Friday, 21 July 2017

In Review - 'Chunks' issue 3.



'Chunks' issue 3.

Written by Matt Garvey.
Art by Cris Canfailla.

The Story - The punk rock band called 'The Pineapple Chunks' continue their shambolic rise to fame. This mentally unhinged band manage to cadge themselves a guest spot on a cool drive time show out of a radio station in Los Angeles. A show conveniently called 'You Got It From Dick!'

Of course nothing goes to plan. There is a robbery and some added 'complications'....



The Review - Get ready for one of those really cheap comparisons. Chunks is like a mixtape of 'The Bash Street Kids', 'Airheads' and 'The Filth and The fury'. How does that work? Now pay attention because I actually carry on by reviewing the content and not making shit-arse comments.

Chunks issue 1 was the first comic I encountered by Mr Matt Garvey. It's also still my favourite (with Ether a close second). He throws any Social Justice Warrior type caution to the wind and is gloriously and triumphantly irreverent in a comic that has such incidents as an old woman getting smacked in the face with a tin of fruit, two band mates having a really crap fight, a rubbish robbery attempt and the sexual assault of a bagel.

(Don't lie, we've all looked at a bagel and had the same thought...)



Matt and Cris do not give a flying fuck who they lampoon, take the piss out of or throw into the mix. There are no feelings being bruised because everyone gets a fair dose of the poo stick! This comic is rude, sexy, violent and very funny. It also has a 'told you so' ending that had me smiling.

We need more like this....

Matt writes some dialogue that is a cross between what you hear people say on the bus and what you really want to hear people say on the bus. Sharply cutting and full of punk character at every turn. I kind of get the feeling that Sid himself would get a few chuckles from this comic.

Cris on art perfectly renders the tone that is required in this comic. He has a great feel for character and motion. (He also perfectly depicts the sadness of the bagel - loved and then left alone on the shelf!) I can't wait to see what he comes up with next. 

I luckily got to see a preview copy of the last issue of the current storyline and highly recommend it to passing strangers, bakers, punk rockers and even Social Justice Warriors.

Head over to www.mattgarvey.co.uk to grab a copy or follow him on Twitter @mattgarvey81 



Many thanks for reading.

Wednesday, 19 July 2017

In Review - 'Women Who Kill' illustrated by Sarah Tanat-Jones.

'Women Who Kill'.

By Sarah Tanat-Jones and Deevine Devans.

Publication Date - 30th June 2017. (48 pages - ISBN: 978-1-908714-41-1).

HHardcoover - 12 x 16cm.



'Women Who Kill was released in early June this year and is an adult nonfiction title that tells the tales of nineteen female murderers throughout the ages. Beautifully illustrated by Sarah Tanat-Jones it is an informative and gruesome title for anyone with an interest in crime, comics and illustration.'

'There is nothing more shocking than the story of a homicidal woman. It contradicts everything we are told that womanhood should be about. And yet, history is splattered with violent femmes. This book profiles nineteen murderers from through the ages: the self-defenders, the vengeance seekers and the psychopaths.'

This is a new release from Cicada Books. A company that I had previously missed out on but came across when they recently contacted me prior to the East London Comics Arts Festival this year. They have actually been a busy bunch of folks since 2009 producing illustrated books for adults and children and based in the north London area.

This book tells a history of what was once stupidly referred to as the 'fairer sex' but seems timely given movies like 'Atomic Blonde' and 'Wonder Woman' showing us that women are often more than capable of kicking our males arses round the room. (And then apparently slaughtering you and maybe a few of your friends?) This will convince you to be a little more careful when you are rude to the woman at the counter in Starbucks or you cut up a female driver when you are rushing to get to work! Watch your ass men folk! These women are not to be messed with (Mr Wardle, my fifth form Physics teacher may have been right all along? And to think I just assumed he was going through a painful divorce?)



To be fair, this isn't a comic, so not something that I would normally notice or review but an exception is made here for a couple of reasons. The art by Sarah has a sketchy, airy immediacy to it's pages. A keen and sharpened eye to design has the colours floating and stabbing in washed out red, grey/blue and white. They have an iconic edge that tells the story really well as you turn from story to story. Each 'murderess' as they used to be known has a single striking illustration followed by a short summary of their punchy, kicky, shooty, stabby, poisony (I'm stretching it a little bit there) offences. Faces stare into the camera, hands reach for poison bottles, offenders celebrate and dance under nooses hung from trees and so on.

