Subterranean City (Robert Curley) Dues (Or How I Came To Love Irish Comics)
If any of you were wondering how I got this gig, this is kind of the origin of that. A piece I wrote about how, ironically enough, I discovered Irish comics was spotted by Tommie Kelly and I was offered a spot on ICN. I haven’t made many changes from when it first appeared on my blog. Yeah I had one and no I’m not going to link to it because, like most writers, I hate my old stuff. This one isn’t bad though. I hope you enjoy or, for the three of you that have read it, re-enjoy it.
As a kid my exposure to comics mainly involved being scared by copies of Dan Dare Annuals belonging to my uncles and copies of 2000 AD that I picked up at a fair in my home town. I didn’t discover that American comics were being sold in Ireland until my best friend discovered comic shops in Dublin around 1999. One of these shops was Sub City Comics which is owned by Rob Curley who, I didn’t know this at the time, was a comic book creator. Sub City became my weekly comic shop and I would spend many a weekday, and the odd Saturday, browsing the racks and getting caught on what I had been missing all my life. On one of these days, I spotted an issue of a comic called Freak Show. (I remember it was issue three as it had the villain called the Director on it). I decided to pick up the other issues and give it a go.
The book was set in the 1950s and centred around detective Jack Nixon, actress Susan White, Elizabeth Grange and blue blood Miles Weishaupt. In the first issue, Jack investigates the murder of a famous film director. Suspicion is cast on Susan as there are photographs of someone who looks like her with him. Susan and Jack have a history and she is none too pleased to have him back in her life especially since she’s under investigation. The killer is eventually revealed to be a lover of Jack’s who is obsessed with Susan. They manage to stop him but Jack being outed leads to his leaving the police. The next story introduces us to Elizabeth and Miles. Miles gives Elizabeth a lift to an acting audition where she ends up getting used in the machinations of the villain known as the Director. He attacks the Oscars using her image which causes them to cross paths with Jack and Susan, who have decided to investigate the events after they read about them in the newspaper. Together they foil his plans and end up as a sort of Supernatural Detective Agency. Each issue they run into a strange villain in a series that is a mixture of Ed Wood and LA Confidential. I followed the adventures of Jack, Susan and co for the rest of the books run. Reading the first few issues, I noticed the name Robert Curley on the credits. I finally knew someone who actually creates these things! Along the way, I was also introduced to artists who would go on to make names for themselves in the US: Stephen Thompson, Stephen Mooney, Declan Shalvey and Will Sliney (on another Atomic Diner title called Atomic Rocket Group) and discovered that more Irish people were making comics. This led me to discover books by people like Bob Byrne (Mister Amperduke), Alan Nolan (Sancho) and Gerry Hunt (In Dublin City), who had been making them for many years.
After ending his run on Freak Show, and taking a break from producing books, Rob came back with a vengeance. Something had changed though. The new books had moved to an Irish focus. He started by introducing an Irish super-team called The League of Volunteers. Set in the 1940s, the group includes journalist The Glimmerman, ex soldier The Archer, vampire hunter Blood Rose and, from Ireland’s ancient past, The Druid. The group comes together to foil a Nazi resurrection of an ancient evil called Bocanah. The series introduces dozens of characters including Fianna members, secret agents, scientists and hints of past leagues that included prominent figures from Irish history. The series has also spun a variety of mini-series and one shots including The Black Scorpion, The Crimson Blade (a member of The 1795 League) and the upcoming Glimmerman. He has also added some non-super hero titles (although I think a lot of the League books don’t strictly fall into the super hero genre). First, he brought us an Irish demon hunter from 1899 called Róisín Dubh. He then added a personal favourite called Jennifer Wilde. It is an intriguing story about a girl name Jennifer who is trying to find out about her father’s past while being accompanied by the ghost of Oscar Wilde. Recently, he added Noe: The Savage Boy which is about a village in Cork in 1631 that gets kidnapped by pirates.
As with Freak Show and his other earlier books, Rob has introduced us to some terrific artists including Barry Keegan, Stephen Byrne and Stephen Downey. One thing has changed this time though, Rob has taken on other writers to work on these series. Maura McHugh co-plots and scripts Jennifer Wilde and writes Róisín Dubh and there are hints of more to come. I’m enjoying watching this universe as it seems to be a metaphor for Irish comics as it has grown in leaps and bounds over the past couple of years.