Sign of the Hammer!

Saturday, 29 June 2013

Nero @ #13, Part 1: Slay ‘em with Graham

Welcome to the first part of a two-part blog-posting about my recent work for PARAGON #13. This bit’s all about ‘Spencer Nero and the Ruthless Rhymer.’

A few issues back, Dave Candlish included a ‘Rupert the Bear’-style rhyming tale in Paragon, based around the character of Battle Ganesh, and charmingly illustrated by Jim Cameron. I was impressed (not least by Candlish’s use of the phrase ‘macadamian lout’ – when’s that ever occurred in the English language before?) and wanted to do something similar with Spencer Nero. Now conveniently enough, it so happens that 1936, the year in which ‘Spencer Nero’ is presently set, marked the death of a man popularly known as Harry Graham (though his first name was, improbably enough, Jocelyn.) Graham is best remembered as a poet – specifically for his ‘ruthless rhymes’, spectacularly cruel but remarkably upbeat studies of such cheery subjects as infanticide, murder and accidental death, all treated with a comic touch. The general theme of Graham’s poems is the slaying of the stupid, irritating or merely hapless, often for the pettiest of reasons. For instance:

Or, more simply:
The combination of the mannered and the sadistic really appeals to me in Graham’s work (it reminds me a lot of the short-story writer Saki) and so I wanted to write a character who came from Harry Graham’s world, and could dispatch those I considered to be petty annoyances. Thus the Ruthless Rhymer was born (though his name also owes something to ‘The Riddling Reaver’ from Fighting Fantasy game books.) Sporting Rupert-style checked trousers and a can-do approach to slaughtering those who disrupt his life, I sent the Rhymer off on his misanthropic way.  But what really lifted the story was the artwork of Bhuna (Neil Roche to his chums), whom I believe Dave Candlish reckoned would be a good match for the  story on the basis of his similarly savage work on Dirk Van Dom’s equally mean-spirited ‘Buck Tucker’ character (currently appearing over in Vanguard.) As soon as Dave passed me Neil’s early designs for the main characters, I was blown away by how characterful and stylish they were – check out this one for the Rhymer himself:
The other ones are on Bhuna’s blog, over here. Suffice to say, I loved his art so much that it inspired me to write another, much-longer Rhymer-related script: that won’t be appearing any time soon, but rest assured, plans are afoot for the Ruthless Rhymer to make his unlikely return.

Next time on the blog, I’ll be talking about ‘Spencer Nero Goes South’, gallant gentlemen, Ray Harryhausen and Medusa’s cheekbones. See you then.

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