Monday, 20 November 2017

A Comic Cover.

A Comic Cover.

One of the most popular Pods we have done recently was the episode about comics covers. So I thought that I would choose a cover and talk about it. I chose the cover to The Invaders Vol 1 issue 11.

I find the idea of a comic cover a fascinating subject in our little hobby. It acts as an advert, a sales pitch and an object of art all in one go. You get one go at selling the insides of a comic through what is displayed in (usually) one image on the front of the comic. It's that combination of art and sell, sell, sell that is an interesting crossroads. In many ways it stops us comics fans getting too pompous with our art snobbery. Especially back when this was produced 

I decided to take the plunge and try to explain to him why I liked a certain cover. What measurements should I use in my explanation? Art is completely subjective so how do I measure my love for something? The cover I have chosen is from Invaders issue 11. A comic that was printed and released just prior to December 1976 and features an image by Jack Kirby.

Ah... Jack Kirby. One tick.

Kirby is up there for me. I suppose it's his dynamism that really catches me. That image of the villain on the cover, swooping in a completely illogical way through a wartime hospital ward. All the story is squeezed into one page.

It features Captain America, Bucky and the Sub-Mariner. All classic Marvel characters. That gets it a second tick.

Marvel remains my favourite company. And the so-called Bronze Age is my favourite period. A time of weirdness and experimentation. This new at the time series had Nazi Vampires and reanimated Norse gods. I saw it as the Avengers with some added crazy based in WW2. The fact that the series also often featured a British hero called Union Jack was also a big draw to this London born and bred fan.

So, what am I really saying here. Nostalgia I suppose. It's an easy go to and never that simple. But one of the reasons that this cover came to mind was the good memories I had of it as a kid. Back in the 1970s we grew up reading comics. We didn't decide that it sounded like a cool hobby and get into reading them in our twenties (that is seemingly a modern crime!) Myself and my pals would all be reading Captain Britain or The Mighty World of Marvel and when we could get our hands on them we'd also read some American monthlies. One of my mum's pals lived nearby and her son was my age. I thought he was a bit of a wanker but at least we could both enjoy comics together. Then one day his mother decided she didn't want comics in the house and handed his collection on to me.

This included Invaders issue 11. I still have it. It is now scruffy and dog-eared and I wouldn't have it any other way.

Fucking glorious!

Tuesday, 14 November 2017

In Review - 'Out of Nothing' - Daniel Locke with David Blandy.

Out of Nothing.

Created by Daniel Locke and David Blandy.

Foreword by Professor Brian Cox.

Full Colour - Hardback - 248 pages - £16.99.

The Story - 'Surreal sequences take us from Gutenberg's printing press to Tim Berners-Lee's World Wide Web, Grand Master Flash and more. Spanning millennia, this ambitious graphic novel explores humanity's inherent 'dreaming mind' and its impact on our world.'

It is also the story of a little blue-skinned alien girl who wanders through the events of time.....

The Review - I often ask a creator the question of why they choose a particular subject or period to make a comic about. It doesn't apply here because these two guys decided to make a comic about every time, both past present and future. This is a brick of a book. It is full of big ideas, the biggest in fact. And places us smack bang in the middle of those ideas as they formed. It is intelligent and thoughtful yet also colourfully fun and dreamlike.

'These humans are no longer just scurrying across the surface.... they are beginning to change it.'

Through the history of the Universe and Planet Earth in particular we see many events. We see the science of the creations and we see that comparable and inseparable to this science is the art of nature and of man. Through art we see the world around us and through the scientific developments of man we see the investigation of physics and biology and chemistry and in the intricate evolutionary designs we see the patterns of artistic beauty. This is a book that makes a whoosh as it pulls you down the time stream. From prehistoric fights with lions to drinking in a cafe in Paris to the sand clouds of Mars.
Out of Nothing makes use of time and space both in the narrative and in the style. Whole pages and sequences are allowed to develop in front of your eyes. We see the strands of DNA hang in the air, the lines of connectivity of the web, the clouds of a nuclear explosion and many, many more. I barely remember turning the pages as the scenes move along with intelligence combined with bright star fields telling us the history of the world and full colour comics.

