Thursday, 29 January 2015

A Cartoon & Comic Book Tour of #London No.10: The Wicked + The Divine - With Thanks To The Guys @orbitalcomics

Our new series for 2015! Daily Constitutional editor Adam takes us on a Cartoon & Comic Book Tour of London – 20 stops on a metropolis-wide search for all things illustrated. 

He'll be taking in everything from Gillray and Hogarth, to Scooby Doo and on to Deadpool and beyond! In addition he'll guide you to the best in London comic book stores as well as galleries that showcase the best in the cartoonist's art. 

Panel 10: The Wicked + The Divine

Last week I added Orbital Comics, the comic book store in Great Newport Street to our Cartoon & Comic Book Tour of London.

This week, Orbital comics are joining our tour with a great recommendation for a London-set comic book – The Wicked + The Divine by Keiron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie.

In terms of location I am delighted to say that we're heading London transpontine – I am that most derided of Londoners: a South Londoner trapped in a North Londoner's body. One day they'll make documentaries, maybe even a comic book, about my kind.

The Wicked + The Divine kicks off in Brockley, SE4, an area of London that was part of Kent until the 1880s…

The Brockley Jack Theatre can be found there, housed in a Victorian Pub. Spike Milligan lived in Brockley when he first arrived in this country from India. The entertainers Marie Lloyd and Lily Langtry both lived in the area. And it is currently home to one of London's most informative blogs Brockley Central – – the liveliness of the blog being very much a reflection of the vibrancy of the area.

This vibrancy aside, Brockley remains a contrastingly prosaic launch pad for such a fantastical tale.

But it is a wild tale indeed that starts in the suburban South London street depicted above. 

The Wicked + The Divine is a fantasy in which the gods return to earth every 90 years. In the 21st Century their special abilities see them treated as both super heroes and as celebrities. What ensues is a great mix of chaos and smart commentary on 21st century fame and power.

There seems to be something in the ether at the moment with comic books and gods. It's a natural fit, of course: didn't Prometheus steal fire from the Gods to help mankind at great personal risk to himself? What's that if not classic superhero behaviour?

And on the same comic book racks of 2015 where we pick up The Wicked + The Divine, we can also find God Is Dead (there's ol' Nietzsche again, 'e popped up earlier in another Kieron Gillen work featured in this tour, Über, read that post HERE). God is Dead (Avatar Press) is a spectacularly bloody look at what might happen if the gods of all creeds and cultures and eras all came back at once to claim the earth for their own. Much less bloody is The Life After, in which Ernest Hemmingway leads us on a tour of an "alternative heaven", an after life for suicides (as I blog, issue no.6 of The Life After is out this week v. exciting, another trip to Orbital is in the offing.)

I'm tempted to speculate that the modern comic book writer seems compelled to help the 21st Century reader fill the belief-shaped space vacated by organised religion

It's certainly the case that god is on our minds – as I keep pointing out in reference to the timing of this series, we live in a world where people who draw pictures get killed in the name of god.

The crime writer Ian Rankin once observed that prize-winning literary fiction often tends to be set in the past, while crime writers address the issues of contemporary society. The same could be said of the modern comic book (no coincidence that Rankin himself has turned to authoring illustrated fiction in his post-Inspector Rebus years). If historians 100 years hence want to know how we lived – and what we feared – at the start of the 21st Century they would do well to look at our comic books.

Jamie McKelvie's artwork (the colourist is Matthew Wilson) is seductive. It always makes me think of the music of Erik Satie: like Satie's piano pieces, McKelvie's lines at first appear calm, almost obedient. Yet within that calmness lurks the ability for theatrical shock and drama. The clean lines lure the reader into a false sense of security and when the narrative takes its regular hyper-real turns, the drama is thus heightened as the hitherto realistic drawings burst into life.

