The Comics Explorer Archive

Christmas through the Decades: Al Capp's Shmoo Comics #4, 1949

Posted by Andy Oliver on Dec 12, 2012 at 08:00

Christmas 1949… and those Li’l Abner spin-off phenomena the Shmoos (or Shmoon to give their alternative and technically correct plural spelling) were about to enjoy a suitably off-the-wall holidays in Al Capp’s Shmoo Comics #5. At the time of publication these bizarre creatures (who taste delicious, are eager to be eaten by humans, and also lay dairy products as a matter of course) had become something of a national craze, gaining their own comic strips and associated merchandising.

In this issue’s 5-page ‘Santa Shmoo is Comin’ to Town' young Washable Jones is not eagerly looking forward to Christmas like the other children. He’s more concerned that his Shmoo chums have no “Sandy Claws” of their own. Visiting the local “Wishin’ Stump” he finds his request for presents for the Shmoos magically granted (little realising the gifts that land at his feet have actually just been jettisoned from a passing plane). And so the well-meaning Washable starts distributing the goodies on Christmas Eve to the Shmoo herds that live in local chickenhouses.

Shmoos are adaptable critters though, and always keen to please! So perhaps it’s not surprising that, having observed Washable’s Christmas spirit, a group of them merge into one huge “Santa Shmoo” who begins mimicking the Shmoos’ young friend. This Shmoo has “super Shmooman powers” and instead of the usual Shmoo trick of laying dairy products it begins laying Xmas presents instead, ensuring that Washable Jones’s festive generosity is rewarded in kind. With at least five resulting presents for “every boy n’ girl fum h’yar to Skonk Hollow” 1949 proves to be a very “Merry Christmus” indeed for Washable and his Shmoo pals.

Christmas through the Decades: Cor!!, 26th December, 1970

Posted by Andy Oliver on Dec 11, 2012 at 08:00

Christmas 1970… and in the pages of the Yuletide issue of British humour weekly Cor!! front page star Gus the Gorilla was pulling a fast one with a clever scheme that made a monkey out of an arrogant carol singer. The boys of The Gasworks Gang ended up spending Christmas with Teacher, much to his chagrin, in Frank McDiarmid’s fondly remembered strip, and the ghouls and monsters of Hire a Horror created an interesting grotto in a department store when they mistake the request for a “Santa Claus” for a “Santa Claws”.

Amongst the plethora of other strips inside the pages of this edition soccer-obsessed Micky co-opts Father Christmas into his team in Football Madd, schoolgirl snitch Tell-Tale Tess gets into some snow-related trouble with the local policeman, and Freddy Fang the Werewolf Cub (“He Does a Bad Deed Every Day”) gets his Christmas Day comeuppance when his nasty tricks rebound on him.

Cor!! survived four years before its eventual demise and was home to a number of other classic IPC characters including Ivor Lott and Tony Broke, Teacher’s Pet, and even madcap TV funnymen The Goodies had a strip in the paper for a time. At Christmas 1970 it would have been just one of a multitude of similarly-themed festive comics sitting on the shelves of the newsagents. It’s a sad fact to consider that 40-plus years later we are left with just The Beano to fill that role…

Christmas through the Decades: Peter Parker, the Spectacular Spider-Man #112, 1985

Posted by Andy Oliver on Dec 10, 2012 at 08:00

Christmas 1985… and, in the pages of Peter Parker, the Spectacular Spider-Man #112 the old Parker luck was true to form but with a seasonal twist for our favourite hapless web-slinger. Peter David’s witty script made full use of Spider-Man’s sprawling supporting cast at the time as Peter found himself alone and seemingly rejected for the holidays, unaware of how welcome he would have been to share Christmas with the majority of his extended roll call of friends and family.

The issue’s other main focus was on the nefarious Santa Claus thief, a ne’er-do-well whose role in this issue had been built up in brief cameos in preceding months. Posing as jolly Saint Nick this burglar had been gaining access to houses and robbing them by fooling children that he was the real thing. His schemes finally come to an end when he makes the mistake of picking on Peter’s neighbours.