Locke and Blandy use a guide. An otherworldly blue-skinned female child. She can seemingly go anywhere at any time. Each time jump is prefixed with her eyes opening to a scene. She finds herself in Mainz in 1450 in the workshop of Johannes Gutenberg or watching Braque and Picasso discussing art in the Paris of 1907 and then (in one of my favourite sequences) in the 1970s in New York City dancing to a funk DJ when the 'Get Down' hits. Through this alien girl we get both perspective and a wry winking humour. 

'When two human minds really connect, something truly powerful happens...'

The art is simplistic when it needs to be and then shifts gears and pacing to present more complicated images. The faces of the characters have an indie animation style to their often goggle eyed intensity but you are never at a loss to know who is who. At moments we can laugh at the ridiculousness of the human condition and some panels are played for both gravitas and laughs all at once. Don't think this is an overly serious book, it has big issues at it's heart but is done with a playfulness that makes you want to return to read a bit more.

On page 153 there is something that happens. History is given a little tiny nudge. It raised a smile......

I got to go last night to the launch party for this book at 'The Cube' in Shoreditch (many thanks to Zoe from NoBrow for inviting me) and got to spend some time with the two Daniels. They were both hugely excited about the book finally being released and spoke to me with grins on their faces about tackling such a big subject. They have been friends and comics creators since meeting at University. We spoke about the process of creating something and also the process of observing its formation, standing back and looking at what you have done. It wasn't lost on us all that being at a launch party is itself part of this chain of events.

They described their little blue-skinned guide as both a Muse to figures in history and also the aforementioned observer. She is the glue that holds their story together. She is also be great fun to write and draw.

When I was talking to these two guys I could see the passion they had for their project. They both spoke about the artistic process and their particular take on it with a refreshing thoughtfulness. I'll be looking for more from these guys from now on.

This was the last book launch of the year from Nobrow and yet another triumph. Geis, Dalston Monsterzz and now Out of Nothing. Bloody hell! How much better can their catalogue get? A big thanks to Sam, Zoe and Emma for keeping me in the loop and letting me see some of the best comics out there. Roll on 2018!

David Locke is an artist and graphic novelist based in Brighton. Much of his work has been informed and shaped by the discoveries of comtemporary science.

David Blandy is an artist who works with the image in the digital world; highlighting our relationship with popular culture and investigating what makes us who we are.

Find out more about this book and grab a copy at or follow them on Twitter @NobrowPress

Many thanks for reading.

Sunday, 12 November 2017

In Review - 'Mann's Best Friend' Sophie and Scarlett Rickard.

Mann's Best Friend.

Written by Sophie Rickard.
Art by Scarlett Rickard.

Published by Gluepot Books.

Full Colour 164 pages. £14.99.

The Story - Terry Mann has a dead-end job, a raft of mounting bills, an annoyingly needy sister and an inordinately large dog called Eric. One day whilst minding his own business at his office he is called in and suspended for a theft he claims that he did not commit.  He get's drunk and stupidly annoyed with Eric and does something he shouldn't have. 

What will come out of this spiders web of emotions and fraud....'

The Review - Occasionally I stumble across a book that hits a chord. A book that I want to shout about because it deserves a much wider audience. This is one of those books. I devoured it on a long train journey back from Wimbledon Comics Arts Festival last weekend. It's not a short read but I managed to read it without putting it down - a mark of quality in the Esmond household!

I am old now and past (mostly) blokeish posturing so I don't mind saying that I am a softie. I also a big fan of dogs. I have a dog and he wanders up to me when I get home every single day. I won't watch movies like 'Marley and Me' because I know I'll end up a gibbering mess. So when I met Sophie and Scarlet this weekend and they handed me this book I was straightaway onboard but as I read it my stomach was in knots. I was shouting at the book 'Don't do that!'

It's OK, it all ends up pretty much fine towards the end of the book (kind of) but it had me worried and invested and emotional and embroiled in this comic. It is genuinely compelling. The quintessentially English small-town characters are written with warmth and skill. The book works as a drama, a mystery and creeps up on you with a love story that is in places platonic and elsewhere romantic. People are people and that is perhaps the highest praise I have for both the writing and the art.

