Sunday, 25 February 2018

Coffee House Barbarian - Coming Soon!

Coffee House Barbarian.

Writtten by Tony Esmond.

Original character concept and art by Susie Gander.

New series coming in October.

Coming soon from myself and Mrs Susie Gander, self published.

We are both very excited about this new project. We also can’t say much at the moment but if our giggling at the two planning meetings we’ve had is anything to go by this should be a whole heap of fun.

Susie knocked this teaser image up last may not be exactly what you expected. In fact we kind of hope it’s not......

More news soon.

Follow Susie on twitter @SusieGander and at her site

Many thanks for reading.

Saturday, 24 February 2018

In Review - Punks Not Dead from Black Crown Comics.

Punks Not Dead.

Written by David M Barnett.

Art by Martin Simmonds.

Colour Flats by Dee Cunniffee.

Cover A by Martin Simmonds.

Cover B by Bill Sienkiewicz.

Letters by Aditya Bidikar.

Published by Black Crown and IDW.

The Story - The book opens on floppy red headed Feargal Ferguson. He’s a bit of a skinny and weedy kid. He’s in the school playground and is squaring up to fight a big lump of a teenager. The kids have formed the classic circle and are chanting ‘Fight! Fight! Fight!’

We then flash back some weeks and discover that Feargal and his mum have faked a back story of sadness and abuse to get on a TV Chat Show. The over preened host gawks and narrates to the camera as the pair have a surprisingly off script mum/son moment. 

After being paid, the pair head to Heathrow airport and stop to examine the tawdry supermarket magazines that they are featured on the cover. Feargal heads to the toilets and bumps into the ghost of ‘Sid’ a man so similar in appearance and attitude to Sid Vicious that it might make you pause and wonder if they are one and the same. (Insert hmmmm noise).

Sid is talking to strangers and insulting the size of their nobs. Feargal realises that he is the only one who can see Sid and the pair begin something that might be described as an adventure.

Meanwhile there are strange goings on at Number 10 with the appearance of the Grande Dame of Modery one Dorothy Culpepper. She’s vamping it up looking like a septuagenarian Mary Quant model! She’s also an agent for an obscure MI5 Unit called ‘The Department for Extra Usual Affairs’. She’s busy catching a demon rat and stealing an expensive pair of leather trousers.

Sooooooo. The stage is now set for a crazy punk rock supernatural adventure.

The Review - You hear good things about something and then it turns up and meets those rumours. Rare huh? 

It happened here to me as I read this at an early morning commute train station in bucket loads. Straight out of the gate from cover to columns and all the in between I loved this!

I’ve known and enjoyed Martin Simmond’s art for quite a while. Thoughtful, experimental, beautiful even. But given the reins here in Punks not Dead you can see a talent that is about to get wider recognition. I sense in the sweep of the attitude in his pages and the way that he is already throwing you over his shoulder and artistically tumbling you through this world that this is just the beginning. I had a chat with Shelly Bond at a comic shop event last year and she hinted with enthusiasm at the imminent (Black) Crowning of the next hot thing! I gotta tell ya, she ain’t wrong!

I sense that Black Crown, Shelly Bond and David Barnet, Marin Simmonds and their gang are about to unleash a beast on that is standing proudly with a sneer in their punk Doc Martins! I haven’t been so excited after a first issue for ages. It’s like we got the sneer of Deadline and Kill Your Boyfriend alongside the experimental visuals of The Books of Magic and Hellblazer.

I can imagine the fun that David Bennet is having as he writes. It whirls about like a funky late 60s spy movie and also has a load of heart. You see the musical influences but sense that this is about a kid who is lost and looking for meaning. Very nicely done dialogue bumps about on the page and he gives the artist and the colourist (Dee Cunniffee who deserves a bigger credit than they are getting in some reviews I’ve read) the right moments to shine. Have a look at the last few pages of the book to see some brilliantly paced and gorgeous visuals.

But don’t confuse my 1990s amphetamine ramblings for a selfish nostalgic time slip. This is relevant to the world that these characters live within and is just as set in the now (more so even) as anything else you’ll see on the shelves.

I added this to my pull list after hearing about the series at the New York Comic Con last year and I initially got the Bill Sienkiewicz cover. I’m heading back to Orbital today to complete the set with Martin’s version of the cover to issue 1.

Find out more Martin Simmonds at and follow him on Twitter @Martin_Simmonds

Find David Barnett at and follow him on Twitter @davidmbarnett

Find out more about the colourist of this beauty at or follow their technicolour Twitter @deezoid

Look for more books by Black Crown at and follow them on Twitter @blackcrownhq

Many thanks for reading.

