Pep Digital #22: Arrrchie’s Buried Treasure


By George Gladir, Dan Parent, Fernando Ruiz, Kathleen Webb, Bob Bolling, Mike Pellowski, Angelo DeCesare,Rex Lindsey, Dan DeCarlo, Henry Scarpelli, Jeff Shultz, Dexter Taylor, Pat Kennedy & various (Archie Comics)
No ISBN: digital only

Since his debut in Pep Comics #22 (cover-dated December 1941) Archie Andrews has epitomised good, safe, wholesome cartoon fun, but the company that now bears his name has always been a deviously subversive one. Family-friendly iterations of superheroes, spooky chills, sci fi thrills, licensed properties and genre yarns of every stripe have always been as much a part of the publisher’s varied portfolio as the romantic comedy capers of America’s clean-cut teens.

As initially realised by John L. Goldwater and Bob Montana, the first escapade set the scene and ground rules for decades to come Archie has spent his entire existence chasing both the gloriously attainable Betty Cooper and wildly out-of-his-league debutante Veronica Lodge, whilst best friend Jughead Jones alternately mocked and abetted his romantic endeavours and class rival Reggie Mantle sought to scuttle every move…

Crafted over time by a veritable legion of writers and artists who’ve skilfully created the stories of teenage antics in and around the idyllic, utopian small town of Riverdale, these timeless tales of decent, upstanding, fun-loving kids have captivated successive generations of readers and entertained millions worldwide both on comic pages and in other media such as film, television, radio, newspaper strips, music and even fast food.

To keep all that accumulated attention riveted, the company has always capitalised on contemporary trends with which to expand upon their archetypal storytelling brief. In times past they have cross-fertilised their stable of stars through unlikely team-ups like Archie Vs. Predator, whilst every type of fashion fad and youth culture sensation has invariably been incorporated and explored within the pages of the regular titles. The gang has been reinvented and remodelled numerous times, even stepping outside the parameters of broad comedy to offer dramatic – albeit light-hearted – “real-world” iterations of the immortal cast of characters and clowns…

The company the idiot built is celebrating a major anniversary this December, so here’s a chance to revel in Archie’s unique madness with a bucket of yarns primarily sparked by the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise, but which also finds room for a few golden oldies and classic romps on the theme of Corsairs and Privateers. This lot are all electronically cached by pirates of the airwaves commandeering a little of your time and attention for a digital-only experience. Enjoy International Talk Like a Pirate Day 2021, me buckos…

The madness begins without fanfare as the gang all go Gung Ho for the latest movie fad: dressing up for film fun and daydreaming personal period peril in ‘Pirates Ahoy’ as originally seen in Archie & Friends #87 (February 2005) courtesy of George Gladir, Rex Lindsey & Rich Koslowski.

Veronica #171 (August 2006) featured ‘One Man’s Treasure’ by Dan Parent & Jim Amash, with the star stuck rich kid finding actual buried (and cursed) loot on a film shoot but caring only about impressing hot star Johnny Dredge. Boy, does she!

‘Treasure Quest’ comes from Tales of Riverdale Digest #9 (April 2006): an Archie & Friends charmer by Fernando Ruiz & Al Nickerson, with Archie and Reggie completely fooled by an advertising flyer that looks like a treasure map. Cue signature chaos and catastrophe…

‘Soul Mates’ from Betty & Veronica #151 (September 2000 by Kathleen Webb, Dan DeCarlo and Henry Scarpelli) then pictures the Caribbean-vacationing teens as freebooting female furies, but still unable to curtail their legendary rivalry.

The Adventures of Little Archie #21 (Winter 1961-1962) then stands and delivers a classic mystery yarn by the brilliant Bob Bolling as ‘Pirates’ sees the mischievous kid exposed to a strange gas carried by an old weirdo on a bus – yes; much, much simpler times – that somehow lands him a stagecoach en route to the 18th century and his own pressganging.

Condemned to be a cabin boy on Blackbeard’s ship, he is present at the deadly sea battle between the wicked rogue and valiant naval hero Captain Morgan

Crafted at a time when kids were considered smarter and not made of porcelain, this is a grand romp blending action, suspense and humour in perfect balance, followed by a more modern take as (sadly uncredited) Little Jughead vignette ‘The Mystery Treasure’ from Jughead’s Double Digest #152 (September 2009) sees Arch and his ever hungry pal uncover a haunted chest, whilst Archie Giant Series Magazine #583 (September 1988, by Bolling & Mike Esposito) pits the juvenile lead in solo action against time-travelling arch nemesis Mad Doctor Doom who seeks buried loot from 1743 in ‘Close Scrape in Barnacle Bay’

‘Treasure Trove’ (Laugh #7, June 1988, by Gladir, Bolling & Esposito) then offers a fantasy lay with The Mighty Archie Art Players re-enacting an undying rivalry between righteous Cap’n Booty (Archie) and piratical Cap’n Skull (Reg) on the high(larious) seas, after which Veronica #180 (July 2007) refocused on romance in ‘An Old Story’ as Ronnie’s bookshop binge unearths a saucy bodice-ripper that sets her imagination racing before ‘Digging for Buried Treasure’ (Betty & Veronica #163, August 2001 by Gladir, DeCarlo & Alison Flood) sees the lasses reminiscing – and speculating – about their childhood games at the beach.

In Betty & Veronica Spectacular #55 (September 2002) Angelo DeCesare, Parent & Jon D’Agostino bring supernatural romance and comedy capers in two-parter ‘Teen Spirit’ as the girls become the obsession of a piratical spook who’s been a horny teen since his death centuries ago. Things turn ugly when he decides to get rid of rivals Archie and Reggie and drastic steps need to be taken…

Archie Comics Digest #235 (August 2007) revisited ‘Pirates Ahoy!’ courtesy of Pellowski, Scarpelli & D’Agostino as another movie (this one starring Jon E. Depth) provokes poolside nightmares for our red rascal, Ronnie enjoys a ‘Treasured Moment’ (Veronica #175, December 2006 by Pellowski, Parent & Amash) after pinch-hitting for Betty and reading pirate stories to little kids. one last brace of gold comes with ‘Festival Time’ (Betty & Veronica #256, December 2011 by Gladir, Jeff Shultz & Amash) as high school eco-club Green Girls organises a fundraiser celebrating women pirates like Annie Bonnie or Ching Shih, only to lose their men to thieving flirty rivals before we hit the far shore with ‘Scene in Public’ (Archie Comics Digest #259, January 2010 by Pellowski, Pat Kennedy & Amash) as Archie, Jughead and Reggie literally patronise a pirate-themed diner on their way to a sporting event in full supporters’ garb…

Daftly delightful, these arrr ideal example of classic comics fun: brilliant gems no Funnybook Fan or Crafty Corsair would care to share. Enjoy your spoils and bask in the knowledge that some treasures can really be yours alone.
© 2012 Archie Comic Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.

