Sunday, 6 October 2019

JURASSIC PARK #15: CHAOS THEORY IN ACTION

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Another exciting cover from Michael Golden, right?  Shame it never happens inside then, in fact our scientific heroes don't even share a scene with any dinosaurs this month.  The reason behind the cover is simply editor Dick Hansom grabbing one from the US series which by now had had many more covers than our UK equivalent.  But while we may not get to see Dr. Ellie Satler atop Celia we still get an excellent strip inside.

JURASSIC PARK: ANIMALS/GODS!
Writer・Steve Englehart  Penciller・Chaz Truog
Inker・Paul Fricke  Letter・John Costanza
Colourist/Story Editor・Renée Witterstaetter

The velociraptors are loose.  Having escaped their captor in a bloody showdown last time they're now following their natural instincts and living as free, wild animals.  The story's first few pages are taken up with a thrilling chase sequence between the ferocious threesome and a large leopard and needless to say the big cat comes off the worse.  But it's the page after the chase that I like the most.


I love that final panel with the three of them just lying about in the sun, eating and enjoying life.  That caption that goes with it sums up perfectly how well the strip is at showing things from the perspective of the 'raptors.  The movies were always really good at showing us how intelligent they were and gave us an insight into their character and the comic runs with this.  I found myself really enjoying the time we as readers spend with them, though there always remained that sense of tension of course.


It's clear from how writer Steve Englehart writes for them that he's gone back to the original source material, Michael Crichton's novel.  It's not just in the depiction of the dinosaurs we see this though.  Just have a read of the page above with another of the little speeches from Ian Malcolm and if you've read the book it should instantly feel familiar.  These are always enjoyable and always read in the voice of Jeff Goldblum by the way.  It's the done thing.  It's with pages like this that the strip feels like a fully fledged sequel to the movie (which at the time it really was of course) with a further refinement to the film's depiction of Chaos Theory.

That last panel would prove important not only to the speech, but to the story too, as we soon see Dr. Alan Grant take a sneezing fit, followed shortly by one, two and then all three of the 'raptors!


Extinct for millions of years and then kept on a small island miles away from the population at large, exposed to our modern world the three animals soon find themselves very ill and unsure what's happening to them.  After attempting, and ultimately failing, to hunt the velociraptors a local tribe watch them succumb to their illness, then start to worship them as gods of the past brought to life.  Bringing them medicine, idols of worship and dead animals as sacrifice, Celia is the last 'raptor with the strength to sniff them out and take the food to give to her sick siblings, before collapsing herself.  It then turns to the tribe to take care of their gods.

A long time passes and slowly the so-called gods return to health.  Eventually the tribe reappears to worship Alf, Betty and Celia and just as we think maybe they'd leave them in peace thanks to having their lives saved again, it all turns rather bloody.


The majority of the strip this month focusses on the 'raptors, with our human friends restricted to basically one scene in the middle of the story where they regroup before deciding what to do next.  There's a sense of hopelessness here, a brilliant tense moment in the story where we see what could happen if these resurrected creatures were allowed to roam wild, with no way to stop them.  It really does paint a picture of humans having to learn to live side by side with dinosaurs again, which takes us neatly into the back up strip.

How's that for a link?

CADILLACS AND DINOSAURS:
HISTORY LESSON - PART ONE
Story and Art・Mark Schultz  Colourist・Christine Couturier

Xenozoic Tales continues under the guise of the Cartoon Network series on the contents page but the strip itself is unedited from its original printing in #4 of the self-published, independent comic.  But after reprinting strips from later issues it's a bit weird to now be going backwards, though I do have a theory about that.  But first, the story picks up from the one we had way back in #5 of Jurassic Park, so when reading this originally it was a bit strange Jack Tenrec and Hannah Dundee were only discovering the sniper's body now!


Hannah's previous encounters with the mysterious Grith and different little threads are brought together as she's taken to the vaults underneath the city where a library of books has been preserved for hundreds of years.  The people guarding it aren't happy about letting an outsider in to the books after they've just made some "startling discovery", which we don't get to know any more about this time.  It would all be an intriguing mystery if the 'Next Issue' banner didn't give it away somewhat by stating it'd contain "The Secret of the Cataclysm"!

With the Jurassic Park strip's own banner claiming next month would bring "The Thrilling Climax!" it's clear with hindsight the publisher knew the next issue would be the last, though as a teen I just thought it meant the end of the current story.  But anyway, it looks like the mystery of the cataclysm in Xenozoic Tales was deemed a suitable conclusion to the back up too.  We'll find out in a month I guess.

