Writer: Bob Gale, John Bar­ber, Erik Burn­ham Art: Brent Sch­noonover, Dan Schoen­ing

Comic Heroes - - Con­tents -

artist Greg Ca­pullo on why he’s leav­ing the Caped Cru­sader be­hind... for now. The great John Romita Jr on his forth­com­ing pre­quel to The Dark

he first six is­sue run of Rag­narok fin­ished last sum­mer, but vet­eran comics cre­ator Walt Si­mon­son has no in­ten­tion of let­ting the grass grow un­der his feet. De­cem­ber 2015’s Rag­narok #7 was the first in an­other six is­sue run of the epic fan­tasy se­ries.

“I have wrapped two ma­jor on­go­ing plot threads into the se­ries,” Si­mon­son told Comic Heroes. “One of these is that the in­ter­est of Sur­tur has been aroused, as he has fig­ured out that Thor is likely alive and so he is send­ing a num­ber of fire demons to As­gard. The sec­ond story in­volves Black Elf As­sas­sin Regn and his daugh­ter Drifta, who are hid­ing in As­gard, watch­ing Thor tie up the pyre which holds his wife’s body. So both those plot threads will be ad­dressed in the first two is­sues of the se­ries and the story of Regn and his daugh­ter will prob­a­bly be ad­dressed in the next six.”

Even though he is deal­ing with mythic char­ac­ters, Si­mon­son be­lieves that is im­por­tant for him to give them hu­man traits that the reader can recog­nise and em­pathise with.

“You want to give your char­ac­ters per­son­al­ity. Even the Norse gods have per­son­al­i­ties. Thor is quick to anger and this will be def­i­nitely show­ing up in the next is­sue.”

Si­mon­son does have an end for the se­ries in mind, but he hopes to ex­plore the themes in Rag­narok for a lit­tle while to come.

“The first arc was six is­sues and the sec­ond arc is too. I ex­pect to stay with six is­sues per arc gen­er­ally speak­ing, but there may be some shorter ones in the long run. I do have an end for the se­ries in mind for the se­ries, which is a long way off. I’m hop­ing not to get there for a while. I have a lot of the mid­dle story I haven’t fig­ured out yet, but I do know where I want to go in the se­ries by the time I get to the end of it.”

pic su­per­hero smack­down Civil War was a huge hit for Marvel back in 2006. So much so that they’re mak­ing a film of it. You may have heard about that...

Ab­so­lutely def­i­nitely en­tirely co­in­ci­den­tally, at about the same time as Tony and Cap are beat­ing each other up on the big screen, Marvel will be pub­lish­ing a se­quel to the orig­i­nal story. Civil War 2 has been teased to comic stores with a post­card de­pict­ing Tony get­ting ready to de­liver a knuckle sand­wich to Cap­tain Amer­ica (now Sam Wil­son, rather than Steve Rogers) and the com­pany has since con­firmed that yes, Civil War 2 is go­ing to be a thing.

“Civil War was a seis­mic event that de­manded the at­ten­tion of ex­ist­ing fans and cre­ated new ones be­cause it tapped into the most press­ing ques­tion of its day,” said Marvel Edi­tor-in-Chief Axel Alonso, promis­ing that the se­quel will do the same. Though, we as­sume, on a big­ger scale.

So what do we know? So far only that it will be writ­ten and drawn by the cur­rent In­vin­ci­ble Iron Man cre­ative team of Brian Michael Bendis and David Mar­quez. “The orig­i­nal Civil War is one of the most im­por­tant Marvel comics ever,” said Bendis. “We are all very ex­cited to have come up with what we hope is a story wor­thy of the ti­tle.”

The orig­i­nal story, by Mark Mil­lar and Steve McNiven saw the nu­mer­ous he­roes of the Marvel uni­verse fall out in quite spec­tac­u­lar fash­ion over the Su­per­hero Regis­tra­tion Act – though there’s no word as yet what will cause of this lat­est ruckus.

Civil War is per­haps most fa­mous for de­liv­er­ing a big old sting in the tale and, with the buzz build­ing and the Cap­tain Amer­ica: Civil War trailer do­ing huge num­bers, you can see the ob­vi­ous ap­peal in ty­ing into that. No doubt this se­quel will dom­i­nate this year’s crop of Marvel su­per-books. Booker award-win­ner Mar­garet At­wood has turned her at­ten­tions to comics. Dark Horse are set to pub­lish her An­gel Cat­bird in the sec­ond half of the year, while she is also con­tribut­ing to The Se­cret Loves Of Geek Girls an­thol­ogy. Marvel’s on­go­ing Star Wars se­ries Kanan: The Last Padawan will wrap up with #12 in March. The book was orig­i­nally pegged to run for five is­sues, so 12 ain’t too shabby. Ex­pect an­other Wars book to fill that gap soon.

con­sider plac­ing it some­where else, but at the time any other nat­u­ral home for it had folded, and so there was re­ally only 2000 AD,” re­calls Wag­ner. “But al­though there’s a strong sci-fi el­e­ment to the story, we didn’t think it quite fit­ted there.”

In­sist­ing that “it’s not some­thing I can go into much, and you’ll un­der­stand why when you read the open­ing part,” Wag­ner ex­plains that the se­ries cen­tres around Rok of Arkadi, a fugi­tive alien with some ex­tra­or­di­nary pow­ers, who crosses paths with bad boy foot­baller Kyle Dixon soon af­ter crash­ing to Earth. “Let’s say Kyle is tal­ented but trou­bled, and Rok has a swift way of deal­ing with the tal­ented but trou­bled,” teases Wag­ner, who is keen to give Grant the credit he de­serves even though Wag­ner is now fly­ing solo on the scripts. “I re­vised and ex­panded the first part from our orig­i­nal ver­sion and have been writ­ing the rest of the story alone,” he says. “But Alan and I talked it through in such de­tail that I’ve been able to put it to­gether pretty much as we’d planned, based on mem­ory and the notes we made at the time. So though it’s just me at the key­board, it gen­uinely feels like a joint ef­fort.”

In need of a tal­ented artist, Wag­ner ap­proached new­comer Dan Corn­well af­ter spot­ting his work in the 2000 ADin­spired fanzine Dog­breath. “He wasn’t draw­ing foot­ball there but his grasp of char­ac­ter and ob­vi­ous sense of hu­mour ap­pealed im­me­di­ately,” he says. “It’s been great watch­ing him grow into the story. He takes a lot of care with his lay­outs and draw­ing, and some of the de­tail he puts in is sim­ple amaz­ing. He’s go­ing to go far!”

As for Rok him­self, Wag­ner is hop­ing that his per­for­mance on the foot­ball pitch – and on the comic shop shelves – should be im­pres­sive enough to war­rant a pos­si­ble se­quel. “I’ve only got the fi­nal part still to write and have en­joyed the process so much that I’m al­ready think­ing about how I can take Rok into a sec­ond se­ries,” he re­veals. “Should he sur­vive, of course!”

orig­i­nal’s fi­nale. The un­named nar­ra­tor is now go­ing by ‘Se­bas­tian’ and is mar­ried to Marla Singer. The pair have a son, but do­mes­tic “bliss” is eat­ing away at the pair of them. Se­bas­tian, heav­ily med­i­cated to keep his mega­lo­ma­niac al­ter-ego Tyler Dur­den in check, has be­come a bore and so, de­pressed, Marla starts tam­per­ing with his meds so that she can have an “af­fair” with bad-boy Tyler. It’s not long, how­ever, be­fore Dur­den takes con­trol of Se­bas­tian and abducts their son. What fol­lows is a pitch­black com­edy ad­ven­ture that takes in ISIS, a group of young proge­ria suf­fer­ers and ap­pear­ances by the au­thor him­self. It’s as con­tro­ver­sial – or “trans­gres­sive,” as Palah­niuk puts it – as you’d ex­pect, but also hi­lar­i­ous and oc­ca­sion­ally af­fect­ing.

Was it strange, we ask, re­con­nect­ing with those char­ac­ters I grew up read­ing both the re­ally low-brow EC hor­ror comics, which I loved, and also Clas­sics Il­lus­trated. So I was read­ing the very low-brow stuff and then read­ing Ham­let. Clas­sics Il­lus­trated was prob­a­bly my in­tro­duc­tion to “high” lit­er­a­ture, when I was re­ally lit­tle. I loved their Franken­stein. But I didn’t re­ally read other comics un­til re­cently when a friend in­tro­duced me to Matt Frac­tion and Brian Michael Bendis and they of­fered to men­tor me and teach me how to write for comics. A lit­tle bit, kind of on the first draft. They coached me through it. There was a chance that Matt was go­ing to be the ed­i­tor, at one point, but I went ahead with Dark Horse so I could work with Scott Al­lie. af­ter two decades apart? Palah­niuk re­sponds with a chuckle. “No, not re­ally, be­cause peo­ple have never let me for­get these char­ac­ters. Peo­ple have kept them fresh for me for 20 years. But that’s a nice thing. Sub­se­quent gen­er­a­tions al­ways seem to come across Fight Club and now it’s worked its way into academia and schools, so I guess it’s there to last.” Re­signed to con­flict “Boy… You know, I just wrote it for the fun of it,” Palah­niuk says of the orig­i­nal novel, which turns 20 this year. “There’s that hor­ri­ble phrase, to do some­thing ‘for shits and gig­gles’. I did kind of do it as a joke on pub­lish­ing… I was just amazed that once it got into the world it kind of built an au­di­ence.

“It was an act of res­ig­na­tion... I was raised in such a con­tentious world. It seemed like ev­ery coun­try was at war. We were al­ways told that civil­i­sa­tion would reach an equi­lib­rium where we would reach this global peace. And so I grew up be­liev­ing that, but in so many ways things are worse now than they were when I was as a child. FightClub was me em­brac­ing con­flict be­cause I had given up on the idea that it would ever be re­solved.” So it was a way of mak­ing some kind of peace with that fact? “Ex­actly. I think Max Brooks talks a lot about zom­bies as a way of young peo­ple em­brac­ing and deal­ing with threats to their mor­tal­ity in a metaphor­i­cal way.” Since the pub­li­ca­tion of

Chuck has pub­lished 13 nov­els, two books of short fic­tion (though ar­guably Haunted counts as a novel too), one “remix” and two col­lec­tions of non-fic­tion de­tail­ing his var­i­ous ad­ven­tures. So why re­turn to his de­but now, af­ter all this time? Was it a case of re­claim­ing the book af­ter years of it be­ing seen pri­mar­ily as a movie?

