Tuesday, June 30, 2015

2000AD Prog 98 retro review

Haven't done one of these for a while but here's a recent acquisition: Prog 98 from February 1979 with a Klegg-eclent Brian Bolland cover.

Inside Dredd is up first and this one has it all: Bolland sequentials, Dredd up to his shoulder in a Klegg's mouth, Chief Judge Cal doing his Stan Laurel impression, the full Klegg chorus line, Tom Frame's lettering, and Judge Fernandez going out in a blaze of glory, and looking remarkably like Carlos Ezquerra in the process. The only downside is Judge Giant's rather regrettable and stereotypical speech patterns but apart from that this is golden age stuff for Dredd as the epic hits keep on coming.

Next up is Angel by Chris Stevens and Carlos Pino and I have no recollection of this one at all. For anyone else in the same boat it's about a test pilot who survived a crash only to find that his plane's computer had melted into his body and given him super powers. Used to happen all the time in seventies comics but looks very formulaic now and the four pages fly past faster than you can say Mach 1, at least there is one circular Whittle panel to provide some compensation.

Future Shocks: The Four-Legged Man by Mike Cruden, Mike Dorey and Peter Knight is a page and a half of nonsense before we get to the cut-out and keep colour centre pages of the Flesh Files.

Which runs straight into Flesh book two by Geoffrey Miller, Carlos Pino and Steve Potter, and it looks like Claw Carver is making Bill Savage walk the plank over some genetically engineered Icthyosaurs who have fricking laser beams attached to their heads (or something like that). It's actually Peters not Savage but he just has the looks of a generic dark haired action hero from the comics of those halcyon days. Again Pino's art is pretty basic stuff but this time he slips in two Whittles.

After that the artwork jumps up several levels and Dave Gibbons even kicks off with a circular panel in Ro-Busters. Ro-Jaws and Hammerstein are absent but Gibbons more than makes up for it with the giant ship's pilot robot Charlie getting ready to fight it out with the Terra-Meks. His human figures and the background cross hatching are lovely but his giant robots are a revelation. Earlier this year I heard Dave speak at the London Super Comic-Con of his love for the Joe Simon and Jack Kirby space comics and here he produces work that echoes and even surpasses Kirby's mastery. It's just stunning black and white art for a kids' comic

The back page of the Prog is a Futuregraph of a Mars bound space shuttle by Bill Le Fevre. The total Whittle count is four and the Pick of the Prog is a stand up battle between Dredd and Ro-Busters with Gibbons' art just tipping the scales for the win. The rest of the comic is largely forgettable but those two stories stand out as examples of the best that British comics could produce back in the day.

2000AD Sci-Fi Special

Summer's here and the time is right for Sci-Fi in the street so Tharg delivers another special edition which brings some old favourites back to the pages of 2000AD.

Cover by Greg Staples.
A nice group shot that clearly tells us who to expect on the inside pages. Staples is a master at producing iconic images of Dredd and he stands out from the crowd. The other characters are good although I am not entirely convinced by the depiction of Sam Slade. However the whole cover does stand out on the shelves at Smiths and hopefully will entice some casuals readers as well as the rest of us hardcore fans. Tharg's tagline about movies of the mind is very appropriate for the multiple film references that are coming up.

Judge Dredd by Michael Carroll, Jake Lynch, John-Paul Bove and Annie Parkhouse.
The first of several movie themed stories clips along nicely with Dredd demonstrating his superior street skills. There's lot of good moments with the movie bad guys wearing classic monster masks, and some nice satire about Hollywood and the 2012 movie thrown in there. I was also interested to see Dredd trying to control the victim's bleeding instead of just taking out the shooter. As ever I like Michael Carroll's handling of old stoney face and I'll happily read all of his writing for the Galaxy's greatest comic. On the art side Jake Lynch produces some very accomplished stuff which seems to have moved on from his recent stint on Orlok. His handling of the masked bad guys is splendid and the nod to the movie costume with the back armour is fun. In some panels Lynch is clearly channeling Henry Flint which is no bad thing, I don't know how much of this improvement in Lynch's art is down to the colourist but it's great stuff. Tharg's use of the special editions as proving grounds for new talent is bearing fruit and I look forward to seeing more from the Lynch/Bove partnership in the pages of the regular Prog.

