Tuesday, 31 July 2018

Return of the Rant.

A Projection....

Let’s do what nobody seems to be doing and project how our hobby will look in twenty years. Fear that due to some outside and inside factors that we are in trouble.

We have been in a period of transition for what seems like a decade at this point. Digital, Small Press/Indie, Big Three, all are evolving, or attempting to evolve, to fit the times.

Are we succeeding? 

Are the times changing too quickly?

I have my concerns that there are a couple of trains leaving and we aren’t on them.

Let’s look at format to begin with. The monthly comic. Is it working? Sometimes yes but more often than not we are seeing fall offs in sales after the release of the first issue and that merry-go-round of reboot after reboot. A desperate attempt to recoup sales that is a currency of slowly declining value and return.

So, what are selling? Some comics that are on a hype train or have a big name or event behind them. But they are not selling for long. There are a couple that buck the system like The Walking Dead or Saga but even these are falling a little bit out of the public view. It feels like the days are numbered for both these titles. Saga is being released irregularly and the inevitable fall off in sales that the Walking Dead will feel with the decline and cancellation of the tv series is only a couple of years away.

I’ve seen a few reports that digital is slowly improving? But is it at a fast enough rate to help the industry? I myself finally gave in a couple of years ago and buy and read a pile of comics weekly in a digital format. However, I rarely buy anything that isn’t in an, at least, half price sale.

Do we go to a digital only deal on the singles and then the trades are the physical copies? I can see a plan for this beginning to form in a few minds. There are quite a few digital only series being released on ComiXology from Marvel, DC and Valiant at the moment and more on the way. There will always be a market for physical comics from the odd weekly to the prestige hardback but as a mass market venture it seems that the medium’s days are numbered.

Remember when they had that mass market appeal? You could pick them up anywhere. You wouldn’t care about condition and as I am fond of saying you would roll them up and stick them in your back pocket to read on the bus or in the playground or on the commute. Some of my happiest memories of comics are reading them sat in the back of my parent’s car on the long drive on holiday. Or in a cafe covered in a towel, shivering a bit after playing in the sea in Clacton or Great Yarmouth.

So there are a couple of main factors that are preventing comics returning to what they were before.

They are obvious.


You pretty much pay a minimum of £2.65 (more normally) for the average comic book and that is honestly far too much! They are being treated as speciality purchases, artefacts, collectors items. This should not be the case. The printing is currently in my opinion at an all time low. The paper that the majority of Marvel and DC Comics are printed on is toilet paper thin, doesn’t hold the blacks, generally due to a combination of art style, house style and printing processes looks muddy and due to the surface shine on the paper is difficult to read in direct light. How did we get to this point? What was wrong with the newsprint. It seems to have in the most part disappeared and was last seen in some Vertigo trades giving the finger and running off over a hill ....

What is it with trade paperbacks these days? Marvel and DC and some other companies will often charge more than the amount that it would cost you to buy the single issues for a trade with very little else.

Here’s an example of a comic that is thirty years old. How has it got a RRP of £35.99?! It is sixteen comics collected. These comics were created decades ago! That’s a price of £2.50 per issue! What on earth is that all about? To buy a Back Issue of any of these is pretty much £0.89 a piece on Ebay! 

To buy a digital copy of this book is £13.99. That works out at £0.87 per issue! These single issues (or single issues of a similar age/company etc) go in sales for £0.69 regularly on ComiXology.

This is not a solitary example I’m afraid. Listen I love Marvel Comics. They were literally my first love and I buy them every week still to this day. 

But.....Look at the above and tell me that we are not being ripped off.  

Yes, I know that some companies are keeping their prices down. My pals at Nobrow for example offer a good price for a beautifully presented hardback. £13.99 for an oversized, colour interior, bound hardback is a great price. But sadly this is not a trend followed by many of the larger corporations.

I’ve also seen recently a trend to overprice a lot of the comics coming out of the Small Press scene. £3 for a photocopied A6 comic that has black and white interiors and is eight pages long is just plain greedy. £5 for your digital Kickstarter tier for a forty page comic is also far too much. Keep the prices down might mean that you’ll sell more in a Comic Village or at a Convention.

Here is another recent example that I saw in a Sheffield Forbidden Planet and was so incensed/amazed/dumbfounded that I took a photo of it in the wild. A comic series that you can pick up at a Comic Mart for 50 pence an issue. This collection has eleven comics (yes, I know that four of them were prestige format) and it costs £33.50 for a physical copy and £13.99 to buy digitally.  Yes folks, that’s just over £3 an issue for the hard copy and £1.27 for online reading!  This comic came out in 1989!


