Small (press) oaks – Law Tissot

Cidade Cyber

There’s something beautifully Victorian Gothic about the penmanship of Law Tissot. His designs are perfectly simple and easy to read, just great cartoon designs, but the page is filled with marks and texture and grandly surreal landscapes. I can see the influence of Druillet and Giger in his work, but I’m much more deeply reminded of Jim Cawthorn’s approach to texture and line and the scratchy art of Bryan Talbot in Luther Arkwright or Nemesis and Matt Howarth’s whole approach, but the design just has a greater sense of PUNK about it.

Find Law here

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Can you tell us a bit about the first creator whose work you recognised?

I started reading comics very early. But I’m sure Jack Kirby made the first revolution in my life. The characters, spaceships, aliens, armor, weapons … all dynamic scenes. This is always very beautiful and exciting.

Jack Kirby inked by MIke Royer

(Comecei a ler histórias em quadrinhos muito cedo. Mas tenho certeza de que Jack Kirby fez a primeira revolução em minha vida. Os personagens, espaçonaves, aliens, armaduras, armas … todas as cenas dinâmicas. Isso é sempre muito bonito e emocionante.)

Which creators do you remember first copying?

Definitely Jack Kirby since always. But I need to talk a lot about the guys from Métal Hurlant magazine: Richard Corben, Enki Bilal, Moebius  and Philippe Druillet. Much more Druillet, I believe.

(Definitivamente Jack Kirby desde sempre. Mas preciso falar muito sobre os caras da revista Métal Hurlant: Richard Corben, Enki Bilal, Moebius e Philippe Druillet. Muito mais Druillet, creio.)

Who was the creator that you first thought ‘I’m going to be as good as you!’?

I really like underground comics, the freedom of fanzines and independent publishing. I have always tried to be an important author in the alternative scene. That interests me today.

(Eu realmente gosto de quadrinhos underground, a liberdade dos fanzines e da publicação independente. Sempre tentei ser um autor importante na cena alternativa. Isso me interessa ainda hoje.)

Which creator or creators do you currently find most inspiring?

As I said, Jack Kirby and Philippe Druillet have a lot of influence on my imagination. But today there is a lot of H.R.Giger in my art.

H.R.Giger

(Como eu disse, Jack Kirby e Philippe Druillet tem muito influência na minha imaginação. Mas hoje há muito do H.R.Giger na minha arte.)

Which creators do you most often think about?

I like to discover new fanzines. Distant artists with new ideas and new comics. These things happen all the time, talents that vibrate hidden. Treasures ready to be discovered. I want to see this happen.

(Gosto de descobrir novos fanzines. Artistas distantes com novas ideias e novos quadrinhos. Estas coisas acontecem o tempo todo, talentos que vibram escondidos. Tesouros prontos para serem descobertos. Eu quero ver isso acontecer.)

Can you name the first three creative peers that come into your head and tell a little bit about why?

Fábio Vermelho. For being a new friend I made recently. There is always so much to see in your art. All an urban atmosphere and psychobilly that attracts me. (Instagram @fabiovermelho)

Fabio Vermelho

Guilherme Santos (Moleton Fantasma) has a genius narrative ability. He takes his characters to places I would like to go.(Instagram @moletonfantasma)

Guilherme Santos

Henry Jaepelt has been an old friend since the 1980s. He still does many things that interest me. And its graphic universe is very powerful. It is impossible to remain indifferent. (Instagram @henryjaepelt)

Henry Jaepelt

(Fábio Vermelho. Por ser um novo amigo que fiz há pouco tempo. Há sempre tanto o que ver em sua arte. Toda uma atmosfera urbana e psychobilly que me atrai. 

Guilherme Santos (Moleton Fantasma) tem uma capacidade narrativa genial. Ele leva seus personagens por lugares que eu gostaria de ir.

Henry Jaepelt é um velho amigo desde os anos 1980. Ele ainda faz muitas coisas que me interessam. E seu universo gráfico é muito poderoso. Impossível ficar indiferente.)

Finally, can you tell us a bit about your recent work and yourself?

Cidade Cyber

I live in the extreme south of Brazil. I’ve been doing my comics and zines for over three decades, basically within cyberpunk sci-fi. I draw my comics every day and leave them where I can.

(Eu vivo no extremo sul do Brasil. Tenho feito meus quadrinhos e zines por mais de três décadas, basicamente dentro da ficção científica cyberpunk. Eu desenho meus quadrinhos todos os dias e os deixo onde posso.)

Thank you very much for taking the time to fill this out and let us into your mind.

Cidade Cyber – A Limusine Surrealista de Miss K

all art copyright and trademark its respective owners.

content copyright iestyn pettigrew 2020

The Short List – Russell Mark Olson SKRAWLLORD

Martin Simpson - SKRAWL 1 COV TITLE_small
Martin Simpson – SKRAWL 1 cover

SKRAWL can be found on Kickstarter

 

Anyone that’s followed zinelove or iesorno on any kind of social media knows I’m partial to a few creators including Phil Elliott and Nick Prolix who have both featured on the site and who I might have banged on about a bit…

When I saw Russel Mark Olson dropping hints about a magazine that would feature both, as well as his own work I was immediately interested, even more so when I saw the names of the others involved, many of them creators I was checking out on social media already. Then they blew through their Kickstarter goal on day one and added in Lucy Sullivan and Mark Stafford whilst also putting out a rallying cry dropping the names of some mighty UK anthologies that I love.

So, I thought I’d followed up with some questions to dig into it and flesh out their plans and ethos. You can see more details about the anthology and contributors at the end of the interview!

 

Interview!!

ZL – You mentioned that the SKRAWLLORDZ formed after meeting up and chatting at the Lakes International Comic Art Festival and I was wandering what it was at that meeting that galvanised you as a group to get together and put out SKRAWL?

RMO – Away from the con, we were sharing an Airbnb. While individually, most of us knew each other, none of us knew everyone. But we all knew of each other’s work. I took my laptop and a microphone along in the hopes that at some point during the weekend-long convention we’d get a chance to all sit down together and talk comics. The Friday night before the con we recorded over an hour’s worth of discussion on topics ranging from individual process to the ins-and-outs of printing. From that conversation, and many more over the weekend, we bonded and formed the SKRAWLLORDZ. For the particulars, you’ll have to ask the group’s chronicler, Pete Taylor. We kept in touch and over the coming months the idea for a joint publication developed. Looking back, it was a pretty natural progression. Put a bunch of comic makers together in a room full of chimps on typewriters and eventually the chimps type out a note to the comic makers reading “Make a damned comic together, morons!”.

ZL – You’ve mentioned Escape, Revolver and Pssst! as inspirations, what is it you see in these that’s common to what you hope to achieve with SKRAWL?

RMO – Firstly, the magazine format allowed these great publications to stay nimble, agile. To bring in topical work that could address issues quickly and not get bogged down in exposition. The format allows for comics, journalism, prose, and the kitchen sink to sit side-by-side without being a jarring read. These magazines could capture a moment in comics and culture so quickly and effectively. We’d really like to be able to bottle that lightning.

Secondly, we loved the freedom to think about short form and long form comics. That’s the beauty of anthology mags. Ongoing stories and one-offs. If say, Nick Prolix hit on an idea that we wanted to run with, he could produce 5-8 pages every issue of a single thought or storyline while still being able to focus on his personal body of work. If say, he decided that he wanted to change tack for one issue, the melting pot magazine allows that. If he wanted to run with a political space thriller and dropped it into an issue of Slang Pictorial and had to elbow out the residents of Bouveray Town, readers might be a bit confused. The mag allows for that freedom of experimentation and for quick directional changes.

Tertiarily, collaboration. In future, we plan on doing much more of it. We’re all cartoonists, meaning we write and draw, and can letter, colour, do product design, the whole kit-and-kaboodle. We’re all confident with each other to send scripts around, share inking work, do colours here, or letter there. Many hands make light work.

Fourth, the opportunity to invite some incredible talent to add to the mags. To give both industry stalwarts and up-and-comers a chance to explore, or maybe dust-off stuff that’s been sitting around for years which has yet been able to find a home. At the moment, everyone is UK-based. But it’d be great to run with the international ethos of LICAF and bring Europeans, South Americans–hell, the world— to SKRAWLEscape did that brilliantly. Something Pete said recently has really stuck with me. “I’m a fan of good comics. If it’s a good comic, we want it in SKRAWL.”

Lastly, they all had a bit of an edge. Hard to define, harder to capture. I suppose it boils down to risk. Risk in many forms. I think we’re all pretty comfortable with risk. Pssst!, Escape and Revolver were definitely happy taking risks.

Gustaffo Vargas The Oak Tree
Gustaffo Vargas – The Oak Tree from SKRAWL

ZL – As you’ve already blown through your first target and will definitely be putting out your first issue, what are your plans, if any, for the future?

RMO – The short answer: there will be more SKRAWL. The longer answer is a bit inchoate. We’re ironing out the details at the moment, but the things that we’re sure of, is that we have loved putting this together and want to do more. More contributors, more collaboration, wider reach. What we’re not sure of is output. Ideally, we’ll put out two a year. That might mean making the individual issues leaner, maybe 3 SKRAWLLORDZ per issue + guests, or the SKRAWLZ will do more collaborative pieces while guests can show off what they do best, or a combination of these things. We’re all involved in other projects, so we have to cut our cloth to measure, but we’re staying forward thinking. That’s not necessarily a hinderance. Ultimately, SKRAWL, as Pete said above, is about good comics. It wouldn’t surprise me if it naturally evolves. It probably will several times. But at its heart, we’ll do our best to take risks, explore, collaborate, and lift other voices.

