Friday, January 11, 2008

Reprint This! 23. Armitage

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 a couple of dozen titles which should be on bookshelves, but at this time are not.

Over in the Judge Dredd Megazine, the very sporadically-published ARMITAGE returned in December for a new series after his customary three or four years off. Created by Dave Stone and featuring artwork from some of Britain's best comics artists, this flawed-but-engaging series stars a gray-haired plainclothes detective in the future world of Brit-Cit, whose investigations invariably end up rubbing people in high places the wrong way.

Armitage is an aging, unarmed, grouchy detective who investigates gruesome murders among the rich and powerful in Brit-Cit. His investigations have often shown him crossing paths with the city-state's judicial masters. Armitage isn't one of them. There's a long history of secret handshakes and privilege in the world of British police, and a number of higher-ups who would rather Armitage leave things alone. So it's not entirely unlike Colin Dexter's Inspector Morse, really, with bizarre technology and secret cities. Dave Stone's grasp of future tech and ugly crimes has also been seen in his Doctor Who novels, and the excellent spinoff books featuring Bernice Summerfield, particularly the brilliant detective fiction pastiche Ship of Fools, which features some of the most gruesome, impossible murders a mystery novelist could ever concoct.

The series started out as a semi-regular for a few years, illustrated first by Sean Phillips (Criminal) and then by Charlie Adlard (The Walking Dead, Savage) before losing its semi-regular status and only appearing very sporadically. A two-part adventure planned to run in 1995, with art by Kevin Cullen, never actually appeared. The artwork vanished shortly before it was due to be printed; there has been no confirmation that the pages were ever actually found. Other artists who have tackled short Armitage adventures include Steve Yeowell, Charlie Gillespie and John Ridgway.

Armitage returned in December for a new serial illustrated by the great John Cooper, who seems perfectly suited to illustrate a grouchy loner like our aging copper. Cooper's comic work stretches back to One-Eyed Jack in the pages of Valiant in the 1970s, although he may be best known for his work on Battle Picture Weekly's Johnny Red, a strip he illustrated for about six years. I haven't actually seen the first episode yet, although the new Megazine should be in American comic shops this week, and I can't wait for mine!

Anyway, the thirty-odd episodes of Armitage would make a really nice collected edition once the current Cooper-illustrated story is finished and can be compiled with them. The first serial could stand to be re-lettered -- Phillips was doing some odd things with his page sizes on this and the first Devlin Waugh story and these scans are kind of enormous so that you readers won't have to squint to read the word balloons on your computer screen. But with a little remastering, we'd get some great artwork by popular artists back in print and enjoy Stone's grisly future crimes without having to dig through eighteen years of magazines. So how about it, Rebellion? (And couldya shackle Stone to a desk somewhere and get some more pages out of him, so we won't have to wait until 2030 for volume two??)

(Originally posted January 11, 2008, 04:35 at hipsterdad's livejournal.)

(Update 9/09: Magazine-sized reprints of Armitage are now available.)

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