Terry Wiley's Verity Fair is a great example of a comic book steeped in decades-long continuity, coming as it does off Tales From Sleaze Castle, More Tales From Sleaze Castle, Sleaze Castle, Petra Etcetera and Surreal School Stories.
But it does so in a fashion that means you don't have to have read any of them, just to get an inkling of another, deeper world. Many who read this comic won't have a clue that there were any previous stories, as everything relevant is covered in easy exposition during therapy – which is funny, silly and exciting in and of itself.
The book is partly like those British dramas about groups of friends with histories that go back an age, Our Friends In The North, Peter's Friends, This Life and the rest, though here's no need for dodgy makeup for the flashback scenes. But on top of that Terry adds the more surreal school of comedy that Spike Milligan grandfathered in, all mixed up with a pop cultural bag that's specific and believable to the time period featured, rather than the usual forced reference to the miners' strike or flares.
Then in amongst all of this, he tells the very human story of a woman full of bravado, flair, and a genuine joie de vivre, but building this personality over something that's akin to a frightened child, with the fear it may all fall down at any second.
Then add the skill of one of my favourite living cartoonists. Informed by many but with a style all of his own, Terry Wiley should be up there with Posy Simmonds, Steve Bell, Dave Sim, Jeff Smith, in terms of his absolute grasp of portraying people in a stylized, entertaining, amusing fashion…with a great grasp of pathos when it all falls down. And a man who grabs and uses all the new digital devices at his fingertips, while still wielding the pen and brush as he always did. Look how he portrays a cat at the kitchen table, so different, yet so at home in this cartoony world.
I bitched this week at Mister Terrific for mixing up CGI or photo backgrounds with pen drawn chracters, creating an ugly mess. Terry pulls it off, and it's perfect.
Oh and this issue, Verity talks about her childhood, revisits her more recent past, goes on a fictitious version of Never Mind The Buzzcocks with an only-slightly fictitious Clare Grogan and drops some serious Surreal School Stories plot points for those ho remember, and some interesting backstory nuggets for those who don't.
The third issue of Verity Fair debuts at Thought Bubble this weekend in Leeds. Get your copy there, or in good British comic shops shortly. If you're in America, tweet @gailsimone, @jefflevine or @beckycloonan and maybe they'll bring some back for you. Or just email Terry himself here and bother him until he send you his comics for money.