Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Coming soon: David Rubin & Santiago Garcia's Beowulf

Apropos of a question posed on Twitter (yes, I know- it is what it is) regarding comics to be published in 2015 which people are anticipating, it seems David Rubín and Santiago Garcia's adaptation of Beowulf will be receiving an English language release (no mention of a publisher yet), with an announcement expected soon, according to the artist himself.  I'm aware this article is one of those annoying  pre-cursor to any official declaration pieces, but I've been looking at the spreads from this book for a while, and if you take a glance below, you will most likely share in my excitement at being able to appreciate this properly in a language I can understand (and with Rubin confirming an English edition, I think it's okay to talk it up).

Published in 2013 in Spanish, Garcia and Rubin's version of the epic, oldest surviving English poem follows the plot and the three-act structure of the original text. Not intended to be revisionist, postmodern or ironic, but as close to faithful an adaption as possible, sticking to the tone and facts as narrated in the poem, Garcia and Rubin work to harness the power of the original in order to convey the epic and melancholic resonance of the anonymously-penned verses through the formal resources of contemporary comics. The outlook is not, then, the genre of sword and sorcery and heroic fantasy, but to rebuild a very old story with a modern look, while respecting the monumental simplicity of the starting material. (And if that summary sounds a bit stilted, that's because it's a Frankensteinian stitching together of a Google translation and my own writing).

Dark Horse will also be publishing Rubin's 2011 book, The Hero, next year, another mythological tale that revisits the story of Hercules from birth onwards, examine each of the twelve tasks that he carried out from a new perspective, offering a more human, more vulnerable figure and story. The sell for these books, more than anything else, is Rubin's artwork which is absolutely, monstrously beautiful. More recently, though, he actually has a book he illustrated out in September with First Second- The Rise of Aurora West, Paul Pope's spin-off/prequel to Battling Boy.

Comics Shelfie: Box Brown

One of the things I love about the comics shelfie feature -apart from getting to nosy around people's shelves and inducing serious book envy- is the way everybody takes to the task in their own manner. If you scroll through the tag, almost everyone has tweaked the set-up at least a little to fit it to their liking and personality. Today's comics shelfie is courtesy of Box Brown, author of the New York Times best-selling Andre the Giant, and the brains behind Retrofit Comics, the comics subscription that started it all, gathering the best comic authors and bringing them to your door. They announced their 2015 line-up last week, and it looks stellar.

'So, my bookshelves and comic collection have become incredibly unkempt.  They are in no order and things are just thrown in wherever. There is no order whatsoever except through daily life and use these books ended up together.  There are remnants from past eras of organization, e.g. MOME and the comics journal all together.  Even in those cases, there are missing issues of MOME and comics journal in other parts of the bookshelf not shown.  This is just a little look at my "collection" I'm not being cagey more just self-conscious because this place is pretty trashed.

Here is where there is a remainder of some kind of order, but I have probably five more of those complete peanuts books scattered throughout the house.  The book with the alien writing is a Charles Burns "fake bootleg" version of the book The Hive.  The Death Ray is titled the wrong way and the blueish book is Chris Ware's ACME #20.

"Pudridero" is the Spanish edition of Prison Pit.

All these books lay flat cause they're too tall for my bedroom bookshelf.  The one is The Complete Jack Survives and the bottom one is a really beat up copy of one of the RAW reprints.

These are books from my bedroom bookshelf.

A good example of how things get all mashed together.  Here's a random pile around my book shelf. Brecht Vanderbrouke, Future Shock, Basketball Comics #1 and a pretty recent Jack Chick Newsletter.'

Many thanks to Box for his time and participation. You can view all the previous installments of Comics Shelfie here. Remember to stop by in a fortnight for the next installment.

Monday, 28 July 2014

Sunday, 27 July 2014

Eid give-away! Get a comics package in the post

To celebrate Eid, and the end of Ramadhan, and also to thank people for reading and support the blog, I thought it would be fun to do a give-away- a comics give-away! My inital thought was to do one big giveaway, but I wanted to include people reading outside of the UK, and that would have most likely bankrupt me, so I thought of another idea- one which I think is better and cooler. I have too many comics- I buy a lot, and I'm lucky enough to be sent quite a few for review purposes as well, but I only have limited storage space. So I'm getting rid of a load- in the form of surprise Eid comics packages! If you want a package of comics, stickers, postcards and sweets, send me an email at containing your name and the address to which you'd like the package sent. Put 'Eid comics package' as the subject line. The first ten people to email me  will all receive a comics package (I'm sending comics out at random- you won't be able to pick and choose). Feel free to enter regardless of where you live in the world. I will not be replying to any emails, unless i need clarification on an address, or some such detail. You have until Friday to enter.  All comics are either brand new or have been read once only. The comics pictured above are just some of what I've got to give away.

