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Friday, 14 December 2012

In Review: One-Eyed Jack And The Death of Valiant

Hibernia Books, who have previously published licensed reprints of 1980s IPC strips Doomlord from new Eagle and The 13th Floor from Scream, are back with a factual fanzine about the weekly IPC comic Valiant and its links with 2000AD entitled One-Eyed Jack And The Death of Valiant. Writer David McDonald has created a 36 page magazine with a black and white cover, and black and white and colour interior images about Valiant comic and its Dirty Harry style cop character who foreshadowed Judge Dredd.

Split into five sections, the magazine gives an brief overview of Valiant weekly from its origins in 1962 before focusing on the revamp it was given by writer and editor John Wagner when he was tasked with revitalising the title in 1975. While this revamp gave the Sixties comic a more modern Seventies look, it did not halt the declining sales figures enough to prevent the title being amalgamated into its sibling title Battle Picture Weekly in 1976. David interviews John on the subject of his editorship of Valiant which makes a refreshing change from the more normal interviews with him which inevitably concentrate on his creation and writing of Judge Dredd.

One of the strips introduced in the revamp of Valiant was about Detective Jack McBane, the New York cop known as One-Eyed Jack, written by John Wagner and illustrated by John Cooper. While Wagner took his inspiration from TV series such as The Streets Of San Francisco as much as movies, it was Cooper who based the visuals of the character on Clint Eastwood in Dirty Harry. David focuses on this proto-Dredd character and interviews the now retired John about his art on One-Eyed Jack as well as talking about the rest of his career from Thunderbirds in TV21 in the 1960s to his recent Armitage strip in the Judge Dredd Megazine. John Cooper has rarely been interviewed before so it is a treat to be able to read what he has to say.

The magazine concludes with an interesting piece on the background role of the Art Editor focusing on Jan(et) Shepheard who worked on Valiant, 2000AD, Starlord and Tornado amongst many other IPC titles, with contributions both by herself and former 2000AD staffers, editor Kelvin Gosnell and art editor/artist Kevin O'Neill. While this may sound like the least interesting section of the magazine, covering as it does the work of people who are rarely if ever mentioned, I found this a fascinating read which highlights a side of the comics that readers simply take for granted.

One-Eyed Jack And The Death of Valiant is available as a digital edition but I would think that the majority of readers will be from a background where they want a paper version in their hands and the print version is no let down. Professionally printed on matt paper that is just slightly shorter than A4, this is an impressive publication both from a production, a design and a writing perspective and is the first of a potential series of semi-regular titles covering older UK comics entitled "Comic Archive".

As I said when the title was initially plugged on downthetubes, most of the writers here on DTT come from a factual fanzine (as opposed to a stripzine/small press) background and so we know what it is like to produce this sort of title and how difficult it can be getting interviews and 'new' hard facts that have not previously been discussed to death.

One-Eyed Jack And The Death of Valiant is one of the best factual fanzines that I have read in a long time and I can't recommend it highly enough to both those interested in the general history of British comics as well as those who choose to focus on 2000AD alone.

One-Eyed Jack And The Death of Valiant is available to buy via Comicsy with the printed edition costing £3.99 plus £1.50 postage while the digital version is only £1.50. Copies of the Doomlord reprint magazine are also available.

There are more details of all Hibernia titles on their blog.

2 comments:

John Freeman said...

It's a great publication, and the interviews are fascinating, as Jeremy says. If you're intrigued by British comic creation history, check out the first interview with Scream editor Ian Rimmer, in the first issue of Aiee!, also out now. Details elsewhere on the blog.

Simon said...

Excellent read it would be great if the whole UK Comics story (DCT/IPC et al) from /60s/70s/80s was written from the insiders/editors perspective....

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