Aquablue & Aquablue: the Blue Planet


By Cailleteau & Vatine; translated by Randy & Jean-Marc Lofficier (Dark Horse)
ISBN: 978-1-87857-400-8 (TPB) and 1-87857-404-3 (TPB)

I’m tempted to file these little crackers under “unfinished business” as the slim translated French albums feature the first two instalments of a classy, stylish science fiction saga that sadly hit a reef before its English-language conclusion, despite being one of the most long-lived and impressive epics from a country that seems to specialize in successfully exporting edgy, clever comic fantasies.

In France, Thierry Cailleteau’s incisive sci fi anti-colonialism eco-thriller runs a full 14 (and counting) volumes since its debut in April 1988, with Olivier Vatine and his illustrative successors producing a wealth of stunning visual concepts and scenes which you’ve since unknowingly admired in movies such as Avatar

Sadly, as far as I’m aware only the first two volumes are available in English – and only then as physical back-issues – but surely in our cosmopolitan, politically and environmentally sensitive present a full sequence isn’t too much to hope for: especially as many Euro-publishers have their own digital imprints?

Until then, let’s wish upon a watery star and look to these blue horizons…

In Aquablue, the Starliner Silver Star is lost due to a meteor strike and in the rush to the life pods a baby is left behind. Rescued by a robot, the boy is reared in space until, eight years later, he finds a planet. This world only has 3% landmass, but is inhabited by a primitive, amiable race of humanoids, and incredibly huge marine species.

Over ten years the boy grows to manhood as Tumu-Nao: a valued member of the tribe. He is even betrothed to the chief’s daughter, Mi-Nuee, and his fellows believe him blessed by their god, a gigantic whale-like creature called Uruk-Uru. Unfortunately, Nao’s idyllic life forever alters when an Earth survey ship lands and Terran Ethnologist Maurice Dupre discovers that the young man is Wilfred Morgenstern: lost heir to Earth’s greatest financial empire, the United Energy Consortium.

However, that Consortium has already enacted a shady deal to turn the planet they call Aquablue into a vast hyper-station. This will result in the watery globe becoming a gigantic ice-ball and they certainly don’t need a naive boss who has gone native queering their big score. Nao’s own aunt puts out a hit on the rediscovered heir, but nobody realises that his connection to the “gods” of Aquablue is real and shockingly powerful…

 

The Blue Planet then finds Nao returning to Earth not so much to claim his birthright as to safeguard his adopted homeworld from human incursion. While he is away, the Consortium has resorted to the same tactics European imperialists used as they absorbed indigenous Earth cultures: destroying them with free booze and cheap baubles…

Nao’s father-in-law organizes a resistance movement, fleeing with the entire tribe to the polar regions, but on Earth Nao/Wilfred is having trouble resisting the allure of technological civilisation, until Mi-Nuee, who had stowed away on a starship, rises like a gleaming message from Uruk-Uru out of the Ocean swell.

With the help of Dupre they return in time for the final battle against the Consortium forces that have hunted the natives into the frozen wastelands…

And that was that… but it doesn’t have to be…

Original creative team Thierry Cailleteau & Olivier Vatine first teamed to produce the outlandishly comedic Adventures of Fred and Bob but really hit their peak on these superb thrillers, based tellingly on the colonial outrages of Western Civilisation: especially in their treatment of Polynesian cultures. The series continued with Cira Toto and Stéphane “Siro” Brangier replacing Vatine from the fifth book, as the epic moved beyond the original storyline into captivating areas of conservation and space opera…

Although these slender pearls are worth a look just for the superb quality of art and narrative, I’m plugging them here in the greedy hope that with European material finally part of a global comics culture, somebody will finally pick up and complete the translation of this delicious adventure series. Cross your fingers…
© 1988, 1990 Guy Delcourt Productions. English translation © 1989, 1990 Dark Horse Comics. All Rights Reserved.

Showcase Presents Sea Devils volume 1


By Robert Kanigher, Bob Haney, France E. Herron, Hank P. Chapman, Russ Heath, Irv Novick, Joe Kubert, Gene Colan, Ross Andru & Mike Esposito, Jack Abel, Bruno Premiani, Sheldon Moldoff, Howard Purcell & various (DC Comics)
ISBN: 978-1-4012-3522-2

Robert Kanigher (1915-2002) was one of the most distinctive authorial voices in American comics, blending rugged realism with fantastic fantasy and outrageous imagination in his signature war comics, as well as for the wealth of horror stories, romance yarns, “straight” adventure, westerns and superhero titles such as Wonder Woman, Teen Titans, Hawkman, Metal Men, Flash, Batman (plus other genres far too numerous to cover here) at which he also excelled.

He sold his first stories and poetry in 1932, wrote for the theatre, film and radio, and joined the Fox Features “shop” at the beginning of the comicbook phenomenon where he created The Bouncer, Steel Sterling and The Web, whilst providing scripts for established features like Blue Beetle and the original Captain Marvel (who we all call “Shazam!” these days).

In 1945 he settled at All-American Comics as both writer and editor, staying on when the company amalgamated with National Comics to become the forerunner of today’s DC. He wrote the Golden Age Flash and Hawkman, created Black Canary and many sexily memorable villainesses such as Harlequin and (Rose and) the Thorn. This last temptress he redesigned during the relevancy era of the early 1970s into a schizophrenic crime-busting super-heroine who haunted the back of Superman’s Girlfriend Lois Lane – which Kanigher also scripted at the time.

When mystery-men faded at the end of the 1940s, Kanigher moved easily into other genres such as spy-thrillers, westerns and war stories. In 1952 he became chief writer and editor of the company’s small combat line: All-American War Stories, Star Spangled War Stories and Our Army at War.

He created Our Fighting Forces in 1954 and added G.I. Combat to his packed portfolio when Quality Comics sold their dwindling line of titles to National/DC in 1956.

In 1955 Kanigher devised historical adventure anthology The Brave and the Bold and its stalwart early stars Silent Knight, Golden Gladiator and Viking Prince whilst still scripting Wonder Woman, Johnny Thunder, Rex the Wonder Dog and a host of others.

In 1956, for Julius Schwartz he scripted ‘Mystery of the Human Thunderbolt’ – the first story of the Silver Age which introduced Barry Allen as the new Flash to the hero-hungry kids of the world.

Kanigher was a restlessly creative writer and frequently used his uncanny if formulaic action arenas as a testing ground for future series concepts. Among the many epochal war features he created were Sgt. Rock, Enemy Ace, The War that Time Forgot, The Haunted Tank and The Losers, but he always kept an eye on contemporary trends too.

When supernatural comics took over the industry in the late 1960s, he was a mainstay at House of Mystery, House of Secrets and Phantom Stranger and in 1975 created gritty human interest/crime feature Lady Cop. Fifteen years earlier he had caught a similar wave (Oh, ha ha, hee hee…) by cashing in on the popularity of TV show Sea Hunt.

His entry into the sudden sub-genre deluge of scuba-diver comics featured the magical contemporary adventure formula of a heroic quartet (Smart Guy, Tough Guy, Young Guy and A Girl) who would indulge in all manner of (undersea) escapades from logical to implausible, topical to fantastical. He dubbed his team The Sea Devils

These classy yarns still haven’t made it into modern full-colour editions but they are magnificent examples of comics storytelling and if you have to read these lost treasures in mere monochrome, at least that’s better than nothing…

Re-presenting the turbulent, terrific try-out stories from Showcase #27-29 (July/August to November/December 1960) and Sea Devils #1-16 – cover-dated September/October 1961-March/April 1964 – this mammoth black-&-white paperback tome blends bizarre fantasy, sinister spy stories, shocking science fiction and two-fisted aquatic action with larger-than-life yet strictly human heroes who carved their own unique niche in comics history…

In almost every conceivable way, “try-out title” Showcase created the Silver Age of American comicbooks and is responsible for the multi-million-dollar industry and nascent art form we all enjoy today. The comicbook was a printed periodical Petri dish designed to launch new series and concepts with minimal commitment of publishing resources. If a new character sold well initially a regular series would follow. The process had been proved with Frogmen, Lois Lane, Challengers of the Unknown and many, many more.

The principle was a sound one which paid huge dividends. The Editors at National were apparently bombarded with readers’ suggestions for new titles and concepts and the only possible way to feasibly prove which would be popular was to offer test runs and assess fan – and most crucially sales – reactions.

Showcase #27 followed a particularly historic and fruitful run of successful non-superhero debuts which included Space Ranger, Adam Strange, and Rip Hunter…Time Master. At a time when costumed characters seemed to be ascendant but memories of genre implosions remained fresh, it seemed that the premier publication could do no wrong. Moreover, it wasn’t Kanigher and artist Russ Heath’s first dip in this particular pool.

Showcase #3 had launched war feature The Frogmen in an extended single tale following candidates for a US Underwater Demolitions Team in WWII as they perilously graduated from students to fully-fledged underwater warriors.

The feature, if not the actual characters, became a semi-regular strip in All-American Men of War #44 (April #1957) and other Kanigher-edited war comics: making Frogmen the first but certainly not the last graduate of the try-out system. Now, with tales of underwater action appearing in comics, books film and TV, the time was right for a civilian iteration to make some waves…

The drama here begins in ‘The Golden Monster’ (by Kanigher & Heath) as lonely skin-diver Dane Dorrance reminisces about his WWII frogman father – and the senior’s trusty buddies – before being saved from a sneaky shark by a mysterious golden-haired scuba-girl.

Judy Walton is an aspiring actress who, seeking to raise her Hollywood profile, has entered the same underwater treasure hunt Dane is engaged in, but as they join forces, they have no idea of the dangers awaiting them…

Locating the sunken galleon they’ve been hunting, both are trapped when seismic shifts and a gigantic octopus bury them inside the derelict. Happily, hulking third contestant Biff Bailey is on hand and his tremendous strength tips the scales and allows the trio to escape.

Now things take a typical Kanigher twist as the action switches from tense realistic drama to riotous fantasy with the explosive awakening of a colossal reptilian sea-monster who chases the divers until Judy’s little brother Nicky races in to distract the beast…

Temporarily safe, the relative strangers unite to destroy the thing – with the help of a handy floating mine left over from the war – before deciding to form a professional freelance diving team. They take their name from the proposed movie Judy wanted to audition for, becoming forever “The Sea Devils”…

In Showcase #28 Dane’s dad again offers his boy ‘The Prize Flippers’ he won for his war exploits, but Dane feels his entire team should be allowed to compete for them. Of course, each diver successively outdoes the rest, but in the end a spectacular stunt with a rampaging whale leaves the trophy in the hands of a most unlikely competitor…

A second story then sees the new team set up shop as “underwater trouble-shooters”, only to stumble into a mystery as pretty Mona Moray begs them to find her missing father. Professor Moray was lost when his rocket crashed into the ocean, but as the scuba stalwarts diligently search the crash site, they are ambushed by underwater aborigines and join the scientist in an uncanny ‘Undersea Prison’

Only when their captors reveal themselves as invading aliens do the team finally pull together, escape the trap and bring the house down on the insidious aquatic horrors…

Showcase #29 also offered two briny tales, casting off with ‘The Last Dive of the Sea Devils’, wherein a recently-imprisoned dictator from Venus escapes to Earth and battles the astounded team to a standstill from his giant war-seahorse.

The blockbusting battle costs them their beloved vessel The Sea Witch before the crew make use of a handy leftover torpedo to end the interplanetary tyrant. Sea-born giants also abound in ‘Undersea Scavenger Hunt’, wherein the cash-strapped trouble-shooters compete in a flashy contest to win a new boat.

Incredible creatures and fantastic treasure traps are no real problem, but the actions of rival divers The Black Mantas almost cost our heroes their lives…

Everything worked out though, and nine months later Sea Devils #1 hit the stands with Kanigher & Heath leading the way. In ‘The Sea Devils vs. the Octopus Man’, our watery quartet are now stars of a monster movie, but when the lead beastie comes to lethal life and attacks them, all thoughts of fame and wealth sink without trace…

The second tale was scripted by the superbly inventive Bob Haney who riffed on Moby Dick’s plot in a tale of how Vikings hunted a mythical orca with a magic harpoon before latter-day fanatical whaler Captain Shark mercilessly seeks out the ‘Secret of the Emerald Whale’ with the desperate Sea Devils dragged along for the ride…

Haney wrote both yarns in the next issue, beginning with ‘A Bottleful of Sea Devils’ as mad scientist Mr. Neptune uses a shrinking device to steal a US Navy weapon prototype. With the aquatic investigators hard on his flippered heels, the felon is soon caught whilst ‘Star of the Sea’ introduces brilliant performing seal Pappy who repeatedly saves the team before finding freedom and true love in the wild waters of the Atlantic…

Kanigher returned for #3’s ‘Underwater Crime Wave’ as the Devils clashed with a cunning modern Roman Emperor who derives incredible wealth from smuggling and traps the team in his undersea arena.

