Sunday, 16 June 2019

‘Poochytown’ by Jim Woodring.



‘Poochytown’

Created by Jim Woodring.

Published by Fantagraphics - Black and White - £17.99/$19.99

The Story - ‘When Pupshaw and Pushpaw depart for the orgiastic delights of Poochytown, the forlorn Frank is thrown by a twist of fate into an unlikely friendship, propelling him down a long road of escapades and trials that ends in one of the most shocking acts ever depicted in the Frank canon.’


The Review - You know sometimes you put a book off. Until you have reached the correct state of mind? I’ve been meaning to buy this for months when that perfect series of events pushed me off my arse and got me to purchase and read it.

Event 1 - I recently spent some time with my pal Bob Fingerman. A clever guy and a talented artist. I commented over dinner that I hadn’t yet read Woodring’s release through Fantagraphics of Poochytown. He gave me one of those sideways looks and said ‘You really should do’ and then recounted a story how he’d hung out with Mr W whilst they anointed a museum toilet with their art (with full appreciation it might be added from the owner of said lavatory!)

Event 2 - The book ever seems to be in my eye line in every comic shop I attend. It’s there taunting me. It knows that I need it. It sees me when I walk in and eyes me suspiciously yet also teasing me by lifting it’s skirt a tiny bit.

Event 3 - A Facebook associate shared an original page he had bought and I sat admiring it on my phone whilst drinking my fourth coffee of the day.

Event 4 - I bought a new book release from equally surrealist art styled creator called Andy Baron at the recent ELCAF and promptly arranged for him to come of the podcast. Was I being subconsciously pushed in the direction of P’Town throughout this time?

The misshapen eyeball prodding planets were indeed aligned and with their hands on my shoulders guided me into spending the £17.99 in a London comic shop just yesterday.


I read this book, as I am prone to, on the train home and became hypnotised by it’s contents. The work of the unconscious mind had me gripped.

I have now read this book three times in the last twenty-four hours and honestly cant image reading anything else all day. 

This is also a book that confounds a proper description but I will try nonetheless because as you all realise by now I am fond of my own voice.

Imagine a sentient flesh altering virus, it first invades our dreams and sends them over a nightmarish edge. We then leak our sleeping mind into the world of Disney cartoons and old fairy tales. This twisted freakish reality then appears fully formed onto the page of a hardback book in alternatively precise and chaotic inks. All the while we watch obsessed with the next troubling turn of (almost) narrative. Some worrying highlights.

A pig/human hybrid eats a nest of baby birds.

Beings, creatures, objects, organs take bites out of each other only to have them grow back.

A tuba case contains a snake like animal curled up that when you force a reed into it and blow really, really hard a black and white psychedelic maelstrom forms and grows and pulses above the heads of the animate.

A steering wheel appears out of the ground at the feet of creatures who use it to drive through not only shifting landscapes but ever changing realities without ever taking a step away from where they stand.

Over and over and over Woodring chases your reading mind and points out that you don’t really have a clue what you think you know. He brawls with your conception/preconception of what you see and points at the floor whilst he kicks you in your ass. The reading experience changes and you give in as the glorious pages work their way past and into your eyeballs.



The story does again contain Frank. A recurring character who Woodring is often careful only to describe as ‘a generic anthropomorph’.  He is alsodescribes him as ‘naive but not innocent ‘ and is undoubtably connected symbolically to his own highly peculiar world.

The art is solid and strongly asserted black and white lines with an OCD level of intricate interlocking and lines of parallel and interweaving chaos/precision that you wont see the like of elsewhere. Woodring learned his craft early on whilst working in a studio with Jack Kirby and Gil Kane and you can see their influences in the mix but also the work of the surrealists. Dali can be heard shouting crackpot theories just out of sight perhaps.

The comic is wordless but transmits a symbolic language and twisted logic that shows some great machinery at work. It flows so well that you get caught up in his midst and swept along as you read instinctively and naturally that you never notice the lack of words. For a speech free book it is also conversely a dense read. It will take you a while. Make some time for it and swallow the whole dose.

Organically the story pulses with some shockingly sudden yet great double page spreads with often intricate detail everywhere. In my view every page could be a liner note from a sixties psych band album but with more crazy/cohesion. Yes, there are those nods to animation as I mention earlier. Woodring himself quoted that working in cartoons was the worst job he ever had (and he spent years as an alcoholic bin man!) But you can see how he has made in this book a transgressive and anarchic version of Mickey Mouse, Porky Pig, the candlesticks from Beauty and the Beast and much more.

This book deals with all the themes that you might expect from our dreaming and hallucinatory states of being. Life, Death, Danger, Sex, Friendship, Anxiety and more. Some of the meanings seem sharply obvious and some we will never work out from the guesses we make at Woodring’s intentions. I personally don’t need to be told and the experience of this book is enough (for the moment) for me.

I can’t recommend this to everyone. Not all of you will get it or appreciate it. Those that will/should can eat it up!

Find it and buy it. If you don’t want to......then don’t.