Clifton volume 2 The Laughing Thief


By De Groot & Turk, translated by Luke Spear (Cinebook)
ISBN: 978-1-905460-07-4 (Album PB)

For some inexplicable reason most of Europe’s comics cognoscenti – most especially French and Belgians – seem fascinated with us Brits. Maybe it’s our shared heritage of Empires lost and cultures in transition? An earlier age would have claimed it’s simply a case of “Know your Enemy”…

Whether we look at Anglo air ace Biggles, indomitable adventurers Blake and Mortimer, the Machiavellian machinations of Green Manor or even the further travails of Long John Silver, the serried stalwarts of our Scepter’d Isles cut a dashing swathe through the pages of the Continent’s assorted magazines and albums.

And then there’s Clifton

Originally devised by child-friendly strip genius Raymond Macherot (Chaminou, Les croquillards, Chlorophylle, Sibylline) for iconic magazine Le Journal de Tintin, this doughty True Brit troubleshooter first appeared in December 1959. After three albums worth of material – compiled and released between 1959 and 1960 – Macherot quit Tintin for arch-rival Le Journal de Spirou leaving his eccentric comedic crime-fighter to flounder until LJdT revived him at the height of the Swinging London scene, courtesy of Jo-El Azaza & Greg (Michel Régnier).

Those strips were subsequently collected as Les lutins diaboliques in French and De duivelse dwergen for Dutch-speakers in 1969.

Then it was back into retirement until the early 1970s when writer Bob De Groot and illustrator Philippe “Turk” Liegeois revived Clifton for the long haul, producing ten tales of which this – Le voleur qui rit – Clifton (from 1973) – was their second collaboration.

From 1984 on, artist Bernard Dumont – AKA Bédu – limned De Groot’s scripts; eventually assuming the writing chores as well, persevering until the series ended in 1995. In keeping with its rather haphazard nature and typically undying nature, the Clifton experience resumed once again in 2003, crafted by De Groot & Michel Rodrigue in four further adventures; a grand total of 26 to date.

The setup is deliciously simple: pompous and irascible Colonel Sir Harold Wilberforce Clifton, ex-RAF, former Metropolitan Police Constabulary and recently retired from MI5, has a great deal of difficulty dealing with being put out to pasture in rurally bucolic Puddington. He thus takes every opportunity to get back in the saddle, occasionally assisting the Government or needy individuals as an amateur sleuth.

Sadly for Clifton – as with that other much-underappreciated national treasure Captain Mainwaring in Dad’s Army – he is convinced that he is usually the only truly competent man in a world full of blithering idiots…

In this second translated album from 2005, the Gentleman Detective is embroiled in not one but two uncanny incidences, beginning with eponymous epic ‘The Laughing Thief’ wherein the still much-missed lawman rather forcefully inserts himself into a current case baffling Scotland Yard.

London is wracked by devilishly clever crimes executed with infallible precision by a crack crew of blaggers, but the profits of each caper seem far below what such expert criminals should be bothering with. Moreover, each perfectly executed heist is preceded by a telephone warning from a braying braggart with the most annoying and distinctive laugh imaginable…

These felons are incredibly bold and arrogant. Even after Clifton intervenes in the second robbery, the scoundrels easily outwit him, leaving the dapper sleuth unconscious with dozens of other peculiarly proud and strangely supportive victims…

Moreover, although police “higher-ups” welcome Clifton’s help, officer-in-charge Lieutenant Hardfeeling doesn’t want the show-stealer around and is doing all he can to impede the Colonel’s investigations, despite protests from senior colleagues and the bobbies on the beat…

Nevertheless, persistence is its own reward, and when Clifton finally deduces the true reasons for the publicity-seeking crime-spree, the resultant confrontation is spectacularly satisfying and hilariously rewarding…

Being British and an ex-spy, Clifton has hung on to the odd gadget or two, such as an amazingly tricked out umbrella which plays a major part in this volume’s second tale ‘The Mystery of the Running Voice’. A suspenseful spooky yarn, it begins when the unhappy pensioner meets old comrade Donald McDonald Muckyduck, who appears to have worn out every vestige of verve and is on the verge of a nervous breakdown…

Close consultation reveals that the former Police Inspector is being haunted by a robber ghost; one that has already claimed six victims. However, upon viewing crime scene photos Clifton gains an inkling into how the trick is done and temporarily moves to sedate and sedentary village Flatfish-on-Apron, setting himself up as bait for a diabolical genius with a penchant for clever gimmicks…

Visually spoofing Swinging Sixties London and staidly stuffy English Manners with wicked effect, these gentle thrillers are big on laughs but also pack loads of consequence-free action into their eclectic mix. Delightfully surreal, instantly accessible and doused with daft slapstick à la Jacques Tati and intrigue like Margaret Rutherford as Miss Marple, this brace of romps rattle along in the grand old tradition of Will Hay, Terry-Thomas and Alistair Sim – or Wallace and Gromit if you’re of a later generation – offering splendid fun and timeless laughs for all.
Original edition © 1973 Le Lombard (Dargaud-Lombard S. A.) 1988 by De Groot & Turk. English translation © 2005 Cinebook Ltd.

Iznogoud and the Magic Carpet (volume 6)


By Goscinny and Tabary (Cinebook)
ISBN: 978-1-84918- 044-3 (Album PB)

For the greater part of his too-short lifetime (1926-1977), René Goscinny was one of the most prolific and most-read writers of comic strips the world has ever seen. He still is.

Among his most popular comic collaborations are Lucky Luke, Le Petit Nicolas and, of course Asterix the Gaul, but there were so many others, such as the dazzling, dark deeds of a dastardly usurper whose dreams of diabolical skulduggery perpetually proved to be ultimately no more than castles in the sand…

Scant years after the Suez crisis, the French returned to the hotly contested deserts as Goscinny teamed with sublimely gifted Swedish émigré Jean Tabary (1930-2011) – who numbered Richard et Charlie, Grabadu et Gabaliouchtou, Totoche, Corinne et Jeannot and Valentin le Vagabond amongst his hit strips – to detail the innocuous history of imbecilic Arabian (im)potentate Haroun el-Poussah. However, it was the strip’s villainous foil, power-hungry vizier Iznogoud who stole the show – possibly the conniving imp’s only successful coup.

Les Aventures du Calife Haroun el Poussah was created for Record; with the first episode appearing in the January 15th1962 issue. A minor hit, it subsequently jumped ship to Pilote – a comics magazine created and edited by Goscinny – artfully refashioned into a starring vehicle for the devious ratbag who had increasingly been hogging all the laughs and limelight.

