Kill My Mother (Advance Reading Copy)


By Jules Feiffer (Liveright/W.W. Norton)
ISBN: 978-0-87140-314-8

Win’s Christmas Gift Recommendation: Smart, Sharp and Perfectly Put Together… 9/10

Jules Ralph Feiffer has always been much more than “just a comic-book guy” even though his credits in the field are sound and suitably impressive. As well as working with Will Eisner on The Spirit, he created his own Sunday strip ‘Clifford’ (1949-51) before settling at the Village Voice for a Pulitzer Prize winning run.

Novelist, playwright, animator, children’s book creator (why isn’t there a single word or term for those guys?), teacher and screenwriter, he turned his back on cartooning in 2000, but the 42-year run of his satirical comic strip in The Village Voice ranks as some of the most telling, trenchant, plaintive and perspicacious narrative art in the history of the medium.

The strip, originally entitled Sick, Sick, Sick, then Feiffer’s Fables, before simply becoming Feiffer was quickly picked up by the Hall Syndicate and garnered a devoted world wide following, with many collections appearing over the years since the first book in 1958.

His incisive examination of American society and culture, as expressed through politics, art, television, cinema, work, philosophy, advertising and most especially in the way men and women interact, informed and shaped opinions and challenged accepted thought for generations. They were bloody funny and wistfully sad too – and still are today.

However his creative credits extend far beyond the world of print: he was one of the playwrights on stage revue Oh! Calcutta! (with Kenneth Tynan, Edna O’Brien, Sam Shepard, Leonard Melfi, Samuel Beckett & John Lennon) and has created 35 plays, books and screenplays including Carnal Knowledge and Little Murders. In 1961 his animated short feature Munro won an Oscar.

In 1965 he kickstarted acedemic American comic fandom with his celebratory evaluation The Great Comic Book Heroes and in 1979 he was at the forefront of the creation of graphic novels with Tantrum before scripting Robert Altman’s much-undervalued Popeye movie (released a year later).

He has a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Writers Guild of America, was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 1995, and 2004 saw him inducted into the Comic Book Hall of Fame and simultaneously receive the National Cartoonists Society’s Milton Caniff Lifetime Achievement Award, and 2006 saw him awarded the Creativity Foundation’s Laureate.

Now after years as a cartoonist, illustrator, pundit and educator, at the age of 85 (having been born in the Bronx on 26th January 1929) he has returned to his primary role of storyteller with another gripping and innovative graphic novel.

…And what a yarn he’s spun…

Spanning ten turbulent years, Kill My Mother is a supremely classy tribute to Film Noir, Hollywood Babylon, sexual politics and family secrets, blending the trappings of Dashiell Hammett with the tone, pacing and spark of Preston Sturges and Billy Wilder to tell an extended story of love, murder, jealousy and revenge.

It all begins in ‘Bay City Blues’. It’s 1933 and times are tough. Fifteen year old Annie Hannigan is cutting up, constantly leading poor, gullible sap Artie Folsom into trouble, whilst the mother she despises works all hours for dissolute, dipsomaniac and exceedingly cheap private investigator Neil Hammond.

The odd arrangement developed after the shamus agreed to investigate the murder of Elsie Hannigan’s husband, whom he constantly refers to as the wrong sort of honest cop.

Events take a dark turn when stylish, exceedingly tall man-eater Mae Longo walks in offering outrageous sums if the shamus can track down a certain woman. The photo she gives him shows a woman remarkably like his coolly aloof new client…

Eddie “the Dancing Master” Longo is a rising star of the fight game who usually employs shady and capable gorilla Tiny Tim Gaffney to handle the more unsavoury problems in his life but Neil claims he knows how to handle him…

In the course of her mean-spirited, casual rebellions Annie gets poor Artie into real trouble when a shoplifting binge results in a pursuit by a store detective far faster than he looks. A very nasty beating is only avoided when an exceptionally tall derelict in an alley lays out the private cop with her carefully concealed baseball bat…

The rattled teen takes the tramp back to the apartment and cleans her up even as Elsie, very much against her will and better judgement, is dragged by soused-as-ever Neil to the Big Fight to see the Dancing Master.

The escapade almost costs her everything…

Her drunken boss’ plan to draw his tall target out of the woodwork also involves poor Elsie and leads to a lot of pain, trouble and strife, whilst Hammond, clearly a dipsomaniac with a death wish, starts dogging mysterious client Mae instead of doing the job he was hired for.

The result is a murder unsolved and unexplained for a decade…

The concluding half of the story resumes in 1943 with ‘Hooray for Hollywood’ as we return to our cast and find them all greatly advanced.

Goonish Artie is a Captain of Marines, successfully battling the Japanese in the Green Hell of the Pacific whilst Annie Hannigan is a writer and media darling. Her sensational hit comedy “Shut Up, Artie” is the most popular radio show in America and broadcast wherever Yanks are posted.

Eddie Longo has made the transition to B-Movie star and Ellen – when not babysitting her obstreperous grandson Sammy – is “Executive Vice President of Pinnacle Studios in charge of Image Security and Maintenance”…

The scary indigent little Annie met in an alley has also cleaned up and moved on. Now she sings torch songs in the Reno Roost as the enigmatic Lady Veil

Eddy hates his life. The former hard-man boxer is trapped as a song-and-dance hoofer in big, morale-boosting musicals but dreams of major stardom like glamorous He-Man Hugh Patton or even an Academy Award, but is typecast and more under the thumb of the formidable Mae than ever.

The fraught status quo changes after Annie meets the dashing Patton at the Hollywood Canteen, but her romantic elation is crushed soon after when the sponsors call her in to discuss a crisis.

A genuine war hero is suing the show, claiming his life is being made a mockery. Unless she can fix things up with her old pal Artie, the show and her career are over…

Eddie is also near breaking point and Mae is forced to call in the thuggish Gaffney as a minder.

Events begin to spiral to a shocking conclusion when Longo joins a USO tour to the war-torn Pacific Islands. Patton is going too and Annie takes the opportunity to join him, as does her mother in the role of “image maintainer”…

The first port of call is Tarawa; the hellhole where Captain Arthur Folsom is almost single-handedly repulsing the Jap advance…

On the island Artie is overseeing the building of the stage for the visiting stars and marvelling at the stupidity of putting on a show in battleground still hotly contested by enemy forces. In the air above him Ellen has a sharp confrontation with Mae Longo and “bodyguard” Gaffney. The events of ten years ago are still painfully fresh in every participant’s mind.

By the time all the players debark on the island, a devious and supposedly foolproof plan to commit another perfect murder has been hatched, using the Japanese as ideal scapegoats, but intimate killing is far harder than mass slaughter and the scheme soon begins to unravel…

Complex, beguiling, smartly sophisticated, devastatingly witty and peppered with casual shocking violence as every noir thriller has to be, this is a spectacular yarn – available in both hardback and mass market paperback editions – packed with twists and surprises, where nobody is telling the truth and no-one is playing on the side of the angels.

