Wednesday, 27 December 2017

In Review - ‘Tomorrow’ from BHP Comics.



Tomorrow.


Written by Jack Lothian.

Art by Garry Mac.

Colours, design and lettering by Sha Nazir and Kirsty Hunter.

Flatting by Greg Watt.


51 pages - Full Colour - Published by BHP Comics.


The Story - This is a book that opens quietly. We see the beach at an unnamed seaside town and the sea beyond. In the sand you can see the indentations of two bums and four feet. A couple have sat here alone and you imagine that they have looked out to sea. A shadow of a love left as a moment of time in the sand.


The scene then changes to an alarm clock going off and a little old lady getting out of bed and heading to the shops. She seems alone yet cheerful. She heads down the high street to the local supermarket and is rudely brushed off when she tries to make conversation with the young woman cashier. She seems unbothered and heads home and then to bed. She is awoken later that night by noisy music from the flat above. She heads up and politely complains to the chav at his door but is again bluntly rebuffed.


The following day her routine continues again except that this time she finds that the streets are empty. There is nobody about anywhere. Everyone has gone and she is actually (rather than emotionally) alone. She cries ‘Hello’ but no one answers. Until she turns a corner and finds some strange short and squat aliens dismantling a wall. As she attempts to hide two taller, grey and centaur legged humanoids pass her and ignore her. She is scared but realises that these creatures will continue to just ignore her.


So the little old lady continues with her life. She continues to shop and wash her clothes until one day whilst hanging her smalls on the line she is approached by one of the worker aliens who has hurt its hand. She takes it in and dresses the wound. She gets attached to it and begins to see this small being as a surrogate child and starts dressing it up as a baby. One hilarious moment has her dressing it up in a toddler’s sailor costume and taking it to the seaside.


We suspect that this will not end well......





The Review - This is actually the first comic that I have discovered and then reviewed after obtaining my Comichaus app and membership. I think that it may also be one of the first books that I have reviewed from BHP Comics, it won’t be the last. It’s a great little book. It speaks to a theme of elder loneliness through the framework of an alien invasion and seeming extermination of mankind. It’s not every day that you see those two in the same comic.


It is also a fun read. The writing and art combine to present a quiet style of storytelling that is pitched in just the right tone to make you smile, be a little creeped out and also give you the odd sad moment.  the visuals carry much of what is going on here. The writer allows the artist to carry the narrative without interrupting it with speech or thought bubbles, this is deftly done. The art is clean and open and coloured superbly. Garry Mac manages to carry both the scenes that have literal scope and size to the smaller more personal moments with facial acting done with subtlety and care. I’d love to see what he handles next.


You warm to the little old lady and see her as both cute and polite but also really brave both in the post apocalypse world and also when dealing with the ghastly rude and chavvy people she comes across before everyone disappears. She is perhaps less alone after this event than before. It is also a book that will stay with you and get you ringing your mum to make sure she has the radiators on and enough shopping during this cold snap.


Highly recommended.





I read this on Comichaus but you can also get a hard copy through the app or directly from www.bhpcomics.co.uk and follow them on Twitter @BHP_Comics



Many thanks for reading.

Monday, 25 December 2017

A Cockney Kung Fu Backstory.... (Contains terrible language).

Hey readers,


We are about to go to the printers with Cockney Kung Fu so I thought I could re present a story of one of the side characters.


(This previously appeared in the mailer www.tinyletter.com/CockneyKungFu - so sign up!)


This is a little bit more of a back story of one of the CKF characters. I'm beginning to compile a load of prose relating to characters who turn up in the story so thought you could have a look at one of the pieces in advance.


Hope you enjoy it....


Why does no one write about those funny little moments in your life? Does comedy not translate well to the comic or prose world these days. The books that actually seem really funny are slim on the newly released shelves. All we seem to get are the obligatory 'name' or 'hot' comedian who is pushed into our faces like a cow turd at Scout Camp. I don't like many comedians. Even the ones that I enjoy on stand up like Stewart Lee and Frankie Boyle seem a little self satisfying and egomaniacal when translated to a page. So what are we left with.


Bring back Barry Cryer I say!


Has Amy Schumer EVER said anything remotely funny?


So here I sit. Back in a bar starring at a pint. For those that know me personally are painfully aware of what happens when I drink. Usually I find it hard to stop, I believe myself to be hilarious and I usually end up with a little voice somewhere in my brain shouting 'Let's do shots!' If you ever see me drinking then please just step away. Join the army and shoot some unarmed and naked foreigners because that may be slightly more life affirming than hearing me talk again about the time I did a shit in a bush with a horse watching me!





