Graphic Novel Review: Andi Ewington’s [Forty Five] 45


[Forty Five] 45 is a 132-page Original Graphic Novel (OGN) released by indy publisher Com.x. [Forty Five] 45 is written as series of interconnected Superhero interviews documented by the fictional character James Stanley. The Story, or rather interviews, are written by Andi Ewington and what makes the project unique is that each of the forty five pages of art that accompany the interviews have been illustrated by different artists, with no predetermined brief given, and just using the accompanying interview text for inspiration.

The artists involved with the project are: Charlie Adlard, Jeff Anderson, Seb Antoniou, Robert Atkins, Dan Boultwood, Dan Brereton, Lee Carter, Anthony Castrillo, Simon Coleby, Boo Cook, Rufus Dayglo, Ross Dearsley, Neil Edwards, Gary Erksine, Rodin Esquejo, Dan Fraga, Eduardo Francisco, Lee Garbett, Randy Green, Trevor Hairsine, John Higgins, Sally Hurst, Frazer Irving, Jock, Kevin Kobasic, Alvin Leigh, Wayne Nichols, Sean O’connor, Ben Oliver, Carlo Pagulayan, Sean Phillips, Jordan Raskin, Dom Reardon, Kenneth Rocafort, Dave Ryan, Steve Sampson, Liam Sharp, Barry Spiers, Fiona Staples, Stephen Thompson, Matt Timson, Andie Tong, Gus Vazquez, Tim Vigil, Kit Wallis, Calum Alexander Watt, Bob Wiacek, Admira Wijaya, and Andrew Wildman.


The Story

danbrereton The story of [Forty Five] 45 follows Journalist, James Stanley, who is faced with the imminent birth of his child. He and his wife have agreed to forgo the Super-S test (technically known as the HALE-CRITERION test); a test that would determine whether their unborn son or daughter carries the extra chromosome that grants superpowers, and could potentially alter their  lives forever. However, James can’t help but wonder that if the child is born with superpowers, could he cope with the pressures of a child bestowed with a gift to do extraordinary things? He is plagued with questions such as, if he or she is diagnosed as a Super-S, will they be free to live a normal life? What physical and psychological hurdles would they face growing up? And so, he feels it necessary to find out more from those who are blessed with enhanced abilities, in preparation for understanding his own child better.

45page_blog James then set out on a quest to interview as many superheroes as he can, before the birth of his child. The interviews conducted in the book cover a large cross-section of the Super-S population, and follow the lives of superheroes from birth to death, starting with a Norman (non superpowered) parents’ discovery that their child is Super-S, to the growing pains of adolescence and the reckless years of adulthood, to the critical years of mid-life and beyond.

On his journey, he encounters characters from all walks of life, including: affluent American parents who can afford to send their son to the special Super-S Academy of Higher Development in Santa Monica, California; middle-class British parents who are raising their Super-S son in that reserved English manner; orphaned children, being raised the Homelight center for abandoned Super-S children; children who are confined within S-Zones, because their powers are a danger to others; a Polish Super-S immigrant, living in a slum apartment, and struggling to survive from day to day; a brash US-based Super-S, who embodies every cliche of obnoxious Americans; an outcast Super-M, whose extra chromosome has mutated him into a rock skinned monster; all the way through to an old-aged superhero who is dying in a hospital ward. fionastaples

As he conducts his interviews, he begins to hear talk of an shady government organization called XoDOS. The first he hears of them is when he finds out that they send operatives to meet with parents of newborn Super-S’, offering to take away the burden of raising a super-powered child, by raising them in one of their special training facilities. As his interviews progress, the name keeps popping up again and again, with some interviewees praising them, and some condemning them. Gradually though, he begins to uncover the truth about XoDOS, and what their mission entails, and what he finds changes his life forever!

The Rating

boocook Most first time comic writers like to start out small, sometimes by contributing to an anthology title, sometimes by creating a webcomic, and sometimes by publishing a small press miniseries. With [Forty Five] 45, Andi Ewington has thrown the rule book out the window, and has forgone the normal routes of breaking into the comic industry, deciding for his first project, not only to publish a 132-page OGN, but at the same time, to create something so original that the comic industry has never seen its like before.

Never before has someone thought to tell a comic story though a series of prose interviews with superheroes. This raises the question as to whether this can actually be called a comic story, or whether it is illustrated prose. Well, I asked this same question of Andi Ewington in a recent interview, where he gave the following answer:

I’ve tried to be respectful to fans of traditional comics, most of whom no doubt love the sequential format. With that in mind, I decided ‘Forty-Five’ needed a nice balance of both splash pages and sequentials, Also, there’s the fact that 99% of the art has been created by comic industry experts, so I’m confident this falls squarely into the ‘Comicbook’ category.

zipfin2 Having read the book, I agree with this statement, but at the same time, I would say that the concept definitely blurs the lines between prose and comics; which I see a great thing, because it pushes the limits of what can be done with the medium, and is a bold and daring move that really challenges comic readers to try something new and different.

