IN DEPTH INDIE: SENTINEL – TO INFINITY AND BEYOND?

SENTINEL: A Very British Comic Project

Sentinel was created in October 2019, when artist Ed Doyle suggested to his regular writer Alan Holloway that they should “Bring Starblazer back”. Starblazer was a digest sized science fiction and fantasy title than ran throughout the 1980s, with the same format as the still poplar Commando series. It seemed an interesting idea, aimed at people who fondly remember Starblazer, and also comic fans who are fed up of waiting months between episodes.

Alan thought it was a daft idea, having never even tried to write full comics before, but he wrote a six page treatment and Ed drew it up. The reactions were universally supportive, and a full script was delivered. After that first one was completed, other artists asked to join the fun, and even though this wasn’t the plan they were welcomed with open arms. Alan started tailoring new scripts to suit their strengths and the Sentinel production line was go!

Reviews have been incredibly positive, which is great considering no one involved is a professional. It was even voted third best comic of 2020 in two online polls. Still waiting to properly break out, it remains one of indie comic’s best underground titles.

Special Delivery (2020)

Writer: Alan Holloway

Artist: Ed Doyle

Covers: Ian Beadle (Standard)

Steven Austin (Limited)

The debut issue tested the waters with a comedic action tale about pretty three star rated space courier Doyle Braddock. When he’s given a special package to deliver to the wealthy Tsar of Rafica, the last thing he expects is that space pirate Petra will happily murder him to get her paws on it. In other news, he meets furry alien RHLSTP, and a legendary team is born.

“A funny story with enough action and a twist in the tale to please any comic fan” – Comicscene

Scales Of Justice (2020)

Writer: Alan Holloway

Artist: Ed Doyle

Covers: Ed Doyle (Standard)

Andy Lambert (Limited)

The comic went in a different direction with the second issue, kicking the jokes out and focussing on hard historical fantasy action. “Scales…” imagines a world where the Roman Empire discovered a remote island populated by intelligent dragons. They killed most of them, taking some back to breed as slaves and gladiators. Many years later, a small group of gladiator dragons learn that their ancestral home may be within their reach, and stage a rebellion. “Spartacus with dragons”? Yeah, sort of!

“Bold, thick, inky but detailed art , good page composition, storytelling and quite bloody in places. The plot can be summarised as “Spartacus with scales”, but that is unfairly reductive and glib, and the plot crackles along. The creators of comics of this quality need to be encouraged. Give them your money and your time.” – Everything Comes Back To 2000AD

SENTINEL – THE PAST TO PRESENT

A Fare To Remember (2020)

Writer: Alan Holloway

Artist: Paul Spence

Covers: Paul Spence (Standard)

Hunt Emerson (Limited)

From the painful pun of a title it’s clear that Sentinel was going back to a fun story after the seriousness of the last issue. This one is very heavily inspired by the 2000AD strip “Ace Trucking Co.”, switching the setting to rival space taxi firms who take part in a contest for a lucrative contract. One thing to note is there are no human characters, just crazily inventive alien ones, and these are beautifully drawn by Paul Spence, incredibly making his comic debut. Seemingly channelling the late, great Massimo Bellardinelli, Paul brings the daft script to life, with plenty of small details to be discovered upon re-reading. It’s a fun issue, to be sure.

“A Fare to Remember is great fun, the Kickstarter description says it’s “a 64 Page fun space comedy with laughs, action and beautiful art” and I honestly couldn’t sum it up better” – Gazza Reads Comics

Misty Moore (2020)

Script: Alan Holloway

Art: Ian Beadle

Covers: Ed Doyle (Standard)

Neil Sims (Limited)

It says on the Sentinel masthead that it covers Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror, so a horror issue was certainly due. Originally intended as the second issue, “Misty Moore” was pushed back due to the simple fact it wasn’t finished yet. This was artist Ian Beadles fierst ever comic, and much like Paul Spence before him he smashed it out of the park with some incredibly dark and atmospheric work. Thirteen year old Misty Moore is the title character, and in 1982 she and her family move to a new village, with Misty taking a coach to the local comprehensive. Unfortunately she is bullied quite nastily. She is visited by Janet, a bullied girl her age who committed suicide thirty years previously. She is in the same room (in a large, shared old mansion) that Janet had, and Janet offers to help her get bloody revenge on her tormentors. This is, it has to be said, a very dark tale. There’s no happy ending, a death or three, and the reality of bullying is right there on the page. Inspired by old girls comics like Misty, this is at times a hard read but in the end an electrifying, emotional one.