So I decided to start drinking alone. Maybe I secretly can't admit that I have no alternative - who the fuck knows? I actually looked at this like a freakish and self indulgent research project. I have wandered all over London looking for somewhere suitable. The selection of really bad and dirty clubs is sadly not as rich as it was in my prime days of 1976 to 1985. I don't want anywhere that is busy. I don't want to spend ages waiting to get served. I want a bar that I can sit at the actual counter with bar staff who I won't hit on when I've had a few (that's a whole other ass clenchingly embarrassing story that I may save for another time if ever). Like the old and smelling of piss man that I am I also don't want painfully noisy music or clanking 'pub grub' to annoy me. These are the places I can take a tatty old paperback, sit and hate everyone like all good Englishmen should.


And yes, before you ask the prospect of drinking at home is a non-starter. I couldn't cope with the judging eyes of my dog Stan....


So after some time and a number of half finished pints I found somewhere. No I'm not telling you where so that you can 'pop along' for a chat. You can fuck right off. This sad cunt drinks alone. I go there a couple of times a week. The barman is always the same young Irish kid. He has on occasion tried to tell me about a club he's been to or a girl he's seeing. I wave him away and point at the optics for a scotch. He probably thinks that I am an alcoholic. Of course as a pretend alcoholic I would never admit this and it only goes to reinforce his theory. One day this shit eating with turn us all inside out like a Bobby Sands modern art piece.


As the pints flow and I begin my every drunk pint trip to the toilet I begin to feel that loss of control creeping in. I think that we are all at our hearts self-destructive. We like to feel something and in the pain and desperation of a violent or dangerous moment we can feel at least something. So I occasionally get into the odd slanging match with the other regulars. They shout out about a football team or something they saw in the news and I immediately take the opposite opinion on purpose. This conversation goes from hasty debate to 'You're an ignorant black/Irish/bird/young/old/add descriptor here cunt'. We are told to calm down and I continue falling.


Things happen when you are in an inner-city pub. They always have and I hope that this never stops. You never get this type of entertainment in a Costa Coffee or a Starbucks, all you seem to get there is a pompous cunt behind the jump pointing out what a Caramel Latte is to a little old lady. The realm of the truly demented, criminal and violent still lays in the stinking and grubby council estate public house. I have seen all sort of stuff in these places over the years. Whatever happens is normally ignored with nothing more than a raised eyebrow by the staff and regulars and accompanied with an odd 'Get out!'


Recently I was in my local. Locked in after closing at 3am. I decided to take another piss and walked into the lean to shed of a toilet at the back. Bailey was another regular an old and skinny man who would be in the dictionary if there was a page for 'He will be dead soon'. He clearly wasn't feeling too well and that packet of artisan crisps he'd bought from a junkie shoplifter had obviously gone down the wrong way as I could see the post vomit dribble still hanging from his lips as he leaned against the bottom yellow lip of the urinal. Slunched over double on the floor I could see in his lap and on the floor around him was the black and yellow sick of a hardened drinker with no small amount of old blood in his stomach.


So like all good citizens I decided to ignore he was there and go for a piss in the cubicle. This is a cubicle that could never pass as a proper toilet in toilet heaven or Toilet World in Swindon. It has no door for starters. Builders fresh off a job and regulars would shit with the door open and shout at you if you looked. As I was pissing and complimenting myself on both my aim and the clear bloodless colour of my piss I noticed a pair of shit stained socks next the the white porcelain. What would be your immediate response to seeing socks with shit on them? You hipster fuckers would immediately think 'Ewwww, how common' or 'I feel sorry for the state of modern society and it's care of the mental or old!'


Me... I thought 'Clever'. They never have any toilet paper in this pub. They tried but everyone kept stealing it. So some clever fucker has needed a rush shit (the only kind suitable to an establishment such as this as I would rather take a shit in the middle of Victoria train station than this disease ridden hovel) and dropped it out of their arse before discovering there was no paper. Being a practical bugger they have then taken their socks off and wiped with them. Genius!


So back to the bar I wander. As I take my seat again at the bar I shout over at the barman 'Dave, there's a pair of socks with man-poo on them in the bog.' He makes a comment similar to 'Fuck, not again' and wanders off with a carrier bag to get them. The bag was one of those cheap ones you get off market stalls.


Dave retuned shortly afterwards with the cacky socks in the carrier bag that's tied off in the same way that you would with a dog turd you pick up on the morning walk. This is a bag with still some air trapped. Dave, because mostly he is a stupid cunt but also because he likes to break the boredom of the shift up with some humour on occasion then takes the bag and throws it as hard as he can at one of the other regulars at the bar. This regular is now chuckling and in turn then throws the bag as hard as he can at me. And on and on this goes until the bag finally bursts and someone gets a portion of a turd on them.


