Friday, April 8, 2011

Charley's War: The Great Mutiny

What I try to do with reviews at this Bookshelf blog is keep it simple and spoiler-free, and let you know whether I'd recommend you pick up a copy of what I just read. Seems to work okay. This time, a brief review of Charley's War: The Great Mutiny (Volume 7) (Titan, 2010).

Overshadowing the release of this seventh collection of Charley's War has been some interesting commentary by the strip's writer Pat Mills. First, I was pleased to learn that Titan intends to release the entirety of his run on the series, which originally appeared in Battle Picture Weekly in the early '80s. Drawn by the late Joe Colquhoun, Mills wrote the first 300 or so episodes before stepping down, leaving Scott Goodall to take the helm for another few years. It is apparently Titan's intention to issue all of Mills' run across ten hardbacks. That's wonderful news, because this really is the finest comic about war ever made, and even simply sitting down to marvel at Colquhoun's artwork without taking the time to engage with the story is a terrific pleasure.

But I was also very sorry to read that Titan is not paying any royalties from their releases to either Mills or to Colquhoun's family. That's a ridiculous and stupid shame; I can't freaking believe that this is the 21st Century and publishers are still acting like that. I understand that, especially with a pleasantly reasonable $20 retail price for such a nice hardcover, the profit margin for these books must be slim - the audience, sadly, must still be very small - but seriously, guys, charge an extra five bucks a book and send Joe's family a little check, would you? It puts a damper on all the other, long overdue Battle reprints that are allegedly coming out. I hear that the first Johnny Red book is finally out in some places - it was reviewed over at The Comics Journal - but Diamond hasn't delivered a copy of that to the comic shop where I buy them.

Nor, for that matter, did Diamond ever deliver volume six of the series, which is why I begged off buying this for a couple of months, fingers crossed in vain that I would get to read it before volume seven. Eventually I caved and really enjoyed this book. It's titled "The Great Mutiny" and about the first half of the book covers that interesting incident at √Čtaples, and I have had a great time reading background to that. It was a much smaller rebellion than I realized, but what made it remarkable was that it happened at all. (I've also learned that William Alison and John Fairley's infamous Monocled Mutineer was really playing fast and loose with the historical record by placing Percy Toplis in √Čtaples in time for the uprising, but I can grudgingly forgive it, since Paul McGann was so good as Toplis in the miniseries.)

Anyway, after √Čtaples, Charley goes back to the front and wants to make up for some of his earlier actions by volunteering as a stretcher bearer, and then things go completely to hell. It really is remarkable that Mills was able to sustain the energy and drama in Charley's War for as long as he did. At this point, we're something close to 200 episodes into the series - the only failure of these reprints, other than compensating the creators, is the lack of original credits and dates, as seen in other recent Titan collections - and, apart from a three-month break in the original publication as Colquhoun recovered from a heart attack, there was a new episode of Charley's War damn near every week for six years. I don't know how in the world they managed it. Recommended, but with some newly-found distaste about the publishing biz.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I too read Pat's explanation of how the creators are still being stiffed - it's disgraceful that these sorts of practices continue to go on.