Reviews | Written by Paul Mount 24/08/2018

VON HOFFMAN’S INVASION

Twenty five years after being imprisoned for hideous war crimes towards the end of World War Two, demented German scientist Von Hoffman is released from captivity. He’s twisted with bitterness and murderous rage by the pigdog British victory in the conflict, and is determined to exact a terrible revenge on early 1970s Britain with the help of his latest invention - a deadly gas which enlarges animals and insects to enormous proportions! On the back of a giant eel (stay with us), he makes his way across the Channel to Cornwall and begins a campaign of terror to bring the English way of life to its knees. Fortunately two bratty kids whose father just happens to have invented a shrinking pesticide (wot a stroke of luck!) are never far behind to foil Von Hoffman’s dastardly scheme!

Von Hoffman’s Invasion ran between 1971 and 1972 in the pages of the short-lived Jet comic before moving over to Buster, one of the obligatory, slightly darker fantasy-themed strips which often cropped up amongst the one-page comedy characters that populated 1970s comics published by the likes IPC. Most of these strips are long forgotten, but memories of Von Hoffman’s Invasion are buried deep in the psyche of those who read them at the time and this wonderfully lurid collection from Rebellion resurrects one of the most extraordinary titles from this peculiar substratum of British comics.

Von Hoffman’s Invasion is utterly barking mad, its wonderfully irresistible combination of Tom Tully’s fast-paced if shamelessly repetitive storyline and Eric Bradbury’s fabulously detailed and cinematic illustrations creating a comic strip which must have given nightmares to some of its more impressionable readers. Von Hoffman’s schemes are magnificently short-sighted; he enlarges pretty much any animal or insect which crosses his path and cackles maniacally as he imagines the chaos he can cause with giant wasps, woodlice (curiously referred to as “cheese-logs” which is slightly less frightening), giant apes, rabbits, moles, ants, spiders and birds, including, in one wonderfully surreal sequence, a huge pelican in whose bill he hides with all of his scientific equipment and tubes of enlarging gas! Only plucky brothers Billy and Bobby Drake, whose home village is devastated in Von H’s first attack, can save the day with their supply of their dad’s special insecticide.

It’s all utterly deranged stuff and, as they say, resolutely a product of its time. The strips abound with references to “dastardly foreigners”, Von H comes straight from the “Himmel! Ze dummkopf Englander pigdogs will pay for zis!” school of casual xenophobia and the strip – it ran to weekly three-page instalments – goes round and round in circles as Von H launches a new attack and the kids foil it with their spray. In one particularly bizarre storyline, Von H uses giant ants to kidnap top England footballer Bobby Dare on the day of the “Global Cup” final between England and Germany, in anticipation of a German win utterly demoralising the British fighting spirit. Hmmm; wonder if he was up to no good during this year’s World Cup...

Von Hoffman’s Invasion is a joyously naïve reminder of more innocent comic strip days (there’s loads of destruction and devastation but the strip is very careful not to actually kill anyone) and frankly, we can’t wait for volume 2 (volume 1 concludes with Von H commandeering the robot dinosaurs created by an eccentric young English scientist) which will take us through to the end of the strip’s run in February 1972, although completists will note that Von Hoffman was alive and well in Rebellion’s all-new Scream! And Misty Special last year. Some grudges just don’t go away...

VON HOFFMAN'S INVASION / WRITER: TOM TULLY / ARTIST: ERIC BRADBURY / PUBLISHER: REBELLION GRAPHIC NOVELS / RELEASE DATE: 23RD AUGUST 2018

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