Young Romance: The Best of Simon & Kirby’s Romance Comics


By Joe Simon & Jack Kirby, restored & edited by Michael Gagné (Fantagraphics Books)
ISBN: 978-1-60699-502-0

Simon & Kirby presaged and ushered in the first American age of mature comics – not just with the Romance genre, but with all manner of challenging modern material of real people in extraordinary situations – before seeing it all disappear again in less than eight years. Their small stable of magazines produced for the loose association of companies known as Prize/Crestwood/Pines blossomed and wilted as the industry contracted throughout the 1950s.

As the popularity of flamboyant escapist superheroes waned after World War II, newer yet more familiar genres such as Crime and Horror came to the fore in American comics, as audiences increasingly rejected upbeat fantasy for grittier, more sober older themes in mass entertainment.

Some, like Westerns and Funny Animal comics, hardly changed at all, but gangster and detective tales were utterly radicalised by the temperament of the post-war world.

Stark, uncompromising, cynically ironic novels and socially aware, mature-themed B-movies that would become categorised as Film Noir offered the new civilian society a bleakly antiheroic worldview that often hit too close to home and set fearful, repressive, middle-class parent groups and political ideologues howling for blood.

Naturally the new forms and sensibilities seeped into comics, transforming good-natured, two-fisted gumshoe and Thud-&-Blunder cop strips of yore into darkly intriguing, even frightening tales of seductive dames, big pay-offs and glamorous thugs.

Sensing imminent Armageddon, the moral junkyard dogs bayed even louder as they saw their precious children’s minds under seditious attack…

Concurrent to the demise of masked mystery-men, industry giants Joe Simon & Jack Kirby – who were already capitalising on a True Crime boom – legendarily invented the comicbook Romance genre with mature, beguiling, explosively contemporary social dramas equally focussed on the changing cultural scene and adult-themed relationships. They also, with very little shading, discussed topics of a sexual nature…

Beginning with the semi-comedic prototype My Date for Hillman in early 1947, S&K plunged in full force with Young Romance #1 in September of that year for Crestwood Publications: a minor outfit which had been creating interesting but not innovative comics since 1940 as Prize Comics.

Following Simon’s plan to make a new marketplace from the grievously uncatered-for older girls of America, they struck gold with stories addressing serious issues and hazards of relationships…

Not since the invention of Superman had a single comicbook generated such a frantic rush of imitation and flagrant cashing-in. Young Romance #1 was a monumental hit and the team acted accordingly: swiftly expanding they releasing spin-offs Young Love (February 1949), Young Brides and In Love under a unique profits-sharing deal that quickly paid huge dividends to the publishers, creators and a growing studio of specialists.

All through that turbulent period comicbooks suffered impossibly biased oversight and hostile scrutiny from hidebound and panicked old guard institutions such as church groups, media outlets and ambitious politicians.

A number of tales and titles garnered especial notoriety from those social doomsmiths and when the industry buckled and introduced a ferocious Comics Code, it castrated the creative form just when it most needed boldness and imagination. Comics endured more than a decade and a half of savagely doctrinaire self-imposed censorship until changing society and plummeting profits forced the art form to adapt, evolve or die.

Those tales from a simpler time, exposing a society in meltdown and suffering cultural PTSD, are mild by modern standards of behaviour but the quality of art and writing make those pivotal years a creative highpoint long overdue for a thorough reassessment.

In 1947 fictionalising True Crime Cases was tremendously popular at the time, and of the assorted outfits that generated such material nobody did it better than S&K. That technique of first-person confession also naturally lent itself to the just-as-hard-hitting personal sagas of a succession of archetypal women and girls who populated their new comicbook smash.

Although their output as interchangeable writers/pencillers/inkers (aided by Joe’s brother-in-law Jack Oleck in the story department) was prodigious and astounding, other hands frequently pitched in, so although these tales are all credited to S&K, art-aficionados shouldn’t be surprised to detect traces of Bill Draut, Mort Meskin, Al Eadeh, George Roussos or other stalwarts lurking in the backgrounds…

Michelle Nolan’s ‘Introduction’ deftly analyses the scope and impact trajectory of the innovation and its impact on the industry before the new era opens with ‘Boy Crazy’ from Young Romance #2 (1947) wherein a flighty teenager with no sense of morality steals her aunt’s man with appalling consequences after which ‘Her Tragic Love’ – from the same issue – delivers a thunderbolt of melodrama as a lovers’ triangle encompassing a wrongly convicted man on death row presented one woman with no solution but the final one…

Scripted by Oleck ‘Fraulein Sweetheart…’ (YR #4, 1948) reveals dark days but no happy endings for two German girls eking out existence in the American-occupied sector of post-war Marburg whilst ‘Shame’ from issue #5 dealt with a high flying young lady too proud to acknowledge her own scrub-woman mother whenever her flashy boyfriend was around.

Next is ‘The Town and Toni Benson’ from Young Romance #11 and contemporarily designated volume 2, #5, 1949, which offered a sequel to ‘I Was a Pick-Up’ from the premiere issue (which is confusingly included in the sequel to this volume Young Romance 2: the Early Simon & Kirby).

Here S&K cleverly built on that original tale creating a soap opera environment which could so easily have spawned a series as the now-newlywed couple struggle to make ends meet under a wave of hostile public scrutiny…

On a roll the creative geniuses began mixing genres and Western Love #2, 1948 offered ‘Kathy and the Merchant of Sunset Canton!’ as a city slicker found his modern mercenary management style made him no friends in cowboy country until one proud girl took the chance on getting to know him whilst ‘Sailor’s Girl!’ (Young Romance #13/Vol. 3, #1 1949) explores the troubles of an heiress who marries a dauntless sea rover who works for daddy, confident that she can tame his wild free spirit…

We head out yonder once more to meet ‘The Perfect Cowboy!’(Real West Romances # 4 1949) – at least on set – and the simple sagebrush lass whose head he briefly turned before social inequality and petty envy inform the brutally heavy-handed ‘I Want Your Man’ Young Romance #21/Vol. 3, #9 1950 wherein a young woman of meagre means realises almost too late the cost of her vendetta against a pretty little rich girl…

‘Nancy Hale’s Problem Clinic’ (Young Romance #23/Vol. 3, #11, 1950) offers a brief dose of sob-sister advice as “treatment for the troubled heart” before the magnificent melodramas resume with ‘Old Fashioned Girl’ (YR #34/Vol. 4, #10 1951) as a forceful young woman raised by her grandmother slowly has her convictions about propriety challenged by intriguing men and her own barely subsumed passions, whereas ‘Mr. Know-It-All Falls in Love’ (Young Love #37/Vol. 7, #10 1952) takes a rare opportunity to use a male narrator’s voice when a buttoned-down control freak decides that with his career in order it’s time to marry. But who’s the best prospect?

