Losing Patrick McGoohan today was bad enough, but then it was announced that Ricardo Montalban has died as well. This is indeed a sad day.
For politicos, McGoohan is probably the greater loss because of his highly political (and radical – not just of its time but of all time) subversion of the secret agent genre The Prisoner. It emerges that this is now being remade into a film (courtesy of the makers of the new film, you can watch the original series online gratis) – something which rivals the Watchmen film in terms of making me feel ambivalent. McGoohan’s aim of The Prisoner was to be entirely subversive – essentially an act of trashing his own brand (which after Danger Man was very valuable indeed). How subversive can a remake be? The Wicker Man anyone?
Compared to The Prisoner, Fantasy Island (which is also currently being remade by – ack! – Eddie Murphy!) seems very tame indeed. I’ve never seen it, nor do I particularly intend to catch up for lost time.
For me, Montalban is to be lauded for one role only: the eponymous chracter is Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan – arguably the greatest Trek film. Montalban’s performance was brilliant – as hammy as Shatner, to be sure – but both sinister and sympathetic at the same time. The film is remembered for two main scenes: Spock dies at the end (you didn’t know? Sorry!) and Khan and Kirk’s chat-off in the middle. Known in particular for Shatner’s completely over the top screaming, Montalban’s performance is a pitch perfect counterpoint and utterly chilling.
Growing up in the early 1980s, both McGoohan and Montalban were thus major punctuation points in my growing up. ITV reshowed The Prisoner in the early eighties to great fanfare while Star Trek was omnipresent. I doff my cap to you both, gentlemen.
According to 2000AD this week, Massimo Bellardinelli has died. I’m sure this must be about the third time in the past decade that I’ve heard this, but this time it would appear to be official. A tribute from Pat Mills can be found on Down the Tubes.
Bellardinelli had a real spark of creative genius. For me, his high point was around 1984, when he was working on both Slaine and Ace Trucking Co. His portrayal of Slaine’s warp spasm remains unsurpassed, and some of the pages he drew on this story are the most beautiful pieces of black and white artwork to appear in a UK comic. Some of the pages in the Bride of Crom story remain seared into my brain.
Ace Trucking Co couldn’t be a more different strip, yet here too he excelled. He delighted in drawing the most bizarre, alien-looking and frankly disgusting characters and some of his art in this strip was truly surreal. He drew great space scenes too – a real challenge for artists. His ships (helped along by the script) were distinct characters and he managed to infuse real dynamism onto every page.
So despite the fact that he hasn’t drawn for the comic in almost 20 years, it is a sad loss. As with Tom Frame’s departure last year, it would seem that we really are seeing the passing of an age now.
I was very saddened to learn that Tom Frame died earlier this month.
Tom was a letterer (literally someone who writes the text in comics) for 2000AD and several other UK comics. For me, he was the letterer for Judge Dredd, and like a lot of early-2000AD stalwarts for a whole generation he will be better known for his droid alter-ego than for what he actually looked like.
So, as someone who helped form a large part of my childhood and adolescence (and arguably too much of my adulthood) Tom, thanks a lot.