No. 225 – The Secret Diary of Adrian Cockroach

The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole, Aged 13¾ cover ©Methuen Publishing Ltd.

Robin Smith’s cover for the Judge Dredd story The Secret Diary of Adrian Cockroach, Aged 13½ Months, written by John Wagner and Alan Grant and drawn by Cam Kennedy from prog 458 (1986) v The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole, Aged 13¾ (1982) by Sue Townsend FRSL[1] (1946–2014)

The Adrian Mole books made Townsend the UK’s bestselling author in the 1980s, and inspired a BBC Radio 4 play, a television show (ITV, 1985–87), a West End theatre production (Wyndham’s Theatre, London, 1984–86) and a stage musical (Curve, Leicester, 2015; Menier Chocolate Factory, Southwark, London, 2017; Ambassadors Theatre, London, 15 June–12 October 2019).

The sequels to the The Secret Diary are The Growing Pains of Adrian Mole (Puffin Books/Methuen, 1984), The True Confessions of Adrian Albert Mole, Margaret Hilda Roberts and Susan Lilian Townsend[2] (Methuen, 1989), Adrian Mole and the Small Amphibians [newts, of course] (Methuen, 1991), Adrian Mole: The Wilderness Years [Adrian is 23¾] (Methuen, 1993), Adrian Mole: The Cappuccino Years [Adrian is 30] (Michael Joseph, 1999), Adrian Mole and the Weapons of Mass Destruction [Adrian is 33¾] (Michael Joseph, 2004) and Adrian Mole: The Prostrate Years [Adrian is 39¼] (Michael Joseph, 2009).

Notes:

  1. Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature (elected 1993)
  2. Yes, that is the actual title, including the author’s name

No. 221 – Porcine, Moi?

Miss Piggy image courtesy ABC/John E. Barrett/The Muppets Studio

Princess Gadarina (prog 390’s (1984) “Star Fry-Up“) from the Ace Trucking Co. story On the Dangle[1] (progs 378386), written by John Wagner and Alan Grant and drawn by Massimo Belardinelli (1938–2007) v Miss Piggy of The Muppet Show (ITC Entertainment, 1976–1981), created by Jim Henson[2] (1936–1990)

Inspired by jazz and popular music singer/songwriter Peggy Lee (née Norma Deloris Egstrom, 1920–2002), Miss Piggy has in more recent times become a feminist icon, having in 2015 alone broken off her long-standing but intermittent relationship[4] with Kermit the Frog, written an article entitled “Miss Piggy: Why I Am a Feminist Pig” for Time, and received a Sackler Center First Award from the Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art at the Brooklyn Museum, New York. Announcing the news, the award’s namesake, public historian and arts activist, Elizabeth Sackler, stated that Miss Piggy was the embodiment of “spirit, determination, and grit,” who had taught millions of people valuable lessons about overcoming obstacles.

Notes:

  1. On the dangle: fictional trucker slang for “on the lam,” meaning “on the run [from the law]”
  2. Miss Piggy was performed by master puppeteer Frank Oz from 1976–2002 and by Eric Jacobson since 2001
  3. Possibly a reference to Romeo’s famous line in William Shakespeare’s (1564–1616) tragedy Romeo and Juliet (c. 1591–1595), “But soft, what light through yonder window breaks?” (Act II, Scene II)
  4. We are now, officially, a hack

No. 219 – ’60s Night at The Capon Club

Mick Jagger performing (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction[1] (London Records/Decca Records, 1965) with The Rolling Stones in May 1976, in Zuiderpark Stadion, The Hague, Netherlands (photo: Bert Verhoeff/Anefo, Nationaal Archief)

Tribute act from the Ace Trucking Co. story The Doppelgarp (progs 451472 (1986)) in prog 467, written by John Wagner and Alan Grant and drawn by Massimo Belardinelli (1938–2007) v Mick Jagger, lead singer of The Rolling Stones

The Capon[2] Club featured in The Doppelgarp probably isn’t so much based on the famous Cotton Club nightclub in Harlem, New York, as it is on The Cotton Club, Chicago; a branch of the original run by mobster Ralph “Bottles” Capone, Sr. (1894–1974), older brother to the notorious Alphonse “Al” Gabriel Capone (aka Scarface, 1899–1947), boss of the Italian-American organized crime syndicate, the Chicago Outfit, during Prohibition[3] (1920–1933).

The character Al Capon from Ace Trucking Co. is probably based on Paul Muni’s (born Frederich Meshilem Meier Weisenfreund, 1895–1967) portrayal of Tony Camonte in Scarface (United Artists, 1932).[4]

Notes:

  1. (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction was the first Stones’ No. 1 in the US charts and their fourth in the UK, initially only played on pirate radio stations in the UK due to the its sexually suggestive lyrics
  2. A cockerel that has been castrated to improve the quality of its flesh for food and, in some countries, fattened by forced feeding
  3. A nationwide constitutional ban on the production, importation, transportation, and sale of alcoholic beverages in the US
  4. ‘Cause he certainly doesn’t look like the man himself. Got a better idea? Let us know

No. 216 – The Blob

The Blob written by Alan Grant and drawn by John Higgins from the Judge Dredd Mega-Special 1988 v cult classic B-movie The Blob (1958) starring Steve McQueen (1930–1980) in his feature film debut

The film The Blob also bears a striking resemblance to a story in the Judge Dredd Annual 1982 called The Vampire Effect, written by John Wagner and drawn by Mike McMahon, wherein an alien entity that is composed of and gorges on energy, is physically diminished by liquid xenon (-244ºC), lured through the streets of Mega-City One with gunfire while the power along its path is cut off in stages, lead to and ultimately trapped inside a spacecraft launch silo where it overindulges on rocket fuel to the point of combustion. Slightly on the wrong side of cost-effective but considerably easier than flying it all the way to the arctic ice deserts to be buried in stasis.

