Sunday, 22 July 2018

G.I. JOE #253: DUKE-ING IT OUT



I felt a little bit guilty upon finishing this latest issue of G.I. Joe A Real American Hero, IDW's continuation of the original Marvel comic from the 80s and 90s.  You see, there were certain characters the much younger version of myself became attached to, who I'd look forward to seeing time and again in the backup strip of Transformers.  Characters such as Snake Eyes, Baroness, Scarlett, Stalker and Destro for example, who all stood out to me at the time and, because I latched on to them when reading their tales between the ages of 10 and 15, they've remained forged in my rose-tinted memory banks ever since.

It's always nice to rediscover something as an adult and love it just as much after taking the aforementioned glasses off and, so far from #250 of this comic (and from reading volume one of the classic strips), I've loved getting reacquainted with those characters, especially last month!  But Duke isn't one I'm overly familiar with.  The Joe's first sergeant was a leadership character in the classic strips I read decades ago but the UK comics put Flint to the centre of the action more and so Duke has remained a bit two-dimensional in my head.  As such, I wasn't overly excited for this issue in the way I was for The Baroness.  I knew it'd still be a great read judging by what had gone before, but I wasn't hyped in the same way as I was for the characters I'd grown up with.


I was very wrong, I should've been hyped and just because I personally only had vague memories of the character (I knew more about Channing Tatum's version!) that shouldn't have clouded my judgement.  This is an excellent issue!  So apologies Duke for doubting you'd be up to the task of following what had gone before.

(In case you're wondering by the way, no I'm not late with this post.  IDW aren't the best at getting their comics out monthly it would seem, as yet again we've an issue which was delayed like some of their Ghostbusters: Answer the Call issues, but it was well worth the wait.)

What we have here is more of an ensemble piece with Duke taking the lead over a group of his soldiers some time before the formation of the famous fighting force.  Unlike the previous two chapters there's no flashbacks here, it all takes place in the one time and covers a day in the life of Duke and his team on the Emirate of Trucial Abysmia.  Last month we saw Cobra helping a ruling dictator who was battling rebels, this time the US forces are supporting a different country in a civil war, from the opposite end of things, so it makes a nice juxtaposition having these two stories back-to-back.


The team, comprising of crews for five or six vehicles including a couple of tanks, Humvees and a petrol tanker, also features future G.I. Joe member Roadblock, but all the other characters are original, non-toy creations for this specific issue.  It's telling of the talent Larry Hama has that he's able to introduce us to all these people for one issue only, for a story which takes place over the course of maybe an hour maximum and yet by the end you're rooting for them and wishing they'd come back.  More than that, the pages are filled with truly surprising, shocking moments and a downbeat, even heartbreaking ending which is not what I expected to be writing for an issue of this comic!  But I'm so glad I am.

As they make their way back to base we get a nice few introductory pages filled with plenty of characterful dialogue and camaraderie between the crew of the Humvee where Duke, Roadblock and Mo are discussing their future plans.  It's all light-hearted stuff and really entertaining in its own right, but the set up so far had me on edge.  I just knew all of this jovial chatter was setting me up for something devastating.  It certainly does a great job.


Specialist Maureen Hennesey is my particular favourite here and feels like a fully-rounded character who feels like she could've been in the comic for a long time already, so it's a real shame we most likely won't see her again.  The characters chosen here to accompany Duke all bring out more of his humanity and he easily transcends the two-dimensional leader I incorrectly assumed he was back in the original comic.  He comes across as very laid back, but as soon as danger rears its head and places them all into an impossible situation he takes command in no uncertain terms.

Seeing the local traffic suddenly disappear from the road as they round a bend flanked by a high embankment, the team are on edge and it's not long before the action begins and it's second-to-none.  Maybe the story being set in an all-too-familiar setting for our modern world helps raise this above typical action comic fare, but I think it's all down to Larry's pacing and the superb, real-world artwork of Brian Shearer and the palette chosen by colourist James Brown.  All desert browns and greys, the explosions and gunfire light up the pages in dramatic fashion and the pages come alive with fast-moving action.


