Last year’s hit Kickstarter The ’77 showed that there was still a demand for old school, retro thrills in an anthology format. The latest release from The 77 Publications is Blazer, the mastermind of Tharg himself Steve MacManus. When MacManus was editor of 2000AD he introduced the wider world to the likes of Alan Moore, Peter Milligan and Grant Morrison as well writing episodes of Strontium Dog, Rogue Trooper and the V.C.s. So how does Blazer measure up?
Publisher: The 77 Publications
Writer: Steve MacManus
Price: £4.95 from GetMyComics
Although he’s best known for his work on 2000AD, MacManus’s roots lie in fondly-remembered weeklies such as Valiant, Battle and Action. Blazer is a loving recreation of the sort of comic that you might have picked up in the newsagents in the mid-seventies on the way home from school, along with a bag of cola cubes, a Texan bar and a packet of Spangles. It’s even cover-dated 1st April 1974 and comes with a free sticker! If this means nothing to you then Blazer might not be what you’re looking for but for lots of readers it’s like going back home.
It’s fair to say that Blazer isn’t breaking the mould but it’s not trying to. The point is to take us back to the days of Hookjaw, Dredger, Roy of the Rovers and Hellman. There are war stories, football stories and policemen riding bicycles There are jokes and pin-ups, letters pages and an advice column from a professional boxer called Tornado Ted! The strips are no longer than 6 pages and, apart from Dominica’s Ring in the centre of the comic, all in glorious black and white. It’s even printed on newsprint.
MacManus writes all of the strips here and despite the differing genres they each bear his unmistakable marks of non-stop action and tongue in cheek humour. Anyone who’s read any of the recent Treasury of British Comics collections published by Rebellion will know what to expect here. We are introduced to Moses Godwin, a Baptist minister with an eyepatch and a machine gun (“Behold the Lord’s burning Fire!”), “Freelance Fixer” John Derringer who takes a job protecting Liberace’s million-dollar diamond (“Run for the chopper now!”) and Texas sheriff Tod Steiger (“You’re a big hat with no cattle, boy”). One strip however is written in such a thick Brummie dialect that some readers might need Noddy Holder on hand to translate.
As with all anthologies there are a range of art styles here, all of which fit the brief of looking as if they could have appeared in a British seventies weekly. Rok the God and Max Normal artist Dan Cornwell does a great job with Godwin’s Law. The art is exciting and kinetic and he manages to sneak in some very contemporary page layouts, including a dramatic splash page, in this retro book. Peter Western’s colour art on supernatural strip Dominica’s Ring is fantastic and could easily pass as a “lost” strip from Misty. Andrew Richmond convincingly captures the seventies feel with The Sheriffs of Nottingham with one married couple featured in the strip bearing more than a passing resemblance to George and Mildred (ask your dad). He also designs a cover that’s just asking for a space spinner to be sellotaped to it.
If you enjoyed last year’s Action and Battle specials then you’ll probably enjoy this latest offering from The ’77 stable. If the future seems too bleak and the present seems like an episode of Black Mirror, you could do a lot worse that step back in time to the swinging Seventies with Blazer.