As I stand in the middle of Argos - studying its catalogue, for high-end tripods to support my state-of-the art single megapixel camera - people often say to me, "Steve, I know you're a very busy man and don't like to be interrupted by those you view as beneath your contempt but what's your favourite ever literary depiction of tripods for sinister effect?"
I of course reply, "Well there was John Christopher's The Tripods, famously reimagined by the BBC as a show about wine production in Southern France but, when it comes to three-legged terror, I have to go for War of the Worlds, HG Wells' reminder of the dangers of getting too big for your boots."
"But Steve," they say, "you're too big for your boots and it doesn't seem to have done you any harm. After all, here you are in Argos, where only the top people shop."
"Pshaw!" I declare. "My toes are so tough that, when footwear proves too small to contain them, they merely burst out of my shoes, giving me the stylish look you see before you today."
Not only that but, as I roam the corridors of Sheffield's hi-tech virtual reality enormo-dome, otherwise known as the Flat Street Odeon, people often say to me, "Steve, pretty impressive, isn't it? But did you know this used to be the Fiesta Club, once the haunt of stars like Bobby Knutt and the Black Abbots but not necessarily those actual stars?"
All such talk of tripods and virtual reality inevitably forces my mind onto the subject of what has always been my favourite ever Killraven story, Amazing Adventures #32, which is low on tripods but high on virtual shenanigans.
Doing their usual meanderings, Killraven and his band of freemen come across an abandoned virtual reality entertainment complex that gives your fantasies - and nightmares - physical form.
Needless to say, it's not long before they're all philosophising and getting into trouble.
Thanks to Old Skull and his fantasies, Killraven finds himself up against a fire-breathing dragon; a conflict which forms the issue's "A" plot.
In a lot of ways, the sequence now seems spiritually hackneyed. Hawk is an American Indian and, this being a 1970s Marvel comic, that means he has to be a bitter and sullen man, brooding on broken treaties and the grimness of the Reservation.
Still, if the theme is over-familiar in a 1970s comic book, the flashback's sudden diversion into an Arthur Conan Doyle parody makes it oddly charming and memorable, the English moors allowing a drastic change in the strip's visual palette.
But, ultimately, whatever its literary pretensions, it's a comic, and a comic's nothing without pictures. As always Craig Russell plays a blinder. Given a chance to fling in the psychedelic, the archaic, the futuristic, the industrial and the cute, he seems to be having a ball drawing it all.
It's not a comic I love as much as I did when I was young - frankly, there'd be something wrong me me if I did; I must confess to having been quite obsessed with it at the time - but it'd still go on my list of 1970s issues you have to have read in order for your Bronze Age comics education to be complete.
Lees Hall, Gleadless.
3 weeks ago