Saturday, 17 June 2017

ELCAF 2017 - The Friday Review.


Friday is definitely the day to go I decided to remind myself next year, quieter and calmer than the weekend. In the burning hot early afternoon sun I bumped into co-founder Sam Arthur outside The Round Chapel in Hackney, he waxed philosophically about the hard work that had gone in to this year's (and every year's event). I then headed in. ELCAF had begun for another year.


This venue is now in it's second year as a home for the festival. A main hall of tables and a DJ has a quieter and more peaceful balcony above the hall. You can sit there and read purchases as I often did throughout the day. Adjacent to the main hall was a workshop and art room with a talks room nearby. Outside there are two marquees for further talks and tables as the weekend got busier. I took time and sat with the events organiser Angela Francis and it's artistic director Ligaya Salazar. Both were taking a well earned five minutes break as the event got into it's stride.


You can really feel the optimism in the air. ELCAF and it's parent company NoBrow are really holding open that door between experimental art and comics. People are pushing was can be done with the medium more and more these days and there is no greater champion of this approach than this crew. 

The content of ELCAF is something that is examined from every angle. A curated exhibitors list again this year with an eye to who has something new being released and access is given to creators on the Friday that may not necessarily reflect the same table structure on the weekend. Ligaya told me that this was to allow the opportunity to exhibit to as many people as possible in a very competitive field. I have to give a shout out to the volunteers as well. Helpful to a person. At least a couple of times over the weekend I was asked what I had bought and what I was looking for (eat your heart out MCM?)



I managed to catch up with some creators as well. Andy Barron is someone who I have been following since he sent me his trippy and (almost) indescribable book 'Mantra'. A colourful, psychedelic assault on the senses that deals with growth, death, sexuality and stripped down human emotion it is highly recommended. He has a new book out inn the same universe called 'Tantra' that I then went and sat and read. More of the same gloriously infectious crazy examination of a world far beyond the norm. 

Find out more about Andy at www.andyillustrates.com or follow him on Twitter @omcommics



II then caught up with old pals Avery Hill Publishing. Ricky Miller and Dave White had that creative locomotive of Tillie Walden with them. 'The Hill' continue to put out exceptional work that never fails to wow. All involved with running this groundbreaking company do so in conjunction with busy day jobs. Just goes to show what can be donee when you put your mind to it. Highly recommended from their recent releases is Goatherded by Charlo Frade.

Find out more about Avery Hill and buy some of their books at www.averyhillpublishingg.bigcartel.com and follow them on Twitter @AveryHillPubl


I finally got to catch up with Josh Hicks. I got to interview him for downthetubes last year when he released the hilarious Glorious Wrestling Alliance issue 1. It was great to hear that issue 2 is on the way with a possible third issue next year. He's recently paired up with the folks at Good Comics and was releasing Human Garbage at ELCAF. An anthology of his shorter stories it has the greatest contents page ever in print!

Head over to www.joshhicks.co.uk to grab a copy. Follow him on Twitter @ajoshhicks



I finally tracked down Todd Oliver who had been as kind as to send his new series Boxes into The Awesome Comics Podcast. We are all fans of this comic. I did an audio interview with Todd that'll be appearing on the Pod soon but can thoroughly recommend Boxes as a crazy and original slice of life comic (if your life was like a Monty Python animation). I bought all three print issues (issue 3 was released specially for ELCAF) and grabbed a couple of £5 sketches as well.

This was actually Todd's first convention and it was great to see he was quite the popular figure. I can see this guy only getting bigger and bigger on the scene.

Get yourself some mind menacing comics as well at www.toddoliver.bigcartel.com and follow him on Twitter @ToddOliver 


Next to Todd (who is on the left in this photo) was the man only identified mysteriously as Pencil Bandit. I hung about chatting to him and Todd for some time. I even got this excellent 'Batman' from him.



Find more Banditry at www.pencilbandit.com

There's been a a lot of talk recently in the comics community about the validity of Conventions these days. Many seem to be thinly veiled cash grabs based on the use of 'Comic' in the name and then cramming the place with plastic toys and fading celebrities. I would suggest that to those who seek a Comics event with true creative credibility that they look to the East London Comics Art Festival.



A visual feast of comics art and community this is in my opinion the UK Comics event of the year. I have been going for the last few years and have never failed to walk away with a sense of the real creativity growing up around the brilliant home grown comics indie publisher NoBrow. Always a hubbub of chatter, music and fun and original designs this is an event for all. No fanboy cliques here. 

OK, I'll admit it. There is a higher than average number of nose piercings and quite an annoying DJ playing music (please note here that I am old!) but generally the vibe is great.  You know what? In a way it's kind of refreshing that I don't recognise that many people inside. Fresh faces are always needed. Go away and create.....        

This is easily one of the high points of my comics and art year. Comics should be accessible to everyone. The creation from idea to being in someones hands being read is, to me anyway, what events like this are about.       

Find out more about ELCAF at www.elcaf.co.uk or follow them on Twitter @ELCAFest

There's still time to make it down for Sunday?


Many thanks for reading.  

Wednesday, 7 June 2017

In Review - 'Be Pure! Be Vigilant! Behave! 2000AD and Judge Dredd: The Secret History' by Pat Mills.