“A neatly woven ghost story with a surprising twist! The drama unfolds at a satisfying pace and is backed up with a healthy helping of gore! No part of the story feels rushed or drawn out. The setting, background, and characters are all developed in sufficient enough detail to convey a believable story in an environment the reader can relate to!” – Almost Normal Comics

Kazana The Slayer

Writers: Ed Doyle and Chris Atkins

Revised by: Alan Holloway

Artist: Ed Doyle

The story behind this issue goes back to 2004, when Ed Doyle and his then writing partner Chris Atkins created Kazana, and Ed went away and hand painted twenty odd pages. The finished product was printed poorly, and the vibrant art was washed out. Fast forward sixteen years and Ed asked Alan if he could re-jig the script to fit the Sentinel format, fleshing out characters and explaining some of the more confusing parts. This was done, and the issue became the first (and possibly only) full colour special. It’s your standard “Lone warrior helps out villagers against great evil” type of thing, and lots of fun to boot. Ed’s art finally has a decent printing process and the colours jump off the page, whilst the story has few surprises but rattles along nicely.

“What the comic lacks in plot it does pay back in energy and deserves credit for that balls to the wall shouty/fighty/macho fun that jumps off the page and you can imagine had the creators chuckling along as they put it together.” – Never Iron Anything

Bad Kitty (2021)

Writer: Alan Holloway

Artist: Morgan Gleave

Covers: Morgan Gleave (Standard)

Mal Earl (Limited)

It’s back to comedy with this one, inspired by far too may cartoons and Stainless Steel Rat books. New boy Morgan Gleave has a wonderful way with cartoony animals, so Alan wrote him a comedy adventure where human thief Carlos Harrison is hired to protect canine billionaire Rover “Lucky Dog” Kingston from his very vengeful feline adopted sibling TC (“The cat”). TC is bumping off all his adopted doggy brothers in creative ways, so Rover needs to look out. Ruh roh! The issue proved to be very popular, with Morgan’s art a hit across the board and the script finding the funny bones as well. Interestingly, it’s a cross promotion with the rock band Cats In Space, who let the lads use their spaceship design for TC’s ship. A seriously fun book.

“…packed with cartoon and comic references and gags, but we’re also back to the sort of fast-paced, free-flowing storytelling that makes the pages turn themselves. And as for Morgan Gleave‘s art, it’s my favourite thus far, with his big, bold cartooning perfect for the big panels of the digest format.” – Comicon.com

Hell On Harry Howson (2021)

Writer: Alan Holloway

Artist: Ed Doyle

Covers: Ed Doyle (Standard)

Ian Beadle (Limited)

The pairing of Doyle and RHLSTP in issue one were very popular, and it was such fun to do that Alan and Ed decided the boys needed another outing now that the creators were more confident in their work. A cross between Spaceballs, Jason and The Argonauts and Star Wars, it sees the duo stranded on Harry Howson’s world, fighting off all manner of monsters from ancient Greek myth. A total homage to the work of Ray Harryhausen, the stop motion king of old, it bounces along without drawing a breath with plenty of humour and action, surpassing even the previous outing. Ed was very happy to be able to draw the multitude of monsters required, putting his all into it. It shows, and the team couldn’t be happier with the result.

“Dynamic camera angles and use of splash pages give the setting that Harryhausen flavour; it is a sense of scope suited to the ancient Grecian setting depicted in films like Jason and the Argonauts (1963). Still, there is plenty of space for the slapstick that animated the first issue.” – Irish Comic News

SENTINEL – THE FUTURE

To Be A Hero (2021)

Writer: Alan Holloway

Artist: Andrew Richmond

Covers: Andrew Richmond (Standard)

Mike Collins (Limited)

Well, it had to happen, that Sentinel decided to have a go at the superhero genre. Being Sentinel, though, it could never be a run of the mill approach, so Alan has delivered what could well be a completely original take on the genre. Blending several stories together, it should be a very pleasant surprise for any reader, containing the fun of traditional hero comics with something different in the storytelling. It’s the first issue from Bath artist Andrew Richmond, who has really come up with an interesting and exciting mix of styles that suit each segment well. Excelsior!

