When I opened the pages of The Adventures of Tintin, everything else faded away. The combination of Hergé’s illustrations and lucid storytelling consumed me like a good comic book should.
While several Roald Dahl antagonists and Marvel and DC superheroes come close, Tintin created a world where I was right there, side by side with the ginger boy-hero and his faithful white dog, Snowy on the moon, in Africa and at sea.
I suppose the decisive factor was the empathy I felt, given his understated appearance. Tintin’s everyman image added palpability to the story like no other.
Wonder Woman of course! The Amazonian warrior princess fighting for truth and justice. Freeing enslaved woman, defending helpless villages, telling Superman to “eff off spaceman”. She is awesome!
I first met her through the TV show in the 1970s with Lynda Carter, and I was blown away. She was the first female I had seen that was tough, sassy and didn’t take any shit from anyone, and I wanted to be her.
She’s recently been named a female ambassador for the UN which has caused an uproar – she’s too sexy apparently. But why should a female ambassador have to look frumpy or like Angela Merkel? Can’t we be sexy and strong and still stand for justice?
DC illustrator Bruce Timm’s depiction of her is my favourite. It is super strong, super determined and unshakable.
I think the most memorable comic character from my childhood is probably Dennis the Menace. He gave me first taste of rebellion at the tender age of nine when I joined the Dennis the Menace fan club.
I still vividly remember sending a postal order and waiting to receive the black plastic wallet and furry Gnasher badge with googly eyes. It felt like I’d joined an elite gang. It felt naughty.
Reflecting on his effect on me now, I realise that he was a perfectly branded creation – the iconic black and red striped jumper, spiky punk hair and a strong purpose to rid the world of all things “softie”; boring, safe, staid and bland. Maybe I should get myself a new red and black stripy jumper.
One word: Miffy. A little white bunny fully loaded with PMA (positive mental attitude), innocence and an unfathomable optimism for life; for over 60 years Dick Bruna’s Miffy has been part of our lives.
Bruna’s work has always appealed to me; it is simplicity personified. The bold black lines, primary shapes and colours perfectly convey an uncomplicated and innocent purity. I have always been intrigued by how something so reductive can carry such emotion.
In lots of ways you can draw a line back to Matisse’s paper cutouts. It’s also inspirational to see work which conveys so much joy, created in such a dark period in that artist’s life.
I’ve always loved Herr Starr from Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon’s seminal comic series, Preacher. Starr is a Gestapo-like figure in The Grail, a clandestine group sworn to protect the blood line of Jesus Christ, who in reality is a simpleton who has been inbred a hundred times over.
More than anything Starr is one of literature’s great nasty bastards. Think the gob of the Thick of It’s Malcolm Tucker, combined with Travis Bickle’s nihilistic taste for violence. Oh, and he looks great in a suit. What a guy.