A review by Rich Johnston for Bleeding Cool.
Scotland Yardie is a legendary British comic. A satirical look at the British police from a twentieth century perspective of racial violence, it imagines a Jamaican Rastafarian gangster take on the traditional British bobbie. Originally published in Skank magazine in the nineties, it has now been recreated anew by its creative team of Bobby Joseph and Joseph Samuels as a brand new graphic novel.
Time has treated it well. Originally it was raw and scratchy, it was a short strip in an anthology, that aimed to be Viz comic with a London black voice. The humour was with a broad brush and wasn’t exactly subtle. The new graphic novel hasn’t tamed that rage or disgust, but it has given it new focus, narrative, space to take a one-gag idea and tell it in an infinite of variations.
Also, Samuels artwork is incredibly lush and detailed, closer to Kevin O’Neill mixed with Steve Bell with the jokes he fills each panel with.
And there are so many more jokes to tell – including the above gentrification of Brixton affecting the fried chicken shops – blue Chicken seems like an idea that Hoxton is about to have any second now – and how it reoccurs through the comic.
There’s how the PR industry uses black people as political window dressing, how the British Caribbean population relate to those actually from the Caribbean.
But also having the cast of Broadchurch arrest the cast of Doctor Who, even when they are played by the same actors. And one of the few comics that thinks it’s a grand idea to put Jimmy Savile next to Rofl Harris next to Barney The Dinosaur.
The easiest and laziest route would have Scotland Yardie beating up white hoodlums, some kind of nwish fulfilment fantasy, a reversal of the power structure. And the original cartoon did have a bit of that. But this book recognises the changes in society since the character’s creation. And instead looks at the cultural separation between black police and the black community simultaneously with the racial divide within the police.
While also examining the kneekjerk violent impulse of responses to criminal and anti-social behaviour, divorced from race completely.
As well as a bunch of dick jokes. Because for all the slapstick, drugs humour and filling every square inch with comedy references, it’s ridiculously nuanced. As if Mrs Brown’s Boys was as full of insight as The Wire.
Published in January by Knockabout Press in the UK, it has been a labour of love,. And now you get to love it too – its feet may be in the nineties, but head is very much in the present – or at least the recent past.