Judy then finds herself the only one immune to the allure of ‘The Ghost of the Deep’ as subsea siren Circe makes the boys her latest playthings and her human rival is compelled to pull out all the stops to save her friends…

Sea Devils # 4 led with ‘The Sea of Sorcery’ as the team investigate – but fail to debunk – incredible myths of a supposedly haunted region of ocean, after which Haney detailed how the squad travelled into the heart of South America to liberate a tribe of lost pre-Columbian Condor Indians from a tyrannical witch doctor whilst solving ‘The Secret of Volcano Lake!’

‘The Creature Who Stole the 7 Seas’ (Kanigher) opened issue #5, as a particularly dry period for the trouble-shooters ends after a crashing UFO disgorges a sea giant intent on transferring Earth’s oceans to his own arid world. Oddly for the times, here mutual cooperation and a smart counter-plan save the day for two panicked planets.

Veteran writer Hank P. Chapman joined the ever-expanding team with a smart yarn of submerged Mayan treasure and deadly traps to imperil the team as they solve the ‘Secret of the Plumed Serpent’, before Kanigher returned with a book-length thriller in #6 which sees the Devils seemingly ensorcelled by ancient parchments which depict them battling incredible menaces in centuries past.

Biff battles undersea knights for Queen Cleopatra, Judy saves Ulysses from the Sirens, Nicky rescues a teenaged mermaid from a monstrous fish-man and Dane clashes with ‘The Flame-Headed Watchman!’, but is wise enough to realise that the true threat comes from the mysterious stranger who has brought them such dire documents…

The switch to longer epics was a wise and productive move, followed up in #7 with ‘The Human Tidal Wave!’ as the heroes spectacularly battle an alien made of roaring water to stop a proposed invasion, whilst in #8 they strive to help a fish transformed into a grieving merman from the ‘Curse of Neptune’s Giant!’ This malignant horror’s mutative touch temporarily makes monsters of them all too, but in the end Sea Devil daring trumps eldritch cruelty…

More monster madness followed in #9’s ‘The Secret of the Coral Creature!’ as the team become paragliding US Naval medics to rescue an astronaut. That’s mere prelude to an oceanic atomic bomb test which blasts them to a sea beneath the sea which had imprisoned an ancient alien for eons of crushing solitude, and who had no intention of ever letting the air-breathers go…

A concatenation of crazy circumstances creates the manic madness of #10’s ‘4 Mysteries of the Sea!’ as godly King Neptune decrees that on this day every wild story of the sea will come true, just as the Sea Devils are competing in a “Deep Six Tall Tales” contest.

Soon the incredulous squad are battling pirates in an underwater ghost town, rescued from captivity by a giant octopus thanks to a friendly seal (Good old Pappy!), facing off against aliens of the Martian Canals Liars Club and saving Neptune himself from a depth-charge attack…

The hugely underrated Irv Novick took over as primary illustrator with #11, as the Sea Devils agree to test human underwater endurance limits in an ocean-floor habitat. Soon however, Dane is near breaking point, seeing a succession of monsters from the ‘Sea of Nightmares!’

Kanigher then relinquished the writing to fellow golden age alumnus France E. Herron who kicked off in rip-roaring form with a classy sci fi romp. Here Nicky’s growing feelings of inadequacy are quashed after he saves his comrades – and the world – from the ‘Threat of the Magnetic Menace!’

Always experimental and rightfully disrespectful of the fourth wall, editors Kanigher and George Kashdan turned issue #13 over to the fans for ‘The Secrets of 3 Sunken Ships’, as successive chapters of Herron’s script were illustrated by Joe Kubert, Gene Colan and Ross Andru & Mike Esposito for the audience to judge who was the best.

The artists all appear in the tale conducting interviews and “researching” our heroes as they tackle a reincarnated sea captain, travel to an ancient sea battle between Greece and Persia and meet the alien who kidnapped the crew of the Marie Celeste…

The gag continued in Sea Devils #14 as illustrator Novick came along for the ride as the amazing aquanauts try to end the catastrophic ‘War of the Underwater Giants’ This finds aging deities Neptune and Hercules battle for supremacy in Earth’s oceans.

Jack Abel was the artistic guest star in second story ‘Challenge of the Fish Champions!’, wherein our heroes enter a cash prize competition to buy scuba equipment for a junior diving club.

Unfortunately, crazy devious scientist Karpas also wants the loot and fields a team of his own technologically augmented minions. Before long, the human skin-divers are facing off against a sea lion, a manta ray, a squid and a merman. Nobody specified that contestants had to be human…

Novick got into the act again illustrating #15 as author Herron revealed Judy and Nicky’s relationship to the ‘Secret of the Sunken Sub!’ When inventor Professor Walton vanishes whilst testing his latest submersible, it’s only a matter of time before his children drag the rest of the Sea Devils to the bottom of every ocean to find him and his lost crew.

The uncanny trail takes them through shoals of monsters, astounding flora and into the lair of an incredible sea spider before the mission is successfully accomplished…

Things regained some semblance of narrative normality with the final issue in this compilation as Chapman contributed a brace of high adventure yarns beginning with ‘The Strange Reign of Queen Judy and King Biff’, superbly rendered by the wonderful Bruno Premiani & Sheldon Moldoff.

When a massive wave capsizes the Sea Witch, only Dane and Nicky seemingly survive, but the determined explorers persevere and eventually find their friends held as bewitched captives on the island of an immortal wizard. All they have to do is kidnap their ferociously resisting comrades, escape an army of angry guards and penetrate the island’s mystic defences a second time to restore everything to normal. No problem…

This eccentric and exciting voyage of discovery concludes with ‘Sentinel of the Golden Head’ – illustrated by the always impressive Howard Purcell & Moldoff – as the restored aquatic quartet stumble onto the lost island of Blisspotamia in time to witness a beautiful maiden trying to sacrifice herself to the sea gods.

By interfering, they incur the wrath of a legion of mythological horrors and have no choice but to defy the gods to free the terrified islanders from ignorance and tyranny…

These capacious black-&-white compendia are superb value and provide a vital service by bringing older, less flashy (but still astonishingly expensive in their original issues) tales to a readership which might otherwise be denied them. However, this is probably the only series which I can honestly say suffers in the slightest from the lack of colour.

Whilst the line-art story illustrations are actually improved by the loss of hue, the original covers – by Heath and Novick as supervised and inked by production ace Jack Adler – used all the clever technical print effects and smart ingenuity of the period to add a superb extra layer of depth to the underwater scenes which tragically cannot be appreciated in simple line and tone reproduction. Just go to any online cover browser site and you’ll see what I mean…

Nevertheless, the amazing art and astounding stories are as good as they ever were and Showcase Presents Sea Devils is stuffed with incredible ideas, strange situations and non-stop action. These underwater wonders are a superb slice of the engaging fantasy thrillers which were once the backbone of American comicbooks. Perhaps a little whacky in places, they are remarkably similar to many tongue-in-cheek, anarchic Saturday morning kids’ animation shows and will certainly provide jaded fiction fans with hours of unmatchable entertainment.…
© 1960, 1961, 1962, 1963, 1964, 2012 DC Comics. All Rights Reserved.

Voyage to the Deep


By Sam J. Glanzman. Paul S. Newman, Lionel Ziprin & various (It’s Alive!/IDW)
ISBN: 978-1-68405-450-3 (HB)

If you have any kind of vintage to you, you’ll have heard of Irwin Allen’s techno-fantasy Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea: as a movie or in its later television incarnation. The franchise was a huge global hit in the 1960’s and spawned lots of the usual spin-offs in games, toys and comicbooks.

You might not be aware that between the comics adaptation of the movie (in Four-Color # 1230, November 1961) and the 16-issue series based on the TV sensation (published between December 1964 and May 1969), another undersea phenomenon saved the world a few times, equally inspired by atomic age wonders of the briny depths and (arguably) that movie…

The details are revealed in Steve Bissette’s informative Introduction ‘The Proteus Prophecies (The Cold War SFusion of Voyage to the Deep)’: tracing the history of submersible vehicles, nuclear subs – in fact and fiction – and the richly-mined seam of subsea adventure in comics. A handy sidebar – ‘The Voyage of Voyage’ – then traces the efforts of director Irwin Allen as he brought Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea to screens large and small and thus created a comics sub-genre (sorry; couldn’t resist).

Once upon a time Dell Comics and Gold Key were the same publishing monolith, Western Print and Litho. As Whitman Publishing, they produced their own books and comics for decades through their Dell and Gold Key imprints, rivalling and often surpassing DC and Timely/Marvel at the height of their powers. Famously, they never capitulated to the wave of anti-comics hysteria which resulted in the crippling self-censorship of the 1950s.

Dell Comics never displayed a Comics Code Authority symbol on their covers. They never needed to: their canny blend of media and entertainment licensed titles were always produced with a family market in mind and the creative staff took their editorial stance from the mores of the filmic Hayes Code and its analogues in the burgeoning television industry.

Just like the big and little screen, the product enticed but never shocked and kept contentious social issues implicit instead of tacit. It was a case of “violence and murder are fine, but never titillate.”

Moreover, most of their adventure comics covers were high quality photos or paintings – adding a stunning degree of veracity and verisimilitude to even the most outlandish of concepts for us wide-eyed waifs in need of awesome entertainment. For decades, the company seemed the only first choice for a licensed comicbook, and to be honest, the results seldom disappointed.

They also employed some of the best artists in America as well as the wider world…

After far too many years as a secret darling of the comics cognoscenti, in his last years Sam J. Glanzman was finally awarded his proper station as one of American comics’ greatest and most remarkable creators – thanks in no small part to the diligent efforts of editor Drew Ford, (initially at publishing house Dover, and later his own It’s Alive! imprint) which revived groundbreaking graphic novel sequence A Sailor’s Story, astonishing semi-autobiographical series USS Stevens and other non-superhero classics and enshrined them on bookshelves across the world.

Apart from his time in the Navy, Glanzman drew and wrote comics from the 1940s until his death in 2017, most commonly in the classic genres – war, western, mystery, adventure and fantasy – where his raw, powerful and subtly engaging style and wry wit made his work irresistibly compelling to generations of readers

On titles such as Kona, Monarch of Monster Island, Combat, Jungle Tales of Tarzan, Hercules, The Haunted Tank, The Green Berets and cult classic The Private War of Willie Schultz, Glanzman always produced magnificently rousing yarns which fired the imagination and stirred the blood. That unceasing output always sold well and won him a legion of fans (most vocally amongst fellow artists), if not from the insular and over-vocal fan-press. Most of the above cited are also now or soon to be available in archival editions (mostly brilliantly cleaned-up and remastered by Now Read This’ own Allan Harvey) and – if I live long enough – I’ll be urging you to get them too via reviews like this one…

One of Glanzman’s early jobs for Dell was the movie adaptation of Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, so with his maritime experience and gritty style he must have been the only choice to limn the adventures of another fantastic super submarine: Proteus in Voyage to the Deep

Scripted by Paul S. Newman and Lionel Ziprin, four fully-restored, mammoth issues of fantastic science fantasy begin with the eponymous ‘Voyage to the Deep’ as #1 introduces the next wave of submersible technology in the fluid form of Proteus: a twin-skinned atomic submarine that can alter its shape to counter the appalling pressure of the sea bottom.

Commanded by Admiral Jonathan Leigh, and skippered by Captain Duke Peters, the exploratory prototype is soon seconded into drastic action after an unseen Enemy inimical to all life tampers with the planet’s molten core and tips the planet off its axis. By attacking the Marianas Trench, the shift displaces all the world’s oceans, sparking colossal tsunamis to wipe out civilisation.

With humanity drowning and undiscovered monsters awakening, Proteus attempts to rectify the apocalyptic damage to the sea floor. They have only one chance, if only the crew can hold their nerve…

Remember I said Dell never acknowledged Comics Code Authority dictates? Be prepared for an astounding and compelling slice of doomsday fiction with a truly staggering body count…

With the battered Earth barely recovering from its close call, the second issue (May-July 1963) saw the doughty submariners facing ‘The Ice Menace’ as a follow-up attack finds humanity facing global extreme snowfalls. Dreading the prospect of a new ice age, Leigh’s super-sub heads to the North pole on a data-gathering mission and the maritime genius devises a way to reverse the Enemy’s geological sabotage and save mankind once more…

The threat had not ended and #3 (August-October 1963) reveals the Proteus being refitted just in time to hunt down ‘The Anti-Matter Threat’ hidden somewhere on Earth and slowly building to a critical mass…

The constant war of nerves concludes but did not end with the ‘Mysterious Mission’ in #4, as Proteus goes hunting for the Enemy technology that sparks a chain of underwater volcanoes that threaten to rip the world apart…

This epic hardcover or digital tome is bursting with extras: beginning with a rousing cover gallery of painted monster masterpieces by John McDermott and continuing with the extra strips that came as standard in the mainly-advert-free comics. These include context-contributing fact-features ‘Creatures of the Deep’, ‘The Great Flood’, ‘Fire and Water’, ‘Ice Ages’, ‘Arctic Creatures’, ‘Dangerous Waters’ and ‘Trial by Fire’ – all by Glanzman – and ‘The Never-Ending Hunt’ by Alex Toth & Mike Peppe.

