Sunday, September 30, 2018

Riddles by Jesus Gracia Sanchez

by Jesus Gracia
from Zona 84 No. 39, 1987

Jesus Gracia Sanchez was a Spanish artist who contributed a number of short comics to the Spanish magazine Zona 84 during the mid-80s under the pseudonym 'Jesus Gracia'. 

I was not able to find much information about Gracia Sanchez on the internet, but he apparently did not do much illustrative work after his stint in Zona 84.

The few comics he did provide to Zona 84 are striking in their use of an ornate, meticulous line art approach that calls to mind a mixture of the styles of the great Irish illustrator Harry Clarke (1889 - 1931); the greater Art Deco movement; and even classical Greek art.

Posted below is 'Bestiary: Riddles', from a 1987 issue of Zona 84.

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Hombre from Heavy Metal Fall 1987

'Hombre' by Antonio Segura (story) and Jose Ortiz (art)
from Heavy Metal magazine, Fall 1987

Along with their 'Burton and Cyb' comics published in the 80s for the Spanish magazine Zona 84, the team of Antonio Segura and Jose Ortiz also were busy producing a post-apocalyptic story for the Spanish comic magazine Cimoc

Titled 'Hombre' (i.e., 'Man'), these strips were translated into English and published in Heavy Metal during the mid-to-late 80s.

Below I've posted the inaugural episode of 'Man / Hombre' from the Fall 1987 issue of Heavy Metal

Unfortunately, there are major problems with scanning this issue of the magazine due to the combination of underexposed print quality, and mediocre color separations. I've tried to compensate by Brightening my scans, but there is only so much brightening I can do before bleaching the colors too much and spoiling Jose Ortiz's great artwork. 

What can I say ? That's how it was, back in '87............

Sunday, September 23, 2018

Book Review: 'Svaha' by Charles de Lint
3 / 5 Stars

‘Svaha’ (276 pp) was published by Ace Books in January 1989; the cover art is by Joe Burleson.

At the time this book was published, prolific Canadian author de Lint (b. 1951) had established himself as a founder of what would come to be called the ‘Urban Fantasy’ genre.

During the 70s de Lint had written a considerable number of novels, short stories, and poems set in the so-called ‘Cerin Songweaver’ world, but starting in the 80s, he began to write fiction that often was set in modern-day Ontario and detailed the adventures of Canadians who willingly (or unwillingly) transported themselves into the fairy realms that exist alongside ‘our’ reality.

‘Svaha’ was an effort by de Lint to meld his urban fantasy themes with………….cyberpunk ?!  Whether or not you agree with my review of his book, you must agree that he deserves credit for this imaginative pairing.

‘Svaha’ is set in a near-future US where the government has collapsed, and a large tract of the northeast is a wasteland of abandoned buildings pitted by regular downpours of acid rain, and occupied by feral cannibals. 

Trenton, also known as the Megaplex, is the capital of the region; outside its walls lie the ‘squats’, a ring of slums whose population eke out their lives perpetually hoping that some turn of good fortune will permit them to live within the Megaplex. Lording over all these realms are competing factions made up of Japanese yakuza, Chinese tongs, and Japanese corporations.

The American Indians live aloof from this dystopia; through a combination of both hi-tech and mystical fonts of knowledge, they reside in Indians-only Eco-Topias, referred to as Enclaves. Surrounded by impenetrable barriers, the Enclaves preserve and celebrate Indian culture and tend to Mother Earth, while looking upon the tribulations of the Palefaces with indifference……….. and a certain degree of smugness.

As ‘Svaha’ opens an Enclave aircraft has crashed somewhere in the wastelands, and the craft’s computer chip – if it successfully can be decoded – promises to grant the user a complete knowledge of Enclave technology. The tongs, triads, yakuza, corporations, bandits, and raiders of the Megaplex and the squats all are vying to find the chip and make its secrets their own.

The Iroquois Enclave near Toronto has dispatched a warrior named Gahzee Animiki-Waewidum to recover the chip. It’s a one-way mission; Gahzee can never return to the Enclave, but he is dedicated to the cause of the People (as the Indians refer to themselves) and willing to die if need be.

The remainder of ‘Svaha’ details Gahzee’s efforts to traverse the wasteland and its dangers, and finding who holds the chip. So doing will require alliances with the more untrustworthy inhabitants of the squats. But Gazhee is not without formidable resources of his own, for he can access the separate reality known as the Dreamtime, where the gods of Indian myth and legend not only are real, but willing to bestow unique powers upon those they favor………..

I finished ‘Svaha’ thinking that it would have been a better novel had the ‘Injun Mysticism’ component been greatly reduced.

The cyberpunk segments of the novel will be immediately familiar to anyone who has read the early work of Gibson, Sterling, Kadrey, and Shirley: prose that is dense, highly descriptive, and filled with italicized idioms and phrases in Japanese (Nihongo). These segments propel the narrative and culminate in a denouement that stays true to the plot.

