Sunday, 25 March 2018

A New Reading Experience.

I’ve been away with a long course for the last seven days and nights so I’ve been reading quite a lot digitally again. Marvel had a large and outrageously priced sale recently and I picked up loads of old favourites. At 69p for a trade that can often be twenty odd quid in a physical format I found it hard to resist.
 

Now as anyone who has met me for even the smallest moments knows I am a huge fan of the Master Of Kung-Fu series. A character that epitomises for me the strengths of the Bronze Age. A period when comics became my entire world.

 

So after buying all the issues, often multiple times, the hardback and having ordered the soft cover I decided to try buying it digitally and seeing how it held up in guided view.

 

I’m a convert to digital comics. The reason that I finally caved came for a number of reasons. I’ve been sent a lot of comics for review via Dropbox etc so had gotten used to reading them this way. I have also been on the road a lot with work and it’s an easy option to have a tablet full of comics rather than a suitcase.

 

So I decided to re read a comic that I have looked at many times but never in Guided View. That panel by panel at a swipe reading experience that I have now become used to. Special Marvel Edition featuring The Hands of Shang-Chi, Master of Kung Fu (yes that was the title). It was written by Steve Englehart with art by Jim Starlin and Al Milgrom, colours by Linda Lessman and letters by Tom Orzechowski. Roy Thomas was the Editor.

 


 

This is a genuinely amazing issue that story wise would quite possibly represent a whole run of a modern series. Shang-Chi has turned away from his manipulative father who forced him to kill in his name. He is now in a strange land trying to rectify past mistakes and stay alive at the hands of assassins sent to kill him when one of his few friends, a man he grew up with appears and tries to kill him. A story of friendship and betrayal. Shang-Chi a man of peace is forced to kill.

 

Englehart was very soon after this to pass the writers duties to Doug Moench and Starlin left and passed the art duties to Paul Gulacy. This is the title that you should read. It says so much and is original in many, many ways. It was a shortish run (ending at issue 125) and is now, finally, getting reprinted. The issues are never a short read and well worth your money. Issue 16 was only the second appearance of Shang-Chi. But I already felt like I knew what he was about.

 

So. The question remains. How did the guided view differ from the printed page? How does it change the reading experience? As a kid I loved the combination of action and strangeness in this title. It had the iconic inner monologue of the central character that really made you feel like you really got into his problems and quest. But it was at moments coldly violent like all the good 42nd Street martial arts movies of the time.

 

The moment that Midnight and Shang-Chi finally face off is a famous sequence in the comics. One whole page shows us the death of Shang’s childhood friend. There’s not getting around the fact that Shang does in fact kill his friend. This is how I saw this as a kid and since.

 


 

One whole page that you can drink in all at once. As you look at the page in one go you see the fall and the death in one single glance. It is harsh and sudden and strange and sad and all the rest of emotions that you feel when you have connected with characters. Once you accept that the fashion of the times was to cram loads of story into a page you can see that its a great page.

 

Then I had a go at reading it in Guided View.

 


 



 


 

 

It extracts the action out of panels that were never meant to be separated but works well nonetheless. It changes the dynamic of the page and the movement and the drama so much that it becomes an altogether different reading experience. Many of this run has fight scenes that have multiple panels on a page. These again are changed and the jeopardy shifts from seeing a fight on a page and scanning it in a matter of moments before reading it then in more detail. Instead you get even the smallest panels blown up to increase and change the tension of the fight. It stops being something that is an incredibly impressive layout on a page to a moment by moment, kick by punch and blow by blow flow of art panels. Neither better or worse. Just different.

 

It has changed how I have thought about writing. It is well worth looking at.

 

Just a thought.

 

Now fuck off and read some Bronze Age comics!


Many thanks for reading.
 

Sid James and Soho Red - Together at Last!


From the hand of Ed Traquino a print that's London Disco Good!

To help support the printing of issue two of The Awesome Comics anthology that features Soho Red in Cockney Kung Fu by myself and Nick Prolix we are releasing a limited run of this awesome print!

For those that haven't heard of Mr Traquino he is a Brit creator living in The Bronx in New York. As well as being an amazing comics artist he was also one of the storyboard artists on the recent smash hit Black Panther movie.

A4 - Full Colour print.

If you'd like a copy they are £6 plus post and packing. (How's that for a bargain!)

Drop me an email at 
You can find out about Ed and his excellent art at 



Many thanks for reading.

Saturday, 24 March 2018

Swindon Small Press Day 2018.



This is the second year for the Small Press Event at The Incredible Comic Shop in Swindon today. A great comic shop full of everything that a fan needs. (Along with some dodgy looking small press creators this Saturday). The brainchild of Uber fan and talented artist Sarah Harris. She sat down with myself and Vince and told us that last year’s event was such a success that running another one was a no brainier. Have a listen to Episode 142 of The Awesome Comics Pod for a short interview with Sarah (available at noon on Monday 26th March 2018 on iTunes and the Podbean networks).

