Saturday, 17 March 2018

Keep going.....


Whilst not automatically obvious as a comics post.....

It does have some relevance.

Trust me.

I have of late become obsessed with the work and interviews of Laurence Olivier. Prompted by a loose relationship through his first marriage to an ancestor of mine I have been reading about someone who was world famous before that world insisted he be prodded and interviewed and photographed and tweeted about. He was without a doubt an astoundingly good actor and director. If you have never seen any of his movies I insist that you watch some.
I recently watched a chopped up series of interviews that had previously been presented as an episode of The South Bank Show in the 1980s. Whatever your opinions of Bragg, and there are many, he did get access to some amazing characters over the years. And on occasion he gets some interesting views and honest insights from these studies. Sky Arts now hold the UK rights to these episodes and are representing them as retrospectives.
Olivier was a very interesting individual. He wasn’t really used to being interviewed for television as many of his generation were not. He spoke guardedly about his acting technique and Bragg supposed that this was because he didn’t want the world to think that his acting was merely a series of tricks. I extrapolated on this as he was someone who wanted the world to see his acting more as talent or natural ability of even the magical verisimilitude of an idolised actor. From this I began to think about it elsewhere in the ‘artistic world’ if that is somewhere or something?
We treat the word ‘talented’ or the phrase ‘natural talent’ as an easy go to these days. I myself have been known to use it on occasion.
But what is it? Is it something that actually exists? We are after all born with the similar sized and hopefully functioning biological organs give or take. We are born and grow and age and exist in this world concurrently with others who do the same.
I suppose what I am trying to say is are we nurture rather than nature? 
Talent is not a magical gift we are born with but rather a mixture of physical hereditary benefits and how we see the world and are taught to see the world. Even a moment can make a difference growing up. That look at a world around us in a certain way that is prompted by some outside influence. Beyond those early teachings or inputs are the stages of beneficial learning.
To think that someone has some natural artistic talent that is fully formed the moment hero she popped out of his or her mum’s poop hole is akin to believing in ghosts or healing crystals or The Force or Batman!?
So, where does that lead and leave us? I would suggest that it leaves us with learned behaviour and activity that includes the exercise or exorcise of artistic pursuits.
Do we continue to probe and investigate technique and influence and approach ad infinitum? We fall at the feet of musicians and actors and artists and game show hosts like they are a deity at a sex shrine in a incident Mesopotamia. But they are just people sometimes with sweat on their brows. Although some people seem more and more transparent the older and wiser (cynical) I become.
I have always believed that they are just people. Some are worthy of my attention and many who are not. I’ll daily cringe at the self involvement, pomposity and pure bullshit of many in the artistic pastimes and businesses. Wrong? Hard but fair? Maybe all three. I’m often accused of being full of shit or writing simply to rile up and ruffle and get a response? This I am certainly on occasion guilty of...
Interestingly. When asked about his craft Olivier said the following:
‘I don’t think the public has any business to worry about our technique at all. You’re meant to present something that is done...’
He went on to make an analogy with a jeweller who is unbothered by the ‘How did you do that?’ questions.
‘I made it, why don’t you mind your own business.’
He continued back on the subject or acting and those that ask and ask and ask all the while trying to grab and own and steal what he had.
‘Gradually, gradually, being produced.’
So, is Olivier, the greatest actor of his and other generations saying that the secret is practise?
Of course he is. You know he is.
He ended with.
‘I’m very lucky. It’s a funny sort of day isn’t it.’
It was and it still is.
Many thanks for reading.

Monday, 12 March 2018

In Preview - ‘Hollow Monsters’ by Monty Nero.

Hollow Monsters - A Graphic Novel in Six Parts.

Created by Monty Nero.

The Story - This story deals with our lives as young people. The events of political and social upheaval that surround us as we mature, the relationships that we form, falling in love, being faced with the realities of life and a strange creature that may or may not have sinister motives....

The Review- I backed this book on Kickstarter and genuinely wasn’t sure what I would be getting. I’m not keen on previews but couldn’t but fail to notice the images of pages and the cover that were essential to the mood and narrative of this book.