“That, and there was so lit­tle de­vel­op­ment in the char­ac­ters [in the novel]. They re­ally were just the ac­tions they took, so I thought a comic could de­velop the char­ac­ters in a way that nei­ther a movie or a book could.” He set about writ­ing the ten-is­sue minis­eries, but the first draft was

orig­i­nal’s fi­nale. The un­named nar­ra­tor is now go­ing by ‘Se­bas­tian’ and is mar­ried to Marla Singer. The pair have a son, but do­mes­tic “bliss” is eat­ing away at the pair of them. Se­bas­tian, heav­ily med­i­cated to keep his mega­lo­ma­niac al­ter-ego Tyler Dur­den in check, has be­come a bore and so, de­pressed, Marla starts tam­per­ing with his meds so that she can have an “af­fair” with bad-boy Tyler. It’s not long, how­ever, be­fore Dur­den takes con­trol of Se­bas­tian and abducts their son. What fol­lows is a pitch­black com­edy ad­ven­ture that takes in ISIS, a group of young proge­ria suf­fer­ers and ap­pear­ances by the au­thor him­self. It’s as con­tro­ver­sial – or “trans­gres­sive,” as Palah­niuk puts it – as you’d ex­pect, but also hi­lar­i­ous and oc­ca­sion­ally af­fect­ing.

Was it strange, we ask, re­con­nect­ing with those char­ac­ters I grew up read­ing both the re­ally low-brow EC hor­ror comics, which I loved, and also Clas­sics Il­lus­trated. So I was read­ing the very low-brow stuff and then read­ing Ham­let. Clas­sics Il­lus­trated was prob­a­bly my in­tro­duc­tion to “high” lit­er­a­ture, when I was re­ally lit­tle. I loved their Franken­stein. But I didn’t re­ally read other comics un­til re­cently when a friend in­tro­duced me to Matt Frac­tion and Brian Michael Bendis and they of­fered to men­tor me and teach me how to write for comics. A lit­tle bit, kind of on the first draft. They coached me through it. There was a chance that Matt was go­ing to be the ed­i­tor, at one point, but I went ahead with Dark Horse so I could work with Scott Al­lie. af­ter two decades apart? Palah­niuk re­sponds with a chuckle. “No, not re­ally, be­cause peo­ple have never let me for­get these char­ac­ters. Peo­ple have kept them fresh for me for 20 years. But that’s a nice thing. Sub­se­quent gen­er­a­tions al­ways seem to come across Fight Club and now it’s worked its way into academia and schools, so I guess it’s there to last.” Re­signed to con­flict “Boy… You know, I just wrote it for the fun of it,” Palah­niuk says of the orig­i­nal novel, which turns 20 this year. “There’s that hor­ri­ble phrase, to do some­thing ‘for shits and gig­gles’. I did kind of do it as a joke on pub­lish­ing… I was just amazed that once it got into the world it kind of built an au­di­ence.

“It was an act of res­ig­na­tion... I was raised in such a con­tentious world. It seemed like ev­ery coun­try was at war. We were al­ways told that civil­i­sa­tion would reach an equi­lib­rium where we would reach this global peace. And so I grew up be­liev­ing that, but in so many ways things are worse now than they were when I was as a child. FightClub was me em­brac­ing con­flict be­cause I had given up on the idea that it would ever be re­solved.” So it was a way of mak­ing some kind of peace with that fact? “Ex­actly. I think Max Brooks talks a lot about zom­bies as a way of young peo­ple em­brac­ing and deal­ing with threats to their mor­tal­ity in a metaphor­i­cal way.” Since the pub­li­ca­tion of

Chuck has pub­lished 13 nov­els, two books of short fic­tion (though ar­guably Haunted counts as a novel too), one “remix” and two col­lec­tions of non-fic­tion de­tail­ing his var­i­ous ad­ven­tures. So why re­turn to his de­but now, af­ter all this time? Was it a case of re­claim­ing the book af­ter years of it be­ing seen pri­mar­ily as a movie?

“That, and there was so lit­tle de­vel­op­ment in the char­ac­ters [in the novel]. They re­ally were just the ac­tions they took, so I thought a comic could de­velop the char­ac­ters in a way that nei­ther a movie or a book could.” He set about writ­ing the ten-is­sue minis­eries, but the first draft was

“ter­ri­ble for comics. It was like a novel, just bro­ken down. The guy who had to do the let­ter­ing ex­plained that the di­a­logue was so plen­ti­ful it would be im­pos­si­ble to in­clude it all.”

A full re­draft fol­lowed. “I went through it and cleaned out about 90% of the di­a­logue and from there it was very easy. It was easy to iden­tify the first beat of each ges­ture and the sec­ond beat and then make sure there was a setup at the end of the right-hand page and a pay­off at the be­gin­ning of the left­hand page. I’m used to work­ing with all the stric­tures and rules of min­i­mal­ism, so this new set of rules wasn’t that dif­fer­ent.”

It’s paid off. Far from a cyn­i­cal cash-in or lazy re­hash, FightClub2 is ter­rific. It feels of a piece with the orig­i­nal while work­ing as a fine comic in its own right. Cru­cially, it’s not just for fans, though Chuck has made sure there are plenty of nods for the die-hards, with cameos from nu­mer­ous old faces and call­backs to events from the first book.

“Orig­i­nally I was go­ing to bring very, very lit­tle from the orig­i­nal book back,” Chuck says. “I’d writ­ten the whole ten-is­sue se­ries and then I went to Emer­ald City Comic-Con in Seat­tle, and I was on a big panel dis­cus­sion. A lot of very young peo­ple started to ask if one sec­ondary char­ac­ter or an­other was go­ing to come back and I re­alised that peo­ple were re­ally at­tached to these char­ac­ters that I hadn’t con­sid­ered very im­por­tant at all! So I did an­other re­write and I brought back all the old char­ac­ters.”

One area that is new, how­ever, is a stronger vein of the su­per­nat­u­ral, though Chuck de­nies that this is a change in his work, point­ing out that all his books “re­quire the sus­pen­sion of dis­be­lief – be­liev­ing that Tyler is in fact an al­ter ego, that he doesn’t ac­tu­ally ex­ist, was a huge ask”.

Still, in FightClub2, Tyler is no longer just Se­bas­tian’s split per­son­al­ity but a malev­o­lent force that has ex­isted through­out all of hu­man his­tory. “I spent last sum­mer in Spain read­ing all of Love­craft and I liked the way he cre­ated this fic­ti­tious land­scape with a cul­ture and his­tory all of its own. Stephen King did that as well with Salem’sLot and Jerusalem’s

su­per­im­pos­ing a map of his idea of the State of Maine over the ac­tual state. So I thought I could do that. But in­stead of cre­at­ing a kind of place-based mythol­ogy, I wanted to cre­ate a cross-time based mythol­ogy, where Tyler would be some­thing that ex­isted for all of hu­man his­tory, al­ways swoop­ing in to de­stroy fam­i­lies, tak­ing pos­ses­sion of the one re­main­ing son and do­ing this gen­er­a­tion-af­ter­gen­er­a­tion to­wards the point when mankind will have the where­withal to de­stroy it­self. He would also have ab­so­lutely no re­spect for fa­thers and Tyler would step in as the ul­ti­mate fa­ther for the en­tire world, or what’s left of the world.” Strong ma­te­rial De­spite these fan­tas­ti­cal as­pects, FightClub2 is ad­dress­ing some po­tent real-world is­sues. The orig­i­nal novel was about men in cri­sis, but Palah­niuk be­lieves the se­quel is about hu­man­ity as a whole. “It seems like the is­sues that I talked about in FightClub have be­come the is­sues of not just young men, but of young women also. Young peo­ple are look­ing for a fu­ture that’s not just an ex­ten­sion of what they’ve been given from the past. That was one rea­son for mak­ing Marla an equal char­ac­ter, so that she would be just as ac­tive in the quest.”

Are we at the point where some­one like Tyler could spring

Dark Horse paired Palah­niuk up with Cameron Ste­wart, a de­ci­sion that Palah­niuk is de­lighted by. The two got to know each other when Ste­wart spent some time in Port­land, where they would meet up weekly to dis­cuss ideas for the book. “We would talk about dif­fer­ent ideas. Things like us­ing more re­al­is­tic ob­jects to oc­clude parts of the page – like the rose petals, the pills, a bloody tooth – things that would kind of cover faces and pieces of di­a­logue and kind of negate them so peo­ple Lul­laby is op­tioned and be­ing de­vel­oped, and Rant was op­tioned last year by James Franco. In­vis­i­ble Mon­sters has picked up steam again. And Sur­vivor sold to a tele­vi­sion pro­duc­tion com­pany and they’ve at­tached some big tal­ent to it, but they won’t tell me who! is due to go into pro­duc­tion any day, but they’ve been say­ing that for months... Oh, and Haunted. Haunted has paid off, but we haven’t seen a start day. I have no idea, I haven’t seen a screen­play. I haven’t seen any­thing ex­cept a big fat cheque. Ac­tu­ally a tele­vi­sion net­work con­tacted us. It seems like ev­ery­body is wait­ing to see how well re­ceived this first se­ries is. 20th Cen­tury Fox owns part of the rights to pro­duc­ing any kind of a tele­vi­sion se­ries, so it would have to be some­thing agreed upon be­tween me and Fox. would ei­ther have to puz­zle them out or be frus­trated at not be­ing able to read what was be­ing said.”

They also looked to the way that David Fincher’s cel­e­brated FightClub movie played with the for­mat of film. “We liked the idea of mess­ing with the me­chan­ics of comics, so that dur­ing the fight scenes in is­sue 4 the reg­is­ter goes off and the ink is printed in­cor­rectly. And break­ing that fourth wall by in­clud­ing the writer’s work­shop scenes. We in­cluded this kind of fake re­al­ity that would make the un­re­al­ity of FightClub seem real.

“It re­ally is a case of ‘just sur­prise me’. I’m al­ways thrilled when I see that [Ste­wart] has col­lapsed a cou­ple of pan­els to­gether and made some­thing much bet­ter, things I wouldn’t have had the smarts to do. And I’ve given him some fan­tas­tic chal­lenges, things to re­ally puz­zle out, and he’s met ev­ery chal­lenge.”

Chuck is keen to stress that this isn’t a one-off, ei­ther. “Cameron is com­mit­ted to an­other project in 2016, but as soon as he’s free I’m go­ing to have an­other ten or 12 is­sue se­ries ready for an­other round of FightClub.” Would it be Club3 or some­thing dif­fer­ent – a pre­quel, per­haps? “It will be a con­tin­u­a­tion from this one… Once you read the big shock­ing cliffhanger end of this one, you’re go­ing to in­stantly want to see the next part. We talked all sum­mer about how to end this… It’s just the big­gest setup and pay­off from the orig­i­nal book. Big­ger than I ever could have imag­ined. And it’s re­ally so bold. It’s an­other thing that’s ei­ther go­ing to en­rage peo­ple or it’s go­ing to de­light them.” Chuck also re­veals that, at the time of our in­ter­view, he’s al­ready writ­ten five is­sues of the next se­ries.

