Publisher: Fat Boy Comics
There is no shortage of comic-creating talent in Wales, from veteran Doctor Who artist Mike Collins to 2000AD favourites Dylan Teague and Patrick Goddard. So it was only a matter of time before someone came up with the idea of an anthology.
And so 10thology was unleashed on the world at the first Cardiff International Comic Expo back in February. The title plays off the ten stories contained inside the handsome trade paperback format, each tale filling 10 pages. And with any anthology, you will get strong stories, weaker ones and, hopefully, great blasts of imagination that haunt you long after you close the cover on the book.
There are great tales in here, the first being The Sleeping Knights of Craig Y Ddinas by 10thology editor Stuart Tipples with Collins on art duties. A cautionary story in the vein of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, the legendary knights safeguard gold and silver deep underground. But when a plunderer’s greed breaks the rules of the place, well, bad things happen.
Then there’s the origin of rugby by prehistoric man versus dinosaur in The Valley of Gwadni by Simon Wyatt. It taps into that Alan Moore-way of telling perfectly formed little creations by using a rhyming narrative to give it the feel of a song.
One story you will read at least twice is the non-linear Devolution. Chris Lynch has written a perspective-bending tale of time travel by giving different time periods to five wildly different artists, combining them into a plot told in panels that can be read left to right or up to down while still remaining coherent. No mean feat and, while the first read through can be confusing, the more you go back, the more you glean about the story beneath the story. It’s not quite perfect and can be jarring in places, but still qualifies as a technical triumph. Nazi bombs travelling through time to explode over modern-day Cardiff, Vikings stalking past the Wales Millennium Centre, monks worshipping a licence plate spelling DE1TY in the car park where once sat their monastery – Devolution has got it all.
Editor Lynch says in his foreword it was the anthology’s aim to usher in new talent, and there are able tales from these, too. Dai Hard by Rich McAuliffe and Jenny Clements is a cartoony tale of a security guard in the wrong place at the wrong time that must foil the assassination of The Voice aka Tom Jones. Steve Morris writes a Terry Pratchett-esque short story in The Clock where magic and modern day amble along together. Jon Rennie wisely lets David Young and Lucy Artiss’ pictures tell the story in The Edge of the World. And the team up of Jamie Lambert and Dave Clifford with their Second World War mob Dexter’s Half Dozen is good fun in The Hidden Flame, with the gang crash landing on a rugby pitch to return a dragon’s egg stolen from the Nazis back to a coal mine.
Some tales are perhaps too ambitious for a mere ten pages. Project Phoenix by Terry Cooper feels like the start of a 22-page comic book, but without the middle and the end. The abrupt ending of Red Cave, derived from the English translation of Llanfairpwll-etc, is unclear. But the text story Blood Brothers has gone a bit copy-and-paste mad, with the same lengthy passage appearing twice back-to-back, interrupting a crucial fight scene. Which is a terrible shame as the story about a yobbish caretaker versus the goddess Mallt Y Nos is good. Also plaguing the story was the bad decision to earmark the bottom of the pages with some blood-stained imagery to make the pages look less book-ish. But reading black text on a dark grey background, not good.
The absence of an apostrophe here and there in the occasional tale is forgivable, but the creators’ introductions are messy. Some use few words to detail their contribution to the anthology, others are more lengthy. An opportunity for uniformity has been missed here. Not wanting to act as the grammar police, but 10thology would have benefited greatly with a final proof reading as the typos and missed spaces add up, making the content sometimes at odds with the overall lush presentation of the book. Originally slated for release at the Bristol International Comic Expo in mid-May, perhaps bringing the book forward to capitalise on its launch in the Welsh capital has harmed it.
The editor has said it is his aim to make the anthology an annual event, which is great news. Any opportunity to see newcomers rub shoulders and learn from the masters is welcome and I’m sure future editions will be polished both inside and out.