Saturday, 6 September 2014

The Flamingo Whirligig

looooonnggg time no blog.

It's been an absurdly busy summer - dallying about with archaeology contracts and rushing around doing this and  that has taken its toll on things I try and do regularly. Here's a run through of RECENT LIFE DOINGS....

Glastonbury 2014

I didn't take a camera to Glastonbury because I'm a prick but the image above of banners hung above the crowd at the Left Field stage is a strong representative image of Glasto '14. I had intended to do a big fat blog about it all closer to the time but as we are now more than two months after the event I'll just do a wee summary of what went on.

Jazz and I overcame having no tentpoles (that was a saga) to have a very positive and very slightly damp year - we were as always, in full debt of the Lloyds and their respective kiwis who bagsied us as lovely spot in the Pyramid field and we were in immediate contact with regular festival friend Darrell who we'd bumped into in the queue in 2012 and always endeavour to pint with. The first night dissolved into what was basically a festival-based friend frenzy - as Disconnected Press duo the ever-lovin' Boyles and their festival posse collided with ours. There was dancing... and cider.

Thursday we managed to actually see some music and also bumped into Bez striding through a woodland. Jazz had danced with him the previous year but we neglected to mention it... he's danced with a few people over the years I imagine. Plus now he's dancing with politics. The first band we saw of the festival was the Formidable Vegetable Sound System in Emily Eavis's Park field - they were basically a permaculture pushin' electro-swingy-folk thing as is the style at the moment. Very vibrant and a hoot. We then wandered over to the everglorious greenfields to witness didgeridoo prog in the form of Kangaroo Moon which was marvellous - we thought we'd have a gander at nearby Elemental arch-rival and "George Formby clone" Mr B but the tent he was in was stuffed to the gills.

Friday began with being woken by thunderous glorious noise in the form of Japanese punk drumming ensemble Turtle Island on the pyramid stage. We shuffled out and saw a bit of Blondie then trekked over to see the real-deal chap-hop chap Professor Elemental with Darrell. We formed an impenetrable fan-crust around his pith-helmetted form and went with him to watch Josie Long and Kevin Eldon in the cabaret tent. Both of whom were on particularly scintillating form - Long is brilliantly open and Mr Eldon's thunderously speedy and surreal stand-up is glorious. The Professor then sodded off (likely for tea or gin or a mixture of the two) and Jazz, Darrell and I moved to the Avalon field to see what was possibly my favourite performance of the weekend. Blackbeard's Tea Party are a band that Jazz has been mad keen on for years but I'd never heard them - they were essentially straight-down-the-line very British folk with a convincingly heavy metallic edge. They were very tight and very brilliant - amazing stage presence and I think the whole tent was hypnotised. Definitely try and catch them if they're in your area or on your raft. We then sat in West Holts and were befuzzled by some classical avant-jazz oddness in the form of the Sun Ra Arkestra - which was squeaky squoodly squawky. We then mooched up to acoustic to take in the accappella shantying of Fisherman's Friends, on the advice of Jazz, and Darrell parted ways which was sweet sorrow but the minute he strode out of the tent THE RAINS CAME. A threatening thundery shower hit like a bag of bollocks and the stage's electricity was cut right off - we sat there for a while sipping our horrible cheap alcohol mix (vodka and something) as the rain cascaded down. The group had departed the stage due to the lack of sound and gainfully the sheltering crowd seemed to be shantying all on their own. On crossing the tent to brave the rain though we observed that in actuall fact with beer in hand the burly fishermen were within the throng and the drifting crowd-borne shanties were originating from them. Magical moment really. Shantyliscious. After this I had a bit of an asthmatical episode and absconded to the medical tent. It was nothing too serious though and we returned to reality as the  sun set across Elbow's performance on the Pyramid Stage and although I don't count myself as an enthusiast there was an undeniable energy to the moment after an afternoon of rain and wheezing. We then found ourselves in Billy Bragg's Left Field tent watching the man himself in the rather intimidating immediate company of Phill Jupitus who was standing behind us. LOOMING rather. I had seen bits and bobs of Billy over the years but him in full flow was astonishing, galvanising and inspiring. A huge man in the crowd was screaming "Hillsborough!" and when Bragg sang Never Buy the Sun I looked back and he was weeping. Very powerful moment and under the fluttering banner of Benn I was encouraged. After that it was time for some brain meltery and Gong is always the ticket - although unfortunately head pixie Daevid Allen isn't well so it was Hillage-fused bit of trance-prog hypnotism with amazing visuals.