Open your eyes!

Let’s face it though, works of realism only get the juices flowing to a point. We need the hallucinatory and instinctual crazy in our lives occasionally.


Many thanks for reading.

Friday, 31 May 2019

Honest Review Month - The Wrap Up.




So. The findings.

At the risk of offering my head to the block of raging Joe Public stupidity I decided to venture out on Honest Review Month. Being a comics creator myself I was aware of the karmic dice roll I was chancing. I even wrote an angry mission statement spurred on by the fawning infants who were lauding certain deplorable attempts at comic making as awards worthy. I wont repeat that diatribe here but some thirty-five reviews and one month later I’m going to have a think about what I discovered about comics, their creators and myself.

I got sent a lot of comics. Some of which I have not yet got to for a review. (For those waiting please hang on in there, they’re coming.... soonish). I got some great comics and some pretty darn bad ones. I had, at various times during the thirty-one days, to remind myself that this was an exercise in reviewing what I was sent and not just what I fancied reviewing. I also had to steel myself and plough through some comics that were really not the sort of style I normally read but also that were often of such bad art and a story that they were very difficult read.

I made up rules for myself. I would post each review twice and I would not ‘at’ (aka @) overly critical reviews towards the creators (that always seems unfair). This is something I myself have fallen prey to, where a reviewer sends multiple messages to the creator with their review attached hoping for a retweet to promote their own particular brand. I also told myself that one post on Facebook was enough and apart from a ‘half-way through the month’ post in the Awesome Comics Podcast Group I didn’t repost anything there either.

I also felt that I had to be honest. This did in a few late night and exhausted moments stray into sarcasm but hey I’m only human. I also made sure that if I had been contacted by a creator I replied with the link and a short line on my opinion. Something akin to, ‘I’m afraid I found a number of flaws’, or ‘It’s not a very positive review I’m afraid.’ I felt that if I had the forthrightness to post a review I should also have the balls to tell the person submitting the comic what I thought.

I also chose in four separate occasions after a sensible discussion with the creator to give a personal and not a publicly posted examination of the issue in question. I approached this differently each time and gave a more page by page analysis than a ‘For the public’ style summary and breakdown. I’ve been doing some editing work recently and found that everyone I spoke to was keen to get that type of help. Perhaps that is something I may post in the future with the creator’s permission?

Due to an American holiday and some keenness in getting items posted I actually wrote some 35 reviews. Some comics were about to be released or Kickstarted and some got posted due to jet lag insomnia. I never felt that I was running out of material but went a couple of times for a palate cleanser with a comic that didn’t have the weight of an artist’s expectations hanging over me. The Punisher review is an example of this. 

Speaking of expectations I genuinely feel that some people wholeheartedly believe that their comics are the best thing since cheese. I got at least a couple of review requests where that creator in particular strongly believed their work was perfect and on one occasion virtually compared it to the second coming! I didn’t find anything that was perfect but some were very close. Some though wouldn’t be able to spell the word or even get close to recognising it written in toilet cubicle.

One common failing was a severe lack of originality. One piece of advice I’ll suggest is don’t be derivative and do please, please, please come up with your own ideas. Too many people think ‘I’ll do an urban vigilante story’ or ‘I’ll do a unicorn story’. In basis that’s not a crime but failing to think beyond that basic theory and making a comic so dull it makes my balls itch is clearly a hangable one. This can also be very relevant in the dialogue, I recently read an indie comic (that I came by through a colleague but didn’t get a review posted as it wasn’t actually submitted to the blog) that was a space comedy. OK you might think, as did I, ‘that’s quite acceptable’ but it came with jokes so groaningly bad that I actually think they were stolen from a nineties Kevin Smith story. (Saying ‘Nerfherder’ stopped being funny before the job of herding nerfs was invented!). 

Which takes me to one simple fact that applies in life as well as in comics creation.

If you have nothing to say keep your trap shut! Getting words on a page and cramming then into a comic does not a comics writer make you.

Learn your trade. Look to the good examples of comics making. These are not to be found in ‘The Guide to Guerilla Filmmaking’ or ‘Film Scripts 101 by David Mamet’. They are found in comics. So many of the scripts and comics I have read recently have been created by people who clearly know nothing of the medium. Knowing about comics, knowing about how they are created, knowing about what has been done well and badly IS REQUIRED! It seems like people just decide they are a comics creator and wait for the Eisner to roll on down their driveways while they wipe the excrement from their keyboards and mouths.

One more piece of advice - if you aren’t sure of what you are doing then please get an editor. This is simple. Many people are unable to see the wood for the trees when deep into a project and even if its just someone to bounce ideas off it can be very useful. We’ve interviewed quite a few full time editors on the pod over the years and I would say that often a second eye and one that can pay attention to the detail is of real worth. Chat through dialogue and structure and even format.

Whilst we are on the subject of dialogue I’ve noticed a fashion to overwrite. Especially in those who are producing one of their first comics. A writer, in my humble opinion, needs to think about stripping back language to make it realistic. We rarely speak in paragraphs. Also remember that a page full of writing can be a real chore to plough through. This criticism came up an awful lot and there are a lot of people who should know better.

