Sunday, 23 July 2017

The Lost Fleet, A Lost Masterpiece and a Contemporary Classic in the Making.

Its ironic that even once creators move beyond the Small Press and into the world of commercial publishing it can still be difficult for them to get their comics seen.

John Freeman, editor of  the excellent 'Down the Tubes' web-site has been editing a new comic for Titan, "The Lost Fleet: Corsair".  It's written by Jack Campbell and ties in with his own series of science fiction novels.  It's just the sort of space-based scifi that I've always enjoyed, and John has been promoting it pretty hard.

I was surprised therefore when I visited a couple of really quite good comic shops in Belfast to discover that neither of them had stocked any copies of the book.  It just wasn't on their radar.  I think I was the first person to ask about it in both places and it wasn't something they had looked at when the advance solicitations had come out.

In the end I bought copies of issues one and two from Amazon to read online via Comixology, but for a new title, from a writer with a track record of delivering quality novels and an editor who promoted the book carefully and skillfully to be so ignored, shows some of the problems with the comics retail trade.

This is real Science Fiction, a story that is likely to appeal to fans of Star Wars, Star Trek or readers of 2000AD.  But I'm guessing the vast majority of the fans of those comics are totally unaware of the its existence and that is the problem creators have now. 

It's well written, has a plot that moves quickly and the art from Indonesian artist Andre Siregar is typical of the crossover Manga/Western style that is becoming more popular in comics today.  Which is, perhaps, my way of saying its a little too cartoony for me to rave about, but not so much that it irritates or takes away from the story.

But unless you get to see a copy, how will you be able to decide that you want to read it?

Such is the dominance of Superheroes along with TV and movie spin-offs that nothing else gets a look-in.  Corsair is a good book, I prefer the writing to the art, but overall its good science fiction and an entertaining comic.  It should have a wide appeal, but not if you can't pick it up off the shelves and have a look at it. 

And lets be honest, you can't blame the shops.  There are so many titles on sale each month that they simply can't stock everything, not and stay in business.  Its a sad fact that success in the commercial comics field does not depend on quality.  This is among Titan's best books, it strikes me that its a comic 2000 AD fans would really enjoy.  Yet 'The Lost Fleet' stands a real chance of joining other excellent books that are cancelled because people are not getting to see them.

So if it sounds interesting to you I'd suggest that you speak to your local comic shop, or do what I did, and give Lost Fleet, Corsair a go on Amazon or Comixology.  

One of the covers to issue 1 
As an aside, Titan have to be commended for trying experiments like this, there are little gems to be found among their range of TV and game tie-ins.  Their 'Hard Case' imprint publishes some excellent Hard Boiled detective stories, often reprinted from europe where the range of subjects comics will take on are not so limited. 

Additions to Kim Newman's 'Anno Dracula' world and Ben Aaronovitch's "Rivers of London' series, both written by the authors are entertaining and really enjoyable comics.

Lost Fleet, is not the only Scifi comic Titan produce.   Their adaptation of the classic Joe Haldeman novel, 'The Forever War' is one of the most faithful adaptations of a classic science fiction novel I've seen in comics. 

The story of an interstellar war, where relativistic effects cause bizarre time distortions in the lives of the participants, 'The Forever War' draws on the Vietnam experience of Haldeman both 'in-country', where he was wounded, and the difficulties he found readjusting to the world when he returned home.

The influence of Frank Miller?
It was a powerful anti-war novel when it first appeared, probably the work Haldeman never managed to match, and the comic version is almost as impactful.

First published in Dutch in 1988 and reprinted across europe, this Haldeman penned adaptation, has, to my knowledge, been published twice before in English.  It appeared in 1990 in three magazine-sized, volumes from NBM and was then included in the superb, black and white, Dark Horse anthology comic Cheval Noir. 

Titan have restored colour for their mini series and to great effect.  Its fascinating to see some of the storytelling techniques on view.  Without the typically muted european colouring job, the similarities of technique with Frank Miller's, Dark Knight are hidden.  It would be fascinating to discover if artist, Marvano, took his inspiration directly from Miller or whether the two artists shared some other influence.   

 It seems an odd choice for a company who depend on media spin-offs, a nearly thirty year old european adaptation of an old Scifi novel, until you sit down and read it.  This is a great comic, it has not dated and is worthy of reprinting.  I do hope that it does well and we get a chance to finally see the sequel that Haldeman and Marvano produced along with their Donna Barr series neither of which has, to my knowledge, been reprinted in english.

Final thing for this post.   Northern Ireland based comic writer Stuart J McCune has just put up the Kickstarter for the third issue of his 'Human Beings' series.  I've talked about Stuart before here.  His comics are unique and complex and beautiful.  This is a great chance to pick up physical copies of the first three issues of his ongoing anthology series,  'Human Beings'.  If the artwork he has on show for issue three is anything to go by its just getting better and better.

Kickstarter can be found here.  

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