Thank you all very much for reading, and Eid Mubarak!

UPDATE: These are all gone- thank you! If you like the Facebook page here, I'll make an announcement of everyone who won a package on there in a couple of days. 

Friday, 25 July 2014

James Stokoe's Avengers #1 special: the power of three

I've talked about this a bit for a single issue, so I thought I'd do a brief review of it- the 'it' being James Stokoe's Marvel 100th Anniversary special issue, an Avengers #1, which he drew, lettered, coloured, wrote and generally gave birth to. Also, the chance to have some of that Stokoe good stuff prettying up my blog is too much for me to pass up. My familiarity with the characters -Dr Strange, Rogue, Beta Ray Bill- and universe here is nil (or very superficial, in that I know of their names and have seen some of them in films), but that doesn't affect the reading; this is accessible to all (I'm sure there are references that can be appreciated by long-term fans). It's a contained story, that quickly establishes the setting and scenario via a great 'previously on...' introductory page (you can see, and probably read, it here): there's been a huge war with the Badoon Empire, which has left Earth barely victorious: poisonous and polluted, and thanks to the deployment of of the Great terror Weapon, the whole American continent has been transported to the negative zone. A devastated Captain America's gone in search of his home-land, and the Avengers are scattered and displaced, setting base in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, which is where we open.

It's barely been a week since the war ended, and Dr Strange, Rouge, and Beta Ray Bill are still doing clean-up rounds, patrolling the skies sat atop a flying pyramid-shaped craft: the Quinjet. On the ground, a couple of guys engaged in the clean-up effort spot the jet and argue about the importance of the Avengers, a discussion that's left hanging when the stumble upon a threat of a different kind- the moloids! Having lost their homeland, Subterranea, in the wars, the desperate moloids are bent on taking Earth for their own- the question is whether Strange, Rogue, and Bill will be enough to stop them.

I had such a bad day on Wednesday and this comic was the only little ray of light in it. It serves as an example of what Stokoe can do, even in as condensed a story as this. He makes the right choice in keeping it relatively simple (there's a lot of detail in the back-matter and placing of context): no great group of characters to get to grips with, limited to 3-with guest appearance by Tony Stark, and the scenario in which they find themselves is equally straightforward- these dudes fighting those dudes. I really liked that pared back approach, a more subdued Stokoe in terms of writing and things going on; it allows the reader to take in the art more and boy, is it gorgeous- the lines finer than ever. I feel like I've not seen Stokoe use a block red in his work often- always a lot of pink and gradients, and the usage of it pops here, in Rogues jumpsuit and Strange and Bill's capes, binding the three together. Above all, I appreciated the positivity of the narrative and resolution: it's fun and serious- not in the sense of grittiness/darkness, but of heft and some depth, respecting the story. Stokoe's a complete cartoonist in his ability to execute his vision proficiently- the real deal, and I feel lucky to be around while he's doing his thing. Pick this up if you haven't already.

I pulled 3 of my favourite panels to show off: I really like the composition of this one (below)- the moloids attacking inwardly from the left in a wave, almost like a right-directional arrow and Strange, Rogue and Beta Ray Bill forming a repelling triangle. Note how the background's hazier and out of focus, lighter colours, and the figures and foreground sharp and vibrant:

This one is lovely- Dr Strange, centred (you see what I did there), floating as he draws upon his powers to prepare for what he's about to do. It invokes a sense of serenity, despite the psychedelic and comsic implications. The softer tone is achieved by breaking up the rays so that they're not strong solid blocks of colour, and using slightly lighter shades.

And my final pick: again the three Avengers centered at the top and everybody else at the bottom- this is almost another triangle shape. Those pops of red I talked about earlier come into play here, as they differentiate Starnge, Rogue, and Bill from all else. Also: giant turtle.

