Friday, 31 August 2018
This is something that I am seeing a lot at the moment. We seem to be adding our values or perceived values to the stories of the past.
I’ve been reminded of this by reading the collection of Peepland. This is an actually really interesting read about a fictionalised story of the crime and murders that surrounds the sex and drugs industry that existed in and near to 42nd Street in 1986.
It’s written by Christa Faust and Gary Phillips and has art by Andrea Camerini with colours by Marco Leuko. There are also some superb covers by Fay Dalton. It’s published by Titan Comics as part of their Hard Case Crime series and I’d recommend you have a look.
It’s particularly interesting to me as it’s a time that I grew up in and I worked in the seedy areas of London. We had the back streets of Soho at the time. Full of ‘Brasses’, ‘Brown’, ‘Frankie Vaughn’ (Cockney rhyming slang for porn) and more. I know that they aren’t quite the same as our NYC counterparts but I saw some parallels. I also took my first trip to New York in 1988 and saw what a lot of it was like back then. I have returned yearly since. Christa herself was active in this scene and worked in the ‘Peep Booths’ that feature so heavily in the opening issue and later. Finding that out was a really interesting point and in the back matter she speaks about her experiences in the area and in Hells Kitchen. I can’t fault the brutality and setting of most of the story. It feels real for the most part. The raft of violence doesn’t seem gratuitous and it ends on quite a well considered note.
This was an age of pornography and a sex trade that pre dated the internet and mobile phones. The characters in this series carry pagers, use phone booths, hand over cash, rob pawn shops, fire actual real guns (not the ones in video games) and hire prostitutes from scum bag pimps on the street. It was great to see it all laid out on the page.
This is a comic series that I enjoyed. It got me thinking. It uses the classic noir points that are often used and for that I forgive a couple of the points I make below.
Are all cops corrupt? There rarely seems to be a story that doesn’t have at least one lying scheming cop in the story. (Luke Cage the tv series anyone?) I realise that this is commonplace in noir but I also find it an easy go to. I’ll be honest and say that rather than corrupt I find most cops good people or on occasion just plain lazy. I suppose a story about a lazy cop might not fly with a publisher? I also suppose everyone thinks that they are a rebel since they smoked a joint at College and cops are ‘The Man’. (Some growing up may be needed.)
In the 1980s in London, and I am sure in New York, racism was everywhere. It is and was horrible and repugnant (and still is obviously). But, and here’s the big but, it rarely went punished back then. It didn’t, it’s a fact. So don’t feel as a writer/plotter that you have to provide a counterbalance to racism in a period when it was rarely a balanced world. Portray the real, portray what it was like then. That has much more impact. A scene in Peepland has a builder shout a racial slur and then get confronted for it. My experience of the times are that would have rarely happened. It’s ‘unrevenged’ moments that hit harder often. I won’t spoil a moment at the end but that ‘depressed man at the bar’ scene might not be needed. Showing him living his happy life after committing a horrific race crime would have been a better plot point and thump on the table statement in my humble opinion. Don’t fabricate an implication that you think should happen. Don’t try and get 2018 credit from a reader who is looking for 1986 realism.
A couple more things.
The punks were a little off or visually to me seemed so. All the women seemed to have one side shaved in their hair (yes I know it happened but it’s used here over and over again!). Some of the male haircuts could have done with a time specific spin as well in my humble opinion. A whole tattoo sleeve also wasn’t as commonplace as it is now. And whilst you did see it in the 80s it wasn’t for everyone. And why is it that every single male punk has to play in a band at CBGBs? Why do they have to have a Misfits poster on their wall? Too much of a cliche I’m afraid.
I groaned loudly at the main villain. Don’t retroactively make your story more modern day relevant by making the villain look and sound like Trump. It took me straight out of the story. I’m far from a fan of the man but why does he have to appear everywhere? In fact I’d rather that I could go back to a comic in a few years when this man is hopefully in a prison cell and not be reminded of his chubbies smug face. Puts me right off my sugar puffs.
