Papyrus volume 4: The Evil Mummies


By Lucien De Geiter, coloured by Georges Vloeberghs & translated by Luke Spear (Cinebook)
ISBN: 978-1-84918-027-6 (Album PB)

Papyrus is the masterfully evocative magnum opus of Belgian cartoonist Lucien de Gieter. It premiered in 1974 in legendary weekly Le Journal de Spirou, running to 35 collected albums, and consequently spawning a wealth of merchandise, including an animated television show and a video game.

De Gieter was born in 1932 and studied at Saint-Luc Art Institute in Brussels before going into industrial design and interior decorating. He made the jump into sequential narrative in 1961, first through “mini-récits” (fold-in, half-sized booklets) inserted into LJdS, starring his jovial little cowboy Pony, and later by writing for art-star regulars such as Kiko, Jem, Eddy Ryssack and Francis. After that he joined Peyo’s studio as inker on Les Schtroumpfs (The Smurfs) and took over the long-running newspaper strip Poussy.

In the 1960s, De Gieter launched South Seas mermaid fantasy Tôôôt et Puit whilst Pony was promoted to the full-sized pages of Spirou, deep-sixing the Smurfs gig to expand his horizons working for Le Journal de Tintin and Le Journal de Mickey.

From 1972-1974, De Gieter assisted cartooning legend Berck on Mischa for Germany’s Primo, whilst applying the finishing touches to his latest project: a historical confection which would occupy his full attention and delight millions of fervent fans for the next forty years…

The annals of Papyrus encompass a huge range of themes and milieux, blending Boy’s Own adventure with historical fiction and interventionist mythology: the epic yarns gradually evolving from traditionally appealing “Bigfoot” cartoon style and content towards a more realistic, dramatic and authentic iteration, through means of light fantasy romps always leavened and flavoured with the latest historical theories and discoveries.

The named star is a fearlessly forthright peasant lad (specifically, a fisherman by trade) favoured by the gods who rises to become a hero of Egypt and friend to Pharaohs.

As a youngster the plucky Fellah was blessed by the divine powers and given a magic sword, courtesy of a daughter of crocodile-headed Sobek. The lad’s first task was to free supreme god Horus from imprisonment in the Black Pyramid of Ombos, thereby restoring peace to the Double Kingdom. However, his most difficult and seemingly never-ending duty is protecting Pharaoh’s wilful, high-handed and insanely danger-seeking daughter Theti-Cheri – a princess with an unparalleled gift for seeking out trouble…

The Evil Mummies is the fourth Cinebook tome (of, inexplicably, only six thus far). Available in paperback and in eBook formats, it translates the 19th European album in the run, which was originally released in 1996 as Les Momies maléfiques: a riotous rollercoaster of all-out action and fearsome fantasy which begins in the rocky fastnesses of the deep sands. Here Pharaoh’s headstrong daughter impatiently leads an expedition to retrieve the revered mummies of the fabled Ten Archers of Sekenenre Taa from the lost Hammamat mines, who legendarily fell defending the nation from the invading Hyksos.

The bodies are to be returned in honour and interred in Thebes, but first they have to find them…

Cheekily joining Theti-Cheri, her protector Papyrus and all the assorted, hurrying specialists is sometime court jester Puin, charged with caring for the precious pack animals – although it would be more accurate to say that his phenomenally intelligent donkey Khamelot is actually guiding all those reins…

In their haste to finish the mission, the party are shamefully negligent and forget to make proper obeisance to divine Seth, Master of the Desert Wastes, and soon a furious cloud image warns of the dark overlord’s wrath. Nervously shrugging it off, the expedition prepares for sleep but is suddenly devastated by a terrifying flash-flood manifesting from nowhere and brutally scattering the impious intruders.

Papyrus awakes battered and bruised above a lofty precipice. He has been saved from crushing doom by a great silver falcon, favoured beast of mighty Horus

In trying to retrieve his magic sword the boy-hero triggers a flaming omen which points him a certain direction. Setting off into the scorching desert, he slowly follows a treacherous trail and with the falcon’s timely aid uncovers a deep crevice and shaft into a deep, long-forgotten mine. In a chamber far within the abandoned workings is a golden statue of Seth and ten roughly hewn coffins in a makeshift temple…

Curiosity overcoming caution, Papyrus uncovers a ghastly, poorly-preserved mummy in one but the second – already opened – casque holds Theti-Cheri herself: alive, but bound and gagged. When he cuts the princess loose, she descends into utter panic, frantically warning that she had been captured by walking corpses: the angry archers of Sekenenre Taa…

The boy warrior is saved from a lethal arrow by the ever-present falcon, but in his panicked flight is separated from his rattled companion, before plunging into open air and landing in the mine’s ancient water-filled well.

Recovering his wits, he trails Theti and finds her and the bird on a rooftop. She claims to have been saved by Horus himself.

Sadly, the aroused mummies are determined and unstoppable. With his magic sword useless against the already dead, Papyrus is about to be crushed by the restless revenants and is only rescued when the princess plunges one of the monsters’ own arrows into a dusty body…

Before long though, the buried temple is crawling with revived and raging mummy murderers and the terrified youths are again racing in panic. Spotting a trickle of water on a stony rock face, Papyrus smites the wall with his sword and a watery tumult catapults them to relative safety in the well.

With the water flooding away, however, the pair can see two huge golden statues of Horus at the bottom and realise that they must restore them to the temple to quiet the still-marauding mummies…

Seth unleashes more magical mischief to deter the already overwhelmed children, but Papyrus’ defiance and the fortuitous appearance of Khamelot quickly turn the tables after the unthinking dead things mistake the donkey for their own ghastly long-eared, long-nosed dark lord and rapidly retreat…

With aid from the faithfully following pack animals, the Horus statues are quickly restored to their rightful stations but Theti insists that the now-dormant archer mummies must be respectfully gathered up and transported to their proper resting place in Thebes as per her father’s plans…

As the bizarre entourage makes its laborious way back across the burning sands, more strange encounters plunge both princess and protector into another hidden tomb. This one holds the real, righteous, sacredly-interred Ten Archers of Sekenenre Taa. But if that’s the case, who or what have they been shipping back at such tremendous, exhausting effort?

Solving that enigma, the pair still have to defeat an army of bandits and pillagers even as the battle leads them to the impossible plain where the lost members of the original expedition have been enduring the slow punishment of Seth…

Epic, funny, enthralling and frenetically paced, this amazing adventure will thrill and beguile lovers of wonder from nine to ninety-nine, again proving Papyrus to be a sublime addition to the family-friendly pantheon of continental champions wedding heroism and humour with wit and charm. Anybody who has worn out those Tintin and Asterix albums would be wise beyond their years to unearth and acquire all these classic chronicles.
© Dupuis, 1996 by De Gieter. All rights reserved. English translation © 2010 Cinebook Ltd.

