The Eternaut 1969

by Héctor Germán Oesterheld (Author), Alberto Breccia (Artist)

This is the first of the first of the Albert Breccia Library books published by Fantagraphics that I’ve read. I’m not sure if it was the best place to start – they’ve put out five so far, but it was the one that seemed most appealing to me (also the shortest, I think). Written by Héctor Germán Oesterheld, it’s a condensed and updated version of a strip he wrote originally from 1957-1959, which is also available in a 368 page collection from Fantagraphics. This version from 1969 is actually only 49 pages of comics, so very condensed.

The story here is pretty minimal, and brings to mind a good episode of The Twilight Zone, or a long EC Comics style science fiction tale. Aliens invade earth and strike a deal with the major powers of the west to leave their countries alone in return for being able to take over South America. Approximately the first half of the book follows a small house of survivors of the first wave of the alien attack, as they hide out from a deadly “snow” the aliens drop from above and try to figure out what is going on, while the second half sees a resistance army attempt to take out the aliens. Kind of standard stuff, but it reads more interestingly than the basic plot, especially during the first half. The second half really feels more rushed (apparently it was, as the reboot was cancelled and condensed to reach the story’s conclusion).

The original version, which I’ve yet to read, but want to, looks to have much more straight-forward artwork by Francisco Solano Lopez. The main attraction of this 1969 update is definitely Alberto Breccia’s much more interesting, often mind-blowingly inventive black and white artwork. Apparently when this book was originally serialized, readers complained about the art, and though I love it, I can kind of get those complaints. At times it does seem a little too busy and a little too abstract to completely grab me. To some extent, the characters also seem a bit interchangeable. I never really knew who was who, though it didn’t seem to matter much.

If the second half of the book was more fleshed out, I’m sure it would have made for a better read, but overall, it’s still an enjoyable, surprisingly serious, somewhat unique take, especially for 1969, of an alien invasion of earth. And that Breccia artwork is stunning.

The Secret of the Swordfish

A few months ago, I read my first Blake and Mortimer album by Edgar P. Jacobs, The Yellow “M.” It’s seemingly the one that is considered his best, and I really enjoyed it. At the time I picked it up, I didn’t realize that it was actually the sixth volume in the series, as in the current English language collection, it’s numbered as volume one. The real first story is The Secret of the Swordfish, which is split into three volumes, and was originally published in Tintin magazine from 1946 to 1949. In English, these stories are actually collected in volumes fifteen, sixteen and seventeen. Confusing! It seemed like a good idea to read the first stories next, so I could have a better understanding of the characters and world.

The Yellow “M” had a very traditional mystery pulp feel, that brought to mind Sherlock Holmes, or maybe even Agatha Christie… set in London and featuring kidnapping, mad scientists, strange henchmen and hypnotizing machines, so I was really surprised when The Secret of the Swordfish begins with the “Yellow Empire” starting a nuclear World War III, destroying all major western cities, and taking over the entire world.

Some weird things I noticed while reading this story…

  1. The two main characters, Blake and Mortimer (an army/secret-services(?) officer and a scientist), barely have any character at all, and certainly no character development across this long tale. They are blank enigmas, but I guess we are supposed to be interested in them?
  2. The main villain, Olrik, also barely has any character, and there’s nothing that seems to motivate any of his actions, other than, I guess he’s the bad guy?
  3. Maybe weirdest of all, the story seems to take place in a world populated exclusively by adult males. Despite at least fifty or more characters having speaking parts, there’s not one woman, or even a child in all three volumes of The Secret of the Swordfish. What world is this?

The story itself has something of the feel of an old adventure movie serial, the kind of thing that the Indiana Jones movies were inspired from. With the main characters getting into to a series of scrapes across the first book as Olrik attempts to eliminate them. Most of the second book is features the story of Mortimer as a prisoner, Orlik’s attempts to extract information about his secret Swordfish plans, and the attempts to rescue him. The third book is set mostly around the secret base where the resistance attempts to launch their devastating counter attack, and restore freedom to humanity, using an atomic plane to overpower the “Yellow Empire.”