So, the question remains out there. When are we allowed to replace the facts of the past to send a message/use a plot twist/make it cooler/present a point of view or political agenda (and for many other myriad reasons) for the present? Fiction (and non fiction) are amorphous tectonic plates that we are allowed to move around like cards in a magicians trick in my opinion. We should be able to shift patterns and stories and realities. But the problem comes when the changes affect the verisimilitude of the piece. When you are suddenly jolted out of the story...
Otherwise this was a good read. I liked where it went and the rush that it did so. It had a real energy and the crime elements were in the most part well planned and carried out.
Have a look.
Luisa: Now and Then.
By Carole Maurel.
Adapted by Marino Tamaki.
Published by Humanoids.
272 pages - 7.6 x 10.2 in - Colour
$29.95 - £22.99
‘At 32, Luisa encounters her 15-year-old self in this sentimental and bold story about self-acceptance and sexuality.
A disillusioned photographer has a chance encounter with her lost teenage self who has miraculously traveled into the future. Together, both women ultimately discover who they really are, finding the courage to live life by being true to themselves. Luisa’s sexuality is revealed to be a defining element of her identity, one which both of her selves must come to terms with. A time-traveling love story that turns coming-of-age conventions upside down, Luisa is a universal queer romance for the modern age.’
This is a book that occupies a short moment of emotional change and has a small and perfectly formed cast. It delivers on some of the most genuinely touching, real and funny moments that I have read in a comic for a long, long time.
The creator cunningly shows the direction and evolution of a woman’s life by comparing the 15 year old with the 30 year old. Who amongst us wouldn’t be hugely irritated by a real life encounter with our younger self? I know that I was a grade ‘A’ wanker at age fifteen (a fact that has probably hardly changed in my case?). You see that annoyance in the actions, faces and words of both the time travel Luisas. They bicker and wander the streets of Paris and also teach each other so much. Both time travel versions are unhappy with their lot but through the relationship and their friends they discover a little light at the end of the tunnel.
There is also a bit of a mystery going on, something fantastical that Carole Maurel adds into the mix. I won’t spoil this aspect of the book but it adds some cool moments that you might not expect.
This graphic novel also doesn’t rush you into an expected story. It takes it’s time and unfolds the twists and turns at a well constructed speed. Never are you presented with something as a shock but you do see things unfold before you expect them At 273 pages it is long but I could have easily read it at twice the length.
The book is full of stand out moments but I thought I’d pick a couple I really enjoyed.
I suppose it’s the interplay between the characters that I found so enjoyable in this book. There are numerous examples of this but one that I found to be sharply observed was when older Luisa took her younger self to meet her friends. You have to remember that it seemed like only yesterday that the younger version met these women as teenagers. She remembers what games they played like it was yesterday because for her it was.
This causes some friction as the older friends think that older Luisa has been talking about their private moments from their childhoods to this girl they believe to be ‘a long lost cousin’ and a stranger. You can see that the decision to make this visit becomes a huge mistake. The words and body language of the reprimanding of the time traveler is just cartooning perfection.
‘I’m going to be single and I’m going to repeat a load of grades!’
‘No. Just Ninth Grade....’
I can only guess that the moment that people will most probably love is the scene in the nightclub.
Who hasn’t got that friend who enjoys themselves like older Luisa does. That moment where she takes her shirt off and waves it over her head on a packed dance floor is just pitch perfect and shows such a great grasp of character. The lushness of the colour palette along with the funny drunk dance moves and awkward looks of friends and lovers make this hilarious. You feel the music in the air, the buzz of red wine and beer and the feelings as they dart across the page. Older Luisa let’s her guard down, she lets her emotions and attractions out in the open. She then heads off and we get an hysterical aftermath.
