Monday, 18 August 2014

Accident Man

Pat Mills, Tony Skinner, Duke Mighten & others Accident Man (1993)

Accident Man, as some of you may remember, first appeared in the short-lived and wilfully outrageous Toxic! comic. I flogged my back issues of the same a while back whilst raising funds for the move to Texas, but I recall that of all the strips in Toxic! this one had at least raised the odd smile, and so this collection - comprising all of the material from Toxic! as well as a later Dark Horse miniseries of which I was unaware - ended up on my Amazon wish list. The truly weird moment came when my wife gave me this for our wedding anniversary, and I read Duke Mighten's dedication in the frontispiece which significantly credits his college lecturer Richard Straley with having set him on the right track and keeping him focused. The thing is that this same Richard Straley happens to be my uncle, that is to say my father's older brother, except none of us knew he even existed until about five years ago when someone made the connection whilst researching our family tree and discovered that our grandmother had given birth to a child during the second world war, prior to my father, and that said child had been put up for adoption. So what this adds up to is the peculiar thought - at least peculiar to me - that I was reading this stuff back in the nineties entirely unaware of it having been drawn by a student of an uncle I did not yet know I had.

It's a small world, innit!

Accident Man is an odd one even by Pat Mills' standards, a character so morally bereft and generally horrible as to make Marshal Law seem quite a nice guy, and who ends up doing good almost in spite of himself, or at least good defined as just deserts served unto persons even more repulsive than he is. Accident Man is, roughly speaking, corporate crime hoist by its own petard, with the bad guys as monsters in contrast with which even Mike Fallon's single-minded devotion to self-gratification seems almost pure or ascetic, or at least consistent. Mike Fallon, the hitman of the title arranges murders resembling accidents for money, this and the designer labels which such money can buy being the only things for which he really cares; and this forms the substance of his horrible character whilst providing the humour which glues the whole thing together.
I decided the fifteen grand YB8 just didn't cost enough. And in a world of starving millions, I really needed the twenty-five grand model.

It's a peculiar mash-up of Patrick Bateman and Robin Hood as our Republican party reptile goes after capitalist targets more commonly seen as enemies of the traditionally left-wing, but it works specifically because it's so big and dumb and funny, foreshadowing the broad brushstroke shock tactics of both Mark Millar and Grant Morrison to some extent.

I know it's poor form to speak ill of the dead, but it has to be said that the late Martin Edmond's art on the initial run really wasn't great, although it sort of works in so much as a consistently poor artist probably works better than a variety of different artists from one instalment to the next, and the writing just about holds it all together. John Erasmus - whose name is misspelt on the cover, I couldn't help but notice - gave a somewhat improved performance, or at least something amounting to Martin Edmonds as drawn by David Lloyd; but Duke Mighten steals the show with his elegant and peculiarly stylised linework perfectly suiting the mix of designer fetishism and art deco violence.

Accident Man is one of those things that really shouldn't have worked, and wouldn't have done had there been any genuinely weak links in the chain; but happily, although flawed, and although falling short of being a masterpiece, it has a charm all of its own, even if charm probably isn't quite the right word.

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