Saturday 26 October 2013

The Trigan Empire.

The Trigan Empire, Book
As I roam the majestic heights of Wincobank Iron Age hill fort, people often say to me, "Steve, it fills you with awe, doesn't it, to think that two thousand years ago, the people of Sheffield were stood on this very spot, murdering Italians."

"I don't blame them," I say. "I could murder a spag bol myself right now."

"Not Italian meals, you half-witted buffoon!" they declare. "Italian people. This was the front line in the battle between the ancient Brigantes tribe and the invading Romans."

"Well, Meadowhall shopping centre's nearby," I point out. "So at least they wouldn't have run out of supplies."

At which point, they turn their back on me and walk off as though I'm some sort of imbecile.

"But it has twelve thousand parking spaces!" I call after them, "And a Poundland! No wonder the Romans wanted it!"

The Trigan Empire, Don Lawrence
But of course I'm merely teasing them; as I'm fully aware of the history of the Roman Empire, thanks to The Trigan Empire, the comic strip which gave us Romans as they should have been - ie, with spaceships and ray guns.

I first encountered the strip in the pages of the short-lived Vulcan comic and was immediately struck by the superiority of its artwork.

Trigan Empire, execution
The three issues of that mag that I owned were all I heard of the strip until a few years later when I was given a hardback book for Christmas. That book pulled the early tales together into a volume so heavy that, had the Brigantes used it as a weapon, the Romans would have been forced to flee and history would have been so very very different.

Trigan Empire, flood
Created in 1965, by Don Lawrence and Mike Butterworth, it told the tale of an alien civilisation that bore a remarkable resemblance to Ancient Rome, and followed it as, thanks to the efforts of one man, it rose from barbarism to become the dominant force upon its home world.

To be honest, the story itself never did that much for me, with its somewhat one dimensional characters, over-reliance on replicating old Earth civilisations and some fairly dodgy racial stereotyping but it was one of the most beautifully illustrated comic strips I'd ever seen - and that alone was enough to justify its existence for me.

Sadly, I no longer have that book. I sold it on eBay many moons ago but like to think that, somewhere, someone is using it as the blueprint for their own attempts to conquer the world.


Kid said...

I bought the book back in the late '70s or early '80s and still have it. I've also got the complete set of the revived Look & Learn, which reprinted the series from episode one. Great art indeed - Don Lawrence was one of the greats.

B Smith said...

Yes, that particular book certainly seemed to be doing the rounds back in the late 70s - I picked mine up in a pile of remaindered editions at a department store....I'm told they can fetch a pretty penny these days!

I first came across the strip in the early 70s editions of "Look and Learn" that the school library had on order...didn't see it again till the "Vulcan" reprints and ultimately the aforementioned book. And I agree, the stories in themselves aren't really that great - but the whole idea is such a good one, and Lawrence's artwork so lush that you just can't help but forgive it and go along for the ride.

One aspect of the stories that did impress me was epic scope, and that they weren't afraid to have stories stretch out over reasonable lengths of time - I recall one where Trigo and his brother disappear, and turn up as slaves on an enemy trireme...some six moths later. Can't imagine that in a Marvel or DC book; they'd have appeared by the weekend.

PS One thing that always baffled me - does one pronounce Trigo or Trigan with a hard or soft "g"?

Steve W. said...

I've always pronounced them with a hard "g" but I suppose a soft one would sound more Roman.

Anonymous said...

I've not seen this particular edition before but I did pick up a massive coffee table book version from Hawk Books "Tales of the Trigan Empire" similar to "B Smith" in a remainder type store in the mid 90s (think I got it for £4)stunning artwork by Don Lawrence (and others I think Ron Embleton drew this at some point also?) I also really liked the Roman Empire link and references to societies like the Persians etc right up to the series "The rise and fall of the Trigan Empire" story lines - I loved the way the first issue dealt with a Spaceship crashing to Earth and it contained the books of the history of Trigan Empire, so it had already ended before the story started in effect, great stuff -


Dougie said...

I always assumed it would be pronounced Trig-an as in Trigonometry: that prep your beastly fag Piggy would do for you, to keep Pater happy.

Anonymous said...

Did you see the recent post about this over at Hooded Utilitarian?

Steve W. said...

Hi, middlespaces. I hadn't see it but I have now. Thanks for the tip-off.