By Will Kirkby
I’ve talked of Will Kirkby before, with his Peckham strip in the Birdsong/Songbird anthology and Rogue Trooper strip in the 2000AD fanzine Nu-Earth real highlights. Both looked gorgeous, but Peckham showed he had the storytelling to match the Paul Pope-esque Manga stylised mania of his artwork.
Tuk Tuk has been percolating for quite a while with various bits of art appearing on Kirkby’s live journal that really promised so much. We ran several pages of his maniacally detailed artwork back in April.
And here it is. And mighty fine it is too. I don’t know what I was expecting, maybe an A5 comic, but it certainly wasn’t this. A4, full colour, card covers, 32 pages of thick paper stock. This is incredibly high quality from a self publisher, way up there, alongside the production values of something you’d expect from Nobrow’s 17×23 series or Blank Slate Books’ Chalk Marks imprint. In fact, it could easily sit very well in either publishers ouvre. It’s a beautifully put together comic, possibly the most impressive self published work I’ve seen yet.
And there’s no better description of the comic than Kirkby’s own:
“Tuk Tuk is set in a fictitious version of the British colonies, mixed with a steampunk disregard for technology appropriate for the era. Mixed with my sketchy recollections of the original dungeon and dragons rules it means gold=XP, which to my mind means a culture where the real fantasy heroes aren’t warriors or drug taking barbarians or aged mages crackling with the power of the ages, but merchants who are out to make a fast buck. This of course led to me daydreaming about Only Fools and Horses in a fantasy setting.”
Just reading those words for the first time had me excited to see it. And the obvious pull quote – “Only Fools and Horses in a fantasy setting” is such a good summary of the fun you’ll have in here.
And I think Kirkby’s nailed all the promise of that summary. Absolutely. There’s great comedy, great fantasy, great art, great vision, insane detail in the beautiful, eye popping colours. A definite hit.
We open, as so many great stories do, with a story, this time delivered by Uncle Will at the insistence of little Amlie, a story from “over a century ago and half a world away”…..
(Tuk Tuk page 1 – Uncle Will and Amlie settle down to storytime. And you’ll be glad to be joining them. From Tuk Tuk by Will Kirkby
And then we’re into the story proper, with the suitably descriptive beginning “Once upon a time there were two greedy men“. Well, maybe one greedy man and one put upon, rather incompetent assistant, but I do see what Kirkby means.
Mr Slade and Mr Kingston Hill would be the Del-Boy and Rodney of the pair. Wheeling and dealing their way around, always looking for a good deal, never that concerned with little things like taxes, paperwork, fine print or legalities, as we soon find out when they get audited….
(Oh dear, it’s tax audit time…. not a good idea with Mr Slade and Mr Kingston don’t really “do” books. From Will Kirkby’s Tuk Tuk Issue 1)
It started out as a two page strip in Irregular magazine, and the first couple of adventures across each couple of pages are nice little intros, self contained things. They establish the setting, set the mood, do a nice job of getting over the characters, whether they’re selling zombie porn to a horde of the undead they accidentally created thanks to not reading that pesky fine print on those bottles of eternal life elixir, or finding themselves marooned in the desert with only their wits and a reliance on computer game rules of levelling up to get through.
After that it’s time for the adventure proper to begin, although it’s still got a two page rhythym to it. And the episodic nature of the production does mean it stutters slightly, and doesn’t flow so freely as the madcap rush of Peckham, but there’s also the upside that it comes off almost sketch show style, each two pager having something of a gag structure about it. Anyway, any small problems with this stuttering storytelling is mor (much more) than made up for by the sheer luxurious look and feel of what you’re reading.
(The quest is on…. from Tuk Tuk issue 1 by Will Kirkby)
We’re taken, by way of a mysterious benefactor The Collector King on the start of a quest to buy the fabled Bottle City of Nyleth at auction.
And fearing these two wide boys are going to do a runner, they’re going to be accompanied by Eliza Stone (adjustment agent first class) from the tax office.
We’re on our way, it’s a great ride, join us, join us….
Tuk Tuk Issue 1 is quite simply brilliant, where the rush and the fun of a great concept, beautifully produced page after beautifully produced page more than made up for it’s few shortcomings. The gags are genuinely funny, it’s clever, it’s cool, it’s very, very good.
I had an absolutely magnificent time in this short but ever so sweet beginning to what looks like it could become a firm favourite.
The best news is that this is merely the start of the quest, with much more to come from Mr Slade and Mr Kingston and their quest for the Collector King’s prize. The bad news, no idea when we’ll see the next issue. More, more, more please Mr Kirkby!
Tuk Tuk is available for £7 from Will Kirkby – via paypal at email@example.com (and add your address to the payment so Will knows where to send it!) He’ll even sign or doodle in your copy.