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. 220 – The Flying Dutchman

The Flying Dutchman image courtesy Delaware Art Museum

Prog 459’s (1986) Brett Ewins (1955–2015) cover for the Judge Dredd story The Last Voyage of the Flying Dutchman, written by John Wagner and drawn by Bryan Talbot v German opera Der fliegende Holländer by Richard Wagner (1813–1883), here represented by Howard Pyle’s[1] (1853–1911) The Flying Dutchman (1900)

Legendary ghost ship the Flying Dutchman (Dutch: De Vliegende Hollander) is said to glow with an otherworldly light and is doomed to sail the oceans forever, forbidden to make port. Sighting the Dutchman is generally regarded a portent of ill fate, and when hailed by another ship the crew of the Dutchman purportedly attempts to communicate messages to land. Although not based on any actual vessel, ghostly or otherwise, the legend probably originates in the 17th century “golden age” of the Dutch East India Company (Dutch: Vereenigde Oost-Indische Compagnie, [lit. “United East Indian Company”] (VOC)), and sightings of the Dutchman have been reported well into the 20th century.

The theme of Richard Wagner’s opera, alluded to in the tagline[2] on the prog’s cover, is one of redemption through love: the ghostly captain of the Dutchman, having once invoked Satan, is doomed thereafter to sail the oceans eternally and without respite. An angel, however, intercedes, offering the captain a chance at salvation by allowing him to make landfall once every seven years in order to find a wife who will be true to him, whereupon the curse shall be lifted.[3]

No, you’re not getting the trailer for Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest (Buena Vista Pictures, 2006), but the opera snippet below is only 2.17 minutes long[4] and seems to have been markedly influenced by the production design of the film:

Notes:

  1. List of works by Howard Pyle at Project Gutenberg
  2. The tagline is either an editorial in-joke or an oversight: John Wagner wrote the story under the pseudonym T.B. Grover
  3. Are you ever going to watch it? No, nor us [spoiler alert]: the curse gets lifted
  4. Depending on the production, Der fliegende Holländer can last anywhere up to three and a half hours

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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. 203 – Elevator of the Apes

Ugoo-Robert, leader of the All-new Ape Gang, from prog 2088’s (2018) Judge Dredd story Elevator Pitch[1], written by Rob Williams and drawn by Chris Weston v Koba, played by Toby Kebbell, from Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (2014)[2]

The “All-new” Ape Gang refers back to the Judge Dredd story The Ape Gang [or Monkey Business] appearing in prog 39 (1977); written by John Wagner and drawn by Mike McMahon; the leader of which was named Don Uggie Apelino, and which featured mutated, intelligent apes (or “uplifts”), the result of cerebral cellular engineering, inhabiting a Mega-City One ghetto known as The Jungle.[3]

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, a re-reboot[4] of the successful Planet of the Apes (1968) franchise – based on the novel La Planète des singes (Le cercle du nouveau livre, 1963) by Pierre Boulle (1912–1994) – is the sequel to Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011), the plot of which is loosely based on the film Conquest of the Planet of the Apes (1972), and is followed by War for the Planet of the Apes (2017), loosely based on the film Battle for the Planet of the Apes (1973).

Koba of the Apes series is a bonobo, or “pygmy” chimpanzee, as distinct from the larger common chimpanzee; an endangered species of great ape which, looked at in a certain light, sort of makes pitting him as an antagonist all kinds of dodgy.[5]

Notes:

  1. An “elevator pitch” is a US business idiom meaning a succinct and persuasive sales pitch, ie. one that can be presented successfully within in the constraints of a single elevator ride
  2. Koba was played by Christopher Gordon in Rise of the Planet of the Apes, but it seems to us that Ugoo-Robert was more likely based on Koba’s lengthier and more memorable on-screen appearance in its sequel
  3. At least up until The Jungle’s obliteration during The Apocalypse War (progs 245270 (1982))
  4. Although Tim Burton’s uninspiring 2001 remake Planet of the Apes was a financial success, Fox nonetheless chose not to follow it up with a direct sequel
  5. The overall dodginess of ghettoised ape gangsters in Judge Dredd notwithstanding