Friday, 13 June 2014

The Magic Hamster Carpet and Other Stories

HELLO!

The weather has been warm and in the depths of my frosty basement flat (now with a super ventilating ceiling hole) I have been churning out many a thing in lieu of having any bloomin' work. Here be some of those things:

Judicial personnel request for TP acknowledged.

Here are my three latest Dreddheads - the irrepressible Tom Baker, 90s sex icon Cornholio and loft-dweller Michael Stipe. I'm still immersed in my long requests list - and am on the cusp of tackling my one Tumblr request which is DEAD EXCITING. Before that though - here is a canine-themed clue to the next 'un


Here are my last two contributions to the Weekly Themed Art Blog (JOIN IN) - the first for "Captain Britain" where Jazz and I have dubbed him "Broken" Britain and I follow the "less brown shades" advice given to me from a colouring portfolio review TO THE LETTER. The second is a frickin' chunky tripod for "The World of H.G. Wells" - drawn in the entire length of the awesome Jeff Wayne album (not the new one *shudder*).


Here's a glimpse of a MASSSIVE pin-up I coloured for the next Professor Elemental Comic with art from the glorious Gibson Quarter - rest assured there's some browns in there as well. We'll be seeing the Prof at Glastonbury festival this year and I plan to bombard him with interesting but false tea-related trivia. For example: Wasps piss oolong.

Crabcake 6 - 2 by crazyfoxmachine

Also here is the latest part of my four-year-old space epic Crabcake although technically this is the prequally bit. See the whole thing to date (and marvel at the massive font) over here on Facebook.

My to-read pile is actually miraculously getting smaller - and will also soon be a feature of legendary British comics site Down the Tubes - ! Below I finish my Bristol 2013 stash, get through some prezzies & Kickstarter rewards, Melksham purchases and start on my haul from the Bristol Comic & Zine Fair.

Weird Planet (Water Closet Press) Richard Worth & Jordan Collver
Michael Chabon, Kavalier and Clay, Weird Planet

This thin sliver of a small press project from Ladies & Gentleman chaps Worth 'n' Collver might be one of my favourite con purchases of 2013. Being as it is a moderately portentous self-contained 8-page sci-fi tale adapted from a short story - it has a smack of early Trek about it  focussed on the human voyager meeting the vastly superior alien intellect... yet all is NOT as it seems. Collver's deeply organic sepia-washed art brings the story to life - every page being imacculately constructed and wildly inventive. Not sure if you can still get these physically but a huge A4 hard-back edition would be glorious. FOR AN EIGHT PAGER? Yes. It's that good - otherwise it's free to view on their website.

Lazarus Churchyard: The Final Cut (Image) Warren Ellis & D'Israeli


I was 13 when Lazarus Churchyard was reprinted in the Judge Dredd Megazine. I was far too young for it - it made no sense to me and was as brutal as it was bewildering. It spoke of a cavernously confusing future - of deep and terrible apathy - but I thought it looked cool as fuck. D'Israeli became my artgod - and his ruined and nasty characters and environents I longed to replicate. Reading it now 13 years later in a handsome Image volume (printed before its first Meg appearance in 2001) given to me as a birthday gift by my oldest friend Robbo - I find it's not as dense after all. The story, whilst slightly "it's 1991 and this is dark adult comics fuck all you guys" gratuitous, is still brilliantly inventive and entertaining - and D'Israeli's art - although not as polished as it is now is still startingly unique. He even manages to sneak Fishpaste in. Which I get. There's still an evil mystery to this distant future - these hidden edges make Lazarus's character shine through and it makes me yearn to dive into the hideously off future of Ellis' Transmetropolitan which shamefully I've read very little of. Very happy to own this. I think I now nearly have everything D'Israeli has done in trade form. ...soon I will build a half-man, half-graphic novel homunculus AND WE WILL TAKE OVER THE GLOBE.

God Hates Astronauts (Self Published) Ryan Browne


How exactly I fell into Ryan Browne's fabulously silly world I don't remember - but this was the first Kickstarter project I ever funded. I'm a sucker for those that offer affordable physical copies as rewards and are (shock horror) wholly finished and just want money for printin'. The campaign was a huge success and severals weeks later this handsome hardback volume found its way to me across the seas - packed with additional stretch-rewards, a bookmark - a sticker, some hilariously placed glossy bits on the cover. GHA started as a webcomic and is a shamelessly open love letter to the freedom of the medium. The story is stream-of-conciousness, the characters ridiculous, the horde of nonsense literal SFX is magical ("De-FENESTRATE" as a character flies from a window) - it is liberated from the choking continuity cake and posturing melodrama of mainstream superhero fare. What makes it even more compelling is Browne's skill - he's a ridiculously good colourist and a brilliantly solid sequential artist which lends everything a bizarre weight and legitimacy despite the surreal madness. In the back of the volume are eighteen or so two-page origin stories for the main cast, as well as a similar number of random pin-ups - all from an enviably diverse roster of some of the hottest and most individualistic artistic talents in modern American comics. Tradd Moore, Cody Shibi and Kyle Strahm particularly are art kings. There's a potted GHA history (basically: blame Darick Robertson), two brilliant 24 hour comics (one birthed GHA) and a smart reference guide.

