Gahan Wilson Sunday Comics


By Gahan Wilson (Fantagraphics Books)
ISBN: 978-1-60699-612-6 (HB)

Win’s Christmas Gift Recommendation: One Last Hard-Earned Laugh in the Face of the Toughest Holiday Season in Living Memory… 9/10

Born on February 18th 1930 and dying a year ago today, Gahan Allen Wilson was an illustrator, cartoonist, essayist and author who always had his eyes and heart set on the future. According to Gary Groth’s Afterword in this sublime collection, he and grew up reading comic strips as much as fantasy fiction.

It always showed.

The mordantly macabre, acerbically wry and surreal draughtsman tickled funnybones and twanged nerves with his darkly dry graphic confections from the 1960s; contributing superb spoofs, sparklingly horrific and satirically suspenseful drawings and strips and panels as a celebrated regular contributor in such major magazines as Playboy, Collier’s, The New Yorker and others. He also wrote science fiction for Again Dangerous Visions, The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, The Twilight Zone Magazine and Realms of Fantasy as well as contributing criticism, book and film reviews for them all.

In an extremely broad and long career he wore dozens of creative hats, even embracing the modern digital universe by creating – with Byron Preiss – his own supernatural computer game, Gahan Wilson’s the Ultimate Haunted House.

When National Lampoon first began its devastatingly satirical (geez, do modern folk even recognize satire anymore?) all-out attack on the American Dream, Wilson was invited to contribute a regular strip to their comics section. His sublimely semi-autobiographical, darkly hilarious paean to lost childhood ran from 1972 and until 1981 and was collected as Nuts, another superb compilation from this publisher that you should own and share.

Few people – me included – knew that during that period he also, apparently more for fun and relaxation than profit, produced his own syndicated Sunday strip feature. For two years – beginning on March 3rd 1974 – Gahan Wilson Sunday Comics appeared in a small cross-section of newspapers from Boston to Los Angeles and, as with all his work, it bucked a trend.

At a time when most cartoonists were seeking a daily continuity strip, building a readership and eking jokes out with sensible parsimony, Wilson let himself go hog-wild, generating a half-dozen or so single-shot gags every Sabbath, blending his signature weird, wild monsters, uncanny aliens and unsavoury scenes with straight family humour, animal crackers, topical themes and cynically socio-politically astute observations.

Looking at them here it’s clear to me that his intent was to have fun and make himself laugh as much or even more than his readership; capturing those moments when an idea or notion gave him pause to giggle whilst going about his day job…

I’m not going to waste time describing the cartoons: there are too many and despite being a fascinating snapshot of life in the 1970s they’re almost all still outrageously funny in the way and manner that Gary Larson’s Far Side was a scant six years later.

I will say that even whilst generating a storm of humorous, apparently unconnected one-offs, consummate professional Wilson couldn’t restrain himself and eventually the jokes achieved an underlying shape and tone with recurring motifs (clocks, beasts, wallpaper, etc), guest appearances by “The Kid” (from Nuts) and features-within-the-feature such as The Creep and Future Funnies

Collected in a gloriously expansive (176 pages, 309x162mm) full-colour, landscape hardback, as well as in digital formats, this complete re-presentation of a lost cartooning classic offers a freewheeling, absurdist, esoterically banal, intensely, trenchantly funny slice of nostalgia. These fabulous joke page compendiums range from satire to slapstick to agonising irony and again prove Wilson to be one of the world’s greatest visual humourists.

This is a book no fan of fun should miss and, with Christmas oppressively bearing down on us, could be a crucial solution to the perennial “what to get him/her/them/they” question…
All comic strips © 2013 Gahan Wilson. This Edition © Fantagraphics Books, Inc. All rights reserved.

The Complete Calvin and Hobbes

By Bill Watterson (Andrews McMeel)
ISBN: 978-0-74074-847-9 (HB boxed set) 978-1-44943-325-3 (PB boxed set)

Win’s Christmas Gift Recommendation: The Absolute Epiphany of Joyous Delight… 10/10

Almost any event big or small is best experienced through the eyes of a child – and better yet if he’s a fictional waif controlled by the whimsical sensibilities of a comic strip genius like Bill Watterson.

Calvin is the child in us all; Hobbes is the sardonic unleashed beast of our Aspirations; no, wait… Calvin is this little boy, an only child with a big imagination and a stuffed tiger that has become his common sense and moral sounding board…

No; Calvin is just a lonely little boy and Hobbes talks only to him. That’s all you need or want.

An immediate best-selling strip and perennial award-winning critical hit running from November 18th 1985 through December 31st 1995, Calvin and Hobbes came and went like a bright, soft comet and we’re all the poorer for its passing. In the decade of its existence, the strip redefined depictions of the “Eyes of Wonder” which children possess, and made us mere adults laugh, and so often cry too. Its influence shaped a generation of up-and-coming cartoonists and comicbook creators.

We all wanted a childhood like that pesky kid’s; bullies, weird teachers, obnoxious little girls and all. At least we can – and still do – revisit…

The Daily and Sundays appeared in more than 2,400 newspapers all over the planet and – from 2010 – reruns have featured in over 50 countries. There were 18 unmissable collections (selling well in excess of 45,000,000 copies thus far), including the fabulous complete boxed set edition in both soft and hard cover formats I’m plugging today. Yes, it’s a comparatively expensive item but I gloat over my hardback set almost every day and cannot count the number of times I’ve dipped into it over the years.

Unlike most of his fellows, Watterson shunned the spotlight and the merchandising Babylon that generally follows a comic strip mega-hit. He dedicated all his spirit and energies into producing one of the greatest testaments to childhood and the twin and inevitably converging worlds of fantasy and reality anywhere in fiction. All comics purists need to know is that the creator cites unique sole-auteur strips Pogo, Krazy Kat and Peanuts as his major influences and all mysteries are solved…

Calvin is a hyper-active little boy growing up in a suburban middle-American Everytown. There’s a city nearby, with museums and such, and a little bit of wooded wilderness at the bottom of the garden. The kid is smart, academically uninspired and utterly happy in his own world. He’s you and me. His best friend and companion is stuffed tiger Hobbes, who – as I might have already mentioned – may or may not be actually alive. He’s certainly far smarter and more ethically evolved than his owner…

And that’s all the help you’re getting. If you know the strip you already love it, and if you don’t you won’t appreciate my destroying the joys of discovery. This is beautiful, charming, clever, intoxicating and addictive tale-telling, blending awe, bliss and laughter, socially responsible and wildly funny.

After a miraculous decade, at the top of his game Watterson retired the strip and himself, and though I bitterly resent it, and miss it still, I suppose it’s best to go out on a peak rather than fade away by degrees. I certainly respect and admire his dedication and principles.

I cannot imagine any strip fan – or indeed, parent – living life without Calvin and Hobbes. Imaginative, dazzling, unforgettably captivating, these are some of the best cartoons ever crafted. You should have them in your house.