Over the course of what turns into one long battle scene things keep going from bad to worse for the troops, but every time they find themselves up against it they're somehow able to come up with an even more outlandish solution, before they're plunged into the next dilemma.  It makes for a rather intense read, especially when you actually care about the main characters involved.  I've read plenty of great action strips in the past and this is right up there with the best of them and while I never rush my comics reading, instead enjoying every detail in every panel, it felt like I was reading this one particularly fast (even though I wasn't) because of the unrelenting pace.  You know the cliché "a real page turner"?  It's one I try to avoid, but it's perfect here.


I'd go so far as to say this would make for an excellent jumping on point for new or lapsed readers, though that would never occur to anyone looking in from the outside with it being part three of the Special Missions.  But it really does have everything.  It's a high octane action story full of all the components that made G.I. Joe a superior toy licence comic back in the original run, and everything that makes this continuation a superior comic full stop.  If this is the kind of storytelling I'm getting exposed to with a character I had no real previous memory of, I can't wait to see how it all develops for the rest of the Special Missions and then beyond!  Is there a reason these specific characters have been chosen for these profiling stories?  Is there a reason these periods of their history are being chosen, or certain aspects of their personalities?  Or is Larry just having some full developing them a little bit further before the next multi-part epic?  I'm excited to find out.

I'm particularly excited about the possibilities next month's issue could bring.  As always the 'Next Issue' page is simply a picture of the front cover and when I saw this, straight after finishing this breathtaking episode, I came over all giddy with excitement:


Oh my word.

Since then it appears IDW are now listing this as one of the alternative covers instead of the main one, which would be a real shame but we'll see what we get next month when it eventually arrives.  In the meantime get yourselves to your local comics store (mine is Coffee & Heroes in Belfast) or go online and buy yourselves a copy of the latest issue of G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero.  You owe it to yourselves.  That's an order, private!

For more information on #253 you can check out its page on IDW's website, where you can also purchase a digital edition if that's how you read your comics.  Either way, it's unmissable.

Friday, 20 July 2018

BEANO: 80 YEARS OF FUN BOX SET


If you don't mind me wittering on for fifteen minutes, this seemed like the only way to properly show off D.C. Thomson's brilliant Beano: 80 Years of Fun box set, a stunning tribute to the world's longest running weekly comic.  Photos just weren't doing it justice as I tried to plan out a blog post, in fact the more I tried the more I realised I'd need to do my second ever video.  As I explain in the above, I don't watch unboxing videos (which seem to be a trend online) and this is brief in comparison to most!  But there's a reason I wanted to make a big deal of this beyond the fact the set completely deserves it.

After seeing what was inside this set (below) I just knew I was going to want to write about certain individual parts of its contents.  So, a new mini-series of posts begins on the actual anniversary date, next Thursday 26th July and continues right through to 20th September to mark the occasion of the comic's 80th birthday.  What is this new series all about?  You'll find out in the video.


As a kid I only read my brother's annuals and an occasional issue of his but always did enjoy them, in particular reading the annuals (from inside our stockings) in bed before waking anyone else up was a Christmas tradition.  Then in 1988 my parents bought me the special hardback book The Beano and The Dandy - Fifty Golden Years, which I found fascinating at the time.  I may never have collected the weekly myself, but this box set has got me incredibly excited after receiving it.  I can only imagine what it would do to lifelong fans!  I've covered a recent issue of the comic and a personalised Beano gift comic on the blog prior to this and this may be the thing that tips me over to purchasing more from the amazing teams behind the past 80 years of fun!

Please check out the video and I can't wait to share more next Thursday.

