Iznogoud the Infamous


ISBN: 978-1-84918-074-0 (Album PB)

For the greater part of his too-short lifetime (1926-1977) René Goscinny was one of – if not the – most prolific and most-read writers of comic strips the world has ever seen. He still is.

Among his most popular comic collaborations are Lucky Luke, Le Petit Nicolas and, of course, Asterix the Gaul, but there were so many others, such as the dazzling, dark deeds of a dastardly usurper whose dreams of diabolical skulduggery perpetually proved to be ultimately no more than castles in the sand…

Scant years after the Suez crisis, the French returned to those hotly contested deserts when Goscinny teamed with sublimely gifted Swedish émigré Jean Tabary (1930-2011) – who numbered Richard et Charlie, Grabadu et Gabaliouchtou, Totoche, Corinne et Jeannot and Valentin le Vagabond amongst his other hit strips – to detail the innocuous history of imbecilic Arabian (im)potentate Haroun el-Poussah.

However, it was the strip’s villainous foil, power-hungry vizier Iznogoud who stole the show – possibly the conniving little imp’s only successful coup…

Les Aventures du Calife Haroun el Poussah was created for Record; with the first episode appearing in the January 15th1962 issue. A minor hit, it jumped ship to Pilote – a comics magazine created and edited by Goscinny – where it was artfully refashioned into a starring vehicle for the devious little ratbag who had increasingly been hogging all the laughs and limelight.

Like all great storytelling, Iznogoud works on two levels: for youngsters it’s a comedic romp with adorably wicked baddies invariably hoisted on their own petards and coming a-cropper, whilst older, wiser heads can revel in pun-filled, witty satires and marvellously accessible episodic comic capers. Just like our Parliament today.

This same magic formula made its more famous cousin Asterix a monolithic global success and, just like the saga of the indomitable Gaul, the irresistibly addictive Arabian Nit was originally adapted into English by master translators Anthea Bell & Derek Hockridge, who made those Roman Follies so very palatable to British tastes. As always the deliciously malicious whimsy is heavily dosed with manic absurdity, cleverly contemporary cultural critiques and brilliantly delivered creative anachronisms which serve to keep the assorted escapades bizarrely fresh and hilariously inventive.

Insidious anti-hero Iznogoud is Grand Vizier to affable, easy-going Caliph of Ancient Baghdad Haroun Al Plassid, but the sneaky little toad has loftier ambitions, or – as he is always declaiming – “I want to be Caliph instead of the Caliph!”…

The retooled series launched in Pilote in 1968, quickly growing into a massive European hit, with 31 albums to date (carried on by Tabary’s children Stéphane, Muriel and Nicolas), his own solo comic, a computer game, animated film, TV cartoon show and a live-action movie.

When Goscinny died in 1977, Tabary started scripting his own sublimely stylish tales (from the 13th album onwards), switching to book-length complete adventures, rather than the compilations of short, punchy vignettes which typified the collaborations.

Originally released in 1969, Iznogoud l’infâme was the fourth Dargaud collection, the second volume published by Methuen in 1977, and the seventh splendid Cinebook album; offering a wry and raucous quintet of short tales with the Vile Vizier on top form as he schemes to seize power from his oddly oblivious Lord and Master.

The eternal drama begins with ‘The Sinister Liquidator’, which finds Iznogoud and his bumbling, long-suffering henchman and strong-arm crony Wa’at Alahf making their way through a malodorous swamp in search of a Djinn with the power to reduce all he touches to unliving liquid. Enduring the evil Ifreet’s ghastly manners and painful punning, the devilish diplomat strikes a bargain which spells doom for the Caliph… but first he has to get the demon back to the palace.

Since the Djinn cannot completely leave his fetid fluid environment and glorious bustling Baghdad is beyond the Great Desert, Iznogoud and Wa’at Alahf must Djinngerly transport their secret weapon home. Moreover, as under no circumstances can they afford to be moistened by the monster themselves, a succession of buckets, bowls, bottles and vials inexorably diminish the watery wonder and the Vile Vizier’s chances of success until – as you’d expect – the inevitable occurs…

The pun-punctuated comedy of errors is followed by a sneaky dose of inspired iniquity dubbed ‘The Invisible Menace’wherein the dictator-in-waiting learns a magic spell which will banish his imperial impediment from the sight of man. Of course, he still has to find and keep his target still long enough for the magic to work…

Sheer broad slapstick-riddled farce is the secret ingredient of the next craftily convoluted saga. When Iznogoud deliberately accepts a cursed gem which brings catastrophic misfortune in the expectation that he can palm it off on his unsuspecting boss, he greatly underestimates the power of ‘The Unlucky Diamond’.

As soon the ghastly gem latches on to a truly deserving victim and unleashes a succession of punitive calamities, it determines to never let go…

A state visit by an African potentate allows the Vizier plenty of time to confer with his opposite number in ‘The Magic Doll’. Sadly, the bemused Witch Doctor has no idea that his numerous demonstrations of voodoo magic with a clay figurine are Iznogoud’s dry runs for a stab at the throne.

Of course, for the sorcery to work, the Vizier has to somehow obtain a lock of Haroun Al Plassid’s closely guarded and held-as-holy hair…

The manic mirth concludes by descending into sheer surreal absurdity (granting Tabary license to ascend to M.C. Escher-like heights of graphic invention) as an itinerant magician known as ‘The Mysterious Billposter’ crafts a magic advert which can transport people to an idealised paradisiacal holiday destination.

Iznogoud is far more interested in the fact that, once in, no-one can get out again…

Just for a change the plan succeeds perfectly and the blithely unaware Caliph is trapped in an inescapable, idealised extra-dimensional state. Then again – due to his extreme eagerness – so is his not-so-faithful Vizier…

Just such witty, fast-paced hi-jinks and craftily crafted comedy set pieces have made this addictive series a household name in France where “Iznogoud” is common term for a certain type of politician: over-ambitious, unscrupulous – and frequently a little lacking in height.

When first released in Britain during the late 1970s (and again in 1996 as a periodical comicbook) these tales made little impression, but certainly now these snappy, wonderfully beguiling strips have found an appreciative audience among today’s more internationally aware, politically jaded comics-and-cartoon savvy Kids Of All Ages…

And Hansard…
Original edition © Dargaud Editeur Paris, 1969 by Goscinny & Tabary. All rights reserved. This edition published 2011 by Cinebook Ltd.

Beano and Dandy Gift Book 2022- Arty Farty!


By Dudley D. Watkins, Allan Morley, Reg Carter, Davy Law, Bill Holroyd, Leo Baxendale, Ken Reid, Eric Roberts, James Crichton, Paddy Brennan, and many & various (DC Thomson & Co)
ISBN: 978-1-84535-856-3 (HB)

This splendidly oversized (225 x 300mm) 144 page hardback compilation rightly glories in the incredible wealth of ebullient creativity that paraded through the flimsy, colourful pages of The Beano and The Dandy during a particularly bleak and fraught period in British history… aren’t they all? Tragically, neither it nor its companion volumes are available digitally yet, but hope springs ever eternal…

Until it folded and was briefly reborn as a digital publication on 4th December 2012, The Dandy was the third-longest running comic in the world (behind Italy’s Il Giornalino – launched in 1924 – and America’s Detective Comics in March 1937).

Premiering on December 4th 1937, The Dandy broke the mould of its traditional British predecessors by using word balloons and captions rather than narrative blocks of text under sequential picture frames. A huge success, it was followed eight months – on July 30th 1938 – later by The Beano and together they utterly revolutionised the way children’s publications looked and, most importantly, how they were read.

Over decades the “terrible twins” spawned a bevy of unforgettable and beloved household names who delighted countless avid and devoted readers, and the unmissable end of year celebrations were graced with bumper bonanzas of the comics’ weekly stars in extended stories in magnificent hardback annuals.

This particularly tome is a collation of strips examining “Art” and a superb tribute to Celtic creativity, packed literally cover-to-cover with brilliant strips, with the mirth starting on the inside front with a rather psychedelic and fourth-wall rending confrontation between The Bash Street Kids and the ever-interventionist “Beano/Dandy artist” actually illustrated by David Sutherland, I suspect.

Sadly, as usual none of the writers are named and precious few of the artists, but I’ve offered a best guess as to whom we should thank, and of course would be so very happy if anybody could confirm or deny my suppositions…

When not in monochrome or full colour, DC Thomson titles were always extremely inventive in using their two-colour printing plate format. Way back when, most annuals and many comics were jazzed up by a wonderful “half-colour” process British publishers used to keep costs down. This was done by printing sections (“Signatures”) of the books with only two plates, such as Cyan (Blue) and Magenta (Red) or Yellow and Black. The sheer versatility and colour range provided was simply astounding…

This book shows that pagination skill over and over again in strips that exploit the print process and deftly subordinate it to the narratives. What splendid fellows their printers must have been to go to all that extra effort…

Here and now though, the picture-in-picture gag cover of Dandy Annual 1971 – a Korky the Cat visual pun by James Crichton or possibly Richard Nixon – segues into a monochrome Big Eggo strip from Reg Carter before indisputable key man Dudley D. Watkins shines in black, white and red with magical lad Peter Piper (from short-lived junior title The Magic Comic) animating pictures at an exhibition before Good King Coke (He’s Stoney Broke) seeks fame in a frame thanks to early art and orange tints from Eric Roberts.

