An intriguing art book, The Oxford Trollomicus, created by Spike Greenwood, has caught my eye over on Kickstarter – a gorgeous-looking Illustrated Guide Book to the Bridge Trolls of Oxford, based on the increasingly dubious research of Professor Bulstrode Whitless…
Anyone who recalls the wonderful guides to Gnomes by Wil Huygen, published back in the 1970s (and re-released in a special collector edition back in 2011), should definitely check this out.
Within the ancient city of Oxford there are many wondrous and magical beings (no, we’re not talking about the staff at 2000AD or The Phoenix… although, now I think about it… ahem!).
From the tiny Bods, herding the huge volume of books in the Bodleian Library, to the mighty Ashmoles in their vast underground workshops and manufacturies and the pixies and satyr of Port Meadow, keeping the ancient magicks alive amongst the ragwort and mists.
Keeping all of this curious little city from disappearing over the Edges and off into the many realms and worlds beyond our own, is the great and powerful Oxford Trollomicus – a vast machine of huge brass cogs, old bicycles, strange musical pipe organs and monumental valves, moss covered monolithic rune stones and miles upon miles of old string and gaffer tape. The Trollomicus criss-crosses the Thames and Cherwell, the streams and ditches, roads and pathways, holding the city in place through the arcane powers of the Bridges. And every Bridge, of course, has its Troll.
The Oxford Trollomicus is a Guide Book, put together with the ‘help’ of the extremely fictional Professor of Oxford Mythica, Bulstrode Whitless. When originally approached (from downwind, and with a clear plan of escape), the author found the Professor a bottomless well of anecdotes, tall tales, gossip and, every now and again, facts about the Bridge Trolls of Oxford and their world. The Guide will contain interviews with many of the greatest Trolls, as well as previously hidden knowledge concerning the mysterious artefacts known as Troll Moons, the insanely alcoholic (and possibly lethal) Troll Tea and a valiant attempt at understanding the ancient Troll game of ‘Reverend MacCulloch’s Hat’.
From Duke Cornelius at the majestic Magdalen Bridge to the rail bridges of the Brunel Guild, from the great vaulted chambers of the Troll Opera House beneath Iffley Lock (heavily sound proofed – thank the Gods), to the tiny Ditch Trolls who stand watch at the edges where reality is at its thinnest, the Trolls dwell in every corner of Oxford. At the centre of it all sits (or possibly slumps – opinions vary) The Most Befuddled Lord Shovel Wangler – Folly.
This great and ancient Troll is the leader of all of the Oxford Trolls, although all of the other Oxford Trolls vehemently deny this. It is thought he spends most of his days communing with the many other Oxfords that seep in and out of our little city, monitored by the great Trollomicus. Some say his abstract staring into space and incomprehensible mutterings are invaluable knowledge, lost to our world except to certain great Mages within the University, others say it a definite sign that Folly is simply a blithering idiot.
For many centuries the ways and lore of the Oxford Bridge Trolls have been a mystery, with only the bravest souls willing to chance a meeting in the King’s Arms or The Bear pubs, to catch a snippet of wisdom from these arcane beings (just remember it is always your round, and never ever accept the offer of a short game of ‘Bridge’).
Please be aware whilst visiting, that things are liable to get somewhat odd, and the exits never lead to where you think.
Welcome to the Oxford Trollomicus, the creation of Spike Greenwood, an illustrator and designer for over twenty years, who has worked on many corporate projects involving high quality artwork (including designs for the guidebook to the world famous Bodleian Library).
“I’ve been drawing things that probably don’t exist for decades now,” he says, “and made a bit of a living doing it along the way, but mostly made a living by being in, what is laughably known as, the ‘real’ world. All the usual nonsense: History Degree (I can bore for England on the subject of ‘The Government Structure of Oliver Cromwell’), dubious jobs in factories, running two wonderful pubs in Oxford (where the inspiration for most of the Trolls came from), even working in the Pen Shop where Philip Pullman bought his pens and refills), and always drawing stuff and scribbling notes and loving the curious city and its (very) weird ways.
“The Oxford Trollomicus has bubbled away in my head and been laughed at (not in the way I intended) by publishers for many years, and I have often despaired how to get this stuff to a wider audience – a discerning bunch I always knew was out there, loving The Dark Crystal, Monty Python, Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, Sandman, Terry Gilliam, D&D, Terry Pratchett, Neil Gaiman and, of course, Philip Pullman.
“I’ve drawn these wonderful, cantankerous, proud, drunk, beings even when I thought they would never be seen by anyone but me (and friends I cornered and drove mental over the past few decades).
“Well, then Kickstarter came into my world, and the possibility, however small, to vault over the highminded and around the nay-sayers was suddenly here.”
The art looks gorgeous, Spike can clearly turn a humorous word or two, so let’s help get The Oxford Trollomicus out into the world – he’s chasing a target of £8000 and the printed edition of the book will set you back £30, but it looks terrific, so perhaps this is worth your attention?
Although Spike has warned us, the Trolls will be unbearable if they get to see themselves in print…
The founder of downthetubes, which he established in 1998. John works as a comics and magazine editor, writer, and on promotional work for the Lakes International Comic Art Festival. He is currently editor of Star Trek Explorer, published by Titan – his third tour of duty on the title originally titled Star Trek Magazine.
Working in British comics publishing since the 1980s, his credits include editor of titles such as Doctor Who Magazine, Babylon 5 Magazine, and more. He also edited the comics anthology STRIP Magazine and edited several audio comics for ROK Comics. He has also edited several comic collections, including volumes of “Charley’s War” and “Dan Dare”.
He’s the writer of “Pilgrim: Secrets and Lies” for B7 Comics; “Crucible”, a creator-owned project with 2000AD artist Smuzz; and “Death Duty” and “Skow Dogs” with Dave Hailwood.