 

ZL – I’m always banging on about money, so I have to ask whether any of you will be making anything from this anthology and whether your future plans include paying contributors or using additional money to widen distribution or anything else you may have thought of?

RMO – Possibly not the soundest business model, but almost all of the money will be going to pay our guests and cover print costs. Anything that’s left over we’ll be using towards the magazine. That may mean figuring out distribution channels (we’d love for SKRAWL to act as an ambassador for the UK scene (even though we do plan on widening our net and bringing in international voices), so possibly translated editions), convention representation, promotional materials, marketing, or plugging back into guest rates for the next one. Ideally, we’d get to a place of self-sustainability. But print markets are increasingly tumultuous, new and established magazines bite the dust daily.  We might move towards a subscription model if we can get a few issues out on a trackable schedule, but these are all questions that we’ll be deliberating on once the first issue is in circulation. It’s exciting, wild stuff. Possibly a little mad. But no one stays in comics for the money.

Russell Mark Olson - Goldhorn from SKRAWL
Russell Mark Olson – Goldhorn from SKRAWL

ZL – Last question, I promise, what do you hope Skrawl will bring to the current marketplace for comics and the history of comics?

RMO – Maybe it’s just because we’re in the shadow of Covid-19, but this “feels” like one of those Moments in Comics. Distribution has been partially/temporarily disrupted. Books have been canned, pushed back, mothballed. Artists and writers are roaming the prairies, tasting the dust, listening to the ground for the tell-tale signs of buffalo, dipping their tin pans in streams new. Retailers have scrambled onto their rooftops, their eyes scanning the horizon for the arrival of the airlift helicopters. When we started planning SKRAWL, Covid had yet to hit the news, but by coincidence, we feel we’ve tapped into something, a moment, which is bigger than your average occurrences. How SKRAWL fits into that moment, we’ll have to wait and see. But there have been anthology periodicals which have managed to be more than just a genre vehicle, more than just a single-topical-issue-mag-of-the-hour. This is possibly–as were books like those mentioned above or RAW or Rubber Blanket–a time capsule of what was going on in the UK indie scene at this point in time.

Let me add a caveat to that. The UK indie scene is massive and has talent of which no single mag could possibly hold. The last thing we’d want to do is self-proclaim ourselves to be the keepers of the keys. Lemme tell you. Give us a set of keys and we will lose them faster than a hot minute. But our camaraderie, and our combined network means that all of those creators currently delivering gold are an email away from joining in on the fun. I guess we’re all at a point in our careers where we’ve been around long enough to have a decent grip on the ins and outs of book production but aren’t so swamped with phone calls from the big leagues that has allowed us to confidently produce something which we feel is a good and necessary addition to the indie market. How does that sound? Time will tell. Finger’s crossed in twenty years from now an aspiring UK cartoonist will find a bundle of SKRAWLS in her local Oxfam for a tenner, and she’ll take them home, read them, and then feel inspired to call her friends and say, hey, let’s make something special. That or “Christ, people didn’t know how to draw back then.” I’d be happy with either. Being remembered is being remembered, right?

RosiePackwood-ascend
Rosie Packwood – Ascend from SKRAWL

ZL – I’m sure they will be inspired! On which note, tell us some more about the details of the anthology.

RMO – Continuing in the tradition of Escape, Pssst!, and Revolver , SKRAWL is a comic anthology magazine featuring cartoonists, artists, and writers primarily from the UK’s independent comic scene. The magazine was launched on Kickstarter on August 1st and met its goal in under 24 hours. With a long list of up-and-coming UK talent as well as established professionals, SKRAWL promises to be one of the most exciting comic anthologies of the year.

The core of SKRAWL are the SKRAWLLORDZ (Mark Hughes (Silverbeard), Russell Mark Olson (Gateway City; Tripwire Award Best New Talent 2018; Yancy Street Award Best UK artist 2018), Nick Prolix (Slang Pictorial), Martin Simpson (Needleman, Pipedream Comics Top 10 Indie Comics of the Year 2018), Pete Taylor (Silverbeard) and Gustaffo Vargas (Manu, Pipedream Comics Indie Comic of the Year winner, 2019)) who formed during last year’s LICAF. The magazine will also feature guest spots by their chums, including UK-indie royalty Phil Elliott (Tales from Gimbley), Rosie Packwood (Bun), Jessica Lucas (Yours, Yesterday), Matt Simmons (Bastard Galaxia), and the Cartoon Museum’s Artist-in-residence, Mark Stafford(The Bad Bad Place). To further accentuate the magazine-ness of the anthology, John Reppion (Conspiracy of Ravens) and Lucy Sullivan (Barking) will provide an illustrated short folk horror story.

The SKRAWL Kickstarter campaign offers backers the chance to get on board the publication either as a fully digital or print edition, with retailer tiers for comic shops and bookstores. The magazine will be US format, (a bit bigger and a lot wider than a US comic– at 280 x 210mm) perfect bound, and currently sitting at a page count of 84… but we’d like to expand outwards a bit through stretch goals.

The campaign can be found on Kickstarter. Funding began August 1st and ends on Thursday, August 20th at noon BST. Digital backers can get the full magazine for £5, while the physical magazine is £12 (plus shipping). Retailers in the UKand EU can take advantage of the retailer tier which offers 8 copies for £48 (plus shipping). For more information, please email skrawllordz@gmail.com.

Gallery of contributors

 

all art copyright and trademark it’s respective owners.

content copyright iestyn pettigrew 2019

Small (press) oaks – Morgan Gleave

I first saw Morgan Gleave’s work on the 1977-2000AD group for a strip in The ’77 magazine that they publish. I immediately loved the character design and graffiti-styled cartooning. I was struck with a memory of Samurai Jam by Andi Watson, not so much in style or layout, but in the life of the line and world design.

I’ve found Morgan to be a very positive person, both in his posts and in the interactions I’ve had with him. I know it shouldn’t matter, but there’s something of that positive and fun attitude that glows out of his work. It’s fun, daft but also deftly giving to the audience.

Morgan Gleave photo

You can find Morgan here

website          ko-fi          twitter          facebook

 

Here’s Morgan

Can you tell us a bit about the first creator whose work you recognised?

Hmmmm… Probably Maurice Sendak, creator of Where the Wild Things Are. That book and In the Night Kitchen were my favourites when I was little. I still have my original copy of In the Night Kitchen, complete with crayon scribbles!

 

Which creators do you remember first copying?

Kevin O’Neill and Carlos Ezquerra. 2000ad was the first comic I bought every week. I did some huge copies of Ezquerra’s take on The Stainless Steel Rat and Angelina, which my stepdad mounted and framed for me. They’re in my old portfolios in the attic…

Stainless Steel Rat drawn by Carlos Ezquerra
Stainless Steel Rat drawn by Carlos Ezquerra

 

Who was the creator that you first thought ‘I’m going to be as good as you!’?

Probably O’Neill. I copied a lot of his Nemesis artwork, and he definitely influenced me for a long time.

Nemesis the Warlock art Kevin O’Neill written by Pat Mills
Nemesis the Warlock art Kevin O’Neill written by Pat Mills

Which creator or creators do you currently find most inspiring?

Mike Mignola is my biggest influence, as a writer and an artist. Although my style has definitely become my own, he is without doubt my favourite storyteller. Mal Earl is amazing too, we’ve struck up an incredible friendship over working on The ’77. I love his style and use of colours.

The Prodigal - Mal Earl
The Prodigal – Mal Earl

Which creators do you most often think about?

Mignola! There’s probably tons more, but I keep going back to him!

Hellboy - Mike Mignola

Can you name the first three creative peers that come into your head and tell a little bit about why?

Pete Fowler

My stepdad… he saw I had talent and encouraged me to draw and be creative. I followed in his footsteps and became a graphic designer. Pete Fowler… another HUGE influence and inspiration, I love the worlds and characters he creates. Great music too! Ed Doyle… we met over The ’77, have become good friends, and I’m working on some great stuff with him. He’s so positive and encouraging. Lovely chap.

Kazana art by Ed Doyle
Kazana art by Ed Doyle

Finally, can you tell us a bit about your recent work and yourself?

This year has been crazy… In the first week of January, I was asked to send art to LA for a skate video premiere, Tic Tac Skate School reached out and asked me to recreate their logo (I’ve done TONS for them since, and am an ambassador for the school), and was contacted by The ’77, which was a dream come true… PUBLISHED COMICS! I’m now working on LOTS of strips for them.

portrait
portrait

Having grown up on comics and skateboarding, this year has seen so many of my dreams come true. I’ve had comics published, designed stickers and clothing for Tic Tac, and my first skateboard deck will be out soon. I’ve also been interviewed for an amazing podcast, The Mouth of Manliness, who I’ve supported since they started last year… it’s about masculinity and mental health, with a huge dose of creativity thrown in.

I had a huge breakdown last year, and nearly gave up on comics completely. But I started skateboarding again, and slowly started writing and drawing again. I’ve done more comics this year than ever before. And I’ve won online skate competitions! I’m in quite a good place now… I can genuinely say I’m happy for the first time in years.

