Category Archives: comics

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

The Walking Dead – the power of Cover Art

I have mentioned Robert Kirkmans ‘The Walking Dead’ (published by Image) a couple of times now. I love it. Set in a future where there has been a Zombie Apocalypse, there are pockets of civilisation left, and the focus of the story is on Policeman Rick Grimes, his family, and the other survivors he meets and forms a community with. They are currently in a prison, holed up and ‘safe’, while the undead roam the perimeter fencing. However, the nearby survivor community at Woodbury (a fortress-like town) has become aware of the prison, and led by ‘The Governer’, a psychopathic villain, they aim to take it by force.

This current story arc is subtitled ‘No-one is safe’. It is one of the series strengths that major characters can meet sudden death, reflecting the dangerous, unpredictable environment they are in. This arc also moves the threat away from the undead, and onto the Woodbury survivors. The implication is that we (humans) are our own worst enemy.

Robert Kirkman is producing some great writing for this book, and has to be considered as one of the very best writers of the genre (up there with Alan Moore, Stan Lee, Pat Mills, Frank Miller). His work is full of drama and emotion, and knows how to pace a story, even giving the reader superb cliffhangers at the end of each issue.

With any comic book, you need the visuals as much as you need the story. It’s an alchemy, and only the best titles and/or best writer &artist teams have it (for the obvious, think of Stan Lee & Jack Kirby on The Fantastic Four, or Stan Lee & Steve Ditko on The Amazing Spiderman). Charlie Adlard, the artist for ‘The Walking Dead’, has a style that suits the gritty, sometimes violent nature of Kirkmans writing. He is a British artist, and started out on 2000ad, working on Judge Dredd. He has been working on ‘The Walking Dead’ since issue 7. He has been doing the covers for each issue since #25. The covers I am showing here are from upcoming issues (#47,48 & 49 – the ‘no-one is safe’ arc finishes at 48). Not only do they give tantalising glimpses (and nothing more) of what will be happening, but they convey so much drama and emotion. I find the ‘mother & baby’ cover (of Rick Grimes’ wife, Lori, holding her infant daughter) particularly moving – the facial expression (anger? fear?) and position of surrender of the Mother, the way she is trying to shield her child, the movement of the baby in her arms, the aggressor standing mainly off panel, shotgun ready. The prison perimeter fence looks devastated, the feeling is one of desolation and finality.

The next issue is stark and foreboding – we know there will be major characters who will not survive, and this reaffirms this – it reminds me of images of makeshift war graves on the field of battle. Again, the prison perimeter fence is devastated, showing that the former ‘safe’ area has been broken down and is at the mercy of the undead and any other invader;

Finally, this is the most intriguing cover. Issue #49, Rick Grimes (part covered by shadow) being led by his young son, Carl. Ricks posture suggests one of 3 things – he has either become undead (as he is drawn in a typical ‘Zombie’ pose – think ‘Flyboy’ in Romeros ‘Dawn Of The Dead’) or is weak with injury, or overcome with grief and is incapable of doing anything – even escaping from danger – without the aid of his son. They certainly are not in the confines of the prison any more – this is open space, bristling with threat. Carl looks determined, intent on leading his Father to safety.

The comic book cover is the first impression, and Adlards art for ‘The Walking Dead’ is the perfect selling point for Kirkmans brutal survival tale. It demands your attention. It demands to be read. Can I have all these issues now please???

Links;

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

Last Blood

I am going through a phase in my life (another one) where I get slightly obsessed with all things Zombie. The last time the obsession took hold was when I played Resident Evil in the Nineties, and the time before that was when I got to see Dawn Of The Dead for the first time on VHS video in the Eighties. The reason I am ‘slightly obsessed’ now is down to 2 fantastic pieces of writing, the first one is Max Brooks’
‘World War Z’ which acts as an ‘oral history of the Zombie war’ and tells of how humans from all over the world fought back against legions of the undead. The second reason is Robert Kirkmans’ ‘The Walking Dead’ comic series, published by Image. It’s highly addictive, more like a drug, and Kirkman (the writer) really knows how to build up tension and leave each issue on a cliffhanger moment. I want to write more about ‘The Walking Dead’ at a later date, as at the minute there is a major story arc underway, and I want to get through that before I begin to enthuse about its genius.

I got back into comic books in a big way a few months back, mainly off the back of the Marvel Comics ‘Civil War’ story, and ‘The Walking Dead’. The thing is, how do you know what (comic book titles) are worth picking up and which are to be avoided when you haven’t really been reading them for several years? Well, you go on forums, you can check out the ‘what other people are buying who bought this’ approach of Amazon or Play, or you can look at previews of titles on Comic Companies websites, like the impressive Image Comics website, where most new titles covers and first five pages are there for you to peruse.

Some publishers are going the whole hog and putting a title online as well as in the traditional physical format. As I mentioned earlier, I am slightly obsessed with Zombies at the minute, and especially Zombies in comic books. I have been snapping up the whole ‘Marvel Zombies’ related titles (mainly written by Robert Kirkman), getting into Image Comics ‘Crawlspace – XXXombies’ (70’s porn stars and zombies face-off, with a bit of the powerful George C Scott film ‘Hardcore’ thrown in for good measure), and even checked out the Marvel Max title, Zombie. Online, you have got another title – Last Blood, created by Bobby & Chris Cosby, and published by Blatant Comics, but available to view here;

http://www.lastblood.net/

The concept is a twist on the traditional Zombie titles, with Vampires protecting Humans from Zombies, so their food supply is not affected. The site reprints all the issues so far (1 -3) and each page is readable online (it is not my preferred method of reading a comic). Each page has underneath it a few lines of comment from the creators, and underneath that some comments from users on the site. It’s a good package, and worth your time in having a look at it if you are into Zombies in comics. The writing is nicely paced, and although I wasn’t impressed with the first few pages of art, it certainly starts improving and you get used to the style quickly. It’s not great art, but it does its job well enough. Overall, I would give the 12 pages I have read an overall 7 out of 10.

Links;

Image are my favourite Comics publisher by far – check them out here –

http://www.imagecomics.com/

Official site for World War Z, by Max Brooks (son of Mel Brooks, honest!)

http://www.randomhouse.com/crown/worldwarz/

GCD

http://www.comics.org/

Check it out – the Grand Comics Database Project. It describes itself as;

The Grand Comic-Book Database Charter

We are building a simple database that will be easy to use and understand, easy to add to, and easy for people to contribute to.

We will include information on creator credits, story details, and other information useful to the comic book reader and fan.

If we are able to take this to its ultimate conclusion, this database will contain data for every comic book ever published.

This project is for us, and the people like us. We will use this as a comic-book database which can be searched and sorted. The database will be a resource for fans, hobbyists and collectors, with no commercial objectives.

Basically, if you want to search for a comic cover – it’s there, indexed and catalogued and there in full colour. It is a fantastic project. For example, I wanted to track down the first US marvel comic I purchased – I knew it was Conan, around later 82 / early 83. Within a minute, it was there;

If you are into Comic art (and I find Comic Cover art the most exciting and dynamic) then you need to check this site out.

Its here;

http://www.comics.org/