Another of those pesky triangles then results in one marriage, one forlorn heartbreak, war, vengeance and a most perfect ‘Wedding Present!’ (Young Love #50/Vol. 5, #8 1953) before this cleverly conceived chronicle takes a conceptual diversion after one last tale from the same issue, detailing the all-business affair of ‘Norma, Queen of the Hot Dogs’ and her (at first) strictly platonic partner…

In 1955 the Comics Code Authority began its draconian anodyneing of the industry’s more mature efforts and the Romance titles especially took a big conceptual hit. The edgy stories became less daring and almost every ending was a happy one – for the guy or the parents at least.

Following a superbly extensive ‘Cover Gallery’ featuring a dozen of the most evocative images from those wild and free early years ‘The Post-Code Era’ re-presents the specific conditions affecting romantic relations from the censorious document, followed by a selection of the yarns S&K and their team were thereafter reduced to producing.

Even the art seems less enthusiastic for the wholesome unchallenging episodes which begin with ‘Old Enough to Marry!’ (Young Romance #80/Vol. 8, #8, 1955) as a young man confronts his grizzled cop dad who has no intention of letting his son make a mess of his life, after which a maimed farmer tries to sabotage the budding romance between his once-faithful girlfriend and the brilliant good-looking doctor who cured him in ‘Lovesick’ from the same issue.

The next four tales all originated in Young Romance #85/Vol. 10, #1 1956, beginning with ‘Lizzie’s Back in Town’ as a strong, competent girl returns home to let daddy pick her husband for her (no, really!); two guys fight and the winner gets the girl in ‘Lady’s Choice’ whilst another, less frenzied duel results in a ‘Resort Romeo’ wedding the girl of everybody’s dreams even as ‘My Cousin from Milwaukee’ exposes a gold-digger and reserves her handsome relative for herself…

The bowdlerised tales mercifully conclude with ‘The Love I Lost!’ (Young Romance #90/Vol. 12, #3, 1959) wherein another hospital case realises just in time that the man she wants is not the man she deserves…

This emotional rollercoaster is supplemented with a number of well-illustrated bonus features including ‘Why I Made this Book’, ‘Simon and Kirby’s Romance Comics: A Historical Overview’, a splendid selection of S&K’s pioneering ‘Photo Covers’ (18 in all) and a fascinating explanation of the process of artwork-rehabilitation in ‘About the Restoration’ before everything wraps up with the now-traditional ‘Biographies’ section.

Simon & Kirby took much of their tone if not actual content from movie melodramas of the period (such as Mr. Skeffington, All About Eve or Mildred Pierce and Noir romances like Blonde Ice or Hollow Triumph) and, unlike what we might consider suitable for romantic fiction today, their stories crackled with tension, embraced violent action and were infested with unsavoury characters and vicious backstabbing, gossiping hypocrites.

Happily those are the tales which fill most of this book, making for an extremely engaging, strikingly powerful and thoroughly addictive collection of great stories by brilliant masters of the comics arts and one no lover of the medium should miss…
Young Romance: the Best of Simon & Kirby’s Romance Comics © 2012 Fantagraphics Books Inc. Introduction © 2012 Michelle Nolan Schelly. All rights reserved.

Yoko Tsuno volume 8: The Devil’s Organ


By Roger Leloup (Cinebook)
ISBN: 978-1-84918-1

The edgy yet uncannily accessible European exploits of Japanese scientific adventurer Yoko Tsuno began gracing the pages of Spirou from September 1970 and are still going strong.

The engaging, eye-popping, expansively globe-girdling multi-award winning series was created by Belgian Roger Leloup, a man of many talents born in 1933 who worked as one of Herge’s meticulous researchers and background assistants on the Adventures of Tintin strip before striking out on his own.

Compellingly told, superbly imaginative but always solidly placed in hyper-realistic settings sporting utterly authentic and unshakably believable technology, these illustrated epics were at the forefront of a wave of strips featuring competent, brave and immensely successful female protagonists which revolutionised European comics from the 1970s onwards and are as potently empowering now as they ever were.

The first Spirou stories ‘Hold-up en hi-fi’, ‘La belle et la bête’ and ‘Cap 351’ were all short introductory vignettes before the formidable Miss Tsuno and her always awestruck and overwhelmed male comrades truly hit their stride with premier extended saga Le trio de l’étrange which began serialisation with the May 13th 1971 issue.

That epic of extraterrestrial intrigue was the first of 26 European albums, promptly followed here with a more down-to-earth but equally breathtaking contemporary thriller set in the heart of Germany against a merely mortal menace who was every inch her match…

Serialised in Spirou #1767-1793 (in 1972 as L’orgue du diable) the suspenseful thriller reaches us as eighth translated Cinebook chronicle The Devil’s Organ and begins when young TV mogul Vic Van Steen and frivolous cameraman pal Pol Paris take their new chum – sleekly capable freelance Japanese electrical engineer Yoko Tsuno – with them up the so-scenic Rhine to shoot a travel documentary.

What the working tourists don’t realise is that the epic views and beautiful castles were recently the scene of a bizarre duel which left one man dead whilst his improbably garbed, demonic murderer escaped without anyone knowing a crime had been committed…

Now a week later Pol is not so subtly ogling (and filming) a comely fraulein on the top deck of the stately and palatial riverboat when the subject of his attentions falls into the chilly waters.