Cat
Happy Cat – work in progress

Thank you very much for taking the time to fill this out and let us into your mind.

Thank you!

Morgan Gleave image 3
Morgan Gleave

all art copyright and trademark it’s respective owners.

content copyright iestyn pettigrew 2020

 

 

Small (press) oaks – Robin Barnard

Robin Barnard is one of those creators driven to make for the sake of making. I came across his work via Martin Hand who regularly works with him on the Star Jaws title. I was very pleased when I realized I could read his contributions online and then more pleased when I got to read the zines as they’re fun. There’s a sense of community around them and I’ve found some other great creators by following out from his comics. There’s something ESSENTIALLY fanzine about the whole thing, from the appropriation of style, the mashup of content to the intent to dig into what you enjoy by both celebrating and critiquing it.

I was interested to find out what Robin had to say about his inspirations and influences.

current facebook avatar taken from Robin's hand drawn reproduction of the original Marvel UK Star Wars Weekly corner box
current facebook avatar taken from Robin’s hand drawn reproduction of the original Marvel UK Star Wars Weekly corner box

Find him here

website                   facebook                      twitter

or click the image links for Robin’s comics

A reproduction of a panel from Claremont, Byrne and Austin's Star-lord drawn by Robin
A reproduction of a panel from Claremont, Byrne and Austin’s Star-lord drawn by Robin

Can you tell us a bit about the first creator whose work you recognised?

That would be John Byrne. The very first comic I got brought, Marvel UK Star Wars Weekly in 1978 reprinted “Star-Lord” the first story by Claremont, Byrne and Austin as a team just before they went over to Uncanny X-Men. And then Byrne seemed to turn up in almost any comic I was reading for the next decade or so. It wasn’t for a while after that until I started appreciating films and then music.

img_7179
Carmine Infantino

 

Which creators do you remember first copying?

I traced a Carmine Infantino cover of The Flash when I was about 9. I don’t remember which issue it was, but I remember it was very fluid.

 

Who was the creator that you first thought ‘I’m going to be as good as you!’?

I have never thought I was as good or going to be as good as anyone (laughs). I never compare anything I have done to anyone else. I have plenty of inspirations, but I never hold my own work in much esteem. I don’t have much of an ego in that area. I have also never consciously been that competitive. I tend to create for the enjoyment of creating as I find that makes it worthwhile. Sometimes I look at a page I have done and think that might be okay, but that’s it really

Which creator or creators do you currently find most inspiring?

At the moment I am enjoying the creative madness of Terry Gilliam. I actually saw “The Man Who Killed Don Quixote” in the cinema, which was not easy (it had very few screenings), but it was so worth it. Sometimes a movie comes along, and it just takes me to place I have never seen before, and I just have to experience again and again. It doesn’t happen very often, but Terry’s movies have done that for me at least 3 times (Brazil, and 12 Monkeys are the other two).

WHAT ROMANCE 20-20 (with Wallis Eates)
WHAT ROMANCE: 20/20 (with Wallis Eates)

Which creators do you most often think about?

It depends on what I am doing. I tend to go through a cycle where I will discover a creator and then want to experience all of their work. If I was just, for example, working on recreating the 1st issue of “The Human Fly’ then I would read all the issues of that series and read about Bill Manto and the real life Human Fly and all of that would all feed into the end result.

Outside of creative works, I tend to think about Ridley Scott, Stanley Kubrick and Terry Gilliam when it comes to movies and music can be anything from R.E.M. all the way to Kylie Minogue and everything in-between.

I always have an eye open to see if I can find something new and tend to be open to try anything and make up my own mind if I like it or not, having said that I have not yet watched “Xanadu” (laughs)

STAR JAWS 35
STAR JAWS 35

Can you name the first three creative peers that come into your head and tell a little bit about why?

I guess the first one should be Martin Hand. He has been drawing covers for my comics for quite a few years now, he is really great at what he does and he’s much better at it than me. He has also made some great comics.

Next would be David Robertson, who other than myself or Martin has had more material in STAR JAWS than anyone else. David has he is own unique sensibility you always know its David’s work just by looking at it

Last but not least would be Paul Rainey, whose line work is brilliant and his story telling sensibilities again has a great unique voice.

What Men - Robin Barnard
What Men – Robin Barnard

Finally, can you tell us a bit about your recent work and yourself?

For what seems the last umpety ump million years I have been slaving away on STAR JAWS. Which I suppose is basically a spoof comic.

Star Jaws 36 - cover
Star Jaws 36 – cover

The Superheroes Special - cover
The Superheroes Special – cover

As for myself I prefer my material to speak for me, I don’t consider myself as a person or my actual real opinions any part of my creative process.

What I tend to do is observe a situation and try and put that into a story and try and include all valid points of view and if possible, let the audience make up their own minds as to what to think. But sometimes the material has something very specific to say to me in which case that’s exactly where it goes.

I have recreated and rewritten quite a lot of existing comic material and I work in an entirely different industry to comics.

Almost everything I have ever created is on my website.

Thank you very much for taking the time to fill this out and let us into your mind.

Thank you

THE COSMETICALLY POWERED HULK
THE COSMETICALLY POWERED HULK

all art copyright and trademark it’s respective owners.

content copyright iestyn pettigrew 2020

 

 

What’s going on – some thoughts about harassment and the future

Some context

There’s been a lot of talk online, particularly about Warren Ellis, although other creators are being called out as well, in Science Fiction and comics. If you don’t know the details, they are all involved in serial sexual harassment.

I’ve been reading with no small amount of sadness, but also, no great sense of surprise either. This is something that’s a problem, full stop. It’s not just comics or writing, it is very common everywhere.

I keep my personal details out of this blog and, generally, off most posting I do that can be connected to my social media accounts for a reason. I’ve seen the kind of weird and unpleasant behaviour some men think is entirely normal at first hand. I’m not adding a publicly accessible account to those issues already faced by my family. There are many creepy AF men out there. Niche concerns attract them more as they can go underground and make themselves safe there, so those industries need to address them with greater emphasis.

I don’t usually repost things from anywhere – but the below post by Nevs Coleman on his MONDO Funnybooks page struck me as very balanced in comparing two different industry responses and the light it sheds on those entertainment industries.

NOW – context – we’re two, white middle-aged men here, so the least likely to suffer at the hands of this situation, so bear that in mind. Also, I’ve barely done retail, so I don’t know the complexity there, but I’ve seen those situations and have had to step in even in the small amount of time I did.

After Nev’s article, I expand upon my own thoughts, they are mine and not his, please remember and consider that.

 

 

Nevs Coleman – Mondo Funnybooks

If you read nothing else from here, this is the important bit. I want to express my sadness and regret for the people harmed as has been revealed in recent events in the comics and wrestling world. There is no other explanation except an abuse of the hierarchy implicit in both and each industry has failed the people they attracted.

The rest of this is extrapolation on that. If you feel comfortable with carrying on knowing this is what it is to come, please do.

‘Rise above

We are tired of your abuse

Try to stop us

It’s no use.’

I don’t know where to start on this. Even the fact that I’m dropping all the tropes that come with Mondo Funnybooks is significant in this instance. There are a lot of things I need to say about everything even if I’m not sure my voice isn’t drowning out the important stories in all this.

If you’re new here, Mondo Funnybooks is usually a column covering elements of comic history that I find funny or dubious or just ‘wha-?’ There are normally jokes or tenuously linked personal ancestors or elements of howling at the void.

That doesn’t seem right for now. Doing the usual schtick is just tone-deaf apathy attempting to pretend everything is okay. Giving ‘a respectable amount of time’ before doing the song and dance number says…what? Okay, this doesn’t matter anymore? There is a time limit on acknowledging the pain we’ve caused and then we’re back to Peach Momoko variants and Walking Dead comics as if nothing happened?

I’m caught between silence which at BEST suggests apathy and fucking up in public with the best of intentions. I’d rather do the latter because there are a number of ideas being discussed that I want to use this platform to give greater prominence to in the general psyche. I accept there are potential problems with this I’m not perceiving. Please understand this is ignorance and not malice in action.

There is an issue of Excalibur by Warren Ellis that is extremely important to me that I’ll keep for personal reasons. Going into that here adds another 1000 words to this but I’m quite willing to give my reasons should anyone want to confront me on this.

However, I don’t feel comfortable keeping the other works of his and other individuals who’ve had their abusive actions revealed in the last couple of weeks.

What I’ve chosen to do is to sell them onto a friend of mine and have him donate the proceeds to an organisation called ‘One In Four’, which operates out of Catford. I’ll drop a link at the end of this.

I suspect I may not be alone in feeling this way and while there isn’t a clear infrastructure in place, it seems fairly simple to achieve. At the moment if this is a bother for you as well, please feel free to get in touch.

It strikes me that there is an element of entertainment fandom that is apathetic to the actions of publishers, creators or such and therefore would be happy to pick up a cheap copy of Red, Planetary or any Superman related comic under the Eddie Berganza regime, especially if the purchase has such a tangible and immediate benefit to it. While none of this is set in stone, obviously, I think the route of least resistance is for sales to be private so as to not be potentially publicly shamed for wanting a copy of Red.

That would be counter-productive and I’d rather people didn’t think that they couldn’t be involved with this transaction without being shouted at online. That would literally cost this idea money. Not what is wanted.

