How Obelix Fell into the Magic Potion When He Was a Little Boy


By R. Goscinny & A. Uderzo translated by Anthea Bell & Derek Hockridge (Hodder Children’s Books)
ISBN: 978-0-34065-148-3

Asterix the Gaul has, since its debut, grown to become one of the most-read comics series in the world, translated into more than 100 languages. The wily little hero, his gently bombastic bosom companion Obelix and an ever-expanding and unforgettable cast of bit players have also won hearts and minds through numerous animated and live-action movies, TV series, assorted toys, games and merchandising. They even inhabit their own theme park (Parc Astérix, near Paris).

More than 325 million copies of the 35 canonical Asterix books have sold worldwide over more than fifty years, making Goscinny & Uderzo France’s bestselling international authors.

One of their best and most charming collaborations isn’t a comic strip at all. Although it does star their greatest creation, How Obelix Fell into the Magic Potion When He Was a Little Boy began life as a magazine article penned by Goscinny for Pilote (#291 from 1965), with only a couple of spot-illustrations.

It languished unseen for years until 1989 when Uderzo converted and extended it into a superb, fully realised children’s picture book by crafting (with the assistance of colourist Thierry Mebarki and the design team of Crapule Productions) seven full page illustrations and six magnificent and subtly hilarious double-page spreads to augment the origin tale of the mightiest and mildest champion of ancient history.

Narrated by Asterix himself it is set when both he and his best pal were aged six and just learning how to be proper Gaulish warriors.

Obelix is fat, slow, simple and timid: a perfect target for the other boisterous boys. One day however, when the adults are all out bashing the Romans who are trying to conquer their indomitable, unconquerable village, Asterix convinces him to try a tiny taste of the Druid Getafix’s magic potion: the one which enables a tiny outpost of rural rebels to resist the full might of the empire.

Sadly, after sneaking into the wise man’s spooky house, there’s a bit of an accident…

Endearing and witty, this delightful tale is packed with the same wry humour as the cartoon albums whilst Uderzo’s sleek and dynamic comic art is suitably replaced here by gorgeous, evocative watercolour plates that mesmerise, beguile and – where appropriate – deliciously amuse…

The diminutive, doughty hero was created in 1959 by two of the art-form’s greatest proponents, René Goscinny & Albert Uderzo: masters of strip narrative then at the peak of their creative powers. Although their perfect partnership ended in 1977 with the death of prolific scripter Goscinny, the creative wonderment continued with Uderzo writing and drawing the feature until his retirement in 2010.

His last work on the feature was this compilation of new and old material which was designed to signify and celebrate 50 glorious years of his co-creation before – in 2013 – Asterix and the Picts opened a fresh chapter in the annals as Jean-Yves Ferri & Didier Conrad began a much anticipated and dreaded continuation of the franchise.

A wonderful adjunct to the adventures of France’s Greatest Heroes and a brilliant introduction for younger readers to the world of comics, How Obelix Fell into the Magic Potion When He Was a Little Boy is a book every home should have.
© 1989, 2009 Éditions Albert René/Goscinny-Uderzo. English translation: © 1989 Éditions Albert René/Goscinny-Uderzo. All rights reserved.

World War X book 1: Helius


By Jerry Frissen, Peter Snejbjerg & Delphine Rieu, translated by Edward Gauvin (Titan Comics)
ISBN: 978-1-78276-112-9

European comics have long been a bastion of big concept, high octane science fiction comics and in recent years have also taken on many of the faster-paced, viscerally emotional spectacles typifying modern movie blockbusters. A splendid new example of that marriage of thought and action can be seen in the English-language translation of World War X: Helius.

Belgian born Jerry/Thierry Frissen generally hangs out in Los Angeles writing comicbooks for Europe (Meurtres, Tequila, Les Tikitis, Luuna) and America (Luche Libre, The Zombies That Ate the World) or designing cool toys, whilst Danish illustrator Peter Snejbjerg (Tarzan, Hypernauten, Den Skjulte Protokol) is now a bona fide star of the US comicbook industry with impressive stints on a broad variety of classics like Abe Sapien, The Mighty, Starman, The Light Brigade, Books of Magic and many more.

Here they mash-up a number of genre styles to relate an astounding secret history of the world – and usher in its likely end – in a fast and vast tale which reassuringly mines familiar plot territory and fantasy memes to craft an engaging and addictive Armageddon thriller.

It dawns on the moon on February 17th 2017 where a team of scientists from Ralph Milne Farley Lunar Base are cautiously retrieving an oddly inscribed box. It looks like a coffin and when an accident causes it to fall open death is indeed inside…

The release of the thing inside awakens a most unique individual in Oregon, whilst a covert military archaeological dig in Papua, New Guinea goes into overdrive at news of the moon colony suddenly going off air.

Adesh Khan has no time to worry; he’s still working on the box uncovered at the bottom of a deep pit in these fetid jungles. Translator Antoine has made a breakthrough and thinks the hieroglyphics covering the Sarcophagi are warnings. He strenuously advises that every box be buried again and forgotten…

The remarkable individual in Oregon calls himself Helius and, as his team of heavily-armed and well-equipped enforcers efficiently ferry him by jet to another black site in Florida, they brief him on things you and I would consider common knowledge…

Adesh is arguing with the American President but PotUS isn’t listening. Project IX promises inexhaustible energy for the planet and he’s thinking about his legacy…

In Portugal, on November 1st 1755 the city of Lisbon was devastated and thousands of lives lost in what history records as a monumental earthquake. It wasn’t, but the hideous travesty that actually destroyed the metropolis looks awfully like the thing that came out of the box on the moon…

In the Everglades Tara Austin receives a frantic message from her colleague and ex-husband Adesh to stop working and get out of the state immediately. He can’t say much more because that’s when he’s arrested.

As Tara realises the Sarcophagus her team’s been working on is opening and rocking the entire area, in nearby Jackson, Helius and his minders are being quizzed by a pushy reporter who asks the strangest questions. Dodging her, the squad head to the Everglades but the base there seems totally devoid of life…

Deep within Columbus Airforce Base, Mississippi Adesh is being interrogated. He is still being cagy about what he now thinks the scattered Sarcophagi might be and responds badly when Lt. Erica McLyman lets slip that all contact has been lost with the Everglades due to a huge earthquake…

It’s not long before Adesh busts out of his cell, sneaks off base and heads for Florida…

In France in the Year of Our Lord 1248, a terrible upheaval shattered Mont Granier, releasing a monstrous devil which slaughtered peasants and a troop of knights. One of the noble survivors was severely maimed. He looked a lot like Helius…

In Greenville, Florida a reporter named Jen bums a ride with Adesh as he closes in on the Everglades site. They’re a rather conspicuous couple. Everybody else is headed in the opposite direction, spurred on by terror and enforced evacuation by the army. His destination is a raging battlefield, but a news blackout prevents anybody from learning who the army are fighting…

On the periphery of the furious struggle Helius and his unit are slowly closing in…

Adesh is a prisoner again. Jen has him chained to a steering wheel as he cautiously negotiates the road to the battle. She’s also pumping him at gunpoint for information on Project IX and doesn’t seem surprised by anything he reveals about the collection of 4-billion-year-old boxes his team had found deposited deep in the Earth.

At that antediluvian time all nine oddly-inscribed high-energy artefacts were placed equidistantly, but passing eons, geological upheaval and continental drift gradually shifted them. The troubles only really began after he convinced international authorities to move them back into their original positions…

At Everglades Ground Zero the army are losing the war against a legion of zombies. Helius explains their true enemy is the horror called Kharis, not his meat puppets, and advises his loyal squad on how best to deal with the myriad assaults of the thing.

Not far away Jen hears its call and changes her mind about killing Adesh. She does, however, reveal just how far from human she actually is…

As they observe Helius metamorphically confront Kharis, Adesh wonders if he might be the only normal creature left in Florida. That idle thought resonates as Jen suddenly joins the fight, every inch as terrifying, warped and inhuman as the original combatants…

And on February 11th 2017, in Mont Granier, Lisbon, the Azores, New Guinea and Greenland the world shakes. Horrendous beasts awake, causing incalculable death and destruction, heralding the end of the world…

To be Continued…

Snappy, fast paced and planting plenty of plot seeds for future spectacle and revelation, World War X: Helius promises to be a rousing rollercoaster ride of thrills, chill and spills. Get this and stick around for the main event. It promises to be a blast…
World War X and all contents are © Snejbjerg/Frissen/Éditions du Lombard (Dargaud-Lombard S.A.) 2013.

World War X: Helius will be released on April 14th 2015 and is available for pre-order now.

Hal Foster’s Prince Valiant volume 10: 1955-1956


By Hal Foster (Fantagraphics Books)
ISBN: 978-1-60699-800-7

Prince Valiant in the Days of King Arthur launched on Sunday February 13th 1937, a fantastic and fabulous full-colour weekly peek into a world where history met myth to produce something greater than both. Creator Hal Foster had developed the feature after leaving the landmark, groundbreaking, astoundingly popular Tarzan of the Apes strip.

Valiant provided action, adventure, exoticism, romance and plenty of laughs in its engrossing depiction of noble knights and wicked plunderers played out against a glamorised, dramatised Dark Ages backdrop. It followed the life of a refugee boy driven from his ancestral homeland in Scandinavian Thule who grew up to roam the world and attain a paramount position amongst the heroes of fabled Camelot.

Foster wove his epic romance over decades, following the progress of a near-feral wild boy who grew into a paragon of chivalric virtue: knight, warrior, saviour, vengeance-taker and eventually family patriarch in a constant deluge of wild and joyously witty wonderment. The restless hero visited many far-flung lands, siring a dynasty of equally puissant heroes, enchanting generations of readers and thousands of creative types in all the arts.

