Tag Archives: Mike Dorey

Rebellion Specials 2020 – Part 5: The John Steel Files/ Sexton Blake/ Misty Winter Special

First off I want to praise the Rebellion customer service. I recently moved house and when these comics didn’t appear even though I had updated my address, I contacted them. They got back to me quickly and very generously sent me new copies. I have bought many books through there website and the service they provide is equal to quality of the books they produce.

To the books themselves, first we have Thriller Picture Library – The John Steel Files which reprints two John Steel Case-books that appeared in the 1960s, both stories drawn by Luis Bermejo, the writer is unknown. This is the first special to not feature new stories, with such a back catalogue, I think as long as we are also getting specials with new content, having some of these reprint specials is probably more cost efficient than having all reprints collected in hardbacks/tpbs. This is bigger than what the normal picture library format would be and seems a thick book, but with mostly 2 panels per page it isn’t dense. The stories have also been coloured by Pippa Bowland, while I don’t have the original B&W to compare to, the colouring compliments the story, using more muted colours that doesn’t distract from the art. The cover is very stylish by VV Glass and quite different from the story they draw in Misty Special (discussed further on).

The two stories are Bullets in the Sun (reprinted from Thriller Picture Library #371) and Play it Cool (reprinted from Thriller Picture Library #379). This is another book that I can appreciate on objective level but didn’t engage me as much as other specials. In the first story John Steel, private detective, comes to aid of an old WWII comrade, Paul Wallace, when his son is kidnapped. Wallace is about to testify about an international conspiracy and it is up to Steel to find out who is behind the kidnapping and blackmail. In Play it Cool Steel again is looking for someones son, this time a university student who has gone missing in France. But how does the missing son, tie in with some random murders and blackmail? I liked this story better, perhaps because there was a bit more mystery to it.

The next special also features a private detective in The Return of Sexton Blake and this classic character intrigued me much more than John Steel did. This special is interesting as it focuses on the history of character as well as stories themselves. We get such articles as the publishing history of Sexton Blake, the people who drew the character, the redesign for the book collections and how Sexton Blake and Victor Drago are the same character.  In 1979, Victor Drago appeared in Tornado and was written as a Sexton Blake story, but a last minute rights issue, meant a change in the character’s name. In this special, the first 7-part Drago story is reprinted now with the Blake name restored. The story Terror of Troll Island! (by Bill Henry and Mike Dorey) is a classic detective story akin to Sherlock Holmes or Agatha Christie, where Blake and his assistant Tinker investigate a series of murders at an eccentric writer’s isolated home.

A new story The Death & Life of Sexton Blake, (by George Mann and Jimmy Broxton) sees Blake pitted against one of his foes The Chessman, who seemingly defeats Blake. The final complete story we get is another reprint this time a text story Lady Molly’s First Case, (by E. Sempill) which sees Blake team up with Lady Molly to catch a jewel thief.  In this story Lady Molly very much takes the lead, a very impressive story and despite it first been printed in 1908, it reads as if it could have been written today. There is one more text story The Case of the Seventh Key, (by W.W. Sayer) but this is more of a teaser as we only get the first two chapters and get the conclusion of the story, readers will have to get the Sexton Blake Library Book 3: Allies. It is an effective bit of marketing. I must say this is the special I was most pleasantly surprised with as I had little knowledge going in and no big expectations. With interesting stories and it’s historical context explained this special was engaging and for a character that has bee around since 1893 he still stands the test of time.

Finally we have the Misty Winter Special, in it two stories Infection and Home for Christmas. Like the Tammy & Jinty special limiting the stories has the benefit of really developing these spooky tales. Home for Christmas (Writer: Lizzie Boyle, Artist: David Roach) is the shorter story at 12 pages. Martha is babysitting 2 kids on Christmas Eve, when their parents can’t make it back due to fallen tree, she has to stay the night and then strange things began to happen. I felt the pacing could have been better in places of this story, and that some of the characters actions seemed odd. Like going outside in the rain at night with the kids you are babysitting, if this was meant to be ghosts already having influence its not clear, but seems to be more contrivance to get the plot to the next point. During their excursion outside to try and get a phone signal, the phone drops down a well, then later Martha gets photos sent to her from inside the well. Here’s where the story gets better as what follows is some very creepy stuff and Roach’s art is perfect throughout, particularly the faceless ghost children are haunting.

Infection (by V.V. Glass and Anna Savory) is the stronger of the 2 stories but also has the advantage of more pages and a slow build up. Charlotte is a new scholarship girl at a prestigious boarding school, she feels she doesn’t fit in and narrates her thoughts through her journal, that all students have to keep as a class assignment. At first the other girls make fun of her because she doesn’t know the rules of the school, but then the girls rules get more bizarre and Char thinks they are just trying to mess with her. But the girls are getting more agitated and Char realizes there’s more going on and she tries to figure out what is causing it. She puts forward many theories and all the time the fearful threat hangs over the school. There are many graphic descriptions of things we don’t see, leaving a lot to our own imagination but this is effectively done. It is very atmospheric and in true Misty style ends on an ominous note.

And here we are at the end of 2020, while a few in this year’s special bundles weren’t to my taste, it was money worth spent, as well as a solid return of favourites (Misty, Tammy &Jinty, Cor!Buster) I also found comics that I may not have bought individually but would have been missing out on (Smash! The Return of Sexton Blake). As always I continue to look forward to what Rebellion will bring next year.

 

Gameplay / Gameplay Level 2

Plot

Margie Johnson discovers that her sister Katie’s computer has become infected by an evil computer game called Irma. Irma starts to control Katie and then attack Margie.

