No. 218 – The Yellow Peril

Left panel: Torquemada possesses Mr. Manchu in prog 393 (1984); right panel: Re-Enter Fu Manchu (1957) cover by Baryé Phillips (1924–1969)

Goth Chinese governor Mr. Manchu (possessed by the spirit of Grand Master Torquemada) in Nemesis the Warlock Book Four: The Gothic Empire (progs 387406 (1984–85)), written by Pat Mills and drawn by Bryan Talbot v Chinese criminal mastermind Dr. Fu Manchu, created by English novelist Sax Rohmer (born Arthur Henry Sarsfield Ward, 1883–1959)

The term “Yellow Peril” upon which Rohmer’s Fu Manchu novels capitalise was first coined in 1897 by the francophone Russian sociologist Jacques Novikow (1849–1912) in his essay Le Péril jaune, but the idea can be traced at least as far back as the Greco-Persian wars (499–449 BC) – arguably the origin of the notion of East v West – and in the Middle Ages (5th–15th centuries) the threat posed to Europe by the Mongolian hordes of Genghis Khan (c. 1162–1227). In more recent times the idea was exacerbated by Kaiser Wilhelm II (1859–1941) of Germany, who deliberately misrepresented to the European powers the Japanese victory in the Russo-Japanese War (1904–05) as a racialist alliance between Japan and China, the supposed purpose of which was to invade and subjugate the western [white] world[1].

Fear or distrust of China and Chinese culture is known as “sinophobia,” which according to sinologist Dr. Wing-Fai Leung of King’s College London, “blends Western anxieties about sex, racist fears of the alien other, and the Spenglerian[2] belief that the West will become outnumbered and enslaved by the East.”[3]

Most honourable mention…

Aside from the delicious farce of the above-mentioned instance of the arch-racist Torquemada having to possess the body of a despised alien whose very appearance is a caricature of human xenophobia, The Gothic Empire is notably a pioneering example in comics of the steampunk[4] genre; one later explored further by Nemesis the Warlock‘s original artist, Kevin O’Neill, in collaboration with long-time 2000 AD contributor Alan Moore, in the popular League of Extraordinary Gentlemen[5] (ABC/WildStorm/DC Comics (1999–2007), Top Shelf/Knockabout Comics (2009–2019)) series, in which Fu Manchu featured early on as a villain.

As well as 16 Rohmer-penned Fu Manchu stories, at least 14 films featuring Fu Manchu have been produced since he made his cinematic debut played by Swedish actor Warner Oland (born Johan Verner Ölund, 1879–1938) in The Mysterious Dr. Fu Manchu (Paramount Pictures, 1929).

Torquemada also features in HoH No. 72 – Torquemada.

  1. Germans, eh? Eh? You’re reading these, right?
  2. Named for [ahem] German historian and philosopher Oswald Arnold Gottfried Spengler (1880–1936), whose book The Decline of the West [or Occident] (German: Der Untergang des Abendlandes, 1918 (Vol.I), 1922 (Vol.II)), postulates that any culture is a superorganism with a limited and predictable lifespan
  3. The population of the People’s Republic of China stood at 1,403,500,365 in 2016. It is the world’s largest trading power, with a total international trade value of £2.93 trillion ($3.87 trillion) in 2012, and foreign exchange reserves reaching £2.15 trillion ($2.85 trillion) by the end of 2010, making its reserves by far the world’s largest
  4. An idealised retro-futuristic take on 19th century – particularly Victorian era (1837–1901) British – industrialised steam-powered culture; inspired by the works of Jules Verne (1828–1905) and H.G. Wells (1866–1946); popularised in the late 1990s and largely assimilated into goth subculture, thereby spoiling it for everyone else
  5. The title The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen refers to the novel The League of Gentlemen (T.V. Boardman & Co., 1958) by John Boland (born Bertram John Boland, 1913–1976), filmed in 1960 (British Lion Films); the plot of which concerns the recruitment by one Lt. Col. Hyde of several British army officers, all in poor standing with the military, for a bank robbery, based on their respective qualities and talents

