Friday, November 25, 2011

A New Project

The story of Cerebus is done, all 300 issues of it.

I said when I finished the final Cerebus post to stay tuned for something new, so here it is. The Flashman Papers. I need to do a bit of explaining before continuing.

When I decided to reread and review Cerebus the idea came to me because there were a number of read and review and reread projects going on about the place. I read some of them and thought 'Hey, I can do that!' only what to do? Mostly what I came up with were popular things and had all been done to death. Let's face it did the web really need another A Song of Ice and Fire or Harry Potter reread? In the end I came up with a fairly obscure title. Outside of a few comic collectors not many people are aware of Cerebus, at it's height the book only ever had a circulation of just over 30,000 issues per month. I knew at some stage I'd finish Cerebus, so I wondered what to do next. My initial thought was to do Neil Gaiman's Sandman, mainly because I've never read it, and it's talked about a lot, and I know I'm missing some jokes and pop culture references there. I will still read it and review it, just not sure when. Sandman is another graphic novel and I really wanted to do a book or a series, that's when I remembered the Flashman Papers. I reread all 12 of them early in 2010 and did intend to do a series of reviews, however when i started reviewing them there's just too much for me to put all in one review, so I decided to read and review them a chapter at a time similar to the way I did Cerebus.

Who's this Flashman bloke and what is this all about, I hear you ask. Glad you did. There's a book called Tom Brown's Schooldays by Thomas Hughes, it came out in 1857. It's an English classic, and it covers the adventures of a young man called Tom Brown attending the elite British public school of Rugby (I believe the game is named after the school, that's where legend has it that it was first played when William Webb Ellis picked up the ball and ran with it). The villain of the piece is the school bully; Flashman. He's a coward, he smokes, drinks and gambles, he cheats and lies, he uses woman badly, in short he's everything you do not want a young English gentleman of the Victoria era turning out to become. Flashman makes Brown's life a misery until he gets as Hughes' puts it 'beastly drunk' and is expelled. The characters life may have ended there and then, but for a British journalist by the name of George MacDonald Fraser.

George MacDonald Fraser wondered what would have become of someone like Flashman. Wealthy, titled and with an education behind him, but expelled in disgrace from one of the country's top schools. Where would he go? What would he do? The answer; join the army, of course. Thomas Hughes created Flashman as the archetypal bully, he didn't even give the character a first name. MacDonald Fraser gave him a first name, a family history and created the most extraordinary life for him post Rugby. I don't know how many adventures he initially intended to write, but he had completed 12 books between 1969 and his death in 2008, there were also allusions throughout the 12 published packets of the Flashman Papers to other adventures, most notably the American Civil War, that were never written, but were part of Flashman's extensive Who's Who entry, created by George MacDonald Fraser to conform to the conceit that Harry Flashman was a real person and he was only editing and publishing his memoirs, which lay undiscovered for many years before being found in a Midlands salesroom. In the Flashman Papers an elderly Harry sets the record straight about his extraordinary life of adventure and his ill gotten hero status. I've had a ball every time I've read the books, so I hope you will too as you follow Harry and I through his life in an era of adventure.

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