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Author Topic: Battle Stations, Starblazer  (Read 503 times)

Patrick

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Battle Stations, Starblazer
« on: 21 February, 2020, 09:55:57 PM »
Picked up a couple of reprints of old digest comics this week - Hugo Pratt and Donne Avenell's Battle Stations, reprinted from Fleetway's War at Sea Picture Library, and DC Thomson's Starblazer Vol 1.



Battle Stations is the classier of the two, both in packaging and content. Starblazer has a pretty cool cover by Neil Roberts, but it's cool in a pretty trashy kind of way. Battle Stations looks rather artier.

I've never read any of the Fleetway war libraries, but the obvious point of comparison is Commando, which is still going. If this is anything to go by, The Fleetway Libraries are a bit better written, with a sense that the writer's been there. Donne Avenell's bio at the back of the book says he served in the Navy in WWII, and he gives the story a sense of authenticity. Also, as a lettering nerd, I appreciate the difference hand lettering makes.

But of course, the main appeal of the book is Hugo Pratt's art, which is gorgeous. This is early work, so he doesn't quite have the lightness of touch he developed on Corto Maltese, but you can see why Carlos Ezquerra called this guy one of his gods. He's the missing link between Alex Toth and Eddie Campbell, with the looseness and the insane slashes of black. I mean, just look at this:



I'll definitely be picking up future Pratt reprints.

On to Starblazer. It features two stories: "Operation Overkill" by Grant Morrison and Enrique Alcatena, and "Jaws of Death" by D. Broadbent and Mick McMahon. "Operation Overkill" is clearly very early work from both Morrison and Alcatena, because it's terrible. "Jaws of Death" is better, mostly because it's drawn by McMahon in what looks like his "Block Mania" period, but the storytelling and dialogue are also a bit less clunky.



I think DC Thomson should consider giving some of the best Commando stories the Battle Stations treatment - and if it was down to me I'd focus on the best Commando artist, Gordon Livingstone.

« Last Edit: 21 February, 2020, 10:00:29 PM by Patrick »

Gary James

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Re: Battle Stations, Starblazer
« Reply #1 on: 21 February, 2020, 11:12:06 PM »
Those look great, although I'm nearing close to my monthly expenditure on publications at the moment.  :(
But of course, the main appeal of the book is Hugo Pratt's art, which is gorgeous. ... I'll definitely be picking up future Pratt reprints.
Be careful if you ever pick up old reprints of his work, as some of the bindings are rather lacking. Not sure how many copies of 90s reprint of The Ballad of the Salt Sea I've picked up over the years, but they haven't aged well at all - I should glue the pages back in for a reference copy, but life is too short for that kind of nonsense. There's gorgeous hardbacks, with stitched bindings to boot, but my Italian is abysmal (save for profanities and cheesy pick-up lines) and the thought of struggling through something which ought to be a joy to read is a big barrier.

Colin YNWA

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Re: Battle Stations, Starblazer
« Reply #2 on: 22 February, 2020, 06:58:37 AM »
To be fair though there's little need to pick up the old editions not as the Eurocomics (IDW) reprints of Corto Maltese are just superb editions. I've also got a couple of other Pratt classics and the new volumes are just devine. We've only got a couple of volumes to go and we'll have a complete library of Maltese which is something I never thought we'd get and certainly not at this quality.

Tomwe

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Re: Battle Stations, Starblazer
« Reply #3 on: 22 February, 2020, 08:08:06 AM »
I read my copy of Starblazer this week and really enjoyed it. The enforced storytelling style (as I understand it?) was a unique experience. The McMahon strip was great. I hope they put out more as I love the format as much as anything else.

Greg M.

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Re: Battle Stations, Starblazer
« Reply #4 on: 22 February, 2020, 09:14:39 AM »
"Operation Overkill" is clearly very early work from both Morrison and Alcatena, because it's terrible.

"Operation Overkill" is wonderful - it was by far my favourite issue of Starblazer as a boy. Alcatena's art is glorious - as a lad, I generally judged the quality of a Starblazer on the basis of how many weird and exotic alien lifeforms it contained. Almost every panel of this comic brings a new, monstrous treat. Great fun, remarkably violent, and lots of wild ideas. A big influence on my youthful imagination.

Jim_Campbell

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Re: Battle Stations, Starblazer
« Reply #5 on: 22 February, 2020, 10:04:29 AM »
Mick posted high-res versions of the 'Jaws of Death' pages on his blog a few years back and I (rather presumptuously) pinched a few of them, removed the old lettering and re-did them in a Tom Frame stylee…

Here's the original…
Stupidly Busy Letterer: Samples. | Blog
Less-Awesome-Artist: Scribbles.

