Remember Goldtiger? In the 1960s, this newspaper serial from writer Louis Schaeffer and artist Antonio Baretti gained a firm cult following, though never achieved the popularity of its better-known competitor Modesty Blaise. Creative differences between all involved meant it was cut short, leading to Baretti suffering a mental breakdown. The artist’s later attempt to re-imagine the strip as a sci-fi epic was rejected by 2000 AD, and his attempts to publish Goldtiger 2000 elsewhere were no more successful.
Of course, none of that really happened – in this new book from Guy Adams and Jimmy Broxton, the grumpy Schaeffer and egotistical Baretti are as much a part of the fiction as fashion designers-cum-mercenaries Lily Gold and Jack Tiger. The book presents The Poseidon Complex, a serial in which Lily and Jack follow a trail of disappearing boats, leading them into conflict with a crocodile-skinned supervillain who’s developing a laser that turns objects into liquid. Around this strip, it provides us with a meta-story following the chaos behind the scenes of Goldtiger, incorporating into the plot letters, interview transcripts, and various other historical documents.
The strip itself is a kitschy period adventure, in which both Adams’ sensational writing and Broxton’s simple but lurid art capture the tropes of the source material perfectly; though unsophisticated compared to the comics of today, it’ll provide nostalgic glee to those familiar with the genre.
Goldtiger really shines, however, in the meta-story, simultaneously a hilarious mocking of ‘60s attitudes and a character study of two highly flawed artists. As the glimpses into Schaeffer and Baretti’s lives build up, we get a picture of why they were such a bad fit for each other; a radio interview with Schaeffer sees him annoyed at having to talk about Goldtiger, while letters between Baretti and the 2000 AD editors show his arrogant assertion that the strip is his great masterpiece.
The book’s two strands – The Poseidon Complex and the behind-the-scenes material – intertwine very cleverly. At one point, Baretti draws himself into the strip, explaining directly to its readers how he’s skipped a slow, boring section of Schaeffer’s script. Schaeffer attempted to regain control, the meta-story tells us, by sketching out later scenes himself, at which Baretti threw a hissy fit and sent off the writer’s sketches as the finished product, leaving the strip amusingly messy.
Goldtiger is a fantastically presented volume, with its collection of documents convincing enough to trick you into thinking this excruciatingly catastrophic creative collaboration is all too real. Using the framing device of a lovingly constructed pastiche of a ‘60s serial, Adams and Broxton have brought us one of the most original and fascinating comics volumes of 2016 so far.
GOLDTIGER / AUTHOR: GUY ADAMS / ARTIST: JIMMY BROXTON / PUBLISHER: 2000AD / RELEASE DATE: MARCH 10TH