Monday, 30 October 2017

In Review - 'Robert Moses: The Master Builder of New York City'

'Robert Moses; The Master Builder of New York City.'

Written by Pierre Christin.
Art by Olivier Balez.

Published by Nobrow Press.

110 pages - Full Colour - Softcover.


The Story - 'From the streets to the skyscraper, from Wall Street to the Long Island suburbs. Every inch of New York City tells the story of one man's mind: Robert Moses, the 'Master Builder" who designed the modern metropolis.. More influential than presidents of mayors, Moses brokered control of the Big Apple and built a city beyond imagination.'

The Review - New York is a city that I and many comics fans hold a great affection for. Through comic books and movies and novels it is a city that we know better than almost any other. It has a personality and a bussle that we feel and know through our nostalgia for the tall buildings, seedy bars, parks with horse drawn carriages and muggings, and most especially water towers. I genuinely find it to be one of the wonders of the modern world in vibe and scale. Seeing a book like this explain and expound on the origins of much of what I and we love in this city is a big part of it's enjoyment.

The book has exactly the same sharply cool art and style of something by the late Darwyn Cooke, full of tailored suits, twin sets and pearls, scotch tumblers, groovy trad jazz, seats at the bar , and so on that we see in works like Cooke's Parker adaptions or in more recent television like Mad Men or Boardwalk Empire. It is a feast of art showing spectacular historical settings with the people and mood to match.

But let's also not forget that this is a lesson in the creation of a city. We follow Robert Moses on his single-minded crusade to build a hub for people and their recreation and jobs and transport and homes that everyone could flourish inside. This book walks you through his upbringing, origins and business dealings throughout his life. It does this by both showing the widescreen cityscapes and maps as well as the discussions, debates, arguments and business deals that go on in a more boardroom or personal one-to-one scenario. 

Pierre and Olivier also stray from this path of pure history on the odd occasion to show a pause in the rush-rush of big business. Robert and his friends/colleagues go on a road trip in an open top car and in that moment Pierre proved to me that he could write these characters with a really endearing quality. It works on these differing levels and also has that feel of a Frank Capra movie. Totally cool and delightful all in one graphic novel.

On the odd occasion in my humble opinion Olivier the artist grabs the obvious stock footage of an historical figure and uses it as reference but I think this is fair in a book that leans so heavily on telling the facts. For the rest of the book the art is flawless. I was literally stopped in my tracks by a number of pages, a fact that can be proved by checking out my excited postings on Twitter.

This was originally printed in France under the title of 'Robert Moses, Le Maitre cache de New York.' before getting a translation by Nobrow. This is the softcover treatment and is an absolute steal at only £12.99.

Pierre Christin was born at Saint-Mandé in 1938. In addition to the ongoing Valerian series, Christin has written several other comics oneshots, including The City That Didn’t Exist, The Black Order Brigade and The Hunting Party, all illustrated by Enki Bilal. Among the many European comics artist he has collaborated with are Enki Bilal, Jacques Tardi, Alexis, Raymond Poïvet, Jijé, Annie Goetzinger, Daniel Ceppi, and François Boucq. This is his first collaboration with Olivier Balez.

Olivier Balez is a long-time comics artist and children’s book illustrator who resides in Chile. He has illustrated work in virtually every genre of comics, collaborating with Florence DeCamp, Eric Corbeyran, and Pascale Fonteneau, among many others.

Find out about this and other books at or follow them on Twitter @NobrowPress.

Many thanks for reading.

Saturday, 21 October 2017

In Preview - 'Porcelain: Ivory Tower' from Improper Books

Porcelain: Ivory Tower.

Written by Benjamin Read.
Art by Christian Wildgoose.
Colours by André May.
Letters by Jim Campbell.

Published by Improper Books - Full Colour - £14.99. 

There's so much I want to say about Porcelain: Ivory Tower, the third instalment in Benjamin Read's and Christian Wildgoose's epic series. But I can't..... there's so much going on here. SO MUCH! Moments, words and whole panels will open your eyes to guilty secrets, unspoken loves and duplicitous confidants. And, hmmm, 'Ivory Tower' - what could that mean?