The art has both detail in it’s panels, just look at some of those city scenes, as well as the simplistic shortcuts of a good cartoonist. You feel like you are in every single setting, the streets, bedrooms, living rooms cafes and so on are crafted with realistic efficiency and a big dollup of personality. You the reader emote the feelings of the characters as they are immediately communicated by some gorgeously designed comic landscapes and touchingly rendered reactions. Everyone looks and feels like a real person and are sharply designed visually. The use of colour is stunning and changes the mood deftly and on a couple of occasions you are thrown into a flashback that you immediately recognise through palette choices. This is a comic that you feel like you are living as it moves along at a great pace.
This is part of the Life Drawn imprint from Humanoids that is releasing some really interesting slice of life books. You can find this and other great books at http://www.humanoids.com
Many thanks for reading.
Wednesday, 29 August 2018
Coming soon to Kickstarter.
I recently got chatting to Ian Ashcroft and he and I are are venturing on a short story for an upcoming anthology. He asked to show me some art from his current project entitled Kia Wordsmith. I immediately insisted that he send me some samples. The quality of what he and Dave West are working on is flabbergastingly original and beautiful (I’ve dropped page two into this preview below). I’ve had a look at some of the other pages and I can tell you that this is one of the 2018 Kickstarted projects that will be well worth your time.
You can see that this is a labour of love in all the multi faceted pages, incredible detail and original layouts. It is a ballet of storytelling and combines all that we love in fantasy from the storytelling of books like The Sandman, Mage and Fables to the album covers of progressive rock bands in the 1970s that you could stare at all day! It is also a tale of growth and experience in a world that lives in the shadows of the fantastical and the impact of wartime. Impressive stuff indeed.
I’ll keep you updated with the progress of the project but I’ve added the Press Release below and will be updating you with news of the crowd founder and the release at Nottingham Comic Con in October. Keep them peeled.
‘Accent UK are publishing their first fantasy comic book in the shape of Kia Wordsmith. Written by Dave West (Stephenson’s Robot, WesterNoir and Whatever Happened To the World’s Fastest Man?) with art by Ian Ashcroft (Tales of WesterNoir) the comic follows the story of a teenage girl living in a city that’s at war. It’s a distant war but it has changed her city in many ways. Kia escapes her daily routine by running the city’s rooftops at night, and it is only here that she feels truly free and truly alive. But there are others who also use the city’s rooftops and Kia finds herself in a game of cat and mouse with Thar-Lax, master thief. A thief who is breaking into the Floating Tower of the Wizard Zax-Al. Will she follow?’
Kia Wordsmith will be looking for Backers on Kickstarter in September, and will be launched at the Nottingham Comic Con in October.’
Find out more about Accent UK at http://www.accentukcomics.com/ and follow them on Twitter @AccentUK
You can find Ian and examples of his artwork on Instagram at Ian.ashcroft.art and contact him for commissions etc at Ian.firstname.lastname@example.org
Many thanks for reading.
Monday, 27 August 2018
Written by Jason Cobley.
Art and Lettering by James Gray.
Black and White interiors - 52 pages - £6.99.
The Story - ‘Amnesia Agents are tasked with tracking down missing memories and forgotten people. The barrier between Earth and Echo has cracked...
Have you ever wondered what happens to the things you forget? When you forget where you put your keys or an odd sock, where a building was or when an appointment should be, where do you think your memories go? Do you ever get that feeling where you know you've forgotten something important, but can't remember what it is? Do you ever revisit the street that you grew up in but something seems to be missing?
There is a place where these memories end up, a place just beyond what we can normally see and hear - or remember. Sometimes, when enough people forget a person, or a person wishes hard enough to be forgotten, he can find himself in this place. It is a place full of forgotten things. It is a place for the lost, and for stray memories. It is a place full of cracks where dangerous things from other places can slip through, but also where lost sources of hope can be found. It is a place called Echo.
