Sunday, 26 January 2014
I got these great sketchbooks through from Banshee Collective.
All the way from the Far East with art by the excellent Sheldon Goh and sorted out by his good lady Angelia Ong.
Superb. The only problem is that they are presents so I gotta give them away!
Wednesday, 22 January 2014
Black Dynamite (issue 1 of 5).
Written by Brian Ash.
Pencils by Ron Wimberly.
Inks by Sal Buscema.
Colours by J. M. Ringuet.
based on the movie by Michael Jai White, Byron Minns and Scott Sanders.
Published by IDW.
Listen. We all know what happens here. Something is successful (or in this case 'culty' successful) and everyone jumps on the bandwagon. You see it time and time again. Did we really need the 'Highlander' sequels, or the 'Stargate cartoon, or fucking Scanner Cop 2? (yeah well I kinda liked that last one). So when they decide to transfer something you liked into another version or another medium I am always a little nervous. Sometimes these things are best remembered as they were. Let's face it, becuase it works in one medium it's not necessarily going to work in another?
I thought the Black Dynamite was a lot of fun. It played to all the strengths (and weaknesses) of the genre that it lampooned. Even at it's best the Blaxploitation movement of the 1970s and early 1980s was a bit ropey. But I am still a fan and regularly watch movies like 'Black Belt Jones' and 'Blacula' and enjoy their freaky fun. The creators of the original movie understood the genre completely and created a funny and fun movie, full of badly edited scenes, strange close ups, hammy dialogue and lots of tits! Lot's and lots of over long lingering shots and ill timed dialogue are part of the richness of these movies. Some of those jokes are something that only works on film? Maybe?
So I went into this first issue with some trepidation. How do you translate a cinematic piece of kitschy fun into a comic? I enter open minded!
'Black Dynamite Don't Ever Come Quick!'
The book opens in the usual funky world of one liners, sexy chicks and inner city tough guys and we get what we expect straight off the back. We get a ruined sexy scene that hilariously flashes to a a light fitting (if only to prove the books exploitation roots). Dynamite is then called into action and defeats the man mountain of a bad guy in quick shrift with some disco kung-fu (or as it's refferred to in the book 'Authentic Chinese Kung-Fu').
It's after this frenetic fight scene that the book takes an almost meta turn. Dynamite is confronted by a man in a suit and a series of witnesses. They point out to him that perennial crime fighter problem. You know the one, they always point it out in essays about Batman. That we wouldn't have super villains or rogues galleries without the Superhero/crimefighter to begin with. Black Dynamite is faced with the realisation that he may be the problem after all. The writers play with Blaxplotation perceptions by having this pointed out to our hero by a well dressed, clever, practical (black) man. The antithesis of the flashy cliche that is Dynamite. In the same twisted stupid logic that John McClane destroys a city block but is still hailed as a hero, Dynamite is knocked back to reality by a sensible person explaining a logical theory.
It was at this point that I saw the merit of the comic as part of the larger canon. The writers made it fun and pulpy but also put an extra spin on the narrative to hook the reader for the next issue. essentially Dynamite is told to 'grow up'.
So what would a hero do? He walks the earth of course!
Flash forward to a road weary Dynamite. He's melancholy (but still cool). It's raining and he's confronted by what he thinks are the CIA. One of the Mr Anderson characters presses a button and the rain stops! It is at this moment that Dynamite is presented with the modern world and what can easily be supposed is the beginning of a whole bigger film budget.
'THE MAN' is no longer a corrupt politician, a greedy landlord or a excessively violent cop. He's now big business, corporation super bad guys. They might even (just might) be a worldwide banking group (but that is just a guess). We have fast forwarded our hero into the digital age. Will his Authentic Chinese Kung-Fu cut it in a modern world. But don't take it to seriously is the point of it for me, just enjoy it.
The writing hits all the right points and is funny and cliche all in one which can't be an easy feat. 'Funky Barker' may be my favourite name in comics for ages!
The art has a frenetic style that seems stylistically like a graffiti montage with a little bit of early Turtles. the colours are a tad bright for a piece such as this but it's hardly a problem and I really enjoyed all the panels (I read this on guided view).
I shall certainly be picking up the rest of the run.
Saturday, 18 January 2014
An interview with comic creator Tim Bird.
Whilst perusing the small press sections of comic shops and the small press areas at festivals like Comica and Thoughtbubble I have come across a few new and interesting artists worthy of wider recognition. One of these artists is Tim Bird. Having previously appeared on Beardrock (under the comics review section for his work on the really interesting ‘Grey Area’ published by Avery Hill http://beardrock.com/eyebrow-art/comics/grey-area-while-city-sleeps-issue-1 ) I decided to reach out to him for an interview.
He has a fresh approach that flies in the face of punch up comics that fill the comics shelves. He can easily be compared to a Jeffrey Brown or a James Kochalka with his indie sensibilities and slice of life honesty. He approaches his work with an interestingly different eye, always the observer and very rarely the antagonist.