The only issue (and it isn't one really) is that the subtitle "completely complete edition" has been rendered invalid by Browne being snapped up by Image for a new on-going GHA series. The infectious popularity of the world is a testament to its undeniable freshness - lovingly made clearly not giving a fuck and damn but that's fun.

Judge Dredd: The Complete Case Files 11 (Rebellion) Various

Judge Dredd: The Complete Case Files 11

This was a gift for me by one Miss Shepherd and is my only Case File actually (so far) - they're handsome volumes and all-on-one shelf is the glory of many a bookshop and 2000ad fan... THE SPINES. Wagner and Grant are on fire in this stretch of Dredd's history - taking place in the year of birth 1987 through to early '88. There's a rustling of PJ Maybe, a tussle with martial arts master Stan Lee, the dark early dawning of the democracy movement, some hilarious self-contained stories of mega-city one activity and the big daddy of late-eighties epics: OZ. The art throughout is extraordinarily strong - particularly showing off the monochromatic mastery of Liam Sharp, John Higgins and Steve Dillon. Brendan McCarthy's amazingly complex 'n surreal Oz pages are especially memorable.

My only criticism of the collection would be the darkness of some of the (originally coloured) 'centre spread' pages - some of which are so murky you can't actually read the credits box. A bit of contrast adjustment there needed possibly. Also in my copy there's a bit of a printing error and the first twenty pages are repeated in the back. WHICH IS FUN.

The Heavenly Chord - Part 1 (Self Published) Jon Lock & Nich Angell


This ultimate small press mash-up from perennial indie nice-guys Lock & Angell is a pleasing, if brief, foray into mixing their two chief universes (Afterlife Inc. & 7String). Lock deftly manages to mix them without bombarding the reader with continuity cake. Angell's art is nicely cartoony and very glowy - the animated kineticism of his fight scenes is hugely compelling. There's a tantalising glimpse of 7String's characters as drawn by Afterlife's Ash Jackson as well which sets the mind racing. And always a special mention to demon letterer Michael Stock who does a brilliant job here. 

Bought from the enthusiastic duo at the very enthusiastic Melksham convention in 2013 - it's hard not to be bowled over by the sheer exuberance of it all. The two clearly loved every moment of it - it doesn't matter that the free Heavenly Chord playlist you're directed to in the issue is maybe eighty times longer than it takes to the read it - the fact is they MADE A FUCKING PLAYLIST. There's a QR code linking you to it and everything. The UK small press scene would be a dark and hollow place without the spirit and passion of these two bonafide auteurs - long may it continue! In fact... a I type a teaser has just gone up for the incoming second issue...

Sentient Zombie Space Pigs (Disconnected Press) Liz & Conor Boyle


The subject of one of the finest Kickstarter campaigns I've ever seen - with a gloriously simple brief and a refreshingly tiny target - Sentient Zombie Space Pigs does what it says on the tin and delivers on the glorious promise of that long-ago campaign. The story by Lizzie Boyle is suitably dark - crammed as it is with Whitesnake lyrics and rambling rednecks - although whether it would have been more satisfying as a single self-contained tale is a matter of debate - although I'm perfectly happy to see this tale continue on. Conor Boyle's shadowy art is utterly brilliant throughout and his porcine portrayals are perfect - he even handles the lettering with no small skill. This porky volume from the Disconnected Press duo is a startlingly satisifying small press KS success story - and I've only just heard that the second issue (of a proposed four) will be out this August! OINK!

Hey, You Going to Read This, Chuck? I Got Places to Be & Things to Do (Freebie) David Ziggy Greene

 

This freebie was being handed out by master artist David Ziggy Greene (Private Eye, Time Out London etc) at the Bristol Comic and Zine Fair 2013 and is extraordinarily charming. Made up of six short cartoony stories that had largely previously been published in various French comics it is a fantastic promotional tool - Greene's art has a European animated feel to it and every panel - no matter how small - is a joy - full of life and character. The punchlines are fairly predictable but the ride towards them is fantastically unique. This brief booklet made an instant fan out of me and I got his book Where's North From Here without hesitation - I'll give that a review hopefully afore the next blog rears its ugly head!

