Thursday, 30 July 2015

Let's Avenge One Last Time...

Okay, we're going to spend one last blog looking at The Avengers in comics. Not those Avengers, the... Oh, you get it now. This time an in-depth review.

Presenting TV Comic Annual 1967:
So, for starters let's drink in that awesome cover image. That's Steed driving his Bentley (or at least a vague approximation thereof) with a whole mess of other TV Comic characters. Doctor Who is seated next to him (the William Hartnell model, and before any pedants complain he is called Doctor Who in the TV Comic strips, not the Doctor) and Popeye is right behind him. To the left of Popeye is Olive Oyl and to the right is Beetle Bailey. I'd be surprised if you could identify any of the other characters.

For the record the three kids are the TV Terrors (a strip about sneaking in to TV studios and the guard that tries to stop them), the little kiwi-looking gonk on the bonnet is Tivvy (an advertising mascot that originated in Finland and was the TV Times mascot at the time and proved surprisingly difficult to research) and the owl and sheepdog on either wing are Ollie and Fred (they hosted the puzzle pages).

Below the car you can see the Tardis in the distance and a racecar being driven by Mighty Moth. Mighty was an insect flapping around a house owned by "Dad" (the moustachioed chap on the far left of the picture) who would attempt to swat him with predictably disastrous consequences. I remember reading somewhere that it was commissioned as a Mighty Mouse strip before the licence was refused, however I can find no record of that now (and it doesn't seem to make sense apart from the name). Oddly, given that it was unrelated to anything that had ever been on TV, Mighty Moth was by far TV Comic's longest-running strip (it started in 1959 and ended with the last issue in 1984). It was drawn for all that time by Dick Millington, who died earlier this year. He was no stranger to ripping off TV characters, mind, as he was also responsible for The Daily Mail's 90s strip I Don't Believe It.

Also (possibly) worth noting is that this was published in late 1966, by which time William Hartnell had been replaced on Doctor Who by Patrick Troughton so may have bothered some children at the time who had already moved on. A problem that persists with Doctor Who Annuals to this day.
Never mind all that now, let's crack on with the first of two Avengers strips which featured on the inside of that cover. Here Steed and Mrs Peel are heading for a little New Years break in Scotland. 
Sir Jocelyn starts talking about top secret documents before even asking if they'd had a pleasant journey. Which is rude. 
"Oh no! Not Grodolsky! He's that baddy that makes your speech balloons spiky!" Even though it seems like Grodolsky is a returning villain, I'm pretty sure this is his only appearance. we're also introduced to a "boffin". 
Sir J finally asks about the journey (too little, too late, pal) and credit is made to ABC. 
Something's afoot! When the butler doesn't come back from the fusebox, our heroes go investigate and find him unconscious in the cellar... 
Hmm... the plot thickens... Steed sees Grodolsky walking away from Sir J's study so asks to check in the safe. 
The code means nothing so our heroes spy on Grodolsky in the clumsiest way a professional spy could (unless the spy is Bond). 
Sounds like more code... 
After bedtime, Steed keeps an eye on the Professor and Emma watches Grodosky.
Must get one of those doors that spell out onomatopoeia.
When Steed and Emma's paths cross they startle each other.
The visor on the suit of armour slams like in the intro to the 1968-9 series!
It's all gone a bit slapstick. The noise brings Sir J and the butler running.
So that was it! Mystery solved! Or mystery dissolved, I suppose. It was nothing to do with the plans after all. But what about the lights and the beaten butler?
Oh. That's... an explanation, I guess. I feel cheated. Let's just cut to the ball.
Well, the first strip may have defied all reasonable story rules but let's see if the second was any better.
Love a bit of exposition at the start.
The master of disguise seems to be hobbling along in his old man persona. Is he Keyser Soze?
It seems the detectives weren't told he was a quick change artist. Or they're just idiots.
In the show bible for The Avengers it is stated that no actual police ever appear. If you see a policeman in an episode you can be sure they are fake.
The 1967 episode The See-Through Man is about invisibility (sort of, no spoilers) and Macnee himself played Invisible Jones in that movie we don't talk about.
Steed and Mrs Peel speed to the suspected hideout, whereupon...
There's a valuable lesson. And I hope you didn't snigger at the word "queer". You're better than that.
Oh dear. We're not going to get some casual racism are we?
I do love how Steed's English gentleman accoutrements have practical applications for the job. Especially the umbrella.
This disguise chap really likes to stay in character.
Some swift judo moves and one of the baddies is captured. Is he our man?
Time for a car chase!
And some road safety advice!
A waxworks! Such an Avengers location!
Wouldn't it be easier to find a hiding spot? No? Okay.
Steed has a plan to flush him out.
And it seems to have worked!
So what was the plan?
That was all! Steed simply had to stare at each dummy individually for long enough to reasonably assume that if it were a person it would have blinked. Then eventually you'd find him. Assuming he wasn't hiding under a desk or something and you don't spend hours staring at every exhibition for nothing. Good job it was the first one you looked at then, eh? Eh?

It's all very silly but really rather charming.

And with that we leave the comic strip world of The Avengers (not those ones, the other ones) forever. Probably.

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