Pippi Longstocking: a hero for all times

Two of the best all-ages comics are currently being published by Drawn and Quarterly, and both are English language translations of European comics. I've talked about Anouk Ricard's excellent Anna and Froga series previously, and hope to do so at greater length in the future, but today I want to talk a little about the Pippi Longstocking comics D&Q have been releasing- the third volume of which- Pippi Won't Grow Up- is due for publication this October.  Although aware of Astrid Lindgren's iconic character, I never read Pippi as a kid (or later) so I have no prior attachments or associations (having also managed to miss the movies and TV show), which may have contributed to my loving these comic off the bat. Interestingly, these comics were written by Astrid Lindgren herself, and illustrated by Ingrid Vang Nyman who was also responsible for the chapter illustrations in Lindgren's Pippi prose books. Originally published in Sweden, they ran in Humpty Dumpty magazine from 1957 and 1959, as an expansion on the books: 'the further adventures of Pippi' sort of thing.  

Translated by Tiina Nunnally, I was surprise at just how taken I was by these; I often find some older styles to be impenetrable and static, and there's certainly an element of that here, but it's played of by the bright colours and the personality and character of the book and Pippi. It's served well, too by the sheer oddness of some stylistic choices- a major one of which is the way in which Vang Nyman renders the children's eyes- a strangely un-moving almond shape, while giving the adults the traditionally rounded oval peepers. It has a slight flat-eyed, creepy Chucky doll effect initially, but as you go along, it settles and becomes one more quirky thing amongst several, all of which meld together to give the book its unique tone. Van Nyman's style is probably in vogue as appropriately retro now, but that aside it carries its age very well, and her familiarity with the subject matter feed into her ability to complement Lindgren and infuse the text with deliciously off-beat humour and a distinctive weirdness. Words like universal and timeless are frequently bandied about, yet when they are truly applicable to a work, it's a hallmark of how remarkable it is: that it can be read years later and still delight and resonate.  

Having not read the Pippi books, I'm unfamiliar with the line they take, but here the narratives have a strong vein of genuine oddness that Lindgren plays straight. In the first book, Pippi moves to a new town, on her own devoid of parents or guardians, filthy rich, buying out sweet shops for the neighbourhood children, a lot of classic childish wish-fulfillment. But she's also the strongest girl in the world- tossing cruel circus handlers over her shoulder, wrestling with tigers, throwing tired horses over her shoulder: 'Everyone should be nice to animals, and carry them when they're tired.' Lindgren inserts quite a few ideological nuggets: Pippi doesn't go to school, and when she attends curiously to see what her friends get up to all day, she doesn't understand the rigidity of the structure or thought, which leads to some wonderful exchanges between her and the teacher:   

'All right Pippi dear, let's see if you can add. How much is five plus seven?'
'Shouldn't you already know that? 
'Pippi, sit properly! And five plus seven is twelve.'
'See, you knew all along. Why'd you ask me?'

Or ' 'I' is for Ivan the hedgehog' says the teacher, holding up a picture of a hedgehog with the letter 'i.' written next to it. 'I don't buy it. I think it looks like a black line with a spot on the top.'

Of course, sometimes she gets things wrong, like not knowing how to behave properly when invited to dinner, but for the most part she's everything you'd want in a role model for children: individual, strong, fearless, loyal, smart, resourceful, and independent. Pippi doesn't have a mother, but in the second book, her father turns up for a visit (although not before she's intercepted and dealt with a couple of robbers who break into her house in the middle of the night), with whom she has a fantastic relationship, and they have a splendid time together, as further hi-jinks ensue (you begin to see where she gets it from). I am, ostensibly, an adult and I enjoy these books immensely- the spirit in them is so vibrant and individual and natural with it- singular, refreshing and unlike any other kids books I've come across. I don't doubt that they'd be a huge hit with children too.

Pippi dealing with ghosts and setting life goals:

I really like this page (below), particularly the final panel of  the yellow burning house: the stylisation of the licking flames and contrasting blue window frame, the angles and red of the old-school fire engine and the fire-men's uniforms, made complete with Pippi throwing her arms up in delight and exclamation: 'What a blaze!'. That panel of Pippi riding heroically to the rescue on a white steed, her faithful little monkey accompanying her is pretty great, too:

Sorting out bullies, eating endless supplies of cake, sledging:

Attempting to get rescued after losing their boat:

D&Q have done a superb job with these books, hardback with spot-glossed covers, and gloriously bold end-papers, and double page spreads at both the beginning and end.