Robo Hunter by Alec Worley, Mark Simmons and Ellie De Ville
Another film parody and there's trouble in Brit Cit with its very own Iron Man. Worley handles the jokes with aplomb and once again Mark Simmons does a fine job with the black, white and greyscale artwork. His robots are particularly good and he nails Hoagy and Stogie perfectly. Great stuff.

Future Shocks: Dust by Gary Blatchford and John Higgins.
A brief but satisfying interlude that acts as a nice palate cleanser for the rest of the Prog. The problem with Future Shocks is that we're expecting a twist so we start looking for it from the first panel and this one is particularly easy to see coming. However to balance that out we have John Higgins apparently creating a whole new colour palate to depict an alien world with the skyscapes being especially notable.

Ace Trucking Co. by Eddie Robson, Nick Dyer and Annie Parkhouse.
More movie mayhem as Ace Garp gets embroiled with another Hollywood caper with plenty of comic support from GBH and Feek. It's difficult to compare anyone to the legendary Massimo Belardinelli but Dyer does a nice job with the weird aliens and also turns in a lovely depiction of the Speedo Ghost. There's a lot of detail in the panels and although the story flashes by pretty quickly but based on this I would like to see Robson and Dyer do another one.

Survival Geeks by Gordon Rennie, Emma Beeby, Neil Googe, Gary Caldwell and Ellie De Ville
This time the film reference is to Ringu which mainly acts to set up the next arc of this strip. It's beautifully illustrated and coloured but I still feel that it's too critical of geekdom to completely succeed. The artwork is sublime but the strip passed me by.

Rogue Trooper by Guy Adams, Darren Douglas and Simon Bowland.
And finally another film within a film as Rogue crashes through a piece of programmed propaganda. Another well told story that does the job nicely complemented by beautiful art by Douglas. There's no single stand out panel to match the action shot of Rogue firing towards the camera in last year's special but the use of colour and the depiction of the electric cage is brilliant. Maybe Rogue Trooper isn't going to return to the Prog but these one off stories are great.

Elsewhere in the Special there are images of the Robo Hunter action figure, another shot of that superb Greg Staples Dark Justice artwork, and a teaser for the return of Defoe later this year. I can hardly wait.

All round a very high quality summer special with Pick of the Prog going to the superlative teamwork of Carroll, Lynch and Bove on Dredd.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Paper Mache Monster Mash

The Evil Of Frankenstein from 1964 was directed by Freddie Francis from a script by Anthony Hinds.

Chronologically this fits between Revenge of Frankenstein and Frankenstein created Woman but story wise it seems to be in a completely different universe, or should that be Universal? Hammer reached a deal with Universal pictures to use the famous Karloff creature design, and the laboratory creation scenes. So professional wrestler Kiwi Kingston was covered in some ghastly paper mache makeup with an enormous boxy forehead held on with bootlace stitching, and he lumbered round the sets in the familiar gravel spreader platform boots. On the other hand the creation sequence, which is meant to be a flashback to Frankenstein's first laboratory, looks absolutely spectacular with fizzing sparklers, arcing electricity, glowing tubes and small explosions every time he throws a switch. Interesting that the designers went with blue light as the colour of advanced technology even back in the sixties, and now it's everywhere.

This is the first of the Hammer films that I have watched on Blu-ray and the difference is startling. It looks pin sharp, as if it was made in the last ten years instead of half a century ago. But while the laboratory special effects do very well in Blu-ray the makeup really suffers by comparison. Anyone who have cut up a cereal box and worn it on their head to play act the lumbering Frankenstein creature (just me then?) will find it very familiar and almost charming as a result.

The story is a bit all over the place with Frankenstein discovering his original creature frozen in one of those convenient blocks of ice and then recruiting a fairground hypnotist to try and control the shambling brute that he has unleashed. It all ends in a familiar burning building sequence with Peter Cushing leaping about in a fashion that looks quite unsafe. As it turns out from the making of documentary on this disc it was as dangerous as it looks and Cushing did indeed need treatment for burns. The things actors would do back in those days.

