Comicking Extra

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

Collected comics art, news, snippets and stories of note. The easter egg extras that don’t make it to my regular columns, but are a tasty treat nonetheless.

The Comic Book Alliance new logo
The winning competition entry by Greg Powell (Source: Birmingham Mail)

comicbookalliance logo

The CBA website can be found here.

 The Best Comic of 2009 – Well Du’uh!

My copy arrives tomorrow through Amazon. The Best Comic of 2009. Is The Best Comic. Is. The Best. Order it.

There’s a free version of Issue 1 available online. Up there.

Related: Writer Kieron Gillen talks to John Parker about The End of Phonogram. Gillen is on top form again: Right-on creative politics, play dead gestures with howls, a provocateur sowing securities. This touched me as a bit of historic comics journalism. The piece is a fortnight old, so there have already been vebalised consequences to the talk of a patronage system.


I would like Series 3 please.

New Dr Who, Easter Weekend.

Can’t bear the wait for next weekend? Want the junkie shot of gossip?

Rich Johnston has much of the cool new video footage in one place or another.
There’s information on episodes unaired at the time of writing in this behind-the-scenes by Neil Midgely in The Telegraph.
If you fancy something shorter and spoiler-free, try Jason Arnopp’s interview with new producer Steven Moffat, from 2008. No ‘Press Gang’, but he does a great anecdote about the process behind ‘Blink’.

Space Avalanche: The Dark Knight

dark knight


Three UK Comics Festivals In A Weekend : More Reports

Hi-Ex Festival, Inverness – Blogging by Alexi ConmanSarah McIntyre and on the Sonic’s Ring Podcast

UK Web and Mini Comix Thing blogging by Hugh ‘Shug’ RaineAlastair MaceachernAmy LettsLizz Lunney and Simon Perrins.

There’s also an interesting businessy type article by J.G. Fisher here (link unavailable)

Schmurgen Con 4 – Blogging seems slow to arrive on this one, although word has filtered out on the first British comics award for a few years, with Tony Lee nominated for every award. Apparently the awards ceremony followed the model pushed by Tony a few years ago and my expansion on that laid out here on Alltern8 a few months back. Eagle Awards, take note, this is what the people want
Called out on cue, Paul Rainey won the Best Writer/Artist award and David Baillie also scooped an award. More details to follow.

Blatant Self-Promotion

I’m being interviewed via a spoken word performance by Harry Goodwin on 15-16th April for the Bookartbookshop event. (‘Gran’ will be exhibited there for the final fortnight of the month) Then I’ll be at The Black Box for the Belfast Sunday launch on Sunday 18th. (Get in touch if you’re in the area: a tie-in drinks-fest is in the works) Copies may also be available at Gherkin’s Alternative Press thing on 17th April Middlesex of which more details here.

If you have an area you’d like to see covered, or a story to share, I can be emailed at drew.luke(at) on correspondence marked ‘Comicking’. I’m also on  TwitterFacebook and right here on My  webcomic, Don’t Get Lost, is updated Thursdays.


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

Collected comics art, news, snippets and stories of note. The easter egg extras that don’t make it to my regular columns, but are a tasty treat nonetheless.

Stop Crime. Collect Jesus.

Today, Tuesday 30th at 11.00pm, BBC Radio 4 revisits Britain’s end of the 1954 McCarthy-Werthram-Horror Comics trials. “The Gorbals Vampire”  concerns invasions of schoolkid vampire hunters in a Glasgow cemetry and the consequential drive by the churches and tabloids to put horror comics publishers out of business. If you can handle abuse filtered through historical documentary, there’s a write-up and video at the BBC website (and elsewhere)

Lew Stringer put in a bit of research, and has managed to dig up some relevant newspaper archives at his blogspot.

horror comics damn church

(If you’re reading these source clippings, try replacing the words “horror comics” with “tabloid television”)

Lew also puts out a nod to Martin Barker’s “fantastic book on the UK anti-comics crusade..A Haunt of Fears”
Well said, Lew.

Three Comics Festivals In A Weekend

A lot of UK comics folk have been off over the three festivals this weekend – The Hi-Ex in Inverness, London’s UK Web and Mini Comix Thing and eh Schmurgen Con 4, which hosts it’s first awards ceremony.

So far, a few reports are in from The Thing with an illustrated piece from Aaron Foster showing off his table, substantial micro-blog and photos from Wychwolf and first-timer Freddy H with his comic strip experience.Apparently the panels were cancelled. Apparently the panels were cancelled and responses to the event were mixed – some had a great time, others got restless. Customer Tim Harries was one of the former, here’s his blog report.

Kev F Sutherland weighs in here on his Hi-Ex 2010 and Joe Gordon from Forbidden Planet on his journey there. FPI Blogger Byronv2 aka Lord Woolamaloo already has a good sized photo stream up on Flickr. Opposite, his fancy art snap of John Higgins,

And of course, customary Tweeting on SchmurgenConHiEx and The Thing.

