Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Comics Britannia (starting September on BBC4)

comics_lead

A three-part documentary series covering Britain's contribution to the world of sequential art, narrated by Armando Iannucci.

Boingboing has already mentioned this, but I've actually seen it (thanks to BBC4's innovative and far-sighted marketing strategy of chucking free DVDs at me, woo hoo), so am just that bit cooler.

The series starts with 'The Fun Factory': pre and immediately post-war children's comics such as the Beano and Dandy, moves with 'Boys and Girls' to the search for an older readership (with an excellent dissection of girl's comics such as the Jaqueline Wilson-titled 'Jackie') and ends at 'Anarchy In The UK' with the blood spurtin', laser-shootin', The Man-defyin' titles of 2000AD, Warlord and Deadline.

Early fears the series would include a parade of celebutards calling out the catchphrases a la 'I heart 2004' can thankfully be laid to rest - the talking heads involved range from industry luminaries Leo Baxendale and Alan Moore to informed commentators Stewart Lee and, er, Frank Skinner. Who isn't as annoying as you'd expect, and someone has to talk about Roy of the Rovers.

The only slight criticism I would have is that getting various people to read out bits very very slowly and then chuckling to themselves is a bit annoying actually, as the captions are on screen, and we wouldn't be interested in a documentary about comics IF WE COULDN'T READ FOR OURSELVES, but otherwise it's a really excellent piece of work, clearly put together by people who actually give a toss about their subject.

Anyway, it's jolly good, and well worth a look - one sure benchmark of quality is that gf Patroclus, not, shall we say, legendary for her knowledge of the interior layout of Forbidden Planet, took her favourite quote 'Oh no, not another quarry' as her new business motto.

The two Desperate Dan writers recalling wistfully the days when their hero 'could kill and eat a lot of endangered species' was a further highlight.


BBC Comics Britannia site

22 comments:

patroclus said...

I may not know the way to Forbidden Planet, but there's nothing I couldn't tell you about Lisa the Lonely Ballerina.

She never shot lasers out of her eyes, for one thing.

james henry said...

Her only flaw.

JonnyB said...

Boooooooo - BBC4 do not send me free stuff. Apart from their signal.

I used to love comics when I was a kid. The bits that said 'Reader's Voice' were my favourite. A while back I picked up a copy of the Beano in the dentist's. I was really disappointed - it was, like, totally juvenile.

james henry said...

Whereas ironically, I can't get a signal BBC4. D'oh!

I'd forgotten about the 'Reader's Voice' thing. It was always much more cynical and questioning than I ever was.

james henry said...

'for' BBC4.

le sigh

Imo said...

Hmmmm is Mandy featured, or is it all boy's stuff only?!?

james henry said...

Don't think Mandy is specifically, but lots of stuff about various girl's comics in the second episode - including photo stories with both Hugh Grant and George Michael. Can't say fairer than that.

patroclus said...

imo: the second episode about the girls' comics (Bunty etc.) is great. Apparently IPC (I think) did some research in the 70s into what girls really wanted to see in comics, and the response was 'awful, dreadful suffering'. So they did story after story about lame ballerinas (not Lisa, she wasn't lame, just lonely), and tortured war orphans, and housemaids that got relentlessly beaten by the butler. Pretty strong stuff for pre-teens, but apparently we liked it.

Spinsterella said...

I'm looking forward immensely to the girls' comics setcion.

I do believe that my current life situation is all Bunty's fault.. Sort of.

P is spot on.

Lame ballerinas were like pretty astronauts to me, so very welcome escapism really.

Other than the Four Marys there were all sorts of Common But Decent girls (like Mary Cotton) who went around Achieving Stuff. Hideous propaganda really.

Imo said...

Ohhh will look forward to the second installment then. I seem to remember stories about awful endless suffering, but they all had happy endings after about 20 weekly installments. I'm just kicking myself that I let my mother persuade me to throw out my massive pile of comics from under the bed when I was about 18!!!

Jayne said...

Oh god, the Four Marys. Wasn't one of them rather posh? I seem to remember one of them was Lady Mary.

Mind you, even though there were lots of stories about ballerinas and ponies the heroines tended to be the sorts who'd hit you with a hockey (or lacrosse) stick rather than let themselves be kidnapped...

Tim Footman said...

I think Leo Baxendale was the first person I had a fanboy crush on. Even before Tom Baker. It was the Badtime Bedtime Books pullouts inside Monster Fun comic that did it (although obviously I loved the Bash Street Kids as well).

Dave said...

BBC4 you say? Sadly, those of us in the regions (and I suspect this applies to you, in view of above comment) can't receive these fancy digital signals. BBC2 is as high a number as my TV can go.

So do, please, keep updating us on Things We Will Never Be Able To Watch.

james henry said...

Oh stop fucking moaning.

Dave said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
james henry said...

Oops, Dave was responding to an earlier comment where I shouted at him for not reading my earlier comment properly, then I realised I hadn't read his comment properly, so deleted that comment and did a new sweary one instead.

Sorry Dave, people from the Regions (bleurgh) shouldn't turn on each other like taht.. Although I would say that BBC 4 things end up on BBC 2 eventually, you just have to be patient.

Dave said...

OK. I'll stop crying now.

I must say, though, that I find the regular trailers on BBC for things I can't watch to be terribly, terribly annoying.

Perhaps they should just send regional viewers like you DVDs instead.

Oh, they already do.

james henry said...

Yes, it's not really a long-term solution is it?

I'd much rather these things went straight on BBC 1 and 2 - 3 and 4 then being used for repeats. Which might be where it's going, actually...

JonnyB said...

I'm in the regions also. And we can't get the signal because of the church tower. Allegedly.

But it comes through the satellite dish via Freesat, along with loads of really interesting stuff. Repeats of 'Crown Court' mainly, which is SURELY due for a remake.

Taiga the Fox said...

Blimey, I must admit I had to get down from the Facebook towers to see what was happening here.
Hmm... anyway, talking about the Regions of the universe. They still haven't shown us the Vikatikki series 2. Imagine that.

llewtrah said...

I used to be a Forbidden Planet regular!
I was a Misty subscriber. I think I posted nostalgic waffle about girls' comics back when I started blogging :)

james henry said...

Feel free to link, llew...

The Four Marys get a mention, by the way. And hello taiga!