Usually I plug a specific item – and I am here too – but today’s lesson is really a big thank you and heartfelt recommendation for an iconic strip and its brilliant creator.

I normally shy away from excessively priced items too, but in this case (not a pun, no matter how much I want it to be) the expense is worth the outlay. This is a set of books to summon up glorious childhood memories, meant to be read lying on the floor with kids and pets and snacks all jostling for the best vantage point.

The entire Calvin and Hobbes canon is still fully available in solo volumes and so is this aforementioned wrist-cracking box set, but not, sadly, in a digital edition yet. You can, however, enjoy digital dollops of this graphic milestone if so inclined by going to gocomics.com/calvinandhobbes. They are also available online through the Andrews McMeel Uclick platform, so there’s no reason for you not to make this brilliant example of our art form a permanent part of your life. And you’ll thank me for it, too…
© 1989, 2005, 2012 Universal Press Syndicate. All rights reserved.

Wally Gropius


By Tim Hensley (Fantagraphics Books)
ISBN: 978-1-60699-355-2 (HB)

Win’s Christmas Gift Recommendation: Because it’s the Thoughts That Count… 9/10

Comics are the most subversive means of communication yet devised. If you’re a creator at the top of your game with no editorial restrictions you can depict and say one thing, in a manner that even the primmest censor would approve of and adore, whilst surreptitiously advocating the most unsavoury, improper and civilisation-threatening dogma. In comics there are no “tells” to give the game away and the manner in which an author writes and draws can actually enhance the propaganda or outright lies…

Have you met Tim Hensley?

A gifted musician, cartoonist and second-generation comics fan, Hensley’s graphic narrative work began popping up all over the alternative scene following his minicomics series Ticket Stub (9 issues published between 2000 and 2006). He subsequently appeared in such magazines as Kramer’s Ergot, Smoke Signal, Dirty Stories, The Believer, Comic Art, Duplex Planet Illustrated, special editions of The Comics Journal and Fantagraphics’ sublime anthology Mome from where the intensely sly, brash, revolutionary and mind-bendingly beguiling Wally Gropius emerged to challenge our every precept of Capitalist culture. This book collects all those Mome moments and also includes – at no extra charge – new and revised material.

Available digitally and as a colossal 64-page 260 x 320 mm hardback potently reminiscent of the earliest English-language Tintin albums, the compilation is illustrated in a starkly jolly, primary-coloured pastiche of Baby-Boomer kids comics – and not just the obvious and overt Richie Rich or Archie Andrews trappings, but with a tip of the pen to lost classics of a once ubiquitous, now nearly-forgotten 1960s graphic style ranging from Mort (Spider, Beetle Bailey) Walker, Irving Tripp and John Stanley to the animated creations of Jay Ward and all those unnamed geniuses who drew such Dell/Gold Key classics as The Little Monsters and Thirteen Going on Eighteen.

Wally Gropius is barbed and edgy teen satire. The wealthiest teenager on Earth and scion of a petrochemical dynasty, Wally can have anything he wants. He sings in his band The Dropouts and doesn’t have a care in the world – until his father orders him to marry “the saddest girl on Earth.” With every girl in range tearfully throwing herself at him, Wally suddenly notices the stand-offish and highly hard-to-get Jillian Banks

Wally Gropius is a devastating, vicious and subversive cartoon assault on the modern bastions of Commercialism, Celebrity, and Casual Power. Wally tries everything money can buy to win Jillian, but there’s something he’s blithely unaware of…

A madcap, screwball and incredibly surreal comedy with many hidden and time-delayed laugh-traps cunningly concealed for later effect by a keen observer with a disturbingly-honed intellect and a laudable absence of taste, this a subversive treasure no thinking being should miss – especially at this time of year. Take note: Money isn’t Everything and Subtext über Alles

Wally Gropius is Even Cleverer Than It Thinks It Is. Invest in it and enjoy a thoroughly mature modern masterclass in mercantile mockery and morbidly Infantile Analysis.
© 2010 Tim Hensley. All rights reserved.

Melusine volume 2: Halloween


By Clarke (Frédéric Seron) & Gilson, coloured by Cérise and translated by Erica Jeffrey (Cinebook)
ISBN: 978-1-905460-34-2 (Album PB)

Teen witches have a long and distinguished pedigree in fiction and one of the most engaging first appeared in venerable Belgian magazine Le Journal de Spirou in 1992.

Mélusine is actually a sprightly 119 year-old who spends her days working as an au pair in a vast, monster-packed, ghost-afflicted chateau whilst diligently studying to perfect her craft at Witches’ School…

The long-lived feature offers everything from one-page gag strips to full-length comedy tales on supernatural themes detailing her rather fraught life, the impossibly demanding master and mistress of the castle and her large circle of exceedingly peculiar family and friends.

Collected editions began appearing annually or better from 1995, with the 27th published in 2019 and hopefully more to come. Thus far five of those have transformed into English translations thanks to the fine folk at Cinebook.

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

Under 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 unremittingly 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…

Halloween – available in paperback and in digital formats – was the eighth European-released Mélusine album, originally released in 2001, and gathers a wealth of stunning seasonally sensitive strips. This makes it a great place for newcomers to start as the majority of the content comprises one or two-page gags starring the sassy sorceress who – like a young but hot Broom Hilda – makes excessive play with fairy tale and horror film conventions and themes. Not that what she looks like should make a (witch’s) wit of difference, but hey, it’s comics and it’s France…

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 and coaching inept, un-improvable and lethally unskilled classmate Cancrelune.

Mel’s boyfriend is a werewolf so he only bothers her a couple of nights a month…

Daunting dowager Aunt Adrezelle is always eager and happy to share the wisdom of her so-many centuries but so, unfortunately, is family embarrassment cousin Melisande, who spurned the dark, dread and sinisterly sober side of the clan to become 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…?

This turbulent tome riffs mercilessly on the established motifs and customs of Halloween, where kids fill up to lethal levels on sweets and candies, monsters strive to look their worst, teachers try to keep the witches-in-training glued to their books and grimoires even as their over-excitable students experiment most unwisely on what to do with pumpkins – including how to grow, breed or conjure the biggest ones – whilst the fearfully pious local priest and his human flock endeavour to ruin all the magical fun…

Even Melisande gets in on the party atmosphere in her own too-nice-to-be-true manner, lightening the happy shadows with too much sunshine and saccharine before the collection ends with the extended eponymous ‘Halloween’, wherein Melusine and Cancrelune learn the true meaning of the portentous anniversary when they inadvertently join creaking, clacking cadavers of the Risen Dead as they evacuate their graves on their special night to fight and drive away for another year the Evil Spirits who haunt humanity…

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. Read before bedtime and don’t eat any hairy sweets…
Original edition © Dupuis, 2000 by Clarke & Gilson. All rights reserved. English translation 2007 © Cinebook Ltd.