I was going to write a long piece about the comics world coming together and laughing and talking and creating but I think that these photos speak better than a thousand words could do.


(No Gang Signs Gander!) Susie Gander had a table selling her comic Perrywinkle as well as some issues of the Little Heroes anthology. She can be seen here posing with artist Andy Hanks.


(Steve Simms - in the hat. Was sharing some original sketching and comics Battle Badgers chat with punters!)

Vince Hunt and myself were there representing The Awesome Comics Podcast and selling our comics. On the right of the photo are Claire Spiller and Jessica Lesley from the art collective ‘Wine and Zine’. Their comics were selling like hot cakes (except to cakes and comics instead...)


Vince even got a cheer when he came out of the toilet! 

The day was organised by the mighty Sarah Harris! This is a real comics community event. If you are lucky enough to get asked next year I can highly recommend attending! Great for sale and laughs. That can’t be bad can it?



Many thanks for reading.



Wednesday, 21 March 2018

In Review - ‘Bald’ by John Tucker



Bald.


By John Tucker.


My scalp was so smooth, I fell clean out of my mother while she did the weekly shopping!’


The Story - Essentially this is the story of one man and his male patterned baldness. This is no ordinary baldness and the story takes a surprising turn. Observe the extreme reactions he gets and the tests that are performed on him. Oh.... and the effect the moon has on his head....





The Review - This was a nice surprise. Sometimes you receive something that you hadn’t heard of before. Something a bit different. The works of John Tucker tick all those boxes, idiosyncratic and funny. Especially his most recent comic ‘Bald’.


This comic takes the everyday, the hum drum and (literally) turns them on their head. The baldness that we see all around us is taken one, then two, then a number of steps away from the ordinary and into the extraordinary. But all the time his characters, no matter how wacky their situations, manage to remain familiar and are people that you can relate to. Even while the main character is communicating with the moon through his bald head you sense a little of the suburban and a little of the kitchen sink drama. He could be a guy you see down the pub or work next to - except that his head is see-through and he has begun leading a strange Working Mans Club cult.






The panels are bold and bright and easily read. They combine simplistic iconic panels with a little dash here of colourful style.


Another favourite is Night Watch where a lighthouse worker spots villains dumping bags of pubic hair into the sea and takes violent revenge! (Yup, you read that right!)


This put a smile on my face during the morning commute. All of John’s comics are free to read at www.johntucker.co.uk When this book isreleased as a physical product I fully intend to purchase a copy.


Highly recommended.



John Tucker is a comics creator from Swansea. He is influenced by horror comics and TV series. Bald will be available shorty to buy and hold in your actual hands.



Many thanks for reading.

Monday, 19 March 2018

In Preview - ‘Mycelium Seep’ by Nir Levie





Mycelium Seep


Created by Nir Levie.


Published by Markosia.


This is not a normal reading experience.


This summary of the plot is both true and misleading...


The Story - ‘Khalek is a teenage boy who lives in an underground city, the denizens of which manufacture their food from roots that penetrate downwards from above ground. When he discovers a disease inflicting their main food source a series of events leads to the merging of his mind with that of Laura - A vehicle designer from present day earth.     


The population in Khalek's world are barred from visiting the planet's surface, which is controlled by A xenophobic race of humanoids. The Humanoids communicate amongst themselves non-verbally and are constantly moving from place to place, using their legs as their only means of transportation.     Khalek and Laura's newly merged consciousness embarks on a journey to understand the interrelation of their respective worlds during which they find themselves attempting to communicate with the Humanoids in order to stop the disease decimating Khalek's world.     


Mycelium Seep is a science fiction story that deals with questions arising from the implementation of new technology- Is it possible to curb the rise of technology when it seems to lead down a dangerous path? A critical stance is taken regarding transportation,  focusing on personal motorized vehicles.’






The Review - ‘The themes of this book are many and complex. It does not in many ways make total sense to me and I love that it shakes it’s head as I search for reasoning to explain what I have just read. As I read the whole book I can taste the themes of imprisonment and escape, of conforming and rebellion, of mental illness and paranoia, of the creeping flesh of a life lived long and ultimately of life and death both metaphorical and true.


I am a multidimensional being. I am a manifold of awareness. I am all their pasts, I am all their presents.’


A book that plays with my senses and on occasion my stomach. The story initially pulls you in to a straight and regimented world. You see a section of the ant farm of humanity counting each step and mile as they grind away their failing business. But then you reach beyond that ordinary and banal world to something underneath, something strangely disturbing. A nightmare world in pretty much every sense.






