No. 223 – First Blood

“Slab” (Special Labour Auxiliary Bio-engineered) clone soldier (left panel, left) from The Ballad of Halo Jones Book 3 (progs 452466 (1986)), Chapter 9: The Gravity of the Situation (prog 460), written by Alan Moore and drawn by Ian GibsonJohn J. Rambo[1] portrayed by Sylvester Stallone

Rambo[2] first appeared on the silver screen in First Blood (Orion Pictures, 1982), based on the novel of the same name (M. Evans, 1972) by David Morrell, and subsequently in Rambo: First Blood Part II (1985), Rambo III (TriStar Pictures, 1988), Rambo (Lionsgate Films, 2008) and Rambo: Last Blood (Lionsgate Films, 2019).

Author Morrell was heavily influenced while writing First Blood by Geoffrey [Edward West] Household’s (1900–1988) thriller novel Rogue Male (Chatto & Windus, 1939), and the character of Rambo was based partly on US war hero First Lieutenant Audie [Leon] Murphy, one of the most decorated US soldiers of the Second World War (1939–1945).

First Blood is arguably the most thoughtful film of the series – it projects the most pathos and contains the least amount of violence – and it seems that Moore is here expressing his disdain for what he considers the sequel’s inevitable degeneration into a crass action film franchise.

Interestingly, the main concourse of Moab’s Mess Complex in prog 460’s Halo Jones is dominated by a statue of Lot’s wife [unnamed but called “Ado” or “Edith” in some Jewish traditions], who in the Bible (Genesis 19) disobeyed God by looking back at the city of Sodom,[3] having fled it with her husband, and was turned into a pillar of salt for her sin. Moab’s mineral wealth is a key strategic factor in Earth’s ongoing war with or in the Tarantula Nebula,[4] and presumably a principle founding tenet of the Moabite religion is “Never look back [to sinful Earth].” The historic Moabite culture (east of the Dead Sea in modern Jordan) was frequently in conflict with its Israelite neighbours; all this subtly hinting in Halo Jones at an eons-old struggle – possibly religious in origin – of dubious legality and morality, with a whiff of entitlement. Moore never actually spells it out, and neither shall we.

Notes:

  1. Rambo is named after the Rambo apple cultivar (a plant with desirable attributes produced by selective breeding and cultivation), a supply of which Morrell’s wife provided while he was brainstorming names for the character, who is given no first name in the novel
  2. It is never stated what rank Rambo holds, but judging from the crossed arrows (officer) insignia on the lapel of his army alpha dress green uniform – and given that he is based partly on 1st Lt. Murphy – he is probably a former First Lieutenant (or possibly Captain) with the United States Army Special Forces
  3. Probably once located near Mount Sodom (technically a hill) at the southwest end of the Dead Sea, Israel
  4. Located in the Dorado constellation, 159,800 light years from Earth

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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. 205 – The Platinum Horde

Left: prog 217 cover art by Mike McMahon; right: Yuan dynasty (14th century) Genghis Khan portrait (artificially coloured) courtesy National Palace Museum, Taipei, Taiwan

His Supreme Bloodthirstyness [sic] King Gargantua the Diminutive of the Karbongian Empire and his Platinum Horde, from prog 217’s (1981) Tharg’s Future Shocks: The Last Rumble of the Platinum Horde, written by Alan Moore and drawn by John Higgins v Genghis Khan [Mongolian: “Universal Leader”; pronounced “jengis H’aan”], born Temüjin [Mongolian: “iron”] Borjigin (c. 1162–1227), founder and first Great Khan of the Mongol Empire, the largest – if somewhat short-lived – empire in history until the British Empire[1]

The Platinum Horde is a reference to The Golden Horde[2], a vast Mongolian khanate (chiefdom or principality) established by Genghis’ grandson Batu (c. 1207–1255) in the 13th century, originating as the northwestern sector of the Mongol Empire and at its height encompassing most of Eastern Europe from the Urals to the Danube River, extending east deep into Siberia, and in the south bordering the Black Sea and the Caucasus Mountains.

Timur

If a “last rumble” could be historically attributed to anyone’s horde, however, it really deserves to go to that at the head of which sat mighty Amir[3] Timur (1336–1405) – the lesser-known (these days, at any rate) but nonetheless extraordinary last of the great Mongol conquerors – also known as Tamerlane[4] (more pointedly referred to in Europe as “Tamerlane the Great” or “Tamerlane the Destroyer”), a Turco-Mongol warlord proclaiming himself heir to the Mongol Empire (though only tenuously related to the Borjigin line), and carving out his own empire comprising modern-day Iran, the Caucasus, Mesopotamia, Afghanistan, much of Central Asia, as well as parts of contemporary India (where he founded the Mughal – a Persian/Arabic corruption of the word “Mongol” – Dynasty (1526–1540, 1555–1857)), Pakistan, Syria and Turkey.