One of my favourite scenes is where a couple are chatting and a phone keeps ringing in front of them on the desk. They don't want to answer and the panels switch backwards and forwards to them talking and the screen of the phone. 'Mum' calls or Terry's boss and so on. This was written with some excellent pacing. It's easy to a certain extent to show a man punching someone or a spaceship crashing or a submarine surfacing but to keep that pace up and make it interesting in a scene just about a phone ringing and the implications of that small moment is really the sign of good writing and art.

Scarlet in the art department feels like an indie comics version of maybe Posy Simmonds with some of the more iconicly simple facial features of Scott McCloud. She works well with the intimate personal moments and also weaves in a landscape that you feel familiar with. A couple of the early pages seemed like she was trying to cram a bit too much into a panel but this soon shakes itself out to some beautiful spreads and a gorgeous double page spread towards the end that I would happily have on my wall at home. Just gorgeous stuff.

Come on Esmond.... stop blubbing....

But seriously. Buy this book. You'll love it.

Head over to and follow these creators on Twitter @GluepotBooks

Many thanks for reading.

Sunday, 5 November 2017

Never Cross a Stripper!

For those not signed up I thought I would repost a piece that got sent out on the Cockney Kung Fu mailer that myself and Nick Prolix slave over every week.

You cann sign up over at

Let uss know what you think...

I was recently at Notting Comic Convention chatting to Rachael Ball about her comics and she showed me an anthology that I had previously not seen. This was a book entitled Ye Olde Axe. She pointed out that it contained a story with the characters she used in one of my favourite books of the last year 'The Inflatable Woman' So I picked it up on an impulse.

It's actually a pretty darn good anthology. Rachael's work is always great and alongside hers you get a strip from Tim Hassan 'Royal Blue Finish' that looks and reads like a Charles Burns story and another favourite of mine for this volume is 'Feeding Time' written by Elena Jessup and art by David Hi Cooper that has a married couple pole dancing for a gaggle of strange aliens. 

Getting home I realised that it was an anthology that heavily featured the pub of the title. This is a pub with a rich yet slightly grubby  history. Situated at 69 Hackney Road in East London it is a Grade 2 listed building. The introduction to this anthology also tells me that in 1979 workmen discovered dead bodies buried underneath the basement.

It is situated in the Shoreditch area. You might know this is as the centre of the hipster world in London. An area of ironic hats, overly crafted beards, deluded artists and musicians spending mum and dad's inheritance and all the connected nonsense. (Just Google 'Rise of the Idiots' from the still brilliant TV series Nathan Barley and you will get a full dose of what I mean.) The pub is now a combination of gig venue, hipster hang-out and pound in the pot stripper bar for needy city gents.

When I visited this area in the early nineties it was an altogether different deal. Shoreditch in 91/92 was a crap-hole. There's no getting round it. I was living in inner city South London at the time and used to Brixton, Camberwell and Peckham but this East End flea-pit had an altogether different vibe. As you wandered the one-way system you saw all the junkies and prostitutes that you used to expect of the East End. But they were more in your face than anywhere else. I was there working with a colleague a couple of days a week and got to know the area pretty well.

Part of our day would take us to Ye Olde Axe and I got to know the manager and some of the staff quite well. For those that aren't acquainted with the etiquette of a London stripper pub here are a few pointers.

1. Act like it is a normal pub. Sit and drink and chat with your pals.

2. Take plenty of pound coins. 

3. Don't stare. There will be weirdos aplenty in there that have that locked down. 

4. A lady (normally) will strip in front of you, on the pool table, on the bar, or if you are in a more 'classy' establishment, on a stage with a pole.

5. One of the strippers will walk around with a pint glass and you put a pound in it. Even if you just walked in or 'wasn't watching' or 'in the loo' or 'about to leave' you still have to put money in the pot.

