Paul Gravett is a freelance journalist, curator, lecturer and broadcaster who has worked in comics publishing and promotion for over 20 years. He has curated numerous exhibitions of comic art, from the history of British comics for France's National Comics Centre to the annual Comica festival for the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London. He is the author several books including the best-selling Manga, Great British Comics, The Leather Nun & Other Incredibly Strange Comics and Graphic Novels: Stories To Change Your Life.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful.
In love with comics - perhaps too much so
I know personally Paul Gravett, the joint author - and indubitably the leading spirit - of this book, and his personality is a great part of the much that is right and the somewhat that is wrong, or at least problematic, about it. Paul Gravett is quite probably the nicest person on Earth. It is possible to imagine that there may have been, somewhere, some time, one person whom he did not like; yes, possible, but very hard. He could get along with Timon of Athens. He is himself charming and a complete enthusiast about his subject, never tiring of exploring obscure historical byways and discovering forgotten comics and creators. And this book very much reflects his character. One has the impression that no comic book or strip ever published in the three kingdoms has escaped being placed somewhere in these pages, with an appreciative notice and some particularly well-chosen panels. But that is also the problem. Paul loves EVERYTHING; and when everything is brilliant, then nothing is outstanding. Now, to begin with, not every comic objectively deserves the enthusiasm Paul bestows on it. Our impression on leaving the book is that of a blazing, multi-coloured carnival and riot of invention and white-hot fun; and only personal acquaintance could tell us just how commonplace a great deal of these strips really were. Conversely, it also tends not to give honour where honour is due: when BRISTOW or AUGUSTA or ANDY CAPP or PERISHERS don't get any more space than any other newspaper strip, how are we to know that in their case, and specifically in their case, we are dealing with avatars of the national English genius for humour? With deserving equals of the Goons and of the Pythons, of Terry Pratchett, of JK Jerome and PG Wodehouse and Charlie Chaplin? Is it fair, is it even sensible, to give little more space to MODESTY BLAISE, the most successful and one of the most brilliant British comics of all time, as to, say, the comics adaptation of JAMES BOND? Let alone place her, completely out of position, among the girl characters, instead than in its proper hard-boiled context? And what about Alan Moore? The Greatest Living Englishman, as Neil Gaiman calls him with only moderate exaggeration, one of the greatest comics writers of all time, the most outstanding creative force in comics after Jack Kirby, an influence that has spread all over the world - he should have his own chapter, if nothing else because of the enormous amount of brilliant work he has produced. In fact he gets no more attention than anyone else.
Perhaps the saddest failure, however, is the failure to bring out the neglected brilliance of several old strips. After all, Alan Moore and MODESTY BLAISE hardly need this book's promotion, and neither do ANDY CAPP or EAGLE magazine. But how is anyone to know that BUCK RYAN, of which we only see a single daily strip, was as good an adventure/detective strip as anything by Milton Caniff or Frank Robbins? Who will explain to the public that Dennis Collins of PERISHERS was one of the finest artists the artform has ever seen? And sadder still, if possible: there is a strip called JANE, which is remembered, if at all, as a particularly dumb piece of wartime nostalgia. In fact, the wartime JANE was a very mediocre and forgettable strip, with gimmicky humour always leading up to the protagonist losing her clothes, and uninspired drawing; but someone really ought to stand up and show comics fans, and the rest of the public, that, in the fifties, a man called Mike Hubbard took over JANE and made it an extraordinary achievement, with a light touch in the humour/adventure writing, and some of the most wonderful artwork I have ever seen. This is the work of a master, utterly forgotten in his own home country, while JANE's poor wartime pratfall live for ever in the dubious medium of WWII nostalgia.
Having said all that, this is still a worthwhile book. Its learning is fabulous, its enthusiasm for its subject is commendable, and the warmth of its guiding spirit can be felt in page after page. As an introduction to the field of British comics, it is well worth having.
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful.
Get out your cheaters for this across the pond funfest
By Christopher Barat
This colorful volume reminds me of nothing so much as an "across the pond" version of "Comix", Les Daniels' early-70s survey of the then-virgin territory of American funny books. As in Daniels' book, Gravett and Stanbury lump together a dizzying variety of different types of British comics, ranging from hoary old classics to the most ephemeral of "countercultural" modern works. The comics are arranged by subject matter (kids, families, sci-fi, adventure, women, etc.), with each sequence of sample strips presented in more or less chronological order. The effect of this parallel-track structure (to someone not well versed in the subject matter, that is) is to somewhat muddy the waters on the issue of what, exactly, does constitute a "great" British comic. I rather suspect that the trendy likes of, for example, "S**t the Dog" and "Johnny Fartpants" won't hold up as well in future years as "Judge Dredd" or "Modesty Blaise", but Gravett and Stanbury treat each item in a particular collection of themed strips with more or less equal gravity. Adding to the neophyte reader's difficulties, many of the strips reproduced herein are reproduced at such a small size that one literally needs an optical aid to dope them out. This may not be much of an issue to the British reader who knows these characters and creators, but for someone who actually wants to read the doggoned - er -- bloody things, it can be a problem. The accompanying text carries a whiff of the overwrought in its attempts to plumb social meaning, but it can easily be skimmed over when things get too thick. The authors maintain a Web site, [...] which they claim includes "lots more fun and facts" (and, hopefully, larger font sizes). Overall, this is a reasonably worthwhile purchase for someone interested in broadening their panelological horizons.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful.
Excellent book for British comic fans
If you were brought up on Beano,Dandy,Eagle,Lion,Film Fun etc you will love this book.A ton of information and profusely illustrated with images of your old heroes which are liable to evoke happy memories.