Crackpot #1, Reviewed
How about a heart of gold, old school homaging, fun for all dollop of classic children comic funness from some of the great minds of Sentinel comics, The 77, Zarjaz and the U.K indie scene? Then it’s "Crackpot!" that you want and it will have you grinning from ear to ear.
The creative team behind Sentinel comic of Alan Holloway and Ed Doyle have been producing sterling work in great collections in multiple genres, consistently delivering fantastically entertaining comics. They have turned their attention to kids comics for all ages in Crackpot!.
The team, along with a few others, some even making their first dabble with kids comic format, have produced a comic with the spirit to serve as an entry point for a new generation of readers with relevant substance to satisfy all ages. They deliver an actual comic book chock full of strips and no adverts. It’s an uncompromising bridge between the classics of original Beano or Dandy, and its modern counterparts like The Phoenix, returning an underground spirit to the format not seen in too many moons.
So, let’s start with the art. Crackpot! has assembled a really awesome team of artists that have contributed or created the likes of Sentinel, Zarjaz, The77, Being A Girl or indie and zine comics of the UK with a leaning to the underground. Mighty fine credentials. Straight away we have a front cover to leave no doubt that you’re about to enjoy an ode to yesteryear kids comics and the “absolutely no free gift included” is a nice touch and the “brief strip” raises a smirk. It did seem odd to me though to have it dominate, especially when the set-up of the 1 does a great job of showcasing the art on offer.
The first art we get of the interior is from Stephen Matthews who gives us a staple joke (ahem) which is tricky to land for digital format but still the arts okay, with a very classical kid's comic style and felt tip pen type colours. Onto the first proper full strip and Sentileers will be as pleased as I was to see Ed Doyle, who also happened to have conceived this idea with Alan Holloway, return with that wonderful bygone era style that works so well in Sentinel. For this strip Neil Lithic & Tim, Ed presents a bold in colour, detail-rich strip. The prehistoric environment works great to keep things bright and Ed’s characters hold really friendly qualities to keep things on the cuter side. It’s a lot of fun. Tim in particular with a bigger pupil in one eye has a strong personality, for a sabertooth cat.
Illegal Aliens is the next strip with Paul pence on art duties. Paul's ode to Ace Trucking Co, A Fare To Remember showed how incredible Paul's art works with space led sci-fi. This time it's a bit more Earthbound, but boy does it still work. Paul’s humans are particularly cartoony, appropriately enough with some great character detail with the General and Creeply, but it’s the aliens themselves that really stand out with exceptional imagination. Blobb was a particular favourite. The addition of colour to Paul's art adds a really playful element which I thought was superb. Certainly my favourite art on offer.
Andrew Richmond, of The 77 and Futurequake fame, is up next on Madd Scientist with really funky, bold art. There's zaniness to the characters and colour palette that I’m sure little ones will find very appealing. The purple and green sell a safe fun for all horror vibe that I really dug with character designs that really capture the madcap spirit. On to Morgan Gleave now who serves art for iKidd in a bold ink style that gives off the most modern vibes of all the art. The minimalist detail looks work really well with a polished and fun presentation that suits the gadget-laden story perfectly. Another kid-pleaser.
Dave Metcalfe-Carr, with recent Being A Girl credentials and a future Sentinel on the horizon, tackles Tammy's Troubles for a big deviation in storytelling. The art and story here take on a much more serious tone than the other strips in a digital style with more realism leanings but keeps the colours bright and bold for the kid comic aesthetics. It’s a style that might speak best to older minds but suits its subject matter very well. Morgan Gleave returns for Furrious Four with that super bold ink line style this time with feline characters. This strong style works so well at bringing things back to the more light-hearted side.
Star of Zarjaz and Comicscene John Farrelly arrives next handling art and writing for Buck O’neer Time Pirate with a whimsical fairytale style with sci-fi elements and swashbuckling action. Another truly for all ages art presentation emphasized by strong colours. The soft pink underlying throughout holds a special quality that for me delivered the second-best art on offer. John presents a lot of detail in every panel and it's the attention to these details that fills the characters with emotion and fun elements. Now it’s back to Steve Matthews on Gamester with a style more favourable to older readers. It’s a very dated style of art and the returning felt tip pen quality of colours felt a bit lost or maybe it fails to come across digitally. It reminds me of the “How To Draw Cartoons” book found in the library as a kid that might serve well as a flag for younger readers to feel like they could imitate it.
