Spencer, a self-styled Warlord, and the Tube Rats, a vicious breed of underground dwellers, are introduced. Mick Tempest comes into conflict with both Spencer and the Tube Rats, the latter battle pictured here;

As you can see from the scans of the comic included in this article, the artwork really lifts the story, with its inspiration taken from the modern and middle ages with its chain mail and swords mixing with overcoats, and the overall look of the characters acting as a sharp contrast to the modern buildings, such as electrical sub-stations and the London Underground.

Toward the end of the series run (it was in issues 1 to 24 of Eagle) Tempest, now in league with Lord Spencer, encounters a cult worshipping electricity inside a sub-station, and this is where the final scenes are played out. Here is the final episode of the series, from Eagle issue 24;



The story was a brave one for Eagle, as it was not an obvious choice – a dystopian future London descended into anarchy and squalor by the loss of electricity, topped off with middle ages styling? Try selling that to the young boys of Britain nowadays. I think it was both compelling and brilliantly illustrated and it is a shame that it has never been reprinted (as far as I know). The fact it ran for 24 issues (at 3 pages per issue) makes it little over 2 standard American comic book issues, but managed to pack in so much in that relatively short duration makes it all the more remarkable.

There is not a lot out there on Alan Hebden. Information is scarce. The following information on the writer of ‘The Tower King’ is taken from here;
http://bearalley.blogspot.com/2008/02/caroline-baker-barrister-at-law-part-1.html

“All I know about Alan (Hebden) is that he was the son of Eric Hebden, who was a regular writer for comics like Commando, Battle Picture Library and Lion in the 1960s and Battle Picture Weekly in the 1970s. Alan Hebden was quite a prolific contributor to the latter, probably best known for “Major Eazy” and “El Mestizo”, both drawn by Carlos Ezquerra; he also wrote “Crazy Keller”, drawn by Eric Bradbury, “Fighting Mann” and “Clash of the Guards”, both drawn by Cam Kennedy. Credits outside of Battle include “The Angry Planet” with art by Massimo Belardinelli for Tornado; he also contributed to 2000AD including the long-running series “Meltdown Man” (also with Belardinelli). The last credit I have for him is a Future Shock” in 2000AD issue 551 (5 December 1987) after which he seems to have vanished.

He wrote for 2000AD, Eagle and Tornado, and he wrote ‘Angry Planet’ for the latter;

“Angry Planet (for Tornado comic) written by Alan Hebden with art by Massimo Belardinelli was set in the late 21st Century on a Mars that had been made habitable by humans. The story told of the struggle of the first generation of genetic ‘martians’ to free themselves from exploitation by Earth.”

taken from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tornado_(comic)

Links!!!

Wiki entry

Jose Ortiz profile


Alan Hebden at 2000ad online

Hebden also wrote the Meltdown Man strip for 2000AD (with Bellardinelli on art)

Meltdown Man entry at 2000ad.org that gives more background on Alan Hebden

Does anyone have any more information on Alan Hebden? It seems such a pity that he just seems to have disappeared. Still, even if he didn’t write anything after 1987, the likes of ‘Meltdown Man’, and especially ‘The Tower King’ are a great legacy. I could see the latter being made into a great British movie, especially as they are releasing the likes of Doomsday this year. As I said earlier, I plan to cover another great Eagle strip, ‘House of Daemon’, soon.

Koloss! Diabolico! Spinneman! De Wrekers!

Sometimes I find the English language doesn’t do a good enough job of conveying or emoting. A case in point is demonstrated below. 4 comic book titles translated for other territories. All are well known, iconic characters. All are better represented by their translated titles – check them out;

first up, the Spanish language translation of ‘Daredevil’.


This is a literal Dutch translation of ‘The Avengers’,

and the Dutch strike again, with ‘Spinneman’ aka Spiderman.



Finally, my favourite – the Swedish version of ‘The Incredible Hulk’, simply titled ‘Koloss’, defined by Websters as ‘colossus, jumbo, leviathan’.

Great comic book titles, all very evocative, more so than the English versions in my opinion.

All scans were courtesy of the great Grand Comic Book Database

Queen of the videogame of the movie – it’s Alien!!!

The adaptation of videogames from movies is a long and ignoble tradition. As long as there have been arcade, and later, console and computer games, there have been ‘games based on the movie’. Invariably, they have been a pretty sorry bunch even at the dawn of videogames (a Death Race 2000 game courted controversy over 30 years ago, but was poor even by the basic standards of the day). A few years later, Atari adapted the Spielberg blockbuster E.T. for their 2600 console, but its confusing, badly programmed gameplay left consumers cold and Atari on the verge of collapse. If you have never heard the story of hundreds of thousands of copies of the game being buried in a landfill, then take a look here.

At epinions.com there is a list of the worst movie to game adaptations.

