« Last post by Colin_YNWA on Today at 07:22:31 AM »
I've just finished a re-read of all 10 of Titan's Charley's War reprint volumes and while I'm not sure I have anything new to add to the chorus of praise this strip has recieved that's never stopped me before, so here I go.
This is definiately the greatest UK kids comic strip. This possibly my favourite comic strip of all time. It is simply brilliant. It makes a mockery of those that would mock adults for reading comics aimed at children or teens. It blasts a healthly broadside at those that try to ridicule people's choices by using the term nostalgia as if its simply a bad thing. Its a child's comic that should be read by adults to appreciate the astonishing level of craft and skill that made it. Reading it evokes so much nostaglia which makes the experience of revisiting it now as an adult all the more powerful.
As a strip in its own right the fact that its 6 year run (as captured in these volumes, which do have the perfect ending), as completed to the standard it was by only two creators, who happen to be at the very top of their game, is its greatest strenght. That Pat Mills and Joe Colquhoun maintain this standard of work with such consistancy over its entire course is quite breath-taking. The strips format, a kids comic told in 3 page episodes really helps it as a body of work. Its high octane, none stop, boys own stuff and that really fortifies its subverse anti-war message. Its dropped in, out of context and thus works its way into you so much more deeply. Especially when you compare it to some of Pat Mills later work when he can rather smash you over the head with his anti-establishment stance. The fact that Charley himself is never anything other than the loyal, brave solider really makes this work as well. Its a reflection of the status quo that he was born into, both as a character and a creation. Sure he complains and raises his concerns but Pat Mills stays true to him throughout and he always accepts his place and does his duty.
In other ways its not at all subtle, its an entertaining, thrilling explosion of a strip and the contrast between the two, the child's format and the strong message surplanted in that, makes it work so well. In every three pages Pat Mills throws so much in, information, action, message that it puts so many other writers to shame.
Joe Colquhourn makes all this possible with some of the most glorious art you will ever see. He combines a brilliant sense of place and time, you feel the dirt on you, you walk in the mud, the heat of the explosions blasts your face, with unparalleled charactisation and humanity. His mindblowing level of detail never compromises the movement and action he makes so visceral. There has never been more human, and because of that, horrific art in comics. That he's starting to get more credit these days does not get close to that fact that he should be marked as one of the true legends of the medium. Amongst the absolute best of the best.
To this heady mix pour in a little nostaglia. You see I remember this strip from back in the day. My brother and I go Battle for however long, not the entire run, but a good chunk of it and I remember the experience of reading it. Not the specifics but the thrill and excitment, the thoughts it provoked. As I read it now as a adult I can reflect upon how it dug into me, its message became entrenched into forming who I am. I can put it into the context and the world it was created in. The grim landscape of the early 80s, shiny cartoons on Saturday morning, Blue Peter in the evening, school. I see all that as I read Charley's War and it amplifies its power and magnificence all the more. Simply because I can be nostaglic about what it meant in its context, because my nostaglia for it then adds to my depth if appreciate for it now.
That is not to say that Charley's War or indeed myself are trapped in that time, are stuck in some past glory, we've both moved on, the strip is still revelent and powerful in its own right now. I've grown and developed as a person (quiet at the back), but each of us has that context of where we came from, what we grow from. Nostaglia is a powerful and useful allie of reassessing entertainment, for both the good and the bad and there is no better example of this for me that re-reading the simply wonderful Charley's War.