Have a read of this interview and then head over to his website www.timothybird.co.uk or his publishers www.averyhillpublishing.com to find out more.
Could you let us know what background you have in art and comics? Who influences you?
I don’t really have much of an artistic background - in fact I studied chemistry at University! Comics have always been a big interest, though – and I’ve always drawn cartoons and comics in my spare time. I grew up reading Tintin and Asterix, then got in to American indie comics by the likes of Adrian Tomine and Daniel Clowes when I was a teenager. It was only relatively recently, at Thought Bubble in 2010, that I discovered the scale of the UK self-publishing scene, and decided to give it a go myself!
As for influences, I decided to draw an online diary comic after reading Adam Cadwell’s The Everyday. I’m a massive fan of Seth’s artwork – particularly his use of light and shade. My more recent comics are influenced by the likes of Simon Moreton and Oliver East – both of whom use landscapes and locations to define their work.
It seems that you choose to show rather than tell? You use sparse dialogue? Personally I love this and wondered how you came to this technique?
Two films that have really influenced me are Patrick Kieller’s London, and Finisterre by Paul Kelly. Both films feature long, still shots, and are voiced by an unseen narrator with very little dialogue and I thought these techniques would work well in comics. I’m still keen to include captions of text because I think this helps create a sense of rhythm and interest to a page, but the more I write, the more interested I’ve become in trying to depict a sense of place, rather than tell a story about people, so there’s been a shift towards the imagery being the focus.
Grey Area seems like a 'Geographical Slice of Life'? How did you come across this particular style? How do you approach and choose a subject?
I’m a big fan of the psychogeography writing of Iain Sinclair and Will Self, and wanted to see if I could create something similar in comics. The subjects for each issue of Grey Area – London at night in issue 1, and the British motorway system in issue 2 – are a combination of personal experiences and interests.
There are themes that keep cropping up in my comics, which I’m drawn to time after time – the urban landscape, transport, the suburbs, folklore. Issue 3 is about the Thames Estuary, and it’s been important to me to walk through the places I’m writing about, to experience the place and to document it directly in photographs, which I’m using as reference.
Where else can we find your work?
I still occasionally post diary comics on my website (www.timothybird.co.uk), and would like to do more. Grey Area is published by Avery Hill Publishing, and that’s available from their website (www.averyhillpublishing.com). I draw a comic strip called Effra Tales for a local paper – The Brixton Bugle. It’s a free paper, available throughout Brixton.
What have you got planned for the future?
I’ve just finished a book called Infrastructure, which is a series of illustrations of London’s transport infrastructure. Hopefully it will be available from Avery Hill Publishing soon. Issue 3 of Grey Area should be finished soon, too. I’m working on a comic called Bullpen with a writer called Luke Halsall – it’s one of the first times I’ve illustrated someone else’s writing, so it’s quite a daunting experience! I hope to keep drawing comics, and to keep enjoying doing it. I’d like to improve my artwork as much as possible, but the best way to do that is just to keep drawing!
What else are you currently reading? Other comics and other media?
I’ve only recently discovered Oliver East’s comics through his latest book Swear Down, and I thought it was great, so I intend to catch up on his previous work. I don’t often read superhero comics, but I’ve just finished reading The Black Beetle – No Way Out by Francesco Francavilla and I thought the artwork was stunning. I’d love to be able to draw in that noir style!
In terms of other media, I’m reading The View From The Train: Cities and Other Landscapes by Patrick Keiller, which is a collection of essays.
Many thanks Tim. A real pleasure.
Since chatting to Tim he told me that he had sent a mixtape to Jeffrey Brown (who I compared him to in this and a previous article). So just for fun (and with Tim's permission) I thought it would be worth sharing. It's a funny old world.
Friday, 17 January 2014
Flash Gordon is almost 80 years old and this is a piece to promote Dynamite Comics series that follows on from the awesome Kings Watch!
With poster art by Marc Laming. How pumped are we for this series now!
Thursday, 16 January 2014
Review - 'Comic Book Babylon' - Tim Pilcher.
I have just received and read 'Comic Book Babylon' by Tim Pilcher. A Kickstarter novel of his life in the comics world from the mid 1970s through to the 1990s and touching on time since then.
It's an emotional (although sadly a little short at 138 pages) journey of comics and characters from those heady days of big sales and big expense accounts.
I have to say that I enjoyed it. I put the book down some ten minutes ago from a one sitting reading and it does stay with you. I mean, it's honesty stays with you, tinged by big dollops of sadness it's not the boastful book I was expecting. It's actually neither boastful nor overly scandalous (much to its credit).
Tim makes reference in an early chapter that these days of comics publishing from Warrior's excellence to the indie blast of Vertigo were our own punk. I agree with this and was there at the time. In fact many of the events he recalls are ones I remember with the same nostalgia (yes I was at that overnight movie showing at UKCAC and the beanbags in later years).