Next up in the inadequacy box is Distribution. Where and when are comics sold? Ask the average person in the street and you are likely to get the reply:

Aren’t they on the computer now?’


I don’t know, you never see them in the shops these days.’

The truth is that they are mostly sold in a dwindling number of what used to be called Direct Market Comic Book Shops. The location and existence of these shops feels like we ought to treat them as if they are part of The Official Secrets Act they are so well hidden. 

The Diamond catalogue is such an antiquated and overly complicated way of preordering your comics that it still looks like something from the 1990s. Yes, I know it’s available online but being expected to pick up a phone directory every month and go through the list of reboots and variant covers to order your comics at minimum three months down the line is just plain idiotic. It puts people off! Then we also get a mess of delays and cancellations to contend with.

I’ve got high hopes for the direct to supermarket DC Comics project that is happening in the states at the moment. I’m also hoping that we get them over here as you can’t actually order these Comics at the moment. Another obvious hiccup in the system.

So what happens? Prices have to come down, the companies have to take a short hit price wise in order to shift much larger numbers down the road. They also have to sort out a distribution model that doesn’t entail you being in an inner sanctum just to know how to order the stories. 

The price of digital is also unrealistic compared the price of movies, albums and even fast food. What does a kid spend his money on? It sure as fuck isn’t Comics. 

I totally understand that we need to obtain enough money to pay the creators a decent wage for what they do. This is twofold. Firstly the art that many (most) create is of an incredibly high standard. Work that is composed of multiple images for the cost of only a portion of that in may cases paid for a single piece of illustration or fine art. And secondly we need to keep these people, we don’t want them running off to the games/storyboard industries for a quicker and better pay check.

Growth is obviously the solution.

Movies that have millions of people see them need to start advertising and being completely integrated with the comics that spawned their existence. Why aren’t we giving away comics at the movies. Why don’t kids get a free copy of The Avengers at those characters’ movie? Why isn’t there a copy of a magazine with pages from Wonder Woman at her movies!? Add some articles on Chris Pine and Gal Gadot and teenagers will look for more on their movie idols.

The industry needs to stop relying on forty something men to buy their books. We won’t be around forever and at this rate neither will Comics of a good quality.

The price of art is essentially calculated on what people wish and/or are prepared and able to pay and that is something that should not change. But the cold hard facts are that people are not buying comics. This is an art form that is in danger of disappearing. 

Think about that future? I hope that I can still buy a monthly comic. But the future could be a bit brighter?

Many thanks for reading.

Sunday, 29 July 2018

It’s the way forward.....

From last week’s mailer for those who haven’t signed up you can find it at www.tinyletter.com/Cockneykungfu 

Let’s all take a moment to worship at the altar of Reality.

Before I begin I must point out that I fall into the guilty side of the isle in much of this conversation....

Let’s ask the questions to ourselves about ourselves. What are we wasting our spare time on?

You know the answer....you are probably looking at it now....come back....

What effect is social media having on how we create and how others create? I’m going to focus a little bit more on writing because I have had a slight yet pretty bloody obvious revelation over the last week.

The internet and Social media in particular It is a constant chatter. I have, for my shame, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram (I’m not a teenager for fucks sake!). I have in the past looked at and interacted with these platforms on a daily basis. The voices of people that I both admired and found incredibly annoying have been echoing in my eyes for years now and I suspect it is a similar situation for many others.

How could this fail to affect/influence our writing.

Let’s face it, other than the replies to videos on Youtube it’s Twitter that contains the most deluded and stupid commentary on daily life. Twitter is often factually incorrect and full of imagined expertness, pompous self importance and often the only place that sad shut ins get to shout their mouths off. People believe that their relationships on this platform are realistic and genuine. They believe that their actual verbal humour can translate into making them a Twitter sensation (nearly always it does not).

Let’s face it, a big chunk of Twitter is just baby talk!

Staring at the opinions of others on our glowing screens is stopping us just plain being ourselves. We are seriously losing that sense of ourselves, it is slipping away with every scroll.

So I stepped away. Not completely. I value some areas of Twitter. It’s great for getting the word out there for people and art that is work promoting. But for getting in stupid discussions - nah gangsta!

