“This Old FAMILIAR!” COMICS! Sometimes It’s Not Like Going Down The Pond Chasin' Bluegills And Tommycods.

Time for one last blast of comics magic before I shut down for the holidays. Read it or don’t. I wish you all the very merriest of holidays. And I send out a special thanks to Brian “ I have Top Men on it.” Hibbs for continuing to host my nonsense for yet another year. It is appreciated. Thanks also to Abhay for classing the joint up in his own uniquely spectacular way. And thanks most of all to you for, gee, just being you.  Have a very merry one, everyone.  And now Ho-Ho-Ho-HOOKJAW!  photo HJAWFleshB_zpslw2h6vo8.jpg HOOKJAW! By Boyle, Spurrier, Brusco, Steen

Anyway, this…

HOOKJAW #1 Art by Conor Boyle Written by Simon Spurrier Coloured by Giulia Brusco Lettered by Rob Steen HOOKJAW! Created by Ramon Sola & Pat Mills Titan, £2.49 (2016)

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HOOKJAW! is a comic about a giant Great White shark which kills people. No, really that’s it. Oh, it has a hook in its jaw as well. What more do you want, tap dancing? No, you want a giant Great White shark with a hook in its jaw eating people; preferably with lavish quantities of misanthropy and a thundering commitment to grotesque carnage. Not only is that officially the Acme of Entertainment, it’s also what made the original HOOKJAW! so spectacularly timeless in its vileness. Yeah, it’s another old idea with a new coat of paint. Judging by the brief mention of the oil rig in the book this is actually a continuamination of, rather than a reimaginimagineering of, the HOOKJAW! serial first published in the 1970s UK weekly comic ACTION. There’s a text bit in the back of the comic which covers the whole ACTION and HOOKJAW! business, but I personally have already covered all that in my own lovably tedious way HERE, so you can read that if you want. No skin off my nose if you don’t. All you need to know is that the original HOOKJAW! was a tour de force application of blunt force trauma to the skull of narrative sophistication.  Of course nowadays genre comics are all about sophistication. Well, that’s how the writers like to sell it; really, it’s all about aping middle-brow television while stretching the most minimal of ideas across as many pages as possible. A lack of Sound FX, landscape panels and a surfeit of quips does not sophistication make, alas. Back in the ‘70s a five page episode of HOOKJAW! would cover as much ground as this 35 page comic and leave you reeling with nausea and groggy with cynicism. This new 2016 iteration comes a cropper on the rocks of forced sophistication early with a horrifically muddled and unengaging prologue. Seriously, what was that all about and (more pertinently) why did it take up so much space? Sophistication, I imagine. Don’t fret; this isn’t one of those old-man-upset-at-modern-approach-to-beloved-property-from-his-childhood rants. (You want a Star Wars fan for that.) No, in fact this book is pretty good, which makes the paptastic prologue even more egregious. Yeah, Spurrier’s shaping up to be a bit of a neat comic writer; he picked up and ran with Alan Moore’s CROSSED PLUS 100 with nary a stumble and his CRY HAVOC is intelligent and imaginative business. He’s a clever chap, and I’ll give his stuff a go without excess trepidation. Although, he can be a bit too self-consciously youthfully sparky at times, but then to be fair I am a somewhat dour old bastard. After the fart of an opening Spurrier rallies fast and certainly uses the rest of the pages to good effect. Like a good specialty butcher at Christmas Spurrier lays out an assortment of meaty treats for our titular piscine predator.