Retrofit announce 2015 line-up: Sophie Franz, Laura Knetzger, Yumi Sakugawa, Maré Odomo, more

Sophie Franz
Yumi Sakugawa

Tom Spurgeon broke the news of Retrofit Comics's 2015 line-up and it's one that's got me really, really excited, as it features a number of exiting and excellent comic creators whose work I'm a fan of, as well as few I haven't heard of. The four comics I'm most looking forward to here are those by Laura Knetzger, Maré Odomo, Sophie Franz, and Yumi Sakugawa. Kntezger and Odomo are both beasts at this comics thing, having published comics online and in print for a few years; Odomo's focusing more on the visually poetic, although he's probably best known for the Pokemon comics Letters to an Absent Father, while Knetzger also works in a variety of styles- amazing work like this, and her most notable comics work the 10-issue long Bug Boys. Sakugawa is probably best-know for her acclaimed and hugely popular I Think I Am In Friend Love With You, which began life as an online comic and was later published as a hardback book by Adams Media. If you read this blog regularly, you know I'm a huge admirer of Sohpie Franz's work (her recent gouache paintings have been superb), having discussed it previously here and here, and am delighted that we'll be able to get out hands on a print comic to drool over. Below is the full line-up of artists making up Retrofit's 2015 schedule:

But... that's not all! Box Brown has been a whirlwind of activity, it would seem, as he;s also announced the impending publication of a few other, more specialist projects, which aren't a part of the 'regular' mini-comic line. The first is an art book from the award-winning cartoonist Steven Weissman, who has a distinctive and attractive style, which I think will be showcased perfectly for this sort of set-up; that's one I'm definitely keeping an eye out for. If you haven't already, go check out his frankly hilarious and brilliant  Barack Hussein Obama strips. The second project involves a special edition of Future Shock, edited by Josh Burggraf, with James Kochalka's Fungus: The Unbearable Rot Of Being bringing up the rear. Kochalka's book will be a 108 page, perfect-bound book (the first for the publisher, I believe), '"surreal and funny outsider look at the elements of our own reality,' and is set for release at SPX later this year. In addition, Brown will be continuing his Number 1 anthology comic series with 2 more installments, as well as looking to fit in any further initiatives, should the schedule permits. I don't know how he does it, but I'm very glad he does, and it's great to see Retrofit expanding and pushing from strength to strength in this manner. Lots to be excited for here.

Thursday, 24 July 2014

SDCC update: new Hellboy & BPRD, Mike Mignola's awesome Toy Story poster

Lots coming out of SDCC, as ever- Image have announced 12 new books, and Dark Horse 24, I believe, with no doubt more to come from various publishers. I don't really follow ongoing series, but my ears did prick up at the report of a new Hellboy comic. As with most things, I came to Hellboy higgledy piggledy, having decided to check out the comics after watching and enjoying the films, and reading them in library edition format. I was really surprised by who different it was in tone, especially the later half of the series, where Mike Mignola chooses to isolate the character and the books became increasingly King-Lear-wandering-the-moors-ish. I started reading BPRD in the omnibus Plague of Frog versions, but they seem to have stalled, and I'm yet to catch up on the trades. This new book, penned by Mignola with John Arcudi, coloured by Dave Stewart, and illustrated by Alex Maleev brings Hellboy and the BPRD together once more, although perhaps not in the way you might expect.

Set in 1952, Hellboy & the BPRD narrates the tale of Hellboy's very first mission, before he became a member of the BPRD, as he and a group of agents are dispatched by Professor Bruttenholm to investigate a series of murders taking place in a small Brazilian village, that may be something more... something terrible hidden  in the shadows of a sixteenth-century Portuguese fortress. The first issue of Hellboy & the BPRD will go on sale December 3rd, 2014.

