© Rian Hughes and the respective copyright holders.
I’m a huge fan of Rian Hughes’ logo designs but I hadn’t seen any of his comics work, so this handsome collection was all new to me. There are a number of stories, some short, some quite long, and all showcase Rian’s design skills and some fine storytelling as well. All, or nearly all the material is written by others, with two long stories by Grant Morrison, and others by Tom DeHaven, John Freeman and Chris Reynolds. Rian’s work reveals a love for 1950s styles, as well as the way the future was depicted then, hence the title.
“The Lighted Cities” is a short one using a nine-panel grid and duotone coloring: black and mustard yellow only. It’s a moody piece about a strange tenant in a lonely apartment building, among other things.
“The Science Service” is another duotone work, as seen above, with lots of retro-futuristic style and architecture. Rian does this sort of thing really well, makes you wish you could have some of these objects, buildings and vehicles in your own life. The storyline is fairly complex, but is a murder mystery at heart, I’d say. The characters are quirky and fun.
“Dare” is about the lost diaries of Dan Dare, a longtime British comics character created by Frank Hampson I believe. I haven’t read any of the other stories about him, but I’d be willing to bet this one is unique. It presents a very jaundiced view of future British society that also has a lot to say about 1980s British society, I’d say. In this story, Dare is older, retired, but talked into fronting a political advertising campaign. As the story progresses, Dare begins to find out more and more about the dark undercurrents in this society he’s so far been oblivious to, and finds himself being pulled by both sides in a nasty political and social struggle. Really well done.
“Goldfish” is an adaptation of a Raymond Chandler story, and is my favorite thing in this collection. For once Rian has put aside the fun futuristic stuff and portrays this one as straight film noir in comics form. Great characters, wonderful storytelling, and enough twists and double-crosses for several movies. Choice work!
“Really and Truly” is the other Morrison collaboration, and it reminded me of his “Seaguy,” in that the characters are kind of lighthearted and fun while the back story is dark and cynical. Imagine two Mrs. Peels from the British “Avengers” TV show in a movie by Quentin Tarrantino and you’d about have it, I think.
Rounding out the book are some trading cards and sketches.
My one real problem with this collection is, the lettering is too small! Come on, Rian, give us oldsters a break! And for the most part, the font choices make it even harder. Look at that last image above. I had to get out my magnifying glass for some of it!
Despite that, this book is highly recommended.