Friday, December 29, 2006

20 years ago today

Over on the 2000 AD review site, you'll be able to find extensive opinions on the year just gone. Including mine, natch. In honour of that fine tradition, I thought I'd pick an as-yet-unreviewed year at random (i.e. all of them up to 2003) and have a go.

So, 1986. Progs 451-502.

I assure you it was meant to be a random choice, but it seems to have been an awesome year for 2000 AD. I should add that it was sort of my first year of exposure to the comic. Sort of, in the sense that my older brother (and my father who paid for them) were actually reading each Prog. I merely marvelled at the covers, read the occasional episode that wasn't too off-putting to my 7/8-year-old eyes, and looked forward to the days when I'd be old enough to get all the jokes.

I've used the current 2000 AD review categories, but I might embellish some to be a bit fairer, since the circumstances were different in those days. And I'm afraid I don't yet have scans of the period to share with you, instead I'll make use of some covers appropriated from the main 2000 AD site.

Best Dredd continuing story or one-off:

No mega-epics in 1986; instead, Dredd was in the Wagner/Grant heyday of short comic one-off wonders. My favourite - It pays to be Mental, which shows Mega-City 1 through the eyes of a card-carrying moron. If I was in continuity mode, I'd be inclined to list 'The Warlord' (of racistish covers fame), which was a fun story that ultimately saw the resignation of Chief-Judge-for-the-first-time McGruder. And a few months after that we were treated to 'Letter from a democrat', which was an early effort in the long-running saga about Dredd's qualms about the Judge system. Thought-provoking stuff. And I suppose the introduction of recurring villain Stan Lee aka Deathfist was kinda fun, too.

Best Series: ("Judge Dredd" is excluded from this category)
Well, really, it has to be Halo Jones. 1986 kicked off with Book 3, the best of the Jones outings, and widely held to be the best story ever published in the comic. And it is quite brilliant. Moving, scathing, clever, funny. Also, I'm a sucker for Ian Gibson's art. No point even trying to argue that another series in 1986 was better, but that seems criminal when strips like Strontium Dog: Rage and Anderson: the Possessed have to be overlooked.

Best one-off: (again excluding Dredd one-offs)
Plenty of Future Shocks to choose from. Truth be told, I can't remember a lot of them. I also haven't gone so far as to re-read the relevant Progs, so excuse the half-formed opinions particularly in this category. I've plumped for Candy and the Catchman, which has a great title and a story that I can remember, so it must be pretty good. Had it been published a few years later it would have been a 'terror tale' rather than a future shock. Children being scared by a sinister boogeyman - generic but well-defined horror.

Best moment from any strip:
(spoilers ahoy, God damn you)
Well now, the toilet suicide in Halo Jones was pretty dramatic I can tell you. The moment when young Hammy Blish shows his possessed Gargarax face for the first time (admittedly spoiled by the cover and teaser pages...) was classic 80s horror stuff. You remember, when horror was all about showing gory stuff and nasty monsters, not just people getting knifed. And then that 70s ending where Anderson has to shoot Hammy. Whoo boy. Psi Judge Omar's triumphant defeat of Shojo. And let's not forget the intro to Bad Company, especially that final page pin-up of the whole crew. You just knew from that these were characters who had something to get excited about. And on the opposite end of the scale, I remember giggling at the time Feek the Freek got stuck up robot King Kong's nose and was hiding away from a poking fingernail. A serious contender, even if it is less dramatic.

Enough teasing. Everyone who is anyone knows that the best moment of 1986 (indeed, one of the best ever) was when Johnny Alpha finally caught up with Max Bubba. Then shot him. Then waited for him to recover. Then caught up to him again. And shot him again. Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Best non-regular publication:
The only official contender for this would be the 1986 Sci-Fi special, which was nothing special. OK as specials go, but not great. Far more interesting to me were the reprints in the then-new Best of 2000 AD monthly. Yes, I know this was a regular publication, but I have no idea which Titan reprints came out in '86. As I said earlier, I was too young to really enjoy most of the adult looking and feeling strips that hit their stride in 1986 (I could just about cope with Ezquerra, Belardinelli and Pat Mills writing; Brendan McCarthy was right out). But the monthlies were my gateway into a love of all things Thargian. Best of the best ofs 1986? I'd have to go with issue 12 - featuring Dredd getting up to some monkey business, Sam Slade infiltrating robot cults, and some Alan Moore + Alan Davis future shock treats.