There have, however, been some great games of movies, and even great games that just take the characters out of the movie and put them into a game. Here are a few off the top of my head;

Star Wars Rogue Leader: Rogue Squadron II (Gamecube, 2001)

Lego Star Wars (Xbox, PS2 & various other platforms, 2005)

and



Robocop
(Arcade, 1988)

In my opinion, some of the best adaptations of movies to games have been based on the Alien series of movies. This is by no means a definitive list of games based on the characters and films, but presents what I think are the best or most significant of the bunch. The list is chronological, from earliest to most recent.

Aliens – The Videogame (1986 – Amstrad CPC464 and Commodore 64)

I had the Amstrad version (published by Electric Dreams*) and thought it was one of the best games or apps for the system – up there with the Graphic Adventure Creator, Alien 8, Footbal Manager or Elite. You had control of several characters, including Ripley, the Marines, Bishop the Android and that bad man from the Weyland-Yutani Corporation, Burke. The objective is to explore the devastated colony by instructing the people under your control. You must also ensure that you watch them or else they could be under attack. Each character has different characteristics and reacts differently to each situation. The objective is to get to the Queen Aliens chamber and destroy the eggs she is incubating. A great game for its time, and one that is worth investigating.

Some kind soul has posted up some action from the Amstrad version on youtube;

Wiki entry
IGN review of the game
Alien Trilogy at Gamespot
Some good coverage of the title at Moby Games

Links!!!

There is a list of Alien and Predator (and Aliens versus Predator) games here

Relive the heady days of the nineties when web pages were written with what looks like notepad-type simple text programs and learn more about the Alien movies at the same time!

* and if that’s not a name for the Eighties, I don’t know what is.

The Walking Dead #49 review

Warning – if you read the trades and are not up to date with The Walking Dead (ie up to #48), then it is probably an idea to stop reading this post now.

We are pitched straight in after the events of issue #48, and you really get a sense of desolation, of the aftermath of a war. The pace is slower, but The Walking Dead never ceases to be anything less than engaging.

As we return to the scene of the massacre, a familiar face surveys the battleground, clearing up one plot thread while taking care of some business, as old friends threaten to reanimate. Meanwhile Rick & Carl are trying to come to terms with the horror of their loss, while having to cope with the new hostile environment they are in. They are out in the open, vulnerable physically as well as mentally, having to look for food and shelter, dealing with undead ‘roamers’. Rick in particular is ailing now, still sick from the gunshot wound, and his injuries and disabilities are beginning to count against him. The father as protector is not a certainty in this scenario. Carl needs to be able to handle deadly situationa, and does. Despite these moments of grim survival, Kirkman does manage to extract humour from the routine of scavenging. Carl, despite his experiences, shows a child’s petulance when faced with ‘crappy cereal’ as they go through the remains of a convenience store.

Apart from the initial pages of this issue, the focus is solely on Rick & Carl. The last few pages are about detailing the new minutiae of their existence, and not a lot happens, but the small touches, such as Carl’s all too obvious grief, are touching and are made so by Adlards sterling artwork.

The final scenes are low key compared to recent issues, but no less devastating a cliffhanger awaits. Maybe Kirkman is not going to back away from killing off more major characters. No-one is still safe, even though that arc ended. You know he can and will do it.

There are never enough pages in these damn issues.

Next up, the big 50, with the tagline, ‘All Alone Now’………you get the feeling that Kirkman is about to heap more misery on whats left of the Grimes family.

It is a quieter issue than the last 2 or 3, and more understated, but Kirkman is tantalising us with possibilities while delivering another almighty cliffhanger. That poor child………

Futuresport of the past part III – 2000AD loves you!! (1977-1989)

2000AD – the British comic of the future from the 1970s right up until today. One of their favourite themes in the early years was future sport. Early strips in 2000AD had some basis in popular culture (MACH1 was another take on the 6 Million Dollar Man, Judge Dredd a version of Dirty Harry/ Clint Eastwood) and so the first future sport strip ‘Harlem Heroes’ was probably influenced by the commercial success of Rollerball, the 1975 film starring James Caan. It is also worth noting that most British boys comics of the time had sports strips, from ‘Roy of the Rovers’ (who had graduated from ‘Tiger’ to his own comic in 1976) to ‘Look out for Lefty’ from ‘Action’ comic, which also had the prototype for future sport titles, ‘Death Game 1999‘. The strip was written by Tom Tully who went on to create both ‘Harlem Heroes’ and later on, ‘Mean Arena’ for 2000AD.

Harlem Heroes (progs 1-27)

Although I can speculate that the interest in future sports had come from the success of ‘Rollerball’, ‘Harlem Heroes’ was actually a strip based around the fictitious game of ‘aeroball’ that had swept the world by the year 2050;

“It’s Football, Boxing, Kung Fu and Basketball all rolled into one! Players roar through the air wearing jet packs (controlled by buttons on their belts) and score “air strikes” by getting the ball in the “score tank”. One of the top teams is the all-black Harlem Heroes!”
(taken from the first ‘Harlem Heroes’ strip in Prog 1 of 2000AD, 1977)

and the titular team are obviously inspried by the ‘Harlem Globetrotters‘ who had their own Hanna-Barbera cartoon series in the early Seventies.

