The Book: Alex Automatic is written by Fraser Campbell with art by James Corcoran, colour art by David B. Cooper with lettering and design by Colin Bell. Variant covers are by Iain Laurie, Alisdair Wood and Nick Pitarra plus pin-ups by a host of others.
Alex Automatic is about a Government agent called Alex Anderson. Subjected to an experimental programme, Alex has knowledge and even skills grafted into his brain for specific missions. He is the perfect agent, docile, efficient, re-writable. However, the process has left Alex so unstable that he has become trapped in a fractured delusion, believing that he is a robot super-spy hero from a 70s TV show called Alex Automatic. Extremely volatile and dangerous, he is held in stasis in a secure Government facility. However, two well-meaning journalists find out about him and break him out, thinking they’re getting a great story and doing him a favour. They soon realise they have no idea what they’ve unleashed.
Alex Automatic is independently published by Cabal Comics and will be launched at the Thought Bubble Comics Festival in Leeds, UK Saturday 5th November 2016.
The Review: Are you a fan of 1960s spy shows (think The Prisoner, Danger Man, The Champions, The Man From U.N.C.L.E. or Department S and shows such as Captain Scarlet or UFO); or the myriad of 1970s detective and adventure shows (The Six Million Dollar Man, Jason King or The New Avengers, to name but a few)”
Then Alex Automatic will drag you kicking and screaming back to those halcyon TV days, through 48 pages of “What did I just read?” madness, forcing a re-read… and then after reading it again, you’ll feel a swift kick to the pineal gland, just to make sure you were paying attention the first time, while you’re simultaneously savouring memories of a time when we got our comics and TV shows once a week.
This is a comic that’s an unashamed love letter to the shows of that era and while that influence is writ large, the comic manages to avoid the more cringe-inducing aspects of those shows such as the rampant misogyny or the treatment of so many female characters as little more than walk-on screamers to underline how butch the hero was.
I am not ashamed to say that while I have read this through twice, I am still stopped in my tracks by parts of the story. Each time I read it, I get a little closer to the nuttiness that must be Fraser’s stream of consciousness. The story is fast paced and every time you think you are getting a hold on the plot, Fraser slips in another mickey for your mind to grasp and cling to for dear life.
To my British orientated comics point of view, I would say that Shaky Kane has been a big influence on newcomer James Corcoran and it may be worth picking up for that alone.
I know that this will not be to everyone’s tastes but if you are a fan of those classic spy shows, love your comics to be on the Far Side, have a sneaking fondness for a grown up Joe 90 and you are going to be at Thought Bubble 2016 this weekend, then you will do a lot worse than picking up this bit of British lunacy.
• If you want to see all those variant covers, then we featured them in our article that came out in September 2016. Read on for more about the team behind the book below!
Fraser Campbell is the writer of comics Sleeping Dogs, Black Cape and Mothwicke. He has also written extensively for radio and stage. Death Sentence creator Monty Nero praised Sleeping Dogs on its release in November 2015 as “The best thing I read at Thought Bubble” and labelled the creative team “Talents to watch.”
James Corcoran debuts his vast talents in Alex Automatic, his first long-form comic work. His signature, quintessentially British illustration style is evocative not only of the stalwart classic UK comics of old, but of the many European comic masters he holds in high regard.
David B. Cooper is a cartoonist and colourist from Glasgow, with professional credits that include Image Comics. he recently got to stand next to the Batmobile and is unsurprisingly still a bit giddy.
Colin Bell has worked extensively in comics as a letterer for Dark Horse, Boom! Studios and Image Comics. He is also the writer of award winning all-ages comic Dungeon Fun.
A life-long comic fan, specialising mainly in UK adventure comics, Colin did his very best to support his passion for the comics of his youth, Commandos (still going!) and any small press that interested him. Sadly, Colin passed in March 2021, an invaluable downthetubes team member, much missed by us all