I posted a couple of images that I found sudden and weird and shocking on a facebook chat page I am a member of. A fellow artist Sara Dunkerton whose opinion I value said the following:


I’m both fascinated and horrified, intrigued and unsettled.’


This statement encapsulates my feelings for the whole book. It is on occasion not an easy read. It on occasion feels a little rough around the edges in a way that many underground comix should always feel. It has an unorthodox structure and flow that seems to take you places and return you without explanation.


I would argue that we never need that explanation. Especially in a comic like Mycelium Seep.


There is also a subversive satire to the story. We see the organised industrial world at odds with the lysergic craziness of the alien world. It shows us creatures that are disfigured but at once easily that mutated state that we will find ourselves one day with a torch at the bottom of this seeping hole. It plays with the abnormalities of sex and body horror in some exceptionally originally ways. I’ll be honest in saying that my head is still whirling from this fucked up reading experience.






It’s not perfect. I’m kind of glad that it isn’t. The story and art could do with some empirical changes. The art itself has moments of roughness and the words translated (the creator is from Israel) are on occasion a little stiff. But these are small quibbles.


This was...


125 pages of a comic that I did not understand fully.


125 pages of a comic that is gloriously unhinged.


125 pages that got me thinking.


What more do you want from a comic.


This comic is released by Markosia on the 9th of April 2018.


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


Nir Levie is a comics creator, artist and architect from Israaael. Find out more about him at www.nirlevie.com or follow him on Twitter @nirlevie



Many thanks for reading.

Saturday, 17 March 2018

Keep going.....

Evening,

Whilst not automatically obvious as a comics post.....

It does have some relevance.

Trust me.

I have of late become obsessed with the work and interviews of Laurence Olivier. Prompted by a loose relationship through his first marriage to an ancestor of mine I have been reading about someone who was world famous before that world insisted he be prodded and interviewed and photographed and tweeted about. He was without a doubt an astoundingly good actor and director. If you have never seen any of his movies I insist that you watch some.
 
I recently watched a chopped up series of interviews that had previously been presented as an episode of The South Bank Show in the 1980s. Whatever your opinions of Bragg, and there are many, he did get access to some amazing characters over the years. And on occasion he gets some interesting views and honest insights from these studies. Sky Arts now hold the UK rights to these episodes and are representing them as retrospectives.
 
Olivier was a very interesting individual. He wasn’t really used to being interviewed for television as many of his generation were not. He spoke guardedly about his acting technique and Bragg supposed that this was because he didn’t want the world to think that his acting was merely a series of tricks. I extrapolated on this as he was someone who wanted the world to see his acting more as talent or natural ability of even the magical verisimilitude of an idolised actor. From this I began to think about it elsewhere in the ‘artistic world’ if that is somewhere or something?
 
We treat the word ‘talented’ or the phrase ‘natural talent’ as an easy go to these days. I myself have been known to use it on occasion.
 
But what is it? Is it something that actually exists? We are after all born with the similar sized and hopefully functioning biological organs give or take. We are born and grow and age and exist in this world concurrently with others who do the same.
 
I suppose what I am trying to say is are we nurture rather than nature? 
 
Talent is not a magical gift we are born with but rather a mixture of physical hereditary benefits and how we see the world and are taught to see the world. Even a moment can make a difference growing up. That look at a world around us in a certain way that is prompted by some outside influence. Beyond those early teachings or inputs are the stages of beneficial learning.
 
To think that someone has some natural artistic talent that is fully formed the moment hero she popped out of his or her mum’s poop hole is akin to believing in ghosts or healing crystals or The Force or Batman!?
 
So, where does that lead and leave us? I would suggest that it leaves us with learned behaviour and activity that includes the exercise or exorcise of artistic pursuits.
 
Do we continue to probe and investigate technique and influence and approach ad infinitum? We fall at the feet of musicians and actors and artists and game show hosts like they are a deity at a sex shrine in a incident Mesopotamia. But they are just people sometimes with sweat on their brows. Although some people seem more and more transparent the older and wiser (cynical) I become.
 
I have always believed that they are just people. Some are worthy of my attention and many who are not. I’ll daily cringe at the self involvement, pomposity and pure bullshit of many in the artistic pastimes and businesses. Wrong? Hard but fair? Maybe all three. I’m often accused of being full of shit or writing simply to rile up and ruffle and get a response? This I am certainly on occasion guilty of...
 
Interestingly. When asked about his craft Olivier said the following:
 
‘I don’t think the public has any business to worry about our technique at all. You’re meant to present something that is done...’
 
He went on to make an analogy with a jeweller who is unbothered by the ‘How did you do that?’ questions.
 
‘I made it, why don’t you mind your own business.’
 
He continued back on the subject or acting and those that ask and ask and ask all the while trying to grab and own and steal what he had.
 
‘Gradually, gradually, being produced.’
 