Make Bad Comics

And while the rest of the UK comics scene were ‘conferencing’, sometime on Saturday night, Mr Tony Lee of the bored masses tweeted,


Followed by,


Quite soon, Paul J Holden was in on the act. Unsurprising as his Pro-Creator tweets from a few days ago had a similarly amusing style,

Pro Artist Tips: Make sure you sneak wolverine into every page – that’ll give you a good secondary income when you sell the pages…

#ArtistsTips Don’t want to draw that panel? why not photocopy an earlier panel and ENLARGE it. Almost no-one will notice.

#artiststips Marry someone rich

And so on.

I’m guessing the poor quality contents of the large selling Twilight graphic novel had something to do with the tip over point. (via Rich Jonston, one for Cerebus fans there) Or the #makeradcomics trend, not sure which came first.

With a fierce tweet-off underway, Lee and Holden must have each made around 100 tweets, with concern expressed for Holden’s health. Others got in on the act in masses on both sides of the Atlantic, creating an amusing trending topic.


deantrippe: Female superheroes should be written and drawn to appeal to 40-year-olds who think and act like 14-year-olds. #makebadcomics

Robgog: trace over photos to make people look realistic. Don’t worry that people look like their frozen in time cos it looks ‘real’ #makebadcomics

Deathnerd: Oh what the hell. The strongest protagonists are always stereotypical males. #makebadcomics

madmarvelgirl: There is no conceivable situation in which a female superhero would choose not to have her panties and/or cleavage showing. #makebadcomics

ShawnJDouglas: Yes, everyone wants a sequel to Watchmen. #makebadcomics

Richjohnston: Tell, don’t show #makebadcomics

A few serious multi-tweeters: the very funny Mike Garley, the poetical stylings of Twitsofftoya and I had a drunken go.

The people largely responsible: Tony Lee, Paul J Holden(collected on his blog)

You will want to check the variety. The hashtag is still going as I write this.

Why They Fear These Evil Games: Titchmarsh on ITV

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

If you live in the UK, you’ve probably noticed by now the Blogosphere and twitterverse have been buzzing since Friday tea-time around ITV, The Alan Titchmarsh show and Julie erm…Peasgood.


The theme of the discussion was set to start off with the video-game BAFTAs with host Titchmarsh reading the list of BAFTA nominees, followed with the phrase “but recently has come under fire due to the violent nature of”. From the get-go, the show developed into a witch-hunt. Computer and Video Game editor Tim Ingham, the rational man tried to talk about the age-ratings system. Kelvin MacKenzie, a Murdoch-associate was mostly useless:until he continued his journalistic career disaster by invoking the name of news trend ‘Jon Venables’ as a murderer inspired by violent games. However “Sexpert/actress” Julie Peasgood was the head, witch-hunting, stringing along the other guests and frenzied audience with her emotive pleas.

titchmarsh“Think of the children”.

Which sounds made up, very made up. Something a hack writer creating a moral panic brewer might write. Weirdest of all: Peasgood directly addressing Ingham,

“Tim, How do you defend a shoot-out in an airport? (which happens in one of the games that’s up for an award) How do you defend being there, shooting innocent civilians… your videogame?”
The clip made it’s way around Youtube and you can watch it here though I suspect you really shouldn’t bother.
One of my favourite blog entries is at No Soap Radio Polka.
Uk Resistance locates  “Holby Clitty” and “Blow-Job Eyes” as sub-headings in Peasgood’s Sex book and one contact created an inspired ‘Peasgood Game’
The ITV forums registered complaints and I suspect a few emails reached their offices too.

By Sunday afternoon a new twist to the story came to light, one popularly attributed to Peasgood, chief arsonist of the aforementioned mob, turns out to have provided voice acting work for Martian Gothic: Unification (2000) A Resident Evil-type game, it featured flesh-eating zombies, gun-fights and… “group hysteria”. Peasgood voiced the bit-part character of Judith Halloway, sending Earth a final message from her doomed crew, “Stay alone, stay alive.” So that settles it then, games are very dangerous. Bad Ju-Ju.

(Two images missing from rest of the article)

This is the problem with the ‘effects’ (or ‘hypodermic’) model of media. It assumes that people can be and their thoughts are not their own. The effects model states that power lies with the message and the audience is passive. By making an example of the power of suggestibility leading to this type of action (in this instance, Peasgood), a recommendation is made for this form of thought leading to a specific behaviour.

It seems to me that television as a technology, transmitting one-way replicates the form found in “the effects theory” Julie subscribes to. If anything, video-game players with their bigger reliance on the form’s interactivity, seem further removed from likely negative influence. They’re more clearly focused on “the uses model” with it’s attributes of diversion, surveillance, personal identity and personal relationships.

ban these evil games

It’s the same old same old moral panic that comes around time and again. Pac-Man told me to be obese yadda yadda yadda. Mario told me to abandon granny on the roof and join the Fascist Party yadda yadda.

