True Brit

Authors: Ken "Howard" Johnson and John Cleese
Artists: John Byrne and Mark Farmer
Titan Books
RRP 19.99
ISBN 1 84023 978 6
Available 26 November 2004

A very British tale that sees the last son of Krypton's rocketship crash-lands in an English town even smaller than Smallville. Here the infant Kal-El is taken in by adoptive parents - the Clarks - who raise their son Colin to hide his powers, because the worst thing anyone can do is stand out from the crowd. But when Colin grows up to become a mild-mannered reporter working for the Daily Smear, a powerful tabloid newspaper dedicated to uncovering the biggest story of the century, he finds that the key to his success may actually be to go public...

True Brit is a brilliantly funny take on the Superman universe. What if Kal-El's rocket had landed in the United Kingdom instead of the USA? Would his parents have been so keen to see him use his powers for the good of mankind? Or would they have hidden him away for being a freak? Well, what would the neighbours think?

Apart from the fact that Kal-El has landed in good olde Eng-er-lund, there are similarities between the original character. Clark Kent has been changed to Colin Clark. And our hero still becomes a reporter on the local rag. However, Superman's exploits are more in line with those of Spider-Man's. He has an editor who hates Superman and wants him ruined. And no matter what Superman does, he ends up being portrayed as more of an anti-hero rather than a hero.

He also (accidentally) discovers his "fortress of solitude", but why is it that Colin can never quite remember his parents telling them they are moving - which they seem to do quite frequently. It's all a mystery to the poor naive lad.

John Cleese, of Monty Python and Fawlty Towers fame, lends Ken "Howard" Johnson a hand with the script. And there are several references Cleese's fans will find amusing. These include a few nods to Monty Python: fish slapping dance and bicycle repairman. And there is even a Fatty Owls hotel (a nod to the opening sequence of one of the Fawlty Towers episodes) situated in the Torquay area on the map of the UK. And there is also a nod to fellow Python Michael Palin, who is name checked.

Is there something of John Cleese's real character here? Colin Clark ends up not being able to do anything right in the UK. In fact he is not really allowed to be a celebrity in the UK and ends up moving to the greater US to ensure that his talents are appreciated... not unlike our very own Mr Cleese. Is he having a rather subtle dig at his roots?

Superman also comes into contact with the UK's very own Batman. I should have spotted this rather obvious joke coming from a mile away, but it managed to slap me in the face like a wet fish.

Superman fans and anyone with a sense of humour will appreciate this very British offering.

Darren Rea

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