"The Cloak" `V` "I. Spy" and so on!

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"The Cloak" `V` "I. Spy" and so on!

Post by alanultron5 on Thu Jan 14, 2010 2:11 pm

Hearing the great news that `Crikey` are to run a new `Cloak` strip, I would like to have a quick resume of the `spy` strips in fun comics and in particular two characters that really made their mark!

Of all those `super spies` in fun comics, in my opinion only two truly made the grade! They were "The Cloak" who ran in Odhams `Pow` from April 1967 to March 1969 and Thomsons "I. Spy" who began in Feb 1969 and lasted in `Sparky` comic (With a few breaks) to April 1976.

I am not including `adventure` strip spies such as `Lions` "Code Name Barracuda" No! I wish to look at the `fun` strip spies!

It was Odhams comics who really flooded the market with `fun spies` `Wham` comics "Eagle Eye Junior Spy" by Leo Baxendale from 1964. `Smash` comics "The Man From B.U.N.G.L.E" (1966)`Pow` comics "Wee Willy Haggis, the Spy from Skye" (1967).

Though all were fun they never truly impressed me as I felt none really had much in the way of plots!

When the `Cloak` began is `Pow` 21 (I think!) he too seemed in the same mould! Looking like a `bug-eyed` ghost he worked for the "Special Squad" with assistants `Mole` and `Shortstuff`

Though never plotted very thoroughly -in my view- the Cloak adventures were great fun. The strip, unusually, never produced a true `arch-villian` for him with only the one villianous character coming back for a return bout, the deadly "Deathshead". Two other noteworthy villians were mystical nemesis "Warlock" and the "Crook from Outer Space"

Cloaky got a female friend too! One "Lady Shady" a sorceress of some note who helped him against `Warlock` getting turned to gold (for a spell!) for her pains! She was later `revived` and occassionally aided Cloak. Mike Higgs drew her with curves in all the right places!

The only time the strip edged slightly into scary scene territory is when `Deathshead` tried to drown Cloak in an underground river! I always recall those scenes to this day, so they were obviously pretty graphic back in 1968.

Sadly the final few Cloak stories wern't too great with poor villians such as "The Phantom Piper" (Who turned out to be a Scots villian in luminous paint!) and the "Road-Hog" who along with his karate chopping side-kick "Hub-Cap" were Cloaks final challengers!

Me typing arms getting tired now-so in my next post I'll compare the "I.Spy" strip against old Cloaky!

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Re: "The Cloak" `V` "I. Spy" and so on!

Post by MR X on Thu Jan 14, 2010 6:25 pm

The Cloak was my favourite fun-strip in comics around 1968: in very early primary school, we got Friday afternoons to do as we pleased, and I was engrossed in piles of comics of the day, as others preferred the sandpit, etc.

It was the sheer look of this strip that won me over: even at the time, it was plain to me that here was a cartoonist, [MIKE HIGGS] who was clearly blazing his own trail, in surrealistic continued adventures featuring a gallery of bizarre villains.

At the time, I thought it was a US import strip, as ODHAMS incorporated the likes of BATMAN ------on a syndication basis-----into their UK fun strips.

THE CLOAK is the sort of strip I would like to see collected in volume/book format, but this seems unlikely, seeing the original artwork 'disappeared' after the ODHAMS shutdown: probably destroyed or gone abroad for no good reason.


I look forwards to seeing MIKES' first new CLOAK work in a while: knowing his outlook, he will likely include references to the 60s original, with possibly an updated slant.

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Re: "The Cloak" `V` "I. Spy" and so on!

Post by tony ingram on Thu Jan 14, 2010 8:29 pm

I think you're going to like it, somehow...

Odhams books really were a bit strange, looking back. British originated humour strips alongside US Marvel, with Batman somewhere in the middle. You wouldn't get something like that today. Not as odd as Thorpe & Porter, mind (check out the 'Counterfeit Comics' piece on the features page of the main Crikey! site to see what I mean) but still, odd isn't the word...

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Re: "The Cloak" `V` "I. Spy" and so on!