One place that did sell ad-space was the back cover, and a gallery of those tantalisingly offer again the toys and prizes generations of British kids drooled over because they were exotic, bombastic and generally unreachable on pocket money that didn’t come in dollars and cents…

Wrapping up with a fond appreciation in ‘E Pluribus Unum’, an erudite Afterword by this volume’s cover artist Rufus Dayglo (who also adds a tentacle-bestrewn spot illustration here in the Kickstarter edition that you should pray is included in the mainstream edition!), as well as a welcome biographies section, this is a marvellously manic and sublimely seductive nostalgia wave any fan of fantastic fiction would be mad to miss.
Voyage to the Deep illustrations © the estate of Sam J. Glanzman. “The Proteus Prophecies” © 2018 Stephen R. Bissette. “E Pluribus Unum” © 2018 Rufus Dayglo. Voyage to the Deep All Rights Reserved.

Bloody Mary


By Garth Ennis, Carlos Ezquerra & various (Image)
ISBN: 978-1-63215-761-4

Let’s go back to a future that never happened… yet…

Fleetway veterans Garth Ennis and Carlos Ezquerra have a long association with British war comics and the apocalyptic visions of alternate lifestyle bible 2000AD, so combining those sensibilities in a near-future World War III adventure must have seemed a natural for the fledgling DC science fiction imprint Helix when they began publishing at the end of the last century.

Since the first 4-part miniseries spawned an almost immediate sequel, they must have been more or less correct, but as Helix folded in the space of a year, with its surviving projects being absorbed by sister/parent imprint Vertigo, this compilation comes to us via them and their championing of creator rights but actually courtesy of creator-owner outfit Image Comics.

Confused yet? Surely not?

In 1999, Europe went back to war: massive, bloody conventional war with the bankrupt and barmy US of A and it’s grovelling toady ally Great Britain, ostensibly over economic and religious differences, but actually because our creators needed a backdrop for the world-weary Mary to display her exceptional talent for slaughter in the signature arena of idiot Generals and venal politicians whose sole reason for existing seems to be to prune back the surplus of the current generation of decent folk.

My other screen is currently updating me on the escalating tariff clashes between the orange office of Trumplestiltskin and the EU, China and probably any country without a national golf course, but I’m sure that’s coincidence, not the late-running of a prediction from a comicbook Nostradamus or two…

Now imagine it’s 2012 again. Under the guise of a mission to secure a biological super-weapon, American commando Corporal Mary Malone – who affects the look of a very mean nun – and a crack team of expendables including her only friend “The Major” spectacularly and gratuitously battle a spectre from her gore-splattered past and the EU’s top psychotic hit-man. Carving a swathe of destruction through Europe’s few remaining landmarks, their mission is to secure the key to immortality (a parasitic organism dubbed the Blood Dragon), but, of course, their superiors have been less than candid in what it actually does or what it’s for and have only themselves to blame when Mary – and her opponents – go off-mission…

Violently engaging, sublimely cathartic and painfully accurate in far too many prognostications, this first tale (released in 1996) was followed by an equally engaging follow up.

Bloody Mary: Lady Liberty was issued a year later and sees an older, wiser Malone return to a devastated America. With the Major in tow she agrees to wrest New York City from the half-million religious maniacs who have captured it. The messiah du jour is Achilles Seagal: a bigoted, populist raving lunatic with the common touch, a unique manner of phrasing complex issues who knows just what to say to make people do what he wants…

Trenchant, savagely satirical, gripping and never less than totally thrilling, this slice of dark, edgy fun shows Ennis and the much-missed Ezquerra at their anarchic irreverent best, ably assisted by letterer Annie Parkhouse and colourists Matt Hollingsworth & Chris Chuckry , giving you an everyman view of all the hell-and-stupidity our leaders happily drag us ordinary mortals through far too often.

Grown-up comics at its very best and long overdue for its rightful place on your bookshelf or in your digital library.
© 2016 Garth Ennis & Carlos Ezquerra. All rights reserved.

Astro Boy volume 5

c
By Osamu Tezuka, translated by Frederik L. Schodt (Dark Horse Manga)
ISBN: 978-1-56971-680-9 (TPB)

From beginning his professional career in the late 1940s until his death in 1989, Osamu Tezuka generated an incomprehensible volume of quality work which transformed the world of manga and how it was perceived in his own country and, ultimately, across the globe. Devoted to Walt Disney’s creations, he performed similar sterling service with Japan’s fledgling animation industry.

The earliest stories were intended for children but right from the start Tezuka’s expansive fairy tale stylisations harboured more mature themes and held hidden pleasures for older readers and the legion of fans growing up with his manga masterpieces…

“The God of Comics” was born in Osaka Prefecture on November 3rd 1928, and as a child suffered from a severe illness. The doctor who cured him inspired the lad to study medicine, and although Osamu began drawing professionally whilst at university in 1946, he persevered with college and qualified as a medical practitioner too. Then, as he faced a career crossroads, his mother advised him to do the thing which made him happiest.

He never practiced as a healer but the world was gifted with such masterpieces as Kimba the White Lion, Buddha, Black Jack and so many other graphic narratives.

Working ceaselessly over decades, Tezuka and his creations inevitably matured, but he was always able to speak to the hearts and minds of young and old equally. His creations ranged from the childishly charming to the distinctly disturbing such as The Book of Human Insects.

Tezuka died on February 9th 1989, having produced more than 150,000 pages of timeless comics, created the Japanese anime industry and popularised uniquely Japanese graphic narrative which became a fixture of world culture.

This fifth monochrome digest volume (173 x 113 mm in the physical world and any size you like if you get the eBook edition) continues to present – in non-linear order – early exploits of his signature character, with the emphasis firmly on fantastic fun and family entertainment…

Tetsuwan Atomu (literally “Mighty Atom” but known universally as Astro Boy due to its dissemination around the world as an animated TV cartoon and one of post-war Japan’s better exports) is a spectacular, riotous, rollicking sci fi action-adventure starring a young boy who also happens to be one of the mightiest robots on Earth.

The series began in 1952 in Shōnen Kobunsha and ran until March 12th 1968 – although Tezuka often returned to add to the canon in later years. Over that period, Astro spawned the aforementioned global TV cartoon boom, starred in comicbook specials and featured in games, toys, collectibles, movies and the undying devotion of generations of ardent fans.

Tezuka frequently drew himself into his tales as a commentator, and in his later revisions and introductions often mentioned how he found the restrictions of Shōnen comics stifling; specifically, having to periodically pause a plot to placate the demands of his audience by providing a blockbusting fight every episode. That’s his prerogative: most of us avid aficionados have no complaints…

Tezuka and his production team were never as wedded to close continuity as fans are. They constantly revised both stories and artwork in later collections, so if you’re a purist you are just plain out of luck. Such tweaking and modifying is the reason this series seems to skip up and down the publishing chronology. The intent is to entertain at all times so stories aren’t treated as gospel and order is not immutable or inviolate.

It’s just comics, guys…

And in case you came in late, here’s a little background to set you up…

In a world where robots are ubiquitous and have won (limited) human rights, brilliant Dr. Tenma lost his son Tobio in a traffic accident. Grief-stricken, the tormented genius used his position as head of Japan’s Ministry of Science to build a replacement. The android his team created was one of the most ground-breaking constructs in history, and for a while Tenma was content.

However, as his mind re-stabilised, Tenma realised the unchanging humanoid was not Tobio and, with cruel clarity, summarily rejected the replacement. Ultimately, the savant removed the insult to his real boy by selling the robot to a shady dealer…

One day, independent researcher Professor Ochanomizu was in the audience at a robot circus and realised diminutive performer “Astro” was unlike the other acts – or indeed, any artificial being he had ever encountered. Convincing the circus owners to part with the little robot, the Prof closely studied the unique creation and realised just what a miracle had come into his hands…

Part of Ochanomizu’s socialization process for Astro included placing him in a family environment and having him attend school just like a real boy. As well as providing friends and admirers the familiar environment turned up another foil and occasional assistant in the bellicose form of Elementary School teacher Higeoyaji (AKA Mr. Mustachio)…

The wiry wonder’s astonishing exploits resume after the now traditional ‘A Note to Readers’ – explaining why one thing that hasn’t been altered is the depictions of various racial types in the stories.

‘Crucifix Island’ originally ran January through April, 1957 in Shōnen Magazine and begins with an explanation of why most robots are generally humanoid before concentrating on obsessive Doctor Tozawa who channelled his ancient ninja lineage to create an ultimate shape-changing mechanoid. He was interrupted and arrested before he could complete his masterpiece but that was then and this is now where our story properly begins…

Following a manic prison break, Tozawa and his new crooked cronies wash up on and take over a desolate island housing one hundred thousand robots operating the deepest and most sophisticated uranium mine on Earth. The merest by-product is a daily fortune in other precious ores and gems…

Meanwhile, at the Isle’s Robot School Astro is having problems with another young automaton. Pook is troubled because he’s incomplete: his “father” was arrested and imprisoned before he could make his boy perfect…

When Pook and Tozawa are reunited, the mad scientist ambushes Astro, harvesting his body for the parts needed to complete his dream robot. The troubled mechanoid finally gains the power to change shape…

Sadly, one thing that never changes is human greed and Tozawa’s fellow fugitives turn on him when he ignores their pleas to plunder the discarded mountain of gems. Inviting their army of criminal comrades to take over the island, they try to kill the now repentant technologist. With his breath fading, the Doctor repairs Astro to tackle the thieves, but nobody anticipated Pook’s reaction to gaining his full powers or how that would affect the multitude of lethal digging robots…

After a tremendous battle order is eventually restored but not everybody makes it out alive…

Running in Shōnen Magazine from February to April 1960, ‘Space Snow Leopard’ details how frosty precipitation across Earth steals energy from robots and machines. Seemingly unaffected, Astro is challenged by a space wizard and his six-legged killer feline Lupe, but barely escapes as they continue softening up the planet for an alien takeover.

On the run, Astro consults his school friends hoping organic humanity can prevail against the bizarre duo. Ultimately however it takes humans and robots working together and the invention of a giant amalgamated mecha comprised of many smaller automatons working in unison to save the world…

‘The Artificial Sun’ first ran between December 1959 and February 1960 and concludes this compilation in glorious style as a ship at sea reports a deadly floating fireball causing weather disruptions. Fearing the worst, the International Council of Police Organizations consult super-cop Sherlock Holmspun to tackle the crisis. His pride in in a swift breakthrough is soon scotched, however, when the council insist he take along some competent backup/additional firepower in the form of a robot codenamed Mighty Atom …

With the game afoot, the odd couple track down prime suspect Professor Hirata and his deadly monster, but will Holmspun’s prejudice jeopardise the mission… or will his dreadful secret shame leave them all unable to fight off the deadly fireball beast and the real culprit behind it?

Breathtaking pace, outrageous invention, slapstick comedy, heart-wrenching sentiment and frenetic action are the hallmarks of these captivating comics constructions: perfect examples of Tezuka’s uncanny storytelling gifts, which can still deliver a potent punch and instil wide-eyed wonder on a variety of intellectual levels.
Tetsuwan Atom by Osama Tezuka © 2002 by Tezuka Productions. All rights reserved. Astro Boy is a registered trademark of Tezuka Productions Co., Ltd., Tokyo Japan. Unedited translation © 2002 Frederik L. Schodt.

The Steel Claw: The Vanishing Man

,”

By Ken Bulmer & Jesús Blasco (Titan Books)

ISBN: 978-1-84576-156-1 (HB)

So, I’ve just pulled an all-nighter to finish my latest book by deadline—an obsessive point of pride with me that will kill me someday soon—and I’m buzzing like a bucket of angry bees. So, too tired to sleep yet, I reach for one of my favourite books to mellow out and wonder again why the hell hasn’t this been rereleased or made available digitally. And why no follow-up releases? Surely, sheer quality must count for something?

One of the most fondlyremembered British strips of all time is the startlingly beautiful Steel Claw. From 1962 to 1973 the stunningly gifted Jesús Blasco and his small studio of family members thrilled the nation’s children, illustrating the breakneck adventures of scientist, adventurer, secret agent and even costumed superhero Louis Crandell.

Initially written by science fiction novelist Ken Bulmer, the majority of the character’s career was scripted by comic veteran Tom Tully.