Peter Cushing is as commanding a screen presence as always and there are some touching moments with a mute beggar girl who can control the creature. Apart from that there are the usual pitchfork waving yokels, a few comedy authority figures, and at least one heaving bosom. It gets three stars for the spectacular creation sequence alone but apart from that it's all very middling. Just one more Hammer and Peter Cushing Frankenstein to go and it's time for everyone's favourite west country Sith lord to fill the monster's boots.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Snakes on a Mane

Another Hammer horror from 1964, The Gorgon directed by Terence Fisher from a script by John Gilling based on J.Llewellyn Devine's story.

Another attempt by Hammer to start a monster franchise of their very own by raiding Greek mythology and putting another horror in a derelict castle that terrorises the locals of a European village. And it brings Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee back together again which was apparently great fun for the two friends although they share very little screen time together. Cushing's local doctor is a bit of an oddity, he clearly knows what is going on but tries to keep it all covered up possibly because of his love for Barbara Shelley's character. This leaves Christopher Lee to turn up in the second half of the film as Professor Meister who takes on the Van Helsing role.

Along the way various unfortunates get completely or partially paralysed by the mythical Megaera but it does take a while to get to the castle climax that we've been headed for right from the opening shot. Part of the problem was that the Gorgon's snake wig didn't really work and they quite rightly chose to keep her in the shadows for most of the time. When she does step into the light the ballet dancer Prudence Hyman gives her a beautiful and sinuous movement which goes some way to distracting from the failings of the snakes in her hair which were worked by air pipes trailing from the back of her costume. Apparently Barbara Shelley had offered to play the part with real grass snakes in her headdress and it's a shame they didn't at least try that.

This is rather like The Reptile with another new monster who has to be hidden because the make up isn't great. But any film that opens with a title card reading Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee has got to be worth a look. Four out of five petrified thumbs up and Hammer time continues.

Friday, June 19, 2015

2000AD Prog 1935 vs Megazine 361 review

It's head to head time as the Prog drops at the same time as a jumping on issue of the Megazine, and there are some top thrills to compare.

Karl Richardson on Outlier vs Greg Staples' Dredd
Richardson supplies some creepy alien body horror in an arresting image. I like the use of the glowing green for the eyes and highlights instead of the standard alien blue that seems to be the colour of magic almost everywhere else these days. But when it comes to arresting nobody beats Dredd and there is no-one better at pulling together (sorry) a terrific cover than Staples. My only reservations would be the blue artex on the wall behind him which is a terrible decision by the decorator, and the rather chunky Planet Replicas gloves. Two smashing covers but Staples wins the point.

Result: 1-0 to the Megazine

Judge Dredd: Blood of Emeralds by Michael Carroll, Colin MacNeil, Chris Blythe and Annie Parkhouse vs El Maldito by Gordon Rennie, Carlos Ezquerra and Annie Parkhouse
I'm a bit confused by the opening pages in the Prog as Stonefish breaks free of his bonds requiring Dredd and Joyce to step in and shoot him, and then he's strapped back in the interrogation chair with a neat white plaster on his shoulder. It all seems to happen a bit fast and then Dredd is back on the street breaking heads with his suitable sardonic "Oh really?" to the knife wielder. However once they are on Irish soil the story runs much more smoothly and things are ramping up nicely. I trust Carroll's writing and look forward to next week's bar room punch up. Plus he gets his medical terminology correct, there really us a part of the brain called the Raphe nuclei. MacNeil and Blythe continue to deliver fantastic stuff, you really can't beat the way the lighting picks out Dredd's visor. Beautiful.

In the Megazine Gordon Rennie takes to a previously unexplored corner of the Dredd-verse but fortunately King Carlos is on hand to guide us with his trademark black jagged panel borders. There's also what may be his signature layout of a background figure firing at the camera or the bad guys immediately in front of it. Nobody can pull off this scene like Carlos and its a joy to see it crop up here. With regards to the story I'm intrigued enough to be looking forward to more although I almost wish they were able to use another senior Judge instead of Dredd who must be stretched pretty thin these days. But his name's in the comic title so he has to be in the first story and it's reassuring to see him sum up the situation in a few terse sentences.