Very paper-thin stuff to stretch out over more than one hundred and fifty fairly text heavy pages, but the artwork is excellent, and always a pleasure to look at. This was definitely a book where the art kept me reading, much, much more than the minimal intrigue of the story.

It’s clearly a bit of a rough start for the series, which is almost certainly why these actual first volumes didn’t get put out in English until they released volume fifteen. I probably will read more (I really love the artwork), but it might be a while…


I’ve been reading a lot of comics this year, probably more than I ever have before. In 2022 the supply of comics does feel more than a little overwhelming. It seems like there’s basically an endless amount of stuff to read, which wasn’t the case, or didn’t feel like the case when I was younger.

The first comics I read were the ones my grandma kept at her house for when kids came over to visit. Basically, a small stack of beat-up Harvey comics, like Casper the Ghost or Little Dot, if I remember correctly. Not the greatest stuff? It wasn’t until the 1980s that I really started to get into comics, when I was thirteen or fourteen – maybe a little later than most other kids, but this was the era of Frank Miller’s Dark Knight, then Alan Moore’s Watchmen, when going to the comic store to buy a comic or two every week (whatever we could afford) was pretty exciting times.  

Back then, the non-superhero comics were kept behind the counter and you had to have an adult with you to get permission to look at them, but it wasn’t long after Watchman that superhero comics started to look pretty poor in comparison, and I started digging into the “adult” comics. I definitely remember getting early issues of Weirdo and Love and Rockets – it seems to me the first issue of Love and Rockets I read was issue eleven, which supposedly came out in 1985, when I had just turned fifteen… which makes sense. 

Instead of giving up on comics, I got involved with the slow but steady wave of “alternative” comics, as in a few short years we saw unique, new stuff like Yummy Fur, Yahoo, Eightball, Hate, Dirty Plotte, etcetera. Affordable pamphlet comics that came out fairly regularly, but not at the overwhelming pace of the superhero stuff. An alternative comics fan could stay kept up with most of the new releases, even if they only went to the comic book store once a month, or less. 

After high school, I drifted a bit, but spent more and more time trying to create my own comics, eventually getting into a more underground / humor mode, and signing my first series, No Hope, with Slave Labor Graphics in the summer of 1992 (thirty years ago!). 

In the gap between signing and the wait for the first issue of my own comic to come out in the spring of 1993, I had moved to San Francisco, and was getting even more into punk, DIY and zines. The pre-internet era I miss so much! About the same time as my first comic came out, probably under the weird combined influence of The Comics Journal and Maximum Rocknroll, I also self-published my own comics review zine, Destroy All Comics. I ended up self-publishing six issues in less than two years, but when it was getting a little too popular to keep doing all on my own (imagine folding and stapling and mailing out 1,000 zines, as well as working on my own quarterly comic and having a day job!), Slave Labor took over publishing and distributing the next five issues, now in a larger magazine format, and some of my friends and comics peers helped out a lot more with articles, interviews and comics. Still, it ended up being way too much work for no money, and those kinds of endeavors can’t go on for long, at least not in this world.  

Later, I did end up writing a handful of reviews for the Comics Journal, but for some reason, that never felt quite right (I don’t recall ever writing anything for MRR, but I did have a handful of one-page comics in the early issues of Punk Planet). Over the years since Destroy All Comics ended, I often thought of starting a new comics review magazine, and did some work towards that goal at the end of the 90s and again in the early 2000s, but both times it never quite happened, I guess for many reasons. 

Anyway, since I’ve been putting together this new site to archive some of my old comics (and hopefully post some new ones), I thought it might be equally fun to start some kind of little comic review blog, to post occasionally on the site about whatever comics I’ve been reading, and hopefully enjoying. Nothing too formal… just casual, subjective ramblings, maybe once a week or so. Maybe I should pick up some old issues of Little Dot and Casper the Ghost and give them another try?