Tuesday, 17 July 2018

WILDCAT BOOK UPDATE: COVER REVEAL

On Sunday I brought you the exciting news of Rebellion's upcoming collection of Turbo Jones strips from the classic, but ultimately short-lived Fleetway comic, Wildcat.  There was just a placeholder image at the time but today Amazon has uploaded the following picture of the front cover:


While the comic's creator/editor/writer Barrie Tomlinson is unfortunately not involved in this actual book, it's good to see his name taking pride of place on the cover like this, alongside Ian Kennedy, John Sanders and Vanyo, who brought the character to life on the page.

Rebellion have also now included the following description of the book:

"Post-Earth pulp space opera of discovery and adventure!  In 2488 Earth history professor Turbo Jones predicted that the planet would be destroyed in 2500 by a vast meteoroid storm.  Ridiculed by the world's leaders, Turbo spent the next twelve years constructing a huge spaceship and employing a group of volunteers to help him leave the Earth and find a new home in the stars.  After months in space Turbo and his senior staff, including former mercenary Loner, the mysterious Kitten Magee and the last survivor of Xgangbe-4, Joe Alien, have found a potential new home.  Now they need to get down onto the planet and make sure it is safe for the five hundred colonists and livestock aboard the Wildcat."

Beyond that there's not an awful lot to go on, including no page count as yet, but the price has already dropped from £14.99 to £13.19 (so order it up now to take advantage of the pre-order guarantee) and it's confirmed as a paperback.  There'll be more news as and when it's released and watch out for full Oink! Blog-esque Wildcat coverage in a few short months when each and every issue is written up right here.

<< GO TO THE ANNOUNCEMENT POST

Sunday, 8 July 2018

WILDCAT BOOK COLLECTION: AVAILABLE TO PRE-ORDER!


How many pig pals stayed with Oink! to the very end and received this little treasure in the final monthly issue?  The 16-page preview comic of Wildcat set up a premise the likes of which I'd never come across before in my young life.  Earth had been destroyed and only one spaceship full of the best of mankind had survived, taken to the stars to find a new planet and start over.  The possibilities seemed endless and when I got my hands on #1 I was instantly blown away by the awesome Ian Kennedy cover, which to this day still stands out on its big-sized, high quality paper and screams to be picked up.


Well, now an intriguing book title called Wildcat 1 - Turbo Jones has appeared on Amazon's listings with a release date of 10th January 2019.  The title refers to the main leader of the human race and chief planetary explorer, Turbo Jones who starred in his own strip right at the start of every issue.  It was he who predicted the outcome of Earth and ignored by the masses but he, against all odds, was able to save a relatively small group of us and thus the entire human race in that preview issue.  With Barrie Tomlinson listed as editor of this new book my excitement grew, but unfortunately Barrie isn't involved and hasn't been approached by Rebellion.

However, this was very much Barrie's creation.  I mean the whole comic.  Plus he wrote much of the contents and as editor oversaw every script, frame of art and the development of the characters and plot.  So even though he may not be the editor of this actual book, everything from those large, lush pages of the original comics is very much his doing.  To see a comic he treasured so dearly (see his interview with the blog from last September) collected together and given a new lease of life is still very exciting!

They've also listed Ian as the artist even though he only drew part one, with the drawing duties being passed to Eduardo Vanyo Ibarra for the remainder of the run.  This below is the first page of strip for Turbo's own tale from the very first issue of Wildcat:


So far all we have to go on is this placeholder page on Amazon, there's no image yet but you can pre-order it like I have already.  The pre-order price is £14.99 and as per usual with Amazon this is the most you'll pay if you order now.  If the price goes up you won't pay any more, but if it goes down you'll be charged whatever the cheaper price is.  The most intriguing part is that little "1" in the title, so let's hope this first volume is successful, as we could be seeing a full set of books collecting together the rest of the Wildcat strips, Joe Alien, Loner and Kitten Magee, all of which carried on into the pages of Eagle.

The standalone series of Wildcat Complete tales didn't cross over but with twelve episodes of six pages each surely there's scope for a smaller, but no less entertaining book for them too.  Or perhaps they'll reprint a couple in each of the other books instead.  Speculation is rife at the moment and all we can do is wait and see what information Rebellion releases closer to the time.  Needless to say as soon as they do you'll be informed right here on the blog, where my original Beyond Oink! post seems to be the only place online to get any real information on the comic, thanks to the people who helped in my research at the time and to Barrie, who agreed to an interview about the comic last year, his information being edited in to the original post too.


