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.”

https://i2.wp.com/www.olivereast.com/files/gimgs/th-21_RS1cover.jpg

Believable.

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!

bastardstag

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 http://thesequential.com

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)gmail.com on correspondence marked ‘Comicking’. I’m also on Twitter Facebook and right here on Alltern8.com My webcomic, Don’t Get Lost, is updated Thursdays.

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!

Well of course it’s not all comic shops !

Over 2008 I wrote weekly for  ComicsVillage.com, during a very exciting time in the UK comix scene..

My columns are concerned with four aspects surrounding comics – social community, economic factors, festival and exhibition coverage and modes of distribution.

One of the ways Oliver Lambden promotes his comic , is through monthly Monday club nights at Inigo, Clapham Junction (as featured recently in The London Lite.) Just one aspect of multi-varied new venues. So, I sent out a few questions to Jeremy Dennis-Day, Cliodhna Lyons, and Malcy Duff, a few of the venue versatile comix artists I know.

Let’s go !

1. You’re an exhibitionist. You love it. Pubs, cafes, community workshops, cinemas…mainly with relation to exporting your comics work and tie-ins… Which other forums, outside comics-specifics venues, have you contributed at ?

Jeremy: Zine/comics tables at gigs and festivals. Ladyfests, especially, always have zine tables. One of my maybes for a long time has been setting up something a bit like this at one of the Oxford nights. Gappy Tooth might be up for it, I’m not sure. I’m not quite sure we have critical mass, though. There need to be a few people zineing, then it takes off.

Womens, alt and underground bookshops and galleries. There are some people who run distro for this stuff, too. Obviously this a specialism — they’re not going to be interested in everything. For a bit I ran a comic with Damian a lot more like a zine, with articles and stuff, inspired by the zine scene.

Galleries, art events and expos — I’ve never moved in on the Oxford Literary Festival but I know other people in the UK have had success with this, notably Jay and Selina. For me — cultural festivals seem to be appropriately vague and I’ve put stuff into several. They need someone agitating for comics before it gets noticed as a genre, though — the Belfast one I went to had a big name comics artist on board. I don’t think this is special treatment for comics — poetry, say, can end up just as sidelined –people tend to focus on what they have demonstrations of enthusiasm and support from.

Livejournal’s a great place for comics, too — and I’m including that because unlike all the web comics places it’s not aimed at comics + cartoonists. I sell with a paypal button, the occasional mini and I do send them all over the world. It’s not loads of people, but I’ve seen other people and I know you can do better. I’m not on there for the self-promotion, though, although it’s obviously nice when it happens…

Malcy : I play in a band called USURPER which is me and my friend Ali Robertson, who runs a label called GIANT TANK.  The TANK used to be a band but has now folded.  I have done a lot of poster and album artwork for the label over the last 5 years.  Some of this was shown in an exhibition I did called I HATE ADVERTISING ( a kinda dumb title but relates to my contradictions in working on those specific pieces ) which was hanged in the Cameo cinema bar November and December 2006.

The gigs I play are organised by my best mate Ali Robertson who runs GIANT TANK, which is a record label which also puts on gigs.  We play together in the band USURPER.  Ali tries very hard to get gigs in Edinburgh (the town where we both stay) because he has to.  It is not a town which encourages an alternative unless you count drum and bass as the latest edge cut, and I ceratinly don’t.  So it’s not easy for him but he does it and has succeeded.  And like Ali I tend to look for alternatives in exhibiting my work because you have to.  I think on the art front there tends to be more opportunties than on the music front but maybe a certain type of art.  Comics still get up people’s noses which is a power and a pain at the same time.

Cliodhna : A lot depends on the type of comics you do.  Some comics only suit the comic scene – anything with spandex is usually only going to appeal to one market or with regards to alternative press comics about making comics [personal pet peeve] are not really going to find much of market outside of the standard comic scene.

All other types of comics usually have a built in “other” market that people don’t think of.  I’ve done a lot of political comics that I’ve been able to display/market at some college gatherings/socialist rallies around Dublin and submit art to socialist newsletters.  I’ve done comics about World War I and managed to dump a few copies at a small book shop focused on history books that wouldn’t normally carry comics.  I also took my comics to a number of fine art festivals.  Most art festivals have an area for artists to sell on the street – normally it’s lots of pretty watercolours and oil paintings but there’s no rule about what you can sell so I’ve brought a folding table along and set out my comics and prints.