Review - Be Pure, Be Vigilant.

Written by Pat Mills.

'Through a minefield of imbeciles and chimps.'

It occurs to me these days with worrying regularity that this hobby we hold dear is both being forgotten about by the average Joe and also at the same time being taken advantage of by big business. Like an American being sold Tower Bridge we seemingly throw ourselves into paying to see movies, buying merchandise and waiting with unbridled enthusiasm for the next big tv series.

Global organisations are taking the characters we love, giving them a commercial rub down and booting them in to movies of varying style and substance. As many of my friends (or 'comics lifers' as I like to call them) we are dubious of this bubble and when it is going to burst.

''Cappuccino Comics....'

So. Let's do something that we are often rubbish at doing and plan for the future. Let's plan for when the funkos and pencil case money grabbers back away. Let's plan to make popular and well crafted comics that will support this creative and splendid industry.

So, who do we look to? Who do we pay attention to? May I make a suggestion? This may be either completely groundbreaking (if you are an ignoramus) or the obvious choice (if you have a regular sized brain or better). Let's turn to those editors, writers, artists, letterers and professionals who have succeeded in the past in turning the industry round.

First on that list for me would be Pat Mills. Often called the 'Godfather of British Comics' he remains a veteran with more passion for the medium than a busload of millennials. And if you want an education on how comics can be both good and popular (no that isn't a swear word) then I couldn't recommend his new book more highly. If you have seen or heard Pat give an interview then you can hear the enthusiasm in his voice as he reads this book aloud. A passion for the UK comics scene that is unmatched. Eloquent and knowledgable, this book will knock your teeth out!

Of course we learn from our mistakes and the advice of our elders. Those who fail to get advice are very rarely heard of again. Pat came from the publishing world of the 1970s. Comics creators worked on word counts and thinly fleshed out and generic characters. What Pat did, along with John Wagner, Alan Grant, Kevin O'Neill and others was turn the industry on it's head by connecting with the feel of a nation. Action and followed by 2000AD where turning points in both comics culture and the society they reflected. They dared to have a frenetic hard edged pace and added to it a violently satirical narrative.

When Frank Bough ripped up a copy of Action on the BBC you knew there was a shift happening. Comics were changing and keeping up with the rebellious punk nature of the times. This book is a goldmine of advice. Read it and learn. It is also full of anecdotes that I will guarantee to have you chuckling. On the 2000AD Thrillpower documentary Pat let rip. Hilariously and with authority this book is very much in the same vein. As you read you can see that wry smile on his face and his eloquently energetic style. Pat and those other faces of the time were brave enough to rip up more than a single issue, they changed comics in ways that we all know are still felt here and in America.

This is also a book that is clearly an honest account. Falling between an account and a memoir it will open your eyes to a lot of the shennanigans from 2000AD's rich and long history. A forty years that hasn't always been plain sailing and Pat covers both the good and the bad times. A book that never holds back and a book that will also instruct us how and why comics are made.

'Paddy McGinty's Goat.....'

The story starts in that garden shed in Scotland that Pat and John Wagner shared and moves through to the London of the swinging 1970s when word count was King. The early pages are full of anecdotes about such comics as Hotspur, Valiant, Tammy, Cor!! and and Lion. We hear about individual stories like 'Yellowknife of the Yard', 'Cinderella Spiteful' and 'Boo Peter' (a parody of Blue Peter). Pat compares the comics 'Factory system' of the time as similar to the street scenes in Metropolis. Heads down, working long hours and enslaved by and uncaring overlord.

'Who or what is Judge Dredd.'

When it came to 2000AD this new comic idea fought through some not insubstantial nay sayers to be born with some incredible ideas, art and stories. Laid out her in detail and with no small amount of energy are the early origins of all our favourites. Most especially is the birth of Dredd, a lawman who is now etched iconically into our social and cultural memories he had some significant birthing pains himself. The sculpting and nurturing of the idea is mesmerising and, as far as I know, never gone in to with such detail. Originally envisaged as a parallel to England's last hanging judge and gifted the name of a reggae band of the time this police officer was to undergo some significant reimagining on the run up to Prog 2 and finally his first appearance. 

''Spanish pirate....'

From there Pat covers all the major and original 2000AD characters and how they began. Flesh, Harlem Heroes, M.A.C.H.1, Ro-Busters, Invasion, A.B.C. Warriors..... the list goes on and on. We begin to understand the landscape of the times and reflect upon why and how it has changed. Why one character is popular and one isn't can come down to a number of intriguing factors that I will let you read the book to understand. The section on the creation of Nemesis and Torquemada is delved deeply into, a history that I share with Pat in no small way. What is considered to be by many the Prog's greatest creation has a heartbreaking origin full of abuse and cruelty. You can hear the sadness and honesty in the text when Pat says;

''Nemesis the Warlock was my catharsis. It was my poetry.'