It's sad to think this journey is almost over.  While I've been covering the comic since June last year and a lot has happened since then in my life, it feels like no time at all since I picked up #1 and began that adaptation of the movie.  The next issue is indeed the last but it won't be the last you see of Jurassic Park on the blog.  You'll find out more when it returns on Sunday 3rd November.


Monday, 30 September 2019

TRANSFORMERS INSTAGRAM: MONTH #3 of 89

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Month 3 and it's a month that brings another couple of issues with plenty of firsts for these much loved, decades-old characters.  Our first transformations for the leaders, the first Optimus Prime and Megatron clash, our first inklings of the millennia-spanning feud between the Decepticon leader and his second-in-command, they're all here.  No one knew it at the time but these comics panels would be etched in Transformers lore, forever shaping the various incarnations that would develop over the years.

We'll still be in the midst of their origin story for a month or so yet and it's a masterclass in fast-paced action that doesn't forget about the all important characterisation.  Focussing on the human characters and one or two of the main robots, these were the building blocks of a hell of an epic comic.

ISSUE 4
1st November 1984


#4: With this fourth issue we got to see an American Transformers comic cover for the first time.  Cheekily, there's no credit given to artist Michael Golden inside so I've corrected that as it's the perfect choice for a great story inside involving the first real rumble between the two leaders.

Yes, we've got plenty of Optimus Prime and Megatron action at last and we (finally) get to see them transform too and only four issues in.  I have to say whenever I read that page where they clash I can't help but hear Peter Cullen's and Hugo Weaving's voices!


Elsewhere, what was Mandala?  I've never heard of the game but, despite there being a somewhat negative review last issue it's here to win in a competition.  Robot Round-up focuses on fictional robots this issue including Forbidden Planet's Robby the Robot, who'd later get his own edition of the feature.  Then there's that A-Team competition which seems hurriedly put together to put it mildly.  Options 1 and 2 are obvious, but how are those other blobs Murdoch and Face??

Then I just had to include some of Machine Man's great Steve Ditko artwork below, which I think is even better in black and white.


Cover by Michael Golden
Power Play!: Part Two pencils by Frank Springer, inks by Kim DeMulder and colours by Nel Yomtov
Machine Man: Where Walk the Gods! art by Steve Ditko and colours by Bob Sharen

COMMENTS HIGHLIGHTS:
@the._inevitable.k - "Bit controversial that, a game where you have to free Nelson Mandela. 😉"
@the._inevitable.k (again) - "Plus they spelled his name wrong. He says, pretending he didn't quickly read it wrong."
@dan.man - 'The A-Team Competition's number 3 is Nora Batty, number 4 is Del Boy, no?"

ISSUE 5
17th November 1984


#5: A painted John Ridgway cover adorns issue 5 and inside is the big news that a new cartoon series featuring the Transformers was in the works.  It wasn't due until the following year but the comic didn't even take this opportunity to tell readers it had been using stills from the series as its pin-ups already.


Strip-wise, we get to see Bumblebee's more friendly face for the first time as opposed to his toy's very robotic look, which you can see from photos from a previous issue there for comparison.  Which do you prefer?  At the time it would've been a no-brainer but today, after the movies' interpretation of the character, it's a tougher decision.  Either way we're stuck with the proper face, at least for the next couple of years anyway.

Also this issue Laserbeak lives up to his name and for the very first time we get to see some of that classic Megatron/Starscream conflict.  Great stuff.


Elsewhere, Marvel UK have another top-selling comic to market to their new readership and unfortunately we have to welcome the awful Matt and the Cat to the pages.  The strip may have worked in the local newspaper the characters came from, where their adventures focussed solely on their daily owner/pet cat interactions, but here creator Mike Kazybrid sent them on a sci-fi adventure.  Let's just say I'm not a fan.

One final question: Who on Earth was Sieve-Head?  Maybe being a CITV viewer as a child spared me from this.

Cover by John Ridgway
Prisoner of War!: Part One pencils by Frank Springer, inks by Kim DeMulder and Mike Esposito, colours by Nel Yomtov
Matt and the Cat by Mike Kazybrid

COMMENTS HIGHLIGHTS:
@selkie_76 - "Sieve-Head was adorable. Your childhood is the poorer for his absence."


I love how the UK comics of the day would cut down the monthly US stories into smaller chunks, but we'd get them on a more frequent basis.  Even today, a month's wait between issues of the current IDW Transformers and G.I. Joe comics feels like a lifetime!  We really were spoilt as kids here, weren't we?


Monday, 23 September 2019

TRANSFORMERS INSTAGRAM: MONTH #2 of 89

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Marvel UK proved they were up to the challenge with this comic and followed up that great premiere issue with more stunning covers, interesting features and of course the main strip itself continued to introduce us to those original characters.  Loads of transformations, great set pieces and packed with character, this was a licenced comic story that rose above any other at the time.

