Thursday, 19 July 2018

Summer Event!


The mighty True Believers Comic Festival: Summer Variant Edition is incoming on the 5th of August!

Held in Gloucester at the gorgeous Blackfriars Priory in Ladybekkgate Street this is looking like a really fun event for comics fans and the family.

Here’s what the organisers have to say about the day.

‘After the success of our one off event The True Believers Comic Festival: Summer Variant Edition, we bowed to the demand of those 4 people who asked us to do it again and are bringing it back for a second year!

The event will again be held at Blackfriars Priory in Gloucester City Centre on Sunday 5th August 2018 between 11am and 4pm and, like last years event will boast over 30 tables featuring a great selection of Small Press Comics, original art, back issue comics, merchandise and much more, all in the stunning and unique setting of a medieval priory.

Full details on what will be going on on the day (including Cosplay & Workshops) will be announced soon.’


I’m busy writing some cunning questions for the panel that I am hosting at noon on the day. I’ll be chatting to some great guests. First up is Andy Conduit-Turner (one conviction for attempted murder only) who is the head writer and wrangler at Horde Comics, Then we have the Heart of Time herself Sarah ‘Milmo’ Millman (she’s not as scary as her reputation suggests but don’t test her!) and the multicoloured Steve Tanner from Time Bomb Comics (no eye contact - those jackets can have your eye out!). We’ll be talking about how you go about writing a comic and how this medium allows you to connect to the reader like nothing else. Should also be funny as heck!

At 1.30pm by old mucker Vincenzo Hunt will be hosting a panel about drawing comics. He’ll be chatting to a few masters of the craft including Lorenzo ‘Ball of Energy’ Etherington (he throws ink brushes like ninja stars), Susie ‘Barbarian’ Gander (she’ll get me back for that comment!) and Russell ‘Foreign Guest for Diversity Reasons?’ Olson (Only kidding, he lives in Portsmouth and is a thoroughly good egg and a cracking artist!) . All these three are really knowledgeable about this craft and should be inspiring you to head off an create something yourself.

Please pop along. It’ll be family friendly (I promise!) Bring a picnic!

Here is the layout for the day. When not hosting panels myself and Vincenzo will be manning the Awesome Comics table with copies of issue 1 and 2 of our anthology for sale.


Head over to www.oktruebelievers.com for your advance tickets.

Many thanks for reading and hopefully see you there!



Take a moment.....




So.

What’s your sweet spot.

What happens when you are the happiest.

It could be when you are out with friends? Or on holiday with your family? Listening to a great song? Watching your favourite team win? Dancing at a gig? Seeing a great movie for the first time? Having a moment to yourself and doing nothing?

For me its been the same for all my life. It’s when I’m reading comics. All the way from the 1970s and Marvel UK, through 2000 AD and Warrior, through DC Comics and the Bronze Age. Through the comics explosion/implosion. Through the age of the writer and the age of the trade and it continues every single day now with comics, trades, small press, digital and so on.

The feeling of bliss still resonates when I read a comic. When I find that one that I really enjoy, I don’t rush and I breathe it in.

I still daydream and think about comics as I walk home and as I work.

There’s not a feeling on this earth that I haven’t felt whilst reading a comic. It is an amazing medium.

You can still be a functioning and successful person every day in the job of your choice. A confident person full of jokes and jabs.

But.... what it does allow you is a Split Level Reality.

Thanks for reading.
 



Wednesday, 18 July 2018

In Review - ‘The Bog Road’ by Barry Keegan.





The Bog Road.


Written and drawn by Barry Keegan.

Colours by Chris O’Halloran and George Patrick Gamma.

Letters by Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou.


Published by Atom Diner - 88 pages - full colour.


Laois, a little known county in Ireland. For over a century an uneasy pact has kept the peace, until now....’


The Story - We are in Ireland, in County Laois. The reader watches a man head down to a bog at night. You notice a standing stone has strange carvings on it’s surface and it sits next to the spot where this man calls out for the ‘creature’.  And so, something rises from the bog, a being seemingly made of the greenery around the man but with a magically sinister aspect. His aggression is evident as he kicks the man to the ground in a fit of anger. 


