Regular readers of downthetubes may recall the release of the first issue of The Lion & The Unicorn by Ash Pure, first released in 2011, a title we didn’t properly pick up on until the release of Issue Two – in 2014. Despite enormous acclaim for the title, and the release of the third issue of the announced four-part story, it’s tale that’s clearly taken ahold of its creator in the way many of us can identify with… It isn’t quite right, there are things that need to be improved…
— And, to hell with it, here’s a revised version of the stunning-looking book, packaged up neatly as The Lion & The Unicorn Issue One: The Extended Edition.
London born, Berlin-based Ash Pure creates limited edition magazine comics in the tradition of the large format, reduced palette British comics he grew up with. He also makes hand made poster comics and giclee prints all using photo montage, rotoscope, illustration, typography and graphic design techniques, combined in a process he likes to call “Composographic Fotorotomancy” (yes, seriously). He works tirelessly on his projects and The Lion & The Unicorn is a title that is unique in both its print and adapted, re-made for the screen digital editions.
In The Lion & The Unicorn, nominated for the Best Comic in the 2014 British Comics Awards, the Lion of the title is a forgotten war hero, the indestructible man with a death wish. The Unicorn is a gifted psychic knight, she is the girl who wants to save the world… Together, they’re forced to defend their Kingdom from the greatest threat it has ever faced. An alternate Britain of kings, corporations, and psychic terror is tearing itself apart.
Ash Pure seems determined to do right by characters that have taken hold of his psyche, as he tells a story in which the Kingdom’s capital city, Thamesis, stands on the brink of revolution. The Britomart, part of a multi-national conglomerate, sells its psychic technology and utopian lifestyle as the only way out. But at what cost?
While warring factions struggle for control, telekinetic terror is unleashed… and nothing will ever be the same again.
We asked him why he’d chosen to re-release a new version of the first issue, some five years after it first launched. Wasn’t this just a little, well, dangerously obsessional?
“I admit it. I was scared,” he recalls of the book’s original release back in 20111. “Okay. Are you happy now?.
“Fine. I wasn’t just scared, I was terrified, gripped by a constant fear that I’d walk into my friendly neighbourhood comic shop and see something that thematically or stylistically would be the equivalent or, more likely, the better of what I wanted The Lion & The Unicorn to be staring back at me. “So, in 2011 I rushed Issue One…”
“And in my haste, I botched it too,” he feels.
“I didn’t know this at the time,” he continues. “Or at least I didn’t admit it. It took some tough love from Richard Burton from the Forbidden Planet International blog to open my eyes. Indeed, I now know the best reviews are ‘bad reviews’, from a creative improvement point of view at least.”
Here on downthetubes, I argued the book offered arresting art, but that some readers might find the desire to push the boundaries of the comic form too unsettling, despite an intriguing story set in an alternate-history story world. Ash took the feedback from all quarters to heart and, literally, has gone back to the drawing board to rework the project.
“Once I’d got past the anger, the sadness and reached acceptance, I sat down (actually, I work standing up but you know what I mean) and pulled the book apart,” he tells us.
“The beauty of working digitally is that I could go back into Photoshop files and rework a layer, then add to and adjust the layout in InDesign, improving the text via Illustrator, as I went along.
“However there were still aspects of the line work that I was unhappy with, not to mention the spelling mistakes (that apostrophe!) that have been haunting me ever since.”
So finally, five years on from the original print, The Lion & The Unicorn – The King is Dead Part One Extended Edition, on sale this week, initially from the project’s official web site, and, Ash feels, goes at least some way closer to being the comic he wanted to see on those comic shop shelves back in 2011. Has he succeeded? You can judge the results for yourself by checking out the book here.
• The Lion & The Unicorn is also stocked by Gosh Comics in London. Check the project’s web site for announcements on further UK stockists
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.