Goldtiger is the story of a failed comic strip from the 60s and 70s – or is it? This wonderfully executed book is a fascinating mix of homage and pastiche.

Goldtiger - prepare for a fight

At face value, Goldtiger is a collection of daily newspaper strips, brought together and reprinted in their entirety. It’s a similar concept to what’s been done previously by 2000AD with the Judge Dredd dailies, and Titan Books with its James Bond and Modesty Blaise series. But it’s also much, much more. Where should we begin?

The book starts with a number of introductory texts. There’s the story of how the strip never really saw publication outside a Maltese daily newspaper in the early 1970s, but has since garnered a reputation as a lost classic. There’s the mysterious story of how the original artwork fell into the hands of the comic artist Jimmy Broxton, having met the original artist at an Italian comic convention, from which he walked away with a suitcase crammed with originals. Then there’s the story of how the comic came about in the first place, a manufactured and cynical arrangement made between an artist and an illustrator by a Fleet Street commissioning editor, looking for a way for his own paper to cash in on the popularity of strips like Modesty Blaise.

It’s only then that we start seeing some of the strips. These are presented as scans of the originals, yellowing paper and all. Some of them are missing final art and have only sketched panels. Most are black and white, but some get the crude four-colour treatment that was as good as it got at the time.

As we read through this beautifully presented book, more short text pieces intersperse the strips: the transcript of a radio interview with the writer; readers’ complaints from the newspaper it was published in; and more background on the extraordinarily antagonistic relationship between the writer and the artist.

Then things get really weird. The artist throws out the script and draws himself, moaning about the writer’s inability to write anything decent and no-one realises the problem until after it’s published. The story, which was already risqué (both main characters are openly homosexual and the art regularly drifts into nudity) becomes increasingly surreal. However, it’s also brilliant, perfectly surrounded with the supporting information.

What’s most interesting of all is that none of it is true. The whole thing is an elaborate spoof, a beautifully executed drama within a drama. I debated long and hard whether to reveal this information as I’m not a fan of spoilers in reviews. But I suspect that, without this information, the book wouldn’t reach its target audience, which isn’t really fans of 1960s comic strips (who might actually be disappointed at being misled) but comics enthusiasts who can appreciate the pastiche, enjoy the superb back story of creative collaborators at war, and marvel at the presentation, humour and sheer balls-out gumption that has gone into the making of this book.

Goldtiger - black and white

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