A masterpiece of cool suspense, mature ingenuity and graphic dexterity, Kill My Mother offers a timeless, hearty slice of bravura storytelling that gets better with every re-reading.

If you love crime yarns, comic tales, nostalgia and having your intelligence respected, this is the book for you.
© 2014 Liveright Publishing Corporation.

Kick-Ass 3


By Mark Millar, John Romita Jr., Tom Palmer & various (Titan Books)
ISBN: 978-1-78329-072-7

Once upon a time, perennial High School no-hoper Dave Lizewski – a pitifully average and unhappy teenager who loved comicbooks – realised that he had no chance of being part of the school in-crowd. He hung out with the other geeks, talking TV, movies, funnybooks and wished he could have a perfect life and trophy girlfriend.

Then one day he had his big inspiration – he was going to be a masked superhero. All he needed was a costume and a gimmick. Oh, and a codename too…

Clad in a wetsuit bought online and filled with hope, Dave started patrolling the streets and promptly got beaten into a coma by three kids tagging a wall…

After months in hospital and with three metal plates in his skull, Dave eventually returned to school, but the compulsion had only grown stronger. Soon he was prowling the city again. This time a chance encounter was recorded on witnesses’ camera-phones and uploaded to YouTube…

An overnight internet sensation and supremely overconfident, Dave – or Kick-Ass – inspired a wave of copycats, got the most unwanted attention of organised crime and met the closest thing to real superheroes the world had ever seen…

Dave’s life went into deadly overdrive when he met diminutive Mindy McCready – AKA Hit-Girl – and her burly, brutish, utterly insane partner Big Daddy: cool, efficient ninjas of justice and everything he’d aspired to be but could never approach in a million years…

These armoured, gun-toting urban vigilantes were utter ciphers, stalking and destroying the operations of brutal Mafia boss Johnny Genovese with remorseless efficiency and in complete attention-shunning anonymity.

Before long Dave was drawn into their war and met fellow adventurer Red Mist, who turned out to be Genovese’s abused, geeky, psychotic son Chris: a bastard maniac in his own right.

Things got really out of hand and lots of people died. Mostly scumbags but some good people and a few innocent civilians too…

Now the saga comes to an explosive close as Kick-Ass 3 collects the final 8-part miniseries (originally published through Marvel’s Icon imprint) from Mark Millar, John Romita Jr, Tom Palmer and Dean White in one shattering deluxe hardback edition.

Previously, Red Mist had evolved into a truly psychotic and blood-drenched super-villain to counter a wave of costumed champions. In the aftermath superheroes were outlawed in New York, Dave and faithful masked pals Todd and Marty went undercover and the totally OTT Hit-Girl was arrested and sent to prison…

As the saga resumes the lads are reviewing a letter from the deadly tyke and planning to bust her out with the aid of a few costumed associates. However, life is not as clear cut as comicbooks and the scheme fails.

Life goes and the boys graduate, seeping into dead-end jobs whilst spending nights patrolling and training for their next attempt. Soon, though, tensions begin to rise as skeevy new hero The Juicer takes over the once-communal lair which was Mindy’s old tricked-out HQ. The gloating sod even moves in a girlfriend…

Disgusted, undeterred and resolved not to spoil things, Dave gets back to the streets. When a posse of gangbangers attempt to mug Kick-Ass the battle goes badly wrong before he is rescued by witness – and nurse – Valerie.

Greater events are afoot. Brutally maimed Chris Genovese is stuck in prison hospital awaiting trial when his uncle Rocco pays a visit. With the established hierarchy of organised crime decimated by Hit-Girl, the aged Don has returned from exile in Sicily.

He had been shipped off years ago when his deviant tastes and merciless depredations proved to be too much even for the Mafia.

Now he’s back and making a move to unite all the criminals in America under his rule – and he plans to make Chris his heir…

The self-proclaimed super-villain is a changed boy and wants no part of it, but Rocco has the police force on his payroll. Nobody ever says no to the Don…

The boy’s mother has had enough too, but when she sneaks into his room determined to execute her crazy child she catches some one else with the same idea…

Dave meanwhile has organised another attempt to spring Hit-Girl but even as he preps his motley crew the lass in question is facing down her latest psychiatrist.

The malevolent kid has spent the intervening months terrorising and pacifying the entire prison around her, whilst psychologically breaking a string of mental health professionals assigned to her, but Dr. Alex White is made of sterner stuff. The ruthless, remorseless headshrinker is determined to crush not cure the waif-like homicidal maniac, whatever it takes…

Dave is a man distracted. Although he has planned a raid on the mob as they fête the recently released Chris, his attention is mostly on Valerie. Thus the consequent attack is a disaster and the badly-scared mystery men barely get away with their lives…

In the cold light of day the heroes have a bitter falling-out at Justice Forever HQ and Dave adds The Juicer to his growing list of arch enemies. It’s hard to care, though, as he and Val are dating now and he’s getting sex regularly…

The only thing he hasn’t given up on is Hit-Girl. He will get her out, somehow, someday…

He doesn’t know it, but he’s on a clock. Rocco is firmly in the driving seat now and is obsessed with the tiny titan too. He wants her out of jail so that he can smash his treasured golden ice-pick right into her brain…

As Dr. White plays the latest card in his duplicitous bag of brain-bending tricks, at Vic Gigante’s place the bent cop – and Rocco’s most influential agent on the NYPD – has an interesting idea. With three trusted pals he’s devised a way to make even more money in a foolproof manner.

Soon a quartet of “Robin Hood” masked heroes are brutally raiding all of Rocco’s places of business; killing mooks and confiscating cash. The Skull & Bones boys claim it’s all being passed on to the poor and naturally everybody believes them…

Lost in a lustful daze, not even a timely intervention by Todd can shake Dave up enough to get back in costume and on track, but the increasingly bold raids of the Skull & Bones gang is driving Rocco crazy. Only when the deviant Don declares war on every masked hero in the city and despatches hit squads to gun them down wherever they are does Dave finally rouse himself from a besotted haze and get back on the streets…

The psychological campaign against Hit-Girl is also starting to work. The formerly indomitable Mindy is retreating into memories of training with her dad and sharing those episodes with the exultant White.

Unfortunately the cocky doctor overplays his hand and seems to lose everything, but before he can reassess the situation Rocco Genovese has his family’s nemesis abducted from the penitentiary so that he can slaughter her in style.