A small niggle would be that the writing side of the book seems a little bit like it could just be something you read on wikipedia. A little more flourish and poetry would have lifted this more (but that's just my humble opinion.)

It is however and grand little book. Around A5 size it has an iconic cover image on it's hardback and is only £7.95, absolute bargain.

Grab a copy at www.cicadabooks.co.uk or follow this exciting company @cicadabooks.



PS This book also made me feel fortunate that I am far too old to be bothering with internet dating!!

Many thanks for reading.

Sunday, 16 July 2017

Small Press Invades Swindon!

The Incredible Comic Shop in Swindon has some spiffy new premises in The Plaza Brunel Centre and welcomed the great unwashed of the Small Press Community to a Small Press Signing Day on Saturday the 15th of July. I popped along and bothered people.



I crept in to support some pals and it turned out to be a great day with plenty of footfall. It was an event organised by the Mighty Sarah harris who is a comics fan and a regular at this shop. She wanted to be involved and spread the love of comics, she told me. Sarah devours comics and has been a friend of The Awesome Comics Podcast since it began. It was great to see her and chat about small (and big) comics.



The guest was like a line up at Wormwood Scrubs. My old mucker Vincent Hunt was there with his comics The Red Mask From Mars, Stalkerville and his new 'Mandy the Monster Hunter' stories in the Comichaus anthology. (Higghly recommended)

Tune in to the podcast I'm on with Mr Hunt and Dan 'Guns' Butcher as we'll be having a good old chinwag about the event at www.awesomecomics.podbean.com

Pop over and say hi to this particular gangster at www.theredmaskfrommars.com or follow him on Twitter @jesterdiablo



I bumped in to Matt Garvey at Membury Services and grabbed some fuel/breakfast for the day. We chatted about his new and upcoming work and I can't wait to see issue 3 of punk band tomfoolerycomic  'Chunks'! Here he is in a photo trying not to look 'awkward'! 

Matt is a machine and sells comics like hot cakes! (It occurs to me that a lot of moaners could watch and learn from this creator!)

Find Matt at www.mattgarvey.com and on Twitter @MattGarvey1981


Creative beast (and I mean that in the nicest possible way) Nick Prolix was there. He is a class act! His work (as shown above) has such a great quality to it's line and execution. He was there selling his retro story anthology 'Slang Pictorial' to Swindonites. Yoou need to see this guy's work! I'm currently working on a story with him and I am loving every moment of it!

Grab some copies at www.nickprolix.bigcartel.com and follow him on Twitter @nickprolix


Matt Gibbs and Sara Dunkerton are two of the funniest and most talented people in comics. Their anthropomorphic adventure series 'Mulp' is a freaking masterclass in quality art and detail. I grabbed a copy at C.I.C.E. last weekend and got a great sketch from Sara.

This is gearing up to be one of my books of the year and you seriously need to get in on the ground floor before they hit the big time.

Headd over to www.mulpcomic.com for a copy and follow the mice adventures on Twitter @MULPcomic



Lasst but never least was comics power couple Emily 'Baracus' Owen and Gavin Mitchell. Both of them were there with their freshly relased comics. Emily has been a soaring success with her mental illness diary comic 'Brain Shoodles' (tripling it's Kickstarter amount in under ten days) and Gavin had the absolutely flipping amazing 'Trolltooth Wars' (see if you can spot me being unhelpful in it's pages?)

They are also two of the biggest promoters of the medium on the scene and great fun to stop by and chat to!

Pop over and get a copy of 'Brain Shoodles' at www.emilybowen.bigcartel.com or follow her on Twitter @TomboyPrincess.

Grab 'Trolltooth Wars' with art by Gavin and written by PJ Montgomery at www.thetrolltoothwars.bigcartel.com and follow him on Twitter @bobgoblynn


Excuse my language but this was a fucking excellent day and Sarah Harris put on a great show for her local comic shop that hopefully will grow in to many more in the future. I cchatted to all the tablers and they had a great day both socially and in sales. A credit to the shop and organsier running such a smooth day!

