Obscure Comic of the Month is a monthly feature which takes a detailed look at a little known entry from my personal comic book collection. Some will be from major publishers, others self published projects, Original Graphic Novels, issues and Manga. What they'll all have in common though, is that I've rarely, if ever, seen anybody talk about them.
Professor Elemental Issue One by Paul Alborough and various – 2013
Issue 1 features 24 full colour pages featuring two original tales by some of the finest artists in the Independent comic scene, as well as an adaption of ‘The Quest For The Golden Frog’. It also boasts a cover by Mike 'Deadpool’ Hawthorne.
Adapting music to Comics is never easy, but it's clear that the Chap-hop sub-genre is fertile ground for it. An artist is never at a loss to draw something interesting thanks to the zany, steampunk inspired aesthetics, and the source material of tall tales and fantastic voyages.
What of Professor Elemental then? We're not here to talk about his contributions to the world of Chap-hop, though I will say I've long been a fan, on and off. I picked up Issue One and Two of the comic at a con a few years back. We'll only be taking a look at the first of the two today, and examining how it works as a companion piece to the Professor's musical canon as well as an introduction to the series as a whole.
The comics themselves are an anthology series of various tales involving the fictional Professor's exploits. Issue one has three stories, and almost immediately draws you in with the vivid, colours of Noah Rodenbeek which has a psychedelic quality to it. The musical undercurrents are clear here, with what feels like something out of The Beatles Yellow Submarine.
It's not long before we're onto our next tale, however. The change in art teams keeps things fresh, and gives us a different take on the character each time. Professor Elemental is a charming character in these tales, with his long suffering monkey butler Geoffrey appearing for the very first time (He's only ever off screen in the music videos.)
The bumbling idiot who only succeeds by chance however, is far from an original premise. Whether the comic has anything to offer really depends on if it can do anything new with the archetype. It's greatest asset is it's connection to the chap hop scene. Though the first two stories tap into the feel of Elemental's output, Elemental's status as a musician seems to be absent in these stories, and there's nary a musical theme touched upon.
For the third tale we see an adaptation of one of Elemental's actual songs, The Quest for the Golden Frog. It's a great idea and material ripe for the picking, but it's easily the weakest of the three stories in the issue. The Golden Frog strip lacks a zing that it really needs to channel the energy of the music.
Issue one is enjoyable enough, it's first story, on how Elemental and Geoffrey first met, is easily the best, both in terms of visuals and writing, but it doesn't really feel as though there's enough on offer here. The comic itself doesn't really dig enough into the music to offer anything to fans, and the strips themselves are not distinctive enough to appeal to the uninitiated.
Fortunately these are all problems that are resoundingly conquered in Issue Two, but that's a review for another day. All things considered, the anthology series gets off to a bumpy start, but in many respects that's in keeping with the Professor Elemental character itself.
Jack Harvey 2015. Professor Elemental (c) Paul Alborough with work by Michael Hawthorne, James Feist, Liam Byrne, Owan Watts, Noah Rodenbeek and Christopher Mole. Images used under Fair Use.