Shiny Shelf

Pirate Club #1

By Mark Clapham on 22 February 2004

Who could resist a title like that? Only a filthy swab or a dirty landlubber, let’s face it.

Of course, I leapt on it like the pirate obsessive I am. What I got was a comic that’s not about pirates, but about kids who, like me, are obsessed with pirates and the iconography of piracy, who would doze off if they had to read any of the real history of piracy but who love the myth of eyepatches, doubloons and walking the plank.

Writer/artist Derek Hunter has created a sort of ‘Clerks’-with-kids here, a funny comic about smart-mouthed, but not necessarily smart, kids running around suburbia getting into scrapes and mouthing off. Hunter, along with co-writer Elias Pate, gives his juvenile characters believable, funny dialogue, and the characters are suitably eccentric while still being grounded. There’s John, egocentric leader of the club, and Bearclaw, his hooded sidekick who, for reasons unexplained, thinks of himself as a bear (this makes his nickname even funnier, as it’s far closer associated with pastry than with ursine mammals). Then there’s Mike, the token normal guy, who gets reluctantly dragged into the Pirate Club and seems bemused by the whole thing, and JJ the caricature stunted, bespectacled, bullied geekboy. The token adult is Phil, a one-handed binman who has reluctantly become a hero to the kids thanks to a past career at sea.

In his introduction, Hunter admits that this isn’t a portrait of his childhood, but rather the childhood he would have had if he hadn’t spent all his time at home playing computer games and watching videos. It’s two levels of delusion for the price of one – the kids fantasise about being pirates, but the kids actual adventures are a fantasy themselves, an imagined childhood of hijinks and low-consequence mishaps.

Hunter’s artwork is clear and cartoony, with some distinctive character designs and clear storytelling. His character work isn’t exactly subtle – the characters are cartoon characters, and their expressions are all exaggerated for comic effect – but this isn’t supposed to be a subtle book anyway. While it doesn’t quite deliver the adventure, excitement and hidden treasure promised by the cover blub, the first issue of ‘Pirate Club’ is a smart and engaging fantasy, and a nostalgic revisiting of those childhood adventures that none of us really ever had.

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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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