Saturday started with Glastonbury regular-stop Stephen Frost Improv Allstars which I have been going back to since I first stumbled on it in the mid noughties. It's basically Whose Line Is It Anyway and I love it - this year was no disappointment and the finale had Phill Jupitus (fresh from the previous day's Bragglooming) sprawling and helpless with laughter on the stage. We then zipped across the site to witness that massive-handed film critic Mark Kermode and his rockabilly skiffle ensemble The Dodge Bros which was slick and very fun. I didn't think I'd ever be imitating the whoops and wails of a theremin according to whims of Kermode but that's Glastonbury for you. We then had our final Jupitus encounter of the weekend at the poetry stage where he was Porky the Poet and deeply open. His final poem was a tribute to his recently-deceased manager and he fell apart as he read it. It was odd seeing these two contrasting extremes of a stranger on the same day - tears of laughter and tears of sadness. Should I dub Glastonbury 2014 as "Tears of a Jupitus"? No probably not. We then went to see the sensationally incredibly astonishingly smashing Daptone Super Soul Revue which was as funklicious as it was DAMP as the second major deluge of the weekend hit. Soaked the bone we retreated tentwards but by the time we reached the main stage the sun was out and Robert "Percy" Plant was on and being charming. I never thought I'd hear that voice live... I don't recall where our evening went after that ... there was something about pie and we saw comicsqueen Dani Abram, the Boyles and the Manic Street Preachers which was a hoot. After that it was our wont to observe the glorious John Otway and the ever-brilliant Atilla the Stockbroker who this year seem to have fused into one person. Fly-like. Oh also earlier in the day Jazz got to sit in Otway's Sinclair C5... Finally we mounted the hill and saw Metallica on the Pyramid stage which was far too surreal an experience to feel anything profound about. I just literally couldn't believe it was even happening so much so I bothered a pram-wielding lady next to me with my constant outbursts of disbelief.

Sunday appeared arm-in-arm with a massive hangover and Jazz wandered down to see the English National Ballet doing a WW1 inspired performance. It was introduced with an exceptionally moving rendition of Between the Wars from Bragg but the beeb didn't feel the need to broadcast that. We wandered shakily across the site and witnessed the powerful voice of musical wanderer Kim Churchill and then were enlivened by a performance from educational king and poetlord Michael Rosen whose warm voice literally smoothed the headache from my mind. Enlivened we went to see one-string guitar wonder Brushy One String but found instead slide-guitar feller and Bristolian John Fairhurst who explained that Brushy hadn't got a working visa and so had been flown back to Jamaica. Gutting but Fairhurst is bloody marvellous too so we just stood and absorbed that instead. Jazz got to fulfill an unfinished ambition and saw Clannad perform a Robin of Sherwood medley at the acoustic stage and we walked off site to the strains of Massive Attack. A bloody lovely year actually..

The image above is for The Weekly Themed Art Blog on Facebook - which has a weekly theme and is really rather smashing. Join in, why don'tcha? Can't remember exactly what the theme was for this one.... Spiders possibly. Gamgee maybe.

Cup of O - Small Press Reviews

In other news since my last blog I've been given a regular slot on British comics website Down the Tubes - reviewing the small press, chinwagging about 2000 AD and generally coming across as a bit of a mug-wielding berk. My most recent one is here.

Cover for 2000ad fanzine Zarjaz 
Lines - Patrick Goddard
Colours - Owen Watts

Recently as well I was asked to colour this Patrick Goddard cover for the 21st issue of 2000 AD fanzine Zarjaz. Absolute dream job I'll never never never get tired of colouring Dredd! 

For Justifiedpotato - Judge Hawkgirl!

A lean summer for personal projects means an especially slow output of Dreddheads and so the only two I've managed in the last while are Hawkgirl and Slash. My request list is still longer than space and I fully anticipate I'll still be drawing them well into the actual era Dredd is set in. Just my brain in a jar with a rusty wacom pen jabbed into it... here's a clue to the next one.

Last weekend was the 2014 Melksham Comic Con and it was a belter. Geoffery Crescent and I launched the fourth issue of The Psychedelic Journal of Time Travel there and it remains my favourite event on the yearly comics calendar. More of that gushy stuff on an upcoming Down the Tubes blog...

Since the last blog I've also been a guest (!) at the London Film and Comic Con which was a very interesting and eye-opening weekend. Also sweaty. Major hat-doffs and bowing to chief of Aces David Lloyd for getting my measly ass on the bill!


Coloured recently for Grant Perkins - inked by Andy Lanning. I've not seen the Guardians film but the buzz around it is quite compelling - good on the massive DisMarvelney empire for getting summat genuinely interesting and different out there and it's a gamble that's clearly paid off. Lots of people seem very enthused by it.

This is a fairly shoddy attempt to get in on the action on a recent 2000 AD art competition - the theme was "wordless stories". The current theme is LAWMASTER and hopefully it'll be biketacular. Bikelicious. We'll also have art historian and genius artist in his own right Mr David Roach picking some favourites!

Flaubert St Cloud XXVIII by crazyfoxmachine

Finally a new page of Flaubert St Cloud (Goat) - ! You don't get many of these a year but this goatsaga will be continuing for the forseeable future - script by Lady Geoffery.

Here's hoping the next blog won't be so delayed!

Friday, 13 June 2014

The Magic Hamster Carpet and Other Stories


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

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: 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


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.


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. 



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