I must confess I don’t know if the secondary market is ready to have potentially thousands of issues of Batgirl or Suicide Girls dumped on it. But we’ve all benefitted financially as shops, publishers, convention organisers from these men and their work so I think we should be willing to pay back what’s owed.

With that in mind.

Those of you interested in wrestling will have been aware that there have been a number of revelations regarding various performers in the news over the last few days. Reactions have been staggering in their sincerity and actual immediate action taken, with people in high positions of power stepping down and whole companies closing down.

What’s relevant to this, I think, is the case of Sammy Guevara. To catch you briefly, Sammy was found to have declared during a 2015 interview that he wished to r*pe WWE performer Sasha Banks.

Almost immediately, AEW put out the statement:

“We strongly condemn the extremely offensive and hurtful words of Sammy Guevara. As such, effective immediately, Sammy is suspended without pay until further notice.

“Sammy has agreed to undergo extensive sensitivity training and, upon completion, his future status within the company will be re-evaluated.”

AEW added that the wrestler’s salary would be donated to the Women’s Center of Jacksonville for the period of his suspension.’

I think the final part of this is a key element for what can be done looking forward. There is ad revenue that comes from hosting content by these creators in question and I strongly think, especially in cases where publishers have benefitted massively by public appearances of these men that there ought to begin the process of diverting that money and future sales of that material to the relevant programmes, organisations and institutions that are essentially dealing with the mess created by our lack of care and practice.

Which brings me to my last point. I realise this has been a long one and not the material you expected and thank you for keeping with me this far.

I think i would be safe in saying that I have the most colourful and varied professional history in comics retail and publishing of anyone alive. In my 25 odd years as someone paid to be doing a job which is usually public facing, I’ve worked for Humanoids, Dark Side Comics, Raygun, Nobrow, Gosh, Orbital, Comic Showcase and 30th Century Comics.

That’s not factoring in time working for friends at marts, cons, related events and in that time I’ve spent time with every one worth knowing discussing everything, with people who were there from the very beginning of the British comic retail scene to people who just transferred over from CEX because their regional branch of FP was two stops closer on the bus. I maintain relationships with some of the longer served members of the American end of the industry.

This isn’t to drag everyone down with me nor brag but merely to back up my final idea:

We, as a community and a trading business do not have ANY standards and practice involved when dealing with potentially dangerous customers. Not in regard to the safety of female staff. I can tell you that some have evolved out of necessity such as sending the staff member away from the shop floor until the creeper leaves or being in close proximity to shut down to the attempt to start irrelevant conversation that makes the woman uncomfortable, driving all communicating down merely to transaction. Or having to travel with the woman as the shop closes.

These have all been effective, but they have been borne only out of hardship and necessity and nobody I’ve spoken to on this suggests any policy covering this possibly exists.

Conversations regarding this have begun in some places. If you aren’t in that circle, then perhaps it’s time to begin them. I don’t believe things like this are going to stop happening and I’d rather there was too much idea than what’s happening now. Which is nothing. And that’s probably nowhere near good enough.

Incidentally, I am aware that this probably isn’t standard in many other public facing industries. I think if we take away anything from 2020, it’s that this is the year we finally had almost every problem that’s been obviously building up for a very long time explode at us at once. Maybe this is one we get a head start on.

I think that’s it. I have no desire for this to be seen as anything except ‘As someone who has been around a bit, there are things to be thought about.’ It occurs to me that just waiting out for the next bit of news to replace this and we can all go back to worrying about DC/Diamond or FCBD just lessens the focus and it will happen again.

Or, I suppose, it has happened, but the person involved doesn’t feel the support is there for them to come forward. So, they leave. That happens probably more than you think.

Having written all this, I want to reaffirm this is only written as offering angles and ideas that I hope improve things. I recognise that I am very much a compromised individual so if the removal of me from this is necessary for the suggestions to be considered then by all means.

For those of you who came to this business and world wanting to join in with the magic you saw and got what you got, I am deeply ashamed of what we became, and I hope life improves for you. We didn’t deserve you.

https://www.oneinfour.org.uk/

 

 

Post script

So – here are my thought.

A lot of people have gone on a political approach to this, by which I mean, they debate whether they sound contrite enough or whether a creator should be boycotted. But what strikes me is that there’s not much talk about what to do to make actual change. You can’t stop what happened, but you should make damn sure it can’t happen so easily next time.

There’s also little recognition that these matters HAPPENED to a PERSON and they happened, in many cases, around the periphery of professional environments. More importantly, read these things and one thing becomes absolutely clear, these matters didn’t get talked about because of fear of professional repercussions and they enabled by the silence of those firms.

Put another way, people kept quiet for fear of ruining their chance at a career and those concerns were REAL because companies like DC and Dark Horse and god know how many others actively protected those behaving unreasonably and by protected read sacked those abused not the abusers.  Let’s call for those companies to get held to account, to set up initiatives to deal with and address the very real harm that they have caused countless individuals? We know they can do it, DC have already pulled and will never again publish work written by Gerard Jones because of his conviction. If they can do that, then why not pass on profits from these other creators?

Maybe they can’t because of contracts? I’m almost certain there is a way for them to still be able to make charitable donations to organisations that can help raise voices and deal with concerns of abuse within the industry in positive and impartial ways. Even if that’s education for professionals coming into the world of comics.

Let’s also talk about structural changes that are needed to protect people at risk at work. No one needs to circle their wagons for fear of reprisals, be open, contribute by listening.  Contribute to organisations that will provide best practice for changing these spaces and making them safer, sign up to follow best practice.  We need business groups coming out with best practice recommendations for dealing with the day to day issues of harassment or even simply inappropriate behaviour? ComicsPro could step up in the US, cons could get advice.  We’re wanting to see places be Covid safe, why not harassment safe as well?

That’s what I liked about this post, a call for practical change. Let’s call for change, let’s demand that DC apologise and investigate what happened, let’s get journalists out there asking sacked workers removed because some DC person harassed them.

Let’s do something to congratulate and support those who have spoken about it, let’s get organised to support women, minorities, everyone suffering harassment, whether sexual, racial, age related, LGBTQ+.

Let’s also make changes now to reduce risks of this continuing into the future. Guidance to new and established authors about appropriate and inappropriate behaviour. Rules at cons about the behaviour of guests to fans. They are small things and maybe they’ll take away some of the fun of these situations, but maybe they’ll actually allow everyone to have more fun without hurt or abuse.

 

Small (press) oaks – Ken Meyer Jr

Ken Meyer is probably best known for things that I don’t know him for at all. For me, his work will always be vampires (a friend of mine at uni was absolutely OBSESSED with Vampire the Masquerade and insisted on showing me his work every time I went to her house – it stands up well to tens and tens of views, in case you were wondering!) and Caliber comics mystery come horror series Kilroy Is Here a series I realise I enjoyed a lot having spent a number of hours going back through those issues.
When I started looking for creators whose work I remembered, I was pleased to find out that Ken is a huge fanzine collector/ appreciator and I’ve found many new artists whose work I like because of him.

I know none of that mentions his recent art, but I feel like people are probably already aware of his art – if you’re not you should definitely check him out.

 

Ken Meyer - Head shot

website         store envy        fine art america        pixels

facebook         instagram       twitter 

 

Over to Ken

Can you tell us a bit about the first creator whose work you recognised?

Well, I don’t think I really recognized who I was looking at until long after I started reading comic books (the thing that really started me as an artist). While reading comics in the early seventies I was also reading and contributing to many comic/fantasy fanzines of that time period (and in fact, I write an online monthly column called Ink Stains on this subject, which you can access from my website). Some of the very first comics I remember reading were things like Sea Devils (with those amazing Russ Heath covers). I was made somewhat aware of what came before through things like Steranko’s History of the Comics but didn’t really delve into that with any intelligence until later.

 

Which creators do you remember first copying?

I remember copying (with carbon paper) many things before I started drawing FROM the comics and then drawing on my own. One was an issue of Thor by Neal Adams. I am sure there were many others, but for some reason I remember that.

 

Who was the creator that you first thought ‘I’m going to be as good as you!’?

I doubt I ever really thought like that. Of course, there were many that I WANTED to be as good as, or even be like. Early on it was people like Kirby, John Buscema, Neal Adams, Frank Frazetta (I was consuming a lot of Edgar Rice Burroughs and similar books), etc. The ones that really sparked my interest came a bit later, people like Bernie Wrightson, Barry Smith, Craig Russell, Roger Dean (who illustrated a lot of my favorite music of the time) and then later, with the coming of the independents of the 80’s and some reinvention in the big two, by people such as Frank Miller, Steve Rude, Dave Sim, Howard Chaykin, etc. Some artists became painters and became very important to me, like Jeff Jones, George Pratt, Dave McKean and above all, Bill Sienkiewicz. About that time, I was becoming interested in mainstream illustration, so others played a big part, such as Bernie Fuchs, Bob Peak, Jim Sharpe, Kazuhiko Sano, Mark English, Bart Forbes and many more.

A recent piece commenting on the murder of George Floyd

 

Which creator or creators do you currently find most inspiring?

Bill Sienkiewicz always amazes me. I cannot keep up with comics now, so I am probably missing out on a lot in that field. Fantasy illustrators that might be seen in the pages of the Spectrum annual frequently like Paul Bonner, Rick Berry, and so many more.

