The Vroom by James Zee

With a Roar of Engines, The Vroom Emerged

One of the last Spanish series to debut in KG Murray's line of reprint comics was The Vroom, a particularly obscure series due to its inconsistent Australian publication and limited international printings.11Thanks to Mark Muller and Spiros Xenos for assistance with scans and some information on story printings....  

The Vroom debuted in the last three issues of Climax Adventure Comic with two covers adapted from the stories' artwork. The final cover, on Climax Adventure Comic 21, has been painting specifically for the series—although it is unknown whether it was prepared overseas or locally.

The series then transferred to Super Giant Album. After that title also ended, a further episode appeared in World of Speed,22This comic is most notable for including a cover by Australian artist Richard Rae....   part of KG Murray's Planet Series (series 2, number 10), a variable series that mainly included Charlton work.33The title "Planet Series" is used to group a disparate collection of comics that include the words "Series x,...  

It is possible that The Vroom later appeared in one of Murray's numerous one-shots in the early 1980s, but final episodes may have never been published in Australia. Seventeen stories were published in France and not all all of these are known to have been published in Australia. No other international printings have been identified.44See the story list....  

"The Vroom" is a troupe of five young stunt bike riders in the "Dumbo Circus"—Tim, Paul, Otto, Tony and Emma, along with Carter thier mentor and Emma's love interest. As the circus travels the world, the group uncovers mysteries, playing the role of vigilantes to capture criminals and spys. Although the Vroom face prejudice for their youth and bike riding, solving the crimes routinely requires their unique biking skills and courage.

The stimulus for publishing the series may have come from Murray's experience with motoring magazines—such as Wheels (1953-?), Sports Car World (1957-1976), Australian Speedway (1967-?), Two Wheels (c1968-?) and The Bike Book (1974-1976)—and vehicle maintenance guides. Some of these were released by "Sport Magazine Pty Ltd", the publisher reported in Murray's mid-1970s issues of Climax and Super Giant.

Another likely impetus was the popularity of Evel Knievel (1938-2007), an iconic, flashy US stunt motorbike rider who unsuccessfully attempted to jump Snake River Canyon in Idaho on a rocket powered bike, live on television in 1974.55Knieval's jump failed when his parachute opened prematurely, but he still made $US 6 million. Although he repeatedly returned...  

If Murray was testing the market for a motorbiking comic, it seems they discovered it didn't exist. The Vroom was soon buried as a back-up, while the contemporaneous Charlton-based series Hot Rods (1976) did not survive long.

Despite its short life-span, The Vroom has an distinctive art style that is detailed and realistic, as well as heavily stylised, generally with appealing whole-of-page compositions. While the work is uncredited, episodes are marked "Selecciones Ilustradas" or "SI Artists". Some episodes also include an unclear signature: "J Duarte" (see "Dead on Five" page 2 for an example).

Based on the name and style, this is José Duarte Miñarro (b. ?), a largely unknown Spanish artist who is not typically associated with the Selecciones Ilustradas agency.66I have not identfied any biographical information on José Duarte and he is not mentioned in Fernando Fernández's Memorias Ilustradas,...  

References

  • 1Thanks to Mark Muller and Spiros Xenos for assistance with scans and some information on story printings.
  • 2This comic is most notable for including a cover by Australian artist Richard Rae.
  • 3The title "Planet Series" is used to group a disparate collection of comics that include the words "Series x, No. y" on the cover. Only the third series, following the demise of the "Planet Comics" branding, explicitly includes the full wording "Planet Series x, No. y". Stories in these comics are predominantly Charlton reprints and Charlton titles are generally reused on the cover, although sometimes not with reprints from the particular Charlton title. Only a few non-Charlton stories were printed in the series, including some work from the Selecciones Ilustradas agency.
  • 4See the story list.
  • 5Knieval's jump failed when his parachute opened prematurely, but he still made $US 6 million. Although he repeatedly returned to his daredevil career, he first announced his retirement in May 2005. He visited Australia in 1979. Wikipedia reports that this Knieval's televised jumps represent four of the twenty most-watched events on the US ABC's Wide World of Sports show. Marvel produced an Evel Knievel comic in conjunction with Ideal Toys (probably in 1974) as a free promotion to be given away at toy stores.
  • 6I have not identfied any biographical information on José Duarte and he is not mentioned in Fernando Fernández's Memorias Ilustradas, which lists key personnel during his association with the agency. Information on his known published comics work is included later in this article.