One of the main stars of the strip was the team captain, John ‘Giant’ Clay, and his character was one who would crossover into another title – a rare ‘cross-over’ event within the 2000AD universe – as he was the father of Judge Giant, an important figure in the early stories of Judge Dredd, who helped defeat the tyrannical Judge Cal. The series followed the fortunes of the ‘Heroes as they competed in the ‘World Aeroball Championship’. In a storyline reminiscent of the Munich disaster that claimed the lives of 7 Manchester United football players, the Harlem Heroes have to recover from the devastating loss of most of their team who are killed in a bus crash following a preliminary round victory. Subsequent episodes followed by the survivors and new recruits as they battled through the Championship against the likes of ‘The Baltimore Bulls’ and ‘The Siberian Wolves’. The early episodes were drawn by Dave Gibbons, but the amazing Massimo Bellardinelli took over the art duties on the final episodes and its sequel, Inferno.

Inferno (progs 36-75)

Inferno was the direct sequel to Harlem Heroes, again scripted by Tom Tully and illustrated by Bellardinelli. Billed as being ‘Deadlier than Aeroball’ on its very first page, it lived up to its promise. Overtly violent compared to its predeccesor, it followed the ‘Harlem Hellcats’ who were the rechristened, surviving ‘Harlem Heroes’ as they contested in ‘Inferno’, a legalised spectator ‘death sport’. The plot wreaks havoc and death upon the team, with very few surviving to the gloomy, nihilistic finale. Even Tharg seemed to have had enough by then, popping up in the middle of a page in the final episode, adding narration and explaining another Hellcat loss, as opposed to Bellardinelli visualising it. All very brutal and downbeat. This wouldnt be the last time a strip would be ended so gracelessly (see the entry for ‘The Mean Team’, further down this post).


Harlem Heroes / Inferno Links

The Harlem Heroes entry at 2000AD online
Harlem Heroes at wikipedia

2000ad.org entry for Inferno
David Bishop on the Inferno controversy
The ‘progslog’ blog details the final episodes of Inferno

The Mean Arena (various progs from 1980 until 1982)

That man Tom Tully again. Alongside several artists (notably Steve Dillon did a stint, but John Richardson was the first artist on title) Tully created another futuresport scenario – this one was a bit like street football and rugby, but with whole urban areas given over to it. There was, of course, the possibility of death lurking around every corner. The hero was called Matt Talon, and he led the Slayers in the ‘Mean Arena’, helping them rise from obscurity to new heights. Think ‘Rollerball’ meets ‘Roy of the Rovers’. Sub-plots abounded such as Tallons brother dying as a combatant in the ‘Mean Arena’, and the possibility of a traitor in his own ranks. Despite its numerous appearances over several years, it was never a classic in my opinion, but gets 7.26 thrillpower at the 2000AD site (mind you, only 19 people have voted…)

Mean Arena Links

The 2000AD fansite nails it with all the info, including all progs that featured The Mean Arena
2000AD site entry
This is great – a really fascinating insight, writer david bishop interviews 2000ad editor steve mcmanus (aka ‘tharg’) and puts it on his blog. There is a short conversation about Mean Arena


The Mean Team (various progs from 1985, 1987 & 1989)

Another strip illustrated by the peerless Massimo Bellardinelli, who made memorable anything he worked on (Ace Trucking Co, Meltdown Man, early Slaine, Harlem Heroes, Inferno), ‘The Mean Team’ was another mixed affair. Sometimes it was downright bizarre as well as bleak, brutal and ham-fisted. Initially written by Wagner & Grant under the pseudonym of ‘The Beast’, this was initially a future sport title, where really bad people got to play some sort of death sport with death around every corner (you follow me?), but turned into something like a quest. It was a bit silly really and a lot of it was forgettable – especially the sequels to the original ‘Mean Team’, those being ‘Return’ in 1987 and ‘Survivor’ in 1989. Anyone who has read the story will know that this is how silly it could get;

That is ‘Bad’ Jack Keller finding the right combination of words to get some magical staff working to save himself and his fellow team members. Lucky those words happened to be ‘The Mean Team’, eh???

There were times when you could almost read the new instructions coming from editorial decisions panel by panel, as the future sport theme was clearly not working, so they changed tack so that the story turns into a sort of quest, followed by a last minute decision to ensure that most of ‘The Mean Team’ would not be coming back for a sequel – I mean, how abrupt an ending is this?

As freakytrigger
succinctly puts it in a great article about the end of The Mean Team, it is probably the worst ending to a comic ever – it just feels like its execution (pun intended) is done on a whim, almost an afterthought to wrap up the story.

Mean Team Links

International Hero profiles the Mean Team
2000ad entry for Mean Team
Well, at least someone likes it
2000AD review site
Wiki entry for Bellardinelli
2000AD online entry for The Mean Team

Finally, someone called Vodkashok has been moved enough by recent Harlem Heroes and Mean Arena reprints to create a game in their honour, called ‘Deathball’;

http://neilgow.blogspot.com/2008/03/deathball.html