Result: a tough call and I hate to vote against any story with Ezquerra art but I love Carroll and MacNeil's Irish adventure so the Prog gets the win and it's tied at 1-1

Absalom by Gordon Rennie, Tiernen Trevallion and Simon Bowland vs Demon Nic by Paul Grist and Phil Elliott
More of Rennie doing what he does best: putting sarky old Harry Absalom in the midst of a paranormal investigation and tapping up a few of his contacts to get the information he needs. Trevallion does lovely work with shadows and his panel layouts and it's charming to see that the holy terror assassin is a fan of the Dredd movie. Between them Rennie and Trevallion instantly plunge me into their dark and dreadful London and I can't fault this at all.

And talking of dark there's plenty of black space in the void around the characters of Demon Nic. Strangely I found the short lived character of the Priest far more interesting than the anti-hero of the piece who so far seems like a collection of weapons and kooky habits with the usual witty line in battling banter. I'm aware of Grist's previous work wothout having read any of it and it's certainly interesting but if the Priest had stayed around a bit longer I might have been more on board for this first chapter.

Result: an easy point for Absalom and it's 2-1 for the Prog

Slaine by Pat Mills, Simon Davis and Ellie De Ville vs Storm Warning by Leah Moore, John Reppion, Tom Foster, Kirsty Swan and Simon Bowland
The bad guy Sloughs his skin to become a Cyth lord while Darth Gort does the time warp as well. In between Slaine says his signature line and swings his mighty axe. Looks lovely but I'm still itching for next week's final episode.

Tom Foster and Kirsty Swan produce a lovely look for the first part of Storm Warning with some creepy images and fantastic lighting. Plus the title font recalls Bryan Talbot's Luther Arkwright comic and they also throw in a mighty "FOOOM" sound effect. The story of one Psi-Judge with a dodgy past being sent to recover a deadly artifact sounds familiar but I'm going to give this one some time because of the powerful artwork, and I'm also giving it the point over Slaine.

Result: 2-2

Outlier by T.C.Eglington, Karl Richardson and Annie Parkhouse vs Lawless by Dan Abnett, Phil Winslade and Ellie De Ville
Outlier gets right to it pulling Carcer off the PTSD ward and promising him a place on an investigation team heading for a captured Horde ship. It's a pretty good opener which promises quite a bit of the old ultra-violence and body horror for the coming story. Karl Richardson's muscular artwork looks terrific as well, and it's a convincing first episode.

There's promise of a bar room brawl in next week's Dredd but it's going to have to go some way to beat Winslade's fantastically detailed line work in Lawless. How long must it take him to produce these pages? OK, so the mild mannered accountant twist may have been done before but look at Lawson's knee length boots, her gloriously impractical hair, and just look at her bike. You can't go wrong with cowboys, or cowgirls, in space and this is absolutely splendid stuff from the Megazine.

Result: Winslade's art tips it in favour of the Meg, 3-2

Helium by Ian Edginton, D'Israeli and Ellie De Ville v Everything else in the Megazine put together.
And there was me thinking it was something else that turned your hair green. More details of the world below the cloud are revealed including some nasty looking Morlockian mutants while the Constable does that Rio Bravo thing of locking up the newcomer for his own protection and if I squint a bit I can almost see Walter Brennan playing Solace. The forum is divided as to whether this story is Ian Edginton retreading a familiar line or a wondrous new thrill for the Prog. It's perhaps not quite hitting the heady heights of Dredd and Absalom yet but it's still hugely entertaining, and it sure floats my boat (yes, I'm pleased with that one). Lovely to look at as well.

It's not fair to compare Helium to Finn which I don't like the look of and haven't read. The Meg's text pieces are OK but not fantastically interesting. Perhaps the best of the rest is the strange cut out reservation token to hand to your newsagent and reserve your copy. Nobody cuts up comics these days do they? Maybe Tharg just wants us to feel nostalgic for those halcyon days when we wouldn't dare speak to the seedy guy who ran the paper shop but might just pluck up the courage to poke our nose over the counter with a grubby slip of paper to secure a copy of the Galaxy's greatest comic. Still it is utterly charming and almost seals the win for the Meg but I'm going to give the point to Helium.