The response to this approach can be looked at in a number of areas. The first is from the average comics reader who looks at my posts for recommendations or entertainment. Because of the small nature of our hobby there is an obvious crossover with creators who are also readers and whose books I hadn’t reviewed. Over the month I got quite a number of messages of support and agreement. Nothing negative apart from one funny bastard who suggested that I review my own comic. Sure there were a few choice comments I made that got repeated but on the whole people were supportive of what I was doing.

I also got some emails from other podcasters and reviewers. One in particular admitted that they had not been as hard as they possibly could/should have been on one of the books I reviewed. We talked about it and this brought out some interesting points about a ‘Review’ compared to a help with ‘Promotion’. In the promotion of a comic it isn’t always right to comment on quality necessarily but conversely you are putting your name or stamp on something you might not want to. It’s a really interesting distinction. One that I intend to think some more on.

Finally, the one you have been expecting, the response of those I have reviewed. The people who got mostly positive reviews were of course happy and would, on occasion, reply stating that. For those who I was more critical of I am very happy to say that I did not receive a single angry reply. When you post something critical in this internet world you hold your breath and wait for the bounce back. All I got where messages of thanks or simply radio silence. I did have to laugh though when after one highly critical review and no response I then got a mailer from the writer asking me to back their comic on Kickstarter..... It’s been, in the most part, really adult and I have tried to add moments of positivity in even the worst of the lot. Although sometimes that equated to going to a friend’s gig and telling them afterwards what great beer the pub served?

Let’s examine the numbers game. Without boring you with the specifics I can say that this month has been the biggest month on my blog in the nine or so years it has been in existence. It’s actually been over twice the audience of any month so far. The post numbers have fluctuated and whilst some of this equation may be down to the times of posting it is extremely noticeable that the more critical pieces are by far the most popular by at least around a half again in views. Don’t worry I wont be using this as a way of getting my ‘Brand’ out there but it does make you realise why some sites court controversy to get hits.


The top three posts where as follows;

  1. ‘Frenemies - issue 1.’
  2. ‘For Molly - issue 1.’
  3. ‘Experience the Magic of the Legend: Excavated Esoterica.’


The demographics of submissions is worth a short mention. Whilst I got submissions from female and male editors it was noticeable that not one female creator submitted her comic to me. I have no answer why this was as I have a pretty mixed and diverse readership from what I gather. The split in nationality was also pretty broad. I also tried to hit all the various tribes and areas of comics and even tackled an LGBT+ romance book which is something I don’t often review or even read. Interestingly I also didn’t get many from the more ‘Ziney’ side of the hobby. I can happily say that this month has opened my mind to a few different genres and reading possibilities going forward.

Benefits that I can see from this approach on reviewing? Hmmm. I genuinely feel that bad comics will kill our favourite medium. Very rarely is a comic considered anything but GREAT in this modern world seemingly. And as I said before this non-stop self congratulatory circle jerk will hurt us and make comics eat itself. Comics will go away. New readers will open a comic and be confused as to how any intelligent human being could possibly think that what they have open in their hands is any good. Even as a daily reader and a weekly visitor to a comic shop I feel the shiver when I open certain comics hoping that nobody else saw me looking at them and take that browse as a visual recommendation. 

We need to examine what we do. Without that constructive examination there will be a lack of growth. Sure you can personally learn as you create but sometimes you are missing that crucial clarification by being too close to the work. 

I will be honest and say that on some of the days in this month of May I have felt jaded and needed a good push to read and review certain titles. I suppose that’s human nature. But I truly believe that it has been beneficial to myself and some of the creators who submitted work. I intend to continue with this honest approach and hope that not everyone hates me!


For the Record my favourite three books for no particular single reason from May are as follow;

  1. ‘Maggie Garrisson’. 
  2. ‘L1MA’
  3. ‘Black Iris.’


Now to finish that script ........


Many thanks for reading.

Thursday, 30 May 2019

In Review - ‘Baad Food issue 2.’




‘Baad Food issue 2’

Written by Nic Ho Chee.

Pencils an Inks by Pietro Antognioni.

Colours by Davi Comodo.

Letters by Ken Reynolds.

Cover by Nic Ho Chee.

Published by Bedtime Comics Limited.


The Story - ‘BaadFood is an off-kilter sci-fi comic series which follows two music obsessed standard-Homo Sapien twenty-somethings stuck in a government run "back-to-work" scheme.  They are trying to find their way against the backdrop of a planet where machine intelligences, altered-Homo Sapiens, and an ageing population have taken all the best jobs. A chance event causes them, despite their protestations, to become the poster boys for a group of Neu-Human extremists that want to forcibly genetically engineer all Homo Sapiens and to destroy the emancipated sentient machines (WarSuits) that they share the planet with.’




