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.

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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

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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!