Our eventual hero began as the assistant to the venerable Professor Barringer, working to create a germdestroying ray. Crandell is an embittered man, probably due to having lost his right hand, which has been replaced with a steel prosthetic. When the prof’s device explodes, Crandell receives a monumental electric shock which, rather than killing him, renders him invisible. Although he doesn’t stay unseen forever, this bodily transformation is permanent. Electric shocks cause all but his steel hand to disappear.

Kids, don’t try this at home!

Whether venal or simply deranged, Crandell goes on a rampage of terror against society,culminating in an attempt to blow up New York City before finally coming to his senses. The second adventure in this astounding oversized hardback volume pits the Claw against his therapist, who in an attempt to treat him is also exposed to Barringer’s ray, becoming a bestial ape-man who frames Crandell for a series of spectacular crimes.

Bulmer’s final tale begins our star’s shift from outlaw to hero as the recuperating Crandell becomes involved in a modernday pirate’s scheme to hijack an undersea weapons system

More than any other, the Steel Claw was a barometer for reading fashions. Starting out as a Quatermass style science fiction cautionary tale, the strip mimicked the trends of the greater world, becoming a James Bond-like super-spy strip with Crandall tricked out with outrageous gadgets, and latterly a masked and costumed super-doer when Batmania gripped the nation. When that bubble burst, he resorted to becoming a freelance adventurer,combating eerie menaces and vicious criminals.

The thrills of the writing are engrossing enough, but the real star of this feature is the artwork. Blasco’s classicist drawing, his moody staging and the sheer beauty of his subjects make this an absolute pleasure to look at. Buy it for the kids and read it too; this is a glorious book.

So, track it down and agitate for more of the same…

© 2005 IPC Media Ltd. All Rights Reserved.

Valerian – The Complete Collection volume 4


By J.-C. Méziéres & P. Christin with colours by E. Tranlé: translated by Jerome Saincantin (Cinebook)
ISBN: 978-1-84918-391-8

Valérian: Spatio-Temporal Agent first took to the skies and timestream in 1967 in the November 9th edition of Pilote (#420): in an introductory tale which ran until February 15th 1968. Although a huge hit, graphic album compilations only began with second tale – The City of Shifting Waters – as the creators concerned considered the first yarn more a work-in-progress and not quite up to their preferred standard.

You can judge for yourself by getting hold of the first hardcover compilation volume in this cinematic tie-in sequence. Or you can consider yourself suitably forward-looking and acquire one of the eBook editions…

The groundbreaking series followed a Franco-Belgian mini-boom in science fiction comics triggered by Jean-Claude Forest’s 1962 creation Barbarella. Other notable hits of the era include Greg & Eddy Paape’s Luc Orient and the cosmic excursions of Philippe Druillet’s Lone Sloane, which all with Valérian in the vanguard – boosted public reception of the genre and led, in 1977, to the creation of dedicated fantasy periodical Métal Hurlant.

Valérian and Laureline (as the series became) was a light-hearted, wildly imaginative time-travel adventure-romp (a bit like Doctor Who, but not really so much), drenched in wry, satirical, humanist and political social commentary. The star – at least initially – was an affable, capably unimaginative by-the-book cop tasked with protecting universal timelines and counteracting paradoxes caused by casual, incautious or criminally minded chrononauts…

In the course of that debut escapade, Valerian picked up impetuous, sharp-witted peasant lass Laureline, who originated in the 11th century before becoming our hero’s assistant and deputy. In gratitude for truly invaluable assistance, he brought her back to the 28th century super-citadel and administrative capital, Galaxity, where the feisty firebrand took a crash course in spatiotemporal ops before accompanying him on his cases…. luckily for him.

This fabulous fourth oversized hardback compendium – also available digitally – once again boasts a wealth of text features, beginning with Stan Barets’ deconstructive assessment ‘Whimsical Stories with Strong Themes…’ More follows with further discourse, all supplemented with photos sketches, designs and reference material in ‘Towards the End of History?’, ‘Constantly Renewed Questions’ and retrospective overview ‘Châtelet Station: A Great Spatial and Temporal Shift’. Glittering prizes are assessed in ‘The Consecration of Angoulême’ and are followed by ‘Space Grunts’: a short complete war story from Metal Hurlant, highlighting the creative highpoints and methodology of author/illustrator Méziéres before the main event kicks off…

The opening shot in the series’ first truly extended saga, Châtelet Station Destination Cassiopeia, was originally serialised in the monthly Pilote (#M47 to M50: 21st March to June 27th 1978) before being collected later that year as 8th album Métro Châtelet Direction Cassiopée. The story concluded in follow-up album Brooklyn Line Terminus Cosmos which happily follows…

It all begins with the partners far apart in time and space. Laureline pensively journeys to the fabulous Cassiopeia system, just for once enjoying the many wonders of space as she travels at sub-light speed through the phenomenally populous yet cosmically fragile region.

Her trip to Solum is broken up by many stopovers as she cautiously gathers snippets of gossip which cohere to reveal an unsettling trend: subtly voiced concerns that some merchants are pushing strange and dangerous technologies on buyers extremely unsuited to possess them…

Although separated by centuries and light-years, Laureline and Valerian are enjoying impossibly intimate contact. Thanks to Terran ingenuity – and recent neurosurgeries – the partners are telepathically linked and sharing information on the mission.

His mission is playing out in Paris of 1980, where Valerian idly observes the variety of human types frequenting the café he impatiently haunts; constantly reminded how little he knows or understands the people and history of his birthworld.

Things aren’t helped by the volubly affable, infuriatingly unrushed and always tardy Mr. Albert. Galaxity’s man-in-the-moment is a sort of human X-Files: investigating, sifting and collating incalculable amounts of data on everything Fringe, Strange or Whacky which occurs in the 20th century he has adopted as a home-away-from-home.

Breaking contact with Laureline, Valerian learns from the verbose nerd that appalling, monstrous manifestations have been terrorising the world and now this city’s subway system. Sensing action at last, the impulsive hero rushes to the site of the latest occurrence, abandoning Albert to follow up on something which has piqued the elder’s scholarly curiosity. Both are blithely unaware that a suspect band of not-so-ordinary Parisians with similar interests are mere metres ahead of them…

What Valerian confronts is a horrific thing out of the inferno, but even it is not immune to the futuristic weaponry he’s carrying in kit form. All he has to do is assemble it before being eaten…

In the aftermath, Albert acts quickly to extract the wounded hero from hospital before doctors and cops start asking too many of the right questions. Later, over a luxurious dinner, the epicurean investigator shares a sheaf of files and clippings of monster and UFO sightings which only hint at why Valerian is stuck in a temporal backwater whilst his partner is covering colossal Cassiopeia alone…

Synching up again later despite constant headaches, Valerian hears Laureline tell of the incredible inhabitants of Solum and her candid interview with the living memory of the race, as well as sundry other wonders before contact is explosively ended by a phone call from Albert warning him that he is being watched…

After deftly dodging his tail, Valerian receives a most distressing communication from Laureline. Her pleasant chat with the memory of Solum has uncovered news of a planet which long ago endured a similar plague of mysterious manifestations. It doesn’t exist anymore…

Therefore, she’s off to incomprehensibly vile universal garbage dump Zomuk in pursuit of another promising lead, but before Val can warn her to stay away from the junk world, mind-contact is lost…

At that 20th century moment, Val and Mr. Albert are embarking on a bus ride to rural wetland idyll Doëre-la Rivière in search of marsh-monsters and dragons, only to surprisingly discover no accommodation available in the usually dead-in-the-off-season resort.

All rooms have been taken by scientists working for W.A.A.M (World American Advanced Machines): a mega-corporation in contention with the ubiquitous multinational Bellson & Gambler.

Both companies keep cropping up in Albert’s files of the weird and unexplained…

Soon the mismatched spatio-temporal operatives are trudging through acres of misty mire, encountering young Jean-René who offers to lead them to the infamous monster everybody is searching for.

When they find the Brobdingnagian beast, only Valerian’s disintegrator saves their lives. They quickly return to Albert’s paper-&-scrap-packed Paris flat, where the quirky researcher decides its time his impatient young colleague meets the secret source: a bizarre modern mystic and seer named Chatelard who cannily points out affinities between the manifestations met so far and the classical ancient concept of The Four Elements

He also points out that one could call highly ranked corporate businessmen the “hidden high priests of today’s world”, whilst mentioning that a pretty blonde woman from abroad recently offered him a lot of money for the same insights…

Later, as Albert sifts through the precious papers, reviewing all he has on Bellson & Gambler, frantic Valerian finally re-establishes contact with Laureline, just as she concludes an epic struggle against ghastly odds and enters a hidden shrine to gaze upon fantastic representations of Four Elemental Forces which underpin the universe…

Once again contact is broken and in a petulant rage the astral adventurer storms out into the Parisian night. Utterly oblivious to the fact that he is being followed by enigmatic figures in an expensive automobile, he accepts a lift from a pretty girl in a sports car…

To Be Concluded…

Bold, mind-boggling and moodily mysterious, this splendid change of pace accentuates the deadly dangers which underscore this astonishingly imaginative series; eschewing the usual concentration on witty japery and politico-philosophical trendiness in favour of mounting suspense, bubbling paranoia and stark suspense with mesmerising effect…

Brooklyn Line Terminus Cosmos was the tenth Cinebook translation: originally serialised in Pilote #M70 – M73 (March to June 1980) before being released as an album.

After a full recap the story resumes some relative hours later as Laureline finally wakes her slumbering, cosmically distant partner. She is psychically aware of the woman sleeping beside him and takes great pleasure in razzing him on his conquest “in the line of duty”…

Fun over, Laureline imparts crucial information: the puissant yet debased ancients of Zomuk now seemingly worship two strange new godlike beings and are sharing with them the awesome power of Elemental artefacts they have preserved for centuries. Sadly, she suspects the lordly strangers are far from divine and have extremely venal – if not outright criminal – motives for their attentiveness.

Moreover, when the deities started squabbling over the potent offerings, the native Zoms start smelling rats too…

As Laureline tracks the impostors deep into a region dominated by astral pirates and fugitives, Valerian returns to his new companion, suspicious that she also is not what she seems…

He’s not wrong. The highly competent Miss Cynthia Westerly is highly placed in one of the corporations pursuing the uncanny phenomena plaguing Paris, but is oblivious to the fact that the big oaf she thought safely seduced and abandoned is actually following when she heads for the Pompidou Centre to attempt capture of the next Elemental manifestation.

As he trails her, Valerian becomes aware that her rivals are in pursuit and plays a very deft trick to throw them all off guard…

Rendezvousing with Albert, the Spatio-Temporal Agent gets his hands on the surprisingly compact “Creature of Air and Dreams” before anybody else, but the brief contact leaves him changed and damaged…

As Albert hustles him away, Valerian slips into tenuous contact with Laureline but the communication is oddly garbled, since his consciousness is simultaneously wandering the timelines: glimpsing events from his past and many which have yet to occur…

His bewildering loss of temporal continuity continues even as Albert drags the dazed hero onto a jet, heading for a final confrontation with the warring corporate cliques. The entire journey is punctuated with bizarre visions which Laureline is forced to share, and on arrival in New York Albert takes the debilitated agent to see an old friend: aged Kabbalah scholar Schlomo Meilsheim who has some ideas on a remedy for the increasingly escalating condition…

The situation has not gone unnoticed by the voracious corporations either. With their grand schemes of profitable new proprietary energy sources threatened, they have instigated a mass convocation of every fringe scientist, modern mystic, seer, religious nut and new age quack in the country: a last-ditch attempt to regain control of those elemental forces currently tormenting Valerian…

Naturally Schlomo is invited too and brings his friends along to the desolate, snow-swept reaches of Brooklyn. When Val wanders off, terse communication with Laureline reveals the truth about his latest visions and the dangers she’s been battling single-handed in pursuit of the faux gods.

