Often a comic book character will stand out from the crowd without the creators initial intentions, and while I am sure Len Wein never considered that a short, Canadian guy called Wolverine would be such a huge success, I do think David Barnett and Martin Simmonds had an inkling that in a comic book series filled with the bizarre and brilliant, that Dorothy Culpepper had that potential.
Or maybe not, given Barnett’s half-joke that he sold Black Crown’s Shelly Bond on a half-baked idea that he then had to follow through with. I’d like to think the whole series has come about as a result of the DIY punk rock ethos in its conception as well as it’s content. But Culpepper is far from punk herself.
Rather, she is not so much a man of mode but rather a maid of mod, if you will. A woman who not only embraced the swinging sixties in all its glorious Technicolor and tie-dye, but walked the walk and talked the talk, being very much a product or her era. A product that still clings to the past, even in the present, with her slavish insistence on a certain style of clothing that is both of it’s era and perversely timeless, too. Although, such sharp stylish clothes hanging off such a haggard figure is rather shocking. As is the intention, one imagines. And, by the end of this very satisfying issue, answers are forthcoming, but not what you’d expect. I knew she was old, but not THAT old!
So, in this month’s installment of Punks Not Dead, out now, we have an issue focused on Culpepper’s story and how she came to head up the Department of Extra-Usual Affairs. And, it’s a corker of an issue mixing the usual, carefully measured humour, with tragedy and drama, too. We get a real glimpse into the trials and tribulations of a woman with a steely determination and a past history with musically tending demon, Beleth, who has a presence within this unfolding story.
Simmonds swaps gears and adopts a more simplistic, but still highly stylised look, to the flashback sequence in which we get to see that Dorothy was right in the centre of this heady, hedonistic decade, lapping it up and mixing with the trend-setters of the era while tasting of all that was on offer. And then some. What we get is a woman well ahead of the decade. A women in charge and taking no prisoners, either. Simmonds present some of his most marvelous pages in this issue – and some rather magnificent double page spreads – with styles suggestive of the eras Barnett references in revealing Culpepper’s history, while not ignoring the more horrific shades on display. But, can anyone really be in charge of their own destiny?
By the end of the issue, I think you see Dorothy Culpepper in a complete different light and begin to understand her motives more clearly, and more sympathetically.
So, when will we have a Dorothy Culpepper book, lads? Or, even, a strip in Black Crown Quarterly? She’s screaming out for one or t’other. I can’t be the only one wanting to read that, right readers?
Punks Not Dead #5 is out now from Barnett, Simmonds and Black Crown Pub at IDW.