Friday, 2 November 2018

The Beano #2280: Living in the 80s with a killing joke

And awaaaaay we go one more time into Beano history.

We have been celebrating 80 years of The Beano this year and reviewing issues from its history based on reprints from this boxed set from DC Thomson.

The issues so far have been from 1938194519511960, and 1976. Go and read them if you want. Or not. I can't make you. I mean, it would be polite but whatever. You break my heart if that's who you are.

This time, for the first time in this series, we are looking at an issue I actually owned as a child. Presenting The Beano #2280 from 1986.
This is the issue after Dennis' faithful companion Gnasher went missing and is the start of the national Gnational search that gained much media attention at the time. We have covered the full story here at Slipper Towers before so if you want the full story have a look here

We won't go into detail on that again, suffice to say at this point the Menace household is feeling the loss but we end on this panel:
Spoiler: it's Mike Read, then host of the BBC Radio 1 breakfast show and future UKIP-supporting Chevy Chase botherer. Mike Read has beautiful breath.

So, on to stuff we have not covered before as we venture inside.

Page 2 gives us a Bash Street Kid in his own spin-off strip: Simply Smiffy.
An easily-forgotten strip by Jerry Swaffield, it featured Smiffy's exasperated brother Normal Norman dealing with the constant disasters as Smiffy always gets things wrong. I am interested in the rarely-seen relatives of Beano characters and am the kind of nerd who wonders which ones are canon.

Ian McDiarmid's Roger the Dodger is next with a brief lesson in gender normatives.
Roger assumed he wouldn't have to learn cooking because of his genitals but has to come up with a wheeze to get out of it instead.
It doesn't go well.

Then-popular TV show 100 Great Sporting Moments provides Minnie the Minx with this week's mischief.
Love Jim Petrie's faces.
Minnie goes about causing chaos as usual.
Then talks directly to the artist.
It inevitably ends with a slipper.
Lord Snooty next and Snitch and Snatch are playing spacemen.
Then Ball Boy has his game delayed by the parkie.
It's worth pointing out Benji, who played on the team and is generally depicted as BB's closest friend, was one of a very small number of non-Caucasian British comics characters of the time.
Time for the letters' page and we finally get an answer to the question of how old Dennis is.
I said it was AN answer.

Dennis' pet pig Rasher got his own spin-off strip in 1984, also drawn by David Sutherland. It ran till 1984.
Sutherland's Bash Street Kids still dominate the middle pages.
Danny has come up with the funniest joke in the world and is whispering it to everyone.
I love the faces Sutherland draws in this story. Look at Fatty's spit-take:
And here's our first look at Winston, the Janitor's cat.
Danny is sent to the Head's office where he gets out by telling Head the joke.
That power should not be wielded lightly...
Ivy the Terrible next, a tearaway four-year-old with ambitions to be the next Dennis or Minnie.
Created by Robert Nixon in 1985, he continued drawing it until his death in 2002.

Billy Whizz is doing some housework.
Smudge "the scruffiest boy in town and proud of it!" is another 80s newcomer, created in 1980 by John Geering.
I love Geering's work and his frequent fourth-wall breaking characters. Look at this poor child's horrified plea to the reader before he leans on the panel border.
Pup Parade with the Bash Street Pups continues, although it would move to The Topper in 1989.
It's still just Bones and Sniffy in this story.

"Baby-Face" Finlayson has relocated from the old West to modern-day Britain. Somehow. Let's not question it. 

This week he raids a supermarket.
But you can take the bandit out of the old West...
For most of the 80s he'd stopped being "The cutest bandit in the West" and was now "The cutest bandit around". In the final strip of this run he tries to kidnap the Beano editor and is posted back to America as punishment.

Little Plum, however, remains firmly in a Western setting.
...Not that you'd know it from the illustration, but it is.

Biffo the Bear persists. Here he is at his occasional day job as zookeeper, somewhat exploiting his charges.
Tom and Dick are still being bested by little sister Sally in the strip Tom, Dick and Sally.
On the next page, ordinarily, would have been Gnasher's Tale, where Gnasher reflects on his younger days....
However... Gnasher has gone missing! So, for the second time, Gnasher's Tale is replaced with...
Foo-Foo! A tale told by Walter the Softy's poodle!