‘A person who collects things of a specified type, professionally or as a hobby.’

You don’t really hear the phrase ‘Comic Collector’ anymore. It used to be the thing that we would call ourselves. I actually think that this is a bit of a shame.

We would go to Comic Conventions and talk to other ‘collectors’. We’d plough through longboxes looking for that issue that we missed. I still do.

Sure, there are a few groups online and at the now occasional Comic Marts who are still carrying on that tradition but I get the feeling that it’s something people are turning their backs on. Or at least refuse to admit to others and possibly themselves.

Do people consider themselves too cool? Are they now the readers of ‘Graphic Novels’ or ‘Zines’ or ‘Sequential Art’ or whatever other load of wank that some up their own anus idiots decide to call it.

Is is a presupposed opinion that the public will see them in a certain light? Everyone calm down. Look at all the movies and tv at the moment. You’d be hard pressed not to see something based on a comic. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. We won! We beat all those other crap pastimes like chess or football or stamp collecting or cat torture. We really did win.

So. If you buy something. You keep buying it and you don’t just throw it away immediately...... that’s collecting right?

You can still claim to your mates that you ‘don’t really understand the macho allure of superheroes.’ But that doesn’t preclude you from the fifth level Collectors Badge.

That image of someone who panics if the room temperature in his Man cave is too low or that person who buys two issues so that one can remain pristine and untouched (like him) is not what is required to be a ‘Collector’.

Personally I buy comics. When I get a few minutes in my life I’ll write down what I’ve got and what I’m missing and I’ll often go back and re read the odd issue or run. All of these exercises are actually pretty zen like. Sure, I’m a completist and I like a whole run to read but isn’t that the same as going back and watching that episode of a tv series your Sky Box failed to record?

So give in. Stop telling everyone that you read comics because you appreciate the art but you’re ‘not really one of those people’. I’ve got news for you. If you have a box of Comics and you look forward to the next comic from whatever hipster cunt you follow YOU ARE A COLLECTOR!

Accept your life. Put down that accordion/banjo/harmonica (insert wanky musical instrument here) and tidy up your comics and have another read of that one you liked.

That’s it.

Now you are one of us.

I’m going to leave you now and get on with that Excel spreadsheet I’ve been planning for all the appearances of Omega Red.

I’ll probably die under a stack of comics.....

At least I’ll die happy.

Many thanks for reading.

Friday, 23 February 2018

Cosmic Conversations - A Chat with Andy Clift.

Something that’s a little different this week. Thought rather than the usual review I would tackle an interview. Have fun.

The Adventures of Captain Cosmic: The Mystery of the Missing Planets 1.

Written and drawn by Andy W Clift.

The Story -Entire planets are disappearing and fear is spreading throughout the galaxy. Prime Consoler Zoltan of the Commonwealth of Worlds calls in the only people that can help. The Galaxy Defenders known as Captain Cosmic and Kid Cosmic! Will our cosmic heroes be able to stop whatever menace that has befallen the galaxy and save the day?’

The Review - Sometimes you see the cover to a comic and you know that it’s going to be class. I was busy surfing through the new comics on the Comichaus small press comics app last week when this book caught my eye. I’ve been a fan of Mr Clift’s work for sometime now and anything by him gets a read straightaway. This is easily the best thing he has produced up to this date. It is a glorious mix of upbeat fun and retro style. 

The art and dialogue sparks and explodes with a knowing grin like watching Batman The Animated Series crossed with some Space Ghost. It is also a comic that will leave you cheered up and watching for the next issue. The tone is set from a cover that could have come straight off the shelf from a company like Boom or Dynamite Comics but also retains that youthful enthusiasm of Silver Age DC Comics (it even has a chess board header = fucking glorious!)

Andy and I chatted online and I got to ask him a few questions about how Captain Cosmic came into being. Read on Cosmic Chums!

Never Iron Anything (NIA) - Dude, firstly I have got to say that this new series The Adventures of Captain Cosmic is a joy from the style to the dialogue to the colouring. Spot on!

Andy Clift (AC) - Thank you! I very much appreciate that. 

NIA - Now. I’ve heard you say that this is somewhat of a homage to Silver Age comics. I’m going to guess at something like World’s Finest or Adam Strange? I’m also going to have a guess at there being some Star Trek in there. Anyone else?

