Fans of the cult BBC TV comedy programme Big Train, first broadcast in 1998 and 2002, will no doubt recall that show’s most memorable running gag sketch, the animated World Stare-out Championship. A parody of over-excitable sports commentators – narrated in deliciously self-mocking tones by Barry Davies – it first debuted in a self-published comic by Paul Hatcher before being picked up for a wider television audience.
Hatcher remains active on the small press scene with his latest offering being perhaps not so much a comic as an interactive graphic narrative. Crimewatch Milky Way is a 30-card set featuring the galaxy’s most wanted criminal masterminds. Lampooning the Crimewatch television show, this sci-fi send-up asks for the public’s help in apprehending a selection of otherworldly miscreants.
Each card gives us an illustration of the perpetrator of such unlikely crimes as brain burglary, joyriding in the bodies of an alien royal family, substandard weather system installation and designer tentacle bag snatching, with the flip side portraying the show’s hosts giving us a rundown on the villains’ activities. Hatcher works this commentary around creature designs by Ana Herrera Ortega, Adrian Sellers, Barbara De Moubra, Milena Marangon, Ruth Rollason, Tiffany Spicer, John O’Malley and himself that vary from the Lovecraftian to the abstract, through to escapees from a Ken Reid comic and space oddities of all shapes and sizes.
While parody is obviously at the heart of Crimewatch Milky Way (and Hatcher delights in blinding us with gloriously ludicrous technobabble) the show presenters’ discussion is also laced with witty social commentary about altogether more contemporary subject matter. It is indeed a very text heavy method of delivery and some no doubt may question whether a more traditional comics format would have worked more efficiently in communicating the humour of the piece. However, I suspect what Hatcher is looking to achieve here is something altogether different and based far more on the allure of nostalgia. The tactile nature of Crimewatch Milky Way‘s format pointedly evokes memories of childhood card sets with macabre subject matter and enticingly grotesque illustrations.
Combining tactile presentation, creepy creature design and darkly amusing dialogue, Crimewatch Milky Way works as well as fond spoof as it does as experimental narrative. “Don’t have nightmares. Do sleep well” indeed…
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