1988: Power Comics

Power Comics (1988) #1-4 by Dave Gibbons, Brian Bolland et al.

Huh. Are all these Acme Press/Eclipse Comics books going to be reprints? I guess it makes sense to use this as a vehicle to bring more British comics to the US…

… but this is a pretty bizarre reprint project as those go. Brian Bolland and Dave Gibbons were at this point (in 1988) superstar artists, so anything with their names on has a certain guaranteed audience, but these are comics from the mid-70s, produced for the Nigerian market, from well before anybody had heard of them.

According to the frontmatter, the idea was to create a comic that emulated earlier, simpler super-hero comics. I’m guessing they were going for a 40s Batman or Superhero feel for the stories, which involve Powerman (as he was called originally, but renamed here as Powerbolt presumably because of trademark issues) saving kids and women from falling planes, out of burning buildings, and from dinosaurs in hidden valleys.

The emphasis is solidly on simple storytelling, because presumably these comics are aimed at children. One thing I haven’t seen since very early comic strips is the way the panels are numbered to help the readers read the panels in the correct order. George Herriman, for instance, used to do that a lot, but he has layouts that sometimes are challenging. That’s not the case here. Is numbering panels just a thing they used to do in Nigeria around this time?

Dave Gibbon’s artwork is awkward and not very accomplished. His Powerman, for instance, has a bizarrely small head, and nobody looks very pretty or glamorous.

Oh, and all the stories end with an attempt at a sex joke, which is not how I remember Batman from the 40s.

Brian Bolland’s artwork is a lot more exciting. He even sometimes lets characters slightly poke out of panels for emphasis.

The warning to the children not to play with electricity is probably a good one.

Hey, that’s a very Neal Adamsish face, isn’t it?

“Doctor Crime” and “Snake Island”. The writers keep things simple.

Oh! The Nigerian publishers did make them add the panel numbering, and they did it with little round stickers.

More warnings about the dangers of electricity, but here it’s warranted: That woman saves a sick Powerman by sticking him in the shower and throwing an electric lamp at him! I think that’s worse than Superman jumping off of tall buildings…

The sexual innuendo at the end of each episode escalates…

Bolland’s draws some really attractive faces, but then he veers off into awkward caricature now and then. Mostly when he does profiles. I think this panel demonstrates the dichotomy.

And, of course, some really villainous villains.

Bolland was concerned about how he was drawing black people, and apparently that concern was warranted.

Ouch!

Hey, where’s the fourth and final issue? Didn’t I have it here somewhere? Hm… can’t find it… so I’ll just have to live without learning whether the final panel of the final strip ends with Powerman just raping a gaggle of women, because that’s where it seemed to be heading.

These comics have never been reprinted again, and these four issues are apparently only a small sampling of all the issues that were created. Wikipedia claims that Bolland drew 300 pages for the series, and Gibbons presumably an equal number.

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