2020 Specials Bundle

Yesterday, I covered the first half of 2020’s one-off special comics that were published by 2000AD owner Rebellion. There were some fantastic titles in there, so if you haven’t read my round-up already, go check it out here!

The second half of the year saw another set of excellent comic books released, with the Tammy & Jinty 2020 Special being the next to arrive in August.

Being an update/reboot of a girls comic from the 70s, I can’t say that I was at all familiar with the original material – but there was an interview with one of the original writers from the 70s titles, as well as a reprint of one of the classic stories – again, giving an excellent look at the history of girls comics. I really enjoyed this one, especially as it allowed me to check out titles that I’d never seen before – and the two new stories were both excellent, both from the point of view of their superb art and the writing as well.

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Next up was the Misty & Scream 2020 Special, which is one title I really look forward to every year (for the last few years, it’s been a Halloween essential for me). I was always hugely into the original Scream comics as a kid, despite being far too young for them at the time, so it’s great to revisit the scary stories of my youth and even read reboots of stories and characters I wasn’t particularly familiar with. It’s pitched at just the right level of spooky without being too scary, though I wouldn’t recommend this for younger readers. Though it feels a little thin compared to some of the bulkier specials I read in 2020, there were some excellent stories to read within its pages – and it was cheaper than many of the other titles too. It’s interesting to see Misty take top billing over Scream this time too; the cover reflects this, with the girls comic host taking centre stage in a beautifully painted scene by Andrea Bulgarelli.

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The Battle 2020 Special was up next in September and came stuffed to the gills with stories and articles, mostly commemorating the 80th Anniversary of the Battle of Britain. Though featuring warfare and action packed in many cases, the strips are a mostly more sombre and serious bunch than in, say, Action – and even featured a somewhat harrowing story focusing on child soldiers, written in collaboration with charity, War Child. Overall, a pretty unmissable special and one that didn’t shy away from the horrors of war; nor did it feel at any point as if war was being glorified, which was an occasional issue in the original Battle comic. Some superb and very varied artwork was on display here; it really was one of the best of the 2020 offerings – though not usually my cup of tea, it was definitely a worthwhile read and one that I’d recommend to most mature readers.

Next up was the unwieldily titled John Steel Thriller Picture Library Special in mid-November. Focusing on a mostly-forgotten secret agent character who first appeared in the late 50s and became most popular in the 60s, the Special reprints – and colourises – two of the original strips. The format and subject matter felt pretty dated to me, though the art – by Luis Bermejo – was superb throughout, helped along by the modern colour palette. Without much in the way of supplemental material, this Special needed to live or die on the original strips – and, unfortunately, I found them far too antiquated to be particularly enjoyable. Definitely the weakest of 2020’s offerings, sadly.

The end of November brought us The Sexton Blake Special; a character I was initially unfamiliar with, it transpires that Sexton Blake was a hugely popular fictional detective throughout much of the early 20th century. The Special was packed full of articles on the history of the character as well as the writers that told his tales and the artists who illustrated them, along with prose stories and a reprint of a classic 70s strip that – at the time of its original publication – had to change the name of its main characters due to a rights issue.

I found every page of this Special utterly fascinating – and the 70s strip was an absolutely wonderful inclusion, with superb art and a very Agatha Christie-esque whodunnit as its premise. Absolutely brilliant stuff, heartily recommended.

Finally: more spookiness and more Misty, with the Misty Winter Special 2020. Another beautiful painted cover (this time by Simon Davis) and two very spooky tales indeed, with one focusing on some very scary school conformity and another with some very disturbing, ghostly goings-on encountered by an unwary babysitter. An excellent end to the year’s Specials.

So for the first time, I’ve managed to check out the entirety of Rebellion’s Specials for a whole year – and for the most part, the standards were high and the content extremely enjoyable. I was pleasantly surprised by Roy of the Rovers and The Sexton Blake Special, having had either no interest or no knowledge of the characters prior to reading them, yet finding them to be the most enjoyable two comics of them all. I am definitely looking forward to picking up the 2021 Specials as they’re released too; I’ve definitely learned that there may well be gems hidden where I wouldn’t normally think to look.

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