Wait a moment. Something has changed... I'm sure the last time we looked at this period of Beano history it had a different title...
That was it! I guess this change in the reprint shows that DC Thomson have acknowledged the implicit homophobia in a lot of the language used to describe "softies".

(Yes, I have mentioned before about homophobia in Dennis.)

Anyway, this week we see how Foo-Foo first met Gnasher at a doggy birthday party:
It's again drawn by Sutherland and as I failed to mention it last time, I'll add that I really like the design of the younger versions of Dennis and Walter. And that takes Sutherland page total this issue up to 6. And I remind you that he is still drawing The Bash Street Kids today, after 57 years! I wish I had his work ethic.

So that rounds out the issue and ends our visit to the 80s.

Come back next time for our 90s issue.

What will it be?

Seriously, what? There isn't a 90s reprint in the boxed set so I'm not sure...

Wednesday, 31 October 2018

An arbitrary list of comic book Frankensteins

It's that time of FEAR again! Halloween!!!!!

So to accompany an occasional feature that gave us arbitrary lists of, ghostsDraclias and the Irish, here is a list comics-based Frankensteins!

(And don't bother correcting me, I KNOW the correct terminology is Frankingsteins)

1: DC's Frankenstein
Versions of Frankenstein had appeared in DC Comics before (Batman and Robin met him back in 1948) but it was Grant Morrison and Doug Mahnke's version from Seven Soldiers (2005) that really caught on.

This one survived the Arctic encounter from the end of the novel and swam to America. After several adventures he goes into hibernation before being reawakened in the present day by a bullied child with psychic abilities.

He is recruited by SHADE (Super Human Advanced Defense Executive) and now fights monsters for the government. He's great.

Scare factor: 3

He's monstrous but on the side of the angels.

2: Dell's Frankenstein
As with Dracula and the Werewolf, Dell attempted a superhero version of the monster in 1966, borrowing a lot of trappings from other heroes...

After an adaptation of the 1931 movie in issue #1, issue #2 sees him come out of hibernation in the present day where he sees a stone with "Frank" engraved on it and decides to take the civilian name "Frank N Stone". Yes, really.

By using a Caucasian-flesh-coloured mask by day he lives as a millionaire in a mansion with his butler. Yes, really.

But he also goes out to stop crime as Frankenstein, fighting the weird villains who plague the city.

There is a nosy lady reporter who is determined to find the truth about Frankenstein and is sure that he is secretly playboy millionaire Frank N Stone.

It's everything ridiculous about the silver age.

Scare Factor: 1

On the side of the angels but quite presentable, all things considered.

3: Marvel's Frankenstein
Following the success of Tomb of Dracula, in 1973 Marvel launched Monster of Frankenstein. Initially written by Gary Friedrich, later Bill Mantlo with art by Bob Brown, John Buscema and others.

This one survived the Arctic encounter from the end of the novel only to get frozen in ice, Captain America-style, before being rescued and thawed out and going on a quest for vengeance against his creator (who, it seems, also survived).

Ultimately, Frankenstein is left to wander Europe, having Hulk-style adventures before being manipulated into helping bring Dracula back to life.

Like the others he goes into hibernation and wakes in the present before being cancelled. But this does mean he can occasionally pop up to have a fight with Iron Man, Spider-Man or whoever.

Scare factor: 4
Unpredictable. As likely to murder you as save you. Which is maybe why he didn't catch on.

4: Frankie Stein
From the genius of Ken Reid, created for Wham! in 1964, Frankie is a good-natured chid-like creation who doesn't know his own strength.

His "Dad" is Professor Cube, an irritable mad scientist who wants nothing more than to rid of the beast. Frankie, however sees most the attempts to destroy him as playtime.

Frankie was revived for the pages of Shiver and Shake by the great Robert Nixon in 1973 and is the version I grew up with. It popped up in various titles including Monster Fun and Whoopee! until that was cancelled in 1984.
Scare Factor: 3 Could easily kill you by accident, but he's a sweetheart.

5: Doc Frankenstein
Created in 2004 by Steve Skroce and Geoff Darrow but scripted by the Wachowski sisters, this version is super smart and anti-superstition.

This one survived the Arctic encounter from the end of the novel and made his way back to Europe where he devoted himself to learning. He is shown to have influenced various important political movements through history (especially American) and there is lots of left-wing diatribes.

The villains of the story are priests who see social and scientific progress as inherently bad and Frankenstein must be destroyed.