The strip spawned films, an animated series and all manner of toys, games, books and collections based on Prince Valiant – one of the few adventure strips to have run continuously from the thunderous 1930s to the present day (4000 + episodes and still going strong) – and, even here at the end times of newspaper narrative cartoons as an art form, it continues in more than 300 American papers and via the internet.

Foster crafted the feature alone until 1971 when John Cullen Murphy (Big Ben Bolt) succeeded him as illustrator. Foster continued as writer and designer until 1980, after which he retired and Cullen Murphy’s daughter Mairead took over colouring and lettering whilst her brother John assumed the writer’s role.

In 2004 the senior Cullen Murphy also retired, since when the strip has soldiered on under the auspices of many extremely talented artists such as Gary Gianni, Scott Roberts and latterly Thomas Yeates with Mark Schultz (Xenozoic) scripting.

This latest spellbinding and luxuriously oversized (362 x 264 mm) full-colour hardback collection reprints the pages from January 2nd 1955 to 30th December 1956 (#934-1038) but before we proceed kicks off with an illustration-strewn, memory-stuffed and erudite Introduction from contemporary adventure-strip master Timothy Truman in ‘Schooled by Foster’.

What Has Gone Before: Having brought Christianity to Thule and been instrumental in repulsing an invasion of Saxons and Danes in England whilst his wife Aleta single-handedly dismantled an incipient coup in her homeland of the Misty Isles, Valiant and his family make ready to return to Thule…

The eternal saga picks up as the voyagers encounter a slight problem. An upsurge of piracy makes sea travel all-but impossible and a rising of barbarian hordes from beyond the Danube has cut off overland routes through northern Europe. They are seemingly stranded until Aleta’s Viking handmaiden Katwin offers a solution.

Her father, a great seafaring king, sometimes plied an eastern route to Scandinavia via fabled Constantinople which his men called “the Long Portage”…

Soon a brace of well-stocked trade-ships are in the bustling trade capital and Katwin is rounding up Northmen homesick and bold enough to sign up for the risky venture. Before long the assembled crew, Sir Gawain and the astounded royal retinue are approaching Sevastopol on the Crimean coast of the on the Black Sea, readying themselves for the perilous trip up the Dnieper River and overland to the Baltic…

The journey is arduous and made worse when nomadic Ukrainian Patzinaks begin stalking the vessels from the banks of the river. Wary pursuit soon devolves into repeated archery assaults but war-wise Valiant and Gawain quickly devise suitable armoured defences – and even a few land-based counterattacks – and the trek continues.

The cautious progress hits a real snag only after one of the flat-bottomed ships breaks its mid-river mooring whilst Valiant and the majority of the crew are scouting ahead. It floats silently to shore in the dark night and in an instant the vigilant Patzinaks seize their chance.

Rushing the beached boat they capture Aleta – although she is quick enough to hide her children from them. The attending Northmen guards become berserkers and fall upon the Ukrainian raiders but are too late to stop some carrying off the golden-haired queen to their fortress.

By the time Valiant’s party return with the dawn the defenders have buried their dead and are preparing to follow the plunderers. As the enraged Prince leads a column of warriors across the grassy plains, in his dingy city the Great Dragda Khan is finding his glorious new captive far more than he can handle…

Once he is humiliatingly disposed of, Aleta than turns his ambitious lieutenants and potential heirs against each other and by the time her husband arrives to besiege the Patzinak stronghold his job is already half done…

When the Northern reivers finish sacking the city the journey resumes. Valiant wants to avoid any more delays but is convinced by his wife that they should spend time and money in the far more civilised bastion of Kiev where again Aleta’s diplomatic acumen comes into play when the bored and boisterous Vikings begin making trouble.

Departing with a third barge – packed with fabrics, brocades, booty and a flight of dressmakers – the voyage continues.

The pace slows however when the river dwindles and after Valiant is wounded hunting an Aurochs the travellers are forced to hire local natives to guide and even help carry the ships overland to the next navigable section…

Before too long – and after only a few murderous incidents – the boats and goods are hauled through a swamp to another river and the final leg of the voyage can begin. The crew are happy that now they will be going downriver but joy turns to fury when they are attacked by a party of far-travelled Swedish raiders from Gotland.

The already weakened Val almost dies and is relegated to a bed for the remainder of the trip, allowing Foster to reprise and embellish the story of Prince Valiant’s origins and earliest battles (as seen in volume 1 of this series), becoming storyteller to little Arn and his twin baby sisters…

By the time the flashbacks conclude the ships have reached Baltic salt marshes and the ecstatic travellers are preparing to cross the seas to their northern homes. Arn meanwhile has begun his martial training and his doting parents realise with horror that he is going to as headstrong, reckless and worrisome as his sire…

In mid-ocean a tense moment with three Irish raiders ends happily as the Celtic corsairs recognise Valiant from his memorable trip to the Emerald Isle and join him to create a formidable flotilla of seagoing might.

Gawain’s exceedingly homely, inept yet oddly effective servant Pierre experiences a joyous moment when the journey is almost concluded. As he and his master switch ships and divert course for Britain, the bumbler discovers his even dumber brother Jex is a slave at the oars of this new vessel. Before too long the glamorous knight is encumbered with two idiots, not one…

Val and Aleta meanwhile have concluded their arduous ordeal by sailing on to Thule and an exuberant welcome from regal patriarch King Aguar just in time to enjoy the beauty and bounty of a Scandinavian summer.

Seasons turn however and as autumn begins, the northern practice of overturning their ships and stocking up for the long hard winter begins throughout Thule. Ever eager for excitement, Val uses the time to explore inland from the populated coastal region, seeking suitable fields for the populace to cultivate, rather than depend on chancy fishing and raiding to supply their needs in the cold, infertile months.

His expedition is most fruitful as the search yields splendid unused meadows for arable and pastoral farming, lacking only suitable road routes to move people to and crops from them.

Whilst charting the region the party discovers a vast forbidding mountain and Arn falls in love. Amazed and beguiled by the daunting snow-capped peak, the little princeling simply must scale it and nothing his father can say will dissuade him.

Capitulating to the inevitable, Valiant grudgingly allows the escapade, taking some comfort from the fact that his little boy will allow doughty and taciturn Garm the Hunter to accompany him…

Honour and youthful independence upheld, the party returns to the coast and palatial Vikingsholm which is frantically preparing for winter. This soon entails a state visit to the nearby fief of Earl Jon for recreational hunting and bond-building. Even Aleta enjoys the hardy sports and endeavours – at least for the first day.

The second finds her and Katwin staying home to luxuriate in soft pillows and warm baths whilst the menfolk continue to prove their rugged manliness by shooting animals.

Thus the manor is practically defenceless when brutal and scurrilous Northern neighbour Gunnar Freysson and his son Helgi decide that they will supplement their inadequate winter stores by stealing everything the provident Jon has cached away.

If they leave no survivors, who will know that it was friend and not foe who committed the atrocity?

Striking when all the able-bodied men are away, the raiders meet with complete success until they confront Aleta. Taken aback at such a prominent potential victim, Freysson momentarily baulks, allowing the quick-witted queen to craftily light a signal fire.

With no other choice but concealment, the panicked raiders lock Aleta and Katwin in the house and fire it, intending that when the already returning hunting party arrives there will be none to accuse them…

However the rogues have not reckoned on Aleta’s quick wits. She finds a cunning way for them to survive and when Jon, Aguar, Valiant and the warriors storm in to quell the blaze they discover the women scorched but safe. On learning who is responsible they lay their plans for revenge…

As the raiders struggle over frozen mountain passes with their ill-gotten gains, losing many men and much loot to the artic conditions, Valiant and maimed shipwright Gundar Harl concoct a cunning plan. When the exhausted villains finally return to their hall they find their own women and children safely sequestered and vengeful men-at-arms waiting for them…

With Harl now the new lord of Freysson’s fief, the Royal Family return to Vikingsholm for the winter but little Arn is restless and still craves to prove himself. Arguing that the farmland Valiant discovered is useless without a safe route through the mountains, the crafty child campaigns long and forcefully that he be allowed to find one before the snows come…

Sustained pester-power wins out over parental concern and with faithful Garm at his side Arn sets off. What follows is a mesmerising 16-week epic of endurance and bravery to rival the best of Jack London as the old man and the indomitable boy scale mighty peaks only to be trapped in an unseasonably early blizzard. Having found the crucial route, the pair battle against phenomenal hazards with startling grit and ingenuity, and eventually man and boy struggle home to a rapturous welcome…

As winter cloaks the land old friends straggle in as the year turns. Aleta’s former maid Tillicum visits with her son and Viking husband Boltar, as does courtly scoundrel Gawain. All are aware that Arn is of an age when noble sons generally leave home for other houses to begin their long path towards knighthood. Gawain has come to escort Valiant to King Arthur’s annul Grand Tourney in celebration of Pentecost…

During the bombastic spectacle Val befriends a young knight named William Lydney, even accompanying the neophyte to his home in Cornwall as cover for his true mission for Arthur: ferreting out traitors and rumours of sedition in that troubled region…

Young William has the potential to be a great hero but is sorely troubled. He is utterly devoted to and wants to marry his neighbour’s daughter, Gwendolyn of Berkeley. Indeed, she is pledged to the next Lord Vernon but William’s succession to the title is not clear. There is an older brother, who by rights should hold the title, but he has been missing for years and the impatient younger sibling must prove him dead or wait years until he is of age…

The star-crossed love affair descends into tragedy and incredible sacrifice once Valiant and William’s devoted Steward Alfred unpick the mystery and discover a shocking secret. When the drama finally concludes Alfred leaves William’s service to become Valiant’s latest squire

To Be Continued…

Rounding out this gloriously chronicle are two more fascinating features on Foster’s pre-comics career as an advertising artist and the impact of his “Mountie” paintings on early 20th century American ads in the stunning pictorial essay ‘Maintain[ing] the Right [Stuff]: A Gallery of Hal Foster’s Mountie Painting’ and ‘Reclaiming Foster’s Mountie Legacy’ compiled and annotated by Brian M. Kane.