In other Mike Mignola/SDCC news, he's created a poster for the upcoming Toy Story holiday special: Toy Story That Time Forgot. This is ABC’s second Toy Story-themed special, reuniting the Disney and Pixar toys after last year’s Halloween short Toy Story of Terror. Toy Story That Time Forgot finds the gang in unchartered territory, as a post-Christmas play date sees them encountering the coolest set of action figures ever... who also turn out to be the most dangerously delusional, leaving it to Trixie the triceratops to save the day and lead the toys home. It's got dinosaurs. Enough said.

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Winshluss: storming heaven

I've been waiting for this one since it came out in French last year from publishers Les Requins Marteaux. It is French artist Winshluss' (aka Vincent Paronnaud) follow up to his epic and searingly brilliant re-imagining of Pinocchio, the English language edition of which was released by UK publishers Knockabout in 2011, and is probably the best re-telling of anything ever (in all seriousness, though, it's staggeringly good, and you should check it out instantly if you're not familiar with it. Here's a Tumblr photo-set I put together a while back to help you along the way). In God We Trust is another re-telling, this time of the Bible, as Saint Franky Of Assisi guides the reader through various well-known passages in the Old and the New Testaments, although no doubt they'll be much changed from what you may be familiar with. I'll be picking this up on the strength of Pinnochio, and from what I've seen of the art, it looks like Winshluss has once again unleashed his unique drawing demon, but religion can always be a strange subject to take on in satire, because people generally do tend to lean either one way or another. I'm interested to see how it'll play out; expect a lot of parody and irreverence.

Luckily Knockabout were very quick in picking this one up, and it's due for release on the 24th of September:

'Winshluss returns with the hilarious In God We Trust. His multi-levelled retelling of The Bible revises the founding myths of the holy book. We are guided through the maze of the Old and New Testament by St. Franky, with a nose like a strawberry from drinking altar wine and a sceptical attitude. God looks like a retired biker and is a shy and alcoholic seducer, Jesus had a punk phase, Mary is naive and lonely. From the comic book parody (God vs Superman) to the adulterous tragedy, through the story of creation and a study of the disappearance of the dinosaurs to the mystery of the resurrection, the density of the book will leave the reader no respite from the horrors suffered by an inept and inconsistent humanity and the acts of an apathetic, drunk, and jaded divine power.'

Monday, 21 July 2014

Fish: stringing along death

Fish by Bianca Bagnarelli, Nobrow Press

Milo's parents died in a car-crash last summer, and he now lives with his grandparents on the French Riviera. It's the summer after the accident, and his cousins are here to visit, although Milo is still grieving; wondering about death, why it happens, explanations and reasons for it, how it relates to life, the purpose of it. He sees it in everything around him: the dead fish in the stream, the wilting flowers at the table, the shrimp he's eating for dinner. The feeling is that if he could establish meaning for it, he might be better able to understand and process his parents death.

Fish is a shorter comic- 24 pages in length, but the narrative ebb and flow, along with the tone is perfectly judged: the story spooling out naturally, veering into neither mawkish-ness or despair. Milo is similarly effectively etched, with Bagnanrelli providing the reader a grasp on the young boy with ease: still raw with grief, smart, relatively taciturn, but also sorting through his emotions and thoughts- although this isn't so much about resolutions and closure as it is about being within that zone, that experience, itself.

Bagnanrelli's art stuns here; she has a clear, clean style that resides between the geometric and almost visceral- and by that I mean I often associate a sense of tactile-ness in the way she renders things- generally natural elements, like the fluffiness of a cloud. All else will be still and calm but that cloud will look like if you touch it, wisps of cotton will cling to your fingers. The problem I have always had with more formalistic art -or what I deem as such: precise, geometric styles- is that it closes off entry for the reader. Chris Ware's comics, for example, while undeniably beautiful, intricate and skilled don't allow you to imprint or connect with them at all- it's all Ware maintaining control and dictating another sad story. Bagnarelli shares an ability with Jon McNaught to convey a shifting tautology of stillness that can suggest tension and serenity equally, the straightness of her lines and shapes offset by the softer facets of her colouring and the traditionally expressive. Even on the very first page you get the two sides to Bagnarelli's style in the framing top and bottom wide panels: the first ruled, geometric, linear; the second with fluffy, almost furry candy-flossed trees.

