Not so long ago, the city’s comic book community were an introverted bunch. There was the odd meet-up in the upstairs rooms of pubs and gatherings within some of the city’s more established graphic arts outlets, but that was pretty much it. Now, though, with the establishment of large-scale, celebrity-backed events like next week’s Bandes Dessinées & Comics Passion festival, the nerds are out and proud. None more so than comic book author and super-fan Jonathan Ross, who’s got these tips for those looking to bulk up their collections.
‘DC Comics has finally got around to releasing a collection of “Doom Patrol” spin-off stories by British writer Grant Morrison, called “Flex Mentallo: Man of Muscle Mystery”. It’s brilliantly drawn by Scottish artist Frank Quitely, who appears to have been influenced by not only Marvel and DC, but also the British comics of DC Thomson – so his characters have a kind of superhero pose, but with faces that look like they could have come from a British comic in the ’50s or ’60s, like The Beano or The Broons.
‘Another great new collection is “American Vampire” by Scott Snyder and Rafael Albuquerque, which is so much of an alternative to the likes of “Twilight” that you’d hesitate to mention it in the same breath. It’s monstrously gruesome, with a smart story that sees vampires appearing and reappearing throughout America’s recent history. With a lot more purpose than other works of the genre, it just goes to show that there’s still a lot of clever stuff to be done in vampire fiction.
‘Also good is “Gotham Central” by Greg Rucka and Ed Brubake. It’s essentially about cops in Gotham City dealing with their day-to-day duties, but always under the shadow of Batman, who they resent for getting all the credit. So they’ve still got to deal with villains like Two Face, who’s killing their men, but at the same time they’re going through the normal cop stuff, with Batman occasionally placed as a hindrance to their progress.
‘It hasn’t been published as a collection yet, but Brian Vaughn’s new series “Saga”, drawn by Fiona Staples, is looking really promising. Imagine Stanley Kubrick doing “Game of Thrones”, crossed with “Star Wars”. That’s what they’re shooting for, at least, and though it’s still early days, the combination of grown-up science fiction, a complex fantasy world and a healthy soap opera element makes for interesting results.
‘ “The Manhattan Projects” by Jonathan Hickman is slightly more knockabout, fun fantasy, in which the Manhattan Project that led to the atomic bomb being developed and dropped is just one of many projects going on under the Manhattan Project system. In a weird way it’s sort of based on history and science, but it’s played out in a comic book world. The Japanese don’t just have kamikaze pilots, for example, they have kamikaze pilots and giant robots. Very powerful, very fun.
‘Then of course there’s “The Walking Dead” – Robert Kirkman’s brilliant comic series about the zombie apocalypse, which has been running since 2003 and is more popular than ever because of the success of the TV show. What’s great is that Kirkman not only keeps this big, bold narrative going but also manages to deliver fantastic twists and turns. It’s a comic book that very much feels like a great TV series and vice versa – reading the comic, you can see why it was a natural fit for the screen.’
Jonathan Ross will be speaking at BD & Comics Passion festival at the Institut Français on Friday May 25. Tickets £10. See bdandcomicspassion.co.uk for more info.