Invisible Man
The Steel Claw: Invisible Man
Medium: comic
Year: 1962
Country: UK
Series: << Invisible Man >>
Writer: Ken Bulmer
Artist: Jesus Blasco
Format: 128 pages
Website category: Comics UK
Review date: 5 March 2021
It's a graphic collection of the first two years of one of the most popular 1960s British comics series. His serials are capable of dragging on a bit and I'd recommend putting yourself in an "episode by episode" frame of mind, but the character's genuinely interesting. I quite enjoyed it.
The idea's clever, for a start. How do you tell an Invisible Man story in the visual medium of comics? Answer: by making him not properly invisible. Louis Crandell is an improbably unlucky lab assistant. His first accident costs him his hand. Hence the "steel claw". It's a prosthetic. Surprisingly, he doesn't take this opportunity to rethink his career choices and so has yet another lab accident. This one turns him invisible... except for his steel hand. (His clothes turn invisible with him, though. Don't ask how all this works.)
What's cool about this is that Crandell turns evil and starts trying to take over the world. He tries to kill everyone on a plane, then plants a nuke-sized bomb in New York. He's a villain protagonist. It's an unofficial comics adaptation of H. G. Wells's The Invisible Man, basically, and quite a decent one.
That's just the first storyline, though. In later serials, he'll get over his mental issues... mostly. Push him too far and he might start losing it and turning evil again. This is great.
What's more, I'm pretty sure the scripts are consciously riffing on 19th century horror. Crandell is an Invisible Man whose powers are temporary and activated by electricity, like a modern Frankenstein. His enemies will include a very literal reinvention of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. One of this volume's stories has him wrapping himself in bandages, like H.G. Wells's Griffin. Conversely, the least successful story, for me, was the one where he's simply fighting pirates. It's not bad, but it suffers the worst from the series's ongoing problem of an action-packed but meandering plot.
The art's impressive, too. Jesus Blasco was a great of Spanish comics art and his detailed, shadow-heavy, realistic work is a great fit for these semi-horror stories.
The character I think has a ton of potential. His stories I mostly like. They proceed surprisingly slowly given their breathless two-page episodes, but I enjoyed developments like a villainous Crandell racing to save New York from his own bomb. There are no supernatural elements, but that's understandable given the series's strong scientific slant. (The most important characters tend to be scientists, while Ken Bulmer was an SF author.) Add this to the list of 1960s British comics characters who are ripe for a revival.