6. Never cross a stripper. They will cut you!

Back in the early 1990s this was a rough as fuck venue. I was quite fresh faced and in my best Marks and Sparks suit. I was prey. Strippers would play on my flushed face. My colleagues would chuckle at my naivety and slam me on the back and insist I buy the next round. I remember that there was one stripper, a slightly older lady who would be announced by whichever member of bar staff who could be bothered as 'The girl who was mean't to be here is late so the cleaning woman is gonna do a turn.' This stripper used the stage name 'Jo King' and would then strip whilst singing a Hilda Ogden inspired song. No doubt hilariously encouraged by my colleagues I got home one night much the worst for wear with a note in my pocket that read 'As long as you have a face, I'll want to sit on it x Jo King.' Different times I suppose.

One time a particularly tall and robust stripper asked to go to a swingers night with me. She said it was in a bar at the back of the High Street and that with me looking younger than most of the other men who go there I'd be sure to 'pull a good-looking bird.' Thankfully I declined and then some months later saw the aforementioned bar the centre of a News of the World scandal (with some eye-opening photos).

This pub was a strange combination of hardcore drinkers who were there mainly for the beer and some jaded strippers. It was a strange sight for me to see a lady literally putting it all on show to someone at a bar or at a table and the punter to be kind of not really bothered. At the time it seemed that these punters weren't looking away from some kind of embarrassment but rather through just having been there and seen 'that' most days of the week. I remember thinking 'Come on guys! She's really trying to dance. At least watch!'

I saw a fair share of fights in there, bottling and people being given a kicking for being too 'handsy'. The staff seemed in a strange way quite evenly handed. The strippers were offered protection, people crossed the line and felt the end of a boot because of it. Thankfully this wasn't my scene.

It was actually a surprise to see that the pub is still operating and seeing the anthology brought back some interesting memories. The world has moved on. Improved in some ways and driven itself to a sea of shite in others but some. Ye Olde Axe will go eventually. It represented a strange part of my life. 

Not sure you can still get a copy of this comic. It seemed to have been edited by Tim Hassan (I'm only guessing here). But if you ask him at you might be able to source a copy.

Many thanks for reading.

Thursday, 2 November 2017

Preview - 'It's Cold In The River At Night' by Alex Potts.

'It's Cold In The River At Night.'

Created by Alex Potts.

Published by Avery Hill Publishing.

112 pages - Full Colour - £9.99.

The Story - 'Somewhere in an isolated area of Western Europe, Carl and Rita rent a house on stilts.

Due to the pressure of spending so much time in each other's company, cracks in their relationship start to appear. To relieve the pressure and secretly hoping to meet someone he can look up to who will take him on as an apprentice, Carl embrks on a search for the last remaining practitioner of an ancient local tradition. His quest brings him to a craftsman who is very different to the type of man he was hoping to find.' 

The Review - I think that it's a subconscious belief amongst the more neurotic members of the human race that it'll be the small things that will eventually destroy us. The petty jealousies, the crackpot delusions that we will one day be popular, successful or even likeable.

Alex Potts is a creator that I have now met a couple of times. He has that special type of laconic and dry humour that I enjoy. It's that type of humour that gloriously refuses to reveal itself to the stupid.

'It's Cold....' gives the reader an example of the small-minded and impractical adult man. A person that many of us fear that we have become. Alex transplants his story into a strange and unusual world of a house on stilts, over familiar landlord and an under appreciated girlfriend (maybe not that unusual then?). It has a logic of a supposed reality that is often only valuable through the life lessons and parallels it draws for us in the so-called modern and progressive world.

In saying that it tells us to grow up and buck up and in doing so is angrily and brilliantly obtuse. The spoilt modern and needy individual is laid bare in a joke of a man. We laugh at his delusions and self centred pratty behaviour. But it satirically describes the state of that modern man and his feelings of insecurity and lack of worth. It is funny and telling.

And.... let's face it, we've all been on that sort of holiday in some way or another...

Why the heck Mr Potts chose to tell his story in a broken down house on a river with boat shaped coffins is gloriously a loss to me as the reader. But I really enjoyed the ride it takes you on and it has a real pay off (that I won't spoil for you).

Does the creator wish us to draw more conclusions about the nature of death or is he just taking the piss out of us?

I suspect and hope it's a little of both.

Dreams, laughter and nightmares. Isn't that all there is to life?