I don’t think that any review of this book can be complete without the description of it’s very iconic cover. It has a touch of the modern, maybe the Banksy iconography of the couple kissing and that they are also surrounded by the whirling winds of their lives that contain little motifs of pop culture. A car that features is strikingly like James Bond’s underwater Lotus or a Rubik’s Cube mid completion. A representation of the historical events we see inside the comic.

So...who smashed up your go-kart...’

Monty has taken a very careful and distinctive stylistic approach to this book. The interiors feature multiple panel grids that in turn in each carefully selected frame feature the stories of the day. They show the news events of those days. War and strikes and glitzy stars of music and television. These pages act as a packed prologue before we get a title that tells us;

1982: The Year we Buried Ourselves.’

The period is established as the UK in the early 1980s and the narrative then focuses on the young boy growing up and finding out about the harsh realities of life. The family suffer a particularly horrid burglary and life all around is described through the growth to manhood of this young boy.

I felt at this point that I was reading something that was purely pseudo autobiographical. But Monty then throws a spanner in the works. He adds a little of the sinister, the magical, the disturbing, the fox in the story’s hen house. What will happen...

I won’t spoil too much because I think this is a comic that is well worth a look. Monty ran a very successful Kickstarter campaign and this book is just getting sent out now.

The art style has a certain photo realistic feel but seems stripped down to what is required for the panel. It jumps about a little in layouts but I can see that this is intentional to create that flavour of a suburban horror with an added documentary style. It’s not what you’ll find on the regular comic shelves and I am looking forward to seeing how it develops.

If you missed out on the campaign feel free to have a look at for more information. You can also find and follow him in the woods or on Twitter @montynero

The Kickstarter for issue 2 launches on the 20th of April.

Many thanks for reading.

Wednesday, 7 March 2018

In Review - ‘The Times I Knew I Was Gay’ by Eleanor Crewes

The Times I Knew I was Gay.

By Eleanor Crewes.

Published by Good Comics.

This is not going to be an average review. 

I usually take notes about a comic as I read. I have a terrible memory and I find that I remember the moments and story beats better this way. This time I didn’t. 

I’ll be honest that I found writing a review a challenge in this case. For those that don’t know me I am a forty something man. I am heterosexual. I can’t draw a stick figure and I didn’t go to University. So this world that Eleanor describes are completely alien to me. The world I grew up in was a very different experience.  The events, affairs, fashions and feelings are often unfamiliar to me, a man who grew up in a less diverse and altogether more judgemental period.

So as I read I purposely put my pen down and concentrated on what was in front of me and figuring out what the creator was really communicating.

But. I came away having learned a lot. I came away with an understanding of the life that Eleanor so cleverly describes and that of gay women in general. I also found this comic a hugely heart warming experience.

Suddenly I am struck by the feeling that I am walking on egg shells. I feel like some people might say that I am not allowed to describe my old grumpy bastard feelings about this comic. But I remind myself that the creator has made a comic for everyone. For those who feel the same way possibly as she does and for those who need to understand how others may feel. And that is me. And yes, I think I do understand a bit better.

Not fully understanding this lifestyle has not stopped me realising that this is a very well executed comic. It has smart and real dialogue. It has moments of really touching drama and moments of fun. (I’m not a hundred percent sure how Tinder works but that did make me laugh as Eleanor turned it off!)

The art has a sketchbook quality that seems to be done with a purpose stylistically. The time passes in the narrative with cunning as you jump along and occasionally back and forth in the creators life. She makes use of white stark backgrounds on a lot of the pages to emphasise the loneliness of the situation. The faces and movements of the characters are done with a smile that rises up off the page to the reader.

This is a highly recommended read.

Do you know what I am most proud of? I’m most proud that comics exist. And amongst these comics are books that will educate us. Like this one.

Nicely done Eleanor and nicely done Good Comics.

Find out more about this comic by heading to or follow them on Twitter @Goo_Comics

Tuesday, 6 March 2018

(Untitled) by Bob Turner

(Untitled) by Bob Turner.

An unconventional preview for an unconventional comic.

