We get links a lot of Kickstarter projects, but very rarely do I see one that seems quite as magical as Goldtiger, by Guy Adams and Jimmy Broxton. Well, I say Adams and Broxton, but there is another conceptual level to this project. The book is presented as if a high-end archival edition of a legendary lost newspaper strip by a pair of fictional creators, Antonio Barreti and Louis Shaeffer, with the story of their descent into dysfunction and madness affecting the contents of the strip accompanying it.
It's a post-modern conceit that allows Adams and Broxton to both produce a fun homage to their favorite vintage newspaper adventure strips, and wryly comment on the psychological damage producing comics has all-too-often wreaked upon the writers and artists of the form. Most of all, though, it's some great-looking comics: Broxton has provided us with some exclusive examples from the work in progress, and they're all gorgeous.
To add a further level of intrigue to this story, "Jimmy Broxton" is also a fictional character of sorts, a persona created by the veteran inker James Hodgkins as he entered a new phase as his career as an illustrator rather than a finisher. Broxton dazzled me with his work on DC's Knight and Squire miniseries: as fine a storyteller as he is a stylist, and producing multiple memorable character designs to boot. Guy Adams is a comparative newcomer to comics, but an author of a multitude of both novels and non-fiction. Their partnership was midwifed by Liam Sharp, who hired them both to work together for his digital comics publisher Madefire. Obviously, creative sparks flew. When I spoke to them both recently about Goldtiger, I realized they've became quite the double act ...
Robot 6: Knight and Squire was one of my favorite comics of recent years, and I've often seen Guy's novels on the shelves at my day job …
Jimmy Broxton: You have? So, you work in a retirement home as well?
Guy Adams: More likely a prison if it's my novels. Or perhaps an asylum ...
... but this isn't your first comic together, though, is it?
JB: We were both invited to work on The Engine for Madefire. After a few conversations, it became readily apparent there was more we could offer the world beyond decommissioned Russian robots and trapped miners. A shared love of comics new and old prompted us to bang heads together. We realized there was story we were born to tell, that story was Goldtiger, we didn't let the fact that we may well have been born 30 years too late get in our way, the rest is a completely revisionist and fictional history as they say ... do they say that?
GA: Oh, they're always saying that round my house. "Honestly, I put the rubbish out." "Liar, that's a completely revisionist and fictional history. Do it now."
Sometimes, when collaborating, you hit lucky and you end up working with someone who is both different enough and similar enough to yourself. Jimmy and I share a lot of the same tastes in storytelling but are divergent enough that we can rub up against each other creatively. Which sounds terribly rude. You know what I mean though, you need to turn a bit of grit into a pearl. It's great fun working with him. Goldtiger was dreamed up within 24 hours, the sudden realization of something we had both wanted to do for years but which needed the enthusiasm of someone else to drag it to life.
I could make a load of speculative guesses about the influences upon Goldtiger, but it'd be much better coming from you guys unprompted ...
JB: Oh, I'd love to hear your speculative guesses, and that is one of my worst habits as an interviewee ...
GA: Only because you can't see him. His worst habit is doing interviews naked.
JB: Artistically, many strips are an influence, but more for the approach to the form and the conventions of compressed storytelling, rather than how we render hair or girls' backsides … or guy's for that matter, not Guy sitting here, the writer, I mean, oh, you know what I mean.
GA: He has never rendered my backside, just to be clear. In fact I think my backside is probably immune to rendering, except by a master of plastering.
JB: I'm steeped in the history of the great strips, both British and American, cut me and I bleed ink (and beer, hey, I'm English...) Modesty Blaise, Garth, Apartment 3G, The Spirit, Dick Tracy …
GA: *sighs, goes off to put the kettle on*
JB: … Steve Canyon, Johnny Hazzard, Scorchy Smith, Jane, Barbarella, Phoebe Zeit-Geist, Carol Day, The Heart of Julliette Jones, Bash Brannigan (metatextural in-joke) …
GA: *returns with coffee, Broxton has gone into a trance, so pops out for a cigarette*
JB: Rip Kirby, Secret Agent X-9, Flash Gordon, Wizard of Id, B.C., Gasoline Alley, Jane- Daughter of Jane, Peanuts, Pogo, Romeo Brown, The Gambols, Fred Basset, Friday Foster, Andy Capp …
GA *comes back, smiles, pretends he has been sat there all along*
JB: I could go on (in fact I already have, quite a bit). I love them all. Most are now forgotten, some remain household names, some even continue as strips. The power of the strip remains. It resonates in a way that sometimes comic books do not, and you have to remember, most newspaper strips are intended for adults, not children.
GA: We talked a lot about this actually, the fact that newspaper strips were comics written for people who didn't normally read them. George and Lynne is a great example of the fight to keep the attention of the morning commuter, breasts and a gag shot at the eyes over three panels.