Ferrying her to a big party at his estate, the Don thinks he’s won but is utterly unprepared for betrayal from within, the incomprehensible inability of Kick-Ass to give up and the sheer determination and total, sociopathic verve which inspires Hit-Girl in her holy mission to eradicate criminal scum…

Building to a cataclysmic, graphically hyper-violent, ferociously cathartic conclusion, the saga of simple soul Dave and the atrociously foul-mouthed Hit-Girl wraps up in unforgettable manner with plenty of shocking twists and surprises in a blockbusting clash which answers all the questions in a fashion fitting, furious and final…

The blackly comedic and ultra-violent comedy quartet of tales which comprise the Kick-Ass saga are the ultimate extension of the modern trend for “realistic” superhero stories whilst simultaneously forming a brilliantly engaging and cynically hilarious examination of boyhood dreams and power fantasies, delivered with dazzling aplomb, studied self-deprecation and spellbinding style.

Here Millar’s mesmeric script skilfully dances on the very edge of possibility and credibility, whilst the stunning art collaboration of John Romita Jr., Tom Palmer and colourist Dean White afford a vision of New York life that ranges from Paradise to Hell on Earth.

Bracketed by a pithy Introduction from screen writer Geoff Wadlow and Afterword Acknowledgements from writer and artist, this majestically wide-screen extravaganza is a sharp, superb and stunning tale not just for comics fans but a genuine treasure for all followers of frantic fun and fantasy in any medium.
© 2013 and 2014 Millarworld Limited and John S. Romita. All rights reserved.

Attack on Titan: Before the Fall (Light Novel)


By Ryo Suzukaze & Thores Shibamoto, translated by Ko Ransom (Vertical)
ISBN: 978-1-939130-86-0

Hajime Isayama’s Shingeki no Kyojin or “Advancing Giants” began life as a manga serial in Kodansha’s Bessatsu Shōnen Magazine in September 2009. As Attack on Titan the phenomenally successful saga has since filled 14 tankōbon collections – with sales in excess of 40 billion copies – and spawned equally popular spin-offs: two manga serials, a “Light Novel” series, an anime TV show, several video games and a forthcoming big-budget live action cinema release.

The core premise of the manga epic concerns an Earth where gigantic monsters have for more than a century predated on humanity, reducing mankind to the population of a small country cowering behind concentric rings of colossal walls…

This initial Light Novel – Before the Fall – pitches the drama back to the earliest days after the conclusion of the initial catastrophic conflict when defeated, nigh-extinct mankind has retreated behind sturdy stone stockades. Inexplicably, the cowering strategy worked and remnant humanity has been left alone for more than a generation.

Described as “prequel of prequels” this fascinating tale describes a time when the monstrous Titans have not been seen for years by the majority of the human race and thus much of complacent humanity has begun to doubt their existence. This attitude has advanced to the point where the common folk mock and deride the dedicated Garrison and Survey Corps which staunchly continue in their duties to protect them whilst conservative elements in the closeted government circles are actively trying to disband the warrior divisions as a means of cutting costs.

Since the retreat a highly strictured society has evolved with plutocratic rulers and fat-cats safely ensconced within the innermost city walls, bureaucracy and military brass inhabiting the second, and the least important members of mankind packed into the outer district of Shiganshina where inventive young armourer and metalsmith Angel Aaltonen lives, devoutly and passionately devising new weapons to end the monsters’ threat – monsters he has never seen but instinctively dreads…

As a Master Inventor of the Workshop District he is always devising fresh ways to improve the striking power of the heroic Survey Corps who regularly voyage outside the monolithic Gate, but Angel feels frustratingly hampered because he knows absolutely nothing about the horrors… except that they are regarded as unkillable.

One other thing he knows. Even though the city dwellers say the Titans don’t exist, something out there kills and maims the rapidly-depleting ranks of the defensive Corps which his best friends and fellow orphans Solm and Maria have dedicated their lives to…

Everything changes however when a deranged cult of Titan-worshippers force open the great Gate as a Survey scouting mission returns, allowing a handily placed horror to rampage through the outer town.

With close observation of the atrocity and the handy discovery of two new natural resources, Angel conceives a device which will forever alter the balance of power between scurrying mortals and the voracious, no-longer-immortal monsters…

What follows is an engaging rite-of passage yarn as Angel grows from idealistic savant to unlikely warrior and potential saviour of humanity, forged in tragedy and tempered by the pressure of a society determined to bury its collective head in the sand…

Moody and engaging, this gripping fantasy tale is augmented by eight stunning full page illustrations in monochrome and colour by Thores Shibamoto that will delight lovers of fantasy fiction and manga masterworks.

© 2014 Hajime Isayama, Ryo Suzukaze. All rights reserved.

Alien Legion: Dead and Buried


By Carl Potts, Chuck Dixon, Alan Zelenetz Larry Stroman, Mark Farmer & various (Titan Books)
ISBN: 978-0-84023-811-2

Win’s Christmas Gift Recommendation: Above and Beyond and Captivating… 8/10

During the 1980s the American comics scene experienced an astounding proliferation of new titles and companies in the wake of the creation of the Direct Sales Market. With publishers able to firm-sale straight to retail outlets rather than overprint and accept returned copies from non-specialised shops, the industry was able to support less generic titles and creators could experiment without losing their shirts.

In response Marvel developed a line of creator-owned properties at the height of the subsequent publishing explosion, launching a number of idiosyncratic, impressive series in a variety of formats under the watchful, canny eye of Editor Archie Goodwin. The delightfully disparate line was dubbed Epic Comics and the results reshaped the industry.

One of the earliest hits was a darkly compelling science fiction serial with a beautifully simple core concept: the Foreign Legion of Space (and no, it isn’t at all similar to Jack Williamson’s epochal 1934 creation the Legion of Space).

Created by Carl Potts, Alan Zelenetz and Frank Cirocco, Alien Legion debuted in its own on-going series in April 1984, running for 20 issues (until 1987) plus an oversized Marvel Graphic Novel (see Alien Legion: A Grey Day to Die), before re-booting into a second, 18 issue volume spanning October 1987 to August 1990.

After that the tales were told in intermittently released miniseries and one-shots (long-since collected in one volume as Alien Legion Tenants of Hell).

The “Bloody Bospors” have come and gone ever since, jumping from Checker Books to Dark Horse Comics and Titan – who will be carefully compiling the series into collected omnibuses – and there is, of course, a movie in the pipeline…

This particular pocket-sized compendium re-presents the first dozen dark sagas from volume two and comes with a handy ‘Rollcall’ of key characters before recounting The Story So Far in ‘Alien Legion Unit History: Hellscape’.

The saga resumes in ‘Dead and Buried’ by writers Carl Potts, Alan Zelenetz and Chuck Dixon, illustrated by Larry Stroman & Randy Emberlin…

The Legion was founded to keep the peace of the Tophan Galactic Union, a million worlds spread over three galaxies, policed by a broad brotherhood of outcast militant sentients united by a need to belong and a desire to escape their pasts. For such beings honour and tradition are (purportedly) the only things holding them together in a ruling system riven with political intrigue and double-dealing, and where ordinary decent citizens universally despise the battalions of death-dealing outcasts.