Like all great storytelling, Iznogoud works on many levels: as a comedic romp with adorably wicked baddies invariably hoisted on their own petards and coming a-cropper for the youngsters, whilst older, wiser heads revelled in the pun-filled, witty satire of marvellously accessible episodic comic capers.

The same magic formula had made its more famous cousin Asterix a global success, and just like the saga of the indomitable Gaul, this irresistibly addictive Arabian nitwit is adapted by master translators Anthea Bell & Derek Hockridge who made those Roman Follies so very palatable to the English tongue.

Moreover, the deliciously malicious whimsy is always heavily laden with manic absurdity and brilliantly delivered creative anachronism which keeps the assorted escapades bizarrely fresh and inventive.

Insidious antihero Iznogoud is Grand Vizier to affable, easy-going Haroun Al Plassid, Caliph of Ancient Baghdad, but the sneaky little toad has loftier ambitions, or as he is always declaiming “I want to be Caliph instead of the Caliph!”…

The retooled series launched in Pilote in 1968, and soon became a massive European hit, with 30 albums to date (carried on by Tabary’s children Stéphane, Muriel and Nicolas); his own solo comic, computer games, animated films, a TV cartoon show and even a live-action movie.

When Goscinny died in 1977 Tabary began scripting his own sublimely stylish tales (from 13th album onwards), switching to book-length complete adventures, rather than the compilations of short, punchy vignettes which typified the collaborations.

There haven’t been any new translated volumes since 2017, but this sixth Cinebook album (actually the ninth French album, released in 1973 as Le Tapis Magique) is now available in digital formats and opens with lead tale ‘The Magic Carpet’: an exceptional, extended 20-page epic bolstered by a triumvirate of shorter yarns and prefaced as ever with a handy catch-up profile page of the unusual suspects…

It all starts in gloriously bustling Baghdad where the verminous Vizier unaccountably encounters a few famous faces (moonlighting from their day jobs in Le Journal de Tintin) before returning to plotting how to remove the gentle, isolated and very dim obstacle to power …

It’s the birthday of corpulent oaf Haroun Al Plassid and a nasty notion finally occurs: employing impecunious Fakir Khaledonyahn to make a very special kind of rug. Flying carpets are no big deal in the empire and the skies of Baghdad are crammed with them, but the Fakir’s are extraordinary…

They only travel one way. Anybody standing on one of these when the trigger word is pronounced takes a flight to who-knows-where and never returns…

Who-knows-where is actually Ancient Peking (you can say Beijing if you want) and soon the venerably inscrutable and imperturbable citizens there are having their legendary patience and implacability tested as rug after rug arrives because untrusting Iznogoud continually demands proof of concept before parting with cash. Meanwhile, the gullibly hapless Caliph can’t get the hang of the magic word his trusted advisor wants him to repeat…

This sharply convoluted pun-punctuated yarn is followed by a sneaky dose of inspired iniquity dubbed ‘Incognito’. The well-meaning Caliph has no idea of the dire depredations Iznogoud inflicts upon the populace in his name, or that his beloved people fear, despise and revile the Caliphate because of excessive taxes, prisons filled with tortured citizens and schools empty of children. When chimerically inquisitive Haroun Al Plassid decides to go out amongst the populace in all his regal splendour, he is disappointed and surprised to find the streets utterly deserted by the terrified common folk…

Asking his precious Iznogoud for advice, the Commander of the Faithful is then convinced to sneak out alone dressed as a common beggar. Unable to believe his luck, the venal Vizier quickly briefs bumbling, long-suffering crony Wa’at Alahfand orders the guards to throw into the deepest dungeon any beggars who approach the palace.

On his fact-finding mission, the shabby Caliph learns a lot he doesn’t like and determines to fix things as soon as he gets back. Unfortunately, being a newcomer in his own city he gets lost…

Soon Iznogoud is going insane with suspense. Al Plassid should be back and languishing in jail by now, but as long as he’s out there somewhere the coup cannot begin. Thus, the despot-in-waiting and his fatuous flunky are forced to disguise themselves as beggars, covertly creeping out into Baghdad to search for their missing lord.

In the meantime, the Caliph has the brilliant notion of asking for directions and shambles home just as the Guard is being changed. Nobody even notices the scruffy indigent who shambles back to his apartments and becomes again The Caliph. Down in the city the tired and frustrated plotters give up and head for home, just as the order to arrest all beggars becomes law…

Sheer broad slapstick-riddled farce is the secret ingredient of the perfectly paced saga of ‘The Tiger Hunt’ when Iznogoud convinces his boss to go for a low key safari – just him, the Vizier and faithful Wa’at Alahf, all armed with bows and blunt arrows – to bag the perfect bedside rug.

Typically, the murder plot goes hideously awry as a succession of hunters provide perfectly suitable, already skinned rugs to the happy ruler and the only living apex predators they can find are just not interested.

Forced to improvise, Iznogoud resorts to digging a huge pit, but whilst he’s at the bottom of it Haroun at last finds a way to really tick off a tiger – just before it tumbles into a great big hole in the ground…

The manic mirth concludes with ‘The Box of Souvenirs’ as a visitor from distant Nippon visits Baghdad with a strange device. Judoka Karate is a destitute tourist whose incredible hand-held cube can turn solid objects into two-dimensional pictures.

Instantly sensing an opportunity Iznogoud – after much spirited dickering – acquires the mystic souvenir-maker, but hasn’t fully considered the details. To turn a jug, jewel or Caliph into a black-&-white image, the object has to be the proper distance from the lens and the subject absolutely must keep completely still for a minute or two.

Confident he can cope, the Vizier has utterly underestimated the Caliph’s mayfly attention span and ingrained vanity which has led to large mirrors being placed all over the palace…

Just such witty, fast-paced hi-jinks and craftily crafted comedy set pieces have made this addictive series a household name in France where “Iznogoud” is common term for a certain type of politician: over-ambitious, unscrupulous – and frequently not that tall.

When first released in Britain in the 1970s (and again in 1996 as a periodical comic book) these tales made little impression, but this snappy, wonderfully beguiling strip deserves an appreciative audience among today’s more internationally aware, politically jaded comics-and-cartoon savvy Kids of All Ages…
Original edition © Editions TABARY 1991, by Goscinny & Tabary. All rights reserved. This edition published 2010 by Cinebook Ltd.