The Review - This book came along at just the right time. I’ve just hit the final days of my Honest Review Month and beginning to feel more than a little beaten down by the weight of derivative, unoriginal, prosaic and just plain dull comics I’ve been sent. As part of the exercise in giving honest and constructive reviews I’d almost hit the end of my tether. Then I got Baad Food issue 2 as a Kickstarter reward, I read it on an early morning train and there was finally light at the end of the tunnel.

I’m kicking myself that I hadn’t got on this series earlier but thankfully I’d pledged at a level that got me issue 1 and 2. I tore through them both on the half hour journey.

Issue 2 leads on from the original concepts from the previous issue. The characters are elaborated upon and new mysterious ones are duly added. The youths that we got to know in issue one are back and pretty much as annoying with their ‘Street Talk’ as they were earlier. This style of speaking is expertly transposed onto the comics page. It is so accurate that it gave me flashbacks to being forced to listen to South London bellends spouting non-stop repetitive bullshit from the back row of the upper deck of the Number 12 Bus!

Here are a couple for you to try out;

‘Oh. My. Days. Your mate just helped smash up that R-R-R-Ruster, Fam!’

Or.

‘I’m not going nowhere till I get my free, made by human hands, creps Fam!’

It’s a credit to the scripting that whilst much of what is said is in slang the book remains eminently readable someone old like me. I never felt like a fifty year old fish out of water.

This is an adventure that doesn’t begin with a bank robbery or a noble quest for a princess. This one commences because someone wants a pair of new trainers! What could be more of a satire on modern youth culture than just that! But it’s not just a trip to Oxford Circus or The Bullring that these idiots head out on but something rather more dangerous. They get thrown into something akin to a mix between a Deadly Circus game show, The A.B.C. Warriors and J.D. Sports! In fact pretty much every page throws more new ideas at the reader. The revelations of the dangers of the inner city robo-nightmare are thrown at these chuckleheads and they manage to survive and also remain on the lookout for new shoes! The new technology is told and shown once again with an edge of danger and realism.




As well as humour and sharp social satire there’s also a bucket load of blood with heads being bitten off and someone’s morning business being interrupted. Finally something that is worth my time from the UK Small Press scene. It really is a ride!

I can see a direct line between writers like Warren Ellis and Grant Morrison with what the creators are trying out here. It’s a pretty polished affair but still has that experimental headspace on show. It’s a change of artists from issue one but it’s just as good and takes some real chances with layouts that pay off. The characters look like they’ve flown out of a nineties Tank Girl or Johnny Nemo strip (and I cant think of a bigger compliment than that!) There’s an urban landscape of madness that could also easily fit into a Block War story in 2000AD for example. Technicolour Cyber Gore in a chaotic setting. The art is worthy of anything that the prog is currently putting out.

If I had one small quibble it would be that the cover is a little on the quiet side compared against the mental violence of the interiors. (I had the regular cover and sadly haven’t seen the variant by Rugman. Oh hang on....here it is!)




Highly recommended.

Now where is issue 3!?!

You can find out more about this series by heading over to http://bedtimecomics.com (currently under construction) or even better by following the Twitter account @baadfoodcomic


Many thanks for reading.

Tuesday, 28 May 2019

‘For Molly’ by Gabe Cheng and Benjamin Sawyer.




‘For Molly’.

Written by Gabe Cheng.

Art by Benjamin Sawyer.

Variant Covers by Eugene Frost and Isabella Cheng.

Full Colour - 34 pages.

The Story - ‘For Molly is a fantasy comic that takes place in modern New Jersey. An anti-social talking dog named Molly helps a recently divorced New Yorker named Greg rescue his sister from an evil that lurks in the forest. It’s got action and adventure, a rogue cop wielding a sword, a pack of feral talking dogs, and hidden cabals of forest dwelling humans that are both unpredictable and dangerous.

At its center are two lonely characters with a lot of baggage. The story explores themes like guilt, abandonment, and loyalty as Greg and Molly’s unlikely friendship is tested on every step of their journey.’




The Review - The writer of this contacted us at The Awesome Comics Podcast last week asking if we fancied reviewing ‘For Molly’. The second issue is due to go live on Kickstarter any day now and the summary definitely had me intrigued. The book does however open a little strangely. Rather than have the variant covers, commentary on the creation on the book and the ‘Thank you’ page of names at the end of the comic Gabe puts them up front. This makes for a few page turns before you reach the story and I found it mostly a dull interlude before the action began, which took quite a while.

The main cover itself is a little misleading and this may be purposeful. It shows Greg and a dog (more from him later) legging it along an apparently abandoned railway line. It doesn’t even hint at the mystery or fantastical elements inside. (Also - that railway line is unusually thin and clean looking?)

In the ‘Forward by the Author’ you hear about how this story had a lengthy history as a pitch for a screenplay and not as a comic. Gabe pursued this for sometime but after what he felt was a disastrous reading of the script by actors he followed the comics and Kickstarter path. This is all well and good but he stops in his story there and doesn’t tell us comics readers what went into making THE comic! I’m afraid that we’re at the point now where the fact that this started as a screenplay impresses nobody, in fact it goes a fair way to putting me off a project. Comics should never be the second choice in my opinion.