Best artist:
OOooooh tricky. If I was being trendy it might be easy to reward McCarthy for his re-invention of the Judicial helmet, and his psychedelic satire in the Sooner or Later back page nonsense pieces. But frankly I associate these Progs with my childhood too much, so no reward for the mighty McCarthy. Instead I have fond memories of Ezquerra and Belardinelli, who were in virtually every Prog of 1986. And some cracking work from Gibson and Talbot. David Pugh delivered beautifully on Slaine. But I think I'll give the award to Brett Ewins - not a flashy artist, but his work on the Possessed was spectacular, and his vision of the various weirdies in Bad Company is still my benchmark for how to build a team roster. More than Bisley or Walker on the ABC Warriors, even.

Best writer:
Let's be honest, Wagner and Grant wrote practically the whole comic in 1986 (Dredd, Strontium Dog, Anderson, Ace Trucking, Bad City Blue), so it would be asinine to reward anyone else. Even if Alan Moore is one of the contenders, and Mills was on good form with Slaine and Nemesis.

Best cover:
Plenty of fun covers, including two standouts from O'Neill on Metalzoic. But I won't count those since they're reprints. Instead, Prog 473 from Brendan McCarthy wins partly because it scared me as a child, but mostly because weird-looking punk chicks with sci-fi guns is the reason we all read 2000 AD, right?

Best newcomer:
Without doing too much research, it seems obvious that Peter Milligan was the bright young thing of 1986. Sooner or Later has its detractors, but the opening episode was great, and many of the jokes are still funny now, even if the anti-marketing political cynicism bit is all too old hat. Plus of course he contributed a number of decent future shocks, and of course 1986 saw the first three episodes of Bad Company, one of my (and your) favourite series of all time.

Most under-rated:
I did glance through the votes on the 2000 AD site for series in 1986, and found that pretty much every series was very highly rated, and deservedly so (except Sooner or Later, which wasn't that good). I may also have mentioned before that I've never really had friends to discuss 2000 AD with except my brother, so I have no great concept of which series of yesteryear were loved or hated beyond what I can glean from in-jokes on the Nerve Centre and comments on the forums I've browsed over the last year or so. With that in mind, I'm nominating Ace Trucking Co. I believe that many squaxx prefer the earlier outings of the anarchic series. I can see why they would, but I thought the Doppelgarp and the Garpetbaggers worked by virtue of having two Ace Garps. A series that tried and succeeded to be funny, and that deserves recognition as a series that held itself well.

Other series that I've never heard anyone talk about but which for me came up trumps were Strontium Dog: Incident on Mayjer Minor, and Slaine: the Spoils of Annwyn. Both stories capture exactly the spirit of the basic story set-up, as well as delivering some classic moments and one-liners.

Most over-rated:

Also tricky, since pretty much everything in 1986 was really good. Maybe Judge Dredd: Atlantis? I have some strange idea that this is fondly remembered no doubt because it introduced Brit Cit Judges for the first time. Sadly the mystery in the story itself was a little weak, and arguably the story opened the floodgates for endless and usually not great stories about Judges of the world...

Best 2000AD related thing this year

Prog 500.
Best anniversary prog ever. At the time, 500 seemed like an excitingly large number for one thing, and it was celebrated in style, not least with the excellent 'Tharg's head revisited', which gave free-ish rein to certain notorious writers and artists of the past. Not unlike the cover, which features ace renditions of many favourites. Plus, the first episode of Bad Company, one of the best series ever (if I haven't already said that).

Worst 2000AD related thing this year
Errr... nothing? I suppose 1986 was the year in which 2000 AD started really being for adults and not so much for children any more. In retrospect this is a good thing as it lead to some excellent stories seeing print, but at the time it meant I barely read the comic except for the monthlies. Sure, Ace Trucking was fun (except for all the film references I missed), and Strontium Dog was easy to read (but full of torture). If one really has to pick a worst thing, perhaps it was Rogue Trooper: the Hitman. I liked Hit 1, but the series was clearly uncomfortable in this role despite some keen Steve Dillon art. Rogue Trooper should never have had any aliens in it, I say.