My friend did a comic based on work by James Joyce so, as he is USA based, I brought copies over and brought them around to the various bloomsday celebrations [the biggest James Joyce festival] in Dublin one year.  The comic Fetish man works both at comic cons and also at fetish fairs.  A local Irish artist Bob Byrne started a free comic anthology called the Shiznit and he made it a slightly different size to standard mini comics and one of the reasons was it would fit in the postcard holders you find in most coffee shops.  Bob also did a mural comic as part of a skateboarding event organized in Dublin last summer.  Another Irish artist BrenB teamed up with a DJ and had a drawing/music night in a Dublin club – artists drew on one side of large pieces of perspex to the beat of the music while the audience was on other side dancing and watching the artists work.

2. What steps did you take to go about accessing these and is there welcoming environments for doing so ?

Jeremy: Usually, I’ve been approached, I’ve never been very good at approaching people — which means that they have been welcoming, yes! For the festivals I’ve usually been tying it in with workshops, which helps, as you are an attraction, and get built into the organisation that way.

Cliodhna: 99% of the time I’ve had no issues.  Most places that you wouldn’t normally see comics people are generally very up for having them particularly if they see it as something to be used as promotion for other stuff they sell.  With the James Joyce comic, it went down well as people liked seeing Joyce presented in a new way. Most book shops I’ve found are very approachable – most will give you some shelf space on a trial.  Even with big ass bookstore chains the managers usually have the power to buy stock from local writers to make a local interest shelf so no reason a local comic can’t fit on that shelf too.

Places usually associated with fine arts I find are normally the hardest to crack.  When trying to find a venue for 24 hour comics day I contacted a number of galleries that offered space for hire and one that I had even attended a 24 hour life drawing session in so knew it could be left open for the 24 hours but most were stand offish when they heard the word “comic” but they can be brought round if you’re willing to push.  I exhibited some original comic pages at a the irish craft associations gallery space in Dublin recently but I really had a blag my way into the show.

Malcy: I do believe that a certain art snobbery still exists in this country when asked what you do and yer response is the positive “I’m a cartoonist.”  Sometimes you can see faces wither and almost fall off.  A lot of people still do not count this practice as art.  That could be seen as an initial obstacle but I think it’s the opposite, it frees you.  Nothing really good and worthwhile is ever gonna come from large galleries and large institutions, there’s hints, but in the end it is the alternatives from these places, which ignore this set up even exists, that thrive creatively and will make work that is truly important.  Be imaginative and brave and seek out alternatives.  Place yer scribbles in a burn and see if the ink stays set.  People are receptive and welcoming, and approach them with that in mind.

3. What level of reward, financial and creative aid, have these venues provided ?

Cliodhna: Depends on the venue.  The fine arts venues I didn’t get the same level of satisfaction as I was use to at cons as there is less interaction with people.  With galleries theres usually an opening night but then you go away and come back X amount of days/weeks later and you need to rely on the people running the space to give you feedback.  People buying work from a fine art gallery are less likely to email you about your work then say someone buying work at a comic con is.

The same goes for book stores – unless you work in the store you can’t really hang out and see what people’s reaction to the work is so you have to hope they either contact you or those running the shop give you some feedback.  However financially you do usually sell at a higher price points in galleries then you would at a comic con.

Jeremy: Travel expenses are normal for festivals — for workshops, talks, etc. you may also be able to get a fee, but watch out, I’ve talked myself out of a few things I would have liked to do by asking for a fee. Lots of arts stuff runs on a very limited budget! I’ve done bits of journalism off the back of some things, but, again, for no pay. People on the whole don’t seem to be very keen on paying me, possibly I’m just very bad at asking.

Malcy: I find gigs that we play to be good for meeting people and when you talk with other people about your work it can be a creative aid.  It can inspire and encourage which, when you’re working on yer own a lot, is pretty important.

4. Have you any advice to comics artists stepping outside of the comics expo circuit, pitfalls they might avoid ?

Cliodhna: I would offer the same advice I offer to people doing cons – be professional and present your work to the best of your ability.  Sometimes people can feel as they are showing comic work to people who aren’t familiar with comics they don’t need to finish the work to the same standard but if anything the opposite is true.

Jeremy: People you work with will have preconceived ideas about what comics are, and these may not the preconceived ideas you expect them to have, so check.

Malcy: You shoulda stepped out long ago, so get walking.  I’ve never been part of a circuit so maybe you could tell me what it’s like on the inside.  Is it like the cars on a track you get for Christmas?

  • Donate to Jeremy Day’s whose comics are among the best on the interwebs. There may be a new collection out for March 22nd and also Jeremy will be exhibiting for a month in Oxford’s Jam Factory this August ! Has earned.