So, here we are in Mid-December once again – doesn’t time fly?
As the nights draw in, what are the books you should be buying for your loved ones this Christmas? More to the point, which books should you be dropping heavy hints that your loved ones should buy for you? This is why I’m so late with this by the way – for once it wasn’t pressures of work, it was the sheer volume of comics I needed to read. It was a nice problem to have.
Well, as you might imagine, I’d be directing the discerning reader towards the rather lovely phonebook style collections of classic 2000AD material. They’re all lovely of course (I have a shelf full, and they look magnificent even before you open them!) but there’s one in particular that delighted me beyond all reason when it dropped through my letter-box, and which I think deserves a bit of space on the bookshelf of any comics fan.
The Complete Ro-Busters is a huge slab of vintage comicy goodness that brings together pretty much every Ro-Busters strip ever published.
Clearly, at this point my readership has split into two camps. One camp is positively salivating at the idea of re-reading one of the finest science fiction romps ever to grace the pages of a comic. The other camp is thinking “The Complete what?
If you’re in the second group, I almost envy you – you can drop a few well judged hints, get this book at the bottom of your stocking and spend the rest of the festivities ignoring everybody while you sink into the story of Hammerstein, Ro-Jaws, Mek Quake and the rest of the Ro-Busters team.
Originating in Tooth’s late, lamented sister comic Starlord*, Ro-Busters was a sort of suicidal International Rescue team that could undertake the most dangerous, most impossible rescue missions because its robotic team members were considered dispensable and it didn’t matter if they were destroyed in the process.
Led by the noble but straight-laced ex-wardroid Hammerstein, the team was a motley collection of maladjusted mechanical misfits, including the mouthy sewer robot Ro-Jaws and the intellectually challenged demolition droid Mek-Quake. Their money grubbing boss, the Machiavellian “Mr 10%”** would send them anywhere, to do anything, so long as there was a profit in it.
It’s easy to take a superficial view of Ro-Busters***, but like so many of the comics that came out of the imagination of Pat Mills**** there is real depth to these stories. Mills has always been a political writer, and there’s more than a little subversion in these stories. The whole book is full of satire and subversion – and the clarity of Mills’ ideas means that even now, almost thirty years later (and yes, as somebody who remembers sneaking off with his cousin’s Starlord comics to read these stories when they were first published I find that figure more than a little disturbing) some of the politics in here is as relevant now as it was to the late seventies and early eighties.
Really, this book has everything. It’s serious, it’s funny, and it’s one hell of a romp. It was also the platform from which the insanely brilliant A.B.C. Warriros was launched. I can’t believe how much I enjoyed getting back to these early stories, and I’m pretty sure you’ll love them just as much should you have the good fortune to find this book in your stocking.
Less of a book, but certainly a fine present for the younger comics reader in your life would be The DFC Amazon Gift Pack – another example of this remarkable British comic doing something remarkable and innovative with distribution.
Basically, you’re looking at four issues (a month’s worth) of The DFC for twelve quid. That’s a pretty good deal, and while I expressed some reservations about this publication when it launched, I have to say that I’m really rather liking the cut of its jib these days. There are far too few comics aiming at intelligent kids (because on the British news stand, once you get past the comics for pre-schoolers, everything is essentially based around cheap toy giveaways until you get to 2000AD – which is increasingly aimed at twenty-somethings) and the DFC has clearly decided to disassociate itself from that market altogether*****.
The DFC really is a cut above the regular news-stand fayre, featuring as it does work by such innovative creators as Emma Viccelli, Tony Lee and the Etherington Brothers*******, to say nothing of clever Kid’s Lit demi-god Phillip Pullman, there is plenty for readers to get their critical teeth into. It’s nice to have a comic for kids that doesn’t insult their intelligence, and if you have a kid in your life, be they a son, daughter, nephew, niece, godchild or whatever, you should get them this. If you don’t, well, get one for yourself and give The DFC a try – it’s a fun read for grown-ups too!
There’s more to come, but I’ve kept you waiting long enough so I’m posting these two humble recommendations now. Expect more updates shortly!
*Also the original home of that other ‘Tooth stalwart Johnny Alpha, the Strontium Dog.
**So called because only 10% of him – his brain – was human.
***Not that any of you ever would be superficial about anything. Besides, Mills turns out to have been a bit of a prophet, according to this article in New Scientist. Funny how things turn out, innit?
****Early Mills at any rate. I rather take the view that his more recent stuff has been, how shall I put this? “Unreadable shite” would just about cover it, but doesn’t quite convey the true crapulous nature of so much of his recent drivel. Early Mills though, is nothing short of genius. However much I dislike the stuff he’s written over the last few years, it should never be forgotten that he created ‘Tooth, and had a hand in some of the greatest strips to come out of the seventies and eighties. I live in genuine hope that at some point the great man will return to form.
*****The DFC has flirted with the news stand only once, when it published an exclusive special edition for the Super-Supermarket chain Tesco******.
******Note to non-Brits. Tesco is without question our largest store chain. A couple of years ago it was calculated that one eighth of allthe money spent in the UK was spent in a Tesco store. If anything I’d guess that the proportion is now even larger, so getting their comic in there, however briefly can only have been a smart move in terms of profile.
*******All of whom are, as regular readers will know, very highly regarded here at FoolCentral.