Desert Island Comics – Episode 39 – Simon Gurr and Simon Barnard
Here we go again, another island, another comic creator marooned, alone, desperate, going slowly mad from the isolation….
…. except what’s this? We appear to have put two comic makers on this piece of FPI beach. What new twist is this?
Aha, it appears they come as a pair – Simon Gurr, artist and Simon Barnard, writer on the extremely enjoyable Scarifyers comic, that I was rather keen on when I reviewed issue 1back in June:
From the very first page, right the way through to the end, I was gripped, really enjoying this delightful piece of genre fiction, one of those works that just fills me with absolute joy that it exists. It’s not arthouse, nor is it the sort of overblown action superhero thing Marvel and DC would have you believe is the mainstream. No, this is part of the REAL mainstream, the sort of comic Uncle George would read, would understand, would enjoy.
The Scarifyers is my new favourite thing in mainstream comics….. Absolutely safe and secure in what it is and nothing more. But in doing that it delivers something hugely entertaining, and I had an absolute blast reading it. You can too, all you have to do is go to the Cosmic Hobo Bafflegab website to buy your copy and you’ll have a new favourite in no time as well.
Simon Barnard is the creator of the Scarifyers Radio 4 series, featuring a host of British luminaries including Terry Malloy, , David Warner, Nicholas Courtney, Brian Blessed, Leslie Phillips, Nigel Havers and more. Well worth a listen and loads of fun. And over on the Bafflegab site you’ll be able to see a number of interesting audio adventures Barnard is involved with, including the 1971 Sherlock Holmes tale narrated by Peter Cushing, and new series Vince Cosmos, glam rock detective starring Julian Rhind-Tut.
Simon Gurr is Barnard’s artistic collaborator on The Scarifyers comic, whose previous work includes working in educational publishing, designing web games, working in 2000AD, and creating historical comics with Eugene Byrne; Brunel: A Graphic Biography, The Bristol Story and Darwin: A Graphic Biography.
He has also designed web games for the Key Stage 2 curriculum and helped develop online resources for Key Stage 3 and 4 users. His first professional comics work appeared in 2000AD 1270 and with author Eugene Byrne he created three historical comic books; Brunel: A Graphic Biography, The Bristol Story and Darwin: A Graphic Biography.
I’m sure both Simons actually like each other, bt from what you’re about to read, they may well do each other injury on the island before getting to the whole creating a comic thing….
Desert Island Comics – Episode 39 – Part 1 - Simon Gurr
I could play the world’s tiniest violin and say that, as an artist working alone in a studio, I’m prepared for the isolation of a desert island. But of course a desert island wouldn’t have email or Twitter so I really WOULD be lonely and these four comics would be a great comfort:
Slaine Book One by Pat Mills and Mike McMahon
Just the cover alone would keep me occupied for hours, but this volume (which Titan Books put out in 1986) has all the McMahon-illustrated Slaine stories (except Shoggey Beast), making it the most precious comic book I own. Much as I love the yellowing newsprint of early eighties 2000AD, this collection’s bright white stock really shows off McMahon’s intricate neolithic hatching.
As I’m sharing my selection with Mr Barnard (would I have to share the island too? Oh no, I would!) I’m relying on collections to maximise my reading material. This is another Titan Books edition, with an insightful foreword by Bill Watterson and 69 colour pages of Coconino County. I wasn’t sure whether to go for this or a Little Nemo collection but this has more laughs.
Working on The Scarifyers and looking at Garen Ewing’s wonderful cover art has renewed my interest in ligne claire comics. A Tintin book would remind me of bedtime stories with my sons and thus increase my determination to escape from the island (as if having to compete for food with the Scarifyers writer wouldn’t be enough of an incentive). This particular story, with Hergé’s slightly wonky depiction of Great Britain, is my favourite. (It’s ‘The Black Island’ in English, but I could use my time on the island to learn French if I had the Francophone edition).
I was never really a fan of the Moomins as a child, but I was eventually made aware of Tove Jansson’s genius by Steve Roberts when I worked with him on The Adventures of Abney & Teal last year. This book is from the Drawn & Quarterly series which collects the Evening Standard newspaper strips Tove Jansson began creating in the 1950s. It would be a great comfort when I was suffering from sunburn, malnutrition and wounds inflicted by Simon Barnard’s makeshift weapons.
Luxury: If I can have a luxury, I’d like a hatch from Lost. I could have days of fun trying to work out how to open it and it would offer some protection from The Other (Barnard).
….. and speaking of Simon Barnard….. that’s him coming into view now….
Desert Island Comics – Episode 39 – Part 2 - Simon Barnard
I don’t like the sun, or the sand, and I’m not especially keen on the sea either. So all in all I’d have a rotten time of it. Luckily I have fellow survivor (and Scarifyers artist) Simon Gurr to keep me company. My plan is this: get Gurr to construct me a boat. If he fails in his task, then hunt him, kill him, and eat him. In the meantime, I’ll be on my hammock reading these:
Doomlord by Alan Grant, John Wagner
“Servant of Nox, master of life, bringer of death!” Doomlord crashed to Earth in 1982 in the pages of the re-launched Eagle, a ‘Servitor of Nox’ whose job was to save planets from the ravages of their own inhabitants… by killing them all! But he hadn’t reckoned upon fearless (and ill-fated) Cranbridge Argus reporter Howard Harvey… Written as a photostrip by Alan Grant and John Wagner, Doomlord was like a junior companion piece to 1981’s Day of the Triffids and other gloomy early ‘80s Cold War themed dramas. But better, because none of them had an evil alien in a silver dress.
Scream! only lasted 15 issues, but some of those stories have stayed with me for nearly thirty years. I still remember the one about Tony Crabtree visiting his Aunt Betty in the country. Why does everyone in the village seem to be injured in some way? Could it be connected to the meteor shower a few days ago? Underneath those bandages, could everyone actually be giant alien wasps?! They could. Scream! never made me actually scream – I was made of stern stuff as an eleven-year-old – but its recipe of ghoulish fun and twists in the tale acted as a gateway drug for me to Amicus and Hammer films. And many years later, The Scarifyers.
Ah, Hellblazer. The original Jamie Delano run, starting in 1988, was when I fell in love with comics proper. Mixing horror with 1980s social commentary, John Constantine took on demonic Thatcherites armed with nothing but ready wisecracks and endless packs of Silk Cut. Those first stories were thrilling – the Damnation Army, Nergal, Newcastle – but even better were the characters – Constantine himself, generally making a mess of things; the spectral Newcastle Crew, following John around to remind him of the fact; and poor betrayed Zed. I fell out of love with Hellblazer after Delano left – things seemed to get a bit silly after that, and the character of Constantine broader. But on my wall I have the original John Ridgway artwork to a very important scene in Issue 9. Poor Zed.
The Adventures of Luther Arkwright by Bryan Talbot
This was mindblowing stuff. Hadn’t a clue what was going on in the first few issues, not helped by the murky artwork. Each frame was packed with an intricate mix of history, politics, philosophy and Disruptor agents, whatever they were. After a few issues I worked out that it was about a secret agent who hops universes to an alternative Britain where Cromwell’s descendants rule… but who’s ruling them? The scale of Luther Arkwright is mind-boggling, from the expanse and detail of the new Cromwellian regime and the Royalist rebellion, to the sci-fi elements of the multiverse and Luther’s death and rebirth. It raised my expectations of what both sci-fi and comics could be, and I think it’s still the best comic I’ve ever read, in ideas, scope and ambition.
Luxury: A Doomlord costume, to scare Gurr with.