Also from The Magic Comic comes Dolly Dimple – Not So Simple: a monochrome romp by Allan Morley that leads to an Orange section starting with Julius Sneezer the Sneezing Caesar (Morley); Lord Snooty, by the incredibly prolific Watkins, detailing an art heist from an early annual, after which Morley renders more magic with Sammy’s Super Rubberand posh poseur Swanky Lanky Liz – by Charles Holt – makes more enemies with a school painting competition…

Morley’s Old Ma Murphy the Strong-Arm School-Ma’rm gets away with what we’d deem child abuse in her art class before three Dennis the Menace strips from David Law prove that chaos is an art. They’re followed by a drawing lesson with Minnie the Minx (by Jim Petrie?) and a Law full colour Beryl the Peril strip he did for a Topper Annual with the girly menace trying her hand at photography before we enjoy some black, white and red poetry-appreciation piece from a Beano Book The Bash Street Kids extended episode by Sutherland. It precedes a classic Desperate Dan diversion where he paints the town – guess what hue? – and Korky’s Catty Dictionary by Robert Nixon.

A red-toned double bill of Roger the Dodger japes by Ken Reid neatly diverts to fantastic crime as an extended (orange-flavoured) Captain Woosh caper sees the wily jetpack bandit again outwitted by good-hearted errand boy Terry Ball in a stunning Dandy Annual exploit from Charles Grigg, after which Sutherland triumphs in a pan-toned (black, red, yellow and white) classic starring The Bash Steet Kids and Teacher

Following colourful puzzle pages ‘Blank Looks’ and ‘You Can Draw Me!’, Law’s Dennis the Menace plays ‘Pranks with Paint!’ and shares ‘Drawings by Dennis’ before we all go green with Watkins’ Desperate Dan and enjoy ‘Arty-Crafty!’and ‘Crafty Arty!’ hijinks with perilous Beryl…

Winker Watson gets a fresh look – courtesy of Terry Bave, I believe – as the wily waif interrupts a school painting chore before Ken H. Harrison’s blue period sees Harry and his Hippo get the snapping bug before the Bash Street Dogs of Pup Parade (Nigel Parkinson?) get their portraits done and Bill Holroyd’s robot rascal Brassneck saves the school play – from surly teacher Mr. Snodgrass

Minnie the Minx endures a multi-coloured assault from a mischievous Beano artist (Tom Paterson?) before Dennis regrets ‘Making his Mark’ as a prelude to more full colour fun from Bill Ritchie’s Baby Crockett and Gordon Bell’s Colonel Blink, before Pup Parade with the Bash Street Dogs resorts to orange tints for a kennel painting prank…

Advancing print technology finally catches up and the remainder of the collection is all full-colour, beginning with Neighbourhood Witch as a little sorceress gets too interested in the family tree, after which Ritchie’s love-starved Smittengoes to extraordinary lengths to find a girlfriend…

Harrison’s Lord Snooty makes no friends when he voluntarily takes up the trumpet, whilst Paterson’s Little Larry truly turns heads (away) with his candid snaps before Bully Beef and Chips (Wayne Thompson?) clash over painted portraits whilst Dennis decrees ‘It’s a Draw’ and The Bash Street Kids romp in extended mayhem looking for cash rewards in ‘A Load of Junk’

Robot toy manipulator General Jumbo then gets some highly specialised new units to win a painting competition, before activity page ‘Be a Dandy Artist’ segues into a Korky curated museum visit before ‘Quick on the Draw with Ivy the Terrible’ (by Lew Stringer?) ends the tour with a far more accessible lesson learned.

As you leave the volume please be sure to enjoy Sutherland’s classic Beano Book 1971 cover and denouement of the frontispiece saga that opened this extravaganza, and don’t forget to tip your reviewer…

A marvel of nostalgia and timeless comics wonder, the true magic of this collection is the brilliant art and stories by a host of talents that have literally made Britons who they are today, and bravo to DC Thomson for letting them out to run amok once again.
© DCT Consumer Products (UK) 2021 Ltd.

Bunny vs Monkey and the Supersonic Aye-Aye


By Jaimie Smart, with Sammy Borras (David Fickling Books)
ISBN: 978-1-78845-243-4 (TPB)

Bunny vs. Monkey has been a fixture of British comics phenomenon The Phoenix since the very first issue in 2012: recounting a madcap vendetta gripping animal arch-enemies set amidst an idyllic arcadia masquerading as more-or-less mundane English woodlands.

Concocted with gleefully gentle mania by cartoonist, comics artist and novelist Jamie Smart (Fish Head Steve!; Looshkin; Flember), his trend-setting, mind-bending yarns have been wisely retooled as graphic albums available in remastered, double-length digest editions such as this one. In this case, however, here we’ve caught up and the fabulous recycled fun of The Floating Cow Catastrophe is plumped up with new stuff…

All the tail-biting tension and animal argy-bargy began yonks ago after an obnoxious little beast popped up in the wake of a disastrous British space shot. Having crash-landed in Crinkle Woods – scant miles from his launch site – lab animal Monkey believed himself the rightful owner of a strange new world, despite all efforts from reasonable, sensible, genteel, contemplative forest resident Bunny to dissuade him. For all his patience, propriety and good breeding, the laid-back lepine just could not contain the incorrigible idiot ape, who was – and is – a rude, noise-loving, chaos-creating loutish troublemaker…

Problems are exacerbated by the other unconventional Crinkle creatures, particularly a skunk called Skunky who has a mad scientist’s attitude to life and a propensity to build very dangerous robots and super-weapons…

Here – with artistic assistance from Sammy Borras – the war of nerves and mega-ordnances resumes and intensifies. The unruly assortment of odd critters littering and loitering around the bucolic paradise have finally picked a side (sort of): shifting and twisting into bipartisan factionalism. They all seem to have forgotten that rapidly encroaching Hyoomanz are now well underway in building something called a “motorway” right through the sylvan glades and (apparently) unprotected parks… but they are quite interested in new resident Ai – the supersonic Ai-Ai – and where her allegiances fall…

It all resumes with ‘Insomnia!’ as new girl Ai proves to (a) nocturnal, (b) excitable and (c) a bit of a party animal just as Bunny seeks an early night, after which Monkey makes the mistake of stamping on her new house in his modular ‘Mega Mecha!’ and doesn’t get away with all his mechanical body parts intact and ‘Take to the Skies!’ finds Weenie squirrel and Pig optimistically building an aircraft, despite a blessed lack of knowledge and requisite skills. That doesn’t explain why Monkey insists on being the first to test pilot it…

A rare moment of tranquillity in ‘Time to Get Along!’ finds all the woodland weirdoes sharing a natural hot spring, until acrimony returns when somebody makes a whirlpool and someone else activates a robot shark…

‘Spring’ comes round again, finding the forest full of greenery-gobbling ‘Worms!’ until Monkey accidentally saves the day, before ‘A Great Big Snotty Cold!’ afflicts everyone. The cure is too weaponize the germs into a giant bogie-beast… but it doesn’t end there…

Skunky’s latest “greatest invention” generates ‘Bubble Trouble!’ before he builds his snarky simian sidekick’s dream device – an enormous ‘Metal Monkey!’ – that bears no relationship to the enigmatic and apparently unattended ‘Giant Egg!’ Ai and Bunny stumble across. Was that the reason for her throwing a dinner party for all her new friends and urgently urge them to ‘Eat Up!’ while revealing some culinary secrets nobody wanted to know?

‘Spaaaace!’ finds Skunky trying – but failing – to send Monkey back where he came from, after which ‘Storytime!’ shows Bunny’s literary leanings whilst Weenie and Pig enjoy ‘Mud, Glorious Mud!’ and aliens are erroneously blamed for all the fuss on ‘The Night They Floated Our Cows Away!’

Everyone’s recovered by time soapbox cart fever intoxicates the little critters, resulting in a shock ending for the ‘Screwball 4000!’, after which a different – Ai-sponsored – comic reality results in baffling grudge-match ‘Weenie vs Monkey’ before she races off, oblivious to the attentions of brain-battered, bewildered and besotted former stuntmanAction Beaver in ‘♥’

Skunky’s ploy of creating robot duplicates of his opponents goes just like you’d expect in ‘Double Trouble!’, leaving a certain robot in a tizzy safeguarding rare floral gem ‘The Purple Popplewhatsit!’, just as we ease effortlessly into the middle of the year, with ‘Summer’ heralding the first sighting of Skunky’s latest giant sensation ‘The Walrus!’

Undaunted, the black-&-white bounder almost incinerates the woods with a homemade star making ‘Sun Kinda Trouble!’before building colossal fantasy constructs in ‘The Midnight Dragon’ and spoiling a party whilst the stroppy simian is trapped in a timeloop in ‘Monkeyfloop!’

Catastrophic rivalry erupts as alternate evil genius Maniacal Badger competes with Skunky for a science prize and the title of ‘The Most Brilliant Animal in the Woods!’ whilst a blow to the bonce creates ‘Evil Bunny!’ and Weenie consults the Skunk to achieve the dream of being ‘The Bravest Squirrel in the Woods!’

Monkey triggers road rage by building a motorway around Bunny’s cottage in ‘Beep! Beep!’, yet still find time to completely miss the united animals war against a human invader in ‘Persuasion!’ whilst Weenie’s awesome weaponization of sugary treats in ‘Doughnuts!’ brings us stickily to the ‘Autumn’ segment where ‘A Moment of Solace!’for Skunky still ends in chaos and carnage.

Laziness exacerbates the shameful antics and utter rout of the ‘Monkey Army!’, which leads the valiantly victorious Bunny team to pursue supernatural phenomena in ‘Will-o-de-Wisp!’ Strangely, the glowing phantasm that scarily greets them bears a disturbing resemblance to long-gone local legend Fantastic Le Fox

‘What a Brave Little Squirrel (Part One)!’ begins a strange excursion to a subterranean realm with terror and abandonment on the cards for Weenie, but hope and escape materialise in ‘What a Brave Little Squirrel (Part Two)!’before being driven away again by the secret power source of Skunky’s new hover board in ‘The Flipping Point!’

