Monday, November 10, 2008

James Edgar's and Tony Weare's Matt Marriott




If Matt Marriott was a series of films instead of a British newspaper comics series it would be compared with Howard Hawks' and John Ford's Westerns. Things being what they are Matt Marriott isn't even known, let alone celebrated as the comics masterpiece that it is. To begin with the good news, here's a great text by David Lloyd (it explains exactly why this series is so good visually; scroll down a bit, please): A few years ago I championed Matt Marriott on the Comics Journal's messboard (as usual, I did some changes, mainly because I wanted to tone down my Dom - sorry for the pun, it's also how it's written in Portuguese - Quixote day's rhetoric):

"September 16, 2003 04:36 PM

Matt Marriott is a British comic and it is forgotten there. We can't really expect it to be remembered elsewhere. It seems that what they remember the most are children's comics: The Beano, "Dan Dare," "Judge Dredd," etc... The Journal did publish an obituary page remembering Tony Weare: issue # 174, February 1995, page 34. It was (very well) written by comics connoisseur, Steve Holland.

September 19, 2003 07:25 AM

Milo George: Domingos: Why in the world would you champion Matt Marriott? That strikes me as a particularly odd pick from you. What makes it so great?

I, like everybody else, forgot all about Matt Marriott for the last couple of decades or so (same for Guido Buzzelli, as a matter of fact). While discussing on this board about the putative greatness of Giraud's Blueberry (the best comics Western, ever!), I said to myself: it can't be true; Giraud is a great craftsman, but the series is poorly written (just formulaic children's comics). Jeet's title for this thread is: What deserves reprinting, aside from Peanuts? For some strange reason I read: What [post fifties newspaper comic] deserves reprinting, aside from Peanuts? Putting two and two together, I remembered Matt Marriott. So, why is it so great? First of all, why isn't it so great? Because it is a piece of masscult (I'm reading McDonald right now, ah ah). I. e. the hero and his sidekick can't die in a fight, for instance. Because of the unfortunate occurrence that I lost my innocence long ago, whenever Marriott fights a criminal, supposedly being in danger, my reaction is: yeah, right! I fail to see why grown ups don't say the same thing when they're reading every superhero comic ever made, but I digress... The greatness of it all: Tony Weare's art is gorgeous! His people look like real people. Their body language is just perfect. The shading is masterful. Etc... Also: Jim Edgar's writing. It's miles and miles away from Charlier's mediocre stuff. Even when there's a formulaic fight he gives a reason for what happens (not solving the problem, of course, no one working in a commercial milieu - or in a commerce before art milieu, to be exact - can do that, but he tones it down). His characters are some of the best characterizations in comics history. Their feelings are real, the story is never manichaean (Marriott is too perfect, of course, but oh well...). I particularly remember Marriott saying good bye to Sister Eulalia. It's as great as Hugo Pratt's Corto Maltese (a character I have no sympathy for, but don't get me started) saying good bye to Changai Li in Corto Maltese in Siberia. Both Weare and Edgar do it with just the right doses of detachment and melodrama. A difficult cooking to be sure, but masterfully done here.

February 24, 2004 08:27 AM [the ed. down there is yours truly, not the interviewer]:

Tony Weare (who did Matt Marriott and is one of the few artists in my list who worked in the mainstream sez: "Paul: We were talking earlier about how you would have liked the characters in Matt Marriott to develop. Tony: Yes. I would have liked the characters to have been fallible, but, of course, being cowboys they have to be infallible. If there was a scene where Matt and Powder were camping out in the bush at night and they heard a noise, Powder would ask Matt if that noise meant there were Indians. Matt would calmly announce that it was an owl, and he'd be right. In another episode, Powder would say it was an owl and Matt would say it was Indians, and Matt would be right again. I always wished that they'd change it around for once. That side of cowboys is very boring. It's the same with Batman. He can't make a mistake either. Paul: They pretend he makes a mistake, but he doesn't really. Tony: That's right. In the first Matt Marriott story Matt had to shoot someone for the first time and he felt sick. I would have liked to have continued in that manner and have Matt lose fights so that he would have to find other ways to win. He might have triumphed in the end [of course, being this a mainstream strip and all... ed.], but I didn't want it easy for him all the time. In the gun fights the baddies shoot ten bullets and they all miss whilst the goodies shoot one bullet and it's on target. I hated that side of it. If you had to be your own law in the west you wouldn't go around showing off, you'd shoot people in the back to get revenge. You'd also feel bad about it. It's those sort of human values which should have been in the strip, but weren't allowed." [Interview with Paul Duncan: Ark magazine, # 31, undated, c. 1990] Even so Matt Marriott has enough human values in there to fill the lack of them in all the rest of the world's mainstream. The proof? In a milieu that just values simplistic children's comics, Matt Marriott is completely forgotten and was never reprinted."

1. part of a sequence as it was originally created (Matt Marriott, Futura, 1988 [the [London] Evening News, 1955]);
2. the same series of panels as they were published in the children's magazine Knockout (1961): to show violence to kids is perfectly all right, but to show the "hero" feeling sick after killing a man, is unbearable to watch - or was it censorship because of powder's last remark? (In the missing panels: "Then, the tension of the last weeks suddenly ceases.”; “- Excuse me.” / “- Are you all right, Matt?” / "I think that I'm no good as a gunman! To kill a man - even Carper - makes my stomach turn!"; "- The same thing happened to me, but now it's as natural as killing a fly!)";
3. ...aaand... another cut (these were definitely panels unsuitable for children: Mundo de Aventuras # 446, February 25, 1958).


Alberto Soares said...

Bom post, de uma excelente série!
Na qualidade de feliz detentor de uma história inteira de "Matt Marriott" em arte original, fiquei a dar ainda mais valor ao trabalho gráfico de Tony Weare.
espero que analise o mesmo noutros futuros posts, pois acho que é um dos valores da BD que andam muito esquecidos.
Já agora, era bom se pudesse transcrever mais da entrevista com o mesmo Tony Weare e, se possível, alguma de James Edgar (se existir,i.e)

Isabelinho said...

Obrigado Alberto!
Incredibly we know nothing, zilch, nada, about James Edgar. A real shame! I would love to be proved completely wrong on this (that's why I'm answering in English). Anyone?

John Freeman said...

Steve Holland's Bear Alley site has some information on Jim Edgar:

Isabelinho said...

Hi John:

I'm the fan that Steve mentioned in his post :)

Lars Skovmand said...

In this link you can see what is published in Sweden and Norway in the comicbooks ‘Western’ and ‘Colt’.
Domingos, now I’m curious about to know if there is episodes published in Portugal, that we don’t have in Scandinavien? And if…are they hard to find?

Isabelinho said...

Hi Lars! Thanks for the link! I assume that E/T means that the story arc wasn't published in Sweden, right? José Pires, a western comics artist in his own right, is publishing most of the series (in Portuguese). I don't have his email, but you may try asking Jorge Magalhães about the series, here:

You may also see some covers, here: