If you know anything about youth culture in Britain in the 1960’s, you’ll know all about Mods and Rockers. These two tribes appeared from opposite ends of the pop music scene of the time, with Mods dressing ultra-smartly and listening to soul, while Rockers wore jeans and leather jackets, and preferred rock music. The one thing they shared was a love of motorbikes (if you can call the Mods’ scooters that) and fighting each other at seaside resorts.
Dave Gibbons has lifted these early sixties teenage cults and dumped them into a near-future Britain, where teenagers are either Originals or Dirt – this era’s equivalent of Mods and Rockers. It’s a bit like Quadrophenia meets A Clockwork Orange.
The style of the piece is no less interesting than you’d expect of an artist with Gibbons’ reputation, presented in subtle black and white. This brings out the grimy reality of Gibbons’s urban landscapes, and emphasises the black and white 60’s influenced clothing of the Originals. With extended use of black guttering to create darkness throughout the entire book, the presentation is strikingly different.
You’ll have to forgive the story some of its clichés, as Lel, the anti-hero of the story, goes through most of the things that parents of teenage boys dread. He is particularly prone to being a bad boy, whether it’s treading on his mates to get to girls, bullying anyone unable to make it into his close-knit group of friends, delusions of gangland grandeur, an unhealthy obsession with motorbikes, or both the consumption of and dealing in drugs.
Thankfully, although there’s sadness here, Gibbons doesn’t seem to be in the business of unnecessary moralising. While this can sometimes make for a messy ending, Gibbons handles his subjects deftly, using the gravitational pull of adulthood to create a suitably whirlwind ending. Perhaps it’s the familiar Mods and Rockers subject matter that provides a prevailing feeling of familiarity about the story, but it certainly doesn’t stop it from being an entertaining read.