After years of holding back the forces of chaos and anarchy across the stellar regions united into an overarching Galarchy, Nomad Squadron were dispatched as part of a vast Legion armada to “pacify” the Quaalians; a warlike and unpredictable culture perpetually causing trouble from their strategically critical star-system midway between the Tophan Union and its ideological opposite the Harkilon Empire.

The mission went tragically wrong and thousands of troops were trapped on a planet of raving maniacs dubbed “Hellscape” and expediently written off by the Legion.

Now, as the story opens two years later, Major Sarigar can stand the situation no longer and resigns his commission so that he can go after the Legionnaires he was ordered to abandon. After a violent period of readjustment he finally makes contact with fabulously wealthy businessman Guy Montroc – whose son Torie is amongst the missing – and gains enough resources to sneak into the embargoed border regions…

When he finds evidence of survivors and is almost murdered, Sarigar realises he has no choice but to break the Legion quarantine and go to Quaal itself…

Dixon assumes the role of sole scripter in ‘Fragments’ which flashes back to the disastrous raid and details the fall of the Legion forces before focusing on serpentine seeker Sarigar as he begins covertly exploring the deadly tinderbox world with the reluctant assistance of a Quaalian guide sold to him by a corrupt Legion prison officer.

The horrific trek across the barren landscape proves miraculously successful as Sarigar eventually finds the younger Montroc and grifting ne’er-do-well Jugger Grimrod in a cave complex where, against all odds, they have survived for two years. Implausibly united again, the comrades search together but their next discoveries are appalling and unhappy.

Falling into dejection, Sarigar is reinvigorated when he receives a psychic call from telepathic medic Meico but after one final day of hunting the former Major reluctantly prepares to take his exhausted, traumatised charges off-planet when a final scan reveals two more survivors: hulking amazon Tamara and cruelly maimed aging veteran Zeerod.

Tamara has reverted to pure ferocious savagery and, as Meico dutifully attempts to psionically restore her mental balance, a band of ravaging Quaalians find them…

Forced to fight for their lives again, the lost Legionnaires brutally answer the ‘Call to Battle’ and win their way off world. In the aftermath however the returned warriors are not considered heroes but an extreme embarrassment and only deft political manoeuvring by Sarigar and maverick general Gokk keep them out of jail or worse.

A solution is found when the re-instated major and his five pitiful survivors are designated the core of a rapid-deployment penal battalion styled Force Nomad: a suicide squad to be peopled by the worst and most incorrigible, expendable troublemakers in the Galarchy…

With no where else to go and no one else they trust, the battered coterie of sociopaths all sign on and soon ‘The Lucky and the Dead’ (inked by new permanent embellisher Mark Farmer) are assessing their newest comrades in arms before being dispatched to stop a colossal asteroid tricked out as a cataclysmic gun platform by the Harkilons and aimed at the heart of the Ophides system…

Although ultimately successful, Force Nomad lists its first fatalities before the mission concludes…

‘The Ditch’ finds the squad attempting a lightning-strike against a particle gun on a small fortified moon when the mission goes wrong and Grimrod is again left behind. Left to his own devices the despicable reprobate infiltrates the Harkilon fortress and uncovers a treacherous alliance between the terrorist empire and the Galarchy’s most upstanding trader nation, the Orestans.

In the subsequent battle, Jugger’s frantic fight to save his own skin leads to him accidentally capturing the entire installation and, as shining hero of the hour, securing the worst fate he can possibly imagine: promotion to Captain…

It a situation he cannot tolerate and in ‘Xenos’, whilst executing his first command mission, he takes the opportunity to rectify the situation when a Harkilon bio-weapon his ship is ferrying to a science centre breaks. After it destroys his crew and he again saves the day, Grimrod punches out the general who congratulates him…

Demoted and sentenced to prison, Jugger rots all but forgotten as, on training world Arrios IX, Torie, Tamara and new Nomad Tonk begin drilling the latest Force candidates in ‘The Bite’. The work is hard enough but takes a deadly turn when an infiltrator rigs the automated assault course with lethal ordnance.

…And in the Legion lock-up Line Star III, more assassins target new inmate Grimrod, but have utterly underestimated his survival instincts and appetite for destruction…

Having survived the carnage on Arrios, Tamara and Torie recuperate on his father’s high security estate, but the mystery assassins follow and nearly kill Montroc senior in ‘Duty Elsewhere’ before lethally capable Tamara ends them.

Realising the scope of the conspiracy and the reason why Nomad personnel are all targets, the wounded plutocrat engages his top industrial spy to get to the bottom of the plot.

Nakhira Doomhar is a cyber-enhanced super-thief who loves a challenge and soon she is hot on the trail of the would-be killers’ employers…

As Grimrod is posted back to Force Nomad, Nakhira meets with Torie and Tamara, leading them to an Orestan deep-space data relay for a spot of espionage. The staggering results reveal not a few rogue traders dealing with the enemy, but a wholesale treaty alliance which could tear apart the Union…

Not knowing who to trust, Torie and Sarigar contact General Gokk in ‘Scalpel’, hoping his eminence and political connections will get the information to the right people without causing a disaster. Instead the old warrior takes executive action and launches a massive covert raid on an Orestan trade planet near the Harkilon border.

The surgical strike for proof is compromised from the start and the Legion forces easily repulsed…

Whilst Tamara and Nakhira take their data-raiding act into the very heart of the Orestes homeworld, their comrades are being shot down over Braal VII by a heavy force of Harkilons and the treacherous Orestans are filing charges against Gokk in the Galarchy courts…

‘Biology Lesson’ finds ultimate survivor Grimrod and the remains of Force Nomad prisoners of both the Orestans and Harkilons, used as playthings and slave labour. However, the gloating horrors have vastly underestimated their captives and placed far too much faith in the monster watchdogs they have set over the Legionnaires. Before long the brutal scrapper has led his troops back into Galarchy space and straight into the trial of the millennium…

The conniving Orestans have forced a public hearing with Gokk on trial for violating the War Charters of the Tophan Union, and Jugger is a very nervous and ‘Hostile Witness’. As the only living being to have seen Harkilons dealing with Orestans, he is a crucial defence component and knows there’s a great big target painted on his back…

Whilst Jugger sweats in the palaces of cosmic justice, Torie and Tamara lead a picked team into the bowels of Harkilon space to capture evidence that will clear the Legion stalwarts and expose the conspiracy forever. All they have to do is take it and get back to safety whilst an entire evil empire tries to stop them…

With the multipart intrigue finally resolved, this splendidly manic chronicle concludes on a lighter note with some ‘Dorty Fighting’ as Grimrod humiliates the wrong recruit during a training session on unfair unarmed combat and is soon running for his life from a sustained succession of attempted murders…

Rocket-paced, wryly sardonic, exotic and powerfully funny in the classic 2000AD manner, this captivating collection is crammed to the gills with explosive action and includes a cover gallery and creator biographies to complete the perfect package of mayhem-laced cynical space opera – which renders this chronicle “unmissable” in my book. Alien Legion is ® & © 2014 Carl Potts. All rights reserved.

