Saturday 21 December 2013

Festive Blog

My one concession to the midwinter season is THIS

Bah wotsitbug. It's been a very busy and long time since I last blogged and I suppose the biggest news is that I've decided to go freelance - so I've been busying away on commissions and suchlike. On a completely unrelated note this is probably the most impoverished I've ever been at Christmas so I'll be eating coal and giving the gift of laughter. Huzzah!

Flaubert St Cloud XXVI by crazyfoxmachine

This is the latest part of Flaubert St Cloud (Goat) a sprawling saga that will likely go on until the end of the world. It is written by my partner in crime Geoffery Crescent and you can see the whole thing HERE.

Commission for Neil - featuring the UNLIKELIEST SUPERHERO TEAM.Karl Marx, Dredd, Neil’s brother & g/f, Batman, Grimes (Rick) and Omar Rodriguez Lopez of the Mars Volta

One of the aforementioned commissions for a Mr Neil. It features an unlikely superhero team composed of (L-R): Karl Marx, Dredd, Neil's brother & girlfriend, Batman, Rick Grimes & Omar Rodriguez-Lopez of the Mars Volta. I'd actually very much read a comic based on this team's exploits. I can't even imagine what their base would look like... would it be a caravan?

A similarly odd roster is that of the Great Lakes Avengers which I drew for TAB. The idea is from Geoffery and they are an odd bunch. L-R: Mr Impossible, Dinah Soar, Flatman, Big Bertha, Doorman & Squirrel Girl. There have been a few comics with these fellahs in, and doubtless they are marvellous. 

Above is one of the most amazing things I've been involved with: Colouring Mick McMahon. The 2000ad legend did these images as pencils and Neil "Bhuna" Roche took it on himself to ink them and requested I give 'em colour. We decided to do them as a treat for the 2000ad forum advent calendar - where the boardfolk present creative outpourings every day of December. It's one of the best things about the forum and is always mind-blowingly brilliant. With McMahon's blessing we put them up and all was well - it also got shared about by 2000ad itself which is a bit magic :D All in all - one of the more satisfying things I've done recently!
Sadly this month saw the demise of Blam - a local comic networking group that I started in the early summer of 2012. We regularly met at a good local pub and we had many many larks. Much was doodled and drunkenly discussed. Out of the boozy ashes will spring a new thing in early 2014 but that's still in development. It will take the form of, initially at least, an art centric jammy type drawing thing in my favourite ever Bristol drinking establishment - but more of that later. For now... farewell sweet Blam.

Above are the latest Dreddheads : Barnabas Collins from the cult soap Dark Shadows and the bard of Ayrshire Rabbie Burns who is my first ever "Cal-Hab" judge - without the fabulous stony helmets that they have in the comics and... uh, I was going to put a union jack beneath the lion like the Brit-Cit armour but I think I'll keep from rustling that hot haggis topic. Next Dreddhead CLUE.

Everything has slowed down since going freelance - and my ever-neglected "to read" pile of small press comics remains as lofty as ever. It seriously towers. If that thing collapsed on me I'd be a goner. Anyway - I did manage to get my chops around two of them in the last month. The first is my last from Cardiff 2013 (so... like, March) and the second from just after. 

Zarjaz #17 (Futurequake Press) Various
The most appealing element of any anthology is variety - and although this March 2013 issue of Zarjaz is mostly concerned with a four-part Flesh Extinction story this is stretched between some of the most striking one-offs I've ever seen in the legendary fanzine.
Cover (Nigel Dobbyn)
I'm a huge fan of Mr Dobbyn, and the brilliantly relevant Robo-Hunter wraparound cover is a knockout. I love the sharp colours on it, and the spectacular rendering of interior characters is brilliant. Zarjaz's covers are easily the best in the small press and this fits easily alongside their amazing others.
Judge Dredd: All the Wrong Moves (John A Short, Alex Paterson & Bolt-01)
It's a bit of a cliche in a Zarjaz review to say "this could easily be in the prog" but this fun and absurdly well-illustrated Dredd tale wouldn't bat a reader's eye if it they found this in there. Alex Paterson's art is phenomenally good although there is a slight problem with the reduction on it - some of the more intricate details of the artwork are fuzzy or pixellated. Which is irritating, because otherwise I'd say it was the best in the issue!
Flesh Extinction: Extinctionville (M.J. Howard & Chris Geary)
I'm a huge fan of the idea of Flesh Extinction (Flesh's Transtime head forward to the distant ravaged future Earth rather than backwards) although apart from Claw Carver I don't recall any of the characters from before so a lot of this was lost on me. Chris Geary's art is nicely sparse, some of the action scenes are confusing but the copious character moments work well,  the intriguing "porpo sapiens" look quite silly and the colouring on the center-spread is very basic. Geary's lettering throughout is exceptionally good - some of the bigger FX looking absurdly impressive. Extinctionville is not terrible but it lacks the immediate context to justify filling the majority of the issue with a big finale - perhaps the interesting "found material" collage on the first page could've been a big simple "previously on Flesh Extinction" type thing. Either way I'll endeavour to go through my back issues and re-read this.
Shakara: Loose Ends (David Withers, Matt Herbert & Bolt-01)
Easily the best story in the issue, the excellent Matt Herbert draws up a storm and for a six pager it is packed with iconic moments - a one-page fight is extraordinarily well rendered and the whole thing really needs to be seen to be believed. It's not easy to give an actual thrill a run for its money but Withers & Herbert have managed it here!
Robo Hunter: The Best Man (Paul Thompson, Cuttlefish & Bolt-01)
Quite a weak story here, accompanied by cartoony art that misses the mark. It's an enjoyable enough caper and nice to see Sam Slade in the issue, but it doesn't really have a proper ending. The art doesn't help, being confusing and far too blocky. Stogie in particular is distractingly off model - it's an admirable gamble giving Robo Hunter to such a stylistically bold artist but it doesn't pay off.
Artie Gruber's Electric Dream (Don Franco)
A nice bit of art and a solid little story - really good to see Harlem Heroes making an appearance although a strong bit of sequential is always preferrable. 

Ladies & Gentlemen #1 (Water Closet Press) Richard Worth & Jordan Collver
I bought a copy of the first and second issues off of artist Jordan Collver at a Bristol creators event in Spring '13 and since then Water Closet Press have been busy compiling a weighty anthology of in-universe stories which I bought at the most recent Thought Bubble (so I'll  get around to reading it in March 2091 most likely). Ladies & Gentlemen is a essentially a penny-dreadful. What helps enormously in this illusion is the lavishly physical artwork and lettering of Mr Collver. It is beautifully kinetic and sells the book instantly - I could go on about it for hours. In terms of story there is a nice group dynamic between the central protagonists although most of the issue is wisely dedicated to progressing the story rather than giving general exposition. Here's hoping the aforementioned anthology fleshes them out further and adds more weight to the world and characters. My only complaint really is some jarring advert placement towards the end of the book that disrupt the flow of the story somewhat. So - in conclusion - Ladies & Gentlemen #1 is a solid piece of Victoriana that, thanks largely to the unique and stunning artwork of Mr Collver and an interesting cast of characters, stands out in the saturated small press steampunky market.