A mind-blowing panorama of visual passion and precision, Prince Valiant is a non-stop rollercoaster of boisterous action, exotic adventure and grand romance; blending epic fantasy with dry wit and broad humour, soap opera melodrama with shatteringly dark violence.

Lush, lavish and captivating lovely, the strip is an indisputable landmark of comics fiction and something no fan should miss.
© 2015 King Features Syndicate. All other content and properties © 2015 their respective creators or holders. This edition © 2015 Fantagraphics Books. All rights reserved.

Tarzan versus the Barbarians (Complete Burne Hogarth Comic Strip Library volume 2)


By Burne Hogarth and Don Garden (Titan Books)
ISBN: 978-1-78116-318-4

Modern comics and graphic novels evolved from newspaper comic strips. These daily pictorial features were – until quite recently – overwhelmingly popular with the public and highly valued by publishers who used them as a powerful tool to guarantee and increase circulation and profits. From the earliest days humour was paramount; hence the terms “Funnies” and, of course, “Comics”.

Despite the odd ancestor or precedent like Roy Crane’s Wash  Tubbs (comedic when it began in 1924, but gradually moving through mock-heroics to light-action to become a full-blown adventure serial with the introduction of Captain Easy in 1929), the vast bulk of strips produced were generally feel-good humour strips with the occasional child-oriented fantasy.

The full blown dramatic adventure serial started with Buck Rogers on January 7th 1929 – and Tarzan which debuted the same day. Both were adaptations of pre-existing prose properties and their influence changed the shape of the medium forever.

The 1930s saw an explosion of such fare, launched with astounding rapidity and success. Not just strips but actual genres were created in that decade which still impact on today’s comic-books and, in truth, all our popular fiction forms.

In terms of sheer quality of art, adaptations of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ novels starring jungle-bred John Clayton, Lord Greystoke by Canadian commercial artist Harold “Hal” Foster were unsurpassed, and the strip soon became a firm favourite of the masses, supplementing movies, books, a radio show and ubiquitous advertising appearances.

As fully detailed in the previous volume of this superb oversized (330 x 254mm), full-colour hardback series, Foster initially quit the strip at the end of the 10-week adaptation of the first novel Tarzan of the Apes. He was replaced by Rex Maxon, but returned (at the insistent urging of Edgar Rice Burroughs) when the black-&-white daily was expanded to include a lush, full colour Sunday page featuring original adventures.

Leaving Maxon to capably handle the Monday through Saturday series of novel adaptations, Foster produced the Sunday page until 1936 (233 consecutive weeks) after which he momentously moved to King Features Syndicate to create his own landmark weekend masterpiece Prince  Valiant in the Days of King Arthur – which debuted on February 13th 1937.

Once the four month backlog of material he had built up was gone, Foster was succeeded by a precociously brilliant 25-year old artist named Burne Hogarth: a young graphic visionary whose superb anatomical skill, cinematic design flair and compelling page composition revolutionised the entire field of action/adventure narrative illustration. The galvanic modern dynamism of the idealised human figure in today’s comicbooks can be directly attributed to Hogarth’s pioneering drawing and, in later years, educational efforts.

When he in turn left the strip Hogarth eventually found his way into teaching (he was the co-founder – with Silas H. Rhodes – of the Cartoonist and Illustrators School for returning veterans which evolved into the New York School of Visual Arts) and also created an invaluable and inspirational series of art textbooks such as Dynamic Anatomy and Dynamic Figure Drawing, which influenced generations of aspiring artists.

In the early 1970s Hogarth was lured back to the leafy domain of the legendary Lord Greystoke, producing two magnificent volumes of graphic narrative in the dazzling style that had captivated audiences more than thirty years previously. Large bold panels, vibrantly coloured, with blocks of Burroughs’ original text, leapt out at the reader in a riot of hue and motion as they retold the triumphant, tragic tale of the orphaned scion of the British nobility raised to puissant manhood by the Great Apes of Africa in Tarzan of the Apes and The Jungle Tales of Tarzan.

Burroughs cannily used the increasingly popular strip feature to cross-market his own prose efforts with great effect. Tarzan and the City of Gold was first serialised in the pulp magazine Argosy in 1932 and released as a book the following year. In May 1936, Foster’s new – and unconnected – Tarzan in the City of Gold could be described as a brand new adventure on one hand, whilst boosting already impressively constant book sales by acting as a subtle weekly ad for the fantastic fantasy novel.

This second sublime collection begins with fascinating original art examples peppering the ‘Introduction’ by sometime Tarzan and current Prince Valiant illustrator Thomas Yeates, who shares memories of and commentary on Hogarth the man, the exemplar and the educator.

The visual virtuosity then resumes with ‘Tarzan and the Peoples of the Sea and the Fire’ (episodes #478-527-8, 5th May 1940 to April 20th 1941) wherein the ape-man, incessantly journeying across fantastic, unexplored Africa, discovers an inland sea and stumbles into an ages-old war between two lost races.

On the one side are the water-worshipping mariners of the Sea People whose vile Prince Jagurt captures Tarzan whilst beautiful maiden Leecia is falling for him. Sadly, the real problem is arch-priest Molocar, who takes an instant dislike to the newcomer and tries to feed him to the Demon-fish…

Escaping the antediluvian ichthyosaurs, the jungle lord stumbles upon secret subterranean caverns where the priesthood perfect their seemingly supernatural tricks to cow the populace. The surprised superstition-peddlers try to make him a slave…

Within the compound Tarzan meets a warrior of the city’s ancestral enemies, the volcano-worshipping Fire People, and discovers a crippled boy named Prince Tanny. The child is heir to the lava-lovers’ throne and Molocar intends to brainwash and torture him into switching faiths…

The ape-man cannot abide cruelty and in a fit of righteous rage frees the boy and breaks out of the den of iniquity. Eluding the prowling demon-fish, Tarzan swims the lagoon with his frail prize, moving into the city, where after sustained pursuit he elicits Leecia’s aid. After many savage battles they flee together into the dense jungle.

The plan had been to take Tanny home, but since the boy’s capture his father has been murdered and Towrit the Cruel now rules the Fire People. When the trio are intercepted by the usurper’s soldiers only Tarzan and the boy break free, but after hiding in a cave the jungle lord is ambushed by a ferocious giant who turns out to be the boy’s faithful guardian Jaxie

Resolved to free Leecia and restore Tanny to the throne, Tarzan’s herculean efforts are thwarted as all-out war begins. The implacable hatred of each faction for him and each other results in constant battle, but as Jagurt, Molocar and Tawrit all strive for supremacy nature itself rebels and the entire region is devastated when the volcano erupts, imperilling all dwellers around the inland sea…

Lost World romance gave way to modern militaristic mayhem in ‘Tarzan Against Dagga Ramba’ (pages #529-581, running from 27th April 1941 to 26th April 1942). Having sailed a river to a great desert, the mighty wanderer encounters a camel caravan in time to save an Arabian princess from a stalking leopard, although it leaves him grievously injured.

Haughty Ta’ama much prefers the wild man saviour to her own (arranged) affianced man, something rapacious Sheik Numali is not going to allow. The caravan continues with comatose Tarzan guarded by the Princess, but Numali knows that sooner or later her attention will lapse and an accident can be made to happen…

Happily the white god recovers before any untoward occurrences but agrees to remain with them until the Great Desert is crossed. Into that simmering bath of tension and suspicion a greater menace soon intrudes as ambitious army sergeant Dagga Ramba abandons the war currently engulfing North Africa, declares himself general and convinces a band of Askari deserters they can carve out their own kingdom in the sands…

When the caravan is captured by the soldiers Tarzan escapes and stumbles upon old ally Kamur and his mountain-living Ibek Nomads. The doughty warrior is stalking the Askaris who have stolen his wife Nikotris, but that noble woman is in far greater danger from her fellow captive Ta’ama than the self-appointed warlord.

The mountain dweller has idly expressed her (platonic) admiration for Tarzan in the cell they share and the ruthless Arabian princess has wrongly deduced she has a rival for the ape-man’s affections…

Thankfully a daring raid of the warlord’s fortress by Tarzan liberates Kamur’s bride before Ta’ama can act, but in the melee he is trapped and, after soundly thrashing Dagga Ramba, sentenced to hang. Casually but spectacularly escaping the gallows, the hero rapidly returns to the mountains unaware the warlord has subtly suborned noxious Numali…

Soon a guerrilla war is underway at great cost to the Ibeks, whose bows and raw courage are no match for machine guns and armoured cars. Tarzan volunteers to re-cross the desert and try to recruit the normally impartial Soufara into a grand alliance against Dagga Ramba.

His brief time with nomadic Bedouins garners no support but their initial refusal only allows the upstart warmonger to mount a surprise attack on the desert dwellers. Racing out into a sandstorm on a stolen camel, Tarzan heads for the Soufara with Numali in hot pursuit.

When his mount expires the indomitable ape-man continues his epic trek on foot and eventually reaches their forbidden city, only to find gloating Numali waiting for him.