 photo HJAWGirlsB_zpsx3zmppg9.jpg HOOKJAW! By Boyle, Spurrier, Brusco, Steen

Most clearly positioned to elicit our sympathy is the central group of marine scientists who seek to catalogue, analyse and basically further our understanding of sharks. (HOOKJAW! HOOKFACT: Surprisingly little is known about sharks' mating habits and reproduction cycle, largely because they don’t have The Internet.) Within that group there’s the ‘comical’ Australian lady of advanced years who swears a lot. This old-lady-swearing joke isn’t as funny as Spurrier thinks it is, so she deserves to get eaten. There’s the hippy-dippy nature-is-magical dolphin aficionado who is clearly going to get an object lesson in nature and the redness of its tooth via HOOKJAW! Our actual protagonist is a plucky young woman, and we are supposed to root for her, but she is young and resourceful so I hope HOOKJAW! gets her because I am like that. Even younger is the wee Somalian lad who acts as cook and liaison with the frequent pirate boarders. His joke is actually funny, as he translates what the pirates say (normal, eloquent conversation) into what the scientists want to hear (stereotypical native “lawsy-lawsy!” bullshit), but a hallmark of HOOKJAW! is that it was unafraid to have kids get it, so he should die just on general principle.  This bunch are soon joined by Somali pirates (whose arrival is received with genuinely amusing ennui as it is so frequent as to be routine) who represent the depths indigenous people can sink to in a “failed state” which lacks sufficient sexy petroleum based resources for the West to interfere, but there’s no excuse for armed piracy so they too deserve to be devoured by HOOKJAW! It’s all getting a bit crowded by now, but Spurrier finds room for a group of Navy S.E.A.L.S. representing the cocksure swagger and fatally complacent arrogance of the Western military industrial complex, and who therefore absolutely deserve to be devoured by HOOKJAW! Basically (and thankfully) HOOKJAW! isn’t big on moral grey areas. HOOKJAW! doesn’t care if your Dad didn’t hug you enough, HOOKJAW! is hungry and you are made of meat and in his path! Well, this bunch are, and by the end of the issue the screaming has started.

 photo HJAWCoffeeB_zpska68itoc.jpg HOOKJAW! By Boyle, Spurrier, Brusco, Steen

Conor Boyle’s art is entertaining enough, a kind of embryonic, scrappier Carla Speed McNeil style. Despite being saddled with such a large human cast he manages to make everyone  distinctive and while it shouldn’t be so impressive that a comic artist can draw young people, old people and people who are somewhere inbetween, it is. Whether that’s testament to Boyle’s abilities or a harsh critique of most other artists is a question for a less joyful season. He’s also good at the sea which, it stands to reason, is quiet important. (HOOKJAW! HOOKFACT: Sharks live in sea water.) Boyle also successfully distracts from the bulk of the book being set aboard a single ship, and also being quite talky, with a restless POV. There’s a brief burst of human on human violence which is efficiently staged, but let’s face facts, a book called HOOKJAW! sinks or swims on its sharks. After all, the sharks are the stars of HOOKJAW! Boyle’s sharks are imposing and not a little intimidating, and his art and Spurrier’s script work in tandem to differentiate them, because there’s a bunch of them. Oh yeah, there’s a whole harem of lady sharks before The Big Lad hoves into view. The true mark of Boyle’s success is that when the Big Fella shows up it’s a proper Elvis walking out on stage M*O*M*E*N*T. HOOKJAW! is here and everything else was prologue. Of course, that’s the last page because, modern comics pacing. But still, it works. And that’s the point.

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HOOKJAW! By Boyle, Spurrier, Brusco, Steen

The book’s been well researched and is keen for us to know this via the scientists’ shop talk and, also, a text piece at the back full of Fun Facts about sharks. (HOOKJAW! HOOKFACT: No shark has ever paid money to watch an Adam Sandler film.) Unfortunately, I didn’t have time to read that bit, but it is important that you understand HOOKJAW is not real and should not be taken as representative of the true behaviour or nature of Great White sharks. While I derive a quite unseemly level of pleasure (verging on the sexual. Hurrr!) from seeing HOOKJAW munch on hapless humanity, I am also aware that due to negative media attention the great white shark has become a particularly vulnerable species. While it is probably somewhat less than helpful to the cause of the Great White to have a comic in which a colossal carcharodon carcharias chows down on a bunch of people, it is quite fun. Just remember it’s only a comic, and in the same way that millionaires rarely dress up as bats to combat crime, Great White sharks rarely eat people. And on that somewhat mundane and uncharacteristic note of responsibility I declare HOOKJAW! to be GOOD! And never forget that all your science, philosophy and finer feelings are but comforting mummery in the shadow of the mighty maw of HOOKJAW! Merry Christmas, and don’t have nightmares!

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HOOKJAW! By Boyle, Spurrier, Brusco, Steen

NEXT TIME: It’ll be a new year, so who knows? But it’s most likely going to involve - capybaras COMICS!!!!

"...Is This A Giant Sponge I See before Me?" COMICS! Sometimes There's Plenty of Effing And Jeffing In Them!