People are dying on the road that humanity has dared to build through this bog land. The creature is violent and to be feared. You then are taken through a series of flashbacks to the dawn of Christianity in Ireland and how at a point before this the creature known as Na Sliogan was worshipped by the locals as a god before being chased off to hide under the water and earth.


The man calling on Na Sliogan is one Jim Brachan. He and his forefathers have a history and a connection to this creature. But the creature turns his back on Brachan. You see that something will be coming to a head soon. A battle between the modern and the old and magical is about to happen. 


In the land there are other interested parties watching and waiting. Who will join the fray.....?



The Review - The above is a teaser rather than a story explanation and that is something that I do with total purpose in this review. This is a book that surprised me with it’s folklore beauty and brutality. It walks that line of talking about a magical reality and balances it with the dangers this world faces when it rubs up against the cold hard reality of our stupid, stubborn and unimaginative world.


This is a book with messages under the art. Immediately you are taken with the theme of destruction of the environment and the forgetting of the lessons of the past. We see the actual and fictional world as one as man grabs the odd JCB and attempts to destroy and reshape. One moment has Na Sliogan tied to a railway track staring down the headlights of an intercity train as it hurtles to kill him and his natural world. The imagery of progress against nature, beauty against hard steel, peace and violence is really interestingly realised in this comic. It is done neatly with heart rather than cold satire.


I also loved the folklore angle that Barry takes in this story. After writing this review I’ll be straight off to research what he draws from in this story. Na Sliogan is not the only beast or fairy or folklore legend we see in the latter two thirds of the story. In fact the creator saves some outstanding character designs for some of the later stages in the story and in holding them back he makes the ending even more richer.



Barry also seemingly plays with speech and styles of communication. The conversations of the modern townspeople have a rhythm that is totally in keeping with what we hear today but he holds onto a tighter and more dramatic rendering of speech for the mystical creatures. This is the sort of speech that is almost Shakespearian but also has a taste of that echoing and distant style of speech that Gaiman used when writing similar beings in The Sandman. Meaning is drawn out in different ways in different environs. You hear the words and the meanings differently.


There is also a clear love of Ireland in this book. The land, the history, the myths and the modern world. We even get a map in the back pages, who doesn’t love a map!


The art reminded me a little of Charlie Adlard but with a softer edge. There are some excellent character designs on show and a couple of little nods to other stories (I’ll leave that to you to work out). The colour has a sense of character in the darker tones used to show dusk and night and the green beauty of the countryside. Some of the character designs are also really well prepared and are all different but seem part of the same world, I’ll let you discover for yourself how that is realised.


A couple of moments could have done with some pacing differently, for example the end seems to cram a little bit too much into the final pages but it did leave me with a smile on my face, so what else can you ask for?


This comes highly recommended.






You can get this through Barry’s website at www.barrykeegan.com and it links through to Sub-City Comics who will supply you with a hard copy (I just ordered mine).


Many thanks for reading.

Saturday, 14 July 2018

Post....

So,


I’ve been away for three weeks and just got home to some ace post.


More on all of the below soon.







And this guy was waiting.....















Saturday, 30 June 2018

Reading Pile.......

Breathe in.... 


It’s been a big week of comics reading as I have just got back from a pool side holiday. I headed out to see pals Pat and Lisa Mills in Spain and apart from spending many hours chatting comics with them I also got to read a suitcase load (thank Ro-Jaws for digital huh!)




A memory of where I used to sit........


Here are just a few examples of what I’ve read by the pool.





As the week began I fancied something a little quieter and with a little bit of the bitter sweet so I downloaded the three volumes of Alex and Ada from Image Comics.


From Jonathan Luna and Sarah Vaughn this is a love story set in the near future. It has that slightly unremarkable Luna style art but living amongst that basic style is a complicated story of emotions and relationships. Sure, the main criticism of the Luna brothers over both of their careers is that their style is a little sterile and lacks detail/noodling/personality. But what this story does successfully is slowly and carefully weave a believable story of love and loneliness in an unbelievable setting. 


