Growing up in Britain we were often bombarded with some of the best but bizarre television from across the globe in our childhoods. While in America you were steadily fed on a diet of cool cartoons every Saturday morning, we had some of this but also madcaps shows like TISWAS, Chorlton and the Wheelies, Jamie and his Magic Torch, Asterix the Gaul, Doctor Snuggles and even throwbacks such as HR Pufnstuf. It all amounted to a wonderful and whacky childhood of LSD inspired visions, minus the hallucinatory drug.
Well, imagine a comic that took all of these anarchic kids’ shows, and more, threw them in a blender and then added a heavy does of humour and a good deal of swearing and what you have may, just may be something akin to The Ludocrats by writers Kieron Gillen, Jim Rossignol artist Jeff Stokley, color artist Tamra Bonvillain and letterer Clayton Clowes.
A new five-part mini-series comic from Image Comics that was due to come out next Wednesday April 1st, The Ludocrats #1 throws us into this book with gusto as we are met with a bare naked, blood-soaked, overweight gentleman bursting out of the first splash page and seemingly addressing the reader, thereby breaking the fourth wall. And, in this one image, this one page, I think we have a very good symbolic summation of this whole venture. As the iconic smiley face badge in The Watchmen represents both the colourful world of comics while the blood splatter represents a certain violent grown-up reality rare seen in comics at that time, coming into play, so Baron Otto Von Subertan, all drenched on blood, could also be an early symbolic gesture on the part of the creators to give the reader a shock from the get-go but also a strong first impression of what this series will be all about. Nonsense, yes, but with a good lashing of bombastic language and violent actions. An “M-rate Asterix” indeed. A similar use of symbolism to the aforementioned classic, but with even more blood!
By the time we get to the double page spread, which allows the readers it’s first large scale invitation to this madcap world and a good view of the various bizarro characters and you’ll think you’ve stumbled into a grown-up world straight out of the mind of a deranged Dungeons & Dragons Dungeon Master.
Within this heady mix there is a story. A plot of arranged marriages and opportunism. Hardly the stuff of fairy tales, but then this ain’t no fairy tale land and the character aren’t your average archetypes. Baron Otto Von Subertan is all hedonistic energy; the unchained, unbridled id of our mind on the printed page while his servant, Professor Hades Zero-K, is his antithesis. As the synopsis so rightly puts it, Hades is Asterix to Von Subertan’s Obelix. Or, to put it another way, Hades is Apollo to Von Subertan’s Dionysus.
The Baron is not only a key character in this comic book, but the veritable driving force behind the whole first issue. He is a ball of energy, a force of nature, and a man of great stature who dominates every scene, like Brian Blessed fed with too much sugar, and ploughs his way through this first issue with us, the reader, as the willing passenger.
By the end of this amphetamine-fuelled first issue a lot of ground has been covered. Hell, there’s even time for the most bonkers and original cross-over in Images Comics’ history as well as a dramatic showdown with the local constabulary, who are trying to take down someone fro being boring. A huge crime, one imagines, in a world where nothing every stands still for even a moment.
Add to this the linguistic experimentation and gymnastics on display throughout this book and it will definitely be one you return to, even if it’s just to try and make some sense out of it all. My advice? Don’t bother. Just enjoy the ride, enjoy the ride.
The Ludocrats #1 would have been available on April 1st from Image Comics, but there’s nothing stopping you from contacting your local comic boo store to reserve your copy or, even better, add it to your pull list for a future pick-up.