I got a chance to chat to the guys from the shop - Troy Loveday, Johnathan Brown and Keefer Bishop and they are hugely enthusiatic about the medium and spent the day chatting about actual ruddy comics - very refreshing!



You can find 'The Incredible Comic Shop' at www.Theincrediblecomicshop.co.uk or at 21 The Plaza, The Brunel Centre, Swindon, SN1 1LF.

Many thanks for reading.





Sunday, 2 July 2017

A Lost Article.

I wrote the below piece in July 2014 and thought that I would check back in with the sites selling this artist' work. (The piece originally posted on Beard Rock but that site has now gone).

Some oieces are selling for more than £7,000.

I will allow you to make your own minds up.


Last week I was followed on Twitter by the Imitate Modern Gallery who are situated at 27a Devonshire Street, London. I had a look at their site and saw that they are in the middle of a showing by artist Rich Simmons called 'Kryptonite'. I contacted them and paid a visit this week as they were getting ready for a party. They are a smallish space packed full of buzz and activity as I walked through the door. Walls of Marvel and DC Superhero inspired paintings surrounded me. Big and colourful seemed the catch words of the day. Many of the images I recognised as straight from the comics page.

Being the hard nosed comic fan I was all ready to plough straight into artist Rich Simmons for his casual acquisition of art by Neal Adams, Jack Kirby, Brian Bolland and the like. He appeared from the basement of the Imitate Modern pop art gallery with rings around his eyes and a tired look. His weary look soon changed to a welcome exuberance.

So I started softly. I asked him the obvious 'Why comics?' I have to admit to being a bit off guard when he described his love for our medium. Admittedly when asked for influences he went for the obvious - Alan Moore. But he broke this down in an interesting way. He explained that his favourite character is Doctor Manhattan. It's this character that heavily influences his style. Colour me intrigued I thought? Rich went on to explain with gusto that it's Manhattan who has the ability to break down things and recreate them as something new. This is what Rich proclaims to do. He takes elements of many pieces of art and modern culture and builds them up to pass on a message. 

'I'm glad that I can do a show and pay respect to the comics that I read growing up.'

Quoting Batman and Iron Man as other favourites this artist went on to describe how he grew up reading Marvel comics and learned to draw by copying their style. He is inspired by the old silver age marvel comics and quoted Jack Kirby as a huge influence.

Rich stressed that as an atheist he can see the draw in the heroes from a quasi religious standpoint. He referenced a piece of his that is part Superman and part Jesus Christ. Heroes of the silver age were gods he told me, they passed tales of morality. Superman himself had a father 'in the clouds' and that was the starting point for that particular piece. He strikes an interesting point. Throwing ideas freely about in our conversation.

'This is a social commentary show'.

One of the points of the exhibition he told me was to hook the viewer in with iconic superhero images and to give then a twist. A perfect example of this is the image of Superman and Batman kissing reflected in the sunglasses of a woman looking on and crying. I jumped to the opinion that this woman was Lois Lane. Rich was quick to suggest that it may not be and that he leaves this to the viewer. Some people had suggested it may be Wonder Woman and some that it was just a female fan. He uses the cliche of the Pop Art Movement to smack some sense into the observer. Hooking the eye with bright iconic images before pushing morality on them.

'Gay men can still be superheroes.'

Rich was keen to show that his art has a moral meaning. Be it sexual freedom, feminism (one image has Wonder Woman ironically on the cover of Playboy) and materialism (we see a dramatically posed Captain America covered in YSL logos). The images are certainly striking. Many of them push an idea on the reader that does represent societal issues and this is something we discussed. In many ways comics have always been the frontline of diversity. One only has to look at The X-Men and their alienation, Peter Parker's teenage angst, the Black Panther and so on. 

Does this exhibition work? I am going to say that it does as social commentary. It's in your face. It's bold and big. Of all the pieces it's the Wonder Woman that carries the most power for me. As a comic exhibition it lacks richness. The artist has gone for iconic rather than storytelling and as an old comic reader I spotted his 'influences' immediately in almost every canvas.

But.

There's the rub.

