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the firm
 
brilliant writing
exceptional art
historical bonus 3
total score 9
Cozmic Comics #4
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Only Printing / December 1972 / 52 pages / H. Bunch Associates
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Back Cover
Indicia Page
(click for larger image)

Back Cover
Back Cover
(click for larger image)

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AVERAGE SCORE 7
After the somewhat disappointing sales of the previous issue (The Firm), Cozmic Comics gets back to its anthology roots with the fourth issue, and it turns out to be the best issue in the series.

At the time of this issue's publication, Bloom Publications (publisher of the British anthology Nasty Tales) and several of its staff members were about to go on trial in the nation's Central Criminal Court for possessing obscene material with the intent to distribute. The indictment of Bloom and its staff for obscenity had taken place over a year ago and the eight-day "Nasty Tales Trial" in January, 1973 would prove to be a contentious affair.

Without this historical information, it's easy to perceive the front-cover art of Cozmic #4 as nothing but a prurient depiction of a cop (and a dog) peeking up a young woman's dress. But note that her dress is actually a stapled comic book draped over her shoulders. William Rankin's cover art is really a metaphor for Britain's law enforcement agencies going out of their way to discover (and even fabricate) sources of impropiety for prosecution, while being covertly thrilled in the pursuit. The dog might represent the reading public, which is all too happy to spy the evidence.

Bear in mind that H. Bunch's own Oz magazine had endured its own obscenity trial in Britain in 1971, so they were more than a little sensitive to outlandish prosecution.

After such a strong statement on its cover, Cozmic #4 begins with a strong, innovative story from J. Jeff Jones (not the American Jeff Jones) and Martin Sudden called "The Origenesis of Blathers & Duff." It's the first time one its anthology issues begins with a story from British artists instead of Americans. The five-page "Blathers & Duff" portrays the events that lead a pair of young men to detonate a bomb in a store on Oxford Street. The somewhat abstract, concise prose is suggestive and evocative, almost poetic, and gives us a true sense of how these young men thought and lived. All of the illustrations are at the top of each page while the narrative flows at the bottom, explaining the snippets of graphic images above.

One of Justin Green's best Binky Brown stories follows "Blathers & Duff." Reprinted from 1971's Laugh in the Dark, the four-page "The Agony of Binky Brown" is like a condensed origin story for Green's signature character. It's a practical yet powerful tale, relating the odd influences of Binky's youth and his inability to rationalize them out of his fervent (and clinically neurotic) mind.

Cozmic veteran Rod Beddall returns for one of his better stories, which literally illustrates the lyrics to The Shangri-Las most popular song, "Leader of the Pack." Beddall's inkwork seems like a cross between Julie Doucet and Charles Dallas and features some exquisite little panels. After a solid one-pager from William Rankin, the second half of Greg Iron's and Tom Veitch's "Last Rights" is presented (the first half having appeared in the second issue). Originally published in Deviant Slice Funnies #1 in early 1972, "Last Rights" is one of Iron's and Veitch's most compelling collaborations.

Ged Rumak follows with a four-pager that imagines Jesus as an alien being before Jay Kinney and Ned Sonntag contribute the six-page "Armed Love," a preposterous satire of radical college students and a love affair. Beddall comes back for a great two-pager about the creative process for an underground cartoonist, which is followed by Roger Brand's "Evil Was Half the Bargain!" that presents us with a doomed marriage between a man and Siamese twins.

Kevin O'Keefe finally provides the only significantly weak link in this issue with a four-pager about strip poker. A couple of decent one-pagers by Renrut and Gill Smitherman close the book.

Cozmic Comics #4 provides exceptional entertainment from creators who weren't the superstars of underground comix (with the possible exception of Greg Irons). If not for the inconvenience of splitting "Last Rights" into two parts, necessitating the acquisition of the second issue to read the whole story, and a couple of less-than-stellar comics from British creators, this book might've gotten a perfect score. As it is, Cozmic #4 might be the best-ever single underground comic book of British origin.
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keyline
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HISTORICAL FOOTNOTES:

It is currently unknown how many copies of this comic book were printed. It has not been reprinted.
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COMIC CREATORS:
William Rankin - 1, 18
Carl Muecke - 2
J. Jeff Jones - 3-7 (script)
Martin Sudden - 3-7 (art)
Justin Green - 8-11
Rod Beddall - 12-17, 38-39
Tom Veitch - 19-27 (script)
Greg Irons - 19-27 (art)
Ged Rumak - 28-31
Ned Sonntag - 32-37 (collaboration)
Jay Kinney - 32-37 (collaboration)
Roger Brand - 40-45
Kevin O'Keefe - 46-49
Renrut - 50
Gill Smitherman - 51
Malcomb Livingstone - 52