Magneto: Infamous


By Cullen Bunn, Gabriel Hernandez Walta, Javier Fernandez & various (Marvel/Panini UK)
ISBN: 978-1-84653-618-2

Win’s Christmas Gift Recommendation: Solid, Mature Superhero Storytelling… 8/10

Cover-dated September 1963, X-Men #1 introduced gloomy, serious Scott “Slim” Summers (Cyclops), ebullient Bobby Drake AKA Iceman, wealthy golden boy Warren Worthington III – codenamed Angel – and erudite, brutish genius Henry McCoy as The Beast.

These teens were very special students of Professor Charles Xavier, a wheelchair-bound telepath dedicated to brokering peace and achieving integration between the sprawling masses of humanity and Homo Superior: an emergent off-shoot race of mutants with incredible extra abilities.

That first issue also introduced their murderous and utterly evil arch nemesis Magneto: a terrifying and supremely powerful radical menace determined to seize the world for mutantkind and enslave or destroy humanity. The master of magnetism quickly became one of the early Marvel Universe’s A-List villains.

Over the years, however, a wealth of transformations, introspective investigations and personal re-evaluations turned the monster into a too-often misunderstood freedom fighter for his own kind and increasingly an ally of the ever-evolving X-Men.

Then, during the cataclysmic events of Avengers versus X-Men, staunch and steadfast Cyclops – transformed and possessed by the overwhelming Phoenix Force – killed his beloved father-figure Xavier and in the devastating aftermath united with former comrade Magik and occasional enemies Emma Frost and Magneto in a hard-line alliance devoted to preserving mutant lives at all costs: even, if necessary, by sacrificing human ones.

This new attitude appalled many of their former associates and created a schism in the ranks of Xavier’s many protégés.

The quartet instituted their own training academy – The New Charles Xavier School – and began drilling a new generation of mutants in the tactics of survival in a covert college dedicated to training mutants to fight and survive rather than placidly wait for mankind to turn on them.

The tutors, whose powers had all been radically curtailed in the battle against the Phoenix, also began a public campaign to win a place in the world for mutants, operated under the guise of terrorist group The Extinction Team.

Throughout his time with the group the war-weary elder continued to pay a deep game and, as this volume (collecting issues #1-6 of Magneto volume 3, March-July 2014) commences, he has left them and returned to old ways and his primary purpose…

Written by Cullen Bunn and grittily illustrated by Gabriel Hernandez Walta and Javier Fernandez, the tripwire-taut suspense begins in Missouri as witnesses describe a baroque and grotesque execution carried out by a man who could manipulate metal and who accused his victim of “crimes against evolution and genetic genocide”…

Magneto has used many names since his powers first manifested in a Nazi concentration camp during WWII, but now, with his once planet-wrecking potentialities reduced to merely moving around objects no heavier than a man could lift with flesh, bone and muscle, his priorities have changed. Now he is a creature of terror again, dealing final judgement to those who would eradicate mutants like some stain or mistake of nature…

Subject of a global manhunt by S.H.IE.L.D. – and lesser law-enforcement agencies – Magneto is restlessly travelling from region to region acting as a Homo Superior Punisher, protecting and avenging his people when human authorities can’t or won’t.

Now his travels have brought him to Mountain Air, California where a guilt-stricken vagrant has turned himself in after murdering three mutants. The magnetic menace is not prepared to leave such a killer to indifferent human justice…

However when he blasts into the Courthouse to administer his sentence the helpless, terrified indigent suddenly morphs into an Omega Sentinel and attacks him.

Quickly dispatching the cyborg mutant-hunter, the magnetic avenger is horrified to realise that the scared and totally bewildered human had no idea of the mechanical monster lurking within…

Whilst S.H.I.E.L.D Special Agents Rodriguez and Haines dog his heels, the master of magnetism backtracks the vagrant’s trail to a huge shanty-town where hundreds of dispossessed families cluster together, economic victims eking out a communal existence until they can break back into the society that abandoned them.

Welcomed as just another victim/loser to the spartan community of Down Acres, the punisher discovers that the tent city provokes long-buried memories of the Nazi-controlled Warsaw ghetto little Max Eisenhardt grew up in. The aged undercover vigilante realises that the same type of unfeeling monsters are at work here; kidnapping unwitting humans for raw materials and rebuilding them as stealth sentinels to hunt down mutants.

When the pressgang turns up to take more human fodder, Magneto is waiting…

By the time Haines and Rodriguez arrive, he is gone, following the Sentinel makers’ trail to a factory facility he will not allow to exist for one moment longer. However with his might so severely curtailed, the death and destruction he envisages has to be carried out at close quarters and preferably face-to-face…

His gory task concluded, Magneto travels to the Adirondack Mountains to destroy a secret base where religious fundamentalist sect The Purifiers experiment on mutant children before turning his angry attention to the constantly re-cloned mutant team known as The Marauders

Human Briar Raleigh had been stalking Magneto for years. A survivor of one of his earlier rampages, the enigmatic manipulator offers her services to him as a skilled information-gatherer, providing data on the latest incarnation of Marauders for her own unspecified reasons.

The Marauders are all mutants, servants of genetic zealot Mr. Sinister, tasked with eradicating the crazed biologist’s failed experiments and anybody he considers a threat or valueless. The number of their own people they have callously slaughtered is incalculable and Magneto dearly wants to find these too-long unchecked race-traitors.

Entering into a cautious alliance with Briar, Magneto meticulously and permanently deals with Scalphunter, Prism, Scrambler, Arclight, Harpoon, Riptide and Blockbuster but simply executing the oft-cloned killers is not his ultimate goal. By finding where the next generation are maturing and deftly reprogramming them, the mutant avenger expects to add to his own growing arsenal of resources…

To Be Continued…

Non-stop visceral action, shocking suspense and a roaring sense of social injustice underpin this excessively grim and noir-tinted saga, exploring a savage genetic realpolitik that will astound and engage readers from bleak start to explosive finish.

This compulsive read also includes a gallery of covers and variants by Paolo Rivera, Chris Samnee & Matthew Wilson, Declan Shalvey & Jordie Bellaire, John Cassaday, Michael Del Mundo, Gurihiru Studios, Skott Young, Jerome Opena, Mark Brooks and Stephanie Hans plus added extras provided by AR icon sections (Marvel Augmented Reality App) which give access to story bonuses once you download the code – for free – from marvel.com onto your smart-phone or Android-enabled tablet.
™ & © 2014 Marvel & Subs. Licensed by Marvel Characters B.V. through Panini S.p.A. All rights reserved. A British Edition published by Panini Publishing, a division of Panini UK, Ltd.

