Wednesday, 23 November 2016

King Cobra

King Cobra, probably British comics' most American-styled superhero, ran in boys' paper The Hotspur, and was the creation of the great Ron Smith, an artist who did acres of stuff for DC Thompson, and then went over to IPC and worked on Judge Dredd, both for 2000AD and The Daily Star.
Ron must've fought tooth and nail to get DC Thompson ( DC to IPC's Marvel ) to agree to doing a superhero, as The Hotspur was much more comfortable pushing upper class historical adventure and cowboy strips at the time, and King Cobra stands out quite a bit from his labelmates.
He is a bit more like a Golden Age hero, than a swinging '70's one though. For starters, he never really seems to have that much trouble bringing in the bad guys, his cobra suit coming up with all sorts of add-ons and extras.
Plus Marvel-type angst completely passed 'the ace crook-catcher' by. In his secret identity as Bill King, amiable but clumsy reporter, he's like Clark Kent playing in the Batsuit.
Maybe Smith was harking back to the heroes he grew up on, but whatever, what makes King Cobra special is, of course, Ron's fantastically dynamic, and slightly wonky, art. A bit like Jim Mooney, Smith's work always seemed to me to be on just the eccentric side of normalcy, and I wonder what he and Steve Gerber might've got up to together.
Here's a few of The King's early adventures. How do you like this new pal, lads?


  1. I remember picking up the Hotspur around this time simply for King Cobra. Although as a kid (pre teens) I loved UK comics I had all but stopped buying them few years previously. I was a bit wary as I thought it might just be another Captain Hornet type hero (not my favourite) but whilst it wasn't up there with Green Lantern etc it was ok and had great art. I was not aware of Ron Smiths art up until I read this strip and yet he had be drawing as you say for years, I have no idea how I missed him as I bought / was bought tons of UK weekly comics - Smith would have been an excellent artist on US comics (did he ever do any) - Be honest how many folk tried to create in their minds a UK superhero group like JLA/Avengers etc using these type of characters..oh only me then oops :)

  2. There's a story that Ron did some Spidey, but I don't know how true that is. His style is so distinctive I think I'd remember that if I'd seen it, and I can't see him doing those fill-in pages in Spidey Comics Weekly. Anybody know?

  3. Well, its true he did some work for US Marvel, at least according to the wiki -
    I'd say its unlikely he did much because, as you say, his style is distinctive and we'd have recognized it at some point.
    All the same, seems like it was in the 70s so it would have predated the "British invasion" of Bolland, Gibbons et al, which is something of an achievement.

    Anyway, had only the haziest memories of that old DC Thomson stuff, so thanks for digging it out for us. Enjoyed the read.