The Scorpion volume 1: The Devil’s Mark


By Stephen Desberg & Enrico Marini, translated by Jerome Saincantin (Cinebook)
ISBN: 978-1-905460-62-5 (Album PB)

We in the English-speaking world will have to work long and hard to come anywhere near the astonishing breadth of genres present in European comics. Both in scenario and narrative content, our continental cousins have seemingly explored every aspect of time and place to tell tales ranging from comedy to tragedy, drama to farce and most especially encompassing the broad, treasure-laden churches of adventure and romance. Le Scorpion is a graphic series which embraces and accommodates all of these and more…

Belgian writer Stephen Desberg is one of the most popular and bestselling comics authors in the business. Born in Brussels, he is the son of an American lawyer (European distribution agent for Metro-Goldwyn Mayer) who married a French woman. He began studying law at Université Libre de Bruxelles, but dropped out to follow a winding path into the bande dessinée biz.

It began with plots – and eventually scripts – for Willy Maltaite – AKA “Will” – on Tif et Tondu in Le Journal de Spirou, growing into a reliable jobbing creator on established strips for younger readers and ultimately launching his own with Billy the Cat (a funny-animal strip) drawn by Stéphane Colman, not the be-whiskered boy superhero of DC Thomson fame). In quick succession came 421 with Eric Maltaite, Arkel (with Marc Hardy), Jimmy Tousseul (Daniel Desorgher) and many, many more. Throughout the 1980s, Desberg gradually redirected his efforts into material for older readerships (such as The Garden of Desire) and in 1999 he originated contemporary thriller IR$, with this historical romp joining his catalogue of major hits a year later.

Enrico Marini attended the School of Fine Arts in Bêle before starting his creative career. Drawn since childhood to comics and manga, he began selling his artistic skills as the 1980s ended. A stint on junior adventure strip Oliver Varèseled to Gypsy (1993-1996), after which he began collaborating with Desberg on western L’Étoile du Desert. Contiguously crafting detective serial Rapaces with Jean Dufaux, Marini teamed again with Desberg in 2000 on Le Scorpion. In 2007, the illustrator added writing to his repertoire with historical drama Les Aigles de Rome

A complex historical romp in the movie style of Robin Hood, the Three Musketeers, and even, if you squint right, Dangerous Liaisons, The Scorpion is a devious rollercoaster of sumptuous epic intrigue with cunning factual underpinnings fuelling frantic fantasy and chilling conspiracy. This first expansive English-language translation from Cinebook is available in album-sized paperback and eBook formats, bundling together the first two European tomes – La marque du diable and Le secret du pape from October 2000 and October 2001 – into one grand bulging behemoth of literary and pictorial gold.

The fun starts in The Devil’s Mark, opening with a fulsome flashback to the most critical moment in the mighty Roman Empire’s long history. At a place and time where nine families secretly own and rule everything, a pact is made which places all their resources – if not actual Faith – in the coming thing: a new religion to be called Christianity. The families will remain in charge and in control, but now the official face and might of Rome will not be short-lived Caesars, but rather Popes…

Tumbling forward to the early 18th century, we see roguish conman, historian, tomb-robber and relic retailer Armando Catalano – and his capable but constantly carping assistant Hussard – deftly swiping the bones of long-lost Saint Alastor. The affable scoundrels are blithely unaware that, elsewhere malign forces within the Church are mobilising to change the way the world runs with especial significance to freewheeling entrepreneurs like themselves…

The current Pope is a well-meaning, unconventional commoner set on a path of reform, but that doesn’t matter to Monsignor Trebaldi. Even though doctrine should make the Pope infallible, literally God’s hand and word on Earth, the militant cleric gives his allegiance to an older belief than Christianity…

“Cardinal Eagle” has decided to reinstate the direct influence of the nine families using the papacy as his tool of statecraft. That means somehow first reuniting the varied clans who have drifted into isolation and bitter rivalry over centuries. The first step has already been accomplished. Cosmopolitan Rome is now heavily policed by the Order of the Knights of Christianity: warrior monks who are The Eagle’s own paramilitary zealots and a militant faction gaining in strength despite every effort of the incumbent Pontiff to reign them in…

Devil-may-care Armando is the son of Magdalena Catalan, an infamous witch burned for seducing a high-ranking priest away from the one true faith. As sign of his ill-begotten origins, their son bears a birthmark of the devil on his shoulder: a scorpion signalling his diabolical origins. It has not stopped him becoming well-known to every rich patron desperate to possess holy relics, but now, inexplicably, makes him Trebaldi’s personal obsession…

However, after the Cardinal despatches seductive gypsy Mejai to assassinate him, her repeated attempts all fail. It is as if her target has the luck of the devil on his side…

Alerted and affronted, Armando retaliates, even breaking into a palace to have a discussion with the Pope, only to discover a previously-hidden connection between Trebaldi and his own long-dead mother and that an even greater scandal and mystery have been draped around the circumstances of his birth…

The war of wills escalates rapidly, and the Scorpion finally confronts the Cardinal… seemingly paying the ultimate price…

The drama continues in The Pope’s Secret with an hallucinogenic flashback offering even more clues into the astoundingly long-planned conspiracy, via a glimpse at Armando’s early life following Magdalena’s execution. This ends abruptly as faithful Hussard rouses him from the death-like coma caused by Mejai’s latest attempt to kill them. With the gypsy their prisoner, they seek further information regarding which high-ranking churchman was Armando’s debauched father and boldly infiltrate the Eagle’s citadel. They discover instead that the Cardinal has appropriated the Secret Files of the Vatican, planning to kill the Pope and replace him…

The outlaws are horrified at this travesty and assault on reality. They frantically race back to Rome to halt the abomination. They almost make it…

To Be Continued…

Effortlessly combining devious plots and beguiling historical conspiracies with riotous swashbuckling adventure and non-stop, breathtaking action, this blistering, bombastic and exotically engaging period thriller gives Game of Thrones, The Name of the Rose and even frothier romps like Da Vinci’s Demons a real run for their money. The twelfth and latest volume Le Mauvais Augurearrived last year after far too long a hiatus, so there’s plenty for fans of the genre to catch-up to and adore…
Le Marque du diable & Le Secret du pape © Dargaud Benelux (Dargaud-Lombard SA) 2000, 2001 by Desberg & Marini. All rights reserved. English translation © 2008 Cinebook Ltd.