Sometimes a book series affects you so emotionally during the reading. This is a book that moved me. I count Christian as a friend of mine and have never been so proud of a chum as I am now.

I first met Christian at the the KAPOW! Comic Convention in Upper Street, London during the summer of 2012. I was sitting with Dave Houghton and Marc Laming being bored by a certain self-obsessed artist and we were trying to extract ourselves from the conversation. I was saved by 'The Goose' who handed me the black and white ashcan preview of the first volume. I was struck with how fresh, original and gorgeous it was straightaway. He signed it, I read it, sensed there was something special going on here and stuck it in a bag and on a shelf.

Roll on October 2017 and the third volume has just landed. It is darker and denser than the previous volumes. If volume one had a Gimm's Fairy Tales vibe to it this third volume has become more of a Russian epic. It's narrative reach is far and wide and the cast has grown, and grows during this volume, to a world full of war and politics and deep emotions. It has gone from a morality tale to a broader metaphor for the implications of power, and family, and violence and playing with the lives (and deaths) of a range of people. Every single character is fully realised on the page. I feel like this is a world that I have known for decades.

'I have been a soldier in both my lives. I vowed to keep you safe, remember?'

Read and Wildgoose expand the story making logical use of the complications of the years and the situations that this city experiences. It is more than you expect. Much more than I expected. It is gloriously elaborate in story and also in the intricately captivating art on show. I can't go too far in the description as it will expose spoilers, but... people who we think we know change. Their change is in many ways inevitable. Their change can be seen as unpreventable in the situations they face. This is a story that lays out in a fantastical setting the actual reality that a ruler or commander must face and decide on actions in the harsh cold moments of wartime. But, and here is a warning in advance, this comic will break your heart.

I wrote to Chris six times as I read. Six times this book affected me on a deeply emotional level. Good fucking god this is good. (He may well have now blocked me?)

This is a collaboration between writer and artist where you can't see the join. The words the characters utter are part of the visual that you observe. The flow throughout the panels is as much the writing as the art and it is impossible to separate the two. I have yet to show page two of this volume to anyone without them saying 'wow'. The changing of the seasons is once again used as a storytelling technique to pace out what happens and to give scenes resonance. This is the splendid culmination of a finely honed epic, you see everything on the page, every emotion and moment you need to see.

Don't make a mistake by thinking this is a prissy fantasy story. This has a sinister heart to its story. It is set within a war, a siege. The world is full of hard-hitting fighting. There are some brilliantly executed sudden shocks to the system. The soldiers and 'warriors' have a classical design to them that only goes to emphasise the stabbing and punching and shooting stuff we watch. Think Sharpe with tanks fighting androids in a Baltic castle and you might get somewhere near the vibe?

Hugely worthy of mentioning is the perfect pitch of the colouring by André May. He treats us to each chapter and season change with a whole new palette of shades of colours. His work adds so much to the richness of the reading experience.

Again, I really want to share with you the panels, scenes, words and sequences that mean't so much to me as I read.....but I can't. This is such an experience to read that you really need to buy a copy and try it for yourselves. If you have never bought anything on my recommendation then this is the place to start. Trust me, this series will blow your mind. Intelligent, graceful, frightening, beautiful and heartbreaking.

Make sure you don't read it in a Costa Coffee at Kings Cross.....public sobbing can be really embarrassing!

Porcelain: Ivory Tower got released at last weekend's Lakes Comics Art Festival. As part of the book you get an extensive section on character design by Christian along with some great pin-ups by Kate Brown and Jon Lam.

You can currently order a copy exclusively from Page 45 here

Find out more about Improper Books at or on Twitter @ImproperBooks

Explore more of Ben's writing at or follow him on Twitter @Bookpirate

 Explore the beautiful artwork of Christian Wildgoose (who is also the current artist on Batgirl at DC Comics) at or follow him on Twitter @MrRiktus 

You can find André May at

Jim Campbell handles the lettering and can be found at and on Twitter @CambellLetters 

Many thanks for reading.

