I’ve got a new comic coming up on Kickstarter this coming Friday July 17th that’s a bit unusual in a couple of ways.
Firstly, this is one of my first times playing around in someone else’s universe, with the book coming out on Tribute Press, run by comic pals Adam Falp and Tony Esmond.
Adam had an idea a while ago of creating a small line of Bronze Age inspired books to suit his vintage art style, and kicked that off last year with Atomic Hercules, written by Tony with art from Adam. I’m weighing in with Knockout & Tigerstyle, my take on characters dreamed up by Iain Laurie who were in turn inspired by Marvel street level stalwarts, Power Man and Iron First.
Secondly, Knockout & Tigerstyle isn’t the kind of stuff I’m generally associated with. It’s a completely unabashed old school Bronze Age style comic. In one way, simply a tribute to the runs that delighted me as a kid and in particular to the work of Jo Duffy and Kerry Gammill, which I adore to this day but for me, a lot more besides.
Here’s the elevator pitch:
When chalk and cheese prize-fighters Lyndon Kirk and Reece Radcliffe inadvertently find themselves hired to find some missing neighbourhood kids, they immediately suspect the man behind New York’s illegal super-powered street fighting circuit, Mickey “Golden Gloves” Gartner. But as the fists start flying, this newly minted super-duo are about to find the truth behind what they’ve stumbled into may be bigger than both of them!
I expect most people will consider the book a nostalgic love letter to a bygone age. Nothing wrong with that assessment of course, it absolutely is that. But I’ve always been wary of the label “nostalgia” when it’s more about dismissing skills and techniques that have for one reason or another, simply fallen out of favour.
Nostalgia is of course a heady and often dangerous thing. It can be a morbid and simplistic obsession with “things not being as good as they used to be”, a yearning for a perfect time that never really happened. The kind of unexamined craving that, in the UK, has seen nostalgia for a “simpler” non-existent past critically impact and damage our present and our future.
And of course, behind seemingly innocent pleas to return to “simpler times” often lie a sinister desire to regress to an era where bigots were coddled and appeased even more than they are now.
Nostalgia can be a melancholic thing, a resigned acquiescence to the idea that our early formative experiences will stay with us more vividly and affect us more profoundly than anything we examine when we are older and better able to comprehend what we are experiencing. The comics, books, TV shows, films etc. of our childhood become a paradox, set within rose-tinted aspic yet somehow infecting our adult experiences with the decay of unchecked sentimentality. The price of adulthood is that we can understand and appreciate more fully, but never again experience the simple, visceral joy of the absolutely new.
While some criticism of older comics quite rightly focuses on content and is formed of legitimate complaints about outmoded, clumsy or outright racist and sexist tropes, I often see criticisms of older work represented as being anti-nostalgia when in fact it is little more than a discussion of techniques that have fallen out of fashion. Thought balloons, caption boxes etc. have become techniques deemed canonical examples of “poor writing” as comics themselves have seen many creators come in who are influenced less by comics than by games and screenplays and prefer less writerly, more visually led methods.
Personally, I can’t take anyone who thinks there are hard and fast rules to creating anything all that seriously and I am yet to read anything convincing about why thought bubbles etc. are inherently “bad”. You can argue that old school “Big Two” superhero comics by the like of Claremont and Wolfman, which are so often characterised as overwritten, are in fact simply “written”, while pointing to myriad examples of modern comics that fail to convey critical story information. In short, there’s nothing wrong with the techniques, readers just aren’t used to them anymore and prefer what they have come to see as the norm.
Obviously, that’s fine. I’m a writer right now and of course I generally use modern techniques. But it was a great pleasure and learning experience to put those tools aside and try to write something in this recognisably vintage style. It turned out the years of absorbing these comics when I was a kid did make turning to these unfamiliar styles a relatively easy process and the result was a straight-ahead superhero comic script with an emphasis on character, action and story. A book that was a lot of fun to make, which I hope comes across now that Adam has come in and brought it to life.
Please check the Kickstarter out when it launches on Friday 17th July at 6pm UK time.