But the steady diet of segments devoted to Injun Mysticism are difficult to digest, and tend to sap the narrative of momentum. For example, author de Lint’s desire to lend his novel an authentic ‘Iroquois’ flavor means that within the book’s first few pages, the reader will have to negotiate a lumbering lexicon containing words like these: Mino-dae aeshowishinaug; Kikinowautchi-beedaudae; madjimadzuin; and Tci manaudjimikooyaun n’d’aupinumoon.

Too often the Injun segments come across as a too-earnest effort to pay ideological tribute to the wonder and majesty of the Amerindian Experience, ultimately serving to render the hero Gahzee as a kind of Redskin version of Jesus........?!

The verdict ? I can’t recommend ‘Svaha’ as a title worthy of being included in the cyberpunk canon, but its offbeat nature makes it attractive to those fans of the genre who are willing to plow through the Injun segments in order to get at the underlying cyberpunk goodness.

Saturday, September 22, 2018

Freda Payne, Jayne Kennedy, and Eartha Kitt, 1974

Freda Payne, Jayne Kennedy, and Eartha Kitt
Jet magazine, July 1974

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Soldier of Fortune: A Bump in the Road

Soldier of Fortune
'A Bump in the Road'
by Alfredo Grassi (story) and Enrique Breccia (art)
from Merchants of Death No. 4, November 1988
Eclipse Comics

This was the fourth and final issue of Eclipse Comics' exploration of a magazine-sized format for comics; sadly, Merchants of Death just wasn't getting sufficient readership to justify continuation.

Somehow the 'Soldier of Fortune' byline is missing from this installment of the series, and our 'gringo' hero had somehow regained his missing eye.......... and done away with his distinctive eyepatch. But he's still having to deal with treacherous bandidos...............that's life in the wilds of Bolivia in the early 20th century..........

Monday, September 17, 2018

The Bee Gees, Manchester, 1981

The Bee Gees
Manchester, 1981

L to R: Barry, Robin, and Maurice

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Judge Dredd: The Beast in 24B

Judge Dredd
in 'The Beast in 24B'
from 2000AD Annual 1984
August 1983

Yet another laugh-out-loud take on modern life from the talented Brits at 2000 AD comics............

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Book Review: Taurus Four

Book Review: 'Taurus Four' by Rena Vale

3 / 5 Stars

‘Taurus Four’ (156 pp) was published in January 1970 by the Paperback Library. The cover art likely is by Robert Foster.

Rena Vale (1898 – 1983) published two sci-fi novels for the Paperback Library in 1970, her other novel being ‘The Day After Doomsday’.

‘Taurus’ is set in the year 2270 AD. Dorian Frank, a sociologist by training, has been assigned to do a simple reconnoiter of the eponymous planet when his scout ship crash-lands on the surface, leaving him stranded for several months before an interstellar cruiser can return to pick him up.

Corpulent, fussy, and devoid of much in the way of self-confidence (a consequence of being reared on a regimented Earth dominated by females) Frank is forced to fend for himself in the dangerous terrain of Taurus Four. When he stumbles upon a tribe of hippies eking out an existence in a forested area of the planet, Frank is dumfounded: there aren’t any records of humans living on Taurus Four.

The hippies are led by a Charles Manson-like ‘chief’ named Pete, who – when not chewing stalks of marijuana – enforces his rule by demanding human sacrifices in order to appease a 'God' who dwells in a nearby geological formation.

When Teeda, the beautiful Hippy Chick who dwells in enforced isolation from the tribe, takes a liking to Dorian, complications ensue……because Pete has designs for Teeda, and he won’t hesitate to have Dorian Frank slaughtered if the stranded Earthman steps out of line……………

‘Taurus Four’ clearly uses the Hippy movement, which was of course in full swing at the time of the novel’s publication, as its inspiration. While superficially a standard ‘Stranded Earthman’ adventure tale, the book aims at satirical humor: the hippies are in danger of extinction due to their self-absorbed, ignorant lifestyle, but at the same time, they enjoy a sort of hedonistic freedom that Dorian Frank, as a member of the ‘establishment’, comes to appreciate.

The narrative moves along at a quick pace, aided by author Vale’s use of carefully calculated episodes of surprisingly nasty violence that give ‘Taurus Four’ an edge I was not expecting.

Summing up, while I can’t label ‘Taurus Four’ as a touchstone work of early 70s sci-fi, it certainly has aged better than many of the more heralded novels of its era. If you happen to see it on the shelves of your used bookstore, it is worth picking up.

Sunday, September 9, 2018

Night Eyes from Creepy No. 102

Night Eyes
Story by Bruce Jones
Art by Alfredo Alcala
from Creepy No. 102, October 1978

On the stands in September, 1978, this issue of Creepy features an effective cover illustration by the UK artist Patrick Woodroffe.

Inside is a story by Bruce Jones, with - as always - outstanding artwork by Alfredo Alcala: 'Night Eyes'.