Zorro in Old California


By Nedaud & Carlo Marcello (Eclipse Books)
ISBN: 978-0-91303-513-9 (HB) 978-0-91303-512-2 (Album PB)

Here’s a fabulous old classic that’s still generally available, but which really needs to relative immortality of a digital edition as well as simple revival. Let’s hope current license holders Dynamite Entertainment agree…

One the earliest masked heroes and still phenomenally popular throughout the world is perennial film favourite El Zorro, The Fox. He was originally created by jobbing writer Johnston McCulley in 1919 in a 5-part prose serial entitled ‘The Curse of Capistrano’: debuting and running in All-Story Weekly from August 6th to 6th September. The tale was subsequently published by Grossett & Dunlap in 1924 as The Mark of Zorro and further reissued in 1959 and 1998 by MacDonald & Co., and Tor, respectively.

Famously, Hollywood royalty Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford read the tale in All-Story Weekly whilst on their honeymoon and immediately optioned the adventure to be the first film release from their new production company/studio United Artists.

The Mark of Zorro was a global movie sensation in 1920 and for years after, so New York based McCulley re-tailored his creation to match the extremely different filmic incarnation. The Caped Crusader aptly fitted the burgeoning genre that would soon be peopled by the likes of The Shadow, Doc Savage and the Spider as well as later comics champions such as Mandrake and the Phantom.

Rouben Mamoulian’s filmic remake of The Mark of Zorro further ingrained the Fox into the World’s psyche, and, as the prose exploits continued in a variety of publications, Dell began a comicbook version in 1949.

When Walt Disney began a hugely popular Zorro TV show in 1957, the comics series was redesigned to capitalise on it and the entertainment corporation began a decades-long strip incarnation of “their” version of the character in various regions of the world. This classy tome collects half of the dozen stories produced for a French iteration which originally ran in Le Journal de Mickey by veteran Italian artist Raphaël Carlo Marcello and relative enigma Nedaud, of whom I sadly know very little.

The celebrated and supremely stylish Marcello (1929-2007) moved to Paris in 1948 and began his long and prestigious career drawing Loana et le Masque Chinois in Aventures de Paris-Jeunes and Nick Silver for Collection Victoire. He then switched to newspaper strips for Opera Mundi in 1950, illustrating La Découverte du Monde and L’Histoire de Parisbefore adapting Ben Hur, Jane Eyre and the Bible.

In 1952, he joined Héroic, working on Oliver Twist, Gil Blas and Bug Jargal, then began a 15-year run (1955-1970) on Le Cavalier Inconnu in Pépito. He maintained ties to newspapers throughout and continued general interest literary adaptations for Mondial-Presse.

In 1956, he contributed Bob Franck to Bugs Bunny magazine and numerous strips to Lisette, Monty, Mireille, L’Intrépide/Hurrah and Rintintin. In 1970 he moved to Pif Gadget, collaborating on his signature series Docteur Justicewith prolific scenarist/writer Jean Ollivier as well as Amicalement Vôtre (a TV adaptation scripted Spanish by the legendary Victor Mora), Taranis (scripts by Ollivier & Mora), Tarao (by Roger Lécureux) and La Guerre du Feu.

Barely stopping for breath, Marcello illustrated John Parade, Patrouilleur de l’Espace, in Le Journal des Pieds Nickelés, the Larousse series L’Histoire de France en Bandes Dessinées, La Découverte du Mond and L’Histoire du Far West until 1985 when he joined Le Journal de Mickey to render Le Regard du Tigre, Le Club des Cinq and the subject of this collection.

Solidly based on the 1950s TV series, Zorro ran for a year (1985-1986): 12 rousing swashbuckling romps, the first half of which are collected in this slim, full colour European-format album. After these thundering epics, Marcello carried on improving, drawing sci fi extravaganza Cristal, epigrammatic short stories Voulez-vous de Nos Nouvelles?, Michael Jackson, Wayne Thunder, L’Épopée du Paris Saint-Germain and mature-reader series Nuit Barbare and Amok.

In 1991 he returned to his hometown of Vintimille where he ended his days drawing episodes of iconic Italian series Tex and Zagor for Il Giornalino and Bonelli publishing.

Here and now, however, Don Diego de la Vega is the foppish son of a noble house in old California when it was a Spanish Possession. He used the masked persona of Zorro the Fox to right wrongs, defend the weak and champion the oppressed – particularly the pitifully maltreated natives and Indians – gleefully thwarting the schemes of Capitan Monastario, his bumbling sergeant Garcia and the despicable Governor who were determined to milk the populace for all they had.

In his crusade Diego was aided by Bernardo (the “deaf-mute” manservant retained for the assorted TV and movies) and the good will of the overwhelmed and overtaxed people of Los Angeles.

Whenever Zorro appeared, he left his mark – a bold letter “Z” – carved into walls, doors, curtains, but never, ever, faces…

Written for an all-ages audience, these stories, each around 10 pages long, play out an exotic eternal, riotous game of tag, beginning with ‘Wanted!’ as a huge reward galvanises the town to hunt the Fox… until Zorro turns the tables by capturing the Capitan and ransoming him back, thereby emptying the military coffers.

In ‘The Assassins’, bandits posing as patriotic rebels capture the masked hero as part of their plan to murder the Governor and loot the ever-growing township, whilst ‘Double Agent’ sees Monastario blackmail a girl into betraying the wily avenger, but once again misjudges Zorro’s ability to connect with the downtrodden Californios…

‘The Scarecrow’ sees the hero thwart a plot to discredit the Fox’s reputation as the unscrupulous Capitan employs a murderous masked impostor, after which ‘Tight as a Noose’ sees Monastario arrest Diego’s father Don Alejandro for treason to entrap the mysterious vigilante, before this rip-roaring rollercoaster ride concludes with ‘The Winds of Rebellion’ as the latest illegal tax rouses the town council against the Capitan and Zorro gets involved to prevent bloodshed and potentially appalling state reprisals…

Full-bodied, all-action and beautifully realised, these classy adventures of a global icon are long overdue for a comprehensive and complete re-release, but until then at least this terrific tome is still readily available in both hardback and softcover through many online retailers.
® and © 1986 Zorro Productions, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Liebestrasse


By Greg Lockard, Tim Fish, Héctor Barros, Lucas Gattoni (Greg Lockard/ComiXology Originals)
No ISBN: digital only.

