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Kelly Green: The Complete Collection Hardcover – January 15, 2016
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Charles Pelto and Classic Comics Press has done us a great service in collecting these five stories done in the 1980's for Darguard International. The idea at the time was to capitalize on the booming trend of European Graphic Novel series and to release these both in Europe and America. For some reason these never met with the success they deserved and the fifth story has never (until now) even been printed in English. The coloring which was never all that great and especially botched in the first volume has been painstakingly removed by hand. For over 100 of the 240 pages the original artwork has been located and reproduced directly from them. It is a credit to Mr. Pelto that I could not tell the difference. It all looks very sharp and crystal clear.
The volume itself is a Deluxe Coffee Table sized Hard Cover with a beautiful dust jacket. It has a sewn binding and durable quality paper. 274 pages with many extras including two introductions. One done at the time of the original release and one from Stan Drake's art assistant Steven Ray Austin. Plus Charles Pelto provides an afterword detailing the restoration process. Also included is a color gallery of some of the promotional art and the various different Eropean covers done for the books. Plus we have a few examples of Stan Drake's thumbnails sketches with the finished pages next to it for comparison.
Leonard Starr and Stan Drake were not only friends but lead very parallel careers. While Starr is only the writer here, he was also a fantastic artist in his own right with a very similar photo realistic style. Both of them spent much of their career doing beautiful work on a comic strip which never got the recognition they deserved deserved because of the soap opera elements they included. Both artists then took over a more famous comic strip later when theirs ended. Leonard Starr did Mary Perkins, On Stage then took over on Little Orphan Annie. Stan Drake did The Heart Of Juliet Jones then took over on Blondie. While neither men got the acclaim of say a Milton Caniff or a Alex Raymond I sincerely believe both are among the top dozen best artists to ever grace the grace the newspaper strip page.
The first Kelly Green story "The Go-Between " is very much an origin story. We meet Kelly a beautiful Irish girl who had a rough childhood. She has a very happy marriage to police officer Dan Green who is murdered on the first page of our story. Kelly becomes a Go-Between, someone who must deliver a ransom to a black-mailer or extortionist. She is aided by three former criminals reformed by her late husband. They are Spats Cavendish, Meathooks the Strong Man and Jimmy De-Lock former lock picker. I should mention that Stan Drake draws beautiful women which he was forced to keep modest for Juliet Jones and Annie, but here he is free to draw Kelly and the female cast in many sexy and erotic poses. In this story Kelly becomes a Go-Go dancer in order to go undercover. We also undercover the story of who murdered her husband and wether his partner was involved.
The second story "One, Two , Three.....Die" we meet a very rich aristocratic family who is being killed off systematically. Kelly also sleeps with a quirky shy Veterinary Doctor.
The third story the "The Million Dollar Hit" is probably my favorite of the collection as Kelly winds up in Alaska trying to deliver a million dollar ransom. This story has many plot twists and at one point becomes a tale a human survival story as the small plane Kelly is on crashes in the frozen tundra. In the first two stories Stan's artwork would probably get a PG-13 rating showing us what can be seen on network TV after 9:00 PM ( the female back side and everything but the nipple) while this and the next story would get an R rating.
The next story is also excellent "The Blood Tapes" is about an aging Rock Star who had been murdered and Kelly must deliver a ransom to get back some unreleased music. Kelly goes to Las Vegas and meets a man who she is attracted to, unfortunately she must figure out how involved he is with the criminal elements.
And finally we get "The Comic-Con Heist " this is the never released in English tale newly translated. The story involves original comic art being stolen and takes places in San Diego the home of America's largest Comic-Con. Comic-Con founder (and Milton Caniff assistant ) Shel Dorf has a small role and a few Big Name Artists make cameos like Jack Kirby, Wiil Eisner , Milton Caniff and Burne Hogarth. Despite having an S & M theme this story reverts back to a PG-13 rating.
While Leonard Starr will be always primarily be remembered for his great art but he was also quite a good writer as this volume and his time spent on the Animated series Thundercats where he was head writer and developed most of the characters and the Bible for the show. I was quite sad when I reached the final page, but very happy to have this in my collection where I can take it off my shelf and revisit this classic often.
My Higest Recommendation.