Connective Tissue


By Bob Fingerman (Fantagraphics Books)
ISBN: 978-1-60699-143-5 (HB)

The always innovative and entertaining Bob Fingerman (Minimum Wage; Recess Pieces; Bottomfeeder; Garbage Pail Kids; Scooby Doo) turned his post-modern attentions to the burgeoning sector of illustrated novellas (picture books for grown-ups) with this classy, sassy and wickedly beguiling blend of Alice in Wonderland, Stranger in a Strange Landand Clerks – with just a dash of Allan Moyle’s hugely underrated 1995 movie Empire Records peppering the mix.

There’s a whole other class of people in the world: eternally young, worldly-wise and yet unaccountably innocent. They dress oddly, know cool but useless things, don’t care about pension plans or job security and work only to live their outside lives. They are the disaffected tribe who work for minimum wage in the odd corners of modern retail: record stores, non-chain book shops, computer games stores, comic shops…

They’re not an underclass, just a different one.

Darla Vogel earns her living at Kwok’s Video rental store. As a cool and rudely healthy chick in a venue that attracts a lot of loners, weirdoes and social no-hopers, she often finds herself the object of fumbling attention and unwanted gifts. One particular night when she gets home she finds herself abducted via a poster on her wall into a disturbing new universe: bleakly undulating, slightly skewed, grossly organic and filled with far too much of the wrong kind of nakedness. Darla wants to go home…

Fingerman takes a classic plot with a much funnier, feistier heroine, adds a dollop of queasy otherworldliness, peppers it all with dry wit and an avalanche of contemporary references – everything from celebrity gossip to comic – before adding his own subversively funny tone-and-wash illustrations (a delightful remembrance of the best Mad Magazine pages) to produce a runaway delight for full-grown childish lovers of the outré and outrageous.

Get it: it’s yummy scrummy!
© 2009 Bob Fingerman. All rights reserved.

Showcase Presents Wonder Woman volume 1


By Robert Kanigher, Ross Andru & Mike Esposito & various (DC Comics)
ISBN: 978-1-4012-1373-2 (TPB)

Until DC finally get around to republishing and digitally releasing their vast untapped comic treasures, I’m reduced to recommending some of their superb past printed glories whenever I feel like celebrating a key anniversary of the world’s preeminent female superhero who first caught the public’s attention in October 8 decades ago…

Wonder Woman was created by polygraph pioneer William Moulton Marston – apparently at the behest of his remarkable wife Elizabeth and their life partner Olive Byrne. The vast majority of the outlandish adventures were limned by classical illustrator by Harry G. Peter. She debuted in All Star Comics #8 (cover-dated December 1941) before gaining her own series and the cover-spot in new anthology title Sensation Comics a month later. She was an instant hit, and won her own eponymous title in late Spring of that year (Summer 1942).

Using the nom de plume Charles Moulton, Marston & Co scripted all the Amazing Amazon’s many and fabulous exploits until his death in 1947, whereupon Robert Kanigher took over the writer’s role. The venerable H.G. Peter continued until his own death in 1958. Wonder Woman #97 – in April of that year – was his last hurrah and the discrete end of an era.

This first cheap and cheerful monochrome Showcase collection covers what came next: specifically issues #98-117, spanning May 1958-October 1960.

With the notable exception of Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman and inoffensive back-up B-listers Aquaman and Green Arrow (plus – arguably – Johnny Quick, who held on until December 1954 and cowboy crimebuster Vigilante who finally bit the dust a month earlier), costumed heroes died out at the beginning of the 1950s, replaced by a plethora of merely mortal champions and a welter of anthologised genre titles.

When after almost no time at all, Showcase #4 rekindled the readership’s imagination and zest for masked mystery-men with a new iteration of The Flash in 1956, the fanciful floodgates opened wide once more. As well as re-imagining Golden Age stalwarts such as Green Lantern, The Atom and Hawkman, National/DC consequently updated all its hoary survivors such as the aforementioned Emerald Archer and Sea King. Also included in that revitalising agenda were the company’s High Trinity: Man of Steel, Caped Crusader and the ever-resilient Princess of Power…

Artists Ross Andru & Mike Esposito had debuted as cover artists 3 issues earlier, but with opening inclusion Wonder Woman #98 they took over the entire comic book as Robert Kanigher reinvented much of the old mythology and even tinkered with her origins in ‘The Million Dollar Penny!’ when goddess Athena visits an island of super-scientific immortal women, informing Queen Hippolyta that she must send an emissary and champion of justice to crime-ridden “Man’s World.”

Declaring an open competition for the job, the queen isn’t surprised when her daughter Diana wins and is given the task of turning a penny into a million dollars in a day – all profits going to children’s charities, of course…

Just as the new Wonder Woman begins her coin chore, American airman Steve Trevor bails out of his malfunctioning jet high above the magically hidden isle, unaware that should any male set foot on Amazon soil the immortals would lose all their powers. Promptly thwarting impending disaster, Diana and Steve team up to accomplish her task, encountering along the way ‘The Undersea Menace’ before building ‘The Impossible Bridge!’

Issue #99 opened in similar bombastic fashion with ‘Stampede of the Comets!’ as Trevor is lost undertaking a pioneering space mission and Wonder Woman goes to his rescue thanks to incredible Amazon engineering ingenuity. After foiling an alien attack against Earth, the reunited lovers return in time for the introduction of the Hellenic Heroine’s new covert identity as Air Force Intelligence Lieutenant Diana Prince in ‘Top Secret!’ – beginning a decade of tales with Steve perpetually attempting to uncover her identity and make the most powerful woman on Earth his blushing bride, whilst his bespectacled, glorified secretary stands unnoticed, exasperated and ignored right beside – or slightly behind – him…

The 100th issue was a spectacular battle saga commencing with ‘The Challenge of Dimension X!’ and an alternate Earth Wonder Woman competing with the Amazing Amazon for sole rights to the title: all culminating with a deciding bout in ‘The Forest of Giants!’, whilst ‘Wonder Woman’s 100th Anniversary!’ deals with the impossibility of capturing the far-too-fast and furious Amazon’s exploits on film for Paradise Island’s archives…

‘The Undersea Trap!’ opened #101, with Steve tricking his “Angel” into agreeing to marry him if she has to rescue him three times in 24 hours (just chalk it up to simpler times, or you’ll pop a blood vessel, OK?) after which the odd couple are trapped by a temporal tyrant in ‘The Fun House of Time!’

Steve’s affection and wits are tested by an alien giant in ‘The Three Faces of Wonder Woman’ when he’s forced to pick out his true love from a trio of identical duplicates to save the world in #102, before ‘The Wonder Woman Album’ returns to the previously explored “impossible-to-photograph” theme in #103, but devotes most space to sinister thriller ‘The Box of Three Dooms!’ wherein the murderous Gadget Maker attempts to destroy the Amazon with a booby-trapped gift.