Alex and Ada could easily be dismissed by someone who hadn’t read it as a sex doll story (That’s not why I read it I promise) but it is gentler and much more romantic than that. Sure there is a small amount of sex and some adult conversations and themes but it is at it’s heart the feeling of two individuals. Volume one and two of the total three volumes have some cracking writing but in my opinion it rushes the ending, a shame as I was really invested. I’d still give it a go. It raises a lot of the questions that the Channel 4 series ‘Humans’ does. Clever sci-fi.


I bought mine from Comixology during a recent(ish) sale but it’s still less than a physical copy. A good three trade self contained story.



So..... what did I fancy next. 


Some nostalgia.


I bought in digital form a couple of comics that I have great affection for and are both some of the best examples of the use of the characters up until this day.





The Hands of Shang-Chi Master of Kung Fu - issue 68.


Written by Doug Moench.

Art by Mike Zeck.


A book that is so at the top of it’s game it can’t be touched. I can remember where I was when I read this as a kid. It features a battle between Shang and his nemesis and the only man in the world who he felt could possibly beat him Shen ‘The Cat’ Kuei.





It’s great to see that this series is finally getting the reprints it deserves and that a whole new audience can realise just how good a martial arts comic can be. Why isn’t this a movie franchise! This issue was the conclusion of a game of Death and Deceit and has a great turn by Black Jack Tarr (surely the greatest sidekick in Bronze Age comics!)


Next up was ......





Avengers 195 (May 1980).


Written by David Michelinie.

Art by George Perez and (inks) Jack Abel.


I read this over and over sat in the back of a parents’ car on a summer holiday. The art is crisp and bright and shows that Perez is a class act. It is also the first appearance of The Taskmaster!


Ant Man and Yellowjacket team up to infiltrate a henchman training academy to rescue The Wasp.  It’s a cracker! I wonder why this finally came out on digital?


Next up was a really pleasant surprise. All three of us, Vince, Dan and myself are big fans of Europe Comics. They are a digital only platform for translations of European comics that have rarely been previously released in English language. A month or so ago I spotted a tweet asking for reviewers of their books and responded. Whilst I have been away they sent me some amazing books to read and review.


The first one that caught my eye was...






 ‘Gypsy: The Gypsy Star’ by Thierry Smolderen (writer) and Enrico Marini (art).


I read this and it is fucking amazing! Marini is a rock star. You really have to see this series. There are currently six volumes available on Comixology and I’ll be reading all of them.


It’s a full on action adventure with all the blood and gore and sex and death you’d expect. It’s got a 17+ rating and is very highly recommended.


‘I’ll shit in your pockets!’


Have a listen to Episode 156 of the Awesome Comics Pod for more on this series. (I’ll probably write something in more detail when I catch up with the current volume).





Find out more about Europe Comics and sign up for their newsletter at www.europecomics.com and follow them on Twitter @EuropeComics


Thanks again to Irina Polianina for hooking us up.


Do you ever ration yourself when you find a series that really hits the spot? Do you read it slowly and hope that it never ends?


This is a series that I mentioned in the Cockney Kung Fu mailer a few months ago and remains as amazing as the first time I read a volume.


Coincidentally it’s another book from Europe Comics.





Mermaid Project Volume 5.


Script and dialogue by Leo and Corine Jarmer.

Art by Fred Simon.

Colours by Jean-Luc Simon.


The title of this series initially confused me and I thought that it was simply because some of the story was set at sea....but hold onto your hats, it’s much more than that!


This book is set at the end of the 21st century in a world that is on the edge of breaking. It is a twisted and off kilter version of our reality. The central character is a punky young white girl detective in a precinct house of all African/French officers. It plays on pointing out this reversal in status quod nicely and has some well paced dialogue and plotting.


The art verges somewhere between Moebius and Richard Corbin. It has that Euro colouring that is bright and not something we are used to in US mainstream comics. 


Yes, that cover is genuinely part of what happens.


Anyone up for sex on the back of a whale?



Some more nostalgia? Why not.


How about some 



Contest of Champions.


Written by Mark Gruenwald.

Art by John Romita Jnr and Bob Layton.


I examined every single ruddy millimetre of this comic when it came out. It had new, rarely used and established characters all fighting each other.


It also had a big role for Captain Britain before he suffered the Moore mystic change!





