The “Godfather of British comics” introduces new heroes and universes in anthology comic.
I grew up on comic books and science fiction. The comic books I grew up on, though, were basically the US ones. I was a big Marvel fan. What I didn’t know is that there was also a vital British comics scene. Sure, I knew about Captain Britain, but that was an Americanized idea of a British superhero.
What I didn’t realize was that across the ocean in the UK there was a whole universe of real British comic books. Pat Mills (known as “the godfather of British comics”) was a pioneer in that field. I’m just now getting introduced to him and that world, through is upcoming release Spacewarp I’m definitely interested in digging deeper after reading this tome because I’m hooked.
Spacewarp is coming out in digital form later this month. There is a print edition slated for the fall. I was a bit confused by the fact that while the cover is, of course, in color, the interior is black and white when I thought that it was exclusively digital. The fact that it would reduce the cost on a print edition seems to be one possible reason for doing it in black and white. The other reason I can come up with is that it calls to mind some of the classic comics of the more underground variety of the past. It’s clearly a format that is familiar to anyone who has been a fan of mags outside of the main big name comic companies.
The book is an anthology, collecting a number of very different stories. The thing is, they are all connected through an introductory section where some rather Lovecraftian beings create a myriad of alternate Earths for their own nefarious use. There are connections here and there between the stories, too. I liken that to the old television show Sliders where certain features showed up from one alternate universe to another in somewhat altered ways.
The zine introduces us to a number of characters who have various heroic roles in fighting against the horrors of their particular universe. I’m reminded to a large degree of the classic science fiction anthology comic book, Heavy Metal. The dark tone and adventurous story-telling seem in line with that zine. Spacewarp, at least for this edition, steers clear of some of the more adult content that the comparison might suggest. I’d land this somewhere between the more mainstream comics and the Heavy Metal end of the spectrum.
I love the references here and there to both classic science fiction and modern culture. It’s a great way to pull the reader into the world, but also serves as a bit of giggle-inducement here and there. My personal favorite is I Sing the Body Bacteria!. I guess they figured that one would catch on as they have it available in a T-shirt and sticker on the website.
Reading a bit about the project it says that all the stories are complete, but to me the endings seem more like cliff-hangers. There is a second issue coming (they say in about six months). I am hoping they continue these stories. Also, I see potential to ultimately pull all of them together. I could see these heroes being introduced eventually attacking the real puppet-masters of the whole multiverse. In fact, I really hope that’s the direction it ultimately takes, but time will tell.
To sum it all up, this is an intriguing beginning. The art and story-telling are both top-notch. While you will likely pick out comparisons to other things you’ve read or seen on the screen, this is fresh and unique. One of the marks of a true success is when you leave the reader (or listener or viewer) wanting more. This definitely does that. I’m looking forward to getting a chance to see where it goes next. Gary Hill
Any fan of British comics will certainly need no introduction to Pat Mills. For those who don’t the words “legend” and “Godfather” are often applied, and with no hyperbole at all.
His work is prolific, varied and bold. And there is no bolder move than launching a new all-original anthology comic in today’s sadly diminished market. But if anyone can pull it off, it’s the man who launched the legendary Battle and Action Comics, and let’s not forget that perennial colossus of the UK comic world: 2000AD
My first impression is that the cover reminds me of Warhammer. Ain’t played it in years, so don’t know why- I’m guessing the cover is painted by one of their artists. Forgive me if I’m wrong. I have been up all night answering the call of rock and roll. Comics take the edge off as dawn beats down upon me.
Okay, so with much anticipation: In we go…
The first story : Speer And Loathing is textbook Mills. We are launched into a fully realised universe, bought to life by Gareth Sleightholme in which Earth is oppressed by some particularly nasty aliens- oppression, hidden rulers and the struggle against them being a recurring motive in this OG rebel’s work. It serves as an introduction to the stories that follow, and it becomes clear very quickly that a lot of thought, creativity and passion has been put into this.
We continue to explore this universe, thrust into a 1970’s Liverpool overtaken by dinosaurs where scholar turned survivalist Joe Meggido meets the delightful time-warped Dad Derda in his quest to be reunited with his family.
Always exploring the potential of the medium, Mills has a bunch of mixed media thrown in, and an accompanying website in which we can further delve into this strange new world he has built.
Incredibly worthy of note is the long list of fresh new artistic talent that has been thrust into the spotlight here, and Pat has a world class record of breaking new talent. Surely we can expect great things from the new crop here, not least Ian Ashcroft, Gareth Sleightholme ,Mike Donaldson Ade Hughes, James Newell and more, all of whom turn in impressive art, with no doubt better to come.
Hellbreaker features a tough female cop, a lawyer and Cocaine trafficer escaping from hell, and a cosmic assassin bringing Hell to Earth. Aliens, spacewarps, rebellion, dinosaurs, corrupt politicians, anti-heroes, heavy references to the injustice of Modern society and Grot Britain in particular, SpaceWarp proves that Uncle Pat has not been diminished by time, is still firing on all cylinders and still raging against the machine. Not least worthy of note is that Pat has created and written every single story in this bumper seventy page wonder, a colossal undertaking and impressive feat that to my knowledge is unprecedented in the history of comics, and a sign of a hugely fertile, sharp and imaginative mind. There is huge potential here, and a universe to explore. A huge amount of thought and Herculean effort has gone into this labor of love and no doubt there’s a strong sense of identity to this comic and a confidence in where it’s going that only a master of the medium could produce.
To my mind the best is saved until last with SF1: which gave my thrill circuits a powerful ABC warriors meets Starship troopers like buzz, and Slayer, which elaborates on the catholic churches statement that they would spread the word of Jesus and all that goes with it to new planets given the opportunity, with er…. hilarious? consequences, with all the juicy vitriol we can possibly hope for from the esteemed Mr. Mills when getting his finely sharpened teeth into one of his favourite topics. A crusade amongst the stars with distinct flavours of Nemesis the Warlock, not least due to the exquisitely intricate artwork of James Newell, making this my firm favourite.
There is literally too much to go into in detail within the word limit of this review, you simply have to check it out for yourself. If I have one criticism is that there is a LOT to get your head around, such is the ambition and scope of the comic. It certainly warrants several re-readings, which , I am sure will reward the reader with each re-visit. It is an incredibly rich and dense work spanning vast stretches of space and time, the likes of which have never been seen before.
I for one am eager to find out, and hope that it heralds a new golden age for British comics and talent. It’s unique and exciting, has something for everyone , is high concept, ridiculous and fun. This is the breath of fresh air which UK comics have long been waiting for. Go seek. Richard Torres
For more information about Spacewarp head here