A Very British Spider-Man: The Leopard From Lime Street Returns

by Richard Bruton

The Leopard From Lime Street was a popular comic series running from 1976 to 1985 in the classic British humour comic, Buster. It was a great strip, fantastically exciting and fast-paced 3-page tales, all drawn in a far more realistic style than the humour comics it shared space with.

Now, thanks to the Treasury of British Comics and Rebellion, you get a chance to relive those wonderful happy days of your childhood with volume 2 of the Leopard-Man’s adventures.

It’s a classic Brit superhero comic, but you wouldn’t be wrong at all in thinking it’s something created to be a very British version of a certain Marvelous web-slinger…

Does this sound familiar at all? Young schoolboy, Billy Farmer is scratched by a radioactive leopard and discovers that he’s gained the powers of a jungle cat. His home life is a mess, he’s trying not to use his powers at school, while heading out after homework to fight crime as the Leopard-Man, making a little cash on the side selling impossible to get photos to the local paper, to try to help his old and ill aunt.

Hmmm… Oh yes, it’s Spider-Man, but it’s a very, very British Spider-Man, full of Brit moments, Sweeney type villains, small-town settings, typical Brit school with typical Brit school kids, apart from young Billy…

There’s even a wonderful story in here about Billy being taken over by a Leopard spirit and turned into a wild beast when he upgrades his costume using genuine leopard skin!

And that was a good four years before a Spider-Man fan answered the call from Marvel to develop new ideas and came up with the black costume, and six years before Jim Shooter would introduce the symbiotic black suit in 1984. Maybe the borrowing of ideas went both ways?

It’s got the same feel as those early Spider-Man’s as well, something to do with the density of storytelling, the desire to get over as much story as possible. Just here, they only had three pages to do each part, making the adventure even faster. Similarly, just like Peter Parker, young Billy Farmer spends as much time out of costume as he does in, this is a strip about the boy who’s also a hero, rather than the almost never out of costume superheroics we’re more used to today.

What really impresses with the artwork is the wonderfully busy pages, the inventive page layouts, the density of the work could so easily make it a slog, but, thanks to Bradbury and Western’s immense skills it’s a work that flows so well. This is a book that is so wonderfully readable, the pace of it pulling you in, such a fabulous thing. And the quality of their linework and figurework is just as good. This is beautiful stuff.

In this second volume, there’s even more trouble in store for the Leopard. He’s got to stop nosy new kid, Debra Stevens, finding out his secret identity, avoid becomming the latest attraction at a crooked funfair and being ‘collected’ by an eccentric millionaire with a menagerie of weird and wonderful things, and attempt to clear his name after becoming Selbridge’s public enemy number 1 after being blamed for a string of muggings.

Then things get even stranger, as he finds himself needing to save Sheba, the radioactive leopard that gave him his powers from a big-game hunter after she escapes from the safari park and gets involved in the mystery of the ghostly projectionist at a derelict cinema.

Enjoy the first couple of episodes of this wonderful slice of British adventure comics…

The Leopard From Lime Street Volume 2 is released 12 June. Written by Tom Tully, art by Mike Western and Eric Bradbury, published by Rebellion. Material originally appeared in Buster from June 1977 to July 1978.

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