My favourite thing about writing these reviews of my old comics is learning about the existence of unexpected sequels. I hadn't known that the Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers had returned in 2017, for instance. Also, until this week, I hadn't known that Alan Moore and Steve Parkhouse had done a new 24-page Bojeffries story in 2013. Kaching! Bought. I now own two Bojeffries books:
(a) the 1992 Tundra Press collection, coloured, with an introduction by Lenny Henry.
(b) the 2013 Top Shelf collection with that new story ("After They Were Famous"). This collection's all black-and-white, except "Our Factory Fortnight", which is duotone.
They're very different.
1. TUNDRA PRESS COLLECTION (1992)
It's an Alan Moore comedy that might look a bit like The Addams Family on the surface, but is actually a bit miserable, quite dark and very working class British. It's also very specifically of its time. You've got a werewolf, a vampire, a Lovecraftian elder thing and other superbeings all living together in a council house in Northampton. They're funny, macabre and silly, but their adventures involve:
(a) council rent collectors
(b) going on a caravan holiday to an English seaside town. This is laser-accurate for the time and I recognise almost everything in there (e.g. the campsite toilets), although my family always used tents, not caravans... but these days, it's a snapshot from 50+ years ago. They're not going abroad. It's grotty. There are references to the Vietnam war and to those saucy seaside postcards that used to be inescapable and I'm sure no longer exist. (Often drawn by Donald McGill.) Holidays within the UK aren't actually dead, especially after COVID-19, but Alan Moore's reminding us of a time when this kind of holiday was the default assumption.
(c) the family Christmas of prolonged boredom and near-misery.
(d) Raoul, the werewolf, has a manual job in a factory. He has a colleague who hands out race hate literature and has friends in the police who beat up black people.
(e) there's racism (see above) and builders who shout sexual abuse at women, saying "they love it". (Admittedly Moore's turning that on its head for comedy when Ginda sexually harasses them, but that's who they are.)
(f) a jaundiced view of English traditions (with fox hunting probably in mind) in "Batfishing in Suburbia".
(g) the most savage might be "Song of the Terraces", in which the neighbourhood does a song and dance number about how they're racist, exploited, poor, miserable, sexually unsatisfied and/or possibly longing for death. It's funny, but bloody hell.
It's affectionate, but a dark, unsentimental kind of affectionate that's quick to insert the stiletto.
The family are lovable, though. Hideous, inhuman, murderous, undead and/or threatening all life on the planet, but still lovable. Ginda is hilarious. (Also fat, ugly, bad-tempered and would probably bite Superman's face off.) Uncle Raoul is a jovial werewolf and the happiest idiot in the world. Uncle Festus is a vegetarian vampire who hates everyone. Grandpa Podlasp is the kind of reality-bending entity H. P. Lovecraft was warning us about. (Also a bit senile and "everything's geraniums with him".)
And then there's the baby. We never see it. For a while, I was wondering if Moore and Parkhouse had forgotten about it, but no. It likes its Christmas present.
The only awkward thing is the racism. Moore's writing his bigots as idiots with little dicks, but it might still make you slightly uncomfortable because he's trusting us not to be idiots ourselves. When that policeman ignores thugs, troublemakers and a werewolf to beat up George (the victim of the story), one could imagine a true racist laughing at this non-ironically. Similarly, Moore's touch is flippant with those sexist bricklayers. These days, it might almost feel a little dangerous to tackle this material without a billboard for the hard-of-thinking to shout "THESE PEOPLE ARE EVIL". Moore doesn't do billboards... but, that said, I don't own any other comics that are saying what he's saying here, hard, about British society of that era.
Also, in fairness, this collection has a glowing introduction by what was then probably the most famous black man in Britain. (Well, either Lenny Henry or Frank Bruno.)
I love this series, though. I love how it plays with format. "Song of the Terraces" is a musical. "Our Factory Fortnight" is a duotone text-and-pictures story in a format I last saw when reading a copy of The Beano from the 1930s. I love the way Moore creates the most boring man in the world ("The Rentman Cometh") and then makes him funny anyway. I love the way the Addams Family seems to be living next door (on one page). And, above all, it makes me laugh.
2. TOP SHELF AND KNOCKABOUT COLLECTION (2013)
...well, I really mean "After They Were Famous".
The original Bojeffries stories from Warrior, Dalgoda, A1, etc. were affectionate about that now-vanished British era and culture. (In their clear-eyed, merciless way.) This is about 2009 and it doesn't have even a molecule of affection. It's absolute pure poison. It's saying exactly what Moore thinks about the modern world and... wow. Yes, it's funny. Very funny. It's also, though, tearing modern Britain a new arsehole and in the process explicitly smashing the Bojeffries family bonds that had previously been charming.
Hollywood adaptations of your work... yeah, that's something Moore knows about. Oh, and Parkhouse draws alarmingly accurate portraits of real celebrities and politicians (sometimes in order to kill them). Weren't the creators worried about getting sued?
In conclusion: that was a surprise. I don't know how you'd top "After They Were Famous", but I'd still be first in line should Moore and Parkhouse pick up the Bojeffries again.