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Hilarious 'Scotland Yardie' resurrects black UK satire

LOTS OF LOLS: Graphic novel Scotland Yardie by Bobby Joseph and Joseph Samuels is out now

THE VERITABLE literary glue that has held together many an iconic moment in black British humour has been lauded by the BBC as a key player in bringing to market some of the "first comics by black creators featuring black characters", written for The Guardian, Loaded, Vice, Radio 4, Colourful Radio and Lenny Henry. To top it all off, said 'glue' is a proud Voice alumnus.

Bobby Joseph is perhaps best-known, certainly among the massive graphic novel/comic set, for his '90s publications, Skank and Black Eye which helped open the door for more black writers to be self-deprecating and satirical in the vein of, say, Spitting Image; rather than revisit the well-trodden stand-up path of many comics who packed theatres with audiences laughing along about how (predictably) funny it was to be beaten with a Dutch pot as a child.

Joseph is a natural-born joker, albeit with a serious side, which is evidenced in much of his work. The kind of joker you can be unfathomably silly with and the kind of joker who effortlessly packed-out comic book shops and venues around London earlier this year as he attracted friends, fans and long queues with his Scotland Yardie launch.

Scotland Yardie, based on a character from Skank, is a graphic novel (or, a massively long, quality comic strip) about a machine gun-toting Jamaican policeman who has joined the Met, packed with hilarious cameos and colourful detail that will have you scanning the pages for stuff you've missed.

THE BIG REVEAL: Page 5 unveils Scotland Yardie to an unsuspecting south London

Written against the backdrop of the selfie, Brexit and Black Lives Matter and the arrests made after the Jimmy Saville revelations, Scotland Yardie was subject to numerous re-writes as Joseph didn't want to leave important happenings out of the final edit. Cultural and political references abound. Familiar faces, as with all good graphic novels, give readers one more reason to hunt around the illustrations for lots of hidden detail. Hilarious cameos include appearances from characters bearing an uncanny resemblance to Boris Johnson, Keith from Prodigy, the Jackson 5, Todd Carty, the cast of Straight Outta Compton, Owen Wilson and Bernie Mac at a bus stop; milling about shops selling meth-laced blue chicken in Brixton, south London.

As if this wasn't enough, an alternative ending, behind the scenes comic strips and the promise of Scotland Yardie's return are all more than enough reason to buy; however the glossary ("Wasteman: Tories") at the back is sure to tip you over the edge if you need persuading.

The man himself made a brief return to his old Voice stomping ground to talk about how it feels to be back:

Q: How has the status of the graphic novel changed since you first started out, if at all?

A: In this day-and-age, the graphic novel is an accepted art-form, respected by the masses and mainstream media. Graphic novels have sections in bookshops. They are big business now! And I am glad to be given the opportunity to contribute to it.

VIRAL: A Bobby Joseph-style dedication did the rounds on Twitter after a fan met him at a signing

Q: What do you make of Luke Cage and all the renewed popularity Marvel is enjoying at the moment? 

A: I really enjoyed Luke Cage. It was good to see a black show on TV – as we all know there are very few about. Sure, in parts it may have been a tad preachy, but overall it was good, throwaway popcorn TV. That said, Marvel’s true success, is down to the movies. If you look at the box office, Marvel are at the top of their game.
Q: You've created stuff and contributed to projects that include TV and many other platforms besides the graphic novel - which medium do you think is the most enjoyable to work in overall?

A: Comics have always been my thang! I prefer the graphic novel medium as I don’t have to conform to the strict editorial constraints that are placed on writers that work in TV and film. As a writer of graphic novels, I choose what goes in, and what goes out. I like that level of creative control.
Q: How do you get in the writing 'zone'? Is there a special desk you have/rituals?

A: I pray to an old, crumpled Karl Kani top that I used to rock from back in the day. After mediated to this sacred waistcoat, I then put special ointment on my head and pray for divine inspiration while sitting in a complicated yoga pose for at least 23 hours and 59 minutes...naaah! I just write. I’m not the type that has rituals, just routines. If I have an idea, I keep writing it until I am happy with it. Simples!

RAISING A LAUGH: Bobby Joseph standing beside a copy of Scotland Yardie on sale at the Tate Modern

Q: Do you think readers will decide that Scotland Yardie is a likeable character?

A: Scotland Yardie has always been a popular character. People always tend to gravitate to anti-heroes like Judge Dredd and Dirty Harry. Is Scotland Yardie likeable? I don’t know. I like him. I hope that counts for something!
Q: The novel gives a humorous take on the social and political - tell us about all the additions you had to make as things were unfolding politically and why you thought it was so important to go back and include them?

A: When the book was originally finished, it was last summer. I was happy. Then the political landscape changed. The world went berserk! Brexit had a seismic effect on UK politics. So, I pulled the book to re-edit it. Then the Prime Minister quit and a new PM came along. I had to stall it yet again. Finally, Article 50 was triggered. Gah! It was a bit of a nightmare but it all worked out in the end though. Ha! That’s the problem with writing a satire, it can be dated as soon as it hits the shelves. Politics and cultural references shift so quickly. That said, the book still stands up quite well.

INCOGNITO: Bobby Joseph's answer to the obligatory selfie

Q: How do you, Joseph Samuels and the rest of the production team work, as in what comes first, the illustrations or your character dialogue?

A: I write very detailed scripts. I describe the background, the foreground and the dialogue. Once I am finished, I’ll hand it to Joe, who will then have some form of breakdown after reading what I want him to drawn (he will vouch for this). He’ll spend the best part of the week cussing me out to me (I can vouch for this) and anyone else who’ll listen, and then crack on and create some magical piece of artwork! He will, after a very, very long time (way after the project’s finished), forgive me for being the cause of his bleeding, cramped fingers!
Q: Writing can be all encompassing - how do you switch off and enjoy family and friends?

A: Weirdly, I never switch off. There’s always an idea I’m working on and I can get quite lost in it. Once something grabs me, it’s hard to let go. I do tend hang out with my boys and family. But usually, I have to be dragged kicking and screaming to do normal thangs!
Q: Are there people you know or have met in real life that would recognise themselves in any of the characters? 

A: Haha! People have always come up to me and said, ‘that’s based on so-and-so…’ Ha. My lips are sealed! Except for… nah. My lips are sealed!

Q: Your book launch was packed - tell us about the reception Scotland Yardie has had so far.

A: The Scotland Yardie experience has been phenomenal. The book has got major props! I didn’t expect the graphic novel to get the reaction or the amazing reviews that it did. It still throws me that I’m now seen as a ‘critically-acclaimed author’, which feels ridiculous and humbling at the same time. I guess that’s the constant battle of being a writer! The need for praise and validation, but still being totally weirded out by the whole experience once you get it. Ha! No pleasing some!
Q: What's next on the horizon for you? 

A: I’m looking at other ideas for graphic novels. I’ve also written a novel about my Skank experience – and currently looking for a publisher for that. Who knows! Currently, I am just enjoying the success of Scotland Yardie. Copies are shifting quickly. It’s nice to go into bookshops in the West End and be told it’s sold out.

To buy Scotland Yardie, click here.

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