Saturday, 21 October 2017

Hookjaw Classic Collection - Reviewed!



TITLE: Hookjaw Classic Collection
WRITERS: Pat Mills & Ken Armstrong
ARTISTS: Ramon Sola, Felix Carrion, Juan Arancio, Eric Bradbury & Jim Bleach
PUBLISHER: Titan Comic
FORMAT: Hardback, 29.5cm x 22cm colour + black and white 158 page book
PRICE: UK £29.99 US $34.99 CAN $45.99
AVAILABLE FROM: All good comic shops and book sellers
REVIEW:
Britain's 'Action' comic should not be confused with the American comic of the same name that featured to first appearance of Superman. IPC's 'Action' was a UK anthology comic for boys that first appeared on Valentine's Day 1976. It was part of a new breed of adventure comic which were aiming their stories at a slightly older readership than comics had up to that point… more teenagers than the under tens. The team behind 'Action'… John Wagner, Steve McManus and Pat Mills had just launched 'Battle' for IPC and were about to go onto create the ever popular '2000AD'. 'Action' took the approach of taking ideas from popular (and quite adult) mainstream movies of the day and putting it's own spin on them.
Undoubted star of the comic was 'Hookjaw', heavy influenced by Steven Spielberg's shark thriller 'Jaws' (which had been a hit only a year before.) The difference was that whereas Spielberg's monster Great White had to be dispatched at the end of the feature, 'Hookjaw' was an on-going strip and the killer shark had to survive and thrive. This led to 'Hookjaw' being presented as a kind of shark-hero in the strip (if sharks read comics, 'Hookjaw' would be their 'Superman'!)
This monster shark gets his name from the billhook that is left jutting out from his chin by an encounter with fishermen in the first episode. This spear and the mis-shappen fin on his back keep him distinctive from any other sharks featured in the strip.
Although the strip presents us with many villainous humans for Hookjaw to chow-down on, the star of the strip doesn't restrict his diet to only the black hats… He gets to eat heroes, villains and the innocent along the way. He is a sort of Jason Voorhees or Michael Myers of the deep. Stalking, killing and eating his way through the oceans of the world. And like those horror movie bogeyman he is just as unstoppable. Shot, stabbed, impaled, run-down, bombed… even hauled ashore… nothing seems to kill him or even slow him down.
Where Spielberg's film had been a thriller, 'Hookjaw' was a horror movie in serialised comic strip form. Each weekly episode features him killing someone in new and graphic ways. Often in 'Action's colour middle pages the waters and the pages run literal red. People are bitten in two… Legs, arms heads go missing… or even worse… float free from the beast's jaws. There is a gleeful humour to all this gore in much the same way '2000AD' and many strips by Garth Ennis capitalise on. It's so over-the-top that it can't possibly be taken seriously.
Much has been made of 'Hookjaw's environmental agenda, but I think this is stretching a point really. It's true the first strip does feature a villainous oil rig owner who cares nothing for how much he pollutes, but this is more by way of giving us a bad guy to jeer at. By the second adventure the green agenda is much less clear, by the third story it has disappeared completely and the villains are merely robbers.
These strips were written in the mid-seventies and as such they are a product of their time. With that in mind I must call out the rather embarrassing racism in the second adventure. Set on a Caribbean island with some black characters who are not just disparaged by the villains (which would have been fair-enough social commentary), but are presented in an unflattering light by the writer. They speak in poor English, they refer to white people as 'Masa' (master) and worst of all are continually (and without correction at any point) referred to as 'natives'. Black people are no more native to the Caribbean than the white people! In defence of the writer of these episodes, this is all done out of ignorance rather than hate. Still, if I had been Pat Mills writing his new introduction for this book, I would have wanted to put this all into some sort of context and perhaps make my apologies for it (but he doesn't mention it.)
Anyway it all came crashing down for 'Action' when the newspapers started campaigns against it. The 23rd October 1976 edition was printed… but never made it to the newsagents. Most of the print run was pulped and if you have a copy of it, it fetches very high prices today. When the comic returned on 4th December 1976 it had been gutted as effectively as one of Hookjaw's victims. The violence, gore and anti-establishment style of the comic had been totally removed. The killer shark was now only allowed to kill bad guys and then only out-of-shot. The fun had gone out of it too and within a year 'Action' was merged with 'Battle' and 'Hookjaw' was gone completely.
There are a couple of misleading blurbs on this book, which I must make potential buyers aware of. Firstly, the cover reads 'The complete original series!' This is not true. Of the original run this book only reprints the first three 'Hookjaw' serials (along with a strip from the 1976 'Action Summer Special' and one from the 1977 'Action Annual'.) The regular strips in this volume end with the 4th December episode, but the strip continued on for another year (admittedly with Hookjaw only bloodlessly eating people behind rocks!)
Also this book declares several times that the 'Lost Pages' were 'Not previously published'. These are the uncensored pages which featured in the banned issue and those that were intended to follow it. Great though it is to have these revealing pages included in the book, most of them have indeed seen print before in Martin Barker's 'Action: The Story of a Violent Comic' from this very same publisher. A better way of putting it would have been to say that these pages were 'Not originally published'. Still, there is a least one page I hadn't seen before.
I would recommend 'Hookjaw Classic Collection' with some reservations. This is a fantastic look at a crazy time in British comic history and the stories are so over-the-top as to be laugh-out-load funny… But if the dated racism in it will up-set you… This is best avoided.

Reviewed by John A. Short

Thursday, 19 October 2017

Vampires Everywhere - Reviewed!