So I read a comic featuring a 1980's Brit Comics Icon who is still going strong in the 21st Century. Oh yeah, and Tank Girl's in it. Ho de ho de ho! Sigh.  photo TGCmazeB_zps4213dfed.jpg Anyway, this...

TANK GIRL: CARIOCA Art by Mike McMahon Written by Alan C. Martin Tank Girl created by Jamie Hewlett & Alan Martin Titan Books, £14.99/$19.95 US/$23.95 CAN (2012)

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If you’re in the bag for Tank Girl you’ll like this. Or Mike McMahon. But later for Mike McMahon as I am old fashioned so it’s ladies first! Yes, Tank Girl; the one with a kangaroo for a boyfriend; the one that went on to become a film everyone pretends didn’t happen. Especially Ice-T, I imagine. "Pure self-indulgence" says writer Alan Martin in the introduction in a brave attempt to describe the crazed contents of this volume. The more humdrum description of the contents would be that it collects the 2011/12 mini series featuring the late ‘80s iconic female Brit comics character. Martin’s self-deprecating comment shouldn’t be taken as a demerit. Hasn't Tank Girl always been pure self-indulgence right from the off?

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Now, I have to come clean here, and it’s to my terrible shame this, but; I was never all that bothered about Tank Girl. This was totally my fault for being too old when she arrived circa 1988. Poor planning on the part of my parents there. As it was, her almost totally nonsensically adventures seemed all style and not so hot on the substance. It was quite, quite lovely style though deriving as it did from co-creator Jamie Hewlett’s delicious designs. The stories just failed to set my po-faced world alight seeming to my humourless mind all sassy surface atop very little sense. Luckily, this core emptiness and surface challenge made Tank Girl ideal for co-option by the subculture of the time. Certainly no bad thing as that subculture was both highly inclusive and engaged in active reaction against the Thatcher government, particularly its intolerant and hypocritical Clause 28 (an attempt to curb the promotion of homosexuality. Because that’s the big problem with homosexuality isn’t it? It’s always being forced down your throat.)  So, a bit more impact on the real world than most comical periodical characters and hence belated big props to Tank Girl from my sour faced self.

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And here she is again, same as she ever was. And why the fuck not, cake shanks? That's part of the charm isn't it? The truculent resistance to change; to growth? Here's Tank Girl and she may be knocking on a bit but she's still got a young heart. Still impertinent, still insolent, still vulgar and still living in a world with a veneer of the fantastical but with her bovver boots firmly grounded in the mundane. In Carioca her barely linear adventures are sparked by a TV Game Show Host’s insult. This results in an act of violence which is absurdly out of all proportion, so much so even Tank Girl has a think about calming down a bit. Well, out of all proportion unless you have suffered through Take Me Out.  (Christ, that thing; let's all pack up and go home. The human experiment is over.) Anyhoo, this feint at maturity lasts about as long as it does for a series of bizarre and wholly ridiculous assassins to arrive (i.e. not long) and it all ends in a fist fight with a hugely obese woman who is using children as slave labour to staff her brewery.

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Not only that, no, it all takes place in Tank Girl World where an everyday British City is a few panels travel away from a wild west town which itself is a page away from a steaming jungle and everybody drinks, swears and smokes like kids in a nightclub. The title itself, Carioca, is itself taken from the nightclub where Martin had some good times when younger. (Maybe too many good times. As someone I knew liked to say.) Carioca is about, if it’s about anything (which I’m not sure it is; it's not a requirement), growing up; but not too much. Just a bit; enough that you can still hate everyone who ever slighted you in your formative years but still appreciate your friends. There is also a truly excellent joke about a lemming.

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As you’ve probably gathered Carioca is an entertainingly ungainly thing. A thing at once both banal and bizarre. The successful visualisation of such a guttersnipe requires a very special artist indeed. Luckily Mike can rid that bike, no problems. Stabilisers will not be required. Mike McMahon; yes, the very same pictorial powerhouse we last encountered making Batman comics more visually interesting than they had any right to be. It’s been a few years since that Legends of The Dark Knight work and Mike McMahon's not one for setting his arse to laurels. So, like a good Artist would Mike McMahon’s changed it up a bit in the interim. Here his work is a lot more curved which brings a new dimension of depth. There’s a real roll and sweep to the lines and the world they make and everyone in it. A real sense that there’s a back to the image, although obviously there isn’t. Mike McMahon draws the most ridiculous things and he draws them in a way which accentuates the absurdity, but he draws them so convincingly that they become beautiful in their assurance. McMahon’s also done some absolutely droolsome colour work here. His palette really pops on the glossy paper and there’s a real lustre to even the khaki fatigues and boiler suits. His magnificent use of highlights brings further depth to the images until they don’t look like drawings but windows into another dimension. A dimension of lightly varnished plasticene caricatures both charming and unsettling in equal measure as they engage in their profanity studded comical violence.

