Comics and Cartooning: UK Election 2010

A re-blog from the archives of my regular column for (now extinct) Alltern8; Comicking.

With the UK general election happening this week, democracy gets opportunity to curtail the taint destructive politicians have left on the world stage. I thought it might be interesting to deliver a round-up of what some British cartoonists have been saying on the matter.

Labour or the Conservatives (or ‘Unionists’, as they used to be known, and sometimes are in Northern Ireland) have held power for 65 years. So, care of Sean Duffield, a four page look at the Labour leader, David Cameron,

Cameron Taxi Driver

Ah yes, Cameron’s friendship with Rupert Murdoch, Google-fearer and owner of the British registered Newscorp (BSkyB, The Sun, The Times), which avoids paying tax in Britain.

Might we be seeing this sort of thing in a Murdoch-Cameron Britain?

Dave Brown The Independent 2009

Um, sorry? Dave Brown, 2009

Marc Roberts of Throbgoblins,
“I’ve been playing around on PhotoShop (other image manipulation programmes are available) and have come up with the following. It’s mostly a tad sinister – UK politics and the pending ecological debacle”

Here’s his ApoCameron-lypse,

ApocalyptoCAMERON(web)

Crazy internet-fearing Murdoch, drawing threats on the BBC, a public service broadcaster funded by the public since 1933 with it’s aim to present fair impartial reporting.
Here’s a cartoon on favourite LibDem Clegg’s victory by Rich Johnston from the 26th April as originally posted to Guido Fawkes.

RichandMark 26 April

And of course, the always admirable Steve Bell in his work for The Guardian,

3007-30-4-10_FINALDEBATE

So, really a televised leadership election debate should have taken place at the BBC rather than being relegated to third place after the commercially funded ITV and Murdoch’s private BSkyB.

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Above: Two more from Steve Bell and The Guardian.

Now the UK have a chance to lock Murdoch out of UK politics and cut the propaganda that has seen the nation’s Green Parties, the welsh Plaid Cymru, the Scottish National Party and others locked out of these debates.

Oh, and this guy too.

fascist guy_72dpi

Source: Duffield

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Source: Bell

The image above by Holocaust-denying racist Nick Griffin, parasite to re-opened multi-party politic talk. It’s another by Sean Duffield: Go and donate a few pounds towards War – The Human Cost, a brilliant BRILLIANT anthology he’s hoping to get out.

The BBC brought us the iconic kids show Bagpuss, and here’s Sean take on Gordon Brown.

sagpuss_page1_with_text_78 sagpuss_page2_mice_and_text_78dpi

Marc Roberts goes for high pitch animals too,

BROWNgorrilla(MINI)(web)

This will be the first UK election since Web 2.0 has fully worked it’s way into British culture. Hopefully we’ll not get any Votergate-type scandals and see elected tolerable agenda for the job.

Murdoch isn’t the only unelected dictator we need to get rid of, after all.

demonicolour468

Source: Mark and Rich, Guido Fawkes

And what of this man?

2593-17-10-07_CLEGG

By Steve Bell

He may very well be the UK’s new Prime Minister.

Modern politics is driven by who you can’t vote for, rather than who you’d like to. Still, being cooped up in Westminster talking only to other politicians is an uneconomical reality to face.

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The above cartoons are by Steve Bell. There are some more of them here.

Dave Brown, then Peter Schrank (The Independent) as to how they’re not really of the same thinking state as many of us,

(IMAGES FROM ORIGINAL ARTICLE MISSING)

Some things are just too prescient. Morland Moreton from The Times way back in 2006..

(ORIGINAL IMAGE MISSING)

Please vote on Thursday. Sure they’re all crap, but not voting helps keep them in power. Remember, ‘Hung parliament’ is code for greater democracy.

If you’re interested in similar, less conservative attitudes to British political cartooning try the works of BRICK (aka John Stuart Clark), Kate Evans,Polyp and Kate Charlesworth.

Publisher Tom Humberstone – Launching Solipsistic Pop #2

A re-blog from the archives of my regular column for Alltern8; Comicking.

“Solipsistic Pop is a biannual anthology designed to spotlight the best in alternative Comic art from the UK.”sp2cover

The first issue was part fashionable show-off object full of comics such as,

“Meanwhile”: Robbie Wilkinson’s deranged fantastic Kahlenberg and the fever mind demons of the Social Security Agency offices.

Rachel Reichert beautifully colouring a spider into a butterfly.

Monotone sleepwalking and premonition by Anna Saunders.

Phil Spence’s iconic Ninja Bunny, unconfined in Eastern landscapes

Friendship and stability amongst the televised generation, in Tom Humberstone’s real “Special Guest Appearances”

manifesto pop

Tom is the one of the great folk identified with Solipsistic Pop and with Volume 2 launched only a few days ago, it seemed we might like to read an interview with him.

Andy Luke: Hi Tom, I really enjoyed your American election coverage.

Tom Humberstone: Thanks Andy. That seems like a long time ago now. I really miss it actually. I’m hoping to return to America for a prolonged period of time again as soon as I can. If only for the bagels…

Solipstic Pop Fashion

AL: I get the impression Sol Pop people are all young, thin, talented and incredibly gorgeous. What’s in it for old wrinkly jaded fatties like me?

TH: No, I’m pretty hideous. But if the work implies an inherent beauty within all the contributors, I’ll take that compliment. There are some artists involved in Solipsistic Pop who I’ve only spoken to via the internet. The work is, of course, the most important consideration when putting together the line-up. Physical appearance should have very little to do with the artists or the audience. Maybe I should have gone for a funny answer though…

quadropticon01

AL: In your reading, do you have any particular stand-out favourites? For me Mark Oliver’s “Quadropticon”, a comic which will be readable whichever way up you hold it, is quite seducing…

TH: It’d be unfair for me to single out any particular highlights of either book. Best to leave that to someone more objective. Most reviews of the first book selected different pieces to discuss which is what you hope for with an anthology. Everyone taking part is in there because I love their work and want to publish it so it’s safe to say I’m a massive fan of everyone involved. You’re right though, Mark’s Quadropticon is an amazingly inventive piece and well worth wall space in anyone’s house.

