(Er, did I say English? Dunsany was Anglo-Irish, Ms Rowling is Scottish, Spike Milligan was born in India and Viv Stanshall was heavily influenced by Dadaism, which is Swiss. So, let's call it "modern realism-grounded fantasy" and leave it at that.)
To my mind, fantasy is at its best when it encroaches onto our familiar world. Non-humans in taverns (whether from Middle-Earth or Aldebaran IV) are pure escapism, but magic that nudges in around the corners of everyday life has to reflect our real daily concerns. That's why, even in role-playing games with a high adventure setting, I like the conflicts and drama to arise out of believable human relationships and concerns. Sergio Leone showed that you can stage heroic, indeed mythic, adventure without having to save the damned world all the time. The greedy race for a box of old banknotes, the struggle to save one lost child, the always-doomed attempt to do the right thing - these are much more engaging than having to reunite the three lost pieces of the shield of Blah so that the evil lord Urg is sent back to the realm of So-what.
Hence the project that occupies my time these days is Mirabilis, a huge comic book epic that I'm weaving with Leo Hartas (pencils and inks), Nikos Koutsis (colors) and Martin McKenna (covers and concept art). A green comet appears in the sky, heralding a year when imagination and reality combine. The magic has come back into the world - and not only magic, but everything that traditionally belongs in fiction, legend and dreams. Mirabilis is my paean to fantasy, the type of fantasy that celebrates illogic and finds a tenuous, obscure circuit through the human unconscious to locate deeper truths than words and facts can ever hope to get at.
Richard Bruton, posting on the essential UK comics blog Forbidden Planet International, wrote:
"Mirabilis [has] a nice bit of mystery, dark fantasy and a very Bryan Talbot-esque art style. Hopefully we’ll be seeing this find its way into print at some point."And indeed you will see it in print, in fact in two glorious large-format hardcover editions if you live in Britain or Ireland, as John Freeman reported in the other essential UK comics blog Down The Tubes just before Christmas.
Meanwhile you can get the Mirabilis graphic novel for iPad in App Store books, where it has risen this weekend to #7 in the "What's hot" chart. If you don't have an iPad, take a look at the little book-flippy widget thing at the bottom of this very page, and if you like the first episode and you live in the USA or Canada then you can buy the American trade paperbacks by clicking on the cover images in the sidebar or going to Barnes & Noble.