Ed Doyle pops back up again on Bear Minimum with his distinct style. There's an almost hyperreal quality to Ed’s art that's really interesting even with the titular anthropomorphic bear. The bold colours keep this style bridging old and new age kid comic art styles and works really well. The final piece of art comes courtesy of Dave Metcalfe-Carr’s second strip Trixter. This art style is very different from Tammy's Troubles. It gives off modern era Beano adjacent vibes with a darker colour palette to boot. Half the strip is literally set on black but there’s still a boldness that grabs attention and the layout works with this in a very pleasing way.
All in all a real nice mix of art across the ten strips on offer which in the greater majority work really well. Standouts though definitely being Paul Spence and John Farrelly.
On to the stories then. First off let’s just take a second to appreciate Alan Holloway. As if writing every issue of the ridiculously diverse Sentinel comics wasn’t enough (and there's still more Sentinel to come), let alone developing the concept in the first place, then co-conceiving this gem of a kids comic adding further range, then Alan writes eight of the ten strips on offer, I mean, does he sleep? That’s not to mention Alan’s contributions to Comicscene, Zarjaz, The 77, Sector 13 and Dogbreath. Just have a minute Alan jeez. Actually don’t, we love your writing.
Anyway, this is Alan's first kids comic so let’s get back on task and go quick fire for stories. Well, we have Neil Lithic & Tim- Alan & Ed (Sentinel dynamic duo) giving a fun romp of playful dinosaurs with just a hint of prehistoric Garfield and the perils of fetch, maybe a little fable on jealousy, that's sure to entertain fans of all ages.
Illegal Aliens - Alan reteams with Paul Spence art for the story of the least secret base in England, of course, it's the Area 51 ½ just outside Birmingham and its resident family of aliens. All the aliens want is to take in and explore the west midlands perhaps and I’m only suggesting to go watch the blues face the inevitable relegation battle. Whatever reason they’ll have to get past Mr Creeply to manage it. Super, silly fun.
Madd: Scientist- Mr Holloway again but this time with Andrew Richmonds art. Gives us the bonkersly mad scientist Professor Madd as he goes to drastic lengths to realize his Great British Bake Off dreams. That's if “helpful” assistant Gary can source the right bits on the shopping list.
iKidd- Alan with Morgan's art introduces us to India Kidd the schoolgirl tech savant with a gadget fueled plan to get her phone back. It’s the kid outwits authority classic storyline given modern accessibility.
Tammy’s Troubles- Alan with that art of Dave, deviates from the silliness with a more poignant tale with Tammy and Jinty vibes. This Tammy is a homeless girl with a hidden talent that might just help her turn her life around.
Furrious Four- Alan with the art of Morgan presents an action-packed super styled story of four cats Trinity, Fuzzface, Mrs Pussyface and Chunk who have incredibly vivid imaginations.
Buck O’Neer Time Pirate- this one's all John Ferrelly who delivers a really pretty story of Captain Buck O’Neer and his first mate Cog “sailing” their Time-Ship The Flying Tachyon. Arriving home with a bountiful loot they are looking at a life of Riley as long as they don’t cross paths with a dreadnought. This is a great sci-fi adventure.
Gamester- Alan (unsurprisingly) with Steve’s art provides the story of Gamester, the boy with an extra smart smartphone that makes games come alive.
Bear Minimum- Michael Carrol this time. Teaming up with Ed Doyle's art for the story of Mini, the bear who’s not keen on tidying up her room, even if there’s a reward. Minis got a plan to get out of it though but will it pay off?
Trixster- the final story is written by Alan Holloway with Dave Metcalfe-Carr on art, giving us the story of Trixie, the young lady who’d like a new game. Dad offers to oblige if Trixie will earn it by washing the car. Trixie has other ideas and hatches an elaborate bet to get what she wants.
Crackpot! Is a lot of fun. There's something for everyone in these pages. A great read to share with kids while young of heart adults will get a kick out of the nostalgia-inducing presentation. It’s the perfect afternoon or bedtime reading for the typically unpredictable British summertime. Where promised future issues on the horizon as Crackpot! comfortably managed its funding on Kickstarter back in July. You might be able to get a limited signed physical copy from Ed Doyle by emailing email@example.com I’d recommend his Twitter page @EDDREDD for full details.
Alternatively, go to DAVE MC – Products – Buy Small Press to buy your edition. Try it out.