In 1966, Picture Library (Published and distributed by M.V. Features Limited in England) put out a series of pocket comic books called S.A.T.A.N. – an acronym for Spies Anonymous To All Nations. Each issue appears to have been 68 pages (if you include the 4 page cover). I have 2 issues, No. 12: Point of Departure, and No. 14: Assassin Extraordinary – but using them as a jump of point, I’ll try to piece together what can about the series.
The issues appeared to have self contained stories, and two issues were released per month in England, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. There were at least 16 in the series. As the covers would suggest, they were aimed at adults – or at least mature readers – and I suggest belonged more to the pulp fiction tradition than the world of comic books. Let’s look at the 2 issues I have.
POINT OF DEPARTURE
Unfortunately, the writer/s and artists involved are not credited. Set in London, the story features S.A.T.A.N. agent, Frank Powell, who is assigned to investigate the disappearance of Edward Fowler, a scientist working on a top-secret radar system. Powell discovers Fowler’s wife went missing a few days before he did. The question is, did she go of her own free will? The only one who may know the answer is Fowler’s daughter, Angela, who is an air-hostess and has just arrived back in London from South America.
Powell arrives at Angela’s apartment just in time to thwart two thugs who were trying to kidnap her – they escape down the fire escape. But realising she is in danger, he decides to keep a close eye on her.
The villain of the piece is Lord Jesphat – described as a wartime politician, now controversial newspaper owner – one of the richest men in Britain… Jesphat wishes to take over Europe from a secret village hidden in mountainous terrain in Wales.
The plot is nothing new, as you’ve seen, it features that classic hoary old trope of the 1960s – that being a scientist goes missing, and the spy sent to investigate teams up with the daughter of the scientist to unravel the mystery.
At the beginning of the synopsis, I said this story was set in London, however, visually, there is nothing to reinforce that. That is to say, there’s no Big Ben, Houses of Parliament, double-decker buses, Carnaby Street mods, or any of the other cliches that suggest mid 1960s swinging London. It is only the text that informs the reader of location. Next, the cars are large square and boxy, more like American vehicles, than British. And if you look at the lettering, it appears to be shoe-horned into the speech-bubbles and boxes. Now, this is purely supposition on my part – and can easily be shot down in flames by someone far more knowledgeable than I – but I would suggest this series (or at least the art) originated in another country – possibly France, Germany, Italy or Sweden. Or maybe even a South American country. My guess is M.V. Features bought the art and rewrote the stories for Britain (and the Commonwealth).
Another clue that this may very well be the case is two issues – that’s 136 pages – were issued every month. While this is not impossible for a dedicated hard working team, but it is far more likely if there is existing art.
Anyway, I have laboured the point. Let’s move on to the next one…
Emil Lados was an assassin for S.A.T.A.N – the best in the business. Over many years he served the organization well – but time catches up with him and he retires, seeking peace and tranquility in Berne, Switzerland.
Within three months, Lados is bored and restless. He misses the action. To relieve the boredom he agrees to take on a few contract killings. But pretty soon, as the bodies stack up – six dead men – his work attracts unwanted attention.
The Director of S.A.T.A.N. assigns agent Paul Johnston to investigate. Johnston has no idea where to start. No clues were left at the murder scenes – all he knows is all the killings happened within a hundred mile radius of Berne. On what is little more than a hunch, he flies to Berne, and shortly after – and quite coincidentally – he bumps into Lados at a bar. They share a few drinks and talk about the old days, then go their separate ways.
Johnston is still no closer to finding his killer, but after leaving the bar, he is set upon by two thugs. His mind begins to race, and the only conclusion he can fathom is that someone saw him with Lados.
Assassin Extraordinary is a slightly more cynical, world weary espionage tale. While we’re not quite talking The Spy Who Came in From The Cold territory, the story (despite some clunky dialogue) has more meat and subtext than you’d expect from this type of publication.
Although I haven’t been able to find out the name of the fifth book in the S.A.T.A.N. series, the titles I can confirm are as follows:
No. 1: Cold, The Kiss of Fear
No. 2: Bang, You’re Dead
No. 3: Midnight Is For Murder
No. 4: The Face of Destruction
No. 5: Unknown
No. 6: The Fanatics
No. 7: Cremation By Candlelight
No. 8: An Easy Killing
No. 9: House of Death
No. 10: Rule of Force
No. 11: Deadly Paradise
Cocaine! Heroin! Marijuana! All are drugs capable of sending a man into a deadly paradise. A distorted bliss which can result in insanity and death. S.A.T.A.N. agent Mike Kincaid knew that certain peddlers were up to something big. The only question was…how big?
No. 12: Point of Departure
As featured above.
No. 13: Spooks Are For Killing
All eyes were on blonde and beautiful Venus Jones when she walked into any room. But some were the eyes who wished the gorgeous creature quite, quite dead.
No. 14: Assassin Extraordinary
As featured above.
Emil Lados was a killer, an instrument of violence. His whole life had been dedicated to death – could such a man live out his days in peace or would he be consumed in his own passion for destruction?
No. 15: Ten Deadly Dolls
Ten S.A.T.A.N. agents missing without a trace…and the entire West African network threatened with extinction! What was the secret of the little plastic dolls…and the faceless killer known as Mr. Pink?
No. 16: The Eighth Deadly Sin
They needed a special agent for this job – a man above human weakness, moulded in iron. And the S.A.T.A.N. organisation had such a man – but even he was helpless against the evil of the enemy.
The publisher, M.V. Features had another spy series called Secret Service, which appears to have been more popular with at least 28 issues published. There are quite a few gaps in what I could find here, but for what it’s worth, here’s a list of titles.
No. 1: Unknown
No. 2: Night of the Vulture
No. 3: A Lady Called Luck
No. 4: Inferno
No. 5: Unknown
No. 6: Unknown
No. 7: Guilt is my Shadow
No. 8: Unknown
No. 9: Unknown
No. 10: The Baited Hook
No. 11: The Razor’s Edge
No. 12: The Edge of Fear
No. 13: Dead Men Don’t Die
No. 14: The Centre of the Storm
No. 15: Web of the Black Spider
No. 16: The Unknown Enemy
No. 17: Cast a Crooked Shadow
No. 18: The Big Squeeze
No. 19: Prince of Darkness
No. 20: The Word is Death
No. 21: Black, the Blood of Evil
No. 22: The Verdict
No. 23: The Corpse That Laughed
No. 24: The Face of a Traitor
No. 25: Death Wears a Thousand Faces
No. 26: Unknown
No. 27: Madame Guillotine
No. 28: A Traitor’s End
Titles in both series can be found at various times on Ebay, and even on Amazon, varying in price from $1.00 to about $40.00. If you have any information you wish to share, feel free to comment or drop me a line.