Given the unfortunate lack of outlets when it comes to original comics on the news stand here in the UK, it’s hardly surprising to hear that many comic creators are enjoying publishing success outside this country.
Creators such as Pat Mills are well-known for their work in Europe, but so are top independent talents such as writer Ian Sharman, who is strangely better known among French and Spanish comic fans, despite his impressive track record on some great books such as Alpha Gods and Hero: 9 to 5 working for companies in the UK.
The latest British creator to cross the Channel in pursuit of a comics career is James Stafford, creator and writer of The Sorrowful Putto of Prague web comic, featuring art by AJ Bernardo, Raluca Moldovan, Josel Nicholas and Lenka Šimečková.
The comic (and its associated web site, which has plenty of associated goodies to savour, including music) detail the rather peculiar adventures of Xavier of the House of the Sorrowful Snows, a five centuries(ish) old putto (or cherub) who dwells in the city on the Vltava whose glory reaches to the stars (or Prague as it is more commonly known).
This November, The Sorrowful Putto of Prague will be collected in print for the first time, but unusually for a British writer, it isn’t to be published in English, but in Czech!
“The comic will be published in the Czech Republic by Argo – the country’s leading literary publishers,” James tells us, “and is also due to be published by an indie publishing house in Poland in 2017.
“The comic is a truly international collaboration,” he expands. “I’m the writer and creator and the artists, AJ Bernardo is from the Philippines, as is Josel, Lenka Is from the Czech Republic and Raluca Is from Romania.
“I recently met Lenka (after I had already started working with her), but otherwise I have not met the other artists. Thanks to the internet, email and social media, we’ve put this collection together and managed to get published.”
The comic has already gained national exposure in the Czech Republic on television, radio and in a leading national newspaper. Last year James was also invited to Prague to present on the main stage of the Czech Komiksfest literary event.
As an added bonus, thanks in part to its web and electronic origins rather than traditional print, there’s even an online soundtrack for the comic on the web site, including a piece from Roger O’Donnell of The Cure.
The Putto is a lovely looking strip, many of the strips created in using a design motif that gives the impression of pages pulled from pages of an old, faded and well read larger tome. Throughout, the mix of stories exude both charm, great characters and have a beguiling and haunting charm and it’s well worth your time to have a read.
The Czech collection will include a specially commissioned tale, “Russlka Rises” previewed on the web site, beautifully realised by Lenka. Let’s hope a British publisher such as Myriad, NoBrow or SelfMadeHero spots the work and publishes it here in the UK, too.
• Follow James Stafford on Twitter @jpstafford