Saturday, 12 August 2017

The Saturday List #142 - My Top Ten comic characters


Last weeks list was my top ten books. After I'd compiled the list, it occurred to me that, the list was perhaps a tad misleading. Whilst it is deffo my top ten book list, it doesn't accurately reflect my reading habits. I don't know if it is because I'm dyslexic or some other reason, but I've always been an avid reader of comics. People unfamiliar with the genre, often think "comics are for kids", however I totally disagree. The success of the genre of comic heroes at the box office sees to validate this, although I feel that very few films do the genre justice. As with the book list, this is semi chronological, in as much as they are ordered roughly by when they came into my life, rather than when they came into existence. There are two different medium, comics and newspaper strips, that for me are both equally important, so I've tried to cover the best of both worlds. Of course there are many great ones I couldn't include here.

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Roger The dodger

1. Roger The Dodger. I guess that his cool name was the reason I took to this particular character. I also associated with his love of trying to get out of doing anything, by deploying cunning dodges. Like many cartoon characters, Roger is anarchic, but not malicious. He's a bit of an outsider, unlike the Bash Street gang. I suppose as a dyslexic, this was a persona I could associate with. I thought Roger was the orignal punk rocker. his style was deffo punk!

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Jeff Hawke
2.  Jeff Hawke. Hawke was the star of a comic strip in the Daily Express, and the work of the great Sydney Jordan. Hawke was a British astronaut involved in  dealing with contact with alien races. My parents bought the Express and the Jeff Hawke column fascinated me. Hawke was a complex character and whilst most sci fi and cartoon characters viewed aliens as inherently dangerous or threatening, Hawke tended to view them as interesting and requiring understanding. He tended to take the view that if they had made it to earth, they were probably more intelligent than us. The stories have been reprinted as collections and are well worth a read.

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Judge Dredd
3. Judge Dredd. Dredd is the flagship character of 200AD. He hit the streets in 1977. Set in a future megacity, on the Eastern seaboard of the USA, where democracy has been replaced with a fascistic system of judges, who dispense instant justice. Dredd is the toughest street judge. The strip emerged at the height of punk rock and the society depicted is was in many ways very 1977 punk. Over the 40 years of his existence, Dredd has been amazingly consistent. A brilliant character. The second film (don't mention the first) is IMHO the best depiction of a comic character ever.

4. Selene. Selene's a character in the X-Men series, who first appeared in 1983. I'm not a massive fan of US comics, however, I was working with a friend who set out to re-educate me around that time. Selene was a mysterious and highly dangerous figure. She'd seduce men at singles bar, the bigger and stronger the better and drain their life force, in a  matter of seconds, regarding them simply as food. She was also capable of enslaving them and bending them to her will. I don't think the character developed in a very interesting way (as is the want of US comics), but when she first showed up, she was probably the scariest of all comic creations. Maybe the scariest thing for me is that she looks rather like my missus, therefore she's clearly someone I'd find rather fanciable! (although my missus doesn't usually wonder round in bondage gear with a whip, just to clarify that).

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5. Sláine. Pat Mills Celtic berserker, erstwhile King of Ireland, with his axe Brainbiter. Of all the characters who should have had a film or a TV series, this is the one. A tweet from Mills stated that a producer had turned it down because it was "too like Game of Thrones". What an idiot. Slaine is an outcast, who wanders the emerald isle, forever fighting for the virtue of the earth and the earth Goddess. He has a tragic romance with Naimh and is accompanied by a dwarf called Ukko, who he regularly beats. PC he is not!

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The Fat Slags

6. The Fat slags. A creation of VIZ. Two rather large young ladies living in Nottinghamshire (Fulchester) who's two main interests are eating (usually chips) and casual sex. They made it onto the small screen in a channel 4 animated series and a full length film. A running gag is that the Slags will accuse any men unwilling to sleep with them of being homosexuals and/or having small penises, and many other women of being unattractive and overweight, even when they are quite clearly far prettier and thinner than our heroines themselves. Like many cartoons, the translation from print to film was problematic. What worked really well in print, where it was clear that it was paordying the views of many people as much as the behaviour itself of the characters, becomes very difficult to capture in a film. It's rally rather a shame, because I think the film should have been great.

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Accident man
7. Accident Man. Another Mills creation, from the short lived TOXIC comic. Mike Fallon was a High end hitman, who's speciality was making his hits look like accidents. Another deeply scary character. A new level of complexity was added to his character, when his girflriend, a greepeace activist, was murdered and he went on a mission of revenge. According to wikipedia, the story has been picked up and made into a film. I think that it could be rather good, Mike Fallon as a sort of James Bond gone bad character won't work, but if they pick up the revenge story, it could be a damn fine film. As with all Mills creations there is a whole depth of character there waiting to be fleshed out. Hollywood productions tend to remove all subtlty with the comic genre, I hope that this does not happen here.

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Judge Anderson
8.  Judge Cassandra Anderson. Imagine my joy when I went to China and found that Arthur Ransom, my favourite Judge Anderson illustrator was also on the tour. It would be up there with finding John Lydon was on the trip for me. Ransom had just illustrated the iconic Shambala story. I loved Ransoms artwork and was fascinated when he explained that, unlike a few 2000AD artists, he'd not drawn her as sexy, as she's a Judge. As a psychic, who solves crime using her abilities, shes a very complex character, one who, like Dredd, has seen no dips in the stories she's featured in. Often though provoking. There is a dark side to Anderson, that is occasionally hinted at.

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John The Monkey
9. John The Monkey.I simply had to get a mention of Steve Bell in here. Steve Bell is by far the best British political satire cartoon artist, and I believe that John the Monkey is his greatest creation. A totally amoral character, who started his life in the pursuit of bananas by nefarious means, if my memory serves me correctly, as the sidekick of James Anderton, chief of Manchester Police, in Bells fictional world. Sadly his appearances are few and far between in Bell's Guardian column.

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10. Dilbert. As someone who has worked as an IT consultant at various times, this is a column that I find brilliantly observed. The work of  Scott Adams. There are so many scenarios that Adams  chronicles that mirror things I've seen, that I have started to get paranoid that Adams may actually be stalking me. Dilbert features in both The Daily Mail and The Daily Express and in both is probably the only reason to pick up the papers! It is good to see that there are still brilliant newspaper comic strip writers coming through. It is a fantastic medium and I hope that it survives the huge shock that the digital age has been brought to the printed press business.


And finally....

I simply felt I had to give a mention to Rupert The Bear in the Daily Express. Not because it was one of my favourites, but when my eldest daughter was 2 years old, every day, we'd cut out the Rupert the Bear strip from the Daily  Express, read it and then she'd colour it in and sick it in her scrapbook. It is funny to look at now, as you can see how over the course of six months, her colouring got better and more refined. Sadly, the Express started to print Rupert in colour around that time, so we stopped, but she's now doing a fine art degree, so Rupert The Bear, I salute you!

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Rupert The Bear

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