Saturday, 19 May 2018

In Preview - ‘Slang Pictorial issue 3’ by Nick Prolix.




‘Slang Pictorial’ issue 3.


Created by Nick Prolix.


Black and White - £3.99 - 28 pages.


It’s always a joy to see anything by Nick Prolix, a pal and a collaborator with me on Cockney Kung Fu. But it’s Slang Pictorial where I first noticed his coolly idiosyncratic art work. You can see the mastery, effort and love of the medium in every single panel. He’s one of those artists that pulls magic out of his pocket in a seemingly effortless scratch of a pencil and splash of ink.


Volume 3 is about to get released at Cardiff Independent Comics Expo (C.I.C.E) on the 2nd of June. I’ve been lucky enough to see a sneak preview of this and have just finished reading it all through.


Let me say this, you won’t be disappointed.





It expands on the stories of the gaggle of Londoners featured in the last couple of volumes. Done in iconic black and white it feels and reads like the coolest Sunday newspaper strip you wish you’d seen as a kid. Nick shows his love of European cartooning and sets up a story that is a cross between a crime drama and soap opera. His art is strongly lined with confidant inks and iconic personalities full of attitude and swagger. It is at once dramatic, funny and cool.


But there is a real edge to the characters’ journeys in this overarching narrative. We see the growth of worker’s rights and the lack of tolerance regarding sexual and personal freedoms. You feel the early days of the mixing of religious and ethnic diversity in London and also the problems that came from this mixing. Nick takes the time to make these issues a reality for the reader and for the people he populates his comics with. There are some harsh terms thrown around but they always come with the authentic backdrop of the gritty London streets and pubs of the time. A post war land that was undergoing a revolution. A place of flagrant street crime, wheeler dealer barrow boys, old school factory workers, closeted actors, hard drinkers ex soldiers and a growing feeling of racial and sexual freedom.





These geographical, albeit contrived in name by Nick, areas of London can be seen with historical and nostalgic viewpoints. As his players walk and negotiate the urban landscape you feel the bounce in their step with jazz music floating around them and the chance to find a few quid and booze it up. But there are always secrets and angles being played with. The story plays hide-and-seek with meanings and directions and deploys sharply cool dialogue like a drum solo of pacing and momentum.


I think you are in for a few surprises and possibly a couple of cliff hangers.


You might even recognise a familiar bus conductor.....


Magical stuff.


Go buy a copy.


You can get a copy direct from Nick at C.I.C.E or find him at www.thesheepandthewolves.com He’s also on Twitter @nickprolix


If you do head to Cardiff you’ll be able to get this awesome postcard from him!







Many thanks for reading. 

Tuesday, 15 May 2018

In Review - ‘The World Book of Records’ from Europe Comics.





The World Book of Records.


Written by Tonino Benacquista.

Art by Nicolas Barral.


Translated by Tom Imber.


Published digitally by Europe Comics - Full Colour - 64 pages - £3.99.


Released January 2018 in English language.


The Story - ‘Egg-balancing, hotdog-eating, baton-twirling—these are a few of the records people try to break in order to find themselves included in the World Book of Records. For those who make into the book, Paul Baron, a judge at the publication, is a hero. For others, whose dreams he denies, he's a villain. After one man's plan to achieve renown is destroyed, Paul learns that the man may have lost everything else, but he hasn't lost hope—the hope of joining other record-breakers in the book. But the record the man hopes to break is terrible, and Paul unfortunately has a role in his project. ‘




The Review - I talked about this on episode 149 of the Awesome Comics pod this week but felt like it needed a deeper dive and to show off some of the really great artwork.


There’s something about an opening of a comic where you see that moment before the alarm clock goes off. The city around us is waking up and beginning to get moving. A whole new day begins for Paul as his alarm clock goes off. He works he way through the morning rituals and heads out to the office of the Book of Records. Maybe it’s that you get a sense of the character of both the piece and the central character as he gets ready, it’s a kind of short cut to many little quirks of the story that always makes me interested.


