Monday, July 9, 2007

Reprint This! 4. Axel Pressbutton

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. You might consider it a companion to my Weekly Comics Hype, which is taking a short summer vacation, except while that's preaching to a potential audience, 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.

One missing gem is AXEL PRESSBUTTON by Steve Moore and Steve Dillon, among others. This is a science fiction serial about a cyborg gun for hire who lost more than half his body to a carnivorous plant. He has teamed with Mysta Mistralis, a clone with an unfortunate past.

Axel Pressbutton originally appeared as a character in a monthly comedy strip called "Three-Eyed McGurk and His Death Squad Commandos" in the fanzine Dark Star in 1979, and later resurfaced in a weekly strip called "The Stars My Degradation" in the pages of the music paper Sounds in 1980. Many of these strips were drawn by Alan Moore, who's probably better known for some writin' you might have read, under the pseudonym Curt Vile.

In 1982, Axel was one of the featured stars in Dez Skinn's anthology book Warrior, now teamed in 6-8 page episodes with a troubleshooting lady named Mysta Mystralis, the Laser Eraser, for more traditional, serialized adventures. Here, the odd balance of SF action and sexy, juvenile humor really meshed well. The episodes were originally drawn by Steve Dillon, but his other commitments forced him to drop out after a year. Pressbutton appeared sporadically after that, with occasional other appearances by the bizarre supporting character Zirk occasionally filling in. Zirk's artists included Garry Leach and Brian Bolland.

Most, if not all, of the Warrior episodes were colorized, badly, and reprinted in US format by Eclipse Comics in a six-issue series. A year later, new episodes began in another Eclipse title called Laser Eraser and Pressbutton. This doesn't seem to have lasted for much longer than six issues, but the artists included Dillon, David Lloyd and Mike Collins. I think these were Steve Moore's last comics work for many years; he went on to the editorial staff of Fortean Times, where he spent much of the 1990s investigating cryptids and crop circles, before returning to comics with work for Rebellion and for America's Best in 2001.

So you see, there is a variety of material out there, in a number of formats and from a number of publishers. And there have been further whispers of new material; both Rufus Dayglo and Jon Haward have been rumored to be working on new episodes and prepping some sort of collection. But honestly, somebody need to put this all together, from the start. Not only because you get some rare work by so many well-known artists, but the only time this rare Alan Moore artwork has been reprinted has been in samples in those biographies and tributes that came out in 2003. I'd love to see all of those again. I'm not sure who actually owns the rights; they may be shared between Steve Moore and all the artists, much as Marvelman was between its creators. But whoever's out there, how about it?

(Originally posted July 09, 2007, 03:09 at hipsterdad's livejournal.)

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