Saturday, 30 June 2018

Reading Pile.......

Breathe in.... 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So..... what did I fancy next. 

Some nostalgia.

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

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

Written by Doug Moench.

Art by Mike Zeck.

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

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

Next up was ......

Avengers 195 (May 1980).

Written by David Michelinie.

Art by George Perez and (inks) Jack Abel.

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

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

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

The first one that caught my eye was...

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

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

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

‘I’ll shit in your pockets!’

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

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

Thanks again to Irina Polianina for hooking us up.

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

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

Coincidentally it’s another book from Europe Comics.

Mermaid Project Volume 5.

Script and dialogue by Leo and Corine Jarmer.

Art by Fred Simon.

Colours by Jean-Luc Simon.

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

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

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

Yes, that cover is genuinely part of what happens.

Anyone up for sex on the back of a whale?

Some more nostalgia? Why not.

How about some 

Contest of Champions.

Written by Mark Gruenwald.

Art by John Romita Jnr and Bob Layton.

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

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

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

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

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

I also managed to read some actual prose too!

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

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

Many thanks for reading.

Friday, 29 June 2018

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

Death and the Bear: A Modern Fable.

Created by Paul Tonner.

24 pages - Full Colour.

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

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

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

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

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

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

You can find out more about Paul at his website or buy his art and comics at and follow him on Twitter @HeavyVoodo

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

Many thanks for reading.

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

Errol Vs Evil.

Created by Darrell Thorpe.

Full Colour - 48 pages - A4 Comic.

Get on it!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Search this fellow out at and find him on Twitter @mrforpe.

Many thanks for reading.

Wednesday, 27 June 2018

The Big Event!

The next big event in the convention calendar after ELCAF is coming up soon. On Sunday the 5th of August 2018 is the True Believers Comic Festival: Summer Variant.

This event is returning to Blackfriars Priory, Ladybellegate Street, Gloucester between 11am and 4pm.

Advance tickets are just £3.50 each!

For sale there will be comics, art, back issues, merchandise and much, much more!

Myself and Vincenzo Hunt will be there repping the Awesome Comics Podcast. As well as selling our newly released anthology comic and doing on the spot interviews with creators we’ll also be running a panel each.

First up at 12pm I’ll be interviewing Andy ‘Horde Comics’ Conduit-Turner, Sarah ‘Milmo’ ‘Heart of Time’ Millman and Steve ‘Flintlock’ Tanner. It’ll be a grand time about how you go about writing a comic.

At 1.30pm Vince will be next up with a panel on drawing those comics. He’ll be joined by Lorenzo ‘My Car is made of Diamonds’ Etherington, Susie ‘Perrywinkle’ Gander and Russell ‘Gateway City’ Olson. Should be a blast!

Don’t say you ain’t been warned!

Many thanks for reading.

Tuesday, 26 June 2018

In Review - ‘MBC Library Volume One: The Tina Kapplinger Mysteries’ by SJ McCune.

MBC Library Volume 1: The Tina Kapplinger Mysteries.

Created by SJ McCune.

Published by Millicent Barnes Comics.

Full Colour - 59 Pages.

(Contains material previously published in Cold Colony issues 1 and 2.)

Warning: This review contains song lyrics shamelessly.

In the words of the creator to start with I think:

‘When creating a comic one of the most important elements to me is that it speaks with it’s own voice. Individually each of the titles must also paradoxically be recognisable as part of my work. This means the comic must have a separate identity test remain within the whole. I think Cold Colony is one of the strongest examples of this paradox which is why it holds this initial volume.’ SJ McCune.

(More about the above later.)

The Story - This is a book of two stories. They are separate entities linked by a strange future and a sternly sexy red haired female protagonist.

The opener has the titular Tina Kapplinger hard at work on the distant exploration work centre Farizuza Cold Colony. ( For the sake of transparency I am forced to admit at this juncture that I consider SJ McCune to be a sneaky so and so and I googled ‘Farizuza’. I got two hits, one for this comic and the second on a Russian dating site. - I am now happily married to a lady called Dominika. I am still presuming that this personal twist is part of the narrative.....?)

Back to the story.