I’m ending our salute to Gay Pride and LGBTQ publishing with a little something that encapsulates the core concept of the entire issue: the right to love and be loved by whoever you choose. In our history, that’s been a long hard battle and one not won yet, but if you never start anything, you’ll never finish and I firmly believe bigotry is ultimately self-defeating. I just wish it was a faster process and that our opposition was more reasonable and less fanatical…

Set firmly in the footsteps of Christopher Isherwood’s Berlin Stories, this tale of regret and thwarted love comes from writer Greg Lockard and artist Tim Fish, aided and abetted by Héctor Barros on colours with Lucas Gattoni providing letters and calligraphy.

The story opens covertly in the Land of the Free in 1952 as an aging, wealthy man seeks solace and the company of “his own kind” in a very special bar…

The next day, Sam Wells visits a modern art exhibition where a brief encounter with a young man of similar tastes triggers a flashback to an old friend. Soon after, Wells is flying to Berlin to establish new business contacts and, hopefully, relive the better moments of his past.

As he moves about the divided city, Wells’ mind flits back to 1932 when, as a young Mover & Shaker, he was posted to Germany to set up an overseas office for his company. For a young man of wealth and his particular tastes, the Weimar Republic offered many opportunities, temptations and, crucially, freedom from dangerous oversight. However, there was also a sense of oppressive menace, especially after meeting audacious, outspoken Philip Adler… and falling madly, passionately, head over heels in love.

Philip’s sister Hilde was already in the sights of the rising National Socialists for creating un-Aryan art, but his constant challenging of the party in words, and especially with his “degenerate” lifestyle, soon painted a target on all their backs, as well as on the numerous doomed and dancing-on-the-volcano’s-edge liberals Sam met at parties in in the music clubs…

As the months passed, the affair intensified – as did the danger – and inevitably, the hammer fell. For Sam that meant a beating and deportation, but for Philip there was no such callous leniency. Now decades later, Wells is back and has to face Hilde again…

Forceful, frantic, passionate and deeply moving, Liebestrasse is a powerful testament to the abiding power and wonder of passion and a sobering reminder of how far we’ve come: an irrefutable argument for live and let love…
LIEBESTRASSE © 2019 Greg Expectations, LLC & Timothy Poisson. All rights reserved.

The Imitation Game: Alan Turing Decoded


By Jim Ottaviani & Leland Purvis (Abrams ComicArts)
ISBN: 978-1-4197-1893-9 (HB) 978-1-4197-3645-2 (TPB)

Like every persecuted grouping of humanity, the LGBTQ community have far too many martyrs, but apart from Oscar Wilde and perhaps Harvey Milk, how many can you name? If any, I’ll bet Alan Turing tops that list…

Spellbindingly scripted by Jim Ottaviani (who has similarly eulogised and dissected quantum physicist (Richard) Feynman and – in Primates – primatologists Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey and Biruté Galdikas) with compellingly effective art by Leland Purvis (Vox, Pubo, Vulcan & Vishnu and Suspended in language: Niels Bohr’s life, discoveries, and the century he shaped – a previous collaboration with Ottoviani), this full-colour hardback, trade paperback or eBook biography divides Turing’s life into three broad sections, incisively and winningly reviewed as if in a documentary.

Events from his turbulent life are deftly mixed with faux “interviews” and candid disclosures from those who knew him – his mother, the computing “girls” at Bletchley Park, fiancée Joan Clark, Professor Max Newman, engineer and lab partner Bayley and the weak, shady “rent-boy” who brought about Turing’s eventual downfall and death…

‘Universal Computing’ covers the difficult, solitary boy’s childhood and college years, providing plenty of revelatory scenes showing how smart, obsessed and just plain different Alan Mathison Turing always was.

Top Secret Ultra’ focuses on the war years that built Turing’s reputation as a cryptographer and inventor at the officially “non-existent” base where the Enigma Code was cracked and the battle against fascism won.

The most painful and potent moments are seen in his post-war years at Manchester University, trying to beat the Americans in the ferociously competitive race to build Thinking Machines. Here he came under increasing stress as his open homosexuality – accepted as fact and ignored at Bletchley – gradually overtook and destroyed the life of the mis-socialised plain-speaking genius whose thoughts and writings resulted in the breakthroughs everybody now knows as ‘The Imitation Game’

Rounding out the cruelly educational experience is a poignant and challenging ‘Authors Note’ touching on the still-unresolved mystery concerning Turing’s death, a vast ‘Bibliography and Recommended Reading’ list and a bewilderingly comprehensive ‘Notes and References’ section, covering everything from the panel structures of this tale to the mathematics involved in and comprising much of the book’s subtly beguiling make-up.

This is an astoundingly inviting way to take in a true story of incredible accomplishment, dedicated passion and terrifying naivety, ending in a horrific loss to us all…

Please be warned: this is categorically not an adaptation of the 2014 film.
Text © 2016 Jim Ottaviani. Illustrations © 2016 Leland Purvis. All rights reserved.

 

The Case of Alan Turing


By Eric Liberge & Arnaud Delalande, translated by David Homel (Arsenal Pulp Press)
ISBN: 978-1-55152-650-8 (HB Album)

After decades of cruel injustice and crushing, sidelining silence, British mathematician Alan Turing – one of the greatest intellects in humanity’s history – has at last become the household name and revered pioneer of science he has always deserved to be.

As well as books and films describing the amazing achievements and appalling way this brilliant, misunderstood man – arguably the creator of the modern world we inhabit – was treated by society, there’s another graphic novel delineating the factual stuff whilst trying to get beneath the skin of a most perplexing and unique individual.

This gloriously oversized (231 x 13 x 287 cm) full-colour hardback biography – appropriately also available in digital formats – was first released in Europe as Le Cas Alan Turing in 2015 and employs an emphatic literary approach, more drama than documentary, to exploring the life of this tortured man.

The moving script by author Arnaud Delalande (La Piege de Dante) – via award-winning translator David Homel – only touches on Turing’s early, troubled home life and post-war scandals when the genius descended into self-loathing and court-mandated chemical castration to “cure” his “social deviancy”.

