Sunday, April 24, 2011

Air Ace Picture Library 298 Superfort Strike

The retrospectoscope of political correctness is not kind to Superfort Strike. This is the type of pocket war comic that detractors love to cite and nostalgia romantics choose to ignore.
I know the Japanese are the bad guys in these things but when the 'narrator' of the story portrays the enemy in an outwardly racist manner it's time to take a time out. There's also a strange cultural cringe happening in this story as well. Even though this is clearly a story about Americans in American planes over the Pacific - the Fleetway editors no doubt felt the need to reassure their readers that Americans are really like the British and that the British also had a role to play in the Pacific.
Superfort Strike reads like a story that didn't have these elements to start off with and it feels like an over enthusiastic and clumsy editor got to the story and had to insert these facts just in case a story only about Americans would confuse a young reader.
There's some great detail in the drawings, however I can't help but feeling that the artist preferred drawing objects instead of people.
The story is quite good - even though our modern sensibilities are distracted by the talk of 'yellow hoards' and 'yeoman stock from Kentucky'. Lieutenant Slim Allister is pilot who doesn't understand the full gravity of the war and he is given a harsh reality check when he is forced to lie, on orders, to his crew about the true intent of their missions. He suffers unspeakable anguish as he watches the trust of his men melt away. Needles to say that of course everything works out in the end.
There's much good in Superfort Strike - it's just sad that the distractions have not stood the test of time. 

It's not good when the narration is hopelessly racist.

A floppy fringe means you're a good guy.

Americans are just really British with funny accents.

Better than the cover art.

Nice frame.

Oh dear - what a mess.

Kuh! Kuh? Almost sounds like an unfinished word.

Those Asian minds! What will they think of next?

What has he got to be upset over? He's getting what he wants, isn't he?

That's gotta hurt.

It's not good when the narration is racist.

The British did their part! And don't you forget it!

All sounds a bit familiar...

A bit uncalled for...

Love the detail in this frame.

Not the bloodiest - maybe perhaps the 4th or even the 5th bloodiest - but no sir-ree Bob was it the bloodiest.

Ha ha ha...Now we can all get some sleep.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Air Ace Picture Library 349 Duel Over Malta

Why does Battler Britton brings out the best and worst in pocket war comics?

First the best. Duel Over Malta is really well drawn. This is one of those stories where the sky is full of aircraft. There are Stukas, Hamdens, Blenheims, Spitfires, Junker 88s, Me 109s, Beaufighters, Macchi 202s and Junkers 52 Trimotors. With all those aircraft there's plenty of action. Even the storyline itself is reasonable. Set during the siege of Malta the scene is set for Battler to blast some Jerries out of the sky. Battler and his squadron are assigned to fly in badly needed Spitfires and pilots to defend the embattled island. From the moment they take off from the pitching aircraft carrier to the landing on the bomb crater pocketed airfield Battler is in the thick of it. The moment he lands his aircraft it is immediately seconded by the local fighter hero, Squadron Leader Naylor, who uses the Spitfire for its designed purpose.

A cooperative and friendly rivalry develops between Naylor and Britton as they maintain the good fight against almost overwhelming odds.

So what's the worst? Battler has to go on and do something that's impossible. To most this might appear to be his most enduring quality - but not only does he bend and stretch the very laws of physics his actions are somewhat gratuitous to the plot, robbing an otherwise good story of some extra panels and pages.

There's a point in this story where everything seems to be going OK and then Battler has to pull the "Hang on - while I save the war moment". Again an endearing quality to some but not to me.

Another game of Risk in progress. While the man at the desk is clearly a German and the two guys before him are tram conductors - why does the guy in the background look British?

Rarely mentioned or pictured in pocket war comics here is a unique appearance of these two famous degenerates.

Now that does sound like trouble!

Battler looks a lot like Mr Bean.

Excellent! By that rate we should all be dead in a week and half.

Now that's an understatement.

Good mini Aagh! from the Ace of Spades.
What is wrong with these people? They manage to speak English most of the other times.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Air Ace Picture Library 267 Fatal Flight

 This is a big story, with big planes, big action, big talk, big egos, big mistakes and a big apology. It also follows with all that "big" flying around that this story must include Americans. Of course Americans can only appear in a pocket war story if they appear under the steadying hand of a Brit.

The story is pretty straight forward - a perfectionist and expert British night fighter pilot is transferred to train a squadron of scruffy yet enthusiastic Americans in night fighting techniques. And of course the two sides even though they are on the same side don't get on from the very beginning.

There's a bit of depth to the writing as the Brit even does something impulsive which leads to a disaster - which in turn leads to his American crew hating him even more - which of course gives the author the platform to launch the redemption and team building sequence to finalise the story.

Even though it is a good story it can't get away from the usual use of stereotypes. This time it's the Americans' turn as they are portrayed as being scruffy multicultural, poker playing, life and death betting and egalitarian. However in a total avoidance of stereotyping we never get to see the face of the enemy.

This is also a landmark story as it is the 1st British war picture library that I've come across that mentions German atrocities in Europe.

Finally any story that features a Northrop Black Widow is going to good by default.

Dornier go bang!

A poker game. They must be Americans.

That sounds like a great job to have in a bar.

Atrocities! Surely not in war comics!!

A flock of Black Widows.

"...such gallantry." No wonder they think he's a nonce.

A man sized plane!

Peggy about to go boom too.

Double Dynamite is about to get into a whole lot of trouble.

A full pager.

And another full pager!

I believe that is meant to be a compliment.

Yet another full pager. This is a big story!

Monday, April 4, 2011

Air Ace Picture Library 308 Ghost Ship

 Battler Britton!! What impossibilities will he accomplish this time? Am I the only person on the planet (or war comic blogosphere) who doesn't like him? Ghost Ship is really only saved by it's beautiful artwork and style - otherwise it's just rubbish.

It may be that times have moved on. Making fun of Irishmen as well as indigenous peoples because they speak English differently just isn't funny anymore. If it still is then this pocket war library is a riot. Surely not all people living on pacific islands want to eat white people - just as not all Irishmen are lovable rouges. Looking through the politically correct goggles at 40 plus years amplification  some things just don't stand up too well. However when Battler is put under the same examination he doesn't scrub up too well either. Is he meant to be a pompous prat or is he justifiably ignorant?

However the only thing in his favour is that he's not afraid to fly whatever aircraft is needed to get on with the show and he does so without complaint.

Ghost Ship sees Battler and his crew cruising the Pacific looking for the Ghost Ship, of the title, in a beautifully drawn Hampden.

If you were only looking at the artwork this is a quality production, however once you take notice of the storyline things take a bad turn. The storyline goes something like this...A Japanese cruiser is making a real pest of itself by sinking ships and blowing things up and then disappearing by using an array of smoke and mist dispensers.

So far so good.

Somewhere along in the story Battler and his Irish rear gunner meet an Irish beachcomber and his band of native followers. One of whom is called a leprechaun because he looks like one and can predict the future with some there really any need to go on?

A swooping Hamden. However what is a Spalpeen?

Look at all that wide open sky.

Boy that was lucky!

That arrow deserves a large "Thonk" written next to it to announce it's arrival.

In another life they would be Ewoks.

Mr Flipping Foot! I LOL on this one!

This is really a great picture.

Who talks like this?

Battler knows what a cruiser blowing looks like. He won't be fooled.

Aussie Hurricanes.

Just a bit too comical.

I don't understand either.
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