However, it’s not Spider-Man who finally puts paid to his activities. Rushing to the roof to escape his super-heroic pursuer he instead finds himself face to face with a very special guest-star, who is more than a little miffed to have had his identity usurped. The issue concludes with a (mostly) feelgood ending; the burglar magically changed on Christmas Day and aiding the Daily Bugle’s charity drive, and with Peter eventually spending Christmas with Mary Jane and Aunt May.

Yes it’s a slightly sugary finale but there’s nothing wrong with that in a Christmas story. In fact it’s rather obligatory, and Peter Parker gets very few happy endings when all’s said and done. And if that summary doesn’t tempt you to hunt down the story in the back issue boxes then you can’t dispute what a killer cool cover this issue sports!

Christmas through the Decades: Knockout, 30th Dec 1972

Posted by Andy Oliver on Dec 6, 2012 at 05:00

Christmas 1972… and there’s larks a-plenty in the Christmas issue of British comedy anthology comic Knockout. While perhaps not one of the most memorable of IPC’s weekly comics in the 1970s – most of the characters were fairly derivative archetypes – the comedy paper nevertheless still boasted a number of popular characters like the pedantic schoolgirl Fuss Pot who would go on to feature in both Whizzer and Chips and Buster in later years.

The highlights in this edition see Pete of Pete’s Pockets pull a potential Xmas-ruining ostrich out of his disturbingly capacious magical pocket space, The Haunted Wood getting its revenge on a gent foolish enough to steal a Yuletide Log from its environs, more Christmas day class warfare between The Toffs and the Toughs, and schoolkid gang The Super Seven’s adventures ending in a jolly festive feast for all.

“Yummy greetings to all Knockout readers!” indeed…

Christmas through the Decades: Star Spangled Comics #77, 1947

Posted by Andy Oliver on Dec 5, 2012 at 11:00

Christmas 1947… and in the pages of Star Spangled Comics #77 Robin the Boy Wonder was about to engage in “An Unusual Holiday Adventure” as he solved the case of “The Boy Who Wanted Robin for Christmas”.

Orphaned boy billionaire Bert Beem has all that money could buy so what do you get the kid who has everything for Christmas? Well, as Bert has been obsessing over his hero Robin (coincidentally also an orphan residing in the lap of luxury at Wayne Manor) –  and letting his interest in the family business slide – how about setting up a fake case where Bert gets to test out his detective skills side by side with his favourite boy hero?

With Robin colluding with Bert’s guardian and his butler to stage a pretend robbery at the Beem Cliffside estate the stage is set for an encounter with a jolly gun-wielding Santa Claus burglar. What boy could ask for more at the season of goodwill? For some strange reason it should also be noted that Bert, a child, is home alone for the holidays so clearly, at this point, we can say his guardian is doing a rather sterling job of looking after his welfare.

Robin, rather than phoning social services to report Bert’s guardian for reckless child endangerment on a number of counts, goes along with this ruse. But everything goes pear-shaped when the “actors” hired to pull off the fake burglary turn out to be real criminals. After lots of festive frolics, including a sleigh ride to near doom on the estate grounds, the two chums finally unmask “Santa” who turns out to be the Beem family butler all along. And so, with the ghastly working class oik apprehended and thrown in the slammer, 1947 turns out to be a super Christmas for spoilt rich kids everywhere! Hurrah!

Of course Golden Age stories were never meant to be over-analysed, nor read by men of 40+ years of age either for that matter, so all gentle (and fondly meant) mockery is largely irrelevant. "The Boy Who Wanted Robin for Christmas" has its own naive Yuletide charm and is a welcome reminder of a more innocent era of DC history.

Christmas through the Decades: Valiant, 29th Dec 1973

Posted by Andy Oliver on Dec 4, 2012 at 06:00

Christmas 1973… and British weekly adventure anthology Valiant (at that point also incorporating TV21) featured that genial old crooner Bing Crosby on their regular cover feature Who is it? Inside, though, it was Christmas 1944 for blustering Captain Hurricane who took the holiday season to the Germans in the Ardennes in his typically voluble trademark fashion.