Oh how we laughed.


Who says that comedy is dead?


Stick that up your arse  Michael MacIntyre!!!



Many thanks for reading.

In Review - ‘The Devil in Disguise’ issue 1.



The Devil in Disguise issue 1.


Written by Matt Garvey.

Art by Robert Ahmad.


The Story - This opens on a man named Nate snoozing in a tube train carriage. He has a briefcase on his lap and an umbrella at his side. He is woken by the moans of a pregnant woman who is staggering towards him in pain. Nate heads over to help her but as she speaks he briefly sees her eyes transform to something not human. At that moment snakes of dark ectoplasmic blood grab hold of him. Turns out that her name is Nadine and we will see her again any second.


The story then flashes back to a black mass. Full of hooded satanists and a statute of an upside down crucified Christ. They are waiting for ‘our Master’ to return. The head priest lowers his hood and calls Nadine over to the altar (see I told you).


The story then heads off in a couple of different directions both suspected and unexpected.......





The Review - I’ve reviewed a few books written by Matt Garvey recently and think that he has reached a standard where he can be judged alongside writers who are currently working for mainstream companies. This is a very solid story with what you at first imagine is a familiar style before you suspect may not be. The last few pages pull this particular rug away from you in a way that definitely has you wanting the next issue.


The story is told in a visual language similar to how Darwyn Cooke worked on the Parker graphic novels. Matt and Robert make use of an extra colour over the excellent black and white line work. This gives the book an obviously classic 1950s look that reminds me of movies like Invasion of the Bodysnatchers, Curse of the Demon or X: The Unknown





Robert communicates story and urgency really well and has a style that is thoroughly readable. One small niggle would be that the colour of Nadine’s hair between scenes doesn’t feel consistent to me as a reader. It was useful that her name was included as I wouldn’t have recognised the woman on the tube as the same as was on the cover or later at the Black mass. But otherwise he is an artist I will be following closely from now on. Robert manages to tick all the cool boxes that I love, especially in mood and action.





Matt has a great handle on structure and pays attention to what is required to hook a reader in a first issue. This has a great set up, a gruesome and (mostly) explanatory, where required, second act and then gets you guessing at a great cliffhanger. Top stuff.


Find out more about this issue and buy a copy at www.mattgarvey.co.uk or follow Matt on Twitter @MattGarvey1981.


Have a look at art by Robert Ahmad at www.bedtime143.deviantart.com or follow him on Twitter @Darth_Ahmad


Many thanks for reading.

Sunday, 24 December 2017

Coming soon....






Really proud to say that I have a piece in this great tribute to the British Fanzine Scene ‘Fanscene’ created by David Hathaway-Price. look at some of the names he has involved!!

As well as an article I have written (with a spot illustration by the mighty Dan Butcher) it will also include the first print(ish) appearance of Soho Red in a Cockney Kung Fu strip. Hope you like it!

watch this space and my Twitter stream (ewwww) for link when it drops!



In Review - ‘Goodnight, John Boy’: Volume 2 (Read ‘em and Weep) by Pat Mills and Kevin O’Neill.



Goodnight, John-Boy (Read ‘em and Weep Book 2).


Written by Pat Mills and Kevin O’Neill.


Available through Amazon on Kindle and Paperback.



The Story -The Geek Detective is back! Now comic book editor and armchair serial killer, Dav Maudling, takes on a Masonic order of Knights in a bid to solve his mother’s murder. 


He also has to save kids from the Knights’ Grand Master, depraved TV celebrity and charity fundraiser ‘Fabulous’ Keen, who is getting away with crimes worse than murder. The ‘national treasure’ believes that he is above the law, but he’s not above Dave’s law.


But Dave, the ‘lard-arse assassin’, can’t murder him by proxy like his other victims; he has to face and kill Keen himself. And his ghostly femme fatale mother, a ‘ghost in mink’, is there to help him.’ 



The Review - This is the second book in a series being self published by the mighty Millsverse. It features a murderer who works in the 1970s London comics publishing world.....


I don’t think that it is completely based on Pat but I have my suspicions....


This is a second book in the run and I have been very much looking forward to reading it as the first book was both a cracking read and also something completely out of the ordinary. This is a series that in many ways mirrors the comics publishing era of the 1970s and manages to twist even that era of permissiveness to further strangeness and quirk. It gloriously flicks the Vs. It constantly traps me into thinking...


‘Fuck me! I wish it was 1976 again!’


Break out the Lionel Blairs, swig a few Baby Chams and hold on!