Allegations or accusations of homosexuality destroyed the lives of countless men until officially decriminalised in Britain’s 1967 Sexual Offences Act, and although Turing was posthumously pardoned of his “crimes” in 2013, his loss to suicide deprived the entire world of a generation of marvels…

The major proportion of this tale concentrates on World War II and Turing’s work as a cryptographer and inventor at British code-breaking centre Bletchley Park (it’s a stunning shrine to invention now: and you should visit it soon and often) where the insular young man struggled to convince his officious, unimaginative superiors to let him construct a mechanical brain to defeat the Wehrmacht’s presumed-infallible Enigma machines. Turing’s victories cemented his reputation and ensured that the battle against fascism (one sort, at least) was won…

The key figures are all there: sometime fiancée Joan Clark, Professor Max Newman, and the shady, morally-bankrupt “rent-boy” Arnold Murray who brought about Turing’s eventual downfall and demise, as are less well known figures: the MI5 operative who was his constant shadow before and after the war, boyhood lost love Christopher Morcom and many other unsung heroes of the intelligence war…

Played out against a backdrop of global conflict, Turing’s obsession with Walt Disney’s Snow White and a recurring motif of poisoned apples – the method by which he eventually ended his life – figure largely in a tale which reads like a movie in the making. Moreover, this powerful tale of an outsider’s temporary triumphs and lasting impact is beautifully and compellingly rendered by master of historical comics Eric Liberge (Monsieur Mardi-Gras Descendres, Le Dernier Marduk, Tonnerre Rampant, Les Corsaires d’Alcibiade), affording it an aura of unavoidable, impending destiny…

Balancing out the tragedy of chances missed is an informative photo-illustrated essay on ‘The Cryptography War’courtesy of historian, educator and government consultant Bruno Fuligni, detailing the development and use of different kinds of cipher and codes; how Enigma changed the rules of the spying game and how Turing changed it all again…

This is an astoundingly effective way to engage with a true story of incredible accomplishment, dedication and terrifying naivety: one that inevitably ends with tragedy that still blights us all and leaves forever-unanswered sentiments of “What If?” and “If Only…”
Text © Éditions des Arènes, Paris 2015. Translation © 2016 by David Homel.

Goliath


By Tom Gauld (Drawn & Quarterly)
ISBN: 978-1-77046-065-2(HB) 978-1-77046-299-1(TPB)

Everybody knows the story of David and Goliath. Big, mean evil guy at the head of an oppressive army terrorising the Israelites until a little boy chosen by God kills him with a stone from his slingshot.

But surely there’s more to it than that…?

In this supremely understated and gentle retelling we get to see what the petrifying Philistine was actually like and, to be quite frank, history and religion have been more than a little unkind…

Like most really big guys, Goliath of Gath is a shy, diffident, self-effacing chap. The hulking man-mountain is an adequate administrator but fifth worst swordsman in the entire army which has been camped in opposition to the Hebrew forces for months. Moreover, the dutiful, contemplative colossus doesn’t even have that much in common with the rough-and-ready attitudes of his own friends…

When an ambitious captain gets a grand idea, he has his titanic towering clerk outfitted in terrifying brass armour and orders him to issue a personal challenge to the Israelites every day.

“Choose a man, let him come to me that we may fight.
If he be able to kill me then we shall be your servants.
But if I kill him then you shall be our servants.”

The plan is to demoralise the foe with psychological warfare: grind them down until they surrender. There’s no reason to believe Goliath will ever have to actually fight anybody. It’s a bit like government policy, where announcing that something is being discussed to be actioned to be carried out is exactly the same as having done the task and moved on to the next crucial problem that needed fixing immediately, if not four years ago…

Elegiac and deftly lyrical, this clever reinterpretation has literary echoes and overtones as broadly disparate as Raymond Briggs and Oscar Wilde and, as it gently moves to its grimly inescapable conclusion, the deliciously poignant, simplified line and sepia-toned sturdiness of this lovely hardback or comforting paperback (unfortunately no digital edition yet!) add a subtle solidity to the sad story of a monstrous villain who wasn’t at all what he seemed…

Tom Gauld is a Scottish cartoonist whose works have appeared in Time Out and the Guardian. He has illustrated such children’s classics as Ted Hughes’ The Iron Man and his own books include Guardians of the Kingdom, 3 Very Small Comics, Robots, Monsters etc., Hunter and Painter and The Gigantic Robot. I particularly recommend his cartoon collections You’re All Just Jealous of My Jetpack, Department of Mind-Blowing Theories and Baking with Kafka
© 2012, 2017 Tom Gauld. All rights reserved.

Showcase Presents The Unknown Soldier volume 1


By Joe Kubert, Bob Haney, Robert Kanigher, Archie Goodwin, Frank Robbins, David Michelinie, Irv Novick, Dan Spiegle, Doug Wildey, Jack Sparling, Gerry Talaoc & various (DC Comics)
ISBN: 978-1-4012-1090-2 (TPB)

Digital comics are a welcome miracle these days, but still painfully uninspired and under provided for as regards certain genres. I’m not sure if it’s the platforms or the publishers who are at fault, but I do know that an incredible wealth of superb comics material – most of it in proven genres such as war or humour – remains locked in paper when it could be reaching new audiences at the push of a button. Here’s an absolute gem from DC’s venerable combat annals that can still be readily acquired in its physical form at least…

After the death of EC Comics in the mid-1950’s and prior to the game-changing Blazing Combat, the only guaranteed place to find powerful, controversial, challenging and entertaining American war comics was DC. In fact, even whilst Archie Goodwin’s stunning but tragically mis-marketed quartet of classics were waking up a generation, the home of Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman was a veritable cornucopia of gritty, intriguing and beautifully illustrated battle tales presenting war on a variety of fronts and from many differing points of view.

When the Vietnam War escalated, 1960’s America entered a home front death-struggle pitting deeply-ingrained establishment social attitudes against a youth-oriented generation with a radical new sensibility. In response DC’s (or rather National Periodical Publishing, as it then was) battle books became even more bold and innovative…

This stunning monochrome compendium – collecting the lead feature from issues #151-188 (June-July 1970 to June 1975) of the veteran Star-Spangled War Stories anthology features one of the very best concepts ever devised for a war comic: a faceless, nameless hero perpetually in the right place at the right time, ready, willing and oh, so able to turn the tide…

The Unknown Soldier was actually a spin-off: having first appeared as a one-off in a Sgt. Rock story in Our Army at War #168 (June 1966, by Robert Kanigher & Joe Kubert).

In 1970, the artist had become editor of the company’s war division and was looking for a new (American) cover/lead character to follow the critically acclaimed “Enemy Ace” tales of a WWI German fighter pilot. Hans von Hammer had been summarily bounced to the back of the book after issue #150 and as Superheroes faded in popularity in favour of more traditional genres, Kubert wanted a striking new hero to front one of DC’s oldest war titles.

Written and drawn by Kubert ‘They Came Back from Shangri-La!’ introduced a faceless super-spy and master-of-disguise whose forebears had fought and died in every American conflict since the birth of the nation. Set in 1942 here, he took on the identity of B-25 pilot Capt. Shales as he participated in vital, morale-building retaliatory bombing raids on Japanese cities. When their plane is shot down over occupied China, “Shales” leads his crew through enemy-infested territory to the safety of the Chinese resistance…

From this no-nonsense start, the feature grew to be one of DC’s most popular and long-lived: with issue #205 Star-Spangled became The Unknown Soldier in 1977 and the comic only folded in 1982 with issue #268.

