BOUT!

‘Bout! The Fight-Zine’ is a new short comic by John Robbins.  I love how John tells stories. ‘Bout!’ is funny, a bit deranged and prime twisting. It’s free: go and read it via @ComicsWendy this half hour!

Spide: The Lost Tribes is out on Thursday. In case you missed it, capsule review: two Belfast louts get roped into a Free Presbyterian grail quest, sped by the Dublin-Belfast Enterprise train and through the pages of history. The narrator, Dan Spide, is sat backwards on the journey, now that I think to tell you. I’ve caught most of everything else in the wee novella. The link to give out is https://tinyurl.com/thelosttribes – why not pre-order it in case Amazon crashes?

Advance feedback’s good and today the first full review is up from Chris McAuley at Talking Comics:
https://talkingcomicssite.wordpress.com/2018/10/28/spide-the-lost-tribes-a-novel-by-andy-luke/

The excellent cover is by @TheMarcSavage who was shooting for the Drew Struzan movie poster scale and succeeded. You can also find Marc at @media_large. I’ll be talking about it to Eileen Walsh on @Drive105 FM in Derry Wednesday morning.

At the weekend I was in Derry for Comics City Fest where a good time was had by alcohol. My comrades for the too-old-to-do-this nights drink were the wildcard Darren McCay, and No-Selfie Will Simpson. Here’s a shot of ‘The Ambassador’ with Lightspeed Stephen Downey.

The Comic City event at the Guildhall was bustling popular. Thanks to Dave Campbell and all the staffers who worked to make it be.

National Novel Writing Month is upon us: extreme prose writing and I’m using it to catch up on an outstanding project. When not smashing up telephones, I’ll be scowling at loud grandparents in cafes up and down the country.

Filling in on Patreon this month: 24 hour comics never seen before. That’s pretty big news actually. Should probably be a headline somewhere. Cough, cough.

(All calls are screened before the telephone ejection policy is decided)

Treading the Boards

If you’re near Glasgow this week you can get along to ‘Guide Gods’, were performer Claire Cunningham explores religious narrative and faith through dance, live music, humour and audio interviews with religious leaders, academics, deaf and disabled people, and me.

Guide Gods

Claire’s website has a list of this week’s dates  and according to Composer Derek Nisbet on his Guide Gods blog, the show “is part of the Glasgow 2014 Cultural Programme, and will then travel to London’s South Bank Centre and on to Belfast Festival.”

Recently I’ve struck up rather nice working relationships over Open Mic sessions with musician Jim McClean  and actress Lindsey Mitchell. To this end we’re working on a play together, a condensed Game of Thrones play. We’ll be performing the comic act at the Sunflower Festival, TitanCon and are talking of a screening of the play at a well-known Belfast gallery.

Writing this, I’m surprised that my voice is making the transition to theatre. This last year, it’s been all about the writing. Writing prose over, scriptwriting for comics, feels refreshing and liberating. I feel like I can earn some money if I work hard enough. Unlike comics. a beautiful medium, were grossly underpaid workers are slowly subsumed by a culture of silverfish turned woodworm rot.

Ahem…

Writing prose is enough of a departure from scriptwriting to enthuse: I feel like an amateur who can achieve professionalism and a paycheque. Knowing I have a lot to learn is a great feeling. I’ve been encouraged by the Belfast Writers Group and open mic audiences at Skainos and Lindores. Last month, I applied to return to university on a Creative Writing Masters so I can up my practice.

Parting shot to the world of comics (for now), is the short, Bottomley – Brand of Britain. The product of much research, it’s been adapted with care by artist Ruairi Coleman and letterer John Robbins. Here’s how editor Jonathan Clode pitches it:

Horatio Bottomley, patriot and publisher of John Bull, the newspaper of the people. But behind his rousing public speeches and staunch support of the troops hides a conspiracy that would reveal one of the greatest swindles of WW1.


That’s Bottomley’s mistress, Peggy Primrose, in Panel 4, putting her hat back on after it was knocked off in the squash.