So it's another 3-3 tie and yes my scoring system sucks but it's a splendid day when these two land on my doormat. Top thrill is going to be Judge Dredd: Blood of Emeralds but Absalom and El Maldito both ran it close.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

2000AD Prog 1934 review

Cover by Simon Davis
It's warp time with a third Simon Davis Slaine cover in quick succession and my least favourite of the three. It may all depend on your history with Slaine and his warp spasms but I don't particularly like this image. The rest of this Prog is a pretty good jumping on point but the abstract picture wouldn't attract me to pick it up off the shelf at Smiths. The painting technique is stunning but the image and Tharg's obvious pun seem weak. This one won't be making my top five of the year.

Droid Life by Cat Sullivan
I love the cartoon drawings style in Droid Life but I wish it had better jokes. At least the strip has moved on from the repetitive countdown bomb gag but the laugh level hasn't risen. Still they are cute looking droids.

I don't understand this week's Damage Report. Does this mean that Pye Parr first freelance job is for 2000AD again?

Judge Dredd by Michael Carroll, Colin MacNeil, Chris Blythe and Annie Parkhouse
This has got it all: a story by Michael Carroll, the fabulous noir inflected art of MacNeil, and the splendid return of Judge Fintan Joyce. One of the things that occasionally bugs me is when the other Judges from Justice department appear incompetent so it's nice to see that Fintan has excellent instincts, reflexes and self defence skills. Obviously he is not up to the standard of Dredd or former Sov-Judge Pax but at least he is on the ball, even if the assassin is literally too hot to handle.

I enjoyed MacNeil's excellent work on the recent Mega-City Confidential story and here he provides more of his characteristic impassive reflections in the Judge visors and from the ever present video screens. A lot of this is down to the superb colouring and lighting by Chris Blythe but it's lovely stuff from the pair of them. There are also some nice little details such as the delivery droid company's name A2B. Clearly the contents of his father's safety deposit box are going to drag Joyce along with Dredd back to the auld Emerald isle, and hopefully Pax will tag along as well. Maybe young Joyce will be embarking upon some kind of odyssey and the story will bloom from there. Whatever way this goes it's a great opening episode that has something for regular and new readers alike.

Absalom by Gordon Rennie, Tienan Trevallion and Simon Bowland
The return of Rennie's best creation for 2000AD with a splendid two page opening of demonic parkour before Inspector Absalom arrives at another weird crime scene and begins to do his stuff. Trevallion's black and white art is joyous and the only problem is that it's over too soon. I wish Tharg could have squeezed in another five pages to allow new readers to catch up with one of the best characters to grace the pages of the Prog in the last few years but hey-ho it's a five page limit for everyone apart from Dredd and completely new strips. Anyway it's great stuff, hopefully we will learn a bit more about the fate of Harry Absalom's grandchildren in this story.

Slaine by Pat Mills, Simon Davis and Ellie De Ville
This seems like the weakest installment of Slaine for a while. We've seen all of the magnificent Davis art by now and the small images of warped Slaine doing his thing just looked like a sprite from some crappy video game, or a horrible Conan parody. I'm not sure what is happening on the last two pages at all so I guess you can put me down in the "some don't know and will never know" category but I'm ready for Slaine to go away for a while now. Hopefully this wraps up next week.

Helium by Ian Edginton, D'Israeli and Ellie De Ville
A new strip by the Scarlet Traces team gets ten pages to introduce a strange world and a new story line. I'm a big fan of both Edginton and D'Israeli, I've met them both and they have signed many a comic and book for me and they are both splendid chaps with a long history of sterling work for Tharg. Hopefully this is going to be as good as Scarlet Traces or Leviathan but time will tell. For me it was a thoroughly enjoyable opener and the introduction of another interesting pair of characters in Constable Hodge and the steampunk mechanical revenant, Solace. Interestingly Hodge's gender is not an issue and we are more interested in the question that Edginton raises about her origin as an "outsider" in this airborne community. A very promising start.

