Upcoming from the fine folks at Knockabout, Jeremie Moreau and Wilfrid Lupano‘s The Hartlepool Monkey, based on the story – an actual historical event or local myth, even the town’s own website can’t say – of a shipwreck off the English coast during the Napoleonic wars. While investigating the wreckage on the shore, so the tale goes, the good burghers of Hartlepool found a lone survivor, the ship’s mascot, a monkey dressed in a small French uniform, and as they had never seen a Frenchman before assumed him to be one, his simian shrieking was presumed to be his unintelligible, devilishly foreign language, so they tried him as a spy and arranged to hang the unfortunate creature.
Moreau and Lupano have taken this story and crafted something rich in contrasts between the pure xenophonic ignorance of the locals (that would make even the most right wing Daily Mail reader blush) that can lead to tragedy and the inherint comedy in the entire situation, while the racism and ignorance is not confined to the locals, before the shipwreck the French captain’s attitude to Africans and English alike is shown to be rather nasty. It’s wonderfully absurd and in places the art gave me a sort of Scarfe-esque vibe at times (no bad thing). In our supposedly much more englightened era which in reality is still rife with ‘patriots’ who shout loudly about ‘foreigners and immigrants’ and where wilful ignorant of any difference in looks or culture is deemed a viable reason to whip up artificial reasons for hatred there’s still a lot to this tale which has relevance to today. The Hartlepool Money is published by Knockabout this autumn and is available for pre-order.