Friday, June 1, 2018


By Leonard Starr & Stan Drake

For a change, Kelly Green's life doesn't feel like a never-ending stream of agony and despair! It's not all roses, of course -- it never is. But at the least, her latest adventure, THE BLOOD TAPES, doesn't see her beaten, tortured, or plagued by the loss of a friend or loved one.

Our story begins as rock star Alec Blood lays down a track for his new album, then drives home and gets shot as he exits his car. Soon after, it's revealed that the tapes for what is now Alec's final album have been stolen and are being ransomed back to his record label for $500,000. But the company doesn't have cash to spare, so they make a deal with mob boss Tom Ragan to supply the funds. Naturally, Kelly is retained as the go-between, having apparently built a pretty good reputation since entering the business.

So Kelly flies to California for a meeting with the record execs, then moves on to Las Vegas to pick up the cash from Ragan. But she finds herself unexpectedly attracted to the mobster, who reminds her, in his own way, of her late husband. It's a similarity that even her friends, Spats and Meathooks, pick up on when they come to Vegas to try and talk Kelly out of doing business with Ragan. Once the well-meaning men realize there's a spark between Kelly and Ragan, they back off and return to New York, leaving Kelly on her own for the rest of her adventure.

As with the previous three stories, there's a bit of a mystery involved in this one -- namely, who killed Alec and stole the tapes? The answer turns out to be that it was two different parties, operating distinctly from one another, but this scarcely feels like any sort of revelation since no one in the story spends any time wondering about the questions. The mystery is more of an afterthought as the story concentrates mostly on Kelly's interactions with Tom Ragan.

As noted, there's a bit of a spark between Kelly and Ragan, and while she shuts him down when he comes on to her, she can't stop thinking about him and even considers pursuing a relationship, though she requests time to think it over as the story draws near its conclusion. I had briefly wondered if Leonard Starr and Stan Drake were returning to their soap opera comic strip roots here, setting up Ragan as a recurring character to come back now and then in Kelly's life (if the series had progressed beyond the subsequent volume which would turn out to be its last, of course) -- but on the final page, when Kelly, who had turned a blind eye to Ragan's criminal activities on the technicality that he had never been convicted of anything, learns from the horse's mouth that he's had someone killed for messing with her, she spits in his face and turns her back on him.

The artwork is still great and the scripting is good, but the story feels a little thin. The fact that Starr and Drake throw in a weird sub-plot about Blood singing from beyond the grave through a psychic would seem to indicate they were a little pressed for ideas, here. The plot lasts a few pages, is proved as a hoax, and doesn't tie into the main story at all. It seems shoehorned into the middle of this book simply to eat up some space.

And since this is such a thin tale, I find myself with a bit of space to eat up while talking about it! So, since I haven't done so yet, let's touch on Classic Comics Press's decision to "decolorize" them for their 2017 release. As I understand it, these books were originally all published in the European "album" format, in full color. For whatever reason -- presumably to get them more in line with, as noted above, the creators' historical comic strip work, Classic Comics Press chose to suck all color out of the stories.

Now, let's be clear (at least based again on my understanding): they didn't find the original artwork and produce this new volume from that source material. They actually took the European albums and painstakingly removed every bit of color, restored the linework, and published the finished result. This seems a bizarre production choice to me. It's one thing if you come across the art boards and produce a new black-and-white book that way. It would make perfect sense, in fact. But to actually go to all the trouble of uncoloring every story seems a little absurd! Especially since, as a simple Google Image search will reveal, the books were very nicely colored in the first place back in the eighties. It's not like they stripped out some primitive dot-matrix comic book colors; they removed some pretty nice, lush hues!

The thing is, while I do appreciate seeing Drake's work as originally drawn, I suspect he illustrated these stories with the intention that they would be colored for publication. There's a lot of open white space as you flip through the book's pages, and I can't help feeling that the color probably balanced some of that out, and that Drake himself would have utilized a lot more black if he'd actually wanted this stuff published in black-and-white. Plus, while I'm not a line-art connoisseur, there are spots in these stories where even I can see that the reconstruction process after stripping out the color has left something to be desired.

So, while I respect Classic Comics Press's creative choice here, and while ultimately the lack of color doesn't really detract from my enjoyment of the stories, I do feel the better way to do this project would have been to restore the work as originally published, rather than as originally drawn.

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