Solipstic Pop Manifesto

Above: An excerpt from Kieron Gillen’s manifesto, full version here.

AL: I really enjoyed the text piece manifestos by yourself and Kieron Gillen. Is that attitude and ethos indicative of how Sol Pop came about? Is everyone involved a drinking buddy with a mutual awesome feel towards each other’s work?

TH: Kieron’s introduction was a wonderful addition to the book and something which still manages to put a smile on my face. The manifesto I wrote with Matthew Sheret was something that was written to lay the groundwork for what we wanted to see happen in the UK comics scene and the comics industry in general. It set an agenda for Solipsistic Pop and Sheret’s We Are Words + Pictures. Most of the points in it are fairly self-evident and those working in comics wouldn’t see anything in there that seemed revolutionary at all. But the point was to collate those thoughts and somehow use them to form a blueprint for what we wanted to achieve over the next few years.

Some of the artists in Solipsistic Pop are good friends who work in entirely different fields but whose work has always seemed appropriate to comics in my opinion. When I set out to make Solipsistic Pop, I knew I wanted the contributors to be a mix of established alternative comics creators, up-and-coming creators, and people working in other media giving comics a try. The result is a a varied mix of surprising and fresh approaches to the medium which I find really exciting.

(SOME IMAGES MISSING)

AL: There’s a conscious decision not to make a comic but a packet of comics, with inserts and inserts. This is a hark back to the comics with free gift days, or calling attention to detail?

TH: It’s not so much trying to mimic a specific ‘free gift’ approach but more about making the most out of a physical object. With so many fantastic digital options available to comic creators and publishers, there really needs to be a *reason* for the comics to exist in print. Beyond the high production values of the organic inks, high quality paperstock, and lithographic printing techniques – I also wanted to make each volume a boutique object that is uniquely suited to the content and theme of each book. The first book contained mini-comics as a nod towards the humble small-press UK comics scene and my fondness for the charm of crude, photocopied booklets. Both books come with a newspaper insert which references a Sunday funnies approach. A tradition which informs the American comics scene and which has thus informed our understanding of the artform too. These additions are carefully considered and, if anything, have more in common with the McSweeney’s Quarterly Concern approach to publishing.

AL: How is it funded? Surely production and distribution costs eat up a lot…. (the free style bag-for-life is kinda pretty)

TH: Yeah, Philippa did a superb job with that design. I fund Solipsistic Pop myself. Using savings and whatever freelance work comes my way on top of my full-time job. It’s a struggle. And it has meant that publishing my own work has had to take a slight backseat. But it’s worth it. I’m incredibly proud of these first two volumes and I’m already excited about my plans for Solipsistic Pop 3.

AL: There’s a question I should have asked you but my girlfriend just broke up with me. What was the question and it’s answer?

TH: Oh… um… wow, this is awkward…

You buy a copy of the newly released Solipsistic Pop via their website. Volume 1 was subtitled and themed “Broken” and the new edition, “Middle”

Comics That Moved Me: Third World War

A re-blog from the archives of my regular column for Alltern8; Comicking.

Crisis first five covers

Front-loaded with sequential design and a timeline of atrocities flowing. A futureworld of Pat Mills’ evidence-founded speculative horror. Artist Carlos Ezquerra’s rich figure drawing and the painted colours seemed to move in the heat of South America with its dust and its fire and sheer assault. The slums, the shanty-towns and the barrios; the expressions and adrenaline of fear and the barking army-life. The opening salvos of Crisis, a fortnightly magazine from the makers of 2000AD. As a publishing operation, it appealed. 2000AD was as the time bogged-down by more continuity than Marvel and DC, and it’s readers seemed like a clique of a club: they didn’t want me there. Crisis took the science-fiction genre and rammed it past those worlds detached to me. Lead strip Third World was about things that were happening around me, there and then.

The British Government had instituted compulsory national service from age 18 to work in the poorest countries of the world. They were to protect the interests of multinationals (a new phrase to me then) from the trigger of a gun, if necessarry. The focus was a unit of teenagers charged with re-educating and re-orientating locals. They did this reluctantly, through fear of the threat of force, or through blind faith and ignorance. Unlike a 2000AD story, we weren’t often treated to discussions of active conspiracy to liberate from an unjust system. This was comics realism. Sometimes you just have to follow orders, thousands of miles from your lovers.

3ww subversion

02 3WW free gifts

Third World War has been accused of many things. The characters sometimes lapsed into sociological text-book mode: Haralambos-speak. A fan, Hipsterdad, has referrred to them as “two dimensional” and “only open-minded insofar as they reject conventional society in favor of paganism and rebellion.” The character of Trisha was the type of olde christian. Practicing the faith at the time, she enabled me to see the hypocrisies of some of my fellow Christians’ attitudes and question other characters’ responses, which largely consisted of bullying her. In retrospect, it was Dawkins, perhaps filtered through Mills’ motor-noise soundtrack of The Dead Kennedys, Napalm Death and Chumbawamba. In the affluent part of Belfast, I didn’t know any blacks or punks or soldiers. Stereotypes are not useful for relating to specific people or scenes, but can be helpful fixing in on a broad-area signal. Dave Merrill at the above link is of the opinion that 3WW was so guilty of soap-boxing it was “soap factory-ing”.


Crisis more covers

The format of the strip: two fourteen-page installments, allowed for a quick presentation of a story, before moving on. Mills and Ezquerra didn’t waste their breath. Immediately readers were told about psychological warfare battalions (which our cast were part of), Agent Orange and free fire zones (cattle grazing land prepared by napalm). I was introduced to phrases like “Low Intensity Conflict” and the global horrors of the debt crisis engineered and fed on by Western bankers of the IMF. One story focussed on Coca-Cola’s links with death squads, forces which continue to be complicit in the murder of trade unionists in Guatemala, twenty years before Mark Thomas’ would write Belching Out The Devil. Before he would write about Britain as one of the world’s major arms suppliers to repressive military regimes in the form of CS gas, leg irons, armoured cars, surveillance systems and gallows. In one discussion of strobe guns a character remarks, “Its okay, its been tested in Northern Ireland”. Mills wrote about torture and disappearance, child soldiers and secret police. He talked about food irradiation and sterilisation, while Alan Moore was still pottering about with his giant naked blue man’s penis.