Notes:

  1. Mongol Empire: 24 million km² (9.27 million mi²), ruling 110 million people; British Empire: 35.5 million km² (13.71 million mi²), ruling 533 million people
  2. Not to be confused with the celebrated Irish band of the same name (1982–1994), as well one might
  3. Amir (or “emir”) meaning “commander”, “general”, or “king” – aristocratic, noble and military title used in Arab countries and Afghanistan
  4. A composite of “Timur”, his given name, Uzbek Chaghatay also meaning “iron”, and the Persian  “-i-leng”, meaning “the lame”, combined to form “Timur-i-leng”, or “Timur the Lame”, anglicised as “Tamerlane”; referring to the result of a battlefield arrow wound

 

No. 170 – D.R. & Quinch

Left: The Complete D.R. & Quinch (Rebellion, 2006), right: National Lampoon magazine’s October 1982 O.C. & Stiggs Special Issue cover ©National Lampoon

D.R. & Quinch written by Alan Moore and drawn by Alan Davis v National Lampoon magazine’s high school delinquents O.C. & Stiggs*, created by Tod Carroll and Ted Mann

Or in other words, Waldo “D.R.” [“Diminished Responsibility”] Dobbs and Ernest Errol Quinch v Oliver Cromwell “O.C.” [“Out of Control”] Ogilvie and Mark Stiggs, the latter pair featuring in stories with familiar-sounding titles such as The Utterly Monstrous Mind-Roasting Summer of O.C. and Stiggs and The Wedding Reception of Schwab’s Repellent Sister and the Chinaman Frank, and How We Completely Ruined It.

Although D.R. & Quinch operate on a galaxy-wide scale, O.C. and Stiggs’ exploits were nonetheless exceedingly violent and bear only a passing resemblance to the characters in Robert Altman’s (1925–2006) lacklustre teen comedy O.C. and Stiggs (MGM/United Artists, 1985)

D.R. & Quinch Have Fun on Earth – their first appearance – in prog 317 (1983)

Concerning D.R. & Quinch’s enduring popularity, author Alan Moore has since expressed unease at how the strip exploits violence for comic effect, claiming that it has “[no] lasting or redeeming social value”. O.C. & Stiggs, however – deplorable as their antics may have been – were created to combat what creators Carroll and Mann considered in the early 80s to be an emerging and dangerous generation of a “Slurpee mallplex demographic, a new strain of teen consumers, lobotomized Alfred E. Neumans** raised on television and sugar rather than on countercultural literature and grass.”† Surely a noble and relevant cause still.

National Lampoon was an American humour magazine which ran from 1970–1998 and was originally a spin-off from Harvard Lampoon magazine, reaching the height of its popularity in the late 1970s, spawning films, radio, live theatre and books.

D.R. & Quinch also feature in HoH here.

*References: Magic Words: The Extraordinary Life of Alan Moore (p. 156) by Lance Parkin (Aurum Press Ltd., 2013), and O.C. and Stiggs Related Works at Wikipedia
**Fictitious mascot of the American humor magazine Mad
†Hunter Stevenson, Apology magazine, Feb 2013

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No. 169 – Chronocops

Mad magazine image ©DC Comics (Time Warner)

Chronocops written by Alan Moore and drawn by Dave Gibbons from prog 310’s (1983) Tharg’s Time Twisters v Dragged Net! from Mad magazine Vol. 33 No. 22 (1953) written by Harvey Kurtzman (1924 –1993) and drawn by Will Elder (1921–2008)

Mad magazine was created by Kurtzman and William Maxwell “Bill” Gaines (1922–1992) in 1952, and is the last surviving title from the EC [Entertainment] Comics line. The “E” in “EC” originally stood for “Educational” and was created and privately owned by Maxwell Charles Gaines (1894–1947) and specialized in educational and child-oriented stories. Following Maxwell’s death, his son Bill took over and began specialising in horror fiction, crime fiction, satire, military fiction and science fiction from the 1940s–50s, eventually concentrating on satire due to censorship pressures in the U.S. in 1954–55.

Although Dragged Net! is a spoof of NBC’s popular Dragnet (1951–1959), Moore and Gibbons’ story is not only an homage to Kurtzman and Elder but also to the classic show created, written and starring [John Randolph] Jack Webb (1920–1982) as Detective Sergeant Joseph “Joe” Friday [promoted to Lieutenant during the 1958–59 season], caricatured as Joe Saturday in the strip, delivering variants on Sgt. Friday’s trademark lines: “This is the city: Los Angeles, California. I work here. I’m a cop,” and “All we know are the facts, ma’am.”

No. 110 – Mind the Oranges, Marlon!

Marlon form prog 365’s D.R. & Quinch Go to Hollywood written by Alan Moore and drawn by Alan DavisMarlon Brando (1924–2004), pictured here in a still from A Streetcar Named Desire (1951)

“The oranges… the oranges…” Don Vito Corleone is shot

“Mind the oranges, Marlon!” are the words shouted in the D.R. & Quinch story by Marlon’s manager moments before the hapless actor is crushed to death on set by a mountain of 16,000 prop oranges, and the words subsequently become the title of Marlon’s last, legendary blockbuster. The reference is to the popularly held belief that oranges were the symbolic harbingers of death in Francis Ford Coppola’s The Godfather (Paramount, 1972), also starring Brando in one of his career-defining performances as Don Vito Corleone. In all likelihood, however, the oranges were simply chosen by production designer Dean Tavoularis to compliment the otherwise sombre sets*.

Other celebrity appearances in D.R. & Quinch Go to Hollywood (progs 363367) include [as well as a good deal of consultation and guesswork] the following:

1. Bette Davis (1908–1989), 2. Robert Redford, 3. John Hurt (1940–2017) as John Merrick (real name Joseph Merrick, 1862–1890) in The Elephant Man (EMI/Paramount Pictures, 1980), 4. John Cleese in his role as Maître D’ in Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life (Universal Pictures, 1983), 5. Sir Alfred Hitchcock KBE** (1899–1980), 6. Otto Preminger (1905–1986), 7. David Lean (1908–1991), 8. Britt Ekland

*The Anniversary You Can’t Refuse: 40 Things You Didn’t Know About The Godfather (Time, 14 March 2012)
**British chivalric order: Knight Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire
†British chivalric order: Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire
‡AO: Order of Australia, CBE: Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire, FRSL: Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature

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