That’s not to say that everything in the book is all smiles and cups of tea off the hostess trolley. There are murderous intents wandering the back stairs and snugs in smokey London. In the second book Mr Mills fills out the characters by throwing them wholesale back into his world of strange sexual activities, pompous writers, bombastic fictions and yes we have the return of that violent newsagent. Relationships are explored with some unsuspected surprises as well as funnily familiar new creative and financial ventures. But, all the time, murder is on the agenda.


This book lives and breathes the 1970s. I was barely into my teens when the decade ended yet I remember the nicotine stained walls, the carefully combed greasy hair styles, the divide between those that fought in the war and the ignorant youth, the seemingly normalisation of a pinch on the bum at the office party and the heading down the pub for a light and bitter. This is the series that brings it all back. 


It’s time to Carpet Bum the Hun!’ Is the number one chant in school playgrounds!’


Goodnight....’ is also fucking hilarious. This is a dark humour that you don’t see enough of in modern fiction. It is antiestablishment, of it’s time and yet reads with genuine freshness. It gloriously revels in the trends, prejudice, peccadillos and the mood of the time. I smile constantly even at the tiny references to those shite ‘Love Is’ cartoons that at the time made me want to pull my eyeballs out of my nose and the strange popularity of movies like ‘Confessions of a Window Cleaner.’ When the bad taste of modern society is still lingering on the train home this is the book you need to pull out and read and revel in how amateur our fashions seemed back then. The 1970s was a funnily bizarre period, in many ways we were relearning things and waiting for a big change to happen. It was a time when the media of the time (yes that includes comics) were pushing on to see what was and what wasn’t ‘cool’.


I am lucky enough to be a ‘Beta Reader’ for the upcoming volumes and devour anything by Millsverse that lands in my iPad. As I read it again I am struck by how much I enjoyed the second volume, perhaps more than the first and that is saying something. It has explored and developed the style and the characters of the first volume. I’m also struck with how good Pat is with conversation. Perhaps a benefit of all the comics writing he has done over the years. Characters talk with realism and like pinballs bounce off each other in a style that makes you enthusiastically turn each page. Nobody is boring, at no point was I hoping for someone to come back for a chapter. It’s a neat trick that Pat pulls off in making every conversation hugely engaging and yet carry the story onwards.


Merged it with Scarper and Blimey’.......’We kept Toffee Nose and chucked the rest of the magazine away.’


As with the first book I loved the references to comics like ‘Everlasting Love’ and characters like ‘Wedding Belle.’ You again play detective behind the scenes of this book by trying to guess who were the real-life writers and artists that are mentioned. Some seem to be amalgamations of the comics journeymen (and women) of the times and some will make you smile knowingly. Companies like ‘Fleapit’ or ‘Angus, Angus and Angus’ are created with Pat’s usual flare for genuinely funny satire, especially in the areas of characterisation. You can almost see the grin on his face as he types away on the next chapter as you yourself discover it as a reader. He even features a comic shop in Covent Garden called the ‘Time Machine’. On what planet could that exist? Hmmmmm...


What we get in this volume is the change that was coming to comics in that period. The characters talk about the influences of Metal Hurlant and artists such as Moebius, Bilal and Druillet. Described as ‘Sensual and Dangerous’ by one of the players we see the real life parallels of the emergence of respect for the reader and the experimentation and exploration of the medium that brought you and I 2000 AD and in this fictitious world the upcoming weekly comic named ‘Space Jam’. You feel the frustration and also the enthusiasm of the creators with this new world beginning. 


This isn’t just a book for comics fans however. The use of Masonic organisations and powerful predatory celebrities brings ‘Good Night....’ fully up to date in weight, meaning and implication. Pat shows the dirty underside with humour but also cunningly shows us how we continue to be hoodwinked. These powerful undertones and championing of the Everyman that has always been one of the big draws for me to Pat’s work. If you are part of the establishment he’ll wink, joke, smile and then knee you in the bollocks. Every page has humour and sharply observed pithy storytelling. 


A hooded knight was playing eerie processional music on an electronic keyboard.’


This is a novel in a series by an author who has an ear for the edginess and tension of a story that lifts it above the banal crowd of novels on the shelves and a humour that ups the game beyond what you have previously become accustomed to in Waterstones. This series is an absolute fucking joy to read. Highly recommended. I read mine in a day and now will be bothering Pat for the next volume.


Millsverse is an example to everyone on how you can succeed in self publishing. Pat and Lisa Mills are putting out regular product of excellent quality from comics to novels to books about comics history to even recently a Judge Dredd colouring book.


Find out more about this and other books at www.millsverse.com or follow them on Twitter @Millsverse


Buy a copy here https://www.amazon.co.uk/Goodnight-John-boy-Read-Em-Weep/dp/099566126X/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1514120375&sr=8-2&keywords=pat+mills+goodnight


Many thanks for reading.