 

Which creators do you most often think about?

Part of that answer is just simple exposure…I see Bill’s work very frequently on Facebook, since he posts so often (thank the art godz), for example. Sometimes seeing his work, I am reminded of some of his influences again, who were also mine, such as Peak, mentioned above. Bill has the ability (and experience) to combine lots of media, capture likenesses seemingly effortlessly, be loose and incredibly creative, and also just be very personable and open, which I try to be.

 

Can you name the first three creative peers that come into your head and tell a little bit about why?

Peer is a hard term to truly qualify. I suppose mine might be a combination of independent comic artists, magic artists, and a few commercial illustrators. But, like many, I am harder on myself than anyone else, so I hesitate to put myself on the same level of a lot of people. David Mack comes to mind, since we both started, to some degree, at Caliber Comics in the mid-nineties. However, David has gone on to a whole other level, initially through his creator owned Kabuki series (and all the leaps and bounds his art took while working on it), and then working with Marvel and other huge properties. He is also a really good ambassador for the visual medium, traveling the world and introducing art to communities in far flung locations in a very intelligent and caring manner.

I hate to keep harping on Sienkiewicz, but I would be lying if I did not say he comes to mind for this question as well. Steve Rude does also, for some of the same reasons. Even though I marvelled at his work on Nexus, meeting him later was as easy as anyone. Though he struggles with his own personal demons, he remains giving and accessible…and his work ethic is far beyond question. His love of comics in general always shows in his work and his words.

a new playmat with a Dark Ritual-Big Lebowski mashup
A new playmat with a Dark Ritual/Big Lebowski mashup

There are many fellow Magic artists that could fill this bill, and I have been lucky to have met many of them at the various events in the past. They all possess talent, drive, and skill. Some have an incredible amount of creativity, like Anthony Waters. Some are just beautiful human beings, like Chuck Lukacs. Some are inventive pranksters, like Pete Venters. Some have forged very individual styles, like Drew Tucker and Richard Kane Ferguson. I am just lucky to know many of them.

 

Finally, can you tell us a bit about your recent work and yourself?

I have been a commercial artist since about 1976 (starting as a work study student in college). I have worked in many industries and for many companies, including comics (Marvel, Dark Horse, Image, Caliber, Revolutionary, etc), online games (Everquest), paper games; (Magic, VTES, Imajica, Dragonstorm, Rage, Vampire the Masquerade and many other White Wolf/Onyx Path properties, Redemption, Legend of the Five Rings, Shadowfist, more), various ad agencies and companies (Bell Helmets, RAINN, American Cancer Society, etc), and many private commissions and freelance work. My personal interests include film, tv, reading (favorite authors include Stephen King, Chuck Palahniuk, Christopher Moore), music (I have waaay too many cds), and tennis.

I started working exclusively on a freelance basis about 18 years ago (having worked full time art related jobs while doing freelance at the same time for many years before that). Most of the work I do tends to be continuing work for White Wolf/Onyx Path and a few other companies, as well as varied commissions from all sorts of people doing all sorts of subjects. A fair amount of it tends to be Magic based, such as the work I would sell and show at events, or work like altered cards, playmat sketches, artist proof card paintings, etc. But, like most freelance illustrators, I need to be able to do pretty much anything if I want to make a living! As for recent or current work, I have a few Onyx Path illustrations due by the end of this month (June), a private commission for a returning client I am working on now, and some altered cards after that. I can never tell what is coming next!

 Thank you very much for taking the time and letting us into your mind.

empress_orig
Private commision – Empress

 

all art copyright and trademark it’s respective owners.

content copyright iestyn pettigrew 2020

 

 

Star Bright Review

Star Bright can be found online, on twitter and bought here

Alice Clarke can be found online, on twitter , on instagram and facebook

Rob Zwetsloot can also be found on twitter

At the beginning of the year I wrote about 5  works that I thought deserved recognition. One of these was Star Bright and you’ll find what I wrote about it here, this will be a very specific dig into just a little thing I noticed in the work that struck me.

I keep coming back to this work for a couple of personal reasons, not the least of which is that it’s really a good world to spend time in. By that I mean that, I enjoy how calm it is, that it’s filled with kindness, but most of all, the strongest sense that brings me back is how it models acceptance. Sometimes showing an answer is the best way to help someone with hard questions.

So, I guess I’ve read it four or five times by now, critically read it I should qualify and then the other night, that’s mid-April 2020 or mid COVID-19 lockdown, I just sat down to enjoy it and not dig in.

Then I started noticing something I’d not picked up before, which is one of the joys of re-reading really. Now, I can’t say for definite whether it was intentional, whether it was the writer or the artist or the team figuring it out. I can say it doesn’t matter, sometimes you’re a good story because things happened that came together well. I can tell you that I had seen these things, but not consciously considered them before. To unpack that, my mind has felt the story being built those actions, but until now I’d never THOUGHT about how that was achieved.

I’m going to stop being coy in just a few more lines, but I want one more piece of context before I do that. When you write a story, you will have actions, scenarios and often similes and analogies in your story. It’s considered good literature if you manage these in a consistent way, so all similes relate to water or fire. In visual media you can achieve the same but in a slightly different manner, they are often repeated visual cues. Critics have picked apart works like Watchmen for its use of such literary techniques.

Well, here I was stuck inside and facing another seven weeks before I could go out. I have a child we’re having to shield and had spent two weeks with them having to be separated from my other two children and then from me as we showed symptoms. Then I was reading and seeing all these panels with hands clutched away from friends, afraid to reach out as well as panels of hands just gently held, friends in love with their friends. It was like fire through my veins, but it was also so very simple and very human and that’s why I keep coming back to this beautiful little comic.

 

 

all art copyright and trademark it’s respective owners.

content copyright iestyn pettigrew 2020

SHOP! International Authors

I know nothing about this publisher, but both Michael Moorcock and Michael Butterworth are listed on the editorial board and they have published a couple of books by Michael Butterworth, so that’s good enough for a mention as far as I’m concerned!

 

For those that don’t know Michael Moorcock is a seminal writer of fantasy and science fiction revolutionising each in his own way. He was also the publisher of New Worlds – a science fiction anthology that championed the New Wave of Science Fiction.

international authors - michael butterworth
michael butterworth

Michael Butterworth, among many other things, has written Hawkwind novelisations and, most importantly to me, been the publisher of many great books and comics as Savoy Books, I have also just found out the he helped found Corridor8.

 

International Authors also publishes Emanations, which seems to be very interesting from the description at least.

 

Lots to check out!

(click on the images to follow the links)

 

international authors - website website

 

international authors - emanations emanations

 

 

go look – Sajan Rai

Sajan Rai’s approach to colour and character design is very modern and exiting as it, but the subject matter is very different to anything I’m seeing elsewhere, drawing on worn and damaged images and a distinctly Asian idiom.

To me it’s all very fresh and intriguingly different.

(click on images to follow links)

Sajan Rai - website
website

 

Sajan Rai - Patreon
patreon

 

Sajan Rai - shop
web shop

 

Sajan Rai - twitter
twitter

 

Sajan Rai - instagram
instagram

 

Sajan Rai - facebook
facebook

 

 

the long list interview- Steve Bull

Steve Bull runs a facebook group about the art of veteran comic creator Ian Gibson, a creator whose art I’ve enjoyed for a long time.

When I found the group, it was nice to see a relaxed and friendly atmosphere and someone so personally welcoming. He also introduced me to the 1977-2000AD group, which, as he mentions, he admins. Both groups are fun and I enjoy going on them in part because of the group dynaimcs, as much as the actual content. I thought it would be fun to interview Steve to find out more about him and his interest in running these groups.

I should also mention that Steve is involved in the anthology The 77, and is therefore involved in publishing creators wohse works I enjoy! It closes March 1st 2020, so you maty still be able to pledge, depending on when you’re reading this.

PLEDGE HERE

 

ZL – Hi Steve                               

Steve Bull - image
Steve Bull

Thanx for agreeing to an interview. How about we start with a little bit about your background? You clearly enjoy 2000AD, what is your background and current relationship with the magazine?

SB – It’s enjoyable being on this side of an interview for a change, so thanks for asking Iestyn.

I was originally introduced to the Prog by my cousin Ade at the beginning of the 80s. I’d have probably been 8 or 9 years old and my first prog would’ve been in the #200s but I can’t remember the exact one. I had been into war comics at the time so Rogue Trooper was a major factor in me embracing it straight away. 2000AD really was the perfect storm of fantasy/future/fantastic art and edgy writing.  I actually read the Prog religiously through the 80s before stopping completely in the early 90s. This sudden halt was probably more down to me hitting adulthood and searching for a real-life Halo Jones but did coincide with a particularly poor period of history in the prog where it tried very hard to be a ‘lads mag’ with cartoon boobs ☹.

Rogue Trooper
Rogue Trooper

Recently (in the last year) I’ve returned to the prog and taken up a subscription due in part to my involvement in the Facebook groups I admin (1977-2000AD and Imagination of Ian Gibson). But also due to some solid story-telling and wonderful art.

 

ZL – Where did reading turn into collecting and when did that make you a fan?