Amnesia Agents can be anyone. Any one of us at any time could have knowledge of who were are wiped from the world and replaced by a new persona until the job is done. Theseus Brown is a newly recruited Agent paired with the more experienced Persephone Mills. When a strange anomaly causes memories to go astray, they are tasked with tracking down and fixing the problem. They haven't counted on a murderous jealous brother of a rock star, or a desperate teenager searching for a man only she can remember. And what evil forces drive the Forget Foxes and the mysterious Lurids?’
The Press Release - Amnesia Agents' is an original graphic novel with 48 pages of story plus supplementary material in US comic book sized format with a full colour glossy card cover, squarebound.
Based on the novel Amnesia Agents Book 1: The Forgotten Child by Jason Cobley.
I’ve just started reading this big old volume of a book. I’m about twenty pages in as I type and can see what a class act it is! It’s got some crisp black and white artwork and some snappy dialogue. It’s an interesting premise and I’ll be giving it my full attention for a more detailed review in the coming weeks. (It’s been a busy week for reasons I’ll be able to reveal soon). The pencils in this volume have a excellent level of detail and the structure has a great balance of action and drama. A real sense of personality. Well worth a look at the price of £6.99.
I’ve stuck this press release preview up early as I’m really enjoying what I’m reading and so that you can get your preorders in as soon as possible before it launches at the ICE Festival in Birmingham on the 15th of September. I’ll be heading there to meet some chums and hopefully buy a physical copy and grab an interview with the creators.
The book will also soon be available on Comichaus and ComiXology so look out for it there.
You can order your physical copy over at the guys Etsy Store at https://www.etsy.com/uk/listing/598644206/amnesia-agents-the-graphic-novel-out-now or at their Lulu store at http://www.lulu.com/shop/jason-cobley/amnesia-agents/paperback/product-23720684.html
Head over to http://writingcobblers.blogspot.com/ for more about this book and others by these creators.
Many thanks for reading.
Wednesday, 22 August 2018
SLAUGHTER HAWK.- CORPORATISM HAS A NEW FOE.
Created by Dave Broughton.
U.S. FORMAT COMIC BOOK.
52 PAGES FULL COLOUR.
RETAIL PRICE £6.99p.
2048 AD: A corrupt government rules the United Corporate States of America. Most people live in slum districts while their corporate masters rule from vast tower blocks in comparative luxury. Is the shadowy figure known as ‘Slaughter Hawk’ the hero that the people so desperately need? I’m going to add to this press release (as I got an early read of this comic) and say that we’ve never needed Slaughter Hawk more than we do now.
I read this from cover to cover and couldn’t put it down.
This is of course a superhero, albeit a rather dark portrayal of one. But it is also one that would fit in well with the tastes of a 2000 AD reader. It has a grittiness about it but also includes hilariously overblown characters who are in return in possession of numerous steroid induced muscles on muscles on muscles. We also get gadgets, tech armour, a militarised government and female ninja(ish) assassins. Dave does all the above with a little satirical glint in his eye. He knows what he is doing and he is also having great fun doing it. What more can you ask for?
Each comic book comes with a free gift (while stocks last) - an A3 full colour Slaughter Hawk poster.
SLAUGHTER HAWK is launching at the ICE ‘International Comic Expo’ being held on September 15th at Birmingham City Centre. More information on the event here: www.smallzone.co.uk
A promotional Digital Ashcan ‘Slaughter Hawk a prelude’ will be posted daily on Dave’s personal and various other Facebook, twitter, Blog pages and other social media plat forms from September 1st to 14th before it’s launch on September 15th.
You can find out about Dave’s work and other books he’s created like his excellent ongoing series Shaman Kane at the following social media.
• FACEBOOK PAGE: https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100008159144954
• TWITTER ADDRESS: @DbroughtonDavid
• BLOG PAGE: dbroughton.blogspot.com
Many thanks for reading.
