Review by David X Brunt
As Monster Fun goes monthly, does the move measure up to expectations?
The eighth regular issue of Rebellion’s Monster Fun announces its dinosaur theme with a bright, busy cover by Matt Baxter. The contents are the now familiar mix of classic characters and new strips, starting off with “Gums”, nicely timed to promote the upcoming collection of the original series centring on the toothless shark. Brett Parson‘s art is a real highlight, although the story by The Feek has already started to repeat plot elements from previous issues, something even lampshaded in the script.
“Kid Kong” scripted by Alec Worley, with art by Karl Dixon, follows with the story that uses the dino theme to the best effect this issue, with a silly story involving the big banana loving goof blundering through adventures with his ass-kicking gran and some very clever terrible lizards.
“Hell’s Angel” by Chris Garbutt has lovely, cartoony art that feels like it would be at home in a mid-1990s Cartoon Network show. The newly introduced “Space Invaded” by John Lucas is starting to settle in nicely, too, although it feels like it would benefit from having three pages to play with, especially if it intends to develop an ongoing plot.
“Witch vs Warlock” scripted by Derek Fridolfs, with art by Rebecca Morse, is another new strip, albeit one which strongly reminds me of “Wiz War”. The basic premise of two battling spellcasters has potential for all kinds of comic nonsense, although that currently seems limited by the need to incorporate the theme of the month.
Rounding off the comic’s dino-themed humour strips is “Martha’s Monster Make Up”, scripted by Dave Bulmer, with art by Abigail Bulmer, which takes the issue’s theme and runs with it to tell some funny jokes which riff on modern theories about dinosaurs and the creation of AI art.
New this issue is “Global Ghoulies“, Henry Flint‘s spiritual successor to Ken Reid’s World Wide Weirdies, which ran in the 1970s weekly comics Whoopee! and Shiver and Shake, and were collected by Rebellion back in 2019, following on from the 2018 collection of his Creepy Creations. Flint’s strange, imaginative creativity makes him the perfect choice for this task.
The two ongoing serials of “The Steel Commando” scripted by Ned Hartley, with art by Dan Boultwood, and “The Leopard from Lime Street” scripted by Simon Furman, with art by PJ Holden, bounce along neatly.
PJ Holden‘s art makes Billy Farmer’s adventures dynamic and atmospheric, the accomplished 2000AD artist given the unenviable task of stepping into the shoes of Laurent Lefeurve, who bowed out of working on the strip to focus on several creator-owned works, including his hugely-popular Fox-Boy, published in France by Éditions Delcourt.
SPOILER ALERT! The latest twist in the Steel Commando’s journey through time and space ends with him landing in a new, currently unknown setting – while adding more elements for the long-delayed conversation between Ernie and newcomer Penny. SPOILER ENDS
The latest issue confirms that both serials will be collected in 2024. This isn’t much of a surprise, I suppose, as it will generate more income from the same material but still a good sign of confidence in the comic, I think. As “The Leopard from Lime Street” appeared in the 2021 Monster Fun Halloween Special and will be appearing in the forthcoming Treasury of British Comics Annual 2024, there will be two more episodes worth of material for that collection.
This might mean “The Steel Commando” will just have a lower page count, or it may continue for a couple of issues after Billy Farmer’s story concludes. The other alternative might be for them to include some of the original episodes, perhaps colourised. The only previous Steel Commando collection was in a smaller “digest” format, so it would be nice to see the pages at a larger size.
We’re also told that new strips will replace them and it seems likely they will be serials too. Continuing narratives are a good way to keep readers coming back, after all. A good cliffhanger demands you return for the resolution, and it’s fun to speculate as to what might replace them.
“The Spider”could work very well, for example. It could follow on from his escape from captivity in the recent Smash special and the upcoming battle with the Leopard in the Treasury of British Comics Annual. A serial with him rebuilding his criminal empire has potential.
If they want to avoid having an adult lead, Rebellion could always introduce an apprentice supervillain for him to train. Following the Leopard’s superhero story with one focussed on a baddie might appeal to the same audience, too.
Another option might be to import “Pandora Perfect” from 2000AD. It’s a great strip, brilliantly drawn, with an easy to pick up concept. I could easily see her filling the humour/action niche of “The Steel Commando”, and having a female lead would balance things a little. It’s not difficult to imagine her strip including enough monsters and aliens to warrant a place in this title.
