Clever, literate, funny, beautifully drawn – all adjectives which could be applied to me, well almost but you would be far better applying them to one of my all-time favourite comic series The Bogie Man, written by John Wagner and Alan Grant and drawn by, the amazing, Robin Smith. It’s a simple, brilliant conceit, a dangerous mental patient called Francis Clunie runs amok in Glasgow believing that he is Humphrey Bogart, ‘solving’ crimes and mysteries. Clunie ropes in all manner of local characters into his misadventures as supporting characters in his film.
You need to have two particularly excellent writers to carry this off, otherwise it would simply be no more than an amusing 4-page mini strip at the end of a comic. The writing needs to be intelligent, sharp and funny and the writers need to know how to capture that classic 40’s Chandler/Hammett tone perfectly – which is a surprisingly difficult thing to do for something which, superficially at least, seems so easy, just like AC/DC rip-offs, there are an awful lot of failures out there. Grant and Wagner ace it, of course; to such an extent that Clunie’s own warped internal logic starts to seem entirely rational and reasonable to you, more so even than that of the police and psychiatrists trying to catch him.
All of which, of course would just be so many bits of text if not for the formidable talents of Robin Smith. He conjures up a fabulous Glasgow noir setting for these comics, moody and sharp. If you knew the city* I have no doubt you’d be able to pick out your favourite landmarks, I only recognise Glasgow central station, which the Bogie Man pretty much demolishes at the end of the first story.
So much of the fun here comes from stacking up Clunie’s B-movie dialogue with the phonetically rendered Glaswegian – so much so that the authors handily provide us with a ‘MacGlossary’ at the end of the book so you can sort out your ‘erse’ from your ‘Embra’**
The first four comics from 1989, which my friend Geraint was cool enough to own and introduce me to, form the first story here The Bogie Man and the second story is Chinatoon. The chapter titles are pure genius, Farewell My Looney, The Treasure of the Ford Sierra, To Huv And Huvnae and The Wrong Goodbye are my own faves. Look, trust me it’s all great, seek out this gem – it is tragically under-famed^ as far as I am concerned, in fact I’m pretty sure it’s out of print. I found my copy on eBay, it’s an ex-library copy from Springdale, Arkansas their loss, my gain.
Last words? how about Bogart’s? ‘I should never have switched from scotch to martinis’.
433 Down (still).
*here’s looking at HMO, kid.
**no ‘photies’ though.
^my ace new word, I charge royalties for using it though.