Void


By Herik Hanna & Sean Phillips, with colours by Hubert; translated by Nora Goldberg (Titan Comics)
ISBN: 978-1-78276-084-9

Win’s Christmas Gift Recommendation: A Proper Seasonal Shocker… 8/10

Dedicated to diversity from its earliest days, Titan has in the past published kids comics, resurrected and preserved classic newspaper strips, brought crucial manga tales to Albion and, most importantly, shared some of Europe’s best graphic narratives with a jaded British readership.

That tradition continues to this day and one of their most impressive recent additions is a slim but oversized (282 x 206 cm) deluxe hardback edition featuring chilling deep space psycho-chiller Void by Herik Hanna and our own Sean Phillips.

Originally published by French publisher Guy Delcourt in 2012, this bleakly absorbing tale is a dark psychological horror yarn in the manner of Ridley Scott’s Alien, set in the most claustrophobic and hostile environment imaginable…

The terror commences in the silent, blood-splashed observation bay of Goliath 01, a colossal prison transport spaceship wrecked by astronomical mischance and human frailty.

Battered and terrified survivor John pauses to take stock of his precarious position. With ears pricked for any hint of danger he reviews how, following a mass penetration by a storm of micro-meteorites, the monolithic penal vessel suffered a massive systems failure.

That however was not the real problem. In the aftermath of the one-in-a-billion accident, iconic war-hero and infallible mission commander Colonel “No Mercy” Mercer suffered some kind of breakdown and began stalking the corridors, indiscriminately executing prisoners and crew alike with a space axe…

Now, as John keeps frantically moving in a desperate cat-and-mouse gamble to stay ahead of the maniac, he starts experiencing vivid hallucinations: reliving the deaths of his comrades and helpless charges, conversing with food and animals and even arguing with long-gone ex-girlfriend Nancy

Can it simply be pressure and appalling peril, or is there some unfathomable aspect to the nature of space that drives everyone to madness? More importantly, will he be able to find an escape route before the relentless, remorseless Mercer catches up to him?

…And then Nancy suggests that he should stop running and kill the colonel first…

Rendered in a compulsive style reminiscent of the most powerful work of Richard Corben, this sharp, suspenseful, astoundingly atmospheric explosive tale unfolds in a grimy, gritty intoxicating manner, but cunningly holds in reserve a devastating double twist…
Void and all contents © 2012 Guy Delcourt Productions. Translated edition © 2014 Titan Comics.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Collected Comics volume 1


By Ed Caruana, Landry Walker, John-Paul Bove, Erik Burnham, Jack Lawrence, Cosmo White, Bob Molesworth, Jason Cardy & various (Nickelodeon/Panini Comics)
ISBN: 978-1-84653- 615-1

Win’s Christmas Gift Recommendation: What Every Kid Craves… 8/10

Devised by young comicbook creators Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles first appeared in a self-published black & white parody comicbook in 1984.

After spawning an explosive boom in do-it-yourself comics and changing the very nature of the industry, their concept resolved into the ideal example of successful exploitation, expanding to encompass toys, movies, games, food, apparel, general merchandising and especially television cartoons, becoming – and remaining – a globally potent franchise. There’s another movie in the cinemas even as I type this…

In 2012 the third animated TV series – rendered in extremely impressive 3D CGI – launched on Nickelodeon to tremendous world wide approval and is now up to its fourth season.

Such universally popular characters usually filter back into comics as their media stars wax and the TV show generated an Official Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Magazine, packed with puzzles, posters, fact files, competitions and some extremely engaging and entertaining strips.

This bold, brassy and bombastic collection gathers the hilarious, action-packed comic chronicles from issues #2 through 13 and 15 – with a few value-added extras thrown in – and sensibly opens with a rehash of the characters’ ‘Origins’ before ‘The Need for Speed!’ by Ed Caruana, Jack Lawrence and chief colourist Jason Cardy sets the ball rolling when a silly mistake forces romantic Donatello into the most important rescue mission of his life.

After a glitch in computer communication makes him mistakenly believe their human associate April O’Neil has confessed her love for him, in a state of euphoria he responds with a flamboyant gesture.

Unfortunately, by the time he realises the hugely embarrassing error and needs to stop a florist delivering a bonanza bouquet to her, he’s in the middle of a furious fight with the robotic Kraangs who are still insidiously contaminating New York City with the alien Mutagen concoction which had years ago turned a Ninjutsu master into a giant rat and four baby amphibians into the world’s greatest warriors…

‘Podzilla’ then finds our shell-backed saviours battling deranged nemesis and insufferable mad scientist Baxter Stockman whose latest mechanical monstrosity is proof against martial arts mastery but not inventive genius Donnie’s latest innovation. ‘Thief in the Night’ (by Erik Burnham & Bob Molesworth) then sees the quartet battling to save a “magic” sword from Mutagen-warped piscine peril Fishface whilst ‘Slug’ (by Caruana & Molesworth) pits the boys against an uncommon bank robber who accidentally steals some of the ubiquitous ooze and so very slowly reaps the consequences…

Freewheeling Michelangelo saves the day in blistering battle against feral fury Dogbreath thanks to a killer move taught him by a samurai pelican in a ‘Daydream’ (Landry Walker, Caruana & Cosmo White) after which ‘Taken’ (Caruana & Jack Lawrence) finds the turtles’ pet – un-mutated – tortoise Spike at the centre of a kidnap plot involving those incorrigible Kraangs, after which the awesome power of pizza deals a substantial blow to arch-maniac Shredder’s plans when ‘A Slice of Luck’ (Caruana & White) pits the team against an army of enemies and ticked-off mutant alligator Leatherface

Donatello’s new stealth wings prove more handicap than advantage when the lads invade Kraang HQ in ‘Dropzone’ (Caruana & Lawrence), but not as much as the citizens of New York after the Turtles visit a pizzeria in ‘Takeout’ (Caruana, John-Paul Bove & Ryan J. Neal)…

In ‘Number One Fan’ (Walker & White) Leonardo trade blows and fanboy trivia with Stockman when they discover a shared love of vintage TV serial Space Heroes during a cataclysmic clash at a movie premiere…

Leo and Raphael later develop an intense and extremely physical rivalry in ‘Own Worst Enemy’ (Bove & Molesworth) but rodentine Master Splinter’s solution falls far short of the bonding necessitated during a frantic fracas against antagonistic allies Fishface and Dogbreath at a superglue factory…

‘What Goes Up…’ (Bove, Caruana & Lawrence) features a fight in a rooftop jungle hiding veggie-monster Snakeweed, after which Donnie’s latest tinker toy ‘Roboninja’ (Caruana & White) proves more foe than friend after Mikey messes with its controls, whilst in ‘Meet the Dream King’ (Walker, Caruana & Molesworth) the pestiferous Michelangelo is lost in a fabulous but lethal fantasy realm which can only be escaped through the magic of pizza…

The mutant martial arts mirth and mayhem concludes with ‘Space Captain Leo’ (Walker Caruana & White) as the incurable telly addict suffers a debilitating head injury and starts channelling the valiant Captain Ryan of the Starship Dauntless whilst tracking down the Kraangs and a vast shipment of deadly Mutagen.