Post by alanultron5 on Fri Jan 15, 2010 1:40 pm

Though the Cloak was a bit of a `late-comer` to the Spy genre (April 67 `was` a bit late!) I.Spy was an `epilogue` only beginning on 1st Feb 1969 when the `boom` had long gone!

However the strip soon became popular with Sparky readers and soon evolved! It is thought that Peter Clark was brought in as writer after about eight early Les Barton scripted efforts (These were still great fun!)

Peter Clark produced some truly memorable storylinbes over the next two years. The first large eight part story where I. Spy faces Mr X and his giant `Superspy` creation very much eclipsed the best of Cloak stories! It got better! There was Mr Tempest who only stole Gold to fuel his `Sun Blocker` machine! Tempest was able to throw every type of Meteriological and Geological event at I.Spy via his portable weather control device!

There was the meglomaniacal Mastermind who via his huge multi billion businness empire, exported all kinds of slot operated machine as well as petrol pumps and food dispencers -even to the communist bloc! Mastermind had fitted all his machines with hidden weaponry which on receipt of orders from him-went on `all-out` attack across the globe. He became the only I.Spy villian to (if only for a short while) conquer the world!

Mr X` most notable coup was to pass himself off as a ghost (it had seemed likely he had died in his last encounter with I.Spy) and using a new `super`fuel and a colossal `land-cutting` saw to chop up the UK and `spirit` it to the middle of the Pacific Ocean! Mr X then situated two collosal rocket motors (fueled by the super-fuel) at each pole and `fired` the South Pole one in order to blackmail the United Nations when news of the Earth moving towards the Sun broke!

Finest of all in my view was `Operation I.Spy/Grab` in which Mastermind aided by three subordinate villians devises a plan to make I. Spy believe he is `cracking up` do to the strain of his cases! The opening and closing episodes of this story are `AWESOME`!!

Comparing the persona of Cloak and I.Spy it is obvious that Cloaky is more affable and a `warmer` fellow personality wise! Because I.Spy's features were always hidden from readers he comes across as a rather more `businnesslike` fellow with not much sense of humour or real warmth! He was seen to lose his temper once or twice -and those scenes of him breaking down psychologically in Ep 2 of "Operation I.Spy" gave him much needed vulnerability!

The I.Spy strip was less emancipated than the Cloak's as apart from `Granny Spy` there was no female representation for years!

regarding the artwork! I do enjoy the Cloak strip but it rarely stretches out in any way from basic scenes! No insult intended to Mike Higgs, but it is how I view the Cloak artwork!

For a period through mid 1969 to November 1971 the I.Spy strip gave truly wonderful artwork by Les Barton and Brian Walker that is possibly the finest artwork in what was a `fun strip`

It is the storylines where the I.Spy strip eclipsed the Cloak (up to where I.Spy went `down the pan` in 1972) They are, in my opinion utter gems of inspiration and stand up superbly today!

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Re: "The Cloak" `V` "I. Spy" and so on!

Post by MR X on Fri Jan 15, 2010 7:09 pm

I Spy was likely more polished, Alan, but the CLOAK was weird-and-wonderful in a way that only ODHAMS were capable of putting out.......as you pointed out, Mike Higg's depiction of voluptuous women was very rare at the time, making the D C Thomson spystrip look 'sexless' in comparison [OK, I was only seven, so no big deal!] which gave the CLOAK a more subversive quality.

The Cloak will always have the distinction of being 'first off the starting block' between the two strips, and although the artwork sometimes seems a bit rough around the edges when looked at today, there's no denying the surrealist charm of the strip, which is every bit as contemporary a creation from 1967 as the colour PEEL AVENGERS, or the psychedlic 'summer of love' of hippydom.

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Re: "The Cloak" `V` "I. Spy" and so on!

Post by alanultron5 on Sat Jan 16, 2010 11:47 am

I very much enjoyed the Cloak at the time-and still do now! I.Spy though did evolve into a superbly drawn affair with some outstanding storylines! The Cloak is a wonderful period piece; but reading it now, the plotting doesn't truly stand up too well-not to me anyhow! This is not a `dig` just that I feel those Cloak plots weren't as good as they might have been!