Irma returns in Gameplay Level 2.  The evil computer game, ‘Irma’, had been bought by Alison Swann, a pupil at the local school. Alison discovered that Irma had to be played for real and reached the first level of the game by getting Irma on to the big television screen at the second-year disco, so that it could influence the children. But Margie Johnson, who had tangled with Irma before, managed to switch it off. Now Irma wanted Margie kept out of the hockey practice and Alison had shut her in the computer room — with Irma!

Gameplay.jpg
(Gamplay – Art: Oliver Passingham)

gamplay2
(Gameplay Level 2 – Art: Mike Dorey)

 Notes

  • Artist: Oliver Passingham (Gameplay)
  • Artist: Mike Dorey (Gameplay  Level 2)

 Appeared

  • Gameplay – M&J:  #97 (20 March 1993) – #106 (22 May 1993)
  • Gameplay Level 2 – M&J:  #168 (30 July 1994) – #176 (24 September 1994)

Skeleton Corner

  • Skeleton Corner – Judy: #1632 (20 April 1991) – #1635 (11 May 1991)
  • Skeleton Corner –  M&J: #11 (27 July 1991) – #41 (22 February 1992)
  • Skeleton Corner  – M&J:  #48 (11 April 1992) – #194 (28 Jan. 1995) [not in every issue]
  • Artist: Oliver Passingham (Judy: 1632-1635, M&J: 11-41, 48, 50, 52, 61-63, 65-66, 69, 72, 77, 91-92, 98) Mike Dorey (M&J)
  • Artist 2:  Unknown (M&J: 129-141, 143, 150, 163, 171, 173, 191-194)

Plot

There wasn’t an ongoing plot, instead a skeleton, named Bones, introduces short scary stories, sometimes with a moral attached. It was usually 2 to 3 pages long. The stories varied from greedy girls getting what they deserved to innocent people being hassled by gremlins! A few stories focused on Bones and also had him interact with characters and influence outcomes.

Thoughts

As it is nearly Halloween time I thought this would be appropriate to write about. Comics like Misty and Jinty were better known for their spooky stories, but there was still room for these kind of stories in other comics too.  Skeleton Corner  was a bit of a softer approach, to the IPC comics but there were still some gems of stories featured. The storytelling skeleton, Bones, while he may appear scary he didn’t have a creepy personality, he was presented as a more as a friendly person who just happened to be a skeleton. He did set the tone well for the stories, as being a supernatural character that was possibly creepy but not overly disturbing!

The art was done be  a few different artists, though one that popped up a lot was Oliver Passingham:

I particularly like this, where a girl is unknowingly talking  to a poltergeist, the poltergeist looks very pretty with some other-world qualities as well. The supernatural being wasn’t seen always depicted as a scary, hideous character.

The stories themselves varied and of course being short stories they were sometimes they were limited with the space to work with. Often the stories had a girl who was greedy, selfish or ignored the rules getting a fitting punishment. Other times the main character could be a nice person, who just had the bad luck to move into the wrong house or meet the wrong person.

Here’s a selection of some of the stories:

Aladdin’s Cave Story (M&J: #108)

Jo Johnson and her friend Emma are stuck waiting at a bus stop, so the begin playing a prize giving arcade game called Aladdin’s Cave. They win a brooch at first and are surprised when their money is also returned. They continue doing this for a while, but Emma begins to get nervous she worries that something is wrong that the goods might be stolen and that something’s not right with the game and leaves. Jo continues but then the machine starts to shake and all the prizes help form an unfriendly genie

           

The Gate Story (M&J:  #140)

Sally Townsand is a late comer to her new boarding school, so she is given a single room that isn’t normally used. Sally doesn’t like an old faded picture of gates hanging up and is going to take it down, but the housekeeper insists it must always stay there.

Sally takes it down later anyway, she notices a crack in the wall but figures her poster can hide it just as well. That night she is woken up by knocking and tearing noises coming from the wall. Bits of plaster start to fall off. She runs to get the housekeeper who place the picture back up and tells her as long as its there nothing can get through. Bones ends the story by explaining that gates are used to keep things in as well as out.

     

Disappear Story (issue:141)

Rachel Gunn and her family move into a new house, they are quite happy and she settles in quickly at her new school. Her younger brother tells her how the previous family disappeared  Soon after Gary starts disappearing and reappearing.

Rachel thinks its Gary playing tricks on her, until it happens with her parents as well. She wakes up one morning and there is no trace of her family, though the car is still in the driveway. Feeling scared she rings the police. The police arrive but there is no sign of Rachel and they discuss how its strange that the same thing happened to the previous family, but its not like people vanish into thin air! This has a nice bit of a build up for a short story and it’s made even creepier when these things are left unexplained.

There was of course many stories in its long run, others I liked included;  a girl goes to a party at the department store she works at, only to discover that she was with mannequins all night. Another has a girl being turned into a tree. There were some spooky and interesting stories,  though like I said they were quite constrained with fitting the story into 2/3 pages, familiar twists appeared such as a person talking to a ghost while thinking another person is really the ghost. Sometimes the ending is left ambiguous with Bones only hinting at what may have happened.The art was done be a few different artists, but whoever was on drawing duties always did a good job. It was not a new concept to have a spooky storyteller telling stories, The Man in Black (Diana), Damian Darke (Spellbound) and Gipsy Rose (Jinty) all scared readers and taught them lessons weekly. Skeleton Corner continues this tradition and was successful in continuing to have an enjoyable run of stories.

The next page has a list of stories that appeared.