His bewildered brothers in arms can barely keep up as the carnage commences…

Wrapping up the all-ages fun is a mesmerising fact-feature ‘Behind the Scenes’ which traces the development of the story pages from rough layouts to full-finished computer-coloured art and also includes a selection of ‘Concept Sketches’ revealing the evolution of Podzilla, Roboninja, Slug and The Dream King.

Fast, furious, fun-filled and funny, this reinvention of the perennial shell-backed sentinels offers a superb slice of excitement and enjoyment – and bizarrely addictive catch-phrases – that will keep kids and adults alike bouncing off the walls with eager appreciation.

Mums: You have been warned…

© 2014 Viacom Overseas Holdings, C. V. All Rights Reserved. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and all related logos and characters are ™ Viacom Overseas Holdings, C. V. Based on characters created by Peter Laird and Kevin Eastman.

I’d Love to Draw!


By Andrew Loomis (Titan Books)
ISBN: 978-1-78116-920-9

Win’s Christmas Recommendation: a superb, old-school introduction to peace and recreation… 9/10

There are a host of books both academic and/or instructional designed to inculcate a love of comics whilst offering tips, secrets and an education in how to make your own sequential narratives.

There are far more intended to foster and further the apparently innate and universal desire to simply make art and make it proficiently and well. There are however, precious few that do it with as much style, enthusiasm, delight and cunning craft as this latest re-release by one of the most influential and meritorious masters of illustration America ever produced.

William Andrew Loomis was born in Syracuse, New York in 1892. He grew up in Zanesville, Ohio during the period when almost all published illustration was crafted by talented hands rather than mechanical contrivances like cameras.

Aged 19, he moved back to New York to study under George Bridgman and Frank DuMond at the Art Students League before enlisting to fight in The Great War.

On returning to America Loomis studied at the Art Institute of Chicago whilst setting up his own agency as a jobbing illustrator. Successful from the start, he began supplementing his income during the 1930s by teaching at the American Academy of Art and eventually started compiling his lecture and class material into such popular and effective instructional tomes as Fun With a Pencil and Figure Drawing for All It’s Worth.

His many beautiful and inspirational books influenced generations of artists before eventually slipping out of print, but in recent years Titan Books have been gradually resurrecting them.

This latest tome (with an Introduction and a lavishly informative commentary by comics legend and grateful fan Alex Ross) continues the master’s good works in an epic-scaled (315 x 235mm) luxuriously sturdy monochrome hardback which is a treasure to behold. Even when demonstrating the simplest stance or construction shape, Loomis’ utter joy in putting lines or shapes or shades on paper shines through…

This deeply idiosyncratic, wonderfully expansive and copiously illustrated collection begins with ‘Getting Started’: explaining the theory of ‘Basic Forms’ whilst offering page after page of illuminating examples before carefully and enthusiastically getting to grips with the thorny discipline of ‘Perspective’ in all its daunting forms.

The third pillar of artistic accomplishment is tackled head-on in ‘Light’ with a plethora of examples and exercises explaining all the necessities and useful tricks before the comfortable crash-course gravitates to Part Two and ‘Getting the Fun Out of It!’

Here the first port of call is perfecting ‘The Head’ which incorporates basic construction, carriage, positions and techniques before moving on to caricature and portraiture, after which ‘The Figure’ meticulously traces body form and development from stick-skeletons and sketch layouts to varieties of rendering, fast action visual notation, The Nude and the fundamentals of full illustration.

The foundation course concludes with the third and most important part: ‘The Fun of Sketching’: opening with an effusive overview of the practice of ‘Sketching’ incorporating Line and Form Combined, Exaggeration to Project Character, Solid or Tonal Caricature, Portrait Sketching and much, much more.

Everything ends in an enthralling and enthusiastic ‘Closing Chat’ from the great man encouraging everyone to pick up a pencil and get on with it…

Loomis died in 1959 with one last art manual – Eye of the Painter & Elements of Beauty – published posthumously, yet his professional artistic philosophy, folksy wit and great personal charm still shine throughout this book. His gentle yet thorough instruction of the eternal unchanging verities of visual creation still makes the rewarding act of drawing not only achievable but desirable for everyone.

Perhaps this splendid volume is aimed more squarely at the progressing cartoonist, rather than at utter neophytes, and provides as much a philosophy of creativity as strict instruction, but I’d Love to Draw! will well serve any budding artists and storytellers whilst keeping idle hands and minds amused, absorbed and entertained for hours. If you already have the urge to make pictures but want a little encouragement, this marvellous manual will offer a steadying hand and all the support you could dream of.

© Andrew Loomis, The Estate of Andrew Loomis 2014. All rights reserved.

Introduction and additional text © Alex Ross 2014.

Superman Annual 2015


By Joshua Hale, Dan Abnett, Andy Lanning, Rob Williams, Todd Seavey, Joelle Jones, Wes Craig, Chris Weston, Chris Jones, Craig Yeung, Al Nickerson & various (Titan Comics)
ISBN: 978-1-78276-190-7

Win’s Christmas Gift Recommendation: What Every Kid Deserves… 8/10

The first British Superman Annual was for 1951, a power packed mono-colour monolith that introduced a legion of kids to the decidedly different American style of comic strips. It opened the floodgates to a tidal wave of other DC characters ranging from Tommy Tomorrow to Detective Chimp.

By the end of the 1970s the Superman (and Batman) Christmas editions were a slim and slight shadow of their former bumper selves, even though during the mid-1980s a new crop of editors and designers found a way to invigorate and add value to the tired tomes.

The perennial favourites’ fortunes waxed and waned as different companies attempted to reinvent the tradition but sadly the “World’s Finest” superheroes disappeared completely from British stockings for most of the 21st century.

Thankfully the Cape & Cowl tradition was revived by Titan Books last year and the current crop are ready to liven up a few more Christmas mornings…

This book is the 37th annual for the Action Ace (not counting a series of five combination Superman and Batman tomes for 1975-1978) and the publishers have again wisely catered to the characters’ small and larger screen presence throughout.

The majority of tales collected here come from the continuity-neutral original webcomic Adventures of Superman (#2 and 4, August and October 2013) with material and features from Superman: Secret Files and Origins plus a cool bonus story starring the World’s Greatest Superheroes from the TV spin-off Justice League Adventures #5.

The “Never-ending Battles” begin with ‘Slow News Day’ by Joshua Hale & Joelle Jones wherein a friendly “scoop” contest between rival reporters Lois and Clark inexplicably draws the Man of Tomorrow into the most hectic and annoying day of his life, after which a fulsome fact feature by James Robinson, Sterling Gates & Pete Woods provides everything you need to know about the vast and fascinating city of ‘Metropolis’.