Friday, 20 October 2017

In Review - 'Midnight Man: Gunspace'

Midnight Man: Gunspace.

Written by Mo Ali.
Arts and Design by Andy Bloor.
Published by Bad Mother Publishing.

(Plus extra pin-up by John McCrea).

The Story - 'Blasting into space in a retro-fitted Big Ben, time-travelling vigilante Midnight Man is off on another exciting adventure. Can he find the origins of the sinister time-corrupting cabal hounding him at every turn, saving humanity once and for all?

It's a metaphysical jaunt across the cosmos and beyond!

Strange beings and bizarre escapades, and a question that will ultimately question everything our hero believes in. Get ready for more TEMPORAL, BULLET, ACTION. Courtesy of Midnight Man. You're welcome.'

The Review -   A good place to start with this review is the cover. They often don't get mentioned enough. This one is a cracker. It's a simple design that won't really be forgotten and features the Elizabeth Tower (Big Ben is the large bell inside the tower by the way) taking off like Thunderbird Three into the sky. I've always thought that the dial of the clock looks like a big eyeball that is observing and judging the inhabitants of London (but maybe that's just my big city paranoia..?)

As I open the book and look at page one I immediately get a strong underground 1980s comix feel to the story. It's got that tripped out antiestablishment vibe to it's interiors. It also occurs to me that in this world of photoshop and the accompanying sharply coloured visuals that on occasion you need this heavy on the inks black and white artwork. Bloor is bold and in your face. Along with Ali he plays psychotic chess with the characters as he moves them about. He stamps his strong and broad mark on the page with a solid two tone/punk attitude.

Revolution on mushrooms is in the air in a story that could act as a bridge between V for Vendetta and Kirby's 2001. I've been waiting to see where Mo and Andy would take this character next. I was hoping that this anarchy would continue and I wasn't disappointed. The flow seems the same but they turn the strange meter up even further. I refuse to spoil too much but let me just tease the planet that is in the shape of an unborn child..... But to be honest, the visual of the icon of Westminster shooting through an asteroid field is enough. There is no doubt that this should be a story in 2000AD!

'Don't worry love, I'm used to disappointment. I'm from England.'

With this second instalment Mo and Andy begin to flesh out the wider mythos of MM and those with other iconic face markings (oh you tease!) But everyone in the story has a double edge and often a meta satirical one to slap some sense into you! A finger gets pointed at the reader both literally and figuratively. The characters know they are a story, they know the nature of the unreality. They relish in the playing with truth and fiction. A notice of intention unravels itself threatening to reveal all to those that watch or collaborate. This is as much a commentary on the nature of fiction than it is of the actual fiction it represents - yes, I know that's cryptic but you'll have to read it to discover anything near the truth or the whole truth.

A couple of small niggles are that the odd page seems a little sparse of words or images. These can be seen as maybe a chapter break but still managed to nudge me out of the story at moments. A couple of the snarks fall a tiny bit flat (the Twin Peaks comment may have been written before the current return to interest in the series but seemed ill-placed for example).

But overall it had some excellent moments. The encounter with the alternate universe 'Midnight Man' seemed to me reading it like a classy moment from a Jerry Cornelius novel (and there is no higher compliment than that!) Maybe a whiff of The Seventh Seal or a good Hawkwind album? This is the sort of experimentation I love to see. It's a bizarre cosmic ballet of strangeness and quark. 

I bought my copy direct from the mighty Bloor at Nottinghm Comic Con. It  came with a great colour print of MM by John McCrea. A black and white version of the same image can be found on the inside back cover.

Find out more about the writer Mo Ali and Andy Bloor at and buy a copy.

You can also find Mo at or on Twitter @mo_ali

Find Andy at or on Twitter @andybloor

Many thanks for reading.

Monday, 9 October 2017

NYCC 2017 - Day 4.

Day Four at the New York Comicon 2017.

Ok, I had the Saturday away from the main convention and spent it with pals discovering new areas of Manhattan. I got to eat lunch in a diner at 100th and Broadway that featured in the new Defenders tv series with Bob Fingerman and then went on for dinner with Mr Vander and Harrower. (Bob has donated a couple of books to next weeks Nottingham Comic Convention charity raffle which was very kind of him).