That so-familiar spectre returns prophesying ‘Grave Danger!’ and in the resultant ‘Panic!’ Bunny becomes a maddened doomsday-prepper, but Weenie is more concerned with culinary success and new kitchen gadget the Multi-Kitchen Buddy in ‘The Other Side!’

At last the doom arrives, but declaring ‘Battle Stations!’ and gathering everybody together and marshalling extraordinary defences amount to nothing and soon distracted Randolph the Raccoon and Ai are pointlessly competing in ‘Runnnn!’ …with Action Beaver and the timestream itself regretting their actions…

‘The Worst Idea You’ve Ever Had!’ finds Monkey yet again ruining Skunky’s plans as the boffin attempts to imprison a ghost before the madness pauses – for now – with ‘The Woodland Devil!’ as the dreaded, doom-laden grave danger arrives and all the animals are caught napping!

The animal anarchy is augmented here with detailed instructions on How to Draw Ai’ and ‘How to Draw Weenie’ so, as well as beguiling your young ’uns with stories, you can use this book to teach them a trade…

The absolute acme of absurdist adventure, Bunny vs Monkey is weird wit, brilliant invention, potent sentiment and superb cartooning all in one eccentrically excellent package: providing jubilant joy for grown-ups of every vintage, even those who claim they only get it for their kids. This is the kind of comic parents beg kids to read to them. Is that you yet?
Text and illustrations © Jamie Smart 2022. All rights reserved.

Bunny vs Monkey and the Supersonic Aye-Aye is published on January 6th 2022 and is available for pre-order now.

The Dandy Book 1970


By Many & various (D.C. Thomson & Co.)
ISBN: 978-0-85116-008-5 (HB)

For generations of British fans Christmas means The Beano Book, The Broons, Oor Wullie and making every December 25th magical. There used to be many more DC Thomson titles, but the years have gradually winnowed them away. Thankfully, time means nothing here, so this year I’m concentrating on a another Thomson Christmas cracker that made me the man wot I am. As usual my knowledge of the creators involved is woefully inadequate but I’m going to hazard a few guesses anyway, in the hope that someone with better knowledge will correct me when I err.

The Dandy comic predated The Beano by eight months, utterly revolutionising the way children’s publications looked and – most importantly – how they were read. Over decades it produced a bevy of household names that delighted millions of households, with end of year celebrations being bumper bonanzas of the weekly stars in magnificent bumper hardback annuals.

Premiering on December 4th December 1937, The Dandy broke the mould of its hidebound British predecessors by using word balloons and captions rather than narrative blocks of text under the sequential picture frames. A colossal success, it was followed on July 30th 1938 by The Beano and together they completely changed children’s publications. Dandy was the third longest running comic in the world (behind Italy’s Il Giornalino – launched in 1924 – and America’s Detective Comics in March 1937).

Over the decades the “terrible twins” spawned countless cartoon stars of unforgettable and beloved household names who delighted generations of avid and devoted readers…

The fun-filled action begins on the inside front cover as seasoned star Korky the Cat (by Charles Grigg?) set the ball rolling as he dodges the rozzers after a spot of illicit angling. As was traditional at this time, he also performed similar service at the far end – there falling foul of his own meagre engineering skills after building a triple decker “cartie” (think of the Red Bull Soapbox Challenge but sans the manic testosterone overload…)

These annuals were traditionally produced in the wonderful “half-colour” that many British publishers used to keep costs down whilst bringing a little spark into our drab and gloomy young lives. This was done by printing sections of the books with two plates, such as blue/Cyan and red/Magenta. The versatility and palette range provided was astounding. Even now this technique screams “Holidays” to me and my contemporaries, and this volume uses the technique to stunning effect.

D.C. Thomson were also extremely adept at combining anarchic, clownish comedy with solid fantasy adventure tales such as opening comedy thriller ‘King of the Sawdust Ring’ (limned by Paddy Brennan) wherein circus boy Billy King has to recapture an escaped lion and save his pet deer when a parade through town goes badly wrong…

As seen here, these picture thrillers usually came in the old-fashioned captioned format, with blocks of typeset text rather than lettered word balloons. Drama gives way to daft destruction as cowboy superman Desperate Dan (by Dudley D. Watkins) gets lost in fog, whilst another Korky the Cat short wreaks havoc in an ironmonger’s shop before his picture puzzle ‘Twig the Twins!’ – by the always-magnificent Eric Roberts – tests mind and eye.

The Smasher was a lad cut from the same mould as Dennis the Menace and in the episodes here (by Hugh Morren) he carves a characteristic swathe of anarchic destruction, even if his first encounter proves he’s not the toughest lad in town…

Drawn by Ron Spencer, pint-sized Dinah Mite proves she has no need of martial arts training after which hard-pressed squaddie Corporal Clott (by Dennis the Menace originator Davy Law or possibly his successor David Sutherland) disrupts the Army Camp sports day and accidentally and painfully boosts surly Colonel Grumbly to undreamed of heights.

Drawn by Jimmy Hughes, Bully Beef and Chips invariably proved that a weedy underdog’s brain always trumped brutal brawn, as here where little Chips orchestrates a well-deserved water-pistol drubbing…

Eric Roberts does triple-duty this year with puzzles, schoolboy grifter Winker Watson and perennial bath-dodger Dirty Dick who here plays chalk-based pranks on the police, after which Winker Watson’s Dandy Doodles baffle and bemuse before crafty Korky is outsmarted by a peg-legged sailor…

Another package of light-hearted drama then ensues courtesy of schoolboy Charley Brand and his robotic pal ‘Brassneck’– by the fabulous Bill Holroyd – who are largely innocent spectators as Christmas Day devolves into a toy and snowball brawl for all the adults in the street, after which Desperate Dan learns the cost of his well-meaning but excessive generosity and Dinah Mite discovers another benefit to small size and big muscles at a football match…

Bully Beef and Chips then clash whilst fishing which segues into a tale of The Island of Monsters (drawn by Q-Bikes artist Andrew Hutton?): a thrilling castaway series with two boys marooned on a tropical paradise where all the animals are incredibly enlarged. This time, the lads witness the results of human pirates underestimating the power and ferocity of giant gulls, beetles, bees and grasshoppers…

Next ‘Dirty Dick’s Picture Puzzle’ tests our brains before Korky’s superstitious nature pays off in a fish supper and our little Dick pops back, finally meeting his match in an escaped zoo chimp in a grubby but great strip by (perhaps) Tom Williams.

Whilst a great deal of material was based on school as seen by pupils, George Martin’s ‘Greedy Pigg’ featured a voracious teacher always attempting to confiscate and scoff his pupils’ snacks. Here he abandons kids’ tuck boxes to extend his appetite to encompass the pantries and larders of adults and even a wandering tramp gets what he deserves…

Dinah Mite then returns to train her new gang to the peak of punishing fitness, after which Desperate Dan’s heavy-footed antics wreck the skating pond and The Smasher takes three pages to ponder his job when he grows up.

Korky’s parrot declares war on the cat but comes to regret allying with the mice, whilst Corporal Clott successfully spoils target practice and Dirty Dick cleans up as golf caddy.

Jimmy Hughes’ geriatric delinquent Smarty Gran’pa mentors little kids in scrumping, pranking and dodging coppers whilst Corporal Clott wrecks record-keeping and penmanship before we return to drama as ‘Ricky’s Racer’ (probably by Brennan) sees a poor but proud kid master a found sledge: tearing up the icy landscape, making friends with a rich toff’s son and even foiling a burglary in a ripping yarn only DC Thomson could pull off…

A brutal training regime pays off in scoff for The Smasher’s new gang, before Bully Beef and Chips escalate a darts match into armoured warfare heralding classic comedy japes in a posh private school…

Winker Watson was always a triumph for artistic legend Eric Roberts, who here turns a visiting TV documentary crew into the spur for another string of victories against boarding school tyranny. Our devious mastermind easily humiliates the masters and treats his chums to a “slap-up feed” of the kind ‘Greedy Pigg’ constantly contrived to steal.

In a neat segue, George Martin’s voracious pie predator is led to his “just desserts” by toffee apples stuck on arrows before Robert returns with picture teaser ‘Winker Watson’s Class for Clever Dicks’ – combining comedy with brain testing scenarios before Dirty Dick encounters a military mascot and learns how the army deal with dust and disarray…

Korky’s flying lessons soon bring him into dispute with squadrons of geese, after which family favourite ‘Spunky and his Spider’ offers another delightfully rustic tale of an affable, truanting kid and his devoted, amiable apple-loving, giant antediluvian arachnid as limned by the fabulous Bill Holroyd. This time the eight-legged wonder helps school kids beat bullies trying to snatch the cash made from carol-singing…

Greedy Pigg’s appetite and lack of scruples scupper him again just as Desperate Dan’s snow balls make him lots of enemies whilst Bodger the Bookworm (by Shamus O’Doherty) uses some novel notions to retrieve a confiscated ball before the fun climaxes with the saga of Barefoot Bill (Hutton again?): a schoolboy whose gigantic feet and love of soccer forced him to learn to play sans footwear…

With Puzzle Answers and the aforementioned Korky endpapers wrapping up proceedings, let’s celebrate another tremendously fun book, with so much merriment on offer I can’t believe this book is over half a century old and still available through second hand outlets.

The only thing better would by curated archive reissues and digital editions…
© 1968 D.C. Thomson & Co., Ltd. All rights reserved.

The DANDY is a trademark of and © D. C. Thomson & Co. Ltd. 2006. Associated characters, text and artwork © D. C. Thomson & Co. Ltd. 2006. All rights reserved.

