This Friday night, wood, tyres and berries burn in Northireland. The same night, San Diego Comic Con will announce the Eisner Awards, where ‘To End All Wars’ has been nominated, twice.
I’ve felt quite alright about singing my part in the commendation. Although barely ten pages (under 1000 words most likely), I started work on ‘Bottomley – Brand of Britain’ in 2009, when political expenses and public austerity were daily headline news. Even on that trail, I didn’t realise how accurate a reflection of the time Bottomley’s tale was.
Born in 1860, ‘The Chief’ made a stack of cash from hostile takeovers, before moving into the papers. He’s all but forgotten now, but as Pat Mills says, he was a sort of Robert Maxwell of his day. Bottomley launched the Financial Times, and the first UK newspaper called The Sun. He’d be remembered only through his lead paper, ‘John Bull’. You know the icon of the fat hat with the bulldog? That was Horatio Bottomley, art commissioned by Bottomley. That dude was real, ugly.
The re-telling started as a sub-plot for a graphic novel, but the intensive part-time study called for it to be it’s own piece. Three years later, I was still at it. I’d three drafts together when editors Clode and Clark put out the call for submissions for TEAW, and my script went under another three drafts to tailor it to the collection.
Out of work and out of money, I took a three month Invest NI course to receive a grant, a pittance really, but it would pay the illustrator something. Thankfully, both Ruairi Coleman and letterer John Robbins were on board already. John has been a long time friend, confidante and critic, and he’s probably the best comic book letterer in Ireland.
Ruairi Coleman, I didn’t know quite as well. He were young, always a sure sign of trouble, yet remarkably talented. From the get-go he was everything I hope for in a creative work partner. Ruairi took in the bundles of visual reference I sent, with eagerness, no complaint. He took it on himself to go through a number of articles on Bottomley, and sat through the hour and a half televised 1972 docu-drama featuring Timothy West, with it’s agonising awful cut-aways.
Bottomley’s story is that of the Britain’s major recruiting agent. He sold the war largely through gallons of racism. As editor, publisher and columnist of ‘John Bull’, as well as frequent pieces in The Times, the papers were packed with anti-German sentiment: Germ-huns, bayoneted babies.
The same was true for four years of nationwide speaking tours for which he was handsomely paid. He brought theatre to sacrifice, including a two-part speech in which he staged a mock trial defending Britannia against the Kaiser, dressed as a judge. The photo above is from his earlier performance in Pickwick Papers. Eventually his greed got too much and jail finished him off.
For posterity, here’s a selection of pre-production images by myself and Ruairi Coleman.
Publishers boldly enquiring on other creative works of mine, around the Great War, might wish to contact me (link) for a copy of Lord Kitchener’s Shell Crisis board game.
Finally, here’s a select Bottomley bibliography. Because I love you.
Hyman, A. (1972) The Rise and Fall of Horatio Bottomley, Littlehampton Book Services Ltd
Symons, J. (1955) Horatio Bottomley, Cresset Press. Reprinted 2008 by House of Stratus.
AndyMinion (Sept 28, 2010) Horatio Bottomley: A Lesson From History. Retreived at http://lancasteruaf.blogspot.com/2010/09/horatio-bottomley-lesson-from-history.html [Accessed: 8th July 2015]
Anon (June 5, 1933) GREAT BRITAIN: Death Of John Bull, Time. Retrieved at http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,745621-1,00.html [Accessed: 8th July 2015]
Anon (Date?) Horatio Bottomley – The Soldier’s Friend, in Crimes of the Times: Law and Order After the War. Archived from http://www.aftermathww1.com/horatio1.asp [Accessed: 23rd October 2010]
Cowling, M. (2005) The Importance of Bottomley (Ch. 2, p.45-60), in The Impact of Labour 1920-1924: The Beginning of Modern British Politics, Cambridge University. Retrieved at Google Books. [Accessed: 8th July 2015]
Lewis, Roy (Date?) Horatio Bottomley – Champagne & Kippers for breakfast. Archived from http://www.villagepublunches.org.uk/sussex-people-profiles/127-swindles.html [Accessed: 23rd October 2010]
Messinger, G. S. (1992) The Wrong Kind of Immorality: Horatio Bottomley (Ch. 13 pp.200-213), in British propaganda and the State in the First World War, Manchester University Press. Retrieved at Google Books. [Accessed: 8th July 2015]
Mr. Bottomley at Yarmouth (1919) Film. UK: British Pathe Archives. Retrieved at http://www.britishpathe.com/video/mr-bottomley-at-yarmouth [Accessed: 8th July 2015]
The Edwardians, Ep. 7: Horatio Bottomley (2009) Film. Directed by Alan Clarke, UK: Acorn DVDs. Originally broadcast 28 Nov, 1972, BBC.