Way, way, way back in time, all the way back to the late 70’s in the UK, there was 2000 A.D. For a lot of people, thanks to the popularity of Judge Dredd, that’s the only comic book that some people associate with the U.K. That in itself is a great disservice to the books like Commando, Battle and Eagle all of which were hugely successful in their time.
Also lost to many, through the fog of time is Misty – a book aimed at girls but featuring supernatural and horror elements rather than romance stories and fashion tips. Shepherded into creation by Pat Mills, the book took a route similar to 2000 A.D, with serials and one off stories that engaged the reader. This book collect the episodic parts of a couple of stories to give us the whole horrific tale.
Moonchild; (W) Pat Mills, (A) John Armstrong
Rosemary Black is the outcast in school with only one friend. As such she is the target for bullies and receives no solace at home under the hateful watch of a scorned and fearful mother. Every day is a battle and beatings from within and without. But a new hairstyle reveals a moon shaped crescent on her head and strange things start to happen to those who seek to hurt her.
Pat Mills freely admits the influences that Carrie has on this story; a young vulnerable girl, traumatized seeks revenge with new powers. Influences are one thing, but what makes this story stand out for me is the reality of the 70’s that Rosemary lives in. The story is lot stronger now, in our politically correct world; it features child beatings, slutty school girls and so many girls in gym wear, that Greg Rucka would have a fit! Mills script is, by today’s standard, a tad overblown, but still shows what a great story teller he is.
John Armstrong’s art provides, stylistically, a beautiful walk down memory lane. There is a mix of style in play throughout the book. The art may be black and white but Armstrong overcomes this minor hindrance with aplomb. At times Armstrong takes a less is more approach around Rosemary’s face giving the impression of her glowing against the darkness, shown by heavy inks and shading, that seems the threaten but not overcome her.
The Four Faces of Eve; (W) Malcom Shaw, (A) Brian Delaney
An amnesiac girl wakes up from her nightly nightmare of a plane, in flames, crashing to the ground. Just before it hits, she wakes up to face the cold concern of her parents, in an isolated ward in a hospital. So begins the Frankenstein inspired story of Eve and her drive to regain her memory and her identity.
The late Malcolm Shaw had a long career in publishing, even before he joined IPC and started freelancing in 1979. His work could be seen in Girl, Tammie, 2000 A.D. and of course Misty. Here, very much like Pat Mills in the previous story, Shaw takes an obvious influence and plays around with it, tailoring it to meet his needs. The result is a well paced story that edges you closer to the truth without giving the game away. There are a wealth of great characters in here; albeit they may not seem so by today’s standard; but remember we are talking about a story that is 35 years old!
Brian Delaney was a regular contributor to a wealth of licenced projects in the UK. Here, without a likeness to emulate his work is clean and lean. Again, the story is black and white but unlike the previous tale, there is no need or opportunity to create contrasts with heavy inks. Surprisingly, this doesn’t detract from the look of the book. Indeed, this story is about hope born from horror, rather than horror situations begetting a horror ending.
Finally, you can’t look at this book without recognizing the fantastic cover work of the late Shirley Bellwood, whose style and poise can be seen without question.
This book is an engaging read, whilst also serving as a way to see the great historical work of the British comic book scene. Reading the book now, I wish that gender roles of the 70’s and the middle ground between them seemed so vast were as easily traversed as they can be today. I feel sorry for readers who may have missed out on this great stories as they “were just for girls”. So a big thanks goes to Rebellion for publishing this once and still great stories.