So I was suitably rested before heading back in for the fourth and final day of the NYCC. The queue was distinctly more casual in the morning and everyone sat on the floor like we were in a July park. I have to say that it was noticeable for the whole weekend that I never, let me say that again, never saw one person reading a comic book outside of the back issue sales area. Of all the thousands of people I saw in the cafeteria or halls or lines nobody was reading a comic. Not sure exactly what that means? 

Everyone wants to ride the coat tails on comics these days it seems, even the Brooklyn Brewery was having a try (yes they also had a cosplayer wandering the halls looking a little perplexed.)

I headed in to catch Paolo Rivera and got this awesome Eternal Warrior print from him for a mere $20. This was a print that I missed out on last year as it had sold out. Paolo was great company and says that he is doing some more work for Valiant that is still a bit hush, hush.

You can look at prints like this and some more of his amazing art at or follow him on Twitter @PaoloMRivera.

I also got handed a free copy of Heavy Metal issue 280 which was cool. There are still quite a few Convention Special freebies to be had at the NYCC if you keep your eyes open. Something for the flight back. With a story by Benjamin Mara and Grant Morrison opening the issue it can't be all bad.

I collected an X-O Manowar commission I had ordered from Jim Calafiore. Spot on. I have been a big fan of the man's work since I enjoyed his run on Marvel's Exiles. He asked to do the old school armour, looks great. This head sketch was a mere $50 which was a real bargain in a sea of poeple charging a lot more.

Find out more about Jim's work at

II also managed meet and get a photo with one of my all time comics heroes Keith Giffen. I bought some prints from him and generally took the piss for a while. (Really wish DC would get him back on an OMAC series!)

And yes, I got to look at some more ruddy amazing artwork!!

Yes and even some good old Marvel UK artwork made an appearance... (John F will be pleased ).

I even managed to buy myself a page from one of my favourites series. This is a Ricardo Villagran drawn page from Tim Truman's Scout: War Shaman run!!!

I got to collect this cracker from Mr Vander. He had done a cover for my podcast brother Dan Butcher's Vanguard. (Brian added his own little flourish to the page beyond the outstanding original art - I'll let you listen to the podcast in future weeks to find out what it was....)Find Vanguard at

Can't speak highly enough of Brian's work. He is really gaining some buzz and has recently been working on Operation Boom from the Reckless Heroes stable. Big things ahead for this guy! 

Look out Mr V's work at or find him on Twitter @vander11chi You can buy Operation Boom and other books from the Reckless Herroes at

I've had tickets for every year of the life of this particular version of the NYCC and it's an ever evolving beast. I'll be honest and say that it's feeling less and less like a comics event... In the early days even the T-Shirt for the event would have a major comics character (Ghost Rider one year, Spider-Man the next) but now it seems less in your face.

(The Gifted - Actors gather to be adored - Hash Tag whatevs!)

Artists Alley was in a downstairs hall that seemed smaller in scale than previous years. The DC booth was crammed in a mostly forgotten corner of the lobby. Posters and banners seemed more more in sync with what is going on in TV than the comics. Look, I'm a realist and understand that trends happen and at the moment TV is a book area for comics originated material. But it's also a little sad. Even in the busiest moments of the day you could get a little bit of air in the back issue and Original Art areas on the main hall. 

The launch panel for Black Crown and Full Bleed that I went to on the Friday should have been a packed room. But it seemed to be mostly creators, website journalists and podcasters who filled a few sad rows of seats. This imprint is shaping up to be an artistic hotbed (and in my opinion the new Vertigo style company on the block) and more people should be sitting up and paying attention.

I was also often the only person admiring a flipping through binders of the art of Kirby and Ditko and Buscema and Wood and their like. Just to hold this art in my hands is a huge thrill. If only others felt the same way.

I met some great people inside and outside the Javitts Centre but can't help but feel a little down on the event as I left. Sad that the future seems a little precarious for our favourite medium. The fact that you were around a hundred times more likely to hear about a cartoon than a comic talked about in the lobby means that there may be some slim years ahead.

