Titan Books knows what it’s doing.
Anyone who grew up in the 80’s knows this title. Featured in Epic, Illustrated – Marvel Comics’ competing line of alternate comics with Heavy Metal, The Black Dragon was an incredible fantasy story of magic and history set in Medieval England. Combining faery lore as well as actual historical figures like Eleanor of Aquitaine and Robin Hood, this story was a winner the minute it was tagged for inclusion.
Written by Chris Claremont and drawn by John Bolton, both of these legendary creators contributed their inimitable styles: Bolton, with his incredibly rich and detailed art, and Claremont with his evocative and appealing characters. Bolton and Claremont previously collaborated on another fantasy story that was also included in Epic: Marada the She-Wolf, but The Black Dragon possessed a degree of historical authenticity that only this immensely creative duo could present.
With 191 pages, this is a beautifully bound collection that includes an unseen art gallery of Bolton’s work. It is a classic work of illustrated fantasy that needs to be included in any comic-lover’s hardcover collection.
What makes this such a compelling work of fiction is the kernel of history fixed in its core. The use of historical figures in such an entertaining fashion presents these characters as relatable and understandable. Details like Claremont’s incorporation of Celtic and Old English Faery lore combined with a twist of Arthurian mythos transcend these characters to a new level of history; but the right amount of fictional context that makes them vivid and alive. Even the Gaelic accented dialogue adds an extra degree of realism.
Only Bolton could contribute the necessary amount of detail to match Claremont’s description of the story. The medieval accuracy in Bolton’s sketchwork is incredibly fine and clear and leaves no room for vague imagination. Bolton is an artist who clearly excels in black-and-white work, but his work with colour is simply amazing to behold. Just look at the front and back covers to get a sense of this artist’s talent. It would have been simply wonderful if there could have been some colourized examples of work included with this volume. However, it should be considered vastly fortunate that this amazing work was reprinted again.
Seriously, Titan really knows what it’s doing. Both Marada the She-Wolf and The Black Dragon are works that need to be preserved and reintroduced for a new generation of fans to discover and read. Not only does The Black Dragon represent a high period of fantasy literature in comics but it also shows younger artists what they need to do in creating their own illustrated works of swords and sorcery. This is a must-read for any aspiring creator.
If you haven’t read this, then you are in for an exhilarating experience. Be prepared to transport yourself back to the medieval ages and to be immersed in a tale of political intrigue and sorcerous adventure. If you read this story when it was first created, then that adds an extra layer of nostalgic joy on top of re-discovering this timeless and seminal work.