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Mostly though, I liked the curves. And with the curves come flow. The eye glides across these pages as though inertia’s been cancelled for the duration. It helps no end that being the perfectionist he is McMahon’s truly egalitarian in the attention he pays to his pages. There isn’t a single image on any of these pages which is dead or just a bridge between something more appealing to the artist. Every panel could be a splash page and every splash page is a beauty. Also, at the risk of sounding like a psychotic I’ve always found McMahon’s art to somehow convince my eye that the actual image its ingesting is bigger that the panel it occupies. I don’t know what the technical term for this is; delusion, probably. Yeah, yeah, whatever, blah di fucking blah, basically Mike McMahon can draw a giant Victoria sponge cake on the back of a lorry and you won't blink twice. Yeah, Tank Girl fans will be in hog Heaven here and the rest of us will be up there with them because, thanks to Mike McMahon, Carioca is VERY GOOD!

Mike McMahon is (and it bears repeating) – COMICS!!!

“Seems I've spent the better part of my life amongst the dead.” PEOPLE! Sometimes They Are Uxorious! (Peter Cushing!)

Sunday 26th May 2013 marks a very special occasion. Yes, 100 years ago on that day Peter Wilton Cushing OBE (26 May 1913 - 11 August 1994) was born.Look, he’s even on a bloody stamp! Happy Centenary, Peter Cushing!

 photo beast_B_zpsf01d570f.jpg The Beast Must Die (Amicus,1974)

Anyway, this… Peter Cushing is/was/will always be  EXCELLENT! And here's how we get to there from here...

Peter Cushing made 90 or so movies (and The Bitch ain't one). That's a lot of movies and sometimes the only reason to watch them is Peter Cushing. Even in the worst of his movies Cushing remains the steely calm at the eye of a storm of camp; the one man taking it all seriously enough to pin your attention to the screen; enhancing rather than undermining what is, in all probability, a load of seedily eerie nonsense. That doesn't mean he couldn't erupt into a frenetic flurry of startling physicality when required, because he could. Even better, not only was he a fine screen actor but he was agreed by all to be a genuinely decent and gentle man. So profound is the consensus on this that you could be forgiven for being permanently tensed to receive some terrible reputation soiling revelation.  As of this writing no news has reached me that Cushing’s home was built from the bones of missing hitchhikers or that he liked to set fire to tramps and laugh, so we’ll adhere to the accepted text of his life.

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Peter Cushing was raised in a comfortably middle class Surrey home where he appears to have wanted for little. His childish exuberance in play seems to have held fast throughout his life and found the perfect home in the adult equivalent of make believe; acting. He did, however, want for support in his desire to act. His father wasn't keen and, sadly, Cushing remained estranged from his elder brother, David, due to Cushing’s career choice until David’s death. When Cushing was 40 his father declared him a failure which was both appalling parenting and a trifle premature as at the age of 44 this failure would headline two of the most successful films in British cinema history;The Curse of Frankenstein (1958) and The Horror of Dracula(1959). (Anyone rolling their cynical eyes at my assertion earlier that Cushing could act, and act well, could do worse than to watch these performances back to back. Sure it's the same man but they are very, very clearly different characters.) 44 is hardly the bloom of youth and so it looks like success came late to Peter Cushing, but he had been quite successful for a while. In 1940 he had even been in the Americas and also in Laurel & Hardy's A Chump at Oxford (1940) amongst other well received movies. Following his return to Blighty (due to a small thing called WW2; he did not serve, he was not fit) he trod the boards and the sound-stages with Laurence Olivier (Hamlet, 1948), starred opposite a bewigged Richard Burton in Alexander The Great (1958)  and appeared in the 1954 BBC adaptation of George Orwell's 1984 ; now widely regarded as Television's first masterpiece. Indeed, the small screen was where Cushing found his biggest success as his cinematic career stubbornly failed to gain traction. Such a common and popular sight was Cushing in the  domestically screened plays of the day that to deny he was successful prior to Hammer would be to have a very narrow definition of success. But there's a kind of success that doesn't put money in the meter and that was the kind Cushing had. Well, until Hammer hit the anvil of success big style with The Curse of Frankenstein.