Yoko is only seconds behind him as the cameraman hits the water trying to save the girl and when they are all hauled back aboard the Japanese adventurer discovers the nearly drowned victim has been drugged…

Ingrid Hallberg is one of Germany’s most promising young classical organists and she has made the trip to the idyllic, fairytale region to see where her father committed suicide a week previously. However, when Pol’s voyeuristic photos are developed they reveal a strange man injecting her with something before pushing her into the river and Yoko begins to suspect that the senior Hallberg’s death might not be all it appears either. Adding to the mystery is a strange tape he sent Ingrid which she was intending to play once she arrived at his now deserted home in Sankt Goar

As always the most potent asset of these edgy dramas is the astonishingly authentic and hyper-realistic settings, which benefit from Leloup’s diligent research and meticulous attention to detail. Tourists could use these pages as an A-Z and never get lost, except in rapturous wonder…

As they accompany the damp damsel Yoko discovers the girl has been electronically bugged and urges all haste, with the party arriving just as a masked man flees the house with the tape. Giving chase Yoko finds herself facing no ordinary foe and despite all her martial arts skills is near death by the time her friends catch up. The mystery man gets away but not with all of the tape…

The fragment that remains lead the baffled, battered heroes to buried copper artefacts which were part of an incredible restoration project. Werner Hallberg, being an expert in church music and instruments, was apparently contracted to restore a sixteenth century device for an anonymous millionaire. The colossal ancient device was known as The Devil’s Organ and from what the modern tech team can discern it was a sonic weapon of devastating power…

Tracking down the original location of the device at the world-famous Katz fortress, the self-appointed detectives settle on its current occupier Otto Meyer as the likely wealthy patron who hired Werner and, determined to get to the bottom of the criminal conundrum, barge in on him, only to be attacked by his misanthropic and overprotective nephew Karl. Over the young man’s strenuous objections the elder Meyer surprisingly invites the wary intruders to stay and look around all they want.

Cautiously accepting they continue their enquiries in plain sight but are all too soon the latest targets in the mysterious murderer’s sights…

It takes all Yoko’s considerable ingenuity and boldness to stay one step ahead of the hidden killer but when she finally unmasks the true villain and learns his sordid reasons for the deaths it is almost too late: the Organ from Hell is ready to sound and nothing can prevent it from unleashing a horrific wave of destruction.

…But that doesn’t stop Yoko Tsuno from giving it one final mighty try…

Absorbing, compelling and blending tense suspense with blistering adventure, this is another superbly rationalist mystery and fantastic exploit of the most unsung of all female action heroes: one you’ve waited far too long to meet…
Original edition © Dupuis, 1973 by Roger Leloup. All rights reserved. English translation 2013 © Cinebook Ltd.

The Phoenix Presents… Corpse Talk Season 2


By Adam Murphy (David Fickling Books)
ISBN: 978-1-910200-49-0

The educational power of comic strips has been long understood and acknowledged: if you can make the material memorably enjoyable, there is nothing that can’t be better taught with pictures. The obverse is also true: comics can make any topic or subject come alive… or at least – as here – outrageously undead…

The conceit in Adam Murphy’s wonderful Corpse Talk is that famous personages from the past are exhumed for a chatty, cheeky This Was Your Life talk-show interview that, in Reithian terms, simultaneously “elucidates, educates and entertains”. It also often grosses one out, which is no bad thing for either a kids’ comic or a learning experience…

Another splendid album release culled from the annals of The Phoenix (courtesy of those fine saviours of weekly comics at David Fickling Books) opens with some ‘Introductory Remarks’ from your scribbling, cartooning host macabre Adam Murphy before the creepy contents section ‘In the Guest Graveyard This Season’ runs down the disinterred interviewees on show this time…

Before the inspirational post-mortem autobiographies commence there’s also a splendidly informative archaeological burial-map entitled ‘Digging up the Bodies’ providing an effectively contextual visual timeline for the likes of saucy ‘Queen Victoria’ and foolish ‘Guy Fawkes’ to discuss their successes and failures before we learn the gory truth about ‘William the Conqueror’, which last is supplemented by a grotesque, ghastly glimpse of what happened at his shocking state funeral in double-page spread ‘William the Honk-eror’

Heading further back in time – and perhaps into fiction rather than fact – comes an intimate investigation into the truth behind Greek poet ‘Homer’ and far more confirmable confabs with engineering phenomenon ‘Isambard Kingdom Brunel’ and infamous Russian ruler ‘Catherine the Great’ which comes with a fact feature on the plague of impostors who tried to unseat her in ‘Tsars in their Eyes!’

Game-changing artistic iconoclast ‘Henri Matisse’ shares the spotlight with true life inspiration for Robinson Crusoe ‘Alexander Selkirk’, after which a thorough expose of ‘Elizabeth I’ is rounded off with a ‘A Killer Look!’ at the vast array of clothing gimmicks, fashion accessories and make-up marvels she employed to stay at the height of her power, whilst at the other end of the spectrum fun-crushing ‘Oliver Cromwell’ stands proudly on his reputation for dour and dismal progress…

I for one will be forever grateful for learning for the first time ever (!) about ‘Maria Sibylla Merian’, a grossly misused scientific pioneer who founded the principles of entomology before being written out of history by male historians and scientists. Let this light-hearted examination be just the first of her many mentions please…

No suspicious suppression for the next star spectre as ‘William Shakespeare’ tells it like it was, accompanied by a short summary of his acting career in ‘Ghost Writer!’ after which the page-count temporarily doubles to encompass the American exploits of ‘Leif Erikson (and Family)’ – papa Erik the Red, mother Thjodhild, and siblings Thorvald, Thorsten & Freydis – before dropping back to normal for party favourite ‘Charles II’ who cockily details his fall, exile, return and rise to adored majesty.

The truth about ‘Pocahontas’ is followed by more telling Native American facts in ‘Sad Ending, Continued…’ whilst the glorious career of ‘Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy’ serves to cheer us all up and the personalised revelations of ‘Sir Francis Drake’ clarify the very, very slim difference between privateer and pirate.

The astounding achievements of polymath and scientific everyman ‘Sir Christopher Wren’ is followed by a bold and brilliant depiction of ‘The Great Fire of London’ which allowed him to cement his place in history whilst the stellar career and cruelly embarrassing end of female aviator ‘Amy Johnson’ precedes a chilling conclusion when ‘Vlad the Impaler’ recounts his favourite things and how much pain they caused everyone else…

This second star-stuffed catalogue of comedy cadaver chronicles then concludes with a little game-segment as ‘The End of the Season’ sees all the guests going walkabout, requiring a ‘Rotting Remains Roll-Call’ for the reader to locate and return them to their places of rest

Smart, irreverent, funny and splendidly factual throughout, The Phoenix Presents… Corpse Talk Season 2 cleverly but unflinchingly deals with history’s more tendentious moments whilst personalising the great and the good for coming generations.

It is also a fabulously fun read no parent or kid could possibly resist. Don’t take my word for it though, just check with the spirits in question…
Text and illustrations © Adam Murphy 2015. All rights reserved.

