We love our comics in America, but they are traditionally white guys in tights beating up scientists, guys in stripy shirts, robots or dinosaurs from the future.
In the UK, comics developed in a much more creative way. Comics were printed in anthology titles such as Lion, SMASH! or Valiant, leaving creators only a few pages at best to establish their characters, set up a conflict and resolve it. For some reason, this lit a fire under the artists who delivered Robot Archie, Master of Escape Janus Stark and The House of Dollmann (a mad scientist who solves crimes with an army of self-animated dolls… long before the movie franchise Doll Man).
The comics were such a wild hit that they resonated with readers, influencing writers that still embody the mad creativity of these comics, including Neil Gaiman and Grant Morrison.
Creators Leah Moore (Watchmen creator Alan Moore‘s daughter) and John Reppion have been working together for a few years now (creating Wild Girl for Wildstorm and Raise the Dead, a hot zombie comic for Dynamite Press) and have already built themselves quite a reputation.
They worked with Alan Moore to use these characters that had lapsed into obscurity for a kind of revival similar to the original idea behind the Watchmen mini-series way back when.
The result is the six part series Albion. In the world of Albion, all of the mad characters of youth were real. The government used one of their own, a super-inventive action mad named Spider to track down and capture them all, removing the colorful comic strip characters from the world and depositing them in a high security prison.
When main character Danny finds comics that should not exist and a cartoon villain being incarcerated, he thinks that he’s going mad. Only after meeting a strange young goth named Penny does he discover that he is not far off.
It’s not him that is mad, it’s the world he lives in. Soon he is involved in an elaborate jailbreak involving other cartoon characters that should not be real and an army of doll people.
The series is impeccably drawn by Shane Oakley (Mister X, Deadline, Negative Burn) and George Freeman (wasteland, Captain Canuck), often providing ‘flashbacks’ to the comic strips of yesteryear. The art itself is stark and eerie, providing an air of doom and unease in the series that is undercut by the colorful comic strip characters struggling to be free from their prison.
The Albion mini-series has spun off into two mini-series with more planned on their way.
Dave Gibbons and John Higgins’ Thunderbolt Jaxon and Garth Ennis and Colin Wilson’s Battler Britton are already out and a worthy purchase in trade paperback form.
Reading these comics, you can feel the love and joy of the creators shining through. It’s infectious, too! Even after reading comics all day, I can’t wait to see what new comics come from using this mad wonderful world of characters.