Hurricane Annual 1968


By Many & various (Fleetway)
No ISBN:

From the late 1950s and increasingly through the 1960s, Scotland’s DC Thomson steadily overtook their London-based competition – primarily monolithic comics publishing giant Amalgamated Press. Founded by Alfred Harmsworth at the beginning of the twentieth century, AP sought to regain lost ground, and the sheer variety of material the southerners unleashed as countermeasures offered incredible vistas in adventure and – thanks to the defection of Leo Baxendale and Ken Reid to the enemy – eventually found a wealth of anarchic comedy material to challenge the likes of the Bash Street Kids, Dennis the Menace, Minnie the Minx and their unruly kin.

During the latter end of that period the Batman TV show sent the entire world superhero-crazy. Amalgamated had almost finished absorbing all its local rivals – such as The Eagle’s Hulton Press – to form Fleetway/Odhams/IPC and were about to incorporate American-styled superheroes into their heady brew of weekly thrills.

Once the biggest player in children’s comics, Amalgamated had stayed at the forefront of sales by latching onto every fad: keeping their material contemporary, if not strictly fresh. The all-consuming company began reprinting early Marvel Comics successes for a few years: feeding on the growing fashion for US style adventure which had largely supplanted the rather tired True-Blue Brit style of Dan Dare or DC Thompson’s Wolf of Kabul.

Even though sales of all British comics were generally – and in some cases, drastically -declining, the 1960s were a period of intense and impressive innovation with publishers embracing new sensibilities; constantly trying new types of character and tales. At this time Valiant and its stable-mate Lion were the Boys’ Adventure big guns (although nothing could touch DC Thomson’s Beano and Dandy in the comedy arena).

Hurricane was an impressive-looking upgrade that began during that period of expansion and counterattack, apparently conceived in response to DCT’s action weekly Hornet. It launched the week of February 29th 1964 and ran for 63 issues, but was revamped three times during that period before ultimately being merged into companion paper Tiger.

It carried a superbly varied roster of features in that time, including two (and a half) stars who survived its extinction. Racing driver Skid Solo and comedy superman Typhoon Tracy as well as Sgt Rock – Paratrooper… but not for so long for him…

There was heavy dependence on European and South American artists initially, among them Mario Capaldi, Nevio Zeccara, Georgio Trevisan, Renato Polese and Lino Landolfi, some of whom lasted into the Annuals. As with so many titles, although the comics might quickly fade, Christmas Annuals maintained a presence for years after and Hurricane seasonal specials were produced for every year from 1965 to 1974…

Following a tried-&-true formula, this book – published in 1967 – offers comics adventures, prose stories, fact-features, funnies and puzzles and kicks off with stunning full-colour fact feature strip ‘Lawmen and Badmen of the Wild West’.

Looking  like they’re painted by Reg Bunn or Tony Weare, these comics outline the lives and times of Wyatt Earp, Tom Smith, Black Bart, Sam Bass, Billy the Kid and Bat Masterson, before fully fictional western star Drago teaches a headstrong young cavalry officer the meaning of command in monochrome thriller ‘He Rides Alone’ – possibly illustrated by Polese.

Regular prose feature ‘The Worst Boy in the School’ (illustrated by Geoffrey Whittam?) follows a page of medical gags entitled ‘Take a dose of Chuckles!’ The long-running boarding school saga was enlivened by its star Duffy coming from Circus stock. Here the comedy, chaos and espionage excitement stems from a New Boy who’s convinced enemies of his father – a South American president – are trying to kidnap him. He’s not wrong…

Returning to monochrome strips, ‘Sgt. Rock – Special Air Service’ ferrets out Nazi infiltrators masquerading as American GIs before we switch back to fact for a photo-feature offering capacious coverage of modern British military might in ‘The Army Marches on its Wheels!’ whilst the comedy capers of ‘Rod the Odd Mod and ‘is old pal Percy Vere’ literally bring the house down when he gets the Hi Fi bug.

‘Casey and the Champ’ stars a veteran railroad man and his steam engine who here reveal in strip form the unlikely salvation of a played-out mining town as prelude to photo feature ‘Why Not Go by Balloon?’ before heading to 1804 where Regency prize-fighter Jim Trim stumbles upon a Napoleonic plot to conquer England in ‘Two Fists Against the World!’ (perhaps illustrated by Carlos Roume)…

Prose yarn ‘Carlos of the Wild Horses’ details the story of conquistadores imperilled by rebellious Aztecs and saved by the bond between the governor’s young son and a herd of mustangs and is followed by text fact-features ‘War Dogs’ – commemorating canines in combat – and ‘Atlantic Greyhounds’ explaining why the glory days of cruise liners had passed and why they could be built no bigger. Ah, the joys of schadenfreude and hindsight in action…

Next is a prose-&-photo precis current of movie release ‘The Train’(starring Burt Lancaster, but I’d never heard of it): a tale of Nazi collaboration and pursuit of transport of stolen art, followed by photo feature ‘When Nature Turns Nasty!’ before the incontestable star of Hurricane thunders in on a wave of colour illustration. ‘The Juggernaut from Planet Z’ is again despatched to aid his Earth chum Dr. Dan Morgan only to be overridden – and temporarily enslaved – by crazed would-be dictator General Zeb.

Sport next as ‘Hurry of the Hammers’ finds the football star in black-&-white and almost deprived of club and grounds by an unscrupulous new owner more interested in profit than the beautiful game. Historical factual strip ‘They Climbed… the Matterhorn’ then leads to a prose outing for the worst ship in the WWII navy. One again confounding the British Admiralty and escaping being broken up for parts in ‘HMS Outcast – Pride of the Fleet’ sees Geoff Campion’s unruly mob save the Pacific flotilla from destruction by the Japanese using ping pong balls and tomato sauce…

‘Typhoon Tracy’s Lucky Strike!’ finds the mighty moron in Alaska, battling bears, triggering a gold rush and helping an old friend stave off poverty, after which Giovanni Ticci employs duo-colour to limn a superbly light-hearted ‘Sword for Hire’ romp starring Cavalier soldier-of-fortune Hugo Dinwiddie who saves a fugitive king’s agent from capture even while acting as an unwilling substitute for a duellist.

Reverting to prose, ‘The Terrible Revenge of Dr. Parvo’ stars atomic accident survivors Ace Sutton and Flash Casey who use their journalistic skills and ability to walk through walls to stop a madman weaponizing weather, after which strip ‘Danger at Manakee Deep’ details a futuristic undersea habitat and resource factory endangered by greed and treachery.

‘Rodeo!’ traces the history of the sport with photos front the Calgary Stampede whilst monochrome strip ‘The Ragged Racer’ offers early environmental activism from its Wildman hero as he thwarts a circus’ scheme to destroy his mountainous animal preserve and gag page ‘It’s a Dog’s Laugh!’ brings us the text cover feature ‘R.A.F. to the Rescue’ outlining the history and activities of the coastal guardians.

The prose perseveres with adventure yarn ‘The Fiery Furnaces’ as two roving sportsmen accidentally dethrone a South American tyrant with delusions of grandeur (with illustrations by either Nevio Zaccara or Alfredo Giolitti) before ‘Rod the Odd Mod and ‘is old pal Percy Vere’ endure a calamitous bath night…

Sport was a major fascination of publishers at this time and ‘Soccer Special by The Ref’ opens an extended section of pictorial mini-features comprising ‘Famous Captains before they were Famous’, ‘Soccer Trophies Worth Winning’ and ‘Strange Things Happen in Soccer’ before we all ride off into the sunset, ending with comic strip masked cowboy ‘The Black Avenger’ who chases and then saves a “white magician” stirring up Indian tribes.

Eclectic, wide-ranging and always of majestically high quality, this blend of fact, fiction, fun and thrills is a splendid evocation of lost days of joy and wonder. We may not be making books like this anymore but at least they’re still relatively easy to track down. Of course, what’s really needed is for some sagacious publisher to start re-issuing them…
© Fleetway Publications Ltd., 1967

Walt Disney’s Donald Duck volume 5: “Christmas on Bear Mountain” by Carl Barks


By Carl Barks (Fantagraphics Books)
ISBN: 978-1-60699-697-3 (HB)

Win’s Christmas Gift Recommendation: The Utter Acme of All-Ages Entertainment… 10/10

Carl Barks was born in Merrill, Oregon in 1901, growing up in the rural areas of the West during some of the leanest times in American history. He tried his hand at many jobs before settling into the profession that chose him. His early life is well-documented elsewhere if you need detail, but briefly, Barks worked as a animator at Disney’s studio before quitting in 1942 to work in the new-fangled field of comic books.

With cartoon studio partner Jack Hannah (another occasional strip illustrator) Barks adapted a Bob Karp script for an animated cartoon short into the comic book Donald Duck Finds Pirate Gold. It was published as Dell Four Color Comics Series II #9 in October of that year and – although not his first published comics work – it was the story that shaped the rest of his career.

From then until his official retirement in the mid-1960s, Barks worked in self-imposed seclusion, writing and drawing and devising a vast array of adventure comedies, gags, yarns and covers that gelled into a Duck Universe of memorable and highly bankable characters. These included Gladstone Gander (1948), Gyro Gearloose (1952), Magica De Spell (1961) and the nefarious Beagle Boys (1951) to supplement Disney’s stable of cartoon actors. His greatest creation was undoubtedly the crusty, energetic, paternalistic, money-mad giga-gazillionaire Scrooge McDuck: the World’s wealthiest winged septuagenarian and the harassed, hard-pressed star of this show.

Whilst producing all that landmark material Barks was just a working guy, generating cover art, illustrating other people’s scripts when asked and contributing stories to the burgeoning canon of Duck Lore. After Gladstone Publishing began re-packaging Barks material – and a selection of other Disney strips – in the 1980s, he discovered the well-earned appreciation he never imagined existed…

So potent were his creations that they inevitably fed back into Disney’s animation output itself, even though his brilliant comic work was done for licensing company Dell/Gold Key, and not directly for the studio. The greatest tribute was undoubtedly the animated series Duck Tales: heavily based on his comics output.

