(Art by Dimitris Zach).
Sunday, 30 December 2018
(Art by Dimitris Zach).
Saturday, 29 December 2018
The question of why we, or more specifically I, write is something that I have made an attempt at tackling in a number of previous posts. The more I write and the more I examine my motivations the more it complicates itself and coincidentally the clearer it becomes. A metaphor for life if ever there was one.
So I began to think about who I write for. That’s a subject that each of us should consider. It was prompted by a script I wrote recently and a conversation or two that I have had with trusted friends since.
Put simply, I now write for nobody but myself. I may, in the past, have written for certain crowds. The horror crowd and the 2000 AD crowd for example or those that are entertained or amused by my outbursts on the podcast or in the blog. These people I have written for in varying degrees of ass clenching ineptitude or a vague sense of self-satisfaction. Scroll back and you will find a few examples without a doubt.
I began writing on and off in the nineties. It kept me happy during long periods of work away from home and the fact that all I was doing was writing about things and people that annoyed me gave me a fuel to push on through the long and exhausting hours. I suppose those amongst us with a functioning brain need to explore the creative side of our thoughts from time to time. It gives a certain release and a feeling of freedom, a distraction from the real world.
Once you have decided that all you want to write about are things that amuse, entertain or stimulate yourself then you are diving into an ocean of freedom. You are unchained by the idiots of the world and allowed to bounce off the waves crushing their insipid faces when they shout ‘format, ‘structure’, ‘populism’, ‘marketing’ and ‘Sales, sales, sales’.
These books that you see everywhere on ‘How to write’ are an attack on the experimentation that made the great writers so interesting and adventurous. Would Shakespeare have written a scene to the chants of ‘We Buy Any Car’? Would Burroughs have formulated stories keeping in mind that he would have to bookend each chapter with the appearance of a Meerkat? Would Philip K. Dick have thought about including a Hostess Fruit Pie with anything other than a withering eye to sarcasm and satire?
So..... I’ve decided to fuck everyone. Fuck them all and their tiny shit eating grovelling to the public attitudes. What did ‘The Public’ or ‘The Community’ or ‘The Consumer’ ever really give us? Mostly they’ve given me Erectile Dysfunction medicine, a variety of pronouns I don’t understand, Brexit, Spicy Cider, appearance over content, a lack of context, unfunny cartoons and Herpes!
Don’t listen to those outside voices. Don’t ‘Bounce your ideas off anyone’. Don’t ‘workshop a script’, don’t ‘Join a Writers Room’.
Write something well and with beauty and passion and in a way that makes you happy.
Fuck all the rest!
Many thanks for reading. (Although let’s face it I don’t really give a flying fart! It’s just a cool sign-off I’ve been using for a decade!)
Thursday, 27 December 2018
I have over the last ten years felt an accelerating mood that all that is populist is not for me. Quelle Surprise I hear you shout. I have dwelled here enough on bad horror movies and niche comics and novels after all. So unsurprisingly the dreck sweet corn invested bullshit that maintains a foothold in television and films has sent me to YouTube and Podcasts and old paperbacks for some satisfaction.
I have of late been reading and listening to a lot of the work of Christopher Hitchens. A man full of reason and passion I have become slightly fixated on his thought processes, (often) wryly dealt delivery and clear thinking. I am also aware that like The Doors, Lynch, Dylan, Bukowski, Herzog and Amis he is a public figure that a man in his fifties must have investigated at some period leading up to that man writing a terribly aggressive and scatological weekly mailer.......
(Yes that was spelt correctly).
The above is not to negate what he says however and some/much of what he says has resonance. Although I would like to point out that whilst I do not agree with some of his diatribes the ‘Antitheist’ badge is tempting though isn’t it?
I recently heard him talk about writing as this is a favourite topic. He stated that he has no interest or skill in writing a fiction or a novel. This I am sure is modesty for I suspect that he would have written a crackingly subversive and biting political novel. We shall never know as he sadly passed away far too early a number of years ago. But he does simply encapsulate a couple of points that I think are worthy of comment.
‘If you have the ability to talk you have the ability to write.’
