Shiny Shelf

Tales From The Bully Pulpit

By Mark Clapham on 15 September 2004

So, Teddy Roosevelt steals a time machine from HG Wells, but needs help to adapt it to travel through space. When he lands in the year 2000, he searches for the smartest man alive to sort it. What he gets is a smart dead guy – the ghost of Thomas Edison, whose spent 100 years picking up some odd slang while haunting his laboratory.

Got that? Need a lie down? Yes, well, quite. Writer/co-creator Benito Cereno and artist/co-creator Graeme MacDonald have created something truly original, surprising and frankly barking here. Their storytelling principle seems to be simple – take a premise, think of the directions it could go in, think of the most logical and dramatically appropriate outcome at every juncture – then completely ignore that sensible, boring story and take the wildest and stupidest option at every turn.

Of such rampant self-indulgence can a kind of genius be born, and indeed what ‘Tales From The Bully Pulpit’ lacks in emotional resonance, social relevance and base-level sanity it makes up for in sheer witty fun. Roosevelt and Edison make a classic double act – Teddy is brash and impulsive, while Thomas is more sober and deadpan. Their characters are summed up by the respective ways they get to the future – Edison spends a century wandering his house, learning about the years that go by, while Roosevelt just steals someone else’s invention and cuts straight to the chase.

The world(s) Thomas and Teddy travel through are equally brash and colourful, and ruled by a logic that’s one-part tabloid conspiracy theory to two-parts pulp science fiction. What prevents the book from tipping over into some kind of paper-based migraine is the clarity of the (insane) storytelling – the script is well paced and jumps around the daft plot without ever getting lost, while the art is clean and bright, somewhere between old book jackets, the silver age of comics and modern manga stylings.

Buy this book now. Partially because it will be worth a fortune when Marvel or DC whisk the creators to mainstream superstardom, and partially because high sales will likely make for a sequel, a sequel that I keenly wish for. And you all want me to be happy, right?

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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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