Tuesday, 21 August 2018
Monday, 20 August 2018
Written by Chris Sides.
Art by Chris Travell.
Lettered and Edited by Ken Reynolds.
Cover design and art by Colin Lorimer.
Published by Comichaus.
The Story - ‘Given six months in prison and slapped with a restraining order against celebrity starlet Kerry Amos, Jared Close rejoices in his new found freedom by going back to doing what he knows - stalking Amos.
Things take a dark turn, however, when Jared witnesses Amos' murder at the hands of the detective, Coburn, who put him behind bars. Jared finds himself in an impossible situation; he has no alibi, he can't come forward without evidence and to make matters worse, he's suspect number one. Taking matters into his own hands, Jared sets out to prove his innocence, but Coburn has other ideas...’
This is a one-shot thriller released through Comichaus.
Preview - Well, looks like everything is hotting up. Thought Bubble 2018 is just around the corner and the wise members of the comics creating community are starting their engines. The preview copies have just begun their way to me and other reviewers. I was pleased to see that Chris Sides and Chris Travell were first out of the gate with their new book Close.
I was sent late last night the first twenty pages of this new crime book. It has a dark and dirty feel beyond the lush detail of the black and white interior art. It’s a bleak story of a stalker who may, or may not, become the detective in this tale but on his own depraved terms.
When we approach a story as the reader we in some way or other visit the lives of the people on the page. What the creative team does here is create a reality that sucks you in and keeps you holding on for the ride. Chris Travell has an ultra realistic style that uses what feel like real faces with real feeling emotions. They react and turn and glance and speak as we all do. But they do so within the confines of a horrific crime that comes as a sudden outburst by the one person you don’t expect. A good thriller subverts expectations often, this story does exactly that.
Chris Sides extends this reality by making use of clocks and moments of stillness. You feel the genuine passage of time as Jared Close arrives home and dwells on his life and what his degenerate plans and plots will become. The pages and the narrative are full of visual data and clues. I marvelled at the decisive and slow release of the story through the movements and face of this ex con. It takes at least a couple of twists in the first act and I fully expect that there will be more to follow.
One small niggle would be that there seems to be an awful lot of clues discovered at the crime scene. The revelation that there were tears on the body (‘Lacrimal Fluid’) was a nice moment but it did have me wondering ‘How did he know that?’ I’m guessing that this may become clear soon enough...
Worthy of note is also the excellently iconicly minimalistic cover that gives away just enough of the secret. Nicely done by Colin Lorimer (makes note to look him up for a cover for me...)
CLOSE is launching at Thought Bubble 2018 and will be available to buy via the Comichaus website (www.comichaus.com) and available to read digitally via the Comichaus app (www.comichaus.com/app). I shall be grabbing a physical copy.
You can find Chris Sides (IMPOSSIBLE, DARK MATTER, WHISPERING SANDS)
At www.chrissideswriter.com and on Twitter @Sidesy1982
Find more art by Chris Travell (DARK MATTER, WHISPERING SANDS)
At www.instagram.com/travellsky and on Twitter @travellsky
Edited, lettered & designed by Ken Reynolds (COGNITION, IN TROUBLE, SLICED QUARTERLY) www.kenreynoldsdesign.co.uk and find him on Twitter @ReynoldssKR20
Cover art by Colin Lorimer www.instagram.com/colin_lorimer
Many thanks for reading.
Saturday, 18 August 2018
Last week I wrote a piece on how I enjoyed watching people punch each other in comics and that I kind of miss seeing more of it. The piece had a satirical element that a few people caught on to. It got a crapload of reads and I kind of like the fact that people enjoyed it in different ways.
‘I liked ‘Repo Man’. Satire.’ - Harry Dean Stanton.
So... what will this grumpy old man talk about this week?
Let’s go from thumps to gentle Summers and those vacations of our childhoods.
This is a book that I’ve seen images of but never been able to read. I even follow the artist on Twitter just to drool over his art.
