Category Archives: comics

Great Marvel playing card art from the 70’s

Maybe its because it connects with my childhood, but there is a power to Marvel Bronze Age art that I do not find in any other era. I think these playing cards, with their bold and simple designs, summarise best all that was good about the art of that era. It was, simply, exciting;

You can see the full set of Marvel playing cards here;

http://www.davesvintagestuff.com/2008/09/marvel-comics-superheroes-game-card.html

Review of Dead Run issue 1 (Boom! Studios, 2009)

I love Mad Max 2. It is one of the best movies ever made, and was revelatory to me when I first watched it one sunny summer afternoon 26 years ago. George Miller is a hero to me, having directed one of the most stunning action movies of all time. I have a VHS copy of The New Barbarians, Exterminators of the Year 3000 and She (starring Sandahl Bergman). I have watched Endgame, Bronx Warriors and The Atlantis Interceptors.

You get the idea – not only am I a sucker for truly awesome post-apocalyptic movies, but I am a sucker for the rash of Italian exploitation copies that proliferated in the wake of George Millers Australian after-the-bomb nightmare. After watching Mad Max 2 many many times in 1983, I was inspired to create my own version of post-apocalyptic fiction, as a comic strip, on reams of A4 paper and illustrated in black biro. ‘Uruz’, as the comic was known, was the adventures of the titular hero as he wandered a bleak post-apocalyptic desert. Saving people. Killing baddies. In a desert, full of big customised cars etc.

It was with great delight that a few months ago I learned of a new title, ‘Dead Run’, from Boom!, that seemed to be a cross between Mad Max 2 and Roger Zelazny’s short story, ‘Damnation Alley’. After reading the first issue, I can confirm that it is a cross between the aforementioned works, with a dash of Judge Dredd epic ‘The Cursed Earth’ (which itself borrowed heavily from the Zelazny novel) and, more interestingly, the Italian expolitation films previously referred to, with a splash of Spacehunter: Adventures in the Forbidden Zone. Now, that might seem like a lot of references for a 22 page comic, but its all there;

Bad guys in outlandish biker costumes and outlandish weapons? Thats the Mad Max 2 / Italian exploitation films influence.

One guy delivering a package across a ravaged and extremely dangerous post nuclear landscape? Thats ‘Damnation Alley’ and ‘The Cursed Earth’ influence right there.

The guy undertaking the journey is joined by a young girl with attitude, who he initially is reluctant to allow travel with him? That’ll be Spacehunter (and it’s a great film – it has Michael Ironside in it, so need I say more?)

The dialogue. well, the dialogue is cheesy in the extreme. But I get it. I do. This is the homage to the cliche ridden nonsense that you would expect to hear in the likes of ‘Exterminators of the Year 3000’. The main man, Nick Masters, is a tough talking, no nonsense sort of guy, where lines like;

“Over my dead and rotting corpse. Nobody drives my ride but me.”

are delivered in plentiful supply. This sort of generic action-flick dialogue does not detract from the experience. Rather, it adds to it. Like a print version of an Italian post-nuke flick from the 1980s. Nothing wrong with that. The plot is as simple as this:

Nick Masters is a ‘courier’ – he delivers whatever, wherever in this dangerous new world. He lost a drug consignment that belonged to a ‘Mr Big’ called Kane (well what did you expect – Gerald? Kevin?). Kane has kidnapped Masters Sister, and in order to get her back safe, has to make a ‘Dead Run’, with a consignment of whatever it is that Kane wants him to courier. Joined by a girl whose Father was a courier who made the ‘dead run’, they set off. Thats it in a nutshell. Channeling all that is good and daft about the genre, ‘Dead Run’ holds a lot of promise for its limited life (its due a 5 issue *ahem* run).

Links!!

IMDB entry for Mad Max 2
IMDB entry for Spacehunter
IMDB entry for The New Barbarians
IMDB entry for Exterminators of the Year 3000
Damnation Alley at Wikipedia
2000AD org info on Judge Dredd epic ‘The Cursed Earth’

Blackgas, Crossed and the bloody one-upmanship of Ellis and Ennis (also featuring the Jacen Burrows ‘kinder trauma’ effect) (2006-2009)

Check this out.