As we continue on you'll get to see examples of these alongside some great adverts for the toys that were taking the whole country by storm in the build up to Christmas 1984, starting just below!  Throw in some other extras to transport you back a few decades and I hope you're enjoying the ride so far.  You'd better be, there's a hell of a long way to go!

ISSUE 2
4th October 1984


#2: Marvel UK's sophomore Transformers release begins with a simply beautiful John Ridgway cover showing the arrival of the new alien robots to the amazement of some kids, echoing how young ones up and down the country felt for the toy range itself I'd imagine.  It may not be linked to the story but then again neither was last issues's and that's not the point, it's just a gorgeous piece of art.  It also shows the toy models off in a great light, which the UK artists would continue to base their characters on for well over a year yet, rather than the Marvel US/Sunbow cartoon models.

Inside, right from the off the nostalgia hits hard!  I asked on Instagram if anyone else had one of these transforming watches and by the responses I wasn't alone.  Nor was I alone in possibly breaking mine!  You can see some of the comments below.


Then we move on to the story and it's now partly in black and white after the comic itself reduced its colour pages to 50%, bringing it in line with Marvel's other comics.  There's plenty of cool transforming images and in hindsight, seeing these now as an adult I can appreciate how these couldn't have been easy to draw!

The Autobots' introductory spread above was edited out of part one of the story list time to make this great poster, complete with awkward speech patterns.  These were something we got every time a new character had to introduce themselves in these early issues and across comics in general back then to be honest.


There are two features on robots this issue, with Robot Round-up looking like the most 80s things imaginable and a special Doctor Who Meets the (people inside suits masquerading as) Robots page rounds off the issue nicely.

Cover by John Ridgway
The Transformers: Part Two pencils by Frank Springer, inks by Kim DeMulder and colours by Nel Yomtov

COMMENTS HIGHLIGHTS:
@chrispilson - "100% agreement on the nostalgic front! I would have been about 6-years-old when this came out, but as soon as I saw your post I can remember it like yesterday. Fantastic cover."
@the._inevitable.k - "I just thought I'd always wanted one of those watches. Then I remembered that I had one. 😂 They were pretty flimsy."
@monkfishdish - "I got one for my birthday when I was a kid, bully at school took it off me. Years later I ran over his foot in the Asda car park in my Volvo 740. What goes around comes around lol."
@theoinkblog - "I can remember having one, but only a couple of fleeting memories, don't think I had it long. I'm going to guess I broke it. 😂"

ISSUE 3
18th October 1984


#3: Another Transformers comic with another gorgeous cover.  This is something you'll definitely never get tired of in this collection, believe me.  This time it's fan favourite Bumblebee who gets the star treatment, Jerry Paris bringing the goods again after his stellar piece of work in that first issue.  It's such a shame he didn't end up as a regular contributor, his artwork is just perfect for this comic.

Inside, we start off with our first fact file and it's for Hound, then the main strip contains both huge scale and small scale drama, in two contrasting scenes which compliment each other perfectly.  This is what I have always loved about Transformers comics and the recent movies; they can turn on a dime between the huge, epic sci-fi and the smaller, human stories of those caught up in it all.  Great stuff.


There's a yellow Cliffjumper(!) in the competition (he's actually a red Autobot) and the next Hasbro toy advert shows off the latest Autobots to hit the UK.  If you had to choose, which one would you have gone for?  I think I'd have picked Hound, he looks like he'd be the most intricate, at least from the teeny, tiny drawing.

Robot Roundup details a somewhat familiar toy range, do you remember these too?  There are a couple of stills from the cartoon series UK fans wouldn't even get to see for several more months and the whole shebang is rounded off with the 1984 Christmas annuals, one of which I've already covered on the blog!

Cover by Jerry Paris
Power Play!: Part One pencils by Frank Springer, inks by Kim DeMulder and colours by Nel Yomtov

COMMENTS HIGHLIGHTS:
@the._inevitable.k - "Always wanted one of those Tomy robots. They had the next model up in Toys R Us once, it was priced way cheaper than it should've been. Almost got it but the worker vanished to double check the price and never returned. 😂"
@jamjarjail - "I'd forgotten about the posters. I cut them all out and had a collage on one wall. I wish I hadn't now!"
@theoinkblog - "Trying to get these comics with the middle pages intact has been a nightmare! So many disputes with eBay sellers!"
@goose2041 - "That page of annuals 👌. I loved Manimal at the time."


In case you're wondering, the comments I've selected for inclusion here are from the original Instagram posts for each of these issues, so please do come and join in the conversation and fun on the blog's feed.  Just click on the camera icon above.  For now, that's the second month all done and dusted, just another 87 to go then.  It'll all be over before you know it!