Friday, August 22, 2008

Libraries and Leatherjack

I have recently been rediscovering the joy of libraries and, as a consequence, the 2000AD series Leatherjack. Let me explain...

I used to go to the library a lot. First of all, as a child, I went to the local library on a Friday, after swimming club, with my Dad. He was a voracious reader, everything from the latest Terry Pratchett to the latest book on chaos string theory. In those days I enjoyed the Dr Dolittle books and Willard Price adventures.

Then I used the school library, on a very regular basis, as a secondary school student; everything from Evelyn Waugh to translations of the Latin poets. The library continued as a means of study throughout my University years (as well as being somewhere that kept me supplied with Tim Powers novels) and when I moved to Nottingham to have a bash at being a freelance writer, I was in and out of the reference section all the time, as well as picking up Alan Moore's Swamp Thing collections.

After two years, I moved to London to teach full-time but continued to use the library, mainly for research. I remember I researched the history of knucklebones in Ealing library when I was writing Go Gos Are Go Go! (now reprinted as Go, Go Crazy For Those Bones).

As I began to make a proper living for myself at last, so I started to become more extravagant; I started buying more and more books, rather than borrowing them. As a consequence I have not been the regular visitor to the local library that I once was, and have bookcases groaning under the weight of all the hardbacks I've bought (can't beat the sound, smell and weight of 'em!). This has recently been compounded by the fact that the local library has been closed for months for a re-fit.

Anyway, the long and the short of it is that I visited the newly re-furbished the other day with my family and discovered that they have a fantastic - and up-to-date! - graphic novels section. So it was that I came home with the collected Leatherjack by John Smith and Paul Marshall, and The Courtship of Jena Markarov (by Robbie Morrison, Simon Fraser and others).

I read Leatherjack when it was published in weekly installments in 2000AD a few years ago, but it's great to be able to re-read it now, all in one go. The artwork is still breath-taking as is Smith's familiar purple-prose. Here's the blurb from the back of the collected edition.

The Klash is the war to end all wars. A conflict of intergalactic proportions, the whole quadrant is locked in stalemate between two hugely powerful rival factions – the Khmer Noir, ruled by the terminally ill Lord Qwish, and the Empire of Spinsters, half-senile fanatics headed by the Dowager Khan, who are leading a holy crusade against smut and indecency. Caught in the crossfire is the library world of Shibboleth, a planet which contains every book in every language ever written. The Spinsters want this hive of filth destroyed, but for Qwish it may hold the answers to his prayers…

On one level Leatherjack is a straightforward sci-fi action fest. On the other it is a dark treaty on the abuse of children for the purposes of war, about the clash of cultures and the power of language. If you've not read it yourself (or if you have but haven't done so for a while) why not pick up a copy from Rebellion (2000AD's publishers) or your local library!

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