Prakash Publishers and their chief patron, Editor S.Vijayan, is really back in Business, as they have published their second consecutive title (after Lion Comics #206) in as many weeks, in the form of Comics Classics #24, reprinting a classic story from yesteryears Muthu Comics editions, and their flagship hero.
Comics Classics is an offshoot from the main two Tamil Comics brands of Prakash Publishers, Lion Comics & Muthu Comics; which reprints some of the classic stories which were printed in either brands in the past, and have become a rarity to be seen on second hand book shops, often in better shape and with a variant cover. Thus giving a chance to cherish the memories of old-timers, and to introduce the golden age comic characters to the newcomers.
Steel Claw, was not only the flagship character of the British Golden Age, but also was a great hit among the Tamil Comics fans, with the legendary Muthu Comics printing the entire line-up of Steel Claw stories during their 70’s and 80’s.
The concept of Steel Claw was created by a host of Editors of IPC Media, as one of the characters to appear for their newly created Valiant Comics brand. The concept was then given the final form at the hands of writer Ken Bulmer, who had a knack of writing Science fiction stories, and the talented Spanish artist Jesús Blasco.
He eventually appeared on Oct 6, 1962, in the first ever edition of Valiant, as Louis Crandell, a laboratory assistant, who was caught in an accident and had lost his right hand, which was replaced with a Steel Claw by the lab chief, under whom he grudgingly worked.
But, Blasco didn’t stay long drawing for Steel Claw. So, when he left the comic-strip, the artwork was carried by Rosi Studio. We will look more into the creators behind this golden age series, when we come back to update this post with the story review.
But before wrapping up our Preview blog post of this Comics Classics edition, it’s good to point out a subtle difference in the stories appeared in Steel Claw series, as there were three different genres of stories, in which the Steel Claw had its run.
Triple Dose of Steel Claw: The initial and the first run, being his angry Outlaw version, where he used his newfound ability to turn into wanted vigilante, spreading terror across the queen’s land. The power to observe the electricity and disappear into thin air, except the Steel Claw being visible to others, was introduced well at this time.
The second run, talked about his character where he toned-down his attitude, and turned into a Secret Agent serving under a government operative, putting his powers in for a good use. This saw his Steel Claw, turning into a true weapon, consisting of Mini Revolvers, Poison Gas, and even a Radio, all contributed by the secret organisation he worked for.
The third run, was completely an overhaul of his character, where he donned a Superhero role, which was mostly instrumental during the time when the Batman, Superman movies and TV serials were running rampant, and was creating a huge amount of interest among comic and non-comic fans over Superhero fantasy.
So, it was obvious that the creators behind Steel Claw also chose to turn their comics character into a Superhero, to cash-in on the euphoria. The Steel Claw, already had the power of a Superhero in form of the invincible Steel Claw, and he had also established his reputation of battling extra-terrestrial characters from the outer space :).
So, what needed more was a secret identity, which saw Crandell turning into a Taxi Driver, and a full covered Superhero suit, with Antenna’s on the Head, and the costume carrying a Flash like symbol on the chest.
What you get to see, in this edition of Comics Classics, is Steel Claw in his 3rd Form, in the story titled Vinveli Kollaiyar (விண்வெளிக் கொள்ளையர்), as a Super Hero clad in full covered supersuit, battling an alien invasion from an outer space, to save our very earth.
I don’t remember whether I read the story before, but after it was announced as the next Comics Classics edition, in Muthu Comics #311, I took a loan from a close comic friend to witness the story, first-up. It was a fantasy filled storyline, with Crystal shaped aliens, and their variety of ray guns, confronting Steel Claw in his Superhero form.
The logical glitches, which you get to see in Steel Claw stories are laced throughout this story too, but some interesting aspects in the storyline, somehow makes up for it. More of which we would see in our detailed review, in a couple of weeks, so as to allow other friends who collect this comics from news-agents to witness the storyline, first-up.
More reviews to follow.
The Crystoids, original of this story, was serialized in Valiant, as a 2 page story every week, running from Aug-67 to Feb-68 for a total of 30 weeks.
So, the reprint for that story has been published after a gap of 24 years. A fact also to be noted, was that this was the second ever Steel Claw issue, where readers witnessed his Superhero avatar.
What’s more, guess what is the next Comics Classics Edition? As previewed by Lion/Muthu Editor, it is the first Superhero Steel Claw story ever published by Muthu Comics in Issue #138 as Kaliman Manitharkal (களிமண் மனிதர்கள்), The Men of Clay. It was released way back in 1982. So another classic in the remake.
Seems editor has decided to utilise the Superhero Steel Claw version of stories as the main theme for the Classics reprints. I don’t know what would be the reaction among this to the newcomers to Tamil Comics, who have witnessed far superior sci-fi fantasy stories through the modern age Batman, Superman, Spiderman sagas.
But, for old-timers, this will be a chance to relish the golden times, in a supersized format. I am eagerly looking forward to read the next story, which I have slight memories to have read from a friend’s collection.
As for the package goes, I am little disappointed with the Cover of this Classics Edition. Even though it was inspired by one of the Fleetway originals, the idea of seeing Steel Claw, who has a inbuilt revolver fit inside his master weapon, holding a normal gun, was clearly a big let-down. The original Fleetway cover-art was done by the Italian artist, Carlos Jacono (Courtesy: Bear Alley).
Our local artists have done enough to reignite the color choices of the original, but the outcome looks little out of a movie from the 70’s or 80’s, with Crandell looking to have used a Lip-Stick and Rose Paint make-over. :)
More than the front-cover, I really liked the back-cover, which seems to have been locally colored, by picking out a collage of panels, from the Crystoids story.
Long-timers would remember that S&S, debuted as early as Muthu Comics #10, in 1973, and has always been part and parcel along with the legacy of Muthu Comics. So, it’s so good to see some reprints from that golden genre, along with the Comics Classics. Here is a preview of the one story found in our Classics edition.
Overall, it was such a good release, and a chance to witness a classic story in a full blow A4 version on a price of INR 10, as it was first printed way back in the mid of 80’s for INR 4. I would have loved to see a Preview from Editor on the story and the fact behind its first print, just like his editorial on Lion Comics birth and growth. He used to have this as a regular feature in the early Classics editions, but decided to cut that feature on later issues.
Also I would have wished to see the Cover to have been thicker like the recent past Muthu Comics #300 (Released May ‘05), which was also printed in the same A4 Size. Comics Classics #9 (Released Jul ‘01), was the only other Classics which shared the same size, which eventually carried another Steel Claw reprint in the form of Kollaikaara Pisasu (கொள்ளைக்கார பிசாசு), aka Killer Ghost. Since, that time around, Editor had complained that the sales of the issue was not that good compared to the Pocket sized editions, I wish that we sail in normal waters this time, and strengthen Editor’s aim to bring in these Classics always in A4 Size, and preferably in a Thicker Cover, for safeguarding it in our collection for a long time.
And another humble request to Editor, to please send the subscription copies which have a size of A4, without folding it into two. I presume that it is done to avoid extra postal charges, but I am so sad to see the book getting damaged due to the center-fold. The same issue was faced during the CC #9 and Muthu #300, which shared the same fate. Hopefully, we won’t get to see the next CC edition, following the suit.
Updates to follow, meanwhile Happy Reading, Comikers !!