/ Cory Doctorow / 4 am Wed, Oct 30 2019
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  • The First Scarfolk Annual: a mysterious artifact from a curiously familiar eternal grimdark 1970s

    The First Scarfolk Annual: a mysterious artifact from a curiously familiar eternal grimdark 1970s

    Since 2013, Richard Littler has been publishing Scarfolk, a darkly comic series of brilliantly photoshopped artifacts from a dark and brutal English town trapped in a loop between 1969 and 1979; Littler published his first Scarfolk book in 2014, a pretty straight-ahead best-of anthology that was a sheer delight, and since then, he's taken a brilliant detour into animation, while still keeping up on Scarfolk, which has now spawned its second -- and even better -- book: The Scarfolk Annual.

    The "annual" is a British comics tradition, in which a beloved comic like the Beano produces an end-of-the-year gift book full of puzzles, short stories, artwork, games, comics, and suchlike.

    The Scarfolk Annual is a facsimile of a notional annual produced for the blighted children of Scarfolk, distressed and scuffed to give it the appearance of a discarded library book that's been discovered in a charity shop bin (an introduction informs the reader that this is just what's happened, and that, moreover, the erstwhile owner disappeared under mysterious circumstances).

    The Annual is a showcase for the brilliance of Scarfolk, which uses the iconography of the Thatcher-era authoritarian malaise to skewer Thatcher's ideological descendants, who combine cruelty and clownishness with barely disguised racism and eugenics as they drive the country towards catastrophe while serving the ultra-rich, punishing the poor for the sin of poverty, and use racism to cement a thoroughly despicable coalition of the hereditarily posh, sociopathic financiers, and terrified, small-minded Little Englanders.

    As with all of Littler's work, the Annual presents itself as a deceptively simple satire, but rewards close attention as the fine details and hidden gags add texture and depth.

    This is Littler at the top of his Scarfolk form -- an unpredictably wonderful, brilliant piece of political satire.

    The Scarfolk Annual [Richard Littler/William Collins]

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