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After that it was all gravy (vein gravy!!! Sorry.) but it had been a tough road. Luckily Cushing hadn't had to walk it alone. In 1942 Cushing had found emotional support in the form of Helen Beck whom he married on April 10th 1943.  The tenacity and sincerity of Cushing’s love for Helen was such that swans look like slackers in comparison. Together they helped each other through periods of depression and physical illness, eventually enjoying the silliness of cinematic success as they deserved. In 1971 Helen Cushing died. After her death Peter Cushing was different. Oh, he was still Peter Cushing. He was still lovely. Still polite and gracious to all on set. Still able to keep visitors in stitches all afternoon. But he couldn't stand to have anyone interrupt his sight-line when filming now. And now he would be sighted less when not required on set. And, at least once, he would request his wife’s portrait be used when such props were required for his character to react to. And for a while the tears he wept on screen were real. He never got over it but he didn't forget he still had a life to live. So he got on with it. Peter Cushing was a charming English eccentric who always treated every film as though it mattered; he embodied strange notions such as courtesy and civility but was nobody's fool. He died in 1994.

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I like to think I first encountered Peter Cushing’s filmed presence when lax parenting ensured I was, while still a child, allowed to stay up and watch horror movies on Friday nights. But then I like to think all sorts of things. No, it’s far more likely that Cushing’s relaxed command of the screen imprinted on me earlier via his several forays into child oriented fantasy movies. I would certainly have thrilled to his performance as The Doctor in Dr. Who And The Daleks (1965) and Daleks' Invasion Earth: 2150 A.D. (1966) Why, I can only imagine the good natured esteem they are held in by today’s easy going Who fans (AKA “Whosers”). You may be a bit thrown by the dates on those movies after all according to my passport I’m not quite that old. But back then, when we killed our own food, the only other outlet for visual entertainments was the time limited and channel light medium of Television. So, to maximise receipts movies remained in circulation a lot longer; even boomeranging back to more bums on seats some years after their initial release, as in the case of these entertainments. Sometimes, though, I’d catch a movie fresh as tomorrow.

 photo ATEC_B_zps5fc79f48.jpg Peter “This Nation’s Saving Grace” Cushing, Caroline Munro (who could make masonry blush) and Doug “You May Know Me From…” McClure in the Amicus motion picture presentation At The Earth’s Core (1976)

In fact one of the greatest cinematic experiences of my young life was going to “The Picture House” to see At The Earth’s Core (1976). Yes, it was a sheltered life, cheers. In this one Cushing played a primly bumbling professor who reached the earth’s core in a Very Big Drill accompanied by Doug McClure, a man who resembled an affably sybaritic cousin of George Peppard. There they found not only a subterranean race ruled by men in wholly unconvincing monster suits but also a sweaty Caroline Munro; yes, I have heard the sound of a hundred Dads crossing their legs simultaneously.

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I would also have seen Cushing sporting a tinselly wig on TV in Gerry Anderson’s weekly live action exercise in failing to predict the future Space: 1999 circa 1976. From 1969 onwards Cushing had been making sporadic appearances on The Morecambe & Wise show, all of which were part of a long running joke about his seeking payment for his first appearance. This joke ended in 1980, I told you it was long running. And believe you me back then everybody watched Morecambe and Wise, or they got shipped off to Australia. Yes, there is a point beyond the ubiquity of Peter Cushing in The Dream Life of Albion, although I am moving steadily away from it. See,  1976 ,the year of At The Earth's Core's release, would also see the release of another fantastical entertainment for children featuring Peter Cushing. Yes, Peter Cushing witnessed the passing of the baton of escapist children's entertainment from Edgar Rice Burroughs to George Lucas.