Monday, 4 December 2017

Comic Cons and Sales - A short rant.

Selling at Conventions - A Short Rant.


Hmmmm.....sales techniques. 

From the point of the buyer?

I wonder what has got me thinking about this? Could it be the Christmas songs being rammed into my ears like a Prime Minister fucking a pig's mouth? Could it be the pause in the convention season that allows me to take a step back and look at what a car wreck this year has been? (LSCC anyone?) Could it be the deluded 'Best Of...' Lists that I have been reading and the one that I am sitting in this coffee shop ruminating for myself?

All the above I suppose.

(They have just started playing Shakin' Stevens!)

It is a common subject that we go to on the pod about people sitting behind convention tables looking like they really don't want to be there. But what I dislike even more than lazy sales styles is the shallow, transparent and fixed grin behaviour that accompanies the 'Hard Sell'. 

Here are a few short examples. 

As I am lazy and lack style in any way at all I used to wear gig T-shirts a lot and especially in the time off I had and often at the weekend spent at Comic Conventions (are we still calling them that? I don't think I've had the memo yet...) These gig T-shirts are like Spanish Fly to mouthy and pushy comics sellers. Here are some things I have experienced through my own sartorial idiocy.

'Hey! If you love metal (I don't and for those simpletons out there The Grateful Dead are not a heavy metal band!!) you'll love this short horror anthology.'

'Is that glam rock? (It wasn't, it was a Boosh T-shirt) Come read this man, you'll love it!' (I didn't).

'YEAH! Flash (nope, Mage). Read this man!' (This was at an American convention so I feel that I can forgive them a little - look at who their President is!!)

So, tip one in the Xmas season. Don't wear gig T-shirts. These desperate drongos will latch onto anything they perceive as a talking point and try and engage you with it. It's like some kind of fight or flight response that they shout whilst the white dribble gathers at the corners of their mouths.

Don't take a comic from the hands of the seller. This is something that REALLY annoys me. A stall holder will push a book into your hands. Someone in some donut headed TED Talk or 'How to Sell Old Rope...' Book told the world that if you put a book in someone's hands they are more likely to buy it. This may in fact be completely true as there are a lot of people out there with the brains of a Corbyn voter but it is also just plain bumptious. On occasion I will verbalise this with 'Have it back' and it will also put my back up no end. People may buy that particular comic but trust me they will avoid you at all costs at the next event. Stop it. Just stop it now. 

(Christ... Paul McCartney!)

Try not to be rude to customers. This would seem obvious but as exhibited on every single occasion I have attended a convention it is a fact that is blindly missed like an adult at a Tory sex party. I once stopped at a table owned by that bloke from Soaring Penguin (I can't remember but think his name is Anderson?) I picked up a book to look at and he literally shouted 'Not that one! (he then made that harrumph noise). I put these ones out for people to look at!' Not sure how you sell books at your stall but I'm sure this can't be a good idea? This was a few years ago but was enough to put me off this guy since. (Answers on a postcard).

Don't pity sell. More common than you may think. 'I'm just trying to pay for the table and do this for fun.' Is a phrase I have heard quite a lot recently. It's probably more honest than some of the other attempts I have described but still seems a little off? I don't feel guilt much (especially because with some of the city shit I have done in the past) but some people will walk off feeling bad. Is that something you wanted?

What else.... Oh yes. The top of the crimes are the groups who are out the front of their tables and you have to swerve like those charity chuggers on Camden High Street.  Not only are they annoying but they will also put me off heading back to that particular isle of the Con and thus affects the sales of those poor fuckers with tables around them. We all know who does this......It's the comics equivalent of a North African street market where you have to wear dark glasses to avoid having a 'Calvin Klein' belt forced into your hands. You try to give it back but all they want to do is sell, sell, sell all over your face. (INTERNAL SCREAM).

Do I have a solution? No not me. But I can tell you what I feel comfortable with.

Be nice. Be friendly. Be prepared to make small talk. Ask the attendee about themselves and don't just talk about yourself.

If someone pauses at your table do what my pal Vince Hunt does. Say hi. Ask if they are having a good time and tell them they can have a read if they like. This will get you more good-hearted sales and these people will come back for a chat and possibly a sale at the next event.

WWVD.

Many thanks for reading....

Sunday, 26 November 2017

Comics Panels - THEY ARE FUN!!


Hi All,

Myself and Nick Prolix are running a weekly mailer. This is an article that caused a lot of conversation a moth ago when we ran it. In an effort to get a few more people on the list it is reprinted here for your pleasure.

Sign up over at www.tinyletter.com/cockneykungfu

Enjoy.

An Idiot's Guide for Running a Comics Panel.