I’m sure that none of the above is a great revelation to those thinking people amongst us....

In this retreat from the boringly self infatuated I have found that my writing has increased in word count by at least twice and I am also finding that I am able to dig deeper into what I want to translate onto the page. That story I know I have always wanted to write is within reach and I can feel more honestly what I’m getting down on paper and with more clarity.

Give it a go. Just for a couple of days.

It’s like that time I stopped Crack Cocaine for an afternoon.

Many thanks for reading.

Now fuck off and read some comics, breathe them in.... then fail to mention on Twitter how cool you are for reading them! (Please).

Tuesday, 24 July 2018

In Preview - ‘Gallant and Amos’ by Rob Barnes.

Gallant and Amos.

Created, Written and Illustrated by Rob Barnes.

Published by Fair Spark Books.

Physical Copy - £3.00.

Digital Copy - £1.50.

24 pages - Full Colour.

The Story - ‘Gallant and Amos’ is a comic about Two guys travelling around a medieval world and stumbling into crazy adventures and events. Oh! and did we mention one is a Knight and the other a Dragon?’

During the course of two stories in this comic we see Gallant and Amos fight power crazed and evil snowmen and get ‘kidnapped’ by a flying sauce. All the while bickering like you see in all good buddy cop movies.

The Review - Fair Spark Books is the name for the publisher that is also very busy organising the Little Heroes charity comic and other exciting projects. They are a new venture that specialises in family friendly comics that will make you chuckle.

Set in the Northern Kingdom - “It is know for snow all year long and having the softest toilet paper’ - The Hitchhikers Guide to the Realm. 

This is the first in a new series for the company and has just a glint of the Asterix about its content. Issue 1 is split into two stories; ‘The Valley of the Snowmen’ is the longer initial tale and has a little element of peril and a lot of laughs. A story that grabs the reader and makes them worry just a tiny bit as to whether our heroes will survive and in so doing warms you to their characters and antics. Story two is the shorter ‘Follow the Leader’ that has our accident prone knight and dragon meet up with aliens and confuse them with their indecisive stupidity.

Gallant at and Amos are a very likeable pair and they spark well off each other with quickly delivered one-liners and some excellent (and funny) action sequences. There’s no pandering to a younger audience here and they they aren’t afraid of weighing in with a punch or throwing the odd shield about (even if it isn’t that magic!)

All of this comic screams checkout at Tescos. What I mean by that is that it is the sort of comic that should be grabbed for an unruly child as they play up on a trip to the shops to keep them quiet on the journey home. There is no bigger compliment in my eyes as that. I can also foresee that same child loving these characters and telling his parents all about them at every opportunity he gets. ‘Why don’t you draw a story yourself?’ Suggests a busy parent as the kid stomps off to find the crayons!

Grab yourself a copy. 


Find Fair Spark on Twitter @fairsparkbooks 

Also head over to www.littleheroescomics.co.uk or follow them on Twitter @littleheroeskit to donate to a great kids charity that helps children in hospitals.

Many thanks for reading.

Saturday, 21 July 2018

In Preview - ‘Gamayun Tales 2: The Water Spirit’ by Alexander Utkin

The Water Spirit (Gamayun Tales - Book 2).


Created by Alexander Utkin.

Translated by Lada Morozova.

72 pages - Full Colour - £12.99.

Published by Nobrow.

‘Greetings, best beloved, my name is Gamayun. I am a magical human-faced bird from Slavic mythology. Today I will tell you of an amazing tale: The Water Spirit.’

The Story - We rejoin our friend the merchant (from Volume 1 of Gamayun Tales) on the long and treacherous journey home from his adventure with the King of Birds.

When curiosity gets the best of him and he opens his new mysterious golden chest, the merchant unwittingly condemns his newborn son to a life under the sea… but friends can be found in the most unlikely places, and with any luck the merchant’s son won’t have to face his future alone.....

The Review - It’s a credit to the creator and indeed the publisher that this second volume of richly painted folklore goodness arrives hot on the heels of its premier volume. Seeming only a scant few months since the first story we are blessed with another equally glorious second one.

As I picked up the package from my doorstep I wondered what this could be. I recognised the waterproof/damage proof packaging from Nobrow and opened it with speedy efficiency. I’m going to enjoy this one and let it play on my mind for a few days before I write a preview. This sort of detailed work deserves that measured and considered approach.