We also hear some excellent stories of those characters who were and still are intrinsic to the scene both in the 1970s and up to and in this more modern period. Creators like Doug Church, Gerry Finley-Day, Tony Skinner, Leo Baxendale, Simon Bisley, Neil Gaiman, Jenny McDade, Alan Moore, Matt Smith and many, many more. Pat champions those that the history books seem to have ignored and talks really touchingly about friends and colleagues over the years. (The Tony Skinner section is worth the cover price all on it's own.) The sometimes fractious relationship between the editor and the creators and the writer and the artist is both telling, shocking and on occasion eye brow liftingly intriguing. (Who were those night time calls from?) 

The narrative doesn't limit itself to the Prog but also to titles that followed. We get the history of Misty, Toxic! and a personal favourite of mine Crisis. Runs that were without a doubt groundbreaking in story and business approaches. Examples to learn from indeed. 

'2000AD was my first experience of fandom.'

Pat makes it clear in all his interviews and especially in this book that he considers the voice of the reader to be very important and also a factor in the creative process. Strips would survive or fail based on readership. He even calls a later chapter 'You are 2000AD.' But what he does do is point out that there is a difference between the average reader who picked a title up in a newsagents to the growth of fandom. An interesting distinction that is explored sensibly.  What this book also does is print the odd letter from fans. I absolutely loved this touch. Letters and emails that Pat has kept for years shows how much this writer cares for those that enjoy and are affected in some way by what he writes.

Yes, I can see that this book will ruffle a few feathers. Would I want it any other way? No, not at all. The history is laid bare by one of the few who knows the truth and more importantly can show us the way forward. I suspect that there will be a few who will turn the pages with trepidation. There have been some mistakes made over the years (Slaine in The Phoenix anyone??) and some creative milestones. All are dealt with unflinchingly. Sharp and Punchy. Bloody Class!

I was mean't to be reading this book with an eye on writing a review but it was so enthralling that I kept forgetting to take notes!!!

If you enjoy British comics, love the characters that they have produced and want to hear some home grown truths then this is the book for you. I read it in a day, and have returned to it a couple more times since. You'll be hard pressed to find a book so revealing.

Now where is that hard copy? I need one for my shelf.

Grab yourself a copy here https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B072JYY2NF/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1496900362&sr=8-1&keywords=pat+mills+be+pure 

Or follow Pat on Twitter @PatMillsComics or pop over to www.millsverse.com for details of a physical release and of other books released or in the works.

Edited by the fab Lisa Mills who can be found on Twitter @feistycuffs71

Many thanks for reading.


PS 'MEKOMANIA' When and how!!????

Saturday, 3 June 2017

Anyone fancy a round? 'Fantasy Sports 3' goes all golfy!


'Fantasy Sports 3: The green King.'
Created by Sam Bosma.
£12.95
Published by NoBrow Publishing     www.nobrow.net
ISBN: 9781910620182 | 300 x 215mm | 64pp | HB

'Wiz and Mug become separated after washing up on the shores of a gothic castle town, where a monstrous beast has taken over King’s lands and left the people to starve. Wiz breaks into the beast’s castle and finds herself thrown into a game of supernatural mini golf. Can she win the game and escape with her life? Meanwhile, Mug uncovers the sinister truth behind the Order of Mages…'



The Review - Have you ever played golf? I have to admit that I never have. But, if you thought that it was a bit of a boring sport that over the hill comedians and television celebrities played after reading Fantasy Sports 3 you may have to reassess your views on the subject. I for one would watch a lot more golf on the TV if it involved demon kings, graveyards, water monsters and animated mystical knights who guard the putting greens.

I was over the moon that Sam Bosma's series is back on the shelves. I have loved the first two that pitted our heroes against monsters who played basketball and beach volleyball so I was wondering what he could do with a game as slow as golf? What you get is another edge of your seat sports match but in this episode Sam elaborates on the mysterious back story of Mug and Wiz. Whilst Wiz tries her best with a putting wedge and a nine iron Mug gets told a few home truths about the Arch Mage.


The art is once again a masterpiece of pacing. You can see the kinetic full throttle Manga influences in Sam's work. It's a huge compliment to say about Sam's style that on some occasions it's difficult to read and turn the pages fast enough. The energy of this series is off the scale and after one read I'll guarantee that you'll head back to see what Easter Eggs you missed.

'I yoinked ye from the ocean and so ye must grant me one wish....'

It's also a very funny book. Mug and Wiz are now the perfect double act. They have grown into a hilarious pair of investigators rather than the mismatched wizards thrown together in the opening chapter. Sam introduces gallons of spiky character quirks into the speech of everyone on display. You see that they have a simple and often funny appearance but dive a little deeper and there is an underlying menace and darkness in many of them. The acceleration of the conspiracy theory behind these fun adventures has me really hoping that we don't have to wait long for the next installment. Don't skip to the last page but we might get some answers very soon....

Genuinely folks, this is a book that you need to own. This series is read as soon as it arrives through the letterbox and will put a smile on your face every time. Volume 4 soon please!


