Time certainly does fly, doesn’t it.
The world is moving on and I don’t appear to be keeping up all that well. You may have noticed that I haven’t mentioned Sunset for ages now. It’s been a heavy year, but that’s no excuse really.
I’ve said before that the main thing I’ve learned during this project is just how much time it takes to get things written. Things are on the move now though, and the scripts are nearly done – then it’s merely a question of when the series artist – the astonishingly talented Paul Green – can get the art done in amongst his other projects. I’ll be talking about his latest venture, as artist on Arden Entertainment’s revival of Flash Gordon next week.
In the meantime, it’s time to celebrate the work of others, and to return to some topics from earlier in the summer. You might recall that back at the beginning of June I took a look at the newest kid’s comic to hit the UK stands* – Random House’s The DFC. At the time I was a little under-whelmed, but hopeful. My feeling was that the title showed a geed deal of promise, but that I wasn’t entirely confident that this promise would be realised.
Well, we’re onto issue thirteen now, and I think my fears might have been a little unjustified. Like all anthologies there are bits of The DFC I like less than others, but the whole has developed into something rather pleasing.
There’s a broad mix of strips, with some that really stand out. Personal favourites are the Etherington Brothers’ Monkey Nuts and the delightfully Blytonesque crime busting antics of The Boss and his class full of junior sleuths. Kate Brown’s The Spider Moon has been a slow burner for me, but as the strips first run has some to an end I find that it has me gripped, and the art is simply beautiful.
Another thing that’s impressed me about The DFC is the rapidity with which stories cycle around. The original headline act, Phillip Pullman’s John Blake is already on its second run. The interesting twist on Mobile Suit Gundam** that was Mobot High has already been and gone, although more is promised, and the brilliantly funny Good dog, Bad Dog concluded a couple of weeks ago.
This rapid re-cycling of course makes room for new strips, and as it happens two new titles started with issue thirteen, which was waiting on my doormat when I got back from my recent trip to the north of Scotland. The first, Violet, by Golden Champagne Glass Award winning writer/artist Emma Vieceli is the colourful mangaesque tale of a young girl who wakes up on her birthday with super powers. She’s not a superhero (at least not yet, and that doesn’t seem to be the way this is going), she’s just a girl with amazing abilities – like you would be, I suspect. I fell instantly in love with Violet. I suspect she’s a character that will appeal to girls without alienating the boys, which is no mean feat, and I’m looking forward to following her adventures.
The second new strip, Prince of Baghdad is something I’ve been looking forward to for a very long time indeed, because it reunites two of my favourite creators doing what I reckon they do best. I first encountered the dream team that is Tony Lee and Dan Boultwood when they were working on The Gloom***, a comic I suggested you should sell a kidney for.
What I loved about The Gloom was the sheer energetic adventure and slapstick of it. I still regard The Gloom as their finest collaboration**** because their styles marry so well in that kind of thing.
When he lets his sense of humour loose, Tony Lee is, well, Tony Lee is one of the funniest men alive. This chimes in perfectly with Dan Boultwood’s anarchic, angular, irrepressible style. When they work together on a not quite serious action story they mesh like finely engineered gears, they go together like strawberry and black pepper*****, unexpected but vibrant and fascinating.
And that’s what is promised by Prince of Baghdad. Imagine, in a world where the Arabian Nights stories are true, the great Sultan Ali Baba has fallen to the forces of Kasim, leader of the Forty Thieves. Imagine that there is a prophesy that Kasim can only be defeated by the blood of Ali Baba. Imagine that Ali Baba had a son, Nasir. Imagine that this son had been sent away to another world as a baby to hide him from Kasim.
Now. Imagine a boy living in West London with his Aunt Amira. A bored teenager with online gaming and not much more excitement in his life. A boy who wants desperately fro something exciting to happen.
Boy – is he in for a surprise!
In four pages Lee and Boultwood drag you into the story, and the worlds of the Prince of Baghdad. It’s a pretty much perfect piece of anthology story telling. I’ve criticized The DFC in the past for its high cover price – three quid is a lot of money for what it is. But now I reckon that Prince of Baghdad is worth the price of admission on its own. It really is that good.
Equally splendid is Stalag 666 over in ‘Tooth. This is a future war story pitting humans against the reptilian Shh’Keen and their collaborators. It’s a prisoner of war drama, and the tense, taught script makes you feel the frustration and claustrophobia felt by the men in the camp. In ten pages, Tony Lee, for yes, ‘tis him again, constructs another perfectly formed universe that is at once original and familiar, populated by rounded charcters who feel like they have some depth to them.
And it’s both of these strips which have given me a bit of a kick up the arse – not least because I know what else Tony Lee is working on. Time, I think to get stuck in and stay stuck in until Sunset is fully finished, and then, perhaps, have a go at pitching some of the other stories in my head.
I will make the time.
*Not that it ever actually hit the stands, since it’s only available by subscription, but you know what I mean.
**At least, that’s how I read it…
***Available at The Chemistry Set, free gratis and for nothing, which means you won’t have to sel la kidney after all.
****Hope Falls runs it a very close second, mind you.
*****Don’t look at me like that – try it!