Friday, June 14, 2024

Comic Cuts — 14 June 2024

I'm trying to juggle two projects at the moment but ran into a slight problem with one that I'm working on for another researcher/collector. What was meant to be a little help with printing ran into the buffers, just as I thought I had everything organized to print off a handful of books in order to spread the cost of postage (mentioned in last week's column).

So I'm back onto the other book which is tantalizingly close to being finished. Three introductory features written, of which two are designed, plus the artwork pages are all in place with just the page numbers to sort out. One of the sticking points was the title of the third feature and I woke up this (Thursday) morning and thought: "Pastmaster".  The perfect title. Amazing how the mind works.

I should have it finished by the end of the weekend: there's some PDF proofing to do before it goes to the printers to get a printed proof. Believe it or not, given the occasional typo that creeps in, I do try to keep errors out of my books. Sometimes I'm responsible for perpetuating mistakes, despite doing my best to double-check everything (this is why I'm so darn slow these days). Spelling is my curse and spell-checkers are only so good; worse, I'm a constant tinkerer, and shift things around as I write, so an explanation can sometimes end up appearing long after the thing that needs explaining. You hope to pick these things up when you read through, but the occasional brain glitch means that you see what you meant to write rather than what you've actually written.

I'm also prone to rambling off the topic.

The new book, HIGH SEAS AND HIGH ADVENTURES, features three stories drawn by Jesus Blasco, who has been my favourite artist since childhood. My first experience of Blasco was an episode of 'The Steel Claw' from 1968, but the artist had changed by the time I began buying Valiant regularly in the Boulderman era of the strip in late 1969. Blasco drew the last of the original run of the Claw strip, a little 3-parter, in May 1970 before switching over to 'Slave of the Screamer', which was the first full-length strip drawn by Blasco that I experienced. (Worth noting that it will shortly be released by Hibernia with an introduction by yours truly.)

Fans of Valiant from that time will remember the horror... not just of the strip but the fact that industrial action took the comic off the shelves for almost three months between November 1970 and February 1971. A number of strips, including 'Screamer' were wrapped up rather too quickly.

However, it did mean that Blasco went on to draw one of my favourite strips of all time: 'The Return of the Claw'. This had the right mix of science fiction and nightmare that (I guess) the nine-year-old me wanted. It was during this period (1971-73) that the infamous incident of the forgotten dog occurred, where, between the counter and the door of the newsagent, I was already so engrossed in the latest episode that I had walked half-way home before a passing neighbour asked about our dog, and I realised he was still tied to a post outside the newsagent.

My next Blasco sighting would have been probably in Action and 2000 AD before he headed off into the sunset as far as British comics were concerned. During that period he had a sideline in nursery comics (in fact, had drawn fairy tale stories for the UK as early as 1957); it was only when I started collecting comics and seeing the collections of friends that I became aware of all the westerns he had drawn in the 1950s, and  1960s adventure strips like Val Venture, Danger Man (based on the TV series) and The Indestructible Man.

Every time I found something new, it just reaffirmed my belief that Blasco – and one must include his family, who all worked together – was the finest comic strip artist ever. And shortly there's going to be a collection of three of of his strips, although I suspect that next week's column will begin with "I'm still waiting on proofs." See you back here in a week to see whether Mystic Steve has the power of prediction or his printers have pulled out all the stops just to prove him wrong.


  1. Hi Steve, did you use the scans from 'Montezuma's Daughter' you already made way back in 2010 for the H. Rider Haggard book? Best, John

  2. Yes, I'm using my own scans throughout. The strip was reprinted back in 2010 in a limited edition book now long out of print.



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