One of the really worrying aspects of the effects model within a moral panic is that they can lead to what has been called a “Deviancy Amplification Spiral”.The well-known controversy surrounding the game Manhunt in 2004 led to exaggerated media reporting (Leblanc) generating outrage and opposition. The game was banned resulting in a greater need to obtain a copy. The media “profiling” transformed gamers’ searching to define their own and group behaviour. This style of reporting attracted additional ‘deviant’ individuals, and enhanced a sense of deviant identity. A spiral of deviance and moral indignation.

In the coverage that followed, Peter Chapman of Sixth Axis, one of Europe’s largest gaming websites, posted an open letter to ITV. His closing paragraphs seem to accuse ITV of resurrecting the stereotyped image of the gamer before reminding them of the multi-billion dollar properties of the industry. In fact, he is speaking figuratively and responding to rhetoric with rhetoric. Peasgood, Tichmarsh, MacKenzie and their audience are those snarminals of the ‘reality’ television era. They aren’t quite equipped to adjust to the multi-way signal of the web age, which the same week gave us Nestle’s attempt to gag Greenpeace via YouTube. (They appeared to have learned nothing from Trafigura’s similar chemical and communications errors) It seems almost too easy to pick them off. They’re to be pitied, really. Like Jan Moir, safe in the knowledge of themselves, that they are right and they are the only way things are. Of course, the internet  showcases a wealth of talent free to view should executives wish to look higher.

With grateful thanks to Dr. Tom Tyler of The Westminster Institute.

With Leonard Rifas Pt.2: Maps and Webcomics and Cyberactivism

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

Earlier in the week I spoke with Leonard Rifas, cartoonist and publisher behind EduComics, about language, comics and Second Life. You can read that here. This time around we continue our chat about relaying messages between the virtual and the local.

Andy Luke: Given that comics is slang for ‘maps’, perhaps a narrative told using Google Maps or the like might have potential.

Leonard Rifas: I had not heard “comics” used as a slang word for “maps” before. It reminds me that I had a piece in comics format published in the Journal of Geography in 1996, in which I described a method I had worked out for drawing world maps from memory.

As for how comics might blend with maps, I keep imagining finding a program someday that would allow me to automatically translate spreadsheets, databases and other kinds of information into virtual landscapes where characters could explore and have adventures.

My doctoral dissertation, The Dataforest: Tree Forms as Information Display Graphics, was my first try at playing with the idea of using virtual environments as information landscapes. Around the time I finished that project, the field of information visualization started to really take off, but I lacked the necessary skills in computer science or statistics or even sufficient skill as an artist to get in on it. As that field develops, the technology becomes cheaper and more available and trickles down to hobbyists, so I hope to build some of the data-dreamscapes I’ve been thinking of eventually. Actually, the problem holding me back has been lack of time more than lack of tools.

I think maps and comics can fit together in many ways. I’ve incorporated maps into my educational comic book stories since I started in the 1970s.

Above: from A Method for Sketching World Maps (ERIC-locked)

Below: All-Atomic Comics, 1976


AL: The potential of cyber-activism in the comics form: do you suppose this is something that brings new life to both?

LR: I think it can. I remember in 1985, hearing excited reports about how this rapidly approaching new information technology of the Internet would transform political organising. Now it would be hard for me to imagine living without it, and yet I feel the groups I participated in before the internet had arrived won bigger successes by going out in the streets and stopping traffic with our protests than the groups nowadays have achieved, with their daily click-here emailed petitions to our elected representatives. (I report that as my feeling. Maybe I’m looking in the wrong places for internet organising success stories. Perhaps I’m making the mistake of looking to the left for my examples rather than looking to the right.)

I take back what I said about being unable to imagine life without the internet. Last summer I took a two week vacation during which the only keyboards I touched were ATMs. It turned out not to be hard at all…. as long as I’m on vacation.

AL: One of my favourite educational activist pieces is Mills and Ezquerra’s “Third World War” which ran in the British Crisis in the nineties. Do you have any favourite edu-activist or informational comics?

LR: I’d like to read that series. In common with many other people, I think Joe Sacco has done outstanding work with informational comics, including his recent Footnotes in Gaza
I have many favourite informational and activist cartoonists. I don’t write as many reviews as I’d like to, but you can see some of my opinions in back issues of The Comics Journal.

AL: Any chance of including a brief media list of what you’re currently reading?

LR: I can’t make it brief. I usually read many books at once. Today I bought a remaindered copy of The Simpsons and Philosophy: The D’oh of Homer and read Wallace’s chapter, “A (Karl, not Groucho) Marxist in Springfield.” I also pre-ordered The Oddly Compelling Art of Denis Kitchen, which I’ve been anticipating for decades. My bathroom reading for the last several months has been Willis Barnstone’s The Restored New Testament: A New Translation with Commentary, Including the Gnostic Gospels Thomas, Mary, and Judas. I particularly appreciate how he exposes and explains the anti-Semitism in the New Testament. Mostly, though, for today’s reading I’ve been grading papers, which I enjoy.

AL: Watching and listening to?