Now as Elementals catastrophically manifest amongst the massed mystics, she enacts a bold plan to cut off the problem at source; severing the uncanny connection between devastating forces devised by the Zoms and its unfortunate link to unwary, unhappy 20th century Earth…

Sly, subtle, brilliantly mind-boggling and moodily mysterious, this sharp saga is a trans-time tale of subtle power, dripping with devilish wit, but no matter how trenchant, barbed, culturally aware or ethically crusading, Valerian and Laureline yarns never allow message to overshadow excitement or entertainment. This is one of the most memorable romps you could ever imagine and there’s even better to come…

Les Spectres d’Inverloch originally appeared in Pilote #M110-117, (spanning July 1983 to February 1984) and opens here as Laureline enjoys the comforts of a palatial manor in Scotland, somewhere at the tail end of the 20th century. Unflappable dowager Lady Charlotte is a most gracious host and happily shares every benefit of life in Clan McCullough, even though her young charge can’t help but wonder why she has to cool her heels with the old biddy in this odd time and place…

Once again, the Spatio-Temporal partners-in-peril are separated by eons and light years. Valerian is at the other end of everything: impatiently stuck on water-world Glapum’t, trying to capture a hulking aquatic beast who easily defies his every stratagem. Finally, once brute force, commando tactics and super-science have all proved ineffectual, the frustrated agent tries bribery. Naturally, the tasty morsels he offers are heavily drugged…

However, as he carries the second phase of his orders, a real problem crops up. Valerian can’t establish contact with Galaxity…

Far ago and elsewhere, London is enduring a paralysing wave of industrial actions. The strikes are particularly galling to volubly affable, infuriatingly unrushed and always tardy Mr. Albert. Galaxity’s 20th century information gatherer/sleeper operative is trying to get to Scotland, but wonders if he’s ever going to get out of the English capital…

On far-flung Rubanis, dictatorial secret police chief Colonel Tlocq is having a duel of wits with the engagingly ruthless data-brokers known as the Shingouz. Naturally, the spymaster is utterly outmanoeuvred by the devious little reptiles who gleefully take off with the secret they required. All-in-all, they are rather enjoying working for Earth…

Way back in West Virginia, Lady Charlotte’s husband Lord Seal is consulting with the CIA. The dapper Briton is a past master of “tradecraft” and remains unperturbed even after reviewing the terrifying situation facing both Communist Bloc and Free World. Something is making all persons in charge of nuclear weapons – politicians and military alike – go mad. There have been numerous near-misses and even a couple of swiftly hushed-up actual disasters on both sides of the Iron Curtain. Moreover, the Americans have got hold of strange little devices used to cause the insanity. Somebody is deliberately trying to spark atomic Armageddon…

Only the veteran spy’s swift actions prevent the entire assembly going the same way, when a concealed insanity-gadget goes off during their top-secret meeting…

As Seal jets off home, the scene switches to Galaxity. The super-city, impregnable bastion of human dominance, is deserted. Only its supreme master remains, and as the fortress and Terran empire start dissolving into nothingness, he makes a desperate jump into time…

On a clear autumn afternoon, Lady Charlotte and Laureline are enjoying the view from Castle Inverloch’s rear windows when the immaculate, lovingly-manicured-for-centuries lawns are wrecked by the crash-landing of a Shingouz shuttle. Naturally, the visitors are granted every gracious vestige of hospitality, even after Lord Seal arrives in flamboyantly bombastic fashion and sees what’s become of his beloved grass…

Aplomb and grace under pressure alone cannot account for the elderly couple’s acceptance, and when Albert pops in and Valerian shows up – much to the detriment of what remains of the lawns – it becomes clear that the elderly gentry know much more about the workings of the universe than everybody else in this century…

Even the previously-captive Glapumtian – who likes to be called “Ralph” – has a part to play in the baffling, pre-ordained proceedings.

What exactly that means starts to become clear after Lord and Lady Seal introduce their outré guests to the legendary ghost of Inverloch. Valerian usually just calls him “boss”…

Soon the Spatio-Temporal Agents are being made painfully aware of a monumental threat to the universe which has already unmade the events leading to the birth of Galaxity and the Terran Empire and which now poses a threat to all that is…

To Be Concluded…

Smart, subtle, complex and frequently hilarious, this sharp trans-time tale beguilingly lays the groundwork for an epic escapade. This is one of the most memorable romps Méziéres & Christin ever concocted, and heralded the start of a whole new way to enjoy the future…

The Wrath of Hypsis concludes a landmark tale and marks a turning point in the ongoing epic. Initially every Valérian adventure began as a serial in Pilote before being collected in album editions, but after this adventure from 1985, the publishing world shifted gears. From the next tale and every one thereafter, the mind-bending sagas were released as all-new complete graphic novels. The switch in dissemination affected all popular characters in French comics and almost spelled the end of periodical publication on the continent…

One clarification: canonically, “Hypsis” is counted as the twelfth tale, due to the collected albums being numbered from The City of Shifting Waters: the second actual story but the first to be compiled in book form. When Bad Dreams was finally released as a European album in 1983, it was given the number #0.

Les Foudres d’Hypsis originally appeared in Pilote #M128-135, (January to September 1985): an action-packed yet trenchant romp resetting a growing paradox that had been slowing building since The City of Shifting Waters

In previous volume The Ghosts of Inverloch, Galaxity was eradicated from reality by agents unknown, leaving only the Chief of the Spatio-Temporal Service to plunge back in time to 1986: the chronal crisis-point which triggered the disaster.

Spatio-Temporal partners-in-peril Valerian and Laureline joined him by extremely convoluted paths after gathering a trio of Shingouz traders and affable, aquatic super-mathematician Ralph from different eras and galactic backwaters.

They all met up at Inverloch Castle, far from escalating petty crises and a mounting unrest afflicting Earth that would soon peak with the melting of the polar ice-caps, destruction of modern human civilisation and consequent birth-pangs of Galaxity.

The Scottish citadel was home to British intelligence supremo Lord Seal, his brilliant wife Lady Charlotte and guest Mr. Albert. This distinguished, exceptional band had gathered to prevent Earth’s devastation but Galaxity’s sudden disappearance added even greater urgency to the mission…

The tale continues here as the strange crew review the worsening situation. Nuclear powers across Earth are experiencing inexplicable, potentially fatal malfunctions. Alien objects keep appearing in random locations and – thanks to the extraterrestrial input of Seals visitor’s – they can now lay blame upon the machinations of Hypsis: an enigmatic planet constantly perambulating from system to system, quadrant to quadrant…

Seal’s contacts have narrowed down the potential crisis point to one of a number of ships in the Arctic. Soon the odd allies are covertly heading north in British weather ship HMS Crosswinds

Thanks to Ralph’s talents and growing friendship with a pod of Orcas, the maritime search is gradually narrowed down and before long Crosswinds closes in on a quaint schooner named Hvexdet… and none too soon.

The time-displaced Chief has locked himself in his cabin, Valerian is wracked by nightmares of vanished Galaxity and numerous doomed Earths whilst the gambling-addicted Shingouz have almost won or traded everything aboard ship not bolted down or welded on…

Cornering the Hvexdet in a field of pack ice, dauntless Captain Merryweather gives orders to ram, spooking the schooner into blasting off into space and instituting devastating retaliation. It’s what the Chief has been waiting for. With Crosswinds sinking and the crew heading for the lifeboats, he orders Valerian, Laureline, Seal, Albert, the Shingouz and Ralph to join him in the astroship: following the invaders’ flight to find nomadic Hypsis…

Pursuit is erratic and convoluted until Valerian has the idea of linking Ralph to the ship’s systems to predict Hvexdet’s final destination. It works perfectly and before long the astroship touches down on a strange, rocky world with immense towers dotting the landscape.

And that’s where things get really strange as Valerian learns why Earth was scheduled for nuclear meltdown, meets the incredible true owners of the troubled birthplace of humanity and watches in astonishment as Albert, Laureline and the Shingouz negotiate an unbelievable deal which saves Earth, but not (necessarily) his beloved and much-missed home Galaxity…

Astute fans will realise that this ripping yarn was writer Pierre Christin and artist Jean-Claude Méziéres’ way of rationalising the drowned Earth of 1986 (as seen in 1968 adventure The City of Shifting Waters) with the contemporary period that they were now working in. It also gave them an opportunity to send Valerian and Laureline in a new direction and uncharted creative waters…

To Be Continued…

Smart, subtle, complex and frequently hilarious, these sharp trans-time tales beguilingly blend outrageous satire with blistering action, and deft humour with cosmic apostasy: utterly reenergising what was already one of the most thrilling sci fi strips in comics. The Wrath of Hypsis and its successors are the most memorable romps Méziéres & Christin ever concocted, heralding the start of a whole new way to go back to the future…

These stories are some of the most influential comics in the world, timeless, thrilling, funny and just too good to be ignored. The time is now and there’s no space large enough to contain the sheer joy of Valerian and Laureline, so go see what all the fuss is about right now…
© Dargaud Paris, 2017 Christin, Méziéres & Tran-Lệ. All rights reserved. English translation © 2018 Cinebook Ltd.

The Adventures of Blake and Mortimer: The Secret of the Swordfish


By Edgar P. Jacobs, coloured by Philippe Biermé & Luce Daniels, translated by Jerome Saincantin (Cinebook)
ISBNs: 978-1-84918-148-8, 978-1-84918-161-7 and 978-1-84918-174-7

Belgian Edgard Félix Pierre Jacobs (1904-1987) is rightly considered one of the founding fathers of the Continental comics industry. Although his output is relatively meagre when compared to some of his contemporaries, the iconic series he worked on formed the basis and backbone of the art-form in Europe, and his splendidly adroit, roguish and impeccably British adventurers Blake and Mortimer, created for the first issue of Le Journal de Tintin in 1946, swiftly became a staple of post-war European kids’ life the way Dan Dare would in Britain in the 1950s.

Edgar P. Jacobs was born in Brussels, a precocious child who began feverishly drawing from an early age but was even more obsessed with music and the performing arts – especially opera. He attended a commercial school but – determined never to work in an office – pursued art and drama following his graduation in 1919.

A succession of odd jobs at opera-houses – scene-painting, set decoration, acting and singing as an Extra – supplemented his private performance studies, and in 1929 Jacobs won a Government award for classical singing. His proposed career as an opera singer was thwarted by the Great Depression, however, as the arts took a nosedive following the stock market crash.

Picking up whatever stage work was going – including singing and performing – Jacobs switched to commercial illustration in 1940. Regular employment came from the magazine Bravo. While illustrating short stories and novels, he famously took over the syndicated Flash Gordon strip, after the occupying German authorities banned Alex Raymond’s quintessentially All-American Hero and left the publishers desperately seeking someone to satisfactorily complete the saga.

Jacob’s Stormer Gordon lasted less than a month before being similarly sanctioned by the Nazis, after which Jacobs created his own epic science-fantasy feature in the legendary Le Rayon U: a milestone in both Belgian comics and science fiction adventure.

The U Ray was a huge hit in 1943 and scored big all over again a generation later when Jacobs reformatted the original “text-block and picture” material to incorporate speech balloons and re-ran the series in Le Journal de Tintin with subsequent releases as a trio of graphic albums in 1974.

I’ve read differing accounts of how Jacobs and Tintin creator Hergé got together – and why they parted ways professionally, if not socially – but as to the whys and wherefores of the split, I frankly don’t care. What is known is this: whilst creating the weekly U Ray, one of Jacob’s other jobs was scene-painting, and during the staging of a theatrical version of Tintin and the Cigars of the Pharaoh Hergé and Jacobs met and became friends. If the comics maestro was unaware of Jacob’s comics output before then, he was certainly made aware of it soon after.

Jacobs began working on Tintin, colouring the original monochrome strips of The Shooting Star from newspaper Le Soir for a forthcoming album collection. By 1944, Jacobs was performing similar service for Tintin in the Congo, Tintin in America, King Ottokar’s Sceptre and The Blue Lotus. By now, he was also contributing to the illustration as well, on extended epic The Seven Crystal Balls/Prisoners of the Sun.

Jacob’s love of opera made it into the feature as Hergé (who loathed the stuff) teasingly created bombastic Bianca Castafiore as a comedy foil and based a number of bit players (such as Jacobini in The Calculus Affair) on his long-suffering assistant.

After the war and liberation, publisher Raymond Leblanc convinced Hergé, Jacobs and a number of other creatives to work for his new venture. Launching publishing house Le Lombard, he also started Le Journal de Tintin, an anthology comic edited by Hergé, with editions in Belgium, France and Holland starring the intrepid boy reporter and a host of newer heroes.

Beside Hergé, Jacobs and writer Jacques van Melkebeke, the comic featured Paul Cuvelier’s Corentin and Jacques Laudy’s ‘The Legend of the Four Aymon Brothers’. Laudy had been a friend of Jacobs’ since they worked together on Bravo, and the first instalment of epic thriller serial ‘Le secret de l’Espadon’ starred a bluff, gruff British scientist as well as an English Military Intelligence officer closely modelled on Laudy: Professor Philip Mortimer and Captain Francis Blake

The story ran from issue #1 (26th September 1946 to 8th September 1949): cementing Jacobs’ status as a star in his own right. In 1950, with the first 18 pages slightly redrawn, Le secret de l’espladon V1 (The Secret of the Swordfish) became Le Lombard’s first album release; with the concluding part published three years later. The volumes were reprinted nine more times between 1955 and 1982, with an additional single complete deluxe edition released in 1964.

In 1984 the story was reformatted and repackaged in English translation as three volumes with additional material (mostly covers from the weekly Tintin added to the story as splash pages) as part of a European push to win some of Britain’s lucrative Tintin and Asterix market, but failed to find an audience and ended after seven volumes.

Happily, Cinebook have successfully introduced us to the dashing duo – albeit after publishing the later adventures first – and you can revel in the wonderment in either paperback album or eBook formats…

Hergé and Jacobs purportedly suffered a split in 1947 when the former refused to grant the latter a by-line on new Tintin material, but since they remained friends for life and Jacob’s continued to produce Blake and Mortimer for the Belgian weekly, I think it’s fair to say that if such was the case it was a pretty minor spat.

