Graphic Novel Round-up – by Alex Bardy

Comics and graphic novels remain an under-represented genre in much of the mainstream press, and a quick scour of the regular internet ‘SF sites’ suggests this is the case even within conventional science fiction and fantasy circles.

Here at the BSFA we’re hoping to start changing this, and the introduction of our newest column, Sequentials, in Vector #276 (by the awesome Laura Sneddon — who will return from #278) is hopefully just the beginning.

Even the word ‘comics’ is considered derogatory by some, suggesting as it does, spandex-clad superheroes suffering major personal angst while labouring intensively to save the planet from all those big bad nasty D’s: Death, Disease, Destruction, Destabilisation, Dystopian Dread, etc. I have no such preconceptions: comics are varied and many, a visual medium that’s constantly breaking boundaries and pushing the envelope, and while troubled superheroes have their part to play in that, the majority of graphic novels tend to be a collection of said comics in all their forms.

Increasingly, we’re seeing work that is conceived from the very start as being suitable for the graphic novel format, and this is characterised by all of the ones I’m looking at here…

mmRUBYFirst up is Michael Moorcock’s Elric Volume 1: The Ruby Throne, a gorgeous adaptation featuring everybody’s favourite albino emperor. Written by Julien Blondel with artwork by Robin Recht, Didier Poli, and colouring by Jean Bastide, this is a sumptuous affair, and boasts an exclusive introduction by Moorcock himself. The story features Elric’s cousin, Yyrkoon, as heir to the throne, troublemaker and tormentor, deriding the absence of chaos within the Melnibonéan Empire and concerned the lackadaisical malaise of excessive drinking and poor entertainment will make it appear weak and a target for its enemies. Needless to say the empire does get attacked, the Lords of Chaos are called upon, and Yyrkoon does get his wish, albeit not quite in the form he was expecting…

mmRUBY1mmRUBY2mmRUBY3I won’t ruin the rest for you, but I will add that the artwork is fabulous, the writing well-paced and the various ‘added extras’ at the back a welcome bonus. A very nice and neat package which will be loved by fans old and new alike — the next one, Elric Volume 2: Stormbringer is due early next year.


Next up, and another equally splendid offering, is Violent Cases written by Neil Gaiman and illustrated by Dave McKean. Typically of Gaiman, even the title here is an accidental misnomer by the main character, who struggles to recall everything succinctly and always leaves things open to wider interpretation. Written in the style of a fractured childhood memoir, this is a very dark piece of work indeed — even the palette of colours is miserable: black, white, greyish-brown and the odd splash of red for the nasty parts…


For many, this is also considered a ‘break-out’ piece for both Neil and Dave — the original series appeared back in 1987, and crossed so many traditional boundaries of genre and style that it virtually created a new sub-genre all its own, that of arty comics with strong cinema-style storytelling and mixed media visualisation. Even today, this is evidently a stand-out piece of work — it’s subtle blend of violence (suggestive and otherwise), deeper narrative meaning, and the underlying backdrop of Prohibition America (even Al Capone gets a walk-on part) allows it to straddle a plethora of accepted ‘crime’ and ‘noir’ categories, all the while remaining true to itself as a story about child abuse, the fragility of memory, and the realisation that danger can indeed lurk under any surface.

This is strong stuff, but it’s also an example of creative genius in full flow — indeed, at one point the narrator and the artist have their own little ding-dong discussion about what one of the main characters (an osteopath) may have actually looked like… It is brilliantly done, and this particular edition is elegantly presented and a stunning visual feast.


