Written by John A Short, art by David Hitchcock. Original idea/Editor Emily Alison
The Sixpenny Murder is an 8 page A4 black and white comic with a little editorial at the back. It’s been produced as part of the “Changing Places +” programme, aimed at highlighting gang related violence in the North West.
As such, it features an obscure piece of 1800’s real life crime (and punishment) of possibly one of the first recorded examples of gang type murder. Like they say on their blog:
“We chose the historical tale of the ‘Tithebarn Street Outrage’ from the 1800’s because we wanted to parallel what was said then about youth, knives, and violence with the current views represented in today’s press. We also wanted a subject that would resonate but not hit too close to home, allowing the readers (the young men on the program) to be less defensive and more reflective about events.”
And in these 8 pages Short and Hitchcock get everything they need to show onto the comics page in a great example of telling a succinct, yet expansive comic tale. The artwork by Hitchcock is really effective stuff, dark, unpleasant, yet telling the story so well.
The story is short – essentially just the final confession of one of a group of young men who kicked and knifed a man to death for a mere sixpence. But in that confession, there’s a real feeling for the social depravity of the time, and Short captures a real sense of the violent, poverty stricken lives these people lived.
The Sixpenny Murder tells of the violent death of Richard Morgan in 1874, where he was attacked by a group of unemployed young men who had taken to hanging around the street corner asking for money from passers-by. These “cornermen” as they became known, were tried and two of the three hanged for their crime.
Short’s story sticks closely to the facts, as far as they’re known, using the confessional nature of the tale – the majority of it is told in flashback as one of the “cornermen”, John McCrave speaks to his priest just before his hanging.
As a work of historical interest it’s fascinating, possibly the first recorded instance of such an unprovoked attack in broad daylight. As a metaphor for modern life and the problems of gang related violence it’s powerful and hopefully, as I’m sure the creators wish, it’s something that will resonate with the young men involved with the “Changing Places +” programme.
And finally, on a purely artistic level, The Sixpenny Murders is a very affecting, very entertaining piece of comics work.
The Sixpenny Murder is available to buy from Kult Creations.