But al­though FightClub is tak­ing a break in the lat­ter half of 2016, that doesn’t mean Chuck is. “I’ve al­ready talked to peo­ple about do­ing a se­ries of sin­gle-is­sue comics that will all be very… provoca­tive. They’ll each have a dif­fer­ent artist – one com­pletely ap­pro­pri­ate for that topic – but all the sin­gle is­sues will cir­cle around de­pict­ing the same theme, and will even­tu­ally be col­lected as a book.” Provoca­tive? Trans­gres­sive? That’s un­sur­pris­ing but very Chuck Palah­niuk. And, boy, we can’t wait...

fic­tions that in­form life de­spite be­ing man­i­festly and demon­stra­bly wrong are slightly sneered at.” Spurrier ac­knowl­edges that the role re­li­gious be­lief plays in so­ci­ety can be viewed in the same light. “To­day’s re­li­gion can be­come to­mor­row’s folk­lore, to­mor­row’s myths and leg­ends,” he says, but adds “I don’t want to get into this on Cry Havoc, al­though there’s a bit of that in there.” He con­tin­ues: “All of these things will in­evitably fade away and lose their vi­vac­ity. I’m in­ter­ested in how it feels to be on the in­side of that, and it’s a nice al­le­gory – and this was also true of Disen­chanted – for any­body who has ever felt dis­en­fran­chised.”

Hav­ing penned X-Men: Le­gacy for two years and var­i­ous other Marvel mu­tant ti­tles, Spurrier has found him­self ex­plor­ing fa­mil­iar the­matic ter­ri­tory. “I like to think that it’s less on the nose than the X-Men, as it’s easy to err be­tween ex­tremes,” he rea­sons. “But it re­ally ap­plies to any­body of non­straight, non-white iden­tity – any­body who has ever felt that they are liv­ing amongst peo­ple who think less of them than them­selves. There’s some­thing nice about this whole par­a­digm of things be­ing less im­por­tant than they once were.”

Cen­tring on ly­can­thropic mu­si­cian Louise Can­ton,

fol­lows in a fine tra­di­tion of fe­male-fo­cused were­wolf sto­ries such as The Hunger, Dog Soldiers and Ginger Snaps, and in comics, most fa­mously in Swamp Thing #40’s “The Curse”. Fit­tingly, the writer of that land­mark story,

Alan Moore him­self, has praised the new se­ries as “an elec­tri­fy­ing ac­count of black ops, black dogs and weaponised folk­lore that’s un­like any­thing you’ve ever seen.”

“There is that very easy as­so­ci­a­tion be­tween – in the case of the Swamp Thing story in par­tic­u­lar – lu­nar cy­cles and the fe­male cy­cle. I’m not a woman, so it’s al­ways go­ing to be bor­rowed wis­dom when I say these things. But more than the ob­vi­ous cycli­cal stuff, there is a sim­ple, in­ex­press­ible as­so­ci­a­tion be­tween sex­u­al­ity in gen­eral, and the sav­agery and chaos that’s in­side.”

With the ex­plicit caveat that “it’s com­pletely ridicu­lous to gen­er­alise,” Spurrier sug­gests that women are more in tune with their pri­mal na­tures. “With men, it could be a cul­tural con­di­tion­ing or not – and I can only speak for my­self – but I was raised with the idea that a man should al­ways be very in-con­trol and in com­mand of a sit­u­a­tion, whereas women get to be flighty and cre­ative. It’s bull­shit and I hate it! But it does make me ex­cited about the pos­si­bil­ity of ad­mit­ting to one­self that al­low­ing chaos into your life can be a won­der­ful and cre­ative thing. Although quite how that re­lates to were­wolves, I don’t know.”

Begin­ning with Lou vis­it­ing her zookeeper girl­friend at the hyena en­clo­sure, the first is­sue’s open­ing scenes pro­vide a bi­ol­ogy les­son that would do David At­ten­bor­ough proud. “The whole mor­phol­ogy of the African striped hyena is par­tic­u­larly fas­ci­nat­ing,” ex­plains Spurrier. “They can ex­trude their gen­i­tals, which then ap­pear to be

How did you come to cowrite The 11th Doc­tor? When Ti­tan launched its first se­ries of Doc­tor Who comics in 2014, I was sup­posed to co-write with Rob Wil­liams and Al Ewing be­cause we’d all just done the “Tri­fecta” se­ries for 2000 AD. It never worked out for me, but when the sec­ond sea­son rolled around, Al was too busy with his Marvel com­mit­ments and I had a gap in my sched­ule, so Rob and I de­cided to co-write it. We just wanted to! We wanted to do things dif­fer­ently, be­cause we didn’t have the ben­e­fit of it be­ing the first sea­son, so we de­cided to make it one long story rather than a se­ries of short, episodic done-in-ones. The whole 15-is­sue run is es­sen­tially a chase se­quence – it’s the Doc­tor run­ning away from things that won’t stop chas­ing him and can find him wher­ever and when­ever he goes. And be­cause I’ve al­ways been sus­pi­cious of the twee­ness of some of the least suc­cess­ful Who sto­ries, we wanted to in­ject some el­e­ment of in­sane chaos into it. You don’t have to look very far into Doc­tor Who comics of old, and there’s Ab­slom Daak wait­ing for you. He’s just the per­fect foil! Daak was cre­ated in 1980 by Steve Dil­lon and the late Steve Moore. Was ac­knowl­edg­ing their legacy im­por­tant to you? It meant a lot to us that they were happy for us to use the char­ac­ter. It turns out that Alan Moore is Steve Moore’s lit­er­ary ex­ecu­tor, so we went to Alan and said “Do you think Steve would be okay with us re­viv­ing this char­ac­ter?” Alan, who has al­ways been lovely to me and likes my work, said “Yeah, do it as long as it’s good.” We chat­ted to Steve Dil­lon in New York, and he’s very in­ter­ested in com­ing back and do­ing some art for us, which would be amaz­ing.

worse things to be known for!”

The Spire is the fol­low-up to 2014’s ac­claimed Six Gun Go­rilla, which also saw him team up with artist Jeff Stokely, and Spurrier pitched it as “Blade Run­ner meets Dark Crys­tal by way of Mad Max.” Apart from its main char­ac­ters’ sex­ual pref­er­ences, its gritty ur­ban fan­tasy sce­nario ac­tu­ally has lit­tle else in com­mon with Cry Havoc’s more vis­ceral hor­ror. In The Spire “I wanted to cre­ate an in­cred­i­ble world, where ev­ery­body feels that they could lose them­selves in it,” says Spurrier. “I could an­swer any ques­tion you have about how the world works, but we’re not go­ing to put [all these de­tails] in the comic be­cause the story it­self is a small­ish, in­ti­mate story. There’s a real ten­dency in genre fic­tion where if you’ve cre­ated this de­tailed world, the stakes of the story then have to be world-shat­ter­ing, but they re­ally don’t. If you’re telling a story in a made-up world, it needs to be about the char­ac­ters, so that peo­ple have some­thing they can re­late to and recog­nise. So it ends up be­ing a hu­man story. And Jeff draws re­ally great act­ing and char­ac­ters in a very stylish, lav­ish way, so I just wanted to go crazy and throw ideas at him.”

Spurrier de­scribes Stokely as “some­body who is like an ex­ten­sion of my imag­i­na­tion,” mak­ing his col­lab­o­ra­tion with Stokely sound more sym­bi­otic than his more mea­sured part­ner­ship with Kelly on

“With The Spire, it’s the first time I’ve found my­self de­lib­er­ately leav­ing gaps in the script be­cause I know Jeff will just do some­thing and it will be awe­some,” he says. “Whereas, with Ryan, I write very de­tailed scripts with im­ages of hyena penises and so forth, and he’ll just draw it and im­prove it. He will do ev­ery­thing ex­actly the way I tell him to, be­cause he’s that good, and the nar­ra­tive will al­ways be per­fectly con­structed.

“Ryan has been in the in­dus­try for a long time and is not known as one of those stylised, guys who are no good at sto­ry­telling, which is the art you need to be good at in comics. Ryan is a guy who is good at draw­ing what­ever he puts his mind to. And gives good mon­ster and great mil­i­tary, which I didn’t ex­pect!”

Also in­spired by Spidey, Dead­pool’s sub­ver­sive sense of hu­mour has al­ways been key to his char­ac­ter. “That’s what peo­ple for­get, but kids get it, as that was my en­tire ba­sis for him,” says Liefeld. “They say ‘Did you just base him on Spi­der-Man vis­ually?’ But what they for­get is that in the Spi­der-Man car­toons that I grew up on, he was al­ways the wise guy, and back then he was the only char­ac­ter that did that, as Su­per­man, Bat­man and Iron Man didn’t do that.”

Apart from Spidey, Liefeld be­lieves Dead­pool is clos­est in spirit to an even more ram­bunc­tious mu­tant with whom he shares a rapid heal­ing abil­ity and a pen­chant for vi­o­lence. “With both Dead­pool and Cable,” he says, “I was try­ing to cre­ate the new Wolver­ine. No mat­ter what has hap­pened to him or what cre­ative team has been work­ing on him, Wolver­ine al­ways looks great. Comics are a vis­ual medium, and he’s got an­other re­ally great, pow­er­ful vis­ual.”

Re­veal­ing that “Dead­pool is mired by de­sign in the Weapon X pro­gram,” Liefeld says that the char­ac­ter is what hap­pens when the clan­des­tine gov­ern­ment ge­netic re­search project’s ne­far­i­ous ef­forts don’t go ac­cord­ing to plan. “When we es­tab­lished who came be­fore Wolver­ine, Dead­pool was the one where they al­most got it right, and then they got it right with Wolver­ine,” says Liefeld. “That was the pitch, and that’s what Marvel bought, and then we added the crazy hu­mour on top of that.”

Liefeld has long had a fond­ness for catchy co­de­names, hav­ing scrib­bled down many suit­able aliases in his note­book since he was a teenager. “I’ve al­ways had a long list of names and I still do, which I then use to match up a vis­ual when I’m cre­at­ing a story for the vis­ual,” he ex­plains.