In the background, I’m listening to Smashing Pumpkins: If All Goes Wrong. I often listen to folk music on web-radio: KBCS in nearby Bellevue, Washington and KPFA in Berkeley, California. I especially recommend Robbie Osman’s archived show “Across the Great Divide.”

Earlier today I watched Tim Burton’s Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street for the first time. I look forward to Alice in Wonderland.

AL: What are you eating at present?

LR: My wife is in Taiwan on business this week, so I had snacks instead of meals: lots of peanut butter and tomato open-faced sandwiches, (vegetarian) kim chee on tofu, “Craisins®” (dried cranberries), some handfuls of almonds and walnuts, apples, a bell pepper, Veggie Patties, some ibuprofen my doctor recommended for bursitis… basically anything handy and easy.

With Leonard Rifas. Pt.1: Korean War Comics, Second Life and Climate Change

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

Leonard Rifas is partly responsible, with Project Gen, for the first distribution of Barefoot Gen in English translation. As a cartoonist with his EduComicsimprint and working for other publishers, he’s been responsible for All-Atomic Comics, Corporate Crime Comics, Tobacco Comics, Food First Comics, AIDS News and many others. I caught up with Leonard and posed a few questions to learn about his work.war-battles

Andy Luke: What work have you gotten on top of recently?

Leonard Rifas: My most recent work has centered on comic scholarship rather than cartooning. I’m currently updating my MA thesis on Korean War comic books for publication as my first scholarly book.

AL: And comics-wise?

LR: I haven’t drawn any pages since last November, when I contributed two pages to an art show I organized of Seattle-area cartoonists on the subject of climate change. What keeps me most busy has been teaching courses in introduction to film and introduction to comics at Seattle Central Community College.

AL: I noticed you gave a lecture via Second Life around this time last year.

LR: I got involved in the international comics conferences that meet in Second Life because its organizer, Beth Davies-Stofka, invited me. I enjoyed the conferences (despite the technical difficulties I had) because they combine a feeling of gathering together in an exotic location to share our work with the convenience of communicating over the web.

These conferences also have elements of a costume party, but my avatar (“Not Plutonian”) uses only the free options, so I was not much to look at.

I have been interested in virtual environments since the Human Interface Technology Laboratory began at the University of Washington in Seattle while I was a student there in the early 1990s. I continue to be interested in how such environments can become places to store, share and work with information.

I remain much more interested in the possibilities of such environments than in spending time in actual virtual environments. The only times I’ve visited Second Life have been connected with the comics scholarship conferences I participated in there.


 (Above: ‘Not Plutonian’)

 I caught your “Feet First” piece on travelling locally. How did that come to form?

“Feet First Comics” was my first experiment in creating comics for the web. My assignment was to promote alternatives to cars for non-commuting trips, and I realized that the key decisions happen, not when people walk out their front doors and decide whether to get into a car or not, but when people decide where to live. I worked with a team of web design students at Seattle Central Community College, and their help allowed me to design the comic so that readers could click on words in the story and have pop-ups come up to add information, and then links in those pop-ups opened the documents that I originally took the information from.
Already, many of those links have died. Also, when I have introduced individuals to the site and watched them go through it, I don’t remember that any of them ever heeded the screen messages that encouraged them to try clicking on the hyper-links in the story.

AL: I’m quite interested in how you and the internet are getting along and where the partnership has been going and might go next.

LR: I have been thinking of web-posting that show that I organized of Seattle-area cartoonists on the subject of climate change. One reason I have been slow to do it has been that I learned from the mistake I made in designing “Feet First Comics” that web-comics attract their readers by having regularly updated material, new strips, like the daily paper. Over 1,000 people visited the physical art gallery when we had the climate change comics show hanging, but I’m skeptical about how much traffic the same show would get as a website.

AL: How did you get started on the web?

LR: Back when websites still felt like a novelty, in the mid-1990s, people used to hire artists to create up to a couple of dozen original graphics for their sites. I had about a half dozen jobs designing icons, banners, illustrations, and animated gif files for non-commercial websites. As the web matured, that kind of work dried up quickly.

These days I spend a huge amount of my time gathering information on the web and reading email. I hope someday to get over my shyness and post a website for EduComics, my educational comic book company.

climate-change leonard rifas by bob rini

Seattle exhibition photograph courtesy of Bob Rini

David Baillie – Paris, Colchester and Where You Are Sitting Now

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

A fixture around the UK comics scene for years, the creative David Baillie has been strongly touted as set to make the jump to television. For those of you unfamiliar, here’s the intro from David’s friendly website,

“His work has appeared in 2000AD, Judge Dredd Megazine, Tripwire, Redeye, Comics International, Zombies, Robots and a dozen other fabulous places. His screenwriting has recently been nominated for a BAFTA/Rocliffe Award and shortlisted for the hotly-contested Red Planet Prize and Scotland Writes Drama Competition. Exhibitions of his art have been mounted in London, Edinburgh, Paris and Oxford.”


