Football Crazy: The Theatre of Nightmares on the Road to Insanity, follows Sheffield United during an exceptional FA Cup run, but also the murder of one of their players. With its tongue firmly in cheek, Football Crazy is both sports drama and involving detective story set in and around the Yorkshire club. When in-form striker and FA Cup hero Ndumba-Nsungu is found dead in the middle of nowhere, in a seemingly ritualistic fashion, it’s down to D.I. Charlton and her team to get to the bottom of it.
The first thing that strikes about Football Crazy is the crude art work. It’s not that it’s bad, as the character models are well drawn, and those that resemble well known faces in the story are very well drawn. It’s just that it looks as though it was drawn using MS Paint. Again, this isn’t a bad thing, but this is the first comic I’ve had the pleasure of reading in this style, meaning it took a little time to adjust, and is a far cry from contemporary graphic novels and comics. The writing however is exceptional, with Craig Daley’s story taking on fine form, and seemingly capturing the essence of what makes some of it’s subject matter so special.
As a big fan of England’s finest football tournament, it is a genuine treat to see how well the magic and atmosphere of the FA Cup is captured in comic form, and at times, in a comic way, too. The way the games are covered is in such a way that you could well be watching a highlights reel, and it also captures the other side of the cup as well; the banality of the TV studio. The coverage of the coverage, so to speak, is depicted all to accurately, showing just how awful the television coverage of these events can be, particularly with local news jumping on the band wagon, and the hype surrounding the ‘lesser’ clubs when they go up against the top flight sides.
It would only seem appropriate to paraphrase the age old footballing cliché and say that it is a comic of two halves. Despite the tonal accuracy the writing captures when it comes to the football, there’s also a brilliant detective story in there as well. Playing out much like a high quality, British detective drama you might see on TV. Over serious, over dramatic and at times, ludicrous. And it also goes to show the absurdity of modern life, with some people being made suspects because of comments on Twitter. As the story unfolds, it’s difficult not to get drawn in, and try to second guess motives and who could actually be behind it all.
For those familiar with unlicensed football videogames, the characters in the comic may seem amusingly familiar. Without wanting to tread on any toes, some of the character’s names have been altered from their real-life likenesses, if not completely different altogether. The footballers, when not on the pitch seem to be portrayed as one-dimensionally in the story as the are in real-life, with their polar-opposite lifestyles of either the boring or excessive, and much like the characters you would come across in the police stations of the aforementioned detective shows, they are the hard-nosed straight-talking constabulary seen many times over, but as with the TV formula, it works.
Like all good comics, Football Crazy seems too short, despite it being 36 pages of nothing but story, it grips from page one, and even with its numerous references, nods and jokes towards the sport, there’s plenty there for those with no interest in football, too. Daley knows how to keep the reader enthralled from frame to frame and leaves you wanting more.