UK time, so it really is a bit late for me to be plugging books for Christmas. Still, in a matter of mere hours the festivities will begin in millions of households, and amongst the piles of presents that the lucky (and presumably nice) will receive, there will be some envelopes containing cash.
Christmas money from parents, uncles and aunts (and quite possibly close friends with no imagination). So, forget about buying things for other people – if you haven’t done that yet then I’m afraid you’re simply beyond help. No, Christmas might well be a time for giving, but right now it’s time to consider what you’re going to give yourself when the time comes to spend all that Christmas money.
So, pull up a chair, grab a mince pie and pour yourself a cup of Egg-Nogg* and settle down for some more seasonal choices – now with the added bonus of not having to pretend they’re not all for you!
Christmas is a time for stories. There is nothing like sitting around a roaring log fire swapping stories with a bunch of mates – especially stories that have a bit of a sting in the tale**. There are few comics collections that are better suited for this purpose than the excellent 2000AD collection The Best of Tharg’s Future Shocks. Not all of the best, I have to say, since none of Alan Moore’s work is in here, and there is no question that he wrote many of the best. But this volume does feature the early work of John Smith, Peter Milligan, Grant Morrison and Neil Gaiman, so you can hardly query the quality of the talent on show here.
For those of you yet to discover the Future Shock format, the idea here is simple. Each shock is an ultra short (maximum five pages) futuristic story featuring some kind of twist at the end. They were the glue that held ‘Tooth together back in the day – and a great way for up and coming writers to demonstrate their prowess. Writing a self contained story in five pages or ness is a lot harder than it sounds.
Be in no doubt, this is a fine collection. All manner of weirdness and fabulosity**** is here. Worlds made as decorations, worlds that only exist if you believe in them, memories sold as entertainment (a few years before Total Recall, but probably not before We can Remember it for you Wholesale) aliens responding to charity appeals and so very much more. In all, forty two astonishing stories crammed into a mere two hundred or so pages. It’s brilliance in a square binding, and would be a positive boon to any bookshelf. With a cover price of £11.99, I can’t see any reason for you not to add it to yours.
Equally worthy of your attention – and looking easily as fine in it’s beautifully illustrated hard backed cover is the collected edition of The Girly Comic. Regular readers know all about this fine feminine focussed anthology of course. It launched back in 2002 (can it really be nearly seven years ago now?) and features short stories with a female focus.
The A5 anthologies are almost universally brilliant, and I’ve often wondered whether they were going to collect them all together. Well, now the very best stories are together, and it’s well worth getting hold of. At £15.00 plus p+p it’s more expensive than a lot of collections from larger publishers, but seriously, you have to see a copy of this to truly appreciate the quality. Not only are the stories strong and engaging (there is some truly fine work here, and it’s hard to believe that for the most part the creators aren’t massively successful professional comics people but dedicated “amateurs” with day jobs) but the production values on the book are almost impossibly high. Genuinely, I don’t understand how they’ve done it. You gotta get one! Pop on over to The Girly Comic Website now. Support some genuinely new British talent!
Finally for this instalment, there is the latest offering from the combined talents of Markosia Enterprises, G.P. Taylor, Dan Boultwood and Tony Lee. The Doppleganger Chronicles: The First Escape is the first in a series of adventures featuring twin sisters Sadie and Saskia Dopple, and their friend Erik Morrissey Ganger. The twins live in the Isambard Dunstan School for Wayward Children, but now there is a plan to split them up. Mayhem and adventure ensue in what is a rip roaring riot of a romp. Taylor’s text marries wonderfully well with the comics pages adapted from Taylor’s writing by Tony Lee and drawn by the astonishingly talented Boultwood.
If the plot sounded a little familiar, that’s because it has in fact been published before, except Sadie and Saskia used to be called “Tizzle”, not “Dopple”. The story was previously published back in 2006 as The Tizzle Sisters and Erik. Back then there were no plans for a sequel (at least no so far as I know…) and it seems that G.P. might well have been developing his ideas a little since. Since I loved the original version, I guess it should come as no surprise at all that I love this, almost identical story just as much. The whole thing does seem much more polished now, some of the kinks in the original have been ironed out, and the production values have gone through the roof.
I picked up my copy at the Thought Bubble festival in Leeds back in November, and took the opportunity to get an extra copy fro my school library. It wouldn’t be true to say that the kids fell on it instantly like rabid story starved hounds, but that’s only because Lynne, the school Librarian***** got hold of it first. By all accounts it’s proved mightily popular with “kids of all ages”, as they say. It’s a handsome tome and a well told tale, and I heartily recommend it. I’m certainly looking forward to subsequent instalments, because if they’re as good as this we’re looking at a series that’s going to slow burn its way into the mainstream.
The last series of books for kids that did that was about some kid called Potter who went to magic school – honestly, these could be that big.******
So, go on, treat yourself!
And with that, I hear the jingle of bells in the distance, and so it’s time to take my leave, and leave you to your seasonal celebrations. Whether you celebrate the holiday or not, I hope and trust you have a fantastic Christmas, liberally sprinkled with peace on Earth, Goodwill and Happiness. I’ll see you back here on New Year’s Eve, with the Jester Awards – FoolBritannia’s own little way of praising those who have brought a little joy into the world with their comics.
In the meantime, A Merry Christmas to All, and to All a Good Night!*******
*Because Lord knows I won’t be drinking any – it’s awful stuff!
**And before I get any smart arse comments about spelling and homophones, I did that on purpose.
***Or a Time Twister, the time Travel Themed sister series.
****What? It’s a word, it must be – I just wrote it.
*****Who you may have come across in Tony’s column a few weeks ago.
******Taylor’s work has already been hailed as “Hotter than Potter” by no less an institution than The Times after all.
*******Look at that! A whole Christmas column, and I didn’t mention humbugs once!. Oh, bugger…