The tale appears in To End All Wars, a remarkable 320 page graphic novel with  stories by a number of established underground comixers. It features the return of the  remarkable Steven Martin of WW1 comics series, Terrible Sunrise, as well as Jenny Linn-Cole, The Pleece Brothers, Sean Michael Wilson, Joe Gordon, Selina Lock, Steve Earles, Robert Brown, John Maybury and shedloads of others.

The book is released on July 17. Copies are available for pre-order now on Amazon or, at the same price, direct from publisher John Anderson at Soaring Penguin Press. Costs £18 all inclusive and proceeds go to Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders.

On Sale Here! Best of Irish Comics – Courageous Mayhem

Courageous Mayhem is a boy’s own adventure style compendium, a veritable who’s who of the Irish comics scene and I’m pleased to host the first website to offer this marvelous comic for sale.

Cover Courageous Mayhem

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PRINT VERSION (P&P INCLUDED) 8 EURO / £6.75 UK

btnbuynow_s DIGITAL DOWNLOAD  3 EURO / £2.53 UK

BUY EXPANDED DELUXE EDITION AND SEE PREVIEW AT BLURB.COM

My new strip ‘Underwater Billiards’ sits in the eighty-four pages alongside the critically acclaimed Paddy Lynch (Big Jim), Alan Nolan (And The Blood Flowed Green), Phil Barrett (Where’s Larry?) and Patrick Brown (The Cattle Raid of Cooley). There are the adept mystics of comicking like John Robbins (The Well Below), designer Archie Templar (The Pants Of), and editor/publisher Gar Shanley, author of Fugger, one of Ireland’s best comedy blogs.

Like any good adventure comic, Courageous has true facts and wild fantasies above and below the waves, in the streets and the fields. There’s bicycles, bombs, biplanes and bikes and The Bible. You can see the full-listing of contents at the Irish Comics Wikia page.

Order now though, your country is depending on you!

NB: AFTER PURCHASING DIGITAL YOU WILL BE REDIRECTED TO A PAGE WITH A SINGLE LINK WERE YOU CAN DOWNLOAD THE PDF. GOOD LUCK!

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Interview with Gar Shanley About New Book ‘Romantic Mayhem’

With the release of a new anthology of Irish comics along the theme of romance, I pulled up a candlelight and soup for a date with editor and publisher, Gar “Uncle Fugger” Shanley.

Andy Luke: You’ve assembled sixteen Irish artists to pull together 52 pages of love comics. From my view, it seems they’re drawing on the heritage of the genre. Is this fair, and was the subject matter a nod to the musicality or populist appeal of the theme, perhaps lesser tapped among today’s zombie market?

Gar Shanley: The genre of the romance comic seems deader than a zombie which I think is a pity because they were popular and, had they survived, they would have played a part in keeping comics from being as purely associated with sci-fi as they are today. Romance comics might have advanced and matured (as sci-fi comics have done …um …maybe) and who knows what could have come of it. What really interested me about these comics was the way they pandered to the (supposed) concerns of young girls. Such sensitive stories, often involving a heroine who worries about how she is perceived by others or what some boy thinks of her. It’s very different to the gung ho of boy’s fare of the time. Interestingly, there is a notable difference between U.S. romance comics and British ones from the late 50s to 60s and early 70s. The British heroines are often quite confident and, despite their better judgement, have fallen for some hapless twit who needs sorting out. I recommend Valentine Picture Library for anyone interested. Some of the stories found there are actually very funny in a ‘laughing with’ as opposed to a ‘laughing at’ way.

Anyway, I thought the genre would be a good jumping off point for an anthology but contributors were free to take things in any direction no matter how tangential. Most stuck to the familiar conventions though. The collection is eclectic but coherent. Everyone gave it their best.

Collectively, we are known as National Tragedy. That’s the imprint name dreamt up by Hilary and Ian over coffee. We might do another anthology or two or fifty or none. We’ll see. If we do the theme/jumping off point will change each time.