Adventure Time: The Original Cartoon Title Cards Seasons 3 & 4


By various (Titan Books)
ISBN: 978-1-78329-896-9

Just in case you’re unfamiliar with the Cartoon Network show this book celebrates, Adventure Time is set in a post-apocalyptic future about a thousand years after the “Great Mushroom War”. In the crazily magical Land of Ooo a bizarre coterie of life-forms live their strange lives and a human boy and his shapeshifting dog are having a grand old time…

The series is multi-award-winning and an absolute paragon of meticulous yet inspired creativity. Populated with an astoundingly bizarre cast which includes notional heroes Jake and Finn, regal Princess Bubblegum, Marceline the Vampire Queen, elephantine Treetrunks, the Earl of Lemongrab, gabby Lumpy Space Princess, BMO, Neptr, Agent Princess, Susan Strong, dour penguin Gunter and cool, cruel antagonist the Ice King, every aspect of each episodes is planned in the most minute detail, even to the so-briefly-glimpsed introductory images which depict each story’s individual designation.

Those “Title Cards” are just one more opportunity for the in-house creative wizards to push boundaries and their own artistic envelopes and have been celebrated with their own glitzy eye-popping albums. This sublimely surreal second selection – gathering the incredible, gone-in-a-second scenes in a more lasting and luxurious setting – features bold, bizarre and beautiful breaks in narrative from the third and fourth season conceived and crafted by Natasha Allegri, Gunnar Gilmore, Tom Herpich, Nick Jennings, Andy Ristaino, Rebecca Sugar, Pendleton Ward and Michelle Xin, each visual accompanied by behind-the scenes notes, preliminary sketches and commentary by the individual illustrator.

Presented in a stunning, sturdily oversized (295 x 232 mm) full-colour hardback the otherworldly wonders are preceded by an excitable Introduction and rapturous Resumés of the Artists involved, before the 42 individual episode cards with evocative legends such as ‘Conquest of Cuteness’, ‘Memory of a Memory’, ‘Fionna and Cake’, ‘Beautopia’, ‘Dad’s Dungeon’, ‘You Made Me’ and ‘Reign of Gunters’ beguile, bedazzle and bewilder with seductively teasing terms any and every lover of weirdness and wild all-ages escapism.

Strangely addictive, madly absurd and sweet as cartoon candy, this is a treat for young and old alike. Adventure Time, Cartoon Network, the logos and all related characters and elements are ™ and © Cartoon Network (S15). All rights reserved.

Adventure Time: The Original Cartoon Title Cards Seasons 3 & 4 will be released on August 4th 2015 and is available for pre-order now.

High Crimes


By Christopher Sebela & Ibrahim Moustafa (Dark Horse)
ISBN: 978-1-61655-472-9

Generally I prefer to go into loads of detail regarding the plot of a book under review but sometimes that’s not possible or even fair. This is definitely one of those occasions…

High Crimes debuted as a 12-issue digital comic by writer Christopher Sebela (Screamland: Death of the Party, Captain Marvel, Escape from New York) and illustrator Ibrahim Moustafa (The Pound: Ghoul’s Night Out, The Flash: Season Zero), produced by Monkeybrain Comics, and its stunning blend of captivating big-sky concept, seedy suspense thriller and chase-movie blockbuster is just too heady an experience to deny fellow action fans.

The scintillating serial took the industry by storm; garnering immense praise and lots of award nominations and now that it’s completed Dark Horse have collected it in its entirety – along with sidebar stories and a wealth of behind-the-scenes and promotional material – into a splendid hardcover chronicle for a wider, more traditionally-minded, book-loving audience.

Once upon a time Suzanne Jensen owned the world. Now she’s an exile eking out a shabby life on its metaphorical roof. When she was a world-famous Olympic snowboarder the medals piled up, but after the authorities discovered that their public paragon of perfection was an unrepentant recreational drug abuser, “Zan” went to extraordinary lengths to escape, abandoning everything she knew and loved to avoid giving back those glittering but pointless symbols of her former greatness.

Drifting across the globe she eventually fetched up in Kathmandu, working as a fly-by-night cut-rate guide, living life one pharmaceutical hit and geological threat at a time. Despite all those promises to herself, however, she never quite made to the top of the granite goddess that dominated the view and attention of everybody around her, native, grifter or spoiled tourist…

She found makework and a fellow damaged soul in the form of aged burn-out Haskell Price, who preys on the families of rich idiots and starry-eyed dreamers risking everything to reach the top of Mount Everest. Haskell is a cold-hearted modern-day graverobber, collecting small personal effects and occasionally recovering the bodies of the so-many climbers who don’t make it.

More accurately he initially rescues just their right hands (for fingerprint identification), strong-arming grieving relatives into handing over cash to retrieve and return the complete cadaver for proper burial. The mountain takes a ferocious toll on the ever-increasing number of thrill-seeking visitors and even if only one bereaved family in a handful fall for the proffered “service”, it’s enough to get by…

Everything changes when he finds a corpse-icle lost near the summit for years. When those particular prints are faxed Stateside it unleashes an avalanche of terror in the form of an ultra-secret, black-ops hit-squad determined to find missing super-agent Sullivan Mars and – more importantly – the still-crucial secrets he absconded with so long ago…

Haskell can’t really help them when they turn up, since Zan has already swiped Mars’s journal and a minute canister of microfilm, but when she sees the collateral carnage the cleaner-squad are prepared to inflict she makes the craziest decision of her life.

As the merciless operatives force Haskell to take them on the arduous, weeks long trek to the summit and Mars’ body, she determines that with no place left to run she’s going to clean up her own mess for once.

Following in the footsteps of the killer elite Zan resolves to rescue Haskell or barring that at least finally get to summit of the overpowering mountain and see the world as it truly is before she dies…

Mirroring her slow and torturous progress with a succession of shocking revelations from Sullivan’s stolen secrets, and clocking up a startling bodycount, the epic odyssey offers a stupendous and breathtakingly vicarious journey of discovery no armchair adrenaline addict could possibly resist, with an emotional pay-off that is a joy and shock to experience.

Preceded by an Introduction from Greg Rucka, the compulsively enthralling yarn is complimented by a Bonus Features section which includes commentary by author Sebela, alternate cover sketches, the 3-page trailer vignette ‘Strange Truths’ from Free Comic Book Day 2014’s ‘Comic Book Legal Defense Fund’s Defend Comics’, a “declassified” ‘User’s Guide to High Crimes’, loads of character sketches and all the phenomenal, inspired and imaginative promotional postings and briefs issued to rouse interest in the series.