AC - Where to start? World’s Finest for sure. I love those books. Some of those stories are beautifully surreal. I’m always reading a lot of DC Silver Age books: Green Lantern, Flash, Strange Adventures, etc. A lot of classic TV too, Star Trek of course. The Hanna/Barbara Space Ghost cartoons were a big influence on the tone of the book as well. There was just something wonderful about the visual story telling in the 60’s. I also took cues from pulp books. Buck Rogers, Flash Gordon and particularly the Phantom. I love it all. 

NIA - I’m also going to hazard a guess that you’ve been designing and noodling around this for a while? Did you want to talk about the evolution of the book?

AC - I’ve been working on this, on and off, for around about 2 years from start to finish. It’s gone through a lot of changes, but some core things have always remained the same:

It had to look as authentically silver age as possible. 

It had to be all ages. 

It was always going to be a Father/Daughter hero team. 

I’ve always loved the fact that the mantel of the Phantom was passed down the Walker family line and I hoped to do something similar with Cosmic. It was also very important to me to create a mantel that could be passed from parent to child regardless of gender. This opens up the possibility of future stories a lot 

more, while hopefully, appealing to a wider all ages audience.

NIA - Since the days of a certain Bear adventurer your art has grown and changed. was there anything you did differently here or any artists you looked to?

AC - Aww thank you. I feel I’ve learnt a lot from all the different projects that I’ve worked on. I did a lot of research and design work for this book, probably more than I’ve done for any other. I think I drew about 5 different fully rendered covers before I found the right one. I did a lot of colour tests as well, to make sure the palette was right. Jack Kirby, Darwyn Cooke, Bruce Timm, Alex Toth and Mike Allred are always my go to artists for inspiration. But specifically, I read at a lot of Dick Sprang and Curt Swan. I don’t think anybody draws happy Superheroes like those two, their work is just a joy. 

NIA - The design has a real retro feel all the way down to the back matter and page tints.

AC - The look of the book is every bit as important as the story. I wanted it to feel authentic to the era, so the reader felt like they were reading a silver age comic book. I researched and replicated as much of that as I could, while also trying to keep my own stamp on the book. 

NIA - The tone is also unashamedly enthusiastic and cheerful. Something that you felt we needed at the moment? I keep hearing Adam West in my head as I read.

AC - Very much so. I’ve always felt that Superheroes are meant to inspire us to be better and as much as I enjoy realistic, gritty stories, I think we could all use some happy, positive and even cheesy stories at the moment. There’s certainly some Adam West Batman in Cosmic, for sure. 

NIA - It’s currently available on the Comichaus app. Any plans to real ease a physical copy? And when are we getting issue 2?

AC - I’m hoping to kickstart a small print run for issue 1 next month, which I’m very excited about. I’m hoping to have issue 2 ready for some time in the summer. I’ve already plotted it out. 

NIA - Any chance or a Robox 5 mini series/one shot? 

AC - I’d love that! Yeah, I think I’m going to have to that. Maybe a page or two in the back of issue 2, like they used to do with Action Comics.

NIA - Thanks so much Andy. Much appreciated.

Genuinely. This is a new series that you will enjoy and leave with a big smile on your face. It is clearly created with love for those Kirby days of outrageous spaceships and bold and grinning superheroes. Highly recommended. Or as I put it in a recent social media post:

Oh Clift! You clever bastard you!

Find out more about Andy, his art and this new series at or Follow him on Twitter @andyWclift

Many thanks for reading.

Wednesday, 14 February 2018

In Preview - ‘Mean Girls Club: Pink Dawn’ by Ryan Heshka

Mean Girls Club: Pink Dawn.

Created by Ryan Heshka.

Published by Nobrow. 100 pages. Hardcover - £14.99/$20.95.

The Story - ‘The lascivious ladies of the Mean Girls Club have been raising a riot around town, and the cops are onto them. Prepare for a mad-dash of boozing, skull busting, and general mid-century mayhem as they deliver a swift stiletto-stab to the crotch of the patriarchy,’ 

The Review - I’ve been waiting to read this book that represents a terrible example on behaviour and language to the youth of today. I loved the original comic that came out as part of Nobrow’s 17x23 series of titles and this does not disappoint! A comic that fails to discourage acts of violence and cruelty but is done with retro cool. Count me in!

A clam, hey? Well, my girls will make these donut holes sing!’

