In Review: Corpse Talk Season 1

Corpse Talk Volume 1 - Cover

By Adam Murphy
Publisher: David Fickling Books
Out: Now

The Book: The dead are rising! Up out of the mouldering pages of history comes the chat show that digs the dirt on some of history’s most famous, infamous and downright incredible men and women. What was the secret of Cleopatra’s irresistible personality? Why did Genghis Khan become obsessed with world domination? Which scientist is still radioactive, almost 100 years after her death? Join your host, Adam Murphy, as he gets the answers to these questions and many more, on Corpse Talk, the show that brings the dead famous to life!

The Review: One of The Phoenix Presents series of softcover graphic compilations, Corpse Talk Season 1 reprints Adam Murphy’s strip from the weekly Phoenix comic.

Each week Adam’s comic strip alter-ego digs up the grave of a famous person from history and interviews their zombiefied remains to find out about their lives. From politicians like Winston Churchill to royalty like Henry VIII, from explorers like Ernest Shackleton to scientists like Marie Curie, Corpse Talk runs the gamut of historical figures as Adam interviews them, punning about their lives and, just sometimes, they even get their own back on him.

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There is not really any way to describe Corpse Talk without it sounding gruesome. This is a strip that involves grave robbing and reanimated corpses that is aimed at children. However as odd as that might sound it is also quite brilliantly done. Adam, both the comic strip Adam on the page and the real writing and illustrating Adam, quips, puns and jokes his way through a sharp, tightly written and above all entertainingly educational one or two pages per historical figure. I could quite easily see it working as one of the continuing strands of the BBC’s tongue-in-cheek Horrible Histories TV series.

The book covers 33 of the earliest Corpse Talk episodes from the original single pages to the now more typical two pages per character. Like the softcover versions of The DFC Library before it, this Corpse Talk book is roughly US comic size rather that the A4 size of the weekly comic. This does means that the earliest single page strips, which have over 20 panels per page, can feel cramped but readers will quickly get used to the confined feel of these before the art opens out somewhat into the two page versions. Several splash pages highlighting one fact from one character and two ‘hide and seek’ pages are also included which act a visual breather to the rest of the book.

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Most of the characters included here are familiar names and some even have familiar lives, however there are less familiar figures in there as well such as Chinese artist Katsushika Hokusai or female pirate Anne Bonny. Of course I am looking at it from the point of view of an adult, these characters and their stories will be much less familiar to the younger readers of The Phoenix that the strip is aimed at. Yet after some three years of publication in the weekly comic, the fact that Corpse Talk is still running in the Phoenix doesn’t just emphasise the longevity of Adam Murphy’s basic concept but also the fact that positive reader feedback on it means that the editorial team hasn’t just retained it for so long but has also increased its page count. Indeed when the preview Issue Zero of Phoenix was released back in late 2011 I gave a copy to my then ten-year old nephew to see his reaction to it and, despite the dinosaur adventures of Pirates of Pangea and the enthusiastic lunacy of Bunny Versus Monkey, Corpse Talk was his favourite strip.

With its mixture of humour and education, Adam Murphy’s excellent Corpse Talk works as well for adults as it does for children and with Christmas looming on the horizon this is one title that I have no hesitation recommending as a present be it as a treat for yourself or for others.

There are more details of The Phoenix Presents Corpse Talk Season 1 on the David Fickling Books website

There are more details of Corpse Talk on the Phoenix website

There are more details of all Adam Murphy’s work on his website

• Adam Murphy will be attending the Stirling Comic Festival Comic Mart this Saturday 27 September 2014 at the Gold Lion Hotel in Stirling city centre. He will also be at the Lakes International Comics Art Festival in Kendal over the weekend of 18-19 October 2014 where he will be running Phoenix art workshops in the Shakespeare Centre.

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