AL: It’s a more-ish, representing collection of Irish comics artists; trusted names known by ICN readers. Elida Maiques was one I didn’t know and her weblog has some very pretty pictures giving a fashion item element to the package. Knowing Phil Barrett and Deirdre deBarra are in there, I think this would appeal well to readers of Solipstic Pop or Phonogram. How surprised were you (knowing the artists), by what they added to the dreams in your head? What were the group’s influences?

Elida Maiques

GS: With my own collaborations and Tommie’s great cover I wanted to stick to a recognisable send up of the genre’s conventions and provide a few pegs from which to hang the overall collection. I thought that way the others would veer off in all sorts of directions – although I did not prompt anyone to do so. However, everyone had a good look at the Digital Comics Museum and Cover Browser and we all ended up coming from roughly the same place, which surprised me. Contributors brought their own thing to their tales though – John gave things a modern realist twist and Cathal added a large dose of Douglas Sirk. Mindpuss brought the very bizarre body horror (he’s an odd un and no mistake) and Elida did a Fellini on it. (I don’t really see her work as “fashion item” myself. I think it’s very surreal, imaginative and just plain good. You should try and pick up her own mini-comics at Independence Day). Deirdre and Paddy took the look of the original fare and stuck authentically and perfectly to it, not overselling the gag element. Archie brilliantly combines the old romance style with the old EC style – proper narrative art storytelling from him too. Luke F. is probably the guy who thematically ran furthest with the ball, as in right off the pitch and down the road. I like his two pages a lot. He’s unique. Hilary and Ian provide a splash of vibrant spacious ker-powness/lushness amongst the denser content. Al and Davy bring an old school IPC touch which really adds to the eclecticism and Philip did a great job illustrating and very cleverly designing John’s text story. Last but not least, for me the biggest laugh comes in a promo for cigarette filters courtesy of National Tragedy ad man Papa Hotel.

romantic-mayhem-the-thief-flyer-web

AL: If I’m at http://romanticmayhem.wordpress.com/the launch party at 18 Candem Street Lower in Dublin on  Saturday April 14th from around 7pm I can get a copy. Or at the http://independentsdaydublin.blogspot.co.uk/ Independents’ Day Zine Fair on Sunday April 22nd. Or http://2dfestival.com/ 2d in June. How else may I get hold of the book?  There a few different editions?

GS: There’s no online shop yet but contributor Paddy Brown (you should see his on the nail take of the 60s/70s Brit girl’s comic in RM) will be selling it in Belfast and we’ll get it in as many comic shops as possible. The first run is 300 only and also there is Archie’s excellent deluxe Blurb format. The regular edition is a cheap and cheerful affair. Nothing fancy production value wise. I’m thinking of future editions that will be a bit more fancy pants but a few quid dearer. Part of the reason I proposed this anthology was that I heard of a means by which we could get something involving a lot of colour put together for half the usual price. It’s an experiment of sorts.

AL: How much of the style of your weblog Fugtheworld has worked it’s way into the scripts, and can we expect to see the beloved Uncle Fugger blog in book form some time? It would sit very nice next to a Charlie Brooker collection.

GS: There’s a bit of Fugger in my four RM collaborations but I was trying to keep to the more conventional side of my creative self. That doesn’t mean I was compromising, I was just working that way because it suited the project and I love the results (I’m very fuckin lucky to work with artists like Deirdre, Paddy and Archie). I am likely to do anything on the blog. http://Fugtheworld.blogspot.com Fugtheworld.blogspot.com was actually originally a comic called Fugger but there wasn’t that much of a response to it in comparison to the others I’ve done. The blog has a regular following, nothing massive. I’m thinking of putting something together for regular readers of the blog to send off for. I was recently inspired by a small exhibition of the work of Howard Finster. I’d like to do some comics in that style and also rope in some old friends of mine who used draw amazing comics many many moons ago. We’ve discussed it. I think the next comic I do (anthologies aside) will be Fugger. Not sure if I’ll collect the blog together as a book soon. It’s there if you want it for free. Fugger in print would be original and mainly illustrated material.