‘Trial By Fire’ pits Diana Prince against a host of deadly traps only Wonder Woman could survive after which ‘Key to Deception!’ closes #104 by reintroducing Golden Age villain the Duke of Deception as a militaristic Martian marauder in a gripping interplanetary caper.

Issue #105 debuted Wonder Girl in the ‘Secret Origin of Wonder Woman’, revealing how centuries ago the gods and goddesses of Olympus bestowed unique powers on the daughter of Queen Hippolyta and how – as a mere teenager – the indomitable Diana brought the Amazons to Paradise Island. Continuity – let alone consistency and rationality – were never as important to Kanigher as strong story or breathtaking visuals, and this eclectic odyssey is a great yarn that simply annoyed the heck out of a lot of fans… but not as much as the junior Amazon would in years to come…

Second feature ‘Eagle of Space’ is a more traditional tale of predatory space Pterodactyls and a dinosaur planet where Steve and Diana lend a civilising hand to the indigenous caveman population.

‘The Human Charm Bracelet!’ in #106 sees Wonder Woman battling an unbeatable extraterrestrial giant who wants Earth for his plaything, and her younger self encounters a chameleonic lass in ‘The Invisible Wonder Girl!’

The high fantasy adventures of the junior heroine clearly caught somebody’s fancy as they started coming thick and fast: ‘Wonder Woman – Amazon Teen-Ager!’ opened #107 as the youngster finds a romantic interest in merboy Ronno, undergoing a quest to win herself a superhero costume, whilst her adult self is relegated to a back-up battle against ‘Gunslingers of Space!’

‘Wanted… Wonder Woman!’ features Flying Saucer aliens framing our heroine for heinous crimes as a precursor to a planetary invasion and ‘The Stamps of Doom!’ offers a plot by another murderous inventor to kill the Princess in #108, before the next issue steps back in time to feature ‘Wonder Girl in Giant Land’ with the nubile neophyte easily overcoming ambush by colossal aliens. Her mature self is represented by ‘The Million Dollar Pigeon!’ wherein gangsters think they’ve found a foolproof method of removing the Amazing Amazon from their lives…

Wonder Woman #110 was a full-length saga with the indomitable warrior maid searching Earth for a missing alien princess in ‘The Bridge of Crocodiles!’ If the wanderer can’t be found, her concerned family intend laying waste the entire planet…

In #111, ‘The Robot Wonder Woman’ commissioned by gangsters provides no competition for the genuine article, whilst ‘Battle of the Mermen!’ sees Wonder Girl drawn into a sub-sea rumble between competing gangs of teenaged fish-boys…

The youthful incarnation led off the next issue. ‘Wonder Girl in the Chest of Monsters!’ takes the concept to unparalleled heights of absurdity as, in contemporary times, a heroic girl is rewarded with three Amazon wishes and travels back in time for an adventure with Wonder Woman’s younger self, whilst #113 return to relatively straight action with ‘The Invasion of the Sphinx Creatures!’ with the Adult Amazon battling the ancient weapons of a resurrected Pharoah-Queen, before ‘Wonder Girl’s Birthday Party!’ recounts how each anniversary event seems to coincide with geological disaster, mythological menace or uncanny event…

Aliens once more attack in #114’s ‘The Monster Express!’, turning parade balloons into ravening monsters until Diana and Steve intercede, after which ‘Wonder Girl’s Robot Playmate!’ demonstrate how hard it is growing up special…

Old enemy Angle Man returns revamped for the Silver Age in #115’s ‘Graveyard of Monster Ships!’ whilst ‘Mer-Boy’s Undersea Party!’ proves that above or below the waves Wonder Girls just don’t want to have fun, whilst in #116 both Ronno and Young Diana prove capable of serious heroism in ‘The Cave of Secret Creatures!’, before the Adult Amazon finally stops a millennial menace to mankind in ‘The Time -Traveller of Terror!’

This initial enchanting epistle concludes with Wonder Woman #117 wherein ‘The Fantastic Fishermen of the Forbidden Sea!’ revive Golden Age stars Etta Candy and the Holliday Girls – in modernised, marginally less offensive incarnations – for a fantastic tale of aquatic invaders before Amazon time-travel techniques allow the impossible to occur when ‘Wonder Girl Meets Wonder Woman!’… or do they?

By modern standards these exuberant, effulgent fantasies are all-out crazy, but as examples of the days when less attention was paid to continuity and concepts of shared universes and adventure in the moment were paramount, these outrageous romps simply sparkle with fun, thrills and sheer spectacle.

Wonder Woman is rightly revered as a focal point of female strength, independence and empowerment, but the welcoming nostalgia and easy familiarity of these costumed fairy tales remain a delight for all open-minded readers with the true value of these exploits being the incredible quality of entertainment they provide.
© 1958-1960, 2007 DC Comics, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Deitch’s Pictorama


By Kim, Simon & Seth Kallen Deitch (Fantagraphics Books)
ISBN: 978-1-560979-52-4 (TPB)

There may be something to this DNA stuff. Eugene Merril “Gene” Deitch (August 8th 1924-April 16th 2020) was a revered, Oscar-winning animator, filmmaker and cartoonist who worked on or created timeless classics like Popeye, Tom & Jerry, Munro, Tom Terrific and Nudnik, whilst his first son Kim has been at the forefront of comics’ avant-garde since the days of the Counter Culture and “underground commix” scene. Kim’s brothers Simon and Seth Kallen have both made their mark in the popular creative arts. Then again, maybe it’s simply growing up exposed to open-minded creativity that makes exemplary artists and artisans…

In this classic collaborative venture the Deitch boys crafted a graphic narrative oddity that is both compelling and utterly captivating. Cunningly combining heavily illustrated prose, comics, calligraphy, illustrative lettering, cartooning and plain old strips, the five tales herein contained blend into a tribute to the versatility of illustrated storytelling in all its variations.

It begins more-or-less traditionally with ‘the Sunshine Girl’: a potent and beguiling paean to bottle caps and the all-consuming collecting bug, promptly followed by intriguing prose-ish fantasy, ‘The Golem’. This salutary account in turn leads into the disturbing ‘Unlikely Hours’, and whimsical shaggy (talking) dog story ‘Children of Aruf’.

Wisely leaving the very best until last, the Picto-fictorial fun concludes with the superbly engaging and informative semi-autobiographical ‘The Cop on the Beat, the Man in the Moon and Me’: a particular treat for anyone interested in the history of comics and popular music.

Naturally I’ve been as vague as I can be, because this is a book that revels and rejoices in storytelling, with half the artistry and all the joy coming from reading it for yourself, so – as long you’re an older reader – you should do just that.
© 2008 Gene, Kim, Seth Kallen and Simon Deitch. All Rights Reserved.

