by Jason Cobley
Self Published / Lulu.
“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…”
Bulldog is a good old fashioned comic about Dear Old Blighty at war, where valiant soldiers stood up to the enemy with true British spirit. Oh, and it’s full of talking animals and the enemy just happens to be a race of vegetables. And the Bulldog of the title? Captain Winston Bulldog, distinguished pilot, veteran airman; he’s called Bulldog for a reason. So it’s maybe not your traditional good old fashioned comic about Dear Old Blighty then. But that shouldn’t put you off it; because on many levels it really is a throwback to the war comics of old. Just with a few talking animals and vegetables thrown in for good measure. This hugely enjoyable slice of good old fashioned comicness with a hint of weird anthropomorphic action was something I got into a long time ago back in the early 90s when Jason brought his self published comic into Nostalgia & Comics and we sold as many as we could for him. It’s been interesting re-reading it and seeing that, with a few reservations, it does stand up rather well to the test of time.
(Captain Winston Bulldog. Art by PJ Holden.)
Jason started Bulldog in 1993 and what was a very British story of warfare with classic 50s sci-fi trappings soon took on a slightly stranger approach with the increasingly apparant Manga influence. Whether Jason deliberately wrote these in or whether they came from the artists direct I don’t know. But it adds an interesting extra dimension to the work. Now whilst we’re mentioning the artwork in Bulldog, it’s worth noting that the quality does vary somewhat, but fortunately for the reader it’s never less than readable and very often very good indeed. Personally my favourites are Mitzi (who does a really good job – very Andi Watson like in places), Neill Cameron and the wonderfully light stylings of Kieran Macdonald (who seems to have disappeared from comics – our loss). But there’s also sterling work from PJ Holden, Phil Elliot, Jim Cameron and many more.
The collection isn’t the complete Bulldog, but it is a very good representative sample.
(Winston Bulldog, as imagined by my favourite Bulldog artist; Kieran Macdonald.)
Clocking in at an impressive 208 pages this isn’t a complete collection, just Jason’s personal selection of the best of Bulldog. My one big complaint about the book is a question of size. The collection is scaled down from the original comic size and sometimes the art seems just a little squashed and some of the text seems just a little small. Not a huge problem by any means, but worth mentioning.
It all starts with a six page strip from the first issue where you find yourself rather dropped into the world of Captain Winston Bulldog. Jason very sensibly opts not to give you a long explanation of the whys and wherefores of this strange world shared by talking animals, humans and talking veg. It’s just set before you and left to explain itself. To be honest, the first issue’s 6 page story “Smile, You’re On Spud TV!” isn’t the greatest piece in here but it’s from the first issue so maybe it’s acceptable for the quality to build slowly.
Except with Bulldog, the quality didn’t build slowly. The title found it’s feet almost immediately, with issue 2 featuring the first part of the great “Nippon” strip where Captain Winston is part of a peace delegation taking place in the 55th state of the USA; Nippon, defeated by America in the great franchise war. It’s a cracking story from Jason, with wonderful Manga stylings from Kieran Macdonald making it look as good as it reads. Still my favourite Bulldog strip.
(From one of my favourite Bulldog strips; Nippon. Art by Kieran Macdonald.)
You soon become familiar with the world of Blighty, the opposing Germans, the Vege-Nation and the many colourful character that feature in Winston Bulldog’s life. Over the course of the book Jason tells some great stories of his Bulldog, taking him to war, dealing with life on civvie street (the Kieran Macdonald illustrated “Brickie” three pager is another highpoint), travelling to Mars and eventually fighting a bitter civil war. The concept of this funny animal comic works because Bulldog’s rarely played for laughs and the animal nature of the cast is rarely played upon. Bulldog’s a straight man, the quintessential Englishman, just doing his job and enjoying his meagre rewards. Except he just happens to be a dog.
Throughout it all, Jason keeps the action and the characterisation going to make the whole thing read just as well today as it did back then with a series of incredibly good artists doing the extremely difficult task of working in a variety of different yet complimentary styles that makes Bulldog as much a visual treat as an entertaining and enjoyable read.
(One final look at Bulldog before we go. Art by Phil Elliot.)
The Greatest Adventures Of Captain Winston Bulldog is available from Jason Cobley direct or from his Lulu shop. And his final Bulldog tale: Bulldog: Empire, with art by Neill Cameron, is available complete in the first Mammoth Book Of Best New Manga. Both are well worth seeking out.