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Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Johnny Red – Falcon’s First Flight

Johnny Red – Falcon’s First Flight

Tom Tully, Joe Colquhoun
Black and white comic strip
Hardback: 128pp
297 x 220mm
Publication date: 28 January 2011
ISBN: 9781848560338
RRP £14.99 Buy now

Britain’s best-loved aerial combat comic returns in a gorgeous hardback library edition!

When pilot Johnny Redburn is discharged from the RAF for striking an officer, he is forced to join the Merchant Navy. But a German sneak attack forces Redburn back into the air — in a stolen Hurricane! Redburn aims for Russia, planning to save his plane and career, but on landing, meets the “Falcon Squadron” of the 5th Soviet Air Brigade, who are under German attack! Redburn takes to the skies once more — to fight for Russia!

The classic series by Tom Tully (Roy of the Rovers) and Joe Colquhoun (Charley’s War) makes its explosive debut and includes a new introduction by comics legend Garth Ennis (The Boys, Preacher, War Story) and a feature on air combat!

Ahh. Johnny Red. I was never into the fly-boy strips in comics until I saw a few of the Colquhoun illustrated JRs. For me, though, John Cooper was the JR artist. Now, with this book I can see that Colquhoun and Coop were the definitive artists on the strip -there were various artists brought in to try to copy their styles on the strip but all failed!

There is an introduction by Jeremy Briggs and also Garth Ennis. But above all else there is Tom Tully’s scripting. Often maligned as a “hack” by those who were either jealous or simply hated the fact that he was so prolific, Tully could tell a good story with great pace and enough tension to make you curse having to wait a week to read the next part.  Sadly, never got to track him down for an interview (despite the best efforts of Gil Page) but he is a script writer to look up to.

Now, team Tully up with a really great artist and that was it. The reader was trapped by the script and the art. In this case, Joe Colquhoun (whose Masterman strip was published in a Black Tower Gold).

Colquhoun (pronounced “kohl-hoon”) had an art style that saw him achieve a place in comics history yet comic fans of under 35 years of age  give you blank looks when you mention his name!!! Now there is no excuse. If there was one thing Colquhoun could do it was draw the nitty-gritty of war.  Make a character look as though he had gone through Hell and that was only the starter.

Everything from the uniforms, weapons the ships and, of course, the aircraft was spot on -even burned out aircraft had accurate wooden framing drawn in.  The action is sudden and the “quiet periods” deceive.  You want to try to draw comics -study this book.

Above all else, these Titan books present the work in crisp black and white and on quality paper that will last.  None of that off-colour newsprint that would tear if you sneezed near it or, even worse, had the ink from the next page seeping through it so that art was sometimes not as good as it should be.

And this volume has the impossible to get origin of Johnny Red.  At this price can you lose out? NO!

This is Colquhoun at his best (outside of Charlie’s War) as an artist and Tully at his best as a writer.

Hopefully, one day, there will be a John Cooper JR collection. Until then, this has to be the Christmas present for the comicker in your life!

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