Two comic book (limited) series, written within a couple of years of each other. Both deal with apocalyptic scenarios, both written by British men who publish some of the most important and entertaining comic book titles in the US. Both of the titles in question are controversial, bloody and grim. The titles are ‘Blackgas’, by Warren Ellis, and ‘Crossed’ by Garth Ennis. The point of this post is – are these titles the product of a game of bloody one-upmanship between Warren Ellis & Garth Ennis, to produce the most hideously gory, depraved and debased comic books in mainstream US comic publishing history?

These titles share some similarities. Examples?

1) Both titles are set in an apocalyptic situation.

2) Both titles have the majority of the human race transformed into brutal, merciless killers, yet the aggressors retain some intelligence, which marks them apart from other apocalyptic scenarios where the human race is destroyed by itself (and where, typically, you would expect to see zombies as the root cause).

3) At the heart of both titles is an exploration of the unspeakable horror that humans can wreak upon fellow humans.

4) Both of these titles do not shy away from portraying the full horror of events. The weak and innocent (babies and children, as examples) are not spared the ignominy of brutal and painful violation and death. I would guess that for a ‘realistic’ portrayal, Ennis and Ellis are being honest in their storytelling and not shying away from detailing atrocities, and describing events how they probably would unfold. I understand that. Trust me, if you haven’t read either title before, the writers and artists make you bear witness to some horrors (and it is my opinion that the titles wallow in these atrocities a little too much at times. I am thinking specifically of the ending of #1 of Crossed, and the Maternity ward scene that occurs in Blackgas Volume 2).

5) Then we come to Jacen Burrows, who is a creative link between the 2 series. As the regular artist on ‘Crossed’, and as a cover artist on ‘Blackgas’, he seems to be creating a bit of a niche for himself as an artist that deals in the detail of scenes of peril of children, as well as some of the more creatively stages scenes of death, mutilation and destruction of the human body in mainstream comics. In some of his double page spreads, there is a real ‘Where’s Wally’ vibe to the detail, where you can pick out lots of individual scenes of murder and grief.

Whatever your opinion is of these titles, it is hard not to agree that they are certainly transgressive, and I believe that both ‘Crossed’ and ‘Blackgas’ have pushed the boundaries of the depiction of horror in mainstream comics. I would welcome any comments on what others feel about this Blackgas / Crossed & Ellis / Ennis thing. Are Ennis and Ellis on a bet or what? Does Ellis mind that Ennis seems to have taken some inspiration from Blackgas to produce Crossed? Are they all wallowing in despair and pain, like a print version of the various torture porn films from a few years back? Should we just applaud the fact that they are producing some groundbreaking horror titles? In ‘Crossed’ I think we have a genuinely terrifying enemy in the afflicted, i.e. the ‘Crossed’, but whether the whole story bears up to closer scrutiny is still unclear, several issues in (for instance, I still care little for most of the non-infected ‘survivors’).

links

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blackgas
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crossed_(comics)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jacen_Burrows
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Warren_Ellis
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Garth_Ennis

http://www.comicbookresources.com/?page=article&id=5916 – Warren Ellis talks ‘Blackgas’

http://www.zeros2heroes.com/component/option,com_pablog/Tag,Crossed+%232/ – Simply the best review of a comic book ever, it also happens to be a review of Crossed #2. If I could choose a comic book review to take on a desert island with me (and hey, why not?) this would absolutely be the one.

Zombies vs Robots – An appreciation of the IDW comic book (2007) Plus – ZVR Adventures (2009)

Zombies Vs Robots (IDW, 2007) An Appreciation.

Written by Chris Ryall, Art by Ashley Wood

Three scientists, Throckmorton, Winterbottom and Satterfield are the orchestrator’s of this titanic battle for Earth and the survival of Mankind. After creating a portal for time travel, a test of its capabilities brings one of the scientists back as a heap of flesh. Sentient robots are then designed and used to exploit time travel, as human bodies could not deal with its rigours (but the robots could). It is during these explorations through time (whether in the past or future is unclear) that the robots inadvertently bring back a zombie plague. Soon, and with the human race decimated, it is the sentient robots that are all that are standing between the future survival of mankind (which hinges on keeping a baby alive) and a seething mass of the undead. The robots are protecting the baby until such a time as they can clone the child, thus ensuring mankind’s continuation.

What you get is exactly what the title describes – Zombies versus Robots, in an epic and apocalyptic setting, the protection of the child paramount, the Robots calm and analytical against the mindless Zombie hunger and rage.

The finale is literally apocalyptic, but with a twist at the end (there is a follow-up called Zombies vs Robots vs Amazons, which gives you an idea where the story is headed).

