Review: Graham Nolan’s “Monster Island” 20th Anniversary Edition
I’ve recently spent some time in the Syracuse University Archives researching old comic strips. It turns out they have an incredible collection of original artwork by top tier comic artists – everyone from Hal Foster to Frank Robbins. It’s quite a thrill and every time I view these originals I feel like a kid who’s successfully raided the cookie jar – and got away with it.
That’s how the new Monster Island book made me feel. You might remember Graham Nolan’s independent comic from about 20 years ago. It was a kick to follow along as two military folks fight their way across an island full of monsters. And it’s not Frankenstein or the Wolfman – these are monsters in the classic Kirby-Atlas Comics or Godzilla-TOHO studios mold. Big and scary and nutty and goofy and fun. My kinda monsters.
You’ve seen this format before. Scott Dunbier and IDW have essentially created the category we all call Artist’s Editions. These books are shot from the original pages complete with production notes, blemishes, corrections and handwritten scrawls. Reading one of these is the closest most of us will ever come to holding the original art in our hands for one sitting.
Graham Nolan is a strong artist, and he’s also a strong storyteller. He’s got a vibrant visual sense (I’ve been a fan since the old Hawkword series) and here, as the writer, he’s able to introduce big concepts and keep the story moving, all the while helping readers get to know the cute couple at the center of the story.
This volume is even more fun as it includes extras. Some as you’d expect, like the character sketches, are wonderful and whimsical. Of note are the comic strip versions of Monster Island. Years ago, Graham Nolan had repackaged the strip to sell to a newspaper syndication. His efforts never went anywhere (it’s a shame, as this thriller lends itself to this format), but it did lead to him getting the gig penciling the Phantom for several years.
The story is fun, but beyond that, I find Nolan’s efforts inspirational. He comes across as the kind of guy who has a vision and puts in the hours to see if he can make it a reality.
Kudos to him -and I am sure he has inspired up and coming creatives over the years.