Much like the recent conflict in this country, the culture war continues unabated in the face of growing resistance and apathy.
In recent weeks, we've seen people calling for a directors cut of the 2017 film Justice League be compared to Brexiteers and Trump supporters, anime fans be accused of whitewashing and the reputation of one of the most progressive animation studios (responsible for classic cartoon shows like 'He-Man' 'She-Ra' among others) be dismissed in favour of the wokerati's reinterpretation of 'She-Ra.'
It seems to have hit a point where there's an accusation of racism / sexism / homophobia/transphobia etcetcetc every day. So much so that it's impossible to keep up and, when you find out the details, wonder why you bothered?
However, one can argue that 2019's Joker was a turning point for many. With bloggers and the media suggesting that this was a film that could invoke violence (and then fall back on criticism for it featuring a song from a known paedophile that was a permanent fixture in American sporting events), the average person on the street stuck two fingers up at the pearl clutchers and made the film a success to the tune of a billion dollars.
So, in the current climate, these companies have realised they need to make money and have started listening to fans. They have a long way to go to rebuild their audience, but at least it's a start.
Meanwhile, in the underground, some companies have been trying to deliver quality content regardless of politics.
All because he wants to avoid being overtly political. Unbelievable. Especially when you have a work like Tinseltown in the your catalogue, which more than stands on its own merits.
Collected as a graphic novel in 2019, Tinseltown tales the story of Abigail Moore. Unsatisfied with the prospect of becoming a secretary, she is determined to follow in the footsteps of her father, who was a police officer in Hollywood killed in the line of duty. However, with this being 1915, the prevailing attitude is that three women employed by the police department is more than enough.
Until she spots an advert for Utopia City Studios. Given the role of police officer (really just security/studio lot cast), she is forced to overcome a dismissive line manager (Miss Redwood), leering members of the public and a conspiracy which claims the life of her friend.
Plot wise, it's a simple but engaging tale of how one woman has the odds stacked against her in a system that thinks of her as nothing more than fodder for the eye. Writer David Lucarelli resists the urge to moralise or point fingers, he simply tells the story and lets the reader see for themselves.
Unlike a lot of stories where the narrator is presented fully formed, we see Abigail grow from being a naive kid to one that is determined, but without ever losing her enthusiasm or giving into a soul crushing existence. Sure, it's a standard trope but one that is delivered with affection for the character and well crafted story telling.
This same eye for detail is also given to Miss Redwood. Portrayed as a hard-faced desk jockey, there is a little element of desperation within her. As if she sees in Abigail the person she could have been if she had been less conformist. With that considered, it's easy to see why she takes the route that she does and attempts to undermine Abigail.
Details like that, although minute, give the characters an extra edge that allow the reader to understand them as something a little more than a two dimensional character.
In terms of the artwork and colouring, Henry Ponciano does an immense job of capturing the mundane setting of the studio grounds while also allowing for a sepia tinted nostalgic feel to come through in the more tender moments. One particular page is such a beautiful example of this: Abigail and her partner on a Ferris wheel with the sky turning from golden brown to blue. We get the sensations of hope, nostalgia for a time long past and the awareness that we are in a moment, and we must treasure it.
A sequel has been announced. I'm hoping that it is just as good. Mixing action, mystery and wistful recollections, Tinseltown is a heart-warming tale, proving Alan Grant's claim that comics really are the most subversive form of media, as it forces the reader to use both sides of their brain.
David Lucarelli, Henry Ponciano, Peter Simeti, 2019. Tinseltown. Alterna Comics. ISBN-13: 978-1945762659
⏩Christopher Owens was a reviewer for Metal Ireland and finds time to study the history and inherent contradictions of Ireland. He is currently the TPQ Friday columnist.