Thursday, 22 May 2014

May Goings-On

It's been a busy (and until now) sunny May and since m'last blog post I've been all over the shop. Well - to Birmingham anyway for the fantastically Dreddy Lawgiver and then the Bristol Comics Expo just after flogging The Psychedelic Journal. I also had a birthday which was a bit of a lark.


I'm knocking up posters for a fabulously fuzzy monthly noise night in Bristol known as Noise Annoys and the inaugural gig a month ago today (blimey) was as smashing as it was deafening. As you can see above the next 'un is a fortnight from now and should be grand! All hail King Tansey

I Must Break You.

Sov Judge Ivan Drago 
  Judge Tyres - Murphyville transfer to the Brit-Cit Rave Squad. BE LUCKY.Psi-Judge Delia Smith

Catching up with my big fat Dreddheads backlog a bit this month - a moderately unsuccessful Ivan Drago from Rocky marks my first foray into Sov territories, a fun "ravejudge" as in Tyres from Spaced was retweeted by the brilliant Michael Smiley and my first ever Psi judge Delia Smith probes into your mind for baking tips or just to judge you on why you're not as candidly passionate about Norwich City FC as she is. Pretty big clue for the next one (due very soon) would be this. Also a big hurrooh and halloof to former housemate and possible king of reality Chris Nolan-Rennie for creating this wonderful pixelart portrait of Dreddhead O for my birthday :D
rednightdog:

A birthday pic for my good friend dreddheads  - a pixel version of his DreddSelf!
If you’ve not seen them already, check out the strangest collection of Judges you’ll ever lay eyes upon!

Finally - I got another wee stash of comics from Bristol Comics Expo this year to add to my massive ever-increasing rarely-decreasing pile of to-read comics. The next review is indeed from the Expo last year "ah, so by Bristol 2015 you'll be reading this year's comics, right?" ahahahaha probably not.

Tales From the Gentry (Water Closet Press) Richard Worth/Jordan Collver/Mike Pasquale 

This slim volume from the Ladies & Gentleman crew features four or so short stories related to mysterious Victorian-era vigilante group "The Gentry". It works well as a companion piece to the main volume, and those hankering for more of the universe and more of Jordan Collver's singularly brilliant artwork won't be disappointed. Collver is a difficult act to follow however - and the final story "A Victorian Noir" is illustrated by Mike Pasquale whose linework seems shaky and awkward in comparison - but he uses bold shadows well and clearly has a strong nose for design. A nice taster comic for the unitiated or an appetiser for those longing for more. Looking forward to reading their bulky anthology from later in 2013!

Wednesday, 30 April 2014

The Busy Year Continues

In my last post over two months ago I said that 2014 was going to be busy. Certainly it's proving that way and the last few months have seen me travelling, zero-houring and PLOTTING THE DESTRUCTION OF HUMANITY. Not the last one. Either way it's been absurdly dense - but I'll clamber through it the best I can:


Here's a Dreddhead of Hunter S Thompson - wi' psychedelic eyes and likely a herbal cigarette of some kind. Welcome to judge country. Like this blog the next one has been a long time coming but here is a clue. You can see all the Dreddheads here: http://dreddheads.tumblr.com/ and for extra recent Dredd-related fun here is Karl Urban impersonating Sylvester Stallone.


Above is some leisure-colouring (WHAT) on some Hellboy pencils by the ultra-talented king of all creation Bern Campbell. Check out his stuff the man is art.


That is me. For the last month or so (and for the next fortnight) I've been adding to my list of 100 Albums That Enliven My Brain at 26 over on the glorious RateYourMusic. It's mainly thrash, stoner and 70s hard rock but m'lord I love it all. Take a gander you may find something interesting - or at least learn to despise the way I RANDOMLY CAPITALISE THE END OF SENTENCES FOR COMIC EFFECT. If he knows it's annoying why does he still do it? 


Enshrouded in an amazing David Frankum cover - Massacre for Boys's new Picture Library issue also features the feeble drawing talent of me on the brilliantly funny "Jimmy Baker: Animal Hatmaker" It really is a classy small press volume. Those Denton bros make good comic! Buy it here


Around mid-March I took over The Weekly Themed Art Blog or 'TAB' as it is sometimes known as - it's a very informal Facebook-based (although used to be a blog hence the title) artjam group with a new theme every week - 99 members and PERPETUALLY GROWING. Join in the larks here! Above are my recent contributions for "Miracleman" - "Exosuits" and "HULK SMASH". The current theme is Star Wars which - despite its extreme obscurity - is attracting many many fine drawings.


Above is my quite poorly constructed and a-bit-too-aqua entry for the latest month of the 2000ad forum art competition - the theme was classic Dredd story "The Day the Law Died" and I was attempting to express the contemporary state of Mega-City 1 and Cal's current redundancy within it. Although by crikey they'd miss the wall if it wasn't there I'll say that. The other entries are far more interesting and can be seen here although voting ends tonight.


