Taking A Closer Look At The Monster Fun Easter Special… Giggles & Guffaws Aplenty…

by Richard Bruton

Okay, so I gave you a mini preview a while back, but now that I’ve got my hands on the full issue of the all-new Monster Fun, the first regular comic for kids from Rebellion and the first regular new kids’ comic in Britain since 2012’s Phoenix Comic. It’s a big deal, it really is, and thankfully, it’s also a load of fun.

Now, of course there’s ups and downs in my enjoyment here, that’s something that you can’t avoid in any anthology. What I wasn’t as keen on, someone else may well adore and vice versa. That’s never a criticism of an anthology, it’s something to champion. Any anthology should be doing that, should have different strips that you might not be as keen on.

And so it’s the case with this Monster Fun Easter Special, the first issue of Rebellion’s plan to put a new issue out every two months. And of course, as with any comic designed for kids, I’m always aware that the target market is so not me. (If only some of the older and more toxic comic ‘fans’ here in the UK kept that in mind and just stopped being so damn negative about anything that doesn’t come from the 1970s, eh?)

But having said all that, here’s the absolute best of Monster Fun

Kid Kong – written by Alec & Rowan Worley, art and letters by Karl Dixon

Straight from the off, Kid Kong sets the tone, irreverent (you’ll have to wait to see just how they treat Her Maj, Lizzie, in here… but it’s very good), funny, fast-paced, and totally silly with perfectly fitting artwork from Dixon.

Just that page above should convince you – Kid King and Gran looking after a friend’s Cat Cafe full of bonkers cats, despite Kid having allergies, and then the world’s villainous cats overthrowing their owners and forming FLOOF – the public are definitely advised to panic – IMMEDIATELY! And topping it all off, there’s the cat in the bottom right having a quiet pee with a little bit of reading matter… just great stuff.

And then it ramps things up and up and up in the best possible way, with the cat cafe turning into a weapon of feline mass destruction on legs (literally) that heads off to Buck Palace to see Her Maj, and all the while Gran’s there in the background trying to sort out the cucumber sandwiches. The sense of writer and artist just delighting in ramping it all up into a riotous end and a patriotic rear end as well.

Steel Commando – written by Ned Hartley, art by Dan Boultwood, letters by Leila Jess

Possibly my favourite thing in this one, with Hartley and Boultwood updating and perfecting Steel Commando, one of those slightly iffy characters of the past that had a habit of leaning hard into racial stereotypes and the whole gung-ho language of the ’70s (you have to remember that we were still only three decades post WWII at that time.) But full credit to Hartley and Boultwood for taking the character, managing to keep the background intact, keep the WWII setting, and still give us some fabulous gaggery.

It’s absolutely packed with so many great artistic touches from Boultwood, art that’s completely different from the original certainly but art that always remembers that Steel Commando is a strip where ridiculous is the rule… this being my favourite moment in a strip packed with moments…

Yep, it’s all in the ‘SPANG!’ and the ‘Ouch.’ And obviously, while we’re giving credit to Boultwood for so much of the physical comedy gags, take a moment to appreciate Leila Jess’ lettering as well, adding so much to the art and the comedy.

Unlike most of the rest of Monster Fun, Steel Commando is playing this one out over the course of a few episodes, meaning by the end we’ve seen the cast introduced, seen old Ironsides literally lose his head and had the introduction of the MkII Steel Commando. All of it leading into the MF Summer Special, out in June. Can’t wait to chortle along again to that one.

Frankie Stein – written by Cavan Scott, art by John Lucas, colours by Gary Caldwell, letters by Amber Sea

“My greatest creation yet!”
“What is it Master? Have you learned to raise the dead? Have you opened a portal to the seventh circle of hell?”
“No. I have finally cracked my mother’s top secret cheese sauce recipe.”

Now that’s a great opening gag in a strip filled with great (and increasingly) silly gags that sees Frankie and his creator off to the supermarket because that’s where Frankie lost his brain (again.)

Perfect comedy writing, great comedy artwork, all coming together on a great strip that brings one of the great Brit comedy characters back for a new audience. Again, all involved here have done that thing of being true to what made the character work in the past and still managed to update and make it work for today, just as the best of Monster Fun here is doing so well.