Yes. I'm not an expert. Who of us is? I've moderated around forty panels in the last five or six years at various venues and also over the last thirty something years attended hundreds. Even when you have a great guest they can be a gamble as to whether they are engaging or even just plain interesting.

Here are just a few things that have occurred to me over the last year or so.. Take 'em or leave 'em. I don't have a Scooby Doo what I'm talking about at the best of times...



A panel is at it's heart a communication between the moderator and the guests and also communication between the guests with each other. There is a definite energy in the room that you have to work off. Email the guests at least a day before with a couple of sample questions and ask them if there's anything they'd like to cover. I've opened group DMs on Twitter in the past so they can get to know each other beforehand.

I would suggest that as people wait for it to start that you update them. 'We'll be getting started in five minutes or so, later I'll be asking for questions from the audience'. That sort of thing settles people down. Panels rarely start on time as people are late, the mics don't work, people are chatting. Be relaxed, it's all good.

I love comics and I try to get that across. I smile and joke and try to get over what should be a fun event for those attending and appearing. But when you are standing out there trying to extract answers from some guests you have two pieces of armour:

1. Research. Know who you have on your panel. What they have worked on, what they are working on now (and most importantly) what they have coming up and if they can talk about them. Make sure you have read their work as they'll often throw a couple of tests your way.

2. Prepare more than the number of questions you think you'll need. It's a cold hard and uncomfortable silence if you are standing in front of a crowd lost for words. Allow these questions to head off in a couple of directions if required. I like to throw the odd fun one in there if the mood needs lifting. ('If you could draw a celebrity into a story who would it be and why? or 'Who would you love to see X beat the crap out of? - that sort of thing).


Keep the energy levels high. Some people love the sound of their voice. Some think that they are the only person who knows what they are talking about. And, let's face it, some people are just plain unfunny and not very charismatic. I'm a great believer in the host being on their feet. The focus of the audience should be on the people they have come to see and the host usually isn't the draw for them (although some think that they are the celebrities - lost in a Keith Lemon like malaise of deluded belief that they are liked and admired).

I love talking about comics and with the right guest you can get them all stirred up by asking about their influences. If they bite you'll all get lost in their nostalgic memories of comics and creators they loved and admired growing up.  It's a good little tip to get the juices flowing.

Comics professionals whilst normally great company can sometimes be a strange and occasionally obtuse bunch. I have witnessed a few who make use of arrogance and pomposity to hide their lack of social ability or just plain absence of confidence. One artist I recently interviewed could literally suck the air out of a room from the very start.  But, and this can be a hard pill to swallow on occasion, try and remain positive. I watched a car crash of a panel a few years ago where the guests were just plain rude to the moderator and kept ignoring the questions and holding their book up to show the audience. My advice would have been to move on to future projects at that point and then arc back to what you wanted to originally talk about ten minutes later..


When manoeuvring around your discussion it's also a good tip to let them promote (but not over promote) a favourite or current project/kickstarter they have. This little tickle on their ballsacks (other parts are available) is often enough to get them enthusiastic about other areas of the conversation.

If you have a number of guests on the same panel then don't just ask the same question down the line. Ask it from different angles depending on who is next up to answer. On a recent panel about 'Breaking Into Comics' I asked what tips they might have. One of the guests is an editor so I switched the inquiry to his field of work when we reached him to 'As an editor what tips do you give when you view a portfolio?' It keeps the audience engaged and stops guests trotting out prepared statements. Bump onwards between the guests, jump around between the order you ask the questions.

Different types of panels and approaches apply for different events. Who are the audience. High Brow? Some people love the 'influence' question and swim in a sea of 'the more obscure the reference the cooler you are'. Watch out for fake french accents and indie darlings.


Hardcore fans? Be afraid. When I have run 2000 AD type panels the fans are ferocious. You get something wrong or show any form of weakness they're on you like a pack of jackals. Chewing you up, spitting you out and chuckling as they do it.

Family audience? No swearing! (I find this difficult) Parents are actually quite forgiving but that doesn't stop me feeling mortified when I let the odd bomb slip.

Small Press? In my experience attendees at these events will quite often know the speakers and be there to support them. That's something you can play on by offering more than the usual amount of questions to the audience.

Spotlight panels can be fun but will drill down into the subject a little bit more than is asked for by your average convention punter. These panels are generally personality specific and require a lot of research. I was lucky enough to be asked to run the 'Pat Mills Spotlight' panel at the 2000AD 40th Anniversay Event. You really have to be an expert for these. Do loads of research and try if possible to watch/listen/read their other previous (especially recent) interviews. Try and offer something that these have not.