It’s the imaginative designs of this world and the fellows who inhabit it that hit you after you see the glorious pastel style artwork. Watch out for Gamayun she is the strangely attractive human faced bird lady who tells us the tale. She has a wide eyed yet knowing look on her blue feathered face. She talks you through this story of folklore harshness. Gifts are secret curses, honest working peasants are flawed and a lumpy sea monster has a deal for you!

These hardworking country folk sure get themselves into some scrapes! In fact there is a real sense of peril to the story. You will worry what will happen to the family stuck in the centre of all the machinations of these strange and powerful clans of creatures and monsters. The dialogue is fresh and immediate and at moments suddenly delivered in moments of threat and uncertainty. It is paced with style and although leaving you on a ‘oh no, they left the story there???!!!’ moment it does cram a lot into it’s second volume. Beware you’ll be searching for a release date for number two as soon as you see that last panel!

This is a book that you will read, enjoy and then immediately flip back through the pages to catch up on the details of the artwork that you missed on the first pass. There’s a moment where swans land on a lake that is exceptional!

I keep saying this regarding Nobrow hardbacks but this is a grand presentation for a minimal price tag. 63 pages of richly coloured card stock pages in a beautifully bound cloth spined book. It’s like high grade heroin for a comic addict like myself (don’t do drugs kids!)

If you’ve read aaaaaall the Hilda’s then this will keep you and yours happy. 

Find out about this and other Nobrow books at www.nobrow.net or follow this company on Twitter @NobrowPress

Alexander Utkin is an illustrator, comic artist, designer and musician from Russia. He studied at Moscow State University of Printing Arts, graduating in 2006 with a Master of Arts. Clients include Samsung, Universal Music and WWF, among many others.

Thursday, 19 July 2018

Summer Event!

The mighty True Believers Comic Festival: Summer Variant Edition is incoming on the 5th of August!

Held in Gloucester at the gorgeous Blackfriars Priory in Ladybekkgate Street this is looking like a really fun event for comics fans and the family.

Here’s what the organisers have to say about the day.

‘After the success of our one off event The True Believers Comic Festival: Summer Variant Edition, we bowed to the demand of those 4 people who asked us to do it again and are bringing it back for a second year!

The event will again be held at Blackfriars Priory in Gloucester City Centre on Sunday 5th August 2018 between 11am and 4pm and, like last years event will boast over 30 tables featuring a great selection of Small Press Comics, original art, back issue comics, merchandise and much more, all in the stunning and unique setting of a medieval priory.

Full details on what will be going on on the day (including Cosplay & Workshops) will be announced soon.’

I’m busy writing some cunning questions for the panel that I am hosting at noon on the day. I’ll be chatting to some great guests. First up is Andy Conduit-Turner (one conviction for attempted murder only) who is the head writer and wrangler at Horde Comics, Then we have the Heart of Time herself Sarah ‘Milmo’ Millman (she’s not as scary as her reputation suggests but don’t test her!) and the multicoloured Steve Tanner from Time Bomb Comics (no eye contact - those jackets can have your eye out!). We’ll be talking about how you go about writing a comic and how this medium allows you to connect to the reader like nothing else. Should also be funny as heck!

At 1.30pm by old mucker Vincenzo Hunt will be hosting a panel about drawing comics. He’ll be chatting to a few masters of the craft including Lorenzo ‘Ball of Energy’ Etherington (he throws ink brushes like ninja stars), Susie ‘Barbarian’ Gander (she’ll get me back for that comment!) and Russell ‘Foreign Guest for Diversity Reasons?’ Olson (Only kidding, he lives in Portsmouth and is a thoroughly good egg and a cracking artist!) . All these three are really knowledgeable about this craft and should be inspiring you to head off an create something yourself.

Please pop along. It’ll be family friendly (I promise!) Bring a picnic!

Here is the layout for the day. When not hosting panels myself and Vincenzo will be manning the Awesome Comics table with copies of issue 1 and 2 of our anthology for sale.

Head over to www.oktruebelievers.com for your advance tickets.

Many thanks for reading and hopefully see you there!

Take a moment.....


What’s your sweet spot.

What happens when you are the happiest.

It could be when you are out with friends? Or on holiday with your family? Listening to a great song? Watching your favourite team win? Dancing at a gig? Seeing a great movie for the first time? Having a moment to yourself and doing nothing?