I continue onwards nonetheless.

The first few pages are a pleasant surprise and whilst the art isn’t perfect it has three elements that I personally always enjoy in a COMICS (not a screenplay) story. Rain, an inner monologue and a dog (who doesn’t love a dog!) The rain and the dog look fine but the balloon choice for the inner monologue could also do with a tweak as I had to spend a few minutes figuring out if it was actually those inner-thoughts or some radio signal/transmission of some time. That’s the nature of the slightly oval yet angular balloons that the letterer (none are credited) chose to use. The creators also need to be careful with the kerning and size of the words. Especially in moments of high drama the letters could do with being larger to emphasise the emotion.

The first ten or so pages set the scene of how Greg has split up with and just that morning signed the divorce papers with his wife. He’s depressed and gets a visit from his two sisters. I found this section dragged and was full of stiff forced language and an overly repeated emphasis on dull platitudes. 

‘You have to forgive yourself’

Or.

‘You think you deserve to be punished’

Or.

‘I hurt someone who loves me.’

On page 14 that dog turns up again. Things are looking up! It then takes to page 17 (of a 34 page comic) for anything of real note to happen. The story then takes the front foot and punches ahead with much better pacing and we begin to see the start of the story arc. The issue ends with a fight/flight sequence in the deep woods and the hint of more danger ahead.




The art is fine and has some great colouring that sets out a rainy night in the New Jersey woods excellently. However much of the figure drawing feels a little stiff and much of the body shapes feel like they have been created on a factory line for mannequins. There needs to be more personality in their faces and their movements as well. There are a couple of pages of character designs in the back of the issue but I have to admit to letting out that audible groan again when all they do is talk about the actors and directors they are based upon.




This is another example of a comic that could do with the eye of an experienced editor as it is being created. Gabe admits that he is new to the game and min my opinion he could do with some guidance.

If you like talking dogs this may well be up your alley. For me I’d find it hard to recommend I’m afraid.

You can find out more about this project by visiting the website here http://formollycomic.com/story/ You can also follow the writer on Twitter @gabechengcomics



Many thanks for reading.

‘The Outlaw’ from Hrannar Alti Hauksson.



The Outlaw’.

Adapted from the original Saga by Hrannar Alti Hauksson.

Based on ‘Grettis Saga’ (author unknown).

Black and White interiors - 28 pages.

The Story - ‘In the early decades of 11th century Iceland there lived a man, Grettir Asmundarson. His strength and prowess in battle was legendary, and he and his saga have become bowline mythic.

However a series of unfortunate incidents caused him to be declared an outlaw. He spent twenty years on the run from the law, knowing that any man he met would be justified in killing him on sight.

For the last few years of his life he sought refuge on the perilous island of Drangey, located just off the north coast. But even there his enemies would continue to hunt him....’

This comic tells the story of what happened next.




The Review - I lucked out at the MCM Comicon this weekend in London’s East End. Not only did I meet some great comics fans but I also got to meet a certain Icelandic comic creator called Hrannar Alti Hauksson and he handed me his comic ‘The Outlaw’. It was a tranquil ten minutes in a sea of body paint, hairy men wearing skirts, pokey bore-offs, furries and inflatable dinosaurs (and no I haven’t been on the acid again!)

This comic may have been part of Hrannar’s BA in Illustration at Bournemouth University but it is as far as it can be thematically from paintbrushes and photoshop! This is a black and white story told on a gritty and cold canvas. Full of men with nothing but death in their intentions and axes in their hands. 

The story starts slowly with a visit by warriors from the sea. They approach almost wordlessly under cover on the night. The shadows play long and deep on the cliffs with only the pinpricks of the light of stars overhead. An old Grettir is in his bed, ill and hallucinating his surroundings. As the assassins approach his door the story rolls back to this warriors earlier life. Back in those earlier years he came up against a Demon in the shape of a man in a sequence full of tense and trembling aggression. You hear the foot steps of this monster on the roof of the house and then are presented with it. Excellent pacing. Hrannar keeps a tight hold on the feelings of the reader in this twenty-eight page comic. He let’s you know exactly what you need to know and exactly at the right time. You hold the cold intake of breath as things unfold before you.

This story is one that I found riveting from start to end. There is a compelling story that is simple yet well told and drawn with flair and a feeling for the darkness of a saga of this kind. It centres around one single notion, the fate of a man. A man who has one incident in his life that shapes the rest of his years to come. He is a mighty and straightforward man who acts with no hesitation.




The art carries all that is required of it and whilst there are moments that could do with more sharpness of intention (the interiors of buildings seemed like they could do with more shaping and less of a Dutch Tilt for example) overall I enjoyed this story. The cover has a striking moment of battle in a stark white background that suits the narrative and could easily be something from Dark Horse or Image comic (it’s that good).

