It Doesn't Have To Be Right…

… it just has to sound plausible


Sf comics

It’s not just the Europeans and their bandes dessinées who produce science fiction in comic form. In my previous post (see here), I mentioned the UK’s anthology comics, such as 2000 AD or Starlord. There have been also many other sf comics and/or graphic novels published over the years. Here are the ones I own. Some are British, some are American, some are by British writers working for American publishers…

Ron Turner was a stalwart of the British comics scene, especially science fiction, with a career stretching from 1936 until his death in 1998. Rick Random, Space Detective, was created in 1953 for Super Detective Library, a collection of small comic books much like Commando and War Picture Library. Random appeared in 27 books between 1954 and 1957, but his adventures were later reprinted in a variety of venues, including 2000 AD summer specials. There was even an all-new story in 2000 AD in 1979. The book pictured collects ten of Random’s adventures, all but one drawn by Turner. No writing credits are given, but Harry Harrison is known to have written for the series.

Another important venue for sf comics in the UK was newspapers. The tabloids would often feature a number of strips,  some of which were ongoing serials. Jeff Hawke, who appeared in the Daily Express between February 1955 and April 1974, was created and drawn by Sydney Jordan. Titan Books published two of the stories back in the mid-1980s, but the above two are much more recent. They’re worth getting hold of.

Another excellent sf strip from a newspaper is the Daily Mirror’s Garth. This ran from 1943 until 1997, but it’s the Frank Bellamy version I remember best. He drew it from 1971 to 1976 (my grandfather subscribed to the Daily Mirror, and I’d read the strip whenever I visited him). In the mid 1980s, Titan reprinted two stories in individual volumes – The Cloud of Balthus and The Women of Galba (ignore the awful cover art). The Daily Mirror only published two Garth annuals, in 1975 and 1976 – both are shown. Given there are 165 Garth stories, it’s about time someone did a proper job of collecting and republishing them.

And then there’s 2000 AD, which has been publishing issues constantly since 1977. I used to subscribe to it back in the late 1970s/early 1980s, and I have fond memories of many of the strips it featured. Which is what prompted me to buy the above. Robohunter is an old Titan Books reprint I bought back in the 1980s. The other two are more recent and were published by Rebellion, 2000 AD’s publisher. Sadly, it’s never wise to revisit things you loved when you were younger. The Stainless Steel Rat may be an improvement on the books, but that’s not saying much, and the adaptation misses out a couple of important plot points. ABC Warriors has its moments, but it’s really just a derivative mash-up of half a dozen war movies, with crap dialogue to suit.

Luther Arkwright is the work of Bryan Talbot, and appeared in a limited series comic in the late 1980s. It was collected as a trade paperback in the late 1990s, and a sequel Heart Of Empire was published soon after. It’s a New worlds-ish steampunky alternate worlds sf sort of thing, and it’s quite brilliant. Every self-respecting sf fan should own a copy. In fact, they should own copies of everything Talbot has done.

Also brilliant is Scarlet Traces and its sequel, The Great Game, a story set in Victorian Britain after Wells’ Martians have succumbed to the common cold. The British Empire has reverse-engineered the Martian technology and as a result maintained its technological and global preeminence. Later, Edginton and d’Israeli adapted Wells novel as a sort of prequel to their series.

Warren Ellis is British, but much of his work has been done for various US comics publishers. Several of the mini-series he has written are science fiction – such as the above. Ministry of Space, an alternate history story in which the British have a post-war space programme is especially good. Not shown are Ignition City and Anna Mercury, which a friend is currently borrowing.

Sf novels occasionally get the graphic novel treatment, although not always successfully – or rather, the project is not always completed. The silver book above is the graphic novel of Alfred Bester’s The Stars My Destination, drawn by Howard Chaykin, from 1979. It’s signed by Bester, Chaykin and Byron Preiss. It’s also only half of the novel’s story. A concluding volume was never produced. Empire shares a title with a Samuel R Delany novella, but the story Delany wrote for this Chaykin-illustrated story is not that ‘Empire’. Dead Girls is the first volume in an adaptation of Richard Calder’s novel of the same name, published House of Murky Depths. It originally appeared as a strip in the magazine Murky Depths, which has since ceased publication. The graphic novel will, however, continue. The edition shown is signed and numbered.

Jed Mercurio’s Ascent is one of my favourite novels, but sadly this graphic adaptation fails to capture what I like about the book. T-Minus is a comic-book potted history of the Space Race and is quite good.