It's a truly gorgeous book: the fine-lined vistas here, the dappled leaves, sun-drenched scenes that encapsulate the heat of summer- she conveys light beautifully, sun-light reflected in water, streaking through the trees. Her colour palette is beautiful; in a book set ocean-side she never once uses blue or yellow, sticking instead to a largely purple/pink/red scheme that manages to be less harsh, more contained. The most impressive thing about Fish is the careful weighting and thought obvious in each component and yet bought together seamlessly; artless in execution to create something which is neither answer nor question, but existent in its complexity and subtlety, and the richer for it.

Titan to publish Druillet's 6 Journeys of Lone Sloane in 2015

A while back, I asked Oliver if he owned anything by Philippe Druillet, after seeing some mind-blowing pages of his on Tumblr (where else?). Being of impeccable taste, and unimpeachable integrity, Oliver informed me he did indeed, possess several works by Druillet and was happy (sort of) to let me borrow them. I'm yet to get around to doing much more than flicking through them and gawping slack-jawed- but even a cursory glance at these pages establishes Druillet as somewhat of a forgotten master of the medium. One of the founding figures of Humanoids along with Jean-Pierre Dionnet, Bernard Farkas and Moebius, Druillet's more recently been involved in film and opera than anything else, but at the very least, you should know his name- I find it inconceivable that he's not talked about more, or am I simply not reading the right sort of things? 

Anyway, the books Oliver lent me (pictured below) are Lone Sloane Delirius, Lone Sloane Chaos, and Yragael Urm. Yragael Urm especially: mind-blowingly wow. There's some traditional comics in there (in terms of text-boxes, layout), but the majority of it is huge, stonking painted double page spreads- horizontal and vertical- iconic, alien, and primitive- gods and monsters, the architecture vast and visionary- astounding, astounding work. Pages that make you feel small via the sheer scale, imagination, and energy coursing on them- his colours and composition are mesmerisingly exquisite . The Lone Sloane books incorporate more linear comics, but with a dizzying range of innovative panelling and layouts, and the spreads are still there.

I'm going to get around to reading and writing about these soon (briefly discussing them here has got me fired up to do so!), but the thrust here is that I came across some exciting news on the Eurocomics USA Invasion, which informs us that Titan will be bringing Druillet back into English language print, with a hardback release of The 6 Journeys of Lone Sloane in March next year. The book was previously published in English by NBM in 1991, and, I believe, the six short stories within it are actually contained in the edition of Delirius above. Both books are out of print, but copies are still in circulation on Amazon and Ebay for around £15-£30. Journeys was originally  published in 1972, Delirius in 1973, with Chaos following in 2000. The new edition from Titan will, hopefully (as is always the hope) introduce new readers to Druillet's work. Here's the brief solicitation blurb for the book:

'800 years after a catastrophic event called the "Great Fear",  Lone Sloane, a troubled space traveler, is captured by an entity called "He Who Seeks", after his space ship is destroyed. The entity transports him to different dimensions, where he faces a myriad of Lovecraftian challenges!A Sci-Fi Ulysess, forced to endlessly wander through the universe.'

Lone Sloane is Druillet's most famous creation: a tortured galactic wanderer, imbued with mystical powers and traversing a universe he doesn't understand. The six eight-page stories in Journeys serve to introduce the character and his initial wanderings. If, like me, you weren't aware of Druillet's work, mark this as one to look out for- the chances of disappointment are slim.

CAKE announce new mini-comic 'Cupcake' award

I'm not sure when this was announced, but it seems worth covering, for anyone who may have missed it, like me. The Chicago Alternative Comics Expo [CAKE] have announced a new Cupcake Award: 'a juried prize that supports the self-publishing of a new mini-comic by any artist who has not yet had a solo work printed by a publisher.' The winner is given $250 in order to print a new mini-comic, along with a free half table at next year’s CAKE (2015, where their comic will debut), in addition to advice and mentor support from special guest judge Annie Koyama, who will select the winner from 20 finalists. CAKE will promote the winning artist and their comic the lead up to next year’s show. Applications are open now- you can find more details here, and the deadline is August 31st. The award is for newer cartoonists, who have not yet had an individual work published.

'CAKE celebrates the diversity and vitality of Chicago’s indie comics and self-publishing scene, which has a history that stretches back to the mimeographed science fiction fanzines of the 1930s. The Cupcake Award is a means of continuing this tradition by encouraging and nurturing new talent.'