This is true. I wholeheartedly believe that the ability to write something is not a god given ability. It can be learnt and is just another muscle that needs to be worked to find some ability beyond the crude.
Last night I sat in a pub with a pal. This man claims that writing is beyond him and that he prefers just to draw. But doesn’t a picture tell a story? Put down what you see and feel in that picture? I would read that. This man also tells a mean and funny story. Isn’t that writing? Groucho Marx is one of my favourite ‘writers’ yet he famously dictated onto a tape machine. His writing (as that is what it is) flows brilliantly and is eloquent and funny and sharp. Just give it a go. What have you got to lose?
I have many friends who would never consider typing a story but will sit in a car, pub, coffee shop, strip club (etc) and entrance us with hilarious tales of their lives. Side achingly hilarity that will be lost to all but the fading memories of those present.
It’s a shame.
He also repeated that theory that a story does not need to be overly complicated...
‘Man Bites Dog. That is enough’.
Simple and straightforward but does it get you thinking? I think it most certainly does.
I’m afraid that I’m not one of those readers in either novels or comics that likes an overly complicated plot. I prefer to hear from the inside of the players heads in some way or another. A story is the umbrella which the real gristle is exposed from underneath. Ferocious imagery is my crack. Well thought out dialogue is my caffeine. Swirling emotions are my scotch.
So, as you sit to write, concentrate on the thoughts and motivations and speech and real moments of truth. The feelings in your gut need voice and a voice that is expressed with skill and style and rhythm and shape.
A story is not and never should be purely a good idea that nobody has ever thought about. There are a lot of comics, movie, TV and novel writers who would do well to remember that.
Please give it a go? I try and write every day. As I sit in the dark early and rainy hours drinking coffee I find, for a moment at least, some peace. It doesn’t come easily these days. Shut out the world and write. Find what inspires you and give it your best go.
Many thanks for reading.
Sunday, 23 December 2018
Darwin: An Exceptional Voyage
Written by Fabien Grolleau.
Art by Jérémie Royer
FEBRUARY 2019 Hardback | 184pp | 275 x 205mm £16.99 | ISBN 978-1-910620-50-2
The Story - ‘The year is 1831. A gifted yet somewhat distracted young man named Charles Darwin has been offered a place aboard the H.M.S. Beagle. The journey will change both his life and the course of modern science…
This follows legendary scientist Charles Darwin as he embarks on the voyage that began his career. Join him on a journey of thrilling discovery as he explores remote corners of the natural world and pieces together the very beginnings of his revolutionary theory of evolution.’
‘Over five years, the ship would travel the world in a series of complex voyages, impossible to recreate in a graphic novel in their entirety........ Our focus is on the personal element of this epic odyssey.’
The Review - The cover to this English language translation by Nobrow is typically playful and also tells a story. Darwin has an iconic image of a red haired young man with a bowler hat that brings memories of a touch of Tin Tin. His adventures are no less exciting than his Belgian counterpart and this book takes a brave leap into the life of an iconic figure and pulls the feat off with style. It is at once educational and also stunningly beautiful. As our hero wanders across the cover of this book he is surrounded by the animals he studies.
This is a biography of sorts and opens with an older Charles Darwin surrounded by his children and family. His children insist on a story whilst his wife heads out for some errands. He decides to tell them the story of how he boarded The Beagle and began a long world-wide adventure.
The story time shifts back to Christmas 1831 in Davenport dockyard. When the weather clears Darwin sets sail initially to the Canary Islands and then much further afield. A church service is held on board and you begin to get a sense of one of this book’s ongoing themes of the clash of cultures and the way that the ‘west’ impacts/pushes it’s morals and religions on the ‘Un-civilised’. But these moments are never heavily dropped on the reader and are dealt with a real sense of history and subtlety. The creators take a neutral role and allow the history in the story to tell a certain unslanted yet all the more rousingly significant tale.
Honestly, no hyperbole but Charles Darwin could easily become one of my new favourite comic book characters. He has a wide-eyed innocence and a genuine love of and for life. For a young man facing severe hardships and an uncertain future he swings for the sixes. He maintains the role of intellectual sponge and learns from everyone and everything he sees and encounters. You see his growth and learn as he does. Not just in his pursuit of understanding the natural world but also in his education on the complexities of all human interaction.
