Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Reprint This! 13. Major Eazy

UPDATE: Titan released a hardcover collection of the first 30 episodes in 2012.

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.

Carlos Ezquerra's excellent artwork was first noticed as one of the anonymous contributors to DC Thomson's Warlord in the early 1970s. Recognizing him as a talent worth tracking down, the editors of IPC's Battle Picture Weekly found his English agent and gave him some work. Ezquerra's commitments to DCT kept him from taking on a long-term series for a few more months, but when he was free, Battle had the perfect strip for him: the battlefield exploits of a rule-breaking iconoclast called MAJOR EAZY.

Major Eazy was a laid-back, longhaired, scruffy tactical genius and crack shot who drove his Bentley around Italy in 1944, in charge of a small platoon and constantly rubbing his commanding officers and various American sergeants the wrong way, yet always getting the better of everybody by way of his refusal to do anything "by the book." Eazy had a very strong sense of morality, honor and justice, and treated his enemies with more respect than his comrades would.

After 35 episodes, the story flashed back to North Africa in 1941 and presented tales of Eazy's earlier days. There was also a celebrated thirteen-week crossover with another Battle series, Rat Pack, in which Eazy took over that unit while their commanding officer was recuperating. Eazy's laconic approach to the war was a huge hit with many readers, but his popularity was not unanimous. The editors of Battle occasionally printed grouchy letters from uptight point-missing kids who complained that an unshaven, rule-breaking fellow like Eazy wouldn't really have got very far in the British army, and his behavior was sometimes jolly disgraceful!

Objectively, Charley's War was the best of all the strips to appear in Battle, and Johnny Red might have been the most popular, but Major Eazy is certainly my favorite. Certainly, there's an element of repetition - Alan Barnes, editor of Judge Dredd Megazine, is said to have ruled out reprinting Eazy in that comic because "if you've read one Major Eazy, you've read them all." I certainly don't agree with that, although the early days of the strip certainly would have benefitted from longer, multi-part stories instead of one-offs. But even when the plot feels familiar, there's always an exciting, witty payoff to Eazy's latest idea. Plus, the artwork is just fantastic. I could look at these pages for days.

A reprint of Major Eazy would be complicated by its format. The first twelve episodes were told in three-page episodes, starting with a color double-page centerspread. There's no way to compile this in print without using a pin-up or cover on every fourth page, which certainly won't please any graphics novel editor . But Titan has certainly proven itself able to handle odd formats and color images with their Charley's War editions. Including the 13 episode crossover with Rat Pack, there are 91 episodes of the series, so call it no more than 364 pages. That could certainly be done in three of their nice hardcover volumes with room for background and creator interviews. So how about it, Titan?

For more information on Battle and Major Eazy, including some story scans (from which a couple of these images were cropped), be sure to visit Captain Hurricane's Best of Battle.

(Originally posted October 09, 2007, 06:07 at hipsterdad's livejournal.)

Edited to add: (3/1/08) Titan has announced that they have acquired reprint rights to more of the Battle material, specifically noting Johnny Red, Major Eazy and Rat Pack as among the strips which will be reappearing soon. The major new reprint series will begin with the long-running soccer strip Roy of the Rovers as the spearhead, and also incorporate material from the comics Action, Buster, Tammy and, possibly most excitingly, Misty! Here's the announcement, from Down the Tubes. More details as they become available!

Edited to add: (8/2/10) Titan has solicited the first Major Eazy hardback in the August 2010 edition of Previews for release in October.

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