When Paul gets to his desk at the office he checks his emails and sees the normal (for him) series of photos and messages of world record attempts. School kids try to cram themselves into a smart car or a photo of a rattlesnake that someone posted and is writing angrily about not getting a reply. Paul is a little weary of his world, he’s told by his colleagues that he is suited to his particular role at the business because he’s the sort of person who can let people down gently when they’ve fallen short of their dreams. But he is still a little restless.



To punctuate his ennui he heads off to meet a man who has written a 250 metre letter to his father who has passed away. Paul has to tell him that whilst it is an amazing achievement this man has got nowhere near the 800 metre letter written by some Japanese students. You get a great sense of Paul’s life and personality through these short little scenes.


During his travels Paul also meets a girl. Heading to the house of a woman who has written in he watches some hilarious attempts to twirl fiery batons with no success. Seeing the opportunity he asks the girl out on a date. It’s a credit to the tone and art of the story that this doesn’t come across as sleazy or opportunistic in any way but rather actually quite sweet. You really find yourself warming to Paul.


Then the story starts to take a strange turn. Paul receives a letter from a killer. A person who wants to set a rather gruesome world record by killing people he believes deserve it. He goes to the precinct house but is brushed off by a detective who tells him that this is surely some kind of prank. But of course they then find a body that has been dumped in a lake. I won’t spoil where it goes from there but its not what you might expect...





The story has multiple strands and implications but what hit perhaps the most for me was the emphasis on that deluded fifteen minutes of fame. People striving to complete an (often) ridiculous feat in order to give their lives some form of meaning. Paul is us in the story, he sees through the bullshit of the modern age and tells people, albeit sensitively, that they shouldn’t carry on with these attempts and just smell the roses. In one particularly touching moment Paul talks with a man who wants to set some form of record with his dog catching a frisbee. Paul very nearly breaks the fourth wall and tells him just to be happy with his life and that breaking a record doesn’t really have any huge meaning in the grand scheme of things.


As well as being a character study and a serial killer thriller it is also a love story. The relationship Paul forms with the baton twirling girl has reality and warmth. As a reader you really want Paul to be finally happy. I’ll leave you to read this comic to discover if he gets there... 


The art in this volume crosses the line excellently between a gorgeously realistically rendered world and the slightly caricatured facial features that we often see in European comics. Paul himself has a a slightly elongated face that ends in an almost Forsythian chin. Again this really adds to the charm of the whole book. the colour worth is natural and light. This story doesn’t need any bright sudden colours and the city and country scenes are just beautiful to sit and watch. Like the scenery outside the car window on a drive through the countryside with your parents.


Credit also goes to Tom Imber who translated this from it’s original language. Often I find translated comics to have a stiffness to the spoken word. None of that here. For the first time I think I’ll be paying attention to what else he works on in comics.





If I had one criticism it would be that serial killer element of the narrative is wrapped up a little too quickly and conveniently. This is a book that I would loved to have picked up as a series and could easily have run longer in my humble opinion.


I read this comic on the Izneo app. If you decide to have a look, and I hope that you do, then also be aware that they have it listed as ‘World Records Guide’. The title on the cover is slightly different.


Have a look for more from Europe Comics at www.europecomics.com or follow them on Twitter @EuropeComics


Many thanks for reading.

Monday, 14 May 2018

Get ready Cardiff!

Busy few weeks coming up!






Then on the 2nd of June is one of my favourite days of the year! CICE 2018 or as it’s also known the Cardiff Indie Comics Expo. Run by one of our favourite people the mighty Iz McAuliffe this is not to be missed! 


I’m going to be heading down the night before with enough time to get my head down, murder a few hookers and get ready for the day of the launch of the Awesome Comics anthology issue 2. Look at this ace cover by Andy Bloor!





