40 pages. Colour covers, black and white interiors. Suitable for 9+ readership.
The Book: The first in a six issue series of comics collecting the classic Combat Colin strips that appeared in Marvel UK’s Action Force and Transformers comics in the late 1980s / early 1990s. This 40 page first issue reprints all the Combat Colin stories that appeared in Action Force in 1987/88. You’ll see the very first Combat Colin strips and its evolution into a full page serialised strip, with him (and his faithful assistant Semi-Automatic Steve) encountering their first villains Doctor Nasty and Aunt Arctic of the Antarctic! Adventures that take our heroes from the suburban back garden to Egypt and beyond.
The Review: Lew Stringer is probably one of Britain’s longest-serving comic creators, with work that’s featured in almost plenty of humour titles down the years, including The Beano, Buster, The Dandy (he’s currently working on TOXIC, Doctor Who Magazine, and strips for the 2019 Dandy annual), Oink! and VIZ. Back in 1987, though, he was still relatively new to the comics business (his first professionally published work appeared in Marvel UK’s The Daredevils in 1983), but work such as “Combat Colin“, first published in MUK’s Action Force, laid the foundations for an extremely successful career that has earned him many fans over the past three decades.
This first collection of Combat Colin, a character Lew owns thanks to a no-nonsense acknowledgment of rights by Marvel UK back in the early 1990s, includes every episode of the strip featured in Action Force, charting the character’s early career, quickly progressing from local dim-witted tearaway (albeit an armed and dangerous tearaway that sadly I can’t imagine any British publisher commissioning today) to dim-witted international man of action.
Aided by sidekick Semi-Automatic Steve, Colin battles recurring villain Doctor Nasty several times in these early tales, and also encounters Aunt Arctic (of the Antarctic) and Cap’n Barnacle for the first time, also fighting robot milkmen, kung-fu penguins and killer snowmen (you’ll forgive me for wondering if Doctor Who producer Russell T. Davies was a fan).
It’s all tremendous fun throughout, with some great gags that move quickly from one liners that will make you groan (“It’s tanking it down out there”, for one) from a more assured single page strips, some with continuing, crazy storylines, that’s a measure of Combat Colin’s undoubted and enduring success.
With daft dialogue, daft characters, Beano-style “fourth wall” captions and a fast-developing, confident art style, this collection will delight both Lew Stringer and Combat Colin fans, and if you’re thinking of a Christmas stocking filler then buy it now, because there’s plenty of festive fun in this collection.
For the British comics fan, there’s also an undercurrent of gentle parody of some of the genre’s many tropes and more famous strips. I can’t help but wonder, for example, if a series of panels revealing various characters reactions to the apparent death of Combat Colin aren’t also a gentle humorous homage of the disappearance of Dan Dare in an early Eagle story, but I may of course be imaging it.
Favourite gags? The early defeat of robot milkmen with a dropped pint bottle (you’ll just have to find out how), Kung-fu penguins (how could you go wrong with that kind of silliness?) and the final battle with Doctor Nasty, Aunt Arctic and Cap’n Barnacle that served to bring the strip to an end in Action Force before the title’s merger with Transformers.
Combat Colin may be a strip published 30 years ago, but many are just as funny today as they were when they first appeared, more so, and yes, for me, that means they are funny!
If you remember Combat Colin first time around like I do then this is a collection you really need to track down – and if you’re a fan of Lew’s work today then you’ll really enjoy this terrific assembly of some of the very best of his early work. Recommended!
• Combat Colin #1 is available direct from Lew at comic events (check out upcoming appearances here) and online (along with his other titles, Brickman and Derek the Troll) here. Price: £3.50 plus postage. NOTE: This price is for UK customers only. If you live outside the UK please contact Lew at lew.stringerATBTopenworld.com for postage rates. (Replace AT for @)
• Lew also runs the wonderful “Blimey! The Blog of British Comics” blog about British comics – essential reading if you’re a fan of the Beano, Buster, Eagle, Lion, Knockout and many other great comics!