Thursday, 31 May 2012

Star Trek Doctor Who Assimilation2 Issue 1


I bought my first ever comic issue today! I think that qualifies for an exclamation mark. I've read comics sporadically since I was a kid, and diligently in the past 3 or so years, but I always buy collected versions, trades or graphic novels. Comics don't take very long to read as it is, and the prospect of buying 20 or so pages worth of something and then having to wait 2 weeks, or more (if it's not delayed), to get the next 20 has very little appeal. Also, trades are generally both cheaper and sturdier.

When the Star Trek: The Next Generation and Doctor Who crossover was first announced, I had no intention of picking it up. As the release date drew near last week I was chatting about it to Suki at work, who is a huge fan of both franchises and I got caught up in all the enthusiasm and found myself pretty excited about it. I start work a little later on Wednesdays, so I popped into Travelling Man and bought two copies of it- one for myself and one to try and entice Suki to the dark realm of comics, even though he bought the digital version.

So. . .it was pretty great. The story begins with an invasion of one of the Federation planets by the Borg, and they're not alone:


The invasion is fast and overpowering and the prime minister of Delta IV has no choice but to escape, with the hope that Star Fleet will arrive, intervene and save her people and home. Meanwhile, we jump to Ancient Egypt, where a familiar situation is playing out- the Doctor, Amy and Rory careening through the souks in a chariot being chased by guards. They manage to break their way into the Pharaoh's palace in classic hazardous, bumbling fashion, so that the Doctor can have a word with the Pharaoh's head advisor:


The dialogue and characterisation for the Who characters is spot on- you can hear them saying their lines, complete with individual intonation, stresses and quirks, but not being familiar with Star Trek or Who shouldn't prove a hindrance to enjoying this. Having sorted the Pharaoh's little problem, the trio set off in the Tardis again, where a bumpier than usual journey has the Ponds worried and the Doctor blase-ing it out. They land, seemingly, on Earth, in San Francisco in 1941, where everything appears to be normal. Until they walk into a bar and spot the android in the pin-striped suit. . .

I would definitely recommend picking this up- at 22 pages, there's a lot of set-up in this first issue, but it's nicely paced and never feels rushed. JJ Woodward's painted artwork looks great- he does a beautiful little space shuttles scene and has the Dr and Rory down pat, with only Amy looking a little ropey.

It's an 8 part series, releasing monthly, so I'm going to try and stick with the issues and blog about them as and when. Looking forward to the next one!

Tuesday, 29 May 2012

New Beasts of Burden collected stories one-shot

Good news from Evan Dorkin's blog- the Beast of Burden short stories that have been appearing in Dark Horse Presents will be collected together and released as a one-shot sometime this August. The three stories are titled "Food Run", "Story Time" and "The View From the Hill" and will run at 8 pages each. This should help a little in tiding me over until the next volume, which is looking as though it may be a while; although Evan writes he would 'love to get to the second book collection as soon as possible', I'm taking this to mean work on it hasn't actually begun yet.

Jill Thompson's cover for the new August release one-shot:


Friday, 25 May 2012

The Adventures of Leeroy and Popo

There's not a great deal to be said about The Adventures of Leeroy and Popo. It's not the kind of story that has cliffhangers or action and intrigue, but it lacks any points of interest and the characters aren't deveoped enough to make you care about them.  I always tend to be more favourable towards a comic if the art is good and the writing/story not as much, as I feel a mediocre narrative can be lifted by strong illustration in a way that doesn't work as well the other way round. It doesn't really work here. There's nothing greatly wrong, as such, with Leeroy and Popo: it's just all a bit insubstantial. Published by Nobrow as part of their Serial Box line and written and illustrated by Louis Roskosch, it follows the eponymous title characters as they play video-games, chat to each other on facebook and visit the local cafe.

The closest we get to anything of significance occurring is Leeroy's ineffective attempted wooing of a waitress at the cafe, but that too, fails to engage. It may be that the lack of substance reflects the nature of the friends' existence, but it's not a particularly meaningful or interesting existence. Louis Roskoschit's colourful, quasi-adolescent art has a scratchy, shaky appeal, but the story and dialogue feel flat and could do with an injection of dynamsim.

At 52 pages, it may be short, but that's more than enough space in which to create something absorbing and worthy of attention. There are books in which nothing much happens, yet by providing a snapshot or glimpse of an event or life, are indicative of insight into a larger condition: some manage to be uplifting and some morose and existential- either way, they have something to say. This has neither a message  nor enough nous to be entertaining, falling instead into the indifferent chasm in between.

