Friday, September 28, 2007

Reprint This! 12. The Stainless Steel Rat

UPDATE: Rebellion has released a complete collection of this series in a single-volume paperback.

Reprint This! is a periodic feature where I talk about some out-of-print comic book gems that are not available in collected form for readers to enjoy. This is hoping to let rights owners know that, yes, readers are out here, and we'd like to buy the things we can't get at this time!

Despite such an enormous variety of books available these days, and genuine efforts to present the material in reasonably-priced, archival volumes, there are still countless fabulous series from the US, Britain and Japan which are overdue for new editions. I've selected two dozen titles which should be on bookshelves, but at this time are not.

Since Carlos Ezquerra is among my favorite artists, he's pretty high on the list of creators whose work I'd like to see collected. The editors of 2000 AD had given one of his best-known strips, Strontium Dog, a short rest in 1980 and found a fabulous new project for him to tackle, a comic adaptation of Harry Harrison's novels about the galactic conman called THE STAINLESS STEEL RAT.

The Stainless Steel Rat is the nickname given to "Slippery" Jim diGriz, a ne'er-do-well who started his criminal career with a lengthy prison sentence. Jim figured that getting in the slammer would get him access to all the great criminal masterminds and from them he could learn the tricks of the trade, forgetting, as a novice might, that the best bad guys don't actually get caught. Things improved for Slippery Jim after that and he began a legendary career in safecracking, burglary and confidence tricks, attracting the attention of the galactic police. Much to Jim's surprise, they didn't want to arrest him; they wanted to conscript him...

The comic adaptation of The Stainless Steel Rat was a big hit for 2000 AD in the early 1980s. Three of the novels were adapted, each in twelve parts of about six pages each, by Kelvin Gosnell and Ezquerra. The first two are each incredibly entertaining, but the third, The Stainless Steel Rat for President, is utterly wonderful. Harrison wrote the book as a savage satire on Central American politics, and sees Slippery Jim and his growing family deciding to take on an aging, despotic, president-for-life in a delightful game of dirty politics.

The Stainless Steel Rat was only reprinted once, in a six-issue miniseries for the US market, with the pages resized and colorized. The copyright on the scripts and artwork belong to Rebellion, the company that now owns 2000 AD, but the speculaton is that it can't be reprinted without the permission of Harry Harrison, who owns the characters and the storylines. Still, he seemed taken with the adaptations when it originally ran, and a collection, which would run to just over 200 pages, would be a treat for both Harrison's fans and 2000 AD readers. It wouldn't hurt to ask Harrison, so how about it, Rebellion?

This has got me in an Ezquerra frame of mind. I wonder what I can come up with for the next installment...

(Originally posted September 28, 2007, 10:26 at hipsterdad's livejournal.)

Update Dec. 6 2009: An Amazon listing for a collected edition is revealed.

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