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"Far too many men are hobby-less...Without the escapism which comes only from dabbling with adult toys, their minds are prey to all the frustrations and fears of the working day. So many, it seems to me, lose happiness as they grow up. Their entire absorption in their careers and adult responsibilities bring lines of worry and premature old age. It is not silly or childish to have an interest in hobbies..." Peter Cushing in TV Mirror, July 1956 (taken from Peter Cushing; A Life in Film by David Miller, p.74)

He’s talking up the case for hobbies there; toy soldiers in particular. But he could have been talking about comics. He was known to have liked those too. Other than that bit where his mother dressed him like a girl, Peter Cushing was a healthy young British lad, and like all such stout hearted chaps had a healthy interest in comics. Little Peter Cushing is documented as favouring the periodicals Gem and Magnet. I looked them up and they seem a bit fusty and musty in comparison to the comics of even my far gone youth never mind today’s stuff. Cushing’s favourite was the Greyfriars feature written by Charles Hamilton (AKA Frank Richards). Greyfriars was, as you all know, the school in which the famous character Billy Bunter was boarded up. These strips no doubt involved high spirited tuck shop centred larks enabling readers to delight in the gentle rebellion of the characters and their thrillingly close shaves with having their backsides beaten with a stick.  Yes, comics were somewhat more sedate and establishment friendly back then. Basically, these are the kinds of comics Pat Mills has spent his life ensuring never happen again. Given the demands on his finite time by his other hobbies of painting, model soldiers, model building together with his full time jobs of actor, loving husband and being the most decent man in the world, Cushing seem to have let the comics slip away. He did, however, have sufficiently fond memories to later reminisce in print and on Television about these early paper pals. Bless his cotton socks. Had he kept up the habit he would have no doubt have been thrilled to bits to find himself on the comics pages himself. Although it was hardly the Magnet his image graced.

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Today Dez Skinn is chiefly renowned for his role in the whole Miracleman fiasco currently keeping Padraig O’Mealoid out of mischief, but before inadvertently embroiling some of comics finest talents (and Todd McFarlane) in Comics own Bleak House saga Mr. Skinn livened up 1976-84 by publishing House of Hammer/Halls of Horror. This was a B&W magazine focusing primarily on Hammer but also, and increasingly as Hammer slipped from relevance, on the wider area of the Horror genre. Now, given its title and somewhat lurid cover imagery even my comics illiterate parents could tell it wasn’t exactly Buster or Whizzer and Chips so I had to bide my tiny time. Luckily, and this really was terribly fortunate, there was a newsagents in the market who had a near full run HoH that, judging by the static size of the pile until I got stuck in, no one was interested in except little old Cresta drinker me. When I finally read HoH I liked it just fine, but what I liked most were the comic strips. A lot of these (naturally) were Hammer films which was nice; what was nicer was the level of talent was pretty impressive. Brian Lewis always stood out with his highly European layouts although I don’t know what happened to him, but I know what happened to Brian Bolland (Vampire Circus (1972)) and John Bolton (the further adventures of Father Shandor from Dracula: Prince of Darkness (1966)).

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Neither of those movies have Peter Cushing in by the way, but HoH did adapt The Gorgon (1964), Horror of Dracula and Twins of Evil (1971) etc etc so obviously there are plenty of pages of comics in these magazines graced by the cadaverous visage of Peter Cushing.  I can’t provide any scans or, indeed, any particularly original information as, sadly ,I have no physical evidence of my having purchased this magazine due to a hilarious misunderstanding where my parents thought that because I had grown older I had grown up; burning all my comics in my absence. Memories! It doesn't matter though because Dez Skinn his very self  has a whole load of images and words about this very magazine at HERE.  If that doesn't keep you busy I don’t know what will. Oh yeah, and that 1977 children's entertainment? That film. ..sigh, okay Star Wars, STAR WARS okay? Star Wars was adapted into the comics form for Marvel Comics and was drawn, at George Lucas' suggestion, by one Howard Victor Chaykin. I am still cruising on the fumes of the happiness my seven year old mind distilled on opening a Star Wars comic and finding Peter Cushing drawn by Howard Victor Chaykin. And in a risky narrative manouver there's where I'll choose to leave it - with a small child experiencing a magical confluence of all he thought was wonderful in the world; a lot of which he still finds wonder in. I've never really been one for goodbyes; best to go out on a high note. How smashing! How Cushing!

Thanks, Peter Cushing!

Happy Centenary!


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No man, no matter how awesome he be, is born replete with Peter Cushing lore. Consequently, I am indebted to the books below for allowing me to beef up the preceding with something other than whimsical nostalgia. There's some of that, yes, but that's not the fault of these books. And nor are any (inevitable) errors; they’re all mine.