 

 

Bogart Creek volume 2


By Derek Evernden (Renegade Arts Entertainment)
ISBN: 978-1-98890-390-3 (PB) eISBN: 978-1-98890-397-2

Welcome to September, start of Autumn and notionally a season of mellow fruitfulness. Sod all that though, let’s kick off with some much-needed hearty chuckles, thanks to a second helping of quirkily Canadian observational comedy…

Cartoonist Derek Evernden has a skewed, devious way of looking at the world and its many potentialities; probably the result of growing up in a small, quiet, very pleasant place. Everyone knows early and repeated exposure to that kind of environment twists your brains…

You know that old line about writing/drawing what you know? Evernden grew up in actual Bogart Creek, Ontario, so let’s all hope at least some of this stuff is just made up, right? He’s Canadian, so must be polite and sympathetic, but clearly, he’s also the other sort of Canadian: someone with a lot to laugh at, plenty of time to take notice and probably perfused with that slow-burning, ever-mounting rage everyone gracious and well-mannered has boiling inside, because of the nonsense the rest of us get up to…

Bogart Creek is a daily single panel gag delivered in a variety of artistic styles; viewing the world – especially popular culture – with a mordant, cruelly satirical eye. It deftly delivers charmingly rendered and seditious examples of how reality actually operates, through popular themes like murder, philosophy, crime, history, vengeance, psychiatry, cryptozoology and the natural world. Think of it as a school for smirking realists…

Like all of us, Evernden is a child of mass-culture, inspired by movies, fashion, sports, popular culture, the media and anything else passing strangers might discuss at a water cooler or bus stop in deference to social convention…

The strip is also hopelessly mired in painful punning on a mega “dad-joke” scale; absurdist revelation and surreal slapstick. The creator has mastered the art of wedding funny notions to effective dialogue and efficient, smart cartooning. Evernden proudly admits his debt to and influence of Gary Larson’s The Far Side, but he can’t keep blaming that poor guy for all of this new stuff in this second collection of infectious, debased hilarity…

On prominent display here are monochrome and full-colour japes and jests concerning home-schooled surgeons, morgue sports, school days, lab animals, manufacturing and the job market, animal amusements, protesting, historical moments, fat-shaming, driving, monsters, inventors, bucket lists and Christmas. There’s also a frighteningly large number of gags aimed at (and scoring palpable hits on) superhero, sci fi and horror movies, balanced by a delightful concentration on the sheer arbitrary lunacy of modern life…

Smart, inventive, cruelly witty, instantly addictive and cheekily outrageous, this is a collection (in paperback or digital editions) to restore any weary adult in need of tension release and a therapeutic schadenfreude. We’ve all been proverbially up the creek before, but at least now you have a jolly tome to paddle back to reality with.
Cover illustration, book design and cartoons all © 2020 Derek Evernden. All rights reserved.

 

Sock Monkey Treasury: A Tony Millionaire’s Sock Monkey Collection


By Tony Millionaire (Fantagraphics Books)
ISBN: 978-1-60699-696-6 (HB)

Tony Millionaire loves to draw and does it very, very well: referencing classical art, classic children’s book illustration and an eclectic mix of pioneering comic strip draughtsmen like George McManus, Rudolph Dirks, Cliff Sterrett, Frank Willard, Harold Gray, Elzie Segar and George Herriman. These influences, styles and sensibilities he seamlessly blends with the vision of European engravings masters from the “legitimate” side of the pictorial storytelling racket. The result is eye-popping

Born Scott Richardson, he especially cites Johnny (Raggedy Ann and Andy) Gruelle and English illustrator Ernest H. Shepard (The Wind in the Willows, Winnie the Pooh) as definitive formative influences.

He has a variety of graphical strings to his bow – such as his own coterie of books for children like the superbly stirring Billy Hazelnuts series; animation triumphs and the brilliant if disturbing weekly strip Maakies – which describes the riotously vulgar and absurdly surreal adventures of an Irish monkey called Uncle Gabby and his fellow über-alcoholic and nautical adventurer Drinky Crow. They are abetted but never aided by a peculiarly twisted, off-kilter cast of reprobates, antagonists and confrontational well-wishers. However, those guys are the mirror universe equivalents of the stars of this sublime confection, gathering many past glories in one huge (286 x 203mm), sumptuous 336-page hardback – 80 in full colour. It collects twelve uniquely dark and fanciful multiple award-winning, all-ages adventures originally published as occasional miniseries between 1998 and 2007 by Dark Horse Comics. Also included are the two-colour hardcover storybooks Millionaire created in 2002 and 2004. Should you prefer, the tome is also available in digital editions.

In a Victorian House – of variable shape and size – by the sea, an old Sock Monkey named Uncle Gabby has great adventures and ponders the working of a wonderful yet often scary world. His constant companion is a small cuddly-toy bird with button eyes. Mr. Crow doesn’t understand why he cannot fly and sometimes eases his sorrow with strong spirits.

Their guardian is a small girl named Ann-Louise, and many other creatures living and artificial share the imposing edifice…

The gloriously imaginative forays into the fantastic begin as the material monkey is chased through the house by marauding toy pirates in their bombastic brigantine. In his flight, Uncle Gabby espies a gleaming, glittering glass concoction hanging from the ceiling. Convinced something so beautiful must be the Promised Land, he enlists his artificial avian pal to help him enter ‘Heaven’. Sadly, the pirates have not given up and the chaos soon escalates…

‘Borneo’ describes the pair’s discovery of a shrunken human head and subsequent heroic oceanic odyssey to return the decapitated talisman to its home. Of course, if they had thought to unseal the sewn-shut lips, he could have told them they were going in the wrong direction…

The next tale is a macabre all-action thriller which begins when a lost bat gets stuck in the attic ‘Dollhouse’. Mr. Crow, meanwhile, is attempting to console freshly widowed Mrs. Smalls in the cellar. Things go even more savagely awry when the faux crow and well-meaning matchmaker Monkey seek to introduce the grieving mouse to the strapping, winged stranger, utterly unaware of his pedigree as a South American Rodent-Eating Bat…

Knick-knacks, trinkets and ornaments have been going missing in the next tale, and Ann-Louise attributes the thefts to ‘The Trumbernick’ who lives in the Grandfather clock. Having mislaid his hipflask, Mr. Crow investigates and finds the horde of goodies, in truth purloined by a capricious Blue Jay…

Disillusioned by the death of a beloved myth and disheartened by the antics of a venal – and extremely violent – bird, they are subsequently stunned to see an actual Trumbernick return, righteously enraged at the blow to his spotless reputation…

In ‘The Hunters’, stuffed bird and Sock Monkey – inspired by a room full of trophies and stuffed beasts – decide to take up the sport of slaughter. All too soon they find that their size, relative ineffectuality and squeamishness – not to mention the loquacity and affability of their intended prey – prove a great impediment to their ambitions…

