By Arthur Ranson, Donald Rooum, Dave Gibbons, Alan Moore, Hunt Emerson, Neil Gaiman, Mike Matthews, Julie Hollings, Peter Rigg, Graham Higgins, Steve Gibson, Dave McKean, Kim Deitch, Carol Bennett, Brian Bolland & various (Knockabout)
Although I couldn’t be happier with the state of the graphic novel market these days, I do miss the early days when production costs were high and canny pioneer publishers resorted to producing anthologies of short tales.
Knockabout Comics has been providing cutting edge and controversial cartoon triumphs since 1975 and although this cracking all-star oddment is actually out of print – like far too many of the graphic novels and collections I recommend – it remains one of their most potent and engaging releases.
However, if you’re a devout Christian you be best advised to just jump to the next review.
Originally released in 1987, it features a varied band of British creators adapting – with tongues firmly in cheeks – a selection of Biblical episodes, and the results are mordantly earnest, deeply bitter and darkly funny.
‘Creation’ is the preserve of supreme stylistic realist Arthur Ranson, whilst affable anarchist legend Donald Rooum explores Eden in ‘Gandalf’s Garden’ and Dave Gibbons puts some decidedly modernistic top-spin to the saga of ‘Sodom and Gomorrah’.
Alan Moore & Hunt Emerson examine ‘Leviticus’ (that would be the one with all those pesky Commandments) after which Neil Gaiman tackles ‘The Book of Judges’ accompanied by Mike Matthews (both the introduction and ‘The Tribe of Benjamin’); with Julie Hollings (for ‘Jael and Sisera’); Peter Rigg (‘Jephthah and His Daughter’); Graham Higgins (‘Samson’) and Steve Gibson (‘Journey to Bethlehem’). He even finds time to produce ‘The Prophet Who Came to Dinner’ (From the Book of Kings) with seminal long-time collaborator Dave McKean.
Closing the slim oversized (290 x204 mm) monochrome tome are underground cartooning icon Kim Deitch with ‘The Story of Job’, ‘Daddy Dear’ (from Ecclesiastes) adapted by Carol Bennett & Julie Hollings and the intensely uncompromising ‘A Miracle of Elisha’ (also from the Book of Kings) by the magnificent Brian Bolland.
Powerful and memorable, these interpretations won’t win any praise from Christian Fundamentalists, but they are fierce, subtle and scholarly examinations of the Old Testament realised by passionate creators with something to say and an unholy desire to instruct. As free-thinking adults you owe it to yourself to read these stories, but only in the spirit in which they were created.
© 1987 Knockabout Publications and the Artists and Writers. All Rights Reserved.