The crisp naturalism of the drawings is the perfect companion to the wild narrative flights of Gillen, a writer (as we have already scene with Über) of great imaginative gifts. For older readers such as I, Gillen is impressive in that he is a writer totally at home in his milieu, comfortable in his own writerly skin. Not at any point does he have to big-up the medium, to explain that comic books can carry a meaningful tale. Both writer and artist also work for the mighty Marvel comics. And Marvel is lucky to have them.

Brockley is the starting point for the narrative but we range all over London, from Homerton to The Strand. The old tube station on The Strand is one of my favourite pages in The Wicked + The Divine so far…

I love the lettering (by Clayton Cowles) descending the page as the characters break in to the disused tube station.

The Wicked + The Divine is an ongoing series and the first five issues are collected in The Wicked + The Divine: The Faust Act, on sale now…

… writer Kieron Gillen is appearing at Orbital Comics for a signing on 7th February. Full details HERE.

 Visit The Wicked + The Divine website at

We'll bring you more recommendations from Orbital Comics soon, as well as D.C Thomson in Fleet Street, From Hell and The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen as our Cartoon & Comic Book Tour of London continues…

A London Walk costs £9 – £7 concession. To join a London Walk, simply meet your guide at the designated tube station at the appointed time. Details of all London Walks can be found at

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Wednesday, 28 January 2015

The Tricky Business of Dismantling A Work of Art

Our Associate Editor Richard III writes…

Dale Chihuly gets squillions when he sells his extraordinary glass sculptures. There has been one in Berkeley Square since April 2014 and we always look at it on the Mayfair walk. 

I always wondered why nobody stole it as it is worth a packet, sitting in a public square. 

Last week we came upon them taking it down and I think this is the answer.  It would be so difficult to dismantle…

How the magic had gone as they pulled out the individual pieces of glass and we saw the funny, almost industrial inner core that holds the delicate glass fronds.  I suppose that is one definition of an artist. Bits of glass which are unremarkable on their own, brought together to create something extraordinary.

Richard III

Richard III, scion of a Lord Mayor of London,  is a writer, actor, director and stand-up comic. And the only London Walks guide to have addressed the United Nations!  

A London Walk costs £9 – £7 concession. To join a London Walk, simply meet your guide at the designated tube station at the appointed time. Details of all London Walks can be found at

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Tuesday, 27 January 2015

The Best Museums in #London No.8: The Old Operating Theatre @CuratorOOT

Back in early January 2014 we tackled New Year Resolutions from a physical fitness point of view (click HERE to view last January's archive). 

In 2015 we're addressing another popular January promise: this year I will do more culture!

Well we're always pleased to help here at The DC. This January will be dedicated to pointing London Walkers and Daily Constitutionalists in the direction of LONDON'S BEST MUSEUMS. 

We've canvassed the London Walks guides, asking them to nominate their desert island museum and we'll be posting their responses throughout the month.

As usual, you are more than welcome to join in! Get in touch via Facebook, or Twitter or via the usual email address.

Here's Kevin telling us why The Old Operating Theatre is his Desert Island Museum…

I'd take the Old Operating Theatre Museum to a desert island because besides being my favourite museum the Herbs in the herb garret could be used for medicine, for tea, and, in some cases, food.

It also has a lot of lovely wooden beams which I could make into a raft to fish or to float away to rejoin the world.

The Operating Theatre itself, I could use to stage one-man shows to keep me amused during the long days awaiting rescue.

Lots of London Walks walk right by it, and you can include a visit to the marvellous Borough Market, and see London from the top of the Shard.

The Old Operating THeatre website is here:


Kevin Flude is a former Museum of London archaeologist, who is now the Director of the Old Operating Theatre Museum. He has enjoyed leading Guided Walks since the late 1970's… and is something of an old punk, on the quiet, it would seem. His blog is And Did Those Feet.

Andy has interviewed Kevin for our forthcoming London Walks Podcast on London Museums. It will be ready soon!

On Tuesdays our blog posts support the charity Missing People

Thousands of people in the UK are searching for a missing loved one. Missing People is a lifeline when someone disappears.

