Wednesday, 30 September 2015

The Spook & Crackermeyer

One of those Eerie series that didn't seem to know what it was about, The Spook was a Zombie Ju-Ju man in the time of slavery, who protected his people from the threat of the white man with voodoo, all while wearing the slave chain he wore in life.
It was a great setup, as Doug Moench started the series, but after only a couple of stories he jumped ship, leaving The Spook a character without a clear personality or sense of direction.
Budd Lewis didn't know what to do with him either, so brought in Crackermeyer, another voodoo magician, but this one belonging to the world of the living.
Crackermeyer is a more fully rounded and likeable character, I guess more relatable than The Spook, and he acts as the reader' guide from then on.
The Spook & Crackermeyer actually feels more like a run of one-off pieces than a regular series, but each individual story is excellent, full of fascinating voodoo detail as well as being rollicking good twisted adventures. The final story, where the two are revealed to be brothers, feels crowbarred in, and it's obvious that Lewis was flying by the seat of his pants trying to make it all make sense, but as I say, taking each tale individually, this is great stuff.

Sunday, 27 September 2015

Bob Wakelin

King of the airbrush Bob Wakelin appeared in a few places during the Bronze Age, and he probably would've gone on to be, say, Britain's version of Richard Corben had he stayed in the business. He had strips in Heavy Metal, British Underground Pssst! and these two pieces in Epic.

He was also the keyboard player in one of my favourite '80's bands that never made it but should've, Modern Eon ( look 'em up on youtube, especially hit-singles-that-never-were Childsplay and Choreography ).
Bob apparently works in gaming design these days, which is our loss, but no doubt his bank managers' gain, but here's the stuff that made me a fan. And if you're gonna debut for Marvel, how great is it to have the infallible Archie Goodwin write your first script?

Thursday, 24 September 2015

The Milking Of The Planet That Went Ape

Here's The Usual Gang Of Idiots taking on, and laying waste to, every Planet Of The Apes movie at the time ( except Battle, which presumably wasn't out yet, and who cares, 'cos it was rubbish ).
Arnie Kogen's script is spot on, while the incomparable Mort Drucker is so great, you actually have to stop and look, having always taken his greatness for granted.
Mark Evanier tells a brilliant story about Drucker in one of his books, by the way: Apparently, sometime in the '80's, Evanier was at a con and overheard a group of then hot young artists ( who I assume were Rob Leifield, Todd McFarlane and the like ) all loudly arguing about which one of them was The Greatest Comic Book Artist In The History Of The World Ever.
Evanier sidled over, and said: ' I've just been talking to the greatest comic book artist in the world.'
When this gaggle of fools puffed themselves up and demanded to know who he was talking about, Evanier pointed to Mort Drucker.
And shamefaced, they all muttered 'er...yeah...' and shuffled away...

Tuesday, 22 September 2015

Weird 1970's Kid's TV: The Changes

In the spirit of HTV's barking mad kid's dramas, the BBC produced something equally insane for Bronze Age kids in the '70's:
Post apocalyptic teenage odyssey on a Monday teatime? That'll be The Changes then.
One day, a sudden madness infects the population of the UK, and everyone becomes inexplicably terrified of machines. One minute, teenager Nicky is enjoying a quiet afternoon at home with her Mum & Dad, when they all hear a strange noise that drives them all crazy, causing them to smash up the TV, the radio, the toaster and every other 'wicked' machine.

Out in the streets, everyone else is doing the same thing, and anarchy and chaos rules. In one moment, the world we knew is gone, and with no idea what's happening, the family join other refugees on the road to the sea, hoping to escape the madness on a boat to France.

In the riots, Nicky gets seperated from her parents, and with a callousness you can only describe as breathtaking, her dad forces her pregnant mother onto the boat, with a vague promise that he'll come back for their daughter when they're safe.
Alone, she wanders through the wasteland, staying away from the big cities and the threat of plague. Nicky's a great heroine, resourceful, intelligent and decent, you're with her all the way. As Stewart Lee has said, what a breath of fresh air from the kind of lowlifes that infest teen shows today, like Skins for instance.

Eventually, she falls in with a Sikh family, also travelling on the road, who are strangely unaffected by the madness. In time, they take over an abandoned farm, and set to creating their own pre-industrial version of the good life. In the scenes everybody remembers, Nicky now has to navigate past the ( to her ) terrifying electricity pylons that dot the English countryside, now called The Bad Wires.

If The Changes has a fault, it's that Nicky spends too much of the story down on the farm with her new pals, but it's easy to forget that self-sufficency was a big thing in 1970's Britain ( see also Survivors, which is the adult version of this story ), and immigrants from India were also a fairly new thing back then, making Nicky's new family exotic, colourful and mysterious.
In fact, the Sikh men are painted as kind of warrior priests, both protecting and guiding her, which is useful when they come up against the inevitable marauding gang of bad guys out for all they can steal.

The madness seems to continue, as on her travels, Nicky is regularly threatened by minor despots who rule over village fiefdoms, and it feels as if England has been completely thrown back into the Dark Ages, as in one episode where she's accused of being a witch and sentenced to death by stoning.

Ultimately, after several more adventures, and in a mind stretching finale, Nicky is led to where, how and what actually caused The Changes, and we discover what's in that cave in the end credits we've seen every week.

The Changes, unfortunately, doesn't have the budget to fully show the end of everything, but it comes damn close, and the actor's give it their all.
If only you could see it: Alas, it used to be on youtube, but has unaccountably vanished off there, but it is available on DVD, so if you ever get the chance to see it, do.
It's got it's flaws, but has more ideas in one episode than a whole series of most thing's these days.

Monday, 21 September 2015

Frankie Stein

Probably the most loveable of Monster Fun's inmates, Frankie Stein must've been extremely popular with kids, as IPC seemed to use him everywhere.
Starting in Wham! in 1964, the eternal nice-guy monster was resurrected ( arf! ) in the Bronze Age in short-lived weekly Shiver & Shake, staying on when that mag merged with Whoopee! ( great news next week, chums! ), finally settling as honorary editor of MF, years before another green skinned creature took charge over at 2000AD.
Frankie went through several formats too, from the regular strip here, to newspaper style 'silent' piece Freaky Frankie and breaking the fourth wall strip Frankie's DiaryFrankie's Fun Feature, Frankie's Freaky Fun Page, Frankie Presents Ticklish Allsorts, as well as probably several hundred more. This guy was big.
Wherever he appeared, he was great, a likeable, kind hearted big kid whose anguished creator, Professor Cube, spent every issue trying to kill him. He was drawn by several different artists, but the most memorable have to be Ken Reid, the prince of darkness behind Martha's Monster Makeup, and here, Robert Nixon, whose style defined kid friendly '70's fun.