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Friday, 25 March 2011

In Review: Hurricane and Champion: the Companion Papers to Valiant

The Book: Top British comics archivist Steve Holland has re-launched his Bear Alley Books imprint with Hurricane and Champion: The Companion Papers to Valiant an all-new index to two classic British comics detailing the histories of both papers and reveals - some for the first time - the names of many of the creators behind the classic comic strips that filled their pages.

Heavily illustrated throughout, Hurricane and Champion also includes title and creator indexes covering both papers, a gallery of annual covers and has a full-colour cover scanned from original artwork.

The Review: Fans of British comics will enjoy this 48-page guide to a pair of 1960s titles that spawned some of this country's most memorable characters, including motor racing ace Skid Solo and the gloriously daft superhero The Phantom Viking.

Hurricane Issue 1. Cover star 'Typhoon
Tracy' echoed the format of Valiant's
popular 'Captain Hurricane'
In his introduction, Steve Holland describes how Hurricane (published in 1964-65) went through four phases during its lifetime before being merged with Tiger, and reveals the many problems faced by Champion (1966) during its brief 15-issue run.

It's a fascinating tale for those of us who might vaguely recall these titles, which were largely overshadowed by more successful comics such as Lion, Valiant and TV Century 21. Steve documents the development of both comics, aided in this by recollections of surviving contributors such as former Champion editor Gil Page.

It's no easy feat to produce these accounts and Steve deserves praise for his hard work. The many changes of ownership that befell the Amalgamated Press titles, many finally coming to rest at Egmont (who now own almost every character first published by Fleetway Editions after 1st January 1970), means any documentation listing contributors and sales figures is scant. With the help of numerous fellow enthusiasts, including downthetubes own Jeremy Briggs, Steve has nevertheless assembled a fascinating account of both titles, detailing their many much-lauded artists, including Marion Capaldi (drawing the popular strip 'Typhoon Tracy' for Hurricane) Eric Bradbury (drawing the bonkers tale featuring revived Nazis in a world without armies, 'Return of the Stormtroopers'' in Champion), Joe Colquhoun ('Hurry of the Hammers' and 'Danger Island' in Hurricane) and Graham Coton ('The Phantom Viking' for Champion).

Intriguing titbits along the way include learning that despite its many SF strips such as 'School for Spacemen' (drawn by Mike Western) and 'When the Sky Turned Green' (drawn by Carlos Cruz and Mario Capaldi), Champion was never intended as a science fiction title - but its lack of success impacted on any attempts to create another SF comic until the success of Star Wars and the creation of 2000AD, over 10 years later.

It's also interesting to see just how much European material was reprinted in these titles, including humour strips such as Belgium's 'Lucky Luke' as 'Boy Kidd' in Champion and 'Michel Vaillant' as the 'Knights of Konigsfeld'. There are no US superheroes striding the pages of these titles.

Champion cover star 'Jet Jordan' reprinted
'Dan Cooper' from Belgium's Tintin magazine
If I have one criticism of this title, it's the layout of its index pages. For me, I think these would have been better presented in a two-column format and while the main section outlines most strip's content, I'd have liked a little more information on stories and maybe some synopses. A little more about each creator in the 'Creators Index' would also have been welcomed, although of course it's likely that many will have had their careers detailed on Steve's superlative Bear Alley blog.

But for anyone intrigued by British comics history this is a handy reference guide to two little known titles, crammed with some choice strip samples and entertaining information about the many strips and creators involved. A welcome addition to Steve's extensive cataloguing of our unsung comics past.

• Hurricane and Champion is published in A4 saddle-stitch format, 48 pages black and white with a full colour cover by Allesandro Biffignandi. For ordering information, visit the Bear Alley Books site: http://bearalleybooks.blogspot.com/2011/02/hurricane-and-champion-index.html

• Comics UK has a handy 'Family Tree' and examples of the covers of both titles: http://comicsuk.co.uk/

Hurricane and Champion are © IPC Media

1 comment:

Jeremy Briggs said...

These type of comics companions are often thought of as being books with pages upon pages of factual lists prefaced with a short introductary article. I think that it is worth adding here that Steve's feature article in this Hurricane and Champion book takes up 25 of its 48 pages and it, like the rest of the book, is heavily illustrated. The book is well worth the money.

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