The Tower King – Alan Hebden & José Ortiz – available now from Hibernia

The Tower King

Written by Alan Hebden
Drawn by José Ortiz

Published by Hibernia
February 2014
Available only by mail order

First Perint
Only 200 individually numbered copies

Originally serialised in The Eagle comic issues 1-24
(March 27th – September 4th 1982)

The Tower King © 2014 The Dan Dare Corporation

This is a classic tale from the 80’s, part of the original line-up of the new version of Eagle, published by IPC. Most of the stories in the new Eagle were photo-strips with only two traditionally illustrated. Dan Dare was rebooted for the second time, the first reboot being in 2000AD in 1977. The second illustrated story in the first issue was The Tower King by Alan Hebden and José Ortiz.

Alan Hebden had written Major Easy in Battle, illustrated by Carlos Ezquerra and a favourite of mine from 1980’s 2000AD, Meltdown Man illustrated by Massimo Belardinelli. He also created Death Planet and scripted episodes of MACH1.

José Ortiz was already published in his native Spain but this was his first work in UK comics. He went on to draw The House of Daemon and The Fifth Horseman in Eagle and  Rogue Trooper, one book of Nemesis The Warlock and Helltrekkers in 2000AD.

The Tower King is a story set in the near future, being published in 1982 the future is likely somewhere around 2000, so it is now set in an alternative past. A newer, cleaner source of electricity was unveiled – and went disastrously wrong. All electricity was cancelled out by a satellite in orbit, not simply disturbed but cancelled out. No electricity of any form worked, including from stored sources such as batteries it seems.

There was much chaos and devastation throughout the world. In London small groups came together forming clans. One such clan settled in the Tower of London, their leader became known as The Tower King – our hero, Mick Tempest.

Personally the Tower of London does indeed seem a good choice for a place to settle in. There are plenty of other possibilities of course. But the Tower of London has all those cool weapons and armour so it also makes for great visuals. For me in 1982, aged 14, I thought Mick Tempest looked pretty cool.

There are a number of other groups in this post apocalyptic world, some organised and making the best of things and some degenerated into animalistic behaviour or strange warped religions. The Tower King comes in to contact with several and though he has to kill to protect his people he has morals and clearly prefers not to kill if he doesn’t need to.

To readers of modern comics the episodes may seem slightly repetitive, that is due to the target audience being young boys. I find it easy to overlook this and enjoy the story, in the same way I don’t need 21st century special effects in a film, I can still enjoy something from the 60s or 70s and not worry about the lack of CGI – in fact watching some things I am happy to see the lack of CGI, Ray Harryhausen rocked.

The script is consistent, all episodes written by the same person the central characters remain faithful throughout. Mick Tempest doesn’t randomly act differently just to fit a new situation. Exposition is more common than we might expect to see in current UK comics such as 2000AD and again this is due to the target audience.

For me the best thing about this story is the art. I loved José Ortiz’s work on this. We get armoured warriors on horseback and trains and steam boats and tanks. We get withered under-dwellers and crazed destructive people with filed teeth. All animated and well-lit with interesting variety of angles and panels.

To my teen eye all was perfect, to my adult eye there are a few aspects of the lettering that disappoints and that could be due to the detail in the pictures rather than the placing of the speech bubbles and text. It is minor but some text boxes cover detail I’d have liked to be able to see. I don’t know who the letter was but to be fair they did a decent job where possible, cutting away some of the balloons to give the art a chance. As I say it could be that José Ortiz put a little too much in to this early work.

So this read was a delight for me in recapturing a story I really enjoyed in my youth. It was also enjoyable as the script still works to a greater degree and the art is still beautiful.

Hibernia have done readers of UK comics a great service putting this volume together.

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2 comments on “The Tower King – Alan Hebden & José Ortiz – available now from Hibernia

  1. This was my favourite story in the relaunched Eagle too, along with Dan Dare. The photo stories look quite naff now but I enjoyed them at the time, particularly Saddle Tramp, a tale of a cowboy in the Old West. I can’t imagine where they shot the pictures but it couldn’t have been the US because they had so little budget. Maybe Surrey or somewhere.
    Jose Ortiz is a very big figure in Spanish comics and a wonderful artist. There was a big retrospective of his work at the Barcelona comic fair last year. It was very interesting to see how much he had done, especially as I had only known him from Rogue Trooper before.

    • I enjoyed Saddle Tramp too. I imagine most of the photography was in Wales… Some great sandy/grassy areas there. Also Portland is cinematic. Quite a few places in Britain can double for more exotic climes.

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