Comics: an expensive hobby

Many moons ago, when I was more interested in fashion than comics, I used to follow a teenage fashion blogger who would dazzle readers with the outfits she put together every few days. As is common practice for fashion blogs, the photo-post would include a break-down of what-I'm-wearing, where the litany of high-end designers- Christian Dior, Fendi, Chloe, Valentino, Balenciaga, Isabel Marant, Maison Martin Margiela, and on and on, quickly made clear that the then still in school 15-year old was operating on a budget and in a world far, far removed from mine and many others. There was an inevitable back-lash at the time; her mum had been involved in the fashion industry in some capacity, both her parents were very, very well off and well-connected- and nepotism aside, the distaste seemed to revolve around the fact that her parents had allocated her money specifically to use to buy for the blog. There was jealousy and envy and ugliness- justified and unjustified- but the takeaway for me was that the thing people were being sold: 'I'm a normal kid throwing stuff together for the fun and love of fashion' was actually 'I'm a kid wearing head-to-toe designer labels in a calculated move to establish a platform for saleability' -the notion of false accessibility.

It's a poor parallel to draw, but it's the one I thought of recently as I photographed another bunch of comics I'd bought. And it juts sort of hit me how annoying I must be- constantly posting photo after photo of all the books I've acquired. The reason I like to share photos of what I've bought, or am reading, is simply because I'm genuinely excited by them, but I've no doubt it can be construed as fucking smug, or come across as 'look what I've got!' (which admittedly, there is an element of sometimes). Because the thing is: comics are expensive. Monthly comics cost £2.99 a pop and collected trades and graphic novels rarely less than £10. So it's either the library, or you have a disposable income.enough pocket money that allows you to buy into your un-cheap hobby. But I'm selfish- I'm not really here to discuss the potential social implications, more than how this relates to me. We live in an exciting time where there's a plethora of good to very good, to excellent work being released every month. Until earlier this month, I worked two jobs, and to be frank, I don't spend a lot of money on much else, apart from to update my wardrobe with whatever it may need now and again. I've always justified spending a lot of money on books, because I don't spend much elsewhere, and books are an investment: they last, they continue to give, they can be passed on. That, and the fact that I've never been much of a saver.

There was a time (before the blog) where I used to buy a lot less. Comics were still a discovery, and I was cautious and tentative in my choices, wanting to know as much as I could about books to ensure they'd be something I wouldn't regret purchasing. But the more I read, the more I learnt; my tastes and knowledge expanded, and suddenly I was aware of all these books and um, I wanted them. I've always been aware of the monetary side of comics- it's one of the reasons I don't buy in issues- you end up paying more for a lesser format (in terms of longevity). In the past year, both writing for the blog- wanting to write about the latest releases for people- and working at the comic book shop exacerbated my already healthy buying habits a good 60%. It's not that I feel guilty for spending, because I work for it and I can spend the money I earn on what I want, but I do feel guilty for what I recognise as spending too much. Coupled with that is the  feeling that as I get older, the idea of saving more has greater appeal, so I made a tight, whittled-down list of the books I consider personal must-have's for the rest of the year:

  • Amulet 6 
  • Sisters  
  • Art-Schooled 
  • Shoplifter
  • Opus 
  • Corto Maltese 
  • Meka
  • Zaya
  • Aama 2
  • Alone 2
  • SAM: After Man
  • Monster 1 and 2
  • The Motherless Oven
  • Snackies
  • Rav
  • Beauty
  • Miss Don't Touch Me
  • Brass Sun
  • The Collector
  • Exploring Calvin and Hobbes: An Exhibition Catalogue 

That's 20 books. From August to December, that's 4 books per month, which is an easy £50 a month. The only books on that list that are going to be under £10 are Alone and SAM: After Man- maybe Sisters and the new Amulet. And that's without factoring in books I would like to check out, but am happy to wait on: How to be Happy, Bramble, Maddy Kettle, Costume Quest, Station 16, Kill My Mother, Doomboy, the new Pippi, the new Ariol, In A Sense: Lost and Found, and more. In addition to that, I stumble across a lot of zines and self-published work via social media that I buy, or will be recommended some older title I've yet to read, so let's make that about £80 a month. And I'm lucky- the chances are a few of those titles may get sent to me for review by publishers. I don't really have much to compare it to, living in a comics-free zone, but it feels excessive- and I'm starting to notice it more now that I want to put money aside. I guess I'm no longer sure how responsible it makes me buying every book that takes my whim, regardless of merit.