But that's not all.  The Oink! Blog and Beyond is already the online home of Oink!, obviously, but it's also kind of become the same thing for Ring Raiders too, another of Barrie's comics, with its own series of posts covering each issue, as well as interviews and more, with more to come!  It's almost time to expand the blog to cover Wildcat in the same way, with the debut issue's release date only a few short months away.  This couldn't have been timed better if I'd actually tried!  The comic will be getting the full coverage it deserves, but which it's been denied for so long, and during that very same coverage the first book collection of its strips will be released!  Expect more on this over the summer.

There'll be new sections of the blog opening up soon which will collect together all the posts for these other comics, in much the same way as the Relive Oink! section in the menu beneath the blog's logo. This will make it easier for fans of these comics to visit and read the new posts, catch up on what has gone before and generally binge on their favourite titles.  In the meantime here's a list of Wildcat's entries on the blog so far:



Thursday, 5 July 2018

TRANSFORMERS INSTAGRAM: MONTH #10 of 77

<< GO TO MONTH 9


Ten months in already and things are certainly hotting up in Marvel UK's Transformers comic here on The Oink! Blog and Beyond!  It feels like no time since I was rounding up my incomplete collection from year one of this superb comic in that first post.  From #25 right the way through to #332 I have every single issue though, with a selection of highlights from each being photographed for my own personal Instagram (public) account on their original release dates, then rounded up here on the first Thursday of each following month.  Starting last month, instead of just scanning each issue for possible photos I began properly reading them again to better select what to show you, my own readers (after a fun catch-up on all the previous issues, naturally).  By doing this I personally think the highlights are a much better representation of what young Transformers fans were so excited by back in the 80s.  I hope you agree!  (If you don't, oh well, I'm loving reading this all over again for the first time in ten years, so I'm going to carry on regardless.)


This was particularly true with some of the images from this month's issues, but I think the best example comes from the first issue of July which is now up on my Instagram at the time of writing.  Here's a direct link to it because I'm such a nice guy, and just in case you're reading this at a later date.  This whole re-reading thing also played out brilliantly when I went cat-sitting for a few days out in the countryside during our current heatwave.  It made for a pretty perfect morning and I'm going to guess you'll be able to tell which issue below I'm talking about.  Without further ado then, may I present June 1986's/June 2018's Transformers.

ISSUE 65
7th June 1986


#65: 32 years ago today Megatron and Shockwave clash at last for command of the Decepticons, complete with a casual swatting away of an armoured tank, culminating in one of my favourite panels of the whole 332-issue run.  Who knew a 100-foot robot could act coy?  Kudos to artist Jeff Anderson!

There's a cheeky attempt to market the Christmas annual already and Robot Master returns only to get schooled on smoking by Soundwave, who also hands out the verbal beatdowns to young readers writing in asking what "Puttup" in his letter responses has meant all these months.


The fact-file compares Soundwave and Blaster, so could this mean we'll finally get to meet the Autobot?  You betcha!  We just had to wait a further seven days.

Cover by Robin Smith
Second Generation!: Part Three art by Jeff Anderson with colours by T. Jozwiak

The next week saw two comics arriving into fans' local newsagents:


ISSUE 66
14th June 1986


#66: It was an atmospheric re-introduction for Cybertron today in 1986, the first time we'd seen the Transformers' home planet since #1!  A favourite of mine, Blaster, makes his entrance at last alongside a handful of others including Straxus, a comic creation who'd go on to be quite the infamous evil head(!) in future UK stories.  We also meet Scrounge, another hugely likeable but unfortunately one-off character.

This is a wonderfully complex tale of desperation, resistance, neutrals, casualties of war and more.  It's fantastic.  Plus that Smelting Pool will certainly earn the honour of having the story named after it!

