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Tony Cliff didn’t have to escape jail, run from enraged armies or travel in flying ships to complete his debut graphic novel Delilah Dirk and the Turkish Lieutenant, but it wouldn’t surprise me a bit if he had. The energy he invests in his story of a globetrotting, devil-may-care adventurer and the reluctant but noble soldier who inadvertently ends up tagging along suggests Cliff has a bit of the thrill-seeker in him, or at least in his pen.
Wanting to learn more about this former Flight cartoonist and his new book, I lobbed a bunch of questions to Cliff, who was nice enough to lob the answers back my way.
Robot 6: How did Delilah Dirk come to be? What was the original idea behind the character, and how did it change from the initial webcomic to Turkish Lieutenant?
Tony Cliff: It started off as a 30-page comic that I thought I’d put together just as a fun thing to do. I’d been reading a lot of Napoleonic War-era novels and wanted to make something in the same time period, with the sort of spirit I’d enjoyed in Indiana Jones and James Bond movies. Something fun, with a bunch of action and a variety of colorful settings.
I combined that first comic with a short story from the Flight anthologies, added a hundred pages to combine the two, and that became The Turkish Lieutenant as it appeared online. The print edition is more or less the same as the webcomic, though some of the text’s been finessed and there are roughly a dozen new pages of what has been described as “Delilah and Selim being cute in the woods,” a description whose accuracy I cannot dispute.
Following the release of Tony Cliff’s 19th-century adventure Delilah Dirk and the Turkish Lieutenant, First Second has announced a second book, tentatively titled Delilah Dirk and the Blades of England.
As ROBOT 6 contributor Tom Bondurant recounted in Monday’s “Cheat Sheet,” the thief whose wit is as sharp as her sword debuted in 2007 in the self-published 28-page Delilah Dirk and the Treasure of Constantinople, which earned an Eisner nomination and a devoted fan base, leading Cliff to continue the character’s adventures online. That material was then collected in graphic novel form by First Second.
Welcome to “Cheat Sheet,” ROBOT 6′s guide to the week ahead. Although the U.S. Postal Service is closed today for Labor Day, UPS is going full steam ahead, which means comics arrive on Wednesday as usual. And so some of the ROBOT contributors took a break from the long weekend to make their top picks for the week. Keep reading to see what they chose …
Manga | The recent move by a Japanese school board to restrict student access to Keiji Nakazawa’s Barefoot Gen has resulted in a surge in sales of the book — so much so that the publishers had to increase their reprint numbers by a factor of three, bookstores are reporting shortages, and an e-book distributor expects it to make the Top 10 this month. As we noted Monday, the board has reversed its policy. [The Mainichi]
Digital comics | Marvel has updated its Marvel Unlimited app for iOS and Android, addressing the two chief user complaints by doubling the number of comics that can be downloaded and read offline from six to 12 and improving searchability by allowing users to search by publication date. [PC Magazine]
Though the full-color print version of Tony Cliff’s popular webcomic, Delilah Dirk and the Turkish Lieutenant is still a ways off, Cliff has announced an all-new, black-and-white Delilah Dirk comic for the Toronto Comics and Arts Festival in May. Delilah Dirk and the Seeds of Good Fortune will be 36 pages and will feature a slightly different art style to take advantage of the detail allowed by the black-and-white format. In it, “Delilah seeks to extract a signature from a tyrannical property owner while coping with an obnoxious merchant and a handful of Turkey’s sourest apples.”
For those anxiously waiting for The Turkish Lieutenant, Cliff promises that it’s coming, but is “still a little further off. I know you are probably tired of hearing that. If it takes the sting out, know that I am much more frustrated to know that people are so eager to have this book and yet am unable to provide a satisfactory answer to the question. However, I am hoping to have some good, solid information to give you very shortly.” In the meantime, The Seeds of Good Fortune seems like a gorgeous way to wait. Cliff will make it available online and at other conventions shortly after TCAF.
By interesting coincidence, both Tony Cliff’s Delilah Dirk and the Turkish Lieutenant and Faith Erin Hicks’ Friends With Boys concluded their online runs on Saturday. The latter will be released as a slightly longer print edition this week by First Second Books, while the latter … well, Cliff is teasing that something is coming next.
You can still read both comics online in their entirety — Delilah Dirk clocks in at 158 pages, and Friends With Boys at 206 — or purchase Hicks’ graphic novel, in stores Tuesday.
Only four pages in, Tony Cliff’s Delilah Dirk and the Turkish Lieutenant already has me hooked. The art is absolutely gorgeous, taking the ligne claire style a step beyond simplicity — just look at the drawing of boats in the water lapping on the second page to see what I mean. The story is exotic and promises to be filled with adventure; here is Cliff’s capsule description: “In 19th-century Turkey, an officer in the Janissary army must struggle to repay a brash adventuress for saving his life, even though she was the one who endangered it in the first place.”