Publisher: Angry Candy
Creators: “Catgirl Crisis Comics” – David Goodman
“West” – Andrew Cheverton & Tim Keable
“Space Babe 113” – John Maybury
“Run Pussy” – Colin Stanford
“Favourite Crayon” – Arthur Goodman
…with additional contributions from Paul Rainey & Siobhan Hillman
When it comes to reviewing comics, a good first impression can make all the difference. To truly engage me, I need an interesting, creative premise and to see – wherever possible – something I haven’t seen a dozen times before. Thankfully, this meta-textual comic from the mind of John Maybury ticks all those particular boxes. And then some.
Presenting itself as an almost “found footage” comic, The Newspaper Strip Collection of Oscar Charles Drayton initially comes across as a seemingly random collection of short two-to-four-panel newspaper cartoons from fictional publication “The Daily Inspector”, featuring a mixture of ongoing serial-type stories and one-and-done gags. The strips cover a variety of genres, from gritty westerns to abstract sci-fi adventures, and the writers and artists (with a different creative team responsible for each strip), all stay remarkably faithful to the traditional newspaper style.
And, for the first few pages, that’s all we get. Newspaper strips. Which is all well and good, but I rapidly found myself wondering just what the point was. However, the true brilliance of this book comes into play with the introduction of the unseen Oscar Charles Drayton, the man whose collection of strips we are reading and whose hastily-scribbled annotations provide a chilling narrative to his gradual descent into psychotic depression. Fearing that the content of the strips are mirroring his own life, and that the newspaper publishers are somehow watching him, the book chronicles his slow and steady decline into insanity, building to an extremely shocking and memorable conclusion.
The creativity behind the premise is terrific, and is honestly like nothing I’ve ever read before. However, despite the strength of the idea, one of the minor flaws I found in the concept was that as Drayton’s story heats up, I found myself glossing over the actual strips and simply focusing on his scrawled notes before flicking to the next page. Which I guess is a testament to the gripping nature of story as a whole, but feels almost disrespectful to the artists and writers who have clearly put so much work into the strips themselves.
That said, as an overall reading experience, this book is a brilliantly creative one. True, some of the strips are better than others, and the growing desire to skim over them as the book ups the pace is a bit of a flaw in the structure, but overall, this is a title I’d heartily recommend people to pick up just to see the execution of this terrifically high-concept idea.
Also, in a neat touch that continues the meta-textual nature of the book, one of the strips in the collection serves as a direct continuation of Andrew Cheverton and Tim Keable’s ‘West’ tale Fort Eyrie, and keeps the story of one of Angry Candy’s previous success stories going, albeit in the newspaper strip format. I’ll admit I wasn’t too familiar with ‘West’ before this book, but I still got a kick out of this particular move.
So overall, while some of the strips may get a little repetitive in isolation, as an overarching concept and an experiment in trying something genuinely different with the comic book format, The Newspaper Strip Collection of Oscar Charles Drayton was a major success, in my mind at least. Well worth picking up, and Angry Candy just put themselves on my radar in a major way.
The writer of this piece was: Craig Neilson (aka Ceej)
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