I picked this comic up at the Exeter Comic Expo back in September this year, and read the comic within a few days of that event, and I have done several more times since. Why do I feel the need to mention this? I think just to stress, off-the-bat, what a great example of an independently published comic The Sixpenny Murder is.
The story is based on the true events of the Tithebarn Street Outrage that took place in Liverpool in the 1800's and follows, as closely as possible, the real accounts of the event. For those not familiar with the event (and you're not alone there, I was too until I picked up this comic) the 'outrage' took place on the August Bank Holiday in 1874, where Richard and Alice Morgan were suddenly attacked by street thugs: an attack that sadly ended in Richard's death.
Doing a bit of research I found out that this was something of a 'first', an unusual and very unique incident for the time: strangers attacked in daylight, on a major city street by people they didn't know - a random, unprovoked and very violent incident indeed, and the comic reflects this very well within its pages.
There are several very appealing things about this comic. The first is the art, mostly as a comic it is one of the first things you see of course. David Hitchcok's art is fantastic and works brilliantly with John A. Short's writing. The style fits the age it is set in with great panel pacing and angling of the readers view, for black and white art it comes across as almost cinematic at times.
The next thing is John A. Short's writing - again brilliant. His story telling for this tale is bang on. As he states himself '... The important element in telling this story was that we should stick as closely as possible to the details of the case. I'm sure that some of the most lurid parts of the story probably come over as just sensational story-telling devices, but I want to assure the reader that everything of importance is based on reported events ...'. This is great writing, dialogue and pacing. Something else John A. Short also manages to bring to his story telling is the clever way he approaches the attack itself, starting after the event in the prison cell with John 'Holy fly' McCrave after he wakes from a nightmare to confess his sins to Father Bonte before he is hung, and then his telling of his version of the events becomes the story within the comic.
One big thing about this comic that is talked about in the final pages is how the comic came about. The idea of the comic is to tell a story in an engaging and interesting way to young people, the focus of this one being gang and weapon related violence, and try to use it as an example of personal responsibility. There are many parallels with the events of the 1800's that mirror many of todays youth and gang crimes and attitudes within the media towards youths themselves. One example that is sited within the comic is one of the newspaper headings of the day 'City of Savages'. That was used to describe Liverpool after the event, the young people on street corners were demonised by the Tithebarn Outrage as something to be feared and avoided, echoing many of todays news reports.
This is a fantastic comic and well worth the cover price of £1.99. I think every teenager should read it, I'm keeping my copy safe until my little boy is old enough to appreciate it, because I genuinely believe there is an important message within this book he will need to learn.
For everyone who is not a teenager? Well, you need to read it too, simply because it is a great comic, a solid 5 out of 5 for this one.
The Sixpenny Murder
Written by John A. Short, illustrated by David Hitchcock, lettered by JAS, edited by Emily Alison
Published by Kult Creations
You can find out more about The Sixpenny Murder and other Kult Creations publications at their website.
My thanks once again to Simon for his review - you can find more of Simon's work over on his blog. Later in the week, continuing our focus on Kult Creations, we'll be taking a look at another of their titles: Cross.