Re­fer­ring to his cre­ator-owned team book, which launched the Image Comics line in 1992, he con­tin­ues: “I had a char­ac­ter in Young­blood called Diehard, but I didn’t name him af­ter the movie. Here in Amer­ica, we have a bat­tery called the ‘DieHard bat­tery,’ be­cause it never dies. He was a sort of au­to­mated per­son, so I just fig­ured ‘Diehard.’ We drove a Ford Cougar when I was a teenager, and I thought ‘There’s no char­ac­ter called ‘Cougar,’ so I adopted that for an­other char­ac­ter in Young­blood.”

n 2002, at the World Space Congress in Hous­ton, Texas, one of the found­ing myths of the Space Race was fi­nally ex­posed. Dr Dim­itri Malashenkov, who had been part of the team work­ing on Sput­nik 2 in Novem­ber 1957, re­vealed that, con­trary to the of­fi­cial state­ments is­sued by the Soviet Union, the dog on board the satel­lite had not sur­vived in or­bit for a week. In truth, she had died about five hours af­ter take-off, in a highly pan­icked state, fall­ing vic­tim to a com­bi­na­tion of stress and a cabin tem­per­a­ture ex­ceed­ing 100 de­grees Fahren­heit.

Hav­ing achieved a re­mark­able pro­pa­ganda coup with the launch of Sput­nik 1, the first ar­ti­fi­cial satel­lite, Soviet pre­mier Khrushchev had or­dered the fol­low-up mis­sion to take place within weeks, to cap­i­talise on this suc­cess and to tie in with the 40th an­niver­sary of the Oc­to­ber Revo­lu­tion. But the mis­sion needed an added el­e­ment, a new achieve­ment to press home Soviet supremacy. And that was a stray mon­grel named Laika.

Her story is the sub­ject of Nick Abadzis’ beau­ti­ful, ele­giac graphic novel pub­lished by First Se­cond Books in 2007. “The gen­e­sis of the book was when I read about Laika when I was a child,” Abadzis told us. “The idea that a dog was Earth’s first space trav­eller was cool, but I couldn’t get over the thought that she’d been sent on a one-way trip. It re­ally ter­ri­fied me and stayed with me.”

It was the 2002 rev­e­la­tion about Laika’s death that ul­ti­mately prompted Abadzis to start work on the story. “I’d al­ways been a real space and his­tory nut, and had wanted to do some­thing about the Sovi­ets. I thought it’d make a great sub­ject for a short strip but, as I read and re­searched, the project snow­balled and I be­came ob­sessed with fill­ing in the blanks, mak­ing it au­then­tic rather than some Dis­ney­fied cutesy dead dog story.” “Laika also seemed to be a way to tell a story about a piv­otal time in his­tory – the be­gin­ning of the Space Age and the Age of In­for­ma­tion that we live in now. It was a mo­ment when there was a huge change in the way hu­man civil­i­sa­tion viewed it­self, and this lit­tle rep­re­sen­ta­tive of ca­ninekind, so of­ten said to be our best friends, some­how got caught up in it. Around her were the lives and loves of or­di­nary Rus­sians, kind­nesses and hurt, all or­bit­ing this in­cred­i­ble event, and I wanted to show it all in the book.”

Over a pe­riod of four years, Abadzis un­der­took ex­ten­sive re­search, read­ing old news­pa­pers and

is­sues with the way he was treated. Read­ing be­tween the lines of his doc­u­mented life, I be­lieve he was also a dreamer, a ro­man­tic of sorts. Cer­tainly pos­sessed of enor­mous pas­sion and a huge imag­i­na­tion, which was bal­anced with se­ri­ous en­gi­neer­ing chops.”

Another key char­ac­ter is Ye­lena Dubrovsky, an em­pathic lab as­sis­tant em­ployed to look af­ter the dogs used in the pro­gram. She is a fic­tional cre­ation, Abadzis says: “From all the re­search I was do­ing about the way the cos­modog train­ing pro­gram was run and the way the dif­fer­ent Soviet bu­reaus in­ter­acted, it just seemed log­i­cal to me that there would be some­one to fill her role. But when the book was fin­ished one of my con­tacts – a guy very knowl­edge­able about the Soviet space pro­gram – un­earthed a pic­ture of a woman who looked just like her and who ac­tu­ally worked at the ken­nels in 1957.”

And of course there’s Laika her­self, whose back­story is en­tirely imag­ined. Ex­trap­o­lat­ing from the fact that she was caught as a stray, Abadzis shows her be­ing aban­doned in Moscow in 1954, then sur­viv­ing on the streets un­til dog­catch­ers pick her up. In an ap­pro­pri­ate stylis­tic touch, her growls and barks are con­veyed very much in the Euro­pean comics id­iom. “I’m prob­a­bly as steeped in Amer­i­can and Bri­tish comics as I am in the Euro­pean stuff, so I’m not sure where that came from, other than a de­sire to not sound clichéd. I

Uderzo of­ten vis­ited the coun­try con­cerned and took count­less ref­er­ence pho­tos. This and plenty of his­tor­i­cal re­search re­sulted in gor­geous, de­tailed im­ages such as the sweep­ing splash shot of Rome and the con­trast­ing, equally lively shot of Gaul­ish cap­i­tal Lute­tia that open As­terix and the Lau­rel Wreath, and the lush views of the forested val­leys of Cor­sica’s in­te­rior in As­terix in Cor­sica.

There are also clever sight gags, whether it’s the dou­ble-decker pub­lic trans­port cart in As­terix in Bri­tain or the par­ody of Géri­cault’s fa­mous paint­ing “The Raft of the Me­dusa” in the panel show­ing ship­wrecked pi­rates in As­terix the Le­gionary. Not to men­tion fre­quent ap­pear­ances by chick­ens. Uderzo has been in­or­di­nately fond of the birds ever since, as a boy, he got into the habit of drop­ping a neigh­bour’s chick­ens out of a first­storey win­dow and watch­ing them flap – safely – to the ground.

Another of Uderzo’s artis­tic flour­ishes is guest ap­pear­ances by fa­mous faces from the sil­ver screen and pub­lic life. Some of these are char­ac­ters who play a sig­nif­i­cant role in the tales, such as the dis­tinctly Churchillian English chief Myk­ing­dom­fora­nos in As­terix in Bri­tain and the Ro­man spy Dubbe­losix in As­terix and the Black Gold, who bears more than a pass­ing re­sem­blance to Sean Con­nery. Others are back­ground cameos, like Charl­ton “Ben-Hur” He­ston driv­ing a char­iot in As­terix and the Golden Sickle, one-time French pres­i­dent Jac­ques Chirac buy­ing a men­hir in Obe­lix and Co., and Lau­rel and Hardy as Ro­man le­gionar­ies in the same al­bum.

The satir­i­cal el­e­ments of the sto­ries are also an in­te­gral part of the mix. One can­not help but see the es­sen­tial con­ceit of a Gaul­ish vil­lage hold­ing out against the in­vaders who oth­er­wise con­trol the en­tire coun­try as a com­men­tary on the Nazi oc­cu­pa­tion of France dur­ing World War II, which would have been painfully fresh in ev­ery­one’s mem­o­ries when the strip was cre­ated.

In­di­vid­ual al­bums also have points to make about con­tem­po­rary is­sues. The Man­sions of the Gods sees our he­roes bat­tling against the forces of mod­erni­sa­tion, as a Ro­man hous­ing de­vel­op­ment near the vil­lage threat­ens to de­stroy the lo­cal ecol­ogy and the Gauls’ way of life. Both As­terix and the Caul­dron and Obe­lix and Co. mock ram­pant cap­i­tal­ism and cu­pid­ity. As­terix

and the Olympic Games, with its sub­text about fair play in sport and ath­letes cheat­ing, seems more per­ti­nent than ever in our era of cor­rup­tion, bribery and dop­ing scan­dals, while As­terix and Cae­sar’s Gift slyly cri­tiques politi­cians and elec­tion­eer­ing.

In ad­di­tion, slap­stick, bouts of drunken mis­be­haviour and prat­falls are par for the course, and As­terix and friends are never far away from the next punch-up. When the Gaul­ish vil­lagers aren’t giv­ing the Ro­mans a good bash­ing, they’re lay­ing into one an­other. The main cul­prit here is tem­per­a­men­tal black­smith Ful­li­au­tomatix, who bick­ers and brawls con­stantly with his com­mer­cial ri­val, fish­mon­ger Un­hy­gienix, and will not hes­i­tate to ham­mer tone-deaf bard Ca­co­phonix into sub­mis­sion rather than tol­er­ate his dread­ful mu­sic and un­en­durable singing.

The vi­o­lence, though, is ge­nial, knock­about stuff. No­body is ever se­ri­ously hurt, and quite of­ten the Ro­mans have re­lieved, deliri­ous smiles on their faces as they hur­tle through the air or lie in­sen­si­ble on the ground. It’s as if they would rather be in­jured, and there­fore re­moved from the fray, than fight.

Ca­co­phonix, for in­stance, is a much fun­nier and more ap­po­site name for the bard than As­sur­ance­tourix, which plays on the French for “com­pre­hen­sive in­sur­ance”.

The ear­li­est As­terix al­bums all have much to rec­om­mend them, but both cre­ators’ styles were still evolv­ing. With the ar­rival of the fourth book, As­terix the Gla­di­a­tor, ev­ery­thing came to­gether and gelled. The art be­came smoother and slicker, the fa­cial ex­pres­sion metic­u­lous, while the plots got clev­erer and more com­plex and the jokes more pol­ished. The in­evitable fi­nal-panel coda, in which the vil­lagers sit down to a fire­lit feast of wild boar and ev­ery­one is rec­on­ciled, was al­ready a fix­ture from the start, but run­ning gags now be­gan to be es­tab­lished. Fore­most among these is the re­cur­ring ap­pear­ance of the hap­less pi­rate crew whom our he­roes ha­bit­u­ally meet on their trav­els and just as ha­bit­u­ally leave bob­bing in the sea sur­rounded by wreck­age and flot­sam. Vi­tal­statis­tix’s in­ept shield bear­ers have proved an­other source of re­peat-use com­edy gold, as has his doughty, nag­ging wife Im­ped­i­menta, whose name is an­other word for “bag­gage”.

1965’s As­terix and Cleopa­tra is widely re­garded as the se­ries’ zenith. Not only is the book rav­ish­ingly beau­ti­ful to be­hold, ev­ery page a treat for the eyes, but it has a com­pelling sto­ry­line – our he­roes de­camp to Alexan­dria to help ar­chi­tect Ed­i­fis build a palace for the Egyp­tian queen to prove to Cae­sar that hers is not a back­ward na­tion – and some tremen­dous jokes, from the hi­ero­glyph-filled speech bub­bles de­not­ing Egyp­tian di­a­logue to the scene where Obe­lix ac­ci­den­tally snaps the nose off the Sphinx at Giza. Equally cher­ish­able is 1966’s As­terix in Bri­tain, where Goscinny gave full rein to his ten­dency to lam­poon na­tional stereo­types, but af­fec­tion­ately. Bri­tish read­ers, with a na­tional taste for self-dep­re­cat­ing hu­mour, have them­selves warmly em­braced be­ing gen­tly car­i­ca­tured as tweedy, stiff-up­per-lip types with an abid­ing love of tea, an­gling and gar­den­ing. As­terix the Le­gionary, which off­sets its send-up of mil­i­tarism with a story of young star-crossed lovers, is also a gem, as is As­terix in Spain, which does for the Span­ish what As­terix in Bri­tain did for the Bri­tish.