Then along came Europe Comics. The digital only publisher of comics from France and Belgium. We are lucky enough to be on the comps list for this company for covering on here and at the Awesome Comics podcast and I’ve loved books like ‘Desert Star’, ‘The Mermaid Project’, ‘The Eagles of Rome’, ‘Raptors’, ‘World Book of Records’, and many, many more.
Once again. This book is outstanding. If you have not discovered Europe Comics yet you need to have a look.
Glorious Summers: 1 Southbound.
Written by Zidrou.
Art by Jordi Lafebre.
Colours by Jordi Lafebre and Mado Pena.
64 Pages - Full Colour.
The Story - ‘In this nostalgic account, the Faldérault family sets out for a final summer vacation together before an impending marital separation disrupts the family dynamics for good. Along the way, heading south to France from Brussels, Pierre, Maddie, and their children revel in impromptu skinny-dips, family sing-alongs, and camping in the wild, ultimately finding a renewed zest for life—and vacation!’
The Review - This is a book that is funny and sad and nostalgic and I dare you to come away without a lump in your throat. As you read you can feel the breeze from the lake and feel the sun on your bones as you lay in the grass. Whilst it is set in Belgium and France it feels like those holidays you had as a kid. Those long car journeys arguing with your brother or sister and your parents in the front chatting in the heat of the dusty back roads.
But don’t make the mistake that nothing much happens in the 64 pages of story. There is something poking at your ribs in the side lines you feel something is going on beyond the idyllic settings. You feel that there is unhappiness in the relationship between the mother and father. Pierre is a comics artist who isn’t managing to break through with his work. Maddie is unhappy working in a shoe shop and the romance has gone stale, they are drifting apart with only the mischievous chorus of the children to distract and occupy them.
As the family set off on the journey they each come across as individual characters. Arguments break out as they climb and scrap in the back seat. But as the dusk and night draws in they fall asleep and the parents turn from talking to them to talking to each other. It’s then that you notice the cracks. This scene is absolutely masterful in writing and art. The weight of the conversation and maybe just a couple of lines speaks volumes. As this reality in a panel hit me I became a fan of both these creators.
It is that coexistence on the page and in the moment in the beauty of image and genuineness of dialogue that you realise that this is an incredibly important book, and yes, medium.
I’m been following Jordi Lafebre on Twitter for sometime after being tipped off to his art by Marc Laming. I understand only a portion of the French language but followed him on Twitter for his art (find him @jordilafebre where there is a lot in English!) So when Europe Comics translated his work I was over the freaking moon!
This is a combination of cartooning and caricature with detailed and richly coloured realistic landscapes. There is a vast depth to each scene and nothing cuts corners. The caricature in the faces has an animation feel to it that allows for displays of emotion and reaction. I have also never seen anyone play with light and shadow so beautifully on a comics page. You feel at ease when they lay and sit around at a picnic, you feel the cramped confines of the car, you feel the heat of the village streets and taste the food they eat. You can look at a panel for an age before moving on to the next.
This book is set in the 1970s. The border between Belgium and France is manned and identities are checked. I suppose that these were different times but at one moment Maddie slaps one of the kids in the face (fortunately a less common event now than it was then) and then storms off. She’s had enough. This happens at almost halfway through the book. You realise but not necessarily agree with her motivation. But, it resonates so hard on your emotions because you feel that you know the characters. This is due to the richness in the characterisation. That investment in carefully chosen lines and well crafted visual personalities pays off a thousand per cent. A lesson to us all when writing character. Outstanding, just pure comics.
Recommended to everyone who loves comics.
Find your copy at http://www.europecomics.com/author/jordi-lafebre/
You can also follow Europe Comics on twitter @EuropeComics and sign up for their newsletter for upcoming releases.
As if you prove my point I swipe to the back page and find the following. Put much better than I was able.
Many thanks for reading and have a great summer.