Who can deny that a comic that contains phrases like ‘Fuck Balls’ or ‘Beat these mystery turds down!’ could possibly fail to be great! Ryan has taken what he did as a much shorter form story in the preceding version of this series and cranked it up in all areas. It lampoons everything including its own sharpened wit.

Great pork swords!’

The Mean Girls with tight skirts, preened baby doll make-up, the odd eye patch and tattoo and a variety of weapons that include shotguns, knives, bats and even snakes take on the establishment. Red faced and obese Mayor Schlomo is a Southern Fried bacon eating alternative Dick Tracy villain and as soon as he appears you know that the Meanies will be beating his fat ass!

‘Hairy hatchet wounds!’

McQualude, Wendy, Wanda, Sweets, Blackie and all the rest are rude and prone to sudden acts of vengeance and larceny but you also get some origin stories in this volume and a little of what motivates them. They’ve all been wronged in some way and that’s what has made them so ‘Mean’. A car mechanic with a bed-ridden Gramps turns up by accident and lost near to the club-house and after proving herself in a fight with one of the gang looks like she is the new member but will she make the grade? Will she turn on her new sisters? 

Throughout this the plot thickens. Will the corrupt Mayor, the bent police and the abusive church members stop the girls from taking over the town? Who will end up as the bacon?

‘Holy Fuckballs! She kicked Wanda square in the sausage grinder!’

The art returns to that stylistic choice of black and white with a grey wash and that stark pink. The women are glamorously and hilariously often cliches of the 1950s/early 1960s period it is set within. The men come of less well and are grotesquely designed to amp up the razor sharp satire.

Ryan has totally kept the anarchy fuelled, trippy and retro feel of the original comic and elaborated on these characters. This is much better suited to a longer exploration that the 17x23 comic hinted towards in my humble opinion. This 100 page volume gives you that bigger meal you wanted after the last tease. You get a comix style cartoon of a book that is done with some magnificently over the top everything. You cheer for these under dog gang members who you find out are not totally without morals. 

Wait for the muzzle flashes, Wendy! Then aim to maim!’

Each burlesque Betty Boop caricature is crossed with that Lady Snowblood/Faster Pussycat, Kill! Kill! aesthetic and then drops of lysergic acid are catapulted into your eyes as you read. They stir up the crazy and everywhere they go bullets, booze, uppers, downers, wild animals, violence and general mayhem follows. The skirts are tight and the low cut tops are actually so tight that you think Lola Lollabrigida is gonna turn up and bash some melons too. I’d have been a much bigger fan of Dick Tracy growing up if it had these elements! 

A subversive treat that combines bizarrely unsettlingly images and dialogue with diabolically hilarious satirical commentary on modern society and it’s snowflake attitudes. I would love to see this adapted for TV or movies but I’m not sure who has the pair of bollocks to do it (other sexual organs are obviously preferred!) Russ Meyer was never this great!

Once again Nobrow have pulled out all the stops and this is a beautiful book from a design point of view. Presented in a gorgeous wrap around image on the cover with some excellently realised period/tone/story specific little extra flourishes on the end/title pages. And only £14.99! That’s a price that a lot of the comics industry should be paying attention to!

Spread the word of The Mean Girls Club!

Find a copy at or follow their antics @NobrowPress And try following #meangirlshavemorefun

Have a look at some brilliantly strange and often a tiny bit daft art of the creator at

Many thanks for reading.

Sunday, 11 February 2018

What we might be missing ....

What does the future hold for us as consumers. I hear bleak stories on the slowing down of writing and reading, faces glued to the glow of the phone or tablet screen.

We grab and look and throw away at speeds almost too fast to observe. Art is, in may, many cases disposable but does it need to be chucked away so quickly.

Should Art last? Some things last for centuries rather than the seconds we take to scan and pass by.

So. I would invite you to look at this image.

How long did you last? How long before your mind wandered and you continued to read this?

Maybe you didn’t even read this and have fucked off to Instagram or Twitter or XHamster?

Should this really be what we are like.

Take pause. Breathe deeply. Go back and have another look. There’s no trick, no hidden images.

Just art.

So... that minimal glimpse you had a second ago. What if we extrapolate that to the whole of Comics. Scrolling or page turning so quickly that we are missing the depth and the point?

Remember when we were kids and we took ages to read a comic? Then we went back and read it again. Then we pulled the comic out of our wardrobe again a couple of weeks later and looked at it again. Maybe we copied some panels or write the writers and artists down in a book or showed it to our friends.

Fuck me! I loved those days!