Waiting for the Great Pumpkin


By Charles M. Schulz (Fantagraphics Books)
ISBN: 978-1-60699-772-7 (HB)

Peanuts is 70 years old today and not even death can stop it. Many happy returns Chuck…

Peanuts is unequivocally the most important comics strip in the history of graphic narrative. It is also the most broadly accepted, since – after the characters made the jump to television – the little nippers become an integral part of the American mass cultural experience.

Cartoonist Charles M. Schulz crafted his moodily hilarious, hysterically introspective, shockingly philosophical epic for fifty years. He published 17,897 strips from October 2nd 1950 to February 13th 2000 and died from the complications of cancer the day before his last strip was published…

At its height, the strip ran in 2,600 newspapers in 75 countries, translated into 21 languages. Many of those venues are still running perpetual reprints, as they have ever since his departure. Attendant book collections, a merchandising mountain and TV spin-offs made the publicity-shy artist a billionaire. That profitable sideline – one Schulz devoted barely any time to over the decades – is where this little gem originates from…

Peanuts – a title Schulz loathed, but one the syndicate forced upon him – changed the way comics strips were received and perceived by showing that cartoon comedy could have edges and nuance as well as pratfalls and punchlines.

The usual focus of the feature (we just can’t call him “star” or “hero”) is everyman loser Charlie Brown who, with high-maintenance, fanciful mutt Snoopy, endures a bombastic and mercurial supporting cast who hang out doing kid things in a most introspective, self-absorbed manner.

The daily gags centred on playing (pranks, sports, musical instruments), teasing each other, making ill-informed observations and occasionally acting a bit too much like grown-ups. The consistently expanding cast also includes mean girl Violet, infant prodigy Schroeder, “world’s greatest fussbudget” Lucy Van Pelt, her other-worldly baby brother Linus and dirt-magnet “Pig-Pen”: each with a signature twist to the overall mirth quotient and sufficiently fleshed out and personified to generate jokes and sequences around their own foibles. As a whole, the kids tackled every aspect of human existence in a charming and witty manner, acting as cartoon therapists and graphic philosophical guides to the world that watched them.

Charlie Brown is settled into his existential angst and resigned to his role as eternal loser as if singled out by a gleeful Fate. It’s a set-up that remains timelessly funny and infinitely enduring…

This outing – available in a child-friendly hardback and the usual digital formats – celebrates the whimsy at the feature’s core and spotlights Lucy’s weird little brother Linus and a peculiar belief system all his own…

Waiting for the Great Pumpkin offers a quartet of vintage seasonal sequences dedicated to the kid’s attempts displace Santa Claus as the benevolent bestower of largesse to the good little boys and girls and promote a far earthier patron: one who comes to good children from a gourd plantation somewhere in America…

Like all zealots, Linus never ceases to proselytise, and Charlie Brown and Snoopy are happy to go along and see for themselves in ‘You Believe in Santa Claus and I’ll Believe in the Great Pumpkin’, but there’s a time limit to their willingness to convert…

Another year and the kids are back in fraught contention for ‘Santa Claus vs. the Great Pumpkin’, but how long can even the most devout devote last in the face of perpetual disappointment? According to ‘Oh, Great Pumpkin, You’re Going to Drive Me Crazy!’, not forever, but the year Linus convinces Charlie’s little sister Sally to wait with him is painfully revelatory as seen in ‘True Love Revealed in the Pumpkin Patch’

The tales are told in a series of monochrome panels (generally four to a page) that never fail to delight, recapturing the hilarious seriousness of childhood in a manner nobody else can match. Since you and yours are almost certainly not going out for “tricks or treats” this year, why not ameliorate your own existentialist family travails with online sweets deliveries and this handy gem?
Waiting for the Great Pumpkin © 2014 Peanuts Worldwide, LLC. All rights reserved.

The Bluecoats volume 3: The Skyriders


By Willy Lambil & Raoul Cauvin, translated by Erica Jeffrey (Cinebook)
ISBN: 978-1-84918-014-6 (Album PB)

The glamour of the American Experience has fascinated Europeans virtually since the actual days of owlhoots and gunfighters. Hergé was a devotee, and the spectrum of memorable comics ranges from Italy’s Tex Willer to such French and Belgian classics as Blueberry and Comanche, and even rarefied, seldom seen colonial dramas such as Pioneers of the New World or Milo Manara and Hugo Pratt’s Indian Summer.

Les Tuniques Bleues or The Bluecoats began at the end of the 1960s, created by Louis “Salvé” Salvérius & Raoul Colvin – who has written every best-selling volume since. The strip was created to replace Lucky Luke when the laconic gunslinger defected from weekly anthology Le Journal de Spirou to rival comic Pilote, and his replacement swiftly became one of the most popular bande dessinée series on the Continent.

Salvé was a cartoonist of the Gallic big-foot/big-nose humour style, and when he died suddenly in 1972, his replacement Willy “Lambil” Lambillotte slowly introduced a more realistic – although still visually comedic – illustrative manner. Lambil is Belgian, born in 1936 who, after studying Fine Art in college, joined publishing giant Dupuis as a letterer in 1952.

Born in 1938, scripter Raoul Cauvin is also Belgian, and before joining Dupuis’ animation department in 1960 studied Lithography. He soon discovered his true calling – comedy writing – beginning his glittering and prolific career at Spirou.

In addition to Bluecoats he has written dozens of other long-running, award winning series including Cédric (which translates, funnily enough, into English as Cedric), Les Femmes en Blanc and Agent 212: more than 240 separate albums. The 62 current volumes of Les Tuniques Bleues alone has sold in excess of 15 million copies.

The sorry protagonists of the series are Sergeant Cornelius Chesterfield and Corporal Blutch: a brace of worthy fools in the manner of Laurel and Hardy, two hapless, ill-starred US cavalrymen posted to the wild frontier and various key points of mythic America.

The original format was single-page gags about an Indian-plagued Wild West fort, but with the second volume Du Nord au Sud (North and South) the sad-sack soldiers went back East to fight in the American Civil War (a tale rewritten in the 18th album Blue retro to describe how the chumps were drafted into the military during the war).

All subsequent adventures, although ranging far beyond America and taking in a lot of genuine and thoroughly researched history, are set within the timeframe of the Secession conflict.

Blutch is your average whinging little-man-in-the street: work-shy, mouthy, devious and exceptionally critical of the army and its inept commanders. Ducking, diving, even deserting whenever he can, he’s you or me – except sometimes he’s quite smart and heroic if no other easier option is available.