Un­for­tu­nately the solo of­fer­ings from Uderzo, in the wake of Goscinny’s death, lack the same spark. There are glim­mers of the old great­ness in As­terix and Son, where our hero is un­will­ingly lum­bered with the care of an aban­doned baby, and As­terix and the Se­cret Weapon, which brings fem­i­nism to the hith­erto male­dom­i­nated vil­lage. Uderzo, how­ever, be­gan in­tro­duc­ing jar­ring fan­tasy touches into his plots, such as a fly­ing car­pet in As­terix and the Magic Car­pet and, worse, ex­trater­res­tri­als in As­terix and the Falling Sky. Granted, Getafix’s strength-im­bu­ing po­tion is it­self a fan­tas­ti­cal plot de­vice, but even the most de­voted read­ers found spell­cast­ing In­dian wiz­ards and hov­er­ing alien space­ships too in­con­gru­ous, an imag­i­nary stretch too far.

Once Uderzo stepped away from his draw­ing board for good af­ter 2009’s 50th an­niver­sary cel­e­bra­tion As­terix and Obe­lix’s Birth­day: The Golden Book, it seemed as though As­terix would never sally forth on an­other ad­ven­ture. That was un­til two new cre­ators were ap­pointed to carry on the se­ries, with Uderzo’s bless­ing. First with As­terix and the Picts in 2013 and lately As­terix and the Miss­ing Scroll, writer Jean-Yves Ferri and artist Di­dier Con­rad have pro­duced pitch-per­fect pas­tiches.

Both men were born in 1959, the same year as As­terix, and grew up read­ing and lov­ing the strip, and their affin­ity for the ma­te­rial is clear. Their ver­sion of As­terix, with Bell still pro­vid­ing ster­ling English trans­la­tion, is ar­guably the equal of any­thing Goscinny and Uderzo man­aged in their hey­day. It looks like the se­ries is in safe hands and Goscinny and Uderzo’s warm­hearted, scrappy, petu­lant but above all lov­able char­ac­ters will be with us for many years to come.

CH: Was it in­tim­i­dat­ing, tak­ing over the As­terix se­ries from its cre­ators? Those are very big shoes to fill... J-YF: Yes, ab­so­lutely, it was in­tim­i­dat­ing. As­terix is an in­sti­tu­tion in France and these would have been some of the first comics that we would have read as chil­dren, so ob­vi­ously yes, it’s in­tim­i­dat­ing.

It was also re­ally im­pres­sive to meet Mon­sieur Uderzo, who is just a leg­end and whose name has been known to us since we were chil­dren. He isn’t some­body that’s very easy to meet, say at con­ven­tions or ex­hi­bi­tions, be­cause he is so above the rest when it comes to sales and pop­u­lar­ity gen­er­ally that he’s iso­lated by that. CH: Jean-Yves, has your own hu­mor­ous style of writ­ing been in­spired by that of Goscinny? J-YF: It goes with­out say­ing, I think, that I would have been in­flu­enced by Goscinny be­cause he has cre­ated his own genre in clas­sic French comics. And so even if one ex­presses one­self in a dif­fer­ent style, he would be a ref­er­ence and he would fea­ture as an in­flu­ence. CH: Di­dier, was it easy to adapt your artis­tic style to mimic Uderzo’s? DC: Yes and no. My per­sonal style is within the same group, if you like, or the same fam­ily, the same school; but at the same time hav­ing to mimic very closely his style, then yes, that was chal­leng­ing. CH: How did Uderzo him­self re­act to the two new As­terix al­bums? J-YF: He caught us both un­der his arms and just squeezed us very tightly. That was his way of ex­press­ing his joy. Hope­fully!

He was ac­tu­ally more wor­ried in terms of the draw­ing be­cause he had ab­so­lutely ir­ra­tional faith and trust in Jean-Yves when it came to the sce­nario and the writ­ing, but he was wor­ried that if the graph­ics weren’t quite right, the out­come would be re­jected by the gen­eral pub­lic. Which was not the case. CH: Have you had any com­plaints from Scot­tish peo­ple about how they’re de­picted in As­terix and the Picts? The Scots can be sen­si­tive! J-YF: I can tell you an anec­dote on this. It was thought that per­haps the al­bum was very re­lated to the ref­er­en­dum that was tak­ing place in Scot­land, and just as a joke, be­cause I’ve also writ­ten a book sep­a­rately on de Gaulle, I had just said to par­ody de Gaulle, “Vive l’Écosse li­bre!” (live free Scot­land), and that was taken se­ri­ously and I did have a cou­ple of prob­lems fol­low­ing that.

It was ir­ra­tional, what he did, but it works. Ir­ra­tional and ir­re­spon­si­ble. J-YF: But Di­dier is ra­tio­nal, so there’s a bal­ance. CH: As­terix and the Miss­ing Scroll car­ries on the As­terix tra­di­tion of satire. Was it im­por­tant to you to say some­thing about the age of Wik­ileaks and Ju­lian As­sange? DC: Yes, for me that was ac­tu­ally the ini­tial start­ing point to the sto­ry­line. For Jean-Yves it was more about the war of the Gauls, but then we sort of joined up along the way. CH: It’s nice to see Im­ped­i­menta and Ca­co­phonix get more to do in As­terix and the Miss­ing Scroll. Are there other sup­port­ing char­ac­ters you’d like to see have big­ger roles? J-YF: Yes, that is an an­gle that we’re look­ing to de­velop in the next story­lines, to de­velop dif­fer­ent as­pects to their per­son­al­i­ties. In this case we have also de­vel­oped Getafix a lit­tle bit more – we’ve re­vealed some de­tails from his youth, for ex­am­ple, and that’s just an­other way of find­ing new things to de­velop. CH: Are there plans for a third al­bum from you? Please say yes. J-YF and DC: Yes! CH: Which As­terix char­ac­ter do you most re­sem­ble? Be hon­est! J-YF: Dog­matix. DC: We are real peo­ple! We are not like the char­ac­ters in As­terix. Our noses are too small. We’re work­ing on the noses, but for the time be­ing they’re still too small.

achiev­able on a small to zero bud­get by knuckle-drag­ging small­press lud­dites, like my­self. So, yes, much to learn there still – but thank­fully there now is ac­tu­ally some­thing new to learn.

Well, the ex­pe­ri­ence of han­dling a dig­i­tal nar­ra­tive has prob­a­bly given me an at­ti­tude to dig­i­tal comics rather than changed one that was al­ready there. My only pre-ex­ist­ing opin­ion of dig­i­tal comic-books was my stan­dard opin­ion of any new thing, like spe­cial edi­tion lime-and-white­choco­late Kit Kats or graft­ing a dog’s head onto a pi­geon: it’s against God and Na­ture; surely the Last Days are upon us; comics were never bet­ter than when they were gouged into a piece of bark with a boar’s tusk, and so on. I’m sure you’ve heard all these ar­gu­ments be­fore, and you’ll know that with a lit­tle ex­pe­ri­ence I gen­er­ally mod­ify my at­ti­tude and take a more mod­er­ate po­si­tion, where I’ll con­cede that if it was, say, a Chi­huahua and a bulky enough wood-pi­geon it prob­a­bly wouldn’t look too bad.

This was the case with Elec­tri­comics. I don’t think I’d do any­thing dif­fer­ently, look­ing back, in that I still think that my rel­a­tively cau­tious ap­proach to the medium (com­pared to the more ad­ven­tur­ous and Cabaret Amyg­dala) was the best way for me to ap­proach things, at least on that first out­ing. I was us­ing tech­niques, of­ten based upon Win­sor McCay’s sto­ry­telling ideas, that I was fairly sure would work, es­pe­cially in the hands of su­perb craftswoman like Colleen. Any fur­ther ven­tures, though, I think I’d be look­ing for some­thing a bit more rad­i­cal, at least in my terms. I was in­ter­ested in some of the pos­si­bil­i­ties that Daniel out­lined at the be­gin­ning, such as com­bin­ing a comic and a playable game. Know­ing noth­ing about games, that sounds like some­thing that might pro­vide a cer­tain amount of mad­den­ing fun to keep my synapses fir­ing.

I think that we’ve cer­tainly suc­ceeded in ac­com­plish­ing our ini­tial aims. We’ve hope­fully as­sem­bled the means to cre­ate a rad­i­cally new form of comic, and the means to pub­lish those works once they’ve been con­ceived and cre­ated. I think we may have gone fur­ther than that, in pro­vid­ing

ex­am­ples of some very dif­fer­ent ways to ap­proach this new medium. That said, there is al­ways much fur­ther to go, es­pe­cially when we’re here at the for­ma­tion of this new medium (which I sus­pect it is. I imag­ine comics and dig­i­tal comics will con­tinue to di­ver­sify un­til dig­i­tal di­verges into an en­tirely sep­a­rate species of the comic-book genus). The big break­throughs are still in the fu­ture, and we’ll only know for sure that we’ve gone far enough when we no­tice that peo­ple are faint­ing, scream­ing, cov­er­ing their melt­ing eyes, and telling us we’ve gone too far. with its Max Ernst sen­si­bil­i­ties and sug­gested a new ap­proach to sur­re­al­ist col­lage as a kind of nar­ra­tive. Tzvi Le­betkin’s “The Tower of Man” caught my eye for the way that it re­vealed its vis­ual and ver­bal in­for­ma­tion, and ef­fects such as the clos­ing pan­els show­ing the Hiroshima-like white­out with the im­ages be­ing shunted to the left by fresh ones ar­riv­ing on the right.

Per­haps my favourite piece I’ve seen thus far has been S. James Ab­bott’s “When You Are Old”, which I thought was a piece of in­no­va­tive sto­ry­telling that al­lowed Yeats’ poem to blos­som. The mul­ti­ple cam­era an­gles and splitscreen ef­fects, along with the beau­ti­ful grace notes like the fall­ing teardrops, all made for an im­pec­ca­ble piece of work.