Night And The Enemy is an illustrated short story, written by Harlan Ellison and illustrated by Ken Steacy. The Sacred and the Profane is a graphic novel, written by Dean Motter and also illustrated by Steacy, which first appeared in Star*Reach from 1977 to 1978. In the 1980s, Motter and Steacy rewrote, redrew and coloured it, and it was published in Epic Illustrated – which is where I saw it for the first time. (I used to buy issues of Epic Illustrated and Heavy Metal during the 1980s when I was passing through Schiphol, travelling to and from the Middle East.) The collected edition above is signed and numbered. It’s also very good.

I’m not entirely sure why someone decided a mash-up featuring Tarzan and another of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ characters was a good idea, but they went and did it. First Tarzan met Carson of Venus, and then he met John Carter of Mars. Not an entirely successful pair of literary experiments.

Recent years, perhaps triggered by the Disney film, have seen a surge of new John Carter adaptations, as well as omnibus editions of older versions. The two Dejah Thoris graphic novels aren’t too bad, though it would be nice if they could put some  clothes on her. The other two are quite poor.

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Drawn strips

UK comics have traditionally followed an anthology format, with each issue containing a number of different stories or installments of a serial. This is very different to the US tradition, in which a single story occupies a whole issue, or series of issues. And while US comics have pretty much entirely been stories of super-powered men and women in brightly-coloured tights, most UK comics were typically humorous (Beanie, Dandy, Whizzer and Chips, etc), war-related (Warlord, Victory, etc), or science fiction (2000 AD, Starlord, etc).

But there is another comics tradition, which only rarely appears in the US or UK – the bande dessinée. In continental Europe, science fiction has often been driven by these “drawn strips”, much more so than it has been in Anglophone countries. Every now and again, some of the more popular bandes dessinées are picked up by English-language publishers, translated and introduced to an English-speaking audience. Cinebook have been doing a sterling job in this regard over the last few years, but they’re by no means the first.

I’ll admit to being a fan of sf bandes dessinées, though I don’t buy them as often as I’d like to. Most, of course, have not been translated into English – although they may well have been translated into most other European languages. Anyway, here are the ones I have. Most are in English, but some are in French.

Orbital, written by Sylvain Runberg and drawn by Serge Pellé, is solid space opera of a type which rarely appears in graphic form in English. A human and a Sandjarr, members of two races that were at war several years before, are put together as diplomat-troubleshooters, and have various adventures.

The Chimpanzee Complex, written by Richard Marazano and drawn by Jean-Michel Ponzio, opens brilliantly – in 2035, a copy of the Apollo 11 Command Module splashes down in the Pacific, but only Armstrong and Aldrin are aboard. A mission to the Moon is hastily cobbled together to discover the CM’s origin. This then moves onto Mars, where the crew find a colony of cosmonauts led by Yuri Gagarin. Sadly, the final volume doesn’t quite sustain the level of inventiveness, but it does do something quite weird and interesting with the story.

One of the big bandes dessinées series is Edgar P Jacob’s The Adventures of Blake and Mortimer. It first appeared in  Tintin Magazine in 1946, and continued through to Jacobs’ death in 1987. Since then, new stories have appeared from Jacobs Studios. To date, Cinebook have translated and published 13 books. Like Tintin, they’re all drawn in a ligne claire style, and while they’re often text-heavy (often with text describing what’s visible in the panel), the stories are generally a quite cleverly-done mix of history and science fiction.

There was an earlier attempt to introduce Blake and Mortimer to an English-speaking audience. Back in the early 1990s, US publisher Catalan Communications published two Blake and Mortimer books. I found this one in Abu Dhabi. It has since been republished as volume 12 in the Cinebook editions of the series.

Another big bande dessinée series is agent spatio-temporel Valérian et Laureline. This started in 1970, and there are now twenty volumes available. So far Cinbeook have translated and published the first four.

Again, there was an attempt to introduce Valerian and Laureline to English-speakers back in the 1980s. A US subsidiary of the French publishers, Dargaud, translated and published four random volumes – numbers 3, 4, 6 and 8. I’ve no idea why they stopped.

In 2004, ibooks published an English-language omnibus of three Valerian and Laureline stories – numbers 13, 14 and 15.

And here are some of the original French editions, including a prequel published in 1983 and the second of two encyclopedias about the universe of the two spatio-temporal agents.

I’m not sure why I have this. This copy of Milady 3000 is a French translation of an Italian comic. It’s far future space opera, and quite well done. It apparently lasted from 1980 to 1984, and appeared in both Métal Hurlant and Heavy Metal.