Pick of the Prog is Dredd but Absalom and Helium look very good as well and if the Prog had just been those three thrills I would have been quite happy.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Future Shock

Here's another of my occasional short stories for the 2000AD forum competition. I quite like the creepy twist at the end which I confess I have borrowed from a short film I saw once. The names of the two housing blocks are nods to a famous comic book artist, Jose Ortiz, and to Mr Jim Moon who hosts the excellent Hypnobobs podcast about all manners of weird fiction.

“OK, Citizen Deets. Tell me again why you need rehousing. What exactly is wrong with your apartment?”

“I keep telling you. It’s haunted. Something terrible happened there.”

“Well we had Chaos day and the loss of nearly 60% of usable housing stock. Something terrible happened all over. You and your family were allocated a very desirable 2 bed con-apt in Jim Moon block. You should be happy to be here.”

“And I would be. I’d love to be happy here, but I get these haunting visions all the time. And it’s not just me, my wife and son know there’s something wrong as well. Jancis ain’t sleeping and Todd’s been having some behavioral issues. And it’s all to do with what happened in that apartment. You've got to move us.”

“These visions you've been getting. Talk me through them again.”

“It’s always the same. There’s this guy, He’s wearing one of those Mango computer store t-shirts and his badge says his name is Chip Mindy. He walks in through our front door. I can tell it’s our apartment, but the furniture is different. He lived there, he had keys, and I can see pictures of him and his family on his fridge. He sits down at his table with his head in his hands. Then he’s standing in the bedroom and there’s two little girls asleep in bunk beds. He’s got a bloody knife in his hand and there’s blood all over that blue t-shirt. He steps over to the sleeping girls and he ... you know.”

“He kills the two girls? Look Mr Deets. We've been through this already. We have complete records for this block and for your apartment in particular and there’s no Chaos day gaps or anything. No family named Mindy has ever lived here, not anywhere in this block. And Justice department have no crime file answering that description. You’re just having some very imaginative dreams.”

“They're not dreams, I’m awake when I see him, they’re ghosts or something. I’m telling you something horrible happened there and I won’t have my family in that place for one more night.”

“OK, Mr Deets. Let me chat with my supervisor. We’ll see what we can do and I’ll be right back.”

He rose from his seat and walked down the corridor to the housing manager’s office.

“Steven, how’s it going with that Deets guy from 14B? Has he calmed down yet?

“Afraid not, Boss. He’s been in here every day for two weeks. We’re going to have to move him.”

“Yeah, I thought it might come to that. Well this is his lucky day. We've had a transfer request from a family in Jose Ortiz block. The husband wants to be nearer to work. Looks like a straight swap. You start the paperwork for Deets, ship them over to Ortiz and I’ll speak to the guy there. Guess we've just made the Mindys' day.”

“Wait. Mindy? The new family is called Mindy?”

“Yeah. Why, do you know them?”

Sunday, June 7, 2015

2000AD Prog 1933

Richard Elson solves the problem of showing everyone's front view in a shoot out by giving us this unusual angle on Dredd. The anatomy is much better than on the current Megazine cover and although Dredd completely dominates one side of the cover and the title I find it pretty effective. Good job those wrist band guys are such rubbish shots though. Inside there's news of the latest merchandise from Rebellion for those who want to sit on Dredd's face, or slop beer on him which probably comes with some cube time.

Judge Dredd: Breaking Bud by John Wagner, Richard Elson and Annie Parkhouse
Wagmner and Elson wrap up the final part of the time travelling cops story with an illustration of how instinctively good Dredd is, and how the rest of the Justice department just can't quite cut it. Johnny Vegas makes his highly publicised appearance and it all wraps up with one wrist device still in the Mega-City. Wagner makes this all look as effortless as ever and Elson's use of colour, particularly in the flashback sequences is fantastic. I wondered if the time travel agents and the ridiculously powerful wrist bands might create another lie detector problem for Wagner but based on this story and the Dead Zone from the Megazine it would seem that the master can do no wrong. Another solid Dredd story and next week we have the return of Judge Joyce and some Colin MacNeil artwork to look forward to.