Here is the latest page of Flaubert St Cloud (Goat) an epic length saga (because its taken 4 years to do 27 pages) written by the very patient Geoffery Crescent and drawn by meself. The question is - just what is Meep?! See the whole thing to date her

Finally on to some small press reviews - still mired in my last year Bristol Con haul - and we're only a week away from this year's Bristol!! 

New York Park (Self Published) Andrew Scaife 


A purchase from Bristol Expo 2013 - local Andrew Scaife's one-off tale of a group of future high school students and their trip to ancient New York is bright, irreverent and full of character. It suffers occasionally from a lack of gag pay-off and Scaife's bold cartoony art is sometimes slightly off the mark but it is an impressive début and a consistently engaging and very funny read. I know he doesn't intend to carry on this universe but another similarly styled volume would be definitely worth pursuing!

Razarhawk #2 (Self Published) Ian Matthews & Dani Abram

C2

Brought from the creators at Bristol 2013 - this second issue of Razarhawk did just as I hoped it would and delivers brilliantly from the set-up in the first. The majority of the issue is concerned with a punch-up between this gurt monster and a giant robot - and it's done brilliantly. The pacing is excellent and Abram's dynamic animators-eye for motion gives the lengthy fight-scene some bonafide clout.  The duo's eye for character moments continues to be very strong as a single glimpse between man and ape had me hooting with laughter. The lettering is a great deal more consistent this time around as well as the art itself which gets the balance between detail and lack of detail more-or-less right. A particularly gruesome scene (no spoilers!!) is stunningly rendered and actually made me wince - although the stark lack of detail on some of the more bare pages is still a little jarring. Beyond that the only thing I could criticize really is the slight over-use of the "liquify" tool to generate a smouldering effect in a few panels - and the continued lack of anything on the inside cover, inside back cover and back cover which are really crying out to have Dani & Ian saying something on them... or a letter's page... or well... ANYTHING beyond a copyright notice and a little chibi!

Issue 2 draws the storyline set up in the first to a satisfying and fun close but the potential for more is definitely there, let's hope it's not too long before we see the return of this character who seems to me to be as determined and spirited as her creative team. The small press would be a much colder place without them.

Skal Prologue (Self Published) Jennie Gyllblad


The Skal Prologue is a handsome self-published book I bought  from the creator at Bristol Con in May 2013. Being as it is just a taster really it's quite light on story but the short sequence present is engaging enough and definitely leaves you wanting more. Whether a twelve-page story really needs acknowledgements or not is a matter of debate and the few pages dedicated to this and creator credits/online links may have served better as giving some background detail on this interesting new world but really it functions well enough without it. The real draw here is Gyllblad's art - which is of the beautifully painted variety and even features some mixed-media elements. The thick paper stock makes this even more grand and the asking price for such a slim tome seems justified as its clear that a great deal of creative effort has gone into it - not at all shabby for something claimed inside to be a mere experiment whilst Gyllblad isn't working on graphic novels by "people who actually know how to write stories properly". The story has been continuing online but let's hope its not too long before someone snaps it up for a physical printin'

Monday, 17 February 2014

2014: The Busy Year

It's been a while since my last blog - and this is because right now my life is busier than a busy beetle busying its business along a branch.

For one: I've got a job. My stunningly unproductive stint as a freelancer left me with less money than a horse with no money so I've gone back to the trenches of archaeology and all is muddy and busy. It's the perfect weather for that kind of thing. Digging big holes below sea level in the South West of England is a GOOD IDEA RIGHT NOW.

I've managed to squeeze in some activities though in the last month and a half and here be some of them:


Two recent Dreddheads - that being my annual Santa Claus and Ash of Evil Dead fame. Catch all of them on the tumblr there and yes you can request one but bear in mind the next one I'm doing (clue) is a request from the end of 2012 so that's how slowly I'm getting through them!


Here's a Scott Pilgrim commission I did recently - it was for a chap called Theo hence the "the" in the K.O. there. I'm still taking commissions if you want anything drawn - drop me a line for a quote.

Logo

In the autumn of last year I coloured Smitten - which is now live over on the New Haven Comics website. Two new pages every week! It's a rollicking manga tale with giant robots and magic schoolgirls and guitars and all that sort of thing. It was written by New Haven's Aaron Walther and Sergio Apodaca who also pencilled it and the whole thing was inked by Jesus Salas.

Crabcake 6 - 1 (Captain Cosmos) by crazyfoxmachine

Oh yes and Captain Cosmos is back in the first of the ... sixth bit of Crabcake. WHO IS CAPTAIN COSMOS I hear literally nobody asking apart from those capital letters just then. He's a superhero from a story I wrote in college a decade ago - and I'm tying his whole bullshit nonsense into Crabcake because CONTINUITY IS GREAT. 