The Adventures of Yoko, Vic and Paul is another popular series being republished by Cinebook. These two books are earlier editions by Catalan Communications. The series began in 1970 and currently comprises twenty-five volumes. Catalan Communications published only the two I have, but Cinebook has so far reached volume seven.

I’ve had these for years, and I can no longer remember where or when I bought them. They’re English translations of a Polish series based on the works of Erich von Däniken. I think only these three volumes were published in English, though there were eight originally in the Polish series.

Lorna is originally Spanish, by Alfonso Azpiri, and has appeared in Heavy Metal. Leviathan is the fourth of six books featuring Lorna, and I’ve no idea if any others have been published in English. It’s definitely not for, er, children. Sanctum is a three-part French series by Xavier Dorison and Christophe Bec. As far as I can determine, only the first volume has been published in English. So it looks like I’ll be getting the French “Intégrale” edition to find out how the story ends…

The Fourth Power is a full-on space opera bandes dessinées by Juan Giménez, an Argentine artist who illustrated Alejandro Jodorowsky’s Metabarons series. The Nikopol Trilogy by Enki Bilal was the basis for Bilal’s live-action/CGI film Immortal.

No post on bandes dessinées is complete without mention of Alejandro Jodorowsky, and his most famous work, The Incal. It may well be, however, better known for Moebius’ artwork than Jodorowsky’s script. It’s been published several times in English. Back in the early 1990s, Titan Books published several volumes; then Humanoid Associates, the English-language arm of the French publishers, published four volumes; and last year, Self Made Hero published a very nice omnibus edition. I’ve only managed to find three of the four Humanoid Associates editions, but now I have Self Made Hero edition I don’t need to complete the set…

Another popular Jodorowsky series, this time illustrated by Juan Giménez. There is, I believe, a Metabarons RPG. The French originals stretches over nine volumes, but only the first six, in three omnibus volumes, are available in English.

Technopriests, written by Jodorowsky and illustrated by Zoran Janjetov, is even more bonkers than the Incal or Metabarons. Humanoid Associates have to date only translated the first two of the eight-volume series. Megalex is a three-volume series, illustrated by Fred Beltran, but only the first book is available in English.

However, I have the first four volumes of Les Technopères in French, plus a presentation box for them. I just need to get hold of the remaining four volumes…

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Who dares eventually finds it

In my post on Dan Dare last week (see here), I mentioned I owned a copy of Dare by Grant Morrison and Rian Hughes, but seemed to have lost it. If you’ve seen my flat, this probably isn’t much of a surprise. Fortunately, while digging out some books for a post on bandes dessinées – which will appear later today – I stumbled across it. The cat hadn’t sold it on eBay, after all.

Anyway, here it is:

Dare was originally published in Revolver, from 1990 to 1991, but the comic folded before the last installment, so it was completed in Crisis, a 2000 AD spin-off. The trade paperback edition was published in 1991. Copies are not especially hard to find these days, and it’s worth getting.


Dan Dare

I’m fairly sure my first introduction to Colonel Dan McGregor Dare of Spacefleet was in the early 1970s, when my parents bought me a Dan Dare annual one Christmas. (No, I’m not old enough to remember Eagle, where Dare originally appeared.) The annual contained two stories, ‘The Red Moon Mystery’ and ‘Safari in Space’ – and they’re still my favourite Dare stories. We were living in Oman at the time, but I’m pretty sure they didn’t buy it there. Anyway, I treasured that book for years.

And then, during the early 1990s, I was in London visiting friends, and in a remaindered book shop on Charing Cross Road I found the seventh volume of a series of Dare reprints published by Hawk Books. I bought it, but never saw any of the other volumes in the series. When I returned to the UK to live in 2002, I decided to complete the series. It took me several years, and quite a bit of money, but I eventually did it. The last one I purchased was volume 4 Prisoners of Space in early 2009.

And here’s the full set…

 There are actually two editions of the first volume. I have the second edition, the 10th anniversary edition of the original. The Red Moon Mystery, volume 2, is one of Dare’s best stories.