Most notably, Barks was a fan of wholesome action, unsolved mysteries and epics of exploration, and this led to him perfecting the art and technique of the blockbuster tale: blending wit, history, plucky bravado and sheer wide-eyed wonder into rollicking rollercoaster romps that utterly captivated readers of every age and vintage. Without the Barks expeditions there would never have been an Indiana Jones

Throughout his working life Barks was blissfully unaware that his work (uncredited by official policy as was all Disney’s cartoon and comicbook output), had been singled out by a rabid and discerning public as being by “the Good Duck Artist.” When some of his most dedicated fans finally tracked him down, his belated celebrity began.

In 2013 Fantagraphics Books began collecting Barks’ Duck stuff in wonderful, carefully curated archival volumes, tracing his output year-by-year in hardback tomes and digital editions that finally do justice to the quiet creator. These will eventually comprise the Complete Carl Barks Disney Library. The physical copies are sturdy and luxurious albums – 193 x 261 mm – that would grace any bookshelf, with volume 5 – Walt Disney’s Donald Duck: “Christmas on Bear Mountain” (for reasons irrelevant here) acting as debut release, re-presenting works from 1947 – albeit not in strictly chronological release order.

It begins eponymously with landmark introduction of Bark’s most enduring creation. Scrooge McDuck premiered in seasonal full-length Donald Duck yarn ‘Christmas on Bear Mountain’ (Four Color #178 December 1947): a mere disposable comedy foil to move along a simple tale of Seasonal woe and joy. Here a miserly relative seethed in opulent isolation, hating everybody and opting to share the gloom by tormenting his nephews Donald, Huey, Louie and Dewey by gifting them his mountain cabin for the Holidays. Scrooge schemed, intent on terrorising them in a bear costume, but fate had other ideas…

The old coot  was crusty, energetic, menacing, money-mad and yet oddly lovable – and thus far too potentially valuable to be misspent or thrown away. Undoubtedly, the greatest cartoon creation of the legendary and magnificent story showman Carl Barks, the Downy Dodecadillionaire returned often and eventually expanded to fill all available space in the tales from the scenic metropolis of Duckburg.

From the same issue a brace of one-page gags expose Donald’s views on car culture in ‘Fashion in Flight’ and annoying people looking for directions in ‘Turn for the Worse’ before

‘Donald’s Posy Patch’ (Walt Disney’s Comics and Stories#80, May) turns into another painful and humiliating experience as the bellicose bird tries getting rich by growing blooms…

June’s WDC&S #81 finds him and the kids prospecting and running foul of the post-war arms and rocket-race in ‘Donald Mines his Own Business’ before Four Color #147 (May) takes them on an epic voyage of fantastic discovery to ‘Volcano Valley’ after accidentally buying an army surplus bomber…

Always looking for a quick buck, Donald and the kids turn to commercial charters: flying innocuous-seeming Major Pablo Mañana back to Central American beauty-spot Volcanovia, but they all have a devilishly difficult time getting out again. This yarn sets a solid pattern for Bark’s adventure/travelogue yarns in years to come, blending comedy, thrills, whimsy and social commentary into an irresistible treat…

WDC&S #82 (July) sees adult and juvenile ducks in an ever-escalating war over who’s the best conjuror in ‘Magical Misery’ and by the time Daisy Duck deals with them, Donald is ready for a day of peace and quiet. Sadly, ‘Ring Wrongs’(AKA ‘Vacation Time’ from August’s Walt Disney’s Comics and Stories #83 reveals that thanks to Huey, Louie and Dewey, he’s the target of a relentless wave of door-to-door salesmen and reacts with typical zest and vigour…

An inappropriate experiment in hypnosis transforms Donald (mentally) into a kangaroo and prompts an ‘Adventure Down Under’ (Four Color #159 August) with the eventually restored Drake and his nephews compelled to become ‘roo hunters to pay for return passage to Duckburg. They are mightily outmatched by Mournful Mary “Queen of the Kangaroos” until they meet some local aborigines and experience a change of heart.

Please be aware that – despite Bark’s careful research and diligent, sensitive storytelling – some modern folk might be upset by his depictions from over seven decades ago.

‘If the Hat Fits’ is a gag-page of chapeau japery from Four Color #147 (May), that precedes a medium-length tale describing Donald’s efforts to master dancing in ‘The Waltz Kings’ from WDC&S #84 (September) counterbalanced a month later by #85’s ‘The Masters of Melody’ wherein the boys struggle to learn to play musical instruments…

‘Donald Duck and the Ghost of the Grotto’ is an early masterpiece originating in Four Color #159 (August 1947), with Donald and the kids in the West Indies, running a kelp boat and harvesting seaweed from the abundant oceans.

After being temporarily stranded on an isolated reef, they discover monsters, a shipwrecked galleon, an ongoing abduction mystery dating back centuries and a particularly persistent phantom all blending into a supremely thrilling and beguiling mystery that has never dated…

WDC&S #86 exposes the rise and fall of ‘Fireman Donald’ whose smug hubris deprives him of a job he’s actually good at, after which ‘The Terrible Turkey’ from details the Duck’s frankly appalling efforts to secure a big bird for the Thanksgiving feast despite skyrocketing poultry prices…

Donald and Mickey Merry Christmas 1947 (cover-dated January 1948) sees the boys strive a little too late and much too hard to be ‘Three Good Little Ducks’ and ensure a wealth of swag on Christmas morning before one final single-pager sees kitchen confusion for Donald in ‘Machine Mix-up’ from Four Color #178 (December)…

With the visual verve done we move on to validation as ‘Story Notes’ provides erudite commentary for each Duck tale and Donald Ault relates ‘Carl Barks: Life Among the Ducks’ before ‘Biographies’ reveals why he and commentators Alberto Beccatini, Joseph Robert Cowles, Craig Fischer, Jared Gardner, Rich Kreiner, Ken Parille, Stefano Priarone, R, Fiore, Mattias Wivel are saying all those nice and informative things.

We then close with an examination of provenance as ‘Where Did These Duck Stories First Appear?’ explains the somewhat byzantine publishing schedules of Dell Comics.

Carl Barks was one of the greatest exponents of comic art the world has ever seen, and almost all his work featured Disney’s characters: reaching and affecting untold millions of readers across the world and he all too belatedly won far-reaching recognition. You might be late to the party but it’s never too soon to climb aboard the Barks Express.
Walt Disney’s Donald Duck “Christmas on Bear Mountain” © 2013 Disney Enterprises, Inc. All contents © 2013 Disney Enterprises, Inc. unless otherwise noted. All rights reserved.

Lucky Luke: The Complete Collection volume 3


By Morris, with René Goscinny; translated by Jerome Saincantin (Cinebook)
ISBN: 978-1-84918-455-7 (Album HB)

Win’s Christmas Gift Recommendation: Blockbuster Thrills No Movie Could Match… 8/10

On the Continent, the populace has a mature relationship with comics: according them academic and scholarly standing as well as meritorious nostalgic value and the validation of acceptance as an art form. Whilst tracing the lost origins of a true global phenomenon, this hardback and digital compilation celebrates the formulative early triumphs of a fictional hero who is certainly a national treasure for both Belgium and France, and it’s also timely in that this worldwide western wonder celebrates his 75th Anniversary this year…

As we know him now, Lucky Luke is a rangy, good-natured, lightning-fast cowboy roaming the fabulously mythic Old West, having light-hearted adventures with his horse Jolly Jumper whilst interacting with a host of historical and legendary figures and icons.

His ongoing exploits have made him one of the best-selling comic characters in Europe (upwards of 80 collected books, plus spin-off series, archival collections and specials, translated into more than 300 million albums in at least 33 languages thus far). He’s also accrued all the usual merchandise spin-offs: toys, computer games, puzzles, animated cartoons, TV shows and live-action movies.

Lucky debuted in 1946, courtesy of Belgian animator, illustrator and cartoonist Maurice de Bévère (“Morris”). For many years we all believed his first appearance was in a Le Journal de Spirou Christmas Annual – L’Almanach Spirou 1947 – before being catapulted into his first weekly adventure ‘Arizona 1880’ on December 7th 1946.

However, the initial volume in this superb archival series (in hardback album and digital editions) revealed the strip actually premiered earlier that year in the multinational weekly comic, but without a title banner and only in the edition released in France…

This third curated outing exhibits – in strict chronological order – strips created between December 1952 and February 1955, with all the art and pages here restored, rejiggled and remastered to achieve maximum contemporary authenticity with the original weekly serialisation. The stories were subsequently gathered as albums L’Élixir du Docteur DOXEY (November 1955, with successive volumes launching every year in that month), Lucky Luke contre Phil Defer (1956) and Des rails sur la Prairie (1957) and this tome even offers a little something extra at the end…

Previous volumes have detailed Morris’s life, career, and achievements, paying particular attention to his alternate duties as an illustrator and caricaturist for magazine Le Moustique and at the CBA (Compagnie Belge d’Actualitiés) cartoon studio, where he met future comics superstars Franquin and Peyo.

Morris was one of “la Bande des quatre” – The Gang of Four – comprising Jijé, Will and Franquin: leading proponents of a new, loosely free-wheeling artistic style known as the “Marcinelle School” which dominated Le Journal de Spirou in aesthetic contention with the “Ligne Claire” style used by Hergé, EP Jacobs and other artists in Le Journal de Tintin.

In 1948 said Gang (all but Will) visited America, meeting US creators and sightseeing. Morris stayed for six years, meeting fellow émigré René Goscinny, scoring work at newly-formed EC sensation Mad and constantly making copious notes and sketches of the swiftly vanishing Old West.

