Back in 1974 Peter Knifton worked alongside the legendary pulp author Guy N Smith to pen the first (and only) edition of the entirely black & white short comic book anthology ‘Adventure Strip Weekly’.  The pilot first issue contained six serial stories, written by Smith and illustrated by Knifton.  Unfortunately, the comic never saw the light of day and remains only in the highly sought after unpublished pilot format.

The A4-sized comic contains the following stories:

Bamboo Guerillas – 2 Pages
It’s the 15th February 1941 and Colonel ‘Jungle’ Carter has stayed behind in Malaya to begin Jungle Warfare on the Japanese.  But deep in the jungle, in his hidden prisoner-of-war camp, the notorious Colonel Sika has become enraged by Carter’s actions against his troops.  After capturing one of Carter’s Chinese men, Colonel Sika sends the captured solider back to Carter with a dilemma…unless Carter and his men walk unarmed into Sika’s camp at sunset on the evening of the next day, five British prisoners will die…and slowly!

Short, sharp and straight to the point, the two-page graphic novel adaptation of Guy N Smith’s notorious pulp novel ‘Bamboo Guerillas’ (1977) is basically a massively condensed version of the beginning few chapters of the novel.  Indeed, in the space of just twelve frames, artist and comic strip writer Peter Knifton has made every single frame count, with an entire plot set down in almost a point-by-point succession.  The artwork itself is perfectly in fitting with the pulpish war story, only sadly lacking in any real action of over-the-top violence.  As such this uber brief glimpse of the barbarically savage original story is cut of all its glory and sanitised so much that it basically misses the point.

(Next Week: ‘Jungle’ Carter and his Guerillas face Colonel Sika’s execution squad!)

In Search Of The Hairy Giants – 2 Pages
Researchers Geoff Russell and Roy Palmer are leading an expedition in the Morris Mountains of Northern British Columbia in an area known as ‘Sasquatch’ in a hope of locating a race of giants that are said to exist in the area.  But there are other dangers surrounding the unforgiving terrain.  Bears, wolves and freezing temperatures drive the two researchers and their Chehalis Indian Guide, Pete Smith, into an abandoned cabin for the night.  But they are not alone in Giant Country…

Like with the first instalment to the ‘Bamboo Guerillas’ comic book adaptation, this two page (12 frame) comic strip is merely setting down the premise for what promises to be an intriguing yeti type of tale, in a similar vein to the likes of Algernon Blackwood’s ‘The Wendigo’ (1910).  Not much actually happens in this short introductory instalment, with the emphasis put on setting down the backdrop and premise from which the tale would have grown from.

(Next Week: First glimpse of the hairy giants!)

Raymond Odell:  The Case Of The Flying Corpse… - 2 Pages
Detective Inspector Richmond of the CID has called upon his old colleague, the private detective Raymond Odell, to help him with a baffling case that has just arisen.  It seems that the charred remains of a man named Richard Corda have been found out at sea, with a parachute harness still attached.  Corda’s employee, Ronald Gidman owns an export business.  However, Gidman’s plane has been out of action for the last few weeks.  The two detectives thusly decide to go down to Lincolnshire to pay this Richmond fella a visit.  But upon arriving, they find a whole host of strange things occurring.  The strangest of which being the local legend of the were-birds…

For a simple twelve-frame first instalment, this odd little comic strip packs in a particularly strange succession of oddities leading up to the weirdly subdued cliff-hanger that the reader is left on.  We have a man almost becoming sucked under by quicksand on the Wash.  An unexplained cluster of diamonds.  A mystery murder.  And by far the most odd, being our first potential sighting of the were-birds!  Oh yes, we’ve got the lot crammed in here.  And it’s nothing short of odd and mindboggling from this early stage.  What a shame we never got to see how this all developed.

Rebel Star – 2 Pages
The Public School of Worthington College was passionate about rugby.  Soccer on the other hand, was absolutely forbidden.  Anyone caught playing it would find themselves becoming expelled.  But that was a chance Chris Fox was willing to take in order to play the one sport he loved.  And the nearby field on the other side of Wrockwardine Village would be the perfect spot for playing against the local Wrockwardine lads.  But their opponents have other ideas of how the game should go…

This short and sweet thirteen-frame strip sets down what at first appears to be an inherently snobbish storyline that very quickly starts to show signs of turning delightfully sour.  The local Wrockwardine characters all appear oddly dishevelled, only to go completely overboard with the utterly exaggerated ‘thuggish gang’ mentality.  This first glimpse of the comic shows surprising promise.

(Next Week: The Soccer Riot)

A Man Called Saton - 2 Pages
For almost a year the notorious Tortilla and his bandit gang had been riding down from the nearby mountains and raiding the terrified Mexican peasants.  But, with the arrival of a lonesome gunslinger going by the name of Joseph Saton, a faint wisp of hope is in the air.  Offering a vast quantity of their hidden gold, the peasants plead with the surely spoken newcomer to rid them of the Tortilla once and for all…

Another twelve frame comic strip setting down the initial storyline for what seems to be a classic style of western, with plenty of gritty shoot-outs and violence destined to come.  Saton seems like another arrogant ‘Mark Sabat’ style of character, set in the Wild West, with plenty of guts and no fear of dying.  What a shame that it never came to anything.

(Next Week: Saton Versus Tortilla)

Rat Mania - 2 Pages
After Professor Warpen successfully transplants human brain cells into that of a rat, he unwittingly creates a devious beast named Ratman who, after killing the professor, commences his plans to become the messiah for the entire rat population to overthrow mankind.  Having grown to the size of a man, Ratman moves to a large yacht named ‘The Scourge’ that is currently moored on the Thames.  However, the government have enlisted the services of Solomon who they dub ‘The Ratmaster’, who together with Tom Katt the Catman, will track down and stop this power-hungry mutant rat…

It’s the beginning of a wildly over-the-top tale of animal-superhero wackiness.  Although the story shares almost the same title to that of Smith’s apocalyptic short story ‘Ratmania’ that was included in the anthology ‘Horror Shorts – 2nd Collection’ (2001), neither stories have anything else in common.  Indeed, where the ‘Ratmania’ short story was gloomy and bleak, the ‘Rat Mania’ comic strip is laced with tongue-in-cheek villainy and comically pictorial characters.  However, this first (and sadly only) instalment into the story still has its wacky charm – with plenty of craziness on the absolute verge of taking over.

(Next Week: Ratman Versus Ratmaster!)

The pilot comic runs for a total of 12 A4-sized pages.

© DLS Reviews

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