Sam Bosma was born in Chagrin Falls, Ohio and grew up in Pennsylvania. Having graduated from the Maryland Institute College of Art in 2009, he stayed on to teach in the Illustration Department from 2011-2013 before moving to Brooklyn, NY, where he lives now. His work has been exhibited in New York, Los Angeles and internationally and he has been recognised by Spectrum, American Illustration and the Society of Illustrators. He won a Silver Medal from the Society of Illustrators in the Institutional category, as well as a Gold Award from Spectrum in 2013. When he isn’t making comics and graphic novels of his own, Sam does background drawings for Steven Universe on Cartoon Network and has had illustrations appear in The New York Times, The New Yorker, The Wall Street Journal, Entertainment Weekly and other magazines. Find out more about him at his Tumblr page here or follow him on Twitter here.

Many thanks for reading.

Tuesday, 9 May 2017

In Review - 'Something City' by Ellice Weaver.

'Something City'

Created by Ellice Weaver.

Published by Avery Hill Publishing - 80 pages - Full Colour.

Part 'Black Mirror' and part Ordnance Survey this is a new book from Avery Hill. It both chronicles and literally lays out the lives of people in a City that is aptly called 'Something'. Each short chapter tells the stories that happen behind the curtains. These are tales that are often sharply observed. Looking like a more personalised Lowry painting this is a melange of emotion and situation. We see areas such as the city prison, a nudist colony as well as the perhaps more everyday situations like an old people's home and dinner party culture enclaves.


It is the switching situations that seem best to delineate the inentions of the storyteller. Keep moving, keep watching. Walk through the lives of these hugely different individuals. Show their place, and often lack of place, in the wider community of this mixed up jumble of a city. The cool Guardianista sets sit next to the loney and stressed adjacent to the rough and ready. But each group is cordoned off in their own area in this anthology. Never seemingly looking over the fence at a different set yet often unhappy with their own lot.


The art is also structured like a cross between a map and a colourful ant farm. The faces of the characters often lack a full rendering and we see them as a parallel with a reflected situation in the world outside it's pages. After the first reading I began to wonder if I would be happier with more detail in these lives. We are given only a situational snapshot of the everyday anxieties of each area on the map. 

Do these scenes seem imagined or real? Do they seem like a daydream or even a considered approach. At moments they seem a touch forced for my taste but I began to realise that the nature of a very short incursion into someone's life might seem this way? Do we truly see beyond the obvious in our first interaction with someone or somewhere? Maybe not. This book shows the errors we may make with our preconceptions. Lives that at first seem one dimensional and hollow have an underlaying depth when you began to explore them further.


The stories stray a little. Some are part sci-fi and a couple seem like an urban crime story. Yet they do all fit into this strangely structured narrative. Bright and Spiteful. Colourfully argumentative.

A prison, a home, a street, a square, an urban space, a rest home, a bedroom, a town and a 'Something....'

Interesting to say the least. Avery Hill continue to stretch and challenge. A worthy asset to their catalogue and well worth the entrance fee.

Find out more about Avery Hill at www.averyhillpublishing.bigcartel.com or follow them on Twitter @AveryHillPubl

You can find out more about the creator at www.cargocollective.com/elliceweaver or follow the creator on Twitter @ElliceWeaver

Many thanks for reading.







Friday, 28 April 2017

'What if I'm not a comic?'- A Review of 'The Human Beings' issue 1.


The Human Beings - issue 1.

Created by SJ McCune.

Published by Millicent Barnes Comics.

This is fully intended to be a non traditional review. This is a book that does not adhere to a world of cliche or even what goes on elsewhere in the comic world. It is freshly original in an intelligent fashion.

Stuart (SJ) McCune spins a complex and dark series of short comics stories into an anthology. A book that deals with different environments, places and times but tied by the interactions of the titular Human Beings (or so we are lead to believe).

As with all of Stuart's (SJ's) work it is the words that echo in your brain like secret whisper. At moments stark, at moments highly personal this is a comic drawn on an art canvas but retaining the beauty of the sequential comic we know and love.

The first issue combines the terrifying original images of fantastical worlds and at the turn of the page the furtive games of interaction we call a conversation. It mixes the sharp but hallucinatory reality of a Giallo thriller with some beautifully framed visuals. 


This is also my favourite of SJ's work from a dialogue point of view. One strip details a conversation between a man and a woman. He paces each panel, each word, each look, each hollow echo with a tension but also with a resonant reality. He plays with our preconceptions with each and every head tilt and crafted short sentence. Those that overwrite take heed, this is a stripped back interaction that says more with it's words and visuals in seven pages than some other lesser writers could manage in a whole paperback novel. Each line is a door opening, an explanation of place and time but also a marvellous contradiction of what the reader thought they were following.

The art remains a gorgeous kaleidoscope of colour and line that breaks free of the norm but remains perfectly flowing. Treating story like a compicated vein system that flows to the heart but shoots off in and at unexpected moments. 



SJ is a master of the strange, his stories kick you out of that comfortable chair into an unfamiliar landscape. I feel myself standing in a world I am unfamiliar with and completely out of my comfort zone awaiting a stranger to approach me and whisper into my ear telling of a reality that is mysterious and beautiful. I am never at any point able to predict what will happen. I don't try to second guess anything (ever) and am gloriously mesmerised by each moment. You can see a love for the medium but he questions each second with a focused unconventional eye - and I wouldn't have it any other way!