The glossary accompanying 3WW provided reference points in the form of book lists, NGO reports and documentaries, as well as historically-verifiable facts. Throughout its life Crisis retained links with the Green movement and Amnesty International, demonstrating that the news didn’t end with where the News would have you believe. You could get active and involved and for god’s sake, make an effort.

After the initial first book of seven stories (fourteen issue) closed, Mills became more interested in race and policing in London. This new narrative scene timed with format changes in the magazine and started a trend which allowed for Crisis’ death knell. Warren Ellis, writing at Artbomb, had this to say on its demise,

“And when it all fell apart, as it was always going to do, the idea of adult graphic novels in Britain largely went with it. The money was pulled. No-one at Fleetway was going to get a second shot. No other publisher – being careful and scared – was going to put their money on the place where the floor fell in.

And, to this day, no-one’s really been back there.”

Sputnik on Fortunecity has a page with a few details of Crisis and 3WW and I’ve just made a blog with a few transcriptions available.

Neither of these are well-formatted but they are informative. Third World War has not been reprinted recently, bar a few Flickr users, although there is a 2000AD thread (rightfully) calling for Book 1 to be reprinted.

I have it from my sources that we may be seeing the return of a commercial British political comic from one or more publishers in the forthcoming year.  I reckon Warren would visit.

Comicking (news tidbits)

A re-blog from the archives of my regular column for Alltern8; Comicking.

 Walking On Broken Diamond

I raised an eyebrow at the serious empathy shown Diamond Distribution when they raised their minimum unit number recently. The cat’s out of the bag though, from this very long story about Checker Comics cutting ties, tweeted by the impressive and often Geoffrey D. Wessel.

People will be keeping an eye to see if this could threaten to dissolve the time-space continuum of comics distribution as we know it.
(Rich Johnston on Steve Geppi’s house-sale)
Solipstic Pop Takes London

Out soon. New work by loads of people.

Solipstic

“Book two of Solipsistic Pop contains 64 pages of sequential art from some of the best comic artists, illustrators and designers working in the UK today. With a 12 page newspaper insert, gorgeous gatefold cover and specially designed tote bag, it’s a must have for any comic fan.”

Check the website for details. The images above were put together by Luke Pearson.

 

Comics Festival Fortnight Ireland

Ireland has two comics festivals coming up. In the north, Derry hosts the wildly popular 2D festival, now in its fourth year. Special guests announced include Pat Mills, Leigh Gallagher, Rufus Dayglo, Garry Leach, Jamie McKelvie, Kieron Gillen, Gary Erskine, Colin McNeil, Ilya, Will Simpson, Davy Francis, Bridgeen Gillespie, Phil Barrett, Maeve Clancy, Paddy Brown and this one. For starters. 2D is made possible by the Derry Verbal Arts Centre, David Campbell and a host of hard working volunteers. It caters for the academic nerd and the whole family and does so quite well. Phew. Taking place this year from Thursday 3rd to Saturday 5th June.

The Point Village in Dublin, if this brochure is anything to go by, is a spanking new exhibition centre, a bit big and shiny like Birmingham’s ThinkTank.On Saturday 12th June Hilary Lawler (Longstone Comics, SuperHillbo!) is putting together a special comics festival. I’ll be there with Paddy Brown and many other well-known stars of the Irish comics scene. Special guest Jenika from London will also be there. Jenika is known for creepy lovely vampire goth comics. Also for having a chair at festivals in the hall part of her table for weary travellers to sit. Stylish. Tables are free, contact  02villagefreetable(at)gmail(dot)com for details.

More news on both these events as they emerge over the coming month.

Four Colour Love

Comics Tutor Steve Bissette of the Centre For Cartoon Studies to the comics frat as the cartoonist behind Alan Moore’s ground-breaking run on Swamp Thing and author of the self-published Tyrant, chronicling the early life of a tyrannosaurus rex. Also as publisher of Taboo, the anthology which kick-started From Hell. Oh, and 1963, which with Moore and a host of mainstram and alternative artists brought us the most wonderfully fun superhero comics series of all time.

Retired from the industry, Bissette has no wish to invoke the Moore scotch but wishes to leave a legacy for his children and students. To that end, 1963 characters N-Man, The Fury, The Hypernaut, and Sky Solo are to appear in Tales of the Uncanny – N-Man & Friends: A Naut Comics History, Vol. 1 from About Comics. This 200 page volume  features new work from Bissette and accompanying-universe characters from his students. Contributions are on a work-for-hire contract, Bissette retaining the trademark for characters he has designed and students apparently retaining theirs for new work in the book.

Worth a sponsor I suppose. The book is ready at the end of the year and the preview given out at Mocca can be ordered via paypal from Mr. Bissette while stocks last.

The Above News Story Via Rantin’ Rich Johnston.

Oh, and eventually CBR and TCJ

Why Is Everyone Ignoring Paper Tiger Comix: War – The Human Cost ?

Seems I was wrong on my initial predictions that pre-orders necessarry for publishing this book would be reached within the month

There are still about two weeks left to get a comic that contains a host of professionals such as Spain Rodriguez, an album containing a host of professionals such as  Michael Franti and the Spearheads, and donate to Campaign Against Arms Trade.Pre-subscriptions are required for printing costs. See Paper Tiger Comix and IndieGoGo.

Free Runaway Who

Oli Smith, revolutionary mini-comics dealer has his first Doctor Who book, The Runaway Train, imminent. This Saturday the audio version, voiced by Matt Smith and Karen Gillen, is being given away free with Britain’s Telegraph paper. This is sure to disappear very quickly and probably highly ebayed, launching Oli’s career nationwide. No delays to that platform then.

And hopefully, he’ll not end up looking like Tom Baker when he’s old.

Swipefile.

The new eye-in-the-stalk from Victory of the Daleks, Mid-April.

(Image Missing)

The new comic by Ralph Kidson, Early March.

(Image Missing: The story refers to “Dalek Home Guard”, which was created around about the same time as production on “Victory of the Daleks”. Both featured Daleks serving tea from eye-stalks uttering, “Would you like some tea?”)

Hate to say I told you so.