For me its been the same for all my life. It’s when I’m reading comics. All the way from the 1970s and Marvel UK, through 2000 AD and Warrior, through DC Comics and the Bronze Age. Through the comics explosion/implosion. Through the age of the writer and the age of the trade and it continues every single day now with comics, trades, small press, digital and so on.

The feeling of bliss still resonates when I read a comic. When I find that one that I really enjoy, I don’t rush and I breathe it in.

I still daydream and think about comics as I walk home and as I work.

There’s not a feeling on this earth that I haven’t felt whilst reading a comic. It is an amazing medium.

You can still be a functioning and successful person every day in the job of your choice. A confident person full of jokes and jabs.

But.... what it does allow you is a Split Level Reality.

Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, 18 July 2018

In Review - ‘The Bog Road’ by Barry Keegan.

The Bog Road.

Written and drawn by Barry Keegan.

Colours by Chris O’Halloran and George Patrick Gamma.

Letters by Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou.

Published by Atom Diner - 88 pages - full colour.

Laois, a little known county in Ireland. For over a century an uneasy pact has kept the peace, until now....’

The Story - We are in Ireland, in County Laois. The reader watches a man head down to a bog at night. You notice a standing stone has strange carvings on it’s surface and it sits next to the spot where this man calls out for the ‘creature’.  And so, something rises from the bog, a being seemingly made of the greenery around the man but with a magically sinister aspect. His aggression is evident as he kicks the man to the ground in a fit of anger. 

People are dying on the road that humanity has dared to build through this bog land. The creature is violent and to be feared. You then are taken through a series of flashbacks to the dawn of Christianity in Ireland and how at a point before this the creature known as Na Sliogan was worshipped by the locals as a god before being chased off to hide under the water and earth.

The man calling on Na Sliogan is one Jim Brachan. He and his forefathers have a history and a connection to this creature. But the creature turns his back on Brachan. You see that something will be coming to a head soon. A battle between the modern and the old and magical is about to happen. 

In the land there are other interested parties watching and waiting. Who will join the fray.....?

The Review - The above is a teaser rather than a story explanation and that is something that I do with total purpose in this review. This is a book that surprised me with it’s folklore beauty and brutality. It walks that line of talking about a magical reality and balances it with the dangers this world faces when it rubs up against the cold hard reality of our stupid, stubborn and unimaginative world.

This is a book with messages under the art. Immediately you are taken with the theme of destruction of the environment and the forgetting of the lessons of the past. We see the actual and fictional world as one as man grabs the odd JCB and attempts to destroy and reshape. One moment has Na Sliogan tied to a railway track staring down the headlights of an intercity train as it hurtles to kill him and his natural world. The imagery of progress against nature, beauty against hard steel, peace and violence is really interestingly realised in this comic. It is done neatly with heart rather than cold satire.

I also loved the folklore angle that Barry takes in this story. After writing this review I’ll be straight off to research what he draws from in this story. Na Sliogan is not the only beast or fairy or folklore legend we see in the latter two thirds of the story. In fact the creator saves some outstanding character designs for some of the later stages in the story and in holding them back he makes the ending even more richer.

Barry also seemingly plays with speech and styles of communication. The conversations of the modern townspeople have a rhythm that is totally in keeping with what we hear today but he holds onto a tighter and more dramatic rendering of speech for the mystical creatures. This is the sort of speech that is almost Shakespearian but also has a taste of that echoing and distant style of speech that Gaiman used when writing similar beings in The Sandman. Meaning is drawn out in different ways in different environs. You hear the words and the meanings differently.

There is also a clear love of Ireland in this book. The land, the history, the myths and the modern world. We even get a map in the back pages, who doesn’t love a map!

The art reminded me a little of Charlie Adlard but with a softer edge. There are some excellent character designs on show and a couple of little nods to other stories (I’ll leave that to you to work out). The colour has a sense of character in the darker tones used to show dusk and night and the green beauty of the countryside. Some of the character designs are also really well prepared and are all different but seem part of the same world, I’ll let you discover for yourself how that is realised.

A couple of moments could have done with some pacing differently, for example the end seems to cram a little bit too much into the final pages but it did leave me with a smile on my face, so what else can you ask for?

This comes highly recommended.

You can get this through Barry’s website at www.barrykeegan.com and it links through to Sub-City Comics who will supply you with a hard copy (I just ordered mine).

Many thanks for reading.

Saturday, 14 July 2018



I’ve been away for three weeks and just got home to some ace post.

More on all of the below soon.

And this guy was waiting.....