Chesterfield is a big burly man; a career soldier who has passionately bought into all the patriotism and esprit-de-corps of the Military. He is brave, never shirks his duty and wants to be a hero. He also loves his cynical little pal. They quarrel like a married couple, fight like brothers but simply cannot agree on the point and purpose of the horrendous war they are trapped in…

The Skyriders was the third album of the translated Cinebook series (chronologically the eighth French volume Les cavaliers du ciel when released in 1976) and opens with Chesterfield dashing to see his severely wounded pal. However, when he finds out Blutch has bribed a surgeon to declare him unfit for duty, the doughty sergeant goes through the roof…

Dragging the scurvy dodger back to the Front lines, the sergeant is just in time to be ordered by frankly quite mad Captain Stark to join him in another heroic cavalry charge against the massed Rebel infantry. However, as the division has suffered a few losses recently, this unstoppable wave of valiant Union horsemen will number exactly three…

The assault naturally fails and the deranged officer is captured, with Blutch and the deeply-shaken Chesterfield making it back to their own lines more by luck than skill.

The Union generals are in a bit of a tizzy. They have plenty of artillery and ground troops but are being worn down by the swift-moving Confederate cavalry’s harrying tactics. What they need is some method of observing the enemy’s position. Also, with news of Stark’s capture comes the apprehension of his revealing key positions, so the strategists are forced into trying something new. All they need are a big gasbag and a couple of expendable idiots…

The first observation flight is a huge success, so much so that the generals go up themselves after the principle is proved. Sadly, the Brass are far better fed than Blutch and Chesterfield and the wicker basket they crowd into proves painfully insufficient to their needs…

Broken and battered, the big bosses choose to keep their bandaged feet on the ground from then on and our Bluecoats remain the army’s only airborne soldiery, enduring shot and shell as they spy on the enemy from above…

Stark, meanwhile, has not talked and the Confederates are beginning to lose traction in the battle. Correctly blaming the balloon for their reversals of fortune, the Gray commanders determine to destroy their aerostatic nemesis at all costs and a daring sortie on the observation post enables them to cut the balloon free from its moorings…

Adrift in the sky, the hapless duo try everything to get down safely – consequently causing great consternation to the Rebel forces – before finally crashing to earth on top of their own already balloon-damaged commanding officers.

Ordered to rescue Captain Stark or face a firing squad, Chesterfield then devises an audaciously suicidal plan: using the balloon at night, he and Blutch will infiltrate the Confederate camp and bust their mad boss out.

What could possibly go wrong?

As always, their manic midnight misadventures result in pain, humiliation and not a few explosions but – incredibly – also victory and success… of a sort…

This is another hugely amusing anti-war saga targeting younger, less cynical audiences: historically authentic, and always in good taste despite its uncompromising portrayal of violence. The attitudes expressed by the down-to-earth pair never make battle anything but arrant folly and, like the hilarious yet insanely tragic war-memoirs of Spike Milligan, these are comedic tales whose very humour makes the occasional moments of shocking verity doubly powerful and hard-hitting.

Fun, informative, beautifully realised and eminently readable, Bluecoats is the kind of war-story that appeals to the best, not worst, of the human spirit…
© Dupuis 1976 by Lambil & Cauvin. English translation © 2009 Cinebook Ltd. All rights reserved.

The Definitive Betty Boop: The Classic Comic Strip Collection


By Max Fleischer, Bud Counihan, with Hal Seeger, & various (Titan Comics)
ISBN: 978-1-84856-707-8 (HB)

Betty Boop is one of the most famous and long-lived fictional media icons on the planet and probably the one who has generated the least amount of narrative creative material – as opposed to simply merchandise – per year since her debut.

She was created at the Fleischer Cartoon Studios, most likely by either by Max Fleischer himself or top cartoonist and animator Grim Natwick – depending on whomever you’ve just read – and had a bit part in the monochrome animated short feature Dizzy Dishes: the seventh “Talkartoon” release from the studio. It screened for the first time on August 9th 1930. Happy Anniversary, Ms Boop!

A calculatedly racy sex-symbol from the start, albeit anthropomorphised into a sexy French Poodle, Betty was primarily based on silent movie star and infamous “It-Girl” Clara Bow. Or, according to some historians, it was far more than just her distinctive sound Betty took from popular contemporary star Helen Kane. In those pioneering days of “the talkies” Betty was voiced by a succession of actresses including Margie Hines, Kate Wright, Ann Rothschild and ultimately Mae Questel who all mimicked Bow’s soft and seductive (no, really!) Brooklyn accent. Or possibly Kane’s. There’s a court case involved in this history so opinions are hard held and very divided…

Although frequently appearing beside early Fleischer Studios stars Bimbo (a homely puppy dog also called Fitz) and Koko the Clown – who had both debuted in Fleischer’s earliest screen offerings Out of the Inkwell – Betty had become a fully, if wickedly shaped, human girl by 1932’s Any Rags and she quickly  co-opted and monopolised all the remaining Talkartoons, before graduating to the Screen Songs featurettes. She ultimately won her own animated cartoon series to become “The Queen of the Animated Screen”, reigning until the end of the decade.

A Jazz Age flapper in the Depression Era, the delectable Boop was probably the first sex-charged teen-rebel of the 20thCentury, yet remained winningly innocent and knowledgably chaste throughout her career. Maybe that’s why she became so astoundingly, incredibly popular – although her appeal diminished appreciably once the censorious Hayes Production Code cleaned up all that smut and fun and sophistication oozing out of Hollywood in 1934 – even though the Fleisher Studio was proudly New York born and bred…

Saucy singer Helen Kane – who had performed in a sexy “Bow-esque” Brooklyn accent throughout the 1920s and was billed as “The Boop-Oop-A-Doop Girl” – famously sued for “deliberate caricature” in 1932. As well as a renowned actor, she was sharp enough to briefly steal the show and become the star of the first Betty newspaper strips…

When Kane’s lawsuit failed, Betty took over the paper outlets in her own name, but couldn’t withstand a prolonged assault by the National Legion of Decency and the Hayes Code myrmidons. With all innuendo removed, salacious movements restricted and wearing much longer skirts, Betty gained a boyfriend and family whilst the newspaper strip scripts consciously targeted a younger audience. The tabloid feature folded in 1937 and her last animated cartoon stories were released in 1939. The only advantage to Betty’s screen neutering and new wholesome image was that she suddenly became eligible for inclusion on the Funnies pages of family newspapers, alongside the likes of Popeye, Little Orphan Annie and Mickey Mouse.

This superb hardback edition (also available in digital formats) gathers every pre-war iteration associated with Betty Boop – including ones she isn’t in – and is augmented by fond remembrances from Mark Fleischer and Virginia Mahoney in their Foreword ‘About our grandad, Max Fleischer…’ and comes with an informative Introduction tracing Betty’s wild ride of a career.

Supplementing his text with candid behind-the-scenes photos and contemporary art as well as advertising and memorabilia of the time, cartoonist Brian Walker (son of Beetle Bailey and Hi & Lois creator Mort Walker) traces the celluloid and tabloid star’s creation, rise, fall and latter day resurgence in ‘Made of Pen and Ink, she can win you with a Wink’.