A Comic In 366 Frames

Warsaw cartoonist Dennis Wojda writes,

“I’ve decided to make a comic. I will draw one frame each day during one year plus one day. That’s 366 frames. I have no script and I have no story. It’s an experiment. It’s a flow.”

But who will review all these comics?

Matthew Murray is “Reviewing zines and minicomics every day.” on his 365zines blogspot. He has a stack of unread gear, but is welcoming to trades. (Source: Matt Badham)

Filmish

Matt sent me a copy of ‘Filmish’ by Edward Ross, which appears to be degree assignments on film theory essays in comic strip form. As such it reads too McCloudian on occassion, but for all its flaws I’m very happy that work like this exists. 24 A5 pages of black and white comic book for only £3 plus p+p. Now available with Paypal for UK, European and U.S. customers!

Irish Cthulu


Talesofthe.com is worth a mention. Featuring Stephen Downey and Andrew Croskery of Insomnia in Irish arts freeform. The new site contains comics, paintings and music. Featuring Downey’s debut directing short films with a brilliantly disturbed Malachy Coney in the lead role. Worth a see.

 

In Absentia

The print version of my new comic launched in London and Belfast last week.

Number 25, Quarter Centennial. Check it out in the display in the Hoxton district in London’s East End at Bookart Bookshop before the end of the month. Look for it to appear in Belfast’s Black Market, Derry’s 2D festival and Dublin’s Point Village Market. Interested retailers get in touch.

Contact me for news stories, stuff and things at drew.luke(at)gmail.com or join us on the forums.

 

South Park – 200 And Won!

A re-blog from the archives of my regular column for Alltern8; Comicking.

“We promised we’d not let any harm come to Mohammad”

– Stan

south park happy 200 and won

Critics hit on the notion early South Park had a quality of nonsense lost to the later infiltration of celebrity appearances and “messages”. I concede I’m a minority proudly of the view that early episodes were not very good. Furthermore, they were without direction. The motif of offending everyone looks stronger when not so crass, when plush Kenny dolls are not inserted into every artifice and orifice. The attack on celebrities by South Park celebrates powers of parody, and questions a society that, however uneven-handed, elected them. The Simpsons comes under less fire for it’s pandering employment of idiots, ad-men and war criminals. South Park is an act of communication: so why do Western brats whine about “messages”?

tom cruise is a fudgepacker

Parker and Stone approach the milestone 200th gracefully, celebrating incarnations of the show along the spectrum. Beautifully self-referential, the newly offended Tom Cruise does what any melodramatic villian does. He assembles together other offended celebrities to launch a class action lawsuit against the town. Desperate to avoid destruction, they manage to cut a deal with Cruise: he has always wanted to meet the prophet Muhammad.

superfriends

From there to the Super Best Friends, a Justice League of Deities where Stan might enlist Muhammad’s help. Except that some Muslims have forbidden it, already parodied in the Park as a threat issued to the mediocre Family Guy staff. 

Other implications included a threat on Danish cartoonist Go’morgen Danmark and an auction house turning down Danmark’s efforts to help the victims of the Haitian earthquake. 

That, and stealing teddy bears and teachers from children.

bear bomb

(Hushed tones) “Oh, is that okay?”

(muffled) “I dunno”

Between the airing of ‘200’ and ‘201’, Parker and Stone received death threats from Muslim extremist predictables. The decision spurred Comedy Central to censor ‘201’, bleeping out every pronunciation of Mohammad and (presumably by implication), the customary final speech which included not a mention of Mohammad.

Growing up in Northern Ireland where people were murdered one another over for religion, I saw the hypnosis for enslavement to cover for trades of arms, property and drugs. For most of the people on this planet, we’re pissed off with Abu Talhah al Amrikee, Westboro Baptist Church and Tom Cruise. Worse, we’re embarassed. Then, it’s all a bit too tiresome really.

The censorship strips back the layer of visibility: the episode has little to do with Mohammad, or even the image of a representation of Mohammad. It’s about what can and can’t be shown in a clips episode. It doesn’t affect the creation of a piece of art which is most parts epic Hollywood blockbuster like Longer, Bigger and Uncut or Imaginationland. A homage to great superhero cartoons and comics and theatrical drama. It’s about making people laugh and engaging them with surprise and thorough Story. Less than three minutes into the Muslim censor-fest of ‘201’, this is made abundantly clear.

The message is obviously about the power and bleeping. This was a bleeping great episode all the same.

Parker and Stone anticipate many moves ahead with subtle kind gestures. Careful, entertaining and attuned. Some things hardly need to be communicated, but I’m going to go there anyway: It ain’t The Wire, but it remains one of the smartest shows on American television.

Spoilers are censored. If you’re religious, maybe you can forgive me?

(IMAGE MISSING)

South Park Online is currently not streaming ‘201’ presumably until the heat blows over. Or Mecha-Streisand calms down and forgets about the torrents.

Ralph Kidson on Working with Daleks and Animals

A re-blog from the archives of my regular column for Alltern8; Comicking.

Interview Ralph

Ralph Kidson is the creator of Captain Dolphin, Sad Animal and Envelope and Stick. He’s also the funniest cartoonist in Britain. Around the late nineties, his unique work inspired a cult readership, the sort of cult that sometimes accidentally pee their pants when laughing. Maybe.

His recent booklets include “Doctors’ Waiting Room”, a work of masterful observation, cracking comedy skills and hidden manifesto for alt. comics distribution. “Animal Jobcentre” followed directly and in much the same way records the ludicricousness of the everyday through his unique “RalphieVision”. “Dalek Home Guard” arrived fairly shortly after. Here, Ralph uses the the language of “Dad’s Army”, a classic British sitcom about WWII troops, to create a bridge between old and new and dark and comic-lite interpretations of the Daleks.(Update: Or so I thought. Having seen the trailer for this week’s ‘Churchill’s Daleks’ episode of Doctor Who, I wonder if he might have had foreknowledge of it’s content.)

I bunged a few pairs of briefs in the wash, and sat down to ask Ralph some questions about his work.

Andy Luke: I was wondering if you could clear something up for me? I heard a story from Pete Ashton that you produced a comic on a door, with hinges acting as staples. This apparently was sold at the art auction at the Caption comics festival one year, with the buyer having some difficulty getting it onto the bus..