I rather suspect that The Secret of the Swordfish was simply taking up more and more of the brilliant, diligent artist’s time and attention…

The U Ray also provided early visual inspiration for Blake, Mortimer and implacable nemesis Colonel Olrik, who bear a more than passing resemblance to heroic Lord Calder, Norlandian boffin Marduk and viperous villain Dagon from that still lauded masterwork – one that is also well overdue for translation…

One minor word of warning: by having the overarching enemies of mankind be a secret Asiatic “Yellow Peril” empire of evil, there’s some potential for offence – unless one actually reads the text and finds that the assumed racism is countered throughout by plenty of “good” ethnic characters and “evil” white folk…

 

The Secret of the Swordfish Part 1 – Ruthless Pursuit

The incredible journey begins with ‘The Incredible Chase’ as a secret army in the Himalayas prepares to launch a global Blitzkrieg on a world slowly recovering from its second planetary war. The wicked Basam Damdu, Emperor of Tibet, has assembled an arsenal of technological super-weapons and the world’s worst rogues such as insidious Colonel Olrik in a bid to seize control of Earth.

However, a bold British-Asian spy has infiltrated the hidden fortress and surrenders his life to get off a warning message…

In England, physicist and engineer Philip Mortimer and MI5 Captain Francis Blake discuss the worsening situation at an industrial installation where the boffin’s radical new aircraft engine is being constructed. When the warning comes that the war begins that night, the old friends swing into immediate action…

As the super-bombers rain destruction down on all the world’s cities, Mortimer’s dedicated team prepares his own prototype, the Golden Rocket, for immediate launch, taking off just as Olrik’s bombers appear over the desolate complex. Despite heavy fire, the Rocket easily outdistances the rapacious Imperial forces, leaving ruined homes in its wake as the fleeing Britons fly into a hostile world now brutally controlled by Basam Damdu…

Whilst seeking to join British Middle East resistance forces who have another prototype super-plane, teething troubles and combat damage create tense moments in the fugitives’ flight. When the Rocket is attacked by a flight of jets, the test ship’s superior firepower enables it to fight free, but only at the cost of more structural deterioration.

Failing now, the Rocket goes down in the rocky wilds between Iran and Afghanistan. Parachuting free of the doomed Rocket, Blake, Mortimer and the crew are machine-gunned by pursuing Empire jets and only three men make it to the ground safely…

After days of struggle Blake, Mortimer and the indomitable Jim are cornered by Iranian troops who have joined Olrik’s forces. Sensing disaster, the Britons hide the plans to Mortimer’s super-plane but one of the Iranians sees the furtive act. When no one is looking – especially his superiors – Lieutenant Ismail hurriedly scoops up the documents, but misses one…

Under lock and key and awaiting Olrik’s arrival, the prisoners are accosted by Ismail, who sees an opportunity for personal advancement which the Englishmen turn to their own advantage. Denouncing him to his superiors, Blake instigates a savage fight between Ismail and his captain. During the brief struggle Jim sacrifices himself, allowing Blake and Mortimer to escape with the recovered plans. Stealing a lorry, the desperate duo drive out into the dark desert night…

Followed by tanks into the mountain passes, the ingenious pair trap their pursuers in a ravine just as hill partisans attack. The Imperial collaborators are wiped out and, after exchanging information with the freedom fighters, the Englishmen take one of the captured vehicles to a distant rendezvous with the second Rocket. Lack of fuel forces them to stop at a supply dump where they are quickly discovered.

By setting the dump ablaze the heroes escape again, but in the desert Olrik has arrived and finds the sheet of notes left behind by Ismail. The cunning villain is instantly aware of what it means…

Fighting off aerial assaults from Empire jets and streaking for the mountains, Blake and Mortimer abandon their tank. Forced to travel on foot, they at last reach the meeting point where British-trained Sergeant Ahmed Nasir awaits them. The loyal Indian served with Blake during the last war and is delighted to see him again, but as the trio make their way to the target site, they become aware that Olrik has already captured their last hope…

Only temporarily disheartened, the trio use commando tactics to infiltrate Olrik’s camp, stealing not the heavily-guarded prototype but the villainous Colonel’s own Red-Wing super-jet. Back on course to the British resistance forces, the seemingly-cursed trio are promptly shot down by friendly fire: rebels perceiving the stolen plane as another enemy target…

Surviving this crash too, the trio are ferried in relative safety by the apologetic tribesmen to enemy-occupied town Turbat, but whilst there a spy of the Empire-appointed Wazir recognises the fugitive Englishmen. When Nasir realises they are in trouble, he dashes to the rescue but is too late to prevent Mortimer from being drugged.

Sending the loyal Sergeant on ahead, Blake tries frantically to revive his comrade, even as Imperial troopers rapidly mount the stairs to their exposed upper room…

To Be Continued…

This Cinebook edition includes a tantalising preview of the next volume as well as stand-alone adventure The Yellow “M”, plus biographical features and chronological publication charts.

 

Volume 16: The Secret of the Swordfish Part 2 – Mortimer’s Escape

This second instalment carries the tale to the next epic level, as the frantic action resumes with soldiers bursting into an empty chamber before being themselves attacked by the Khan. After a bloody firefight the Englishmen emerge from their cunning hiding place and flee Turbat, which has been seized by a furious spur-of-the-moment rebellion.

Unknown to the fugitives, devious spy Bezendjas is hard on their heels and soon finds an opportunity to inform Olrik. With the city in flames and fighting in every street, the callous colonel abandons his own troops to pursue Nasir, Blake and Mortimer into the wastes beyond the walls…

On stolen horses the heroes endure all the ferocious hardships of the desert, but cannot outdistance Olrik’s staff-car. After days of relentless pursuit, they reach the rocky coastline and almost stumble into another Empire patrol. Whilst ducking them, Blake nearly falls to his doom…

Narrowly escaping death, the trio continue to climb steep escarpments and it is dusk before the Intelligence Officer realises that he has lost the precious plans and documents they have been carrying since fleeing England…

Realising that somebody must reach the British resistance at their hidden Eastern base, the valiant comrades split up. Blake and Nasir continue onwards whilst Mortimer returns to the accident site. Finding the plans is a stroke of sheer good fortune, immediately countered by an ambush from Olrik’s troops. Despite a Herculean last stand, the scientist is at last taken prisoner but only after successfully hiding the lost plans…

Three months later, Olrik is called to account in the exotic city-fortress of Lhasa. Basam-Damdu’s ruling council are unhappy with the Colonel’s lack of progress in breaking the captive British scientist, and even more infuriated by a tidal-wave of sabotage and armed rebellion throughout their newly-conquered territories. Even Olrik’s own spies are warning him that his days as an agent of the Yellow Empire are numbered…

Given two days to make Mortimer talk, the Colonel returns to his base in Karachi just as another rebel raid allows Nasir to infiltrate the Empire’s HQ. Blake is also abroad in the city, having joined British forces in the area…

With less than a day to act, the MI5 officer rendezvous with a British submarine and travels to a vast atomic-powered secret installation under the Straits of Hormuz. Here, the Royal Navy are stoically preparing for a massive counter-attack on the Empire. With raids liberating interned soldiers all the time, the ranks of scientists, technicians and soldiers are swelling daily…

Meanwhile, Nasir has his own desperate plan to free Mortimer, who is still adamantly refusing to talk of the mysterious “Swordfish” Olrik’s agents continually hear rumours of…

Aware of his danger and the Sergeant’s efforts, Mortimer instead cunningly informs Nasir of the lost plans’ location, even as the impatient Emperor’s personal torturer arrives from Lhasa…

Always concerned with the greater good, Blake and a commando team secure the concealed plans and are met by Nasir who has been forced from Karachi after realising Bezendjas has recognised him. It appears that time has run out for their scholarly comrade…

Mortimer, however, has taken fate into his own hands. When the devious doctor Sun Fo begins his interrogation, the Professor breaks free and escapes into the fortress grounds during an earth-shattering storm.

Trapped in a tower with only a handgun, he is determined to sell his life dearly, but is rescued by Blake and Nasir in a Navy Helicopter. Using the storm for cover, the heroes evade jet pursuit and an enemy naval sweep to link up with a British sub and escape into the night…

To Be Concluded…

This edition includes a preview of the next volume and excerpts from stand-alone saga S.O.S. Meteors, plus the usual biography features.

 

Volume 17: The Secret of the Swordfish Part 3 – SX1 Strikes Back!

After three years of stunning intrigue, mystery and action, E.P. Jacobs’ groundbreaking saga of a battle for world peace and universal liberty concluded in a spectacular duel below the Earth and in the skies of the embattled world. SX1 Strikes Back! is a tension-drenched race against time as Blake, Mortimer and the shattered dregs of Great Britain’s military forces prepare for a last-ditch strike using the Professor’s greatest inventions to win freedom for the oppressed peoples of Earth…

The final chapter opens with a stunning reprise of past events – cunningly compiled from a succession of six full-page illustrations (presumably original covers from weekly Le Journal de Tintin) – after which a daring commando raid liberates a trainload of British prisoners.

Brought to a fabulous subterranean fortress, the assorted scientists and engineers discover an underground railway, factory, armaments-facilities and even an atomic pile, all furiously toiling to complete the mysterious super-weapon dubbed “Swordfish”.

The former prisoners readily join the volunteers, blithely unaware that supremely capable scoundrel Olrik is amongst them in devilish disguise…

Days pass and as preparations for the Big Push produce satisfactory results, a series of disastrous accidents lead to one inescapable conclusion: there is a saboteur in the citadel…

Eventually Olrik becomes overconfident and Mortimer exposes the infiltrator in a crafty trap, but after a fraught confrontation the Colonel escapes after almost causing a nuclear catastrophe. Fleeing across the seabed, the harried spy narrowly avoids capture by diver teams and a hungry giant octopus…

The flight takes its toll upon Olrik and he barely reaches land alive. Luckily for him, Bezendjas has been checking out the region of coastline and finds the exhausted villain trapped in his stolen deep-sea suit. After a lengthy period, the dazed desperado recovers and delivers his hard-won information. Soon, Imperial forces are converging on the British bastion…

As air and sea forces bombard the rocky island and sea-floor citadel, Olrik dispatches crack troops to break in via a concealed land entrance, resulting in a staggering battle in the depths of the Earth.

They were almost in time…

After months of desperate struggle, Mortimer and his liberated scientists have rushed to complete the incredible Swordfish: a hypersonic attack jet with uncanny manoeuvrability and appallingly destructive armament.

Astoundingly launched from beneath the sea, the sleekly sinister plane single-handedly shoots the Empire jets out of the skies before sinking dozens of attacking ships. Ruthlessly piloting SX1 is Francis Blake; and even as he wreaks havoc upon the invading force, he is joined by SX2 -a second, equally unstoppable super-jet…

Soon the Yellow Empire is in full retreat and a squadron of Swordfish is completed. With the once-occupied planet in full revolt, it’s not long before Lhasa gets a taste of the flaming death it callously inflicted upon a peaceful, unsuspecting and now extremely vengeful world…

They are only just in time: the insane and malignant Emperor is mere moments away from launching a doomsday flight of atomic missiles to every corner of the planet he so briefly owned…

This Cinebook edition also includes fascinating illustrated essay ‘Jacobs: 1946, The Swordfish, starting point of a masterful work’, first seen in The World of Edgar P. Jacobs, a tantalising preview of later epic The Oath of the Five Lords (by Yves Sente & André Juillard) plus a biographical feature and chronological publication chart of Jacobs’ and his successors’ efforts.

Gripping and fantastic in the truest tradition of pulp sci-fi and Boy’s Own Adventures, Blake and Mortimer are the very epitome of dogged, heroic determination; always delivering grand, old-fashioned Blood-&-Thunder thrills and spills in timeless fashion and with astonishing visual punch.

Despite an epic body count and dated milieu, any kid able to suspend modern mores and cultural disbelief (call it alternate Earth history or bakelite-punk if you want) will experience the adventure of their lives… and so will their children.
Original editions © Editions Blake & Mortimer/Studio Jacobs (Dargaud – Lombard S.A.) 1984, 1985, 1986 by E.P. Jacobs. All rights reserved. English translation © 2012, 2013 Cinebook Ltd.

Tales of an Imperfect Future


By Alfonso Font (Dark Horse Books)
ISBN: 978-1-61655-494-1

As the end of March turgidly approaches and I confront the prospect of having my European citizenship stripped from me I’m feeling a mite confused, upset and just a bit passive aggressive (surprisingly that’s a term the Germans don’t have a word for…). Thus, I’m reliving a few of the best comics our Continental comrades have crafted and shared with the ungrateful Anglo-Saxon world…

Barcelona-born creator Alfonso Font Carrera was born on August 28th 1946. He studied Fine Arts and worked as an illustrator before slipping into comics in the 1960s with western tales in Hazañas del Oeste and Sioux for Ediciones Toray.

