by Jason Cobley and Neill Cameron
self published as two issues, also available in the first Mammoth Book Of Best New Manga.
(Neill Cameron’s lovely wrapround cover to Bulldog issue 1.)
A few weeks ago I reviewed Jason Cobley’s The Greatest Adventures Of Captain Winston Bulldog (review here & book available from Jason Cobley direct or from his Lulu shop). I emailed Jason to let him know about the review and he kindly offered to send over copies of the very last (for now) Bulldog comics; Bulldog Empire 1 & 2. And I’m rather glad that he did.
To get the very best from this excellent tale I’d definitely recommend you pick up Jason’s collection first to get an idea of the concepts and characters behind bulldog Empire, but it’s by no means essential. Just keep in mind this, from the Bulldog collection:
“Welcome to Blighty City, centre of an Alternative Britain, where not only many mammals but some vegetables have evolved to the level of humans. It is a place where being able to hit a cricket ball for six or make a good cup of tea are valued above most other concerns. It is a place where wars have been fought and dreams can come true. It is the home of Captain Winston Bulldog, for whom the big adventure is just a pint of warm beer and a packet of pork scratchings away…”
(Our hero; Lt Winston Bulldog. And can that really be his long lost father behind him? All shall be revealed in the pages of Bulldog Empire by Jason Cobley and Neill Cameron.)
At the start of Bulldog Empire a new age of enlightenment has settled over Blighty city and Bulldog’s days as crack pilot for the Aerial Defence Force are spent flying his Bimech fighters across peaceful skies occasionally troubled by malfunctioning giant construction robots. But the war is over and old enemies are now comrades. All is well. For a while.
But somewhere else, on another world, puritanical forces have seen Bulldog’s world and don’t like what they see. And that’s what makes Bulldog Empire a fitting end to the saga of Bulldog. Jason’s crafted a fantastic bit of metafiction here, with the world of Bulldog presented as a fictional world brought into being by the imagination of it’s writer. All would be well but for the forces of a puritanical Britainnia who make a habit of entering the fictions and changing them, by force, to better suit the image of what a proper Britain should look like. The whole metafictional thing’s been done before, and it will no doubt be done again, but it’s confidently done here and more than that, it’s done with all the fun of every other Bulldog story.
(A new world discovered. From Bulldog Empire issue 1, by Jason Cobley and Neill Cameron.)
The real world of Charles Farrow (the monacled gent in the picture above) is pure Victorian steampunk, where the industrial revolution meets Manga tech. Farrow leads an invasion force into Bulldog’s world, determined to erase this “perversion of all that our glorious British Empire holds sacred“. Bulldog and the Nippon cultural exchange officer; Keiko Panda are transported to the other England whilst the forces of the ADF are left on Blighty to attempt to repel the invasion force. Cue typical Bulldog action and adventure, all done with the style and the fun we’ve come to expect.
(Neill Cameron’s Manga mecha meets Victorian architecture meets early 20th Century military stylings. From Bulldog Empire 1.)
You can see Neill Cameron’s influence all over Bulldog Empire. Even in the original Bulldog the art had a manga feel and the stories tended to reflect this. But here, the look of Blighty city is some fusion of Victoriana and futuristic Managa Tokyo. Mecha is all around, in the planes and the construction robots buzzing around the airships and the Victorian cityscape. It’s a great looking comic, full of neat little design touches, great characterisation, impressive action shots and some really lovely page layouts – like the one below. Tip of the hat to Mr Cameron.
(Keiko Panda takes the easy way out of the fight, many storeys straight down. Some of Neill Cameron’s great page layouts from Bulldog Empire issue 2.)
Bulldog Empire really is a suitable ending for a little classic of British comics. Something suitably epic, inventive and confidently done by the two creators involved, yet lacking none of the exuberance and simple pleasures of the original.