Baillie has recently completed The Casita Situations, with webcomic pioneer Daniel Merlin Goodbrey and Italian architect Valerio Ferrari. “A micro-world” within the walls of the children’s mental health clinic at Avicenne Hospital in Paris, Ferrari conceived “a series of interchangeable wall panels…text, written in the diverse range of languages spoken by the young people there.”

casita_jan_2010_09 casita_jan_2010_10

Baillie and Goodbrey have thought through the language of visual psychology. The work is uplifting, and by design, engaging. The opportunity for patients to decide on placement allows for them to be a part of creating the environment they are in the care of, and so empowers. Also…dinosaurs, winged men, dog and cat-heads in suits…it’s super-kewl!

Goodbrey has reproduced the Situations online as a randomly generated hypercomic.


Baillie’s stint there seems an extension of this; the production of “an anthology of stories about Colchester and its inhabitants” arrived at through interacting with visitors. He’s to be involved in a master-class there, and I would guess he’ll be pulling extra shifts. Firstsite have decided that April is comics month. Their programme has contributions from writer/editor Pat Mills, historian Richard Reynolds and artists Simon Grennan, Ed Hillyer (Ilya) and Chie Kutsuwada. Boys and girls comics, contemporary art and comics and manga and subversion are to be explored in talks. There are also several schools sessions and activities for the family and children.

Oh, and a screening of Persepolis. All here.


I recently went through David’s website and read a bunch of the handsome, entertaining and free comics there. I was struck by the fact that Baillie is a fantastically great writer. His way with dialogue, particularly in ‘Scribe’ and the World’s Finest pieces, stand out like the shape of a fit model, endowned with intellect and great hips. Likewise “The indiscriminate device”, a powerful work, directed with pace and care.

a dogs tale


tongue of the dead

Like the rest of his website, the comics seem a great lesson in how to present an online portfolio, with something in every medium, genre and style. Television executives, take note.

To end on, my capsule reviews of Baillie’s works to date.

The Belly Button Chronicles (2008)  Webcomic diary of a man approaching thirty. Currently running near 300 pages and full of friendly observations, wit and varying shapes. Could so easily be lazy, but not Baillie’s way.

The Final Adventures of RocketBoy (2007) ‘Wittle’ protagonists in pastels and a smattering of computer-aided lettering in this Weekend Cupid Cutefest extravaganza with jetpacks. Occassionally too shallow and sweet, delivers a finale that made me both shed a tear and laugh heartily.

Tongue of the Dead (2007-08) From the first third of the book, a fluently related sword and sorcery adventure. Great page layouts and realised action scenes. Ordering a copy direct from the author via Paypal for only £10 (p&p included) will get you a personalised sketch too!

A Dog’s Tale – Nonsensical fun and fast-moving adventure narrative containing every something you could want out of a stupid comic. Recommended.

indiscriminate devicemindy pool

The Indiscriminate Device(2004-05) Well rendered scream from the heart.. One of the most affecting comics I’ve ever read.

Kwot – Slow starting science fiction evolves into a 2000AD-esque tale. Super-heroes, Hitmen, Mutants, robots and regular working folk. Dedicated to Will Eisner, containing a lucid and random-ness often found in his work.

Mindy / Pool – The trials of a pool attendant and a famous artist, visualised in classic minimal style. Full of wit, poignancy, sadness and frustration. No ill side effects, these comics have proved very popular with readers on the festival circuit.

Monkey and the Writer – Four shorts: cute and fun.

Scribe – Another brilliant piece of reverse-engineering iconography, or if you prefer, a story about writer’s culture and it’s ability to envelop or remove. Also, taps into universal and hidden notions we get from reading comics. A solid down-to-earth winner.


baillie superman batman

Just Like Greta Garbo (2005)  thinking, ripping yarn with deeply considered attention in this “World’s Finest” story. Visually disperses with show-off realist flash, opting for a fantastical friendly look, coloured using prettiness. Wholly functional and layers of cleverness. I like it, I like it a lot.

How I Learned To Love The City (2002) A short about the author’s big lifestyle choices. Artistic evolution in topic, content and form, with pleasing results. Optimism out of Drudgery.


Cradle to the Grave – Mini meditation on mortality, with anecdotes and Baillie’s running symbolism.

The Dream – Visuals only mini-comic dream diary. Simple and creepy. (2002)

The Ballad of Jack (2003) Short rhyming character meditation. Sensible words on lifestyle.

You can read most of these works and buy them at David’s website, 



Comics That Moved Me: Barefoot Gen

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

I trembled cradling Volume 2 between my palms. The pages jittered in response and I could not grab them. The colour drained from my skin and I gen-sunlightstumbled to a bench and found my place.

No comic has ever given me such an unsettling physical experience as Keiji Nakazawa’s Barefoot Gen. These illustrations of the survivors of Hiroshima, trailing their burned flesh behind them, lips barely moving or falling off. Mutated figures crying for the humanity of a glass of water and a grain of rice. A wise artist reduced to a nest for flies and kept a secret by his family in a city of likewise suffering. Destroyed. It’s a difficult comic to not shed tears over, to not feel ill around. As first-hand documentary, it thumps the floor, strikes the chest and the gut, the head and heart in an ultimate way. It’s affect is profound, ask any who have read it.