Don't make the questions obvious. I co-chaired a panel a couple of years ago and the other host wanted to ask 'Where do you get your ideas from?' (yes, seriously). Ruminate a little on what you think will work and keep notes. Hone down some of the more insightful stuff, showing that attention to the details will help with the answers.


This is very important. Make the questions short. Long questions are both boring and often designed for the interviewer to show how supposedly intelligent he/she thinks they are. The guest will also lose track. There's nothing worse than hearing a loooong question to which the guest (thinking they are hilarious) answers it with a 'No' or 'Yeah' or even a 'Sorry, what was the question?'


Let the guest talk about subjects they feel comfortable with. Probe their answers and discuss what they are aiming at. But don't look for that bit of dirt ('So, why did you try and kill Jim Shooter?) that will only accomplish the panel getting mentioned on Bleeding Cool (and nobody wants that).

Above all make it an event that everyone in the room will enjoy (including you). I don't get paid for these but really enjoy running them. There's nothing better also when you get a 'thanks dude' from an audience member.

Many thanks for reading.

Thursday, 23 November 2017

In Review - 'Dog Days' by Anja Dahle Overbye.



DOG DAYS.

Created by Anja Dahle Overbye.

Published in the UK by Centrala Books.

72 pages - Black and White interiors - £9.00.

The Story - This book draws inspiration from North-Western Norway where the creator grew up. 'Dog Days' is a phenomenon that takes place in the late summer. According to folklore this is a period that is especially hot, muck floats to the surface of the water, the food goes bad and dogs are more prone to go mad. It is during this period that the reader meets Anne, who is mid-way between her childhood and the dawning of adolescence. It is the stifling hot weather that affects her relationships with both her friends and her family.

Anne's best friend Marielle wants to hang out with the slightly older Carrie. When the two of them strike up a friendship Anne is left out. She is too young to make new friends at the youth club and too restless to find anything else worth doing that summer. What will happen to Anne during these Dog Days....'



The Review - I've reviewed a few of Centrala's books during the last few years and enjoyed them all. From the soaring urban beauty of 'Chernobyl - The Zone'. http://downthetubes.net/?p=29547 To the nutty artistic experimentation of 'Old Farts' http://downthetubes.net/?p=37474 What I have found out during my investigation of their titles is that they produce some weird-ass comics, weird enough to fit in nowhere that is currently going on in the UK scene. And for this fact I await the release of each of their books with high interest. And to a forty-something English man this book is one of the weirder reads.

'Erm, well, I'm going to meet Carrie tomorrow too. She's a bit older than you, so it's maybe not much fun for you if you come along? I'll call you later.'

But weird is good right? Weird can open your eyes to the plight and circumstances of people and events that had never and probably never would occur to you without the intervention of fiction and in this case black and white biographical comics. This is a book about girls in Norway. I, sadly, have never visited Norway. But I was once the same age as Anne, Marielle and Carrie. I experienced the pains of growing up and apart from what you knew or thought you knew. We have all experienced the cruelty of teenagers to each other. This is a book that explores the problems of adolescence and the anxiety and loneliness of the individual at that age. The sweeping wave of nasty jokes and taking sides and wanting just to belong echo on almost every page. One particular sequence where Anne is climbing up a hill and keeps being hit with a branch by the other girls is particularly heartbreaking. She refuses to be put off and you can see that she wants to be their friend no matter what. At certain points I found the cruel jibes hard to read as they seemingly became the first act in a horror movie where you expect a creature would arrive and exact revenge on those bullies. This of course never happens but you do feel a creepingly sickening mood affecting all those in contact with the girls. 

An awakening and realisation comes to the characters in all manner of ways. They experience the death of a neighbour, the creepy and possibly abusive advances of a sunbathing man and the chance of failure. This is a book with depth and realism. I found it affecting and disconcerting.

The art has a pencil like quality to its quirky and almost amateurish panels. This is purposeful and allows for the connection with the young and inexperienced characters portrayed in the pages. This comic won the Norweigan Comic of the Year Awards in 2016 and I can see why.

One small niggle would be the lack of flow in places to the conversation and it's translation. It loses a little of the nuance in the snark through some obvious short-cuts. In a way this adds to the other worldly quality to how the girls speak but I would have liked it to feel a little more naturalistic in places. 

It is a book I suggest that you explore if you are brave enough....

Find more out about Centrala at www.centrala.or.uk and on Twitter @icentrala

Many thanks for reading.

Wednesday, 22 November 2017

In Review - 'white.NOIR' issue 1.



White. NOIR - issue 1.

Written by Matt Garvey.
Art by Dizevez.

Self Published. Full Colour.

