Madius Comics are a comic book imprint that are making a big splash on the British indie scene with their multitude of inventively quirky titles created by writers Rob Jones and Mike Sambrook and a motley crew of illustrators. They are the brains behind an array of indie comics including ‘The Kings Leap.’ ‘Ramlock Investigates’ and their flagship anthology series ‘Papercuts and Inkstains.’
Papercuts and Inkstains #1
In the debut issue of the above-mentioned anthology, the reader is thrown headfirst into the wonderfully wacky realm of Madius Comics with a strip entitled ‘No.’ This amusing chunk of sci-fi serves as an interesting insight into the occupational lives of Time Adjudicators, individuals who have the hectic job of controlling time. This futuristic black and white tale is a collaboration between one half of Madius’s writing duo Rob Jones, and one of the indie scene’s foremost illustrators Nick Gonzo. It focuses on a Friday afternoon in the workplace of the Time Adjudicators as they try to keep the complicated and overlapping elements of time and space in check whilst rushing towards the end of another week at the grindstone.
The second story in this instalment is a hilarious tale written by Rob Jones and illustrated by Kevin Pospisil that explores what would happen if the zombie apocalypse began in a small Yorkshire town. ‘By ‘Eck on Earth’ is a delightful horror comic which is unapologetically British in both its humour and tone. Each panel is overflowing with dark gags that are expertly stitched into the narrative like a satirical tapestry. The application of Northern dialect in each word balloon is a joy to read; seeing any sort of British vernacular or regional slang in comics is a true rarity and something Jones uses to fantastic affect in ‘By ‘Eck on Earth.’
The final strip in issue one introduces the reader to The ‘Profits of Doom,’ a group of inept Druids who attempt to bring about the end of the world. Rob Jones and Mike Sambrook’s exquisitely penned script is only enhanced by Mike Smith’s charming monochrome art. The first of countless jokes in this strip takes the reader by surprise like a comedic punch to the gut as these four occultists begin to bicker about the components of their apocalyptic ritual. The story reads like an illustrated comedy sketch as we go from panel to panel being slapped in face with absurdist gags. Sambrook and Jones have created a unique niche for themselves with ‘Profits of Doom’ and have injected indie comics with a powerful syringe full of laughter.
Papercuts and Inkstains #2
‘Cast Adrift’ is a sci-fi comic written by Rob Jones and drawn by Rory Donald that centres on an astronaut sent to explore an alien colony on a distant planet. This sinister strip is an unexpectedly serious one that gives the reader a glimpse into the more dramatic side of Jones’ imagination. It is nicely written but possesses very little of Madius’s trademark wit and doesn’t fit naturally with the overall vibe of the issue. The illustrations within ‘Cast Adrift’ match the creepy undertone of the narrative perfectly, but although well-rendered, Donald’s heavy black colour palette is fairly overpowering to the eye.
‘Together Forever’ is a werewolf tale with a difference, as the police are called to investigate the disappearance of an overworked family man and his loyal pet dog. This darkly comedic tale marks the first time Sambrook takes sole charge of the writing duties in the series and he definitely leaves his own stamp on the book. The story is just as funny as any of Madius’s offerings, but there is a beautifully macabre shift in plot.
It has the sensibility of a Tim Burton film and a quirkily satirical narrative that is exquisitely re-enforced by Jim Lavery’s professional-level art.
In the closing strip of this second issue, we reconvene with the Beatles of black magic, the ‘Profits of Doom.’ In this comic the boys find themselves struggling to restore the humanity of George’s wife Mary after she has been transformed into a demonic monster. The strip serves as yet another example of the writing and illustrative talents to be found at Madius Comics with consistent work from Jones, Sambrook and Smith.
Papercuts and Inkstains #3A
The third issue is split into two halves, 3A and 3B like two sides of a vintage record
The A-side begins with a comic entitled ‘A Role of the Dice’ penned by Jones and Sambrook and illustrated by Angela Sprecher. The Old West strip about a cluster of renegades who plan to overthrow a casino that is draining the town of all its collateral, is an eccentric mixture of a Randolph Scott picture and the Looney Tunes. Sprecher’s classic cartoonist style is akin to ‘The Beano’ and ‘The Dandy’ that harks back to the good old days of British comics, giving the reader a brief but heart-warming reminder of those timeless comics that are sadly falling into extinction.
‘Vampire Wonderland’ is a horror strip written by Rob Jones with artwork by Paul Moore which centres on a courageous young woman attempting to outrun the bloodsuckers in the vampire apocalypse. The first person narrative is well-written, amusing and as sharp as the sword our protagonist wields. Paul Moore’s artwork is by far the best thing about this strip.
The composition and look of the art is akin to Ian Gibson’s work in ‘The Ballad of Halo Jones’ and is overflowing with delicate manga influences.
The final tale in this issue, a slot that is normally reserved for George, Reginald, Colin and Keith (AKA the Profits of Doom) is filled by a comedic and bloodthirsty story called ‘Slaycation.’ Written by Mike Sambrook and illustrated by Rosie Packwood, this unexpectedly chilling tale chronicling the holiday of a group of friends with rather unorthodox pastimes is yet another fine example of Sambrook’s delightfully dark imagination. The Tarantino-esque violence displayed within the strip is perfectly balanced by Rosie Packwood’s monochrome artwork.
Madius have made a brave decision by choosing the unpredictable option of replacing ‘Profits of Doom’ with an alternative strip and therefore simultaneously refusing to pigeonhole themselves.
Papercuts and Inkstains #3B
Now we come to the B-side of this comic book L.P. with a strip entitled ‘F.P.S.’ an intense tale chronicling a battle between interplanetary soldiers and alien insurgents penned by Rob Jones and illustrated by Dan Butcher. The highlight of ‘F.P.S.’ is without question Butcher’s innovative artwork, as the majority of the comic is drawn as if being witnessed first-hand through a sniper’s visor.
‘The Perplexity’ is a unique piece of graphic storytelling written by Nick Gonzo and illustrated by Brian Burke. This intriguing story works as both a pastiche of and homage to the superhero genre. Nick Gonzo’s narrative is full of stereotypical comic book situations that are lovingly satirised to fine effect, before we meet our quirky antihero and the storyline transforms.
The genuinely thought-provoking dialogue which this eccentrically illustrated Crusader speaks is not only well rendered but a salute to some of the anarchic heroes who have graced the pages of comics in generations past. Gonzo and Burke have created a memorable tale which serves as a fine example of comic book noir.
In the last strip of this issue, the reader returns to the world of the ‘Profits of Doom’; As the quartet of Druids attempt to defeat the demonic god they have accidentally summoned who is intent on destroying the world. In the course of this comic we see boys on a desperate search to locate a copy of an ancient tome called the Grimoire in order to put an end to the a apocalypse and stop their favourite pub from being demolished in the process. This strip not only contains the usual array of laughs, but some outstanding artwork and panel designs. Mike Smith portrays an apocalyptic landscape perfectly with a well-balanced blend of horror and absurdity. From a mutant cat who favours toying with buses over balls of string, to a gigantic human meatball forged from terrified bystanders, Smith’s pen knows no limit. Another cracker from the minds of Jones and Sambrook.
‘Papercuts and Inkstains’ is a truly unique and funny anthology series that is testament to the level of diversity and talent to be found in British indie comics. The title possesses a sense of levity and nostalgia which is far too rare in the medium today. Madius Comics have many qualities that sets their work apart from most creators, but if Jones, Sambrook and company should be known for anything, it’s making comics comical again.