He is a creator that I follow and impatiently await the arrival of each new product. I suggest that you challenge yourself and do the same. SJ tells the predictable drivel elsewhere in the comics world to be quiet and leave the building immediately, an adult has arrived!

Follow SJ on Twitter @StuartMcCune and buy his work at www.millicentbarnescomics.bigcartel.com

I would also highly suggest searching him out on Kickstarter by searching for Stuart John McCune.

PS Stay for the last few pages, something may be explained.



Many thanks for reading.





Saturday, 1 April 2017

The Need to Blah, Blah, Blah!


Ready, Steady, Rant.

I was listening to a comedy themed podcast this week and the host was talking to a comedian friend of his about how he doesn't watch anything on the sports channel (ESPN I believe) other than the actual game. This got me thinking.

Of late I have been avoiding the 'Making of' sections or actors interviews on the DVD extras style content we seem to get thrown at us all over the place these days. Why is this? A couple of reasons in my case. Firstly I find that knowing how the movie or TV series is made only leads to me being taken out of the immersion experience if I rewatch or watch the movie. And secondly, I find that most movie stars are too self obsessed to be likeable in any real way. This self obsession is obviously no longer owned by Hollywood.

This technique is awash with padded out material full of back slapping and a wank circle of compliments has, for me anyway, reached a point where I can't stand to watch the scripted interviews and fixed grins. Preprepared anecdotes are trotted out like the trite shite that they are and that we are apparently stupid enough to believe it all? interview after interview of want to be famous 'hip' TV presenters drinking this rubbish up like a thirsty man in the desert who finds a puddle of piss.

We are a long way past saving the situation but I'm sure there would be less of a market for it if people sat up and examined the lies we are fed. An actor speaks the lines that a writer, or often a room full of writers, create for them. They are on occasion grossly overpaid and treated like deities. They have lists of questions they are not to be asked and follow the party line like Starlin himself is standing over them with a big knife. Where are the honest interviews? Where are the ones that upset and describe these events as they actually happened? We have a pretence that the curtain is pulled aside and we are allowed to look behind it but all that can be seen is yet another curtain.

The intrusive and poisonous nature of the internet has us believe that everyone is a star these days. This is a delusion that has also now sank it's teeth into the comics industry. Full of the self flattering and pandering ranks of ephemeral 'stars'. How many creators are there out there that believe that their words carry some huge authority based on the arse licking followers they hear from. A circle jerk of life?

John Freeman and I have the odd bet when we do interviews or he commissions pieces from comics creators as to when the word 'I' will be used. One recent bet had me losing £5 because 'I' came as the fourth word and not the first as I had wagered. Why has this happened? Why do we often seemingly value the cult of personality above the enjoyment of the story. And most importantly is this internet preening and need for attention affecting the enjoyment of the stories? I would hazard a guess that managing to see past the overblown personality of the creator is becoming more and more of a problem.

There is no doubt that being visual within our small hobby, being that character in the field of writers or artists brings you minor fame and attention. You only have to look at someone like Grant Morrison. Known for his personality? Yes. But also known for his style and content in writing. This is a trend that many, many more less talented creators seem to have adopted wholesale as a short cut to the top. 

So where did it begin? There's no doubt that Stan Lee brought the personality and Circus Ringmaster promotions techniques to the sales table and he did so very successfully. I once had a conversation with a Marvel and DC writer however who told me that he liked a certain trenchcoat because it made him 'look like a writer'. A small example but a deluded opinion nonetheless.

Are we really so in need of this heady adulation. This little tiny buzz of adrenalin when we get a 'Like' or a flattering email? How far does this addiction carry on? Get on your knees dear fanboy/fangirl/fanperson (please check gentaliia at the door before entering) .... 'pucker up and suck me off!' Shouted the cocaine snorting, Whiskey slurping, viagra gulping, sweaty faced fading comics 'star'.

Sooooooooo.

Let's go about creating a writer shall we? Here are a few easy steps...

Part 1 - Create a Personality for Yourself.

A slight aside to begin with if you'll excuse this indulgence. Have you seen the movie 'Gentlemen Broncos'? It is a pretty crazy movie and a comedy about a Science Fiction writer who appears in the story by the name of 'Chevalier' (played brilliantly with tongue firmly in cheek by Jermaine Clement). This is a pompous man, a writer full of slowly inflected speech patterns and a really high opinion of his 'craft'. He is also a man with lovingly quiffed dark hair, and a penchant for polar necks and matching waistcoats and leather jackets. He opens his arms and points to the sky like his word is the word of a fucking god and should never be questioned. Ring any bells? (Here's a hint. Sandman anyone?)

Play this game with me? Watch a few Youtube videos or documentaries on comics creators and you soon begin to spot the bluffers and the huffers. Those who have a fucking huge opinion of themselves, those who will take about an hour to say anything at all. In a recent 2000AD documentary I could have made toast, buttered it, eaten it and shared the crusts with the dog before the second word came out of one particular writer's mouth! A technique used by actors, priests and politicians attempting to stay in the limelight one more second. I bet they are great at phone sex?? ZZZZZZZZZZZZZ

Image is also seemingly important for many creators these days. I follow a few comics artists on Instagram. A photo sharing social media platform that I thought would be great way to see the actual art they are creating. But, the second that I notice that all I am seeing is selfie after cunting selfie I immediately unfollow. One artist I (used to) follow had a series of photos of her trying on glasses to see what her fans thought of them. The comments were so vomit inducing that I smashed by phone and stuck it straight up my arse to deaden the noise of slurping oral!