Slaine by Pat Mills, Simon Davis and Ellie De Ville
Gort communes with Guledigs while Slaine and Sinead head into trouble but there's the mother of all warp spasms coming. I'm a bit muddled by Mills' story but the painted artwork by Davis is just glorious. As comic fans we love the visuals and this is a treat for the eyes. I wonder how far in advance Simon has to start work on this in time for it to appear in the Prog. Lovely stuff although I do wish Sinead had time to change into a more practical outfit.

Future Shocks by INJ Culbard and Annie Parkhouse
I read a Neil Gaiman short story recently about a guy whose imaginary girlfriend started to contact him on Facebook and I thought Culbard might be onto something similar. Instead he goes with a Matrix style twist where our reality may be the result of the sabotage of a Retcon engine. It's pretty interesting stuff and Culbard's art is impressive although I'd rather see him creating the clockwork worlds of Brass Sun, or his monstrous adaptations of Lovecraft than just some guys in hoodies. However on the basis of this story I would be very happy for Tharg to give him another Future Shock soon.

Tharg's 3Rillers: Commercial Break by Eddie Robson, Mike Collins, Gary Caldwell and Ellie De Ville
On the other hand I don't really want to read any more stories about the Jennotech stickle bricks or whatever was going on in this one. It is a tricky task to capture our attention in a fifteen page story and this one didn't grab me. It's all neatly executed but the combination of story and art did nothing for me and I blinked past it. Sorry.

Strontium Dog by John Wagner, Carlos Ezquerra and Simon Bowland.
Fortunately a Prog that started with two 2000AD masters finishes with a bang from the best combination in the history of the comic. Johnny Alpha completes the Stix job and there's plenty of action as all the loose ends get wrapped up. This final installment is topped and tailed by two superlative splash pages showing that Ezquerra can still produce the goods. Reading Wagner and Ezquerra is like watching Barcelona win the European cup except that I'd rather swap shirts with John or Carlos than Messi or Neymar. Hopefully completing this job has restored Johnny's moral compass and ended his suicidal urges. Now he just needs to get the old gang back together and we can have plenty more Strontium Dog stories before the Wagner /Ezquerra team finally reach that often talked about retirement.

Pick of the Prog by quite some way is the dynamic duo's work on Strontium Dog. A very strong issue this week, Mr Tharg.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

The Evil that Men do

Frankenstein must be Destroyed from 1969, directed by Terence Fisher and written by Bert Batt. And yes I am out of order with these Hammer Frankensteins.

I'm a bit confused by the basic plot to this one. Baron Frankenstein wants to learn the secrets of brain transplantation from his colleague Doctor Brandt. However Brandt is an inmate in an asylum with his brain slowly being destroyed by some disease or tumour. So in order to get the secret the Baron has to blackmail Simon Ward and Veronica Carlson to help him abduct Brandt and transplant his brain into Freddie Jones' body. Which leaves me wondering what piece of knowledge Frankenstein lacked because he seemed to do a pretty good job of the transplant by himself. He certainly doesn't carry out the procedure in order to help an old friend because by this stage the Baron is a thoroughly nasty and completely self centred piece of work.

Which brings me to the troublesome scene in the middle of this movie where he rapes Carlson. A scene that was not in the script and was added by the producers against the objections of Cushing, Carlson and director Fisher. Clearly there was a shortage of the trademark Hammer heaving bosoms and the producers wanted some titillation for the the American distributors. It's a nasty scene that has no relevance or comeback on the rest of the plot. It's never referred to again and all the characters carry on as if it never happened, which of course from a script point of view it hadn't. Watching recent episodes of Game of Thrones reminds me that the depiction of rape within popular culture is just as prevalent and troubling now as it was in the sixties. I can only imagine how much trouble and embarrassment this caused the kind and gentlemanly Peter Cushing, and what a horror it must have been to film for Veronica Carlson.

Frankenstein doesn't make his creatures any more and seems to be set on brain transplant as his main area of research. Perhaps this reflected public concern about organ transplant in the 1960s, the first successful heart transplant took place in 1967. Freddie Jones does get to lumber around with a neat scar around his scalp but it's disappointing that Hammer have replaced gruesome creature makeup with unpleasant sex scenes. Just one our of five surgical stitches for this offering. Let's hope for better from The Evil of Frankenstein.