Sunday, November 30, 2014

Kilt in Action - Calhab Justice

Happy St Andrew's Day everybody! There - did it properly, this time.

To mark the Scottish Independence Referendum earlier this year, the Judge Dredd Megazine devoted its front page (illustrated by Glenn Fabry) and supplemental ‘floppy’ reprint magazine to all things judicial and Scottish – to whit: some of Jim Alexander's Calhab Justice, upon what I have already rit here.

This is only the second reprint of a CalHab strip, the first being the one-off Annual story ‘Hogmanay’ for another Meg floppy devoted to yuletide Dreddverse stories. It’s a lovely wee slice of life in GlasCal, and properly should fit in as the second story in this new collection, but doesn’t. A shame, as it would have been nice to have it with its mates for the first time.

The floppy itself is, therefore, incomplete, and takes in roughly the first third of the CalHab stories, introducing its Big Yin central character Judge Ed MacBrayne, and his sometime fellow judges Buchan, Schiehallion, and the ill-fated Murdo, not to mention their boss, the un-named C.I. Ridgeways’ art does the early chores, setting the look and feel of CalHab’s capital, and the quirky faces of its mob-like Whisky Clans. If I could make one early observation about CalHab Justice, it’s that it was eccentrically-served by artists, but the safety-first approach Ridgeway offers his illustrating in all his work actually helps CalHab by not scaring the horses too soon. The artists seems to have fun with the plukes and podge of Clan big-wig Abercromby, and his version of the C.I is the most recognisably human and world-weary. He’d have been fine, if not necessarily that exciting, kept in the artist’s saddle. But we move on…

After 'Hogmanay''s omission we're into the Lol stories, illustrated by the artist of that moniker, whose career with the seems to have been contained within the Meg and a one-off 2000AD gig. Lol's work seems heavily influenced by that of Simon Bisley - as were many artists at the time, although the black and white work he renders here references Bisley's turn on ABC Warriors, also monochrome. It is, as at least one reader said recently, 'of its time', and might have been better in colour, becuse in its dark-saturated monochrome the storytelling suffers. And that matters, because once Lol arrives on the scene, Alexander's B-plot takes up the A spot, with its trio of judges emroiled (or in the case of MacBrayne, virtually sidelined) by a story of psychics, civil war and a bloody greta big explosion at the end, courtesy of the srip's fourth artist, Kevin Cullen.

I'm still none the wiser, what with my patchy collection of Megs, but this floppy pesudo-trade has done a good job in putting the more consistent, MacBrayne-heavy strips together, even if it's not complete. I think that gathered they present a more coherent collection, and would welcome a second volume (although it could really go to three volumes.) The strip's relegation to reprint-limbo as a 'floppy' freebie and not a full trade paperback would suggest that my hopes have been dashed, and the Meg's floppies do contain more than one half-told series , so a first installemtn s no guarantee of a follow-up. I sense a crusade pproaching, to collect the disparate pieces and do the job myself. In th emena-time, this is a good start, and a reasonable template.

And finally, because the comments on a cosplay board likened the CalHab uniform to a real-life 'bampot' whose video below I saw too many years ago on either Radio With Pictures or Max Headroom, but could not thereafter be unseen (though I could never remember any other detail of it including the artist or the song), let's end with a cheery, mad slice of Eighties Caledonian pop-funk. You see? That's the problem with the kids these days - too much Jessie J and not enough Jesse Rae.

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