More Creators Than Forty “Mainstream” Comics (And It’s Decodable too)

War: The Human Cost, is a muscular 260 high quality stock pages of great comics from Paper Tiger. Cliodhna Lyons and Ivy, singer from band Axis of Arseholes, represent the Irish contribution, in a work that spans 19 countries.

Richie Bush


The project has been several years in the making and is the result of Kickstarter contributions, and collaborations with Campaign Against the Arms Trade and creatives involved in the work of Amnesty International, War on Want and The Red Cross. It’s not light on big names too: Spain Rodriguez, Steve Bell, Daniel Merlin Goodbrey, Aleksandar Zograf and Sean Michael Wilson to name but a few. There’s also a CD, “War and Peace”, which boasts inclusions of Michael Franti and The Spearheads, Big Youth, Sly & Robbie, The Levellers….

herrschulze - stop the war


Given the central polemic (67 creatives on anti-war opinion), anyone would expect the content to move towards arrogantly self-assured. I’m happy to report that any such dogmatic preaching is at it’s bare minimal. Debra Lyn-Williams and Peet Clack’s “War Wounds” shares the hidden narrative ofthe home consequences of military flashbacks, and is one of the many heavy-hitters in this book. Marcel Ruitjers explores the Bush-Nazi connection, a narrative often resigned to the slander of conspiracy theorist, and realises it with right-chord caricature pen proof. Other artists veer off in this direction with traditional cartoon analogy or fables, such as Peter Kuper, Latuff and Lee O Connor

Alejandro Alvarez delivers a relationship between reader and cast, communication and health, mind and power, in a story about Camp X-Ray. It’s one of those based upon real lives, as is Christopher Rainbow’s drawings of interviews with residents of Harmondsworth Detention Centre. This is a particular speciality of Sean Duffield. Together with Lawrence Elwick, he recounts the life of Palden Gyatso (in first person narrative), which acts as a useful tool to teach on the history of 20th century Tibet and the human rights movement there. Thirteen pages proceeded by a two page text introduction is a good example of how Duffield as editor creates unstated chapters in the book, on arms manufacture, detention, propaganda and international relations. His ‘Liberation in Liberia’ charting the women’s civil rights movement, is another on a par with the work of Joe Sacco.

Caging the Snow Lion


Liberation in Liberia


Obligatory mention to Paul O Connell, best known for The Sound of Drowning and The Muppets Wicker Man. O’ Connell has four pieces in total. The fumetti (photo comic) style for which he’s known is employed in an excellent piece on the cold war, and a wonderfully written short visual essay, “Orwell on War”. There’s divergences too. The anachronistic Boys comic classic painted work right out of Middle class England is jarring ripping serenity. The images narrate a boys journey to war, with a pat on the head from the village shopkeeper and the gentleman recruiter.

I’m not going to get into the cd review. A job for another reviewer. In summary, the flaws I find with “War – The Human Cost” are much as you’d expect from me. It’s not likely to be stocked in most FPI or other comics stores due to either mobility problems in distribution or the small-mindedness on a store-owner’s part. For the same reason, it’s unlikely to win an Eagle Award (which it richly deserves to), because voters are likelier to cite Preacher as best new graphic novel. A digital download version would be a wonderful thing I think.

It’s the system, man.

War: The Human Cost is currently limited to 750 copies and retails p&p inclusive at £12 (UK), £15 (Eire) or £17.69 (Rest of World). Make your decision to buy it soon. £1 from every sale goes towards Campaign Against the Arms Trade

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, 



Comicking: Necessary Monsters Collection

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

Necessarry Monsters 2009

Bodies in corridors, against-odds stand-offs, rogue agents, secret lairs and black helicopters.   Richard Bruton of the Forbidden Planet weblog has stated that he loves Monsters’ cliches. While it’s not high concept, to call it unimaginative or derivative alone would be just unfair. Scribe Daniel Merlin Goodbrey long ago staked conceptual turf turning out interactive comics on infinite canvasses, a villain whose self-insight rivals comics theorist Scott McCloud, and a guy with a planet for a head. Some, like myself, would even accord Goodbrey the same status in concept progression as Kirby, Crumb or Moore. His established web-comics commonly explore genres of horror and hybrid western, and are joined here by the monster and spy thriller. Happy anomalies break through: a chicken-head giant with a chain-saw, the inverted and chained Statue of Liberty and other idea gifts, or Merlisms. Fun? Yeah, more than a bit.

The protagonists as we know them seem softer than the ‘monster police monsters’ description given. In the case of the protagonists they’re as much ‘cop monsters’ as taking out bad guys out of altruistic motive. Certainly in the cases of Charlotte Hatred, a haunter of mirrors, and dream stalker Creeping Tuesday their positive humanity is prevalent. In some traits displayed by Jonathon Gravehouse and antagonist Thomas Harp, opposing rogue Watchers Council sorts, they both look human and can come across as not such bad blokes. Apart from the odd bit of within narrative slavery, murder, if you like that sort of thing. The cast is rounded off by downright dirty psycho-paths in the best Krueger/Jason traditions, gimp-masked Cowboy 13 and his arch nemesis, Chicken-Neck. The four members of The Chain are bound together by a chain, networky implants placing them under the organisation’s will and the story concerns Harp’s challenge to their authority. Which is all I’m going to tell you of the plot, because the soul of the series is in the journey, not laminated card battle stats inside some ludicrously priced board game.