Hire A Horror – by Matt Baxter

In a comic of two sorts of strips, where the likes of Kid Kong and Frankie Stein cleverly update while still looking and feeling like what’s remembered so fondly, Matt Baxter’s new Hire A Horror joins the likes of Steel Commando in going a different way, taking the essence and reinventing it artistically.

Here, Baxter’s colouring is the real winner, which is not to say the art isn’t popping as well, it definitely is, it’s just that the colours are so beautifully bright and now, making it automatically feel modern. But modern for it’s own sake isn’t what Baxter is doing here, he backs up the look of the strip with some great imagery and genuinely funny storytelling, again leaning into the slapstick so well, but only after a couple of pages of great set up with comedy dialogue from funny just by looking at them characters.

As HAH central is due a visit from head office, the panic levels are rising and the cast of weirdos and ghouls are busy sprucing up the place, all with an Easter theme, including a “Mahoosive bunny from the rent a rabbit catalogue.” And yes, he’s definitely a “hoppin’ whopper.”

All of which leads us, inevitably yet with perfect positioning of all the comedy elements, to this little beauty of a panel…

And the delivery of that extra bit of captioning is just perfect. Clever, silly, and so funny from Baxter. It might not have been one of the big favourites in the past, eclipsed by the likes of Frankie and Kid Kong, but I’m so hoping that Baxter will get ample chance to build and build and build his own particularly funny version of Hire A Horror.

The Leopard From Lime Street – written by Simon Furman, art & letters by Laurent LeFeuvre

The Leopard may well be the most fondly remembered of all the Brit strips of the time and no wonder, as a generation of kids fell in love with Britain’s council estate Spider-Man.

Furman and LeFeuvre have already made it clear that this strip, the longest in here and one that’s building a storyline over multiple chapters, will look deep into the world of young Billy Farmer, going into his history and just what those mysterious powers really are. And damn, they’re doing it particularly well, adding a supernatural element to it all that fits the Monster Fun concept perfectly.

And just take a moment before moving on to look closely at that LeFeuvre artwork above. He really does have the look and feel of The Leopard absolutely down, doesn’t he? A sinewy, cat-like figure, loads of crawling around in the darkness, all those angular panels… it’s a spooky delight to read.

We’ll end with two all-new strips for this new version of Monster Fun, by two artists I singled out when I looked at the Monster Fun Halloween Spooktacular, Juni Ba and Chris Garbutt. Both are back here and both are doing great, great things – unless you happen to be the Easter Bunny that is.

Hell’s Angel – by Chris Garbutt

One page of great cartooning and a hellishly simple concept worthy of Baxendale et al, Hell’s Angel is just a highlight to end the comic on and proof that modern kids humour has the potential to match the best of the classics.

Yep, the poor Easter Bunny, kidnapped by Helly’s dad and now down in hell – although the idea of giving eggs to the horrors of “Snooty McPosh-Pants Kindergarten for the Horrendously Over Priveleged” was a close second. Of course, once down in Hell and entrusted to the care of Helly, things only get worse. But damnation, it’s fun watching things go this wrong.

But if you thought that was a horrible fate for the Easter Bunny, I present to you exhibit 2; Juni Ba‘s The Story of Easter

The Story of Easter – by Juni Ba

Because, after all, the comic’s called Monster Fun! But even expecting a spooky Easter theme, I definitely wasn’t expecting that. I think we can pinpoint a few Easter nightmares right there.

Juni Ba pulls everything out of the hat here and gives us a proper Easter story, complete with all that horror, plus loads of chocolate. Again, an instant classic and perfect to show you that Monster Fun really is delivering all the comedy you want… plus a little terrifying for the kids… then gain, we grew up with Daleks and hiding behind the sofa, so kids these days can certainly cope with a little horror.

Monster Fun Issue 1 (The Easter Special) is out right now and should be in all newsagents and comic shops across the UK – if it isn’t, have a word with the nice people behind the counter. It’s also available on subscription from monsterfun.co.uk.

And for a little extra, with a new cover from Tom Paterson and an exclusive new Paterson Sweeney Toddler strip not included in this version, head to the 2000 AD & Treasury of British Comics web shops.

The next issue… that’s the Summer Special… memories of getting Buster, Whizzer & Chips and so many more Summer Specials on those holidays that stretched out forever are coming back already…


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