You would be hard-pressed to find anyone who reads Delilah Dirk and the Turkish Lieutenant who would believe this is the debut graphic novel of writer/artist Tony Cliff. Best known for short contributions to the Flight Anthology, Cliff’s Delilah Dirk is polished as both a narrative and a piece of visual art.
Delilah Dirk has been all over the globe. Now for the first time in her life, she has a friend to shar in her adventures. Selim is a Turkish soldier with a peaceful nature and a passion for excellent tea. He’d better get used to his new lifestyle fast, because there’s never a dull moment when Delilah Dirk is involved!
Selim is the anchor which holds the book together. Delilah is so marvelous, so over the top, that the reader needs someone as grounded as Selim to appreciate the marvel that is Delilah. She is unlike any woman (or any man for that matter!) Selim has ever seen. And, to be quite honest, she is unlike any character many readers have seen. She is confident to the point of cocky, but able to back up that cockiness. She is creative. She is competent. And the rarest of all in literary heroines, she is entirely un-interested in the opposite sex.
This is not to say that Delilah Dirk is asexual or a lesbian. No, I suspect that, given her personality, she can be quite the passionate individual. However, Cliff chooses to forego the cliche of two characters falling in love, and instead focuses on a much deeper relationship, friendship. This makes for a far richer and imaginative story as Delilah and Selim are free to explore all the avenues before them without getting bogged down in all the mushiness of romance. It is a good thing they never become bogged down, because they need all their speed, withs, and agility to keep one step ahead of all the people who want Delilah’s head!
Tony Cliff’s art is delightfully cinematic in the tradition of 90′s Disney features. The bodies are a lanky, the heads are slightly over-sized, and the faces are fantastically expressive! It is easy to imagine the characters coming to life and cavorting across the screen. (While Selim might be one to burst into song over his love of tea, I’m not sure Delilah would be quite so quick to join in!)
There is something else to consider: In 167 pages, I never saw Delilah Dirk’s underwear.
Now, you might be saying to yourself, “Brian, that is a pretty crass thing to say.” But, ask yourself: when was the last time you made it through even 22 pages of a comic featuring a female lead or supporting character where the woman’s posterior or undergarments were not on prominent display? It is almost de rigueur for a female character’s costume to include at least two (if not all) of the following items: massive cleavage, exposed thong underwear, short skirt, bare midriff. Are these really the models we want for our daughters? So, it was a relief to make it through an entire graphic novel where the main character, despite her flowing skirts, was able to leap through the air, fight, tumble, and flee, all without exposing herself for all the world to see!
Delilah Dirk and the Turkish Lieutenant is a wild romp through foreign lands. It takes itself just seriously enough that the reader has to pay attention, but not so seriously that the reader can’t see Cliff’s tongue planted firmly in his cheek as he plays with expectations of roles, relationships, and repercussions. Cliff treats his characters with respect, and we reap the rewards.
And, joy of joys, a sequel has been announced!!!
Looking for your own copy? You can get your own right here!