This is much harder to write than it is to read you know.

Yes, Monsters’ attributes with Goodbrey’s other works appear. Traceable attributes are far-off from the most well-known output of artist Sean Azzopardi and that is Twelve Hour Shift. A graphic novel about Ed Someone, a night porter struggling to overcome the ritual working and draw his first graphic novel. This sounds a bit boring, which is just how real Shift’s recounting going through the motions is. Balancing the frustration, there’s quiet insights which excel alongside the artist’s poetic reflection and his draughtsmanship of tender visuals. Yet in Monsters’ the cinema is strong directed Western box office to the point were you can hear the grinding of chain-saws and blood spattered over your face while the local cult building spontaneously erupts in flames and your children bang on your windows with hedgehogs over and over until lamps and bookcases where you are sitting fall over.

Necessary Monsters is released in collected edition by ATR/Planet LAR “including updated  artwork across all five chapters and a brand new introduction by Kieron Gillen (Phonogram, S.W.O.R.D, Thor)” (One of these re-workings is the introductory visual at the head of this article) It goes out to comic shops in February for $12.95 US and you can be helped to track it sitting down or standing right now with Diamond order code DEC09 0641. It’s also available to order via Forbidden Planet in the UK  and via Amazon in the States.

Twelve Hour Shift can be purchased through Sean’s website, for the bargain price £6.95 + £2.00 postage.

Merlin Azzopardi 2010


For more details see

Never Mind The X-Men, Its X-Mas!

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

At this time of year, black-belts and red puffer jackets are in. However, before you congeal cotton buds for that handcrafted beard, why not consider the loving homemade gifts already for sale? Comics activists including Andrew Geczy and Matt Reynolds here at Alltern8 and others, have already compiled some lists of easy to pick up comics. The independent press offers items offers items cheaper and often so personalised that the recipient knows they’re one of a kind. And how better to have the gift delivered than right from the cartoonist’s own hand?

For the admirer of Pretty Things…

sallyannehickman 2009

Shopping at fairs, I prioritise picking up the work of Sally-Anne Hickman. Yes, always great value for money. They’re instantly recognisable, emanating sound mellow vibe covers made from wallpaper and glittery stick-ons. Lovely little things, with energetic and youthful scribblings of the author’s comic-book diary, full of character and conversation. In one of my favourites, “Have you got all your cds & things?” we get an honest, fearless and involving tale of a friendship at departure point. These are pocket-size, affordable and lovely graphic novels, all of them. You can email Sally-Anne at sallyshinystars (at)hotmail(dot)com or contact her on Facebook, a link for which can be found alongside some samples at her blog. You should be able to pick up her books for £4 or less.

druane 2010

“One Word for Everything” is a tastefully decorated collection of strips by Deirdre Ruane that should appeal to the fantasist, spiritualist and party-goer in your life, or anyone who enjoys surprises really. Deirdre describes her work better than I possibly could,

“polar bear temps. black holes in language. strange hovering artifacts. racing snails. festival dawns. selfish genes. the kitsch of the future. a caveman who dreams of aeroplanes. everyday time travel. why sex is like ice skating. why spaceships make me cry.”

Celestial festival, friendship and feel-good, melancholic and hilarious; multi-style, patterns and swirls of grace collecting strips from her fast-shifting “Wasted Epiphanies”. More details on the book at the Shop page were Deirdre will accept Paypal.  The collection costs £4.50
Other than the few sample jpegs obtained for this review, I don’t own any wares made by Richy K. Chandler. How could I recommend them for this special time of the year? Behold!

richy k chandler 2010

I have seen these up close and they’re every bit of pretty. The packaging is professionally crafted and the comics, just as much. Made of Presents! For further details and samples, check out Richy’s Myspace page. The “Cosmically Enlightened Gift Set” costs just £5 and the “Mini-Comic Box Set” is sterling value at £10, plus £2 postage and packing for each. Top tip for a tasteful gift, which is    probably too good for High Street shops everywhere.

For the Lover of Comedy….

Ralph Kidson is probably the funniest man in comics. He delivers post-modern pondering, one-dimensional veneer built to hide a variety performance showcase, bare visuals carrying superb pacing, concise character expression and obscenities, lots of obscenities. Ralph is a consummate social commentator, a snorting punk, a fantastic lover and I can count the comics of his comics I’ve been disappointed with on two fingers.

This is the perfect gift for a friend who likes edgy and relevant comedians. So why not let wish them a Sweary Christmas? *ahem*
Ralph’s tactile “Giant Clam” pocket books are a well spent £2-£3 incl. postage and packing from the Forbidden Planet shop. (123)

A few looks at quality mini-comics that won’t break the bank:

For the Artist….