I’m afraid that the lettering could do with some real work. Personally I would have chosen a time/place specific font that says something of the Viking vibe. This is hand lettered and shows some amateurish work that certainly isn’t akin to the great black and white art. I cant imagine why a tutor hadn’t pointed that out? It might be that a second print of this book improves on this lettering issue.


Recommended.


You can find the creator at his website here http://www.hrannarhauksson.com/about or on Twitter @HAHauksson 




Many thanks for reading.

Monday, 27 May 2019

‘Invasion from Planet Wrestletopia - issue 1’.




Invasion from Planet Wrestletopia - Issue 1.

Written by Ed “The Carnage Artist” Kuehnel & “Masculine” Matt Entin.

Art by Dan “The Body” Schkade.

Colours by Marissa Louise a.k.a. “Col. Von Slamstein” .

Letters by A Larger World Studios (The North Hollywood Nightmares).

Design by Fred “Dr. ShoNoLuv” Chao.

36 pages - Full Colour - £1.49.

The Story - ‘ “Boy Scout" Bob Schultz! Cousin Orville! Mini Macho! Kodiak Jack! Spanish Rose! Don Fong Wong! These are the megastars of 1984's AWF. "Rock 'n' Roll" Rory Landell isn't getting the respect he thinks he deserves, so one crazy night he ups the game, declaring himself the Galactic Champion of the Universe. But it turns out AWF fans aren't the only ones listening, and the denizens of planet Wrestletopia aren't going to take a challenge like that sitting down!’

‘You may speak Adrian Polaris.’

The Review - I’ve been sent issues one and two of this series by the publishers Starburns Industry Press. This is currently a series with two issues out so far and another coming next month. This is a bold, brash, twinkle in the eye book that goes all in! Very much like the sport that this comic depicts.

I haven’t been a fan of wrestling since the days of Shirley Crabtree but I found that this drew me in sufficiently to be able to enjoy all the set pieces and personal moments. This is meant to be a blast of fun and succeeds. It has all the verbose boasting and trailer trash iambic pentameter that real fans insist upon.

There’s even a moment where a man fights a bear! (Does that actually happen? If so I think I need to watch some wrestling.)





You can tell that the creators can smell what this should have cooking (Did I get that right?) As this is full of brags that are full of rhymes and over the top melodramatic characters. You also see the behind the curtain drama as it’s Machiavellian promoters and managers move their steroid bulging chess pieces about the stages with threats of sackings and card changes. There are a lot of characters and the writers could do with some more work on introductions and place/setting as I was feeling a little out of step with who/where/what on occasion. There are at least a couple of time changes that could do with more solid and reader friendly delineation. 

I have to admit to finding the story enjoyable but that it jumps about through the story in an irregular way. I think I enjoyed the initial story more than where it goes later on. But the last page works well as a tease/cliffhanger for the next issue. This is a big chuckle throughout and I admire the way that this group of creators have gone about forming all their fondest areas of their favourite hobby into a cool comic. They also make their own goofy appearances on the credits page.




From a personal point of view I’d have loved more detail to the art in the panels especially in the backgrounds. The colour is bright and in your face as it should be in the mighty world of space wrestling but could also do with some more texturing and can come over on occasion as a little flat. 

 This does have the feel of an eighties cartoon with some added sauce and sarcastic edges. It takes the stylings of a comic that you might have got at Wendy’s as a kid in the eighties and gives it some added squeezing. I’ve had a read of issue 2 now and it does noticeably amp up the action and elaborates on the science fiction/comedy element that is teased in the first instalment. I’ll keep following this I think and see where it goes.

Recommended.

Any chance of including Mick MacManus or Kendo Nagasaki in the next one?


Find this book digitally here https://www.comixology.co.uk/search or follow the publishers on Twitter @SBP_Comics


Many thanks for reading.

Sunday, 26 May 2019

‘Sucker: Volume 1 - Living After Midnight’.




Sucker Volume 1: Living After Midnight.’


Written by Tony McNamara and Tony Talbert.

Pencils by Tony Talbert.

Inks by John Heebink.

Colours by Paul John Little.

Editor John Heebink.

Published by Polite Strangers - 66 pages - Full Colour.

£3.99 on ComiXology.


The Story - ‘When the last vampire returns to plunge the human race into a hellscape of death and depravity, a disbanded team of vampire hunters are forced to reunite. Can a brass knuckle wielding priest and a half-drunk deadbeat get it together before the human race sucks on its last breathe?’ 

‘Rich people are stone cold perverts.’

The Review - This was a random pick by myself from ComiXology as I needed something to review that didn’t have the weight of a creator waiting to see what I thought about their comic in Honest Review Month. Just a little pause to help me get my breath. It’ll still be honest so don’t worry.




Cards on the table, I suppose what drew me in was the bold and standout cover on this issue. 

No! You’re a perv!

This opens well and has a prologue of a scene setter that starts out tense and creepy and ends up bloody and gooey. It sets the arena and the threat and does so with quick and never overly wordy style.