I'll be back again next year.....

Many thanks for reading.

Friday, 6 October 2017

NYCC 2017 - Day Two.

Day Two at the New York Comic Con 2017 opened early as I realised that i can actually see the venue from my hotel room. I headed down for breakfast with the normal cronies and spotted a possible love connection between one of them and the steroid swallowing waitress (I shall take the secret to my grave!!!)

I headed down without Mr Harrower today (he's off doing some art stuff in Harlem). and lined up again. I've been really impressed with both the security here and the speed they get you pushed through onto the site. All the staff so far have been friendly and professional.

(The Shadow with art by Giovanni Timpano published by Dynamite Comics).

I headed straight to Giovanni Timpano's table and had a chat with him about his Shadow/Batman series. He showed me some of the inked pages and they look superb. I've been a fan of this guy's work for a long time. It was great to see him and his art up close. Definitely an artist to watch out for. Find out more about this artist at or follow him on Twitter @GioTimpano

(On the left Mr Brent Schoonover and on the right the Mighty Siuntres).

During the weekend I also got to catch up with Wordballoon's John Siuntres. This is a podcast that I have been listening to for a bonkers amount of years and I always try and search John out and thank him for what he does. I highly recommend having a try. It is in main an interview show with some of the best in the industry. I managed to introduce John to Christian Wildgoose and we chatted about a possible  Wordballoon/Awesome Comics Podcast crossover event! Check it out on iTunes or follow the podcast @johnwordballoon

It was also great catching up with old pal Sarah Woolley. I bought her book Charlotte and the Quiet Place a couple of years ago for a friend's kids and they absolutely loved it! We chatted about her newly released art in Bitch Planet: Triple Feature. Search her out online and buy some of her work. Top stuff. If you are at the convention then head over to Booth L-10 in Artists Alley.

With the change in layout after the knocking down of the building that used to be a home for Artists Alley I've noticed that things, events or signings seem to be cropping up in all the nooks and crannies of the Javitts. The DC/Vertigo booth is down on the ground floor at the far end. It's got a small signing/queueing area and a small exhibition of the Justice League movie costumes. Seemed a little out of the way and out of place somehow. Jim Lee was sat on his own at a table (don't see that often). Later in the day David Finch looked a tiny bit lonely?

The United Kingdom was, as always, out in force at the NYCC. The Titan booth was looking spiffy and after spending a couple of minutes only at the 2000AD booth I began to suspect that there may be a few sore heads from the previous night's larking about. That's a tradition I am proud to say continues.

I also bagged myself a copy of the Steve Dillon Memorial Charity Sketchbook (for sale for $10 at the 2000AD booth) that is being sold to raise money for the Hero Initiative. It boasts a heartbreaking image of Steve himself by Bill Sienkiewicz and contains art from a who's who of talent on interiors. You can buy a copy or donate to this worthy cause at

I closed the day out with a panel and it was a cracker. Run by IDW it was split into two parts. The first dealt with the new Shelly Bond spearheaded Black Crown imprint and featured spotlights on some great books. It was brilliant to see Pete Milligan taking centre stage and talking about his upcoming series Kid Lobotomy and then Shelly introduced some pages from Punks Not Dead with art by the mighty Martin Simmons - I can't wait to see what comes from this company that is shaping up to be the new Vertigo! 

Then we heard about the new quarterly comics/magazine hybrid Full Bleed that has been killing it on Kickstarter. Bob Fingerman chatted about his water coloured portraits of scurrilous politicians with real passion and humour. I can't wait to get my hands on this new series. You can find the Kickstarter for it here

For those Original Art junkie here is a selection of the pages I leafed through today....

If only I had a bigger bank account!!!

I also captured Batgirl meeting her artist at Christian Wildgoose's table in the afternoon. 

I'm not at the con tomorrow as the Saturday is like ramming your head into a rugby scrup for ten hours so I'll probably just post photos of me in a robe at the day spar for the report tomorrow....

Many thanks for reading.