I’ve been following the artistic antics of Bob for a few years now and been lucky enough to chat to him at conventions and the like. He creates comics that are often wordless and whilst not what could be described as totally abstract they do deal with the strange and wonderful and often creepy worlds of his imagination.

This slice of gold dropped into my emails over the weekend. I put aside what I was reading to have a look. Bob described it to me in a brief message as ‘The creation myth that comes from the DTHRTL and FLD Universe’. This references his previous two releases that I had really enjoyed.

So, remembering that this is still a preview and not a post release review, how am I going to go about describing this comic?

Yes. It does in deed deal with a mythical creature that seems by interpretation to be from back in the mists of time. The time before the eye ball geezer and the figure of the Grim Reaper that pursue him in the marvellous DTHRTL. This is an all together different prospect of a story. It deals with what to my eye looks like a pre history demon, a head of a creature that looks like some archaeologist would find it’s design scratched into a gold coin or on the handle of a warriors axe. The archaeologist would hold it aloft to show his colleagues and suddenly be cursed.

But this head is conscious and weirdly active. It constructs itself and deconstructs itself as you turn the pages. It creates magic and beauty and violence through a number of transformative visual tricks. In a way I feel it exists and dances and has a sinister and at the same time quirkily funny being. I find it hypnotic to watch as I push my illuminated tablet screen back and forth.

It is also strangely haunting....

Bob has changed up his style slightly for this new book. He makes use of space and texture more than I have seen from him before. He uses colour as a narrative guide at moments and moves about on a white stark page to great effect.

Bob exists in this comics world in a space all on his own. A strange and often psychedelic space and one that I wholeheartedly recommend.

Find out more about this over at or follow him on Twitter @castlerockcomic

Many thanks for reading.

Sunday, 4 March 2018

A New Rant?

Press Passes.

What is it with ruddy press passes?

I see people swanning around conventions with them hanging round their necks like it makes them special. They interrupt people talking and push to the front on signing lines and monopolise the creator like angry toddlers.

Then I watch and wait...nothing? Nothing? Seriously? Where is the supposed piece that they are mean’t to be writing or podcasting about?

Over the years I have been lucky enough to be given a press pass to conventions, movies, talks and even gigs. I feel the heavy responsibility of getting a piece out asap as I walk away from the event. often I’ll even stop on the way home to hammer something out about the event. I’ll even sit in some of the events with a notebook on my knee jotting down things as the occur to me. In other words I feel that I owe something back in return.

Sometimes the payback comes in the form in assisting with the promotion of the event. as a pal of mine often reminds me, ‘The Like button and the RT button are right next to each other....go on, you know what to do.’

I remember being at the first London Super Comic Convention and queuing up with the other press pass holders as we watched the writer/editor from a particularly tawdry site badger one of the volunteers for a good ten minutes. This person was insisting that he be let in early - he is clearly a special case?

So I reached out to some organisers in the UK and beyond and asked them what their experiences have been.

One person said that they are very careful who they give passes out to but often fail to get any type of return from these freebies. One said that they get a ‘poor return’ from these passes and that the best press and feedback comes from the actual exhibitors. One stated that they ask for some promotion prior to the event but see very little after the event.

Some are of course better than others. But come on, we all know who these freeloaders are. They like a press pass because it gives them access for free and some credibility when getting commissions or interviews for their sites or magazines. Their bare faced social ineptitude makes me cringe at nearly every event I see them at. We are better than this surely?

So if you are a so-called ‘comics journalist’ think about what you are doing? It’s not just a way to avoid lining up to get in and avoiding an entrance fee. Help with the promotion. A lot of these events depend on the social media/blogging/website crowd to sell tickets!

Many thanks for reading....

Sunday, 25 February 2018

Coffee House Barbarian - Coming Soon!

Coffee House Barbarian.

Writtten by Tony Esmond.

Original character concept and art by Susie Gander.

New series coming in October.

Coming soon from myself and Mrs Susie Gander, self published.

We are both very excited about this new project. We also can’t say much at the moment but if our giggling at the two planning meetings we’ve had is anything to go by this should be a whole heap of fun.

Susie knocked this teaser image up last may not be exactly what you expected. In fact we kind of hope it’s not......