He quickly graduated to horror stories and historical crime dramas about infamous criminals for the Selecciones Illustradas Agency and, in 1970, began contributing material to British publisher Fleetway on strips such as Black Max in Thunder and Lion. Soon he gravitated to America with work for mature magazine publishers Warren and Skywald.

With writer Carlos Echevarría, he created ‘Géminis’ (AKA Phil Jackson) before moving to Paris in 1975 to work for major comics magazine Pif Gadget, devising ‘Sandberg, Père et Fils’ with Patrick Cothias and ‘Les Dossiers Mystère’ (written by Solet, and sharing art chores with Carlos Giménez and Adolfo Usero) as well as the Roger Lécureux-scripted ‘Les Robinsons de la Terre’.

From 1976-1982 he also freelanced for Scoop, Tousse Bourin and Super-As. Incensed by publishers reprinting his work without permission or payment, he became active in Creators Rights issues and worked with Giménez, Victor Mora and Usero as the “Workshop Premia” seeking to create a union for comics professionals.

In the mid-1980s, Font returned to Spain, contributing to new, home-grown publications like Cimoc, À Tope, and Circus whilst creating (with Mora) ‘Sylvestre’ and ‘Tequila Bang’.

For the Spanish iteration of 1984 he created signature sci fi gadabouts Clarke & Kubrick – who subsequently appeared in Cimoc and Rambla – and began a series of self-scripted, mordantly cynical, sardonic science fiction tales under the umbrella title ‘Cuentos de un futuro imperfecto’ which we see here as Tales of an Imperfect Future

Seemingly never sleeping, Font went on to create parody-laced aviation hero ‘Frederico Mendelssohn Bartholdy’, ‘El Prisionero de las Estrellas’, and classical adventure serial ‘Jann Polynésia’ – which evolved into the iconic ‘John Rohner’ for Cimoc and ‘Carmen Bond’ for À Tope.

In 1987 he started a fruitful association with French publications Pilote and Charlie Mensuel with his series ‘Taxi’ and, after a brace of independent albums for Planeta publishers, revived John Rohner at Norma publishers.

Always occupied, he went on to create ‘Privado’ and medieval warrior ‘Bri D’Alban’ for Cimoc, whilst collaborating on cop series ‘Negras tormentas’ (‘Black Storms’) with writer Juan Antonio De Blas. Font even began occasionally illustrating Italy’s venerable western superstar Tex for Bonelli. In 1996, he returned to American pages with his erotic series ‘Dra, Dare’ for Penthouse Comix.

A major force in European graphic storytelling, Font has won numerous awards including The Grand Prize at Comic Barcelona and a Haxtur prize.

His artwork is loose, fluid, intricate and utterly electrifying: and Dark Horse’s translation of original European collection of Tales of an Imperfect Future into this stunning oversized (287x224mm) monochrome hardback edition is a sheer delight for fans of grittily fantastic fiction.

Any Brit who grew up reading the short complete sagas exemplified and perfected in 2000AD’s Tharg’s Future Shocks, Pulp Sci-Fi or Tales from Beyond Science will be right at home – unless casual (human and robot) nudity is a problem…

Written and illustrated by Font throughout, the anthological nature of the tales is linked by the simple bridging device of a grotesque alien directly telling us that humanity is simultaneously a threat and embarrassment to the universe. No argument here, mate…

However, rather than go to the time and expense of eliminating us, the Great Powers are offering us one last chance to change our ways and, by way of inducement, have provided some stories taken from our most probable futures to illustrate just why we’re so much of a problem…

The hard science hagiography commences with ‘Tanatos-1 Comes Home’ as the smug hierarchal rulers of Earth gloat over the news that the AI super-weapon they created to destroy the alien fleets of Kloron has spectacularly succeeded.

As boffin Commander Grenh describes to the xenophobic top Bankers, Clerics and Military leaders how his programming compels the indestructible Tanatos-1 to unceasingly and implacably seek out all life in the universe and eradicate it, veteran General Alto Kervis asks himself why it has turned around and now nears Earth…

‘Rain’ introduces hard-working, long suffering blue-collar spacers Stanley Kubrick and Arthur C. Clarke, stuck on a sodden world, going slowly mad…

When the incessant deluge apparently causes a malfunction, hated computer Hal 2001 insists they go outside to fix the problem, but Stanley is convinced the useless metal martinet is trying to kill its human masters…

Barbed satirical humour gives way to barbarian fantasy in ‘Day of Glory’ as valiant John Smith battles devils and monsters to save his princess and his people. Tragically, the wonder warrior is in for disappointment and shock once he impossibly defeats the sinister Overlord of Klaarn

Cracks appear in the foundations of the Military-Industrial complex when a vile capitalist proves to the government why the war they’re fighting must never end in ‘Stocks’, whilst

‘The Hunt’ prophetically takes the Hunger Games trope and ongoing war between “One-Percenters” and the rest of us to its logical conclusion…

Originally crafted in the mid-1980s, it follows two super-rich brats who stalk each other with lethal weapons through the dystopian wastelands inhabited by the poor. Of course, even when they’re killing each other for sport on a reality show, the oligarchs still find a way to bloodily exploit the despised discarded millions…

‘“Like a Plague”’ then offers an excoriating morality tale about our suicidal ecological irresponsibility before Stanley and Arthur return in ‘Cyberratic’.

Having finally escaped the rain-drenched hellhole and creepily disturbing electronic taskmaster, our unlikely heroes hit the Welcome Satellite for some R&R but stumble into a major mechanical malfunction on the totally-automated resort.

Luckily a small droid keeps pulling their fat out of the robotic fire, but you’d think such passionate machine-haters would stop for a moment to ask why and how their little saviour escaped the malfunction plague…

‘The Final Enemy’ affords a bleak glimpse at the thinking behind the soldiers who will fight in the final atomic Armageddon, whilst black humour informs a tale of Earth explorers who land on paradise and destroy it forever with ‘The Kiss’

Similar silliness informs the trash-inundated post-apocalyptic world of ‘The Cleaner’ when humanity’s last survivors activate a miraculous device to get rid of the cause and effects of the pollution which destroyed the world…

Although meant as a comedic interlude, the next vignette sadly comes across as dated and just a touch homophobic by today’s elevated standards, detailing the shock and peril a solitary explorer endures when he discovers his government-mandated and supplied robotic sexual companion is not a “Betty” but an over-zealous ‘Valentino’

Far more safe and salutary territory finds ‘Earth Control at Your Service, Sir’ addressing a version of the The Cold Equations quandary as two astronauts bringing an end to global famine realise that they won’t reach Earth if both men keep breathing the rapidly diminishing oxygen supply.

As they struggle to make an impossible decision, they have no inkling that the authorities on a starving world have their own ideas…

‘The Siege’ bloodily traces the rampage of a merciless murderous maniac as a fractured city endures police martial law and the ceaseless hunt for society’s greatest menace before the tormented tomorrows tumble to a close with a bleak sad tale of a doomed and dying spacer’s escape into fantasy and one last passionate rendezvous with beloved ‘Green Eyes’

Scary, topically pointed, suspenseful and superbly intoxicating, Tales of an Imperfect Future offers a potent panoply of graphic pleasures for every lover of comics adventure and science fiction wonders from a master of art long overdue for fame in the English-speaking world.
Tales of an Imperfect Future © 2014 SAF Comics, www.safcomics.com. All rights reserved.

Showcase Presents Strange Adventures volume 2


By John Broome, Otto Binder, Gardner Fox, Edmond Hamilton, France E. Herron, Dave Wood, Ed Jurist, Joe Millard, Carmine Infantino, Gil Kane, Sid Greene, Jerry Grandenetti, Howard Sherman, Frank Giacoia, Manny Stallman & various (DC Comics)
ISBN: 978-1-4012-3846-9

Do you know what I miss? Compilations of classics anthological genre adventures.

Marvel finally wised up and recently began releasing gloriously evocative collections of their pre-superhero horror, sci fi and even war yarns but since DC stopped producing their cheap and cheerful compendia of similar material, something fabulous has been missing from our lives. Now with so many kinds of eBooks editions, it’s a crying shame that these whimsical, moody early fantasy romps are unavailable to readers of all ages and vintage. Let’s see why with this splendid and still enticing monochrome paperback tome

As the 1940s closed, masked mystery-men dwindled in popularity and the American comicbook industry found new heroes. Classic pulp fiction genre titles flourished; anthologies dedicated to crime, war, westerns, humour and horror were augmented by newer fads like funny animal, romance and most especially science fiction. In 1950, National Periodicals/DC finally escaped that last genre’s glorious thud-&-blunder/ray guns/bikini babes in giant fishbowl helmets magazine roots (as perfectly epitomised in the uniquely wonderful Golden Age icon Planet Comics) with Julius Schwartz’s introduction of Strange Adventures.

Packed with short adventures from jobbing SF writers and a plethora of new heroes such as Chris KL99, Captain Comet, Atomic Knights and others, the magnificent monthly compendium (supplemented a year later with sister-title Mystery in Space) introduced wide-eyed youngsters to a fantastical yet intrinsically rationalist universe and all its possible/probable wonders …

On a thematic note: a general but by no means concrete rule of thumb was that Strange Adventures generally took place on Earth or were at least Earth-adjacent whilst as the name suggests Mystery in Space offered readers the run of the rest of the universe…

Reprinting Strange Adventures #74-93 (November 1956 to June 1958), this second compelling collection features stories from the dawn of the Silver Age, offering fantastic fantasy plots and spectacular scenarios as an industry-wide resurgence of confidence and creativity gathered momentum and superheroes began to successfully reappear.

These stellar sagas would continually inform and shape DC’s slowly growing heroic adventure revival, whilst proving over and again that Weird Science and cosmic disaster were no match for the infallibility of human intellect and ingenuity. During this period many of the plots, gimmicks, MacGuffins, cover designs and even interior art were recycled for the more technologically-based, emergent costumed champions creeping back into public favour…

This mind-blowing, physics-challenging monochrome colossus opens with four classic vignettes, beginning with a terse thriller by John Broome & Carmine Infantino wherein a writer gains the power to see beyond the normal range and is the only human who can combat ‘The Invisible Invader from Dimension X!’, after which ‘The Metal Spy from Space!’ (Gardner Fox, Sid Greene & John Giunta) is similarly exposed and defeated by fictive pulp fictioneer “Edmond Hamilford”…

Fox, Greene & Bernard Sachs then reveal the vested interest of an investigator who obsessively seeks out ‘Earth’s Secret Visitors!’ before Edmond Hamilton, Gil Kane & Joe Giella detail how a notoriously hapless DIY dabbler finds himself in possession of the ‘Build-it-Yourself Spaceship!’

During this period editors were baffled by but still exploited a bizarre truism: every issue of any title which featured gorillas on the cover always showed increased sales. Little wonder then that so many DC comics had hairy headliners…

Strange Adventures #75 led with ‘Secret of the Man-Ape!’ by Otto Binder, Infantino & Giella, wherein a scientist intent on evolving apes into men accidentally acquires a test subject who just happens to be the vanguard of an invading alien anthropoid army, whilst ‘The 2nd Deluge of Earth!’ (Ed Jurist, Greene & Giella) sees a blind scientist save the world from Martians intent on taking over our water-rich world…

A meddlesome technologist happily makes amends and saves an imperilled alien civilisation after curiously poking his nose into the ‘Mystery of the Box from Space!’ (Binder, Kane & Sachs) before ‘This is Timearama!’ (Hamilton, Greene & Sachs) wittily and scathingly relates what happens when an honest researcher trusts businessmen with the secrets of his televisual time probe…

In issue #76 Broome, Infantino & Sachs explored the mission of a galactic saviour handicapped by fate as he strives to save humanity in ‘The Tallest Man on Earth!’, after which ‘The Flying Saucers that Saved the World!’ (Binder, Greene & Giella) reveals how a professional UFO debunker uses all he’s learned about hoaxes to counter an actual invasion by sinister subterraneans.

Although a short story anthology title, over the run of years Strange Adventures featured a number of memorable returning characters and concepts such as Star Hawkins or Space Museum. Darwin Jones of the Department of Scientific Investigation debuted in the very first issue, solving fringe or outright weird science dilemmas for the Federal Government.

