Is Mudman The First Realistic Super Hero Comic?

Yesterday, Image Comics published Mudman, a new superhero comic book by Paul Grist.

And I thought it was out of this world. In a very in-this-world sort of way.

Oh sure there is a super power involved, there is fantasy, there are dream sequences that seem to predict the future, or a future, there are costumes and characters and all sorts of bizarreness, which sees the individual in question turn himself into a semi-liquid mass…

But then there’s no nine year old girls who can somehow cut people in two with a sword.

Because this is as close to a Mike Leigh film as you can get while still having colourful tights. Teenagers in a boring high schol in a boring part of England on the coast. The kind of town the rest of the country has given up on. It’s not even as glamourous as… Plymouth. It’s an inbetween town. It’s the kind of place crime does happen, out of the glare of media, police, concerned citizens.

And to that, Paul Grist adds this touch of bizarreness, playing off the very mud flats that make this place even more boring that usual, especially to the mind of a teenager. And Grist does so in his customary fashion that’s half way between Andi Watson’s Breakfast After Noon and Dave Sim’s Cerebus, with inventive panels, poses, storytelling tricks and even lettering, that is grounded in the very believable here and now. To this extent, it’s far more successful than, say, Jamie McKelvie’s Suburban Glamour which tried a similar trick. But that was Skins, which I could never believe in, where as this is Secrets And Lies, or Nuts In May or The Street. It is as stylised as any fiction, but it feels like next door, or someone’s next door. I could never find myself believing in Kick Ass, it always felt they were performing for an audience. But here, that’s not an issue. The family dynamic, the friends and school and the belief that there must be something fantastic happening somewhere if only you could find it.

The jump Mudman makes is to find it.

This is not so much the empowerment of the underclass, the underpriveleged or the underachiever, so much as it’s the empowerment of the bored. Those who would welcome, something, anything in their lives.

And Mudman delivers. Comic of the week.

Mudman #1 is written and drawn by Paul Grist and published by Image Comics now. 28 pages, $3.50., full colour. Comics courtesy of Orbital Comics, London.


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