One intriguing factor in these tales is that there is very little internal chronology: the individual adventures take place anytime and anywhere between the bombing of Pearl Harbor and the surrender of Germany and Japan. This picaresque approach adds a powerful sense of both timelessness and infallible, unflinching continuity. The invisible man known only as The Unknown Soldier has always and will always be where he is most needed…

His second adventure ‘Instant Glory!’ finds a US patrol captured by the SS as they enter a German city in 1944. An excoriating examination of brutality, heroism and philosophy, this story sets the hard-bitten, bitter-edged tone for the rest of the series.

Always economy-conscious and clever with scissors and glue, DC reformatted a number of old stories at this time, particularly old westerns and mystery stories so it should be no surprise that they would try the same thing with their newest star.

‘Everybody Dies’ was retooled into a new offering via a framing sequence drawn by Kubert, but the body of the tale was originally seen as ‘A GI Passed Here’ (illustrated by Irv Novick in Star-Spangled War Stories #36). In its revamped form, the saga recounts a grim 24 hours in the life of anonymous Eddie Gray as he survives just one more day in the deserts of Nazi-held Africa.

The Unknown Soldier got a full origin in #154’s ‘I’ll Never Die!’, recounting how two inseparable brothers join up in the days before America was attacked and are posted to the Philippines just as the Japanese begin their seemingly unstoppable Pacific Campaign. Overwhelmed by a tidal wave of enemy soldiers, the brothers hold their jungle posts to the last and when relief comes only one has survived. His face is a tattered mess of raw flesh and bone…

As the US forces retreat from the islands, the indomitable survivor is evacuated to a stateside hospital. Refusing medals, honours and retirement, the recuperating warrior dedicates his remaining years to his lost brother Harry and determinedly retrains as a one man-army intelligence unit. His unsalvageable face swathed in bandages, the nameless fighter learns the arts of make-up, disguise and mimicry before offering himself to the State Department as an expendable resource that can go anywhere and do anything…

All DC’s titles were actively tackling the issue of race at this time and #155’s ‘Invasion Game!’ (written by Bob Haney) sees the Soldier parachuted into France in Spring 1944 to connect with the Underground’s mysterious leader “Chat Noir”. Sent to finalise the plans for D-Day, he is horrified to discover the enigmatic commander is a disgraced black US Army sergeant with a grudge against his old country. Chat Noir was too good a character to waste and became a semi-regular cast member…

Haney was on top form for the next epic too. ‘Assassination’ details the Immortal G.I.’s boldest mission and greatest failure as he impersonates but cannot destroy Hitler himself, after which that aforementioned Sgt. Rock classic by Kanigher & Kubert is recycled as an untitled but deeply moving yarn for Star-Spangled War Stories #157. Haney & Kubert then reunited for ‘Totentanz!’ as the faceless warrior breaks into a top security concentration camp to rescue a captured resistance leader.

General George S. Patton is the thinly-veiled subject of ‘Man of War’ as Unknown Soldier is dispatched to investigate a charismatic general who has pushed his own troops to the brink of mutiny, before ‘Blood is the Code!’ finds him captured and tortured by a Japanese Colonel until he snaps: revealing every secret America wants the enemy to know…

Doug Wildey illustrated Haney’s superb ‘The Long Jump’ as the Soldier infiltrates occupied Holland, only to meet more resistance from a stubborn, misguided Dutchman than all the Nazis hunting for the faceless spy, after which ‘Take My Coward’s Hand’ recycles 1960 Sgt. Rock story ‘No Answer from Sarge’ (by Kanigher & Kubert from Our Army at War #91) and ‘Kill the General!’ – by Haney & Dan Spiegle – pits the Man of a Thousand Faces against Nazi infiltrators determined to assassinate General Eisenhower at the height of the Battle of the Bulge.

‘Remittance Man!’ in #164 has the anonymous warrior replace a legendary spotter on an occupied Pacific island, directing Allied attacks on Japanese strongholds, after which Jack Sparling came aboard as artist in ‘Witness for a Coward’. Here, a US tank commander sentenced to death for desertion is saved by the testimony of a Nazi Officer – but only after he is abducted from his HQ by the Immortal G.I., after which a debt of honour has to be repaid…

Bill Mauldin’s legendary wartime dogfaces “Willie and Joe” (see assorted Up Front collections for further details) pay an unannounced visit in #166’s ‘The True Glory’ when the Unknown Soldier travels to Italy to find out what is holding up the advance in Haney’s last offering…

Archie Goodwin steps in to script ‘Three Targets for the Viper!’ wherein the faceless man hunts an assassin set on killing Churchill, Roosevelt and De Gaulle during a conference in 1943 Morocco. We jump to France in 1944 next, and a close encounter with an American officer determined to make a name for himself at any cost in ‘The Glory Hound!’

Goodwin’s tenure saw a stronger concentration on espionage drama, as with issue #169’s ‘Destroy the Devil’s Broomstick!’ which finds the Immortal G.I. infiltrating a compound where Hitler’s latest secret weapon is being built, after which the Soldier stands in for an irreplaceable Marine Major and captures an impregnable island fortress in ‘Legends Don’t Die!’

‘Appointment in Prague!’ offers a rare and tragic glimpse into the Unknown Soldier’s past as he follows the aged actor who taught him mastery of make-up and impersonation into Nazi-occupied Czechoslovakia to rescue a grandson thought long dead, after which scripter Frank Robbins took over, moving the action to the Eastern Front in ‘A Cocktail For Molotov!’ wherein Nazis pull out all the stops to destroy Russia’s charismatic foreign Minister before he concludes a treaty with the Allies.