I do a lot of 'go buy this book now!' on this site, and I hope that people know that a) I'm sincere in those endorsements, and b) I don't expect anyone to go buy each and every one of those titles as stupid as that may sound out loud- different titles are going to click with different people. I don't really have a neat resolution or way to wrap this up, and it's definitely not news to anyone that comics are expensive (it is, I think, one of the people feel threatened by the accessibility of online comics- that something could be free and good and available), just some haphazard musings I've been musing. Let me know if you can connect some dots.

Friday, 18 July 2014

James Stokoe's Avengers 100th Anniversary special: preview

Fulfilling two needs with one stone here : nice art for you to get your eyeballs on, and a timely reminder that this slice of awesome comes out this Wednesday and you're going to want one. It's come around quickly; I remember writing about James Stokoe writing and drawing an Avengers 100th Anniversary special as if it were last week (it was April). Marvel have increasingly been looking to more 'indie' creators to tap up for work, including Michel Fiffe, Giannis Milonogiannis and more, and while my interest in the subject matter is nil, it's comics sacrilege not to pick up a Stokoe illustrated comic- and when you take into account he's coloured and written it- well, it's not really a question of choice. If it makes more people look at this comic and buy everything he's done- even better. I mean- look at that title credits page: the font, the colours, the little mini bug-wrapped Avengers...?  

The '100' is a futurespective of the Marvel universe, looking at how things may be for Marvel heroes in the year 2061 (100 years on from the 1961 debut of the Fantastic Four): 'Following the failed Badoon invasion of Earth and America’s disappearance into the Negative Zone, how will the Avengers of 2061 cope?!'

Zine watch: Animated Review Issue #01

Animated Review, featuring Ian Stevenson, Mark Edwards of DR.Me, Nick Alston, Marcus Oakley, Thea Glad, Nicolas Menard, Maclsolm Sutherland, Bottle of Smoke, Kid Acne, Robert Lobel & Jose Miguel Mendez

It's been a looong while since I did a zine watch, and since I'm feeling the need to freshen things up some, here we are. Animated Review is the first, self-titled zine from the folk over at the fantastic Animate Review blog, (which I was introduced to by Andy, as with many a good thing) which curates and collates the funkiest and most interesting animation largely in the form of videos, but also anything related such as comics, games, toys, clothing, zines, art, and so forth. In terms of production zine, they've gone for something simple and manageable- nothing too over-reaching- stapled together recycled paper, with a duck-egg blue thin card cover. The cover works for me- I think their logo- the googly-eyed 'AR' is a strong visual and the central lower placing works fine with the centered title at the top. The perfunctory list of contributors on the cover gives it a retro classifying pamphlet feel.

The idea for the zine is to give contributors a theme and ask them to respond with an illustration- for this inaugural issue artists were told to reinterpret their favourite childhood cartoon characters in their own style: 'The enthusiastic response we received helped highlight the importance of these shows, and the fondness with which they are remembered.' The format is straightforward: left page carrying information about the artist (including website and online details) and the right carrying the illustration. It's a to-the-point unflashy aim- here are some fun, cool pics and if you like the artist's work, this is who they are and where you can find them (that last intended in a non-sinister way). Some of the characters I recognise here: Super Ted, He-Man, the Turtles, Jessica Rabbit- and some I don't, but that doesn't really impact much on the enjoyment of the cartoons. I especially liked Kid Acne's (whose work I love anyway) homage to 'mysterious Cities of Gold' which is very serene, clean and striking.

It's a nice little concept, nothing ground-breaking but executed efficiently and engaging in tone and subject. It could have been improved if there were even a couple of sentences from each artists stating why the cartoon they've chosen had such an impact.That may be something Animated Review look to build upon in future issues; it'll be interesting to see whether they stick with the essentially the same format or switch things up. It's a fun little zine, although I'm not sure it's worth the £4 asking price for what it is- even knocking a pound off that would make it much more accessible and reasonable.

Images, clockwise from left: Robert Lobel, Nicolas Menard, Nick Alston, Kid Acne.

(top image via Animated Review)