‘.....property would allow a chief to exhibit and increase his authority.’
We see the world around Darwin and it is a complicated one at that. We see the issues of disease, death, religion, slavery and more. You also see the harshness of life at sea and he gives himself over completely to the mission, away from home for many years dealing with obtuse Englishmen, curious islanders and countries at war.
It’s the moments when Charles is alone that really resonated for me on the first read through. Our hero explores a Brazilian rain forest at one stage of his travels and as the heavy rain hits he hides under a giant leaf and laughs warmly at his own circumstances. Or another favourite moment is when Darwin is sat on a bank overlooking the beach. He is confronted by three naked native women in Patagonia. Their bodies are bared apart from tribal body-paint. These women giggle and steal his hat. He is unfazed and lives in that moment merely choosing to watch them skip and run along the beach in this/his strangers hat. This is some excellent story-telling.
‘Every evening as darkness falls the concert begins’.
At an early stage in this review I would also like to make two very important points. Firstly this is no short read. It is a hefty hardback full of details and excellent wordplay at an not insignificant one hundred and eighty-four pages. It is also ONLY £16.99. Other publishers would easily charge you twice that! (It’s rare that I moan about the cheapness of a book so savour this moment!)
I started to read this book during a recent bout of insomnia. I soared through the first one hundred pages and decided at that point to take a break and hit the hay. I wanted to savour this book a little more and for a little longer. I awoke still thinking about this biography. I was more than a little haunted by the artwork of Jérémie Royer. He occupies an artistic placement that is a combination of cartoony caricature and breathtakingly rendered detail in the close up and on the full page landscapes. As I earlier closed the book to head for bed I caught sight of the moment where two ‘Westernised’ natives are married on the deck of The Beagle. The ship is invaded by orange and red butterflies as the black and grey sky is lit up by a web of forks of lightening. As this happens the sea below them is a green shade of haunting luminous under lighting. It is magnificent. Like an instagram obsessed teenager I found myself photographing this sequence and posting it online.
‘The mountain! It’s burning with a thousand flames!’
This. Just this moment. These pages. This is why comics are such an amazing medium.
Read this book as a piece of art, a great comic, an educational book, a political and social document on an invasion of one society on many others or maybe all the above. Charles Darwin comes across through this book as a man full of wonder and enthusiasm. He is never judgemental of the ways of others and keeps on his course for years. It is also extremely beautiful and will have you return to the pages time and time again.
Fabian Grolleau has written and created several comics for Vide Cocagne (which he co-founded0 as well as the graphic novel, Jacques a Dit.
Jérémie Royer is an illustrator and designer. After studying art for two years in Nice, he specialised in comic book art and illustration in Brussels.
This book is due to be released from Nobrow in February 2019. Here’s the link to find out more https://nobrow.net/shop/darwin-an-exceptional-voyage/
Many thanks for reading.
Saturday, 22 December 2018
PLAN A / PLAN B.
Created by John Tucker.
32 Pages - Full Colour.
This is a tale of two (nearly) connected stories. They are told in the format of those old ‘flip book’ sci-fi novels where you have to turn the book over and work your way back to the centre.
The digital version opens on ‘PLAN B’. This is of course hilariously unsurprising by a man who once made up a whole comic about the history of gang culture in Swansea or even that one comic where he told the story of a lighthouse keeper so annoyed by a local man dumping bags of pubic hair into the sea he commits an assassination.
‘PLAN B’ follows on with this strange and twisted storytelling and individual humour and is just as the title suggests.
Two sons try to follow their father’s wish to have his ashes scattered on the moon.
“Like Neil Armstrong.”
The loyal brothers receive no answer from their emails to NASA and the local council offices are far too inquisitive. So they go with what they can.
I refuse to spoil. But what follows is fun, funny, touching and satisfying for both the reader and the players. There’s a perfection to the ending that I’ll leave you to have a ponder over.