Thanks Gar. To see a preview of Romantic Mayhem, check out the http://romanticmayhem.wordpress.com accompanying weblog.

Romantic-Mayhem-cover

Comicking: The January Ashcans

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.

Black Books

Is an independent literary fair, part of the cultural regeneration of Northern Ireland, within NI Culture’s Out To Lunch festival. This weekend Paddy Brown will be manning a stand there, selling work from the North and South, now including Blackshapes’ Phil Barrett.

Keep a look out for special guests!

Eggheads
On Tuesday this week, Paddy completed recording at BBC Scotland for an episode of the knowledge based quiz show, Eggheads along with fellow Belfast comics creators on his team: Stephen Downey (CANCERTOWN) and PJ Holden (JUDGE DREDD) Eggheads features four rounds of specific knowledge followed by a fifth on general knowlege. Teams compete against an Eggheads team of boffs and brainiacs. (PJ’s photo from the BBC lobby here.)

When Eggheads had a cartoonist team appear on the show in October last year, a series of knock-outs and a tense tie-break resulted in a win for The Cartoonists. Could it be that the targeted recruitment of more cartoonists just several weeks after means the Eggheads are out for ink blood or yoke? Be careful guys! Downey confirms this edition of Eggheads had Jeremy Vine hosting, which means it will air over the Summer or Autumn.

(IMAGE MISSING)

Battlefields: Happy Valley is the latest wartime offering from Garth Ennis, published by Dynamite. An air squadron taking on The Third Reich in 1942, over the industrial centre of the Ruhr. Apparently the story made PJ cry.

A panel from Happy Valley is replicated in PJ’s short autobiographical comic drawn in an hour that’s got a great Eddie Campbell quality to it.

Oh Mr. Robinson and His Quango…
Belfast politics are in the news this week as it’s transpired MP Iris Robinson has resigned. She’s had some rather serious mental health issues, undeclared business contracts, lots of cash and the 19-yr old waiter. In the fall-out, her husband the First Minister of Northern Ireland has stood down from his post until the enquiry reaches it’s findings. Oddly, the region’s newspapers are mostly lacking selections from political cartoonists. Here’s some contributions from Stevie Lee on Tuesday, firstly with Peter’s replacement MLA Nigel Dodds and then with Martin McGuinness and replacement First Minister Arlene Foster

(IMAGE MISSING)

Announcing the dates of Derry’s 2D Festival, 2010 David Campbell writes,

“2D, although we are late on the go this year, is happening and will be on from the 3-5th June, in the Verbal Arts Centre and Sandinos, with a similar format to previous years. We are working on guests and contentat the minute and will be publicising the dates as much as we can from here on in, so any help with that is appreciated. Be glad to have you along as an exhibitor again if you’re up for it.”

There are few better ways to spend a weekend than in this real community event and rational for hedonistic partying. It’s the fourth annual festival and last year there was critical debate, Bryan Talbolt, David Lloyd, sketches and workshops for children, dancing and blurred vision. David, my answer is Yes.The 2D website can be found here.

On the subject of Irish political cartooning, do check out these lovely sketches on David’s blog.

There Was More Than One Gunman

Never far from critical clarity, Dubliner John Robbins ruffled a few feathers on the indy comix scene in 2001 with the release of Closing Shots From A Grassy Knoll. The tract explored the motivations of self-publishing cartoonists, and their agendas in product contents agendas through a short repeated question: “Why do you do it?” In many ways, Closing Shots strikes and cuts the small press in much the same way as Roland Barthes’ Death of the Authordeconstructed the culture of writing and the merit of the act when bound to coded referencing of other texts.

Shortly after publication, the text was carried at Bugpowder.com and for a while open to comments and criticism. It’s still a solidly articulate and insightful prose with a directed ire towards contemporary mainstream storytelling. Valuable for discerning reviewers, critics and mostly, thinking creatives on the scenes.