No. 202 – Ro-dgers and Hammerstein

Ro-Jaws [left panel, left; green] and Hammerstein [left panel, right; brown], created by Pat Mills and originally appearing in Starlord before its merger with 2000 AD in 1978, here drawn by Mike McMahon for the cover of prog 114’s (1979) Ro-Busters story The Fall and Rise of Ro-Jaws and Hammerstein (progs 103115) v Rodgers and Hammerstein, referring to [right panel, left] composer Richard Rodgers (1902–1979) and [right panel, right] long-time collaborator, lyricist-dramatist Oscar Hammerstein II (1895–1960)

Star Pin-up by Boo Cook

While many musicals of the time were whimsical or farcical, Rodgers and Hammerstein entirely re-worked the genre, producing musicals that contained thought-provoking plots and mature themes, including the Broadway smash hits Oklahoma! (1943), Carousel (1945), South Pacific (1949), The King and I (1951) and The Sound of Music (1959).

“Knickers!” Star Pin-up by Kevin O’Neil

Ro-Jaws, a foul-mouthed, working class sewer droid with an irreverent attitude and Cockney patois, and the steadfast but obstinate war droid Hammerstein[1] are two of the most treasured characters ever to trundle through 2000 AD‘s pages and still appear frequently in the comic today. It’s slightly surprising how few fans get the Rodgers and Hammerstein pun here, but in fairness comics fans are not generally renowned for attending musicals.

Side By Side, the song sung by Ro-Jaws and Hammerstein at the end of The Fall and Rise was composed by Harry M. Woods[2] (1896–1970) and most famously recorded by Kay Starr [Katherine Laverne Starks] (1922–2016) in 1953.

The title of the Ro-Busters tale is probably a nod to the classic British comedy The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin[3] (BBC1, 1976–1979), starring Leonard Rossiter (1926–1984), who also showed up – here’s the sci-fi connection – as Dr. Andrei Smyslov in Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1968). Yeah, now you see him.

Rodgers and Hammerstein also feature in HoH No. 172 – Play It Again, Sam Playlist.

Notes:

  1. Manufactured by British automotive marque Rover (1904–2005), currently owned by Jaguar Land Rover
  2. Despite having been born with no fingers on his left hand
  3. Itself a reference to The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (Strahan & Cadell, 1776–1789), a six-volume work by the English historian Edward Gibbon (1737–1794), and for several centuries the last word in Roman history

No. 168 – Throne of Guns

Throne of Guns from prog 2067’s (2018) A.B.C. Warriors’ story Fallout written by Pat Mills and drawn by Clint Langley v The Iron Throne from HBO’s Game of Thrones (2011–2019)

Simonetti’s “correct” Iron Throne

The Iron Throne is the literal and figurative seat of power of the fictional monarchy of Westeros in the Song of Ice and Fire series of fantasy novels by George R.R. Martin, upon which the kings [their hands*, and one queen**, Cersei Lannister (played by Lena Headey in the show)] of the Andals and the First Men sit, and is allegedly forged from 1,000† swords surrendered to Aegon Targaryen (aka Aegon the Conqueror) during the War of Conquest, and fused together by dragon’s fire.

Martin has rarely been satisfied with representations of the Iron Throne in books, games or even the wildly successful HBO TV series, and maintains that only its depiction by French concept artist/illustrator Marc Simonetti in the Song of Ice and Fire companion book The World of Ice and Fire (Bantam Books, 2014) is “absolutely right”.

*Closest appointed advisor, and in absentia, proxy to the ruling monarch
**Rhaenyra Targaryen also had a stint on the Iron Throne before being deposed and executed by her half-brother Aegon II, who then declared her brief and unpopular rule unofficial
†Actual number of the swords contained in structure is less than two hundred (Game of Thrones season 3, episode 6, The Climb)


No. 150 – I’m Just a Sweet Transistor

Prog 787’s (1992) A.B.C. Warriors cover by Kevin Walker featuring Joe Pineapples v Dr. Frank-N-Furter, played by Tim Curry in his film debut in the mother of all cult musicals, The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975)

The tag line “Just a Sweet Transistor..?” comes from the chorus of the song Sweet Transvestite (The Rocky Horror Picture Show [Original Soundtrack], Ode Records/Sony Music, 1975) by the original stage show’s author Richard O’Brien, who also plays handyman Riff Raff in the film:

I’m just a sweet transvestite
From Transexual, Transylvania

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