(btw) Blue Steel - IS STILL A THING! 


Part 2 - Become The Moral Crusader.

Seemingly another shortcut to fame and fortune in this land of comics is to adopt the moral high ground. Everyone is so shit scared to have a controversial opinion in this day and age. They pander to what they think they should say, rather than what any right minded person would see as trivial in the every day life of someone who does not live on Twitter! I won't fixate on any current trend but anyone can see the waste of air that is writing about whether or not Gal Gadot should have hairy armpits? (and so on until death by blah, blah, blahring).

Part 3 - Believe The Hype! 'For you are the Kwisatz Haderach'.

Then, and only after following the previous two steps do you believe that you are the second coming and that people deserve and demand to hear what you have to say. Every single opinion you have must be treated as a fact. If you say that there should be a revolution because a trans person is shown having sex in a toilet cubicle (an actual true(ish) story) then all your fans should pick up their phones and tweet about how they love you because you are their moral godhead!

Opinion is not fact. Because XXXX XXXXXX says it does not make it a solid fact. He/She writes comics or TV or Music or some such cack and should not be believed without a thought or a momentary consideration. I have never believed everything a friend, colleague or associate has believed and neither should you. Make your own mind up.

Let me make that point again - Make your own mind up!

This is becoming some kind of internet quasi-religious hive mind. And we all know where religion got us?!

The Result and The Future of the Cult of Personality.

Too much information.

Too much.

All the time being battered with the tweets of people sitting in their studio or their bedroom creating comics and feeling the need every ten minutes to throw their inadequacies and need to be noticed out into the world.

SHOUT, SHOUT, SHOUT!

This will not end well.

This will create a sub culture and will not make comics something that they should be and need to be - Popular!

Example 1 - I recently found out that a creator whose work I've always enjoyed was a hunter.  He was posting the bodies of the animals he was killing on Facebook with pride! Seriously!? I am a life long vegetarian. How can I support his pastime by buying his comics? I can't. The secret is to keep this shit to yourself surely? But, of this I am certain, if I never found this out I would still be reading his books.

Example 2 - I found a Bronze Age writer to be the most singular Pompous Man I have ever met. A fan of his for many years I found that I couldn't swallow his downright rudeness to me and others at his convention table. If I never met him I'd still be spending money on his work (or if he'd been a little less fond of himself?) I now can't abide his unnaturally shiny walnut head (but that is another matter).

Example 3 - The creator who never paid a large outstanding tax bill and in his own words hoped 'it would be forgotten'. He then set up a 'Go Fund Me' page when the Federal Government came knocking. 'Keep me out of jail, for this bill I knew I should have paid years ago' you hear him whine! The stream of nauseous replies to his social media begging are those of people looking for a friend, and are sad and embarrassing. I'm not sure I want to read anything further by this writer, ever!

I'll put this out there. Plain and simple. I do not care what your politics are, I do not care what you consider to be morally right or wrong, I do not care who, when or in what fucked up situation you choose to have sex and I don't care what you like in your sandwich.

Tell your friends about all this. Tell your mum. Just don't advertise your wares for sale on social media and then shout about all that banality through my phone screen. When people shout back all we get is 'they are having a go at me............'

Man/Woman/Person UP! FOR FUCKS SAKE!

Let's get back to the art of creating great comics. Stop trying to be famous. Just do what you do.


Many thanks for reading.

Thursday, 30 March 2017

In Review - Garbage Night' by Jen Lee

Garbage Night

Created by Jen Lee.

Full colour. £12.99.

Published by NoBrow.



The Story - 'In a barren and ransacked backyard, a dog named Simon lives with his two best friends: a raccoon and a deer. They spend their days looting the desolate supermarket and waiting for the return of the hallowed 'Garbage Night' - and week after week, the bins remain empty. But rumour has it, there's a nearby town where humans still live. The trio join up with Barnaby, a mysterious stranger, and set off into the unknown.....

Juvenile animals struggle to survive across a post-apocalyptic wasteland in this striking parable about the nature of freedom and friendship.'



"It's fun though, right? .... A world without walls, just doors?'

The Review - Playing with context and preconceptions is something that always makes me sit up and pay attention. Garbage Night along with creator Jen Lee's previous story in the same back yards stage Vacancy are tales that move you out of your comfort zone. She mixes the anthropomorphic with the (seeming) end of the world. A small world nonetheless but one that seems familiar yet also scarily ephemeral.

As a lover of NoBrow's ever growing and developing back catalogue I would hazard a guess that this is beginning to form a significant addition to their stock. 

Garbage night is a no holds barred allegory for the breakdown of modern society. A breakdown that we see on the news and internet on a daily (and ever accelerating) basis. Jen shifts our ragged and ever surviving/commuting/driving/working overtime/finding solice in a sandwich in the park personalities into those of urbanafied animals. Those animals that scurry about in the rubbish bins of the more fortunate looking for food. It is these mirrors that have expertly crafted moments of character and deftly crafted action sequences. Action that is sought from truely desperate circumstances and not some set up car chase or bar fight that one might see elsewhere.