Embarrassingly several years ago I took it upon myself to read the Cosmos story out loud like an idiot. The prelude will be the first time I've actively drawn it - just what the world was waiting for. How will that ridiculous tale weave into the Crabcake tale though? Hmm?!


Drew this house thing on the train through the crazy crazy damp countryside the other day - I may give it a bit of a digitizin' if I'm in a mind to further down the line. The tree-bound pub is called "ye olde tree".


But where was that train going to, eh? LONDON. I went to see Swedish stonerkings Lowrider and Dozer which was a blummin special gig actually - the two had played at Desertfest last year but had both been plagued by sound problems and the dreaded "truncated set for a festival" syndrome. Meaty English foursome Steak supported - and the small amount I caught was grand. Lowrider pulled out some new(ish) songs (some of them older than their lone 2000 release) - it had me longing to hear more from them really as they were clearly having a whale of a time. Their sound was atrociously flat at Desertfest so it was amazingly good to hear their riffy tunes played louddddddd. Dozer were something else - and crowd were euphoric throughout which made for an unforgettable bit of jumping about. Even a great few moments of happy stoner moshery which is always welcome. They overran by a bit and you could tell that even when they finally finished they were ready for more. I had a train to catch so I couldn't stick around for afterparty. Lets hope these two groups don't stay quiet for quite so long after this!


Oh yes and I drew a Lego version of Deadwood which is the best television series there has ever been. Will probably do up some prints of it in the future. All tinned peaches go to Rob "Sol Starr" Phillips and Jasmine "Seth Bullock" for the ideas and assistance.

Right - my small press pile has benefited greatly from time away from the blog - so there are quite a few reviews to get through - 

Ladies & Gentlemen #2 (Water Closet Press) Richard Worth & Jordan Collver
Curse of the Were-Hyena and Other Horrible Hybrids
The second Ladies & Gentlemen is a huge step up from the first - with both Worth & Collver in stupendously confident form throughout. There are a few playful narrative techniques used and the two of them are clearly having a ball - the amount of attention & effort gone into the composition on some pages is genuinely breathtaking. Storywise, it takes the form of straightforward thriller, heavy on Victorian derring-do but solid characterisation and good pacing prevents the appearance of some well-tread tropes from lingering on the mind and disrupting enjoyment. It's a profoundly solid comic and easily one of the best American format small press books I've seen - if you're a fan of Victoriana or absurdly well-drawn action comics then this is for you. Here's hoping their new anthology can continue on from this strong start.

Porcelain - A Gothic Fairy Tale (Improper Books) Read/Wildgoose
Porcelain made a bit of a buzz at Thought Bubble '12 due to an enormous amount of free samplers gushing like a flood from the Improper Books table. It's a tactic that paid off as I don't think I saw a single person that year that wasn't wielding one - it was a mesmerising little booklet thanks mainly to the beautifully fluid artwork of Chris Wildgoose and the delicate muted palette of colourist Andre May. Even without the intriguing setting and the haunting white porcelain automatons it would be a buyer. They didn't have any copies there though and it wasn't until the spring after at Maidstone's Demoncon (the fifth one) that I snagged an issue off of Chris Wildgoose who seemed alarmed that it was such an easy sell. It easily justifies the hype - and as a statement of intent for new publisher Improper Books it is thoroughly convincing. A stand alone story in a mysterious universe - writer Benjamin Read wisely sticks close to the main characters and allows only slight peeks at the world outside the walls of the house where lives the only man who can make Porcelain move... With a boisterous cockney urchin as our guide the narrative rattles along at a brilliant pace to a startling conclusion. The heavy-handed "a gothic fairy tale" subtitle is perfectly apt as this is just what Porcelain is. An absorbing and thoroughly professional-looking book with not a panel or speech bubble (cap permanently doffed to letterer extraordinare Jim Campbell) seems out of place. I was sat opposite Improper Books at the Thought Bubble after - and their endless tide of samplers this year was to promote Read & Wildgoose's next offering: Briar. Even without reading the freebie I'm thoroughly sold.

Ann and The Majestic (Self Published) Karoline Achilles
I got ahold of this little book from a "Laydeez Do Comics" event in Bristol last spring. It's by a local art student and I was taken with its loose expressive style. A rather sparse story centered around Ann - a small girl that lives at a hotel. It was put together and illustrated over a single 24 hour period and its rough simplicity is nicely evocative. An effective short comic and an artist to watch.

