Comic Book London

Here we take a look at the comic books inspired by, or set in London.

Up until the 1980s, the US had a greater comic book tradition than the UK. Then British author Alan Moore came along, revolutionising the comic by introducing serious themes to a format usually reserved to tales of superheroes and girls in distress. Here we take a look at the comic books inspired by, or set in London.

From Hell
Set in 19th century London, From Hell is loosely based on the story of Jack the Ripper. From Hell employs the theory of the doctor to the Royal Family being the man behind the murders of the prostitutes, in an attempt to eliminate evidence of the illegitimate child Prince Albert conceived with one of them. Written by Alan Moore and illustrated by Eddie Campbell, it blurs fact, fiction and conspiracy, while depicting the poverty and sleaze of Victorian-era East London. Released as a series between 1991 and 1996, it is also available as a collector’s book with over 500 pages. A film of the same title starring Johnny Depp and Heather Graham was released in 2001.

V for Vendetta
Another Alan Moore story, this time illustrated by David Lloyd. Set in the future, the plot revolves around an anarchist who plans to overthrow the fascist government, while disguised in a Guy Fawkes mask. Originally in black and white, it is hailed as a masterpiece (as are many of Moore’s creations). This 80s ten-issue comic was hugely successful and spawned a 2005 movie starring Natalie Portman. Incidentally, Moore refuses to be credited or accept any profits from any films based on his work, which also include The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen and The Watchmen.

Dylan Dog
This comic book was created in Italy, despite being set in London. The author Tiziano Sclavi had Rupert Everett in mind when he created his hero, an ex-Scotland Yard policeman who investigates people’s dreams. His name was inspired by the poet Dylan Thomas, and his address is Craven Road, so-called in honour of horror film director Wes Craven. The series has been ongoing since 1986, however Sclavi’s involvement gradually decreased until he ceased to write it completely. Hugely popular in Italy, the comic inspired a 2011 horror film called Dylan Dog: Dead of Night, where the action is switched to New Orleans and Brandon Routh of Superman Returns fame stars.
Neverwhere was originally a television series written by popular sci-fi author Neil Gaiman, first shown on BBC2 in 1996. The story is set in ‘London Below’, a fantastical parallel to real London, which is referred to as ‘London Above’. The main character leads a fairly mundane existence until he discovers the city’s murky underworld and has his identity erased; to get back to ‘London Above’ he must suffer through a series of adventures while in pursuit of a girl. Gaiman subsequently adapted the programme into a novel, which was then used as the basis for the nine-issue comic by Mike Carey. Unfortunately some of Gaiman’s hardcore fans felt the comic didn’t stay true to the original vision of the TV series.

FreakAngels is a free weekly online comic set in Whitechapel. The FreakAngels are a group of telepathic twenty-somethings who survive in a post-apocalyptic London, while battling their own personal demons which mostly revolve around sex and relationships. Landmarks like the Ten Bells pub are highly detailed in the illustrations by Paul Duffield, and the general style is heavily influenced by steampunk. Conceived in 2008, the series is still running, however the weekly format means plotlines move slowly, and while Warren Ellis’ stories frequently offer social commentary this one is still in progress.

Victorian Undead
Sherlock Holmes and his faithful sidekick Watson battle zombies in this steampunk tale from writer Ian Edginton and illustrator Davide Fabbri. First released in 2009, the six-part series returned with specials the following year pitting Inspector Holmes against Jeckyll and Hyde, and later Dracula. Edginton, who previously wrote Aliens vs Predators and worked on the Xena Warrior Princess comics, had taken inspiration from London’s Victorian era once before in Stickleback, a series about a criminal with a deformed rib cage.
Clockwork Watch
Yet another steampunk comic, Clockwork Watch deals with the fraught relationship between Victorian values and technological advances. Funded by public donations, the comic is drawn and coloured by hand by Jennie Gyllblad, and there are plans for a feature film, immersive theatre and online series in a bid to make this a “transmedia steampunk love story”.

28 Days Later: The Aftermath
This graphic novel covers the period between the original 28 Days Later script and its sequel, 28 Weeks Later. Written by Steve Niles, author of 30 Days of Night, it’s a four part story where humans become infected with a virus that turns them into zombies. Each part deals with a separate stage of the infection and illustrations are by different artists. A comic series followed in 2009 where the action spreads from London across Europe.

It’s Dark in London
This collection of short stories by Alan Moore, Neil Gaiman, Alexei Sayle and Iain Sinclair show London at its sleaziest and most squalid, but also ensures the more mundane aspects of suburbia are depicted. A comic book noir if you will, featuring work by some of the greatest writers of the last 20 years.

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