What you want to see in 1987:

H'mmm. How about a tenth anniversary celebration to match the joy of Prog 500? Oh well.
The return of the Mean Team? Hey - I wanted it, and I loved it at the time.
Kev O'Neill drawing Torquemada again - everyone wins!
A back cover montage giving a rhyming history of MC1? Check
A back cover montage showing off the best covers of the past? Check - and I want this again, please Tharg!
A new epic for Judge Dredd? Even if it's really an epic about Chopper with Dredd a bit player...
Halo Jones Book IV? damn. I guess I'd settle for more DR & Quinch...

I don't know what I really wanted, but 1987 wasn't short of delights.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Christmas Prog

Nowadays we squaxx get to enjoy the bumper 100 page special progs nbamed after the year to come. But there was a time when we had a plain old Christmas-themed (or sometimes not so themed) prog to enjoy. Let's turn back the clock to the last of these efforts, Prog 1124, dated 16th-29th December 1998.

Already you'll notice that the Prog was on sale for two weeks, just as Progs 200x are. Also, this one was a 48-pager, which is nice I guess. Somehow it only featured 4 strips, though. On the plus side (for me, at least), all of these four strips had a holiday theme. An oddly, all were self-contained episodes except Dredd, which is the second-half of a two-parter.

Judge Dredd: Christmas Angel, by John Wagner and Jim Murray.
Yes, it's a Wagner, meaning you needn't have read Part 1 to enjoy Part 2. Oola Bint is back doing her thing on Christmas Day. Judge Berk screws things up and she goes free. The end. Perfect art from Murray that layers on the humour thick and fast. And Wagner allows for two moving scenes of Christmas cheer - 2000 AD style...

Verdict: Splundig vur Ho-ho-ho

Missionary Man by Gordon Rennie and Henry Flint
A tale of revenge, featuring such Chritmassy panels such as:

In which the citizens of an entire town get to burn in hellfire. Missionary Man was not a universally beloved series, but I liked it (especially in the re-reading of it all). This episode will please most squaxx if for no other reason than Henry Flint is drawing it, and everyone loves Flint, right? Continuity buffs will also enjoy seeing Preacher Cain back in Texas City tying up some loose ends from his past, and generally meeting out seasonal death. OK, so there's not a huge Christmas theme to this episode beyond the mention of anniversaries, but it's a powerful piece.

Verdict: Christmas is really about Jesus, sinners! Repent under a hail of lead forgiveness!

Sinister Dexter by Dan Abnett and Steve Yeowell
Again, SinDex are not universally loved, but I say only fools claim not to enjoy it. Honestly, have you ever read a truly bad episode starring the hitmen? Sure, until last year's high drama the strip has never scaled the heights of 'best series ever', but it's been consistently fun, more often than not actually funny, and always earns it's place in the roster of any Prog it's in.

Having just made that claim, I have to admit, that this isn't a classic SinDex outing. But we get plenty of Christmas bickering, and a classic scene in which the duo persuade a couple of warring gangs to lay aside their differences and recall the spirit of the trenches in 1914 and play a bit of football. 'Kalashnikovs for goalposts' joke - check. 'Football turns out to be a bomb' joke - check. And by this time the strip had enough side characters that we could find a small amount of humour in the goings on of Demi Octavo and Officers Rhodes and Weld:

Verdict: ho-ho-hum

Before checking in on our final Xmas tale, let's not forget the fun of the preview pages! Nowadays internets and forums can give a fan an all-too-detailed glimpse of publications to come. But back in the day we had to wait until Tharg was ready to reveal his business. In Christmas 1998, Tharg was most excited about...

Sinister Dexter! Yay! He was touting Eurocrash, billed as the first epic for the pair. And it turned out pretty good, I think we'd all agree (even if many would have preferred it to be a final epic...
The Balls Brothers! How could it be bad? John Wagner and Kevin Walker could do no wrong. In this case, it was Wagner who did the wrong, as Walker's new art was awesome and funny. Wagner's script was not funny. No, it really wasn't. Shame.
Mazeworld book III: the Hellmaze! Yay - more Arthur Ranson art! The story wasn't quite the unmitigated scrotnigness that I'd hoped for, but I remember this series fondly, if hazily.
Devlin Waugh! Much as it felt sad to have Waugh in 2000 AD rather than the Megazine, I was very glad to have a proper epic again. The Herod serial lasted for half a year - that's proper, that is. Also, the tone of the series was much more suited to 2000 AD than it would have been in the Meg anyway.
Mercy Heights 2! Sci-Fi hospital dramas work. 2000 AD has tried them out twice, to some success but little longevity, which saddens me. Actually, Mercy Heights 2 was more of a murder mystery than a hospital drama as I recall (or was that part 1?), which was a shame. And at least it helped create the Tor Cyan one-offs, which are amongst the best Rogue Trooper stories ever, not least owing to some excellent Kev Walker and Jock art. Just check out the cover for this very Prog (over on the 2000AD main site, if you please).