Ralph Kidson: It wasn’t a door, not as big as that! Me and a guy called Rich Smith (Teenage Suicide) got together to make a giant free-standing comic for one of the ‘Sofa’ Brighton small-press group’s gallery shows. There were about 3 or 4 of these shows in the mid-90’s…anyway, it was Rich’s idea, I blame him. We went and bought about 10 big ( 4 foot high, I’d say,x 2 foot wide ) sheets of plywood, painted ’em white, let ’em dry, then painted a really awful comic on the ‘pages’, plus a cover and back-cover. It was ‘bound’ I think by just drilling 2 holes in the side of each sheet, then tying ’em all together with cord or string.
We set out to make it as offensive as we could, with lots of babies and grannies and wheelchair-bound folk being slaughtered in a supermarket, lots of swearing, references to Satan etc., in the hope that a local newsman might wander in, see it, and write an inflammatory piece about the show corrupting the minds of young Brightonians or something. Bit of publicity, get the punters in…but no-one batted a fucking eyelid!

AL: A layman might look at your comics and think they’re junk. Asides from writing great pacing and dialogue, the panels are often actually quite detailed and worked. I’m also aware you have a fine portrait skills. So why the minimalist approach?

RK: Um, I dunno, I’ve just always drawn comics like that. I think that really all comic strip or book art is a very codified way of reforming what we see around us. The key thing for me has always been clarity of expression, having the image work completely in sync with the words or ideas, and not distract from the ‘whole’. I really really hope that people don’t read my stuff and get held up every other panel thinking ‘Jesus, what’s wrong with that guy’s ARM…why is his HEAD so big?’ or stuff like that,
that’s the biggest no-no for me in comics.

AL: Undoubtedy, you’ve got skills and a ready audience. I’m wondering if you’ve ever considered writing for paying professional publishers. Is there anything there that’s a realistically tempting avenue to pursue? I know you’ve been featured in Cerebus, Dee Vee and probably loads more…

RK: Yeh, I’m sure there are plenty of avenues like that, but I’ve always been blind to them. I think I’m pretty fucked-up and self-defeating, always have been. Now I just do the comics ‘cos it makes me happy, and send ’em out to people I like, and don’t think about the rest.

AL: You’ve taken to stapling single sheets for your work. On my copy of your latest book, Dalek Home Guard, it’s hand-numbered 03/2010. How do you manage that high level of personalisation with all your comics? I’d find it an endurance trial. Don’t you worry that having something of a cult following might be more than you can cope with?

RK: I’m more concerned about unsustainable global population increases. And the warts on my cock.

AL: Are there any amusing or frightening stories to be told from the church of Ralphie? Has anyone offered you their virgin daughters, or slid a stick and envelope under the toilet door?

RK:Once at a Caption this girl came up and said ‘Oh you do Captain Dolphin, I’m a big fan’, so I said ‘Oh great, thanks, that’s really nice of you…so what do you do?’…
and she went ‘Nothing. I’m mad.’ And she wasn’t joking.

AL: Can you tell us a bit about your influences, comedic or informative?

RK: Comedically…Charles Schultz, Bill Watterson, Johnny Hart, Sergio Aragones, Gary Larson, Garry Trudeau, early Jim Davis, Johnny Ryan, Spike Milligan, Alex Graham, Dennis Worden, Bob Burden, Peter Bagge, Mack White, Kaz, Nicholas Gurewitch, Dave Sim, Modern Toss, Eric Morecambe, The Mighty Boosh, Simon Munnery, Stewart Lee, Richard Herring, Sean Lock, Willans & Searle, Ambush Bug, babysue, Charlie Brooker, Steve Bell, Scott Musgrove, the BRILLIANT Roy Tompkins, Maaike Hartjes, Mawil, Lewis Trondheim, Ken Campbell, Chris Ware, Lisa Holdcroft, early John Cleese, Jerry Seinfeld, Larry David, Richard Pryor, Bob Newhart, Terence ‘Larry’ Parkes, Mark Marek, the Viz boys…and a shit-load more I can’t remember, probably. AquaTeamHungerForce!
Other comics folks I love…Jim Woodring, Alan Moore, Pat Mills, Garth Ennis, Gilbert Hernandez, Chris Webster, Gary Panter, Kev O’Neill, Mike McMahon, Julie Doucet, Kirby & Ditko, Frank Quitely, Rich Corben, Moebius, Manara, Frank Thorne, Brendan McCarthy, Frank Miller, Bryan Talbot, Hunt Emerson, Chester Brown, David Lloyd,  Kilian Plunkett, Joe Sacco, Terry LaBan, Tanino Liberatore, Frank Stack, Steve Gerber, Gilbert Shelton, Malcy Duff.

Other artists…painters like Morandi, Redon, Friedrich, Guston, Paul Nash, Ravillious, Bocklin, Cecil Collins, Manet, Baselitz, Peter Doig.

AL: I notice you gave a shout-out to Paul Rainey’s ‘No Time Like the Present’. What’s on your reading list this month?

RK: A 1970’s paperback book-sized collection of early Lee & Ditko ‘Doctor Strange’, gorgeously coloured inside. Three-issue Marvel Knights ‘Strange Tales’ from last year, lots of crazy alternative types tackling the Marvel Universe, great fun. ‘A Land’ by Jacquetta Hawkes…a poetic history of Britain from Pre-Cambrian times, when it was seabed, to the present day. Razzle readers’ letters page.

Hope that’s okay for you Andy…

AL: That oughtta keep me atop Google listings for a few months.

RK: Cheers, Ralph

AL: Cheers, Andy

Ralph’s work is available by writing to Ralph Kidson, 3 Langridges Close, Newick, East Sussex, BN8 4LZ. Please add 50p (£1 for non-UK) for postage and packing.

