The Doktor Will See You Now
♦ Tripwire’s contributing writer TIM HAYES reviews Rebellion’s Von Hoffman’s Invasion, out now…
Von Hoffman’s Invasion
Writer: Tom Tully
Artist: Eric Bradbury
Mad scientists do not come much madder than Nazi genius Doktor Von Hoffman, roaming the countryside of 1971 Cornwall armed with a gas that enlarges animals to monstrous size, and aiming to take belated revenge upon Great Britain for the Second World War. Testing his formula on crabs and frogs and woodlice, the German goon attracts the attentions of two plucky English lads who realise that he must be stopped—and whose father happens to have a garage full of chemicals, should any makeshift antidote perhaps come in handy.
Reprinted from Jet and later Buster by Rebellion, as part of its current Treasury of British Comics project, Von Hoffman’s Invasion let writer Tom Tully indulge in some flamboyantly excessive mayhem, and Eric Bradbury’s art was just disturbing enough to suit the story and the audience. Technically no one seems to be actually eaten by giant spiders or maimed by a colossal wasp, but the hectic format of three-page chapters crammed with crowded panels and non-stop exposition gives the book a feverish feel, and some of the giant critters are surreal rather than scary.
The strip’s transfer into Buster lowers the overheated temperature a bit, although the theme of a Britain under attack from an old Nazi in 1971 would have kept its resonance. For that matter, so would a Britain under attack from the direction of Europe, given the argument about Britain joining the European Communities going on at the time. But by then Tully had shown that he knew what his boys’ comics audience was really concerned about, when Von Hoffman goes after the England football team. Star striker Bobby Dare gets plucked off the pitch and spirited away by a giant bird, but is rescued just in time to make a decisive contribution to the Global Cup final. This, just one year after then-holders England were dispatched from the real-life 1970 World Cup—by West Germany. Payback, via comics and an enormous budgerigar.
You can’t keep a good nutter down, and Von Hoffman is now back on the scene, as Rebellion sets about connecting its Treasury properties into a connected universe. He cropped up in last year’s Scream & Misty Halloween Special, and he was back recently in The Vigilant as the resident evil master-planner. He doesn’t seem as whimsical as he used to be, when he allowed himself be transported around in the pouch of a giant pelican. But it’s early days.
Von Hoffman’s Invasion Book One is out now