‘PLAN A’ tells the. story of three men attempting to escape a local prison. they are intent on their dangerous plan working so that they can recover a ruby that has been stolen from them by ‘One-Eyed Owain’. To complicate matters the ruby has been hidden in the eye socket of an Egyptian Mummy in The Haunted House of The Abandoned Fairground.
Things again don’t go as you’d expect (or even to ‘PLAN’) and the two stories in this book combine in an unexpected theme. The two stories are not similar but have a centre moment that will make you smile. I cannot say more than that.
There’s a something about Mr Tucker’s idiosyncratic humour that speaks for me. It is always so out of the ordinary that it drives you along with a combination of chuckles and fascination. I find myself invested in the analysis of where this will end and never guessing before the actual end. It has a strangely practical sense of logic to it’s narrative. It makes sense to the reader although often it really shouldn’t. It’s that sense of personality that you only really get in the indie and self published. John makes great comics because that’s what he wants to do and isn’t driven by any trends or editors looking to make a buck. Long may it continue.
The art is bold and accomplished and cartoony. It fits with nobody else out there and has a level of quirk that you will warm to immediately.
I look forward to everything John puts out.
This will be getting a release at the True Believers Comics Festival on the 2nd of February. Details for attending this great comics event are here http://oktruebelievers.com/
Follow John on Twitter @johntuckerart or buy his books at http://www.johntucker.co.uk/
Many thanks for reading.
Monday, 3 December 2018
Next Saturday is Bath’s first Pop Up Comics, Art and Zine Fair. It’s being held between 10am and 4pm at the Komedia, 22 - 23 Westgate Street, Bath, BA1 1EP.
Along with some great artists and creators there’s a new guest heading down.
Yes! Hilda will be there. (Or just a table selling her books, novels and dolls.) Flying Eye Books and Nobrow will be there for all your comics and kid’s book needs.
Seen the cartoon on Netflix? Can’t wait for season 2? We’ve got you sorted!
We’ll have all the volumes so far of Hilda’s adventures at a reduced rate of £7 a volume. We’ll also have a the newly released kid’s novel ‘Hilda and the Hidden People’.
And.... If you get in early enough I might even still have some of the Hilda dolls available. Cracking Christmas presents! (I have left Stan in this photo to show scale!) These will be discounted to £20 just for the day.
If you have any requests for these or any other Nobrow or Flying Eye Books and are popping down to this great event then let me know and I’ll pack some.
Or if you just want some recommendations for great presents for a loved one then message me on here or on Twitter @Ezohyez
It’s going to be a blast! Here are the full details.
See you there and many thanks for reading!
Sunday, 2 December 2018
EAST - WEST
Written and experienced by Pierre Christin.
Drawn by Phillipe Aymond.
Published digitally in the English Language by Europe Comics.
“America, which I often visited, was a place that both seduced and repelled me.
The Eastern Bloc countries, through which I also traveled extensively,
both attracted and saddened me. In those days, it was very rare to be able to visit both at the same time, due to the extreme ideological divide.
But that’s exactly what I did, usually at the wheel of dilapidated cars so I could
drive around at leisure and make up my own mind about these places.” - PIERRE CHRISTIN
‘From the American West to the most remote parts of the Eastern Bloc,
graphic novelist Pierre Christin brings us the tale of his travels on both sides of the Iron Curtain, something almost unheard-of during the Cold War. He recalls his encounters with major authors such as Jean-Claude Mézières, Enki Bilal, and Jean Giraud, aka Mœbius. Between Flower Power and the Chernobyl nuclear disaster, the writer of Valerian and Laureline takes us on an intimate adventure through the second half of the 20th century,in a narrative that mixes personal experiences and observations with his creative journey as an artist, beautifully and vividly illustrated by Philippe Aymond.’
I was sent this as a preview copy by Irina Polianina from Europe Comics. I jokingly refer to her as my ‘comics crack dealer’, but what she is really is a person with great taste and an insight into what I’ll really like. This is however no niche book in Europe. It has just won the Rene Goscinny Prize at the Angoulême Comics Festival. It is written by the European Comics Legend Pierre Christin who you should all already be aware wrote the Valérian series (yes, the one that movie is based upon).