The art in places is not original. Rich admits this freely and claims homage but I can't help but be reminded of Jack Kirby's family and their fight for his original art to be returned. Or artists who couldn't afford healthcare in later less productive years. The fact that Rich has shown an homage to the mighty Neal Adams is a worry. (He might be better off if Mr Adams never heard about this!) It's not only the Silver Age of Comics that Rich homages. I spotted a John Romita Jnr Spider-Man (albeit rendered into 3D) and a Dan Jurgens drawn Superman. All of the canvases cost my monthly wage each - incidentally.

Rich wasn't backwards in coming forwards in discussing this and told me that he hadn't had any real hardcore comics fans attend yet but hoped that they would visit. He's started work on a comic himself and enthusiastically discussed it with me. I found myself warming to this chap. He's exhibiting in the Bowery in Manhattan through to August and was visibly excited when I mentioned that Kirby grew up nearby and that the New York Comic Convention is taking place just after his showing.

I am still pretty conflicted by this sort of art. It does seem to be the built in the fallacy of the Pop Art Movement that snarkily normalises the free range acquisition of what it considers to be lower brow art. Since Lichtenstein cheated his way up the expensive art world ladder this sort of art has become every day. Eventually being mimicked and sold in every card shop and cheap seaside gallery. Being commonplace doesn't make it right. During my visit to the gallery I pointed at each canvas and loudly explained who the original artist was. Rich tells me he has problems remembering names.

Rich is however message driven. He has the vigour of youth. He leaves me with the message that it was his love of the medium that has been on his mind for many years and that combining it with his own personal art is a technique to get his principles across. Let's face it, who is gonna argue with Batman? If he wants to kiss Superman who is going to stop him?

I leave the gallery voicing the hope that maybe this show will get some people into comics? But I am worried by the nature of the works 'homage' coupled with a high art world prices.

 His enthusiasm was contagious however and I was pleased to hear that he helps with a charity www.artisthecure.com (so give it a visit).

You can find Rich Simmons on Twitter @richsimmonsart or at his website www.richsimmonsart.com

The gallery is www.imitatemodern.com and also on Twitter @ImitateModern

After checking it out go buy a comic. We could do with the numbers. I have been shy of posting the art within the review. For a healthy balanced view why not visit their website and then try a local comic shop.

Thanks for reading. 

You can find me on Twitter @Ezohyez or in the Comics Section here. I am also heard ranting about the Bronze Age of Comics in local ditches and bus shelters (or at www.neverironanything.blogspot.com)




In Preview - 'The Human Beings' issue 2 from S J McCune.


The Human Beings - issue 2.

Created by Stuart J McCune.

Published by Millicent Barnes Comics.

The second issue of this strangely creepy anthology series and the one where you begin to sense that there is a plan in place. I sense a viciously dark overlaying consciousness. It radiates out of my tablet like a digital Videodrome.

Stuart again reveals some secrets, hints at others and lets the world he creates gradually open in front of your eyes.

A book of visually haunting poetry at every turn. The words and emotions that pass between the creator, the comic and the reader are often complicated and this is something that I relish in every panel of Stuart's work. It has one of the most intelligent progressions of story and theme that I have read in a comic for a long, long time. The creator plays with perception like no other, reading us as we read it - I sense and suspect many things in the to and fro of conversation, emotion, action and pacing. Appearances are often deceiving and the words cement a nervous uncertainty in the reader. I am one thousand per cent along for the ride.

'I fade in. I fade out.'

The Human Beings and Monologue before it take that chance of freezing on certain moments and feelings. We get reality at different speeds. Sometimes the action is amped up and fast and frenetic and then at a moments it is halted for the reader to sit and ruminate on that captured second of time. Triumphantly playing with the medium. Those words that are spoken will echo onwards, bouncing back at the reader when the void orders it....



The stories vary in length and carry themes that involve human relationships, assassination, science fiction and more. For me, much of Stuart's stories begin and end in the faces of the protagonist. He has a specific style of cool with their appearances and the words sway and flow like a jazz song (we even get a little bit of an appearance from the mighty Ornette Coleman in one short one page story). 

'A man who's done a lotta time says it doesn't exist.'

It is also a comic that isn't only serious. 'Mecha Love' hilariously tells of a character's anxiety of telling his partner that not only she isn't the one for him but also that he knows this because he can see the future! 

The Human Beings has moments of danger in it's eyes. I wonder constantly what it means and when it will swerve past me and suddenly confront me with claws out.