Tina is getting by on a day by day basis in some pretty horrible circumstances. Surviving until she can return home or at the very least leave this Colony. The base is a creepy and unnerving place to say the least. A pair of twins seem somewhat attached to her and tell her about the mouse they have found and now adopted as a companion. This base is bleak and is made seemingly even worse by the arrival of an ‘Enforcer’. These stormtrooperesque characters are to be feared....

‘The thumping noise begins. The Enforcers are relentless. The thumping noise gets wetter.’

‘Wetter’!?!! McCune........ really?!?

As the thumping noise subsides Tina turns around in her bed to find the slightly stalkerish and frightening as fuck looking twins standing over the dead and extremely bloody body of the Enforcer. Tina is called in to assist with the investigation and promised extra rations and benefits if she helps out. But the twist is that the twins are denying the brutal murder and a brief forensic examination would apprear to back them up in this claim.

‘This whole colony has become a locked black room with a killer I can’t see.’

This is a whodunnit drawn in a claustrophobic world of sinister faces. How will it end.....?

Part two is a another separate story that also features Tina. This one surrounds the disappearance of an explorer. Clues are left in a grainy and garbled video message. It’s this video message that brings Tina back into these games of death and deceit.

The story takes Tina to giant ships and snowy wastes. Whilst the first story took place in the dark interiors of a space station the second story is an action movie that has spent the night shaking and being freaked out on shrooms.

With Mr McCune at the helm where can this possibly be going next?

The Review - As I read this there are numerous themes and visual prompts that are sparking in the back of my mind. Immediately I’m reminded of a Richard Hell lyric as I travel through the pages ‘Observe what the mirror does.’ We see in the female cast of this series the reflection of many emotions staring hypnotically back at us from the face to face images that reach up, looking at us out of the panels. This blank and mysterious female face, full of hidden secrets and distant looks is a motif of much of Stuart’s work and has me thinking again about his introduction. There seems a line between this book and one of his previous series Monologue for example. Much of the story is told in a Cold(ness) of a look, glance and the brutality of that in the shadows violence he uses so well in this volume. It is another book that sends a shiver up your spine.

The characters whilst obviously aloof are also people you worry about as the narrative drives. Will they survive is rarely such a forefront feeling than when I am reading a McCune book. The sharp harshness of the words and the life is cheap attitude is clear on every page, in every dark corner and in every brightly lit landscape. What makes this world so difficult to survive upon? The chaotic nature of this world is seeded with foreboding as new facts and people are introduced. 

As I read this and other books by McCune I feel that I have passed the ‘End of Times’ signpost. It’s there tattered and broken behind us and all we are doing now is striving to survive. And in that I applaud the storyteller in creating a piece of art that evokes such feelings in this reader. The word ‘haunting’ only goes to underplay such a grandly painted reality. A spark of hope is a rare thing in this universe.

We know who you are and we know where you live and we know there is no need to forgive....again’. - Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds. (Told you....)

This is another comic by Mr McCune that I am glad I backed and cannot wait to get through my door. I really enjoy the stories of Tina, you feel that beyond the darkness there is a wry wink from her as she sips some neat scotch at the end of the day. More please.

Beyond the story you get some short text pieces from the creator as well as concept sketches, early pencil work, variant covers and posters. Love that back matter.

Buy yourself a copy of this and more of this creator's work at and follow him on Twitter @StuartMcCune

Many thanks for reading.

Saturday, 23 June 2018

ELCAF 2018 - Friday!

(The Round Chapel, Hackney - complete with booze!)

As I arrived at the door to this year’s East London Comic Art Festival (ELCAF) I was met by one of the event organisers Angela. She looked a picture of serenity whilst in the midst of the final last minute preparations for the yearly event. This is one of the main events in the convention calendar and has been for quite a few years now. Always a busy and bustling event. 

(Friday early afternoon still allowed some aisle negotiation ten minutes after opening!)