 

ORIGINAL COMMENTS

nice interview. can someone who works for a grown up publishing house and distribution empire get it sorted that all of his back catalogue is put together in one great big compendium with a range of greetings cards, animated shorts on E4 and t-shirts please. Everyone should have Ralph Kidson’s work in their lives and I’ve never been more serious in my life, well, possibly when I was saw my first nipper being born, that was pretty serious but apart from that, the above.
Posted by skip-rat media small press dept. on 15 April 2010 21:10
Great interview with a great talent. And by the way Andy I have your book about your late granny.
Posted by DAVID LLOYD on 18 April 2010 07:48
If anyone would like to contact Ralph, he’s availble by email at btinternet.com, ralphiek
Zum Comics Kidson archive of the first two issues of Captain Dolphin is around and Paul Rainey deserves a link

Ah, thanks David. That it got to you was one of those things I meant to follow up on, but it got away from me. Twisty turny all over the road lifetime piling up.
Posted by Andy Luke on 18 April 2010 17:53

Scroobius Pip – Poetry in (e)motion

A re-blog from the archives of my regular column for Alltern8; Comicking.

http://titanbooks.com/products/uk/10750-poetry_in_emotion_the_illustrated_words_of_scroobius_pip/ scroobius - back cover intro

Artists across the Atlantic picked up their instruments to accompany Hip-Hop poet Scroobius Pip and lay new dimensions to his range of pieces. The illustrations largely draw from the language of comic strip, although only CJ McCracken’s work employs speech bubbles, and they’re quite suited. In his introduction, Scroobius recalls being shown a comic book on philosophy and finds the subject matter accessible because of the form it was presented in. As fair a testament as any to the excellent alchemy at work within this book. Each of the artists bring very different styles to very different works.

scroobius - intro

The scribbly scrawly of beserk and abandon of Cowfree relating Scroobius’ head time in ‘Rat Race’.

Ben Williams, On Thou Shalt Not Kill, delivers meticulous AND free-form zine culture sigil art.

Damian Claughton’s Phonogram-esque designs, impressing style and warmth and class, at home with this piece of book: professional and managing simplicity.

Joe Cunningham’s contribution to “When I Grow Up” which approaches like your favourite dog: full of love, bringing belonging and an ounce of silliness. Cunningham is part-Herge.

Anthony Gregori and Michael Spicer on “1,000 Words”, underwater mysticism, with a fairytale quality which would have been at home in the DFC.

CJ McCracken’s shaped orange and greys, sliding and angular, going for that slacker webcomic feel.

Mister Paterson’s living tattoo man, frozen with animated arms, alike a comix real treatment of a DC character in “Shamed”, the empathic and undoubtedly stark relation to homelessness.

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Often from darkest places, Scroobius is and Co. are on missions to retrieve and return with insight and inspiration. This is most evident in “The Magician’s Assistant”, a love poem and hell rage on the subject of self-harm. It’s deeply compassionate in realism to the point. The most effective work I’ve seen on the matter. It’s an engaging survival call which illustrator translates perfectly the integrity of in sketchbook and scrapbook collage. Both artists come across as nothing less than genuinely important and brilliant.

From dark places also come delightfully frivolous works, which impart experiential wisdom. Matt Frodsham and Pip team up on a wonderful blend of these matters in “Waiting for the beat to kick in”. Poetry in the form of structured short story, Scroobius relates meetings with characters from some of his favourite old films. Elwood P Dowd (Harvey), Lloyd Dobler (Say Anything), Billy Brown (Buffalo ’66) and Walter Neff (Double Indemnity) are each encountered by the narrator on his journey through the city. Frodsham illustrates their attempts to offer advice in exemplary cine noir style. Like Pip, his senses have paid close attention to the screen and the record re-envoked here is a joy to see.

The theme of advice runs through the book, subject to scrutiny and so rarely annoys as preachy. Scroobius etc seduce, and employ the fine coffee table edition quality print to good effect. Titan Books have generously made this 104-page hardback accessible by putting it out for a tenner ($17.95 US/$21.50 CAN). The book’s (possibly uncredited) designers provide the collection a strong visual feel which give it an extra showiness.

The piece is lined with a great set of sleeve notes from Scroobius Pip to you, the reader. Decorated with a fine assortment of gig posters there to show off how pretty they are. And they are. On the whole, a well-rounded package and one I’ll return to. Built to last. Thanks guys.

Update: You can buy the paper-back edition of Poetry  in (e)motion from publishers Titan at the reasonable £9.99.

1000_Words_Scroobius_Pip__Pg1_by_aNg76

 

scroob41 when i grow up scroobius pip joe cunningham

War and Art – The Human Cost

A re-blog from the archives of my regular column for Alltern8; Comicking.

Easter Monday saw the emergence of an anthology I’ve been awaiting for several years. “War: The Human Cost” features 260 pages of strips and art   from addicted to war - the high cost of militarismfrom 17 countries. The acclaimed Spain Rodriguez contributes a short on faith-based terrorism and Hannes Pasqualini comes in with 8 pages of silent comic on dehumanisation amongst soldiers. Documentaries include the alliance between Francisco Franco and the Catholic Church after the Civil War, Vietnam, Camp X-Ray Guantanamo.

Child Soldier

Above: Excerpt from “Child Soldier”

Paper Tiger Comix editor Sean Duffield,

“The comic strips include well researched stories from around the world (Tibet, Afghanistan, Israel & Palestine, Liberia, Iraq, Uganda, etc.) which cover everything from human rights struggles, war veterans & PTSD, political imprisonment & torture, child soldiers (a narrative based on UNICEF reports), refugees /asylum seekers, peace campaigners, the arms trade, corruption/ conflicts of interest, millitary spending, propaganda to humour & satire.”

There’s also work from “Peter Kuper, Alexsandar Zograf, Ulli Lust, Mazen Kerbaj, Abu Mahjoob, Nelson Evergreen” and other underground cartoonists and established commercial artists.

£1 from every purchase of the not-for-profit book goes to the well-respected NGO, CAAT (Campaign Against Arms Trade).There’s also a CD included with the package.

“The CD features well known artists who support the project, such as Michael Franti & Spearhead, Sly & Robbie, DJ Spooky, Blue King Brown, Zion Train, The Levellers, Big Youth & Twilight Dub Circus, The Groove Corporation & many more.”

A mammoth project, yes. Paper Tiger have made use of a the interest in such a project in order to bring it to the public.