Bloc by Oli Smith and Oliver Lambden

Back in June, I called Oli Smith and Oliver Lambden’s ‘Bloc’ “one of the best UK comics this year” and it still resonates. Doctor Who scribe and general independent comics revolutionary Smith says of it,

“A postmodern fairytale, BLOC is the story of a stone man washed up on the beach of a mysterious island covered in giant floating blocks…”

Indeed. In the abstract narrative within, Smith deals with themes of physics, psychics, play, philosophy and environment. Not bad for a visual instruction only script. Artist Oliver Lambden excels, whipping out strokes of Kirby, Simonson and Moebius in a work that evokes epic qualities of artistic structure. Not only do both creators significantly up their own games, but re-write comics language, stripping away its facade and celebrating it at once. The book is a tidy baige-coloured volume, classy and worked. Affordable stocking filler, definitely ideal for an artist friend. 48 pages, cost approx. £4 from Oliver Lambden.

John Robbins 2009

Iconic models and their environment also feature in John Robbins ‘Inside Outsiders’, another of the finer comics I’ve read this year. Heres his ad blurb,

“Psychosexual subtext pervades this League Of Extraordinary Toy Story as action figures undertake the perilous search for a fellow room-dweller who has fled an emotionally complicated relationship with a promiscuous Bratz doll.”

Robbins’ piece is shorter and wordier than Bloc, but equally a thriller. Its written with comedic mischief, multiple definitions, paradox, and clever pace to the proceedings. Visually, its been crafted loyally with full-figure as portrait style, lacing fantasy within reality and functionality. This excellent example for good comics is a bargain at only 1.75 Euros/$2.50 US/£1.50 UK, postage included. Adults only. Available to buy at Blackshapes Shop.

The small press has also turned out a few graphic novels of note. Some of these are available in comic shops, but before that, some which aren’t.

For the Trad Comics Action Story Fan..

Winston Bulldog

The United Kingdom has had its fair share of larger-than-life comics icons: Dennis the Menace, Roy of the Rovers, Judge Dredd and Captain Winston Bulldog. Over the mid-nineties and this decade, writer Jason Cobley worked with upwards of thirty artists to deliver tales espousing the stiff-upper-lip of Blighty: eccentric, corny, brave and dashing. Alongside his action narrative, illustrators present a highly structured British metropolis, detailed with anthropomorphic and sci-fi scenes as well as stylised minimalist solid designs that are difficult to put down. Some of the strips don’t lend themselves quite so well to the reproduction, but this package is a valuable cultural historical artefact of a generation and an essential reference point in British comics. Simple action dynamics, occasional insightful humanity and some damn fine fun. With a perfect bound full colour cover the complete 208 pages can be purchased for the bargain of £7.99 here.
For the Lover of Myth and Legend….

Ness 2009

“Ness” is the opening work to Paddy Brown’s “Ulster Cycle” comic, were figures and environment gain dimension through directional pen scores and academic research shifts seamlessly into unafraid working narrative. Daughter of the king of Ulster, Ness goes on the run to track down a murderous outlaw, with a looming war between Ireland’s kingdoms for backdrop. The mythology is complimented by Paddy’s occasional lighthearted anachronisms in the script, but the meticulous adherence to source material makes this a fun educational tool as well as a great old yarn. The A5 graphic novel, collects “the full 72-page story in black and white, plus full colour cover, pronunciation guide and seven pages of notes.” and is well worth the £4.99 (incl. postage for the UK and Ireland) payable through Paypal.
Finally, two works which you should be able to pick up pretty much everywhere:

Last Sane Cowboy

Sand and skulls and the disparate wildness of literate West. Daniel Merlin Goodbrey examines contemporary anomalies through the prism of Western genre and computer-aided minimalist projection is that of a modern-day conjurer in this collection of “Tales from an Unfolded Earth”. These tales are sociology: ‘showing’ often only one or two characters, a sense of their connections with an entire society is ominous and eminent. The meta-narratives character studies’ come with personal histories, labour relations and linguistics among flowing sequences and HD coherence. Merlin Goodbrey is best known for his pioneering work on hypercomics, its to his credit that here he accomplishes providence of something with a similar highly personal feel. “The Last Sane Cowboy and Other Stories” is a cult classic and £7 or $13 well spent.  Its published by AiT/Planet Lar and you can find it on Amazon and other places.

Phonogram TSC

Phonogram has re-fuelled my interest in comics, my love towards music and is not only one of the greatest comics being made today but also the simplest.  David Kohl is a phonomancer; he uses music to make magic and because he’s a prick sometimes that goes bad. The other main character of this book is Brit-pop, a revivalist movement linked with Kohl’s essence and rewritten, along with natural reality. In writer Kieron Gillen theres all the aspects of a fantastic music journalist, teacher, poet and creative commercial visionary with tolerable arrogance, taking his cue from Moore’s definition of magic. Artist Jamie McKelvie takes his from Grant Morrisson with designer biography sigils, smart, savvy, smug and infuriating characters. Both lads are to be awarded for bringing real, relevant, clever concepts and scenarios to the audience.  Phonogram Volume 1: Rue Britannia is published by Image and you can pick the collection up for under $10.

Enough from me, Go, load up your sleigh!