 The Man from Nowhere, volume 6, and Rogue Planet, volume 7, is a two-parter and are one of the better stories.
 While Dare was away helping aliens on their home world in Rogue Planet, the Mekon conquered the Earth using robots – but Reign of the Robots, volume 8, is a bit silly, to be honest. The Terra Nova trilogy, volume 9, is one of my favourites. Since this was the most expensive volume to buy, it must be everybody else’s favourite too.
 The last three volumes cover stories written and drawn after Hampson handed over the reins and, sadly, neither the design nor the stories are as good as when he was in charge.
 Back in the day, you could actually buy replica Spacefleet uniforms. In fact, there was a huge amount of merchandising for Dare – everything from button badges to tin spaceship models. All before my time, of course. You often see items available on eBay for silly money. There’s even a novel, Dan Dare, Pilot of the Future by Angus P Allan, published in 1977. The book is illustrated with black and white line-drawings of panels from the comics, but as a novel it’s a bit rubbish.

Dan Dare has been resuscitated a number of times. In 1977, he appeared in the first issue of 2000 AD, and lasted until 1979. The strip has yet to be published as a trade paperback omnibus, which is really annoying. I do have a 2000 AD Dan Dare annual from 1980, but it’s not very good. The Eagle comic was relaunched in 1982, and featured Dan Dare as its flagship strip – but this was a grandson of the original Dan Dare. The new Eagle folded in 1994. In 1990, Grant Morrison scripted a new Dare, set in Thatcherite Britain, which was serialised in the Revolver comic. It was later republished as a trade paperback. In 2008, Virgin comics published a seven-issue Dan Dare mini-series written by Garth Ennis. I have an omnibus of the first three issues but wasn’t impressed. New Dare stories have also appeared in Spaceship Away, a magazine dedicated to Dare, and which has to date published twenty-seven issues. We won’t mention the terrible CGI television series.

Also worth noting is a “biography” written by Daniel Tartarsky, which was published in 2010: Dan Dare, Pilot of the Future: A Biography. Titan Books have also published a series of Dare reprint volumes, which are smaller in size than the Hawk Books versions. They’re also still in print. And it appears that Haynes will be publishing an Owner’s Workshop Manual on Spacefleet Operations in June of 2013. It’s already on my wishlist.

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Aetheric Mechanics, Warren Ellis & Gianluca Pagliarani

Warren Ellis is no stranger to science fiction. It’s a genre he has explored before in comics format – in works such as Orbiter, Ocean, Switchblade Honey and Ministry of Space, among others. Nor is he unfamiliar with alternate history, as Ministry of Space posited a British space programme following World War II. It could be argued that Aetheric Mechanics is actually steampunk. Certainly, it appears to be, as it’s set in 1907, but with “apergy”-powered flying machines and clunky giant metal robots. But steampunk is a meta-generic construct, a blend of tropes from worlds presented in other genre fictions. It almost never includes its own origin story – to steal a phrase from the other genre in which Ellis works. Steampunk tropes just are. Sometimes, there is some authorial handwaving to “explain” this new Victorian (or Edwardian) England – Stephen Baxter’s anti-ice in Anti-ice, aether in Colin Greenland’s Harm’s Way, for example. But often as not the reader is expected to recognise the origin of the tropes and accept their placement in a steampunk fiction as an expected characteristic of the sub-genre.

And from the opening page of Aetheric Mechanics, there are tropes a-plenty on view: the aforementioned flying machines and giant robots, but also flying ships held aloft by “cavorite”. Ellis, we soon learn, has thrown his net further afield. Dr Robert Watcham has returned from the Front in Britain’s war with Ruritania. His friend, Sax Raker, is London’s greatest detective. And Watcham is back just in time to help with ‘The Case of the Man Who Wasn’t There’.

An engineer specialising in aetherics was murdered outside the Royal Society by a man who flickered in and out of existence. Another body soon turns up, found in the mud of the Thames. Raker identifies some of the mud as belonging to the River Fleet. Present in the crowd watching the sleuth at work is Innana Meyer, Raker’s great rival, and the object of his affections. Raker spots her, and she admits she is now working for Raker’s brother in the British Secret Service.

As a vast force of Ruritanian aeroplanes begins bombing London, Raker, Watcham and Meyer enter the River Fleet’s underground channel to find the man who wasn’t there…

Ellis has played fair in the past, and he plays fair in Aetheric Mechanics. He’s not telling stories in science fiction settings, he’s telling science fiction stories. Which is where this “graphic novella” demonstrates that it is indeed pure-strain science fiction and not steampunk. There is an explanation, a reason why Watcham’s London exists. And why the story of Aetheric Mechanics could not have taken place anywhere, or anywhen, else. It’s a satisfying resolution to a tale which has already enchanted through its borrowings and usages.