This is released by Avery Hill on the 16th of November. If you pre-order you can get yourself a sketched in copy. Head over to

Or follow Avery Hill on Twitter @AveryHillPubl

You can find the creator at or follow him on Twitter @AVPotts

Many thanks for reading.

Monday, 30 October 2017

In Review - 'Robert Moses: The Master Builder of New York City'

'Robert Moses; The Master Builder of New York City.'

Written by Pierre Christin.
Art by Olivier Balez.

Published by Nobrow Press.

110 pages - Full Colour - Softcover.


The Story - 'From the streets to the skyscraper, from Wall Street to the Long Island suburbs. Every inch of New York City tells the story of one man's mind: Robert Moses, the 'Master Builder" who designed the modern metropolis.. More influential than presidents of mayors, Moses brokered control of the Big Apple and built a city beyond imagination.'

The Review - New York is a city that I and many comics fans hold a great affection for. Through comic books and movies and novels it is a city that we know better than almost any other. It has a personality and a bussle that we feel and know through our nostalgia for the tall buildings, seedy bars, parks with horse drawn carriages and muggings, and most especially water towers. I genuinely find it to be one of the wonders of the modern world in vibe and scale. Seeing a book like this explain and expound on the origins of much of what I and we love in this city is a big part of it's enjoyment.

The book has exactly the same sharply cool art and style of something by the late Darwyn Cooke, full of tailored suits, twin sets and pearls, scotch tumblers, groovy trad jazz, seats at the bar , and so on that we see in works like Cooke's Parker adaptions or in more recent television like Mad Men or Boardwalk Empire. It is a feast of art showing spectacular historical settings with the people and mood to match.

But let's also not forget that this is a lesson in the creation of a city. We follow Robert Moses on his single-minded crusade to build a hub for people and their recreation and jobs and transport and homes that everyone could flourish inside. This book walks you through his upbringing, origins and business dealings throughout his life. It does this by both showing the widescreen cityscapes and maps as well as the discussions, debates, arguments and business deals that go on in a more boardroom or personal one-to-one scenario. 

Pierre and Olivier also stray from this path of pure history on the odd occasion to show a pause in the rush-rush of big business. Robert and his friends/colleagues go on a road trip in an open top car and in that moment Pierre proved to me that he could write these characters with a really endearing quality. It works on these differing levels and also has that feel of a Frank Capra movie. Totally cool and delightful all in one graphic novel.

On the odd occasion in my humble opinion Olivier the artist grabs the obvious stock footage of an historical figure and uses it as reference but I think this is fair in a book that leans so heavily on telling the facts. For the rest of the book the art is flawless. I was literally stopped in my tracks by a number of pages, a fact that can be proved by checking out my excited postings on Twitter.

This was originally printed in France under the title of 'Robert Moses, Le Maitre cache de New York.' before getting a translation by Nobrow. This is the softcover treatment and is an absolute steal at only £12.99.

Pierre Christin was born at Saint-Mandé in 1938. In addition to the ongoing Valerian series, Christin has written several other comics oneshots, including The City That Didn’t Exist, The Black Order Brigade and The Hunting Party, all illustrated by Enki Bilal. Among the many European comics artist he has collaborated with are Enki Bilal, Jacques Tardi, Alexis, Raymond Poïvet, Jijé, Annie Goetzinger, Daniel Ceppi, and François Boucq. This is his first collaboration with Olivier Balez.

Olivier Balez is a long-time comics artist and children’s book illustrator who resides in Chile. He has illustrated work in virtually every genre of comics, collaborating with Florence DeCamp, Eric Corbeyran, and Pascale Fonteneau, among many others.

Find out about this and other books at or follow them on Twitter @NobrowPress.

Many thanks for reading.

Saturday, 21 October 2017

In Preview - 'Porcelain: Ivory Tower' from Improper Books

Porcelain: Ivory Tower.

Written by Benjamin Read.
Art by Christian Wildgoose.
Colours by André May.
Letters by Jim Campbell.

Published by Improper Books - Full Colour - £14.99. 

There's so much I want to say about Porcelain: Ivory Tower, the third instalment in Benjamin Read's and Christian Wildgoose's epic series. But I can't..... there's so much going on here. SO MUCH! Moments, words and whole panels will open your eyes to guilty secrets, unspoken loves and duplicitous confidants. And, hmmm, 'Ivory Tower' - what could that mean?