Epic, arduous and devastatingly addictive, something to treasure for all the right reasons and not just because it’s there…
High Crimes™ © 2013, 2014 Christopher Sebela & Ibrahim Moustafa. All rights reserved.

The Best of Roy of the Rovers: The 1970s


By Tom Tully & David Sque (Titan Books)
ISBN: 978-1-84856-024-6

There was a time when comics in Britain reflected the interests of a much larger proportion of the youthful population, and when adults kept their less-acceptable reading habits a closely guarded secret. Since it became practically cool to read graphic narrative, however, many of the nation’s greatest comic-strip heroes – sporting, as well as action-based or freaky and fantastical – have been making their way back in various collections and revivals.

Roy of the Rovers began on the front cover of Tiger, a brand new weekly anthology periodical published by Amalgamated Press (later IPC and Fleetway Publications). Launched on September 11th 1954, “The Sport and Adventure Picture Story Weekly” was a cannily crafted companion to Lion, the company’s successful response to The Eagle (home of Dan Dare, but precious few sporting heroes).

From the first Tiger concentrated heavily on sports stars and themes, with issue #1 also offering The Speedster from Bleakmoor, Mascot of Bad Luck and Tales of Whitestoke School amongst others. In later years racing driver Skid Solo and wrestler Johnny Cougar joined the pantheon of traditional strips such as Billy’s Boots, Nipper, Hotshot Hamish and Martin’s Marvellous Mini, but for most of its 1,555-issue run Tiger was “the comic with Roy of the Rovers”.

Roy started as a humble apprentice at mighty Melchester Rovers, and after many years of winning all the glories the beautiful game could offer, settled down to live the dream: wife, kids, wealth, comfort and triumphant adulation every Saturday…

Created by Frank S. Pepper, who used the pseudonym Stewart Colwyn, and drawn by Joe Colquhoun (who kept the nom-de-plume when he eventually began scripting the series as well), the evergreen adventures of Roy Race were generally written for much of his early career by the comic’s Editor Derek Birnage (although credited to “Bobby Charlton” for a couple of years).

In 1975 time finally caught up with Roy and he became player-manager of the only club-team he ever played for, and the following year the footballing phenomenon got his own weekly comic, just in time for the 1976-77 season, premiering on September 25th and running for 855 consecutive issues, only ending with the 20th March 1993 edition.

This glossy oversized paperback excerpts the covers and lead strips from the eponymous Roy of the Rovers weekly spanning the first issue to 2nd June 1979, when the comic was regularly selling a million copies a week. The stories were always much more than simply “He shoots! He’s scores!!!” formulaic episodes: they’re closer to the sports-based TV dramas of later decades like Dream Team or Friday Night Lights (although of course that’s not about proper football…)

Weekly comics have a tremendous advantage when it comes to staying topical. From draught script to issue-on-sale can be as little as six weeks. This meant that with a judicious eye to the upcoming events diary, a strip can comfortably lock into big public occasions and even short-lived crazes.

This stellar selection re-presents material from a period when the game was changing radically and writer Tom Tully made full use of contemporary headlines and concerns to spice up the action. With reliable David Sque handling the full-colour artwork the serials here encompass burning issues of the era such as too much money, too little money, the burgeoning transfer market (“£60,000 for a striker!”) and even the Rovers’ first international purchase…

One word of warning: although the artist has endeavoured to keep most of the era’s fashion atrocities to a minimum, this is a book overflowing with the tonsorial travesties that typified the “Age of Mullets” so if you’re of a nervous disposition…

The soccer shenanigans start with all the teams in the League increasingly disturbed by a flashy supermarket owner’s offer to pay £30,000 to the first player in English football to score 50 goals in one season.

As the unity-shattering Goals Rush Challenge competition progresses Roy – himself a strong contender for a prize he does not want and will not accept if he wins – has to fend off dissent in the team, accusations of selfish greed from the fans and far worse from a crusading sports writer who thinks he’s selling out…

At the same time the close-knit squad was chasing an unbeaten-run record and forced to expand, wrecking the harmony of the team as new players with selfish modern attitudes muscled in and found that here they had to adapt to Roy’s way or the highway…

Along the way Penny Race quietly and dutifully had twins (so as not to disturb her husband’s soccer ruminations, I suppose) and as the team celebrated another stunningly successful year, Roy nipped over to the USA for the off-season to save a friend’s all-star soccer team from bankruptcy and found himself having to learn the glorified Rugby that Americans call “Football” before anyone would listen to him…

On his return he brought a few new-fangled ideas such as giant replay screens which came in very handy for the new season as the spectre of hooliganism at last reared its mindless head at Melchester, before the compendium of past glories concludes with the team looking for a sponsor for their new kit whilst Roy and the boys grudgingly become acquainted with abrasive Paco Diaz, the legendary Spanish soccer god forced upon them by the profits-mad Board of Directors…

As well as a Foreword from Frank Skinner, celebrity-studded photo-articles and pin-ups of the period, this edition includes numerous features by footy-mad comedy genius Eric Morecambe, games, puzzles, readers’ jokes in Famous Football Funnies and a mouth-watering selection of adverts of the time, offering everything from Dinky toys to Raleigh Bikes – a dedicated nostalgist’s perfect storm…

Old football comics are never going to be the toast of the medium’s Critical Glitterati, but these were astonishingly popular strips in their day, and produced for maximum entertainment value by highly skilled professionals. They still have the power to enthral and captivate far beyond the limits of nostalgia and fashion. If your footy-mad youngster isn’t reading enough, this might be the cunning tactic to catch him or her totally offside…
Roy of the Rovers © Egmont UK Ltd. 2009. All other material © its respective creators or copyright holders.