In November, a revised edition was uploaded. If the original on Bugpowder is the ‘Shock’ tract for thinking critically about the comics you read and create, the new edition is the ‘Coax’. Yet perhaps more damning, certainly more directed and appearing clearer: much more relevant to a generation online were alternative transforms to new mainstream.

“Oftentimes there is a misconception among small press creators that they are rebels with suppressed talent, struggling against the might of the inferior mainstream and producing work of greater substance. This romanticised view also alludes to a notion that any production of material beneath the small press umbrella is somehow underground in nature. ”

In requests I publish an interview on the piece, John has stated he prefers the work to speak for itself. John’s new website, Downright Bockedy, is here.

The Baillie Train
David Baillie, author of The Indiscriminate Device and Tongue of the Dead has been blogging from Hôpital Avicenne in Paris, were he and Daniel Goodbrey have been working on something interesting,

“Mr G had been approached by virtuoso architect Valerio Ferrari about a proposed art installation in a Parisian hospital. His  idea was that it would take the form of something like a web comic, but one that would be navigated by physically travelling through a space rather than clicking in a browser.”

More about it on David’s blog where he goes on to document his trip from Paris on Tuesday to a big important meeting at BBC Scotland. (Not for Eggheads, no)
Still, if you want conspiracy, I heard rumours of a meeting of other 2000AD types thereabouts….

The Beagle Has Flown
My stage directions for a renewed British Comics Awards ceremony featured on Alltern8.com last month. It met with confusion from editors and a resounding silence from readers who viewed it in healthy numbers. On the same day the piece saw print, it was to be joined by that of another high profile comics  journalist confirming that there have been developments in The Eagles story. Just before it was put on the back burner for verification purposes.

Escape
Last month, Paul Gravett announced the return of Escape. Here’s what he told me in an email on Monday,

“it is early days and we’re not planning many books to start with. There will be the Escape anthology returning for graphic short stories.”

Escape has a special place in British comics history. Indeed it featured a wealth of talent and over the 19 issues helped to launch the careers of Eddie Campbell, Dave McKean, Neil Gaiman and Jamie Hewlett among others.. Interesting times ahead: the story is here.

Oli Who?
Professional indy comics activist of London Underground Comics, Oli Smith, is writing Doctor Who. According to the recent official Doctor Who Magazine (DWM), an audiobook ‘The Runaway Train’, presumably voiced by Matt Smith and Karen Gillian may be due out this June. In fact there’s already an Amazon entry for it.  The following month sees the release of his first full-length novel, “Nuclear Time” as part of the BBC New Series Adventures. He’ll also be putting some of those comic scripting skills to good use on DWM.

Stalking Sean
I appear to be stalking Oli’s cohort, Sean Azzopardi, whose work ethic is off the scale lately. He’s contributed pages in the shape of “My Only Friend” (oposite) to ’69 Love Songs’ A strip blog interpreting songs from the album of the same name by The Magnetic Fields. (Amazon link) There are also some fantastic contributions by Hum “Lew” Davies, Ton Humberstone, Elizabeth Jordan and a host of others.  A wonderful find.
Sean has also been spotted taking part in the 100 Days project: a creative concept to create something beautiful to make the world a better place. Ahh, that’s nice. Sean is posting his creations at his Phatcatz website.

Oh, and you can read my review of Sean’s action fantasy story, Necessary Monsters right here on Alltern8.com

All this exposure, it’s an arrest waiting to happen.

Radio Resonating Comix
Over the last few years Resonance FM, a London community arts radio, has allowed comics journalist Alex Fitch to present his rather excellent show, Panel Borders. In that vein comes the Alternative Press Hour, a monthly show “dedicated to comix, zines and DIY culture” featuring Gareth Brookes and Jimi Gherkin. The first show features interviews with London Zine Symposium organiser Edd Baldry and Mike Lake, co-founder of Titan Distribution and Forbidden Planet. Broadcasts this Friday (15th) at 9pm and should probably be online by Monday.