This is a well constructed tale that gathers a vampire killing squad back together, a squad you discover that has quite a sordid history. You get the smart-talking but debauched and damaged biker hero, a rough-housing priest with stake wielding skills, a scientist, a boss who looks like she walked out of Tim Burton nursery rhyme and more.

‘I cant wait to explain to the wife why I smell like undead ass hookers.....again.’

About a third of the way through the book you get a flashback that I’d normally not be a fan of but this one has the biggest vampire killing spree that you’ll see in a comic for a long time and I revealed in it all.

The art is well presentable and readable. I can see little flashes of early Chris Samnee or even some Darwyn Cooke and it has that slight sense of a retro style to the figure drawing. It could almost be a supernatural Dick Tracy in the use of flat colours and dynamic action - but with added shotguns, swords and a fuck load of blood. Each page is rich with character and oozes sleazy infested villainy. Talbert also experiments with some interesting layout designs.

‘Maybe we can sexually assault the Statue of Liberty on our drive back?’ 

In fact the action is pretty relentless and I found that genuinely refreshing. The script makes no attempt to make anyone remotely likeable, in fact McNamara and Talbert go for exactly the opposite in many cases. I suppose you have to be a bastard to catch a bastard! These characters breathe battle weary black humour and more than once I laughed at the over the top dialogue (some of which I’ve included in this review).




The last act of the book taps into some pretty freaky and messed up sequences that I absolutely loved! This really goes there and if you are a fan of proper horror you will be overjoyed. No spoilers except - have you ever had a feral rat jump into your open screaming mouth? 


(There is a wealth of great back matter in volume one that includes a brilliant pin-up fro Greg Hinckley.)

My only criticism of this is that volume one came out in August 2018 and it seems like far too long a wait for the next instalment, especially after the way the first ended. Come on guys!

You can find out more at http://jason-mcnamara.com/shop/jasonmcnamara


Many thanks for reading.

Saturday, 25 May 2019

‘Last Day’ from Common Anomaly Comics.




‘Last Day.’

Writer and Creator - Jimmy Curtis.

Interior Art - Ben Johnson.

Cover Art - Viv Tanner.

Alternate Cover - Tony Sedani.

Published by Common Anomaly Comics.

44 pages - Full Colour - £2.99 on ComiXology.


The Story - ‘When Kaylee, a woman with a history of hallucinations, wakes up with a premonition that the world is going to end, she decides to spend her last day embracing adventure and love while her family fears that she's relapsed.’

‘This is interesting. It feels like a dream, but not quite.’

The Review - I’m now over two thirds of the way through Honest Review Month and I’ve been spending a lot of time on digital reading services like ComiXology, Izneo, Sequential and Comichaus. It’s really noticeable recently that there has been a rise in romance books and many of them are dealing with people/issues/backgrounds involving LGBT+ people. As a very old straight guy I thought it was only fair that I take a swing at a book from this community. Representation is important y’all! It’ll also take me out of my comfort zone and maybe open my eyes to something new.

So this one popped up as a suggested read as I surfed around the ComiXology website and the art looked good. So here it comes.

‘What a pleasant nightmare.’

This is definitely a book of two halves. The first part deals with Kaylee as she awakes and realises that the world is going to end. There are no specifics just a  sense she has that after today there’ll be nothing else. It’s a clever idea and the first few pages are composed gorgeously. To the point where I wondered why interior artist Bev Johnson’s art hadn’t featured on the cover. 




Kaylee decides to meet and tell her family that this catastrophe is on the way and there is an excellently choreographed sequence with her and her sister Maura eating breakfast. They talk like a real pair of sisters and share little in-jokes and they are distinctly composed, one over uptight and one more scatty and emotional. Kaylee eats like there is no tomorrow and there’s a moment where she tries bacon. I found that an interesting aside and am not sure how I’d feel about it if I was Muslim like Kaylee is written to be. I’ll leave that there for others to decide perhaps.



The book then changes pace and Kaylee goes to find ‘Hope’ (a name that is more than a little on the nose?) who she had loved but due to her own insecurities had split with to her regret. I felt that the book then became something else, more of a dreamy love story. Of course (spoilers) the two hook up again and Kaylee decides to live out an end of the world Bucket List. I must admit that I found her choices something of a cliche. She buys a motorcycle, goes on a rollercoaster and buys a bikini. Not sure why but I feel like this sequence could have been more original and I found it somewhat boring. Just nothing there that has any teeth or edge or spike beyond a couple getting back together.




There are also moments where the art, which started so magnificently, got a little rough around the edges and could do with some decent perspective changes and more detail. It just becomes a fairly run of the mill romance story, nowhere near as good as the opening ten pages I’m afraid. It does have an ending of a kind that I wont spoil for those who fancy a read.

Not recommended.

You can find Jimmy Curtis on Twitter @JimmyMCurtis You can find this comic to buy digitally here https://www.comixology.co.uk/Last-Day/digital-comic/652074?ref=c2VhcmNoL2luZGV4L3RhYmxldC9zbGlkZXJMaXN0L3RvcFJlc3VsdHNTbGlkZXI


Many thanks for reading.



