The fifth and final issue of writer Matt Gibbs and artist Sara Dunkerton’s wonderful 1930’s mousey Indiana Jones style tale, MULP: Sceptre of The Sun, will be available at Thought Bubble in Harrogate, over the weekend of 9-10 November 2019, after its launch at the Nottingham Comic Con last Saturday.
I first heard of MULP when The Rainbow Orchid’s Garen Ewing promoted the first issue of it on his blog at the end of March 2014, quickly followed by John Freeman including it here on downthetubes at the start of May. The following month a trip to Newcastle-Upon-Tyne, where it was on sale in the small press section of the local Travelling Man comic shop, netted me a copy and reading it that night I realised that this was something different to the normal run of the mill small press efforts in its writing, artwork and professional production, a well thought through and lovingly produced title. My review of MULP issue 1 appeared here on DTT that month in which I said, “It is Matt Gibbs’ strong script that binds this whole concept together, giving the reader little time to consider his mouse sized world before his initial two characters’ lives are put at risk. He manages to squeeze in a lot of story and exposition, mixing Indiana Jones with a miniature Planet of The Apes.” I met Matt and Sara for the first time at the Lakes International Comic Art Festival in Kendal that October where we ended up talking, not about mice or archaeology, but about classic Doctor Who.
So many small press efforts stumble after their first issue as the creators’ initial enthusiasm flounders on the jagged rocks of financial reality, lack of promotion, and the realisation of the time and effort involved in continuing, but Matt and Sara were back in 2015 promoting the first issue at Wonderlands at the University of Sunderland where they agreed to an interview on DTT when the second issue was due to appear later in the year. That interview went up as part of my Six Questions strand when the title moved from Matt and Sara’s Inky Little Fingers imprint to became part of the Improper Books family as they attended Thought Bubble in November. The review of issue 2 showed that, if anything, it was better than the first – “this second part doesn’t put a foot wrong as its lovely artwork and fast-moving plot widens out this mousey world and deepens its characterisation.”
Issue 3 was previewed here in downthetubes in November 2016 and the review that followed said “Artist Sara Dunkerton certainly does not make things easy for herself with many impressive full page-width panels featuring multiple characters, one has 15 rodents in it, panels which she is making more and more cinematic as the story progresses. However for me it is the amount of pathos and, dare I say, humanity that Sara is able to get into her characters’ little furry faces that really impresses with her artwork.” The pair did more appearances again at Lakes and then Thought Bubble that year where Sara, with her tongue in her cheek, reckoned that she had sketched in more books than her friend and fellow Improper artist Chris Wildgoose.
2017 saw the all ages title take a slightly darker tone in issue 4 as our heroes are threatened with execution and then confronted with the mousey world’s most dangerous feline beast. Again we had the opportunity here on downthetubes to preview the issue and this time the review said “MULP: Sceptre Of The Sun issue 4 imperils our heroes as never before whilst setting them up for the final part of the story when hopefully they, and we, will finally discover exactly what the Sceptre of the Sun is as Matt Gibbs and Sara Dunkerton bring this delightful tale to its conclusion.”.
Back in 2014 when I laid down my money for MULP 1 and then read that it was the first part of a five issue series, I wouldn’t have liked to have bet that it would actually reach its conclusion with a fifth issue, but I am very pleased to say that it has and a review of it will appear here on downthetubes in due course.
The DTT interview with Matt Gibbs and Sara Dunkerton is here.