There was a brief flurry of renewed activity during the 1980s, which led to a couple of TV specials, a comic book from First Comics – Betty Boop’s Big Break (1990) and a second newspaper strip. Betty Boop and Felix was crafted by Walker and his brothers Neal, Greg, and Morgan, wherein the glamour queen shared adventures with fellow King Features nostalgia icon Felix the Cat. It ran from July 23rd 1984 – January 31st 1988, but even counting those – and we aren’t here – that’s still a pretty meagre complete comics canon for a lady of Betty’s longevity, pedigree and stature…

Confusion and contention abound in Betty’s print career and that’s mirrored in this book. Her first regular strip was as a Daily feature in black-&-white, but you’ll see that last, because the comics experience begins in full colour with an experimental Out of the Inkwell Koko the Klown Sunday strip starring the manic mime in silent surreal romps that have the cachet of being Fleischer’s first work for King Features Syndicate.

They ran from November 25th – December 15th 1934 and are followed by The Original Boop Boop-A-Doop Girl: a Sunday feature spanning August 5th to October 12th 1934. As negotiations between Fleischer and King Features stalled in 1933, Helen Kane approached the Syndicate and offered herself as a straight knock-off for the cartoon star. The resultant domestic comedy strip ran for just 11 weeks, and only in the tabloid New York Sunday Mirror. It was dropped as soon as Fleischer signed with King Features…

Attributed to Kane and drawn by Ving Fuller, the succession of manic gag pages are basic, innocently racy vaudeville one-liners, but do still evoke a certain nostalgic charm…

Whilst we’re on a possibly touchy subject: a lot of attitudes to women and visualisations of minorities won’t really pass an earnest examination here, and readers should be aware that these were all created in a different time for far less enlightened audiences. A little patience and forbearance will be your best guides on some pages…

Running from November 25th 1934 to November 27th 1937, the full colour Sunday strips starring the original and genuine Betty Boop were drawn by Bud Counihan: a veteran ink-slinger who had created the Little Napoleon strip in the 1920s before becoming Chic Young’s assistant on Blondie. They commenced a few months after the Daily feature and might be a little confusing as they encompass a large supporting cast for aspiring starlet Betty as she navigates a tiresome and treacherous career in Hollywood. I’d advise reading the dailies first and ending your reading enjoyment here, but it’s your choice…

These gag episodes feature the freshly-sanitised, family-oriented heroine of the post-Hayes Code era, but for devotees of the period and comics fans in general, the strip still retains a unique and abiding charm. Counihan’s Betty is still oddly, innocently coquettish yet confidant: a saucy thing with too-short skirts and skimpy apparel. Some of the outfits – especially bathing costumes – would raise eyebrows even now, and although the bald innuendo that made her a star is absent, these tales of a street-wise young thing trying to “make it” in Tinseltown are plenty sophisticated when viewed through the knowing and sexually adroit eyes of 21st century readers…

Produced as full-page strips, the Sundays are broadly slapstick, with moments of cunning wordplay: single joke stories regarding the weirdness of acting and the travails of fandom.

There’s a succession of blandly arrogant romantic leading men (usually called “Van” something-or-other) but none stick around for long as Betty builds her career, and eventually the scenario changes to a western setting as cast and crew begin making Cowboy Pictures, leading to many weeks’ worth of “Injun Jokes”, but ones working delightfully and hilariously counter to the expected unpleasant stereotypes of the times. However, the introduction of fearsome lower-class virago Aunt Tillie – chaperone, bouncer and sometime comedy movie extra – moves the strip into an unexpected direction and begins Betty’s life as an extra in her own show…

Soon, a clear and unflinching formula sets in with Bubby (see below), Aunt Tillie and her diminutive new beau Hunky Dory increasingly edging Betty out of the spotlight and even occasionally off the page entirely.

By 1937 the show was over…

The Betty Boop daily strip began on July 23rd 1934: a raw and raucous comedy gig that ran until March 18th 1935 in an extended sequence of gag-a-day encounters blending into an epic comedy-of-errors as Betty’s lawyers do litigious battle with movie directors and producers to arrive at the perfect contract for all parties. That’s clearly a war that still rages to this day and once again it’s happening under the cost restrictions of what is, after all, another Great Depression like the one Betty was a constant momentary antidote to…

The jokes come thick and fast in the same vein, with lawyers, entourage and all extras providing the bulk of the humour whilst Betty stands in for the Straight Man in her own strip…

…Except for a recurring riff about losing weight to honour her contract, which stipulates she cannot be filmed weighing more than 100 pounds! Geez! Her head alone has got to weigh at least… sorry, I know… just a comic…

Like most modern stars, Betty had a dual career and there’s a lot of recording industry and song jokes as well as fan affrontery and boyfriend woes, as well as the introduction of the first of an extended cast: Betty’s streetwise baby brother Bubby (originally Billy). He’s a riotous rapscallion intended to act as a chaotic foil to the star’s affably sweet, knowingly dim complacency, and he’s another celluloid wannabe in waiting…

By no means a major effort of the Golden Age of Comics Strips, Counihan’s Betty Boop (like most licensed syndicated features the strip was “signed” by the copyright holder, in this case Max Fleischer) remains a hugely effective, engaging and entertaining work, splendidly executed and well worthy of the attentions of fans with a penchant for history or feeling for fashion.

With the huge merchandising empire built around the effervescent cartoon Gamin/Houri, (everything from apparel to wallpaper, clocks to drinking paraphernalia) surely there’s room today to address her small brief but potent contributions to the comics arts. If you think so, this book is for you…
Betty Boop © 2015 King Features Syndicate, Inc./Fleischer Studios, Inc. ™ Hearst Holdings, Inc./ Fleischer Studios, Inc. All rights reserved. Foreword © 2015 Mark Fleischer & Ginny Mahoney. Introduction © 2015 Brian Walker.

Jaimie Smart’s Bunny vs Monkey volume 1


By Jaimie Smart, with Laura Bentley & Sammy Borras (David Fickling Books)
ISBN: 978-1-78845-177-2 (PB)

Concocted with gleefully gentle mania by cartoonist, comics artist and novelist Jamie Smart (Fish Head Steve!; Looshkin; Flember), Bunny vs. Monkey has been a fixture of British periodical sensation The Phoenix from the very first issue: a madcap duel of animal arch rivals set amidst the idyllic arcadia of a more-or-less ordinary English Wood. Those trend-setting, mind-bending antics were rapidly retooled as graphic albums and are now being re-released in remastered, double-length digest editions. In case you’re wondering, the fabulous fun found here originally inhabited volumes 1 & 2, entitled Let the Mayhem Begin and Journey to the Centre of the Eurg-th

With precious little unnecessary build-up, the manic happy returns commence with a ‘Prologue!’ introducing placid, wise, helpful Bunny and not-so-smart pals Pig and Weenie Squirrel. The foolish innocents and lifelong residents of idyllic Crinkle Woods have found a hibernating bear which Bunny really wants them to stop trying to wake up…

Meanwhile, over the hill and not so far away, a bunch of boffins are attempting to launch a really annoying monkey into space…