I'm trying not to give too much away. It is without a doubt a series that you need to experience for yourself. This book connects with you, I would even go as far as to say that if you don't understand his work you may need to turn off the trash you are ingesting and get serious! Sit up and pay attention. There are things going on in these stories that need close examination. I was lucky enough to see an early copy of this and also under strict orders not to share. When it does reach your in or letter box then relish it and re read. That's an order.



After some disappointing backings on Kickstarter over the last couple of years this is the creator who brought me back to the crowd funding system. His work is always really quickly financed and so it should be. Watch out for the stretch goals and added extras he sends out too. Get on board!

'To all the people who believe that they've met me and not the guy I pay to be me.'

PS. I dare you not to fall in love with the story 'La Mancha'. One sweeping and gorgeous story told on the horizon before that beauty is transposed elsewhere. Excellently paced and a frame is needed I do believe!

Buy yourself a copy of this and more of this creator's work at www.millicentbarnescomics.bigcartel.com and follow him on Twitter @StuartMcCune



Many thanks for reading.

Wednesday, 28 June 2017

In Preview - 'Primas' from Alberto Pessoa


PRIMAS.

Created by Alberto Pessoa.

Based on research by Loreley Garcia of the Federal University of Paraiba.

Based on real experiences. Translated in English and published by Stache Publishing.

'My husband always told me "You depend on me for everything. You are nothing without me!" 'So I told him to fuck off!'

And so begins the story of Rosa. How she moved back in with her mother, couldn't find work and made the decision to work as a prostitute in a local Brazilian bar. For some time this seemed to go well. She made money, felt in power of what she was doing and earned a load of money. But things have a habit of changing....

According to what I see daily on social media the practise of not realising quite how great we have it in the UK seems a daily and growing business.

Occasionally you are brought back down to earth by something you see, read or encounter. This is a book that grabs you by the scruff of your neck and takes you to this reality and shows you it in an unflinching fashion.

It describes one life. That of a woman named Rosa. It describes the events of her young life.  A series of experiences that are not really something that you can describe as complex but are emotionally powerful and physically impactful. I'm not someone who I would describe as naive. I've encountered much in fiction and in life but the brutality of one true feeling moment in this comic brings a part of our world in to sharply focused clarity. The violence of the single drunken encounter that begins this story and is later dealt with in more detail is a moment that changes Rosa's choices and those made for her.



This is made all the more shocking by worrying failure of those around her both friends, colleagues and her employer to help her out. What kind of life is this if such an event is seen as part and parcel of the world. Even when a kindly stranger offers to taker her to the hospital after finding her wandering in the road she promises sexual acts in return - covered in blood she is drunkenly unaware of a kind act when it's offered.

It's moments like this that ring the bell of real life when I am reading. No romantic whore with a heart of gold saved my a good man. No bag of cash under a bed. No child saved. Just cold hard facts displayed in this comic art form.

'..... I only cried that one night...'

Nothing is black and white. A fact that you are reminded of throughout this book. The first half of the book almost has you admiring Rosa. She's a singleminded woman. Prostitution is a choice she makes. She describes how she holds the power. Dictates what she does with her body, who she's tells and what cash she makes. She enjoys the feeling that she is popular and wanted. This enjoyment of the moment seemingly blinds her to the chance of violence.



Even the word 'Primas' has two meanings. One is a 'female cousin' the other is a subtle way to say 'prostitute' - I suppose in the same way that 'Escort' has become a subtler word in English. 'Puta' is not translated yet still has the power that it is intended with both the actual men and women in the story and the writer. (A slang term for whore, I find out through Google, is seemingly spat out at times in the story).

The art in the story makes use of large panels that focus almost entirely on the faces of the players. We see them in their respective situations and the art is kept simple and to the point. Pessoa uses heavy blacks as a style choice and they work well. If I had one small niggle it is that the cover is not representative of the interiors? (I realise that I am reading a preview copy so this may change).

The ending is not an end to me. Just a change in direction. The use of symbolism works so well in the final pages. As the view shifts and the world turns we are reminded that some things are there, constant, in the dirty dark corners. Brilliant stuff.

The book contains some great back material including interviews and photos of the town and those living there with comparisons to the art used.

The project is due to go live on Kickstarter in July and is well worth a punt. Keep an eye out for it.