 You can buy The Adventures of Leeroy and Popo here

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Batman: Death by Design preview


On the surface, a book exploring Batman's relationship with architecture sounds like a tenuous basis for a story, until you remember that this is Gotham and Batman's connection with the city has always been a significant component in his mythos. A collaboration between designer and writer Chip Kidd and illustrator Dave Taylor, the calibre of artwork in Death by Design is immense and I love the hark-back to a slimline, retro Batman. Set in 1939, it finds Batman shunting between the crimes of the Joker and another mysterious villian. Synopsis below:

'Gotham City is undergoing one of the most expansive construction booms in its history. The most prestigious architects from across the globe have buildings in various phases of completion all over town. As chairman of the Gotham Landmarks Commission, Bruce Wayne has been a key part of this boom, which signals a golden age of architectural ingenuity for the city. And then, the explosions begin. All manner of design-related malfunctions–faulty crane calculations, sturdy materials suddenly collapsing, software glitches, walkways giving way and much more–cause casualties across the city. This bizarre string of seemingly random, unconnected catastrophes threaten to bring the whole construction industry down. Fingers are pointed as Batman must somehow solve the problem and find whoever is behind it all.'

Death by design 2


Death by design 1

Death by design 3
Pictures and synopsis from i09
Death by Design hits shops on May 30th

John Allison is a Tumblr Tease

In a fact that seems to have totally passed me by somehow (ok, easy-how), John Allsion has a tumblr account. It would appear he mostly uses it to frustrate people with renderings of awesome comics that don't exist but absolutely should. Such as this one of a suggested Gilmore Girls comic- which would have 'about 4 square inches per page not consumed by speech bubbles.' This needs to happen: it could herald the return of words in comics.

Remember my tenure as artist on the officially licensed Gilmore Girls comic?
You may recall that I was sacked after accidentally sitting on Amy Sherman-Palladino’s top hat. But what a sweet gig. There were about 4 square inches per page not consumed by speech bubbles.

Fantastic idea number 2: Kity Pryde and She Hulk as attorneys at law, an idea which came to him in a dream. A feverish dream, so you know it's a thing of genius.

She Hulk & Kitty Pryde, Attorneys
In the thick of a fever dream on Friday night, I attempted to pitch the idea above to Marvel. I wasn’t well. Marvel were represented by an unrecognisable, fat, Stan Lee and “Avi Abrams Jr”. My reasoning was non-excellent:
“It’s what women want”“Remember Ally McBeal?” “I think we can get the courts involved”
Like I say, I really wasn’t well. But I drew it anyway, just for YOU.

And he also took the time out to comment on my fellow Leeds-dwellers dress sense, where people wear t-shirts and hotpants with bare legs in accordance with some dress-as-you-wish-the-weather-to-be code, despite freezing temperatures. I must admit to a sense of intrigue though- what are 'poof muscles'?

How to get that “Leeds look”

Also found this little comic, which has been around for a while but is too good not to post. Working in libraries, I can assure you the threat of unleashed librarians is very real. . . 

John Allison (Scary Go Round, Bad Machinery) argues against public library closures to protect the world from the greatest threat it has faced yet: bored librarians.(source)

UPDATE: I've just read over on the Forbidden Planet blog that John's brilliant Bad Machinery web-comic is to be collected in print and published by Oni Press, with the first volume due for release next March. Really pleased for him!

Friday, 18 May 2012

Wolf+Girl

I love the simplicity and execution of these Red Riding Hood drawings by Amy Sullivan:

Pinned Image

Animal Man Jeff Lemire Travel Foreman review


Unless you've been living under a rock for the past year, you will know that last year, DC re-set all their titles back to issue 1, effectively beginning every characters' story afresh. The first collected trade books of these re-boots are now beginning to hit stores. Although most of my comic book reading has evolved to largely independent publishers and non-superhero yarns, there have been a couple of books I've wanted to check out due to buzz, curiosity, and the people involved. And so it came to pass that on Free Comic Book Day I saw a shiny, gleaming copy of Animal Man by Jeff Lemire at the till, side by side with a shiny, gleaming copy of the new Justice League hardback. I'd already be meaning to get Animal Man, having read  much praise for the series, so the decision, though momentarily wavering, was made.

Having had no previous exposure to Animal Man, the opening page interview with Buddy Baker on the release of his new film is a great narrative device, giving the reader information about his superhero career, his powers, his family and a feel for the character himself. It's a technique that's been used before, but it's really effective here as it quickly establishes an introduction, origin story, and to an extent, character development, allowing us to get on with the story. The first panel of the comic then shows Bucky holding a magazine and reading the article we've just been reading and pondering aloud to his wife about how he comes across. It's a neat and clever little piece of comicery.

