Saturday, 30 June 2012

Holy Batmobile!

WANT. My chimney needs these.  Set of 3 original prints by staermose, available to buy here. Love the colours, love the design, love the execution. My wild comic buying prevents me from purchasing this set of posters, although I'm trying to work my way around it. . .

Friday, 29 June 2012

New Blacksad 4: A Silent Hell English preview

Only two more weeks left until the release of the English language translation of Blacksad 4: A Silent Hell. Dark Horse have an 8 page preview up on their site, which I've been careful to look at, but not read- I'll be savouring this one. Synopsis and a few of those gorgeous pages for your viewing pleasure below:

Detective John Blacksad returns, with a new case that takes him to a 1950s New Orleans filled with hot jazz and cold-blooded murder! Hired to discover the fate of a celebrated pianist, Blacksad finds his most dangerous mystery yet in the midst of drugs, voodoo, the rollicking atmosphere of Mardi Gras, and the dark underbelly that it hides!

Ooooooohhhh, NEW

Quick post of what I'm currently reading. Or will read, once I get the opportunity. I love July- always some great titles coming out. I went to Travelling Man intending to buy Locke and Key 5, but they didn't have it, so came home with the Fatale trade and Morning Glories 3 instead.  I'll definitely try and review some of the newer books, either here or over on FPI. Hoping to post a review of issue 2 of the Star Trek/Dr Who crossover this weekend, so keep your eyes peeled :)

Thursday, 28 June 2012

A few changes and FPI Desert Island Comics

Just a quick post to point out a couple of new things I've feebly added to the blog. If you look under the header, you should now see 'Contact' and 'Reviews' tabs. The first one provides, shockingly enough, an enail address by which you can get in touch with me, and the second is a page which lists all the reviews posted on this site. All in one place and in alphabetical order and everything.

And some exciting news (I think it's ok to share now that it's been mentioned on their blog)- I've been asked to contribute to the amazing Forbidden Planet Blog. If you've been following this site a while, you'll know it's my favourite thing ever, so it's a genuine honour and something I'm pretty ecstatic about. My posts will be easily recognisable by their amateurishness and um, my name. The first piece I was asked to do was a Desert Island Comics thing, where the premise is if you were to be stranded on an island and could choose to take 8 comics with you, what would they be? You can read it over at FPI here:

I am still planning to post here too, but probably less frequently as I write at snail's pace. I would just like to thank everyone who reads this blog, it may sound trite and cliched, but it is true: it means a lot.

The Infinite Wait preview Julia Wertz

Very much looking forward to reading this- Julia Wertz has been posting preview pages of her new book The Infinite Wait, which is due for release in September. I really like her sardonic sense of humour, and the page below made me smile and think of my Dad. You can see more over at her site.

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Royden Lepp's gorgeous one hour speed paintings

These are so lovely. I've been putting together a review for Royden Lepp's new graphic novel Rust and came across his blog. It appears to be sporadically updated and these may be old, but I had to post some of the beautiful paintings he has up- all done, amazingly, within the space of an hour. As Royden explains:

'I participate in a one hour speed paint session once a week. The following illustrations are some of my favourites. A random sentence generator creates a sentence that is emailed to participants on the hour. We have one hour, sometimes less, to create a concept based on the sentence, using no pre-existing art.'

Men disguised as birds among a dark forest:

A Japanese rat communicates with a dragon in a giant crater:

A lost village from an ancient culture:

A fantastical messenger arrives in court:

A black scarecrow raises an octopus under the rain:

A friendly monster with a day job:

A decomposing strong man uses super-science to control a priest in a blizzard:

A rusted assassin stands beneath a monolith in the rain:

All pictures taken from Royden's blog

Monday, 25 June 2012

The Court of Owls: Batman's back

And so we come to the first Bat book out of DC'S new 52 stable (I like saying DC'S new 52 stable)- The Court of Owls. If there is one thing Batman plots have taught us over the years, it's that Gotham has a lot of old, secret societies and Bruce has a lot of old, childhood friends with an alarming penchant for turning into villains or turning dead. The Court of Owls begins, as these things often do, with a series of murders, which leads  to a sight now infrequently seen: Bats in detective mode. Paul Tobin commented recently on the difficulty of writing true follow-dem-clues detective stories in comics and whilst I don't concur with all his points, it is true of Batman, 'the world's greatest detective', that we rarely get to see that side of him anymore. It's gratifying to see Scott Snyder return to the bread and butter of the character.

Returning to the plot, the GCPD and Batman find a common modus operandi at the crime scenes is the recurring emblem of an owl, leading people to wonder whether Gotham's fabled shadowy Owls society is behind the killings. Bats is dismissive of this avenue of thought, reluctant to connect the murders to what he perceives as a boogeyman that Gothamites use to scare their children with. But, as Alfred dryly points out, the Batman himself was once the stuff of myth and lore, yet he is very much real. An attack on Bruce Wayne by the Talon, the Owls' designated assassin, forces him to re-think his stance and investigate further. This leads him to the discovery of various Owl strongholds dotted around the city and eventually into a trap where he must gather all of his famous resolve if he is to ever escape. 

There are a lot of things to enjoy in The Court of Owls for both old readers and new. It doesn't exceptionally feel like a re-boot, which is good news for fans who may have feared drastic upheaval. At the same time, it should be relatively easy to follow for newcomers; although Dick, Tim, and Damian all make appearances, their involvement (with the slight exception of Dick) is kept to a minimum, avoiding confusion and allowing this to be a story centring on Batman. It's the better for it- this is not dark and gritty Batman, it's a more assured man going about his business- operating the day job, the night job and the family fairly consummately.

There's humour too: the opening with Bats having a kow-tow in Arkham Asylum, gives a brief glimpse of some of Batman's famous villains and the surreal, amusing site of the Joker fighting alongside his nemesis. You also have the easy banter between the sacred square of Bat-relationships: Gordan, Dick, Alfred and Bruce. There's a lovely little inter-change between Dick and Alfred where they talk about how much sleeping drugs Alfred has slipped into Bruce's drink (apparently he has built a resistance). And this panel put a big smile on my face:

The panelling in this book really stood out to me. I can't claim to be hugely knowledgeable about the mechanics of comic making, but the various different techniques on display here impressed. It's most noticeable when Batman is trapped by the Court of Owls in a maze, with the rapid, shifting changes in panel size and direction doing a good job of reflecting his chaotic mental state. It's a refreshing way of addressing an otherwise staid plot point- the attempt to mentally break the Batman. It's also made more interesting by what remind me of 2001: A Space Odyssey references, with the seemingly endless stark white spaces  and the over sized art deco statues and frames.

Snyder describes his approach to Batman as 'steak and potatoes' and on the evidence of this, The Black Mirror and The Gates of Gotham, it's one that serves him well. The Court of Owls combines a lot of elements to deliver a  Batman story that triumphs on several levels and is intriguing, entertaining and engrossing. Read it.

Sunday, 24 June 2012

Bits and bobs

Tom Spurgeon has an excellent interview with Ed Brubaker over at The Comics Reporter.

Britten and Brulightly author Hannah Berry talks about her process and choices in making her second  comic book, Adamtine,  at the FPI blog.

Nick Abadzis has alternative endings for his lovely Russian space dog saga Laika here.

Disney have made a pitch for a Stuff of Legend movie.

The Will and Ann Eisner Foundation have announced a new award for libraries, with the winner receiving a copy of every title nominated and a grant with which to buy more comics. I wish there was something like this in the UK.

Jeffery Deaver talks to Jonathan Freedland about his writing methods in a video for The Guardian.

I still haven't gotten round to watching Promethus yet, but Sam Hiti has a lovely drawing of the space jockey:

Saturday, 23 June 2012

Good stuff on the way

Comics, comics, comics. There's always something to buy.

Fantagraphics release Josh Simmons anthology of short horror stories on 21st July as DC's New 52  trades continue to trickle through with Swamp Thing hitting stores on the 28th of August. You would think perhaps DC would be slightly loathe in doing a crossover so soon after the reboot, but that's what Swamp Thing and Animal Man are building up to at the end of their respective first volumes. I'll be picking up Swamp Thing for that reason and because it's written by Scott Snyder, who is rapidly becoming one of my go-to sure-thing writers.

The fifth volume of the beautiful Hellboy library editions from Dark Horse is out on the 24th of July and the first trade collection of Sean Philips and Ed Brubaker's latest, Fatale (Image),  hits stores on the 10th of July.

Nick Spencer's weird and beginning to get wonderful Morning Glories is onto its third volume, also from Image on the10th of July. Vertigo are releasing a hardback deluxe version of Neil Gaiman's Midnight Days on the 17th of July, which collects the stories he wrote featuring Swamp Thing, John Constantine and the only meeting between Sandmen old and new.

Friday, 22 June 2012

Kickstarter: Re-print Osama Tezuka's Unico in English full colour

I have to admit I back Kickstarter projects liberally. There's been a lot of discussion (here and here) in the past couple of days about exactly what people are asking money for and the uses to which it is put, but I use it purely as a pre-order service for books I'd like to have (should the goal be reached). Additionally, I'm happy to back any project wanting to translate  Osama Tezuku's work in to English and bring it to a wider audience. Which is exactly what Digital Manga Publishing are doing. They've set up a Kickstarter to reprint Tezuka's 400+ page manga about the adventures of a magical unicorn in full colour.

'Tezuka originally drew Unico for Lyrica, a glossy magazine published by Sanrio, the company that owns Hello Kitty. That magazine was in full color, which means Unico is one of the few Tezuka manga to be created in color from the beginning. Publishing manga in color is difficult and incredibly expensive, so almost all of the editions of the Unico manga in Japan are in black and white. In fact, the color edition has been out of print in Japan for years.'

It costs $35 for a copy of the book, with free shipping within the US and $13 for shipping to the UK. DMP have put up the opening 10 pages of the manga for people to view (the first 5 of which you can see below), but as they stress 'You may notice that the images below look, well, bad. That's because they're based on quick scans of the last Japanese color edition (which is now eleven years old). Our final version will look MUCH better. This is a rough translation. The final version will be translated and adapted to read well for both adults and kids.'

The project requires $20,500 by the close date of July 22nd, of which $10,309 has currently been pledged. You can back it here.

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Once Upon a Time Machine art preview

Now this looks really promising: an anthology re-working classic fairytales in futuristic settings. I have a soft-spot for re-worked fairytales and although I'm not familiar with the people working on this apart from Marian Churchland, it has some fantastic looking art in a plethora of styles. Here's a preview of some of the pages:

1001 (from 1001 Arabian Nights): art by Nelson Evergreen, written by Tara Alexnder

Silver Hair and Three Xairs (Goldilocks): art by Scott Roberts, written by Lee Nordling

The Kames and Usagis in the Great Tea Garden Park Soapbox Grand Prix (from The Tortoise and the Hare): art by Marcus Muller, written by David Tanh

The Ugly Part (from The Ugly Duckling): art by Meritxell Bosch, written by Magnus Aspli

The Last Leaf: art by Jason Copland, colours by Bernie Gonzalez, written by Jason Mulikin

The Gold Piece: art by Pam Lopez Gallardo, written by James W Powell

The Crossing  (The 3 Billy Goats Gruff): by Charles Fetherolf

Kid Yimmage and the Really Big Hole by James Comey

A re-telling of The Little Meramid by Marian Churchland and Brandon Graham (image via Robot 6)

Once Upon A Time Machine will be published by Dark Horse in October. For more information and previews, visit Once Upon A Time Machine's Facebook page here

Monday, 18 June 2012

Evah Fan zines

I've been on a bit of a zine buying bent recently: the stapled-together handmade, abstract nature of them appeals to me. Seesaw Fidgets and Pry on Murmurs II are both by American painter and illustrator Evah Fan. Pry on Murmurs is a follow up to Evah's first zine with the same name. In it she draws pictures over two pages 'with mini narratives in each spread', which encourage you to make up stories to explain/go with them. I particularly like her use of pattern and space.

Seesaw Fidgets is a puzzle book consisting of  droodles drawn by Evah.  'Droodles are made up of minimal use of lines to construct a picture. Sometimes they merely look like chicken scratches but if you study them for a while, you might find something.' There is a definitive answer, but it's nice to let your imagination loose a little and ponder the possibilities. Can you work out what the ones below are?

Available from Evah's Etsy shop
And from the lovely people at Analogue Books if you're in the UK

Friday, 15 June 2012


I'm really lagging behind in my reading- not that there's a time limit, but I usually read books once I've taken the package off the postman. It would appear I've discovered a way to buy faster than I can read. Or I may have got a semblance of a life. . .

I particularly want to get started with reading The Phoenix, I've got the first four issues, but not even read one and I believe they're on issue 20 now, or thereabouts. I'm not very good at buying it weekly, so should probably just subscribe. It has some great people working on it- Kate Brown, Dave Shelton, Jamie Smart and Nick Abadzis, to mention a few. It may be for kids aged 7-12, but good comics know no barriers and all that.

I was a little disappointed when I received Laurie J Proud's Peepholes, the corners of the hardcover book were bent and damaged. It's a shame because I bought it directly from the publishers, wanting to support smaller press and the author, despite it being available cheaper elsewhere. A book I had no intention of buying was Chip Kidd's Batman: Death by Design, but I was in the store, it was at the till and it had a signed, limited edition Moebius tribute bookplate. Also on the yet-to-read pile- Joe Hill's collected mini-series The Cape.

And a few more: The Incal (my first Moebius book), Royden Lepp's Rust from Archaia, who have done pretty well out of me from their FCBD offering- bought this and CowBoy solely on the strength of the material included in there. And The Book of Human Insects by Osama Tezuka. There's a lot Tezuka's stuff that's on my wishlist, but I'm starting with this one.

For everyone who was worried I would never find a talent that would measure up to my photo-taking abilities: I have discovered photo-editing- just look at how I've managed to make my front room carpet 3 different shades of cream. You can't learn that; it's innate.

There's a lot of 'I's in this post. Hmm.