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Alex Ferguson. Photo: PA Wire

Alex Ferguson. Photo: PA Wire

Alex Ferguson. Photo: PA Wire

NOT many people know (Big) Jim Larkin's "quite prominent" lips as intimately as Paddy Lynch.

They're troublesome lips, apparently, and "kind of tough" to draw. Or so Lynch told Liam Geraghty on The History Show.

Lynch's interest in Larkin's lips is, I should point out, professional rather than fetishistic. He's the artistic half of the two-man creative team behind Big Jim: Jim Larkin and the 1913 Lockout, the latest historical comic book from O'Brien Press.

O'Brien have, Geraghty reminded us, been taking "a novel... or rather a graphic novel" approach to history publishing since the 2009 release of Gerry Hunt's Blood Upon the Rose – a comic book account of the 1916 rising. Since then they've published Celtic Warrior (Will Sliney's graphic retelling of the Cu Chulainn legend), Damien Goodfellow's Brian Boru, and several other titles exploring Irish history and myth through the medium of comic books.

 

Authentic

It's an approach, Lynch explained, that presents its own set of challenges, above and beyond the accurate rendering of Jim Larkin's problematic lips. While Rory McConville, author of the text, could casually describe, say, a "courtroom", Lynch had to ask very specific questions. Questions like: "Where was this courtroom? Can I get in there? Can I get a photograph?". Getting the visual details just right was key, Lynch suggested, to making the book "as authentic as possible".

There's something intoxicating (and unique) about the way historical comics allow you to wallow in period detail. Unlike film, where the camera is a tyrant forcing you to constantly move your gaze along, comics encourage you to linger. If, like me, you're a ghoulish weirdo, then check out Rick Geary's delicious A Treasury of Victorian Murder series. No better place to linger. If, that is, you enjoy beautifully detailed depictions of 19th- century fashions, furnishings, architecture, and, er, bloody homicide.

I wouldn't have pegged Phil Lynott as a comic nerd, but via On the Street Where He Lived, I learned, among other things, that he had a dog named Gnasher (if you don't know whose comic book dog that is, then shame on you). Not only that, but Thin Lizzy themselves took their name from 'Tin Lizzie' – a robot maid who haunted the pages of The Dandy (Phil thought it was The Beano, but we'll forgive him).

The main focus of Monday's programme was not Phil's affection for comics, but his relationship with his mother, Philomena, who was visited by Moya Doherty and Maxi at her Dublin home (the home Phil had bought for her).

She spoke about dropping "down to 6st" after Phil had died. About feeling "wasted" and "worn out". About the pitying looks and remarks she'd get when out walking the dogs. "That's Phil Lynott's mother," she'd overhear people say. "She used to be a fine woman, God love her."

It was, overall, a somewhat ramshackle hour, to be honest. Padded out with archival clips of Phil himself (in typically witty form) and snippets of assorted Lizzy hits. But in those moments when Philomena articulated her love for her son, her pride in his work, and her profound grief at his untimely passing, it was rarely less than compelling and heartbreaking. "He really was a lovely guy," she said. "If only he'd known how much he was loved."

 

Rubbish

I should, I suppose, ask you to spare a thought for poor Paddy Crerand – MUTV pundit and former Manchester United player – but it's hard not to guffaw vigorously when a die-hard propagandist comes a cropper.

On Wednesday's Newstalk Breakfast, Crerand reacted furiously to suggestions that Alex Ferguson was about to announce his retirement. "I think it's a load of rubbish," he thundered. "I'd be closer to the situation at Manchester United... than most of those press guys... and I don't believe one word of it."

He berated journalists for "reporting lies since the year dot". He compared rumours about Fergie's departure with hysterical speculation about the end of the world.

Skip forward an hour, or so, and the world had (as it were) ended. Ferguson's end was nigh (and growing nigher). "Football's a fantasy game at times," an exasperated Paddy had said. Well, he should know.


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