And with that, let's explore the Mercy Heights christmas story - by John Tomlinson (he was great, wasn't he?) and Neil Googe.

Well now, we have lots of snow. We have some banter between Kintry and Ferro. We have a weird alien peacekeeping beastie trapped on an ice planet. Basically, it has all the ingredients of a simple but respectable 2000 AD tale. Shame it ends on such a weak bit of innuendo, but hey ho. At least we get some exploding heads to keep us going through the long winter nights.

Verdict: No one should be in a hospital over Christmas...

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Jigsaw Comics 4

A Christmas bumper-sized puzzle for you to tease out. There'a no hidden holiday message, just a general tone of fear and hopelessness.


Sunday, December 17, 2006

Making your flesh crawl

2000 AD is not for children. Except, of course it is. Not only are many of the older plotlines inherently childish, but perhaps only children can really appreciate how scary the comic can be. Adults are far too busy spotting political contexts and derivative art to appreciate the simplicity of mind-blowing weirdness - and the horror that this often entails. Like Nemesis the Warlock - one of the most alien aliens in Sci-Fi (if not SF)*

I've incessantly documented 2000 AD's ability to be nasty and violent whilst being funny. Death and laughter are two things you can expect (nay, should demand!) from every Prog you read. But today I'm going to highlight some scans that show 2000 AD at its creepy best - again, very often coupled with humour. Admittedly, laughter is a common reaction to hearing a horrible idea, or seeing a horrible image. As I'm sure anyone who's seen the Exorcist can sympathise with.

Chris Weston is perhaps the artist I most associate with this duality - he really does get away with some of the nastiest pictures you'll see in any context - and yet the very outrageousness of his best efforts always provokes a grin in me. And I'm sure Weston knows this. I wonder if he could draw such nasty things if he didn't have the safety-valve of humour to keep him (and his editors) happy.

Of course, sometimes the humour is intended to be separate from the creep factor. It's perhaps not surprising that the champions of this dichotomy are John Wagner and Alan Grant (and in my head, it's Grant who masterminds these moments). They are the same people who can get a genuine laugh out of violence, without descedning into the cartoonery of Mills (which is no less worhtwhile, mind, but less interesting to me). However I believe that in the funny/creepy context, the artist is the true essential here. Take this aside from 'RoboHunter: the Beast of Blackheart Manor', as plain a comedy serial as 2000 AD has ever featured.

Just to remind people of the context, a bunch of hotel guests have been killed. The deaths of two more has just been announced. These people are not main players in the story - merely foils with which Wagner and Grant highlight what a crazy world Sam Slade finds himself in. Gibson beautifully ups the creep factor with his use of shadow, and we the reader get to laugh at the cheapening of life conveyed in the dialogue, but also are reminded that this is a repellant thought.

And in the hands of Ezquerra:

this piece of pantomime villainry becomes all the more heinous and poignant at the same time because of the contrast between Nelson Bunker Kreelman's smiling face, and his wife's anguished grimace.

Of course, a great artist can also render a scene that is intended to be nothing but creepy...

This poor fellow has just been badly burnt. That's not funny. It's horrible, you freak. Stop laughing!

Creepiness can often be in the atmosphere of a panel as much as any overt grotesquery. Here's McMahon setting the scene for one of Dredd's more gothic adventures in space when he was looking for the Judge Child:

And the right choice of artist can ensure that something that might feel a little silly can in fact make your flesh come alive and start to eat your own bones. That Ridgway Droid. I swear it sometimes looks like he can't draw very well, but he always comes out on top with his atmospherics and exaggerated facial expressions...

*Yes, this is apparently an important disctinction. Basically 'Sci-Fi' uses 'science' to mean a vaguely science-related concept; SF uses 'science' as actual science. Oh, go and look it up on Wikipedia already. 2000 AD is Sci-Fi with occasional SF pretensions. Very occasional.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Just when you think there isn't a theme to a post...

Shades of Methuselah!
It's Yosay Tilman.

