This week’s castaway on our lovely desert island is Simon Perrins, the artist/writer of the comic Hope For The Future, which he describes as:
“Hope For The Future is an ongoing comic book series in which three ordinary twentysomethings attempt to avert the impending apocalypse, defeat the forces of chaos, and get drunk on a student budget.”
I reviewed this one a while back now, first with issue 13, then 14, then heading back and doing it in the right order and reading issues 1-14. It’s by turn confusing and brilliant, but at least since it starts confusing and ends brilliant, it’s certainly doing things the right way.
So, here’s Simon with his Desert Island Comics, and he manages to try and cheat in the opening paragraphs….
Desert Island Comics – Episode 41 – Simon Perrins
A lot of people ask me what comics I would take with me to a desert island. Actually, if I’m honest, no one has ever asked me that, but I needed an opening sentence. I’ll resist saying that the first comic I would take would be the size of a raft on which i could escape the island as that’s not really entering into the spirit of the game, and I’m sure plenty of people have already made that joke.
On the well known, similarly named BBC radio show, in addition to a selection of pieces of music, all participants get a copy of The Bible and The Complete Works of Shakespeare. I presume the comic book equivalent is Watchmen, right? So I don’t have to pick it. Have you read Watchmen? It’s really good!
Enigma (collection, issues 1-8), Peter Milligan & Duncan Fegredo, DC/Vertigo Comics
Peter Milligan’s Shade The Changing Man series contains some of my favourite comics ever but for the life of me I can’t decide on a single issue. The issues between, say 20 and 50 are absolutely amazing and I’d recommend them to anyone – although as far as I know they haven’t been collected (I am writing all of this from memory and not resorting to research. You think they have Wikipedia on that island? Is that your “luxury item”? Then you’re a fool).
So I’m going with Enigma, also by Milligan and featuring the fantastic, spidery art of Duncan Fegredo. I have seriously considered abducting Fegredo and forcing him to draw my comics, although that would deny the world his Hellboy stuff. Yes, that’s the only reason I haven’t done this yet.
Enigma has been collected as a trade paperback, although, perversely I think I would be happy just with the first issue. I remember picking this up in a comic shop closing down sale – I was so intrigued by the possibilities of the story that I returned to the shop the next day to buy the rest of them. While it’s a great story (and Fegredo’s art noticeably develops throughout), it’s almost a let down that the mysteries have to be resolved. Beginnings open up an infinity of potential directions in which a story can go, but as it progresses, the possibilities decrease until you have (usually) one sequence of events. That aside, it’s great, you should read it. Even though I haven’t even hinted at what it’s about.
Dork #3, Evan Dorkin, Slave Labor
Evan Dorkin is such a smart writer that he can create a hilarious story out of people just listing the names of old Twilight Zone episodes. When I first saw this comic it blew my mind. It’s mostly a massive splurge of invective, satirising the dopeyness of Generation X (that was a thing way back in the 90s, younglings).
I’d never read anything this funny (or that used so many popular culture references) and it taught me that you could have comics that you could personally relate to, not just stuff about Batman getting replaced by a psychotic Beatles fan.
My favourite feature in Dork is the “adventures” of The Eltingville Comic Book, Science Fiction, Fantasy, Horror and Role Playing Club. Everyone and his dog does comics (and TV shows) about “those crazy nerds” these days, but this stands head and shoulders above all of them. I think a lot of us have been members of The Eltingville Club at various points in our lives.
Star Wars 71, Mary Jo Duffy, Ron Frenz, Tom Palmer, Marvel Comics 1983
Marvel’s series of Star Wars comics, which ran between 1977 and 1985, was basically trying to fill in the gaps in the Original Trilogy blind. I reread them all recently and, while they’re all over the place, I still find them endlessly fascinating.
I was considering going with #86- The Alderaan Factor (clearly the best issue, as it’s actually about something) or #51, Resurrection Of Evil (because how metal is that title?), but I decided on Return To Stenos – as it’s an exciting, gorgeously drawn swashbuckler that’s perfectly in the spirit of the movies. Luke & Lando are searching for the recently “turned into a coffee table” Han Solo, and arrive on a planet that makes Tatooine look like Milan.They run into an old enemy (who resembles Homer when he wore the mumu) and hilarity, bounty hunters and lightsaber assisted demolition ensue. It also features the sexiest alien nymphomaniac in comics. Look I was eleven, OK, don’t judge me!
