It Came! #1–4
Created, written and illustrated by Dan Boultwood, Esq.
Published by Titan Comics
Presented as a lost feature from Pinetree Studios (there is also a trailer for another feature, The Lost Valley Of The Lost [‘Based entirely on scientifically dubious fabricated facts’], and tongue-in-cheek adverts for such products as Smoke & Choke’um Cigarettes, Liquid Hair, Johnny Foreigner Engine Oil and Reddy Teddy Gum before the comic starts), It Came! is a loving pastiche of British B-movies from the 1950s, filmed in ‘eyeball-o-rama vision’. Our heroes are Dr Boy Brett, of Space University, and his sidekick, Doris Night, as they discover a giant alien robot bent on destruction in a village near Trumpington Abbey. Brett calls in the army to save the day (with the promise of ‘a pint and a packet of pork scratchings’ to his friend the colonel to achieve it), who look rather a lot like certain actors from a certain British comedy franchise. However, the robot is too powerful, and it heads towards London after Brett and Doris discover its secret: it’s stealing stiff upper lips, the essence of Britishness, to power its onslaught.
This book is hilarious; I could spend most of my review quoting the funny lines. Brett, who constantly chews on his pipe while patronising Doris (calling her ‘old duck’, ‘old minge’, ‘old flange’), which reflects the sexism of the day; Doris is constantly doing her make-up but she’s still clever and sharp beneath that; the essential Britishness that flavours the entire book, including such lines as ‘More tea, vicar?’, ‘Bloody Nora!’, ‘I’ll be mother’. Brett gets a lot of good lines (‘I’m Dr Boy Brett, noted scientist of space and such’, ‘I was being de-bagged at the time’, ‘and that’s why you should never flush a toilet at altitude’, ‘It’s all gone brown in trouser town’, ‘I think this chap is pebble-dashing the Cistern chapel’), but there’s also the general attitude of the whole comic book. The spaceship looks like a classic flying saucer from the films at the time, and even has the string coming out the top, just like the old films.
Boultwood’s love of these old films shines through – it’s obvious that he’s not ridiculing them for easy jokes – and his storytelling transfers that passion across to the reader. He is a wonderful cartoonist and comic book artist – his style is charming and quirky, but clean and amusing; the animation-cel-like drawings allow the characters to shine in a simply rendered English countryside that contrasts with elegant and futurist design of the alien robot. I haven’t seen his work before (on the likes of Baker Street Irregulars and Danger Academy, and he also does a strip for The Phoenix called Haggis and Quail) but that’s something I’ll have to rectify because the ‘misanthropic picturesmith’ (according to his Twitter bio) has got style and skill by the bucketful.
In addition to his fantastic art, the story itself is a delight and Boultwood has a lightness of touch to his storytelling, with a great handle on characters and the quintessential British sensibility that fuels the narrative and the humour. (I read a review for the first issue of this book on one of the big US comic book sites that completely missed this point – their only frame of reference was Mystery Science Theater 3000 and therefore thought It Came! wasn’t funny, totally misunderstanding that this book has nothing to do with that television programme at all, but to do with Carry On films and Ealing studio films and British low-budget sci-fi films that tried and failed to emulate the American films of the time; the reviewer simply didn’t get it: this book is hilarious.)
I was pleasantly surprised and thoroughly charmed by this book: Boultwood has created a sharp, quirky, witty, snappy, laugh-out-loud, loving homage to bygone cinema and Britishness. The attention to detail he brings to it is great: in addition to the covers at the back, there are also fake IMDb-like pages for the two lead ‘actors’, behind-the-scenes photographs, cigarette cards, one-sheets for other films from Pinetree Studios, and even a police report on the escapades of Dick Claymore, who plays Boy Brett. The taste-makers at Titan Comics have picked another winner – this is another great book and you should do yourself a favour and check it out.