His ongoing works are further detailed and  his “American Period” is extensively explored here in another lavishly illustrated essay from researchers Christelle & Bertrand Pissavy-Yvernault, who relate the Morris family’s jaunts and travels, paying particular attention to the movies they saw and how cinematic flourishes were transformed and recycled on the pages of Lucky Luke. Also on view are examples of work done for American consumption, such as children’s book Puffy Plays Baseball.

Crucially, there’s a detailed section on Goscinny, featuring his artwork – like so many, he was originally a cartoonist who realised his true strengths were plots and words – and side gigs in the USA: foreign correspondent, copywriter, business manager and more. At this time he created evergreen kids feature Le Petit Nicolas with Sempé in Le Moustique and his partnership with Morris formally began. What began as casual assistance eventually became a team effort that changed both their lives after they returned to Europe…

Accompanied by published cartoons and covers, contemporary ads, family photos and tons of original art, the in-depth treatise also focuses on the how and why of edited comics pages; reveals the artist’s film memorabilia (from movies that especially influenced his stories in this collection) and also includes both artwork from European and US publications by Goscinny. There’s even an in-depth analysis of how What Morris Saw became What Lucky Did, closely referencing the comics stories that follow…

Working solo (with early script assistance from his brother Louis De Bevere) until 1955, Morris produced nine albums of affectionate sagebrush parody and action before uniting with Goscinny, who became the regular wordsmith as Luke attained the dizzying heights of superstardom, commencing with Des rails sur la Prairie (Rails on the Prairie), in Le Journal de Spirou in August 1955.

Before we get there though, there’s all-Morris action to enjoy, starting with Doc Doxey’s Elixir which was originally serialised in Le Journal de Spirou #765-808, from December 11th 1952 to 8th October 1953. It relates the predatory journeys of a charlatan physician dispensing disgusting and often lethal liquid cure-alls, aided and abetted by his athletic stooge Scraggy, who gulls the public with his disguises and semi-miraculous instantaneous “recuperations” and fast exits.

Their pernicious peregrinations come to an end after poisoning the frontier town of Green Valley, which puts dogged Lucky on their trail. Packed with classic and episodic chase gags, the hunt concludes with the sneaky snake oil peddler behind bars. Of course, he doesn’t stay there long as sequel saga ‘Manhunt’ details his cunning escape, change of identity – but not modus operandi – and ultimately unsuccessful plot to murder the wandering cowboy…

Follow-up album Lucky Luke contre Phil Defer (or Lucky Luke: Phil Wire in Britain) also comprised two tales, but this time taken from the company’s general entertainment periodical. It introduced deadly gunslinger Phil Wire “The Spider” – based on legendary cinematic bad man Jack Palance – in a strip taken from Le Moustique #1464-1494 (14thFebruary-12th September 1954).

Phil Defer “LE FAUCHEUX” sells his lethal talents to sinister saloon owner O’Sullivan who’s looking to remove a rival. Fate – or perhaps the gods of comedy – unfortunately decree that another tall guy good with guns gets to Bottleneck Gulch first and is mistaken for the rather idiosyncratic notoriously superstitious killer…

Lucky and Wire have already clashed once before and – despite all the hero’s efforts to deter O’Sullivan – meet once more after all “the Spider’s” schemes to remove rival barkeep O’Hara are foiled. It comes down to a showdown on main street and only one man walks away…

The album also features a second serial from Le Moustique #1508-1516 (spanning 19th December 1954 to 13th February 1955): originally entitled Lucky Luke et Pilule.

As Lucky Luke and The Pill it here details a camp fire story told by the rangy gunman, relating how a short-sighted, diminutive hypochondriac tenderfoot with no discernible fighting ability or action acumen became a true gun-toting town-tamer

It was back to Le Journal de Spirou for the final album reprinted here: gathering material from #906-929 and spanning 25th August 1955 to 2nd February 1956 before launching in November 1957 as ninth album Des rails sur la Prairie. Although uncredited, it was cowritten by Morris and fellow tourist Goscinny: auguring an astounding creative partnership to come…

In 1967 the six-gun star switched publishing teams, transferring to Goscinny’s own magazine Pilote with La Diligence (The Stagecoach). Goscinny produced 45 albums with Morris before his death, from whence Morris continued both singly and with fresh collaborators.

Morris died in 2001 having drawn fully 70 adventures, plus the spin-off adventures of Rantanplan (“dumbest dog in the West” and a charming spoof of cinema canine Rin-Tin-Tin), with Achdé, Laurent Gerra, Benacquista & Pennac taking over the franchise, producing another five tales to date.

Also in 1967, Lucky Luke appeared in British comic Giggle where he was renamed Buck Bingo. He had previously been seen here in weekly comic Film Fun. Before all that, though, this wild and woolly transitional delight features a far more boisterous and raw hero, offering the lighter side of another mythic western scenario…

When track-laying for the Transcontinental Railroad stalls, outraged train moguls demand action and Dead Ox Gulch, Nebraska becomes the crunch point of confrontation. The construction problems are actually caused by a traitor at home. Although a board-member in good standing Black Wilson is also secretly sabotaging the project to protect his other business: a stage coach company…

He contacts the nefarious Wilson Boys gang to keep up the bad work, just as a tall, laconic stranger rides into town. Before long, he is spearheading the march of progress and civilisation by foiling every dirty trick the gang can conceive…

Once the renewed efforts have moved beyond town and onto the prairie and inching closer to California, a train carries Lucky, passengers and the navvies ever-westward, negotiating and stymying hostile natives, greedy townships and the still-active Wilson boys’ shady tactics and stratagems.

Ultimately, Black Wilson takes personal charge and boards a stagecoach westward to destiny. Despite his every trick, though, the showdown is a foregone conclusion…

Adding extra value here is a short Luke lark that first appeared in Risque-Tout #5 (December 1955). A monochrome vignette, ‘Ruckus in Pancake Valley’ has been redrawn and coloured here and details how Lucky tracks down a miscreant who stole his horse…

Packed with contemporaneous extras, commentary, creator biographies, a special ‘Christmas in the Far West’ feature and more, this is perfect for older kids who have gained a bit of historical perspective and social understanding, although the action and slapstick situations are no more contentious than any Laurel and Hardy film – perfectly understandable as Morris was a huge fan of the duo. These early exploits are a grand old hoot in the tradition of Destry Rides Again or Support Your Local Sheriff, superbly executed by a master storyteller, and a wonderful introduction to a unique genre for modern kids who might well have missed the romantic allure of the Wild West that never was…

Bon Anniversaire, Lucky!
All pages relating to Doc Doxey’s Elixir, Phil Wire and Ruckus in Pancake Valley are © Morris/Dupuis 2018. 1949 to 1954 for the first publications in Le Journal de Spirou. All pages relating to Rails on the Prairie © Morris/Goscinny/Dupuis 2018. English translation © 2019 Cinebook Ltd.

Walt Disney’s Mickey Mouse: The Greatest Adventures


By Floyd Gottfredson, with Walt Disney, Bill Walsh, Merrill de Maris, Bill Wright, Win Smith, Jack King, Roy Nelson, Hardie Gramatky, Ted Thwaites, Daan Jippes, David Gerstein & various (Fantagraphics Books)
ISBN: 978-1-68396-122-2 (HB) eISBN: 978-1-68396-225-0

Win’s Christmas Gift Recommendation: It Ain’t Christmas if it Ain’t Disney… 10/10

Created by Walt Disney and Ub Iwerks, Mickey Mouse was first seen – if not heard – in the silent cartoon Plane Crazy. The animated short fared poorly in a May 1928 test screening and was promptly shelved.

That’s why most people who care cite Steamboat Willie – the fourth completed Mickey feature – as the debut of the mascot mouse and his co-star and paramour Minnie Mouse since it was the first to be nationally distributed, as well as the first animated feature with synchronised sound. The film’s astounding success led to the subsequent rapid release of its fully completed predecessors Plane Crazy, The Gallopin’ Gaucho and The Barn Dance, once they too had been given new-fangled soundtracks.

From those timid beginnings grew an immense fantasy empire, but film was not the only way Disney conquered hearts and minds. With Mickey a certified solid gold sensation, the mighty mouse was considered a hot property and soon invaded America’s most powerful and pervasive entertainment medium: comic strips…

Floyd Gottfredson was a cartooning pathfinder who started out as just another warm body in the Disney Studio animation factory who slipped sideways into graphic narrative and evolved into a pictorial narrative ground-breaker as influential as George Herriman, Winsor McCay or Elzie Segar. Gottfredson’s Mickey Mouse entertained millions of eagerly enthralled readers and shaped the very way comics worked.

He took a wildly anarchic animated rodent from slapstick beginnings, via some of the earliest adventure continuities in comics history: transforming a feisty everyman underdog – or rather mouse – into a crimebuster, detective, explorer, lover, aviator or cowboy, the quintessential two-fisted hero whenever necessity demanded.

In later years, as tastes – and syndicate policy – changed, Gottfredson steered that self-same wandering warrior into a more sedate, gently suburbanised lifestyle via crafty sitcom gags suited to a newly middle-class America: a fifty-year career generating some of the most engrossing continuities the comics industry has ever enjoyed.

Arthur Floyd Gottfredson was born in 1905 in Kaysville, Utah, one of eight siblings born to a Mormon family of Danish extraction. Injured in a youthful hunting accident, Floyd whiled away a long recuperation drawing and studying cartoon correspondence courses, and by the 1920s had turned professional, selling cartoons and commercial art to local trade magazines and Big City newspaper the Salt Lake City Telegram.

In 1928 he and his wife moved to California and, after a shaky start, found work in April 1929 as an in-betweener at the burgeoning Walt Disney Studios. Just as the Great Depression hit, he was personally asked by Disney to take over the newborn yet ailing Mickey Mouse newspaper strip. Gottfredson would plot, draw and frequently script the strip for the next five decades: an incredible accomplishment by of one of comics’ most gifted exponents.

