Friday, 4 June 2010

'Dirty Job' - Toth and Haney - And One of the Greatest Stories Ever Told.

It appeared with little fanfare in a 1972 issue of DC's "Our Army At War" a collaboration of two comic veterans, artist Alex Toth and scriptwriter Bob Haney - all four pages of it.

It still ranks as one of the greatest comic stories ever to appear anywhere and you don't have to be in the slightest bit religious to get just a little swayed by it.

8 comments:

  1. Astounding - and all in 16 panels! Though I do feel the Romans get a bad press. I'm going to have to do a pro-Roman story one of these days :)

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  2. I'm racking my brains for some pro-Roman texts.

    Hmmmmmm ...

    There's always Rosemary Sutcliffe's "Eagle of the Ninth".

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  3. And Lindsey Davis's Falco novels. Though not specifically pro-Roman, they do see the world from a Roman point of view - which I suspect would be a lot more relatable to us today than an ancient British or Judean point of view.

    Also, Roman armour is the coolest :)

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  4. Huh! Apart from the sanitation, the medicine, education, wine, public order, irrigation, roads, the fresh-water system and public health... what have the Romans ever done for us??? ;-)

    ...Actually, 'Dirty Job' is surprisingly similar to 'The Life of Brian' in that it concentrates on events that are peripheral to the Gospel story itself - in this case the experience of Roman soldiers in occupied Judea during the first century (and as such it is entirely appropriate for a war comic like Our Army at War). In a way the final image gains most of its power from the fact that we only get to see the Christ's knee and a couple of his thumbs - and even then only in silhouette!

    To my mind Toth pulls off a truly miraculous trick with this deceptively simple 4-page strip - especially when you think what a disaster it could have been in almost anybody else's hands. It also stands out as one of the few stories that could only have been told as a comic strip: the blood dripping into the centurion's cup on the first page being a particularly brilliant touch.

    This has to be one of my all-time favourite strips - even the colouring is outstanding!

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  5. Funnily enough I've just started reading Lindsey Davis's latest Falco book Dave. I'd also recommend the Robert Harris novels Pompeii, Imperium and Lustrum, and - to a lesser extent - Steven Saylor's stories of Gordianus the Finder. (Robert Graves goes without saying!)

    Of course, in comics we have Wulf the Briton and Asterix (where the Romans are seen in a mostly negative light), but this is balanced by the generally positive images of Rome portrayed in Olac the Gladiator and Heros the Spartan (not to mention Moira the Slave Girl!).

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  6. Talking of Olac the Gladiator, reminds me of the totally compelling "Those About To Die" by Daniel P. Mannix. The paperback editions came with truly stunning Matania covers.

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  7. Peter, I've got the Mannix book right here. A very arresting cover that perfectly captures the title.

    Phil, I've read both Pompeii amd Imperium, really great books. Though neither of those captures what I think would be an interesting story: the poor bloody Roman soldier, whisked halfway across the world, who has to march up and down Hadrian's Wall with neither a cuppa nor a fag to sustain him (think of it!) and all the while wondering why on Earth he has to keep these strange, primitive, superstitious tribes in order. Helmand province circa 150 AD!

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