AK 47 Tale2

AK-47 Tale Page 2

The book has taken many years to get ready for release. In common with other independent comix press, the halting block is one of finances for printing and distribution. In order to publish the work Paper Tiger Comix needs to raise £3000, the final half of the amount needed. See the green box for how they plan to do it,

(Accompanying images in original article: Camp X-Ray Guantanamo and Patronage War)

To my mind it’s taken this project too long to get to this stage. Paper Tiger Comix and Sean Duffield have a strong track record with previous publications. Paper Tiger’s model at Indiegogo appears to allow donations-for-donations sake, donations which encompass a discount on pre-orders (and free shipping to anywhere), and a grander scale of VIP incentives.

The creators of Phonogram, as I commented last week, might have been tempted to produce a 3rd series if the Patronage model of artist sponsorship was more prevalent. The comics industry status quo is to reward (even established commercial) artists several months after product has been sold. By going ‘Patronage’, Paper Tiger is wisely making use of an already existing audience for an unpublished product. There’s every indication that the money raised will surpass that aim fairly quickly. There are many ‘for-profit’ publications which could attract this kind of audience sponsorship.

Expect to see “Patronage” continue to enjoy a resurgence over the next number of years. Smart music industry artists (ie. not the BPI) have been increasingly using this model since the rise of the internet. I suspect progressive independent builders in the digital downloads market will in the future add a Patronage facility to help with pre-production costs for the art and sponsorship of print-on-demand services.

‘War: The Human Cost’ addresses an international audience. Proceeds will go to CAP (Community Art Projects) “a constituted Community Group based in Brighton UK), to fund future activities” The money donated to (London-based) CAAT, will fund their work in regulating arms companies and taking action against illegal arms deals.

And those look like fine comics.

UPDATE: You can still get a copy of this fine collection from http://www.papertigercomix.com/?page_id=9

Alltern8′s Foray into Digital Distribution: i-Dream

The following was part of my series of columns for the now-extinct Alltern8.com; in this case, about their comics and music sales platform, iDream, now also extinct. Reprinted here for archival purposes.

I-Dream, the digital distribution service from Alltern8 offers books, computer games, music photography and comics. It’s the latter that interests me the most. With the attention lavished on Longbox, Wowio, Myebook and all things Sony and iPad, it’s no wonder you may not have heard of it until recently. i-Dream is currently in Beta and has been live for only two weeks.

idream carousel

At £24.99 a year to sell your work, i-Dream might be more than some creators starting out can justify. The distribution service’s minor but joyful feature for me is a 50% discount offered to students, which might help offset some of the damage Peter Mandelson has been doing to their collective creative psyche. Although in Beta, Alltern8 CEO Alex Agricola has promised an early adoption subscription offer for the first year to creators and publishers. His discount? £24.99.
“The price for years membership is set at £24.99, but until we are happy with content choice, it will be FREE. Keep in mind you would be looking at £30-£60 per show, which would have a limited audience of a few thousand if lucky. I-Dream will eventually charge £24.99 but already had a viewing audience of up to 100,000 per month (at present and rising)”
As a creator, I took Alex up on his offer to test it out. i-Dream set-up is a non-app, with simple and quick registration. I also had to ready a sample image file, a cover and the price I chose. For comics, .pdf files appear to be the norm. I sync it up with my Paypal address, and I’m good to get 100% of any sales I make.
Thumbnail images can be uploaded in jpg, png or gif, and preview files must be jpg, png or pdf formats. Main files are currently jpg, pdf, exe or zip,allowing for folders of images or cbr files. In this case, it’s recommended instructions on how to get the reader are included. It occurrs to me that this allows the same level of adaptability in production and consumption as most if not all of Alltern8’s rivals. Or producer’s allies, as I like to think of them.
As we’re aware, comics distribution was hurt badly by the exclusivity deals Diamond signed with publishers in the mid-90s, and shops who had no option but to sign with Diamond. Alltern8, as with several digital publishers listed above, offers non-exclusivity. You can sell your comics through i-Dream and other venues as you see fit.

The sale or return field is always going to be more financially secure for publishers than buying retail space. What I think will really work for this is Alltern8’s multimedia context. The forums and columns provide i-Dream with supported content. Alex Agricola had this to say,
“Probably the most important message I am getting across here is that the alltern8 and I-dream plan is to become one of the most focused content sites on the net. Hence we have achieved such high net ranks in a short space of time and without millions of monthly visitors (16,000th in the UK, 132,000th in the USA) “

“Focused content aimed at a focused customer base…. meaning a high value visitor base of potential customers for all those subjects in the site.” – Alex Agricola, Alltern8/i-Dream

For over a decade, I’ve contributed a vast amount of comics journalism: much self-publishing and contributing to community outlets. Bugpowder, Borderline, Tripwire, Forbidden Planet and Comics Village, to name but a few. That Alltern8 has been the first site to offer me some financial reward and incentive for this stands as a testament to their want to invest in the creative scene. (Actually, they talked me out of abandoning the practice altogether, but that’s another story) Of note recently, is the addition of Shane Chebsey to their ranks. The man behind Smallzone Distribution and co-organiser of the Birmingham International Comics Show is a well-known hub for creative communications and is helping i-Dream through it’s early days.
“At this time Shane has come on board with the idea and very much see the common purpose we are both looking to promote and Alltern8 and I-Dream will be very evident at this year’s BICS .”
Interest in i-Dream from the comics community has been slow to begin with. Already there are downloads available from famed Outcastes creator Tony McGee, the distribution-savvy Markosia, Bugpowder’s Dan Fish and Ian Sharman, creator of Alpha Gods. This number pales in comparison to twenty plus musical collectives are already signed.
“We have yet to market this actively and are very much aware of getting it exactly right for the users before blowing the PR trumpet in any big way. I want to iron out any issues early and make sure it’s in a format everyone likes.
As with all things, new projects take time and we prefer for people to join by word of mouth (for good reasons) that avoid us due to overwhelming press.”
At present, i-Dream has a way to go in site functionality. The search facility needs work, creator urls would help for referral purposes. While monitoring it’s progress, I’ve noticed other bugs being fixed, so my comments may be defunct by the time you read this. Improvements happen in parallel with Alltern8’s growth and Alex hints that other new features are to be revealed as well.
Wowio is recovering, Longbox has just launched in beta. How I-Dream will fare in the iPad future times is part guess-work. While the year’s subsciption for creators is free, I would recommend they take advantage of the offer, before i-Dream moves out of Beta stage. Baskets for eggs, and what a lovely basket it is too.

