The Hartlepool Monkey
Lupano and Moreau’s slim and attractive graphic volume doesn’t purport to be factually accurate (this is a legend after all) but it has all the charm, looks and dark absurdist humour to make for super bedtime reading for all ages (though the prodigous use of the word “bloody” may give conservative parents pause). It’s 1814 and a French ship off the north-east coast; the captain is a hoary old sea dog who, like most of the adults in this tale, harbours jingoistic tendencies. A storm lays waste to the vessel, the only survivors being the ship’s mascot – a chimpanzee – and ship’s lad, previously thrown overboard for singing an English sea shanty. Both are washed up and discovered by the natives of nearby Hartlepool. And so the legend begins. . . Lupano’s story is a comedic swipe at the absurdity of nationalism, jingoism and all those other -isms that lead to people (not just Hartlepudlians!) doing silly things such as mistaking chimps for French spies. Moreau’s art is stunning – full of movement and character, and beautifully coloured throughout - you could easily imagine this as a lavishly animated film.