His attempts to assassinate the ape-man are forestalled by the Emir (Ta’ama’s father), but the potentate is disdainful of the warning Tarzan brings. Only Numali is aware that Dagga Ramba’s army is approaching and will soon attack the overconfident walled metropolis…

With his daughter hostage the Emir is hopeless to resist a mechanised assault and promptly names Tarzan his War Sheik. The noble savage’s ideas on what we now call asymmetrical warfare soon stem the tide and when he abandons the battle to call the Ibeks into the fray, it spells the beginning of the end for the dreams of Dagga Ramba…

Job done, Tarzan slips away and traverses the mountains until washed by a tumult into a lush, isolated valley where two unlikely westerners are exploring…

‘Tarzan and the Fatal Mountain’ (#582-595, 3rd May – 2nd August 1942) returned to high fantasy as murderous dwarf Kalban Martius takes an instant dislike to the tall, clean-limbed dark Adonis whilst his reluctant companion and unwitting target object d’amour Olga finds her heart all a-flutter…

The Europeans were exploring the valley with Olga’s scientist father who had discovered the place to be rife with oversized lifeforms. Even the generally peaceful white natives dubbed the Kolosans average eight feet tall. In fact almost everything was bigger but more passive…

After Martius fires a few shots at Tarzan – and is easily eluded and subdued – the ape-man is befriended by Olga who explains they were looking for the secret of the Kolosans’ immensity. Later the giants take him into their confidence whilst explaining that he can never escape the steep encircling escarpments back to his own world…

The giants also reveal an ancient temple where a lizard-shaped “forbidden fountain” spews forth a vile liquid. The tribal secret is unfortunately exposed by Martius who had covertly joined the party, and when he stole some of the evil water it instantly transformed him into a brutal gargantuan twice the size of the Kolosans…

Crazed with dreams of power the beast-man flees, taking a canteen full of the wicked liquid. Soon the gentle valley is filled with his aggressive army of super-giants and Tarzan is forced to lead the Kolosans into a final cataclysmic battle for survival…

Eventually the carnage subsides and Olga reveals how they will leave the hidden valley. She, her father and Kalban had arrived by airplane and Tarzan can go back with them. Sadly, one final catastrophe looms as their take-off is interrupted by a super-ape which had swallowed some of Martius’ stolen growth toxin…

Following a stupendous duel on the ship’s wing Tarzan returns to the relative safety of the cockpit but as they fly on the voyagers encounter an RAF plane going down in a death-spiral over a murky island…

‘Tarzan and the Barbarians’ (#596-659, 9th August 1942 to 24th October 1943) opens with the ape-man parachuting out of Olga’s plane – and life – to assist the downed pilot. Wing Commander Jonathan is badly hurt, but before Tarzan can administer aid he is interrupted by a bizarre stranger. Nahro the Hermit wants them gone and has decided to hunt the pair for sport…

The swampy terrain quickly proves the madman’s downfall, after which Tarzan carries his ailing charge across lethal trees through mire past deadly beasts until they are captured by brutal warriors who look like Vikings…

The barbarians are dismissive of their captives as they carry them up a huge mesa to their stony citadel. Although threatened with death Tarzan eschews an easy escape by refusing to marry one of the warrior’s women and earns the undying enmity of the shamed Hilsa.

Penned with other captives he meets the slave Leeta and learns the mesa-marauders have been preying on the region’s inhabitants for centuries. When he tries to carry her away to safety, Hilsa is waiting and ambushes them…

Forced to flee alone, Tarzan heads for Leeta’s village seeking men to mount a rescue mission for her and the British pilot. However the chieftain’s wizard ignores his entreaties and instead prepares to undertake a venerable custom. The Berian people have always sacrificed the strongest heroes in their midst so the warrior could travel to the departed ancestors and beseech supernatural aid.

Tarzan ferociously suggests that they stop killing the best fighters and use them to actually fight the barbarians…

To aid their assault he even introduces them to the concept of aerial warfare, engineering the construction of a giant balloon from sewn animal hides…

The skyborne blitzkrieg fails and Tarzan plunges into a vast cave in the centre of the mesa, but this fortuitously exposes the citadel’s great weakness – a secret tunnel leading to the plains below, big enough for a small force of men to use in a sneak attack…

After much travail and bloodshed the plan succeeds but even in victory Tarzan can find no peace. Ferrying Jonathan back to civilisation leads to another primitive city, another lusty lass and one more jealous suitor and before long the ape-man is embroiled in a brutal war where the balance of power rests with the side that can muster the most mastodons…

The most worrying aspect of the war is that it is being fought for ownership of a huge jewel which can cause instant death…

Although the battle eventually goes to the just, it exposes Jonathan’s true colours as he tries to seize the lethal death-ray device for his country and especially himself…

Fed up with humans, Tarzan heads back into the wild woods only to encounter old “friends” when arboreal amazon Tibeela ambushes the man who once eluded her amorous advances. This time she takes no chances and knocks him unconscious before making her move…

Her scheme might have worked had not a band of roving buccaneers chosen that moment to come to the forest hunting women for slaves, leading to another uncanny escapade against a decadent king in a debased kingdom as well as three uncanny reunions… with an ape, a lion and a Boer beside whom Tarzan had battled before…

These tales are full of astounding, unremitting, unceasing action with Hogarth and scripter Don Garden spinning page after page of blockbuster Technicolor epics over months of non-stop wonder and exotic adventure. Plot was never as important as engendering a wild rush of rapt and rousing visceral response and every Sunday the strip delivered that in spades.

Edgar Rice Burroughs was a master of populist writing and always his prose crackled with energy and imagination. Hogarth was an inspired intellectual and, as well as gradually instilling his pages with ferocious, unceasing action, layered the panels with subtle symbolism. Heroes looked noble, villains suitably vile and animals powerful and beautiful. Even vegetation, rocks and clouds looked spiky, edgy and liable to attack at a moment’s notice…

These vivid visual masterworks are all coiled-spring tension or vital, violent explosive motion, stretching, running, fighting: a surging rush of power and glory. It’s a dream come true that these majestic exploits are back in print – especially in such a lavish and luxurious oversized (330 x 254 mm) hardback format – for ours and future generations of dedicated fantasists to enjoy.

Magnificent, majestic and awe-inspiring.
Tarzan ® & © 2014 Edgar Rice Burroughs, Inc. All Rights Reserved. All images copyright of Edgar Rice Burroughs, Inc 2014. All text copyright of Edgar Rice Burroughs, Inc 2014.

Asterix & Obelix’s Birthday: The Golden Book


By R. Goscinny & A. Uderzo (Orion)
ISBN: 978-1-4440-0095-5

One of the most-read comics series in the world, the chronicles of Asterix the Gaul have been translated into more than 100 languages; with numerous animated and live-action movies, TV series, assorted toys and games and even their own tourist hotspot (Parc Astérix, near Paris). More than 325 million copies of the 35 canonical Asterix books have sold worldwide, making Goscinny & Uderzo France’s bestselling international authors.

The diminutive, doughty hero was created in 1959 by two of the art-form’s greatest proponents, René Goscinny & Albert Uderzo: masters of strip narrative then at the peak of their creative powers. Although their perfect partnership ended in 1977 with the death of prolific scripter Goscinny, the creative wonderment continued with Uderzo writing and drawing the feature until his retirement in 2010.

His last work on the feature was this compilation of new and old material which was designed to signify and celebrate 50 glorious years of his co-creation. In 2013 a new adventure – Asterix and the Picts – opened a fresh chapter in the annals as Jean-Yves Ferri & Didier Conrad began their much anticipated and dreaded continuation of the franchise.

Like everything great, the core premise of the immortal series works on multiple levels: ostensibly, younger readers enjoy the action-packed, lavishly illustrated comedic romps where conniving, bullying baddies always get their just deserts, whilst more worldly readers enthuse over the dry, pun-filled, slyly witty satire, enhanced for English speakers by the brilliantly light touch of translator Anthea Bell who played no small part in making the indomitable Gaul so palatable to the Anglo-Saxon world. Personally I still thrill to a perfectly delivered smack in the mush as much as a painfully swingeing string of bad puns and dry cutting jibes…

The eponymous hero is a smart, bold underdog who resists the iniquities, experiences the absurdities and observes the myriad wonders of Julius Caesar’s Roman Empire with brains, bravery and a bit of magic potion. The stories were alternately set on the tip of Uderzo’s beloved Brittany coast, where a small village of redoubtable warriors and their families resisted every effort of the Roman Empire to complete their conquest of Gaul or throughout the expansive Ancient World circa 50 BC.

Unable to defeat this last bastion of Gallic insouciance, the mostly victorious invaders resorted to a policy of cautious containment. Thus the little seaside hamlet is permanently hemmed in by the heavily fortified garrisons of Totorum, Aquarium, Laudanum and Compendium.

The Gauls don’t care: they daily defy the world’s greatest military machine by just going about their everyday affairs, protected by the magic potion of resident druid Getafix and the shrewd wits of a rather diminutive dynamo and his weak-minded super-strong best friend…

Firmly established as a global brand and premium French export by the mid-1960s, Asterix continued to grow in quality as Goscinny & Uderzo toiled ever onward, crafting further fabulous sagas; building a stunning legacy of graphic excellence and storytelling gold.

René Goscinny was one of the most prolific – and remains one of the most-read – writers of strips the world has ever seen. A Parisian born in 1926, he was raised in Argentina where his father taught mathematics. From an early age the boy showed artistic promise. He studied fine arts, graduating in 1942, and while working as junior illustrator at an ad agency in 1945 was invited by an uncle to stay in the USA, where he found work as a translator.