Sleaze Castle 8, Dave McKinnon & Terry Wiley, Gratuitous Bunny Comix
Anyone who ever sampled a comics series through randomly bought back issues knows the confusion of trying to work out what’s going on in a continuing storyline – this is how I started with Shade, Sandman and countless others. Sleaze Castle issue 8, however, bent my brain in all sorts of directions. It was absolutely incomprehensible (even the editorial page casually mentioned that it “probably wasn’t the best place to start”), but something about this book made me keep going back and rereading it.
Eventually I sort of worked out what this story was doing and then I bought the rest of the series. It’s largely wonderfully observed, real world stuff, with surreal, Sci Fi elements running over, under and through it. And Terry Wiley’s art is just terrific – great body language and facial expressions on the characters and backgrounds littered with references, clues and gags, like a comic book version of Kit Williams or Mike Wilks.
Marvels (collected edition issues 1-4, Kurt Busiek & Alex Ross), Marvel Comics 1994
Marvels tells the story of an average Joe Schmo in The Marvel Universe – he’ll be going about his business and then all of a sudden Spider-Man and The Green Goblin come crashing through a window pummelling the hell out of eachother. It alludes to specific stories in the Marvel canon, which, as a comic fan rather than expert, I was vaguely aware of but didn’t know the full details. Our point of view guy is always on the fringes, seeing these epic battles from a distance and never understanding why, for example, a giant dude in a purple metal headdress is stomping around New York, like a cross between Godzilla and Jobriath. It’s rendered in a realistic, pseudo cinematic style, which makes all these bizarre characters seem real, and while I’ve seen Alex Ross’ comics storytelling criticised though I’ve never understood that – there’s a sequence for example in which an onlooker slowly realises that The Fantastic Four can’t defeat Galactus which is absolutely sublime
Sad Animal 5 by Ralph Kidson
Ralph isn’t from the Alex Ross school of artists. Some might call his style “naive” although that sounds pretty patronising. All I would say is, look past his scratchy biro drawn and badly photocopied figures, and you’ll see the work of a brilliant cartoonist.
This comic features a stick called Stick, and his mate Envelope, who is an envelope. I swear at one point Stick gives Envelope a withering look. I don’t know how that’s possible but he manages it. This issue also features the wistful crustacean Colin Crab, who appears to be in the middle of a low level existential crisis, and an angry killer whale called Bernice. And if war stories are your bag, there’s Fridge Patrol, which is the funniest thing I’ve ever read.
I still want to hear the story of how this comic ended up with a cover by Dave Sim, but I guess some mysteries have to remain mysterious.
Hellboy: The Corpse & The Iron Shoes, Mike Mignola, Dark Horse
Mignola, Hellboy, fairies. I don’t need to say any more do I?
Flex Mentallo (collected edition issues 1-4, Grant Morrison & Frank Quietly, DC Comics)
I imagine this is a popular choice. Flex is equal parts Superman, Doc Savage, and Charles Atlas, and he has surreal adventures that somehow intertwine with the reverie of a dying rock star. I’m not sure how it would read to someone who isn’t steeped in comic book (specifically superhero comics) history, as there are a million references in there – but if you don’t know your Question from your Kamandi, you can still be intrigued by the non linear story, and luxuriate in the eye popping artwork. It’s thrilling, strange, scary, funny and sad. As such, you could say it’s The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway of comics (which I suspect would annoy Mr Morrison).
Luxury: I guess for my luxury item I’ll have a really big dressing up box. If I’m going to inevitably slip slowly into madness, I want to look good doing it. And if I use all these costumes to create disparate and distinct characters, it’ll give me someone to talk to as I mentally deteriorate.
Bubbling Under (the stuff I’m gutted to leave out):
Sandman Brief Lives, Mad Love, Cud, Shade, Ghost World, Black Hole.
Great list there, and Simon’s definitely right about Ralph Kidson… brilliant. And he sent along a couple of scans of Kidson’s work from Sad Animal #5, so it would be rude not to share them with you…