It’s been a long time coming, but we’re delighted to report that the print collection of the second volume of Shades, a quirky, well-received British superhero tale published by Broken Voice Comics, goes on sale in April.
Both an exploration of the British national character and a fun-filled action/adventure story, Shades is a single, epic tale told over two volumes. It’s a fantastic project I first encountered when I started work at ROK Comics back in 2007 and David kindly experimented with the mobile comics platform I helped develop which, sadly, was ahead of the curve in terms of bringing comics to mobiles and is no longer running.
Shades Volume One was released back in 2011, collecting the first arc of the story, illustrated by Harsho Mohan Chattoraj. It tells the story of retired tailor Stanley Miller as he attempts to reunite a group of faded British heroes – a group which includes a prehistoric shaman, a World War Two fighter pilot and the First Century warrior queen Boudicca!
Covering some five centuries of British history, the opening chapters pitch this motley group against an evil mystic, a giant experimental super-bomber and a demonic serpent.
Written by David A J Berner, Shades is a contemporary action/adventure story, asking the question “what makes a hero?” and examining the traits and characteristics which have come to define the British national character. This second volume begins with Stanley Miller and his motley group of quasi-historical British heroes still reeling from the traumatic events at the end of Volume One.
Meanwhile, the prehistoric mystic Bedlam and his allies are preparing to make their move for control of the UK.
“This is not a new story,” Berner told us. “It’s the concluding part of the story we began in Volume 1. For readers new to Shades, therefore, the book includes a summary of the main events in Volume One. Stan and his family issues are still very much at the heart of that story but, as the action ramps up, readers can expect to see a lot more action from the likes of Doug (a WW2 fighter pilot known as Spitfire) and Boo (the First Century warrior queen – and fan favourite! – Boudicca).”
As well as giving additional insight into the motivations of the book’s principal villains, Volume Two also introduces two new characters. “I don’t want to give away too much about them,” says Berner, “but the new art team has worked wonders on those guys.”
That art team comprises Brazilian artist E.C. Nickel (pencils and inks) and Indonesian artist Muamal Khairi (colours). “Nickel and Qoiri immediately grasped what I was trying to do with Shades,” says David. “Achieving a look that’s both traditional comic book and realistic, portraying characters who are both steeped in historical significance and yet who also manage to convince us that they’re the kind of people we might actually know in real life … I always saw those things as vital to Shades, and Nickel and Qoiri delivered on all fronts!”
Readers have often described Shades as “a British Watchmen” and “a Watchmen for a modern audience”, while Berner’s writing has been favourably compared to James Robinson’s run on Starman. Berner is understandably delighted by such comparisons.
“I’ve never made any secret of the fact that it was Alan Moore’s Watchmen (along with Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns) which first made me want to write a graphic novel of my own,” he says, “so those kind of comparisons are incredible. I hadn’t read any Starman when I wrote the script for Shades, but I began playing catch-up just recently and I can certainly see similarities with what Robinson was trying to achieve. My intention was to write a ‘high concept’ graphic novel (i.e. an examination of the British national psyche) with believable characters and which would also be enjoyed by fans of mainstream super hero comics. When readers compare it to the likes of Watchmen and Starman, therefore, it makes me think we must have been at least partially successful!”
This second volume continues David’ examination of the characteristics and traits that have come to define the British national character.
“The fact that it’s story is set in the UK means that Shades is able to re-examine the super hero genre in a way that US comics usually don’t,” suggests Berner. “The conventions and norms of the genre are so well-established in the US mainstream that they often seem to be taken for granted or self-consciously spoofed.”
“Nickel and Qoiri have done a fantastic job,” says Berner. “Anyone familiar with their work will know they each have a distinctive style of their own but that they both share Harsho’s love of detail and character.”
• Shades is available from Comicsy in the UK (www.comicsy.co.uk/brokenvoice) and IndyPlanet. Volume One is available now. Volume Two goes on sale next month
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.