SB – I’m not sure anyone can really pinpoint when they became a collector, it’s quite a natural progression and at what point does a hoarder become a collector😊.  I’ve always had a bit of OCD about me, so from the start of my time with 2000AD I was surrounded by comics in neat piles and numerically ordered, so 2000AD naturally joined the hoards, although very quickly became number 1!  Only 2000AD and Eagle comic were elevated to the status of being reserved at my local newsagent to be collected religiously on the day of release (complete with misspelt ‘Stephen’ being written on the spine by my newsagent)

 

ZL – I know of two groups that you run on Facebook, both 2000AD related. Could you tell us a bit about those groups and any others you run, just a little about the ethos behind them, the kind of content and the atmosphere that can be expected when joining the group.

1977-2000 fb group
1977-2000AD facebook group

SB – Of course, The main one is 1977-2000AD I stumbled upon this group in a search for nostalgia a few years ago and was immediately struck by the friendly nature owner Ben K Sy had instilled. I go on to Facebook to enjoy myself so I really have no time for people who thrive on trolling and being vile to others. I actually got quite involved at a point when the group was growing and this growth led to the need for some trusty admin with a similar ethos to Ben.  Enter Dave Heeley a great guy who is everywhere in the community and soon after Dave came myself. All three of us were strangers to each other apart from the group interactions at that point but it became clear pretty early on that we were in tune and wanted the same friendly vibe for the group.  I also think it helped that all three of us had been avid readers in the golden age (70s-80s) but had lapsed soon after so had a zest to learn about what we’d missed.  Whilst other groups had members who could be very informative there were also sadly members who enjoyed waving an air of superiority over those ‘stupid’ enough to ask questions.  I like to think our group invites everyone to the conversation and is quick to help guide the more volatile through our hospitality 😊.

Imagination of Ian Gibson
Imagination of Ian Gibson facebook group

Another group Imagination of Ian Gibson was a more personal thing.  I’d grown up loving Ian’s art in 2000AD and was mesmerized (like many others) by Halo Jones.  This stayed with me long after I left the prog to the point that my lovely wife let me add Halo to the name of my first born child (Scarlett-Halo).  This was 14 years ago before I joined Facebook.  At the time I tracked down an email address and commissioned Ian to produce a piece with Halo Jones, Toby and my Daughter in it.  Ian created a fantastic full colour piece that hangs in my front room to this day (fading☹).  Sadly, I had learnt that Ian has had some health issues in recent years that has affected his ability to draw to his very high standards. I felt that it would be a great thing to create a group to showcase the work from his amazing career.  A number of artist groups I had come across on FB had been created after the artists had sadly passed away and this seemed like an opportunity to not only show the art but also engage the man himself with his fan community.  Which I’m really pleased to say has been a success on both sides.

The 77 page logo
The 77 facebook page

Last but not least is The77 Page’ I know you’ve heard of it 😉.  In short, we are producing a comic in the tradition of those we read in the 70s and 80s.  We were constantly surprised by the level of art and storytelling our group members were capable of, to the point we decided we would create an anthology comic that we could all enjoy.  This has been a labour of love and Ben K Sy has been the driving force supported by the admins of the 1977 group.  The comic has grown to the point that we are producing a huge first issue that features talent that has graced some of our favourite comics including many that have contributed to 2000AD. If any of your readers want to be involved from the start our Kickstarter runs until midnight on the 1st March so give us a click and a pledge 

The77 is a love letter to the comics that made us!

http://kck.st/3aHJKgJ

 

ZL – I’m always interested in these groups because, essentially, they seem to be the modern internet version of fanzines with commentary, ephemera and coordinated discussion. Is that what you’re aiming to achieve with these groups, an interactive version of a fanzine?

SB – In 1977-2000AD I think it’s been an organic thing to be honest. We just wanted a friendly place to chat and it expanded. There’s some very knowledgeable folk in the community who are always quick to share information to the group (looking at the likes of Burdis, Anorak and Wullie😉), Then we have a great bunch of Admins and Mods (Ben, Dave H, Morgan, Dave B,, Mick and Garry) that have in fact made the place feel like an interactive fanzine.  We also have ‘Prog Talent Royalty’ such as Ian Gibson, John Higgins, Glenn Fabry, Nick Percival, Liam Sharp, Paul Williams, Steven Austin, David Pugh, Dan Cornwall, John Wagner, Pat Mills and so many more (Sorry If I missed you out I’ll beg forgiveness later). They regularly get involved in posting and conversations and that makes it a special place for the fans. I’ve had many a conversation with fans who are completely star struck but so happy that they’ve had their comments responded to by the actual creators.  This is unique as the same fans have mentioned that when they meet creators at conventions it’s a real struggle to not get nervous and forget what they wanted to ask.

The Gibson group is a little different as I see it more as an interactive gallery of a special artist.  It does, however still allow the fan to interact directly with the artist and Ian is always happy to answer questions and give an insight into a particular work’s history. Ian is always very honest and engaging. Halo Jones

 

ZL – Do you think that the groups help the creators or the contributors more in these situations? Just unpacking that vague notion there, as you run the Ian Gibson page and seem to be in personal contact with him, I’m just wondering whether you’ve noticed his appreciation of that page and the opportunity to get his work back in front of fan’s eyes?

SB – It’s certainly a two-way street, the fans get a great opportunity to interact and in the case of Ian he has mentioned on a number of occasions how nice it is to have feedback and even new eyes on some of his past work.  I think it’s always a nice thing to have appreciation vocalised from time to time.  Most of us loved the art but the artists, by nature of the job they do, have spent a lot of time in solitude producing these artworks with very little feedback lol.

 

ZL – I’m also wondering whether a page like that creates a sense of urgency for that work, as in – getting work out into the market again, or more of a sense of comfort for the artist?

SB – The Gibson page falls more into ‘comfort’ due to the nature of Ian’s health making future commercial art projects unlikely at present time.  Although the sense of urgency for anything new is definitely something that has been experienced on the group recently with the Sketches Ian produced for charity (Cats Protection) and with the exclusive first look at ‘Lifeboat’ Book 1 and the process involved that we unveiled on the group.

 

ZL – Do you even consider such matters as important or is there a different driving force behind making such a page? I guess what I’m getting at is whether, when you know the person, is there a different feeling about running a group than there is when it’s something of a wider, less personality driven group like the 2000AD group?

SB – I would say we have a relationship and a group built on the foundation that I’m a fan that wanted to give something back to someone that influenced my childhood! In terms of the group I think you just create it with an idea of what you’d like to see then let it lead you organically.  This is definitely the same with 1977-2000AD as that has taken lots of twists and turns as new things have been tried.

 

ZL – What made you interested enough in these subjects to spend the time putting something together?

SB – Nostalgia and just the notion of giving back to something/someone that influenced me through my childhood.  Also, when I get enjoyment from something I want to share that with people.

Lifeboat

ZL – Are there any other subjects you’d love to start a group for, or join in a group about?

SB – That would’ve been The77 my friend.  The Page is running now though as mentioned and I can’t wait for everyone to get a copy and fall in love with British comic anthologies once again. I may have written one of the stories as well so sitting alongside some immense 2000AD Prog Talent is a fantastic thing for me personally

And as you’ve asked the question before I can confirm that Ian Gibson’s unpublished creator owned ‘LIFEBOAT’ will feature on the rear cover!!!!!

 

ZL – Last question, for you as a fan now, if you could get everyone in the world to read one book or series, what would it be?

SB – HALO JONES………er……no…… actually………… LIFEBOAT 😊

 

ZL – Thanx for your time Steve!

 

disclaimer – all artwork is copyright and trademark its respective owners

go look – Phil Elliott

Phil Elliott has been a comic’s mainstay for over 40 years!

His art is always beautifully designed and his range is impressively able to suit many genres. moods and purposes

he’s amazingly funny and clever at depicting humans and their emotional experiences

(click on images to follow links)

facebook art page

Go Fund – The 77

Campaign finishing Sunday, March 1 2020 11:59 PM

Already fully funded and well into their stretch goals, The 77 is ready to deliver your pre-order

Featuring work by some of my personal favourites and some new to me as well

You’ll be getting comic legends Ian Gibson and Phil Elliott along with greats like Mal Earl

I’m also very excited by the looks of Neil Sims and Alan Holloway’s Temporal Anarchy and Morgan Gleave’s cartooning for The Tempered Curse

 

Here are some of my favourite sample images

 

 

 

 

Go look – The Secret Protectors

small press superhero comic the secret protectors in this image one of the heroes with flame powers is running and set fire to something

I have a fondness for comics that are raw and starting out, where you can see the creators working out their influences and their craft each issue

The Secret Protectors satisfies this urge very nicely

(click on images to follow links)

webshop of the secret protectors a small press super hero comic
shop

 

secret protectors comic pages from the instagram account for the small press superhero comic
instagram

 

facebook page for the secret protectors small press superhero comic featuring the comic logo
facebook

Go look – Jake Wyatt

figures falling through space

It’s the depth of field and physicality of his world’s that I love about Jake Wyatt’s work.

He just builds solid believable spaces and characters that move dynamically. As much as they’re real looking individuals, they’re also larger than life pantomime cartoons delivering emotional meaning through exagerated body language that makes it easy to parse.

jake wyatt tumblr necropolis comic page fantasy art ancient cave magic tumblr

 

twitter jake wyatt sword fight from fantasy comic Necropolis twitter

 

 

Jake Wyatt instagram deer devil captain harlock sketches comic page thumb nails instagram

The Short List – Tom Murphy, some of Colossive Press

Disclosure – Colossive Press published a zine by me and I have published two contributor only zines with one of the Colossive Press people.