It is also bleakly haunting. It echoes at times with too much reality. You worry that they will not survive the walk across a landscape that at first glance is banal but has hidden moments of danger. It is this edge that changes what could have been a fluffy anthropomorphic story into one that clatters along and you have to reach the end to see what happens.

Jen throws a spanner into the works and introduces a new and crafty friend into the circle. You wonder how this will effect these characters and if Barnaby (a ragged and dangerous looking dog) will affect their dynamic. This grows the tension and plays on our feelings of not wanting this group to split up or fall out.

The language is a cross between the Lord of the Flies/The Walking Dead desperation and those of the more innocent children playing on the slides in the park. It moves the character along with real skill and the creator knows when to slow down and speed up in each sequence. Glances are cast between friends and emotion is snatched out of the story and sent to the reader seamlessly. Hope is rare but present enough to make you believe the motivations.

A comic that can be read on may levels I highly recommend it.

This volume also features the previous story Vacancy that was released under NoBrow's 17x23 series.

Jen Lee was born in Manhattan but grew up in a beach town in Florida. She grew up mimicing the cartoons she was watching and copying them from frame to frame. She jumped from High School to The School of Visual Arts in New York to study comics, graphic design and writing. She then flirted with a career in animal psychology before landing a job as a graphic designer in a software company. She now works freelance for Boom! Studios and the Nickelodeon Channel. Vancancy for NoBrow Press was her first published work.


Find out more about this publisher at www.nobrow.net or follow them on Twitter @NobbrowPress


Many thanks for reading.

Wednesday, 22 March 2017

A Little Review of 'Cosmos & Other Stories' and I find out it's a lonely place

'Cosmos & Other Stories'


Created by Rozi Hathaway.

Published by Good Comics.

'...a collection of short stories about love and longing..... if you've ever been in a crowd, felt the ache of absence, or looked for meaning ion the constellations, then this collection will speak to you.'

It's not often that a piece of art touches you in in such a profound way. I speak as a cynical forty something who up until March the 21st this year hadn't really found a gem in the small press and was worried that it was sitting back in it's collective armchair ready for retirement. This comic changed my mind and did so with grace and a gentle whisper.

This is a comic full of stories that examine those private unseen moments that we all experience without the gaze of others. These accounts are both big and small in impact in the lives of ordinary people. Rozi describes them in her summary as 'about love and longing..' but I would add the word loneliness. In these solitary heartbreaking moments she shows us stories that broke this readers heart (just a little).


A moment can change your mind and your attitude, a moment can hurt you, a moment can inspire you, a moment can change everything. Rozi proves that comics are a powerful instrument. Good art rents a room in your consciousness and really good art plants roots in your subconscious. This is a piece of art that will allow you to step out of the rush, rush, dopamine fueled day and rest happy in that second of time. The one you could be in now if you were reading this book, that is the effect it has had on me.


I have intentionally not recounted the narratives in these short stories as they are indeed short and to do so would spoil. But the art is very worthy of comment. An experimental style full of loose pencils and flashes of colour. Characters are represented as ghostly images, wandering this landscape and thinking, always thinking. Rozi uses colours that are at ironic and telling angles to the initial appearance of a story. The creator plays with our preconceptions. The red of a sky or building line as the cold weather settles into view is a lovely addition that makes you watch the page like it is a moving canvas. The art adds a definite poetry to each line in a way that should be explored more in our world.

This is a book that I guarantee you will reread and enjoy. You may also shed a tiny tear.

Find Rozi at www.rozihathaway.com or on Twitter @angelsallfire

Many thanks for reading.


Tuesday, 14 March 2017

No More Cats!



This is another in the series of angry rants that I like to describe as 'My Falling Down Stage.' I came to it through a deep frustration at the lack of chances we are taking and the safe warm blankets that are masquerading as art these days. Peter Blake admitted in a 1985 interview to being the person who upsets society. I applaud him for evoking an emotion, it may be a cruel one but it makes you (and me) feel alive for that split second when the art hits your senses.

Art is all around us. It permeates us at every turn and every flourish. It is gloriously present in the art form of comics. The art form that so many of us choose as an avenue to express wild and succulent emotions, loves, hates and on occasion our morbid dirty little secrets.

Our inner lives deserve exploration. So explore them we do. 

The world is an open book. Every nook and cranny of it is ripe for exploration and explanation. Go wild inside and outside the panels. Feel the creative flush in your cheeks and in your balls (female genetalia is also welcome).

I took a run (and a charge) at describing my frustrations of one type of comic. Have a read. If you agree or disagree then please let me know. 

Autobiographical Comics - let's have it!

What drives people to talk about themselves. In general terms it's a need to make sure you are still there, still a part of the planet. Art has been about the self as much as it has been about the outside since it began. From the very choice of the subject, through how the artist goes about creating it all the way down to how the viewer interprets this object.