Pop over to www.stachepublishing.com to keep updated on the project and follow this interesting new company @Stache_Comics on Twitter.



Many thanks for reading.




Saturday, 17 June 2017

ELCAF 2017 - The Friday Review.


Friday is definitely the day to go I decided to remind myself next year, quieter and calmer than the weekend. In the burning hot early afternoon sun I bumped into co-founder Sam Arthur outside The Round Chapel in Hackney, he waxed philosophically about the hard work that had gone in to this year's (and every year's event). I then headed in. ELCAF had begun for another year.


This venue is now in it's second year as a home for the festival. A main hall of tables and a DJ has a quieter and more peaceful balcony above the hall. You can sit there and read purchases as I often did throughout the day. Adjacent to the main hall was a workshop and art room with a talks room nearby. Outside there are two marquees for further talks and tables as the weekend got busier. I took time and sat with the events organiser Angela Francis and it's artistic director Ligaya Salazar. Both were taking a well earned five minutes break as the event got into it's stride.


You can really feel the optimism in the air. ELCAF and it's parent company NoBrow are really holding open that door between experimental art and comics. People are pushing was can be done with the medium more and more these days and there is no greater champion of this approach than this crew. 

The content of ELCAF is something that is examined from every angle. A curated exhibitors list again this year with an eye to who has something new being released and access is given to creators on the Friday that may not necessarily reflect the same table structure on the weekend. Ligaya told me that this was to allow the opportunity to exhibit to as many people as possible in a very competitive field. I have to give a shout out to the volunteers as well. Helpful to a person. At least a couple of times over the weekend I was asked what I had bought and what I was looking for (eat your heart out MCM?)



I managed to catch up with some creators as well. Andy Barron is someone who I have been following since he sent me his trippy and (almost) indescribable book 'Mantra'. A colourful, psychedelic assault on the senses that deals with growth, death, sexuality and stripped down human emotion it is highly recommended. He has a new book out inn the same universe called 'Tantra' that I then went and sat and read. More of the same gloriously infectious crazy examination of a world far beyond the norm. 

Find out more about Andy at www.andyillustrates.com or follow him on Twitter @omcommics



II then caught up with old pals Avery Hill Publishing. Ricky Miller and Dave White had that creative locomotive of Tillie Walden with them. 'The Hill' continue to put out exceptional work that never fails to wow. All involved with running this groundbreaking company do so in conjunction with busy day jobs. Just goes to show what can be donee when you put your mind to it. Highly recommended from their recent releases is Goatherded by Charlo Frade.

Find out more about Avery Hill and buy some of their books at www.averyhillpublishingg.bigcartel.com and follow them on Twitter @AveryHillPubl


I finally got to catch up with Josh Hicks. I got to interview him for downthetubes last year when he released the hilarious Glorious Wrestling Alliance issue 1. It was great to hear that issue 2 is on the way with a possible third issue next year. He's recently paired up with the folks at Good Comics and was releasing Human Garbage at ELCAF. An anthology of his shorter stories it has the greatest contents page ever in print!

Head over to www.joshhicks.co.uk to grab a copy. Follow him on Twitter @ajoshhicks



I finally tracked down Todd Oliver who had been as kind as to send his new series Boxes into The Awesome Comics Podcast. We are all fans of this comic. I did an audio interview with Todd that'll be appearing on the Pod soon but can thoroughly recommend Boxes as a crazy and original slice of life comic (if your life was like a Monty Python animation). I bought all three print issues (issue 3 was released specially for ELCAF) and grabbed a couple of £5 sketches as well.

This was actually Todd's first convention and it was great to see he was quite the popular figure. I can see this guy only getting bigger and bigger on the scene.

Get yourself some mind menacing comics as well at www.toddoliver.bigcartel.com and follow him on Twitter @ToddOliver 


Next to Todd (who is on the left in this photo) was the man only identified mysteriously as Pencil Bandit. I hung about chatting to him and Todd for some time. I even got this excellent 'Batman' from him.



Find more Banditry at www.pencilbandit.com

There's been a a lot of talk recently in the comics community about the validity of Conventions these days. Many seem to be thinly veiled cash grabs based on the use of 'Comic' in the name and then cramming the place with plastic toys and fading celebrities. I would suggest that to those who seek a Comics event with true creative credibility that they look to the East London Comics Art Festival.



