Panel Nine, a new digital comics imprint set up by Hong Kong-based iEnglish.com run by a longtime British comics supporter, has just released a superb iPad edition of Dapper John, one of Eddie Campbell’s earliest comic strips.
It’s a fabulous package collecting all of the “Ace Club” stories in one place and adding a whole bunch of extras.
When Alan Moore first saw Eddie Campbellâ€™s In the Days of the Ace Rock â€™nâ€™ Roll ClubÂ in 1982,Â he wrote, â€œEddie Campbell is,Â in my opinion, one of the most interesting talents, amateur or professional,Â working in comicsÂ at the moment.â€
It was the start of a beautiful relationship. Dapper John was an inspiration for John Constantine from Swamp Thing. And it was with Eddie Campbell that Moore created the magnificent From Hell (later adapted by Hollywood with Johnny Depp in the starring role).
Campbell, of course, is now recognised as one of the worldâ€™s most talented comics artists, with his Alec stories included in the Comics Journalâ€™s list of the 100 most important comics published. His graphic novels TheÂ Fate of the Artist, Bacchus,Â andÂ The Playwright have all drawn great critical acclaim.
Last published in 1993, the Ace Club stories here follow the lives of a group of teddy boys in Southend in the 1970s â€“ characters who could mythologise their walk down the street before they got to the end of it. The stories are a direct precursor to Campbellâ€™s Alec series and are essential reading for any Campbell fan.
“In the Days of the Ace Rock’n’Roll Club was a book, or an ongoing series of sevn-page stories which I drew between March 1978 and March 1979,” says Eddie. “The stories interlocked in various ways, with characters from one piece showing up in another. The ‘arc’, as we say nowadays, came to a logical conclusion after the eighth story, by which time Dapper John had emerged as the main character. A proto-Alec MacGarry appears as the second key character.
“It was in these pages that I started to get the idea of using autobiography as a starting point for a big serious book.”
Eddie created new artwork and wrote a special introduction for this new iPad edition, and a whole raft of notes and captions covering the era in which Dapper John strode the small press stage.
The app itself is excellent, offering different ways of reading the strip – a version aping its original layout and a slick ‘panel by panel’ version with a very well thought out scrolling action involving movement from frame at some points and at other times, a simole cross fade which make for an enjoyable reading experience.
The strips themselves are raw Eddie Campbell at his finest – vignettes of life among the ‘Teddy Boys’ of Brighton, the stories themselves given entertaining context thanks to accompanying notes, offering a fascinating insight into the heady days of Fast Fiction, early photocopied comics sold at Westminter comic marts and more.
All in all, this is an excellent app with great content – certainly one of he best presentations of comics on the iPad I’ve seen and up there with my other iPad bench mark, the ‘Mirabilis’ app.
Panel Nine will be publishing more comics on iPad in the coming months. “We will have two lines,” says Russell Willis, who longtime British comic fans may recall as one of the ground-breaking figures in indie comc publishing back in the 1980s (read an interview on downthetubes here).
“One publishes some of Â the best comics work already existing work in deluxe digital graphic novels for the iPad, and the other is to commission new work that is created with the iPad in mind from the beginning.
“Our team here in Tokyo has developed what we think is the best graphic novel reader on the market,” he enthuses, “giving a much better user experience than market leaders such as Comixology and other comics reader platforms.”
More news as things develop.