Saturday, February 12, 2011

London Calling

Whenever I'm at the Bristol or Birmingham comic expos I always like to drop by the Time Bomb Comics stand to have a chat with publisher Steve Tanner and his wife Suzanne and to see what new comics they have to sell. Last October saw the company publish London Calling, an impressive 52 page graphic novel by Stephen Walsh and Keith Page. To my shame I've only just gotten around to reading it, but it was worth the wait.

Keith Page is an artist whose work I'm sure you'll all be familar with. He's been working in comics full time for 17 years and his work dates back further than that with his contributions to Starblazer and TV Comic. He's currently a regular artist on Commando, and with London Calling (and its forthcoming companion book The Iron Moon from Print Media Productions) I think he's producing the best work of his career.

The writer Stephen Walsh grew up in Dublin absorbing a diet of shows such as Doctor Who, Noggin the Nog, Steptoe and Son, and other classics and this, as he says, has possibly made London Calling "a logical outgrowth of that practice". Reading the book I can see what he means, as it's a percolation of British media and references stirred into a fascinating mixture.

This combination of references gives London Calling a strange dreamlike quality. The heroine Charlotte Corday is an agent of the French Secret Service and the story is set in post-war Britain. Or is it? And is Charlotte all she appears to be? The story takes place on a parallel world, similar to ours but completely at odds with it. Anyone can crop up, from Tony Hancock to Martian war machines to vampires in Highgate Cemetery. Charlotte receives information from Dennis the Donkey (the Muffin the Mule of this alternate Earth) via tv sets, like she was a character on Life on Mars. This can't have been an easy book to draw as the reference material alone must be immense but Keith Page tackles it marvelously and the book is a rewarding read.

It's barmy. It's brilliant. Buy it.

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