I’ve re­cently been check­ing out some of the new Poetry Comics, cour­tesy of the ex­cel­lent poet Chrissy Wil­liams and car­toon­ist/ cul­tural com­men­ta­tor Tom Hum­ber­stone, and on read­ing “When You Are Old” it struck me that this kind of ap­pli­ca­tion of dig­i­tal comics tech­nol­ogy might work very well in­deed with the kind of fu­sion that Chrissy and Tom are cul­ti­vat­ing. There are lots of fresh new pos­si­bil­i­ties which seem to be com­ing to the fore at present, and lots of fresh new synap­tic con­nec­tions to be made be­tween them, and on the strength of what I’ve seen so far, dig­i­tal comics might be an ex­tremely im­por­tant vec­tor of the kind of cul­ture we have com­ing up in the im­mi­nent fu­ture. We’re cer­tainly off to an ex­cep­tional start. and lean back into 1965, turn up at 17 St An­drews Road and show me Big Nemo, would I have been im­pressed? Well, while I’d doubt­less have been stunned by the tech­nol­ogy and a bit de­pressed by the con­tent, I think my over­all re­ac­tion would have prob­a­bly been to fear you. And, se­ri­ously, if you do fig­ure out how to do this, then don’t show it to my Gran, or she’ll have you burned as a witch in that lit­tle meadow across the street where the Su­per Sausage overnight lorry park is now. There were women burned in that meadow for own­ing tran­sis­tor ra­dios and binoc­u­lars. I know that 1965 seems a lit­tle late for witch burn­ings, but this is St An­drew’s Road that we’re talk­ing about. And any­way, what if she just died of shock and caused a clas­sic para­dox? Although, think­ing about it, since she’d al­ready have birthed my mum, that prob­a­bly wouldn’t be an is­sue. But don’t do it, any­way. I know you’re not a child any­more and I can’t tell you what to do, but for Christ’s sake leave the laws of space and time alone or I’ll, I don’t know, ground you or some­thing. You’ve been warned.

Smith grad­u­ated to the ’80s re­vival of but ad­mits that he soon “got fed up with that”, and so picked up his first Prog in­stead. “I im­me­di­ately fell in love with 2000 AD, and car­ried on buy­ing it up to the point that I even­tu­ally be­came ed­i­tor in De­cem­ber 2001.”

Smith went from be­ing a Squaxx dek Thargo to be­ing Tharg him­self when 2000 AD’s then­pub­lisher Eg­mont ad­ver­tised for an as­sis­tant ed­i­tor. Dave Bishop, the ed­i­tor at the time, had re­signed, with Andy Dig­gle step­ping up but in need of an as­sis­tant. After years of work­ing in book pub­lish­ing, Smith ap­plied and got the job the same month that Re­bel­lion pur­chased 2000 AD from Eg­mont.

Two years later it was Dig­gle’s turn to leave to pur­sue a writ­ing ca­reer. Smith was pro­moted to ed­i­tor, and the new Tharg had a clear vi­sion for the Galaxy’s Great­est Comic: “I knew I had to main­tain a sta­ble line-up. I’ve al­ways felt that 2000 AD was at its weak­est when it chopped and changed, with char­ac­ters ap­pear­ing only to soon dis­ap­pear again.”

Smith re­mem­bered the im­pact that clas­sic strips had had on him in his early days, specif­i­cally “Rage”, a Stron­tium Dog sto­ry­line that saw fan-favourite Wulf Stern­ham­mer mur­dered. Gripped, the young Smith had sought out Johnny Al­pha’s back­story, de­vour­ing is­sue af­ter is­sue of

Smith grad­u­ated to the ’80s re­vival of but ad­mits that he soon “got fed up with that”, and so picked up his first Prog in­stead. “I im­me­di­ately fell in love with 2000 AD, and car­ried on buy­ing it up to the point that I even­tu­ally be­came ed­i­tor in De­cem­ber 2001.”

Smith went from be­ing a Squaxx dek Thargo to be­ing Tharg him­self when 2000 AD’s then­pub­lisher Eg­mont ad­ver­tised for an as­sis­tant ed­i­tor. Dave Bishop, the ed­i­tor at the time, had re­signed, with Andy Dig­gle step­ping up but in need of an as­sis­tant. After years of work­ing in book pub­lish­ing, Smith ap­plied and got the job the same month that Re­bel­lion pur­chased 2000 AD from Eg­mont.

Two years later it was Dig­gle’s turn to leave to pur­sue a writ­ing ca­reer. Smith was pro­moted to ed­i­tor, and the new Tharg had a clear vi­sion for the Galaxy’s Great­est Comic: “I knew I had to main­tain a sta­ble line-up. I’ve al­ways felt that 2000 AD was at its weak­est when it chopped and changed, with char­ac­ters ap­pear­ing only to soon dis­ap­pear again.”

Smith re­mem­bered the im­pact that clas­sic strips had had on him in his early days, specif­i­cally “Rage”, a Stron­tium Dog sto­ry­line that saw fan-favourite Wulf Stern­ham­mer mur­dered. Gripped, the young Smith had sought out Johnny Al­pha’s back­story, de­vour­ing is­sue af­ter is­sue of

the Academy of Law was burnt to the ground, I con­tacted John. ‘How far are we tak­ing this?’ I asked. ‘Is any of MC1 go­ing to be left?’”

Of course, such dev­as­ta­tion is just the lat­est of Wag­ner’s long list of acts against the peo­ple of Me­gaCity One. How in­volved is the writer in Dredd’s on­go­ing story? “John’s fairly hands-off about other stuff go­ing on in Mega-City One,” Smith says. “He only writes what he wants to write. I tend to get scripts from John when he’s ready. You learn to work around that. Plus, he’s keen to slow up his work rate these days. He’s been do­ing this for over 30 years and isn’t the kind of writer that can just hack it out. If he feels like he’s cov­er­ing old ground or isn’t feel­ing the story, he just won’t do it. That’s why we bring writ­ers such as Rob Wil­liams and Mike Car­roll on board. Rob’s sto­ries tend to be more hu­mor­ous, while Mike finds new ways to draw some­thing fresh from Dredd’s back­story, to put a new slant on it. John’s al­ways said that he doesn’t want peo­ple to mimic him but bring their own voice to the strip.” Find­ing new voices for 2000 AD has never been a prob­lem, al­though Smith ad­mits the comic is tough to break into, and for good rea­son. “It’s be­com­ing in­creas­ingly dif­fi­cult to find work for all the artists who want to draw for 2000 AD. We only have a lim­ited amount of slots. It’s one of the rea­sons I brought back the Sum­mer Spe­cial, to give us more op­por­tu­ni­ties to try out new artists.”

For writ­ers, the way in is to sub­mit a script for Fu­ture Shocks, the comic’s long-run­ning se­ries of four-page sto­ries. But with nearly 40 years of twist-end­ings sup­plied by such lu­mi­nar­ies as Alan Moore, Grant Mor­ri­son and Neil Gaiman, are there any Fu­ture Shocks left to have? Smith says he sees the same

se­ries of mur­ders linked to a Love­craftian cult.”

What­ever the fu­ture might hold, 2000 AD al­ready ex­ists in a world very dif­fer­ent from the one that it in­hab­ited when it launched. The only sci­ence-fic­tion an­thol­ogy left on the news­stand, it now caters for a more ma­ture au­di­ence with more com­plex sto­ries. “We aim for late teens, but there hasn’t been a con­scious de­ci­sion to raise the age of the read­er­ship,” Smith in­sists. “It’s been a nat­u­ral pro­gres­sion from be­fore I joined. Dur­ing the 1990s, our writ­ers and artists were itch­ing to break free of the re­stric­tions that come with an eight-year-old au­di­ence. Sláine “The Horned God” was 2000 AD’s wa­ter­shed mo­ment. Comics were no longer seen as dis­pos­able. Now they were an art form.”

But why has 2000 AD sur­vived while its com­peti­tors floun­dered? “The comic has al­ways had a firm sense of its own iden­tity,” Smith con­cludes. “A lot of an­tholo­gies that were launched be­fore and af­ter 2000 AD were a bit of a mish­mash, but you know when you’re read­ing a 2000 AD story. Bren­dan McCarthy summed it up on a pod­cast when he called 2000 AD a post-atomic comic. It was launched in the height of the Cold War when peo­ple were liv­ing in fear of nu­clear war. 2000 AD plugged into that fear of the fu­ture and still does. The fears have changed – we’re now more afraid of ter­ror­ist at­tack or pan­demic – but 2000 AD is still here, de­liv­er­ing hard-hit­ting and ac­tion-packed sto­ries with more than a lit­tle ir­rev­er­ence. A solid hit of Thrill Power ev­ery week!”

gort is the pseu­do­nym of Igor Tu­veri, born in Cagliari, Sar­dinia, in 1958. “From my first name, Igor, I have al­ways felt a link with Rus­sian cul­ture. My fa­ther was a com­poser and I grew up sur­rounded by Rus­sian mu­sic as well as the great Rus­sian nov­els.” At the age of 20, he left home for the cul­tural epi­cen­tre of Bologna, where he made his de­but as an il­lus­tra­tor, mu­si­cian, es­say­ist, ra­dio pre­sen­ter and au­thor of comics. His first sto­ries ap­peared in 1978 in Italy’s pi­o­neer­ing fumetti mag­a­zine for adults,

The fol­low­ing year, Igort joined his friends Daniele Brolli, Roberto Bal­dazz­ini and one other to buy a print­ing press to self-pub­lish their own mag­a­zine, Il Pin­guino Guadalupa. Igort drew the first cover as a homage to Charles Biro’s lurid pre-Code Amer­i­can crime comic book Crime Does Not Pay. Other emerg­ing cre­ators would also con­trib­ute, no­tably Gior­gio Carpin­teri and Lorenzo Mat­totti. Revo­lu­tion was in the air in the Ital­ian fumetti tra­di­tion in 1982, as the post-punk New Wave gen­er­a­tion of Igort and his peers formed the artists’ col­lec­tive Valvo­line, named af­ter the brand of mo­tor oil to sug­gest dy­namism. Igort was not alone among them in tak­ing in­spi­ra­tion as much from so-called se­ri­ous art and cul­ture as sup­pos­edly low-brow pop­u­lar en­ter­tain­ment.

From Jan­uary 1983, Igort and co­horts in­tro­duced Valvo­line Mo­tor­comics as a sup­ple­ment in Li­nus spinoff Al­ter Li­nus. De­spite the di­ver­sity of their styles, in­clud­ing the am­bi­ent pho­to­graphic washes of Mar­cello Jori and the crazed car­toon­ish pop art of Mas­simo Mat­ti­oli, Valvo­line were united by their goal to ex­plore new forms of nar­ra­tive with to­tal free­dom. Daniele Brolli en­thused about “the ease with which they moved be­tween dif­fer­ent lan­guages”. Igort summed up their credo: “Rather than break­ing the lim­its of comics, we be­lieve that comics have even greater lim­its on them than those which en­close them.” Good­bye baobab, Igort’s first ex­ten­sive story about a sumo wrestler and the Yakuza, de­vel­oped here and fore­shad­owed an­other great love of his life, Ja­pan.

and adopts the boy, train­ing him as his suc­ces­sor when he has to re­turn to the West. Throw in some three­way sex with treach­er­ous KGB femmes fa­tales and you have one of most un­ex­pected un­of­fi­cial takes on Bat­man – not least be­cause when­ever he is in cos­tume, noth­ing can dis­guise the large, tra­di­tion­ally miss­ing bulge be­tween his legs.