Friday, 24 May 2019

‘Diabolical Summer’ from Thierry Smolderen and Alexandre Clerisse.


‘ Diabolical Summer’


Written by Thierry Smolderen.

Art by Alexandre Clérisse.

Letters by Frank Cvetkovic.

Translated in English language by Edward Gauvin.

Originally published by Dargaud as ‘L’Ete Diabolik’.

Published by IDW - £9.74 (Digital ComiXology on Sale).

Full Colour - 17+ rating.


The Story - ‘A groovy spy thriller and coming-of-age tale set in the Go-go days of the 1960s, done in a chic, retro style sure to charm readers. For 15-year-old Antoine, the summer of 1967 will prove to be an unforgettable one full of new discoveries: a secret agent from nowhere, a mysterious troubled girl, and the disappearance of his father—all happening within two days! These events and more conspire to turn his life upside down and into something he could never have imagined.’




The Review - First off is the price.... Er, why so expensive? I’m sure if this was put out digitally by Europe Comics, Humanoids, Soleil or the like this would be at least half the price. It may be that they are pushing people towards the physical copy - which I saw today and is pretty impressive. (For the record the current price is £9.74 for a digital copy that is reduced from £13.99! (The physical purchase price is £22.99 which seems much more reasonable for a hardcover of this length).

This graphic novel in it’s storyline combines two specific genres well, that of the teenage angst of Antione and his realisations of who he is and intertwined with these thoughts are the mystery of what his father is doing and a world of mystery and espionage he gets acquainted with as it progresses. Because of this unusual combination the beginning of the book throws a lot of twists into the mix and adds coming of age awkwardness with suspicious deaths - strange bedfellows at the start but you begin to warm to this book as the electric colours of each panel sweep by. Nothing is explained straightaway and the reader is left to follow the breadcrumbs.




As the story progresses the revelations of the thriller element have similar narrative ground to those of the teenagers. They become embroiled in the mystery.  The dark world of post war politics and espionage are used to metaphorically deflower Antoine as he himself experiences his first sexual encounter. All the while the art draws broadly on the illustration and animation hip and trendy styles of the fifties and sixties. As I read I begin to realise how unexpected I find the twists in the story. The jagged attacks between adults and teens verbally become a parallel to the conflicts elsewhere. A story that is at once interesting and confounding. As I hit page sixty-five and nearly half way through the book I’m not sure what I am reading. Both a good thing and a bad thing?

Even beyond the tied up in mental knots of structure I mention above this book takes the format of an autobiography being read to you visually and then the aftermath of these events years later. It is a strangely composed song that you have to seriously consider as it hits each verse. Then there is a significant time jump in the last third of the book that I wont spoil. This is bravely paced and in so doing so it causes me to spend time thinking about the players and the consequences of their actions. 

What is real? What is a lie? What is a nefarious plot? What is being hidden? Are these just coincidences or are they conspiracies? This graphic novel is many, many things that you will investigate throughout your read.

The dialogue and narration show some real acrobatic skill in both the original language and the translation. It has a cool and echoing quality that gives it time, place and mood.

Her vanities paraded past around the block in an unbroken circuit.

This is also a love letter to the fumetti that the title gives a hint to if you are paying attention. The appearance of this masked man adds to the mystery that isn’t properly solved until the very last few pages. Just brilliant pacing and with clues that are there in front of you if you spend the time decoding them! Read this!!!




The art is bright and expressive and moves around the page like a jazz song. The characters are huge caricatures and this works just perfectly. If this was a tv series you’d fully expect the ‘Desilu’ sign to pop up at the end. Alexandre kills on layouts and has a constant kinetic dance of action, conversation and landscape. Every single page is a movie poster of chic choices. It’s only been days since I reviewed ‘Bugle Boy’ by the same artist and the differences in tone and storytelling choices are profound. While ‘Bugle Boy’ showed a grumpy character in a present day setting finding his way to a prize he had sought and all the while thinking about his time in the war ‘Diabolical Summer’ is a whole different bag altogether. Just goes to show the skill of Clerisse.

I actually met Alexandre Clerisse at the National Cartoonist Society Festival this weekend and whilst his English isn’t great and my French is worse I did however watch him paint and draw for customers. You have to admire a creator who makes it look so effortless. From pencil to inks to full colours took mere minutes whilst he also chatted to other artists at his table. An absolute joy to watch in action.

Have a go at this complicated but fascinating example of adult long-form comics storytelling. It has played on my mind ever since I read it and I’ll go back and have another look often. Some readers might find it frustrating or a tad over-complicated but not me, nosiree!

Now all the publishers need to do is sort out the digital price!




You can find this for pre-order on ComiXology here https://www.comixology.co.uk/Diabolical-Summer/digital-comic/740604?ref=c2VyaWVzL3ZpZXcvdGFibGV0L2dyaWRMaXN0L1JlY2VudEFkZGl0aW9ucw


Or find a physical copy where you buy your comics or here https://www.idwpublishing.com/product/diabolical-summer/


Many thanks for reading.