Baltimore, or, the Steadfast Tin Soldier & the Vampire


By Mike Mignola & Christopher Golden (Dark Horse)
ISBN: 978-1-61655-803-1

As well as being involved with some of the very best superhero yarns of the late 20th century, Legendary fantasist and comics-creator Mike Mignola has carved himself a splendid and memorable niche in the industry’s history by revitalising the sub-genre of horror-heroes via such macabre mayhem-mavens as Hellboy, B.P.R.D. and Lobster Johnson, creating his own very special dark place where thrill-starved fans can wallow in all things dire and dreadful…

Clearly he has far more ideas than he can successfully manage in one lifetime. As well all those sequential art endeavours he has expressed a deep and abiding love for the classical supernatural-thriller medium through illustrated prose novels such as Joe Golem and the Drowning City (co-crafted with long-time writing associate Christopher Golden) and this potent tribute to the writings of pioneers of the dread and uncanny H. P. Lovecraft, August Derleth and Clark Ashton Smith, with perhaps just a touch of Jack London…

Baltimore, or, the Steadfast Tin Soldier & the Vampire was first released as a luxurious Random House hardback 2007 and the captivatingly dark, doom-drenched blend of martial steampunk and classic vampire horror-yarn subsequently led to Mignola & Golden sporadically concocting further exploits of the titular hero in comics form from 2010 onwards, beginning with 5-issue miniseries Baltimore: The Plague Ships, illustrated by Ben Stenbeck.

This sturdy oversized paperback edition from Dark Horse re-presents that initial textual sortie into the outer reaches of imagination whilst also offering a brace of chilling comicstrip shockers by Mignola, Golden and Stenbeck culled from the 2013 one-shot Baltimore: The Widow and the Tank.

With constant and effective allusion to Hans Christian Andersen’s heartbreaking fairytale The Steadfast Tin Soldier, the eerie epic relates the transformative tale of dutiful if unimaginative Scion of Albion Lord Henry Baltimore who answered England’s call to arms in 1914 only to be severely wounded during the battles in Ardennes.

When he fell history took a horrific turn which began when the terrified officer awoke amongst a crater full of dead men being fed on by ghastly bat-like vampires who had for centuries abandoned their predator roles for the safer niche of clandestine carrion-feeders. When the appalled aristocrat lashed out, taking an eye from the leech prematurely consuming his life’s blood, it roused the creature and its disgusting brethren to a fury of vengeance-taking which cost Baltimore his entire family, unleashed a plague which decimated all humanity and roused a demonic force intent on reclaiming the Earth after contentedly quiescent millennia…

The one thing the obsessed Nosferatu’s sustained campaign of cruelty did not do was break Baltimore. Instead it honed the once-effete and ineffectual product of civilisation into an unstoppable hammer to smash the reawakened vampiric forces wherever they could be found – although not before the world was reduced to a pitiful, disjointed and primitive killing field on the edge of utter obliteration…

For most of the novel Baltimore is an enigmatic, unknown force far from the spotlight, given shape and form by three strangers who meet in a befouled hostelry in broken city at the behest of a man they have all benefited from knowing…

As the day passes, former Army Surgeon Dr. Lemuel Rose, merchant seaman Demetrius Aischros and Baltimore’s childhood companion Thomas Childress Jr. compare notes on the currently missing monster-hunter and share their own horrendous intimate brushes with various agencies of diabolism that have left all three maimed, wary but resolutely prepared for the worst the magical realms can throw at them. Or so they think…

Constructed like a portmanteau novel as a series of linked short stories and told in the manner of Victorian after-dinner raconteurs, the drama and tension build slowly but inexorably towards the inevitable appearance of the transformed and unwavering vampire-killer and a confrontation years in the making and steeped in the blood of millions…

Ponderous, inexorable, moodily despondent and completely captivating, this aggregation of singular horrors experienced alone and perpetual perils shared is complemented by two short comics vignettes illustrated with cool understatement by Ben Stenbeck.

‘The Widow’ harks back to the days after the plague brought The Great War to a unofficial halt when Baltimore returned to England in search of a new breed of gore-drinker hiding amidst the mortal populace, whilst the second episode sees the implacable hunter ally temporarily with a bloodsucker to escape even worse paranormal predators lurking around ‘The Tank’.

Moreover the scintillating saga contained within this supremely satisfyingly tome is graced with 146 grittily monochrome full, half, third and quarter-page illustrations by Mignola to complete a joyous homage to the necromantic good old days.

Miss it at your peril, fright fans…
© 2007, 2015 Mike Mignola and Christopher Golden. All rights reserved.

Canardo, Private Eye: Blue Angel


By Benoít Sokal (Xpresso Books/Fleetway)
ISBN: 978-1-85386-267-0

Artist, writer and games designer Benoít Sokal (Sanguine, Syberia, Amerzone, Kraa) was born in Brussels in 1954. He studied at the École Supérieure des Arts Saint-Luc De Bruxells, the prestigious art school where legendary creator Claude Renard (Belles Histoires de l’Oncle Paul, Aux Médianes de Cymbiola, Le Rail, Ivan Casablanca) taught and nurtured many students who would become Belgium’s modern masters of comics.

Sokal joined that select band of professionals in 1978, selling humorous strips and characters to À Suivre and striking gold early. He had been producing short, blackly comedic tales featuring anthropomorphic animals living in a world of contemporary humanity. Amongst the vast cast was a tawdry, unscrupulous, hard-drinking private detective named Inspector Canardo. Although never a true protagonist in those days, the dour duck was always around when events inevitably spiralled out of control…

The occasional series struck a chord with European audiences and soon Canardo was headlining his own series of albums. The first, in 1979, gathered those early shorts into an “Album #0” entitled Premières enquêtes and was followed by 22 more to date: the latest, Le vieux canard et la mer being released in 2013.

Dividing his time between his mallard megastar and more realistic dramas such as police thriller Silence, on Tue! (with François Rivière) and Le Vieil homme qui n’écrivait plus, by the end of the 1990s Sokal had made the sideways jump from comics to videogames creation, leaving artist Pascal Regnauld to handle most of the illustration for his foul-feathered fowl.

The series toys with the internal consistency of storytelling: Canardo and other cast regulars have died several times, timescales are largely irrelevant, early tales have humans, anthropomorphic animals and regular critters cautiously coexisting side by side, science and magic happily co-mingle with the seedily traditional elements of sex, violence, depression and existential isolation and some of the players occasionally refer to themselves inhabiting a comics story.

Although a huge hit on the continent, Canardo struggled to find a place amongst English-speaking audiences. Sporadically released in translation between 1989 and 1991 by Rijperman and NBM for the American continent and through Fleetway’s Xpresso books in the UK, Sokal’s patently adults-only, philosophically nihilistic and bleakly moody homage to film noir came and went largely unnoticed and it’s high time some savvy publisher took another shot…

The third collected volume, La Mort Douce (literally The Suave Death, released in 1981), became Canardo: The Blue Angel – the second British release from Xpresso, the experimental division of publishing monolith Fleetway – when the home of Judge Dredd, Charlie’s War, Johnny Red and Roy of the Rovers sought to catch a pan-Atlantic wave of interest in comics for grown-ups.