For Buddy, super-heroing is something he did largely in the past and occassionally returns to when need demands it- it's not the main facet of his identity and you get the sense he's exploring his interests and options. Problems begin to arise when a routine confrontation of a traumatised man at the hospital leaves him bleeding from his eyes, with no apparent cause. Later that night, Bucky wakes up after a disturbing nightmare to find his young daughter, Maxine, in the garden playing with the re-animated skeletons and half-rotting corpses of neighbourhood pets. Maxine appears to have inherited some derivative of her father's powers and when Bucky starts to bleed profusely from his eyes again, with the blood trailing down on his chest to form a tattoo of a map, she insists they both follow it  to it's destination- The Red Place. They must travel to the Red Place and get to the Old Tree before nameless others to save it  from dying, because 'if the tree dies. . . everything dies.'

Jeff Lemire and Travel Foreman have been praised highly for this series and rightly so. Lemire has dived head on into this book, addressing  two main 'hero' issues- a child who inherits the parents powers in some form, and a supes' family in peril due to his abilities. The only reason people complain about superhero books is that they often have weak, regurgitated plots, but Lemire combines conventional attributes of the genre with a fresh and original outlook to create something rather excellent. It's a superhero book that reads more like a horror, focusing on a unique power set and its extended reprecussions. And because Buddy's powers (he can draw on the characteristics of a particular animal and gain it temporarily for himself) connect him to animals and their life forces, the larger themes of nature, the environment and the circle of life develop organically without ever feeling stilted or forced.
  
The Rot and the Hunters Three have a Sandman-esqe feel

I've never come across Travel Foreman's work before, so I don't know if this is his usual drawing style, but it's perfectly visceral here, capturing the creepy, weird , squirmy feel of the story. Animal Man is a great example of what a first volume in a series should be- a well-plotted, original story, with strong action and narrative elements and solid characterisation. There are enough ends tied up to leave you satisfied, but more than enough to keep you interested: the ending sees Buddy looking to seek out Swamp Thing (nature, plants, 'the green'), and on the basis of this I'll definitely be picking that up. I believe even Batman makes an appearance. What more can you ask of a book?

Aside: I promise to stop subjecting people to my awful photo-taking talent as soon as my scanner is fixed. Which may be a while. Badly taken pictures have a charm in this age of apps and filters and airbrushing, right? No? Ah, well.

Thursday, 17 May 2012

Kirby to Moebius: one thing leads to another

In one of those strange instances where your thinking coincides with someone else's, albeit inadvertently, I discovered my first Moebius-illustrated book. I was reading the Robot 6 blog and emailed a stunning picture of Galactus by Jack Kirby (it's in the picture post if you want to have a look) to a work colleague who's a fan.

In response, he sent me the following images about a great Silver Surfer story, a 'thing of beauty' he once used to own:























He also sent me an Amazon link to the original hardcover which were selling in the £55-60 range. One click lead to another and it turns out Marvel are re-printing Parable in hardback this very month. All the features on Moebius' art have made me really want to buy some of his work and I think I'll start with this one. I haven't read any Silver Surfer or Fantastic Four comics, but I like the idea of him- a slave/commissary to an eater of universes, riding a silver board through space searching for planets for Galactus to devour, eventually regaining his freedom, nobility and sense of self.

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

This and that

Great Beasts, the new and shiny UK comics publisher, founded by Marc Ellerby and Adam Cadwell has launched. Check out their website:

The Guardian put forth  their list of nominations  for the ten best movie credit sequences:

Neil  Gaiman interviews Stephen King:

Christophe Gowans imagines what best-selling albums would look like if they were books: http://ceegworld.com/making-art/the-record-books/

Th3rd World Studios is releasing an omnibus edition of the first two volumes of The Stuff of Legend this July:

Hannah Friedreichs combines a Maurice Sendak tribute with flavour of the month The Avengers:



Friday, 11 May 2012

Daisy Kutter by Kazu Kibuishi: Kickstarter re-print

Excellent, excellent news if you're a fan of Kazu Kibuishi or just great comics in general. I got to know Kazu's work through his super Amulet series and have been wanting to get my hands on a copy of one of his earlier works Daisy Kutter: The Last Train for some time. However it only ever had one printing as a graphic novel in 2005 and copies on Ebay and Amazon are priced in the £40 range. Although prices like that don't usually put me off if I REALLY want something (and Kazu's work is that good), I've not got round to getting a copy yet. Which is just as well, because all that preamble is a roundabout way of saying- Kazu's set up a Kickstarter to re-print Daisy Kutter!  

Photo-full

Obviously I'm not the only one who's grabbed the opportunity to buy this as the project has already been funded, which simply means it's definitely going to print. A copy of the 192 page book costs just $15, with $5 for shipping to the UK, which is pretty damn good. Kazu's also written he has the whole of a second Daisy book written, drawn and ready to go, so hopefully with the help of Kickstarter, we should be seeing that soon. 