Take longer. Linger a little more on the panels and pages. There’s no need to rush. Treasure the moment and the comic a little more. Do we live on the dopamine levels that spark upon a small complimentary tweet? I know some people who live for that moment of self congratulatory front fart!

Hang on.....

Nope... come back.... Twitter can wait. We don’t need to take a photo of us reading the aforementioned comic. We don’t need to show how clever we are. Just get what appreciation you need from a piece of art that took some good amount of weeks or months to produce.

It’s not a cheap item. What did you pay for it? At least a few quid. So make the most of what you own. Read the credits and the letters. Even have a look at the adverts. Read all the words. Look at all the art.

Enjoy a comic. And then. Only when the warmth of that enjoyment is beginning to fade should you even consider going online and boasting that your tiny primate brain can actually read.

Sign up to our mailer at for more of the same.

Many thanks for reading.

Realism in Writing....

Here is another of the short pieces that I wrote for the Cockney Kung Fu mailer. Some of you might not have seen it so I’m cross posting it here. I’d love to hear what you think.

Do you need to fight a bull to write about it?’
This was a question that I posed on the ‘Writers Studio’ panel last weekend at the True Believers Comic Festival in Cheltenham. I got to sit down with Antony Johnston (the writer of The Coldest City, The Fuse and more), Rachael Smith (creator of The Rabbit, Wired Up Wrong and more) and Mike Garley (the writer on the Samurai Slasher series and The Kill Screen).
One of the answers related to empathy and having the ability to put yourself in someone’s shoes. The other answer was ‘Research’. We talked about how you didn’t really need to walk those miles to describe them.
It’s something that I’ve been thinking about quite a lot recently. As I am now writing for money and trying to push the different aspects of the craft for improvement I wanted to know these fine peoples opinions.
But I felt that it needed exploring it a little further. The world is never quite as simple as the media and ‘those people’ think. It never presents us with the yes or no answers, although many think it does. Different situations require different approaches, questions and possible answers.
Fiction is the only real truth.
I decided to use Cockney Kung Fu as an example. Let’s go through the plus and minus columns.
For those that haven’t read a copy yet this is a series written by myself and drawn by Nick Prolix. It features martial arts in 1970s London. The central character is a female in her late twenties. 
What would I know about that?
I’m a man in my late forties. I grew up in London and am very much in love with the period and the setting. I have been stalking the streets of Central London, the dirty South, the West End and the pre hipster crafty East End for years. It’s a fascination of a time and place that occupies me to this day. Chapter one features the infamous ‘Porn Alley’ at the top of Rupert Street in Soho. This is an area that has changed substantially. An area of sex cinemas, peep shows, brothels, strip bars and sex shops. It is virtually unrecognisable now and is mostly boarded up for one stretch of this scary lightless alley. But I walked that passage many a time over the years and wanted it to be a character in the story in the way that it used to exist. Nick pulled it off with style in the first issue. You can hear the clomp of Red’s boots as she walks. You can smell the reek of body odour, cigarettes and booze.

But....I’m not a woman. Yup, I’m not. I’ve met quite a few over the years and whilst I would never claim to understand anyone I’ve always had a couple of best friends who are from the ‘sensible sex’. I also felt that it added some cool to the story and a certain vulnerability to a female character in that time period especially. Adding a female central character to a dangerous situation in a world that hadn’t really begun to deal with equal treatment seemed like a good idea. From deciding that I had to cope with how she would walk and talk like a 1970s woman but with that Soho Red toughness. I read and watched a lot about the period. I wanted to hear her speak and move and punch.

Fighting. This is one that I will stick with regarding realism. A fight is an anger driven, chess match. It is not and never should be a choreographed ballet as some people think. A fight between two people is a brutal minute. I have to admit to having been in quite a few fights over the years. It is fought with strength and speed and a connection is made between the eyes of those taking part - and nobody else. ‘Hit first, hit hard and hit fast.’ This is what I see as Red’s philosophy in a tough world. I don’t recommend that people go out and get in a fight but use the feelings if you have in your past experienced one. A fight is something unlike anything you’ll read or watch as it happens in your own emotion and aggression. I wanted this communicated in the basement fight. Red is a scrapper, she can take a punch and come back stronger. There is never a requirement for melodrama. Just lay one on him, do it hard and where it will hurt them. If you ever took a punch on the nose, or had your brow split and bleeding, or been booted on the balls then you’ll know exactly what I am talking about.
One punch can kill someone. It happens. 
Write with truth not glamour.

Sign up for the mailer at for more of the same.

Many thanks for reading.