Rebellion been pushing the collection of her previous stories in Monster Fun, and she was included in this years Free Comic Book Day release, and Roger Langridge is writing something for the upcoming 2000AD Presents Mega City Max one shot next month, so all points in favour of bringing Pandora over.
Other 2000AD ReGened stories might work in Monster Fun, too, alongside Rebellion’s continuing revamping of characters from the immense archive of comics at their fingertips. “Finder & Keeper” is a natural, featuring as it does light stories about two kids hunting/interacting with ghosts.
“Lowborn High” would be more serious than most stories in Monster Fun, but the school setting/Harry Potter vibe would seem to match the readership. perhaps aimed at a slightly older audience but that in and of itself isn’t a bad thing. “Intestinauts” would be another strip I can imagine having audience appeal.
The opportunity to explore these stories in depth without having to wait three months between episodes is a bonus, as far as I am concerned.
Another option might be to have an extended six-page story for a different character each month, or to have a serialised version of an existing character’s story. “Hire-A-Horror” could carry a continuing plot very easily with its open concept and ensemble cast.
Of course they could also introduce a completely new series, giving the title even more of its own identity.
Whatever happens next it will be interesting to find out what comes next. With the comic going monthly it seems all is going well. I’m hoping this title continues to thrive and is joined by other new titles. Long may Rebellion’s exploitation of the archive of comics at their fingertips continue!
David X Brunt
Our guide to which companies own Britain’s classic comic characters
The first Gums collection will be released on 9th November, including the complete run of strips published in Monster Fun through 1976.
The hapless, loveable shark with false teeth was a highlight of the short-lived Monster Fun comic and proved to be so popular with the fans that he appeared as the front cover strip for most of the run.
The Great White (toothless) shark stalks a territory around the Australian coast, where he constantly butts heads with local surfer, Bluey. While Gums is out to snack on the youngster, Bluey is determined to take the shark’s false teeth as a memento!
Spine-tingling humour horror comics from Ken Reid, the British comics master behind Faceache! BEWARE ALL YE WHO OPEN THIS BOOK! The creatures contained within, are some of the most bizarre, hilarious and hideous ever to haunt the pages of a comic!
Marvel at The Many-Headed Monster from Monmouth! Tremble at the sight of Terry the Tellible! Recoil in horror from The Fork-Eating Spaghetti Spook! And much more besides!
A testament to Ken Reid’s artistic genius and his hugely creative imagination, these illustrations have been collected and lovingly restored in all their (creepy) glory.
World Wide Weirdies collects the almost weekly run of Reid’s beautifully bizarre illustrations from IPC’s Whoopee! and Shiver and Shake.
Usually displayed in colour on the back cover, they are among the most striking images to have appeared in British comics. Based on ideas submitted by readers, they need to be seen to be believed!
• 2000AD Presents Mega City Max
Out: 19th July 2023
It’s our future – and their reality!
A brand-new one-shot comic set in the dystopian world of Mega-City One, home of Judge Dredd. Stand-alone, no continuity science fiction comics aimed at teenagers Fast paced, action packed and hilarious, these stories feature updated versions of 2000AD characters like Harlem Heroes, De Marco P.I., Devlin Waugh and Walter the Wobot, plus brand new characters!
Featuring the hottest breaking talent in the industry including Hannah Templer (Cosmoknights), Ramzee (Edge of Spider-Verse), Oliver Gerlach (Young Men in Love), VV Glass (Boom Studios The Last Witch), Lucie Ebrey (Amazing World of Gumball), Korinna Mei Veropoulou (Escape From Bitch Mountain), Roger Langridge (Bill & Ted Are Doomed).
For over a century, the comic book annual has been an essential Christmas stocking filler for British children. The Treasury of British Comics team have dived deep into the archives, selecting slick and exciting stories from past annuals, specials and regular issues, including strips from such titles as Lion, Starlord, Misty, Action, Wham!, Scream!, Smash!, Battle and Valiant, to name but a few.
Including the best of British talent like Brian Bolland, Cam Kennedy, Leo Baxendale, Ken Reid, Mike Western, Brian Lewis, Joe Colquhoun and Pat Mills, there are also three brand new strips: “The Leopard from Lime Street Vs The Spider“, by Simon Furman, David Roach and Mike Collins; “Black Beth“, by Alec Worley and DaNi; and “Gustav of the Bearmacht” by Kek-W and Staz Johnson.
Treasury of British Comics Annual 2024 is the perfect Christmas gift for fans of classic British comics and a perfect introduction to a world of action and adventure for the next generation.