Sometimes a book series affects you so emotionally during the reading. This is a book that moved me. I count Christian as a friend of mine and have never been so proud of a chum as I am now.

I first met Christian at the the KAPOW! Comic Convention in Upper Street, London during the summer of 2012. I was sitting with Dave Houghton and Marc Laming being bored by a certain self-obsessed artist and we were trying to extract ourselves from the conversation. I was saved by 'The Goose' who handed me the black and white ashcan preview of the first volume. I was struck with how fresh, original and gorgeous it was straightaway. He signed it, I read it, sensed there was something special going on here and stuck it in a bag and on a shelf.

Roll on October 2017 and the third volume has just landed. It is darker and denser than the previous volumes. If volume one had a Gimm's Fairy Tales vibe to it this third volume has become more of a Russian epic. It's narrative reach is far and wide and the cast has grown, and grows during this volume, to a world full of war and politics and deep emotions. It has gone from a morality tale to a broader metaphor for the implications of power, and family, and violence and playing with the lives (and deaths) of a range of people. Every single character is fully realised on the page. I feel like this is a world that I have known for decades.

'I have been a soldier in both my lives. I vowed to keep you safe, remember?'

Read and Wildgoose expand the story making logical use of the complications of the years and the situations that this city experiences. It is more than you expect. Much more than I expected. It is gloriously elaborate in story and also in the intricately captivating art on show. I can't go too far in the description as it will expose spoilers, but... people who we think we know change. Their change is in many ways inevitable. Their change can be seen as unpreventable in the situations they face. This is a story that lays out in a fantastical setting the actual reality that a ruler or commander must face and decide on actions in the harsh cold moments of wartime. But, and here is a warning in advance, this comic will break your heart.

I wrote to Chris six times as I read. Six times this book affected me on a deeply emotional level. Good fucking god this is good. (He may well have now blocked me?)

This is a collaboration between writer and artist where you can't see the join. The words the characters utter are part of the visual that you observe. The flow throughout the panels is as much the writing as the art and it is impossible to separate the two. I have yet to show page two of this volume to anyone without them saying 'wow'. The changing of the seasons is once again used as a storytelling technique to pace out what happens and to give scenes resonance. This is the splendid culmination of a finely honed epic, you see everything on the page, every emotion and moment you need to see.

Don't make a mistake by thinking this is a prissy fantasy story. This has a sinister heart to its story. It is set within a war, a siege. The world is full of hard-hitting fighting. There are some brilliantly executed sudden shocks to the system. The soldiers and 'warriors' have a classical design to them that only goes to emphasise the stabbing and punching and shooting stuff we watch. Think Sharpe with tanks fighting androids in a Baltic castle and you might get somewhere near the vibe?

Hugely worthy of mentioning is the perfect pitch of the colouring by André May. He treats us to each chapter and season change with a whole new palette of shades of colours. His work adds so much to the richness of the reading experience.

Again, I really want to share with you the panels, scenes, words and sequences that mean't so much to me as I read.....but I can't. This is such an experience to read that you really need to buy a copy and try it for yourselves. If you have never bought anything on my recommendation then this is the place to start. Trust me, this series will blow your mind. Intelligent, graceful, frightening, beautiful and heartbreaking.

Make sure you don't read it in a Costa Coffee at Kings Cross.....public sobbing can be really embarrassing!

Porcelain: Ivory Tower got released at last weekend's Lakes Comics Art Festival. As part of the book you get an extensive section on character design by Christian along with some great pin-ups by Kate Brown and Jon Lam.

You can currently order a copy exclusively from Page 45 here

Find out more about Improper Books at or on Twitter @ImproperBooks

Explore more of Ben's writing at or follow him on Twitter @Bookpirate

 Explore the beautiful artwork of Christian Wildgoose (who is also the current artist on Batgirl at DC Comics) at or follow him on Twitter @MrRiktus 

You can find André May at

Jim Campbell handles the lettering and can be found at and on Twitter @CambellLetters 

Many thanks for reading.