Zombies vs Robots is all about broad strokes – robots fight zombies to protect mankind so in essence what you see is what you get – because I believe this title is all about the art. It has some of the most thrilling and intense artwork I have seen, and the design of the robots is amazing. I urge you to investigate this unique and effective sci-fi / horror tale.

Published by IDW, ‘Zombies vs Robots’ is available as a Hardcover, as a softcover that also includes ‘Zombies vs Robots vs Amazons’ and you may even still pick up the original comics on ebay etc

The good news is that they are now are returning with a bi-monthly serial, ZVR Adventures (and issue 1 is a nice tribute to Warrens ‘Blazing Combat’);

Cover to ZVR Adventures #1

Cover to Blazing Combat #1

see here for more on ZVR Adventures #1, and the solicitation reads like this;

Written by Chris Ryall, art and cover by Ashley Wood.

Zombies vs Robots returns in an all-new bi-monthly series. And this time around, you get three serials in one. Beginning in this issue, the war story of “Kampf,” the human resistance grows in “Masques” and a voodoo curse leads to new zombies in “Zuvembies.”

Due in June 2009. Looks like another one for my pull list.
http://ashleybambaland.blogspot.com/ – check out the Ashley Wood website

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ashley_Wood – Ashley Wood wiki entry

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chris_Ryall – Chris Ryall / IDW entry on Wiki

http://www.idwpublishing.com/ – IDW home

Review – Crossed #4 (2009)

They’re behind you!!!

Very good installment of this ultimate sex/horror apocalypse. The fear is very real. The ‘crossed’ are finding new ways to get sick and twisted (these are not ‘zombies’ – these are monsters and savages, at the mercy of their bloodlust and sexual urges) and the survivors continue to try and avoid the crossed and reach relative safety. There is a very tense scene towards the end of ths issue involving a bridge, and it is during this scene that you understand again what the sick thrill of this book is – it is the fear. The fear of the crossed turning up, chasing you, catching you…it doesn’t bare thinking about (you don’t have to, because Ennis and Burrows spell it out enough throughout the issues so far).

This is horror at its most distilled. Pure fear, pure horror. I have been critical of the book in the past, but when it really hits it’s stride there is no other comic book out there that generates this sort of tension, fear and suspense – or the complete lack of hope (though to be fair, Ennis manages to add some real humanity into this issue, involving food, and it is jarring as it is so opposite to all the blackness swirling throughout the book).

It may not be to everyones taste, but ‘Crossed’ is one of the most distinctive titles out there at the moment, pushing and testing the boundaries of what is acceptable fare for comic books. It needs to be respected at the very least, but there is also a very keen understanding of horror running throughout.
A highlight of the week.

Crossed – another example why the best horror is in comic form (2008)

Out now as an issue 0 (and cheap at under £1 – you shouldn’t expect to pay more than 75p) this is the new Warren Ellis title, with art by Jacen Burrows. It starts off with a startling first page;

and from there it gets more and more nightmarish, anarchic and nasty. Told from the perspective of a young man seemingly content to drift through life, the text is sharp, concise and knows when to drop a startling, sickening observation on the madness that ensues. Although there are only 11 pages, this truly is a showcase on how to get readers locked into a story. The horror is bloody, disturbing and visceral – I found myself turning pages and wondering how much more perverse and gory it could get. That is a recommendation, by the way. Great way to end the issue as well. Burrows art keeps up with the manic thrills and does a good job of illustrating a towns descent into hell.

As horrific and post-apocalyptic as it gets, Crossed is on my pull list, joining the likes of Kirkman’s ‘The Walking Dead’ and Guggenheim’s ‘Resurrection’.

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

British Comics Part I – Bullet (1976-79)

For no apparent reason the other day, I began trying to remember the name of a comic that I bought a few issues of in the 1970s. All I could remember about it was the first issue having a red sports car on the cover, and there was some sort of free gift.

Checking the various British comic sites, it wasn’t long before I got my answer. The comics name was ‘Bullet’, and its first issue was February 1976. The free gift with the issue was this rather lovely ring with lots of stickers to put in the centrepiece;

and there was indeed a red sports car on the cover;

To be honest I have no real recollection of this comic, unlike the brutal and bloody Action from the same era. I have already written about Action in the past, and you can read it here. ‘Bullet’ certainly got the better title though. It sounds like a title that could only come from the era of ‘The Sweeney’ and ‘Dirty Harry’. It sounds tough and no-nonesense, and it is unlikely you would get a British comic off the ground today with a name like that.