A visual feast of comics art and community this is in my opinion the UK Comics event of the year. I have been going for the last few years and have never failed to walk away with a sense of the real creativity growing up around the brilliant home grown comics indie publisher NoBrow. Always a hubbub of chatter, music and fun and original designs this is an event for all. No fanboy cliques here. 

OK, I'll admit it. There is a higher than average number of nose piercings and quite an annoying DJ playing music (please note here that I am old!) but generally the vibe is great.  You know what? In a way it's kind of refreshing that I don't recognise that many people inside. Fresh faces are always needed. Go away and create.....        

This is easily one of the high points of my comics and art year. Comics should be accessible to everyone. The creation from idea to being in someones hands being read is, to me anyway, what events like this are about.       

Find out more about ELCAF at www.elcaf.co.uk or follow them on Twitter @ELCAFest

There's still time to make it down for Sunday?


Many thanks for reading.  

Wednesday, 7 June 2017

In Review - 'Be Pure! Be Vigilant! Behave! 2000AD and Judge Dredd: The Secret History' by Pat Mills.


Review - Be Pure, Be Vigilant.

Written by Pat Mills.

'Through a minefield of imbeciles and chimps.'

It occurs to me these days with worrying regularity that this hobby we hold dear is both being forgotten about by the average Joe and also at the same time being taken advantage of by big business. Like an American being sold Tower Bridge we seemingly throw ourselves into paying to see movies, buying merchandise and waiting with unbridled enthusiasm for the next big tv series.

Global organisations are taking the characters we love, giving them a commercial rub down and booting them in to movies of varying style and substance. As many of my friends (or 'comics lifers' as I like to call them) we are dubious of this bubble and when it is going to burst.

''Cappuccino Comics....'

So. Let's do something that we are often rubbish at doing and plan for the future. Let's plan for when the funkos and pencil case money grabbers back away. Let's plan to make popular and well crafted comics that will support this creative and splendid industry.

So, who do we look to? Who do we pay attention to? May I make a suggestion? This may be either completely groundbreaking (if you are an ignoramus) or the obvious choice (if you have a regular sized brain or better). Let's turn to those editors, writers, artists, letterers and professionals who have succeeded in the past in turning the industry round.

First on that list for me would be Pat Mills. Often called the 'Godfather of British Comics' he remains a veteran with more passion for the medium than a busload of millennials. And if you want an education on how comics can be both good and popular (no that isn't a swear word) then I couldn't recommend his new book more highly. If you have seen or heard Pat give an interview then you can hear the enthusiasm in his voice as he reads this book aloud. A passion for the UK comics scene that is unmatched. Eloquent and knowledgable, this book will knock your teeth out!

Of course we learn from our mistakes and the advice of our elders. Those who fail to get advice are very rarely heard of again. Pat came from the publishing world of the 1970s. Comics creators worked on word counts and thinly fleshed out and generic characters. What Pat did, along with John Wagner, Alan Grant, Kevin O'Neill and others was turn the industry on it's head by connecting with the feel of a nation. Action and followed by 2000AD where turning points in both comics culture and the society they reflected. They dared to have a frenetic hard edged pace and added to it a violently satirical narrative.

When Frank Bough ripped up a copy of Action on the BBC you knew there was a shift happening. Comics were changing and keeping up with the rebellious punk nature of the times. This book is a goldmine of advice. Read it and learn. It is also full of anecdotes that I will guarantee to have you chuckling. On the 2000AD Thrillpower documentary Pat let rip. Hilariously and with authority this book is very much in the same vein. As you read you can see that wry smile on his face and his eloquently energetic style. Pat and those other faces of the time were brave enough to rip up more than a single issue, they changed comics in ways that we all know are still felt here and in America.

This is also a book that is clearly an honest account. Falling between an account and a memoir it will open your eyes to a lot of the shennanigans from 2000AD's rich and long history. A forty years that hasn't always been plain sailing and Pat covers both the good and the bad times. A book that never holds back and a book that will also instruct us how and why comics are made.

'Paddy McGinty's Goat.....'