The best superhero stories are those that ask the question, “what if superheroes were real people?”. Since the concept of the superhero first appeared, stories have treated them as something more akin to gods than humans. Superhumans traditionally don’t have the same concerns as humans, they don’t have to deal with the same everyday problems we encounter in normal life, and so you don’t tend to see things like Superman suffering from an existential crisis. However, every so often a writer like Alan Moore or Grant Morrison will come along and they will treat the superhumans as if they were real people, with real feelings and emotions. domreardon Whenever this happens it’s a thoroughly magical experience, and often creates some of the most memorable comic books. With [Forty Five] 45, Andi Ewington has created the apotheosis of this type of story, taking the focus away from the big battles between heroes and villains, and instead focusing on the minutiae of super-powered life. Think for example, of a superhuman with the power to rot anything he touches, then think about how this person grew up, without being able to play with other children, and never being able to hug their own parents. How about a fledgling superhero who wants to start going out on the streets and fighting crime, what name should he choose? Superman? Marvelman? Captain America? Nope, all the good names are gone, trademarked by the comic book companies. This is exactly the kind of details that these interviews focus on, and it’s exactly the reason why this book is such an enthralling read!

seanphillips Andi Ewington’s writing on this project is incredibly impressive, and he manages to keep all of the interviews interesting and entertaining. This is quite the challenge, and is mostly achieved by the fact that he has created tons of original new characters, with complex personalities, and varied backgrounds. Every character in the book has it’s own history and it’s own story, and none of them seem to suffer from any sort of overlap, or from being too similar to established characters. Many of the common archetypes are present in the story, i.e. the boyscout, the billionaire playboy, etc. But when they do appear, Ewington takes an original slant on them, which makes them far more interesting, for example, the character Rollcage, who wears a highly advanced combat suit like Iron-Man’s, buy will only accept high paying hero work, and plasters his exo-suit with advertising for his sponsors! As he introduces us to these unique characters, Ewington gives us small glimpses of a fantastic world that he has built just for this story, that seems filled to the brim with potential stories. I sincerely hope that we get to see more of this world and its characters, and what part the XoDOS corporation has to play in its future!

johnhiggins The list of artists involved in the creation of [Forty Five] 45 reads like a whose who of the most talented artists in the comic industry.  Many of my favourite artists worked on the book, including Charlie Adlard, Boo Cook, Rufus Dayglo, Gary Erksine, John Higgins, Frazer Irving, Jock, Sean Phillips, Liam Sharp, and many more. Subsequently, every single piece of art in this book is an absolute masterpiece! What makes it even more interesting is the fact that the artists weren’t told to stick to any sort of style guide, and so everyone brings their own very unique styles to their pieces, making for a really eclectic mix that gives each interview it’s own flavour. Some of the art in the book is done in sequential comic book style, often illustrating a jock certain aspect of that character’s origin story, and then many of pieces are just gorgeous full-page illustrations of the characters in question. I really like the fact that they went with a mix of these styles, rather than just going with full-page illustrations, because it’s a great way to bridge the gap between the prose style of the interviews, and the more traditional comic book storytelling style. It’s really hard to pick favourites out of these wonderful pieces of art, but if I was forced, I think I’d have to go with Jock’s piece. Jock creates a haunting image of a little girl and the council flat in which she lives, which is in the style of an incomplete jigsaw puzzle, with several pieces missing. It’s an eerily beautiful piece of work, which really brings Ewington’s interview piece to life.

[Forty Five] 45 is by far one of the most original and innovative graphic novels ever created. Andi Ewington’s writing on this debut release is so strong, and so creative that it puts many seasoned professionals to shame. Ewington’s writing is accompanied by illustrations from some of the best artists in the business, making for an incredibly gorgeous collection, which you will want to look at again and again. It’s only January, but I can confidently say that [Forty Five] 45 is already a strong contender for the graphic novel of the year. I can’t recommend this book highly enough, your collection is incomplete without it!


[Forty Five] 45 is set to be released on Wednesday January 27th, with an RRP of $17.99, and should be available from all good comic and book stores.

To see an 18-page artwork preview of the book, click here.

To see an interview with Andi Ewington about the project, click here.

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Related posts:

  1. An Interview with Andi Ewington about [Forty Five] 45
  2. An Eighteen Page Sneak Peek Preview of [Forty Five] 45
  3. The Essential Upcoming Comics and Graphic Novels of 2010
  4. Com.x Exhibit at the Long Beach Comic Convention - October 2-4
  5. Com.x Announces 2009-2010 Projects at Long Beach Comic Convention 2009


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