Britten and Brülightly (Jonathan Cape) Hannah Berry
Another purchase from the Bristol "Laydeez Do Comics" event last year from speaker Hannah Berry. This, her first graphic novel, is a dark noir following a morose private investigator (Britten) and his partner who is a talking teabag (Brülightly). There is an underlying absurdity that pulls the gritty and twisting mystery into a unique and appealing world. Visually it's stunningly rendered and has a palpable physicality - Britten resembles a character from Chomet's Triplets of Belleville (and is frequently mistaken for being French presumably as an acknowledgement of this resemblance) - the moody greytones never quite spill over into full black-and-white and some of the more rainwashed scenes are breathtakingly atmospheric. The lettering is all freehand as well - and mostly works well although Britten's inner monologue is in a fussy joined-up handwriting that is sometimes difficult to decipher - and also the placement of occasional passages go against the reader's eye. This doesn't occur frequently however and it is not enough to prevent it being a thoroughly absorbing and remarkably unique graphic novel that marks Berry as a name to shout about. Her second book, an out-and-out horror called Adamtine, is going straight on my to-buy list.

LOAf #1 (Self Published) Various
LOAf Magazine: issue 1, for big kids and little adults.
The last thing I bought from the "Laydeez Do Comics" event - by the first speaker Rosie Faragher - co-creator of LOAf which is an arty anthology zine aimed at kids. I'm a sucker for anthologies and this sturdy thickly-papered and nice-smelling (underrated comics quality that) little comic was impossible to resist. Filled as it is with condensed sequential tales by a wealth of children's illustrators. There are some puzzles as well - mazes, spot-the-differences and other kid-friendly fodder and also, most pleasingly, two pages dedicated to three stories conjured by children themselves. The theme of this first issue is "Fears" - so there is a fair amount of "under the bed" type stories but the standouts are:
Joff Winterhart's opener about his scary Thatcher teacher which is wonderfully fluid, Mike Smith's hilarious and beautifully simple silent two-pager consisting of tiny boxes, Dawn Cooper's lovely "comfort zone" image which has a wonderful message, Becky Palmer's "Speed Demon" which is enthralling and brilliantly drawn (I'd read a full book of that), Melissa Castrillon's "Through the Night" which is enchantingly lovely ending with a bedsheet transforming into landscape, Daisy Hirst's hilarious "Lesley and Marvin and the llamas de meurte" and the hypnotically detailed "Magic Manfred's Earth Park" which is more of an activity than a story.
Some stories fall into the category of obscure symbolism or "hipster pretentiousness" that a lot of DIY zines/comixs sometimes dip into - it's not something I dislike particularly but it would certainly be beyond the comprehension of most child readers if not childish adults like myself. Some stories just simply don't have endings which frustrates me - and it's something the three young contributors ("Sebastian, Summer and Elizabeth") manage so there's really no excuse! 
Overall though it is a strong comic and a bold piece of art - the fact that it's aimed at children and promoted heavily through public workshops is incredibly admirable. Their second issue "Friendship" came out shortly after although I'm yet to purchase it. With this and the face-blisteringly incredible Phoenix the children of 2013 were utterly spoilt!

Amala's Blade #0-4 (Dark Horse) Horton/Dialynas
I won a signed copy of the zero issue by random chance by liking the Facebook page for Amala's Blade. I ordered the rest of the issues from my local comic shop - without even reading it really - I just dug the look of it and you can't get stronger incentive than that really (winnings aside). Amala's Blade is about an island nation separated into two warring factions: the "Purifiers" (Steampunk) and "Modifiers" (Cyberpunk). In the middle is the mercenary Amala - literally haunted by the ghosts of her past that hang around her. The five-issue miniseries is a nice self-contained story that whips along at such a breathless pace that it sometimes leaves you swimming - but there are some strong characters and some very memorable set-pieces. This is all very much helped by Dialynas's outrageously vibrant art - with a strong sense of movement and an amazing feel for colour - the atmospheric intricacies of every panel evoke a hand-drawn point-and-click adventure. Mr Dialynas is a serious talent - and the comic is a keeper for the extraordinary art alone - never mind the immersive world it ushers into your brain.

What is odd format-wise (and bear in mind this is the only Dark Horse "monthly" I've ever picked up so I guess I'm just not used to it) is that in the back of most issues there is dedicated maybe two or three pages just to the author Steve Horton replying directly to the lavish praise that's been piled on the series. Which just seems... off to me. 

"HI THIS IS BARRY GOODMAN, RENOWNED US COMICS WRITER, I JUST WANTED TO SAY THE PROMO COPY OF ISSUE ZERO YOU SENT ME WAS GREAT." 

"WOW, MR GOODMAN, THANKS FOR SAYING THAT - IT REALLY HAS BEEN FUN TO WRITE. STEVE".

Just... seems like something that should be in private correspondence really. Seeing all this just after you've read the issue makes it seem like Dark Horse think "if we don't put PRAISE in there the reader won't know WHAT to feel about it!" It's not that I don't like hearing behind-the-scenes babble from the creators, I just like having the thing stand for itself and then CHOOSING whether or not to seek out other people's opinions. Call me a nutter. Go on.