The story starts in that garden shed in Scotland that Pat and John Wagner shared and moves through to the London of the swinging 1970s when word count was King. The early pages are full of anecdotes about such comics as Hotspur, Valiant, Tammy, Cor!! and and Lion. We hear about individual stories like 'Yellowknife of the Yard', 'Cinderella Spiteful' and 'Boo Peter' (a parody of Blue Peter). Pat compares the comics 'Factory system' of the time as similar to the street scenes in Metropolis. Heads down, working long hours and enslaved by and uncaring overlord.

'Who or what is Judge Dredd.'

When it came to 2000AD this new comic idea fought through some not insubstantial nay sayers to be born with some incredible ideas, art and stories. Laid out her in detail and with no small amount of energy are the early origins of all our favourites. Most especially is the birth of Dredd, a lawman who is now etched iconically into our social and cultural memories he had some significant birthing pains himself. The sculpting and nurturing of the idea is mesmerising and, as far as I know, never gone in to with such detail. Originally envisaged as a parallel to England's last hanging judge and gifted the name of a reggae band of the time this police officer was to undergo some significant reimagining on the run up to Prog 2 and finally his first appearance. 

''Spanish pirate....'

From there Pat covers all the major and original 2000AD characters and how they began. Flesh, Harlem Heroes, M.A.C.H.1, Ro-Busters, Invasion, A.B.C. Warriors..... the list goes on and on. We begin to understand the landscape of the times and reflect upon why and how it has changed. Why one character is popular and one isn't can come down to a number of intriguing factors that I will let you read the book to understand. The section on the creation of Nemesis and Torquemada is delved deeply into, a history that I share with Pat in no small way. What is considered to be by many the Prog's greatest creation has a heartbreaking origin full of abuse and cruelty. You can hear the sadness and honesty in the text when Pat says;

''Nemesis the Warlock was my catharsis. It was my poetry.'

We also hear some excellent stories of those characters who were and still are intrinsic to the scene both in the 1970s and up to and in this more modern period. Creators like Doug Church, Gerry Finley-Day, Tony Skinner, Leo Baxendale, Simon Bisley, Neil Gaiman, Jenny McDade, Alan Moore, Matt Smith and many, many more. Pat champions those that the history books seem to have ignored and talks really touchingly about friends and colleagues over the years. (The Tony Skinner section is worth the cover price all on it's own.) The sometimes fractious relationship between the editor and the creators and the writer and the artist is both telling, shocking and on occasion eye brow liftingly intriguing. (Who were those night time calls from?) 

The narrative doesn't limit itself to the Prog but also to titles that followed. We get the history of Misty, Toxic! and a personal favourite of mine Crisis. Runs that were without a doubt groundbreaking in story and business approaches. Examples to learn from indeed. 

'2000AD was my first experience of fandom.'

Pat makes it clear in all his interviews and especially in this book that he considers the voice of the reader to be very important and also a factor in the creative process. Strips would survive or fail based on readership. He even calls a later chapter 'You are 2000AD.' But what he does do is point out that there is a difference between the average reader who picked a title up in a newsagents to the growth of fandom. An interesting distinction that is explored sensibly.  What this book also does is print the odd letter from fans. I absolutely loved this touch. Letters and emails that Pat has kept for years shows how much this writer cares for those that enjoy and are affected in some way by what he writes.

Yes, I can see that this book will ruffle a few feathers. Would I want it any other way? No, not at all. The history is laid bare by one of the few who knows the truth and more importantly can show us the way forward. I suspect that there will be a few who will turn the pages with trepidation. There have been some mistakes made over the years (Slaine in The Phoenix anyone??) and some creative milestones. All are dealt with unflinchingly. Sharp and Punchy. Bloody Class!

I was mean't to be reading this book with an eye on writing a review but it was so enthralling that I kept forgetting to take notes!!!

If you enjoy British comics, love the characters that they have produced and want to hear some home grown truths then this is the book for you. I read it in a day, and have returned to it a couple more times since. You'll be hard pressed to find a book so revealing.

Now where is that hard copy? I need one for my shelf.

Grab yourself a copy here https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B072JYY2NF/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1496900362&sr=8-1&keywords=pat+mills+be+pure 

Or follow Pat on Twitter @PatMillsComics or pop over to www.millsverse.com for details of a physical release and of other books released or in the works.

Edited by the fab Lisa Mills who can be found on Twitter @feistycuffs71

Many thanks for reading.


PS 'MEKOMANIA' When and how!!????