 Support Missing People at    

Follow Missing People on Twitter @missingpeople

Call the helpline on 116 000

A London Walk costs £9 – £7 concession. To join a London Walk, simply meet your guide at the designated tube station at the appointed time. Details of all London Walks can be found at

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Being A Short Blurb on the Origin of the Word Blurb

Given that we are presenting our Cartoon & Comic Book Tour of London here on The Daily Constitutional this month, it's appropriate that we name-check Gelett Burgess (1866 - 1951), Boston-born humorist and illustrator who gave the word Blurb to the English language in 1907.

Here's Burgess at work…

And here's a new blurb by London Walks' pen & Daily Constitutional Special Correspondent David Tucker for the upcoming New River tour in the London Walks repertoire…


What kind of London Walker are you? If you're the ramblin', gamblin' type – you know, willing to roll the dice and go for it – this just might be the walk for you.  How's that Latin proverb put it? Ovis ovem sequitur. One sheep follows another. No sheep out here. Well, none of the two-legged variety. Just ramblin', gamblin' London Walkers. The one in a million sort.* One in a million who are going to see a bit of London that the 999,999 will never see.

Okay, let's zoom in. Zoom in on a king and a castle. Mighty important, both of them, in the story of the New River. And let it be said now – it's not new and it's not a river. But it sure is fit for purpose. Four centuries on it's still doing what it was built to do – supplying London's water. When the New River was proposed – "he's talking about building, from scratch, a river 40 miles long? Is he mad?" – no one had built such a thing on this scale before. Think of the daunting accuracy that was required. Little wonder an eminent mathematician was called in to survey it. And then there were the trifling sums – irony alert here – involved. The great begetter – the chap who dreamed this little job up and got 'em digging – ran out of money. It was King James to the rescue. And the castle? The Castle Climbing Centre as it's known these days was built in the 19th century. It was a pumping station – you know, to get the flow of the river pumped up, get it getting a move on.

Anything else? Well, our ramblin', gamblin' London Walkers – drawing to an inside straight and hitting it – are going to make the acquaintance of one of London's "lost rivers"; and a couple of "ornamental" lakes; and "Paradise Row"; and "murder and autumnal mists in a fab park"; and "the greatest London novel" of them all; and brick earth and iron and glebe land; and quakers and Ecclesiastical Commissioners and the Metropolitan Board of Works; and two of our greatest poets; and the Virginian company and a royal mistress (and, sure enough, I mean does day follow night, a royal bastard); and "our other Shakespeare"; and "a threat to the Commonwealth...who rode with his face to the horse's tail"; and the invention of horsepower; and a church spires/London village view; and a transvestite; and, well you get the idea...

And hey, let's double down, close with another old Latin proverb: Happy is he who is able to understand the cause of things. If your ramblin' gamblin' nature gets you out on this one you're going to be happy not just because you've got to see things other people don't get to see, but also because Lady Luck's favoured you with "understanding the cause of things," the which is a byproduct of the people who guide this walk, i.e., members of the Inland Waterways Association subset of London Walks guides. They know – from many years, professional, first hand experience – about Inland Waterways, be they canals or New Rivers that aren't new and aren't rivers.

For the dates that this walk takes place, click here

To go on The New River Walk meet Roger  (or one of his Inland Waterways Association colleagues) outside Manor House Tube (Finsbury Park exit: no. 6)

*Thirty million visitors come to London annually. No more than 30 of them will get out here. Though it's actually probably one in two million. Because at least half of the people on this walk will be locals, Londoners.

On Tuesdays our blog posts support the charity Missing People

Thousands of people in the UK are searching for a missing loved one. Missing People is a lifeline when someone disappears.

 Support Missing People at    

Follow Missing People on Twitter @missingpeople

Call the helpline on 116 000

A London Walk costs £9 – £7 concession. To join a London Walk, simply meet your guide at the designated tube station at the appointed time. Details of all London Walks can be found at

Bookmark and Share