More news soon.

Follow Susie on twitter @SusieGander and at her site

Many thanks for reading.

Saturday, 24 February 2018

In Review - Punks Not Dead from Black Crown Comics.

Punks Not Dead.

Written by David M Barnett.

Art by Martin Simmonds.

Colour Flats by Dee Cunniffee.

Cover A by Martin Simmonds.

Cover B by Bill Sienkiewicz.

Letters by Aditya Bidikar.

Published by Black Crown and IDW.

The Story - The book opens on floppy red headed Feargal Ferguson. He’s a bit of a skinny and weedy kid. He’s in the school playground and is squaring up to fight a big lump of a teenager. The kids have formed the classic circle and are chanting ‘Fight! Fight! Fight!’

We then flash back some weeks and discover that Feargal and his mum have faked a back story of sadness and abuse to get on a TV Chat Show. The over preened host gawks and narrates to the camera as the pair have a surprisingly off script mum/son moment. 

After being paid, the pair head to Heathrow airport and stop to examine the tawdry supermarket magazines that they are featured on the cover. Feargal heads to the toilets and bumps into the ghost of ‘Sid’ a man so similar in appearance and attitude to Sid Vicious that it might make you pause and wonder if they are one and the same. (Insert hmmmm noise).

Sid is talking to strangers and insulting the size of their nobs. Feargal realises that he is the only one who can see Sid and the pair begin something that might be described as an adventure.

Meanwhile there are strange goings on at Number 10 with the appearance of the Grande Dame of Modery one Dorothy Culpepper. She’s vamping it up looking like a septuagenarian Mary Quant model! She’s also an agent for an obscure MI5 Unit called ‘The Department for Extra Usual Affairs’. She’s busy catching a demon rat and stealing an expensive pair of leather trousers.

Sooooooo. The stage is now set for a crazy punk rock supernatural adventure.

The Review - You hear good things about something and then it turns up and meets those rumours. Rare huh? 

It happened here to me as I read this at an early morning commute train station in bucket loads. Straight out of the gate from cover to columns and all the in between I loved this!

I’ve known and enjoyed Martin Simmond’s art for quite a while. Thoughtful, experimental, beautiful even. But given the reins here in Punks not Dead you can see a talent that is about to get wider recognition. I sense in the sweep of the attitude in his pages and the way that he is already throwing you over his shoulder and artistically tumbling you through this world that this is just the beginning. I had a chat with Shelly Bond at a comic shop event last year and she hinted with enthusiasm at the imminent (Black) Crowning of the next hot thing! I gotta tell ya, she ain’t wrong!

I sense that Black Crown, Shelly Bond and David Barnet, Marin Simmonds and their gang are about to unleash a beast on that is standing proudly with a sneer in their punk Doc Martins! I haven’t been so excited after a first issue for ages. It’s like we got the sneer of Deadline and Kill Your Boyfriend alongside the experimental visuals of The Books of Magic and Hellblazer.

I can imagine the fun that David Bennet is having as he writes. It whirls about like a funky late 60s spy movie and also has a load of heart. You see the musical influences but sense that this is about a kid who is lost and looking for meaning. Very nicely done dialogue bumps about on the page and he gives the artist and the colourist (Dee Cunniffee who deserves a bigger credit than they are getting in some reviews I’ve read) the right moments to shine. Have a look at the last few pages of the book to see some brilliantly paced and gorgeous visuals.

But don’t confuse my 1990s amphetamine ramblings for a selfish nostalgic time slip. This is relevant to the world that these characters live within and is just as set in the now (more so even) as anything else you’ll see on the shelves.

I added this to my pull list after hearing about the series at the New York Comic Con last year and I initially got the Bill Sienkiewicz cover. I’m heading back to Orbital today to complete the set with Martin’s version of the cover to issue 1.

Find out more Martin Simmonds at and follow him on Twitter @Martin_Simmonds

Find David Barnett at and follow him on Twitter @davidmbarnett

Find out more about the colourist of this beauty at or follow their technicolour Twitter @deezoid

Look for more books by Black Crown at and follow them on Twitter @blackcrownhq

Many thanks for reading.