After National Service in France Goscinny settled in Brooklyn and pursued a creative career, becoming in 1948 an art assistant for a little studio which included Harvey Kurtzman, Will Elder, Jack Davis and John Severin as well as a couple of European giants-in-waiting: Maurice de Bévère (“Morris”, with whom Rene produced Lucky Luke from 1955-1977) and Joseph Gillain (Jijé). He also met Georges Troisfontaines, head of the World Press Agency, the company that provided comics for the French magazine Spirou.

After contributing scripts to Belles Histoires de l’Oncle Paul and ‘Jerry Spring’ Goscinny was made head of World Press’ Paris office, where he first met his life-long creative partner Albert Uderzo (Jehan Sepoulet, Luc Junior) as well as creating Sylvie and Alain et Christine (with “Martial” – Martial Durand) and Fanfan et Polo (drawn by Dino Attanasio).

In 1955 Goscinny, Uderzo, Jean-Michel Charlier and Jean Hébrard formed the independent Édipress/Édifrance syndicate, generating magazines for general industry (Clairon for the factory union and Pistolin for a chocolate factory). Scripting for Uderzo he produced Bill Blanchart, Pistolet and Benjamin et Benjamine, whilst writing and illustrating Le Capitaine Bibobu.

Under the pen-name Agostini he wrote Le Petit Nicholas (drawn by Jean-Jacques Sempé) and in 1956 began an association with the revolutionary comics magazine Tintin, writing stories for many illustrators including Signor Spagetti (Dino Attanasio), Monsieur Tric (Bob De Moor), Prudence Petitpas (Maréchal), Globule le Martien and Alphonse (both by Tibet), Modeste et Pompon (for André Franquin), Strapontin (Berck) as well as Oumpah-Pah with Uderzo. He also scripted strips for the magazines Paris-Flirt and Vaillant.

In 1959 Édipress/Édifrance launched Pilote and Goscinny went into overdrive. The first issue starred his and Uderzo’s instant masterpiece Asterix the Gaul, debuted Jacquot le Mousse and Tromblon et Bottaclou (drawn by Godard) and also re-launched Le Petit Nicolas and Jehan Pistolet/Jehan Soupolet.

When Georges Dargaud bought Pilote in 1960, Goscinny became editor-in-Chief, but still found time to add new series Les Divagations de Monsieur Sait-Tout (Martial), La Potachologie Illustrée (Cabu), Les Dingodossiers (Gotlib) and La Forêt de Chênebeau (Mic Delinx).

He also wrote frequently for television. In his spare time he created a little strip entitled Les Aventures du Calife Haroun el Poussah for Record (first episode January 15th 1962) illustrated by Swedish-born Jean Tabary. A minor success, it was re-tooled as Iznogoud when it transferred to Pilote.

Goscinny died in November 1977.

In the post-war reconstruction of France, Albert Uderzo returned to Paris and became a successful artist in the country’s burgeoning comics industry. His first published work, a pastiche of Aesop’s Fables, appeared in Junior, and in 1945 he was introduced to industry giant Edmond-François Calvo (whose own masterpiece The Beast is Dead is long overdue for a new archival edition…).

Equally indefatigable, Uderzo’s subsequent creations included indomitable eccentric Clopinard, Belloy, l’Invulnérable, Prince Rollin and Arys Buck. He illustrated Em-Ré-Vil’s novel Flamberge, worked in animation, as a journalist and illustrator for France Dimanche, and created the vertical comicstrip ‘Le Crime ne Paie pas’ for France-Soir. In 1950 he even illustrated a few episodes of the franchised European version of Fawcett’s Captain Marvel Jr. for Bravo!

An inveterate traveller, the prodigy met Goscinny in 1951. Soon fast friends, they decided to work together at the new Paris office of Belgian Publishing giant World Press. Their first collaboration was in November of that year; a feature piece on savoir vivre (how to live right or gracious living) for women’s weekly Bonnes Soirée, after which an avalanche of splendid strips and serials poured forth.

Both Jehan Pistolet and Luc Junior were created for La Libre Junior and they invented a spoof western starring a Red Indian (ah, simpler, if more casually racist, times…) who evolved into the delightfully infamous Oumpah-Pah. In 1955 with the formation of Édifrance/Édipresse, Uderzo drew Bill Blanchart for La Libre Junior, replaced Christian Godard on Benjamin et Benjamine and in 1957 added Charlier’s Clairette to his portfolio.

The following year, he made his Tintin debut as Oumpah-Pah finally found a home and a rapturous, devoted audience. Uderzo also drew Poussin et Poussif, La Famille Moutonet and La Famille Cokalane.

When Pilote launched in 1959 Uderzo was a major creative force for the new magazine collaborating with Charlier on Les Aventures de Tanguy et Laverdure whilst working with Goscinny on a little something called Asterix…

Although the ancient Gaul was a massive hit from the start, Uderzo continued working on Tanguy et Laverdure, but as soon as epic was collected as Astérix le gaulois in 1961 it became clear that the series would demand most of his time – especially as the incredible Goscinny never seemed to require rest or run out of ideas.

By 1967 the strip occupied all Uderzo’s attention, and in 1974 the partners formed Idéfix Studios to fully exploit their inimitable creation. At the same time, after nearly 15 years as a weekly comic strip subsequently collected into compilations, 21st tale (Asterix and Caesar’s Gift) was the first to be published as a complete original album before being serialised. Thereafter each new release was a long anticipated, eagerly awaited treat for the strip’s millions of fans…

When Goscinny passed away three years later, Uderzo had to be coaxed and convinced to continue the sagas as writer and artist. He produced a further ten volumes until his retirement in 2010.

According to UNESCO’s Index Translationum, Uderzo is the tenth most-often translated French-language author in the world and the third most-translated French language comics author – right after his old mate René Goscinny and the grand master Hergé.

After the controversial reception to 2005’s Asterix and the Falling Sky, Uderzo’s 34th and last outing with his creations took four years to materialise and was once again not what was expected.

In the manner of a TV clip show or “roast”, the anniversary saga wove snippets and rarely seen ancillary material into a beguiling parade of gently surreal congratulation preceded by a Foreword from the doughty Gaul himself and a moving and laudatory recollection by Goscinny’s daughter Anne, after which the usual set-up pages lead into a strange scene…

It is the year 1 (or 0, depending on your grasp of arithmetic) AD. Fifty years after the heyday of the indomitable Gaulish resistance the regular characters are old but still as bellicose as ever. The world however is no longer a place of constant turmoil and adventure. Elderly Asterix has again dumped his horde of grandkids on aged uncle Obelix but both long for the days of having fun and bashing Romans.

Then as Uderzo physically injects himself into the tale the scene magically shifts, the heroes regain youth and vitality and in 50 BC the village is frantically getting ready for a big party. Asterix and Obelix were born on the same day and this year’s birthday party is going to be monumental…

As Vitalstatistix makes another speech Geriatrix’s glamorous young wife interrupts with a prophetic clothes show allowing readers to see what Obelix would look like as a fashion plate in eleven coming eras. Her sole design for Asterix is just as radical…

When the big guy’s unrequitable (in fact, happily married and utterly unaware) love Panacea sends him a birthday missive, Obelix has to admit that he cannot read and Druid Getafix lends him an alphabet book he’s been working on. The intensive course of study does not end well…

Next follows a selection of birthday greetings from inept Egyptian architect Edifis and Redbeard’s far from unsinkable pirates, after which a touch of character assassination from Geriatrix and introspection by Druid Psychoanalytix segues into an intriguing set of designs and sketches in the manner of Leonardo da Vinci and the first present: a text and prose book entitled ‘The Circumbendibus Travel Guide’ delineating many of the fascinating places the Gauls have visited (based on an article by Goscinny originally seen in Pilote #347 16th June 1966)…

Also included is vibrant infomercial ‘Put Your Travels on the Map’ hosted by Cacofonix which is followed by more creative anachronism in the form of parody record covers and a glimpse at the pan-European Imperiovision Song Contest (Bards Only) plus a little girlish table-talk as the village women express their hidden feelings and secret imaginings about the bombastic birthday boys, as well as who should marry them…

As young entrepreneur Squareonthehypotenus offers plans for a theme park dedicated to the wonderful warriors, his plans are eagerly embraced by the villagers and encourage Druid Valueaddedtax to invent new types of potion, whilst impresario Laurensolivius imagines a time of moving pictures and the great dramas the story of the villagers will inspire…

Finally a section on the great art which will one day be created because of Asterix and Obelix (augmented by faux reproductions of famous artworks by da Vinci, Rodin, Delacroix, Edvard Munch, Arcimboldo, Manet and David) before tension breaks out after Queen Cleopatra and Julius Caesar finally arrive for the party.

She might eternally be grateful to the Gauls but the Emperor bears grudges and takes the opportunity to have his apothecary Choleramorbus add a little something nasty to the amphora of wine he’s giving as a gift…

As ever, Roman duplicity is no match for Gaulish guile…

More a collection of themed gags than a singular saga and packed with posters and sly in-jokes this is a delicious addition – or perhaps perk – to the long and glorious career of two of France’s greatest heroes – both the real ones and their fictive masterworks.
© 2009 Les Éditions Albert René/Goscinny-Uderzo. English translation: © 2009 Les Éditions Albert René/Goscinny-Uderzo. All rights reserved.