This prompts a barrage of seasonal silliness in ‘Bunny vs. Monkey’, as the proposed launch goes hideously awry and the loud, stroppy, obnoxious simian lands in the snow-covered glade and instantly declares himself king of this strange alien world…

Monkey loves noise, strife, chaos and trouble and incessantly needs to raise a rumpus – everything genteel, contemplative Bunny abhors – so when our apish astronaut introduces techno music in ‘Keep it Down!’, the lines of battle are irrevocably drawn…

Thing escalate in ‘When Monkey Met Skunky’. This latter is a brilliant inventor with a bombastic line in animal-inspired terror weapons such as the Cluck Cluck Zeppelin used to bomb the woods with 10-year-old rotten eggs or the giant metal robot hands which give the destructive Monkey ‘Fists of Fury’

Winter draws on with ‘Soggy ‘n’ Froggy’ wherein a monstrous Frog-O-Saurus becomes the wicked duo’s latest Weapon of Meadow Destruction, after which poor Pig is transformed into cyborg sensation Pig-O-Tron 5000 in ‘Robo-Chop’ as a simple change of pace sees Weenie and Pig put on a circus show to counter all the nasty animosity before getting painfully caught ‘Clowning Around’

Up until now Monkey has been risking his own pelt road-testing all Skunky’s inventions, but when a bewildered former stuntman turns up, the sneaky simian is happy to leave all the dangerous stuff to ‘Action Beaver’

March leads to a profusion of beautiful buds and blossoms which delight the soul of nature-loving Bunny.

Tragically they utterly disgust Monkey, who tries to eradicate all that flora in ‘Down with Spring!’ until he comes a-cropper thanks to a sack of spiky “Hodgehegs”, whilst in ‘Bonjour, Le Fox’, the spacy invader finally goes too far, forcing Bunny to align with a rather radical environmentalist possessed of a big, bushy tail and an outrrrrrageous French accent…

Some of Bunny’s friends are their own worst enemies. ‘Race to the Moon!’ sees Weenie and Pig build their own spaceship – out of natural materials like moss and mushrooms – only to have Monkey disastrously commandeer it, after which Skunky builds a terrifying cyber crocodile dubbed ‘Metal Steve!’ which ignores its perfidious programming to spend the day swimming. Such shameful failures thus compel Monkey to steal a steamroller to personally get rid of all that hateful, ugly cherry blossom infesting the trees in ‘Rollin’ Rollin’ Rollin’!’

The war against nature intensifies as ‘Eat Your Greens!’ sees Skunky’s Caterpillar-Zilla devouring forest foliage until an authentic creepy-crawly steps in, whilst ‘The Whuppabaloo!’ shows the niffy tinkerer’s softer side as he drags Monkey on a wilderness trek to track down the most amazing thing in nature…

‘Hide and Squark!’ depicts the rabbit’s fightback, thanks to the double-dealing help of a certain giant parrot, after which a momentary détente for a spot of angling inevitably turns into another heated duel in ‘Fish Off!’ after which a brief falling out of the axis of evil in May ends as ‘Invisi-Monkey’ sees the strident simian squabbling with Skunky to possess a sneaky stealth suit. The status quo sees the villains reuniting to spoil a joyous game of Cake-Ball with their monolithic, monstrous ‘Mole-a-Rolla!’

‘Black Gold’ finds Monkey attempting to turn the Wood into an oil field, before spoiling Bunny’s dream of a ‘Quiet Day!’with a giant Robot Cockroach

Blazing June opens with ‘Bring Him Back!’ as Action Beaver attempts to retrieve watery wanderer Metal Steve whilst simple souls Weenie and Pig accidentally kick off an invention Armageddon which only intensifies after that long-slumbering ursine finally wakes up in ‘Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Bear?’

‘The Bat!’ apparently introduces a nasty new faction to the ongoing conflict (but all is not as it seems!), and there’s no confusing the stakes when Bunny agrees to a winner-take-all fight in ‘Wrestlepocalypse!’ and Monkey learns that cheats never prosper…

Just when things seem likely to settle down, fresh chaos ensues when a violent piratical rabbit – with an eye-patch – storms in to cause stir up trouble in ‘Bunny B!’

With battle reports spanning July to December, hostilities reach new heights and depths as Monkey and Skunky fail to make proper use of ‘The Wish Cannon!’ This reality-warping gun could change the world, but also makes really good cakes…

A far better terror-tool is colossally ravening robot ‘Octo-blivion!’, which ruins Bunny’s boating afternoon, but sadly the tentacled doom-toy becomes an irresistible object of amorous intent for irrepressible cyber crocodile Metal Steve before it can complete its nefarious machinations…

A hot day inspires Monkey to demand his bonkers boffin whip up some volcanoes, but their ‘Journey to the Centre of the Eurg-th!’ only unearths chilly regions and crazily cool creatures before the scene shifts to those not-so-smart but astonishingly innocent bystanders Pig and Weenie.

An afternoon playing with crayons results in a lovely drawing of a crown, and soon everyone is bowing down and obeying ‘King Pig’, after which surly radical environmentalist ‘Fantastique Le Fox!’ finds time to share his incredible origin stories with the dumbfounded woodland denizens. Yes, that’s right: stories, plural…

Hyperkinetic carnage is the order of the day when a cute little dickens turns up inside spiffy running-toy ‘Hamsterball 3000!’, providing Skunky with the perfect power source for his latest devastating mechanical marauder: the horrendous Hamster Mobile

Puns, peril and a stinging hidden moral then inform proceedings when all the animals celebrate ‘Bee-Day!’ whilst a certain happily brain-battered, bewildered former stuntman turns into a tormented super-genius when he accidentally falls under the influence of Skunky’s Smarty Helmet in ‘Action Beever2.

Happily for everyone, before it wears off the increased cognition – in conjunction with a handy lemon puff – demolishes an unleashed Doomsday Device which might just have ended everything…

From September onwards the stories drop to four pages a pop as ‘Gone with the Wind!’ finds Pig and Weenie making trouble with their windsurfing cart after which ‘I, Robot Crocodile!’ sees Metal Steve on a destructive rampage until Bunny and Monkey team up to show the steel berserker the simple joys of dance…

‘There’s a Moose Loose!’ depicts Skunky back on bad form and trying to fool his enemies with a vast Trojan Elk before Monkey spoils everyone’s September by going big after being introduced to a sweet childhood game in ‘Conkers Bonkers!’ after which – with the Beaver temporarily bedridden – the perfidious pair of animal evildoers employ the rather dim ‘Action Pig!’ to test pilot their devilish Dragonfly 5000. Such a bad idea…

Tidy-minded Bunny has no hope of sweeping up all autumn’s golden detritus in ‘Leaf it Alone!’ once friends and enemies start helping out, and an extended sub-plot opens in ‘Duck Race!’ as impetuous Monkey pries into Skunky’s most deadly and diabolical secrets all stashed behind a locked door. In a frantic attempt to deflect attention, the smelly scientist then unleashes the colossal Lord Quack-Quack!