 Ordinary by Rob Williams & D’Israeli is an altogether more colourful and significantly lighter piece of work, but nonetheless still an excellent example of what can be done when you turn the whole superheroes thing on its head. In the world of Ordinary, everyone has superpowers, except Michael Fisher, a miserable, lonely loser who bears more than a passing resemblance to actor Simon Pegg (not that the two are related if you see what I mean), or at least I thought so. Indeed, Michael is so hopelessly useless he even gets rejected by women in his own dreams, is bullied by Tweedle Dum and Tweedle Dee, and can’t seem to do anything right for trying. So why is this guy the star of the show? That’d be telling… 😉


Packed with extras, this is a colourful, clever story, and even boasts an introduction by Warren Ellis. It’s a doozy as our American cousins might say…


And finally, by far my favourite of the lot thus far, is Dr Grordbort presents ONSLAUGHT, an anthology of tales from the retro sci-fi world of Dr Grordbort, both written and beautifully illustrated by Greg Broadmore who is obviously a very talented and sickeningly twisted human being… J

ONSLAUGHT is by far one of the funniest and most hilarious things I’ve read in a long time. It’s accurately subtitled “Excessive Space Violence For Boys and Girls” and I can assuredly inform you this is most definitely not suitable for younger children. The first story is called “Lord Cockswain in Into The Lair of the Space Wa*~&ers” for example, and the whole affair is chock full of serious political incorrectness that will see you either rolling around in stitches or seething at the pointy end…


As well as several stories that see Cockswain destroying the virulent wildlife of Venus and spearheading an excursion against the dastardly Moon Men and associated Moon Menaces, Cockswain is also the poster boy for a variety of steampunk-stylee invented weaponry from Dr. Grordbort, the Head of Grordbort Industries and self-styled master of maniacal mechanisms. His wares are featured herein through a variety of “Contrapulatronic” catalogue excerpts which includes headlines such as: “Be a Better Man with a MANMELTER. Your wife may come back to you!* (some assembly required)”, “Absolutely No Compensation Given for Accidental Limb Loss”, “By Jingos those socially inept boffins have done it!” and some classic weaponry like the Grordbort 66 Sonic De-Stabiliser, the Saturn 67 Luminiferous Aether Igniter and Lord Cockswain’s Ray-Blunderbuss: ‘The Unnatural Selector’ which is scientifically proven to “render a yard-wide aperture in a giraffe at 60 feet, and give a blue whale a nasty rash through 200 yards of saltwater”…

There is also a Bestiary of the Cosmos (mostly covering Venusian wildlife), a number of Testimonials, a Hall of Gits and plenty of gung-ho, rebel-rousing ‘support our finest’ retro-style inspirational posters that had me crying with laughter.


This is a sparkling collection of wickedly comic tales, all involving excessive violence, swearing and the odd slaughter of harmless alien pond life, and really is heaps of fun. I cannot recommend this highly enough as a Christmas treat for any fan, and the artwork throughout is gorgeous — it’ll plaster a foot-wide smile on your face for weeks, and you will definitely love “how fabulous it looks with all its fandangly whatchimacallits and thingamajigs”.


You can discover more about Greg Broadmore’s crazy universe here:


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About Donna Scott

Chair of the BSFA since June 2013. Prior to this I was Awards Administrator, taking over that role from Claire Briarley in 2008. I am officially Donna Bond since getting married in May 2013, but continue to write and perform under my previous name, Donna Scott. My short fiction stories have been published in various anthologies and magazines, and I was winner of the inaugural Short Cuts at the MAC in 2005. As a comedian, I have performed all over the UK. Comedy has also given me the opportunity to perform alongside big names like Sarah Millican and Jasper Carrott! As a poet, I've also performed all over the place, including lots of science fiction conventions, and sometimes my poetry and comedy get kind of mixed up. I was the first official Bard of Northampton, it's true. I've got a tankard that says so... I love being a part of the BSFA - I've always been a devourer of books and being part of this association has enabled me to explore some great science fiction classics - and classics of the future, that I might otherwise have not heard about. I've met some lovely people with an enthusiasm for the genre, made firm friends, and got to meet some of my favourite writers, too! As a writer, I also have to say that FOCUS is the best magazine for writers I've ever come across - and as a member I get that for free. Who wouldn't want to be a part of this?


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