Sunday, 14 February 2016

"Do you have someone who looks after you? Could I see them? Because I need to read your meter..."

Finally, finally, here we go. Part two of the extended "look at" the various adult comics put out by Galaxy/Tristar Publications during the late Eighties/early Nineties. Only... Fifteen months after the first part. 2015 was a busy year, what more can I say? And so on. Anyway, back in 1989, Galaxy Publications (of Fiesta fame) decided to have a crack at the Viz-like-comic market, initially with Brain Damage (see part one), a smart, politically-charged thing filled with quality stuff from the likes of Borin Van Loon, Hunt Emerson, Kevin Woodcock, the mysterious "Lucian", and several dozen more. At the same time, they also put out Gas, a more blatantly obvious Viz clone (but with the same editor as Brain Damage - "Big" Bill Hampton). Initially dodgy and not-all-that-good, by its demise in 1991 Gas had evolved into something fairly special - and that's what's getting looked at here today. Hang onto your bandwidths, there's over a hundred-and-fifty scans on this one...


As I just said, early impressions of Gas aren't so good - filled as it is with such guff as Young Farmer Git by Brad Brooks and Rob Whittle:



Jockstrap-level pish like this:



Obvious Viz rejects by an uncredited cartoonist - note the Tippexed-out "F" on the newspaper there:






Chris Whitehead's here too, as in, him who'd go on to work on several other titles including Spit!, Zit and the lamentable Scurvy Dog...


Oh, and Anthony Smith as well, obviously:



This exact same strip would later appear in Spit!, just so you know.

There's a few pages of note in the first issue... Fans of Oink! will be happy to see Pensioner Eliminator by David Haldane:



Whilst we also have the beginnings of two of Gas's longest-running strips - Thud 'n' Bud by Joe Matthews:


And Val Downer by Kipps Webb:


Things start improving... SLIGHTLY.... With the second issue...


And I'll show the rest of that cover story now, in order to raise a fairly interesting point. Those characters on the cover there are The Gas Gits by Pete Mastin (of Class War fame, and who was involved in some way with the anarchist Tintin parody, Breaking Free) - their four appearances start on the front cover, continue on page 3, and conclude at the back end of the comic:



Notice the amount of "blue"-ness there when compared to all I've shown so far? Each issue of Gas consists of three colours - black, white, and a different spot colour each time. Makes differentiating the issues easier I suppose. Just thought it was an interesting morsel to demonstrate is all.

Whilst we're on the subject of The Gas Gits, here's a peachy little number from the third issue concerning a shoot-out at a school:




And to add further fuel to the controversy (gas) fire, we have Claire and Her Flares by Mike Cook:


I have it on good authority that this one was originally by Rob Filth (sometimes aka. Rob Yuppies) - Gas rejected it, then re-drew it and printed it anyway. Naughty!

Back to the second issue, and those "developments" - Kev Sutherland joined Gas early on with the first of several serial adventures (fairly uncommon in this kind of comic), Blunderbirds:




See? Different colours for different issues!

Along with his one-off gag things that mess around with comic conventions and what-have-you:





Also beginning in the second issue is Dan Dross, a foul-mouthed parody that ran through most of Gas's life, from Celia Legge and JT Dogg (aka. Malcolm Douglas):




That's the same JT Dogg that was in Oink! - there's a LOT of links (pun) to Oink! with Gas, including the already-mentioned David Haldane with another character, Captain Sarcastic:


Charlie Brooker with Star Squad:



And Banx (aka. Jeremy Banks) with Oink!'s very own Burp the Alien:





There's still a fair amount of dullness despite these improvements - such as Pension Plan Pete by "Ant":



Wacky Jacky, partially done by the usually dependable Martin Honeysett:


And some more bits from Chris Whitehead:



On the bright side, both Val Downer and Thud 'n' Bud continue to find their feet:





And the fourth issue sees the début of two more long-running strips - Rebel Without a Brain by David Haldane (again):



And ANOTHER Oink! connection in the form of David Leach's Arthur Pilkington - Chartered Barbarian:



At the beginning of 1990, Gas reset itself to Issue 1 (Volume 2), and it's ALMOST like a completely different comic.