Here's the synopsis for the first book-

Daisy Kutter is a retired bank robber and legendary gunfighter who has decided to open a dry goods store in the small town of Middleton. The sheriff, her ex-boyfriend Tom McKay, tries to recruit her to join him on the other side of the law, but she isn't quite ready to move on.

When Daisy loses everything she owns in a high-stakes poker tournament, she is offered a job from the stranger who cleans her out at the table. He wants to hire her to rob his train. What's the catch? He believes his vaunted robotic security system will stop Daisy in her tracks, and he wants to prove it. If she succeeds in robbing the train, she can keep the gold and have her life back. . .

And some preview pages:



You can find the Kickstarter here. If you've never read any Of Kazu's work before, I highly recommend the Amulet series. I believe there are some preview pages on Amazon- have a look, you won't be disappointed.

Cagoule magazine review


Cagoule is a pretty fantastic idea. Not a new idea, but fantastic all the same. Created by Robert  Lowe and Cathy Olmedillas of children's magazine Anorak, it's comprised of illustrations, articles, comics, poems, activities and short stories. This inaugural issue, titled 'This and That', covers a diverse range of topics-  a garden birds section, beautifully illustrated and written by Matt Sewell, a series of essays and thoughts on doubt, fun fill-in drawing and writing sections and an intriguing little piece on the Observer's pocket guides, which instantly made me want to track some of them down (I shall refrain. For now.).



Personal highlights include the opening item on the potted history of the bra written by Penelope Ruse and fantastically illustrated by Scott Balmer and a great illustrated short story about a three-legged man written by Louise Carbonell with art by Joe Crocker which I loved. 'Bad Food' gathers people's experiences of the worst and most peculiar dishes they've come across. Anyone who knows me knows of my obsession with food, so I found these contributions particularly interesting. The only thing I didn't really care for were the poems and short stories, but that's more a matter of them not appealing to my aesthetic. On the whole, Cagoule is a happy myriad of content that's enjoyable and diverting and I very much look forward to seeing the next issue.


More of that gorgeous geometric cover deisgn:


You can buy Cagoule here

Monday, 7 May 2012

Free Comic Book Day aka Look at my Swag

Free Comic Book Day! It was my first experience of Free Comic Day and it was pretty brilliant. Comic fans are quick to point out the flaws in the industry, but I can't think of anybody else who has a day where they give out fantastic high quality products for free. It's great for introducing people to comics and great for fans too and credit and appreciation should be given where due.

We went to the Travelling Man store in Leeds and it was really busy, with people dressed up and a lot of kids which is always lovely to see. I was surprised (stupidly, perhaps) to see the first comic to run out was DC's New 52 special edition- there were none left when we got there at 10:30. As someone who went primarily to bag the Archaia book, snagging that was enough to make my day. I picked up a few other comics that looked interesting too.  


The main prize: Archaia's hardcover which includes Mouseguard, Return of the Dappermen, Rust and others. The art throughout this is amazing- all to my taste.


Atomic Robo and Moomin/Anna & Froga flipbook: I've read heaps of praise about Atomic Robo and after reading this, I can see why. It's what Robert Kirkman wanted Super Dinosaur to be tonally, the silliness and humour are perfectly pitched. The first trade has gone onto my April buy list. I loved it!


Some pages from Anna & Froga:




Dinosaurs vs Aliens and Peanuts/Adventure Time flipbook:


Dinosaurs vs Aliens provides a first look at Grant Morrison's upcoming book and film. It has some stunning sketches and concept art by Mukesh Singh:



2000AD's book had a great back cover:


I also bought the new Animal Man trade by Jeff Lemire, which I've been looking forward to reading. I'd love to hear what other people bought and their experiences. Leave a comment!

Friday, 4 May 2012

Fighting Turtle Sonny Liew preview

Sonny Liew has posted some preview pages of his upcoming book 'Fighting Turtle' with Gene Yang. To be published by First Second Books, it's set in the 1930's and Sonny describes it as having both humour and  adventure elements, which, I think it can be agreed,  are the best elements to have. I'm always excited to see anything new he puts out and this looks beautiful- I particularly love the use of vibrant colours in the last two pages, a bit of a departure from Sonny's usual muted, pastel colour palette. The first three pages show a flashback scenes, hence the sepia toned effect.






All pictures from Sonny's blog

Maria Aparicio Puentes

A little diversion from comics and illustration, but it's Friday and it's interesting so it's allowed. Came across thess re-worked photographs by Chilean arist Maria Aparicio Puentes. She usess photos taken by others to sew over them any connections she sees:

“For me, the image has certain geometric patterns, sequences and elements that in my mind, are asking to be connected."

It's a simple idea that works to great effect-






You can visit Maria's website here.