(See also Tim Bouquet’s interview with Alex Agricola about i-Dream)

Interview with Lara Philips, Creator of Ministry

A re-blog from the archives of my regular column for Alltern8; Comicking.

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Lara Phillips is the creator of Ronin Studios’ Ministry, a book which takes its name from the central location, a magick industrial complex and research facility of the dark arts. Set on Crowley Island, it concerns David Hanson’s survival within the facility. Having been impressed with the first issue, I sat down to have a chat with Lara about the work and became more impressed.

Alltern8: I’ve read elsewhere zombie classics and modern works such as ‘The Waking Dead’ are influences. How about those that are not so readily apparent? What other media do you feast on, horrible or helpful?

Lara Phillips: Well, I find all my influences helpful even if they give me nightmares. Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining is a classic that’s stood the test of time and of course, Clock Work Orange. Pink Floyd’s The Wall is something that influenced me in issue 2 when dealing with Hanson’s mental breakdown. But if Ministry can summed up in a few words it would be a quote from Blake’s Second Coming – “Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold; Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world.”

Alltern8: If I read right you’re based in Africa? What have been the opportunities in making comics and the response relating to The Ministry locally?

LP: South Africa is still coming into its own as far as horror’s concerned. Most of the comics here are humorous and political. Still I’ve had a great response from comic readers and have quite a strong following. I also very blessed to have my students at Style Design College as test readers. They’re always asking after my characters as if they were asking after old friends.

Alltern8: I’m looking at Page 15 of Issue 1, it’s well laid out, a marvelously brushed Renaissance engraver style beating scene. It seems you enjoyed drawing that. Do you think violence in narrative is over-employed? Surely there are many other great story devices…

LP: Hmmmm, that’s a tricky one. To be honest, I do think violence is too common in comics today. If overused, violence can definitely desensitise the reader. I’ve tried to build to the violent scenes – to use them as climatic moments rather then just titillation. Every act of violence in Ministry reveals something about the character committing it. With North, violence is just a means to an end, a form of control. With Hanson, it always intensely personal.

Alltern8: How much of The Ministry comes from reading about government figures involved in sex rings, black ops, Guantanamo Bay etc.? Where are the labs for research that make up a lot of the content of The Ministry?

LP: When I was born, Aparteid and racial segregation in South Africa was still a reality. The police were a force to be feared and the government had the power to make people vanish when they wanted. I think that has been one of my biggest influences.

The labs….hmmmm….the labs in Ministry are based on Crowley Island. Their sponsors wanted them in an isolated place in case of a occult fall out. Which of course, is exactly what happened.

Alltern8: Without naming names, I read on ‘Incoming’ you’d received some negative feedback about a rape sequence in The Ministry #3. There are some notes there about the context. Could you accurately re-present the feedback and how you feel about it?

LP: Oh, that scene….I’ve had a lot of feedback on that, locally as well. Most people thought that it was spot-on, violent without being titillating. Liam Sharp was very supportive and really gave me some comforting advice. Some critics were more upset by the nipples shown than the context. I don’t understand that – if someone’s shirtless, you’re going to see nipples. In the context of a rape, that’s NOT a turn-on for the reader and if it is, then that particular reader is a sicko. I was most concerned about the reaction of female readers but so far, a lot of women have related to the character being assaulted.

Alltern8: Talking about rape as part of a realistic horror narrative, if you’re a (spiritual) artist, seems okay to me. However, there’s no payoff, it’s a psychologically and socially fragmenting process. Without giving storytelling specifics away, how do you cope with that?

LP: Rape was one of the issues I wanted to deal with when I did Ministry. It’s more common in comics today than ever. Often once a women is raped in a comic, her life is shown as being over – she’s no use to anyone and she’ll never get over it. Bullsh*t! I wanted to show a character who is a survivor. She gets raped and still manages to overcome the trauma. In Ministry, the focus is not her rape but rather how she emerges triumphant from the trauma. I didn’t deal with this lightly – I based the scene on an experience that happened to a close friend of mine. She’s one of the strongest people I know and went on to become a black belt in kickboxing. At a later point in Ministry, I’m also going to deal with male-on-male rape. So that should stir up a hornet’s nest.

Alltern8: Talk us through the process of creating the average page of The Ministry. You’re an inking addict, but where does it start?

LP: Inking addict – that’s me. Well, I start with my rough thumb nails based on the script I’ve written. When that’s done, it’s onto neat pencils. I do my pencils in pale blue pencil so that I can ink straight over them. I really put the details in the inking. My biggest influences with shading has to be Sin City.

Alltern8: You frequently cite Lovecraft and Lynch, and the setting is named after Aleistar Crowley. Briefly say something about one aspect of your experiences with each of these three characters. Who are they and their works to you?

LP: I first discovered Lovecraft in a very dark time in my life – my mother had just died and my father was a nutcase. I loved the pessimism of his work – the concept of the cosmic abyss just beyond our sight. Many of his themes echo throughout Ministry. Lynch was discovered in a happier time – I had just met the man who would become my husband and he introduced me to Twin Peaks. The seedy underbelly of the American Dream is what I love about Lynch’s work. Twin Peaks is the kind of town I always imagine Hanson growing up in. As for Crowley, well, let’s just say I was the kind of kid who read everything and my normally conservative high school had a copy of his biography.

Alltern8: What can you tell me about Ronin Studios and the part they play in making The Ministry?

LP: Ronin has allowed me to interact with other independent comic professionals, especially Anthony Hary who has been very encouraging. My biggest professional support however would be my letterer Bernie Lee who letters Ministry from Issue 2 onwards. He’s marvelous.

Alltern8: What sort of frequency and narrative plans do you foresee for the book? Can folks buy the book in digital form, perhaps through Alltern8’s iDream facility?

LP: As Bernie and I are the entire creative team and both of us work, Ministry comes out 3 – 4 times a year. It’s available both at Indyplanet and the first issue is available through Alltern8’s (DEFUNCT) iDream facility (search ‘Lara Phillips’). As far as narrative is concerned, Ministry is filled with twists and turns. With the very gates of Hades opening, it’s going to be one hell of a joy ride.