“Gen is my alter ego, and his family is like my own. The episodes on Barefoot Gen are all based on what really happened to me or other people in Hiroshima.” (Nakazawa, 2004)
Gen was a child when his father makes his opinion known his country had no business being in the war on the orders of ruling greedy men. A valid argument, that continues to ring out today. The family is shunned by neighbours as un-patriotic, even though Gen’s brother, with something to prove, defies their wishes to fight for Japan.

Nakazawa’s beautiful drawings of Spring serenity of elegant architecture and nature precedes what we know is coming. The atomic bomb turns buildings and bones to dust, sets skin to flame. Chaos scrambles. Father-less Gen must provide for his mother in labour and travels the city of the murdered begging for grains of rice and water. Rain falls and cooks the internal organs of the thirsty. Gen meets a sibling who he saw perish, he is, isn’t he? He looks like him, acts like him, but why doesn’t he know him? Surely he’s just joking about never having met him?

During the 1960s, radical (gegika) manga was widespread in Japan. “Manga artists joined organisations such as the Proletarian Artists League, and contributed to Marxist manga journals..the very act of reading a manga implied making a stand”, writes lecturer Sharon Kinsella. Over time, opposition arrived and by the 1980s, high quality information manga (joho) emerged and artists were recruited into national propaganda roles.

gen the emperorFor a while debate surrounded the media blackout regarding the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The occupying US military certainly confiscated film footage of the bombing. In this climate, Nakazawa created the 45 page comic ‘I Saw It’ about his experiences and in 1972-73, created Barefoot Gen for serialisation. By 1979, the first two volumes were translated into English and published in the US by Project Gen, a non-profit small press volunteer organisation. Leonard Rifas, the one-man force behind EduComics believed comics “had their own qualities as an extremely effective democratic tool”, and approached the group about using their translations.

Gen of Hiroshima made its way around the US’s head-shops that stocked Crumb and Shelton and non-comics counter-cultural products, as well as the sprouting comic-book stores.Historian Roger Sabin writes,

“An anti-Vietnam organisation, The War Resisters League with roots going back to 1923 were to distribute them around the US and sell them through radical political bookstores,peace organisations and religious bodies. The books had no advertising behind them.”

The Project is credited with being the seed for translations into French, German, Italian, Portugese, Swedish, Norwegian, Indonesian, Tagalog and Esperanto. In 1994, Minako Tanabe, a Russian translator with the Project relocated to Japan, and became re-acquainted with fellow volunteers and Last Gasp Publications who ‘picked up the torch’, releasing Nakazawa’s expanded narrative over ten volumes.
Its revitalisation lately is due to these factors and the acceptability of other authors such as Joe Sacco, Art Speigelman and Marjane Satrapi. Perhaps some day the ruling greedy men will get it right, and Nakazawa’s aims will be understood by them.

“I hope that Gen’s story conveys to its readers the preciousness of peace and the courage we need to live strongly, yet peacefully” (Nakazawa, 2004)

I’ll be interviewing Leonard Rifas about his work later in the month here on Alltern8. Keep an eye out for that.

gen double page

Comicking: March 2010

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

Welcome to an occasional collection of comics art, news, snippets and stories of note. Once a month, I’ll bring the easter egg extras that don’t make it to my regular columns, but are a tasty treat nonetheless.
Last month, I wrote of BBC’s Eggheads’ revenge on comic’s creators, and Sean Azzopardi‘s appearances everywhere.
This time round, reviews of some comics I’ve enjoyed and themes of cinema and mental disorders. The times we’re living in…

First though, I enjoyed some great comics last night. Oliver East’s 2005 “The House of Fire To Black Hill”, a clever piece on hill walking and map musing. Richard Cowdry at Bugpowder writes East’s  “new comic is now online and free to read in your own time. It’s REALLY good.”


Liz Greenfield’s “Stuff Sucks” also arrived in the mail. A neat little CD sized comic in a little CD sized slipcase. A bargain at only £4. Contact Liz on her website to find out if there are any left. Such pretty pictures!


Oliver Lambden was at the Angouleme Festival earlier this month with other British Artists Standing Tall And Reaching Distant Shores.Amusing and insightful blog report here.

Lambden’s BLOC featured the work of an artist at an evolutionary acceleration point. This usually bodes well as is. His new project is with co-creator ofThe Rule of Death and Master of Film-like Comics Douglas Noble.

noble lambden

I prodded the lads for further details. Douglas writes, “It’s a series of theatre reviews from the 1930s. It starts on Thursday. And, right now, that’s all you need to know.” My gut feeling looking at their combined output above is that this is going to be fantastic. Keep an eye to

Every time I turn away from Livejournal I miss something great. Usually though, when I need my fix of all that is great about the webs I turn to the Internet Monkey King, Benchilada.