Cover by Herb Trimpe
The Smelting Pool! Part One pencils by Don Perlin, inks by Keith Willliams and colours by Nel Yomtov

COMMENTS HIGHLIGHT: @marcmakescomics (of Goof!) "A favourite of mine too!  Always loved and still love that cover!"

COLLECTED COMICS #4
SPECIAL (JUNE 1986)


CC#4: Another bumper day for Transformers UK fans today in 1986, with a new issue and a Collected Comics 4 which reprints The Enemy Within in full colour.  I wonder what it was like for Gina Hart to colour forty-four pages of strip to then only see most of it published in black and white originally?

Just like the last special it's beautifully presented on glossy paper with a new introduction and some classic ads.  I've some very fond memories of being on holiday in Portrush with my family and listening to that cassette pack from the back page advert.  I remember listening to it so much all the batteries we had for our portable cassette players for the week were bled dry!  Whoops.

New cover by Will Simpson
The Enemy Within art by John Ridgway (Chapter 1) and Mike Collins (Chapters 2-5), colours by Gina Hart

COMMENTS HIGHLIGHT: @mark_moo "Oh wow!  I had some of the Ladybird books and tapes, but haven't seen the ones you've mentioned before.  Seems strange to think of such strong Transformers fandom in NI - I felt like I was the only devotee I knew growing up."

ISSUE 67
21st June 1986


#67: The comic's logo certainly stood out 32 years ago today.  Inside, Scrounge's death was predictable because he wasn't a toy but it's no less shocking and heartbreaking!  Blaster makes his mark in the war beyond being a tape recorder and Soundwave's message transmitted from Earth 31 weeks ago finally hits home.  Literally.  Things are hotting up!  Again, literally.

The adverts this week provide plenty of nostalgia, probably as much as they did excitement at the time!  This was the first we ever knew about those five new Hasbro 'bots and it was a big week for Marvel UK readers too.  Finally, a space-filler was obviously needed for some reason, so there's a (incorrectly named) "Word Search" puzzle too.  Can you solve it, Transformers fans?  I'll post the answer in the comments at the end of this post.

Cover by John Higgins
The Smelting Pool!: Part Two pencils by Don Perlin, inks by Keith Williams with colours by Nel Yomtov

ISSUE 68
28h June 1986


#68: As a fan of a certain other franchise it was a thrill to read this cover's wording!  I can just imagine the thrill of this story for young readers when it first came out too.  The Inter-dimensional Space Bridge is almost ready, the Decepticons are about to invade Earth, with only Blaster and a few Autobots in their way.  I bet the cliffhanger here was unbearable!

Great fun to see the human Robot Master standing up against Megatron as it's always great dialogue between these two.  (Oh and yes, Megatron is right about my fuel source!)  Interesting to see Blaster's Cybertron mode and we were oblivious at the time, but it's clear now speech was edited by the ingenious UK team to match their own terrific stories.


Rocket Raccoon is also nearing the end and I have to say the laughs will be missed!

Cover by Phil Gascoine
The Bridge to Nowhere!: Part One pencils by Don Perlin, inks by Keith Williams and Colette, colours by Nel Yomtov

COMMENTS HIGHLIGHT: @captainalexis "You have encouraged me to revisit this saga.  One of the best from Marvel US.  Genuine sadness with the melancholy death of Scrounge."


Last month I signed off the roundup saying how the first issue of the next month (#65 at the top) had upped the ante again in terms of storytelling.  Now here I am a month later and, while I don't want to repeat myself, damn it if they haven't gone and done it again!  American writer Bob Budianski's Return to Cybertron story reaches an electrifying conclusion and you can check out the photographic evidence right now on my Instagram by just clicking right here, no need to sign up.  This is a comic that is still renowned to this day for its quality and it's just getting better and better with each passing week.  The fact it just keeps getting better and better makes it rather mind-blowing that there's still another 263 issues to come!

More next month right here and every Thursday you-know-where.