Empires by Robert Rankin

Published On October 5, 2011 | By Joe Gordon | Books, Comics

Modern day man of the lark about Robert Rankin, better known for over 30 years of book writing, this year turned his hand to comic illustration and creation.


Rankin is perhaps one of the most all-rounded artists in the industry. He started doing covers for his own books in 1998 with Dance of the Voodoo Handbag, and soon his sculptures were used for his previously published work, and all since then. He has moved into ink and marker media more recently, although he studied in Ealing Art College and had illustrated a comic and a book about The Beatles songs well before he was an acclaimed author.

It is indeed quite a strange idea to not only to engage Rankin as a comic writer, but illustrator too, but in strange ideas are genius, and New Zealander Bill Geradts, who runs Armageddon Expo, wanted to publish a series of comics online.

Rankin announced this in May and now, only some four months later, he has announced ‘At eleven minutes past one on today, the fifth of September 2011, I completed my comic book. 108 pages. It has taken me four months to write and draw it. I am now going to put my feet up for a couple of hours. I might even have a drink.’

Now that’s not at all a bad page rate.

So far, on Beyond Reality Media, there are some 22 pages of the comic online, now quite enough to give a fair review and commentary on, and of course, we know that it is completed, something of a bug-bear in the wider industry, but obviously not an issue for the committed likes of Rankin.

We are introduced to the Ultimate Steampunk world, setting also for Rankin’s previous book, The Japanese Devil Fish Girl and Other Unnatural Attractions (see here for James review of that book – Joe), where the War of the Worlds was indeed won, and then the battle taken to the Martians, in the way of loading the sickly and old into spaceships to fire at Mars, and Mr Tesla and Mr Babbage under the authority of a young Winston have back-engineered Martian technology and now, Queen Victoria is empress of India and Mars, and Britain is a superpower in the solar system, populated as it is with a wide variety of beings.

(artwork here by and (c) Robert Rankin, borrowed from the Beyond Reality Media site, where you can also find a variety of other interesting webcomics – one to bookmark)

Rankin has his own way of telling tales, and so he uses a word of mouth method to tell of his grandad’s adventures, or at least adventures in his grandfather’s time, and the first story is a vignette about Jack the Ripper and what his real outcome was, at the hands of Lady Raygun.

It’s easy to read, gentle on the brain, but there is a level of intricate detail about the artwork that occasionally belies more, whether it be the images hidden on his grandfather’s tie or the brand on the side of an iron.

The colouring is completed in New Zealand (by Coleen Littleford-Allen) and there is a real beauty about it, but somehow Rankin manages to capture many of the beautiful aspects of the comic trade, be it the wonderfully detailed panel designs or the very intricate lettering, which is all by his own hand. With 91 pages of the story yet to go, there is time for the stories themselves to grow in depth and I can only hope that the deeper meaning about some of the stories will unveil themselves.

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About The Author

Joe Gordon
Joe Gordon is ForbiddenPlanet.co.uk's chief blogger, which he set up in 2005. Previously, he was professional bookseller for over 12 years as well as a lifelong reader and reviewer, especially of comics and science fiction works.

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