Review by Peter Duncan
John Farrelly is a professional artist from Northern Ireland, turning his hand to almost anything, including caricatures, art for games, and wedding stationary. He’s also the author and illustrator of three books, so far, in the excellent, and very funny, Deadly Irish History series, one of which has been selected as one of two featured Irish titles on this years’ World Book Day list.
With all that, John still finds time to work on his “hobby”, comics. In the past few years, he’s debuted his Captain Wonder comic strip, the story of a middle-aged comics fan who decides to save his local comic shop by becoming a superhero, of sorts. He’s also contributed spectacular comic strips to 2000AD fanzines, Zarjaz and Sector 13, the zine I edit. His “Flesh” story, in our third, remains a favourite of mine.
More importantly, he has been working on his own comic, “Beans and Tucker”, a brilliant funny animal comic, that features the adventures of a dynamic duo of a snail in a helmet and a tortoise on a skateboard. Each of whom seem to have seen far, far too many movies.
On the run from cops, who are not chasing them anyway, for a crime the pair didn’t commit in the first place, the strip moves quickly and manages to be both funny and endearing. John has just released issue number one, a 36-page magazine-sized collection of the strip to date.
The first five pages of the strip have been published before, in colour in my own, Splank! anthology, but here the strip is reproduced in the artists preferred black and white format, and I understand why. John cites Hunt Emerson and Robert Crumb as major influences, and the black and white artwork shows off the fine line skills he learnt from those masters.
There are also, perhaps, hints of Walt Kelly’s classic Pogo strip that was hidden a little in the colour version, all contained within a style that is half BEANO, half MAD magazine. But, mainly, John’s own. His individual voice shines through and the humour is sympathetic and human. However foolish characters are he manages to make us laugh with them and not at them. It makes for a refreshing and very pleasant read.
Bold page layouts move the very entertaining story along at pace, all the time from the perspective of the two heroes. It’s amazing the drama that can be conjured by viewing perfectly ordinary events from two inches of the ground.
Everything is well considered and carefully executed, the aim always to serve the story and make the characters real and sympathetic. How John has not been picked up by one of the bigger publishers amazes me.
I can’t help thinking that his style somehow falls between two stools, too cartoony for much of the industry, but too grown up for the humour comics that we still see. It’s a shame, but so long as we get to see his brilliantly illustrated children’s books and he is producing material of this class as a hobby, we readers are the real winners.
Now if only I could persuade him to draw something for the next issue of Splank!
• Beans and Tucker #1 is available directly from John, full details here – or by e-mailing him at email@example.com or by calling 07985 30 1960. £2.50 (€3.00) each plus P&P. But be quick, this is a limited run, and he has a lot of friends who have been waiting for this comic for some time