Finally, it’s just been announced that Darryl Cunningham’s Psychiatric Tales is to be published in collected form in the US, by Bloomsbury. If you’ve not seen this, it’s worth a look and here it is.

If you have an area you’d like to see covered, or a story to share, I can be emailed at drew.luke(at)gmail.com on correspondence marked ‘Comicking’.

I’m also on TwitterFacebook and right here on Alltern8.com My loud new webcomic, Don’t Get Lost, is updated Thursdays.

Comicking is published most Tuesdays, except for next week as I’m taking a holiday.

(Archive)

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!

Comicking: Small Faire

This was my first column for the now defunct Alltern8.com, dated December 9th 2009

Pete Gravett stood facing the map of the British Isles on photo glass, ten by twenty wide in his study suite. Electron Orange lights illuminated the cities of London, Birmingham, Bristol and Palookaville. Technology to be proud of, live internet feeds delivering realtime updates to his 4D comics arts events calendar. He’d noticed the constellation change these last months, spread out to smaller areas in Exeter, in Telford, Leicester, Richmond and Inverness. This had been going on before that, he thought, accelerating since the Sean Olilamden’s stint at Camden market. The celebrity endorsements and music videos made the Camden set a YouTube sensation and their handmade comics led to them being mobbed by teenagers in a manner reserved for Jagger and Lennon. That populist wave continued with Jimi Gherkin, a folk singer, who would recruit an entire picturebook festival as his onstage accompaniment.

“Point of Sales Mode. Increase parameters to Maximum View”, requested Gravett.
“POS View is in Beta Mode. Buffering…”

The lights flickered briefly. From those representing monthly marts, SciFi, Fantasy and RPG Cons, a manifestation outward, multiplying in number. Recognisably mapping out the number of speciality stores, bookstores, libraries, then all over the NASA hardware display, a swarming. A church basement here, a pub there. His palm hovered over the screen for details on new locations. A workers’ co-operative, a market stall in a northern industrial town, car boot sale and a village fete. The whole country was filled with lights. As it began to map out the PubCons, the machine threatened to overheat.

“Shazam”, he uttered. “Its like some crazy Socialist revolution.”

The internet makes available once again the populist comics form for a mass readership. Through access to news and reviews we can determine ordering printed matter. Or find a bookstore or a comics festival within travelling distance. In recent years, the prices for self-publishing cartoonists selling their wares at these venues accelerated well above the £30 mark. The following Table Prices Controversy led to a split between cartoonists among a class income lines, resulting in an official boycott and numerous unofficial non-participation acts. Some self-publishers saw that one of the solutions was small fairs. In 2008, the collective London Underground Comics sold small press comics at Camden Lock Market almost every Saturday of the year. In 2009, Jimi Gherkin’s Alternative Press held a week long fair, three one-day events and ‘twinned’ with eleven or more other events within the community. Unsubstantiated reports have reached me that Gez Kelly of Golden Orbit, distributor at some of the monthly marts of four-colour boxed backing board comics, has begun to specialise in independent products. Add this to the news that a wing of Forbidden Planet International is running a trial small press section in its Birmingham store and access to original new British comics is increasingly fitter.

As a cartoonist and promoter of the form this gives me a warm fuzzy feeling. In the last fortnight, I presented at two small fairs and saw a lovely selection of comics from independent producers.

Dublin Zine Fair 2009

When I left Ireland in 2005, there was a ragtag of sporadic comics publications and an occassional event, little to call it a ‘scene’. By the time I returned, it was more public, more pro-active. Last weekend, I accompanied Paddy Brown, author of partwork mythology, The Ulster Cycle, from Belfast to Dublin. We were attending the second yearly Independents Day in The Co-Operative Food Building in the Newmarket area.