Jim_Campbell

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Re: Battle Stations, Starblazer
« Reply #6 on: 22 February, 2020, 10:05:00 AM »
And re-done…
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Jim_Campbell

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Re: Battle Stations, Starblazer
« Reply #7 on: 22 February, 2020, 10:08:47 AM »
ISTR Mick saying in the accompanying blog post that he was experimenting with inking in all the solid areas of black before doing any of the linework, on the canny advice of Dave Gibbons, because it meant that you ended up drawing fewer lines…
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Gary James

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Re: Battle Stations, Starblazer
« Reply #8 on: 22 February, 2020, 10:59:28 AM »
To be fair though there's little need to pick up the old editions not as the Eurocomics (IDW) reprints of Corto Maltese are just superb editions.
Someone has to wade through everything old in order to point out where things have been altered, find anything that has been missed in reference works, and make sure that everyone gets properly credited. Certainly, they are gorgeous, but that doesn't make them definitive.
Yes, I know I have a problem. I can't help myself.

We've only got a couple of volumes to go and we'll have a complete library of Maltese which is something I never thought we'd get and certainly not at this quality.
If this is as successful as I hope, then there are at least half a dozen names who deserve similar treatment - it would be a complete nightmare as far as tracking down all the rights are concerned, but seeing everything that Denis McLoughlin did in one set would be a dream.
ISTR Mick saying in the accompanying blog post that he was experimenting with inking in all the solid areas of black before doing any of the linework, on the canny advice of Dave Gibbons, because it meant that you ended up drawing fewer lines…

Did he say of there was use of copious amounts of masking fluid and tape first, or is he really, really good at not getting ink everywhere? I can see that this might be an interesting way to cut down on a lot of time, and for highlights there's always white paint...

Jim_Campbell

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Re: Battle Stations, Starblazer
« Reply #9 on: 23 February, 2020, 01:08:40 PM »
Did he say of there was use of copious amounts of masking fluid and tape first, or is he really, really good at not getting ink everywhere? I can see that this might be an interesting way to cut down on a lot of time, and for highlights there's always white paint...

It's not really horribly complicated or difficult — although every artist's process is different, the 'orthodox' process would be: pencil, ink the linework, erase the pencils (once the lines are dry!), fill in the blacks, then add weight to the linework as required. Spotting all the blacks before you ink the linework just means you don't waste time drawing ink lines around areas that will be filled with black anyway.

(Plus, as I think you can see if you look at a few pages of this Starblazer book, you might sometimes find that the solid black has defined a form/shape sufficiently well that you actually don't need to add any extra lines.)
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Patrick

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Re: Battle Stations, Starblazer
« Reply #10 on: 24 February, 2020, 11:47:09 AM »
Jim, what font did you use for your "Tom Frame" lettering? I'm working on an early 2000AD style font, based on Pete Knight and John Aldrich's letterforms, which are about as tall and narrow as Tom's. It needs a bit of work to make it a little less even - it looks too much like a font, not enough like hand lettering. I've already done one based on Jack Potter and Bill Nuttall, which is wider, and I like the look of, but isn't as space-efficient.

One thing I've noticed is that none of the early 2000AD letterers, with the exception of Dave Gibbons, use crossbar I's at all.

Jim_Campbell

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Re: Battle Stations, Starblazer
« Reply #11 on: 24 February, 2020, 12:58:44 PM »
Jim, what font did you use for your "Tom Frame" lettering? I'm working on an early 2000AD style font, based on Pete Knight and John Aldrich's letterforms, which are about as tall and narrow as Tom's. It needs a bit of work to make it a little less even - it looks too much like a font, not enough like hand lettering. I've already done one based on Jack Potter and Bill Nuttall, which is wider, and I like the look of, but isn't as space-efficient.

It's Comicraft's CCMarianChurchland, which I used to approximate Knight and Aldrich's work on Charley's War with the horizontal scale up cranked up quite a long way (130%) but which is a surprisingly good match for Frame's hand-lettering used unaltered.



(In fact, I like I think it looks more like Frame's hand lettering than Frame's own font when he went digital…)

Quote
One thing I've noticed is that none of the early 2000AD letterers, with the exception of Dave Gibbons, use crossbar I's at all.

Dave did some agency work for US comics pre-2000AD in the mid-70s, which he also lettered, so I suspect he got into the habit from that. I'd link to some examples, but my google-fu is weak today!
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Proudhuff

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Re: Battle Stations, Starblazer
« Reply #12 on: 24 February, 2020, 03:28:15 PM »

I think DC Thomson should consider giving some of the best Commando stories the Battle Stations treatment -


They have!

But everybody else is overwhelmed by indifference and the promise of an early bed

Patrick

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Re: Battle Stations, Starblazer
« Reply #13 on: 24 February, 2020, 08:32:45 PM »
Here's the same page lettered with my font-in-progress (I've kept your balloons, Jim):