Shiny Shelf

Milo, The First Monkey In Space

By Mark Clapham on 28 December 2002

Normally, we here on the Shelf try to keep our reviews up to date. This particular comic was first published in May 2002 in Edinburgh, and has only got as far south as Yorkshire to date, but we’re willing to stretch a point in this case.

This is small press, black and white publishing after all, where distribution isn’t so much slow as glacial. Consider this review an invitation to go straight to the source for your own copy – you’ll find a URL at the end of the review.

After the glut of 9-11 related charity comics, things have been quite on the worthy side of publishing. While the care of monkeys has never been a priority for me, all proceeds from this book go to ‘The Centre for Captive Chimpanzee Care’ which may be an incentive to purchase for some of you.

A more important incentive is that this is a very good comic, beautifully hand crafted and packaged. Inside a blue envelope slipcase comes a little black wallet, with a hand-printed picture of the titular monkey on the cover. Inside you’ll find a wealth of goodies: a sticker, a badge, a paper doll set and, of course, a comic book. The badge and suchlike are great fun, but it’s the comic that makes this package suitable for review here, so I’ll get on to that now.

Graeme McNee has created a charming little story, wordlessly told with simple, cartoony visuals that stand somewhere between conventional comics and an illustrated children’s book. It’s New Mexico, 1961, and Milo the monkey goes through a series of tests in preparation for his trip into space. It’s a very simple, very brief story, but beautifully told. Throughout, McNee’s gift for characterisation and storytelling shines through, the simplest of drawings communicating a complex series of emotions and ideas. Milo himself is a delightful creation, his mismatched eyes giving him a level of character that would have been missing from a more literal interpretation. The childish touches to the story, mainly the smiley faces on the sun, moon and stars, strengthen the serious elements. The ending is surprisingly touching for a heartless hack like myself, and will doubtless reduce more humane readers to floods of tears.

This is a sweet little book, and with all the extras it’s good value for money, too. McNee deserves to take his storytelling abilties further, and I look forward to seeing more from him.

For more details, go to the publisher’s website.

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By Mark Clapham

Mark Clapham is a Devon-based writer and editor. You can find out more about him at the egotistically named

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