Millionaire proves the immense power of his storytelling in ‘A Baby Bird’, as Uncle Gabby’s foolish meddling with a nest – after being specifically told not to – results in tragedy, with brutal self-immolating repercussions that would make King Lear quail…

The author abandoned masterful pen-&-ink etching style for soft mutable charcoal rendering in ‘The Oceanic Society’, wherein excitable doll Inches unknowingly performs an act of accidental cruelty at the shore: inviting the vengeance of many outraged sea creatures against the inhabitants of Ann-Louise’s house…

An innocent attempt by the little girl and Mr. Crow to find Uncle Gabby a romantic companion goes hideous wrong and results in monstrous ‘Heartbreak’ when they throw away his actual true love and replace her with a ghastly mechanical monkey horror. The bereft puppet can then only find surcease in escalating acts of hideous destruction…

In 2002 Millionaire took his characters into a whimsical watercolour wonderland with “a Populare Pictonovelette” hardback entitled ‘The Glass Doorknob’. The beguiling tale is included here in a series of full-colour plates supplemented by blocks of text, describing how the house dwellers once saw an indoor rainbow beneath a doorknob and subsequently spent all summer trying to recreate the glorious spectacle by acquiring and aligning every other item of glass, crystal or pellucid material they could find or steal…

The return to stark monochrome augurs the onset of terrifying 4-part epic ‘The Inches Incident’ which begins off the coast of Cape Ann when grizzled mariner Oyster Joe discovers thieving stowaways plundering his sailing ship.

Amidst spectacular hunts for sea monsters, those villains Uncle Gabby and Mr. Crow explain how their former friend Inches mysteriously shanghaied and dumped them at sea…

Their new ally returns them home, but upon arrival they discover that the doll has become Evil! Boldly braving the house, they discover the poor creature has been possessed by an inconceivable horror which drives them off and provokes a fantastic sea voyage to find the devil’s only nemesis…

This staggering, bleakly charming compendium closes with an existential treat from 2004. Coloured by Jim Campbell, ‘Uncle Gabby’ was another one-shot hardback – albeit in standard comics format – which offered a few revelatory indulgences on the puppet heroes’ poignant origins, all wrapped up in a baroque bestiary and imaginative travelogue as Sock Monkey discloses his shocking ability to un-name things and thereby end their existences…

Visually intoxicating, astoundingly innovative and stunningly surreal, Sock Monkey yarns judiciously leaven wonder with heartbreak and gleeful innocence with sheer terror. Millionaire describes them as for “adults who love children’s stories” and these tall tales all offer enchanting pictorial vistas and skewed views of the art of storytelling that no fan of comics or fantasy could ever resist.
Sock Monkey Treasury © 2014 Tony Millionaire. This edition © 2014 Fantagraphics Books.

Yakari and the Beavers


By Derib & Job, translated by Erica Jeffrey (Cinebook)
ISBN: 978-1-905460-09-0 (Album PB)

Children’s magazine Le Crapaud à lunettes was founded in 1964 by Swiss journalist André Jobin who then wrote for it under the pseudonym Job. Three years later he hired fellow French-Swiss artist Claude de Ribaupierre AKA “Derib”. The illustrator had launched his own career as an assistant at Studio Peyo (home of Les Schtroumpfs/The Smurfs), working on strips for venerable weekly Le Journal de Spirou.

Together at Le Crapaud à lunettes, Derib & Job created the splendid Adventures of the Owl Pythagore before striking pure comics gold a few years later with their follow-up collaboration.

Derib – equally au fait with enticing, comically dynamic “Marcinelle” cartoon style yarns and devastatingly compelling meta-realistic action illustrated action epics – went on to become one of the Continent’s most prolific and revered creators. It’s a crime that groundbreaking strips such as Celui-qui-est-né-deux-fois; Jo (the first comic ever published dealing with AIDS); Pour toi, Sandra and La Grande Saga Indienne) haven’t been translated into English yet, but we still patiently wait in hope and anticipation…

Many of Derib’s stunning works over the decades feature his cherished Western themes; magnificent geographical backdrops and epic landscapes. Yakari is considered by fans and critics to be the strip which first led him to deserved mega-stardom.

Debuting in 1969, Yakari follows the life of a young Oglala Lakota boy on the Great Plains; set sometime after the introduction of horses by the Conquistadores but before the coming of modern Europeans.

The series – which has generated two separate TV cartoon series and a movie release – has achieved 40 albums: a testament to the strip’s evergreen vitality and brilliance of its creators, even though originator Job has moved on and Frenchman Joris Chamblain assumed the writer’s role in 2016.

Overflowing with gentle whimsy and heady compassion, young Yakari enjoys a largely bucolic existence: at one with nature and generally free from privation or strife. For the sake of our delectation, however, the ever-changing seasons are punctuated with the odd crisis, generally resolved without fuss, fame or fanfare by a little lad who is smart, brave… and can – thanks to the boon of his totem guide the Great Eagle – converse with all animals…

Published in 1977, Yakari chez les castors became the third European album, released as the strip grew in prominence and popularity. A year after, the feature began running in Le Journal de Tintin, subsequently spawning two animated TV series (1983 and 2005), all the usual merchandising spin-offs and achieving monumental global sales in 17 languages to date.

Yakari and the Beavers opens in summer as the nomadic Sioux make camp at a confluence of rivers. The children are playing, testing their strength, speed and archery skills, but with burly Buffalo Seed winning most of the honours – and the fascinated attention of pretty Rainbow – physically less-developed Yakari soon slopes off to cavort with his faithful and forthright pony Little Thunder.

As they romp and swim in the river, they encounter a strange wooden construction ranging from bank to bank and unexpectedly arouse the ire of an excitable beaver named Thousand Mouths. He is the impatient and irascible foreman of a band of buck-toothed brethren, determined to finish the family home in record time, but his fellows are far less enthusiastic…

When one – Linden Tree – spots the palomino, it starts a stampede of rodents who would all rather ride horses than chew timber and move mud. Soon, while they’re all goofing around, their boss is going ballistic and a wise old beaver is teaching a rapt Yakari everything he needs to know about dam-building…

After more idle days in camp, Yakari’s thoughts return to the beavers. Before long he and Little Thunder are heading back to the dam, but are distracted by an astonishing noise. Tracing it, they discover extremely ambitious beaver Double-Toothfar from the river, attempting to chew down a colossal tree all alone…

This eager beaver confides his dreams of being a sculptor, but their conversation is curtailed when a bad-tempered grizzly bear wanders up, menacing little straggler Wild Rose. With the ursine interloper clearly not amenable to reason, Yakari drives the surly brute off with a rough-hewn jousting lance rapidly gnawed into shape by Double-Tooth’s flashing gnashers…

On escorting the kits back to the river, Yakari is astounded to see the progress made in the wood-and-mud abode and delighted to be asked to help. In actual fact most of the assistance comes from hard-pressed Little Thunder who reluctantly becomes the engine transporting trees and saplings from the woods to the river…

Returning late to camp, Yakari is observed by Rainbow who wants to know what her friend is up to. Next morning, she invites herself along as they return to the Beaver Lodge and cannot understand why, in the midst of listening to the hairy toilers chattering, Yakari spurs his pony away and races away.