All the covers of the second volume are near-identical (save for the colour scheme), and all feature the adventures of Roy of the Rogers (Showdown from the Bottom of the Third Division of the Soul), and there's still a fair amount of rubbish on the inside, such as Percy and his Piles:


And the mandatory dig at Jeremy Beadle, here courtesy of Paul Palmer:


But at least Anthony Smith redeems himself here with Acid Head Arnie (who would later appear in Zit):





Elsewhere, a waste of three pages each issue begins with 24", a TV listings parody:


Plus Wor Jackie, in which problems are answered by ROI manager Jackie Charltan:


There's photo stories in Gas as well, which are fairly odd, and put together by Tony Reeve:



And some further examples from Gas's descent into "oddness", starting with this thing by "Piercy":


And Duncan McPhale, the Incontinent Whale by "G.T.":


Along with more of Kev Sutherland's rule-breaking:



The second volume of Gas sees the arrival of two more serials from Mr. Sutherland - first of which is Phallas (sign of the times and all that):


Spot the Oink! reference in that one?

The second of which is Tales of Nambygate:


If you like what you see here, Tales of Nambygate is currently available in collected book-form, here.

Also beginning in the second volume of Gas, we have Senile Delinquents by "Dead Dave":



The Scum by Geoff Thompson:


Ver Landlord by Kipps Webb:


And a series of parodies by the talented Ed McHenry:




Plus another new Gas-man - StiK (aka. Bill Greenhead), who also did stuff for Brain Damage, Blag and Gutter:




And yes, yet MORE links to Oink! - with things from Dave Colton:





This exact page appeared in an issue of Oink! too, just so you know.

And Davy Francis, with a whole series of MAD Magazine-style bits:




Whilst the "regular" strips continued to evolve:





1990 finished with a (comparatively) big fat festive edition:


And then 1991 saw Gas going back to Issue 1 again, Volume 3 (naturally) - and again, it's almost like a whole new comic. The covers are vastly improved for one thing:







And each issue has a bit like this on page 3:






And they've even gone down the T-shirt route, like everyone else, by this point:


And Roy of the Rogers has been moved to the inside pages:



There's still a fair amount of bunkum on display... I'd expect something like this in a 1993 issue of the Beano but not in a comic with aspirations seemingly as high as Gas aims for:


Plus this thing, which inexplicably is the work of TWO people:


Also, Paul Wood picking on an easy target ("if we knew then" and so on):


Charlie Brooker with something that's not exactly Morris Day:


And something from Gary Whitlock - he's usually good, appearing in Acne, Gutter and Adroit amongst other things, but here he's got a schoolyard joke and makes it a regular strip:


On the bright side, Volume 3 sees Gas going in some interesting, not-specifically-comedy directions. There's horror stuff from Tony Husband, JT Dogg and "H Bee", much in the style of the later Bloody Hell! comic:




And there's also the on-the-road adventures of the High Tech Hedgehogs by Steve Best and Colin Fawcett:



Also new to the scene is ANOTHER Kev Sutherland serial, this one called Hollywood Babbling (with Alan Seaman):




A series of historical titbits by Bestie (aka. Steve Best) of Private Eye fame:


Stuff by Nigel Maughan (who featured in pretty much every "alternative" comic going at the time):


Bob Ambler, the Useless Gambler, a new character from Joe Matthews:

This isn't the only time Joe's stuck Calvin & Hobbes into one of his comics...