Veteran animator Ub Iwerks had initiated the print feature with Disney himself contributing, before artist Win Smith was brought in. The nascent strip was plagued with problems and young Gottfredson was only supposed to pitch in until a regular creator could be found.

Floyd’s first effort saw print on May 5th 1930 (his 25th birthday) and he just kept going: an uninterrupted run over the next half century.

On January 17th 1932, Gottfredson created the first colour Sunday page, which he also handled until retirement. In the beginning he did everything, but in 1934 Gottfredson relinquished the scripting, preferring plotting and illustrating adventures to playing about with dialogue. His eventual collaborating wordsmiths included Ted Osborne, Merrill De Maris, Dick Shaw, Bill Walsh, Roy Williams and Del Connell. At the start and in the manner of a filmic studio system, Floyd briefly used inkers such as Ted Thwaites, Earl Duvall and Al Taliaferro, but by 1943 had taken on full art chores.

This tremendous archival hardback compendium (185 x 282 mm but also available in digital editions) gathers and remasters in colour a superb selection of those daily delights, stuffed with thrills, spills and chills, whacky races, bizarre situations, fantastic fights and a glorious superabundance of rapid-fire sight-gags and verbal by-play: an unmissable journey of fabulous cartoon fun.

And I’m sure I don’t need to remind you that this stuff can be deemed “dated content”: created from times when cartoon violence, smoking, drinking and ethnic stereotyping were everyday occurrences, so please read this with that in mind or not at all…

The manner in which Mickey became a syndicated star is covered by editor, savant, truly dedicated, clearly devoted fan David Gerstein in bookend articles at the front and back of this sturdy tome, opening with Floyd Gottfredson: Walt Disney’s Mouse Man and ending with Mickey Mouse: The Hero before the comic capers commence with legendary yarn Mickey Mouse in Death Valley’ which ran from April 1st – September 22nd 1930.

Initially the strip was treated like an animated feature, with diverse hands working under a “director” and each day seen as a full gag with set-up, delivery and a punchline, usually all in service to an umbrella story or theme. Such was the format Gottfredson inherited from Walt Disney for his first full yarn.

The saga was further complicated by an urgent “request” from controlling syndicate King Features that the strip be immediately made more adventure-oriented to compete with the latest trend in comics: action-packed continuities…

Also roped in to provide additional art and inking to the raucous, rambunctious rambling saga were Win Smith, Jack King, Roy Nelson & Hardie Gramatky. The resulting saga – coloured by Scott Rockwell & Susan Daigle-Leach – involved a picaresque and frequently deadly journey way out west to save Minnie’s inheritance – a lost mine – from conniving lawyer Sylvester Shyster and his vile and violent crony Pegleg Pete, whom Mickey and his aggrieved companion chased across America by every conveyance imaginable, aided by masked mystery man The Fox while facing every possible peril as immortalised by silent movie westerns, melodramas and comedies…

With cameos throughout from Horace Horsecollar, Clarabelle Cow, goat-horned Mr. Butt and a prototype Goofy who used to answer – if he felt like it – to the moniker Dippy Dog, we pause to share specially commissioned Illustrations by Gottfredson – a promotional pic and photos of tough guy pal Butch – before moving on to ‘The Picnic’ (crafted by Gottfredson, Earl Duvall & Travis Seitler and coloured by Rick Keane; originally running from January 5th to 10th 1931): a hopefully bucolic moment plagued by natural catastrophe, after which bold deeds are required for exploring the ‘Island in the Sky’ (November 30th 1936 to April 3rd 1937 by Gottfredson, Ted Thwaites, Michel Nadorp, Erik Rosengarten, & Disney Italia).

Having secured a cash reward for capturing a band of smugglers, Mickey and Goofy buy an airplane and become aviators: a plot device that affords plenty of daily gags before one flight brings them into aerial contact with the flying automobile of a mystery scientist. After much detecting and pursuit, they find the floating fortress of reclusive super-genius Doctor Einmug

and soon learn that he’s also being approached – if not outright menaced – by villainous Pegleg Pete. The dyed-in-the-wool thug is acting as the agent of a foreign power, seeking the astonishing secret and unlimited power of “aligned atoms” that fuels Einmug’s aerial miracles, trying everything from bribery to coercion to feigned reformation and – when those fail – good old reliable theft and violence…

Naturally, none of that means anything to the indomitable Mouse…

Appended by Gottfredson’s painting Mickey Mouse on Sky Island and a mini-feature on personalised birthday and anniversary commissions, the cloud-busting crime-caper is followed by a baffling mystery as ‘The Gleam’ (January 19th – May 2nd, 1942 by Gottfredson, Merrill de Maris, Bill Wright, Daan Jippes, Seitler, Gerstein & Daigle-Leach) sees Mickey, Minnie and Goofy plagued by a diabolical hypnotist who plunders Mouseton High Society types at will, and even embroils Minnie’s unwelcome visiting parents in his crimes before our heroes finally bring him to justice. It’s followed by the cover of 1949’s Big Little Book #1464: a modified version of the tale behind a cover by an artist unknown.

Gottfredson, Bill Walsh, Wright, Gerstein & Disney Italia then detail a string of interlinked gags comprising a burst of DIY invention resulting in ‘Mickey Mouse and Goofy’s Rocket’ (September 9th – 21st 1946), before Gottfredson, Walsh, Pierre Nicolas, Gerstein & Digikore Studios resort to full on sci fi as ‘The Atombrella and the Rhyming Man’ (April 30thOctober 9th 1948) finds occasional visitor from 2447 AD Eega Beeva, popping back for fun and a spot of inventing. Most of his whacky gadgets are generally harmless, but when he tinkers up a handheld defence against physical attack which repels everything from pie to nuclear weapons, word gets around fast and some very shifty characters start inviting themselves in. When juvenile genius Dr. Koppenhooper, an unlovely femme fatale and a poetic superspy get involved, things go from bad to calamitous…

The friendly future-man appeared in many commercial commissions. After the brace of monochrome samples reprinted here – courtesy of  Gottfredson – the manic menu of Mouse Masterpieces concludes with ‘Mickey’s Dangerous Double’(March 2nd – June 20th 1953 by Gottfredson, Walsh, Jippes, Paul Baresh, Gerstein & Disney Italia) as a devious “evil twin” trashes his reputation and destroys all his friendships before scapegoating him for a string of crimes in a gleeful but paranoia-inducing tale. Of course, in the end the ingenuity of the original and genuine article wins through but only after a truly spectacular battle…

Gottfredson’s influence on not just the Disney canon but sequential graphic narrative itself is inestimable: he was among the first to produce long continuities and “straight” adventures; he pioneered team-ups and invented some of the first “super-villains” in the business.

Disney killed the continuities in 1955, dictating that henceforth strips would only contain one-off gag strips, and Gottfredson adapted seamlessly, working on until retirement in 1975. His last daily appeared on November 15th and the final Sunday strip on September 19th 1976.

Like all Disney creators Gottfredson worked in utter anonymity, but in the 1960s his identity was revealed and the voluble appreciation of his previously unsuspected horde of devotees led to interviews, overviews and public appearances, with effect that subsequent reprinting in books, comics and albums carried a credit for the quiet, reserved master. Floyd Gottfredson died in July 1986. Thankfully we have this wealth of his works to enjoy and inspire us and hopefully a whole new generation of inveterate tale-tellers…
Mickey Mouse: The Greatest Adventures © 2018 Disney Enterprises, Inc. All contents © 2018 Disney Enterprises, Inc. unless otherwise noted. “Floyd Gottfredson: Walt Disney’s Mouse Man” and “Mickey Mouse: The Hero” texts © 2018 David Gerstein. All rights reserved.

Pep Digital #22: Arrrchie’s Buried Treasure


By George Gladir, Dan Parent, Fernando Ruiz, Kathleen Webb, Bob Bolling, Mike Pellowski, Angelo DeCesare,Rex Lindsey, Dan DeCarlo, Henry Scarpelli, Jeff Shultz, Dexter Taylor, Pat Kennedy & various (Archie Comics)
No ISBN: digital only

Since his debut in Pep Comics #22 (cover-dated December 1941) Archie Andrews has epitomised good, safe, wholesome cartoon fun, but the company that now bears his name has always been a deviously subversive one. Family-friendly iterations of superheroes, spooky chills, sci fi thrills, licensed properties and genre yarns of every stripe have always been as much a part of the publisher’s varied portfolio as the romantic comedy capers of America’s clean-cut teens.

As initially realised by John L. Goldwater and Bob Montana, the first escapade set the scene and ground rules for decades to come Archie has spent his entire existence chasing both the gloriously attainable Betty Cooper and wildly out-of-his-league debutante Veronica Lodge, whilst best friend Jughead Jones alternately mocked and abetted his romantic endeavours and class rival Reggie Mantle sought to scuttle every move…

Crafted over time by a veritable legion of writers and artists who’ve skilfully created the stories of teenage antics in and around the idyllic, utopian small town of Riverdale, these timeless tales of decent, upstanding, fun-loving kids have captivated successive generations of readers and entertained millions worldwide both on comic pages and in other media such as film, television, radio, newspaper strips, music and even fast food.

To keep all that accumulated attention riveted, the company has always capitalised on contemporary trends with which to expand upon their archetypal storytelling brief. In times past they have cross-fertilised their stable of stars through unlikely team-ups like Archie Vs. Predator, whilst every type of fashion fad and youth culture sensation has invariably been incorporated and explored within the pages of the regular titles. The gang has been reinvented and remodelled numerous times, even stepping outside the parameters of broad comedy to offer dramatic – albeit light-hearted – “real-world” iterations of the immortal cast of characters and clowns…

The company the idiot built is celebrating a major anniversary this December, so here’s a chance to revel in Archie’s unique madness with a bucket of yarns primarily sparked by the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise, but which also finds room for a few golden oldies and classic romps on the theme of Corsairs and Privateers. This lot are all electronically cached by pirates of the airwaves commandeering a little of your time and attention for a digital-only experience. Enjoy International Talk Like a Pirate Day 2021, me buckos…

The madness begins without fanfare as the gang all go Gung Ho for the latest movie fad: dressing up for film fun and daydreaming personal period peril in ‘Pirates Ahoy’ as originally seen in Archie & Friends #87 (February 2005) courtesy of George Gladir, Rex Lindsey & Rich Koslowski.

