What does an Oscar-winning actor do with time on his hands? Team up with cartoonist Dix to tell the story of a vengeful 17 th-century peasant

You may not think you know Dulle Griet but “youre supposed to” do- she’s the breastplated boor striding across a war-torn territory towards the mouth of hell in one of the most famous covers by the 16 th-century Flemish master Bruegel the Elder. Bertolt Brecht considered her as his own Mother Courage-” the Fury representing her feeble household goods with the sword. The world at the end of its tether .”

Jim Broadbent‘s edition of her is rather different.” She’s a plateau maiden whose tragedy is to look like me ,” tells the actor, whose self-respectful recent screen capacities, such as the curmudgeonly camera vendor in Julian Barnes’s The Sense of an Ending or the grievous Gloucester in Richard Eyre’s King Lear, can lead one to ignore an important biographical item: he chipped his acting teeth in the 1980 s as one half of a grandiosely identified slapstick duo, the National Theatre of Brent, hamming it up as Marie Antoinette or the Virgin Mary in uproarious re-enactments of the Bible and the French revolution.

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Margaret collecting for one of her concoctions. Image: Fantagraphics Books

Broadbent, as his acquaintances have told him, is a” notoriously picky” actor, with research results that, while he seems to be a constant attendance on place and screen, he quite often has era on his hands. His original opinion was to make a film of Dull Margaret, with himself in the name part. He wrote the screenplay and showed it around, but when the money is impossible to materialise and he began to feel the zeitgeist moving against female parody, he decided to framed her in a graphic novel instead. And who better to approach for the illustrations than the Welsh cartoonist Dix, whose Roll up! Roll up ! comic strip for the Guardian had invigorated his epoch for two years in the early 00 s with the antics of a ghoulish circus troupe.” I only felt we shared a sense of humour ,” Broadbent says.

The Dull Margaret who stars in their brand-new volume is a possibility Griet’s darkest manifestation hitherto. She’s a potato-faced wraith adrift in coastal marshlands who emerges naked from the sea and is not above chopping the entrust off a hanged person to augment a putrid adore concoction, which she slanders on her face in an attempt to witch apart her loneliness.

Leaping from the end of a dock on a broomstick, she plops ignominiously into the sea, merely to re-emerge two pages afterward in what looks like a gastroenterologist’s bad trip- a moving labyrinth of orange dragon coils tower out of a palette of sombre grey-haireds and browns. And so her misfortunes persist , not least because of her own bad attitude and her inability to choose between fund and love.

Is she mad? Or dreadful? No , no , no, demonstrations Broadbent, gallantly.” I adoration her. I have total sympathy for her and experience her fight. In a heightened path, she’s looking for what we all crave: comfort, a tolerable standard of living and desire. She gets robbed and ill-treated and humiliated, and that sets her on a pilgrimage to take back dominate .”

It turns out that this is only the fourth time writer and illustrator have met. They collaborated via early-morning emails, because Dix, who live in Hay-on-Wye and has a daylight occupation at a computer software fellowship, does his art work between 11 pm and 4am.

Dix picks up the tale, acknowledging that it took a while for him to “find” Margaret-” one was more fatten, one was very neurotic and one was very prone “. This was partly because he belief Broadbent was after someone who was like one of his Roll up! Roll up! circus grotesques( the horizontal cartoon strip format rules out long, scrawny beings ).

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Dull Margaret is unable to choose between fund and charity. Image: Fantagraphics Books

It didn’t help, he computes, that that at first Margaret had no nose.” She was beginning to look a bit aquatic, so we thoughts later on we’d commit her a nose- which was a nice stuff to do .” Broadbent’s blue sees widen at this revealing.” I wasn’t aware of your nose , no-nose jaunt ,” he shells back, though he concurs it was important that she had no paunch on her-” she has no carbs in her diet “.

Given that Margaret is a fictitious representation who rides a broomstick and provokes severed sides into tonics, this rapid swerving into dietary literalism might seem surprising- but it marks how deeply rooted the story is in the marshy seashore of Lincolnshire, where Broadbent and his artist partner, Anastasia Lewis, have a cottage.

It’s also deeply indebted to Bosch’s hellscapes, Goya’s witches, Daumier’s pictures of touring acrobats and Rembrandt’s glowering Low-toned Country landscapes- not to mention Dix’s own oddball aesthetic.” Lack of students in seeings is something I’m quite fond of ,” he mentions.” It makes people more express .” And creepy-crawly?” I don’t think it’s sinister at all- and I think that’s something we share .”

The pair’s shared taste is never more apparent than a six-frame sequence in which Margaret happens upon a bloated white-hot animal corpse, which I erroneously describe as a sheep. It’s a dog, Dix chastens. Well actually, answers Broadbent, it was originally a animal. But they’re both gratified for it to be pointed out because it was the last page they constituted. Its single discussion bubble-” Cor, what a pong”- is a tribute to the Dandy and Beano comics that Broadbent adoration as small children, and that have contributed to organize his feel of comedy.

It’s all relatively clownish, he mentions freely, striding out into the streets of Soho, where( despite being accidentally long and lean) he is immediately recognised by a chuckling buyer as Horace Slughorn, the “well-upholstered” tonics employer who diverts himself into an armchair in the Harry Potter films. As another of his imaginative soulmates, the theatrical hell-raiser Ken Campbell, once placed it:” It’s only true if it stirs you laugh .”

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