Running with two mausers blasting, looking up through barbed wire, the beautiful fully painted image of The Black Scorpion on the cover aptly illustrates the action inside this comic, and in one moment speaks out ‘First World War.’
This is indeed a first world war comic, Robert Curley has been sharp about his historical elements, and we join the action at the Battle for Messines Ridge in June 1917, as Tom, a Belfast man, sees a man in black, with a gas mask, just before passing out.
We then join Tom and two other soldiers as they sit at a make shift table, over a game of cards as they convalesces in a tented forward hospital. Liam and Jim both have Black Scorpion stories, and in the truest story telling style, we get to hear them.
It’s a great comic. It’s not Charleys War, rather its about placing a Super Hero into the first world war, and adding a new dynamic to this time in history. I was really impressed with some of the lovely detailed elements, the narrow gauge railway leading to the front for instance and the lack of recruitment that plagued the British army in early 1917. I decided to speak to Robert Curley on this accuracy.
‘All the historical elements are accurate from the place names down to General Plummer. I think when your writing something based in history like Black Scorpion, that for the story to have a sense of authenticity it needs to be as realistic as possible.’ explained Robert.
Regarding research into the First World War, he continued; ‘I bought some books on WW1 and the Somme in particular as so many Irish men lost there lives there. And of course there is the wonder of the Internet which is great for doing quick checks. The great thing about writing the Atomic Diner books is the research. I’m finally getting the history lessons I missed in school. Its a great excuse to really delve into our history and see the country from different perspectives.’
The Great War is of course a War that many Irishmen fought and died in, being at the time part of the United Kingdom, and Ireland having a long history of providing Britain with Soldiers, it is often eclipsed by the 1916 Rising, so I asked Robert how he addressed that?
‘The rising is mentioned in passing in the third soldiers story of seeing the Scorpion as a parallel to what was happening at home while the battle raged in Europe. The fact of the matter is over two hundred thousand Irish men fought on the British side during the first world war and they were considered heroes by most people when they left, by the time they came back the rising had occurred, which for the most part was unpopular with people. It was only after the British military took the hard line of executing the participants that the tide of opinion began to change and the people were out raged.’
‘ I try to be respectful to both sides of the argument as I know people have strong opinions with regard to these events but its all part of our history so if were going to tell stories based around these events they have to be acknowledged.’
One of the things that really caught my eye, was the Legion Britannia consisting of The Blue Flame, Lady Durga, Bulldog, Royal Agent, Queen Bee and Black Scorpion. A special limited cover sports this group, I asked Ron if we’d see more of Legion Britannia
‘I would like to do something with the Legion especially Royal Agent. I see him as a cross between Flash Gordon and James Bond and I think he would be great fun to write. Hopefully we will at least see a one shot over the next year or so.’
Black Scorpion, along with Rosin Dubh, are two characters from The League of Volunteers, and it seems that Robert has plans to do back stories for the other characters, while there seems to be some amount of output planned for Atomic Diner, Robert surprised me when he said ‘I’m hoping to get seventy comics out in the next three to four years although I don’t see us releasing one comic every week not unless we get some serious funding behind us but then you never know, stranger things have happened.’
This is some amount of comics, but closer to hand, League of Volunteers issue 3 is out in a matter of weeks, and like the Black Scorpion it introduces some more characters in the form of three previous Leagues and I understand that Roisin Dubh issue 3 is almost finished and is due in July (you can read James’ reviews of Roisin Dubh #1 here and issue 2 here – Joe).
As for the Black Scorpion, its a lovely set of three stories, set as it is, in one of the most brutal conflicts of the twentieth century, and it gives not just a great back ground to the character, Black Scorpion but opens up many more possibilities in this unusual setting for comics.