On this day, 23 April 1988: MASK
As I’ve mentioned before, the covers of MASK were usually inventive and self-referential in a fun kind of way. This one plays around with the great IPC/Fleetway ‘Great news for all readers’ tradition that inspired this very blog, giving us a ‘Big news, Readers!’ and a ‘Sensational news!’ cover – the splash stretches to the back cover too – that actually heralds possibly the most underwhelming front page news in the publishing range’s history: this week, The Adventures of Cliff Dagger was given three pages instead of two. The gag continues in the The Adventures of Cliff Dagger itself, as Cliff has no idea what to do with his additional page and effectively wastes it by telling us as much. It’s funny in that it’s so ridiculous and pointless, and I wonder how much of it reflects a mild panic in the MASK editorial office that week (do you remember, Barrie Tomlinson?) – perhaps a full-page ad dropped out at the last minute, or artwork from another story missed the deadline? If that was the case, then one has to admire the chutzpah of turning it into a cover story in itself.
I was too old for MASK fandom so I know little about the comic or the wider toy licensing franchise of which it was a part (and which is still running, it seems). From what I’ve learned from this and a few other issues I’ve read, MASK are a covert task force fighting the VENOM forces of evil. Agents on both sides wear helmets that give them special powers, and there are lots of tanks and robots and explosions and the like. On the face of it, the comic doesn’t sound as though it’s my polystyrene cup of droid lube, but in fact it boasts a combination of strong artwork and some creative storylines. About a decade before this issue, I collected and played with Micronauts toys. Like MASK, they had their own little fictional universe which was a great playground for my young imagination, so I get the appeal of Matt Tracker, T-Bob, Vanessa Warfield, Miles Mayhem, Floyd Malloy, Cliff Dagger and co.
I could do with some help on artist identification below, so please do let me know if there are any you recognise, or on which you can correct my guesses.