Whilst the second issue is going to be launched as the convention opens you can also order a physical copy or a digital download at the very same moment from www.awesomecomicpod.bigcartel.com


The event is gonna roar. There’s no doubt! Guests include Christian Wildgoose, Laura Trinder, Jon Davis-Hunt, Godmachine, Rob Williams, the Etherington Brothers, Martin Simmonds and many more.


There’ll also be some cracking small press / indie talent manning their tables including our own Uber talented pal Nick Prolix!


Get tickets at www.eventbrite.co.uk and follow the antics at www.ciceevents.wordpress.com


They are also on Twitter @CardiffExpo


Many thanks for reading.

Tuesday, 8 May 2018

In Review - ‘The man in the Gutter: The Collection’ by Dimitris Zach






The Man in the Gutter: The Collection’


Created by Dimitris Zach.


Available at Deadhead Comics, West Nicholson Street, Edinburgh, EH8 9DD.


The Story - ‘Have you ever felt stuck somewhere in between? In between the route to your flat to work and vice versa? In between your desire to create and destroy? In between comedy and drama? In between the gutter? And if yes, what do you do?


Well, we are all different! Aren’t we?! I make comics, Declan, or ‘The Man in the Gutter’ on the other hand, decided to become a superhero!’


That is the description from the back of the collection. It is all that and more. It is quite nuts! Outstandingly so!






The Review - What do we expect from the Comics that we purchase and read?


Do we expect vomit? Do we expect Latin? (See below.) Do we expect a drink named after the blood of our fathers? Or just the appearance of an actual real life comic shop and the murder or a member of staff? Or a superhero with Daddy issues? Big ruddy Daddy issues!


I didn’t expect any of the above but relished it nonetheless. This is a book that will surprise you and also remind you a little of comics that appeared in Deadline or Escape Magazine or Toxic! And the like. If I were running an anthology with an open submissions policy I’d be straight on the blower to Dimitris.


‘You fool.

I gave you the chance to be the light.

The chance to be a superhero.

And you betrayed me.

Now you are cursed.

And instead of flying you will crawl.

And you will remain just.....

The Man in the Gutter.’


This is a book that I first saw after it got posted in the Awesome Comics Facebook page by Dimitris Zach. He was asking for opinions and advice on his work. I was immediately taken with the heavy inking style. Almost akin to something by Paul Grist in his St Swithins Day period but with a more punky edge to its heavy inks and strong lines. This style then evolves in front of your eyes to suit the storyline and also into something that would easily be spotted in a Punk fanzine of the 1980s. (A huge tick in the plus column for me!)





The story is told in a landscape style of a work similar to a Sunday newspaper comic strip. Narratively it flies about in a free form and anarchic style. I like that the creator takes chances with his story and bumps about with the ideas, bouncing (often literally) about and around the streets of Edinburgh. It is raucously meta and self referential. It is also daft and humorously pokes fun at the over melodramatic elements of fiction.


Highly recommended.


Now I need a paper copy!


You can find the creator over at his Instagram account @Dimitris.Zach



(Translation).

For those that have read this and were wondering here is a translation ‘De filibusters bono rum et malorum’ means ‘On the ends of good and evil’. (No need to thank me....)

Sunday, 6 May 2018

A little story about a trip to the shops from Stanley Miller.




Darren 


by Stanley Miller.


After reviewing The Aphid yesterday by Henry Miller I was lucky enough to receive ‘Darren’ by Henry’s son Stanley. Here are a couple of non spoilery images from this fun comic.





It’s a short little tale about a trip to the off licence at the local shops to pick up..... well, I’ll let you discover. 


I read it on the train home and it made me chuckle more than a little.





Cracking comics by Stanley with a cheeky sense of humour. It has a straightforward and colourful style with a little wink at the reader.


Find this new artist over at www.millertown.co.uk and follow him on Twitter @pidgeonflakes



Many thanks for reading.