Deadpool Corps volume 2: You Say You Want a Revolution


By Victor Gischler, Rob Liefeld, Marat Mychaels & various (Marvel)
ISBN: 978-0-7851-4827-2

Stylish killers and moody mercenaries have always been popular fictional protagonists, and light-hearted, exuberant bloodbath comics will always find an appreciative audience…

Deadpool is Wade Wilson: an inveterate, unrepentant hired killer who survived cancer and genetics experiments which left him a grotesque bundle of scabs, scars and physical abnormalities but also practically immortal, invulnerable and capable of regenerating from any wound. He is also a many-times-over certifiable loon…

The wisecracking high-tech “Merc with a Mouth” was created by Rob Liefeld & Fabian Nicieza for New Mutants #97, another product of the “Weapon X” project which created Wolverine and so many other mutant/cyborg super-doers. His first shot at solo stardom came with a couple of miniseries in 1993 (Deadpool: the Circle Chase & Sins of the Past) but it wasn’t until 1997 that he finally won his own title, which blended fourth-wall-busting absurdist humour (a la Ambush Bug and Warner Brothers cartoons) into the mix, thereby securing his place in Marvel’s top rank.

Since then he has become one of the company’s iconic, nigh-inescapable stars, perennially undergoing radical rethinks, identity changes, reboots and more before always – inevitably – reverting to irascible, irreverent, intoxicating type in the end…

In this iteration – and following events too ludicrous to mention – Wilson united with a quartet of alternate Deadpools from very different parallel Earths (a buxom female Lady Deadpool, killer pre-teen Kidpool, a floating masked cranium from Marvel’s Zombiverse dubbed Headpool and a costumed mutt who answers to Dogpool (and sometimes “Cujo”) to form the strangest team in Marvel’s history (and yes, that includes Pet Avengers).

What Has Gone Before: a bizarre concatenation of circumstances has resulted in Deadpool and Co saving creation from the sentience-sucking Awareness.

For this they have been rewarded by the Elders of the Universe with a starship (the “Bea Arthur”) and a set of one-use only wishing rings. They’re having fun and don’t want to go home yet, but as card-carrying mercenaries the unlikely champions can never have enough spending money…

Collecting Deadpool Corps #7-12 (December 2010 to May 2011 by Victor Gischler, pencillers Liefeld and Marat Mychaels with inkers Adelso Corona & Cory Hamscher) the manic mayhem continues with a wickedly cruel spoof of blockbuster movie Avatar.

Framed through insanely clever fiddling with the narrative technique of flashbacks, the story resumes with the carnival of killer fools accepting a huge commission from the vast and unscrupulous Omega Confederation

Paradise planet Kagan 7 is a beautiful wonderland of flora and fauna inhabited – or perhaps safeguarded – by the deeply spiritual, jungle-dwelling, blue-skinned warrior-race known as the Krook.

Sadly, to cost-effectively get at the planet’s mineral wealth, the Confederation had to enslave the Krook and turn them into miners. Now the ungrateful sods are rebelling and demanding their planet back so the Omega board would like somebody to go and quietly remove all the ringleaders so the peons can get back to digging up all that lovely platinum…

Taking out the alien legion of mercs hired by the rebels is no problem, but the natives themselves – especially the extremely hot daughter of the bombastic king – prove too much for the Crazy Corps and soon they are desperately bargaining for their own lives…

Said deal boils down to the Deadpools switching sides and running the revolution against the Omega Confederation. The murderers from a multiplicity of Earths have no qualms about switching sides: the problems only occur after Wade starts boffing the mercilessly manipulative Princess Teela who then convinces her highly sceptical father that to survive as an independent, free world the unspoiled Arcadian paradise needs to modernise and commercialise … just a bit…

Wade’s thinking something reserved and classy, properly in tune with the environment: Hospitals, swish eateries, a complex of skyscraper hotels, spa resorts and golf courses… y’know, like Las Vegas in space…

As Deadpool starts a crass telethon campaign to raise galactic awareness of the poor Krooks’ plight, a tidal wave of tree-huggers from across the universe converge on the endangered paradise to support the latest cause célèbre. Elsewhere the Omega Confederation board decide that something nasty needs to be done to the contractors who took their cash and failed to deliver…

On Kagan 7 so many donations are coming in the Imperial Senate recognises the new world and inducts it into the Galactic Economic Community. The first part of that procedure is to set up a Central Bank of Krook and advance several thousand tons of gold so the latest member of the club can suitably set up a proper trading profile…

Wade is so stunned with loot-shock he doesn’t even notice when the Omega’s death-squads start attacking. Luckily old girlfriend and legendary arms-smuggler The Broken Blade arrives to save they day whilst stocking the newborn world’s defences with the latest in super-ordinance.

She’s a little less than ecstatic when she discovers Wade’s been making time with a plush and primitive princess…

The social evolution of the Krook isn’t going smoothly either. Whilst Teela ruthlessly embraces everything flashy, new and civilised, dear old dad just wants his world back the way it was before all the outworlders came. Soon father and daughter are spearheading two separate armies in a savage civil war – beamed live into quintillions of homes all over known space – and the Deadpool Corps have picked opposing sides to help keep the slaughter quotient high.

All poor Wade can think about, however, is several thousand tons of gold just waiting to be salvaged and taken back to Earth…

And in the background the Omega Confederation are still working on ways to take back their mining operation and kill everybody who has defied them…

Displaying with extreme clarity how the cure can be worse than the disease, the last hurrah of the Deadpool Corps again blends a minimum of plot with an overabundance of sharp gags, snappy one-liners, shtick, shlock and slapstick as the trans-dimensional terrorisers bumble, fumble and smart-mouth their way across the galaxy and over a mountain of oddly-shaped corpses until finally they at last go their separate ways…

Surreal, wickedly irreverent and excessively violent in the grand Bugs Bunny/Road Runner tradition, Deadpool Corps is frat boy foolish and frequently laugh-out-loud funny: a wonderfully antidote to the cosmic angst and emotional Sturm und Drang of most contemporary Fights ‘n’ Tights comics, but again pays lip service to being a notionally normal Marvel milestone by also offering a full cover gallery by Liefeld and variant by Skottie Young…
© 2010, 2011 Marvel Characters, Inc. All rights reserved.

Superman Archives volume 8


By Jerry Siegel, Joe Shuster, Don Cameron, Bill Finger, Alvin Schwartz, Whitney Ellsworth, Ed Dobrotka, Sam Citron, Ira Yarbrough, George Roussos, Jack Burnley, Wayne Boring & various (DC Comics)
ISBN: 978-1-4012-2885-9

Today’s American comicbook industry – if it still existed at all – would have been utterly unrecognisable to us without Superman. His unprecedented invention and adoption by a desperate and joy-starved generation quite literally gave birth to a genre if not an actual art form.

Spawning an impossible army of imitators and variations, within three years of his 1938 debut, the intoxicating blend of eye-popping action and social wish-fulfilment which hallmarked the early Man of Steel had grown to encompass cops-and-robbers crime-busting, socially reforming dramas, science fiction, fantasy, whimsical comedy and, once the war in Europe and the East embroiled America, patriotic relevance for a host of gods, heroes and monsters, all dedicated to profit through exuberant, eye-popping excess and explosive derring-do.

In comicbook terms at least Superman was master of the world, having already utterly changed the shape of the fledgling industry. There was the phenomenally popular newspaper strip, a thrice-weekly radio serial, games, toys, as much global syndication as the war would allow and the perennially re-run Fleischer studio’s astounding animated cartoons.

Despite all the years that have passed since then, I – and so many others – still believe that superhero comics were never more apt or effective than when they were whole-heartedly combating the agents of Fascism (and yes by heck, even the dirty, doggone, Reds-Under-the-Beds Commies, who took their place in the 1960s too!) with mysterious masked marvel men in compulsive, improbable short, sharp exploits,

The most evocative and breathtaking moments of the genre always seem to occur as those gaudy gladiators soundly thrashed – and please forgive the offensive contemporary colloquialism – “Nips, Nazis and Reds”. However, even in those dark days long-ago, the young and enthusiastic creators were wise enough to augment their tales of espionage and invasion with a range of gentler, more whimsical four-colour fare. By the time of the sagas in this superb seventh Superman full-colour hardcover Archive edition – re-presenting #30-35 (September/October 1944 to July/August 1944) of the Man of Tomorrow’s solo title – the apprehension of the early war years had been replaced with eager anticipation as tyranny’s infernal forces were being rolled back on every Front.

Superman was the premier, vibrant, vital role model whose startling abilities and take-charge, can-do attitude had won the hearts of the public at home and the troops across the war-torn world.

Now, although the shooting was all but over, stirring, morale-boosting covers and stories were being phased out in favour of gentler and even purely comedic themes.

Following a funny and informative Foreword: “Look! Up in the Sky! It’s a Bird… it’s a Plane…it’s – An Imp?’ by cartoonist Evan Dorkin discussing the advent of super-foes, social change and a certain fifth dimensional jester, the action-laced whimsy begins with ‘Superman Alias Superman!’ by Don Cameron, Ira Yarbrough & Stan Kaye wherein lovelorn Clark Kent takes romantic advice from office-boy Jimmy Olsen and impersonates his own alter ego to impress Lois.

The doomed imposture is further complicated because his scathing, scoop-obsessed colleague is fully fixated on catching high society bandit Silver Foxx and has no time for Clark’s insecurities and idiocies…

The go-getting journalist was always too busy for romance back then, as can be seen in ‘Lois Lane, Girl Reporter: The Arch-Swindler’ by Cameron, Ed Dobrotka & George Roussos. In those turbulent times the interpretation of the “plucky news-hen” was far less demeaning than the post-war sneaky minx who was so popular in the late 1950s and 1960s.

Lois might have been ambitious and life-threateningly precipitate, but it was always to advance her own career, help underdogs and put bad guys away, not trap a man into marriage.