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ZL – You’ve published a number of zines now, through Colossive Press, have you any plans for new publications?

CP – Oh yes! Putting out the first few things through CP last year was a bit like opening the floodgates to ten or fifteen years’ worth of ideas that I’d not had the opportunity or confidence to pursue. They’re all at a fairly nebulous stage, so I need to focus on one at a time and get it done – it’s easy to get a bit paralysed and not know which way to go first.

Ahead of the Sheffield Zine Fair on May 18th, Jane (my wife) has compiled Things My Dad Saw (But Never Bothered Mentioning) – a book of intriguing photos by her dad, Gordon Gibbens, who was also the subject of How Graffiti Saved My Dad’s Life (At Least for a While). As well as his street art photography, Gordon used to hunt down press launches, demonstrations, festivals, marches, etc. As a result, there’s a lot of splendid and strange shots in his archive.

Things Dad Saw cover 1200
Things My Dad Saw

We’re also launching 3:52 AM, an A6 zine of words and photography by our brilliant friend VJ Sellar, based on her experience of insomnia (and raising money for the Maggie’s Wallace centre in Cambridge). I like to think we’ve coaxed her into the world of zines, and hopefully there are more to come.

Given the time I’d also like to publish more things by other people, as a bit of a patron. I’d like Colossive to be a bit like Ghost Box or some of the small music labels I follow on Bandcamp, finding interesting work with a strong identity and bringing it to the world.

 

ZL – Do you remember the first time?

Odyssey 7
Odyssey 7 Manchester

CP – At my age, most of my “firsts” are lost in the mists of time. However, I’d say that the first work in the print medium that really blew my mind was Bryan Talbot’s Luther Arkwright. As a teenager I was a casual and slightly ironic reader of whatever comics I could find in the newsagents of Chorley. However, when I landed a plum part-time job at Morrisons (in 1985), my horizons soon spread to Odyssey 7 in Manchester, where the world of comics opened up in front of me like a thousand-leaved lotus blossom. And one of the first goodies I picked up was book one of Arkwright.

Even though I was also getting into series like Swamp Thing, American Flagg! and Moonshadow, Arkwright totally captivated me with the intricacy of the narrative and the incredible craft of its execution. When, after a seemingly interminable hiatus, the second and third volumes dropped, Talbot’s mastery of the medium just seemed to expand exponentially.

Page from Luther Arkwright
Page from Luther Arkwright

As much as anything, the whole work implanted the idea that at their best, whether dealing with the mundane or the cosmic, comics could do stuff that other mediums couldn’t even dream of. That notion has kept me coming back, through thick and thin, for 30-odd years.

 

ZL – Given an unlimited budget and all the time in the world, what would be the project you’d make to be remembered by?

CP – Ha – I’d have no idea what to do with a budget! I guess a full-blown Croydon Spaceport visitor experience somewhere in the town’s now legendary Whitgift Centre, complete with historical artefacts, audio-visual displays and – naturally – a lavishly furnished gift shop.

Ad Astra cover 1200
Ad Astra

ZL – Ad Astra is an alternative history story, what was the initial trigger for that idea?

CP – Oh blimey… I think that somewhere along the line, during a period of creative paralysis, I had an idea for a series of one-page text-and-image concoctions under the overall title Going Somewhere, Going Nowhere, based on the idea of travel and journeys. Little one-shots I could aim to wrap up quickly.

One of the notions I had was a voice remembering when the 119 bus used to go as far as Croydon Spaceport, how it used to be packed with people going to see the launches etc. I think that came about from the heritage work being done at the site of Croydon Airport – the very first London airport – and the sort of faded sci-fi, “lost future” feel that some of the town gives off.

Anyway, one of the benefits of my characteristic procrastination is that the idea had time to germinate in my noddle into something a bit richer. I started to come up with a more detailed timeline and cast list for the short and ultimately disappointing history of Croydon’s municipal space programme.

Another influence was a bit of street art that thousands of people walk past every day without even noticing. Underneath Blackfriars Bridge in London, the pedestrian underpass is decorated with tile displays showing alternative plans for the bridge, scenes from its construction etc. However, some enterprising ‘guerilla historian’ has dug out the Letraset and staged a bit of an intervention to come up with an alternative history involving flat-pack bridges from Argos and lost instruction manuals. I loved the element of absolute toot being delivered in a very straight-faced way.

The final piece of the jigsaw was the discovery of Flickr Commons, where various institutions make their image archives available with no copyright restrictions. With NASA and the San Diego Air and Space Museum among the participating institutions, I soon found plenty of images that lent themselves to gags or unlikely developments. Once I’d cracked the format, it kind of wrote itself.

 

ZL – You’ve had a lot of success and good feedback from ‘How Graffiti Saved My Dad’s Life…’ As that’s such a personal book, what does that feel like and mean to you?

CP – We’ve both been blown away by the response to the book – and we’re very proud on Gordon’s behalf. The initial aim was to showcase some of his photographs and the brilliant work of the street artists he admired. But Gordon was such an amazing man that Jane just had to tell his story.

Gordon was effectively written off when he received his second terminal cancer diagnosis in July 2016. but within weeks he was out with his camera again. Although he was clearly very frail, nobody on the graffiti scene really knew how ill Gordon was or what he was going through. Many of them have only found out recently through the book – something we now regret in a way.

There’s been a massive wave of affection and admiration for Gordon from all over the world, both from those who knew him and from complete strangers. We always knew what a brilliant person he was, of course, but it’s been great to spread the word. And although she’ll kill me for saying this, I’m pleased that more people now appreciate what Jane went through and what an amazing support she was for her dad.

All profits from the book are going to St Christopher’s hospice in Sydenham (south-east London), from where Gordon set off on some of his final graffiti trips. With a little help from our friends – including Steve from London Calling Blog, who organised a charity street art walk in Penge – we’ve now raised more than £1,300, and we hope that figure will continue to rise. (We’ll also be donating the profits from Things My Dad Saw…)

We’re very pleased and proud to be able to support such a worthy cause in return for all the help St Christopher’s has given our family. Jane’s mum Pat was also cared for there, and following Gordon’s death, Jane received bereavement counselling through the hospice. Its work is absolutely vital to the local community, but it remains alarmingly underfunded.

Ultimately, the message of the book is: find something you love doing then find a way to carry on doing it. That’s one of the driving impulses behind DIY culture, and it’s what we’re both trying to do with Colossive.

 

 

all art copyright and trademark it’s respective owners.

content copyright iestyn pettigrew 2019

The Short List – Malty Heave

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Phil on twitter                                    Robert on twitter

Malty Heave issue 1 cover
Malty Heave issue 1 cover

ZL – Hi both of you, thanx for agreeing to this interview about your new comic Malty Heave! Rob, I understand you’ll be launching it at Portsmouth Comic Con.

Where will people be able to find you in Portsmouth, do you have table details yet, will you be tabling both days?

RW – I’ll be on Table 6 in Comic City 4 at the Portsmouth con.  I hope people can find me as I think the event is going to be even bigger this year, and it was big (and busy) last year.

 

ZL – Phil I believe you’re going to be at Ace Comics in Colchester for Free Comic Book day to launch it, as well as doing sketches? Pretty jealous for those people in Colchester, I’ll tell you! Before diving into details about the comic, I thought it would be interesting to get some background about how it came about.

I was wondering how long you’ve known each other and what led up to you two producing this comic together? I’m guessing you both agreed a theme and didn’t stumble upon one by accident, so I was wondering how specific that theme was and what went into agreeing content to publish together?

 

RW – Phil and I have known each other for about five years.  I used to live in Maidstone in Kent, where Phil has lived for many years, and we met not long before I moved away (only to Ashford, which is also in Kent).  We have kept in touch and met up a few times since then, and we have also done a few local comic events together.  The last time we met up, a few weeks ago, we were talking about how things like Heavy Metal magazine and Epic Illustrated used to be available in newsagents (I had been chatting to Andy Oliver from Broken Frontier about the same topic on Twitter a few days earlier, which probably led to the chat me and Phil had). Then, the next time we talked, I said I wished I had something new to sell at the Portsmouth Comic Con and Phil got back to me and suggested we do a comic together, twelve pages each, inspired by Heavy Metal magazine.  I was quite intimidated by the thought of doing a comic with Phil to start with, particularly as we only had about two weeks to write and draw the whole thing, but I think we both enjoyed doing it and we are both pleased with the finished comic.  We each created our own strips separately and showed them to each other when they were done (or more or less done in my case, as Phil finished his first and needed to see what I had done to design the cover) but we did tell each other roughly what our strips were about after we’d come up with some stories.  The cover was Phil’s idea.  He did his part first and then sent it to me to draw my characters in and add the logo, etc.

 

ZL – I’m deeply impressed you two could make these stories in two weeks, they’re very accomplished full stop; considering the turnaround time, even more so. Rob, your cartooning and character design really impressed me, they’re beautiful and solid forms and there’s a lot of details included in your work, how much actual time went into drawing and how much to writing? Do you layout, thumbnail or pencil a work like this?

RW – I can’t believe we did this in just a couple of weeks either.  It’s amazing what you can do when you’ve got a tight deadline.  It may have been a day or two over a fortnight, but it took me a few days just to come up with a script I was happy with and the actual drawing / putting all the files together was done in under a fortnight.