The saga sequels in a surprisingly downbeat follow-up as Bunny, Pig and Weenie dare the fiend’s lair to check out ‘Door B’ before scheduled insanity resumes as ‘Hypno-Monkey!’ finds the hirsute horror misusing a memory ray and briefly assuming godlike power…

Who doesn’t like igniting marshmallows and telling scary stories around a campfire? Not Bunny, Pig and Weenie after hearing the tale of ‘Monster Pants!’ leading to the local idiots deciding to join Monkey’s gang in ‘Bad Influence!’

The monkey is no one idea of a role model – except perhaps for painful ineptitude – as seen in ‘Lost in the Snow!’, but the winter fun expands to encompass everyone when Skunky’s ‘Chemical X!’ unleashes a chilled tidal wave of blancmange leading to seasonal silliness as ‘The Small Matter of the End of the World!’ exposes time-travelling madness as the true story of the demise of the Doomsday Device is finally exposed in an extra-length yarn…

Everything changes when ‘Merry Christmas Mr. Monkey!’ sees peace and goodwill grip the woods – or perhaps it’s just that the simian seditionist has gone missing? When the innocent inhabitants go looking for Monkey, they find him far beyond the forest associating with strange two-legged beings, singing carols and swiping mince pies, but nobody realises just how dangerous ‘Hyooomanz!’ can be as the year ends with plans found proclaiming the demolition of Crinkle Wood and the coming of a new motorway…

To Be Continued…

Adding lustre and fun, this superb treat includes detailed instructions on ‘How to Draw Bunny’ and ‘How to Draw Monkey’, so, as well as beguiling your littl’uns with stories, you can use this book to teach them a trade…

Endlessly inventive, sublimely funny and outrageously addictive, Bunny vs. Monkey is the kind of comic parents beg kids to read to them. Why isn’t that you, yet?
Text and illustrations © Jamie Smart 2020. All rights reserved.

Lucky Luke volume 3: Dalton City


By Morris & Goscinny, translated by Frederick W. Nolan (CineBook)
ISBN: 978-1-905460-13-7 (Album PB)

Lucky Luke is a rangy, good-natured, lightning-fast cowboy who roams the fabulously mythic Old West, having light-hearted adventures with his horse Jolly Jumper and interacting with a host of historical and legendary figures of the genre.

His continued exploits over nearly seventy years have made him one of the best-selling comic characters in Europe (81 collected books and more than 300 million albums in 30 languages thus far), with spin-off toys, computer games, animated cartoons and even a plethora of TV shows and live-action movies.

He was created in 1946 by Belgian animator, illustrator and cartoonist Maurice de Bévère (“Morris”) for the 1947 Annual (L’Almanach Spirou 1947) of Le Journal de Spirou, before launching into his first weekly adventure ‘Arizona 1880′ on December 7th 1946.

Prior to that, while working at the CBA (Compagnie Belge d’Actualitiés) cartoon studio, Morris met future comics super-stars Franquin and Peyo, and worked for weekly magazine Le Moustique as a caricaturist – which is probably why (to my eyes at least) his lone star hero looks uncannily like the young Robert Mitchum who graced so many memorable mid-1940s B-movie Westerns.

Morris quickly became one of “la Bande des quatre” – The Gang of Four – which comprised creators Jijé, Will and his old comrade Franquin: the leading proponents of the loose and free-wheeling artistic style known as the “Marcinelle School” which dominated 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 traveller René Goscinny, scoring some work from newly-formed EC sensation Mad and making copious notes and sketches of the swiftly vanishing Old West.

That research would resonate on every page of his life’s work.

Working solo until 1955, Morris produced another nine albums worth of affectionate sagebrush parody before reuniting 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), which began in Spirou on August 25th 1955.

In 1967 the six-gun straight-shooter switched 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.

Moreover, apart from that very first adventure, Lucky (to appropriate a quote applied to the thematically simpatico Alias Smith and Jones) “in all that time… never shot or killed anyone”…

Lucky Luke first appeared in Britain syndicated to weekly comic Film Fun and again in 1967 in Giggle where he was renamed Buck Bingo. In all these venues – as well as the numerous attempts to follow the English-language successes of Tintin and Asterix albums from Brockhampton and Knight Books – Luke had a trademark cigarette hanging insouciantly from his lip, but in 1983 Morris, no doubt amidst both pained howls and muted mutterings of “political correctness gone mad”, substituted a piece of straw for the much-travelled dog-end, which garnered him an official tip of the hat from the World Health Organization.

The most recent attempt to bring Lucky Luke to our shores and shelves comes from Cinebook (who have rightly restored the foul weed to his lips on the interior pages if not the covers…) and Dalton City was the third of 76 albums (and counting), available both on paper and as e-book editions.

It was the 34th comic cowboy chronicle and Goscinny’s 25th collaboration with Morris, originally appearing in 1969 and featuring the first appearance of that most stupid of do-gooding doggy sidekicks Rantanplan. You have been warned…

The saga commences in Fenton Town, a city of utter depravity and villainy run by and for crooks, badmen and owlhoots by the cunning mastermind Dean Fenton; a mean man with the unsavoury hobby of collecting Sheriff’s stars… from their bullet-riddled bodies…

The night a lean, laconic lone rider ambled into town the murderous gambler’s fortunes changed forever, and when Luke spectacularly delivered the gang boss to justice, Fenton got 1223 years hard labour at Texas penitentiary, an imposing edifice already crammed with dozens of other varmints who failed to take Lucky Luke seriously.

And that’s where the trouble really starts…

Amongst the inmates are stupid sandbagging scallywags Averell, Jack and William Dalton and their smart, psychotic, bossy and short brother Joe, who had made things hot for our hero in the past. As they all crack rocks together the Dalton Gang are particularly influenced by Fenton’s tales of his little kingdom.

Contentedly ambling away from the prison, Luke and Jolly Jumper have no idea that an idiotic, incompetent telegraph operator is about to make their lives impossibly difficult. Handed a mis-transcribed message from the Governor to free inmate Joe Milton for Good Behaviour, the baffled Warden forcibly ejects the furiously insulted Dalton head honcho. Eventually calming down – at least as much as Joe Dalton ever can – the wily skunk promptly blows up an outer wall to liberate his scurrilous simpleton siblings and they all make tracks for the now-deserted Fenton Town.

