Review by Frank Plowright
The sensationalistic title is excusable for an anthology uniting creative minds from various spheres wanting to preserve our planet in the face of political indifference, and released to coincide with the 2021 international COP26 conference on climate change. Royalties are to be shared between environmental charities, and it’s noted that publisher Dorling Kindersley expects to sell 50,000 copies of a £20 book earning £75,000 to be distributed, which is an interesting insight into the mechanics of book publishing. Climate change deniers can disagree, but anything that might change someone’s mind or bring home new realities to people who broadly agree is a good thing.
So, what are the actual comics like? They’re grouped into four categories titled ‘Change the System’, ‘Protect the World’, ‘Restore the Damage’, and ‘Inspire and Educate’, with each having sub-categories. As might be expected from a 340 page anthology, quality varies from strips you may consider you could have drawn better yourself to lush, stunning illustrations, with the balance far more toward the professional. The sample spread presents the simple cartooning of War and Peas, who contribute several funny strips, and the lush wash art of Mike Perkins.
While the hope would be otherwise, the likelihood is this is preaching to the converted, although raising considerable awareness about ongoing campaigns and organisations that they might not have known about. We hear about Chinese owned fishing plants on the Gambian coast destroying the local livelihood, Liberian Chimpanzee Rescue & Protection and Aditja Mukarji’s astounding one person crusade to lessen the use of plastic straws by going from one restaurant to another and talking to owners. It exemplifies some of the most powerful strips relating personal experiences from countries well away from English speaking territories, and the single most frequent connecting factor is profit placed above the environment. It’s unforgivable when it’s just greed, but there is also an understanding that many people’s only means of feeding themselves is through unsustainable practices.
Because so many fine writers from Brian Azzarello to John Wagner are confined to arranging the testimony of others, it’s easier for the artists to shine, and whatever your preference in terms of comic art there’s plenty of pages featuring that style. Mike Collins, David Mack, and Lew Stringer sit alongside Polyp’s well considered single panel cartoons and fine artists.
There’s a disappointment that so many of the names mentioned on the covers don’t actually write or draw strips. Many of the celebs are just painted, very nicely, by Simon Myers in a single panel over six pages highlighting British wildlife’s decline and some regeneration. All too often “developed with” or “inspired by” is how celebrities are credited, with Paul Goodenough writing the strips, sometimes for no longer than four panels. Couldn’t they have done something more than just lending their names to help sell a worthy project? Well done to Jerome Flynn, Ricky Gervais, Cheddar Gorgeous, Lenny Henry, Lucy Lawless, Yoko Ono, and Chris Packham for their more personal input.
The Most Important Comic Book on Earth may live up to its title, but despite recording an occasional victory and plenty of sound advice, it’s not a hope-filled zone. Extinction Rebellion’s 2018 occupation of Oxford Circus in London featured a boat sprayed with the slogan “Tell the Truth”. This book does that, but there are still too many people who won’t listen.