Automatic for the Sheeple

Alex Automatic issue 3. Fraser Campbell, Colin Bell, David B Cooper and James Corcoran.

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This is the third issue of the super-spy psycho-thriller Alex Automatic from Cabal Comics and among the Kickstarter rewards was a soundtrack (from Allan Swan) that may put you in mind of a freaky 70’s kids TV show with a BBC Radiophonic Workshop theme tune. Think Dr Who but less wholesome. Sapphire and Steel meets Joe 90.

The mood music is no mistake. In this issue our hero is a writer for TV Smash – a comic detailing the adventures of TV’s greatest stars and published by Prysm Publishing. Yes, Prysm the mysterious and sinister organisation who keep cropping up for our robot super-spy hero. It’s a bit like if Hydra were running Look-In.

Drenched with the weird ‘what is actually going on’ mood of The Prisoner and the retro unreality of Moore’s League of Extraordinary Gentlemen; Mr Automatic doesn’t get a break. One of his creations, his creepy ventriloquist-dummy sidekick Johnny Jenkins – the ‘Spy in a Suitcase’ – comes to vengeful life.

The silly little plot device you created to make your brooding spy more relatable! A gimmick, who spent his life bent double in a suitcase! All for the glory of you and the illiterates who gobble up your doggerel!

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How does a writer feel about their creation that they torture and manipulate? Maybe author Fraser Campbell is feeling a bit guilty about the relentlessly unpleasant time that Alex has (but probably not). And as the Prysm publisher reminds Alex, he can take away his creations at any time.

The artwork from artist James Corcoran and colourist David B Cooper is fluid and soft-edged which works well with the themes of shifting existences, stripping the flesh from our cyborg chum to expose the ‘true’ self of circuits and wires. Steve Ditko’s work on Machine Man would be one reference that Alex may have in his magnetic tape database. It has a retro colour palette of brown and sepia, interrupted by the brighter colours and zipatone dots of the ‘comic within a comic’. Colin Bell’s ever excellent lettering helps us shift between the worlds; seamlessly and subtly altering to fit.

Alex Automatic has something to say about a world where we are continually unsure about what is really going on. Where every citizen with a smart phone can whip up a grand conspiracy theory about the forces manipulating reality. Those theories lead us down some dark paths and Alex tumbles down them too. It will be fun seeing where they lead him next. Fun for us, not for Alex Automatic.

You can get hold of Alex Automatic from Cabal Comics.

You are probably wondering if any of these talented creators can be found on social media. Great news, they are all on Twitter. @FictitiousInk @davidbcooper @colinbell @FraserC69

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