Publicity-shy cartoonist and ex-reviewer John Robbins briefly made his second festival appearance in a decade and help us set up our stall. I met lots of active small pressers whose names I didnt know, which I’m inclined to think is a good thing. Differing from the cosplayers of traditional Comicon standard, the venue was populated by sexy anarcho socialist feminist zinesters with dreads and piercings and tarots and woolens. Behind my swearing robot comix collections was a Vegan cake stall and next to us, the sale of Palestinian hand crafted items by the Irish Solidarity Group. Not a Stormtrooper in sight! This gave me happy memories of Camden, dealing comics to a varied crowd who hadn’t necessarrilly come in search of them. I was selling around ten comics an hour and my voice became hoarse.

Some local self-publishers I met included Gar Shanley, Luke Fallon, and Deirdre De Barra whose ‘Found’ deserves special mention: a beautiful silent comic about isolation, connection and ascension which delivers love straight to the reader. I also picked up the American “Not Your Mother’s Meatloaf: A sex education comic book” which has a responsible and friendly attitude and an illustration style rooted in zines. Long-running Irish punk zinesters Loserdom were there, and they’d managed to get Jimi Gherkin’s Zine Collective stock on their table. Convention afficionado Cliodhna Lyons even appeared for fifteen minutes to pass on some stock, having flown from attendance at the Leeds Thought Bubble comics event the same day.

With a few copies exchanged at days end, Paddy and I packed up and drove out to Belfast for Phase 2 of our plan.

black box market 2009

The Black Box is a pub and nightclub on Hill Street in Belfast, which once a month opens its doors to a market. Exhibiting is free, though donations are expected. Organisers Helen and Ryan Darragh state,

“we have limited space. So we really have to work it out on the day. We try to do our best by each stall holder.”

Paddy and I laid out our comics and those given to us in Dublin, such as the works of Edition Book Arts, a collective made up of Paddy Lynch, Katie Blackwood and Phil Barrett. We attracted a crowd who were delighted to learn there were so many Irish cartoonists producing their own wares.

A cornucopia of wares presented browsers with varied choices. One exhibitor had Playmobil and Star Wars figures dangling from key rings. Local poet Christine Morrow manned a table were bus route images had become badges and Happy Mondays gig posters showed up on sustainable carry bags and mugs. The Handmade Brigade sold tea-towels with stitched in obscenities, which in their own way were quite amusing. Across from us a vinyl record seller told me he enjoyed the welcome opportunity, his usual sales route through Ebay having begun to dry up. Next to him Dale Mawhinney, a local painter who adapted some of his poems into comics. Across, an Anarchist collective who had Spain Rodriguez’s graphic novel, Che, proudly displayed under Karl Marx’s Capital. About ten of the twenty tables sold a few comics. None were quite so concentrated on the form as ours or the traditional collectors stall manned by Scott, Ron and Karen from The Sunnyside Comics Podcast.

During the day Davy Francis stopped for a chat. Davy worked on Oink! And his round and squiggly humour strips such as Cowpat County were an inspiration to me growing up. We were also joined by Danny Pongo, my co-writer over the last month on humour piece, Santa: The White Paper. As it was my birthday, Paddy and Danny took me for drinks after we’d packed up and we admired the unveiling of a new mural-in-progress nearby of celebrity caricatures.

black box market 2009a

As I write this, my email box dances with chatter about the next Black Box Comics Market, an accompanying website and a mini-comic collection to give out free to interested parties. In addition to the market on the first Sunday of the month, theres an additional date on January 17th there withBlack Books, as part of the Out To Lunch Arts Festival in Belfast’s Cathedral Quarter. In England, Jimi Gherkin has already confirmed the similar 2010 Alternative Press Fair for February 13th from noon to midnight at the St. Aloysius social club, Phoenix Road, London.

Theres a thing about the buzz of so many different people at these small fairs that gets my enthusiasm rising. It happens in a way I don’t get at comics conventions were the public have paid an entry fee and are surrounded by four-colour noise. I like the variety of zines
and baked cakes and comics just fitting in with other stuff, rather than isolated to a hall of their own. Where theres nothing special about comics, theres everything special about comics.
Further comics events throughout the year can be found at Paul Gravett’s always excellent Events list.