Peter Cushing: A Life In Film By David Miller, Titan Books, h/b £18.99 (2013) This is the one-stop 24 hour all night garage for all your Peter Cushing information needs. Need to know how many guineas Cushing was paid for a role? What kind of fry ups the builders who worked on his house made? ("Wonderful!", seriously). A mammoth effort of research rendered down into a breezyily paced and detail studded chronological chronicle of the man known as Peter Cushing. EXCELLENT! Unless you have no interest in Peter Cushing in which case I’m not really sure why you have read this far. Or if your taste can be trusted.

A History of Horrors: The Rise and Fall of Hammer By Denis Meikle Scarecrow Press, h/b £44.95 (2009) This one is thoroughgoing history of Hammer Studios and so covers all their films with Peter Cushing in as well as the many which lacked his presence. I found this particularly informative about the less familiar, to me, pre-success Hammer period and the studio’s final flailing at various, perhaps thankfully, unrealised projects (Nessie! Vampirella!). Although the price and paper suggest it is some tedious reference affair Meikle makes his subject interesting and even slips in some very good jokes now and again.   Comes with an introduction by Peter Cushing in which he says nice things about, well, everybody, dear hearts. Simply everybody! Simply VERY GOOD!

A Thing of Unspeakable Horror: the History of Hammer Films By Sinclar McKay Aurum Press Ltd, h/b £16.99 (2007) This is another history of Hammer but written with the emphasis firmly on the entertaining. McKay’s frothy approach does mean that it is still enjoyable even if you have already read a history of Hammer, but slack editing lets through a few errors even I could spot. (Yes, Hilary Mantel, I know I have no room to talk.) To McKay’s credit unlike other, cleverer, books he doesn't shy away from the nightmarish horror of the execrable On the Buses movie series. As a casual and light hearted introduction to Hammer it’s GOOD!

Peter Cushing: The Complete Memoirs by Peter Cushing Signum Books, h/b £19.99 (2013) A centennially stimulated repackaging of the  two previous Cushing autobios (An Autobiography, Past Forgetting) with the 1955 memoir The Peter Cushing Story as a single volume. This didn't arrive in time for me to read it but I'm sticking it on the list because it is a primary source for all the other books. I have read the two autobios though, back when I had more hair on my head than up my nose, and recall them being charmingly wobbily canters through the life of the great man himself related in his own endearingly effusive style(!). His memoirs may be surprisingly light on Hammer but are startlingly frank regarding some of the more distressing events in his life. This new edition also has some quite lovely informal photos of Cushing rocking his perennial cravat and slacks look down the ages. It’s the man himself in his own words so it could never be less than EXCELLENT! However, the reader does have to supply their own slippers, biscuits and hot tea.

A Selective Peter Cushing Filmography

 photo CushCarlson_B_zps914395b2.jpg Peter Cushing Suffering For His Art with Veronica Carlson. On the set of Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed (1969)

The Baron Frankenstein Series The Curse of Frankenstein (1956) The Revenge of Frankenstein (1958) The Evil of Frankenstein (1963) Frankenstein Created Woman (1967) Frankenstein Must be Destroyed (1969) Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell (1972)

The Van Helsing Series Horror of Dracula (1957) The Brides of Dracula (1960) Dracula A.D. 1972 (1971) The Satanic Rites of Dracula (1972) Legend of the Seven Golden Vampires (1973)

Portmanteau/Anthology (Basically, Like EC Horror Comics) Films Dr. Terror’s House of Horrors (1964) Torture Garden (1967) The House that Dripped Blood (1970) Tales from the Crypt (1971) Asylum (1972) From Beyond the Grave (1973) The Uncanny (1976)

Miscellaneous The Hound of the Baskervilles (1958) The Mummy (Hammer, 1959) The Gorgon (1964) The Skull (1965) Blood Beast Terror (1967) The Vampire Lovers (1970) Twins of Evil (1971) Horror Express (1971) The Creeping Flesh (1972) Madhouse (1973) The Beast Must Die (1973) The Ghoul (1974) Legend of the Werewolf (1974) House of the Long Shadows (1982)

Children’s Entertainments Night Creatures (1962) She (1964) Dr. Who and the Daleks (1965) Daleks Invasion Earth 2150 A.D. (1966) At the Earth’s Core (1976) Star Wars (1976) Arabian Adventure (1978)