In Review: The Black Iris by Russell Mark Olson

The Black Iris by Russell Mark OlsonBy Russell Mark Olson

Beginning life as an Inktober project last year, The Black Iris is a glorious film-in-a-book, rendered using only black India ink washes and a smattering of correction fluid. The book tells the story of the Black Iris, a World War Two resistance fighter and spy, on her attempt to smuggle plans for a secret Nazi weapon into neutral territory.

The Black Iris by Russell Mark Olson

I don’t want to detail the story too much, but if I describe it as telling the story of what seems a straightforward spying mission, interrupted by an unexpectedly SF-inspired Nazi secret weapon, you’ll get the idea!

The Black Iris by Russell Mark Olson

You might be excused for thinking this landscape format book is simply an excuse for Gateway City creator Russell Mark Olson to create some wonderful full page portraits inspired by a particular Hollywood actress from the Golden Age of cinema. But The Black Iris is ore than that: it’s a clever, thoroughly enjoyable film noir romp, a soundless romp back to the 1940s and 50s of derringer-do, no nonsense adventure, with a bit of wry humour thrown into the mix.

Running to just over 30 pages (with an extra section of preparatory sketches), Russell may not have completed The Black Iris in “Inktober”, but I’m very glad to discover he finished the story, because the end result is just wonderful!

• The Black Iris is available in paperback (A4 landscape, 40 pages), for £10 direct from the artist via his official web shop here | If you haven’t already got it, pick up a copy of a Gateway City while you’re there, too!

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. Working in British comics publishing since the 1980s, his credits include editor of titles such as Doctor Who Magazine, Star Trek Explorer (previously known as Star Trek 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.

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