The Blob was remade in 1988 (TriStar Pictures), performing poorly but acquiring a modest cult following; and a third remake is in the pipeline with Jack H. Harris, the producer of the original, as executive producer.

No. 215 – True Grit

Uckpuck customs officer Rooster Cogburn in prog 467’s Ace Trucking Co. story The Doppelgarp (progs 451472, 1986), written by John Wagner and Alan Grant and drawn by Massimo Belardinelli (1938–2007) v US Deputy Marshal Reuben J. “Rooster” Cogburn played by John “Duke” Wayne (born Marion Robert Morrison, 1907–1979) in True Grit (1969)

True Grit is based on the novel of the same name (Simon & Schuster, 1968) by Charles McColl Portis, and the film was followed by a sequel, Rooster Cogburn[1] (Universal Pictures, 1975), also starring Wayne. True Grit was remade (Paramount Pictures) in 2010 by Joel and Ethan Coen with Jeff Bridges in the role of Cogburn. There was some minor controversy surrounding Bridges’ wearing of Cogburn’s eye patch over his right eye while Wayne’s Cogburn wore it over his left, with some right-wing savants entertaining the notion that it represented Bridges’ left-wing politics as opposed to Wayne’s conservative Republican politics. This was nonsense; the matter for Bridges was simply one of comfort; in Portis’ novel Cogburn has two functioning eyes and no patch.

Wayne’s portrayal of Cogburn earned him his only Academy Award for Best Actor[2]. As he accepted the award he memorably quipped, “If I’d known that, I’d have put that patch on 35 years earlier.”

Notes:

  1. Wayne’s penultimate film before The Shootist (Paramount Pictures, 1976), ending a 50 year-long career which included 169 feature-length films
  2. He was also nominated for Best Actor for his portrayal of Sgt. John M. Stryker in Sands of Iwo Jima (Republic Pictures, 1949), but lost to Sir Laurence Olivier OM [Ordre du Mérite] (1907–1989) for Hamlet (Rank Film Distributors Ltd./Universal-International, 1948)

No. 197 – The Tell-Tale Heart

“Villains!” I shrieked, “dissemble no more! I admit the deed! – tear up the planks! – here, here! – it is the beating of his hideous heart!” – Edgar Allan Poe, The Tell-Tale Heart

The Beating Heart (progs 511512 (1987)) Judge Dredd story written by John Wagner and Alan Grant and drawn by Steve Dillon (1962–2016) v Edgar Allan Poe’s (1809–1849) short story The Tell-Tale Heart (The Pioneer, 1843), here illustrated[1] by Berni Wrightson (1948–2017) from The Edgar Allan Poe Portfolio (self-published limited edition, 1976)

As well as playing a crucial role in the development of Romanticism in the United States with his tales of mystery, troubled author and poet Poe is also considered to be the inventor of detective fiction[2], specifically with his short stories The Murders in the Rue Morgue (Graham’s Magazine, 1841), The Mystery of Marie Rogêt (Snowden’s Ladies’ Companion, 1842) and The Purloined Letter (The Gift for 1845, 1844)[3], concerning the adventures of the extremely Sherlockian Parisian detective C. Auguste Dupin, as he relates them to his friend, the unnamed narrator of the stories. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle KStJ DL[4] (1859–1930) owed no small debt of gratitude.

Notes:

  1. Experimenting with an impasto technique: painting with thick, broad strokes, using dark colours – primarily blacks and browns – and, when finished, varnished with a high gloss, making photographic reproduction extremely difficult, sorry
  2. Along with, perhaps, Wilkie Collins (1824–1889), author of The Moonstone (Tinsley Brothers, 1868), considered the first modern English detective novel
  3. The Gold Bug (Philadelphia Dollar Newspaper, 1843) also deserves a mention on the subject of Poe’s detective fiction, although it is not a C. August Dupin adventure
  4. Kinght of Justice of Order of Saint John; Deputy Lieutenant [to the Crown]

No. 194 – Burn Rubber!

Marvel Spotlight on… Ghost Rider image ©Marvel Entertainment, LLC

One-off character Johnny Biker from the story Heavy Metal Dredd: The Legend of Johnny Biker from Judge Dredd: The Megazine Vol. 1 No. 19 (1992), written by John Wagner and Alan Grant and drawn by Simon Bisley v supernatural stunt motorcyclist Johnny Blaze aka. Ghost Rider, here pictured in his first appearance in Marvel Spotlight Vol. 1 #5 (1972) drawn by Michael J. Ploog and Mamoru Morrie Kuramoto (1921–1985)

Ghost Rider refers to several supernatural anti-heroes in the Marvel universe but the incarnation with which most comic fans will be familiar is the original Johnny Blaze, who, in order to save the life of his father, agreed to give his soul to “Satan” (later revealed to be an arch-demon named Mephisto). Blaze made his first appearance in 1972, whereupon Marvel renamed their existing western-themed Ghost Rider to Phantom Rider.

Although a visually arresting character with considerable cinematic potential, only two somewhat mediocre Nicolas Cage vehicles have emerged: Ghost Rider (Columbia Pictures, 2007) and Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance (Columbia Pictures, 2011).

Instead of a Ghost Rider film trailer, let’s have some music instead: