Sunday, 29 April 2012

'Luke. . . I am your father. . . let's hug it out'

I love this little comic short by Sam Hiti, showing the famously much misunderstood moment between Darth Vader and Luke. There's a lot of Star Wars comics on the web, filled with re-interpretations of pivotal and not so pivotal moments and scenes, and a surprising amount of them are really good. They're also very accessible to anyone with only a cursory knowledge of the movies (like me!).

Pictures taken from Sam's Tumblr

Saturday, 28 April 2012


With two teachers in the house, there's always a lot of paperwork lying around. This battered folder caught my eye:

Arabic and Urdu as written languages lend themselves well to graphic design in that the letters of both alphabets (which are almost identical) have many broad, open, characters which allow them to be easily manipulated into various shapes in a manner that's both fluid and organic. We recently bought Arabesque 2 edited by Ben Wittner and Sascha Thoma, featuring Arabian and Persian graphic art, for the library at work and it seems some of the design sensibilties have filtered over to the UK.

Folder designed by exentrix Artwork by

Thursday, 26 April 2012

Mattias Adolfsson

I'm a huge fan of almost all types of cartoon style illustration, particularly when it's intricate and detailed with lots of little things going on in the picture. So I was delighted to discover Swedish freelance illustrator Mattias Adolfsson. The man is immensely talented- just take a look at some of these gorgeous sketchbook pages:

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Spera volume 1 review

I read Spera almost a month ago, but it's taken me a while to pull my thoughts about it together. It's a beautiful book, but difficult to quantify. Illustrated by Kyla Vanderklugt, Hwei, Emily Carroll, Olivier Pichard and Afu Chan, it's page after page of gorgeous,  high-quality art. It's the art that kept me turning the pages when, halfway into the book, I realised it didn't actually have much by way of a plot. There's two ways you can go once you work out the book you're reading lacks a traditional narrative structure- you put it down or you press on to see where, if anywhere, it leads. Luckily, Spera has enough artistic payoff and charm to push you towards the latter option.

The story sees two princesses and a fire spirit in the from of a gigantic wolf/dog set out to find the magical realm of Spera when their  neighbouring kingdoms come under attack from a waking nightmare. Lono is used to sitting in her castle, doing what one would deem princess-y stuff- needlepoint, drawing, reading. Her favourite books are adventure stories and she dreams of having her own, but once thrust into one, finds it's not quite the way she imagined it to be. Pira is the more outgoing, derring do type- we know this because she has a cropped hairstyle and is wearing knickerbockers (very fetchingly, it must be said). She's all bluster and buckle-a-swash with her sword, though the opportunity for her to put it to use rarely transpires. Pira's impulsiveness and gung-ho attitude juxtaposed against Lono's more thoughtful, cautious approach allow the two to play off each other nicely.

First volumes are generally used as a set-up point to establish characters and story arcs, but there's nothing here that you couldn't learn from reading the blurb. Ironically, what Spera is short of is a bit of exposition- what is the nature of the threat the girls face? Where are their families and all the people? What exactly do they hope to achieve in Spera- safe-haven or something more? Some of these questions really needed answering in this volume. It's described as a 'race against evil' but there's no sense of urgency or impending danger, instead it's a slow, meandering journey. I'm not one of those people who constantly has to have THINGS happening, but the pace of the story allows too much for dis-engagement, particularly for younger readers. It seems an odd choice for what is ostensibly, an adventure story.

Spera started life as a web-comic, a collaborative project between creator Josh Tierney and artists worldwide. Having come to the book first and then visited the site, it's apparent to see where the slightly abstract tone of the narrative comes from. The online version alternates between a few images and short paragraphs- more, perhaps, as a picture book would. The paragraphs sound like they are directives from the writer to the artist instructing him what to depict. The artists then freely translate that text into illustration in whatever way they wish. So you get this piece of writing:


Which is interpreted into these series of images by Ray Jones and Matt Houston respectively:






It's an interesting, directional approach and well suited to the web. While an excellent job has been done in tailoring and producing the artwork for the print comic, the slightly static nature and pace of the web edition seems to have transferred over. I don't think it's unfair to comment that better writing and a little more action could have really elevated Spera into something pretty special. This is evident in the second 'half' of the book which features short comics by Jordyn F. Bochon, C├ęcile Brun, Luke Pearson, Leela Wagner and Matt Marblo (you can read the overly-talented Luke Pearson's contribution- Ahuizotl, here.). These mini, self-contained narratives are frankly, rather excellent, and also serve to show the wasted potential of the main story.

Despite these kinks, it's hard not to warm to Spera- it's a great platform for illustrators to show what they can do and you can sense how much of a labour of love it is in the meticulous adaptation of what wasn't a traditional web-comic to the page. First volumes are often a notorious barometer of where a series or story is going and I think there's definitely enough good here to merit a second.

Monday, 23 April 2012

Kinky and Cosy: twin trouble

I'm trying to buy and read some of the European comics nominated for Eisners this year. First to arrive- Kinky and Cosy by Nix. Got this in the post today and it just looks like so much fun! Awesome, rude fun. :D

Saturday, 21 April 2012

Upcoming releases on pre-order aka: shiny things

Some great stuff being released in the upcoming months- here's a few I'm particularly looking forward to. Up first on 29th May, IDW publishes Darwyn Cooke's third adaptation of Richard Stark's Parker novels. This one is called The Score and sees Parker and a band of crooks attempting to rob an entire town.

I've been following the progress of artist Kellie Strom's aqautic concertina book, Worse Things Happen At Sea, via his website and blog (which you should take a gander at). Featuring sea monsters and all manner of creatures lurking in the depths of the ocean, it's to be published by Nobrow on the 18th of June.

On the 29th of July Dark Horse are finally, FINALLY, publishing the English language translation of Juanjo Guardino and Juan Diaz Canales's fourth installment of feline private detective noir, Blacksad: A Silent Hell. The original French version was released late 2010, so this has been a long wait for fans.

The excellent and much-lauded Locke and Key (IDW) continues on the 26th of July with a fifth collected volume called Clockworks. With consistently great quality plot and art, it's easily one of the best comics out there and if your read the trade versions like I do, it's always an event. 

Friday, 20 April 2012

Leeds 4th Alternative Comics Fair and Star Wars Exhibition

The 4th Leeds Alternative Comics Fair is taking place next Saturday at A Nation of Shopkeepers- more details of exhibitors and times over at their blog. Entry is free and I'm definitely going to be stopping by. This year, they've also associated with FullCircle Gallery to put on a Star Wars event. Running from the 4th-6th of May, the show will display vintage Star Wars toys, screening the films and a lot of 'lowbrow' art, contributed by the likes of John Allison, Steve Tillotson and others. Tickets cost £3 for adults, more information is available at The Hang Gang. That's a couple of Saturdays sorted.

Thursday, 19 April 2012

Teddies in the post

There's nothing nicer than coming home from a hard day's work to find book packages awaiting you. I got in today to find the third volume of The Stuff of Legend had arrived- really looking forward to reading it.

Kickstarter project: The Antler Boy by Jake Parker

Yesterday, I contributed to a Kickstarter project for the first time and it felt pretty good. For the uninitiated, Kickstarter is a creative funding site, where creators put up details of a project they would like to start but haven't the financial backing or resources to do so. The creator puts up the total amount of money required to get the project up and running, and interested parties can then pledge various amounts of money in return for the finished product and other returns (signed copies, skethes, original artwork). The target amount has to be met by a certain date and your money is only taken if the target is hit. People often put up a lot of pictures and information, so you get a good idea of what it is you're paying for. It's a simple and effective idea.

The book I've backed is Jake Parker's The Antler Boy and other stories.

Most of these stories have been published in anthologies such as Flight and others (some which are out of print), but this is the first time they're being collected in one place. The book is going to be approximately 150 pages, in hardback, full colour and with a sketchbook and notes section and a signed copy will cost you $25- $35 for those outside the US. Jake's put up artwork and short sypnosis' for some of the stories included in the book-

Hugo Earhart - 'One of the first comic stories I did. It's about a boy taking on responsibilities that are a bit over his head and his rising to the task and proving himself worthy. It’s got a flying whale and cool airships; what more could you want?'

Missile Mouse: The Guardian Prophecy - 'Missile Mouse crash lands on a planet to find he's just the guy to help save a small village from a monster...or is he?'

The Star Thrower - 'My irreverent take on the inspirational story of the same name.'

The Antler Boy - 'The title story about a boy who finds out his curse might actually be more of a blessing'

Checkers - 'A story about a girl who just wants to play a game of checkers.'

You can pledge here- Funding ends May 16th.

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Picture Post

Picture posts: interesting to do and look at.

By Rery

Panel from the November, 1993 issue of Garo, from Sasaki Kikuko no Yuutsu by Abiko Marie, via Spaceleech

Art by Blexbolex, from his book Seasons, via The New York Times

The Silver Surfer by Francesco Francavilla
The Silver Surfer by Francesco Francavilla, via aw yeah comics

Scooby Gang by Noelle Stevenson
Scooby Gang by Noelle Stevenson

By Roman Muradov
By Roman Muradov, via bluebed

By Noha Hesham

By Aleksandra Waliszewska
By Aleksandra Waliszewska

Artwork by Jiro Kuwata, via Hey Oscar Wilde

Monday, 16 April 2012

New Stumptown!

Tumblr is great for keeping up with what various creators are working on and  last Wednesday illustrator Matthew Southworth posted a cover for a new mini-series of the Greg Rucka scripted Stumptown, the first issue of which is due for release in August. The collected version of the first series was one of my top-ten books of last year, so I'm very, very excited by this.

If you haven't read Stumptown before, you can check out the first 19 pages for free over at Oni Press.

Sunday, 15 April 2012

The Shark King by R. Kikuo Johnson preview

The Shark King by R. Kikuo Johnson has been getting a lot of press pre-release and it's easy to see why: the art looks absolutely gorgeous-

'For generations, native Hawaiians have told tales of the shape-shifting shark god Kamohoalii; The Shark King is the artist's version of one such tale about the insatiable appetite of Kamohoalii's son, Nanaue. From the islands of Hawaii comes the electrifying tale of Nanaue, who has to balance his yearning for Dad's guidance with his desire for Mom's nurture.' Synopsis and sample pages from Toon Books, where you can, amazingly, also buy the book.