Veronica #171 (August 2006) featured ‘One Man’s Treasure’ by Dan Parent & Jim Amash, with the star stuck rich kid finding actual buried (and cursed) loot on a film shoot but caring only about impressing hot star Johnny Dredge. Boy, does she!

‘Treasure Quest’ comes from Tales of Riverdale Digest #9 (April 2006): an Archie & Friends charmer by Fernando Ruiz & Al Nickerson, with Archie and Reggie completely fooled by an advertising flyer that looks like a treasure map. Cue signature chaos and catastrophe…

‘Soul Mates’ from Betty & Veronica #151 (September 2000 by Kathleen Webb, Dan DeCarlo and Henry Scarpelli) then pictures the Caribbean-vacationing teens as freebooting female furies, but still unable to curtail their legendary rivalry.

The Adventures of Little Archie #21 (Winter 1961-1962) then stands and delivers a classic mystery yarn by the brilliant Bob Bolling as ‘Pirates’ sees the mischievous kid exposed to a strange gas carried by an old weirdo on a bus – yes; much, much simpler times – that somehow lands him a stagecoach en route to the 18th century and his own pressganging.

Condemned to be a cabin boy on Blackbeard’s ship, he is present at the deadly sea battle between the wicked rogue and valiant naval hero Captain Morgan

Crafted at a time when kids were considered smarter and not made of porcelain, this is a grand romp blending action, suspense and humour in perfect balance, followed by a more modern take as (sadly uncredited) Little Jughead vignette ‘The Mystery Treasure’ from Jughead’s Double Digest #152 (September 2009) sees Arch and his ever hungry pal uncover a haunted chest, whilst Archie Giant Series Magazine #583 (September 1988, by Bolling & Mike Esposito) pits the juvenile lead in solo action against time-travelling arch nemesis Mad Doctor Doom who seeks buried loot from 1743 in ‘Close Scrape in Barnacle Bay’

‘Treasure Trove’ (Laugh #7, June 1988, by Gladir, Bolling & Esposito) then offers a fantasy lay with The Mighty Archie Art Players re-enacting an undying rivalry between righteous Cap’n Booty (Archie) and piratical Cap’n Skull (Reg) on the high(larious) seas, after which Veronica #180 (July 2007) refocused on romance in ‘An Old Story’ as Ronnie’s bookshop binge unearths a saucy bodice-ripper that sets her imagination racing before ‘Digging for Buried Treasure’ (Betty & Veronica #163, August 2001 by Gladir, DeCarlo & Alison Flood) sees the lasses reminiscing – and speculating – about their childhood games at the beach.

In Betty & Veronica Spectacular #55 (September 2002) Angelo DeCesare, Parent & Jon D’Agostino bring supernatural romance and comedy capers in two-parter ‘Teen Spirit’ as the girls become the obsession of a piratical spook who’s been a horny teen since his death centuries ago. Things turn ugly when he decides to get rid of rivals Archie and Reggie and drastic steps need to be taken…

Archie Comics Digest #235 (August 2007) revisited ‘Pirates Ahoy!’ courtesy of Pellowski, Scarpelli & D’Agostino as another movie (this one starring Jon E. Depth) provokes poolside nightmares for our red rascal, Ronnie enjoys a ‘Treasured Moment’ (Veronica #175, December 2006 by Pellowski, Parent & Amash) after pinch-hitting for Betty and reading pirate stories to little kids. one last brace of gold comes with ‘Festival Time’ (Betty & Veronica #256, December 2011 by Gladir, Jeff Shultz & Amash) as high school eco-club Green Girls organises a fundraiser celebrating women pirates like Annie Bonnie or Ching Shih, only to lose their men to thieving flirty rivals before we hit the far shore with ‘Scene in Public’ (Archie Comics Digest #259, January 2010 by Pellowski, Pat Kennedy & Amash) as Archie, Jughead and Reggie literally patronise a pirate-themed diner on their way to a sporting event in full supporters’ garb…

Daftly delightful, these arrr ideal example of classic comics fun: brilliant gems no Funnybook Fan or Crafty Corsair would care to share. Enjoy your spoils and bask in the knowledge that some treasures can really be yours alone.
© 2012 Archie Comic Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.

Clifton volume 2 The Laughing Thief


By De Groot & Turk, translated by Luke Spear (Cinebook)
ISBN: 978-1-905460-07-4 (Album PB)

For some inexplicable reason most of Europe’s comics cognoscenti – most especially French and Belgians – seem fascinated with us Brits. Maybe it’s our shared heritage of Empires lost and cultures in transition? An earlier age would have claimed it’s simply a case of “Know your Enemy”…

Whether we look at Anglo air ace Biggles, indomitable adventurers Blake and Mortimer, the Machiavellian machinations of Green Manor or even the further travails of Long John Silver, the serried stalwarts of our Scepter’d Isles cut a dashing swathe through the pages of the Continent’s assorted magazines and albums.

And then there’s Clifton

Originally devised by child-friendly strip genius Raymond Macherot (Chaminou, Les croquillards, Chlorophylle, Sibylline) for iconic magazine Le Journal de Tintin, this doughty True Brit troubleshooter first appeared in December 1959. After three albums worth of material – compiled and released between 1959 and 1960 – Macherot quit Tintin for arch-rival Le Journal de Spirou leaving his eccentric comedic crime-fighter to flounder until LJdT revived him at the height of the Swinging London scene, courtesy of Jo-El Azaza & Greg (Michel Régnier).

Those strips were subsequently collected as Les lutins diaboliques in French and De duivelse dwergen for Dutch-speakers in 1969.

Then it was back into retirement until the early 1970s when writer Bob De Groot and illustrator Philippe “Turk” Liegeois revived Clifton for the long haul, producing ten tales of which this – Le voleur qui rit – Clifton (from 1973) – was their second collaboration.

From 1984 on, artist Bernard Dumont – AKA Bédu – limned De Groot’s scripts; eventually assuming the writing chores as well, persevering until the series ended in 1995. In keeping with its rather haphazard nature and typically undying nature, the Clifton experience resumed once again in 2003, crafted by De Groot & Michel Rodrigue in four further adventures; a grand total of 26 to date.

The setup is deliciously simple: pompous and irascible Colonel Sir Harold Wilberforce Clifton, ex-RAF, former Metropolitan Police Constabulary and recently retired from MI5, has a great deal of difficulty dealing with being put out to pasture in rurally bucolic Puddington. He thus takes every opportunity to get back in the saddle, occasionally assisting the Government or needy individuals as an amateur sleuth.

Sadly for Clifton – as with that other much-underappreciated national treasure Captain Mainwaring in Dad’s Army – he is convinced that he is usually the only truly competent man in a world full of blithering idiots…

In this second translated album from 2005, the Gentleman Detective is embroiled in not one but two uncanny incidences, beginning with eponymous epic ‘The Laughing Thief’ wherein the still much-missed lawman rather forcefully inserts himself into a current case baffling Scotland Yard.

London is wracked by devilishly clever crimes executed with infallible precision by a crack crew of blaggers, but the profits of each caper seem far below what such expert criminals should be bothering with. Moreover, each perfectly executed heist is preceded by a telephone warning from a braying braggart with the most annoying and distinctive laugh imaginable…

These felons are incredibly bold and arrogant. Even after Clifton intervenes in the second robbery, the scoundrels easily outwit him, leaving the dapper sleuth unconscious with dozens of other peculiarly proud and strangely supportive victims…

Moreover, although police “higher-ups” welcome Clifton’s help, officer-in-charge Lieutenant Hardfeeling doesn’t want the show-stealer around and is doing all he can to impede the Colonel’s investigations, despite protests from senior colleagues and the bobbies on the beat…

Nevertheless, persistence is its own reward, and when Clifton finally deduces the true reasons for the publicity-seeking crime-spree, the resultant confrontation is spectacularly satisfying and hilariously rewarding…

Being British and an ex-spy, Clifton has hung on to the odd gadget or two, such as an amazingly tricked out umbrella which plays a major part in this volume’s second tale ‘The Mystery of the Running Voice’. A suspenseful spooky yarn, it begins when the unhappy pensioner meets old comrade Donald McDonald Muckyduck, who appears to have worn out every vestige of verve and is on the verge of a nervous breakdown…

Close consultation reveals that the former Police Inspector is being haunted by a robber ghost; one that has already claimed six victims. However, upon viewing crime scene photos Clifton gains an inkling into how the trick is done and temporarily moves to sedate and sedentary village Flatfish-on-Apron, setting himself up as bait for a diabolical genius with a penchant for clever gimmicks…

Visually spoofing Swinging Sixties London and staidly stuffy English Manners with wicked effect, these gentle thrillers are big on laughs but also pack loads of consequence-free action into their eclectic mix. Delightfully surreal, instantly accessible and doused with daft slapstick à la Jacques Tati and intrigue like Margaret Rutherford as Miss Marple, this brace of romps rattle along in the grand old tradition of Will Hay, Terry-Thomas and Alistair Sim – or Wallace and Gromit if you’re of a later generation – offering splendid fun and timeless laughs for all.
Original edition © 1973 Le Lombard (Dargaud-Lombard S. A.) 1988 by De Groot & Turk. English translation © 2005 Cinebook Ltd.