Writer: Craig Collins
Artist: Mark Brady
Release Date: 2nd July, 2016
SICBA award-nominated writer Craig Collins has teamed up with artist Mark Brady to procude Medieval Times, a collection of minicomics featuring imagined backstories for some of those familiar plastic “knight” toys I’m sure the vast majority of us once owned a bucket of back in the day. Sounds weird, right? Well, it is, but it’s also potentially a stroke of bloody genius.
Born of a trip to the pub/tavern (no surprises there, then), Craig and Mark sat down to try and figure out which of these generic, interchangeable plastic toys had the best potential for a back story, selecting the best six to get the full-on minicomic treatment in some sort of bizarre “ye olde” X-Factor. Each figure’s story is fleshed out just a little and inserted into the Hundred Years War, with Brady illustrating their brave or fateful deeds in a wonderfully cartoony, vividly colourful style that falls somewhere between Neil Slorance and Steve Learmonth.
The premise is absolute gold, and provides a perfect opportunity for Collins to display his distinctly unusual way of looking at things alongside Brady’s charming, colourful artwork. Each of the minicomics comes packaged with the knight or squire figure that served as its inspiration, and part of the fun is having a closer look at the bland, generic hunk of plastic and wondering how in the heck Collins and Brady ever managed to impose any kind of backstory onto it. Interestingly though, and as weird as it sounds, you can actually kinda see where they’re coming from, with a lifeless grey spear-wielding toy transforming into the wide-eyed, optimistic-yet-terrified Guy, or a black plastic knight with the mace plastic becoming brave Sir Thomas, whose heroic deeds of legend end in a distinctly un-heroic fashion.
There’s a distinctly back-to-basics approach to the presentation here that fits in with Collins’ already well-established ‘zine’ style. Yes, each minicomic is only around six pages long, so value for money may be a concern for some buyers, even with the added lure of an awesome plastic toy, and there’s alsoa rough, hand-cut style to the comics themselves that may not necessarily be to everyone’s tastes.
As an overall project though, Medieval Times has achieved two very important things – for me, at least; Firstly, it has introduced me to the wonderful artwork of Mark Brady, whose name now carries a certain seal of approval that means I’m going to actively seek out anything else that comes from him down the line (Collins already has that distinction). Secondly, it serves as a wonder microcosm of how brilliant ideas can come from relatively mundane situations. And for any of us who have every been given a bizarre, off-brand action figure or generic packet of soldiers by a well-meaning grandparent during our formative years, the ability to project a wonderful backstory onto something so bland is a truly relatable and wonderfully nostalgic concept.
You can purchase each of the six Medieval Times minicomics – along with the rest of Craig Collin’s impressive back catalogue (PRO-TIP: CHECK OUT THE ROSS GELLER FANZINE!) – from his online shop by CLICKING HERE.
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