There you can find Ben’s F*ckbrain Comix, an account of life within his “brainmeats” including Tourettes, OCD and Bipolar Disorder. It’s probably the worst drawn comic on the web and so brilliant, I’d like to see it in print form. Ben takes amusing photos of his toys in bookstacks and manages to make eating messed up weird food look genuinely entertaining in “So You Don’t Have To“. I might have a go at that.

Particularly eye-catching recently is his brother Nathan’s Modern Family series: eleven photographed reproductions of classic paints.

Most of all, what I like about Benchilada’s livejournal is the brilliant sense of community that permeates the gaff. Never a dull moment.

Darryl Cunningham, author of Psychiatric Tales received a disheartening email this week from someone who thought he was ‘making fun’ of mental illness. Oh right, this is a news column.Darryl Cunningham has produced a colour chapter for the second volume of Psychiatric Tales. The subject matter is Electroconvulsive Therapy, and it blends years of Darryl’s experience as a psychiatric nurse with his own problems and first-hand account of someone who has actually experienced the process.

Darryl will be attending the University of London Conference on Medical Narrative in Graphic Novels, along with Paul Gravett, Brian Fies, Marc Zaffran and Philippa Parry mid-June this year.

This week I made the mad dash into relaying my experiences with epilepsy through the 24 Hour Challenge. Check out Absence, I think it’s a great piece of work.

leekennedyLee Kennedy makes marvellous strips about weight gain, couch loafing and cinema dreams which revel in pride rather than wallow. I’m sure she’s screwing with our misplaced collective guilt. Although States-born, her style tugs at something reminiscent of trad British children’s comics Beano and Dandy. Recently, she’s been happy and audible over the acquisition of a scanner, so keep an eye on Lee’s livejournal over coming months for stuff like that opposite.

And if you get through that, there’s a huge archive courtesy of the folks at Factor Fiction
Worth hurdling the livejournal blockades for.

Oh yes, and EVERYBODY is about to link to Muppet Wicker Man. Check it out, before it vanishes.

If you have an area you’d like to see covered, or a story to share, I can be emailed at drew.luke(at) on correspondence marked ‘Comicking’. I’m also on Twitter Facebook and right here on My webcomic, Don’t Get Lost, is updated Thursdays.

The Black Panel Diaries

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

In 2008 I assigned myself to fledging London Underground Comics at Camden Market. I’d just taken to weekly writing for Comics Village. The column was Sheridan Cottage, and it felt like the best comics journalism. In that same spirit, this space once a month I’m chronicling similar: selling homemade comics at a free public market. The Black Box is a club venue in Belfast’s Cathedral Arts Quarter. It’s attached coffee shop is renowned for its finest pizza, says Paddy. Over the following months it wil play host to some of the Belfast Nashville festival, The Vagina Monologues, and gigs by The Fairport Convention, Luka Bloom, and PJ Gallagher. On Sunday mornings it also seems to double as a church social function. Weird. No time for either, I’m trying to sell my grandmother for an electric blanket and a packet of cigs.

black panel

The Black Box gives us chairs and space for a donation. It seems their interest is represented in genuine altruistic community promotion. When the Good Friday agreement spun and arranged post-war Ulster back in ’95, a ‘Peace Dividend’ saw city investment grow and a £1 billion regeneration of the Laganside. The Black Box is in this area that’s steeped with literary history. We’re selling comics from thirty-ish creators across Ireland. There’s a full list on the blogspot I set up.

Ok, time for a smoke.

It’s a cold Sunday at 1pm and my trade route in the new brick streets is blocked by a speaker and a group of student types. He’s talking of how three decades of Troubles created an attitude were no-one goes inside or even near the thriving Arts Quarter that they pushed so much money into. Proving his labelling theory, he leads them away.

It’s quieter today although my emergency heating bill is topped up, helped by giving away free mini-comics. Young and old come chat with us. Malachy Coney and his colloquial folk-tales are the subject of a few of these chats. Davy Francis, Will Simpson, Garth Ennis, PJ Holden, and John McCrea. For years, Coney too, has been an authentic Northern Irish known league comics creator. His four book Holy Cross series relayed the experience of Northern Ireland life even better than Ennis’ acclaimed Hellblazer: Heartland. The first Good Craic Comics gives the same poetic flavour with a decisive foray in the adventure genre of a local character. Mycroft Moriarty travels iconic Belfast landmarks: the city hall, the Ulster Museum and it’s sarcophagus, well-known culture spots of the old surviving the renewal.

The second issue of Good Craic Comics has been finished a few years, but funding body NI Arts and Culture rejected Coney’s application. What may have affected the decision was the author’s preference for a local printer rather than out-sourcing to cheaper England. The decision was appealed. Some wonder if there’s something about Mal’s type of comic they just don’t want to publish? Or was it part of the £400 million allocated to building a shopping complex to look like it was created by Michael Bay?