Her Superman-free exploits began in #28: a succession of 4-page vignettes offering breathless, fast-paced, screwball comedy-thrillers. In this example, spurred on by Clark’s teasing, she tracks down, is captured by and spectacularly turns the tables on murderous conman Jack Dover

Back with the star feature, Bill Finger, Yarbrough & Roussos revealed how an ancient prophecy turns the Action Ace into ‘The King’s Substitute’ as centuries ago the ruler of tiny nation Poltavia learns that a Superman will one day deliver his country from bondage, restore a true heir and offer the people a wonderful thing called democracy…

Jerry Siegel, Joe Shuster & Yarbrough then herald the start of a new kind of adventure as ‘The Mysterious Mr. Mxyztplk’ debuts. An utterly intoxicating daffy romp introduced the 5th dimensional imp who would henceforward periodically test the Man of Steel’s ingenuity and patience in a still-hilarious perfect example of the lighter side of super-heroics.

Mxyztplk (later anglicised to Mxyzptlk, presumably to make it easier to spell?) became a cornerstone of the Superman mythos: an insufferable pixie against whom all Superman’s strength and power were useless. From then on brains were going to be as important as brawn as frustration became the Man of Steel’s first real weakness…

Superman #31 opens with crime-thriller ‘Tune Up Time for Crime’ (Finger, Sam Citron Roussos) as crooks with a deadly new sonic weapon turn out to have the scientific backing of the Metropolis’ Marvel’s oldest enemy, after which arch-whimsy reappears in ‘A Dog’s Tale’ (Finger, Citron & Roussos) when scruffy mutt Flip proudly tells his canine pals how he helped Superman crack a dognapping racket…

Cameron & Dobrotka then reveal how a gang of jewel thieves prove no match for dumb luck and journalistic moxie in ‘Lois Lane, Girl Reporter: The Aces Doonan Gang’ before Finger, Citron & Roussos close out the issue with a trip to the museum as ‘The Treasure House of History!’ finds Superman saving a noble institution from mismanagement, skulduggery and even closure whilst discovering a lost Mayan city…

In #32 ‘Superman’s Search for Clark Kent!’ (Alvin Schwartz, Dobrotka & Roussos) finds the Action Ace an invincible amnesiac after volunteering for a scientific trial and forced to track down his own other identity whilst ‘Crime on Skis!!’ (Finger, Dobrotka & Roussos) sees the restored hero debunk a malign mythical bird as no more than a cover for more pedestrian killers plaguing a ski resort.

‘Lois Lane, Girl Reporter: Monkey Business’ (Whitney Ellsworth, Dobrotka & Roussos) is another splendidly frothy concoction describing how a ventriloquist at the zoo puts the jaunty journo on the trail of a pack of pickpockets, after which the terrible Toyman resurfaces to plague Metropolis, plundering wealthy antique collectors in search of a treasure hidden since the French Revolution in ‘Toys of Treachery!’ (Cameron, Dobrotka & Roussos).

Superman #33 opened with the hero following foolish Lois into ‘Dimensions of Danger!’ (Cameron, Yarbrough & Roussos) after she road-tested a Mxyztplk spell and ended up stuck in his home realm of Zrfff. Once there the Caped Kryptonian had the opportunity to do a little mischief-making of his own…

With art by Yarbrough & Roussos ‘The Country Doctor!’ is the kind of socially aware redemptive tale Bill Finger was a master of and saw Clark Kent stuck in homey little Middletown watching aging Dr. David Brown make a difference – but little money – ministering to the poor souls around him.

The physician’s only regret was a son who preferred big city glamour cases and big city fees, but then something quite tragic happened…

Ellsworth & Dobrotka’s ‘Lois Lane, Girl Reporter: The Purloined Piggy Bank’ found her being pranked by (male) cops before turning the tables on them and crushing a crime conspiracy. The issue ends with classic mystery yarn ‘The Compass Points to Murder!’ (Finger, Yarbrough & Roussos) finding the Action Ace darting to the four corners of the globe in search of a killer who believed he’d successfully silenced a shipping fleet magnate but had left one telling clue behind…

In #25 Mort Weisinger & Fred Ray’s ‘I Sustain the Wings!’ played a crucial part in America’s attempt to address a shortfall in vital services recruitment – a genuine problem at this time in our real world – and created an instant comics classic.

Artistically Superman #34 is an all Citron/Roussos affair, whose opening shot attempted to repeat the magic formula with Cameron scripted ‘The United States Navy!’ with Clark despatched to follow three college football heroes whilst they progress – in different maritime specialisations – through the war in the Pacific.  

Then ‘Lois Lane, Girl Reporter: The Foiled Frame-Up’ (Ellsworth) sees her upset political scoundrels and expose a smear campaign after which Cameron instigates a prototype “Imaginary Tale” with ‘The Canyon that Went Berserk!’ wherein a fortune teller prompts Clark into daydreaming the prospecting adventure of a lifetime…

‘When the World got Tired!’ (Finger) then ramped up the tension when a sinister epidemic of global indolence and sloth turns out to be the work of Lex Luthor and his new alien allies…

The gaggle of Golden Age goodies conclude with the contents of Superman #35 (mostly illustrated by Yarbrough & Roussos), starting with the Cameron scripted ‘Fame for Sale!’, wherein shady cove and scurvy scoundrel J. Wilbur Wolfingham rears his conniving head once more. The magnificent pastiche of W. C. Fields as a ruthless Mr. Micawber returned like a bad penny over and again to bedevil honest folk and greedy saps and here he acted as an early kind of spin doctor/publicist for a millionaire miser, social climbing parvenu and even the Mayor of Metropolis, promising their names would be on everybody’s lips.

Of course he neglected to mention how he would accomplish the feats and drew the unwelcome attention of an always alert Action Ace…

A gang wanting to profiteer from a new medicine came to a painful end in ‘Lois Lane, Girl Reporter: The Drug Swindle’ (Cameron & Dobrotka) whilst Yarbrough & Roussos resumed their illustrative endeavours for Finger’s ‘Like Father, Like Son!’ wherein Superman cleared the name and reputation of a local politician whose enemies sought to tar him with the same scandalous brush as his supposedly criminal child, and the

‘The Genie of the Lamp!’ (scripted by Schwartz) then sees the Action Ace teach a wealthy young antique collector the difference between precious objects and people in need by masquerading as a wish-fulfilling sprite…

With stunning covers by Jack Burnley, Wayne Boring, Roussos & Kaye, plus a full ‘Biographies’ section this is another stunning selection of the stories which kept the groundbreaking Man of Steel at the forefront of comics for nearly 80 years.

As fresh and thrilling now as they ever were, these endlessly re-readable epics are perfectly situated in these gloriously luxurious Archive Editions; a worthy, long-lasting vehicle for the greatest and most influential comics stories the art form has ever produced.

So what are you waiting for…?
© 1944, 1945, 2010 DC Comics. All Rights Reserved.

Shame: Conception, Shame: Pursuit, Shame: Redemption


By Lovern Kindzierski, John Bolton & Todd Klein (Renegade Arts Entertainment)
ISBNs: 978-1-908217-01-1, 978-0-986200-5-2 and 978-0-99215-088-4

It’s an unshakable adage that comics are a visual medium and that’s never been more clearly proved than in this enticing allegorical adult fairytale from writer Lovern Kindzierski, painter John Bolton and letterer Todd Klein.

The blithely inviting trilogy began in 2011 for then-new multinational Indie publisher Renegade Arts Entertainment (generally Alexander Finbow, Doug Bradley, Alan Grant, John Finbow, Luisa Harkins, Nick Wilson and Jennifer Taylor: a loose coalition originating comics, audio books, movies, animation, prose and graphic novels, merchandise and games) and after much too long a wait concludes here…

Always remember, appearances can be deceiving.

Once upon a time in Shame: Conception a rather lumpen and unlovely witch named Mother Virtue spent all her days doing grand good deeds for the unfortunate, and for these kind actions she was beloved by all.

She lived her life well growing old and content but one day a selfish thought passed idly through her mind: she longed for a daughter and wished for but a moment that she was a mother in fact as well as name…

It was all the opening malign Shadow of Ignorance Slur needed. With dark magic he instantly impregnated the champion of Good with a dark and evil seed and in gloating triumph bragged to the witch that her diabolical daughter would be named Shame

Repenting that selfish thought and dreading the horrors to come, Mother Virtue turned her cottage into a floral prison dubbed Cradle; designed and repurposed to isolate and contain the thing growing in her belly.

The miserable mother-to-be also assembled an army of Dryads to care for and guard the baby. After Virtue finally bore Shame, she quickly abandoned the devil’s burden to be reared in the mystic compound, where it grew cruel but so very beautiful…

Eventually, however, minions of Shame’s sire breached the green walls and began schooling the child in vile necromancy and her dire inheritance. Slowly Shame remoulded her guardians into something more pliable and appropriately monstrous…

As she physically ripened, Slur himself came and through him Shame learned the power of sex. With the aid of a demonic incubus which had stolen seed from many men, she quickened a child in her own belly and birthed a baby girl.

Into the infant Slur poured Mother Virtue’s soul, gorily ripped from her aging carcase at that moment. Even the nunnery she had locked herself within was not proof against the marauding Shadow of Ignorance…

With her despised mother now her own child securely bound within the selfsame floral penitentiary, Shame went out into the world to make her mark…

Shame: Pursuit was released in 2013 and took up the story sixteen years later. The Virtue baby had grown up strong and beautiful, despite every effort of the malformed and mystically mutated Dryads and Shame’s diabolical sorcery who had made every day of her young life a test of survival.

This made Shame, now queen of a mortal kingdom, furious beyond belief. When not burning witches and wise women who might threaten her absolute domination or having her unconquerable armies ravage the neighbouring realms, the hell-spawn spied upon her mother/child with infernal devices.