So as I decide where to put my other prize (a giant glow-in-the-dark poster on awesomely thick card) I must say I don't regret following the competition through to the product and getting involved with it. It's a beautiful comic and I'm very happy to have read it. Although I'm also now very much aware that I'm not the only person who feels that way...

Broadcast: The TV Doodles of Henry Flint (Markosia) Henry Flint
Markosia's astounding collection of Henry Flint's nonsense scribbling is an absolute must-buy and a no-brainer when I spotted it and Flint himself sharing a table together at Bristol 2013. Cy Dethan's well-judged commentary is fluidly constructed and self-aware enough to avoid coming across as purely sycophantic or overly leading and Sharman's stark design is wisely unobtrusive and lets the doodles speak for themselves. Really though the star of the show is Flint - one of the most visually striking British artists and easily one of the brightest talents from the already-blinding pages of 2000ad. His transcendentally cluttered inky confusions are appealing in the extreme - even some of the most abstract have some minuscule anchor into logic that makes them instantly accessible and endlessly absorbing. His collaborations with his daughter Rosalie are a joyful highlight - but the whole book is outrageously good. Markosia have done a grand thing putting this out and it's the pride of my bookshelf. Just knowing that at this very moment Flint is likely drawing up a storm somewhere makes me absurdly happy.

The Goose (Self Published) Daniel Bell
The Goose
The second of my Bristol 2013 haul is a moderately successful attempt to merge kitchen sink drama with superheroics. It follows the solo adventures of The Goose, a psychic female superhero from "The League of Powers" which as I understand it was another small press book by the now-defunct Underfire comics. A lot of the weight within this story relies on you having read these adventures before and the single "see League of Powers" caption within doesn't really do the job that maybe a paragraph or two of backstory in the inside front cover would have done. As such it's a slightly confused read and lacks the punch of a real ending. It's not without charm though - particularly with some strong visual moments from Bell and the essentially likeable central character. The contrast between her mysterious (for me anyway) superheroic past, her mundane day-to-day and the sinister machinations of the background antagonist is compelling and I'd definitely pursue the story if it continues - although Mr Bell is currently busying himself producing some truly epic viking pages for Time Bomb's "Defiant" which should occur later in 2014

Saturday, 21 December 2013

Festive Blog

My one concession to the midwinter season is THIS
 

Bah wotsitbug. It's been a very busy and long time since I last blogged and I suppose the biggest news is that I've decided to go freelance - so I've been busying away on commissions and suchlike. On a completely unrelated note this is probably the most impoverished I've ever been at Christmas so I'll be eating coal and giving the gift of laughter. Huzzah!


Flaubert St Cloud XXVI by crazyfoxmachine

This is the latest part of Flaubert St Cloud (Goat) a sprawling saga that will likely go on until the end of the world. It is written by my partner in crime Geoffery Crescent and you can see the whole thing HERE.

Commission for Neil - featuring the UNLIKELIEST SUPERHERO TEAM.Karl Marx, Dredd, Neil’s brother & g/f, Batman, Grimes (Rick) and Omar Rodriguez Lopez of the Mars Volta

One of the aforementioned commissions for a Mr Neil. It features an unlikely superhero team composed of (L-R): Karl Marx, Dredd, Neil's brother & girlfriend, Batman, Rick Grimes & Omar Rodriguez-Lopez of the Mars Volta. I'd actually very much read a comic based on this team's exploits. I can't even imagine what their base would look like... would it be a caravan?


A similarly odd roster is that of the Great Lakes Avengers which I drew for TAB. The idea is from Geoffery and they are an odd bunch. L-R: Mr Impossible, Dinah Soar, Flatman, Big Bertha, Doorman & Squirrel Girl. There have been a few comics with these fellahs in, and doubtless they are marvellous. 


Above is one of the most amazing things I've been involved with: Colouring Mick McMahon. The 2000ad legend did these images as pencils and Neil "Bhuna" Roche took it on himself to ink them and requested I give 'em colour. We decided to do them as a treat for the 2000ad forum advent calendar - where the boardfolk present creative outpourings every day of December. It's one of the best things about the forum and is always mind-blowingly brilliant. With McMahon's blessing we put them up and all was well - it also got shared about by 2000ad itself which is a bit magic :D All in all - one of the more satisfying things I've done recently!
Sadly this month saw the demise of Blam - a local comic networking group that I started in the early summer of 2012. We regularly met at a good local pub and we had many many larks. Much was doodled and drunkenly discussed. Out of the boozy ashes will spring a new thing in early 2014 but that's still in development. It will take the form of, initially at least, an art centric jammy type drawing thing in my favourite ever Bristol drinking establishment - but more of that later. For now... farewell sweet Blam.