Philthy Luka’s Tales Of Terror (2021)

Writer: Alan Holloway

Artists: Ed Doyle

Andrew Richmond

Sinclair Elliot

Transferring from The 77 issue one is ageing punk rocker Philthy Luka, who introduces three dark tales set in the golden year of 1977. Ed Doyle shows us what happens when the Queen’s Jubilee is interrupted by a conspiracy theorist, whilst Andrew Richmond sees graffiti come alive murderously in Newcastle Upon Tyne. New Sentinel artist Sinclair Elliot tells of a violent comic, a sevenpenny nightmare if you will, fighting for it’s existence at a publishers. Three very different stories, three excellent artists, this is a great Halloween issue.

Newtopia (2021)

Writer: Alan Holloway

Artist: David Metcalfe-Carr

Cover: David Metcalfe-Carr (Standard)

? (Limited)

Another new genre for Sentinel, as Cyberpunk slithers darkly into the oeuvre. Set in the rainy city of Newtopia, it tells of Aliens, implants and abilities, as our heroes Nick and Connie are pursued across the city. New artist David Metcalfe-Carr shines at this sort of thing, and it was written especially for him. Fast paced with an unexpected finale, Newtopia does a fine job of adding another string to the overloaded Sentinel bow.

In Development

Heartbreak Spotel

Writer: Alan Holloway

Artist: Paul Spence

The “A Fare To Remember” team are back with another silly space story, this time chaneling Fawlty Towers with a great mixture of farce and action. Paul’s initial designs are fantastic, and this one will be a guaranteed hoot.

Dark Matter

Writer: Alan Holloway

Artist: Ian Beadle

After spending so long drawing teenage girls for Misty Moore, Ian wanted some action, so this story of a band of psychic mercenaries is right up his street. Action, banter and a few surprises, Dark Matter will please any fan of sci fi action.

The Pack

Writer: Alan Holloway

Art: Mac

A team of special ops soldiers in the jungle have a secret weapon – they can turn into savage werewolves by injecting a super serum. The thing is, if they don’t get another injection they will stay as savage killing machines. On one operation the Sergeant in charge stays in wolf form, and it’s up to the others to get him back to normal before he hunts them down and dismembers them. Of course, being Sentinel there’s more to it than that! Another new artist, Mac, has made a great start on this one, and the finished product is sure to get plenty of pulses racing.

Rover The Barbarian

Writer: Alan Holloway

Artist: Morgan Gleave

Only Morgan could bring this one to life, as it’s a fantasy epic that features anthropomorphic animals as the characters. Rover, the troubled hero, is a dog barbarian! Rather than being a comedy like Bad Kitty, though, this is a serious story with heart, characterisation and violence.

DoubleJack

Writer: Alan Holloway

Artist: Andrew Richmond

After doing a great job on To Be A Hero, Andrew wanted something Victorian, so something was soon delivered. Using the myth of the murderous Spring Heeled Jack as a basis, the story concerns a murderer, a journalist and the return of a horror thought long gone. With historical accuracy treated as a necessity, this should be a proper penny dreadful, no mistake guv’nor!

Monkey Magic

Writer: Alan Holloway

Artist: Filippo Roncone

One thing Alan has always loved is sports strips, from Roy Of the Rovers to Harlem Heroes. The addition of the talented Filippo Roncone to the Sentinel fold meant that there was an artist who could tackle such a story, and so Monkey Magic was born. Young girl Monkey, so called because she has prehensile toes, is a poor girl who wants to play Skurling, a sport that combines hurling with flying skateboards, but it’s too expensive to get into. Her uncle, however, gets to see her natural talent after a family tragedy, and he sets out to use his own contacts (he used to play) to get her the opportunity she deserves. A traditional sports story with an inventive new future sport, this one’s certain to score.

They Call Her Trinity

Writer: Alan Holloway

Artist: ?

A sci fi western in the vein of some Strontium Dog stories, our heroine is Trinity, a bounty hunter in search of the father that sold her into slavery as a child. Revenge is sweet, but will she taste it? A dark and dusty tale of violence and hardship, the title is taken from an old Western that Alan has a fondness for (although with a Her instead of a Him). If it goes down well, which it should, she may return in “Trinity Is Still Her Name”. Westerns are fun!

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