I sell a final comic and must make good on my pledge to copy up a new one for next month. Five copies, says Paddy. We quickly scriblle out the poster for ‘Playing with A Full Decker’ but it’s forty minutes to pack up. Another NI Culture endeavour at the Box, Black Books, is to run fortnightly and we’re invited along for the ride. So Feburary 23rd, we’ll be back again. Camden it ain’t, but there’s something there.

Mal Coney on the Irish Comics Wiki
Cue & Ehh? Interview with Mal.

Comics Pub Meets: Northern England

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

In the final part of this look at comics pub meets across the UK, we’ll be looking at gatherings towards the North of England. The previous three parts have also looked at Ireland, Scotland and Wales.

Birmingham, the beginning of my introduction to comics pub meets, and Tony McGee :

“Founded in 1996 by BugPowder’s Pete Ashton and Jez Higgins, the veteran of pub meets is still going strong. What began as a small press meet up now encompasses the wide world of comics, beer and general pub chat. All are welcome to pop along.”
This is in reference to The Old Fox, Hurst St, opposite Birmingham Hippodrome on the last Saturday of each month, between 4 – 11 pm. Here’s a Facebook listing, You can contact Tony at truestories(at)blueyonder(dot) co(dot)uk and oh look, there’s a Dark Weather collection on the way, along with lots of other indy comics classics!

Tony mentions another meet. Seemingly bare steps along Hurst Street is The Dragon, where on the second Thursday of each month, 7:30 – 11 pm, MC2 or the Midlands Comics Collective meet. Tony tells me they “met through Birmingham’s Stripsearch comic art scheme which started in 2005. Although the MC2 have published several anthologies, the current focus is on relaxed meetings and the occasional convention appearance. If you’re a Midlands based creative type, feel free to come along and join in.” He recommends I mail Laura Howell who writes there’s also a “group interest in individual publishing projects”.  The Facebook group is located here or email Mikey or Laura at info(at)comicscollective(dot, as above)

Over in Telford in Shropshire, Distributor at the Crossroads, Shane Chebsey says, “Fraid not mate, unless you count about four of us having coffee in the shop.” Mmm, coffee. The new Smallzone website looks good, Shane. As soon as I’m solvent again….

This next response surprised me. Ten years ago, an active ‘Pool of indy comics, David Goodman updates,
“I don’t know of any Liverpool comics pub meets, I’m afraid. The one I did go to, only a few people went and not everyone could be at every meeting, so it just kind of petered out… It hasn’t been running for several months. Good luck, and if you DO find out about any in Liverpool, I’d be interested in the details too!”

(UPDATE: At time of reblogging, Jan 2013, the Goodmans have a call out for anyone interested in a Liverpool comics pub meet)

Someone, hook a brother up…..please.

The active Manchester Comix Collective have a Drink n Draw once a month at The Sandbar, usually Sundays from about 4pm. Adam Cadwell says,

“The MCC Drink ‘n’ Draw is open to all, artists, writers, readers or anyone with an interest really. ” (source)

You can find the group on Manchester group on Facebook.

There’s also a Manchester Sci-fi Pub Meet at The Moon Under Water on Deansgate, Saturdays once a month from 12pm. Contacts: Taz and Alycia or others on F’Book.

David Nightingale of Thunderbooks, Blackpool mails, “I’m not aware of anything like this happening round these parts!” The closest seems to be in Lancaster, sourced via John Freeman.  Mark Braithwaite of First Age Comics, in King Street, Lancaster confirms this,

“There is a regular comic pub meet held in Lancaster every third Wednesday of the month at 8pm.

The group is called the Uncanny League Of Astonishing Amazers (ULAA) and the meeting place is at the Gregson Centre, Lancaster. As with most groups the attendance from month to month varies however it is always open to newcomers. The conversation features a wide mix of subjects covering anything involving comics (UK and US), tv/film (from modern day or years gone by).

The group is generally advertised on my twitter page  and also has its own facebook section which is featured on the First Age Comics facebook page.”

Orbiting around the shop, Mark says the group helps keep friends and acquaintances in contact who might miss one another during the week.
Sociable Lisa Wood of the Leeds Thought Bubble highlights “Dr Sketchy’s at Travelling Man every other Wed, the dates are here, Plus Travelling man will also be holding regular small press comic nights soon too. Travelling man hold lots of different events in their coffee bar throughout the year, such as cosplay events, comic doc screenings and comic workshops which pop up on there website.”

Both Johnathan Rigby and Lisa point me towards OK Comics’ Jared Myland, facilitator of Doodle-Boozes since at least 2004, according to the BBC.  On the shop forums Jared writes,“There will be another Doodle-Booze, I’m just waiting for a window in Nation of Shopkeepers schedule… “

I like the cut of his jib.

My final respondent is Paul Elke of Amazing Fantasy, way over in more remote Hull : “There’s nothing like that around here as far as I am aware.” It might be fair to recommend folk DIY their own, less centralised areas benefit well from these community links.

Folks, Have a safe drink!