The Samaritans (not sure who it's by, it's worth a giggle though):


Another photo story, this one in loose serial form:


And a couple of regular serials from Lee Healey (presently "doing" Drunken Bakers for Viz, but he also has stuff in Acne, Top Banana, Gutted, Zit, and Smut...):





Whilst Kipps Webb has another new character as well, in the shape of Ellis Dee:



Similar weirdness is here with Geoff Thompson's Nearly Famous Five - this started in Gas's second volume as yet another "old story with rude words put in it" (the lifeblood of the Scurvy Dog) and was hardly worth the effort of scanning, but by the third volume, it got interesting:




And whilst we're looking at the "weird" side of things... Remember Borin Van Loon's stuff in Brain Damage? It's in Gas as well:


And on the subject of Brain Damage, StiK's regular characters from there are here too:


As is this thing... Maybe it was a bit too obvious for the sister comic? Either way, I'm always happy to see another Beano parody:



And on the subject of bad parodies, there's also this one, just because:


Whilst Thud 'n' Bud continue on top form, each episode like a mini sitcom:




After 27 issues, at the height of its "goodness", Gas finished (because nothing lasts forever, obviously). Clearly not all of the contributors got the memo - Kev Sutherland's Tales of Nambygate finishes on a cliffhanger:




Stay tuned for the resolution!

And whilst there were clues dotted around the last issue (refer back to those covers and editorial pages, if you so wish), Kipps Webb made sure that the message was clear by having most of the Gas cast butchered by a campsite ghoul:




That's a Tom Lehrer song they're all singing at the end there, a much more appropriate song than that which the unfortunate cast of the Dandy were made to sing for their last issue.

And... That's a gas? Definitely one of my favourites when it comes to this sort of thing, top five at least. There's a couple of tangents to take before the story of Galaxy/Tristar's comics takes an interesting turn of sorts... Which I'll try to get to in less than a year this time.

18 comments:

  1. I don't know what it is, but such comics just don't appeal to me. Even with the better-drawn strips, there's still a strong sense of amateurism about the periodicals as a whole. I prefer something like MAD, which is aimed at adults, but never crosses the line of what's acceptable. Now, I could've kept that to myself, but I always feel obliged to show my support of your blog by leaving a comment - even if it's not a terribly positive one.

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    1. No worries, Mr. Robson - I know you read anyway so you shouldn't feel any obligation. I feel the same way about most of the comics you cover; the odd Hulk thing aside, the majority of superhero stuff bores me to tears, and I find it hard to tell one artist from another.

      MAD seems to be our common ground, ha!

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    2. They're just not very good. Not funny. It's only Viz who ever managed to make comics that were hilarious every bimonth, and they went downhill eventually, though still pretty good. Zit, the later issues, had some good moments. But the majority of this cash-in shit just wasn't funny, that's the problem.

      Lack of inspiration, I think. Not many hilarious and inventive people can draw.

      Viz also has a certain attitude, a certain philosophy, you can't exactly put your finger on it, but that's the difference. That, and the creators are very witty and clever. Davy Jones is a genius.

      The very first Vizzes weren't great, I've seen them in reprint, but they found their feet pretty quickly, none of these others did. They're sorta stories that are "supposed" to be funny, they've got "funny" things in them, but they're not inspired. Seems like they're thought up on the moment to fill a page with.

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  2. I am Terminal...
    ... and My Sister is the one who who "helps " us..
    a great weekend to you and yours..

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    1. And to you too, Stacey - your sister sounds like a good person.

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  3. I think I bought a couple of issues of Gas back in the day but that's all, and once again it appears I didn't miss much. I remember being horribly disappointed when Kev Sutherland transferred so many of the already dreary characters to UT, especially as UT did at least try to be something different to the usual Viz clones (though the insanely over-detailed artwork and densely packed pages were always a turn-off for someone like me who preferred the clarity and economy of the Rob Filths and the Jim Petries) - having a load of characters from Gas in there just made it look like a last resting place for cast-offs from previously unsuccessful titles.
    Another thing I have to point out is that Charlie Brooker wasn't even a poor man's Peter Bagge, he was a destitute's Peter Bagge. Nothing about his work suggests that he even enjoyed drawing - there's no love of the craft evident, just a sense of 'I must get this over and done with as quickly as possible'. He never bothered to elevate himself above the level of a bored child doodling in the back of his exercise book during a maths lesson - no wonder he chose the more lucrative route of being a media-friendly misanthrope.