TITLE: Vampires Everywhere
WRITER: George Lennox
ARTIST: Thomas Crielly
PUBLISHER: Cult Empire Comics (no relation!)
FORMAT: American comic sized. Full colour. Square Bound. 47 comic strip pages.
PRICE: UK £7.99 US $10.99 CAN $12.99



 
REVIEW:
VE is like Bram Stoker's Dracula on speed. Set in the late nineteenth century and beginning very much like that novel, a ship runs aground from the North Sea at a small coastal town in Britain (Scotland this time rather than Northern England.) With the ship come vampires. Only this time it's more like Dracula's three brides than the Count himself. Soon the townsfolk are being slaughtered and they must call upon the services of a team of vampire hunters to save the day.

What follows is a breathless and bloodly battle with wall-to-wall undead monsters. What makes VE work well is two-fold. Firstly Lennox's lean script which keeps the pace at such a breakneck tempo and Crielly's clear and clever pictorial storytelling. Lennox keeps the text at a minimum with no wordy captions or trendy internal monologues. Crielly helps him out by always making it easy to follow the action without the need for endless descriptive passages. It is very much in the style of my favourite form of comic storytelling.

Crielly does a fantastic job turning his hand to some spectacular establishing shots, both interior and exteriors. There's a belting ship-wreck on the first page and he follows it up with some impressive manor houses, studies and ruined castles. He's no less smooth when it comes to the human figures and I found myself wondering if they all had been modelled on real people.

This has action, gore and inventive deaths aplenty and as such may not be for everyone. It's the type of story where you can't be sure who will survive to the end no matter how sympathetic or heroic a character. I was reminded of Hammer's Captain Kronos and I can't help thinking with that film studio back making movies they really aught to send them a copy of this book!

The only minor quibble I could level is that the odd line doesn't ring very true to the period, but perhaps this is deliberate (as if the characters have had their Victorian speech translated for a modern audience?)

We can't have too many takes on the noserafu myth as we celebrate the 200th anniversary of vampire fiction, so do yourself a favour and pick up a copy of this rip-roaring splatter-fest. Pour yourself a glass of holy water, order a pizza with extra garlic and settle down for the great B-movie-in-a-comic-experience.

Review by John A. Short



Tuesday, 19 September 2017

Lew Stringer's Combat Colin 1 reviewed!

Title: Combat Colin
Issue: 1
Price: £3.50
Format: 40 pages American comic-sized Colour covers/black and white interiors
Credits: Written illustrated and lettered by Lew Stringer

The eighties! You couldn't avoid gun-totting heroes at the cinema back then and comics soon followed suit. Although Punisher had been created in the seventies it wasn't until the eighties that he got his own comic and he took off to major success in the age of Rambo, Commando and Die Hard. And in Britain we had… Combat Colin! Appearing in Marvel UK's Action Force and Transformers comics from 1987 through until 1991.

Lew Stringer's Colin is an endearing mix of those gritty action films and the suburban world of UK humour comics. Colin is a gun-crazed man who still lives with his parents in their semi-detached in Skegpool. In many ways it reminds me of the wonderful mix that classic Desperate Dan has between the wild west and Dundee.

Wearing a camouflage jacket, armed with tanks, rocket-launchers and grenades while rocking a bobble-hat and eating chips, Colin is a strangely loveable buffoon. Despite all the deadly weaponry he has a body-count somewhere between the A-Team and Rupert Bear. When Skegpool is under threat from supervillains like Doctor Nasty, Aunt Arctic or Cap'n Barnacle you better hope Colin and his side-kick Semi-Automatic Steve are home!

What I found most surprising about CC was how often I thought while reading it 'They'd never get away with that in kids comics nowadays!' (putting land-mines on a beach anyone?) Indeed the whole concept of a gun-obsessed nutter played for laughs would likely fly too close to the thought-police's red-lines these days. That having been said I wouldn't think twice about giving this to my own ten year-old (if I had one.)

More issues of Combat Colin are to follow reprinting the whole bullet-riddled saga.

With so many comic properties being adapted for the big screen at the moment, can it be long until a big budget Combat Colin movie hits the multiplex? I'm thinking James Corden for Colin.

Buy your own copy and do your own fantasy casting at: http://lewstringer.com/page7.htm

Reviewed by John A. Short


Friday, 8 September 2017

Kult Creations also digital!

Don't forget, Captain Wylde and most of our other publications are not just available in print versions... But also as digital, downloadable, kindle versions. You can buy them from our own digital blog (button to your right) http://kultdigital.blogspot.com as well as Amazon's own kindle store! Many way to join the Kult!

Friday, 25 August 2017

KULT CREATIONS AT BOUNEMOUTH COMIC CONVENTION!

This weekend August 26th & 27th 2017 KULT CREATIONS will have a table at the Bournemouth Comic Convention! You can come along and browse all our titles including: The Sixpenny Murder, The Clock Strikes! All three issues of Reverend Cross, Savage! Jungle Princess Book 1, The New Amazons Preview Special, Octobriana: The Underground History and our latest publication... Captain Wylde! Come up and say hello! More info at: http://www.showmastersevents.com/bournemouth/

Saturday, 12 August 2017

IMAGES FROM "CAPTAIN WYLDE"!

Here are some Gabby Noble pieces from issue 001 of Captain Wylde and some bits of promo art that that were created to go along with the issue...

Wednesday, 2 August 2017

X marks the spot! Captain Wylde 001

Get ready for some CLOCK PUNK PIRATE fun! Captain Wylde 001 is here for the summer! Written by John A. Short and illustrated by Gabrielle Noble and featuring 21 full colour story pages. Available as a print edition from this very page. If you want the digital version (cheaper - especially abroad) you can find the link on this page to our digital store where you can download it in kindle format. SET SAIL!