Next Dan Abnett, Andy Lanning, Wes Craig & Craig Yeung reveal ‘A Day in the Life’, offering a sneaky peek inside the disturbed mind of Lex Luthor as the bonkers billionaire daydreams ways to kill his greatest foe, before another tranche of fact-files (by Geoff Johns & Francis Manapul) delivers the lowdown on both Luthor and space scourge Brainiac.

‘Saviour’ (Rob Williams & Chris Weston from Adventures of Superman #4) contrasts the frantic infallible Man of Steel’s battle against a bevy of super freaks with the loving homeboy who likes to visit with his mum in Kansas, before ‘The Daily Planet’ staff come under the fact-file spotlight courtesy of Gates, Jamal Igle & Jon Sibal, and Johns & Manapul provide the same information overload for superdog ‘Krypto’.

Wrapping up the story portion of this thrilling tome is ‘The Star-Conqueror’ (Todd Seavey, Chris Jones & Al Nickerson from Justice League Adventures #5, May 2002) wherein Superman, Green Lantern John Stewart, Hawkgirl, Flash and Wonder Woman voyage to a distant planet to liberate the population from the mental domination of stellar horror Starro…

With a final fact file on ‘Supergirl’ by Gates & Igle and big, bold cover/pin-ups by John Delaney, Rob Leigh & Bruce Timm, this stunningly seductive and engaging oversized (292 x 227mm) hardback bonanza is a perfect treat for comicbook buffs that will delight and dazzle young and old alike.

Superman and all other characters featured in this book and the distinctive likenesses thereof are ™ DC Comics, Inc. Superman created by Jerry Siegel & Joe Shuster. By special arrangement with the Jerry Siegel family. Used with permission all rights reserved. © 2002, 2009, 2013, 2014 DC Comics, a Warner Bros. Entertainment Company. All rights reserved.

Hägar the Horrible: The Epic Chronicles – Dailies 1980-1981


By Dik Browne (Titan Books)
ISBN: 978-1-78116-715-1

Win’s Christmas Gift Recommendation: a perfect package of traditional fun… 9/10

Although very much in decline these days, for nearly 200 years cartoon strips and gag-panels were the universal medium of wit, satire mirth and cultural exchange. Latterly we purveyors of primarily sequential narrative have exhibited an unhappy tendency to become protective and parochial about our own particular specialism within the greater art form.

How many times have we heard an artist or writer working on a hot new comicbook property revelling in sales of sixty-to-seventy thousand monthly copies, almost simultaneously disparage strips such as Dilbert, Dick Tracy or Garfield whose daily readership can be numbered in millions, if not billions?

Let’s all just try to remember that tastes differ, and that we’re all just making lines on a surface here, and most especially that TV and Computer Games are the real enemy of our industry, shall we?

OK, rant over.

Mainstream cartooning is a huge daily joy to a vast and often global readership whose needs are quite different from those of hard-core, dedicated comic fans, or even that ever-growing base of intrigued browsers dipping their toes in the sequential narrative pool. Even those stuck-up stickybeaks who have pointedly “never read a comic” have read and enjoyed strips or panels, and in this arena Britain has seen not only a golden bounty of home produced material but also imported some of the very best the rest of the world has to offer.

Dik (AKA Richard Arthur Allan) Browne was a native New Yorker born in 1917 who studied at Cooper Union and apprenticed as a copy boy and art-bod for the New York Journal America before joining the US Army.

His wartime duties in the Engineering Corps included strategic map-making, but whilst in service he also created the comic strip Jinny Jeep about the Women’s Army Corps, which set the tone for his peacetime career.

A professional cartoonist and illustrator, he worked for Newsweek and in advertising after mustering out, gaining a reputation as a superb logo designer (The Campbell Soup Kids, Chiquita Banana and the Birdseye Bird number amongst his most memorable creations).

He also dabbled with comicbooks – a few Classics Illustrated Junior issues – and produced some children’s books, before teaming up with Beetle Bailey creator Mort Walker to draw the hugely successful spin-off strip Hi and Lois in 1954.

Whilst illustrating that family comedy – and deviously training his sons Chance and Chris to take eventually over his cartooning duties – Dik devised another strip that he would write as well as render.

Hägar the Horrible debuted through the King Features Syndicate on February 4th 1973 and quickly became a world-wide hit. The strip is still a fixture in 1900 newspapers in 58 countries in thirteen languages and the iconic characters have migrated to books, comic albums, games, animated movies, toys and more…

Dik Browne retired from cartooning in 1988 and tragically died from cancer on June 4th 1989. Chance now continues Hi and Lois whilst Chris continues to wield pen, wave sword and wear the chief’s horned helmet on Hägar…

A certified classic of World Cartooning, Hägar the Horrible is the ongoing subject of a comprehensive collectors series and this latest (sixth) monolithic hardback compendium covers 7th July 1980 to January 2nd 1982, with the hard-drinking, voracious sea-roving Viking and his scurvy crew constantly trekking out to far climes before perennially staggering home to their quirky families in a never-ending stream of sight gags, painful puns and surreal situations.

This volume opens with a passionate reverie from a close associate and fellow star cartoonist in the Foreword by Lynn Johnston before Chris Browne shares memories of one his dad’s most imaginative and appealing children’s books (The Land of Lost Things co-created with Mort Walker) in ‘The Lost World of Dik Browne’.

Then, before the cavalcade of comic calamity commences, readers old and new are regaled with a handy chart of the Hägar Family Tree, reintroducing the great man and his doughty dependents: Helga the long-suffering wife, studious son Hamlet and troublesome teenaged daughter Honi.

Also making an appearance are faithful canine Snert, stroppy house-duck Kvack and the hero’s faithful if intellectually challenged sidekick Lucky Eddie

The magic of these daily strips is the constant stream of japes and capers constantly revisiting established themes and hot-button topics. Over the hundreds of pages that follow you can see Hägar’s perpetual struggle to bring home the bacon (and wine and gold and textiles and…), spar with Helga as she fruitlessly struggles to civilise her barbaric oaf of a man, and Honi’s torment as she pines equally for seedy musician Lute and noble knight Sir Philip Courtright whilst testing out other matrimonial options and alternatively considers a career as a axe-swinging Valkyrie…

Bookish Hamlet is always there to disappoint and delight his gregarious, bellicose dad; Snert and Kvack frequently outwit and appal the humans who share their home whilst Lucky Eddie and the mismatched crew of incompetent sea-reavers follow the red-bearded rascal into battle against foreign armies, daunting dragons, a coterie of assorted clergy and the unwelcoming elements, content in the knowledge that somehow, somewhere they will find more booze…

Enticing, irrepressible, hilarious and deeply satisfying, Hägar the Horrible is a masterpiece of the strip cartoonists’ unique art form and one guaranteed to deliver delight over and over again to young and old alike.

Hägar the Horrible is © 2014 King Features Syndicate and ™ Hearst Holdings, Inc. All rights reserved. All strips © 1980 & 1981 King Features Syndicate. All rights reserved. All other material © 2014 their respective authors.