I was thrilled to discover yesterday that the classic comic series Dragon's Claws is now available in graphic novel format. Buy it on Amazon here!
Or, if you need further persuasion, hear the story of a misspent youth first. Picture the scene, it's summer 1988, I'm eleven-going-on-twelve and my favourite weekly reading matter is the Transformers comic, with its thrilling and convoluted tales of time-travelling giant robots (interspersed with American-written, less thrilling and convoluted non-time-travelling stories), which around this point starts to run trailers on its editorial page for a brand new upcoming comic - Dragon's Teeth, written by Simon Furman and drawn by Geoff Senior and involving some kind of fighting in the distant future.
I don't think these editorials managed to give me any kind of impression of what this comic was going to be about, and the names of the creators didn't really intrigue me - at that point, I never paid attention to the identities of the writers and artists, and I really hadn't noticed that all the Transformers stories I really loved were written by Simon Furman, nor that all the ones drawn by a competent artist were drawn by Geoff Senior. But the plugging continued, and just before the all-new comic was due to hit the shelves, that week's Transformers comic gave it one final push, complete with full-page advert and a quick mention that it was now going to be called "Dragon's Claws" instead:
Forgive the crumpled and stained page, it comes from my own non-mint-condition comic collection. And notice that the change of name was so last-minute that the caption of panel two still refers to "the Teeth" instead of "the Claws". Apparently they'd found out at the last second that "Dragon's Teeth" was already the registered-trademark name of an obscure American comic.
All of which, as I said, didn't excite me in any big way, but when I saw Dragon's Claws #1 in W H Smith's, I decided to check it out, and I loved it from the start. Violence and destruction in the year 8162! Colourful costumes and fascinating characters! And, which I didn't expect, once you got past the action and adventure, there was a lot of intelligent and thought-provoking stuff. Debates about ethics, evil consipracies, dark secrets... I was hooked all the way through. I pestered my parents to buy me a subscription to it, and would eagerly read the new issue when it arrived, occasionally annoying my brother, who of course hadn't had a chance to see it yet, with outbursts like "Stenson's dead!"
Actually, that's sort of a spoiler for anyone who hasn't read it yet, so if you're going to buy it, forget you read that last sentence. Anyway, sadly, the series didn't last long, just ten monthly issues before it was cancelled. It just wasn't popular enough, which was the fault of the format more than anything to do with the stories it told; it was an attempt by Marvel UK to launch a range of American style comics - small size, twenty pages monthly, just one story in a comic - to an audience of British youth used to big weekly comics with four or five six-page stories in them. But it was something special, as everybody who read it at the time remembers, and I hope new people discover it now it's in the book shops.
I read through my old collection today, and it's still as good as I remember. But to get the full effect, you shouldn't read it all at once. Buy the book and read one chapter every month, spending the intervening time re-reading, picking up on the little details, and wondering what's going to happen next.
The book also has a great foreword by Simon Furman, and an afterword by Rich Johnston in which he rightly says that it's a great shame Dragon's Claws came out before the days of the internet, because otherwise the web would be full of fan fictions now. He also urges everyone to write their own Claws #11, and I second that! Go and buy the book now, and relive my childhood!