Search parties of course trail them, but when vain, friendly and exceedingly dim prison hound Rin Tin Can absently-mindedly forgets himself and joins his quarry, the shame-faced guards have to return empty-handed…

Regretfully, the Warden sends a telegram to Lucky Luke – again appallingly garbled – and the normally unflappable gunhawk is less than amused. It takes the pleadings of the Governor of Texas himself to convince him to go after his old enemies…

In the renamed Dalton City, Joe and the boys have big plans. They’re going to operate a Mecca for all the criminals in the state: a safe place for badmen to hide and spend their stolen loot. Joe will be in charge, Jack will operate the hotel, William the stables and Averell will run the restaurant. He even has faithful, omnivorous Rin Tin Can to test all his recipes on…

After much unlikely and unfamiliar hard work the place is starting to come together when they get an even bigger boost by capturing their nemesis Lucky Luke spying on them. The hero had forgotten how stupid Rin Tin Can could be…

The hapless prisoner is then put to work testing their wares: surely if the service is good enough for Luke it will be perfect for the scum of the West? However the boys make the foolish mistake of listening to his suggestions for improvement…

The beginning of the end comes when Joe writes off to hire a singer and troupe of dancing girls. When the bombastic virago Lulu Breechloader and her associates Belle, Sugar Linda and Pearl arrive Lucky has all he needs to drive an amorous wedge into the solidarity of the felonious fellowship and, as an army of bandits and killers steadily roll into town looking for sanctuary and entertainment, they are invited to the wedding of the century…

The only persons unaware of the impending – and hard-fought for – nuptials of Joe Dalton and Lulu are the bride herself and her blithely unaware piano-playing husband…

In the ensuing chaos and explosive gunplay it isn’t hard for a smart cowboy crusader to make the biggest capture of wanted criminals in Texas’ history and ride off into the sunset with a new four-footed canine companion…

Once again the masterful wit and wicked deviousness of the indomitable hero triumphs in a splendidly intoxicating blend of all-ages action, seductive slapstick and wry cynical humour.

This grand old hoot sits in the tradition of Destry Rides again and Support Your Local Sheriff (or perhaps Paint Your Wagon, Evil Roy Slade or Cat Ballou are more your style?), superbly executed by master storytellers, 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…

And in case you’re worried, even though the interior art still has our hero chawin’ on that ol’ nicotine stick, trust me, there’s very little chance of anyone craving a quick snout, but quite a high probability that they’ll be addicted to Lucky Luke Albums…
© Dargaud Editeur Paris 1969 by Goscinny & Morris. © Lucky Comics. English translation © 2006 Cinebook Ltd.

It Came!


By Dan Boultwood, Esq. (Titan Comics)
ISBN: 978-1-78276-005-4 (HB)

Once upon a time “retro” only meant rockets, with all those thrilling chilling connotations of clunky spaceships, cardboard robots and men in Baco-foil suits shambling about and terrifying avid children who had stayed up late to watch B-movie sci-fi yarns on black-&-white TV sets.

Jeepers, I miss those days, and so, apparently, does multi-talented, forward-thinking nostalgeologist Dan Boultwood.

In 2013, his 4-issue miniseries offered a tantalising tribute to the fantastic fantasy movies which fuelled the imaginations of British Baby-Boomers: simultaneously recapturing the wide-eyed wonder of the period whilst adding layers of archly post-modern humour to the mix…

This stirring monochrome graphic-novelisation of a faux-classic effort from the rightly almost-forgotten Pinetree Studios outfit allows modern film fans to experience (or revisit) the quirky delights which wowed their grandparents – and all from the comfort of their own safely locked-down homes – or even whilst out riding (masked and gloved) in a open-topped omnibus…

Packed to bursting with and supplemented by oodles of outrageous, hilarious, mood-setting ads for everything from Smoke & Choke’um Cigarettes to Johnny Foreigner Engine Oil, the story is a loving but irreverent paean of praise not only to those inspirational filmic marvels but also to the small repertory of actors and producers who made the late 1950s and early 1960s such a cornucopia of movie madness.

Like all such matinee marvels, the main feature here is preceded by a short trailer (for The Lost Valley of the Lost) which serves to introduce our cast, specifically He-Man Lead Dick Claymore as the sexist, pipe-chewing, tweed draped boffin Dr. Boy Brett and strident starlet Fanny Flaunders as his long-suffering, infinitely patient, glamorous-whilst-screaming assistant/secretary Doris Night.

The vintage supporting cast includes Bertrum Cumberbund, Spencer Lacey and Joan Fetlock, stalwart Pinetree thespians all…

It’s 1958 and in a beautiful bit of rural, ill-educated, unwoke England a colossal robot rampages…

Two days later Dr. Brett from Space University is treating working class ingénue Doris to a ride in his Morris Minor. He decides they should stop for a fortifying Ploughman’s Lunch in a strangely quiet and quaint village, blithely unaware that the reason it’s so still is because the aforementioned alien automaton has depopulated the shire…

Its subsequent surprise attempt to trap the tourists founders only when it stumbles into a cloying web of obfuscating, celebratory bunting…

After their spectacular close call the harried humans reach the next village over, but despite the boffin’s Old Boy Network connections, it’s the Devil’s own job to get the Ministry to mobilise the Military.

Nevertheless, Boy persists and soon a squad of veterans arrive to take control of the situation (a superb pastiche of the venerable icons of the “Carry-On” film franchise), only to vanish as the rapacious robot strikes again…

Undaunted, Boy drags Doris into more trouble and soon they find themselves aboard a vast Flying Saucer, uncovering the nature of the invaders’ appalling assault. The creepy, apparently unstoppable horrors are imprisoning salt-of-the-earth British citizens and somehow extracting their Stiff Upper Lips…

Following a necessary Intermission – for the purchase and consumption of gin and fags – the cartoon/celluloid calamity continues as our hero and the girl escape and head for London to warn the authorities, but not before accidentally dropping a handy but unlucky army division on exercises right in the UFO’s marauding sights.

Dr. Brett arrives barely ahead of the indestructible, unbeatable Saucer and, as the World’s Smoggiest Capital burns and founders, he is compelled to stop running and turn his mighty, college-honed intellect to the task of destroying the threat to civilisation…

This collection is also augmented by the original full-colour covers, hysterical background “information pages” on and intimate photos of stars Claymore and Flaunders, blueprints and design sketches for the alien Grurk and Flying Saucer, a selection from the infamous It Came! Cigarette Cards and colour posters for other Pinetree Studio releases such as ‘My Reptilian Bride!’, ‘Rocket Into Space!’, ‘The Lost Valley of the Lost’ and ‘Myopic Moon Men from the Moon’

More revelations are forthcoming in the ‘Metropolitan Police Incident Report on Mr. Claymore’s “eccentric” Drinking Habits’, and Director Boultwood’s photo-feature exposing his Special Effects magic in animating the Saucer for celluloid.

It Came! is a brilliant and sublime masterpiece of loving parody, perfectly executed and astoundingly effective. It is also the funniest – both visually and verbally – book I’ve read in years, blending slapstick with satire, outrageous ideas with infamous characterisations, and spit-taking puns, single entendres and innuendoes that would do Sid James, Charles Hawtrey or Kenneth Williams proud.

Miss it at your peril, Chaps (and Ladies too…).
It Came! ™ and © 2014 Dan Boultwood.