Created by Brett Uren
Edited by Brett Uren and Glenn Moane
Cover by Hal Laren
Writers: Brett Uren, Frank Martin, Grainee McEntee, Cy Dethan, Glenn Moane, Kieran Squires, Janos Honkonen, Brocton McKinney, Jon Scrivens and Jake Young.
Artists: Brett Uren, Giles Crawford, Jon Scrivens, Matt Rooke, Peter Mason, Harold Saxon, Carlos Nick Zumuido, Brian Traynor, Faye Harmon, Saoirse Louise Towler and Randy Haldeman.
Letters: Jon Scrivens, Brett Uren, Nic Wilkinson, Mick Schubert and Shawn Aldridge
The Book: Torsobear: Yarns from Toyburg is the first volume of a cartoon noir comic book, about toy-on-toy crime in a fantastic city of playthings, created by Brett Uren.
Anybody who loves cute toys and cartoons, new and old will love the eleven stories contained within. But be warned, these yarns ain’t for the faint of fluff, because in the fluffy noir world of Torsobear, not all toys play nice!
Welcome to the city of Toyburg, where the sweet streets are teeming with crime, passion, and murders most foul. They are walked (for the most part) by grim detectives, burned-out has-beens, femme fatales and tragic heroes.
The dismembered bodies of teddy bears are being found in back alleys of Mindy Mile district, and it’s up to our hero, rookie detective Ruxby Bear and his partner officer Hazbrow to solve this string of murders, no matter how high and far the clues take them.
Between cases, we take a look into the lives of Toyburg’s citizens, police and criminals. No matter where you turn, this city has something sinister hidden just behind the storybook surface.
Remember, it’s always fun until someone gets hurt…
The Review: Torsobear: Yarns from Toyburg is the first of an anthology series with a difference, its focus the imaginary world of Toyburg, centring mainly on the newly minted police officer Ruxby Bear. Over the course of 104 pages of fully coloured and gorgeous looking artwork, we’re treated to stories about the world of toys and Saturday morning children’s cartoons who have come to life: an ongoing story of toy destruction by evil villains, a story involving the teddy bear mayor of the town, a good looking conman boy toy (literally), battling 1990s-style action figures down on their luck, an Elephant toy who has some troubles as a police officer on his beat, a motorcycle toy who takes a ride on the wrong side of Toyburg and more.
What the above summary doesn’t tell you is that this isn’t the whole truth. What Torsobear does magnificently is transplant the world of creepy crime noir successfully into a bubblegum world of rainbows, lemonade rain, care bear lookalikes and toys of our youth. In the stories, the toy destruction is a form of horrific plastic surgery cannibalism, the teddy bear mayor is of course both corrupt and weak willed, the good looking conman uses his looks to steal buttons from a chubby and vulnerable female teddy bear, the 1990s action figures take the role of the crime noir boxer who is down on his luck and turns to a life of crime, the Elephant officer deals with some tripped out bad guys and comments on us as fans, the motorcycle toy feels a sense of existential angst and rides into the afterlife and so on. It’s a twisted and dark world of crime, horror and weakness.
This project, funded through Kickstarter, was mentioned at least a couple of times in our recent end of year poll with creators and is what a good anthology should be in style and format. It has a central theme, it’s a story brilliantly written and drawn and it creates its own unique world.
It would be too easy to sum it up as Sin City meets Toy Story because it’s so much more than that. I’d throw in a measure of Fables from DC/Vertigo and add a dose of the Puppetmaster/Gingerdead Man/Demonic Toys movies from Full Moon Studios. While the concept of living toys isn’t new – it was a staple of British children’s annuals for decades before Pixar brought Toy Story to the big screen – it creates an almost transgressive world inhabited by crazy creatures. I would go so far to say that it originally and strongly creates its own dynamic in a mythical world that is not only extraordinary but also gritty and real.
I’m not a big fan of fairy tale horror stories, as I generally think they have been over done, but Torsobear is altogether different.
Steadfastly in the ‘Not For Children’ mould, Yarns from Toyburg is both cynical, humorous, horrific and exciting. It has a story that unfolds with Ruxby and his battle to prove a case despite the corrupt system, but Brett Uren cunningly throws in some stories from other parts of the town for added depth and colour. They are all well worth the price of admission.
Personal favourites outside of Brett’s Ruxby storyline are Jon Scriven’s “Blockheads”, which tells of the gentrification of Toyburg by Lego style people; “The Collector”, written by Glenn Moane with art by Carlos Nick Zumuido and Brian Traynor that tells the story of officer Nelly who discovers a villain that strikes pretty close to home; and “Some Assembly Required”, written by Cy Dethan with art by Peter Mason, which takes a slightly different dynamic by using 1990s action figures. Snaplock is a villain straight out of a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle cartoon and transposes him into a down on his luck Noir tradition boxer out for a score.
With original ideas, incredible art and colouring and the sharply subverted imagery I enthusiastically recommend this to any comics reader! An absolute joy from start to finish.
• There’s more information on the Toyburg project on the project’s official web site: http://torsobear.com
• Torsobear: Yarns From Toyburg is available now from Comicsy: www.comicsy.co.uk/bretturen
• You can follow the creator Brett on Twitter @Brett_Uren
Many thanks for reading.