Above are the latest Dreddheads : Barnabas Collins from the cult soap Dark Shadows and the bard of Ayrshire Rabbie Burns who is my first ever "Cal-Hab" judge - without the fabulous stony helmets that they have in the comics and... uh, I was going to put a union jack beneath the lion like the Brit-Cit armour but I think I'll keep from rustling that hot haggis topic. Next Dreddhead CLUE.

Everything has slowed down since going freelance - and my ever-neglected "to read" pile of small press comics remains as lofty as ever. It seriously towers. If that thing collapsed on me I'd be a goner. Anyway - I did manage to get my chops around two of them in the last month. The first is my last from Cardiff 2013 (so... like, March) and the second from just after. 

Zarjaz #17 (Futurequake Press) Various
The most appealing element of any anthology is variety - and although this March 2013 issue of Zarjaz is mostly concerned with a four-part Flesh Extinction story this is stretched between some of the most striking one-offs I've ever seen in the legendary fanzine.
Cover (Nigel Dobbyn)
I'm a huge fan of Mr Dobbyn, and the brilliantly relevant Robo-Hunter wraparound cover is a knockout. I love the sharp colours on it, and the spectacular rendering of interior characters is brilliant. Zarjaz's covers are easily the best in the small press and this fits easily alongside their amazing others.
Judge Dredd: All the Wrong Moves (John A Short, Alex Paterson & Bolt-01)
It's a bit of a cliche in a Zarjaz review to say "this could easily be in the prog" but this fun and absurdly well-illustrated Dredd tale wouldn't bat a reader's eye if it they found this in there. Alex Paterson's art is phenomenally good although there is a slight problem with the reduction on it - some of the more intricate details of the artwork are fuzzy or pixellated. Which is irritating, because otherwise I'd say it was the best in the issue!
Flesh Extinction: Extinctionville (M.J. Howard & Chris Geary)
I'm a huge fan of the idea of Flesh Extinction (Flesh's Transtime head forward to the distant ravaged future Earth rather than backwards) although apart from Claw Carver I don't recall any of the characters from before so a lot of this was lost on me. Chris Geary's art is nicely sparse, some of the action scenes are confusing but the copious character moments work well,  the intriguing "porpo sapiens" look quite silly and the colouring on the center-spread is very basic. Geary's lettering throughout is exceptionally good - some of the bigger FX looking absurdly impressive. Extinctionville is not terrible but it lacks the immediate context to justify filling the majority of the issue with a big finale - perhaps the interesting "found material" collage on the first page could've been a big simple "previously on Flesh Extinction" type thing. Either way I'll endeavour to go through my back issues and re-read this.
Shakara: Loose Ends (David Withers, Matt Herbert & Bolt-01)
Easily the best story in the issue, the excellent Matt Herbert draws up a storm and for a six pager it is packed with iconic moments - a one-page fight is extraordinarily well rendered and the whole thing really needs to be seen to be believed. It's not easy to give an actual thrill a run for its money but Withers & Herbert have managed it here!
Robo Hunter: The Best Man (Paul Thompson, Cuttlefish & Bolt-01)
Quite a weak story here, accompanied by cartoony art that misses the mark. It's an enjoyable enough caper and nice to see Sam Slade in the issue, but it doesn't really have a proper ending. The art doesn't help, being confusing and far too blocky. Stogie in particular is distractingly off model - it's an admirable gamble giving Robo Hunter to such a stylistically bold artist but it doesn't pay off.
Artie Gruber's Electric Dream (Don Franco)
A nice bit of art and a solid little story - really good to see Harlem Heroes making an appearance although a strong bit of sequential is always preferrable. 

Ladies & Gentlemen #1 (Water Closet Press) Richard Worth & Jordan Collver
I bought a copy of the first and second issues off of artist Jordan Collver at a Bristol creators event in Spring '13 and since then Water Closet Press have been busy compiling a weighty anthology of in-universe stories which I bought at the most recent Thought Bubble (so I'll  get around to reading it in March 2091 most likely). Ladies & Gentlemen is a essentially a penny-dreadful. What helps enormously in this illusion is the lavishly physical artwork and lettering of Mr Collver. It is beautifully kinetic and sells the book instantly - I could go on about it for hours. In terms of story there is a nice group dynamic between the central protagonists although most of the issue is wisely dedicated to progressing the story rather than giving general exposition. Here's hoping the aforementioned anthology fleshes them out further and adds more weight to the world and characters. My only complaint really is some jarring advert placement towards the end of the book that disrupt the flow of the story somewhat. So - in conclusion - Ladies & Gentlemen #1 is a solid piece of Victoriana that, thanks largely to the unique and stunning artwork of Mr Collver and an interesting cast of characters, stands out in the saturated small press steampunky market.