Sampling and deliciously channelling the brittle hopelessness of Weimar Germany the tale opens in a bar as singer Lili Niagara – a chanteuse with a life-ending-illness – takes her final job at seedy dive Freddo’s Bar.

Wry drama stoops to the level of Shakespearean tragedy when the duck in the trenchcoat wets his whistle there just as hulking addle-witted bear Bronx wanders in. The loathsome patrons quickly indulge in another bout of savagely teasing and abusing the seemingly oblivious, emotionally unreachable simpleton, but when the far-from-divine Miss Niagara begins singing Lili Marlene (in the original German) the placid victim suddenly turns into a raging terror and kills his chief tormentor.

As previously mentioned, in the earliest escapades the dowdy duck dick is little more than a disinterested spectator; an éminence grise perfectly capable of shaping events and preventing tragedies but always unwilling to get involved unless there’s a direct benefit for him. That starts to change with this cruel investigation into exploitation, greed and past sins paid for at the last…

Whilst Canardo dickers with the owner over a fee for piling in, manic Bronx snatches up the startled singer in one hairy paw before vanishing into the wasteland beyond town. Finally settling upon a month’s free whisky to return the disappeared Diva, the PI slouches off next morning and fruitlessly interviews the aged gypsy crone the bear usually lives with.

His quarry meanwhile has returned to his usual dormant state, and doesn’t notice when his captive sneaks off only to land in real trouble, stumbling into a pack of riverside-dwelling degenerates who want more than just a tune from the ailing performer. They do begin her abuse by making her sing first though, but as the strains of Lili Marlene leak out of their grimy shack, Bronx, once more gripped by a psychotic rage, comes crashing through the wall.

As the singer gratefully thanks her again quiescent rescuer they are approached by sleazy fight-promoter Wes Disposal who wants to make the bear a superstar and before long the big brute is facing off against a true mauler in a makeshift arena.

Sadly no amount of punishment can make Bronx respond and the big lug is being cruelly, savagely taken apart when Canardo steps out of the shadows, advising Lili to sing a certain song. When she grudgingly complies she at last comprehends the cause-and-effect at work as Bronx ends the one-sided bout with horrific efficiency…

The singer is in a bad way. Illness is ravaging her and Lili is prepared to do anything and use anyone to get the “medicine” that eases her agonising symptoms, but the shabby sleuth seems more interested in the pitiful war stories of an old soldier propping up the bar. The bedraggled veteran’s sodden antics are hilarious but a terrified clarity enters his rheumy eyes when he overhears the duck ruminating on why hearing Lili Marlene turns Bronx into a berserker…

When Wes tries to abscond with the bear and all the winnings he meets the fate of all cheating chiselers, and as day breaks Canardo and the concerned-despite-herself Lili are heading deep into a swampy wasteland in search of the blood-stained innocent.

What they find is a troop of old soldiers hidden for decades who share responsibility for the hideous crimes and atrocities which created Bronx and who have been waiting ever since for their deserved doom to return and claim them…

The finale is spectacularly operatic in nature: one of those grim Russian ones where everybody dies…

Stark, wry, bleak, outrageously amusing and almost Brechtian in tone and execution, the saga of Carnardo is a powerful antidote to traditional adventure paladins and a supreme example of the antihero taken to its ultimate extreme. It’s also beguilingly lovely to look upon in a grim, traffic accident, bunny-in-the-headlights manner.

Let’s hope some publisher with a little vision agrees…
La Mort Douce © 1981 Casterman. English Translation and UK edition © 1991 Xpresso Books. All rights reserved.

Abe Sapien: The Drowning


By Mike Mignola & Jason Shawn Alexander (Dark Horse)
ISBN: 978-1-59582-185-0

Hellboy is a creature of vast depth and innate mystery; a demonic baby summoned to Earth by Nazi occultists at the end of Word War II but subsequently raised, educated and trained by democracy-loving parapsychologist Professor Trevor “Broom” Bruttenholm to destroy unnatural threats and supernatural monsters as the chief agent for the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense.

After decades of unfailing, faithful service the big red rover became mortally tired and resigned. Itinerantly roaming the world, he still managed to encounter strange deaths and weird happenstances, never able to outrun trouble or his sense of duty.

This book is not about him.

The collection under review here instead notionally features the first solo exploit of his trusty amphibian associate Abe Sapien: a valiant yet deeply unsure and insecure champion whose origins and experience with those occult occasions typically handled by the Enhanced Talents Task Force are at this time still largely theoretical…

Originally released as a 5-part miniseries from February to June, 2008, The Drowning is scripted by creative head honcho Mike Mignola and moodily realised by Jason Shawn Alexander who also provides a fabulous and informative Abe Sapien Sketchbook at the back of this full-colour walk – or is that swim? – on the weird and wild side. Also involved in this tribute to black arts is letterer Clem Robins with the magical colours coming from Dave Stewart.

The action opens with a glimpse into demonic deeds of the past as, in 1884, occult detective Edward Grey boldly and bombastically defeats mighty warlock Epke Vrooman before sinking his hellish ship sixty miles off the French coast near the former leper-colony of Isle Saint-Sébastien.

In (contemporary) 1981 Hellboy is gone from the B.P.R.D. and Chief Bruttenholm pushes reticent Abe into leading a milk-run mission to retrieve the fabulous, lore-laden Lipu Dagger Queen Victoria’s Most Special Agent used to end the malevolent mage almost a century before.

With experienced agents already in place, all the merman has to do is dive deep and fetch back the prize artefact. Sadly, with magic nothing is ever easy…

As the on-site proceedings get underway none of the B.P.R.D. team are aware that unquiet spirits are already undertaking their own recovery mission and whilst horrific monsters intercept Abe at the sunken wreck, back on land an ancient crone puts into motion the ceremony she has waited her entire life to complete…

By the time the battered aquatic investigator struggles ashore almost everyone on Saint-Sébastien is dead and a pack of wizened devils are attempting to resurrect their diabolical master. Cut off from the outside world and unable to pass this mess on to somebody more qualified, Abe is flailing until the old woman takes charge, instructing him in some deeper truths about the Isle, the god the benighted inhabitants chose to worship and what truly moved and motivated Epke Vrooman on the last night of his former life…

Armed with appalling information and the knowledge that there’s no one to save the day, the neophyte agent turns to face his greatest challenge and worst nightmares…

Mignola has an incredible knack for creating powerfully welcoming mythologies and this escapade effectively dragged Abe Sapien out of the overwhelming shadow of satanic superstar Hellboy and the B.P.R.D. and set him on his way as a celebrated solo star.