Star-Spangled War Stories #173 finds the G.I. infiltrating a Japanese Submarine base disguised as a Nazi wrestler invited to an exhibition match against a Sumo master. ‘No Holds Barred!’ proves that,, although allies, Japanese and Germans weren’t exactly friends…

‘Operation Snafu!’ begins an extended storyline as it found him impersonating a German tank-commander and forced to sacrifice his own Resistance allies in order to complete a mission vital to the Allied advance, whilst ‘A Slow Burn… From Both Ends!’ offers him the chance to make amends and #176’s ‘Target: The Unknown Soldier!’ ramps up the tension as the Nazis discover a way to identify the faceless warrior no matter how he is disguised…

With Von Sturm – his deadly Nazi counterpart – on his trail, the Unknown Soldier stirs up ‘The Hornet’s Nest!’ and is hunted and hounded towards a concentration camp where inmates work as slaves to construct V1 rockets. Trapped, with the net closing around him, he replaces one of the jailers but Von Sturm is determined to deliver ‘The Sting of Death!’ in a spectacular climactic duel to the death…

Star-Spangled War Stories #179 focuses on the aftermath of his close escape when the Soldier stumbles into ‘A Town Called Hate!’ where racial tensions between white and black G.I.s has devolved into tit-for-tat murders. Unfortunately, whilst disguised as a member of an SS infiltration squad, he can only exacerbate the situation. With the Germans about to deliver a devastating counter-attack, it’s a good thing the long-missing Chat Noir is also on hand…

‘The Doomsday Heroes!’ despatches the anonymous agent to the Leyte Gulf where Japanese suicide attacks have halted the US advance. However, before he can begin his mission, he is shot down and forced to work with a failed Kamikaze pilot to survive the cruel Pacific seas…

After that tragedy of honour the mission continues with ‘One Guy in the Right Place…’ as the Soldier links up with natives fighting Japanese invaders. Disturbingly, they are led by an unseen American who sounds like the brother he lost in the first days of the war. Can Harry have survived all these years…?

Robbins and Sparling bowed out with a classy mini-classic in Star-Spangled War Stories #182. Set in Tunisia, ‘A Thirst for Death!’ sees the Soldier and a crew of veterans on the sandy trail of Rommel’s hidden petrol reserves, after which new kids David Michelinie & Gerry Talaoc herald a change of direction with ‘8,000 to One’.

The horror boom in comics was at its peak in 1974 and new editor Joe Orlando capitalised on that trend with a few startling changes – the most controversial being to regularly reveal the Unknown Soldier’s grotesque, scar-ravaged face – presumably to draw in monster-hungry fear fans…

The story itself harks back to the Immortal G.I.’s earliest days as an American agent; sent to Denmark to rescue a ship full of Danish Jews destined for Hitler’s death camps. Disguised as SS Captain Max Shreik, the Soldier is forced to make an unconscionable choice to safeguard his mission. The degree and manner of graphic violence also exponentially increases to accommodate a perceived more mature readership as the Soldier takes a very personal revenge…

‘A Sense of Obligation’ places the cold, remorseless warrior in France, tasked with infiltrating a Special Kommando Training Centre and destroying it from within. However, as with all undercover work, the risk of going too deep and making friends who you might have to kill later inevitably leads to another tragic life or death decision for the increasingly grim and soulless Soldier, whilst ‘The Hero’ finds the faceless man invading neutral Switzerland to kidnap a British scientist held by Nazis. This time, his lethal final judgement costs him no sleep at all…

In ‘Man of God… Man of War’ (#186) a Catholic Priest duped into working with the Nazis in Italy becomes the Soldier’s latest target, but the plan is forestalled and a shocking situation revealed and rectified after ‘A Death in the Chapel’.

This imposing, impressive and thoroughly entertaining first volume concludes with Star-Spangled War Stories #188 and ‘Encounter’ as the Unknown Soldier strives to prevent the scuttling of a hospital ship by Nazis, unaware that his only ally is in love with the enemy commander…

Dark, powerful, moving and overwhelmingly ingenious, The Unknown Soldier is a magnificent addition to the ranks of extraordinary mortal warriors in an industry far too heavy with implausible and incredible heroes. These tales will appeal to not just comics readers but all fans of action fiction, and one day will make it to TV or movies and blow us all away all over again…
© 1970, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1974, 1975, 2006 DC Comics. All rights reserved.

Papyrus volume 3: Tutankhamun, the Assassinated Pharaoh


By Lucien De Geiter, coloured by G. Vloeberghs & translated by Luke Spear (Cinebook)
ISBN: 978-1-90546-084-7 (Album PB)

British and European comics have always been happier with historical strips than our American cousins (a pugnacious part of me wants to say that’s because we have so much more past to play with – and yes, I know they’re responsible for Prince Valiant, but he’s an exception, not a rule).

Our Franco-Belgian brethren in particular have made an astonishing art form out of days gone by. The happy combination of familiar exoticism, past lives and world-changing events blended with drama, action and especially broad humour has resulted in a genre uniquely suited to enchanting readers of all ages and tastes. Don’t take my word for it – just check out Asterix, Adèle Blanc-Sec, The Towers of Bois-Maury, Iznogoud or Thorgal to name but a few which have made it into English, or our own much missed period classics such as Olac the Gladiator, Dick Turpin, Janus Stark, Heros the Spartan or Wrath of the Gods; all far too long overdue for collection in archival form, I might add…

Papyrus is the magnificent magnum opus of Belgian cartoonist Lucien de Gieter. He first saw the light of day in 1974 in legendary weekly Le Journal de Spirou, running to 35 albums thus far, as well as a wealth of merchandise, a television cartoon show and a video game.

De Gieter was born in 1932 and studied at Saint-Luc Art Institute in Brussels before going into industrial design and interior decorating. He made the jump into sequential narrative in 1961, first through ‘mini-récits’ (fold-in, half-sized-booklets) inserts for Spirou, starring his jovial little cowboy ‘Pony’, and later by writing for art-star regulars such as Kiko, Jem, Eddy Ryssack and Francis. He then joined Peyo’s studio as inker on Les SchtroumpfsAKA The Smurfs – and took over the long-running newspaper strip Poussy .

In the 1960s, De Gieter launched South Seas mermaid fantasy Tôôôt et Puit whilst Pony was promoted to the full-sized interior pages of Spirou, deep-sixing the Smurfs gig to expand his horizons working for Le Journal de Tintin and Le Journal de Mickey.

From 1972-1974 De Gieter assisted cartooning legend Berck on Mischa for Germany’s Primo, whilst applying the finishing touches to his dream project: a historical confection which would occupy his full attention and delight millions of fervent fans for the next forty years…

The annals of Papyrus encompass a huge range of themes and milieus, blending Boys’ Own adventure with historical fiction and interventionist mythology, gradually evolving from traditionally appealing “Bigfoot” cartoon style and content towards a more realistic, dramatic and authentic iteration. The journey came through light fantasy romps leavened and flavoured with the latest historical theories and discoveries and starring a fearlessly forthright boy fisherman favoured by the gods to become a hero of Egypt and friend to Pharaohs…

As a youngster the plucky “fellah” was blessed by the gods and given a magic sword courtesy of the daughter of crocodile-headed Sobek, and the lad’s initial task was to free supreme god Horus from imprisonment in the Black Pyramid of Ombos: thereby restoring peace to the Double Kingdom, but his most difficult and never-ending duty was to protect Pharaoh’s wilful, high-handed and safety-averse daughter Theti-Cheri – a princess with an unparalleled gift for seeking out trouble…

