Graphic Novel/Comics Review


Jeff Hawke: Overlord

(2008) Sydney Jordan and Willie Patterson, Titan Books, 16.99, hrdbk, 128pp, ISBN 978-1-845-7-6597-4

 

Jeff Hawke was a newspaper strip, mainly published in the Daily Express, which first saw the light of day on 15th February 1954. It was created by Sydney Jordan with a couple of ex-RAF friends, Eric Souster and Jim Gilbert. Unlike its close contemporary Dan Dare, which appeared in the childrens' weekly Eagle, Hawke was aimed at a slightly more mature audience. It was set in the, then, near-future when humans have gotten out into space, at least as far as their own solar system is concerned, but has Jeff meeting all kinds of aliens. Few are on missions of conquest; some of them are just plain lost, some want to set up trade agreements, some are just passing through and barely register the existance of humans. Jeff also often has to deal with artifacts left behind by aliens on previous visits, long before the human race achieved its current level of technological development. Jordan, who studied at Miles Aircraft's Technical School and flew in the RAF, has an engineer's appreciation for technology and the science which underlies it. He was pretty much a one-man show on the strip until mid-1956 when Willie Patterson came onboard. He had been Jordan's childhood friend and was with him at Miles Aircraft too before moving to London and joining him on the strip. They continued to produce strips together until mid-1969, with few others involved, notably veteran SF writer Harry Harrison who penned 'Out of Touch' (Oct 57-Apr 58), and the odd helping hand on artwork, e.g. Colin Andrew. Jeff Hawke continued having adventures well into the mid-1970s and featured artists such as Nick Faure and, briefly, Martin Asbury, after which collections started appearing, which in turn led to the syndicated tale 'Heir Apparent' which featured the work of Brian Bolland and Paul Neary.

This collection of four tales starts with 'Overlord' (Feb19 60-June '60) which expands on an earlier appearance of the character Chalcedon ("Sanctuary" June '56-Oct '56), who becomes an important continuing nemesis for Jeff. It was also the first appearance for 'prologue' characters Mephisto and the Troll. This volume continues with 'Survival' (June '60-Sep '60) in which aliens 'repair' a dying crew member, Hawke's friend Mac Maclean, giving him abilities and attitudes that he must overcome if he is to save his shipwrecked crewmates. 'Wondrous Lamp' (Sep '60-Mar '61) is a story which features a genii's lamp which is actually an alien communications device that incorporates a teleporter; and 'Counsel for the Defence' (Mar '61- Aug '61) takes Hawke to the centre of galactic administration for another meeting with Chalcedon. For some readers this period of time marks the beginning of a 'Golden Age' for the strip, but many will wonder why Titan have decided to start these collections at this point and, furthermore, if they will 'go back' and feature the earlier strips (about three volumes should do it!). Let's hope so. In the meantime, for those of you who are nostalgic, and for new readers alike, this is a lovely edition of a very popular strip and is heartily recommended.

Tony Chester

 

See also Jonathan's review of Jeff Hawke by Sydney Jordan.


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