More to the point, it's the mighty Jesus Redondo. I get the impression that he's a generally liked artist, even though he hasn't been seen in the galaxy's greatest for many, many years (perhaps he's dead?). I only discovered his work in back progs, but he's always stood out as having that elegant simplicity in comic art that I find so easy to read. He also perfectly captures that 70s essence lurking in much of 2000 AD. That's to say, wiry rather than muscly heroes, the constant presence of a quick death, and people who are miserable without whining about it all the time. Also, moustaches.

And so on to the next picture from my rndom trawl through my scans today. Sometimes it's nice to have a theme, and sometimes I'm just too lazy to do anything other than bask in the inherent glory of 30 years worth of back progs.

Here's socially conscious Jim DiGriz promoting nuclear energy. I have read the source novel, but I can't remember if Harrison was particularly eco-conscious or not; more likely adapter Gosnell was pushing an admittedly decent agenda.
You'll notice I'm also pushing my agenda of promoting clear art. Sure, I've been wowed by the likes of Simon Bisley and Mark Harrison, but frankly I've always preferred the ways of your storytelling experts.

Oh, look. Here's a Steve Dillon panel right on cue.

Featuring a rare pre-Fr1day Rogue Trooper in colour. A face I don't think we've seen yet in this blog,which is odd as I believe he's the second longest-running character in the comic after Dredd (well, if you count all his variations as one). The other thing to motice is how little there is in the panel, how easy it would be to copy it, and yet how beautifully it conveys the atmosphere of a professional sliding along a wire on a murky day. But everyone loves Dillon nowadays, what with Preacher being one of the gateway comics of choice and all.

Next, Cam Kennedy. Wagner famously loves him, and while I don't share the opinion that he's the best artist for Dredd, he's certainly excellent at it. I think maybe he's too 70s even for my taste. But his curvy hips and feet are something else. Here's a bit of humour from the man who I imagine is a laugh to be around.

Poor Steve Smith. Back in the first VCs go around, he was perpetually bewildered and scared witless. Of course he bucked up, but there are always days when you find yourself in a Geek outfit holding a las-rifle and just not knowing what the hell is going on.

Ron Smith. He's a strange one. His art manages to be both superbly clean, what with his thin line brush strokes, but his panels are often so full of action that it feels busy. I've always found it easy to see what's happening, and then you get to enjoy the fun details in the background. I think it's a shared opinion that Smith isn't great on Dredd himself, but he's awesome at doing the Cits and perps he busts. Go check out his work in Case Files 3-5, oh yes. I like his funny stuff. Not that he's ever done any straight strips, but his comedy is excellent. See - a little girl with a beast face eating someone. That's the funniest thing ever, I tell you.

And lastly, here's a picture of Brit-Cit Judge Stark looking a lot like Zach Braff. (courtesy of Mike McMahon)

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Jigsaw comics 3

So maybe I was a little disrespectful of Dredd last time. Perhaps this will make up for it:

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Featuring Judge Dredd

It's been a while since I last posted, and it's also come to my attention that I made it this far without stopping to give full attention to the big man himself. No, not Tharg (although there's definitely a post on him to come), Dredd. Tharg may be the long serving editor of 2000 AD, but Dredd has somehow managed to appear in more progs*. So it's only fitting that I pause to give some respect to what may be Britain's finest comic creation (er, that is, one created by a fella from America/Scotland, and an artist from Andorra)**

There are many great characters to have emerged from the galaxy's greatest, but none have had even a tenth of the impact of Dredd. To the world at large, I mean. Any regular readers of 2000 AD have of course been touched by many other characters, but none have made it into the popular consciousness. Dredd has appeared in Newspaper strips and a certain feature film (which isn't that bad, but is frustrating because it could have been much better), and is occasionally used in headlines to describe the latest government measure giving the police more powers. Of course, he won't ever hit as big as Batman/Spider-Man until he's on pencil cases and lunchboxes, but that will surely come...

I'm not convinced that Dredd was originally set up to the grand satire that it is championed as being. Frankly, it's about a heroic no-nonsense tough-guy cop who busts bad guys and regularly defeats the odds. Of course, his definition of 'bad guys' is pushed to the limit, which is where most of the humour in Dredd comes from. Such as the hapless jaywalker who gets shot in the original first episode (as seen in the complete Case Files 1, on sale now creeps!), or the occasional rich dude who gets mugged and then booked for incitement. Heavy handed policing is inherently funny (when it's not real, of course), but there's also a rich seam of reflexive humour to be mined from the fact that Dredd has a point. If we could stamp out petty crime as well as 'real' crime, wouldn't that be a good thing? Yes, Dredd is funny and thought-provoking. Also gritty and exciting more often than not. Wagner is always getting praise heaped upon him (sadly only by a vocal minority of people who've actually read his work); his greatest skill is in combining action, humour and tight plots. Even the great Alan Moore can only manage two of those, for al that his work reaches to be more intellectual.