The Cloak does seem to recieve a high rating from fans , to a small extent, because it was in "Pow" (later "Smash & Pow") whereas old I.Spy was placed in the still deemed `twee` Sparky comic!

If the Cloak had produced storylines equal to "Operation I. Spy" "The Amazing Mr X" "The Skywaymen" "The Seven Stone Supermen" " The Copycat" "Ghost of Mr X" etc! Imagine the credibility it would rate!?

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Re: "The Cloak" `V` "I. Spy" and so on!

Post by tony ingram on Sat Jan 16, 2010 11:56 am

I'm not sure Sparky was ever considered 'twee'. If anything, it had more 'street cred' than its four stablemates, I'd say. Well, it did at Stewart Fleming Primary, anyway...

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Re: "The Cloak" `V` "I. Spy" and so on!

Post by alanultron5 on Sat Jan 16, 2010 12:41 pm

I certainly enjoyed the comic! Perhaps to Sept 1967 it had a bit of a `twee` image! by 1970 it was way `cooler` than Dandy or Beano! Tony, did you read much of either Cloak or I.Spy strips?

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Re: "The Cloak" `V` "I. Spy" and so on!

Post by tony ingram on Sat Jan 16, 2010 12:53 pm

alanultron5 wrote:I certainly enjoyed the comic! Perhaps to Sept 1967 it had a bit of a `twee` image! by 1970 it was way `cooler` than Dandy or Beano! Tony, did you read much of either Cloak or I.Spy strips?
The Cloak was before my time, though I've read a fair bit since. I-Spy, though, was a strip I very much enjoyed. Though I used to read pretty much all the DCT and IPC humour titles indiscriminately, so he was one of many.

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Re: "The Cloak" `V` "I. Spy" and so on!

Post by MR X on Sun Jan 17, 2010 10:03 am

for the uninitiated, here is a serving of the wonders that epitomized the 'CLOAK', from POW! issue 33: check the groovy 'pin-up' 'babes' in the background! This was my idea of a 'swinging sixties' ultra-cool offering as a 6-year-old:




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Re: "The Cloak" `V` "I. Spy" and so on!

Post by tony ingram on Sun Jan 17, 2010 10:16 am

For some reason, the little hairy chap's disclaimer that Cyclops was 'no relation to the X-Man in Fantastic, folks' made me laugh... Very Happy

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Re: "The Cloak" `V` "I. Spy" and so on!

Post by alanultron5 on Mon Jan 18, 2010 1:20 pm

That story was a very clever `in-joke` about the comics industry!

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Re: "The Cloak" `V` "I. Spy" and so on!

Post by MajorHoy on Tue Aug 12, 2014 3:55 pm

I guess Mad Magazine's Spy vs Spy here in the US would be of that same genre?




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Re: "The Cloak" `V` "I. Spy" and so on!

Post by tony ingram on Tue Aug 12, 2014 3:57 pm

There are distinct similarities.

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Re: "The Cloak" `V` "I. Spy" and so on!

Post by MajorHoy on Tue Aug 12, 2014 7:25 pm

I wonder what would happened if I.Spy met up with Inspector Gadget?


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Re: "The Cloak" `V` "I. Spy" and so on!

Post by tony ingram on Tue Aug 12, 2014 7:33 pm

MajorHoy wrote:I wonder what would happened if I.Spy met up with Inspector Gadget?

I always hated Inspector Gadget. He made no sense! What was he? A robot? A cyborg? How did all that stuff fit inside him? It drove me mad!

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Re: "The Cloak" `V` "I. Spy" and so on!

Post by Lucy McGough on Tue Aug 12, 2014 8:45 pm

He was bigger on the inside?

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Re: "The Cloak" `V` "I. Spy" and so on!

Post by MajorHoy on Wed Aug 13, 2014 12:45 am

Lucy McGough wrote:He was bigger on the inside?
That can be taken sooooooooo many different ways!  Razz 

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Re: "The Cloak" `V` "I. Spy" and so on!

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