5.01.2017

My First M.A.S.K. UK Comic Books

Now that the new IDW M.A.S.K. series has completed its first story arc, I thought it would be a great time to explore some vintage comics for the first time! Recently, I was very fortunate to receive several copies of the UK M.A.S.K. comics released in the late '80s. Michael from Retromash.com was kind enough to ship me some copies overseas so I could finally get the full experience. Michael was actually lucky enough to get his art published in the fan section of an issue and is now on a mission to find it. (If you own the first 30 issues, please reach out to Michael and help him locate it.)

While I've been reading about the UK comics for years online through M.A.S.K. Comic Blog and seeing screenshots from the M.A.S.K. EIRE Facebook Group, I've never owned any copies. I've never managed to find any copies in US shops and trying to purchase copies on eBay can be pricey mainly because of the shipping cost. However, the wonderful gesture from Michael has made it worth the wait.

I was actually lucky enough to score some copies of Eagle Magazine a couple years ago which was a UK comic that featured M.A.S.K. in several issues. The M.A.S.K. UK comic series is similar in size and style so I knew a little of what to expect when my package arrived. If you are not familiar with the series, the UK version is quite larger than its US counterpart (both the vintage and current books.) It's a little over 9" x 12" in size while US books are about 6.5" x 10".

From my American perspective, the size difference really makes an impact in the color pages. The larger panels combined with special features like posters and cutout masks really make the art jump off the page. All the covers wrap-around to the back which gives some awesome panoramas which you rarely see in this era of US comics. 

The only disadvantage that I've noticed so far is that not all of the pages are color. The majority of the book uses black and white to tell the stories with spot color mixed in on a few pages. However, full color is utilized typically for a few pages in the front, the middle feature/poster section, and some pages at the end of the book. While it is nice that US comics are typically full color, it really wasn't distracting for me as I read through the UK issues mainly because the art is VERY detailed.

One of the main advantages of the UK series over the US, is each issue has several stories to read instead one over encompassing story arc. Some continue for several issues while others were a complete thought in just that issue. When I've read some comics, I feel like the story sometimes drags and the author is trying to stretch it. I haven't got that feeling with the UK format, but it does mean you have to remember several stories at one time (or revisit past issues to refresh your memory.)

The UK comics really know how to take advantage of their size (and color pages.) Most of the centerfolds give readers a large insight into the details of characters and vehicles. For instance, the poster above of Manta has a picture-in-picture montage of the vehicle in regular and defense mode. I've also noticed that the UK comics primarily use the toys as their inspiration and makes it feel like you could reach through the book and pickup the toy.

There are also some great character posters that show a full body shot along with a closeup of the agent's face. The Brad Turner poster above also has an action shot and a paragraph of back story.

The UK books really cater to the fans like the cutout masks featured in several books through the series. As with some US books, there is a section where fans could write in and even send their own art (like I mentioned with Michael above.) There were also contests to motivate fans creativity.

All in all, I'm very impressed with the UK comics and I've enjoyed the issues I've read so far. As I mentioned earlier, the larger scale has really made a difference for me and the writing has been really fun. The intricate details of the artwork really make this series one that every M.A.S.K. collector should seek out. If you live in the US and have collected some UK issues, I'd love to hear your experience in the comments. 

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