The other great thing about Judge Dredd (the strip not the man) is the city and more importantly the citizens in it. Wagner and Grant have created host upon host of weirdos to delight and amuse and fall foul of the law for one reason or another. I'll get back to them another day. For now, let's enjoy a cheap laugh as Dredd has a really bad day...

Yes, Dredd can easily be set aside by throwing a bucket of raw munce at him. Why, even an 80 year-old could do it.

Of course, what really upsets Dredd is a locked door. He just can't figure them out.

As a rule, Dredd is a tightly plotted series, no doubt a large part of its charm. But in the early days there were a lot of haphazard scenes, no doubt designed to put the man in danger. One good thing, we get to be reminded that Dredd is merely one of a vast and seemingly undepletable resource, namely the Judges. Dredd is no self-aggrandising hero. He just wants to clear the streets of all lawbreakers, and it doesn't matter if he dies, as long as this holy work continues. Not that he dies easily; I mean he's only been killed about 3 times to date***

From time to time Judges get massacred, but their numbers always seem to come back to strength shortly after each such disaster epic storyline. But I'm not here to pick up on petty plot points. Sure, Dredd is the greatest example of continuity in comics, but it manages to reamin fun 30 years by knowing when to respect internal history, and when to acknowledge the need for a basic status quo. I'm here to gently mock the man... or am I?

*I'm pretty sure Dredd has appeard in all but 4 issues of 2000 AD (can't remember exactly which just now); Tharg of course was absent for about 6 months back in the late 90s when the not X-Files bandwagon jumping Men in Grey took over.
**Maybe Dan Dare is more famous and has been around for longer, but time will tell. (Rupert the Bear? That's a well-loved comic, but it is international? H'mmm)
***He's been shot in the heart at least twice (Judge Cal; the Hitman), and in the head at least once (Twister, I think?) Sure, the recovery thanks to future medicine is well documented, but frankly he should be dead,oh yes he should.

Friday, December 01, 2006

The things comics can do

Sure, you all know that I love 2000 AD, but I'm sure you won't be surprised to hear that I'm obsessed with comics as a medium. I can't easily say why this is. I'm sure it's a mixture of nature (my father has always been a fan), nurture (exposure to comics at a suitably young age), and the fact that comics are inherently cool. There are plenty of things to say about why comics are great, but I'm not up for that today. Instead, I'm going to share a few examples of what comics can do that other media can't - or at least, can't do as elegantly. I expect they're also the sorts of things that annoy non-comics readers. You know, the ones who simply can't read the things because they 'don't know whether to read the words or look at the pictures first', despite having no difficulty with newspaper strips and political cartoons (which I also love, by the way).

Without further ado, some examples - all from the galaxy's greatest, of course

First up, the inset panel.

A staple of exposition in the comics world, it simply says - here, this is the important part of the picture. I always get a kick out of these, especially the ones with a neatly drawn border.

Rarer, but equally satisfying, the montage.

Films do montage as well, but they've become beyond cliche at this point. It's always fun to see the passage of time in a single panel. Ezquerra is very good at these; I imagine many other artists aren't.

Sound effects.
Again, film is much better at this, what with having actual sound. But a well-drawn sound enhances a panel no end. This example also features a well-lettered speech balloon. It allows you to read in dramatic pauses without looking stilted, since we're not being directed on how to read it by use of punctuation.

Aural jokes.
Obviously a book could do this, too. To my mind, it would require a little more explanation to work, and have less impact. I feel that quotation marks in prose don't have the same impact as a speech balloon for driving home the idea that people in books hear speech rather than reading them.

The floating heads panel. Now, the Iliad is a great saga, but Book 2 is boring as anything because it's simply a long list of all the people involved. If it was done as a comic (a long held ambition of mine), that necessary piece of exposition could be knocked off quickly a little like this:

And here's a bit of atmosphere that doesn;t need any spelling out. I grant you, every comic since the days of digital colouring has plenty of atmosphere to it, but some artists try harder than others to produce a more potent effect. Frazer Irving is very much one of those.

And that's that for now.