Thursday, February 07, 2008

Jack Staff #1 When: February 2003
Why: Paul Grist How: Paul Grist

The Story so far...
During the Second World War a group of heroes called the Freedom Fighters represent the Allies of the United States and United Kingdom in battles of a super powered nature.
Among their numbers the iconic heroes; Sergeant States, of the United States and Jack Staff, Britain's greatest hero!

After the War Jack Staff returns to the United Kingdom where he continues as a costumed superhero operating in conjunction with a secret group called Unit D. By the 1980s he and the group came into conflict with an out of control super powered soldier called Hurricane! This would be Jack's last outing as a costumed hero.

Jack Staff will eventually reemerge on the eve of peril, but before then, comes the secret story of his final mission. Battle with the Hurricane!...

Tale of the Tape...
ARTWORK: Paul GristARTWORK: Paul GristStrength: Hurricane 5 (Super Strength)
Intelligence: Jack Staff 2 (Average)
Speed: Jack Staff 3 (Athlete)
Stamina: Hurricane 5 (Marathon)
Agility: Jack Staff 3 (Acrobat)
Fighting Ability: Draw 3 (Street Wise)
Energy Powers: Draw 1 (None)

- During the Second World War the British hero, Jack Staff, rose to prominance with the team of allied superheroes called the Freedom Fighters.
Jack Staff is touted as Britain's greatest hero, but unbeknownst to the general public he lives in relative anonymity as construction worker, John Smith.

Jack Staff has the ability to transfer kinetic energy, granting him brief bursts of focused strength capable of levelling a building wall. Though the extent of his lifespan is unknown, Jack Staff has been alive since the Victorian era.

- Captain Gust was a soldier suffering from intense rages which began manifesting themselves as he increased in size and strength. During experimentation by the secretive military group, Department H, Gust's rages reached a new high, reducing him to a rampaging unintelligable hulk called Hurricane. As the Hurricane, Gust's chief powers are superhuman strength.

The Math: Hurricane Ranking: Draw (NR)

What Went Down...
At some point in the 1980s, Jack Staff embarks on what would become his final mission. With portions of Castletown reduced to rubble, he launches his attack against the rampaging monster that is -- Hurricane!

Jack Staff finds himself grossly mismatched against the far stronger opponent, but the greatest hero in Britain shows no fear in opposing Gust's drooling stampede. His efforts garner results less than desirable...

Jack utilizes his namesake, a staff, to swat and bat at the jibbering villain, but this proves only to further provoke anger from the furious Hurricane.
Gust turns the tables, snatching to the staff from it's offensive end to hurl Jack across the battlefield. The flag-garbed hero comes to a harsh collision with a brickwall, finding himself partially buried by the rubble, and apparently no longer a point of interest for the raging Hurricane.

Jack recovers and channels energy into his staff, looking to score a sneak attack on the leaving Hurricane -- a decision he's made to pay for by the devestating super powered palm of the hulking menace!

Blame the bad colouring on me!...With that, Jack Staff is knocked out cold and left in the rubble of Castletown's destruction. With that defeat, Jack Staff appears finished -- but is he?...

ARTWORK: Paul GristThe Hammer...
Is this the running theme of 2008? Are the feature heroes destined to suffer defeat to the likes of Hurricane? If this entry is anything to go by, yes. Yes it is. Another early indicator by these entry might be a very wooden post, as opposed to our usually stiff but shiney gloss!

I had the crazy idea to try to fill the entire week with features to not only try to utilize all the issues I've been wanting to review lately, but also make up for some of the lull in action we've experienced from December through January. Of course, as great as it might be to squeeze four feature fights around the trimmings, do not expect this... ever again! I'm buggered!

So, anyway, I would've liked to dedicate more focus to Jack Staff, because it's such a fantastic series! We've been talking a little bit about these characters in the Shipping List features [January 23, February 06] and the series' connection to a cast of diverse and vivid characters that came out of the UK in the 1960s.
I like to think every now and then some of the features we show you can help englighten your perspective, rather than just frustrate you with my obsessions removed from mainstream comics reading. This seems like a great example.

I mean sure, you've got the wonderful reflective perspective of these characters' role in Paul Grist's nationalistic march through superhero/sci-fi/fantasy comics, but that's not the only well known modern march through the history of these characters. There's Albion, a series deriving it's name from the ancient reference to Britain, and featuring most of these forgotten characters which have since been acquired by DC Comics. That process of acquisition is, in itself, an interesting tale, as indicative by the always controversial involvement of Todd McFarlane, who for a time thought he had ownership. That, however, is a story I'm ill informed on, and not all that interested in discussing.

A sizable portion of the Infinite Wars readership is casual comics fans, which by extension of exposure means nine times out of ten, you're a Marvel fan.
Even casual fans are well trained enough to identify Stan Lee, and note his involvement in co-creating some of Marvel's biggest and definitive icons throughout the same period as the birth of these littleknown icons.

Jack Staff was, perhaps ironically, borne out of a pitch by creator Paul Grist for a Marvel project starring mid 1970's character, Union Jack. The pitch, which was ultimately turned down by Marvel editorial, became retooled and eventually grew into a mythology playing on Marvel's Invaders culture, and this broad mythology of the British comics characters familiar to Grist's home.

I became acquainted with these characters through inhereted reprints through the 1970's series, Vulcan. The anthology book made use of a back catalogue of stories from Lion and Valiant, featuring characters like; The Spider, The Steel Claw, The Trigan Empire, ARCHIE, Kelly's Eye, and Mytek the Mighty.

Stories featured both black and white, and colour art, such as the painted science fiction adventure series, Trigan Empire. Curiously enough, even at a young age, the strong atmospheric use of the black and white attracted me most to characters like the Shadow pulp styled, Spider.
A prototypical anti-hero who originally appears as a Namor-esque looking elf-eared gadget wielder, whose goals were to become the king of thieves. Battles with creepy sci-fi rival villains would eventually lead to the Spider's role as an anti-hero, and you'll find him as an aged non-descript Spider living under the alias Alfred Chinard in Jack Staff. Like The Shadow, this Spider's identity is never made explicitly clear, despite the occasional teased alias.

Hurricane owes his origins to Captain Hurricane, although his role as a rampaging behemoth draws popular comparison to Hulk, accredited with accompaniment of Hulkbuster style organization, Project H.

The history of these characters probably won't engender a response of Watchmen proportions, but I'd love it if this can engender some sort of interest from those of you more typically interested in the historic Marvel and DC characters.
Thanks to the brilliant folks at Image Comics, and the handsome Paul Grist, you can actually preview the issue reviewed here, and the first issue of the original black and white series, at!

I'm dying on my feet here, so I'm going to have auto-biograph and run. There's every chance, like so many other tangential topics of discussion, Jack Staff and the British icons will come up again in future entries.
Until then, stay tuned for Friday classic!

The Fight: 4 The Issue: 5

If you've read the previews and find your fancys piqued, why not head over to Amazon and whet your apetite? The first volume collects the black and white original series from Grist's own Dancing Elephant Press, repackaged and collected by the good folks at Image Comics! And hey, by using Amazon purchase links provided here on the Infinite Wars, you help fund more enlightening and super fun entries on Secret Wars on Infinite Earths. Like, maybe I could catch up on Jack Staff, because I'm horribly behind and poor. Yay capitalism!

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