JB: Having said all that the main influence on Goldtiger comes from '60s culture in general, TV, music, fashion and film. It can be read in different ways, and on different levels. For those that want high adventure in the Modesty/Bond tradition, with sexy lead characters, with dollops of nudity and sadistic violence (and hey, who doesn't?) then Goldtiger delivers that. But it also subverts the genre it appears to homage, crackling beneath the surface is something quite different, we call it "metatextural."
GA: Patrick McGoohan would have loved that word!
JB: Imagine a cross between Modesty Blaise, The Italian Job, The Prisoner and Fellini's 8½ and you'll probably be as confused as I am, but you may be closer to realizing what insanity Guy has cooked up, he is the evil mastermind behind Goldtiger, on his lap sits the Persian cat which he strokes while rattling off increasingly incredible adventures for me to draw, I also have to change the litter tray.
GA: Mine as well as the cat's. I'm a very busy man. We wanted to build something that oozed fun and adventure, even when it was discussing the 'behind the scenes' stuff, readers should't feel the energy dips in any way. In fact, if we get to tell all the stories we plan the two narratives should eventually become almost indistinguishable. I don't want it to sound to worthy or earnest though, it's mad, fun stuff.
The death of the great British newspaper adventure strip is a crying shame, isn't it? I remember when The Mirror ended Garth mid-strip, and I nearly jumped in a plane to London to go kick Piers Morgan in the balls.
JB: Well, I'm sure lots of folks have good reasons for wanting to kick Mr Morgan in the balls.
GA: He is a wonderful personification of evil. Not many people realize that he can actually kill innocent babies just by smiling at them. They see the devil reflected in his shining teeth.
JB: But I don't think we can pin the death of the newspaper adventure strip on him.
GA: Probably not, can we pin something else though? This poisonous viper for example? Pin it right on his face.
JB: I have always loved newspaper strips, when I was younger, that is what I wanted to be: a newspaper strip artist, not a comic book artist. But despite being of a '60s vintage myself, I was born too late. By the time I could hold a crayon without getting it all over my bib, the heyday of the great adventure strip had gone. Some classics lingered, and even continue to this day, but in reality they were from a bygone era. A lost art. Lost art! That really is what Goldtiger is about, rediscovering something that didn't even exist, but should have, so now does, or does it? (Now that is truly lost.)
GA: Like Jimmy I wanted to make newspaper strips. Sadly I can't draw. I also wanted to be David Bowie but can't play an instrument of any kind. Life is full of failures. I used to clip them out of the newspapers and glue them into exercise books. Smudged, pages gummed up, fingers covered in ink, I'd try and inject the stuff into me so that I might one day be able to replicate it. Maybe that's actually worked at last ...
Tell us about Antonio Barreti and Louis Shaeffer, your metafictional alter-egos. They didn't have easy lives, did they?
JB: No, they didn't, Guy ... explain yourself!
GA: Well, as I said above, I wanted the backstory to develop into something as complex and weird as the strips themselves. With Barreti I was partly influenced by Spike Milligan, a man who constantly fought with mental illness that leaked out into his work. He frequently demanded to be sectioned and sometimes wrote scripts when locked away from the world, surrounded by fragile, broken people. The scripts were all the funnier for it. Tragedy doesn't have to be miserable, it can trigger wild, escapist fantasies.
Shaeffer is more grounded, a sci-fi journeyman, living off a prolific ability to make stuff up. Yet he is saddled with a man whose grip on reality is getting looser and looser by the day.
There is plenty of grit in their professional oyster … a whole seabed's worth.
That Kickstarter, eh? So much better than armed robbery.
JB: Well, that depends on what you're after. If your main objective is to steal money, then armed robbery is as good a way to go as any, but if you are a creator, and you have a dream and an idea, but maybe its not commercial enough for mainstream publishers (who don't like taking risks) but you still want the opportunity to present it to the world, so readers have the opportunity to see it and possibly buy it, then I'd say crowd funding platforms like Kickstarter are a great way to go. Much more so than walking into a post office with a sawn-off shotgun shouting "Do you like comics, then buy this fucker or the bitch behind the counter is the first to go!!!"
I dunno. I grew up in Northern Ireland during the 1980s, robbing rural post offices with menaces is always my go-to idea for fundraising.
GA: It's costing me sleep though! I'm so determined that we need to make this book that I'm terrified of us not hitting our funding. So, every few hours I'm checking it, looking for patterns, panicking when it goes quiet. It finishes first thing in the morning on March 17th, at which point I will probably end up being sectioned myself. I will have become Barreti and Shaeffer rolled into one.
Thanks to Guy and Jimmy for being such amusing company, and for generously sending along the samples from the work in progress featured above, especially the amazing Steranko-goes-Swinging-London image used as the header, created exclusively for us here at Robot 6. To pledge some funds for this amazing sounding project, visit the Goldtiger Kickstarter page.