Friday, 22 March 2019

ReadItDaddy's Graphic Novel of the Week - Week Ending 22nd March 2019: "Fran of the Floods" by Alan Davidson and Phil Gascoine (Rebellion Publishing)

Back in the dark dystopic 1970s when everything seemed to be a sort of horrid dirty beige colour, I was very much a kid who would scrape together every spare penny dug out from the back of the sofa, or pool my pocket money with other kids to buy comics.

Comics were a much-needed conduit for escapism, serving up stories that would probably make people's hair curl, to an age group who nowadays are probably more used to reading comfy little stories about middle grade kids who become detectives than dark, gritty dystopia.

I never read Jinty comic - as a boy, if you were caught even giving comics like Jinty or Misty the side-eye you'd probably end up being given a chinese burn, the bumps or an atomic wedgie by your classmates. Weirdly though I always knew that I was missing out on something, and after reading "Fran of the Floods" I'm downright convinced that Rebellion have made a very clever move picking up the rights to a metric ton of IPC and other publisher's IP to republish in gloriously luxurious graphic novel formats.

"Fran of the Floods" by legendary comic creators Alan Davidson and Phil Gascoine is a prime example of a strip I'd never heard of, but knew my daughter would instinctively love. I can't quite explain why she's drawn to the darker stuff but I think secretly all kids love stories that depict the downfall of society and civilisation, and cataclysmic global events.

Yep, here's a story that first aired in 1973 and yet feels like it was written last week, the core subjects of global warming, climate change and unstoppable flooding really are horribly relevant now. We're living the reality of a story that was fantasy nearly 50 years ago, and it feels like the world hasn't learned a durned thing really.

Fran is a young girl who lives with her family, listening with growing anxiety and alarm to the news stories as the sea levels begin to rise, eventually swamping towns and cities on the coast before creeping further inland and covering the entire south.

For a while Fran's life carries on as normal, and she's obsessed with all the same thing most kids are today (obviously minus the tablets, mobile phones and social media, naturally!)

Her parents and her school do their best to 'normalise' life in the midst of the chaos that breaks out around the country, until the flooding, food shortages, power outages and general breakdown of law and order come knocking at their door.

Folks who are canny enough to be reading "No Country" in the weekly Phoenix Comic might recognise the sort of tale this is, wrought in its original monochrome but highly detailed artwork, with new colour covers courtesy of Rebellion.

Fran's story is harrowing at times, hopeful at others - above all it's the sort of comic collection that fulfils two vital roles - preserving a fantastic story for a whole new generation of kids who might favour darker stuff like us, but also offering a timely and rather bittersweet message that even as far back as the early 70s there were folk out there who knew the horrible damage we were doing to the planet, and were trying to make sure kids were as well informed about it back then as they are now.

C wouldn't put this down until she'd read the whole thing, completely hooked in and immersed in a fantastic harrowing tale of an ordinary young girl demonstrating amazing bravery in the face of a horrific man-made ecological disaster.

Mind-blowingly brilliant!

Sum this graphic novel up in a sentence: Blisteringly timely, brilliantly written and illustrated, the sort of 'girl' comic I wish I'd been brave enough to read as a wee lad but am very pleased to catch up with and share with my daughter (and would heartily recommend sharing it with your daughters - AND sons too!)

"Fran of the Floods" by Alan Davidson and Phil Gascoine is out now, published by Rebellion (kindly supplied for review as a digital ARC).