The Comic: Drivers aren’t expected to last long in The Great Race – the post-apocalyptic land rush across the wastelands of Earth between the Red team of Earth’s Moon and the Blue team of the vast orbital space station Genesis – and Tobe 137 is under no illusions that he’s any different.
All Tobe wants is to drive his transforming all-terrain battlecar as fast and as hard as he can before he goes out violent – which won’t be long coming if the rival drivers, hostile terrain and bloodthirsty mutants ahead of him have any say in the matter!
The Review: What’s that? You don’t remember War Cars, the toy sensation of the early 1980s, which Mallet Comics licensed for a short lived return to the publishing world? Written by “Ian Furman” and drawn by “Carlo Ferringo“, the good news is that a digital collection of this fast-paced action SF title is now available, painstakingly restored from the original comics by Bryan Coyle.
To be honest, I’d quite forgotten how hard-hitting this series was at the time, because frankly, it’s far more edgy than Zoids or Transformers. Perhaps it was its limited circulation that stopped Mary Whitehouse and the blue rinse brigade giving this Death Race 2000 meets Rollerball-styled title a rough ride, or perhaps the fact that it was released at a time when East-West tensions were high meant higher powers turned a blind eye to a comic starring “Tobe 137”, the champion of a capitalist space colony seeking to reclaim ownership of the future Earth against communist Lunar warriors, aided by mutants living below the planet’s surface, a world ravaged by a world war that lasted just twenty minutes.
You’d be forgiven for thinking that just like the animated Animal Farm, released by GB Animation back in 1954, the rumours that War Cars was bank rolled by the CIA in an effort to swing young hearts and minds away from anti US sentiment were true. But Furman and Ferringo seem to have been either blithely unaware of who was writing their pay cheques, or simply didn’t care, instead expanding the War Cars universe we learnt of from the back of the packs of near impossible to find toy cars, regularly pushed from stores by more popular rival brands.
Between them, boosted by Ferringo’s undisputed flair action storytelling and believable hardware, they managed to deliver what turns out to be a powerful and thought provoking tale delivering entry of incredible action and an engaging tale, as combatants on both sides begin to foster a grudging respect for the other, and rail against the powerful forces manipulating them all for ends unknown until the final pages – which I won’t spoil here.
War Cars epitomises some of the early licensed comics, which back in the 1980s were able to stretch the toy universes that they were based on far more often than those of today, which are sadly often quite anodyne and toothless by comparison.
It’s great to see this title restored, even if you have never heard of it before, and all credit to the recently-revived Mallet Productions for restoring this classic comic to its all out action glory. Recommended!
* Oh, all right, there’s no fooling some of you, is there? As those of you well versed in British comics history have probably already guessed, War Cars is actually Bryan Coyle’s affectionate homage to the toy tie-in comics of the 1980s, which he wrote, drew, coloured and lettered, now re-packaged, re-coloured and re-designed for release. We just got caught up in the wonderful spirit of the project with our review… now go take a look!
The founder of downthetubes, which he established in 1998. John works as a comics and magazine editor, writer, and on promotional work for the Lakes International Comic Art Festival. He is currently editor of Star Trek Explorer, published by Titan – his third tour of duty on the title originally titled Star Trek Magazine.
Working in British comics publishing since the 1980s, his credits include editor of titles such as Doctor Who Magazine, Babylon 5 Magazine, and more. He also edited the comics anthology STRIP Magazine and edited several audio comics for ROK Comics. He has also edited several comic collections, including volumes of “Charley’s War” and “Dan Dare”.
He’s the writer of “Pilgrim: Secrets and Lies” for B7 Comics; “Crucible”, a creator-owned project with 2000AD artist Smuzz; and “Death Duty” and “Skow Dogs” with Dave Hailwood.