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Friday, 7 December 2012

In Review: The Amazing Mr X - Special Edition

In 2011 the University of Dundee ran a comic art competition as part of the annual Dundee Comics Day to create a new Beano-style comic strip of one or two pages. The competition was won by Steve English's Belle's Magic Mobile which was printed in The Beano in February 2012 as well as in the University's Anthology One publication.

In 2012 the competition was for a three page strip and a cover image based on The Dandy's 1940s superhero The Amazing Mr X. Entrants were allowed to update the character in any form they wanted and the competition was won by Steve Marchant with a tongue-in-cheek take on an elderly Mr X still attempting his heroics. Rather than running the winner and runners up as part of Anthology Two, the University imprint UniVerse have put out a separate title entitled The Amazing Mr X and labelled it as a Special Edition.

Yet despite that description, this is more than just a publication of the competition winners as it reprints original pages from The Dandy as well as including a feature on the background and history of the character.

Dundee Comics Day organiser, and director of the Scottish Centre For Comics Studies, Dr Chris Murray writes about the background to Mr X in The Dandy where he first appeared in issue 272 in 1944 as what Chris describes as "Britain's first home-grown superhero". While the superhero grew to dominate the American comics scene, Britain never really  succumbed to the idea with most superhero characters that appeared in British comics over the years being reprints of American stories or British stories using US characters. Indeed The Amazing Mr X only lasted 14 issues (plus a single appearance in the 1962 Dandy annual courtesy of Dudley D Watkins) and Chris postulates why the character failed to gain a following with The Dandy's readership. The book reprints 3 of those 14 stories which were in the 'picture and paragraph' format that we now tend to associate with Rupert Bear. These are certainly interesting as an historical document but seventy years after they were originally published they are now more of a curiosity piece than actually being entertaining.
The book then goes on to publish the strip by the Dundee Comics Prize winner, Steve Marchant, which Chris says "undercuts the tome of the usual superhero story with a playful satire on the mythology of the superhero". Personally I prefer the Darren O'Toole written and A Kaviraj illustrated runner-up strip (above) which sets the scene for a potential ongoing series that the actual winner did not, while the other runner-up, Gavin Boyle, presents an amusing Scottish themed tongue-in-cheek version of the character. A further 11 stories from the competition cover a multitude of styles and ideas, some rather more interesting than others, giving a total of 14 new strips with the character, echoing the original number of 1940s episodes. 

The Amazing Mr X: Special Edition is not at all what I was expecting to see from UniVerse given their previous two Anthology titles. A very well produced, 76 page US comic sized book, it will be of interest to devoted Dandy fans as well as no doubt proving to be something of a curiosity to students of old British comics. 

The Amazing Mr X: Special Edition has a cover price of £8 and is available, as the other UniVerse titles are, by sending an e-mail requesting details to -


MaGnUs said...

Thanks for the review... I lettered the O'Toole/Kaviraj story, lettered another, and wrote and lettered yet another story in the book. It's a great pleasure to be part of it.

Sean Michael Wilson said...

This is the first review of the book i think - cheers for that. My own contribution to it, with Carl Thompson, is 'A History of Mr X'. Its one of my favourite strips of my own so far, playfully managing to mix in Borges, Moore influences with references to Hitler, the atomic bomb and Rene Descartes. I enjoyed it more than my last visit to the dentist.

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