This was one of the early mini series that told a self contained story and really packed in the action. As a kid I felt the tension and worried who would come out as the winner in each of the battles. This is a series that is set squarely at the end of the Bronze Age and you feel the past and what is to come soon. An actual fun crossover!


It also has (in my opinion) one of the best drawings of Alpha Flight’s Sasquatch.


The above is just a small section of what I’ve been reading. Worthy mentions go to Peepworld, Daredevil, Dr Fate (Giffen is a beast), Maggie the Mechanic, Heartbreak Soup, X-Men: Gold (come on Marvel, sort that art out!).


I also managed to read some actual prose too!






And I bulk watched Luke Cage Series 2 (although that may have been a slight waste of time!)



Oh well, back to normality now. Ah look, some post! I bet it’s comics!


Many thanks for reading.

Friday, 29 June 2018

In Preview - ‘Death and the Bear: A Modern Fable’ by Paul Tonner.


Death and the Bear: A Modern Fable.


Created by Paul Tonner.


24 pages - Full Colour.


The Story - A bear is living his day to day in the snow. But he comes across a human with a shotgun. The man fires as the bear attacks. What will happen to the bear and what decisions will he make? Give into death or take revenge or maybe both?





The Preview - It’s hard to give the game away on this one. I really enjoyed Paul’s last comic ‘Nom: The Demon Eater’ but this, as he admits in his email to me, is an altogether different fish.


It is as always a beautifully illustrated comic but Paul takes a different tack in his approach to the art here. It is done with a simpler style, often one or two images per page that go a long way to give the creatures and landscapes a sense of power and a real sense of setting. This is a beautifully designed comic full of textures in the starkness and brutality of the barren nature it takes place within. It is a quick read but a very satisfying one.


Paul uses the voices of the bear of the title and a crow to weave the story and the decisions his characters make. They are like a pair of folk story narrators who are granted iconically emphatic lines full of pragmatic and sad directness. It looks at first glance like a strangely ferocious children’s’ book but has more depth than that implies.






The story is done with some lovely space and air between images, words and pages that make it feel like you are watching a (morality) play unfold. A real change of pace for Paul. 


This is getting a release at Glasgow Comic Con tomorrow Saturday the 30th of June 2018 at the Royal Concert Hall. Paul can be found at table L37. Find out more about this Convention at www.glasgowcomiccon.com or follow the action on Twitter @glasgowcomiccon


You can find out more about Paul at his website www.paultonner.co.uk or buy his art and comics at www.paultonner.bigcartel.com and follow him on Twitter @HeavyVoodo


As a lifelong vegetarian this was a welcome read - but I’ll let you discover why...



Many thanks for reading.



Kickstarter Corner - ‘Errol vs Evil’ by Darrell Thorpe.



Errol Vs Evil.

Created by Darrell Thorpe.

Full Colour - 48 pages - A4 Comic.


Get on it!


I’ve followed the work of Darrell Thorpe for a couple of years. Simply put he’s a machine of comics fun, great ideas and infectious energy. If Frank Zappa was alive today, decided to make an all ages comic and could just pour his brain onto a page this is what it would look like. Imagination infests the animals and weird creatures of Errol Vs Evil, I’ve been lucky enough to see the first twenty pages of this new project and it’s a cracker.

Here’s what Darrell himself has to say about it....

‘Erol Vs Evil is the first comic to come out of the FreeDoom realm.  It's a one shot comic following Erol the bonehead and his quest to become a member of the infamous "Piece Brigade". 


Along the way you'll meet odd characters that litter this realm of chaos and apples. 

But more importantly you'll get to hang with Erol the bonehead and join him on his epic crusade.


So jump in and back this comic to see if Erol can survive!

Will he level up and will he ever find his father?  


All these questions and more will or will not be answered in this fun A4 size comic. 


Suitable for Adults and kids with a sense of humour.’



Make sure you back this project and if you can get some of Darrell’s original art into the bargain. I’ve got some amazing pages from him and they they are full of instinctual vigour and a great grasp of ink and paper. 


The Kickstarter video also made me chuckle (big shout out to Nick Prolix for assisting in it’s production).


Search this fellow out at www.forpe.co.uk and find him on Twitter @mrforpe.



Many thanks for reading.