Now available digitally as well as in traditional paperback album format, Tutankhamun, the Assassinated Pharaoh was the third Cinebook translation – 17th in the series and originally released in 1994 as Toutânkhamon, le Pharaon assassiné. The sand and sandals mystery skilfully blends fact and fantasy into a strange and disturbing tale of grave robbery, unquiet ghosts and madness…

It all begins with a squabble between the Mayor of the City of the Dead and his equivalent civil servant for the City of Thebes. The vast, desolate region of imperial tombs, sepulchres and lesser burials is being systematically ransacked by blasphemous thieves and, whilst the aforementioned Executive of the Interred Paur claims the sacrilegious raids must be the work of roving Bedouins, Thebes’ Mayor Paser posits that the vile defilers’ knowledge of the holy sites indicates they must be Egyptians… perhaps even some of Paur’s workers or tomb guards…

Bored with the interminable bickering, Theti-Cheri drags Papyrus and court jester Puin away, demanding they join her father’s lion hunt in the deep desert. Amidst the hustle and bustle, the jolly dwarf is left behind and forced to frustratingly follow on his astoundingly smart donkey Khamelot.

Naturally, this leads to him being attacked by the self-same decrepit man-eater Pharaoh is trying to eradicate, but as Puin frantically flees the hungry cat he sees chariot-borne scout Papyrus save a fellah from brutal grave guards. The grateful peasant is a plant, however, and secretes a golden tomb treasure on the boy hero before knocking him out…

When Papyrus comes to, he is surrounded by soldiers and accused by Paur’s captain Rhama of tomb-robbing. A crowd of suspiciously overly-incensed citizens even try to stone him to death and Pharaoh has no choice but to have the boy imprisoned for trial. However, before the doughty lad can gather his wits, Paur attempts to assassinate the boy hero with snakes and then kidnaps him from his temple cell, hiding his drugged, unconscious form in a secret access shaft to the grave of tragic boy king Tutankhamun

Falling through into the tomb proper, Papyrus’ spirit is suddenly accosted by the ghost of Ankhsenamun and discovers from Tutankhamun’s beloved child-bride how his own peasant great-grandfather played a major role in their tragic romance and the brief, complex reign of the murdered Boy-King…

As Papyrus learns the incredible, unpalatable truth about the legendary ruler’s fate, in the physical world Puin – and Khamelot – have informed Theti-Cheri of the plot. The impetuous Princess rushes to the site and subsequently traps herself in the tomb whilst gold-crazed Paur’s men close in to murder everybody who knows of the Mayor of the City of the Dead’s perfidy. However, the blasphemous bandits have not reckoned on Pharaoh’s cunning perspicacity or a certain donkey’s loyal ingenuity…

This astounding, amazing adventure will thrill and enthral fans of fabulous fantasy – although some of the finer points of Pharaonic marriage customs might distress fainter-hearted parents and guardians – and De Gieter’s clever merging of archaeological revelation with gothic romance and ghost story make for a particularly impressive treat…

Papyrus is a brilliant addition to the family-friendly pantheon of continental champions who marry heroism and humour with wit and charm, and anybody who has worn out those Tintin, Asterix or Lucky Luke volumes would be wise beyond their years in acquiring all these classic chronicles. Even smarter would be publisher Cinebook finally releasing the rest of the translated canon before much more sand passes through the hourglass…
© Dupuis, 1994 by De Gieter. All rights reserved. English translation © 2009 Cinebook Ltd.

Giant


By Mikaël, translated by Matt Maden (NBM)
ISBN: 978-1-68112-253-3 (HB) eISBN: 978-1-68112-254-0

As a purported land of promises and untapped opportunity, America has always fascinated storytellers – especially comics-creators – from the “Old World” of Europe: an inclination and interest that has frequently delivered potent and rewarding results. This continentally-published yarn – by self-taught, multi-disciplined, multi award-winning French-born Québécois auteur Mikaël (Junior l’Aventurier, Rapa Nui, Promise) was first released by Dargaud in 2018 as two European albums and now breaks into English via a monolithically oversized hardback (229 x 305mm) edition that gets the entire story done-in-one.

Everything about this stylish Depression-era drama is big and powerfully mythic. In March 1932, with poverty wracking the nation and the world, and Herbert Hoover dreading the upcoming Presidential election, immigrants and natives flock to Manhattan and the bustling, dangerous construction site that will one day be Rockerfeller Center. Casualties are high as we focus on the Irish contingent rushing daily into the skies to rivet and weld a concrete and steel colossus into New York City’s ever-changing skyline.

The story unfolds through the eyes of fresh-off-the-boat new recruit Dan Shackleton who joins the crew after the death of “high-steel” man Ryan Murphy. Dan is a garrulous, easy-going son-of-the-sod, but even he has difficulty befriending the taciturn, thoughtful, barely-human behemoth everyone calls Giant. A formidable worker, Giant lives in a grubby flop-house and keeps to himself, but affable Dan persists and eventually the big man almost-imperceptibly thaws – at least enough that Shackleton becomes unwitting witness to a strange ritual…

Hiding a tragic secret that dates back to the recent Irish War of Independence, the Big Man is a solitary creature of fiercely controlled passions who keeps his every opinion to himself. A dutiful worker, Giant was given the task of informing Murphy’s widow in Ireland when he died. Instead, he began impersonating the dead man in a string of letters containing the bulk of his own carefully-hoarded wages and savings. Over months, a bizarre one-sided relationship develops that metastasizes into a full-blown crisis after the silent bruiser falls foul of organised crime. When the letters and money stop, Mary Ann Murphy and her children take ship for America to be reunited with her beloved husband. As the wounded colossus recuperates, he has no idea of the troubles that are heading his way…

Tapping into a wealth of powerful socially-crusading movies that have immortalised pre-WWII America and packed with period detail and mythology, pungent political commentary, a broad cast of moving characters and timeless drama, this is a human-scaled tale playing out amongst mighty edifices – both human and architectural – with warmth, passion, humour and beguiling humanity.

Supplemented with an Introduction by Jean-Louis Tripp and a stunning selection of production sketches, covers and other art, Giant is a stunning saga of uncommon folk in perilous times and one no lover of grand stories could possibly resist.
© 2018 Dargaud-Benelux. © 2020 NBM for the English Translation. All rights reserved.

Giant is scheduled for UK release April 23rd 2020 and is available for pre-order now.
Most NBM books are also available in digital formats. For more information and other great reads go to NBM Publishing at nbmpub.com.