A genius-level scientific detective, he made thirteen appearances over as many years and here resurfaces to foil the insidious schemes of ‘The Robot from Atlantis!’ (Binder, Kane & Giella), which feigns benevolent friendship whilst actually trying to eradicate mankind. The issue then concludes with the struggle of a geologist to get rid of ‘The Hungry Meteorite!’ (Dave Wood, Greene & Sachs) which threatens to absorb all the metal on Earth…

Another Darwin Jones thriller – by Broome, Infantino & Sachs – opened issue #77 when a Death Row convict is given superhuman intellectual abilities by desperate trans-dimension beings facing extinction. However, “Lobo” Torrence is prepared to let two worlds die to save himself, forcing the Science Detective to gamble everything on a last-ditch plan…

Hamilton, Greene & Giella then detail how ‘The Incredible Eyes of Arthur Gail!’ – damaged by a chemical accident and unable to detect non-organic materials – uncover a cruel criminal plot; Binder, Kane & Sachs expose the tragic secret of ‘The Paul Revere of Time!’ whose anonymous warnings prevent colossal loss of life and ‘The Mental Star-Rover!’ (Binder, Greene & Giella) reveals an uncanny connection between an Earth author and a piratical alien marauder…

Broome, Greene & Sachs opened Strange Adventures #78 with a spirited mash-up of Arthurian legend and The Prisoner of Zenda as mechanic Bruce Walker pinch-hits for an alien emperor in ‘The Secret of the Tom-Thumb Spacemen!’ after which Fox, Kane & Giella chillingly explore how existence depends on meteors when aliens attempt to steal ‘The Life Battery!’ which sustains our bio-sphere…

Binder & Infantino pose a classic quandary of ingenuity and survival after a prospector is stranded on a primitive island with a dead alien and a matter-transmuting device he believes is ‘The Magic Horn of Space!’ Immediately following, a test pilot is abducted into another dimension to become a guinea pig for inhuman predators as ‘The Prisoner of Space X!’ (France E. Herron, Greene & Sachs).

Issue #79 offered chilly seasonal fare with ‘Invaders from the Ice World!’ by Fox, Infantino & Sachs. When energy beings from Pluto possess snowmen in advance of an invasion it takes all of Darwin Jones’ deductive abilities to fathom their only weakness, after which ‘Around the Universe in 1 Billion Years!’ (Herron, Greene & Giella) follows a band of explorers who return to Terra after an eternity in space to discover a new race has supplanted them.

‘A Switch in Time!’ (Fox, Kane & Giella) then examines the fate of a conman who thinks himself the lucky recipient of the greatest deal in history before Hamilton, Jerry Grandenetti & Giella expose the incredible secret of ‘The Living Automobile!’ which kidnaps its driver…

Binder handled most of the writing in #80, beginning with a smart take on intellectual property as the Kane & Giella illustrated ‘Mind Robbers of Venus!’ depicts alien crooks stashing their loot in the brain of electronics engineer Ian Caldwell before Greene & Giella take over for ‘The Worlds That Switched Places!’ wherein an astronaut makes a terrible mistake that almost dooms two different dimensions.

Fox & Infantino demonstrated the duplicitous saga of Plutonian Jul Van and ‘The Anti-Invasion Machine!’ which almost destroyed Earth before Binder returns with artist Howard Sherman to seal the fate of an avaricious inventor who believes himself ‘The Man who Cheated Time!’

Strange Adventures #81 featured a subatomic would-be tyrant kidnapping convict brothers to be his tools in an ambitious plot, but the deranged alien has no idea of the ‘Secret of the Shrinking Twins!’ (Broome, Infantino & Sachs) and consequently pays a heavy price, after which Binder, Greene & Giella pit an Earth naturalist against a potential world conqueror in ‘The Spaceman of 1,000 Disguises!’

‘The Friendly Enemies of Space!’ (Herron, Kane & Sachs) details a series of natural disasters which ruin Earth’s first contact with benevolent extra-solar life before Fox, Grandenetti & Frank Giacoia examined the fallout of a lost artefact from a higher dimension when ‘The Magic Box from Nowhere!’ drops into the hands of ordinary, greedy humans…

In #82, Herron, Infantino & Sachs’s bellicose and awesome ‘Giants of the Cosmic Ray!’ meet their match in a humble earth scientist, whilst a gobsmacked youth is astounded to discover his adoptive parents were aliens when he becomes ‘The Man Who Inherited Mars!’ (Binder, Greene & Giella)…

A lack of communication would have led to disaster had science fiction writer Owen Bently not deduced the incredible ‘Secret of the Silent Spaceman!’ (Binder, Giacoia & Giella) after which a researcher saves Earth from invaders by turning their technology against them on ‘The Day Science Went Wild!’ (Binder, Greene & Giella).

Strange Adventures #83 sees a simple college Professor revealed as an amnesiac chrononaut who has to rediscover and complete his ‘Assignment in Eternity!’ before time runs out (Binder, Greene & Giella again), whilst actor Mark Gordon finds himself hunting fans-turned-spree criminals as the ‘Private Eye of Venus!’ (Fox & Infantino) when his hit TV show inadvertently becomes the sensation of the telepathic inhabitants of our sister planet…

Herron, Greene & Giella detail a misunderstanding which reduces gigantic Good Samaritan ‘The Volcanic Man!’ to the status of an invading monster after which an accident leads to brain injury for an ordinary mortal. As crafted by Herron, Kane & Sachs, his wounds are repaired by passing aliens, but the victim develops uncanny precognitive abilities in ‘The Future Mind of Roger Davis!’

Ray Jenkins is a wealthy man who brings unearned fame and prestige in SA #84, but the glory-hound meets his fate when he encounters the ‘Prisoners of the Atom Universe!’ (Broome, Infantino & Sachs) whilst a harried scientist prevents ‘The Radioactive Invasion of Earth!’ (Fox, Greene & Sachs) when he realises Martians also can’t abide his kids’ Rock ‘n’ Roll music…

Darwin Jones returns to solve the ‘Riddle of the Walking Robots!’ (Herron, Infantino & Giella) which ceaselessly roam Earth sowing alien seeds, after which schoolboy Tommy Ward’s “Electronic Brain” kit becomes ‘The Toy that Saved the World!’ (Binder, Greene & Giella)… once he stops scrupulously following the instructions…

John Broome scripted the first half of issue #85, leading with artists Greene & Sachs’ ‘The Amazing Human Race!’, wherein a scientist uncovers a plot by Praying Mantises to conquer humanity before a colour-blind student finds affirmation when his disability saves an alien civilisation from destruction in ‘The Colorless World of Peter Brandt!’ (Infantino & Giella).

Binder closed the issue with a brace of tales: ‘The Riddle of Spaceman X!’ (Greene & Giella) with human scientists trying to deduce the form of an alien from examining his “abandoned” ship whilst ‘Thieves of Thought!’ (Infantino & Sy Barry) follows a speleologist who unearths a city of robots telepathically appropriating human inventions for the purposes of conquest…

In SA #86, ‘The Dog That Saved the Earth!’ (Broome, Infantino & Sachs) discloses how alien energy transforms an ordinary mutt into a telepathic genius in time to prevent a cosmic catastrophe after which Binder, Infantino & Giella reveal how an ordinary chemist ends an ‘Interplanetary Space-Feud!’ threatening to devastate the world.

Gardner Fox then finished off the issue with two intriguing enigmas. Spelunker Bill Jackson stumbles onto an alien ship and discovers only he can stop ‘The One-Hour Invasion of Earth!’ (art by Giacoia), whilst Greene & Giella reveal how schoolboy John Haldane is saved by a mysterious stranger in payment for a similar service performed two decades hence during ‘The Weather War of 1977!’

Strange Adventures #87 begins with Herron, Infantino & Giella’s ingenious ‘New Faces for Old!’, wherein the ultimate plastic surgery craze is nothing but a crafty scheme by aliens to ferret out freedom fighters hiding amidst teeming humanity whilst ‘Mystery Language from Space!’ (Fox, Greene & Sachs) shows how a warning of planetary doom is nearly wasted as nobody can read the messages…

Fox, Infantino & Giella then detail how a freshly graduated Air Force pilot is abruptly seconded to the red planet to combat the ‘Meteor Menace of Mars!’ before Binder, Greene & Giella describe how an ingenious writer is tapped by aliens in dire distress to be ‘The Interplanetary Problem-Solver!’

Simian allure informed issue #88 as Herron, Infantino & Giella depicted Darwin Jones thwarting ‘The Gorilla War against Earth!’ and uncovering another alien invasion scheme whilst ‘The Warning Out of Time!’ (Binder, Greene & Sachs) reveals how a lost Da Vinci masterpiece conceals prophetic warnings of future disasters.

A mysterious and diligent ‘Bodyguard from Space!’ (Fox, Infantino & Sachs) attaches himself to cameraman Jim Carson because the human’s brain contains knowledge to save a dying civilisation, after which Binder, Greene & Giella pose a classic survival conundrum as Earth scientists struggled to discern ‘The Secret of the Sleeping Spaceman!’

When Saturnians raided our world in issue #89, one scientist advises neither capitulation nor resistance but instead suggests offering ‘Earth for Sale’ (Herron, Infantino & Sachs) to save humanity, after which a professor vanishes from view to find himself a ‘Prisoner of the Rainbow!’ (Binder, Greene & Giella).

A pilot on a mercy mission takes an accidental ‘Detour in Time!’ and saves future humanity in a chiller by Fox, Grandenetti & Giella before Binder, Greene & Giella’s ‘Mystery of the Unknown Invention!’ sees a nosy neighbour’s prying accidentally saving a world… but not his own…

Issue #90 opens with ‘The Day I Became a Martian!’ (Binder, Infantino & Sachs), revealing how prospective invaders periodically transform a sci fi writer to see if Earth can sustain them after which Fox, Greene & Giunta recount how a bookshop owner endures regular clandestine visits from an extraterrestrial seeking ‘The 100,000 Year Old Weapon!’

Binder also scripted the final brace of astounding yarns as an ‘Amazing Gift from Space!’ (illustrated by Infantino & Sachs) sees human suspicion nearly spurn an incredible opportunity and doom two civilisations, whilst the Greene & Giella limned ‘Mystery of Meteor Crater!’ offers a thrilling battle between Jovian invaders and ordinary Earthmen for the most powerful element in creation…

In #91 ‘The Midget Earthman of Jupiter!’ (Broome, Greene & Sachs) portrays how an Olympic decathlete assists Brobdingnagian aliens in a struggle for democratic freedom whilst Binder, Greene & Giunta’s ‘Warning to Earth!’ features an oceanographer afflicted with a mental block attempting to circumvent his psychic gag and alert the surface-world to impending undersea invasion…

Fox, Manny Stallman & Giella then detail a shipwrecked extraterrestrial swindler’s scheme to trick Earth into building his ride home after discovering ‘The Amazing Tree of Knowledge!’, before ‘Prisoner of the Space Satellite!’ (Binder, Infantino & Sachs) reveals how an isolated astronomer solves a mathematical mystery and saves the last survivor of Atlantis from death in space…

SA #92 offered a more literal tale from Joe Millard, Infantino & Sachs as ‘The Amazing Ray of Knowledge!’ boosts the intellect of children just as a sidereal phenomenon threatens to destroy the solar system. Sadly, the effect was only temporary and when the kids revert to normal their solution is beyond the ken of their parents…

When an alien impostor dies in an accident the authorities uncover a plot to end humanity. ‘Earth – Planetary Bomb!’ by Fox & Giunta sees Jeff Morgan impersonate his own doppelganger to infiltrate the doom-ring and save the world, after which Fox, Stallman & Giella reveal how a magazine artist encounters ‘Models from Saturn’ and becomes embroiled in an interplanetary revolution.

‘The Ice-Age Message!’ by Binder & Greene then sees a TV weatherman deliver a forecast of meteorological Armageddon after clashing with aliens seeking to steal Earth’s carbon dioxide…

Strange Adventures #93 wraps up the nostalgic future-watching, beginning with extra-length thriller ‘Heart of the Solar System!’ (Millard, Infantino & Giella) wherein a space-traffic patrolman strives to protect the artificial organ which regulates the laws of physics in our sector of space from stellar marauders, after which Fox, Stallman & Sachs expose temporal meddlers whose experiments drop the first volume of a cosmic dictionary in the lap of a contemporary quiz show contestant.

Sadly as ‘The Wizard of A!’, Joe Bentley’s brief moment of fame almost eradicates the time continuum…

The final tale in this titanic tome is one last Darwin Jones romp as Fox & Giunta’s ‘Space Rescue by Proxy!’ describes the Science Sleuth’s dealings with a telepathic alien sent to warn Earth of impending doom. Tragically, the saviour himself falls into deadly danger and has to be rescued by Jones’ ingenuity…

Couched in the grand tradition of legendary pulp sci-fi editor John Campbell, with human ingenuity and decency generally solving the assorted crises of cosmic interaction, these yarns and sagas are a timeless highpoint of all-ages comics entertainment.

If you dream in steel and plastic and are still wondering why you don’t yet own a personal jet-pack or live on food-pills, this volume might go some way to assuaging that unquenchable fire for the stars…
© 1956, 1957, 1958, 2013 DC Comics. All Rights Reserved.…