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    1. That's what I like about UT - you get the idea that they were really trying to make a decent comic with Gas, so with UT they took all the "best" bits from Gas and carried on from there (although having it published by the Sunday Sport was a bit of a shame).

      As for Charlie Brooker... Yeah, his drawings are fairly terrible and his stuff for Gas is mostly miserable, but I think he can write some good stuff when he wants to (Horny Estelle in Elephant Parts - harsh looks, but depressingly familiar).

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    2. And Nathan Barley, Black Mirror, Screenwipe, Gameswipe, A Touch of Cloth, Dead Set, Brasseye...

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  4. To be honest, the Clares Flares strip in Gas was original scripts and art, but the character copyright was stolen from Filth comic.

    It's possible that the artist/creator came up with the exactly the same idea/character name/title, but the character was published first in Filth and Galaxy/Tristar Publications did apologise when this was pointed out to them.

    Decide for yourself by comparing the "Claires Flares" run some months prior in Filth Issue 4 to that which appeared in Gas...

    https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-VCKdW6hEW6o/VNNnpv22t9I/AAAAAAAAAd0/YRoUbd_bvKQ/w720-h556-no/11.jpg

    https://lh6.googleusercontent.com/-n8aKPriu1fc/VNNnqAWc1pI/AAAAAAAAAeE/UiWvMbiXqnY/w720-h559-no/12.jpg

    https://lh4.googleusercontent.com/-L-v-7FvpYAk/VNNnqx-0FvI/AAAAAAAAAeM/d_HjwK9I_Vg/w720-h575-no/13.jpg

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    1. Ta for clearing that up, Rob - and at least they apologised.

      Maybe, sort of, similar to when two completely different "Dennis The Menace" characters appeared simultaneously on opposite sides of the Atlantic in 1951?

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    2. It's entirely possible that it was pure coincidence, personally I'm a bit sceptical...particularly when I also noticed one or two of the artists copying the odd character from Filth too(I think in one issue of Gas in one frame of a story you can see Baby Bastard copied not very well)

      Elephant Parts later released by the same publisher( a revamped Brain Damage) also sneakily published two of my pages after rejecting them the year previously and sending them back to me, hoping I wouldn't notice.

      They must've taken photocopies of them on the sly before rejecting them and sending them back to me, which caused some problems considering Big Mags had actually acquired the first serial rights to one of the characters beforehand.

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    3. Noticed those, yeah - Terry Bullpuns and Nick Mepigg, it's as if someone at Tristar had a grudge against you or something...

      Also noticed in Elephant Parts that a few of the characters that Chris Whitehead did for Spit! are in there too - reckon it could be the same as what happened with your strips?

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  5. Oh yeah! I had forgotten this one!

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  6. You're right. 'Young Farmer Git' was guff. Mind you, I'd personally put it a bit stronger than that: It was shite.

    You also might be interested to learn that the accent colouring (and letratone) wasn't added by me (I was crap, but not *that* crap). It was an unnamed art assistant at Galaxy who added it to the original art. Badly.

    Only just discovered the blog, but I'm thrilled to see it (my crappy artwork excepted). Keep up the fine work :)

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    1. Hi Brad, pleased to meet yo and thanks :)

      Interesting about the weird colouring - I like the Freak Brothers cameo though!

      Fully intending on keeping up the fine work, fully - it might not seem like it at the moment, but I really am, really! ;)

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    2. "You", not "yo", obviously, bah!

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  7. Phenomenal post, Ryan. Sorry I'm late!( I only got #1 )

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    1. Cheers, John - and apologies aren't necessary, the speed I'm going at the moment you'll end up reading it before I've written it!

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