With the Madefire originals making their debut in print courtesy of Titan Comics, we take a look back at Liam Sharp’s award-winning Captain Stone Is Missing #1. Does this former Digital Comic of The Year still stand up with the very best or has time dimmed its appeal?
Writer: Christina McCormack and Liam Sharp
Artist: Liam Sharp
Sound: Liam Sharp, Simon Jones and Box of Toys
Price: Free from Madefire
Originally launched in 2012, Madefire was the brainchild of former Marvel UK artist Liam Sharp, Moving Brands co-founder Ben Wolstenholme and Watchmen legend Dave Gibbons. Their goal was to create a unique take on digital comics, known as motion books, that would push the boundaries of what a sequential story could be, adding animation, sound and not being constrained by traditional pages. The first titles released by this fledgling group was Wolstenholme’s Mono, Gibbons’ Treatment, and Liam Sharp’s Captain Stone Is Missing, which was co-written by his wife Christina McCormack and instantly set the tone for what we should expect from the ‘Madefire Originals’.
From an art point of view Liam’s work in Captain Stone has never been better. His bonkers turn on The Incredible Hulk in the 90s made him one of our favourite artists and despite being short-lived his mash of styles and hugely muscled take on that hero made it truly memorable and also infuses Captain Stone with the same musclebound heft. The heroes in Captain Stone are HUGE and the heroine has a lusty teenagers ideal Amazonian physique. Liam has always been equally adept at pencilling, inking and painted artwork, but in Captain Stone he throws the kitchen sink at both. Pages feature incredibly detailed, painted portraits while others contain simple shapes and patterns making Captain Stone completely unlike anything else we have seen.
But how is this any different to a regular Liam Sharp comic? Well the simple answer is thanks to the Madefire platform itself. It has allowed Liam to open up his canvas. His work is no longer constrained by rectangular boxes and standard page sizes. He can bring elements into the panels and slide or merge them together. There is a wonderful segment where we get to peek into the surreal mind of our female protagonist and readers can move up and down and left to right. The overall effect is like being in a fish bowl and it’s incredibly exciting as you make parts of the image move in and out of focus with a swipe of your finger.
This fluid movement and action is accompanied by simple sound effects and a unique score. There are swathes of synths and strings which are punctured by animal noises, footsteps, running water and other extraneous noises. The overall effect lends the book a movie-like experience – the only thing missing is human speech.
But what about the story? Captain Stone is Missing – that much we know – but who is he and why should we care? Well in this episode you don’t really find out. You can see the Captain (in his muscle-bound glory) but this book is all about another characters’ mission to find him. We are introduced to Charlotte Chance, a reclusive writer and a kind of a hunter with a taste for blood. She has ordinary family problems, an inherited rebellious streak and by the end of the episode is shocked by her link to Captain Stone.
As long time fans of Liam’s art, we were unsure how he would translate to being a writer too, however he is ably assisted by wife and co-writer Christina McCormack. By telling the story through a rolling monologue it makes Captain Stone feel like an old fashioned detective movie. This first chapter is ntitled ‘Chess’, and the story revolves around the rules of the game. There are references to the Queen (our heroine) being the most powerful piece, the thrill of the hunt and also of being constrained by rules. Blood also runs throughout the book – the family kind and the spilling of – it’s all very clever but very clearly told. This book is something of a whodunit and Liam and Christina definitely know who did it and how they’re going to tell you, and we cannot wait to find out more.