Does a book allow for the freeing of pent up guilt and demons? Probably. We all have regrets from those years - simply a fact of life for those living (and drinking) in London in those crazier days of new Labour. Over indulgence was almost an art form in those days and the comics coming out of Vertigo (and others) reflected this freedom on thought.
I knew and know the places and bars Tim described and for that the book is a vibrant nostalgia injection. I loved his descriptions of the comics of the times and to be honest would love to have heard more. Hopefully this book does well and is just a 'Volume 1'?
If you were about in those days or interested in a small pocket of comics history it's well worth a look.
Wednesday, 15 January 2014
Sadly. And this is not something new. It's always been about. Its just something that has got more and more push.
People argue about it more than they comment on the issues that matter.
Everything is about a shallow perception. Never about the true meaning and the depth of the story or issues.
It's been playing on my mind a lot recently.
The Image Expo just pulled the trigger.
Like everyone who loves this sort of thing I watched the tweets and instagrams of the announcements with my normal excited enthusiasm. I am a life long comics fan and there has never been a better time for comics. Never.
The talent on show was breathtaking and the ideas were really flying.
But when I saw the group photo my heart fell.
Not because it was all white with little sexual and racial diversity.
But because I knew that the normal bores would jump on this as the main story.
I dare you to find a pastime or hobby that is more aware of diversity. Anyone here been to a UK football match for example?
There wasn't a face on that group photo who wouldn't be behind diversity in comics. (And have a proven track record of such.)
I am ashamed that this is the story of the Expo. (On many a website - not on them all thankfully).
Just in case anyone is curious. I will buy, enjoy and promote your comic if it is good. Full. stop.
I don't actually care if you are a man, woman, black, white, gay, straight, Catholic or Muslim.
But I would be interested in you are a Martian (but only if you can draw feet! :)
Saturday, 11 January 2014
‘Reads’ – issue 4.
In the world of small press comics companies Avery Hill are a prime example of a group of people who take this stuff seriously.
They have a regular and high quality output that I always enjoy reading. Based in South London/Kent they occupy an otherwise artless commuter belt of rough and ready south of the river.
I look forward to each and every release with enthusiasm. 'Reads' is their anthology/showcase title. This issue (number 4 in the series) covers subjects such as alienation, flight, love, ghosts, mix tapes and costumes.
This issues cover is a minimalistic wrap around Tim Bird creation with great use of black and white and red. The interiors are black and white but I hear that they will soon be experimenting with colour strips later in 2014.
Rather than list all stories I thought I would focus in on a couple. (Not that the book isn't all a treat.)
One of the standouts is 'Silent Treatment' by Owen D. Pomery. A regular at Avery Hill (in fact he has this and two other one page strips in this issue) his work always exhibits depth and often quiet melancholy or loneliness. The story follows a man who never talks (or feels that he doesn't?) and has a bubble round himself as he transverses the modern world. I won't spoil a poignant end but it worked perfectly as a short story. It allows moments allowing the reader to breathe and think. His art style in this story makes use of some really interesting line work that builds the texture of the panel. (Maybe a little Eddie Campbell in style?)
I always get a sense with Owen's work that he revels in the outsider. The man observing, looking at us from elsewhere. This gives his work a laid back sense of contemplative ennui. We see an emphasis on personal identity that lacks from many other small press attempts. But we also see an intricate weirdness to his situations. His stories exude eccentricities but keep real life emotion, he speaks to a cult appeal but remains eminently readable. Just lovely stuff.
It's hard to pick stories out from a great mix of real quality but I wouldn't feel comfortable without mentioning Tim Bird's 'Mixtapes'. Tim blows me away every time and I think this may be the best I have seen him. His line work is showing real growth and has an accomplished and clean look to it. He reminds me a little bit of a English Jeffrey Brown? He shows that level of introspective sensitivity. Some lines throw you back to your youth and punch you solidly in the guts.
'And I kept making tapes for her that she would never hear.'
Just the above line was enough to explain everything you needed to know in the story. Speaking less and saying more is a great strength of Tim's.
It's his attention to detail in this strip that really shines. His recreation of album covers and mixtape handwritten labels, just gorgeous. For those of us old enough to remember sifting through vinyl and taping onto C90s this story was a real treat. It'll throw you back to those awkward moments in the eighties and nineties.
I genuinely can't speak highly enough of this anthology (I picked mine up from the always reliable Orbital Comics in London's West End).
If you fancy reading this or more of their output they can be found at www.averyhillpublishing.bigcartel.com
If you fancy dropping me a line with angry criticism or the offer of beer I can be contacted at www.beardrock.com or on Twitter @ezohyez.
Friday, 10 January 2014
Wednesday, 1 January 2014
For a while when we suffered through a period of little or no Who we were treated to some 'almost' the Doctor series from Bill Baggs and some other fine chaps (including a young Nicholas 'Dalek Voice' Briggs).
I thought it would be fun to post some of the old VHS covers.