We are give a "true" history of God by a fairy that negates his whole point, mind and the whole thing feels like it desperately wants to be Preacher.

Scare factor: 1

He's more likely to argue with you about your dream catcher than fight you.

6: Dick Briefer's Frankenstein
These are delightful.

Published by Prize Comics between 1940 and 1954, Briefer's Frankenstein is regarded by some historians as the first ongoing horror comic. Although it really is more of a humour title.

Another super-strong but sweet-natured monster, was created to cause chaos but instead got swept up in the beauty of the world, bringing flowers and birds back to his creator.

He was set up as a foe to various superheroes from the same publisher but also got to fight Nazis. By 1945 all pretense at horror was abandoned as Frankenstein left the castle and settled down in a nice house in the suburbs. "The Merry Monster" had the sort of wacky comedy mishaps we'd later associate with the likes of The Munsters.

I haven't read many of these but I'm definitely going back for more!
Scare factor: 1

Definitely the cuddliest Frankenstein.

7: Madman
Not strictly a Frankenstein but I felt I had to mention Mike Allred's terrific Image Comics run, created in 1990.

Zane Townsend was killed in a car accident then brought back to life by two scientists. Having no memory of his previous life the boffins give him the name of there favourite artist (Frank Sinatra) and favourite scientist (Albert Einstein) and call him...

Albert Sinatra!

I'm kidding, it's Frank Einstein.

He now has blue skin and telepathic powers and decides to live a life as a sort of superhero.

Scare factor: 1

The smarts and heart of the best Frankensteins.

8: Franken Castle
This might surprise fans of the Netflix show but The Punisher, Frank Castle was killed. At least twice.

The first time he came back as an avenging angel, emissary of God (we don't talk about it). But the second time, after being hacked to pieces by Wolverine's son Daken, he was stitched back together and reanimated by a team of Marvel monsters.

The year-long story from 2009 by Rick Remender and Tony Moore (with others) absolutely shouldn't have worked but it absolutely did.

And if you don't believe me, here's Castle firing a machine gun from a dragon:
'Nuff said.

Scare factor: 5

Honestly regular human Punisher is a 4.

9: Frankenstein from Dare-a-Day Davy
I am indebted to the fine blog Kazoop!! for this and it's back to Ken Reid.

Dare-a-Day Davy was a strip for Pow! by Reid and Walt Thorburn which centred around a boy who couldn't resist a dare. Readers could submit their own dares with a pound being paid if they used it. It ran for 86 issues from 1967-8.

However when one reader suggested Davy dig up the remains of Frankenstein and kiss it, it all got a bit much. 

Reid was paid for his work, but without his knowledge it was never printed. In fact it's only due to then-Odhams employee Steve Moore (later a comics writer of note) rescuing the art that it survives.

Maybe they thought it was a step too far into gruesome territory. It probably would have created a bit of a storm if parents saw it. Full story here.
Hey kids! Don't descrate graves!

Scare Factor: 3

I mean he can't actually do anything. This Frankingstein is a skellington. Still pretty horrific though.

10: Frankenmoose
The ongoing Archie's Madhouse horror comics line that brought us zombie carnage in Afterlife with Archie and The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina also gave us Jughead: The Hunger. 

This re-imagines Riverdale's loveable hamburger-eating asexual Pendleton Forsyth Jones III (aka Jughead) as a werewolf. 

A series of grisly murders have taken place and only Jughead knows that it was he who did it, in the grip of a lycanthropic curse. 

However, in issue #9, which came out last week, Riverdale's resident science nerd has apparently taken it upon himself to bring back one of the beast's victims to (presumably) use him as a weapon. Moose Mason! 

I'm looking forward to seeing Midge in full Elsa Lanchester gear soon, if that's where this is going...

Scare factor: ?

I give this rating the same as Boris Karloff's credit because I just don't know yet. He has appeared in exactly one panel of story.

Also, wasn't Dilton killed too?

It's also worth mentioning that the great Bernie Wrightson illustrated an edition of the novel in 1983 with typically awesome art.
A start was made turning it into an ongoing comic, written by Steve Niles called Frankenstein Alive! Alive! but Wrightson died after only three issues had been completed.

So that's it for another year. Till then you can spend your time looking for the differences in these Slylock Fox panels. Happy Samhain!