Elsewhere Victorian escapologist Janus Stark’s plans to deliver a giant Christmas pudding to a needy London orphanage are nearly scuppered by a thief who has hidden his loot in a similar looking pud. The cringingly politically incorrect Yellowknife of the Yard, “a Sioux Indian and Scotland Yard’s strangest detective” foils a gang of crooks targeting a Christmas toy factory, gets to say “um” a lot and make bizarre exclamations like “By the Great Buzzard of Boogaloo!” And there’s jolly japes ahoy for generously girthed schoolboy Billy Bunter, the Heavyweight Chump of Greyfriars (who surely must have seemed well out of his time even in 1973) as “the Fat Owl of the Remove” gets into scrapes aplenty with schoolmaster Mr. Quelch on Christmas Day.

But perhaps the oddest seasonal piece in this issue is TV funnyman Dick Emery’s Christmas message on the thinly-disguised advertising feature that was the Airfix Modellers Club Page. “Talking of presents,” opines Dick “brings me to what I like receiving most. Yes you’ve guessed it – an Airfix model! Last Christmas I had several and this Christmas I hope to have sacks full of ‘em! Whether it’s boats, planes, trains, cars or tanks, Airfix make scale models of ‘em.” So that’s you told, parents of 1973. No pressure there then.

Ooh Dick you are awful... but I like you...

Christmas through the Decades: Bizarre Adventures #34, 1982

Posted by Andy Oliver on Dec 3, 2012 at 06:00

Christmas 1982… and the final issue of Marvel’s Bizarre Adventures magazine lived up to its titular remit with a morbidly amusing special “Hate-the-Holidays Issue”. In the ten issues of its existence the former Marvel Preview had never really found an identity, jumping from the likes of X-Men spin-offs to horror revivals, movie adaptations to themed issues, sci-fi to barbarians, and so on.

With #34 the book was published for the one and only time in both comics and magazine format and offered a dark banquet of eclectic festive feasts, all of them linked by a self-indulgently cynical but blackly amusing approach to the holiday season. Of all the tales in this Christmas anthology the one that really stands out in the memory is Mike Carlin’s ‘Slay Bells!’ – the story of one boy’s lifelong revenge obsession with Santa after the rotund chimney botherer accidentally fell on his father and crushed him to death one fateful Christmas Eve.

Elsewhere, amongst a number of strips between #34's covers, Mark Gruenwald provided an amusing spot of self-parody with Son of Satan send-up ‘Son of Santa’, Steven Grant sent Howard the Duck off on an It’s a Wonderful Life kinda riff and Al Milgrom gave jolly Saint Nick his worst Xmas ever navigating the streets of New York in ‘Santa Bites the Big Apple!’. While Denny O’Neil was almost consumed by his own pessimism in his anti-Crimbo edition of the From the Warp of Dennis O’Neil column.

Despite a largely forgettable run for Bizarre Adventures this finale was not without merit. Not quite as cutting in its delivery as it thought it was but bleakly funny in places nonetheless. And it had a skeleton in a Santa costume on the cover. You can't go far wrong with the exquisitely disturbing imagery of a skeleton in a Santa costume after all…

Jeremiah Harm Heading for the Silver Screen?

Posted by VashNL on Nov 26, 2012 at 16:17

Jeremiah Harm.

Who?

Jeremia Harm, only one of the most dangerous men in the known universe, is being brought to life in a live-action movie adaptation of the original graphic novel published by Boom! Studios back in 2006.

That is, if everything is going according to plan for the creators of the cult-movie Iron Sky, with Nazi’s on the moon!

A few days ago, test footage popped up through the official website and it immediately heralds back to the days of '80s action movies. It features a dark and gritty anti-hero who’d rather run straight through his own mother than forsake his own life, together with distant worlds and scared aliens. Or at least one scared alien.

The cigar-chomping Jeremiah first saw light in a series of graphic novels conceived by the creators of Lobo, Alan Grant and Keith Giffen of DC Comics fame. The story revolves around three alien fugitives who decide to head to Earth and the only man who can stop them was once wanted himself. Set free to take them in, or down, he doesn’t care much for collateral damage and whoever gets in his way.

