1984: Laser Eraser and Axel Pressbutton

Axel Pressbutton (1984) #1-6, Laser Eraser and Pressbutton (1985) #1-6, 3-D Laser Eraser and Pressbutton (1986) #1 by Steve Moore, Steve Dillon, et al.

Axel Pressbutton was a series created by Steve Moore (under the pen name Pedro Henry) in the 70s, and was then a weekly strip running in Sounds magazine (drawn and sometimes written by Alan Moore (no relation)), before ending up in Warrior magazine (from Quality Communications in the United Kingdoms).

And then Pacific Comics made a deal to reprint it in the US. It was apparently part of the package deal that would later include Alan Moore’s Marvelman/Miracleman, which perhaps turned out to be slightly more successful than Pressbutton.

As I’ve mentioned a few times before (see previous blog posts for details), Pacific Comics went bankrupt and all these properties associated with Dez Skinn’s Warrior magazine ended up at Eclipse.

I think Warrior was in black and white and magazine sized, so for the Eclipse version it’s been given a sheen of colour and shrunken down to regular American comics size. And printed on nice paper.

However, the shrinking (in the first few issues in particular) has not resulted in a very pleasing result.

“Klemond…. Murder… Do they?!?” I guess! Perhaps! Who knows!

If you’ve read British genre comics from this period (early 80s), you know what to expect: It’s “punk” and “transgressive” and aimed squarely at a nihilistic twelve year old boy’s brain. There’s fun fun murder and spurting blood on regular basis…

… an occasionally insane sidekick (Axel Pressbutton; he’s got a thing about plants, you see), as well as the hyper-competent lead in these comics (Laser-Eraser; an assassin)…

… and squishy, squishy jokes about sex. That green thing there is super-horny all the time and spurts bodily fluids all over the place, and harasses all the female characters.

So it’s all good fun, eh?

Eh. When a story (here illustrated by Brian Bolland) ends with what can most easily be interpreted as a prolonged and confined rape scene, it illustrates the problem with writing in this genre: The distance from “tee hee” to outright misogyny is ><.

If the story you’re telling isn’t interesting enough, and innovative enough, it rather leaves a bad taste in your mouth. Alan Moore (no relation) gets away with writing much squickier scenes by making (some) readers feel like there’s a purpose to it all. These Pressbutton stories have no such ambition or pretence.

Anyway, Pedro Henry tells the story of how Pressbutton was created. Click to embiggen.

These guys made a bet, you see, and the guy to the left won.

I think that’s probably the most Warrior scene ever. Much hyperviolence.

The first six issues reprint mostly Pressbutton stories, but there’s also a bunch of backup features, and they’re all taken from Warrior, I guess? The books don’t say. This is from a story set in the Marvelman universe, written by Alan Moore (no relation) and with artwork by Garry Leach. It’s the only Moore (no rel) story in these comics, and I’m afraid I have to predictably say that it predictably is the best thing in these comics: It’s complex, condensed, moving, and with wonderful art.

But it’s not like the other stories aim for that kind of stuff. This one, with artwork by Dave Gibbons (writer not listed, so probably Steve Moore), is just a fun piece of fluff.

Steve Moore mentions that Steve Dillon reworked the Pressbutton design a bit, and… wow. That is such a weird design for a character that you have to admire it.

And here’s how any child can create their own version of the sweaty rape pig for their own bedroom, just by using a balloon, paper mache and an eggbox. Fun for the whole family.

Some of the backup features are completely opaque to me. This one (by Steve Parkhouse/John Ridgeway) is about some future humans recovering the Shroud of Turin and cloning Jesus, presumably. And it just ends there. “And away the second coming.” OK? Is that a double entendre? Or is the very idea that somebody would clone Jesus outrageous enough that it serves as a shocker of an ending?

Wat.

Please send an explanation on a postcard.

While the main Pressbutton storyline is quite readable, some of the storytelling choices are also on the “wat” scale. The sex pig spurts a bodily fluid (sperm, I guess) into that bad guy’s face, but at that point we cut to Pressbutton’s face where he says “God… He’s blinded him!”

That’s the panel that was too gross to show to British kids? Not the rest of this book?

Wat.

Plz send explns on pstcrd.

Oh, yeah, I forgot to mention why this book is called “Pressbutton”. Axel Pressbutton had most of his body eaten away by a fungus, and had an android body built to fill in the empty spaces. And he was built with a button on his chest, and when you push it, he gets an orgasm.

The most out-of-place backup piece is this one by Hunt Emerson, not even drawn in his normal style.

At the time this was published, it was a Big Secret that Steve Moore was Pedro Henry. But it’s alluded to here, where he mentions that Steve Moore was in the room…

And then Eclipse restarts the numbering and changes the title to give Laser-Eraser top billing, and drops the price to 75c. And the stories are no longer reprints from Warrior, but are drawn for this published size.

That gives the drawings an added crispness, but, er, Dillon’s artwork seems to regress. Steve Moore has fun with using English words instead of American ones, even if this is directed at an American audience, which is amusing. And I have to admit that it took me more than two milliseconds to get the joke with “they ain’t even eating these things”. But not a lot!

Know what I mean wink wink.

When they went to an America First production line, I thought that perhaps do longer stories (in Warrior the chapters were mostly around ten pages long), but, nopes. If anything the stories are shorter, because they’re done in one each issue, and there’s always backups of some kind of another. The “Twilight World” backup serial (illustrated by Jim Baike) ran for four issues, though.

Steve Dillon left the book, and we first got a fill-in issue by David Lloyd.

And then Mike Collins/Mark Farmer took over the remaining run.

They’re not very distinctive artists, and the action scenes grow less dynamic.

With the reduction in price, the paper went cheaper, and you get ads sprinkled everywhere between the story pages.

Nobody liked the indecipherable logos on the new series.

An American letter-writer is concerned that Axel Pressbutton doesn’t have a penis. He’s worried that Axel will get depressed by Laser-Eraser having sex with other men.

Of all things to be concerned about in this comic book, that’s one, I guess.

The question most letter-writers asks, however, is “what’s Pedro Henry’s real name”. They never answer, but when they arrange the letters like this (with the next one namechecking Steve Moore), I don’t think they really tried to guard the secret that well.

That’s a dick joke about the sex pig.

And that concludes the second series, which leaves us with the 3D special:

The 3D isn’t bad, but the main story doesn’t seem to have been made with 3D in mind. There’s a brief backup feature that screams “LET”S BE 3D”, but perhaps the main feature was meant for a regular issue?

And I’m not 3D expert, but the 3D was pushed a bit too far in many scenes. When the depth difference is so large between the guy in front and the lamp in the back, the red version of the lamp is almost totally obscured by that guy, which means that you only see the lamp with the green eye. Which means that it’s not 3D any more.

Oh, well. Enough kvetching.

These comics don’t seem to have been collected, not even the Alan Moore (no relation) strip from Sounds?

Steve Moore died in 2014.

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