Potent, powerful and utterly drenched in uncanny atmosphere, this is a terrific tale of an irresistible horror hero to haunt your dreams.
© 2008 Mike Mignola. All rights reserved. All key and prominently featured characters ™ Mike Mignola.

Blake and Mortimer: S.O.S. Meteors


By Edgar P. Jacobs, translated by Jerome Saincantin (Cinebook)
ISBN: 978-1-905460-97-7

Master storyteller Edgar P. Jacobs pitted his distinguished duo of Scientific Adventurers Professor Philip Mortimer and Captain Francis Blake against a wide variety of perils and menaces in stunning action thrillers which merged science fiction scope, detective mysteries and supernatural thrillers in the same timeless Ligne claire style which had done so much to make intrepid boy reporter Tintin a global sensation.

The strip debuted in the first issue of Le Journal de Tintin (dated 26th September 1946): an international anthology comic with editions in Belgium, France and Holland. The magazine was edited by Hergé, with his eponymous star ably supplemented by a host of new heroes and features for the post-war world…

S.O.S. Météores was originally serialised from January 8th 1958 to 22nd April 1959 and subsequently collected in a single album as the eighth drama-drenched epic escapade six months after the conclusion, just in time for the Christmas rush. In 2009 it was translated into English as Cinebook’s sixth Blake and Mortimer release, and – subtitled ‘Mortimer in Paris’ – begins here with the incomparable boffin in the City of Lights, answering a Gallic colleague’s pleas for assistance.

Meteorologist Professor Labrousse, like all his unfortunate ilk, is unhappily shouldering the brunt of public ire over freak weather events which are bringing France to its knees and when Mortimer arrives, he experiences for himself the chaos such tumultuous storms are inflicting upon the traffic-heavy metropolis. Thankfully, the embattled weatherman has despatched a taxi to collect the weary Englishman and bring him to the relative calm of suburban Jouy.

Both driver and passenger are unaware of a flashy American car suspiciously dogging them, and as conditions steadily worsen the ride becomes truly hazardous, leading to an inevitable crash. Separated from the driver and blindly wandering in the storm, Mortimer plunges into a lake and barely manages to scrabble to safety.

Finding his way back to the road, the exhausted scientist thumbs a lift to Labrousse’s house and is gratefully welcomed. Of the taxi driver, however, there is no trace…

The old colleagues discuss the catastrophic weather and uncanny events long into the night but the next morning their further deliberations are curtailed when the police arrive, eager to interview the Englishman about a certain cab driver’s disappearance…

Deeply troubled, the learned men later attempt to retrace Mortimer’s steps and discover the terrain is completely different from Englishman’s memories but encounter a thug and his immense dog going over the same sodden ground. The intruders are clearly following the orders of a boss who keeps well hidden, and a violent altercation is barely avoided with a simple whistle from the unseen voyeur…

Eventually the studied experience of the local postman enables the baffled British boffin to solve the geographical mystery and the recovered trail leads him to a nearby estate with huge walls patrolled by the same terrifying hound he met earlier. Well-versed in surveillance procedure, Mortimer prepares to probe further but is distracted when a sudden snowstorm begins. Determinedly he returns later, well-prepared and using the blizzard as cover to investigate the estate. It proves to be a tremendous mistake…

Next morning in Paris, Divisional Commissioner Pradier of French Intelligence welcomes a counterpart from Great Britain, looking into a new espionage network at work in France. Captain Francis Blake’s keen insight quickly scores a hit and opens up new leads that seem connected to the uncanny weather conditions tormenting the nation, but when he meets hastily-summoned Labrousse Blake learns that old comrade Mortimer has vanished after announcing that the aberrant meteorology is man-made…

Travelling to Jouy with the horrified weatherman, Blake makes a shocking impression on Labrousse’s usually-affable neighbour and suddenly the strange atmospheric conditions start being compounded with odd little accidents and frustrations that can only be seen in total as concerted enemy action…

The saga kicks into high gear when Blake recognises some old – and previously presumed dead – enemies and is chased through unrelenting arctic conditions back to Paris in a deadly, hair-raising game of cat-&-mouse which culminates when he confronts his greatest foe once again…

With the help of Pradier’s forces Blake soon has the villains on the run, spectacularly fleeing over the rooftops of Paris, but the big fish of course escapes and the heroes must face the fact that they might never know what has become of Mortimer…

In Jouy, however, the irascible researcher has made good use of his time incarcerated with the diabolical Professor Milosh Georgevich who has used the vast resources of an aggressor nation to weaponise weather in advance of an audacious scheme to invade France for the third time in a century…

Forced to act alone he escapes his jailers and picks up an unexpected ally as he tries to sabotage the colossal climate engines, utterly unaware that his greatest friend has picked up new clues and is closing in on the plotters…

Moody and comparatively low-key until the final act when the tension builds to explosive heights and a Bond-Movie finish, S.O.S. Meteors is a splendid mystery romp packed with astounding action, scads of sinister suspense and a blockbuster climax to delight spy-buffs and devotees of Distinguished Duo alike.

Addictive and absorbing in the truest tradition of pulp sci-fi and Boy’s Own Adventures, Blake and Mortimer are the very epitome of dogged heroic determination and the natural successors to such heroic icons as Professor Challenger, Bulldog Drummond and Richard Hannay, always delivering grand, old-fashioned Blood-&-Thunder thrills, chills and spills in timeless fashion and with a mesmerising visual punch.

Any kid able to suspend modern mores and cultural disbelief (call it alternate earth history or bakelite-punk if you want) will enjoy the experience of their lives…

This Cinebook edition also includes excerpts from two other B&M albums plus a short biographical feature and publication chart of Jacobs’ and his successors’ efforts.
Original edition © Editions Blake & Mortimer/Studio Jacobs (Dargaud-Lombard S. A.) 1989 by E.P. Jacobs. All rights reserved. English translation © 2009 Cinebook Ltd.