Portraits In Alienated British Youth Circa 1989-90, Part Two:

Trident Makes Its Mark—But Ultimately Gets Speared

In August of 1989, a modest little anthology series with some serious “A-list” talent appeared on British comic store shelves and, presumably, at a few newsstands (or newsagents, as they’re called across the pond) as well—it was called Trident, was put out by a start-up outfit of the same name, and lasted all of eight issues before biting the dust, despite boasting original material from the likes of Eddie Campbell, Neil Gaiman, and the team of Grant Morrison and Paul Grist (one of the magazine’s co-owners/publishers), who contributed the only serial to appear in its pages that modern readers probably have any knowledge of whatsoever, the four-part St. Swithin’s Day.

Okay, yes, a good many readers are well familiar with the aforementioned Mr. Campbell’s Bacchus, but how many folks really remember that it ran in Trident for a time before moving on to Dark Horse and, eventually, returning to being self-published by Campbell himself? Didn’t think so.

Most of this is probably down to the fact that St. Swithin’s Day is the only complete Trident story to be published in collected form on its own that achieved any kind of semi-widespread distribution, first by the company itself in 1990, and later by Oni Press, who re-issued it in 1997.

Other stories that you damn well figure would make for decent collected editions, like Neil Gaiman and Nigel Kitching’s Light Bridge, never happened—in that particular case probably because Gaiman left after part one and Kitching continued the strip on his own under the new title of Light Brigade, thus making the first issue of Trident a sought-after rarity for Gaiman collectors today.

Another guy, who would go on to have great success stateside by the name of Mark Millar, would turn up in time for the fifth issue with a story called The Saviour, and while that was eventually collected in single-issue form, as well, due to the way comics distribution worked in the days prior to Diamond’s monopoly on the market, it never—at least to my knowledge—made it over to the US .

The tough market for wholly original “mature readers” UK comics saw to it that Trident went under pretty quickly, and publishing in black-and-white probably didn’t help matters much, either, especially when you consider that readers interested in similar fare could pick up 2000 A.D.’s more “grown-up” sister publication, Crisis, in a snazzier, oversized, full-color format for nearly the same price, but still—Trident was a noble experiment in creator-owned storytelling that was years ahead of its time, and the next time a British publisher tried something similar, a little over a year after Grist and company folded up shop, was with an anthology mag called Revolver—and that gave up the ghost even more quickly, ceasing publication after just six issues in spite of the fact that it was home to such critically-lauded fare as Peter Milligan and Brendan McCarthy’s Rogan Gosh, Star Of The East.

As a publishing entity, then, Trident Comics was well into its death throes when it released all four six-page installments of St. Swithin’s Day as a one-shot in 1990, but they decided to throw something of a “Hail Mary pass” and splurged to have it presented in color for the first time. Their continuation as publishing entity was riding on the book, so what the hell—might as well either make a big enough splash to continue to stay afloat, or else go out with guns blazing. The mere presence of Morrison was enough to make sure the book got at least some American distribution, as well (I remember my local comic shop got precisely two copies, and I got there in just enough time to snag the second), and that’s why, to this day, if you’re rifling through the longbox collections of someone who sub-divides their comics by publisher as well as by title (guilty as charged), this is quite likely the only Trident comic you’ll find in there.

Still, if you can only have just one, this is definitely the one to have. Sure, in many respects the story is overly-earnest, self-absorbed, and scattershot—but shit, it’s about a 19-year-old kid, and in case you can’t remember, that’s more or less exactly what people tend to be like at that age. We bob and weave between thinking everything is so damn important on the one hand and being convinced of life’s utter pointlessness on the other. Between loving life (or someone in it) with all our hearts and hating it (or them) with passionate intensity. But no matter what our frame of mind, one thing is certain—we’re always convinced we’re right, even if what we think of one day is 180 degrees removed from what we thought the day before. Indeed, the greatest folly of youth is probably that we think we know so much when, in reality, we know so little—but surely, whatever mistakes we make out of pride or ignorance or confusion at such a tender age aren’t likely to haunt us for the rest of our lives, right?

I mean, kids fuck up. They do it all the time. When you get older, you only wish you could be as thoughtless and selfish as you were back then and still get away with it. When you’re in your late teens or early twenties, there’s more time left to seek forgiveness, should you need it, not to mention to learn the error of your ways. There’s not much you can do that will well and truly sully all of your future prospects at health, love, and happiness. There aren’t many sins you can commit that are so grave you’ll never be able to atone for them. No matter what you do on any given day, there’s still always tomorrow.

Unless, ya’ know, you’re planning to assassinate then-Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, in which case all bets about even having a future, much less being able to use it to make things right, are off. And that’s where we’ll pick up our story next time.

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Ryan Carey maintains a B-movie (with occasional comics-related content) blog at trashfilmguru.wordpress.com, and writes about films and comics for sites such as unobtainium13.com, dailygrindhouse.com, geekyuniverse.com, and now Sequart. You can follow him on Twitter @trashfilmguru.

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