The gritty sci-fi tone prevalent in the comics is also apparent in the promo piece, shot this fall in Finland, but we’re not dealing with footage of the actual movie. This clip was created to bring some more attention to what they’re doing and also to point people to the website. Mostly it’s just to get your blood pumping for the upcoming movie.

On the website we can find a call out for aliens, of which they need at least one million and at the time of writing only 75 have been posted on the site. Aspiring artists should take a look and are able to enter the challenge in any way they want. You’re free to use pencil art, 3D art, clay or whatever comes to mind. According to the site “the best, most innovative and interesting creatures will end up on big screen in the film Jeremiah Harm” and the designer will see his or her name credited for their creature.

A 2016 date has been put in the short video, but no official date has been set according to the creators. Considering regular pre-production, shooting and post-production times, we can probably expect the movie to come out sometime in 2014.

Jeremiah Harm Website

British Comic Awards 2012 - The Winners

Posted by Andy Oliver on Nov 20, 2012 at 08:46

The weekend saw the first ceremony for the recently founded British Comic Awards held at the Leeds comics art festival Thought Bubble. With an incredibly strong field of talent on show amongst the nominees, the judging panel of Hunt Emerson, John Freeman, Dr. Mel Gibson, Stephen L. Holland, Roger Sabin and Stacey Whittle had an unenviable task indeed on their hands.

Congratulations from Broken Frontier to both the winners and all the nominees. And also to Adam Cadwell and everyone else behind the awards. Proof positive, if we needed it, that the British comics scene is an incredibly exciting one at the moment!

         

BEST BOOK

Winner

Nelson – Various
Published by Blank Slate Books, November 2011

Other nominees

Don Quixote: Volume 1 – Rob Davis
Published by Self Made Hero, September 2011

Goliath – Tom Gauld
Published by Drawn and Quarterly, February 2012.

Hilda and the Midnight Giant – Luke Pearson BF review here
Published by NoBrow Press, November 2011

Science Tales – Darryl Cunningham BF review here
Published by Myriad Editions, April 2012.

BEST COMIC

WINNER

Bad Machinery – John Allison
Published online at http://scarygoround.com

Other nominees

Accidental Salad – Joe Decie BF review here
Published by Blank Slate Books (Chalk Marks), October 2011.

Girl & Boy – Andrew Tunney
Self published, November 2011.

Hemlock – Josceline Fenton BF review here
Published online at http://hemlock.smackjeeves.com
Volume 3 self published, October 2011.

Tuk Tuk – Will Kirkby
Self published, September 2011.

EMERGING TALENT

WINNER

Josceline Fentonhttp://www.mildtarantula.com BF coverage here

Other nominees

Kristyna Baczynskihttp://www.kristyna.co.uk

Will Kirkbyhttp://chamonkee.livejournal.com

Louis Roskoschhttp://www.louisroskosch.com BF coverage here

Jack Teagle - http://jackteagle.co.uk

YOUNG PEOPLE’S COMICS AWARDS

WINNER

Hilda and the Midnight Giant by Luke Pearson BF review here
Published by Nobrow Press, November 2011

Other nominees

Bad Machinery: The Case of The Fire Inside by John Allison
Published online at http://scarygoround.com, January 9th – June 28th 2012

Dinopopolous by Nick Edwards BF review here
Published by Blank Slate Publishing (Chalk Marks), October 2011

Gum Girl volume 1: Catastrophe Calling by Andi Watson
Published by Walker Books, March 2012

The Lost Boy by Kate Brown
Published in ‘The Phoenix’ by David Fickling Books, January 7th – 1st September 2012

HALL OF FAME AWARD

Raymond Briggs

Myriad Graphic Authors at Comica Festival Comiket

Posted by Andy Oliver on Nov 8, 2012 at 10:30

Brit publisher of Things to Do in a Retirement Home Trailer Park, Science Tales and Rumble Strip announce their Comiket line-up.

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