Of course, no review of a graphic novella would be complete without mention of the artwork. And in Aetheric Mechanics, Gianluca Pagliarani’s clean black and white art is an excellent complement to Ellis’s script. The setting is recognisably early twentieth-century London, and yet there is plenty of detail clearly demonstrating that this is not the world we know. Pagliarani’s steampunk visual aesthetic is inventive without being derivative or obvious.

Science fiction and graphic novels have never made easy bedfellows – the visual invention never seems to match that of the story; or vice versa. Ellis is probably the leading authority in reconciling the two, and in Aetheric Mechanics he has shown once again why he holds that position.


And A Thousand Words More…

When I wrote Worth a Thousand Words, I promised a second instalment. So here it is.

This time it’s science fiction graphic novels. Now, I could have just written about the various titles by Alexandro Jodorowsky – The Incal, Metabarons, Technopriests and Megalex. They’re originally published in French, of course; but some have been translated into English. But not all of them, not yet. Still, I do have a French – English dictionary…

Jodorowsky’s graphic novels are a bit, well, weird. Like his films. The Incal is a knockabout sf satire, in which a fool (called John DiFool) must protect a crystal of enormous power, the Light Incal, from various evil factions. All of the characters are based on Tarot cards. Some commentators have likened parts of The Incal to Dune, but I can’t see the resemblance. The story of the Metabarons, a family of superlative mercenaries, is framed as one robot telling a story to another robot, who already knows it. The Technopriests is presented as the reminisces of an old man, describing how he turned his back on a career making cheese and became instead a creator of videogames. It’s actually a space opera, just in case that’s not clear. And Megalex is just as strange – a clone fights to defeat the eponymous planetary city, using the forces of nature. Each series was illustrated by a different artist: Moebius, Juan Giménez, Zoran Janjetov and Fred Beltran respectively.

I could have written this piece just about Jodorowsky’s work, but I won’t…

The Fourth Power, Juan Giménez – a young space fighter pilot escapes certain death when attacked by an enemy patrol, and discovers that she is linked to a new weapon of enormous power called “the Fourth Power”. Spaceships… aliens… and that slightly-odd way of looking at science fiction the French do so well.

The Sacred and the Profane, Dean Motter and Ken Steacy – I remember first reading this serialised in Marvel’s Epic Illustrated magazine back in the 1980s. Unfortunately, I only bought issues when flying to or from the Middle East, which was about four times a year. So I only read parts of it. A couple of years ago, I decided to buy myself a collected edition, only to discover it was quite hard to find. But then one popped up on eBay. A signed numbered edition. Result. The Sacred and the Profane is about a Jesuit mission to another star which encounters alien life in an asteroid. It’s pretty intense stuff for a sf graphic novel from the 1980s.

Garth, Frank Bellamy – this was a strip in the Daily Mirror, and ran from 1943 to 1997. I remember it from the late 1970s and early 1980s, when it was written and drawn by Frank Bellamy. Garth was an adventurer, stronger and smarter than most men, who would occasionally travel through time. He was involved in some sort of fight between Good and Evil, and his various adventures were often couched as episodes in this eternal battle. Fleetway published two Daily Mirror Garth annuals in 1975 and 1976, and Titan Books later published a pair of books in 1984 and 1985.

Valérian: Spatio-Temporal Agent, Pierre Christin and Jean-Claude Mézières – Valérian is a long-running French series, with twenty volumes published to date in France. Only a handful have been translated into English. The most recent of these is the trilogy in The New Future Trilogy published by iBooks, but the few earlier volumes published by Hodder-Dargaud are worth hunting down. It’s no-frills space opera done with wit and invention, with Valérian and his sidekick Laureline getting involved in various adventures.


Worth A Thousand Words…

Until recently, I’d never been much of a reader of comics or graphic novels. I used to read comics when I was a kid – in fact, I think there’s still a big pile of them in my parents’ garage. When in the Middle East, it was usually Marvel (which I much preferred to DC), but in the UK it was British comics – 2000AD, Starlord, Warlord, Tornado

In the years since, I’d picked up the odd graphic novel, usually from word of mouth recommendations. Watchmen was superb, and enough to get me interested in the medium (and yes, I’m looking forward to the film). Unfortunately, my next purchase was Batman: Killing Joke, which was less good. I thought the same of Give Me Liberty. So I stopped buying them.

After returning to the UK in 2002, I bought and read The Adventures of Luther Arkwright and Heart of Empire, and was much impressed. After meeting Richard Morgan and reading his debut novel, Altered Carbon, I bought the two miniseries he wrote for Marvel’s Black Widow: Homecoming and The Things They Say About Her. They are excellent. Unfortunately, they didn’t go down so well with most readers of comics – one fan review said something like “if I want to read politics, I’ll read the speeches of George Bush”, which is just wrong in so many ways.