Saturday, 5 May 2018

Free Comic Book Day - Done.

Excuse the break in regular programming for a little piece about a day out I’m currently enjoying.


Free Comic Book Day (FCBD) started early as I am an excitable freak. The sun was out and shining. I jumped out at Kings Cross and walked the mile of so through the West End of Summer fuelled London.  I passed by the Forbidden Planet at about 8.45am and there were already people in line! I grabbed a coffee for half an hour or so then lined up myself outside of Orbital. (Whilst there I finished the review of ‘The Aphid’, if you look back a post you’ll find it).


(Inside the mighty Orbital!)


So ‘Free’ Comics huh? Well not exactly....


I’m always aware that the comics shops have to pay for these issues and am therefore careful not to pick up comics that I won’t read. Orbital limits you to five each and hands out a handy list to people waiting so that they know what to ask for when they arrive. Orbital really have this sorted. I decided to keep it simple and collected both the Marvel comics FCBD issues, 2000 AD, Valiant and Dark Horse.


(That list and some Shadowman!)

In actual fact I should have put a bit more time and effort into researching the offerings this year as the 2000 AD was in fact called ‘2000 AD Regened’ and aimed at younger readers. I suppose in a way it’s a good idea to tag in the new and younger readers but if there isn’t a follow through with a new all ages series (is there?) it seems a bit of a waste of time. The cover was a bit half arsed in my humble opinion too.





All turned up nuggets though as both the Marvel books (Avengers and Spider-man) as well as the Valiant issue were full of some ace stories.


If you are picking up these or other FCBD offerings then why not do the store and the industry a favour and buy something else to keep them company.





I then headed over to Gosh Comics and caught up with Zoe from Nobrow and her kids workshop that was going great guns! (The queue for FCBD was halfway up the street by this point!) We talked about some future plans that will hopefully (at least partially) get announced later this week. Let’s just say that you might see me behind a Nobrow table at a few venues soon. 




It was also great to see the mighty Crom drawing on the Gosh windows (it’s OK he’d asked permission first!)





I finished the day in the Foyles cafe with a couple of pals and picked this up on DVD as I haven’t seen it since school and I’ll watch anything with McDowell in!


Tomorrow the Comic Mart!




Many thanks for reading.

In Preview - ‘The Aphid’ by Henry Miller.





The Aphid.


Created by Henry Miller.


This is a comic of a kind. A story of a band and the bond between a man, his father and their mutual love of the attitude strewn music of The Fall. Punctuated by the sad death of their cantankerous lead singer Mark E. Smith this got sent through to me by the creator Henry Miller.


This is a book that I initially wondered what was going on, found at moments funny, at moments all kind of infectious, skin crawling and a little sad.


It also has a fascination with aphids.


But as I finished the last few pages I realised that it’s really good!


I suppose this is what the young people call a ‘Zine’ but it is in fact a collection of illustrations, short stories, poetry, music lyrics and comics. I get the feeling that Henry and I are of a similar age and disposition. Music had in our youth that profound effect on us and we latch onto that one character or band that sets us free. Music that was ours to enjoy.






Henry makes use of 1970s and 80s iconography. We see reimagined footballer photo portraits used to great effect. You know the ones, they used to appear in Shoot Magazine or Roy of the Rovers with the player down on one knee with ridiculous hair and a smirk. Long before the odious internet and the even more evil Instagram you could see the awkwardness in the eyes of those footie stars. 


Then Henry cranks the ‘Ewwww Meter’ up in ways I’ll leave you to discover.


It’s brief yet touching. It’s minimalistic yet imaginative in style and format.


It made me want to listen to loud music in the best possible way.


Henry can be found on Twitter @millertown1 and you can grab a copy of this and his other works at www.millertown.co.uk


This book is getting a release at the East London Comic Arts Fair on the 22nd of June. Have a look at www.elcaf.co.uk for more details.







Many thanks for reading.