Saturday, 18 July 2015

The Avengers in Comics 2: Back on the Steed

So, the last time I was looking at the appearances of The Avengers (John Steed, Emma Peel, Cathy Gale et al) in comics. It turned out to be a little more than I expected when I started (as these things always seem to) and along the way I forgot a few important things.

Before that though, I'm indebted to The Avengers Illustrated for providing the sources for some of the images I used in the previous blog and also for this image from the Smash Annual 1968, from the strip Charlie's Choice:This strip by Brian Lewis for the Odhams publication was about a boy with a magic television. Every week characters would step  out of the screen and interact with the real world (usually staying smaller than the screen size). 

On the Avengers TV show itself, John Steed was seen to be a fan of Belgian ligne claire icon Tintin, the boy reporter.
On the left there is a still from the episode The Golden Fleece (1963) reading Tintin au Pays de l'Or Noir (originally collected in book form in 1950) in the original French (it wasn't released in English until 1972 when, as Tintin in the Land of Black Gold, it was partly redrawn to change references to Palestine to a fictional country). On the right is the English-language Tintin in Tibet (1960 in French, 1962 in English) from Man with Two Shadows (also 1963)
In 1964's The Outside-In Man Steed can be seen reading The Secret of the Unicorn (1943/1952) and muttering "Blistering barnacles" to himself! (A catchphrase of Captain Haddock's, in case you didn't know.)

(Captain Haddock is a character in Tintin if you didn't know that.)

(Honestly, you should go and read some Tintin.)

All of those episode are from the third series and Steed's habit does not resurface on screen until series six, when, in the episode Look- (Stop Me if You've Heard This One) -But There Were These Two Fellers... (which, clumsy title and all, is one of my personal favourites) he can be seen reading Le Lotus Bleu at the end.
This was originally collected in 1946 but not published in English until 1983! It features Tintin meeting his friend Chang for the first time and heavy criticism of the Japanese oppression of China in the war years.

There may well be more examples of this but these are the only ones I've found so far (not having seen many of the pre-Peel episodes).

A great fun episode from the show's fifth season (1967) features people being murdered, apparently by a comic-book character called The Winged Avenger (I know, using that word "Avenger" again just makes things more complicated).The artwork for the fictional comic was provided by British comics legend Frank Bellamy. Bellamy will probably be best remembered for his work on Dan Dare for The Eagle (he was hired to revamp and redesign the strip after replacing creator Frank Hampson) and the Thunderbirds strip for TV21 as well as the long-running Daily Mirror strip Garth.

The episode itself has Bellamy's artworks being recreated in reality as copycat killings ensue. Oddly (I discover in researching this), one of the images used is of a drawing of the Winged Avenger slapped on top of a Black Hawk comic from DC. 
But by far the most egregious omission from the previous blog was the comics influence of the episode A Touch of Brimstone (1966). 

An episode deemed too sexy for broadcast on American television back in the day, it involves Mrs Peel infiltrating a seedy criminal organisation modelling itself after the 17th century depravity collective known as the Hellfire club.

The villain of the piece is played to sleazy perfection by Peter Wyngarde, best known for playing TV's Jason King (as well as other sleazier stuff: don't click on this link).

Years later, in Chris Claremont and John Byrne's genre-defining run on X-Men for Marvel, a mind-controlled Jean Grey (feeling some early effects of the Dark Phoenix) finds herself falling in with a bad crowd also modelling themselves after the Hellfire club.

Here is Emma being presented to the Hellfire club by Peter Wyngarde as their new "Queen of Sin!":
And here is Jean being presented to the Hellfire club by "Jason Wyngarde" as their new "Black Queen":The Hellfire club is now a firm part of the Marvel Universe and it's various personnel have had Avengers references (the London branch was once run by "Emma Steed" for example) as well as references to other actors.

You can find plenty of information about Marvel's Hellfire Club (along with Sebastian Shaw and Emma "White Queen" Frost) elsewhere should you be so inclined.

That's all for now. Next time: TV Comic Annual 1967 and the Avengers strips in depth. And this time I mean it.