So, is Olivier, the greatest actor of his and other generations saying that the secret is practise?
 
Of course he is. You know he is.
 
He ended with.
 
‘I’m very lucky. It’s a funny sort of day isn’t it.’
 
It was and it still is.
 
Many thanks for reading.

Monday, 12 March 2018

In Preview - ‘Hollow Monsters’ by Monty Nero.





Hollow Monsters - A Graphic Novel in Six Parts.


Created by Monty Nero.


The Story - This story deals with our lives as young people. The events of political and social upheaval that surround us as we mature, the relationships that we form, falling in love, being faced with the realities of life and a strange creature that may or may not have sinister motives....


The Review- I backed this book on Kickstarter and genuinely wasn’t sure what I would be getting. I’m not keen on previews but couldn’t but fail to notice the images of pages and the cover that were essential to the mood and narrative of this book.






I don’t think that any review of this book can be complete without the description of it’s very iconic cover. It has a touch of the modern, maybe the Banksy iconography of the couple kissing and that they are also surrounded by the whirling winds of their lives that contain little motifs of pop culture. A car that features is strikingly like James Bond’s underwater Lotus or a Rubik’s Cube mid completion. A representation of the historical events we see inside the comic.


So...who smashed up your go-kart...’


Monty has taken a very careful and distinctive stylistic approach to this book. The interiors feature multiple panel grids that in turn in each carefully selected frame feature the stories of the day. They show the news events of those days. War and strikes and glitzy stars of music and television. These pages act as a packed prologue before we get a title that tells us;


1982: The Year we Buried Ourselves.’


The period is established as the UK in the early 1980s and the narrative then focuses on the young boy growing up and finding out about the harsh realities of life. The family suffer a particularly horrid burglary and life all around is described through the growth to manhood of this young boy.


I felt at this point that I was reading something that was purely pseudo autobiographical. But Monty then throws a spanner in the works. He adds a little of the sinister, the magical, the disturbing, the fox in the story’s hen house. What will happen...






I won’t spoil too much because I think this is a comic that is well worth a look. Monty ran a very successful Kickstarter campaign and this book is just getting sent out now.


The art style has a certain photo realistic feel but seems stripped down to what is required for the panel. It jumps about a little in layouts but I can see that this is intentional to create that flavour of a suburban horror with an added documentary style. It’s not what you’ll find on the regular comic shelves and I am looking forward to seeing how it develops.


If you missed out on the campaign feel free to have a look at www.montynero.wordpress.com for more information. You can also find and follow him in the woods or on Twitter @montynero


The Kickstarter for issue 2 launches on the 20th of April.


Many thanks for reading.

Wednesday, 7 March 2018

In Review - ‘The Times I Knew I Was Gay’ by Eleanor Crewes



The Times I Knew I was Gay.


By Eleanor Crewes.


Published by Good Comics.


This is not going to be an average review. 


I usually take notes about a comic as I read. I have a terrible memory and I find that I remember the moments and story beats better this way. This time I didn’t. 





I’ll be honest that I found writing a review a challenge in this case. For those that don’t know me I am a forty something man. I am heterosexual. I can’t draw a stick figure and I didn’t go to University. So this world that Eleanor describes are completely alien to me. The world I grew up in was a very different experience.  The events, affairs, fashions and feelings are often unfamiliar to me, a man who grew up in a less diverse and altogether more judgemental period.


So as I read I purposely put my pen down and concentrated on what was in front of me and figuring out what the creator was really communicating.


But. I came away having learned a lot. I came away with an understanding of the life that Eleanor so cleverly describes and that of gay women in general. I also found this comic a hugely heart warming experience.


Suddenly I am struck by the feeling that I am walking on egg shells. I feel like some people might say that I am not allowed to describe my old grumpy bastard feelings about this comic. But I remind myself that the creator has made a comic for everyone. For those who feel the same way possibly as she does and for those who need to understand how others may feel. And that is me. And yes, I think I do understand a bit better.


Not fully understanding this lifestyle has not stopped me realising that this is a very well executed comic. It has smart and real dialogue. It has moments of really touching drama and moments of fun. (I’m not a hundred percent sure how Tinder works but that did make me laugh as Eleanor turned it off!)





The art has a sketchbook quality that seems to be done with a purpose stylistically. The time passes in the narrative with cunning as you jump along and occasionally back and forth in the creators life. She makes use of white stark backgrounds on a lot of the pages to emphasise the loneliness of the situation. The faces and movements of the characters are done with a smile that rises up off the page to the reader.


This is a highly recommended read.


Do you know what I am most proud of? I’m most proud that comics exist. And amongst these comics are books that will educate us. Like this one.


Nicely done Eleanor and nicely done Good Comics.


Find out more about this comic by heading to www.goodshop.bigcartel.com or follow them on Twitter @Goo_Comics