Rejoice fans of quality reviews! For to celebrate the release of the SHAKO! TPB collection I decided not to review it. For a start I won't have any money until Christmas is over. And I'm talking there about the first Christmas after MiracleBoy leaves home in about 2025. No, I decided to do something else instead to celebrate this momentous occasion. What follows is not entirely sane but then again what is, my American friends, what is?!?
Most importantly of course I decided not to review the SHAKO! TPB as I already reviewed its contents HERE. You will of course remember that vividly because you have nothing else to do but remember badly written old posts on The Savage Critics. So, there didn't seem much point in going over it again but it also seemed a bit shoddy to let the occasion pass uncommemorated. Because as much as I love 2000AD's SHAKO! (and, boy, do I love SHAKO!) I never thought it would be collected. Truly, these are the days.
Your luck was in though as since I am a Savage Critic I, naturally, know loads of people in Comics, or as we gifted insiders call it - The Biz. And using my "juice" I reached out and managed to get the contact details for the star of the book, SHAKO! himself. SHAKO! has kept a low profile since his 2000AD appearance moving into the area of plumbing due to the "perennial" nature of the work and the reliable income it provides for a family oriented bear like SHAKO!. SHAKO! still retains fond memories of his comics work and remained humble and gracious throughout our encounter. Because encounter SHAKO! I did. In fact, as his van was in the garage, I arranged to meet him around the corner from his house at a caff where we both tucked into a full English courtesy of The Savage Critics’ robust expense account. The following conversation ensued:
JK: SHAKO!’s quite an unusual name for a bear isn't it? SHAKO!: No, not really. Although in the strip it claims “It means simply...KILLER!” or some other such guff. But I'll let you in on a little secret - it’s actually Inuit for Grace Of The Sun’s Soft Fade. Sorry to disillusion everyone there.
JK: Ha! I can see why Mills' went for "...KILLER!" That's more in line with the spirit of the strip. Were you ever bothered by the levels of violence? I mean the audience for this was largely children after all...
SHAKO!: No, no. You can't mollycoddle children. The world is full of things children shouldn't be exposed to but they have a quite unerring radar when it comes to locating them. I mean, sure, it was over the top but it could have been worse. Look, it isn't complicated; do you know the only sure way to stop your kids from finding your jazz mags in the airing cupboard?
JK: Er, no.
SHAKO!: Don't have any jazz mags in your airing cupboard.
SHAKO!: C'mon, who's going to tell the world it can't have its jazz mags? It just doesn't work like that! So inoculating the little blighters was, I guess, the intention behind all that newsprint nastiness. Of course by jazz mags I mean violence. I'm sorry, I had a late call out last night to bleed a pensioner's radiators. I 'm still a bit tired, not as young as I was y'know. I'm no Spring bear! Could we keep it lighter maybe?
JK: Sure. Sure. You were kidding a bit back there weren't you?
SHAKO!: Yeah, heh. Polar bears love deadpan, what can I say?
JK: I thought so, it's just hard to tell with the snout and the fur and all that.
SHAKO!: That does help with the deadpan. Still, I mean the violence in my strip was nothing compared to that in HOOK JAW. That was like, well, I don't know what that was like! It was off the scale. I'm amazed no one ended up in prison over it. He had a real knack for the violence, I'll give him that. And in real life he was such a sweetie!
JK: You mean Pat Mills?
SHAKO!: I meant Hook Jaw actually but I suppose the same might be said for Pat Mills, yes.
JK: You worked together quite recently didn't you? You and Hook Jaw?
SHAKO!: That’s right! We did indeed. It was just a bit of fluff really, stunt casting overseas under nom de plumes. A bit like when Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing would turn up in some Italian fiasco no-one in England would see for decades. Seabear and Grizzlyshark? I don’t think many people saw it but when you get to our age that’s not so important. Your priorities change as you age and it actually gets to the point where it’s just nice to be asked. I mean at my age my cubs have got cubs of their own so they're too busy to bother with boring old me! Something like Seabear? That's just the ticket, you know? A bit of a lark. Peps the old bones up a bit. Hardly high art, of course, but it was nice to stretch the acting chops again and, of course, Hooky was a riot. No airs or graces with that one! Ho! We kept in touch afterwards. Right up until…
(Legal Note: SEABEAR & GRIZZLY SHARK are nothing to do with HOOK JAW or SHAKO! Nor did the creators intend any such inferences to be made. The shark doesn't even have a hook in its jaw. I am just having a spot of fun. Is that still legal? EH!?!)
JK: Yes, I heard you were there when he…went.
JK: It’s alright, we can move on if you like.
SHAKO!: No…no. I think Hooky would want people to know he was at peace at the end. In fact his spirits were quite high if anything. You know they’d just started reprinting his work in STRIP? People were recognising him again. Staff and kids from the other wards would go see him in the Day Room and ask for his autographs. Oh, he was fair basking in it. It was nice timing as well because a couple of days later…he...it was...
JK: It’s okay. I know this must be difficult for you...
SHAKO!: Yes..but, no, actually in a strange way it was kind of comforting. I’m not really sure what happened to tell the truth. It was Tuesday visiting and I was sat next to his bed and I remember I was telling him about this little cameo I’d made in one of those terrible Event things. One of those art by committee things. Dreadful tat but awfully popular with the youngsters. There were like five writers or something ,and they still got which Pole we bears live at totally arse about tit. Bless his cotton socks, Hooky was trying not to laugh because of the pain; the drugs weren't really touching it by this point. And suddenly, suddenly I realise there’s a man in the room. Seems daft but at first I thought it was a bear. Big fellow he was. And hairy? I’ll say he was hairy, alright! It was his eyes though, his eyes that held you. Great sad things they were. Sad but dignified. Like he’d been hated by the world and forgiven it. And this chap, he puts his hand on Hooky’s dorsal, and it’s a big hand festooned with these big rings, and he puts this big hand on Hooky like a feather landing. And all the tension in Hooky’s body just goes and this fellow says, in this burr, this rumble, he says, and I can remember every word still, he says:
“S’alright, Hooky. S’all alright, now. C’mon, me Duck, time to go home. Time to go back where the stories live. It’s just going home, luv. They've all missed you, Hooky. C’mon, son. C’mon now. Gently Bently and off home we go.”
And when he lifted his big ringed hand, well, I could tell from how he was laid that Hooky was gone. Well, I mean, obviously he was still there but…
JK: I understand. It sounds very…odd. It sounds like a very…I guess quite a spiritual moment.
SHAKO!: Oh, it was. Of course then I look and this big hairy fellow’s only gone and put shoe polish on his face and now he's chasing nurses down the corridor while making farting noises with his lips.
SHAKO!: Yes, it did take the shine off of things a bit.
JK: Well, er, that sounds like a good place to finish. I thank you for your time and I wish the book every success.
SHAKO!: Oh no, thank you. And I just have to say it’s not about success it’s just...when you're young it's all about the future isn't it? But then you get on a bit and you realise you aren't going to be in the future but you want to have done your bit.
JK: Entertained people?
SHAKO!: Yes. Yes! Maybe more but that'll do. That's no small thing. It's a bit of a magical thing even.
JK: The magic of stories.
SHAKO!: Yes. The lovely, lovely stories. Y'know, for the young.
JK: Thank you, SHAKO! ________________________________________________________
Postscript: Two days later I rang SHAKO! to see if he wanted to give the transcript a once over. The phone was answered by a man who said only “Shako’s with the stories now, luv.” Before the receiver was replaced softly.
This one was for SHAKO! and all the stories, and all the kids that read them.
This one was for all of the COMICS!!!