The Story - A man wakes up in a crashed car that has apparently veered off the highway and hit a stag. You can tell that it has his this animal as it is sticking out of the windscreen. This man walks through the snow and cold to a local town. Once there he collapses and is cared for in a bar by the plaid shirt wearing locals. They call the sheriff and things get a little more complicated.



The Review - I was chatting to Matt recently over a coffee and he told me that this is a story that he has been wanting to write for a while. He had an image of a man coming to in a car with a stag's antlers sticking in through the windscreen and after working with artist Dizevez decided he had found the perfect person to carry out the art duties.

Straight out the bag I am taken by the cover. Simple and iconic but also hints at story and mood. This is probably the best cover I have seen in the small press scene for ages. A round of applause for whoever designed that beauty. Take note Small Press!

This is a story that follows the rules of Noir. Nobody is purely a hero or a villain, the sheriff has his own selfish agenda and as it turns out there is a beautiful woman who sets many of the events in motion. Matt dwells within the snowy visuals for just the right amount of time for the art to breathe on you and chill your bones. That long walk to a local town is dealt with beautifully and results in a look up at a blood red sky as the protagonist reaches the town sign. Matt is playing well in this duplicitous thriller sandpit it occurred to me when I saw that stunning visual. This is a story with both style and depth.



The scenes that deal with the flashback are mostly dealt with in black and white and at moments seem a little bit too washed out for my tastes. The use of narrative relevant splashes of colour however jump starts you out of the lack of richness in the visuals. I say this but need to point out that the very last page of this first issue is brilliantly realised and the use of facial acting is about the best you will see in comics, outstanding show-not-tell by the writer and the artist. I am treading very carefully here as not to spoil some of the story beats. 

This is also a first issue that has a lot of story packed in yet never seems overly rushed. Moments are left to ruminate and give weight to them. There is much to ponder and dwell on in this first outing.



I have read all of Matt's comics up until this point (I may even have written a cheeky intro to a collected hardback edition he put out last year) and I think this is the best written of the bunch (although I do have a soft spot for his series 'Chunks'). This falls squarely in the Ed Brubaker / Sean Phillips style of storytelling and for that I loved it and cannot wait to see the next issue.

Hurry up! I want to see where this goes....

Find more out at www.mattgarvey.co.uk or follow him on Twitter @MattGarvey1981

Look at some more art from Dizevez at www.dizevez.tumblr.com or follow her on Twitter @DIZEVEZ

Many thanks for reading.

Monday, 20 November 2017

A Comic Cover.


A Comic Cover.

One of the most popular Pods we have done recently was the episode about comics covers. So I thought that I would choose a cover and talk about it. I chose the cover to The Invaders Vol 1 issue 11.

I find the idea of a comic cover a fascinating subject in our little hobby. It acts as an advert, a sales pitch and an object of art all in one go. You get one go at selling the insides of a comic through what is displayed in (usually) one image on the front of the comic. It's that combination of art and sell, sell, sell that is an interesting crossroads. In many ways it stops us comics fans getting too pompous with our art snobbery. Especially back when this was produced 

I decided to take the plunge and try to explain to him why I liked a certain cover. What measurements should I use in my explanation? Art is completely subjective so how do I measure my love for something? The cover I have chosen is from Invaders issue 11. A comic that was printed and released just prior to December 1976 and features an image by Jack Kirby.

Ah... Jack Kirby. One tick.

Kirby is up there for me. I suppose it's his dynamism that really catches me. That image of the villain on the cover, swooping in a completely illogical way through a wartime hospital ward. All the story is squeezed into one page.

It features Captain America, Bucky and the Sub-Mariner. All classic Marvel characters. That gets it a second tick.

Marvel remains my favourite company. And the so-called Bronze Age is my favourite period. A time of weirdness and experimentation. This new at the time series had Nazi Vampires and reanimated Norse gods. I saw it as the Avengers with some added crazy based in WW2. The fact that the series also often featured a British hero called Union Jack was also a big draw to this London born and bred fan.

So, what am I really saying here. Nostalgia I suppose. It's an easy go to and never that simple. But one of the reasons that this cover came to mind was the good memories I had of it as a kid. Back in the 1970s we grew up reading comics. We didn't decide that it sounded like a cool hobby and get into reading them in our twenties (that is seemingly a modern crime!) Myself and my pals would all be reading Captain Britain or The Mighty World of Marvel and when we could get our hands on them we'd also read some American monthlies. One of my mum's pals lived nearby and her son was my age. I thought he was a bit of a wanker but at least we could both enjoy comics together. Then one day his mother decided she didn't want comics in the house and handed his collection on to me.

This included Invaders issue 11. I still have it. It is now scruffy and dog-eared and I wouldn't have it any other way.

Fucking glorious!