The ’90s brought new ven­tures. Igort ran an­other mag­a­zine, pre­sent­ing his comics along­side those by up-and-com­ing grad­u­ates of the Zio Feininger comics school, all set in the same imag­i­nary city. Launched in Fe­bru­ary 1990, it ran for six is­sues. The first is­sue came with a free vinyl sin­gle by Igort’s next New Wave band, Los Tres Ca­balleros. He col­lab­o­rated with other mu­si­cians like Yello and Ryuichi Sakamoto and with la­bels like Alchemy, Alessi, Mem­phis and Swatch, while in 1994 he ex­hib­ited as a vis­ual artist and mu­si­cian at the Venice Bi­en­nale.

In May 1991 Igort made his first trip to Ja­pan, a dream ever since he started draw­ing. A month ear­lier, he had met a rep­re­sen­ta­tive of Ko­dan­sha, one of the three big­gest manga pub­lish­ers, at the Bologna Chil­dren’s Book Fair, and sug­gested that it would be good for them to ex­plore col­lab­o­ra­tions be­tween Ja­panese and Euro­pean cre­ators. Inad­ver­tently, he had stum­bled on Ko­dan­sha’s se­cret plan to ini­ti­ate such projects, start­ing with an even­tu­ally un­re­alised team-up be­tween Kat­suhiro Otomo and Ale­jan­dro Jodor­owsky. Igort was in­vited over by Ko­dan­sha, and this visit would lead three years later to his win­ning a Ko­dan­sha Fel­low­ship and the chance to live in Tokyo in 1994 for six months and work with an ed­i­tor on orig­i­nat­ing manga for Morn­ing, an an­thol­ogy for men

and adopts the boy, train­ing him as his suc­ces­sor when he has to re­turn to the West. Throw in some three­way sex with treach­er­ous KGB femmes fa­tales and you have one of most un­ex­pected un­of­fi­cial takes on Bat­man – not least be­cause when­ever he is in cos­tume, noth­ing can dis­guise the large, tra­di­tion­ally miss­ing bulge be­tween his legs.

The ’90s brought new ven­tures. Igort ran an­other mag­a­zine, pre­sent­ing his comics along­side those by up-and-com­ing grad­u­ates of the Zio Feininger comics school, all set in the same imag­i­nary city. Launched in Fe­bru­ary 1990, it ran for six is­sues. The first is­sue came with a free vinyl sin­gle by Igort’s next New Wave band, Los Tres Ca­balleros. He col­lab­o­rated with other mu­si­cians like Yello and Ryuichi Sakamoto and with la­bels like Alchemy, Alessi, Mem­phis and Swatch, while in 1994 he ex­hib­ited as a vis­ual artist and mu­si­cian at the Venice Bi­en­nale.

In May 1991 Igort made his first trip to Ja­pan, a dream ever since he started draw­ing. A month ear­lier, he had met a rep­re­sen­ta­tive of Ko­dan­sha, one of the three big­gest manga pub­lish­ers, at the Bologna Chil­dren’s Book Fair, and sug­gested that it would be good for them to ex­plore col­lab­o­ra­tions be­tween Ja­panese and Euro­pean cre­ators. Inad­ver­tently, he had stum­bled on Ko­dan­sha’s se­cret plan to ini­ti­ate such projects, start­ing with an even­tu­ally un­re­alised team-up be­tween Kat­suhiro Otomo and Ale­jan­dro Jodor­owsky. Igort was in­vited over by Ko­dan­sha, and this visit would lead three years later to his win­ning a Ko­dan­sha Fel­low­ship and the chance to live in Tokyo in 1994 for six months and work with an ed­i­tor on orig­i­nat­ing manga for Morn­ing, an an­thol­ogy for men

feel­ing in its peo­ple of dig­nity with deep mis­ery. “It was a shock and I couldn’t un­der­stand what was hap­pen­ing. I told my pub­lish­ers I wanted to do a dif­fer­ent book. I moved in and in to­tal spent al­most two years there be­tween the Ukraine, Rus­sia and Siberia.” Two ex­cep­tional, har­row­ing works grew from this im­mer­sive pe­riod: Ukrainian Note­books (2010) and The Rus­sian Note­books (2011), both be­ing re­leased in March in one vol­ume in English by Si­mon & Schus­ter, sub­ti­tled “Life and Death Un­der Soviet Rule”.

The first work un­locks the dark­est of mem­o­ries, from first­hand wit­nesses and sur­vivors of Stalin’s gov­ern­ment-sanc­tioned famine of 1932. This is es­ti­mated to have killed be­tween 1.8 and 12 mil­lion eth­nic Ukraini­ans, a buried holo­caust that is largely over­looked in the West. Igort does not in­trude him­self and his opin­ions but in­stead steps back and fi­nally gives these un­heard vic­tims a voice. “Draw­ings can re­veal their hum­ble, hid­den lives and il­lu­mi­nate the shad­owy ar­eas which prob­a­bly the writ­ten word can­not tell.” In The Rus­sian Note­books Igort deals with the life and death of the jour­nal­ist and hu­man rights ac­tivist Anna Politkovskaya. “Her as­sas­si­na­tion took place on the very day I ar­rived in Moscow. Stanislav Markelov, lawyer for the Chechen cause and Anna’s friend, was killed by a bul­let to the head; Anas­ta­sia Baburova too, five min­utes by foot from the Krem­lin. The killer calmly walked away and then he took the sub­way. Un­pun­ished. I am try­ing to con­vey this ter­ri­fy­ing pres­ence of si­lence which en­velops present-day Rus­sia.” In Igort’s sen­si­tive hands, this al­most new genre of “graphic tes­ti­mony” proves once more the power of comics to gen­er­ate both un­der­stand­ing and em­pa­thy.

Mark Mil­lar is the king of comic­con­tro­versy. The ti­tles he’s best known for – Kick-Ass, Wanted, The Se­cret Ser­vice, et al – are vi­o­lent, sweary af­fairs. That’s not to say these aren’t good books. On his best days Mil­lar is a hell of a writer and he gets great artists, but his work isn’t for ev­ery­one. Huck, how­ever, very much is...

In­spired by the no­to­ri­ously doomy end­ing to Man Of Steel (which – spoil­ers ahead for the three of you who haven’t seen it – cul­mi­nates with Su­per­man snap­ping Zod’s neck), Mil­lar de­cided to cre­ate some­thing up­beat and pos­i­tive to coun­ter­act the sour taste left in his mouth.

Huck is a mys­tery. He lives in an Amer­i­can town where ev­ery­body knows his name and ev­ery­body loves him. His mantra is sim­ple: do a good deed ev­ery day. Some­times those deeds are small: he buys ev­ery­one in the line be­hind him at a burger bar lunch, or mows the lawns of the town’s el­derly res­i­dents. Others, how­ever, are very big...

It’s a sim­ple, sweet premise – For­rest Gump meets Cap­tain Amer­ica, as Mil­lar him­self has de­scribed it. And yet it takes place in a world that’s not too far re­moved from our own. In the first is­sue’s key scene Huck res­cues a class of kid­napped chil­dren from Boko Haram mil­i­tants. That mo­ment is weird and jar­ring and not en­tirely suc­cess­ful. It’s clearly based on the real-life kid­nap­ping of over 200 chil­dren in May 2014, and the po­si­tion­ing of an ac­tual tragedy in a Capra-es­que comic book skirts poor taste. And yet, it’s han­dled with such ten­der­ness that it’s easy to be won over by the melan­choly fan­tasy of the mo­ment. “I brought some candy to cheer ev­ery­one up,” says Huck to the fright­ened chil­dren. If only life were that sim­ple, eh?

The sec­ond is­sue sketches in a back­ground for the char­ac­ter, es­tab­lish­ing that his in­cred­i­ble abil­i­ties pow­ers (in #1 it’s am­bigu­ous) while giv­ing a bet­ter sense of the world that this un­com­monly kind hero in­hab­its.

Rafael Al­bu­querque’s art is su­perb through­out and couldn’t be more un­like his work on Amer­i­can Vam­pire. It has a lovely retro ’50s feel, aided by Dave McCaig’s rich, inky colours. As the first is­sue opens, we see Huck rid­ing atop a pickup truck be­fore jump­ing bon­net-to-bon­net on his way to dive into an azure blue ocean, and it’s just breath­tak­ing. It’s clear that Al­bu­querque wants to make you feel ev­ery mo­ment of this jour­ney, and his work re­minds you that su­per-books can of­fer vis­ceral thrills with­out re­sort­ing to blood­shed. His pair­ing with Mil­lar has re­sulted in one of the most in­trigu­ing su­per-books in quite some time. Will Sal­mon

This is an in­spired re‑imag­in­ing of the 1980s car­toon about ri­val all-fe­male rock bands. At its heart the story is about the Holo­grams’ friend­ship, the bond be­tween the main char­ac­ters driv­ing the story and mak­ing for a star­tling con­trast to the Mis­fits, the vil­lains of the piece, who are prone to in­fight­ing and sab­o­tage.

It’s So­phie Camp­bell’s art­work that re­ally brings this book to life, and the thing that stands out is the di­ver­sity of the char­ac­ters – their body shapes, skin colour and sex­u­al­ity are as vi­brant and var­ied as the crazy out­fits they all wear. There’s a sweet ro­man­tic re­la­tion­ship that de­vel­ops be­tween two fe­male char­ac­ters, and Camp­bell’s joy­ful art­work cap­tures the ini­tial pangs of ex­cite­ment and lust in a new re­la­tion­ship per­fectly.

The orig­i­nal car­toon’s main fea­tures were the songs and mu­sic videos, and their feel has been well cap­tured on the page. With the words snaking around the art­work and the pages full of dense, elec­tric im­agery that re­ally cap­tures the essence of a live show or mu­sic video, the pages al­most move.

If, some­where, you still har­bour your child­hood dreams of be­com­ing a rock star, this book’s en­ergy will cap­ture you in its adult ren­di­tion of a child­like won­der. Sara We­strop

Johnny Red was born in bat­tle – or, rather, Bat­tle. The WWII fighter ace made his de­but in the pages of the quin­tes­sen­tial Bri­tish war comic in 1977.