Elsewhere a valiant knight lay dying and bade his simple, ugly son Merritt farewell. Even with his last breaths, the father dreaded how his foolish and naive boy would fare in a world ruled by the Queen who had killed him…

The hopeless dreamer was stubborn if nothing else, and when Merritt discovered the vegetable hell-mound of Cradle, stories his mother told him as a child and a strange inexplicable yearning compelled him to overcome appalling odds to break in and liberate the beautiful prisoner… although she did most of the work…

Once free of the mound, all Virtue’s mystic powers returned and far away Shame’s world reeled. Mocking Slur cared little for his daughter but much for his plans and thus revealed Merritt was Destiny’s wild card: a Sword of Fate who could reshape the future of humanity. Of course it all depended whose side he was on…

As the heroes neared the capital they were ambushed and, after a tremendous mystic upheaval, Merritt awoke in a palace with a dark-haired angel ministering to his every need and desire. Far below in a rank, eldritch dungeon Virtue languished and remade her plans…

The epic concludes in classic fashion with Shame: Redemption as Merritt falls deeper under the sultry sway of the dark queen. As he slowly becomes her tool of human subjugation, in a fetid subterranean stinkhole, Virtue weaves her magic with the paltry materials at hand under the very noses of her tormentors…

Even in the Queen’s bed Merritt is still a child of his mother’s stories and when Virtue contacts him he readily sneaks down to her cell, dreams of nobility and good deeds filling his slow and addled head…

Now the scene is set for a final fraught confrontation between mother and daughter, but first Virtue sends Merritt straight to Hell on a vital quest to recover the hope of the world…

The narrative core of all fairytales is unchanging and ever powerful, so tone and treatment make all the difference between tired rehash and something bold, fresh and unforgettable.

Moreover, the photo-based hyper-real expressionism of John Bolton’s lush painting transforms the familiar and potentially mundane settings of fantasy standards into something truly bleak and bizarre to match the grim, earthily seedy meta-reality of Kindzierski’s script.

Dark, nasty and packed with sumptuous seductions of every stripe, the sage of Shame is every adult fantasists’ desire made real…

Shame: Conception, Shame: Pursuit, Shame: Redemption the story, characters, world and designs are © Lovern Kindzierski, John Bolton and Renegade Arts Canmore Ltd.

 

Where the Bird Sings Best


By Alejandro Jodorowsky, translated Alfred MacAdam (Restless Books)
ISBN: 978-1-63206-028-0

Alejandro Jodorowsky Prullansky is a filmmaker, playwright, actor, author, comics writer, world traveller, philosopher and spiritual guru who was born in Tocopilla, Chile in 1929.

How his immediate ancestors got there from pogrom-afflicted Russia at the beginning of the 20th century is only the faintest shadow of the body of this astounding, marvellously mythologized and mesmerisingly “Magic Realism” filtered family history…

The amazing modern polymath is most widely known for such films as Fando y Lis, El Topo, The Holy Mountain, Sante Sangre, The Rainbow Thief, The Dance of Reality and others, as well as his vast comics output, including Anibal 5 (created whilst living in Mexico), Le Lama blanc, Aliot, The Meta-Barons, Borgia, Madwoman of the Sacred Heart and so many more, co-created with some of South America and Europe’s greatest artists.

His decade-long collaboration with Moebius on the Tarot-inspired adventure The Incal (1981-1989) completely redefined and reinvented what comics could aspire to and achieve.

Best regarded for his violently surreal avant-garde films, loaded with highly-charged, inspired imagery – blending mysticism and what he terms “religious provocation” – and his spiritually-informed fantasy and science fiction comics tales, Jodorowsky is also fascinated by humanity’s inner realms and has devised his own doctrine of therapeutic healing: Psychomagic, Psychogenealogy and Initiatic massage. He still remains fully engaged and active in all these creative areas to this day.

He is also a raconteur of spellbinding imagination and truly devilish wit, all fully exercised and demonstrated in this stunning, outrageous re-imagining of the history of his antecedents, which was first published in 1992 as Donde mejor canta un Pájaro.

An astounding prose poem – intoxicatingly translated from the Spanish for this first English-language hardback edition by Professor of Latin American Literature Alfred MacAdam – this is an addictively enjoyable rollercoaster of arcane and obscene episodes seamlessly sewn together as Jodorowsky bounces across time and space, weaving stories of apostate Jewish grandmothers sharing their hatred for God, unworldly yet adaptable husbands, incestuous relations and relatives, all with a knack for finding disasters, wars, inquisitions, exploiters, monstrous suppressions, wanton violence and casual brutality…

The mythologized epic of immigration and Diaspora is filled with unforgettable and improbable sexual situations, fortunes – usually in gold or diamonds – found and lost in the blink of an eye, animal encounters of the most outré kinds, earthquake-surfing and the kind of bizarre wisdom and ad hoc solutions only folk in perpetual crisis resort and adhere to.

The saga is engagingly peopled with utterly unique characters such as an assortment of plebeian and domestic visionary-seers, sheep-abusing Tsar/hermits, dwarves, prophets, prostitutes, sorcerers and demagogues, transsexual ballerinas, unlikely libertines, holistic bee-keeping pioneers, Kabbalists and victims of every stripe, shysters and gentle conmen, fully-immersive lion-tamers and knife-throwers and the ghost of a Rabbi whose path for successive generations of the family involves regular last-minute salvations but not necessarily happiness, safety or security…

With the history slyly couched in terms of entertainment performances and themes of ballet and the circus, the mystic and miraculous generational saga explosively unfolds, reveals and even chronologically doubles back upon itself to share the experiences of a most accursed and blessed clan during the most difficult and dangerous period in human history, and even finds a moment to reveal the true origins and history of the Tarot…

An absolute crescendo of beguiling ideas, breathtakingly shocking, surreal scenarios, unholy grotesques, outspoken opinions and wickedly blasphemous visions, this is a wonder to read and utterly pointless to attempt reviewing.

It’s brilliant, read it now or regret it forever.

Not for the innocent, unimaginative or faint-hearted – although those souls are the ones who would benefit most from seeing it – Where the Bird Sings Best is that rarest of literary curios: a book not to be merely read but fully experienced.
© 2014 Alejandro Jodorowsky. Translation © 2014 Alfred Macadam.

Melusine volume 1: Hocus Pocus


By Clarke (Frédéric Seron) & Gilson, coloured by Cerise and translated by Erica Jeffrey (Cinebook)
ISBN: 978-1-905460-20-5

Teen witches have a long and distinguished pedigree in fiction and one of the most engaging of all first appeared in venerable Belgian magazine Spirou in 1992. Mélusine is actually a sprightly 119 years old and spends her days working as an au pair in a vast monster-packed chateau whilst studying to perfect her craft at Witches’ School…

The feature ranges from one-page gag strips on supernatural themes to short tales detailing her rather fraught life, the impossibly demanding master and mistress of the castle and her large circle of peculiar family and friends.

Collected editions began appearing in 1995, with the 18th published in 2010. Four of those have thus far made it into English translations thanks to the fine folk at Cinebook.

The strip was devised by writer François Gilson (Rebecca, Cactus Club, Garage Isidore) and top flight cartoon humorist Frédéric Seron, AKA Clarke whose numerous features for all-ages Spirou and the acerbic adult humour publication Fluide Glacial include Rebecca, Les Cambrioleurs, Durant les Travaux, l’Exposition Continue… and Le Miracle de la Vie.

Under the pseudonym Valda, Seron also created Les Babysitters and as Bluttwurst Les Enquêtes de l’Inspecteur Archibaldo Massicotti, Château Montrachet, Mister President and P.38 et Bas Nylo.

A former fashion illustrator and nephew of comics veteran Pierre Seron, Clarke is one of those insufferable guys who just draws non-stop and is sublimely funny. He also doubles up as a creator of historical and genre pieces such as Cosa Nostra, Les Histoires de France, Luna Almaden and Nocturnes and apparently is free from the curse of having to sleep…

Hocus Pocus was the seventh Mélusine album, originally released in 2000, and offers a fine place for newcomers to start as the majority of the content is one or two page gags which – like a young, hot Broom Hilda – make play with fairy tale and horror film conventions and themes.

When brittle, moody Melusine isn’t being bullied for her inept cleaning skills by the matriarchal ghost-duchess who runs the castle, or ducking cat-eating monster Winston and frisky vampire The Count, she’s avoiding the attentions of horny peasants, practising her spells or consoling dreadfully unskilled classmate Cancrelune. Her boyfriend is a werewolf so she only sees him a couple of nights a month…

Her days of toil are occasionally spiced up with and put in perspective by sports days such as blindfolded broom-flying contests and there’s always dowager Aunt Adrezelle who is eager and happy to share the wisdom of her so-many centuries…

After a splendid succession of quick-fire japes and jests, things take on a touch of continuity and even tension when scandalous cousin Melisande pops in for an extended visit.

Spurning the dark, dread and sinisterly sober side of the clan, Melisande became a Fairy Godmother; all sparkles, fairy-cakes, pink bunnies and love. She’s simplicity, sweetness and light itself in every aspect, so what’s not to loathe…?

No sooner does the twinkling twit start to grow on everybody however than she falls victim to one of The Count’s periodic bite-fests and slowly metamorphoses into a true witches’ witch: skin-tight black leather, batwings and ready for wicked transformations and sorcery duels at the drop of a pointed hat…

The situation comes to a head and the cauldron boils over in the eponymous extra-long episode ‘Hocus Pocus’ as Melusine and Melisande finally face off to decide which witch is worst…

Clever, wry, sly, fast-paced and uproariously funny, this compendium of arcane antics is a great taste of the magic of European comics and a beguiling delight for all lovers of the cartoonist’s art…

Original edition © Dupuis, 2000 by Clarke & Gilson. All rights reserved. English translation 2007 © Cinebook Ltd.