Sentinel was one of the biggest British hits of last year, mixing sci-fi, humour and adventure. Now the team behind that title, Alan Holloway and Ed Doyle, have launched a title aimed at younger readers called Crackpot. Inspired by the likes of The Beano and Whizzer and Chips, Crackpot is a familiar mix of mad inventors, funny animals and cheeky children but will it make you shout “Whoopee!” or is it back to the drawing board?
Publisher: Sentinel Publications
Writer: Alan Holloway and others
Artist: Ed Doyle, Andrew Richmond, John Farrelly, Morgan Gleave, Dave Metcalfe-Carr
Price: Currently funding on Kickstarter
The comic starts with the return of two characters that many readers will already be familiar with: Neil Lithic and Tim, a caveman (caveboy?) and his pet sabre-toothed tiger who first appeared in last year’s Comic Scene annual. Crackpot also features Madd: Scientist the, er, mad scientist, phone-obsessed iKidd and Dodger-esque Trickster. The strips themselves range from three-panel long gags to five-page long strips, all in full colour. Alan Holloway writes most of the strips but there’s lots of illustrators on art duties including some that you might not expect to see in a children’s comic. Sentinel alumni Morgan Gleave illustrates two strips here as does Blazer art director and artist on horror comics such as Greyborough and Octobriana, Andrew Redmond. There seems to be a real attempt to offer variety here. It’s very difficult to appeal to a modern, younger readership and also entertain their parents who have grown with the best that IPC and DC Thompson had to offer but Holloway and Doyle pull it off.
There are some cracking, fun strips here. Buck O’Near, Time Pirate is a great romp vividly illustrated by the talented John Farrelly. Morgan Gleave’s unique style shines in both iKidd and The Furrious Four, a tale (tail?) of ninja cats. In the way that many humour weeklies had more serious, dramatic strips in them too (Billy the Cat in The Beano and The Dandy’s Black Bob, famously parodied as Black Bag, the Faithful Border Bin Liner in Viz, spring to mind) so to does Crackpot in the form of Tammy’s Troubles, written by Holloway and illustrated by Dave Metcalfe-Carr. Tammy’s Troubles is a gripping story about a homeless girl with a gift for football, in some ways reminiscent of The Sentinels in Misty, a story about a family who lose their home and are forced to stay in an abandoned tower block. TT could easily fit in the recently revived Tammy and Jinty although perhaps its more adult content (“Begging for chip money and sleeping in a room full of addicts”) is a bit more at odds with the rest of the material in the comic (“Hi, readers!”).
Crackpot is clearly a labour of love. Any parent reading this who has scoured the shelves of Smiths or the super-market, looking for something to buy for their child to read that doesn’t come sealed in a plastic bag filled with plastic tat will I’m sure smile at the cover boast “Absolutely no free gift included!” Holloway and Doyle are giving us back something we fondly remember, even down to characters as editors, just like Sid and Shiner in Whizzer and Chips whist also being aware that times have changed. Some of the concepts do bring to mind already familiar characters (Gamester and Trixter bare more than a passing resemblance to Ball Boy and Roger the Dodger but then you could say the same about Minnie the Minx and Beryl and Peril) but there’s enough invention and fun here to entertain both adults and children.
The comic ends with the editor Ivor Screwloose bursting out of the back cover, breaking the fourth wall and asking us to “join us in the next issue!” The continued success of both The Beano and The Phoenix shows that there is definitely a market for children’s comics. If you are looking for a lively mix of strips to help those long summer holidays just fly by it could be time to check out Crackpot.