This book comes out later this month in a digital format. I’m in Rome next week and hoping that the Italians have been clever enough to translate it. Europe Comics remains a great avenue to get an education in some amazing comics.
It’s common for me to skip the introduction in a trade paperback or graphic novel. I’m sure it’s a common habit of many of us. But please read this one before you begin. It shows the intent, the reasoning and the atmosphere of this autobiographical comic. It also gives an insight into the writer and in this case, more than many others, that is important. I am instantly taken with this writer and his style, a pragmatic, no nonsense attitude for sure, but one with strong realistic reasoning.
‘One of my self-imposed rules has always been to write only about things I’ve seen (except at the far reaches of space, but even so, that’s what dreams are for), to use only my own photo records (I make sure my shots are ugly, so they don’t overly influence the illustrator), and to include only elements taken from my travels and my reading.’
This is a book that was an absolute revelation in many areas. It is both personally touching and intellectually stimulating. Not only did I connect with the characters I also leant something.
The book opens on Pierre in 1966 travelling across the States in a Greyhound Bus. The country is how we have come to realise a contradiction of friendly white picket fences and troubled racial tension. In one interesting section Pierre leaves the bus and finds himself in a record shop. Being a Frenchman he decides to look for some Jazz records and finds hidden away in the ‘Race Records Section’. Even at this early stage you feel the mood change and the beginning of the social revolution.
‘I ended up as a comics writer without really knowing how...’ PIERRE CHRISTIN.
Christin began to teach at Utah University and travelled the country during the downtime. You feel that he is a man blown by the wind from one experience to another, fearless but drawn by fate. He immersed himself in a country that he had previously only experienced through Cowboy movies and television. He encounters corrupt second hand car dealers who he hilariously is conned by time after time, American Jazz music, Diners, Polygomy and Mormons. He gets to pursue his dream of riding the range and allows the history in the book to be inspired by his experience of the moment.
The art from Aymond is breathtaking. He shows the world in widescreen with the beauty of the desert and the city in equal measure. He frames each scene like a period specific photograph showing really dramatic scale. He also shows the personal and the street level beautifully. the story takes a number of time jumps and the artist’s style changes accordingly. We get full colour, sepia and black and white, the art also allows alternatively for discussion between individuals, a reportage style, very personal flashback sequences and a telling of politics and history. It’s an intense and clever experience and Aymond is perfectly suited to a book of this kind.
As the writer’s story progresses he returns to Europe and crosses over behind the Iron Curtain. But always uses comics as a touchstone to the life of the narrator. He sees himself at one point as almost a black market dealer in comic books and albums, taking them to places where they are not easily available. Once again Europe is feeling a huge seismic shift in political, social, sexual and racial changes. These personal experiences of the writer range from the discovery of a Romany Encampment almost stuck in a bygone age to the tense crossing at Checkpoint Charlie into the west, a journey from sinister and quiet to overwhelming capitalism. The world that is disappearing brushes harshly against the concrete giant that has stamped down on the beautiful past.
Throughout the book Pierre travels America, Germany (both East and West), Finland, France, Russia, Bulgaria, The Czech Republic and many other places. We see the impact on the world of the changes and challenges to all sides of politics. The passes and failures of Capitalism, Marxism, Socialism, Dialectic Materialism and all this other political/economical theories and redundant practises. He captures their essence at that time and repeats them here for us to read. But add to this his meetings with the giants of comics like Enki Bilal, Möebius, Rene Goscinny, Jean-Claude Mézières, Jacques Tardi and more. This is the joining of many things. But isn’t that what a life is?
Customs, Comics, Politics, Comics, Community, Comics, Human interactions and Comics.
We are both individually and collectively only a result of our experiences and history. This book is easily one of the best things I have ever read. I have to admit to being more than a little obsessed. Now will someone just pull their finger out and release a hard copy!
Have a look on Comixology in the upcoming weeks for the release of this book. You can also head over to www.europecomics.com or follow them on Twitter @EuropeComics
Many thanks for reading.