So, and here we get to a thorny subject. Why does the current state of autobiographical comics irk me so? It hasn't always. I have been quite vocal about the first person narrative over the years. Some of my favourite books and comics that I reread regularly have been about the creator themselves. There is no doubt that Portrait of An Artist... by James Joyce is a masterpiece. There is no doubt that James Kochalka or Bob Fingerman put out amazingly good comic books. All the above are based on something personal and autobiographical and real.

All the above are also raw and honest and insightful.

So where do we go now? The internet has now arrived and wedged itself into our brains, lives and souls. A medium that is so self involved that it defies shame and becomes a transparent window into our snowflake moods. Everyone is granted that voice, and mostly are granted that voice to talk endlessly about themselves. It is now a world full of fragile egos and manipulated outward facing personalities. This eems to have evolved into a factory line of similar looking comics that scrape at the banal lives of their creators with only the quirky and cool excuses for narrative.

It is my solid (and old and grumpy) opinion that there are waaaaay too many autobiographical books. Some are to be admired but in a big brown mass only few are the peanuts to be picked out.



Before I began this piece I thought that I would (listen to the 'I' ringing out throughout this piece incidentally) research what counts these days as an autobiographical comic. Those books that have been released in one form or another over the last few years. I didn't want to get (too much) flack for not looking into the subject sufficiently. So, my first stop was over at a well known webcomic platform. One with Hundreds and hundreds of strips. I searched under the term 'autobiographical' and looked at the first few strips that came up. They were both about a couple sitting on a couch talking. Both were done in a Manga style and both made me want to vomit in their messy self indulgent cutesy styles.

Where is the edge? Where is the raw emotion? Where is the honesty? Where is something vaguely worth reading?

OK, I'll go deeper. What else is about? I have a couple of shops near me that have a good Small Press and Indie section. I'll head there to have a look.

Hmmm, Katzine by Kat Chapman, that's pretty good. Tille Walden, good stuff again. But, as much as I love these titles I'm looking for something that is a little less sedate and a little less safe. What is there out there. I want a comic that shouts at the world. Not one that curls up on the couch with a their socks off.

So, I found a couple. Not, to be perfectly honest, as many as I expected. The first one is £4.50, not a crazy price but then again neither competitive or even close to worth the money I'd pay.  Opening the first one on the centre pages I find it is about a couple chatting in bed about their day. I explore more, oh look a cat (again). I picked up the second one - it's about the author and their cat (seriously?) Now, don't go screaming 'HE HATES CATS', I really liked Maus and that has cats in it!



Keep going. Here's another one. It's about a trip the author took to Hamburg. He's walking about, looking in windows....... oh look its raining. Is that it? I'll try one more before I feel that I have to claw my own eyes out. This one is about the creator taking a walk again, oh look he likes trains! FUCK ME!!!!

The one question that won't leave me is - 'Who do they expect to be interested in this story?' Are people who like cuddles, cats and walking going to be flocking to buy these books? I'm going to hazard a fucking guess and say probably not.

This should be a genre full of free thinking and vigor. They should contain moments of observational gold. They should pioneer the experimental format with thought provoking bare honesty.

Everything at the moment seems safe and banal.

'Just because you can does not mean that you should', seems a mighty strong piece of advice in this year of 2017. Where are the Eddie Campbells, the Harvey Pekars, the Joe Saccos, the Marjane Satrapis? Instead we seem to be stuck with the 'Idle but cool Movement'. We are sitting in a trend of smugness so loud it's like nails on a blackboard. The rules of life should make the rules of an autobiographical comic. In other words, there are and never should be any rules. I want to see the bare naked revelation of your life, what goes on behind the closed doors and in the embarrassing moments. Not this stream of boringly catatonic cack.

I got sent a comic to review recently that was about the friendship of three people. ''That pitch has relatively interesting prospects' I told myself. 'Keep positive', I told myself. On opening it I saw that it was about how they met at University, that they all had things in common and how they are friends now....... That was it. I messaged the creator asking who it was aimed at, I presumed it was for some University/Class Reunion. Nope. It was for sale! I didn't message him back. It is that level of complete and shameless self-involvement that seems to be a big part of the problem. Simply because it is autobiographical doesn't mean that it shouldn't be interesting. It doesn't have to be full of car chases and explosions but it does have to have something that engages. In real life a conversation can engage the detached observer but it has to have something, anything will do, just something of interest.

Another recurring subject seems to be people creating comics about music or bands that they like. Have you ever sat in a bar and listened to people at a neighbouring table talk about a band they just saw? Or listened to someone talk about how an album inspired them? Or got in a car on a long journey and that friend or colleague has played you a mix tape they have prepared? Yup, boring and self involved (again). It is the equivalent of making Mixtapes and selling them. It is the equivalent of walking round wearing an obscure band T-shirt. It is only interesting to you. It is also (I'm using this word once again) safe.

Take a big bite. Go on. Be brave. Show me your failings and your inner self. Don't give in to showing people what you want them to see or what you think is cool. Show them your real self. Those moments will, I guarantee, be more interesting than this shite. Never hold back. Swear and shout at the world. Some people won't like you for that, but Fuck Them! Everyone should be able to state their case without fear or repercussion. State yours.

I have and it feels sooo much better.


And please, no more cuddling cat stories.