After reading a couple of excellent sites today, I have learned that DC Thompson (publishers of The Beano) put ‘Bullet’ out on the same day that IPC released their new comic….’Action’. Whether it was a publishing ploy from one of the companies to spark a circulation war, or whether it was a coincidence, one thing is certain. That certainty is this – Action has become a more celebrated (and infamous) comic, and its legacy is still felt today (without Action proving their combination of violence and thrills worked, would IPC have risked 2000AD and Judge Dredd??).

Bullet actually outlasted Action by a couple of years, eventually merging with another of the DC Thompson titles, ‘Warlord’. The story of Bullet is brilliantly told on a couple of great sites, one of them I have mentioned before (sevenpennynightmare) and another one that is well worth giving your time to (lewstringer.blogspot.com). Here are the links;

Action Vs Bullet at Lew Stringers blog

sevenpennynightmare article on Bullet

also, these sites have a little information on ‘Bullet’;

The British comics site ’26pigs’ entry for Bullet

TV Creams tribute to the comics of the past include an entry for Bullet

I did go on and buy issue 2 – I remember the free gift;

but beyond that, I have no memory of the comic. Just the freebies.

One more agonising day…….Walking Dead 48

WARNING – SPOILERS!!!!

If you get the trades for The Walking Dead, then you will probably not want to read this, as I am discussing some major spoilers from the ‘No-one is safe’ story arc. So if you dont want to know the score, look away……NOW.

This is getting hellish now. I have read the Walking Dead thread at newsarama, and the Kirkman board on Image. Speculation is feverish, and anticipation – well, I feel like a kid on Christmas Eve. I have scrutinised the shadows that hang across Rick Grimes’ impassive face on the updated cover for issue 48 (see above), but I get no further clues. I think it is going to be the end of Lori and Judith, as we saw them, at the climax of #47, helpless at the feet of a mystery assailant brandishing a shotgun. I think Rick and Carl could be the only survivors from all this misery and fighting as the Woodbury community take what The Governer has led them to believe is theirs.

I keep looking at the new cover, and counting the graves. I count 6. That is one for Tyrese, one for Axel, and…..? Are we going to lose four others in this issue? Is the perspective of the crosses misleading to suggest a smaller cross amongst the larger ones? A smaller cross would imply a childs grave. I do not think Robert Kirkman has any qualms about making this story as ‘real’ as a fantasy can be considered ‘real’. The young die and the good die. Characters who have been major players for 40 or so issues die brutally. This next issue is going to (hopefully) resolve a few questions that remain unanswered;

Does Andrea, after arriving like the cavalry, survive?

What has happened to Glenn, Maggie and the others who left the prison with Andrea?

Will the Woodbury fighters hunt down the prison survivors?

Who has the gun trained on Lori and the baby?

Will the Governer meet a (deserved) brutal death?

Where is Michonne?

The answers will come soon, but there is a problem. It is one of impatience. My impatience.

The frustration for me is that I will not get the issue until Saturday at the earliest. I get my subscriptions via the post, from 2 brilliant comic shops, Red Hot (based in Glasgow) and Economic (based in Staines). I have links to their shops at the bottom of this post, and they both have great ebay stores as well. They are thoroughly nice people to do business with. Anyway, getting back to frustration…..my issue 48 will not arrive until the weekend at the earliest. That means I cannot use a lot of my favourite haunts online for fear of reading spoilers, and it doesnt get much worse than waiting for something like this, with such great excitement, to then read spoilers by accident and have the experience ruined.

What is the solution? Sit tight? Turn off all media until the postman delivers?? Well, there is another solution, and that is just grabbing a torrent of it, and reading it (probably) on Thursday. Is this right? Having already paid for the physical issue, I should have few reservations about grabbing an online copy for free, but for everyone who is just grabbing an early look before the paper copy arrives, I am sure there are plenty who are grabbing it for free. Therefore, am I justifiying the existence of these ripped copies, and harming comic creators and comic dealers????

Maybe, if I sit agonise over this for a few more hours it will actually take my mind off the wait for #48……

Economic Comics Home

Red Hot Comics Home

Robert Kirmans site

Kirkman discussing the ‘No-one Is Safe’ story arc

Review of Walking Dead 46

Wiki entry for Charlie Adlard

Wiki entry for Robert Kirkman

Image Comics Home