A piece of advice from me would be that it is a good idea to get in early on the Friday as it wasn’t as packed as it would be later on in the day and from experience the rest of the weekend. As I walked in I got to have a chat with Sam and Zoe from Nobrow and we talked about the rising excitement for the new Hilda animated series coming on the 21st of September on Netflix and a few other plans that they have in the works (more news soon). Also on the Nobrow table where some of the rare issues of the Nobrow Magazine including issue 1. These are like gold dust and exchange hands for a pretty penny online. I am sorely tempted by a couple of them....

You can find copies of the brilliant and newly released Nobrow 10: Studio Dreams at 

Standing proudly at the Nobrow table are copies of Deadendia from Hamish Steele. Sadly Hamish is still in the states basking in the glow of his recent Eisner nomination but you can grab a copy of this at the Nobrow table. I’ll be at Nottingham Comic Con with Hamish at the Nobrow table in October so pop over and congratulate him. Find out more at

(Art by Andy Poyiadgi).

My first stop was at the table of my old mucker Andy Poyiadgi. I grabbed an interview with him that should hopefully be on an upcoming episode of the Awesome Comics Pod. I also grabbed a copy of his mini comic ‘A Cop of Tea Will Sort You Out’. If you go back a few posts you can see more about Andy. He’s a big thinker and anything by this dude is highly recommended.

Find more about Andy at or follow him on Twitter @ajpoyiadgi

(Jens - all the way from Norway!)

The Friday was a whirl of catching up with people and meeting new creators. It was fantastic to finally meet Jens K Styve. I absolutely loved his series Dunce recently and initially picked up one of the last copies of Cabin Fever from him. The story of a lonely and drunk fisherman spotting something through his binoculars out at sea and what then happens. I disappeared off to the seating area upstairs and read it immediately. This is a book that had been recommended to me by pal Alan Henderson and didn’t let me down. Beautifully and hauntingly told with gorgeously paced cartoony simplistically rendered art. Outstandingly good.

So gorgeous in fact that I headed straight back and bought a couple of sketchbooks from him. You can find out more about these sketchbooks by watching my bragging Twitter feed!

Find out more about this creator at or buy, buy, buy at You can also follow his social media antics on Twitter @DunceComic or @jenskstyve

You can buy the issue 1 - 3 bundle of his great series Dunce at

(Newly released! Smedley - issue 1).

How would a Friday at ELCAF be without a good chat with Todd Oliver. His series Boxes is. A big favourite on the podcast and I was delighted to pick up the first issue of the spin off series ‘Smedley: The Story of a Worm-Shaped Man’. This was another book that I ran off and hid to read immediately. A hilariously twisted story of a man looking for a job who also has tiny arms and a body that bends like a snake.

‘No one steals our cake!’

Buy this flippin’ book! Nobody is doing anything remotely like Todd. It makes me chuckle at every turn. I grabbed another interview with him that should be out soon. 

If you don’t get to ELCAF this weekend then head over to or follow the malarkey on Twitter @toddoliver or on Instagram @lovetodd.

(Tim behind his table all Friday!)

I also got to chat about South London, comics, motorways and The Great North Wood with Tim Bird. Easily one of the most gently satirical book I have read in an age. It’s done with a sense of the now and with a dose of what makes this oft forgotten area on London (stretching from Camberwell down past Crystal Palace) so great and at moments quite magical. If you are picking up just one book at ELCAF this year this is the one I recommend.

You can find it at Tim’s table or at the Avery Hill table on Saturday and Sunday. Or head to their store at

Find out more here

You can find out more about Tim Bird at or on Twitter @T_J_Bird

I am sitting in a local artisan coffee house in the trendy east end of London as I write this. I have a bag heaving with new books to read. 

They even made a ruddy beer for this event! (Photo c/o Sam!)

Head up this weekend to this splendid event. Breathe in the the creativity in a really friendly and encouraging environment. Still one of the big yearly comics events I highly recommend that you give it a try. A change from last year was the addition of a the workshop area into the main hall rather than in the smaller hall. This gave a sense of it being more spacious and airy, something that I am sure everyone will be pleased to have over what is likely a very busy weekend. The activity tables were busy all day.

(Mandatory Haul photo!)

Big credit is due to Nobrow and the organising team. From the punters to the stall holders and even the security guard had a smile on their face all day!

PS - See above and feel just a little jealous.......

Many thanks for reading.