In this lov­ing reimag­in­ing, a dot­com bil­lion­aire and air­craft en­thu­si­ast has spent $4.5 mil­lion on the knack­ered re­mains of a Hawker Hur­ri­cane Mk1. He wants to find out more about his pur­chase and the pi­lot who flew it in WWII, so trav­els to Rus­sia to meet a man who claims to have been the chief me­chanic in the squadron it flew in. We then flash back to the liv­ing hell of Stal­in­grad and are in­tro­duced to Johnny Red­burn, a dis­lo­cated English­man who is fight­ing the Nazis the only way he can – by fly­ing with a Rus­sian squadron.

In the de­but is­sue, writer Garth En­nis sub­verts all ex­pec­ta­tions from the start. We don’t ac­tu­ally see the ti­tle char­ac­ter un­til the fi­nal panel. And while a book like this stands or falls on the strength of its aerial com­bat se­quences, En­nis takes a good amount of time set­ting the scene be­fore al­low­ing us the first fran­tic glimpse of bat­tle.

When it comes, though, it’s mag­nif­i­cent. Burns draws won­der­fully ki­netic dog­fights with grace and drama. He’s a mem­ber of the Guild of Avi­a­tion Artists, and it shows in his beau­ti­ful, el­e­gant air­craft far more than his dis­tinc­tive but oddly an­gu­lar hu­mans.

#2 delves deeper into Johnny’s ori­gins, par­tic­u­larly in a stun­ning splash page where a des­per­ate Red­burn makes his es­cape from a burn­ing ship in a stolen plane. We also learn more about the crew who will be­come his mates: fiery fel­low-pi­lot Yakob, ner­vous young Popovitch and his lover, Petrova. Although there are a lot of char­ac­ters in­tro­duced, each of them feels dis­tinct and this makes for a tight, eco­nom­i­cally told ori­gin story. The only real mis­fire here is the slightly limp cliffhanger to #2, where it’s re­vealed that Johnny will be sep­a­rated from his crew – given that we’ve only just met them, it’s hard to care too much.

Still, this is En­nis and Burns on thrilling form. John­nyRed works pre­cisely be­cause it doesn’t tin­ker with the peren­nial WWII ad­ven­ture for­mula too much. It’s a grit­tier, more mod­ern ren­di­tion, per­haps, but the same win­ning tem­plate is firmly in place. Chocks away, chaps! Will Sal­mon

There’s a slight cloud hang­ing over Ed­ward Ross’s Filmish. Scott McCloud. This won’t be the only re­view to point out that this book owes a lot to McCloud’s Un­der­stand­ing Comics, in both form and aes­thetic.

Filmish fea­tures a car­toon ver­sion of Ross pre­sent­ing a kind of il­lus­trated lec­ture on seven as­pects of film the­ory, in­clud­ing no­tions about Sets and Ar­chi­tec­ture; Voice and Lan­guage; and Power and Ide­ol­ogy. That he’s tak­ing on the McCloud id­iom is, in fact, no bad thing – it’s not as if the comics world is cur­rently over­whelmed by first-per­son crit­i­cal dis­courses on as­pects of cul­ture… al­though you’d do well to also look out Jes­sica Abel’s su­perb Out On The Wire (Broad­way Books), which, counter-in­tu­itively, uses the graphic novel form to talk about ra­dio jour­nal­ism.

Ross is a like­able host, for­mer film stu­dent and all-round cinephile, who, when not dis­cussing one movie in par­tic­u­lar, packs vis­tas out with all man­ner of ref­er­ences – metaphor­i­cal “Hello to Ja­son Isaacs...” abound. But al­though the book is beau­ti­fully con­structed and drawn, you could ar­gue that he doesn’t take full ad­van­tage of the comic form. There’s no true sto­ry­telling per se, no real pro­gres­sion be­tween pan­els, most of which stand alone ex­cept for the con­tin­u­ing thread of his nar­ra­tion.

And yet, it works. It’s that valu­able thing: an easy read tak­ing on com­pli­cated ideas, with the chap­ter on Power and Ide­ol­ogy prov­ing the most thought pro­vok­ing. Not only does it re­veal how the US mil­i­tary man­ages to con­trol the film in­dus­try, it also con­tains the ironic rev­e­la­tion that the CIA’s Amer­i­can Com­mit­tee For Cul­tural Free­dom in­ter­ceded to en­sure the 1956 adap­ta­tion of Nine­teen Eighty-Four rep­re­sented Big Brother as a Com­mu­nist.

“Filmish will re­turn…” writes Ross. A se­quel to look for­ward to.

Even if you ig­nore 30 years of pre-New 52 con­ti­nu­ity, it’s taken Cy­borg a long time to head­line his own book. When Jus­tice re­booted in 2011, it felt like only a mat­ter of months be­fore we’d see new mem­ber Vic Stone head­ing up his own #1. Now, four years later, was it worth the wait? Ini­tially, yes.

It starts strongly, with the open­ing two is­sues tak­ing an ad­mirable slow-burn ap­proach to lo­cat­ing Cy­borg’s soul. Bring­ing new in­sight to Stone’s daddy is­sues via a strong in­ter­nal voice and some sly plot-shifts, the tale re­ally con­veys a sense of the freak-show celebrity el­e­ment of be­ing a world-renowned su­per­hero who hangs out with Bat­man and Aqua­man.

Sadly, when #3 kicks in, the book trans­forms from a rel­a­tively sen­si­tive char­ac­ter study into a ro­bot alien in­va­sion ac­tion epic and in­stantly be­comes less in­ter­est­ing. It feels like we’ve read this plot so many times since DC re­launched, most re­cently in Fu­tures End – and it doesn’t help mat­ters that Ivan Reis and Ed­uardo Pan­sica’s vi­su­als get looser and scrap­pier with ev­ery is­sue. Ton­ally it’s all over the place, veer­ing from su­per se­ri­ous to silly, to scary, to soap opera.

There’s still hope – a sub­plot about an un­ex­pected up­grade is fun – but we hope the fu­ture fo­cuses a lit­tle less on the ma­chine(s), and more on the man.

Author Si Spencer has writ­ten in the past for Grange Hill, EastEn­ders and The Bill, but Klaxon has noth­ing in com­mon with any TV soap you’ve ever seen (well, ex­cept pos­si­bly for the grim in­ner-city ni­hilism of EastEn­ders). This dark, un­set­tling, hal­lu­ci­na­tory graphic novel is more akin to the sur­re­al­ist films of Buñuel or Dalí.

There is a nar­ra­tive, but its only logic is that of a dream – or per­haps a bad trip. Carlisle and his two house­mates are wasters liv­ing a pur­pose­less ex­is­tence, ap­par­ently sur­viv­ing (and get­ting high) on eat­ing cav­ity wall in­su­la­tion. One day the bru­tal, grin­ning Mr Sta­ple­ton and his spec­tral son dump Ca­role and her dis­traught mother in the house next door. Moved by com­pas­sion and an at­trac­tion to Ca­role, Carlisle of­fers help… and things get weird.

Sym­bolic mo­ments and res­o­nant im­ages abound, but they leave you scratch­ing your head. After Ca­role’s mother has a kind of fit (brought on in a sort of rit­ual by a record­ing of a klaxon), there’s a shower of liquorice all­sorts from the ceil­ing. Ca­role puts out bot­tles full of milk, more and more of them, in­stead of emp­ties. A (porce­lain?) page­boy ap­pears on the street, hold­ing an old TV set through which Carlisle sees vi­sions. The doughy, pli­able char­ac­ters – and re­al­ity it­self – meta­mor­phose and dis­tort in grotesque but some­times quite com­i­cal ways.

Grad­u­ally, faced with a night­mar­ish world of suf­fer­ing and ter­ri­fy­ing un­in­tel­li­gi­bil­ity, driven by an awak­en­ing sense of when peo­ple “should not be do­ing that”, Carlisle dis­cov­ers a kind of pur­pose and rides his old mo­tor­bike into ac­tion, and his blun­der­ing but heroic self­sac­ri­fice re­deems the en­tire neigh­bour­hood (al­though there is an omi­nous coda at the very end).

The art by Dix is ex­pres­sive and haunt­ing; the muted tones of the grey ev­ery­day world are punc­tu­ated with telling use of colour. Sur­real yet poignant, hor­ri­fy­ing yet heart­warm­ing, puz­zling yet com­pelling, is like no graphic novel you’ve read be­fore. And I can’t get the damn thing out of my head.

Trine can solve any puz­zle that is put to her. Ask her where your dog’s toy has gone and she’ll point out the kid who stole it. Grill her about an un­solved crime and she’ll in­stantly know where the gun was tossed. She never leaves her pave­ment “of­fice”, but when a mys­tery in­volv­ing some mam­moths comes along, she can’t re­sist get­ting more di­rectly in­volved.

Al­berto J Al­bur­querque’s ex­ag­ger­ated pen­cils are OK, but tonally the col­li­sion of gen­tle magic re­al­ism and sor­did gang­land vi­o­lence jars. Still, this is an in­trigu­ing enough de­but with some zippy di­a­logue, though it never quite pulls off its Lon­don set­ting – there are too many in­ci­dents of “butt” and “side­walk”! Will Sal­mon

Whilst we ap­plaud Mark Mil­lar’s abil­ity to stretch the span­dex to the lim­its with his high-con­cept, comic­sas-movies, post­mod­ern, post-Moore cre­ations, there’s the risk of di­min­ish­ing re­turns. The beau­ti­fully ren­dered Jupiter’s Le­gacy was great fun, fus­ing Span­dex’s sexy he­roes with Mad Men’s booz­ing suits and ’50s ro­mance comics, via a Mil­lar­world fil­ter. Cir­cle vol­ume 1, though en­joy­able enough, was bound to fall in its shadow.

Vol­ume 2 starts with ro­mance in space and keeps the se­date Mills & Boon ap­proach go­ing through­out. There are some nice touches – Shel­don be­com­ing the world’s most house-proud hus­band; Pro­fes­sor Prism turn­ing New York mono­chrome – but over­all this first is­sue spreads the story thinly. Tor­res’s widescreen, min­i­mal panel ap­proach works fine for ac­tion scenes but you feel short-changed for much of the is­sue, with three or four pan­els for pages where noth­ing much hap­pens. Things may im­prove in #2, but by the end of #1 you’ll be reach­ing for your TPB of Le­gacy and look­ing to Jupiter’s fu­ture rather than its past. Rob Lane

Sny­der and Ca­pullo hit the big 5-0 with the con­clu­sion to their epic “Su­per­heavy” sto­ry­line. Jim Gor­don has been wear­ing the bat­suit for a while, but it’s time for Bruce Wayne to come back and take on the sin­is­ter Mr Bloom. We can’t wait.

Re­viewed Is­sue 1–3 Writer: Brian Michael Bendis Artist: David Mar­quez Pub­lisher: Marvel For­mat: On­go­ing

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