This is a brief history of Maltese comics – primarily those available in print – which I was aware of up to the point Apokalupsis Webcomics first went online. It hasn’t been really updated (so far). Anything not listed below is due to the fact that I was not aware of it.
A Brief History of Maltese Comics or Comic Books:
Which Maltese authors could come to mind? Someone might think of Trevor Zahra (illustrated books in which big illustrations and words never mix in sequential art form ) or Gorg Mallia who writes a weekly satirical cartoon in The Times newspaper, and isn’t technically a comic strip. Please note that all details given are from my own experience – what I could find in the local stationers, and thus no claim of completeness can be given. Whoever knows of more comic books from Malta is welcome to submit the information. Full credit will be given, and the information will be listed here. By the way, I like to use the definition of sequential art used by Scott McCloud however I distinguish between a strip and a comic book. This page concerns the latter only. Like Scott McCloud said when he was interviewed as well as in his books, I don’t see the weekly strips in the Times of Malta as any lesser form of art, I just don’t think it is the same thing. Gorg’s strip is terrific, by the way. It’s not comics under McCloud’s definition, but that’s all.
In a more sequential art oriented vein (and a fuller length), the lesser known VA 2018 #1 or VIRTUAL APOCALYPSE 2018 was Malta’s first manga publication. It was published in 1994 or 1995 (there is no date on the publication). The number 2018 was chosen as the sum of the previous century and their average age. The creators are credited as “Comic Designers” Keith Bugeja and Kurt Grech. Unfortunately the title probably was not too popular and only one issue was released as far as I am aware. I’ll give some details on the features included in the issue. The issue also featured some reviews and tips for computer games. It was all in B/W except for the coloured cover.
KANEJI was the first manga included in the issue. A sort of ROBOTECH/MACROSS derivative with a ship captain reminiscent of STAR BLAZERS makes it feel quite like Kia Asamiya’s MARTIAN SUCCESSOR NADESICO (1997). Nadesico itself is a mixture of MOBILE SUIT GUNDAM, SPACE CRUISER YAMATO/STAR BLAZERS and GO NAGAI’s 70’s robot shows MAZINGER Z / MAZINGA Z and GRANDIZER / GRAINDIZER / GOLDORAK / GOLDRAKE. It’s astonishing but the mecha designs of NADESICO look very much as if they were influenced by KANEJI if that were possible. Ok, the shoulder pads of the mechas of KANEJI are derived from GUNDAM. You can compare both, the images on the left are from KANEJI, those on the right from NADESICO. I think both were great, though KANEJI was not that refined graphically.
The second manga included was called THE LOST DIME-MANSION, a story with a cute rabbit investigator (could one say it was a pre-pokemon POKEMON, a manga with cute little animal creatures it certainly was), a Princess called Kuruwa Litiwahcek (if you read it literally in Maltese it would mean Ugliness that makes you shiver) who is kidnapped by the mad Professor Leimmaq (transpose the letters and you get the Maltese word Qammiel meaning Miser). It was nothing too interesting, however, and with only four pages where we don’t get to see the Princess, neither the Professor, and we only see two talking animal characters and a bodyguard: all the names of these characters remained unknown, we’ll call them The Bodyguard, The Rabbit Investigator and The Pilot Monster. The latter two can be seen below.
The third and last manga is FIST OF FURY, visually in most parts it’s a FIST OF THE NORTHSTAR derivative but the scenario is completely different. There was a famous 1972 Hong Kong film with the same name by Wei Lo starring the famous Bruce Lee. Here is the last page from this manga (and the whole comic):
These mangas unfortunately were never continued or concluded, few persons ever knew about them. I do not of any other books available at local shops. For instance there was a Bible for children but it was an illustrated one and not done in the comic book genre (panels and the lot). Then arriving to 1998, we come to this site and the first online web comic books from Malta – Apokalupsis (it was renamed actually), Rock ‘n’ Roll Kids, St Paul’s Shipwreck, Genesis (my manga) and CROSSover.
In 2001, I have found a magazine – called ir-Raff, and it has a “furry animal” comic page, written and drawn by Oliver Tabone, called Raffinu. The panels are all stuck together strangely (no gutters), it’s target audience is children, and it tends to moralise about health directly towards the child readers, which is something they will tend to dislike. When Raffinu speaks to the readers in the first panel, in the next one, Kimberly asks whether he is talking to himself. That might be because nobody is really listening. Then in the last panel he is back at it again, but he’s floating in thin air – what gives ??? Some of the crayons used to draw (I thought crayons don’t reproduce well – I was right) actually smudged onto nearby panels and it doesn’t look very nice. The balloons are grey instead of black which does not help their readability. The size of the characters in the issue I have is very variant, in the same page.. One character’s size is the size of another character’s head for instance, and then there’s the competition on the taghlima, or morality teaching given by Raffinu, amazing… I think the competition on the teaching is superflous and the art needs to avoid crayons which are problematic for this type of printed publication. I thought the style resembled some of the animal manga (what’s the name for that?) found in VA, but not as refined. A splash of water from the tap is depicted in the form of an explosion, which is strange. Well this is just my opinion – the author should keep at it, improve on these points especially keeping the morality stuff intrinsic to the story rather than directly address the readers.