Mounted behind him she listens incredulously as the boy explains that little Linden Tree is missing and then makes him backtrack to the really important bit. Yakari understands and can talk to all birds and beasts…

Racing downriver the children are soon joined by Yakari’s totem animal, sagacious Great Eagle, who provides a telling clue to the lost beaver’s whereabouts. However, after daring subterranean depths, the little brave eventually finds his lost friend but is himself trapped. Happily, the artistic skills of late-arriving Double-Tooth prove invaluable in devising a climbing device and soon everybody – even utterly bemused Rainbow – are all celebrating back at the Lodge.

With things back to normal the irrepressible, frustrated artist corners Yakari for one last secret project. Some days later, the busy beavers are stunned to see Double-Tooth’s river-borne aesthetic magnum opus poled into the lee of the dam by the proud Yakari…

The exploits of the valiant little brave who can speak with animals and enjoys a unique place in an exotic world is a decades-long celebration of joyously gentle, moving and inexpressibly entertaining adventures honouring and eulogising an iconic culture with grace, wit, wonder and especially humour.

These gentle sagas are lost treasures of kids’ comics literature and Yakari is a series no fan of graphic entertainment should be without.
Original edition © 1977 Le Lombard/Dargaud by Derib + Job. English translation 2005 © Cinebook Ltd.

Farewell, Brindavoine


By Tardi, translated by Jenna Allen (Fantagraphics)
ISBN: 978-1-68396-433-9 (Album HB)

Credited with creating a new style of expressionistic illustration dubbed “the New Realism”, Jacques Tardi is one of the greatest comics creators in the world, blessed with a singular vision and adamantine ideals. A strident anti-war activist, he apparently refused France’s greatest honour because he wanted to be completely free to say and create what he wants.

Tardi was born in the Commune of Valence, Drôme in August 1946 studying at École Nationale des Beaux-Arts de Lyon and subsequently the prestigious Parisian École Nationale Supérieure des arts Décoratifs. He launched his comics career in 1969 at the home of modern French comics Pilote, with the series we’re looking at today first seen in 1972-1973.

From illustrating stories by Jean Giraud, Serge de Beketch and Pierre Christian, he moved on to westerns, crime tales and satirical works in magazines such as Record, Libération, Charlie Mensuel and L’Écho des Savanes all whilst graduating into adapting prose novels by Louis-Ferdinand Céline and Léo Malet.

The latter’s detective Nestor Burma was the subject of all-new albums written and drawn by Tardi once the established literary canon was exhausted, leading to the creation of Polonius in Métal Hurlant (1976) and the now-legendary Les Aventures Extraordinaires d’Adèle Blanc-Sec – an epic period fantasy adventure which ran in the daily Sud-Ouest. The series numbers ten volumes thus far and inhabits the same pocket reality as the star of this tome.

The passionate creator has crafted many crushingly powerful anti-war books and stories (C’était la guerre des tranchées, Le trou d’obus, Moi René Tardi, prisonnier de guerre au Stalag IIB and other) dealing with the common soldier’s plight; written novels, created radio series, worked in movies, and co-created – with writer Jean Vautrin – Le Cri du Peuple: a quartet of albums about the Parisienne revolt of the Communards.

Far too few of this French master’s creations are available in English (barely a dozen out of more than fifty) but, thanks to NBM, iBooks and Fantagraphics, we’re catching up.

This lavish full-colour hardback (also available digitally) began life as Adieu Brindavoine, with its obscure yet complex Victoriana, shady political intrigues, dastardly plutocratic plotters and cast-iron-&-clockwork chic, leading to Tardi being proclaimed in later years the Godfather of Steampunk. His surreally-structured absurdist episodes and incidents – strung together in an almost stream-of-consciousness mode – work best on the visual perceptions with dialogue used only to ensure clarity or bemuse perception…

Following a context-supplying appreciation in Benoít Mouchart’s Preface, we begin in Neuilly-Sur-Seine in May 1914, as an aged messenger braves the cluttered and controversial home of gentleman photographer Lucien Brindavoine. Surly Basil Zarkhov has a startling – and potentially life-changing – proposition, but is gunned down by a skylight-shattering intruder before he can share it. However, thanks to his deathbed exposition, Lucien is soon heading by steamship for Istanbul, and another risky meeting…

Constantly encountering strikingly odd individuals, he is soon unwillingly partnered with effetely obnoxious intoxicated Englishman Mr. Oswald Carpleasure and hurtling across the desert towards Afghanistan in a battered motor vehicle. In their immediate future is a fantastic lost city, but the sinister gunman is in hot pursuit and wicked Olga Vogelgesang is determined to destroy them with her deadly state-of-the-military-art biplane…

After much privation and bewilderment, Lucien finally reaches the lost Iron City and is greeted by the orchestrators of many of his woes. Learning of an incredible plutocratic plot affords him little comfort, but before long the baroque devils in nominal charge fall upon each other like deranged wolves, enabling, if not compelling Brindavoine to flee in the most advanced passenger craft in the world…

Thanks to a breaking world war, he doesn’t get far…

Following the tale’s conclusion, a compelling comic epilogue from a previously unseen narrator (think Rocky Horror Show) deviously adds to the confusion by “explaining” what’s happened and Lucien’s ultimate fate before introducing a thematic follow-up.

‘Lambs to the Slaughter’ is set in November 1914 with deserters from all the armies involved holing up in a shattered church. Plagued by visions of perfect pasts and potential tomorrows, they are completely unprepared for when the mad military of today finds them…

Bizarre, visually resplendent, darkly funny, evocative and deliciously challenging, Farewell, Brindavoine is a comic tour de force on every level and a sublime example of how fashion, fantasy and futurism can work miracles when woven together by a master craftsman.
This edition of Farewell, Brindavoine © 2021 Fantagraphics Books, Inc. Adieu Brindavoine © 2011 Casterman. Translation © 2021 Jenna Allen. Preface © 2021 Benoít Mouchart. All rights reserved.

Farewell, Brindavoine is physically released on August 26th 2021 and available for pre-order. Digital editions can be purchased now.