Saturday, June 03, 2017

Review: ONE-EYED JACK

If there's one lesson to be learned from the long history of British comics it's that they've had to evolve to survive. As with the human condition, change is necessary to cope with the traumas of life, and comics have had to experiment and change to adapt to new environments and situations too. By the early to mid-1970s, IPC comics were struggling to appeal to their audience. New comics such as Thunder and Jet were so rooted in the style of the past they failed after 22 weeks, and even the long-running Lion met its demise in 1974. 

The generation of comic-buyers of the Seventies were used to a tougher tone of entertainment in TV, books and films but the comics were not reflecting that. Then along came D.C. Thomson's Warlord, a grittier, more dynamic comic, spurring IPC into action with an even tougher rival, Battle Picture Weekly. The new, no-nonsense storytelling style of Battle was a big success with readers, and so IPC tried the same technique by revamping one of its oldest titles, Valiant. The experiment came too late to keep Valiant afloat for long, but that final year of the comic gave us One-Eyed Jack, the hard-as-nails New York cop created by John Wagner and John Cooper. 

All of those One-Eyed Jack strips from Valiant have now been collected in the first book in Rebellion's new Treasury of British Comics line. One-Eyed Jack is a marvellous 156 page volume of tightly written crime thrillers that make a refreshing change to the slow "deconstructed" writing style of many modern comics. There's no fat on these stories, and each episode only runs to three pages, so the reader is plunged straight into the action. 

The scripts by John Wagner are a masterclass of short-story writing; a technique that seems rare these days. John Cooper's artwork is perfect for such a fast paced action strip. There's definitely a Frank Bellamy influence to Cooper's art, but he adopts it so well and makes it his own. 

One-Eyed Jack swiftly became the most popular strip in Valiant, and although it didn't halt Valiant's demise, it laid the groundwork for a new breed of tougher heroes such as Judge Dredd. It's therefore the ideal choice to kick off the Treasury of British Comics volumes. 

There are also bonus features in the book, with a full colour One-Eyed Jack story from Valiant Annual 1978 and a colour gallery of all the Valiant covers that featured the character. 

Although paperback, the book features 'French folds' that make the covers feel sturdier. See the flattened out version below to show you what I mean...

One-Eyed Jack will be published on 15th June at £14.99. There's also a signed limited edition bookplate edition at £19.99 that you can order from the 2000AD shop:
https://shop.2000ad.com/catalogue/RCA-B0019


Available in print from: book stores, Amazon, and comic book stores via Diamond

14 comments:

Mark West said...

Thanks for the reminder, I've just pre-ordered it!

Lew Stringer said...

I should ask for a commission for all the comics/book sales this blog generates. :)

Sabreman64 said...

Lew, I know that One-Eyed Jack was reprinted in Eagle in the '80s, as I own virtually every issue of the '80s Eagle. However, do you know if the Eagle reprint included One-Eyed Jack in its entirety?

Lew Stringer said...

I've no idea, sorry. I didn't read new Eagle that often. The original run appeared in Valiant from 20th December 1975 to 16th October 1976 if that helps you compare it to Eagle.

Big D said...

I shall keep an eye out for this one. The more British reprints the better.

Lew Stringer said...

Plenty to come, Big D! Rebellion are releasing one a month.

Idstone said...

Any comments on the repro, Lew? Rebellion seem to be preparing to churn these out at quite a rate, and given that they're almost certainly working from scans of the comics in most cases it would be interesting to know how they're handling reproduction. Getting good results from scanned comics is tough but doable, and while some of the stuff that has popped up in the Dredd Mega Collections has been iffy their in-house reprints have generally been very good, so it would be good to know if that quality carries over to the Treasury line.

Lew Stringer said...

I'm afraid I only have access to Rebellion's PDFs so I won't know what the repro quality is like until I see the actual book at the same time as everyone else. It looks good in these files so here's hoping!

Idstone said...

Thanks! That's good to hear, and hopefully it carries over to the print editions - I've found that scanned linework that looks OK on screen is far better in print, so if it already looks good in the PDF preview that's a promising sign!

Lew Stringer said...

I guess we'll find out next week, which reminds me I should order a copy!

Patrick Gallagher said...

Excellent review, Lew!

Lew Stringer said...

Thanks, Patrick! Sorry for the delay in approving your comment. I've been away all weekend.

Karlos N said...

Just got my copy (the limited bookplate one, of course!) and yeah, it is one seriously lovely looking book.

Blacks are solid and the reproduction overall is very clear indeed.

To answer Sabreman64, I'm pretty sure Eagle reprinted all the B&W Valiant strips.

Order this book, guys, and let's get more of these wonderful old strips back in print.

Lew Stringer said...

I'll be buying a copy from a comic shop tomorrow if they're in stock. Otherwise I'll order it by post.

Well said, Karlos. I hope fans of classic material buy these books. It's the only way to encourage more volumes of old material.

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