Not long afterwards, I purchased the X-Men: The Dark Phoenix Saga omnibus, having remembered reading and liking bits of when I was a kid. (That’ll date me.) Sadly, I wasn’t that impressed. It’s true that you can never go back.

Anyway, this year I’ve read more graphic novels than ever before. So here are some of the ones I really like:

The Authority – I’ve only read the first five trade paperback collections in this series so far, and it’s both excellent and infuriating. Created in 1999 by Warren Ellis and Bryan Hitch, the Authority are a spin-off team from Stormwatch (which I find less good). Unlike most superhero groups, the Authority have taken it upon themselves to right all the world’s wrongs. An ambition that has not gone down well with existing governments – especially that of the US. And this is where it gets infuriating: in order to give the Authority the moral high ground, despite the death and destruction they frequently dish out, the writers often make the villains too evil to be entirely credible. (Well, yes, credible… superheroes… I know. But.)

Tom Strong – after Watchmen and Batman: Killing Joke, I don’t think I’d read any Alan Moore until I picked up the first trade paperback collection of this. And discovered that I loved it. Like much of Moore’s output, it’s post-modern, ironic and clever. Rather than being a superhero, Tom Strong is a “science hero” – and a very knowing take on the concepts and tropes of superhero comics. This is something Moore has done before – in Supreme and Promethea, for example – but I think the Tom Strong series is easily the most fun of them.

Identity Crisis – I’ve not read a lot of DC, much preferring the Marvel universe. But I saw several approving reviews of this one-off by thriller writer Brad Meltzer. So I picked up a copy and… it’s very good indeed. The Elongated Man’s wife, Sue, is murdered. While there’s no evidence at the scene of the crime, a group within the Justice League of America suspect villain Dr Light of the crime. Because years before he had raped Sue, and they had wiped his memory of the event to protect themselves. The DC universe has always struck me as a little bit corny when compared to Marvel, but Meltzger’s strong story handles it with an appealing knowingness – yes, even Batman and Superman. This one is definitely worth buying.

Ministry of Space – after Alan Moore, the comics writer I probably read most is Warren Ellis. And even then I’d be hard-pressed to say who is the better of the two. Ellis, at least, has a more varied output. As this alternate world tale of a British post-war space progamme shows. There’s something greatly appealing about all those old British designs – and we had some world-beating technology in those days: TSR-2, SR.177, Fairey Delta 2, Avro 730… in fact, just look at these. Then we threw it all away. Happily, we didn’t in the world of Ministry of Space. Oh, and there’s an excellent twist in the tale too.

Scarlet Traces – and speaking of alternate world Britains, Ian Edginton & D’Israeli’s Scarlet Traces is one of the best graphic novel takes on the subject. It’s a sequel to HG Wells’ War of the Worlds (which the pair later adapted). After the Martians’ defeat, Britain has reverse-engineered their technology. But there’s something rotten in the heart of Empire… Here’s a preview of Scarlet Traces, so you can see just how good it is. The sequel, Scarlet Traces: The Great Game, takes the story to Mars, which Britain is invading. I was hugely amused to spot Dan Dare and Digby making a cameo in this…

Dan Dare – because I’ve been a fan of Dan Dare since I was a kid. Admittedly, the stories were often poor, and their grasp of science was feeble at best. But Hampson’s artwork looked gorgeous, and I liked the world he’d created. Some of the stories are very good indeed – ‘The Red Moon Mystery’ and ‘Safari in Space’, in particular. Dare has been re-imagined several times, but none of them have really matched the original. 2000AD‘s take seemed to entirely miss the point (although I’d still like to see it collected). Grant Morrison’s revisionist Dare was probably the only successful re-imagining. The more recent version by Garth Ennis for Virgin Comics has been… disappointing.

Trigan Empire – here’s another sf series from my childhood. I remember reading it in Look & Learn, which the school I attended had on subscription. Like Dare, the stories were often terrible, but the artwork was beautiful. For the past few years, the Don Lawrence Collection has been issuing handsome leather-bound collections of the strip – or that version of it produced by original artist Don Lawrence. They’re expensive but definitely collectible.

There are several other graphic novels I like which I’ve not mentioned here – such as those by Alexandro Jodorowsky, or Christin and Mézières’ Valérian Spatio-Temporal Agent. I might write about them at some later date.