NYCC 2017 - Day One.

Day 1 NYCC 2017.

(Day One - mandatory haul photo).

Last night was a doozy. Met up with Marc Laming, Amri and Adrian Hashimi (check out for some of the best art you'll see), the Mighty Harrower and Mr Bob Fingerman. The aim was to have drinks with some buddies and stay up as late as humanly possible. Ended up drink at a bar with Bob until late and stumbling back to my room.

Bob Fingerman is the kind of guy that it's a privilege to know. His book Minimum Wage remains one of my favourite ever comics and he is always funny and thoughtful. He's got an IDW panel at 6.45pm on Friday at the NYCC. Head down. Find more about this creator at or on Twitter @fingerbo

I now have a small yet perky hangover! 

Got to the venue about an hour and a half early. Just about early enough to sail through the metal detectors and line up in the hall. The  line was long and packed but everyone was in good spirits and friendly. Good to hear much talking about comics as we waited.

Myself and Mr Harrower examined the day's events whilst in the huge line. (See above photos for an interesting reaction). For the first time ever NYCC staff took pity on us and they let everyone in around fifteen minutes early. The main floor and lobby was already a rugby scrum. I don't have a clue where all these people could have come from!!

We made for artists alley which was still calm(ish). I heard talk that it was taking exhibitors a good hour to get in themselves and subsequently quite a few of the desks were empty. We talked our way around the isles and met up again with Mr Laming and Mr Wildgoose as well as Brent Schoonover and Brian Vander.

(Brent Schoonover from Captain Marvel - left and Marc Laming from Star Wars and X-Men Gold on the right. I actially challenge you to find better comissions in the hall this year as I watched both of them kick it out of the park all day!)

(Christian Wildgoose from DC's Batgirl on the left and Brian Vander from Reckless Heroes' Operation Boom on the right. This table is known widely as 'Party Central').

In  my wanders I got to have a good chat with Russ Braun about his and Garth Ennis's new Aftershock Comics series 'Jimmy's Bastards'. I bought some signed copies and his new sketchbook. This is a cracking series and full of the humour that runs on from these creators run on The Boys.

Bumped into the three 11 o'clock comics podcast guys and shot the proverbial!

I caught up with UK creator Sarah Grayley who was experiencing her first NYCC and was heading off to take part in a couple of panels. The artist on 'Kim Reaper and Rick and Morty can be found at or on Twitter @sarahgraleyart 

A few circles of Artists Alley and I braved the main floor. Bought a handful of back issues and then made for the Valiant booth. I got to chat to possibly the most positive man in comics Dinesh Shamdasani. We talked about all their stable of books. My only complaint is that I own pretty much everything on their stall! If you want to get on the Valiant bandwagon I would highly recommend Divinity and The Valiant as entry level drugs! Great stories, well considered action heroes, class writers and artists. 

One of the best things about wandering the sales floor on the slightly less busy Thursday is that there is plenty of room to grab some back issues and also look at the ruddy amazing original art on show! Have a look at these really old and imaginative pieces I spotted.

(That's some Barnet on Sterenko!!!)

The main hall was a bit more managable through the day and myself and Matt Harrower took the opportunity to grab a few presents for pals back home fill some holes in the back issue lists.

We also managed to grab some time with Claudio Sanchez from the band band Coheed and Cambria. Along with his wife Chondra Echert and Daniel Bayliss they produced one of my favourite series from the last few years Translucid. A book that cleverly flips the hero and villain cliches in a trippy and colourful style. You can get it in trade from and I highly recommend it.

What would the NYCC be without a chat and a purchase from Daniel Warren Johnson. I grabbed the trade of Extremity from him for my son and he handed me Cherno his Pacific Rim fan comic. His art will blow your preconceptions of what you can get on a page. Uppon showing it to a couple of pals who were busy at their tables I had to nip back to get more! Head over to or follow him on Twitter @danielwarrenart

A small tip for anyone attending on the other days - get your shopping done in the last hour of the day on the sales floor. It began really thinning out at about 6.30pm.

Roll on Day 2!

Many thanks for reading....