I wrote a script for Rank Bottom, which took a few days.  I knew more or less what I wanted to do right away, and I had a beginning and an end, but it took me a while to work out what was going in the middle.  I did do very rough thumbnails, just to work out what was going on what page, and then I just threw myself into drawing it and one panel at a time.  I used to do quite detailed pencils and then felt like I ruined them when I inked them, but since I’ve gone digital my pencils have become very rough and I spend more time on my inking.  I even draw some stuff straight down in ink, which I can do, because it doesn’t matter too much if I make mistakes.  I letter it one page at a time, as I go, and tend to re-write bits of dialogue / add in new jokes as I do.

 

ZL – Phil, just because I can’t believe it’s possible, I’m also going to ask you about the fact that you made this comic in a two-week period, which seems amazingly quick considering the quality of the work!

PE – After suggesting to Rob that we create a comic together in two weeks I had a sudden panic attack, but I’m really pleased that we pulled it off and have created something decent, which we hope people will enjoy.

When I suggested this comic to Rob I had no idea what I was going to draw apart from that it’d feature robots and that I’d be working to a one panel per page format. Once I had the opening line the story, such as it is, developed from there and I only changed one caption along the way.  I really enjoyed the freedom of drawing large panels (which were drawn same size A4). The pencils were very loose and most of the details came at the inking stage and I had fun playing around with different textures and styles. I’ve always enjoyed sketching and wanted to keep that same spontaneity with my story.

I should also mention how much I enjoyed drawing the cover and working with Rob on it.  I drew my parts first, which I scanned and sent to Rob who drew his bits on the computer, which is his preferred way of drawing.

 

ZL – Rob, I don’t really know anything about your comics work so I wondered if you could give some details about how many years have you been working at making comics, did you start as a kid and come back, are there many years of work to dig into?

RW – I started reading comics as a kid, always wanted to draw comics, and self-published my first comic, Crisp Biscuit, in 1991, when I was 22, but in the 20 years after that I only published another handful of comics.  I had very little self-confidence, was very slow, and had no idea who would ever read or publish my work, so there were quite a few long periods of time where I just wasn’t drawing at all.  For a few years in my mid-20s, I just focused on writing, which boosted my confidence in that department, but I still felt like I was just bluffing it with my art.  I didn’t draw much at all in my 30s and had pretty much given up on ever drawing comics again, but for some reason, in my early-40s, I got back into it again, was a lot more patient and focused than I had been before, and I stuck with it.  I was 50 in February and I feel like I’m just getting going.  I think the things that made the biggest difference to me this time were social media, which I hated to start with but it meant that I could connect with fellow creators and potential readers in a way that I’d never been able to before (at least I knew that someone would see my strips on Facebook), the way that printing comics became more affordable, and most importantly, getting into digital art.  I bought a drawing tablet and a copy of Manga Studio a few years ago and the first thing I drew digitally was my book.  Before that, I was always changing my mind about what tools to use for inking, always thought my pencils looked much better than my finished art and going digital has really improved my art and boosted my confidence in my drawing.

 

ZL – I’ve been sounding off a fair bit about how there aren’t any venues to get comics out there in front of people’s eyes, are you concerned that UK comics is becoming something of an Ouroboros constantly eating itself? What’s drawn you to attend Portsmouth Comic Con?

PE – There are far more comic conventions in the UK now than there were when I first started. More than one a week so there should be more venues to sell comics, especially independent ones but these conventions seem more interested in having tables selling merchandise and having “the 3rd actor who played the 2nd Storm-trooper who gets shot before he makes through the hole in the wall in The Empire Strikes Back but was later replaced by a CGI Storm-trooper in subsequent versions” signing photos at £30 a time.  I know that not all conventions are the same and Portsmouth is an exception but the cost of tables, travel and possibly accommodation makes it difficult for creators to attend and make any money selling their comics.

RW – I think I’ve always been worried that there aren’t enough venues out there for cartoonists.  In some ways, things are better for people like me right now than they have been for years, because at least there is a graphic novel market and a chance that I could get another GN published and into bookshops, but that is hardly a path to riches (or even a minimum wage).

 

ZL – I know we’ve talked about how tricky getting work out to new people can be and I’m a bit prone to talking about how things are a bit ‘best of times, worst of times’ so I was wondering, when were the worst of times and the best of times for you?

PE – I think my best times have been and gone but you never know!

 

ZL – Phil, you’ve been around the UK small press and zine scene as well as working in professional comics and I’m wondering how the current scene feels in comparison to, say, the early/ mid 80’s and you were in Gag! and there were companies like Harrier, Trident and Valkyrie? Do you still feel like there’s a scene and do you feel part of that scene?

PE – I’m not really part of the comic scene these days, probably because I stopped going to comic conventions and meeting anybody.  It was some years before I plucked up the courage to contact Rob even though he was living a short bus journey from me in Maidstone. Rob’s younger than me and was more familiar with the scene that developed after Harrier, Escape etc but we shared a similar interest in a certain type of comics.

 

 

ZL – Rob, I’ve seen the advert for your comic, Back, Crack & Sack (& Brain), but I was wondering what else you’ll be bringing to Portsmouth and what else of yours is out there to be found?

RW – I will probably bring copies of most of my old comics to Portsmouth (although there are some I have run out of now) but will mainly be focusing on Malty Heave, my book, and a couple of issues of a comic I drew called Department of the Peculiar. DOTP is a superhero / sci-fi comic (sort of) written by Rol Hirst, and the first two issues were drawn and published just before I went digital and got distracted by my book but me and Rol are working on a 48-page special right now, which will hopefully be coloured by Phil, and we intend to Kickstart that in the summer.  I have a table at the Lakes festival this year and I definitely want it out by then

 

 

ZL – Apart from your work on Department of the Obscure, which I know you’ll be working on with Phil and writer Rol Hirst, whose name I recognise as a reviewer from Comics International, (yes I’m old enough), but apart from that, what projects have you both got coming up?

RW – Everyone seems to know Rol from Comics International.  Phil’s friend Reuben knows him from CI, too, but I didn’t make contact with him until quite some time after that.  Department of the Peculiar is my main project at the moment, and I’m still not quite half way through drawing it, but I have an idea for another graphic novel I would like to start after that, unless I end up getting distracted by something else.  I would at least like to put a few chapters together and see if I can find a publisher / maybe even get an Arts Council grant.  I also drew a story for Aces Weekly last year and I would like to do more with the characters who appeared in that story (Love Her Madly) and maybe build that up into a graphic novel.

 

 

ZL – Would you like to work together again, or even with a larger group of people on another anthology?

RW – I would love to work with Phil again.  We enjoyed doing this comic and have since talked a bit about the possibility of doing more with Malty Heave, but with a different theme next time.  I think Phil already has an idea for a story, and I’ve had an idea for something myself in the last couple of days.

PE – Malty Heave is our first project together and we’re already talking about a second issue which we think will have a horror theme (it may surprise people that I’ve always been a huge fan of Berni Wrightson and the work he did for Warren magazines in the 70’s)

 

 

 

 

all art copyright and trademark it’s respective owners.

content copyright iestyn pettigrew 2019

Review – Secret Protectors 1-2

 

TSP-LOGO-HEADER-E

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Let’s get this right at the beginning

At the start, this may seem like I’m going in hard on this comic and also going in hard for choosing to be something I don’t like.

So, I want to say this clearly up front.

I like this comic, it’s a work forming for sure. So if you want the slick, mature work of creators fully situated in their styles, or a very settled format of superhero comic similar to corporate comics, this is not what you’re looking for. I think it’s not yet formed, and I think it’s still firmly rooted in its genre work, but it does nothing badly. For most people who read the kind of thing I’ve reviewed before it’s likely not the kind of work that will interest them, and I’ll argue why I can fit this in my mind in the same space as those works at the end and why I think it has a virtue worth investing in. It’s entirely possible these are patronising things to say and I’m going to hold my hand up to that if I’m called out on it.

I also add the extra caveat that all comments about style and genre are not to be considered as a definition of the creators’ interests, influences or personal systems of categorising. They are comments upon my thoughts, values, and ways of thinking. They deal with what I’ve put together and brought to this work. Talk to the creators for their opinion.

It all gets quite deep and specific as I parse those things out for you.

On that sinister note, let’s go!

TSP - Logo SP

This is an interesting comic

Maybe you’re old enough, maybe this will mean nothing to you, but this really reminds me of the comics put out by Adventure Comics in the black and white glut. Now, I really like them, in fact, I’d say that I actually own comics just like this one.

They’re the sort of comics that mix ideas the creators have seen in fiction and thought, ‘Oh my god, I want to do a story with that in it because it’s so COOOOOOOL!’ Then there are moments where there is something so personal and out of context with the stuff in it that it throws you sideways. I like them for the very reason that they’re often just this weird stew of genre cliché and they’re often characterised by being about plot point and cool scenes and some stuff to string them together. I just like sitting down and parsing all of those influences out and enjoying how clearly these are people fulfilling their kid comic dreams.

This work is near to that experience, but there’s something more than that about it. It’s one of those ones where you can see it has potential for the creators to get better an not just sit making their own weird stew of fan-fiction.

Which is to say that this is a work that leans heavily on its inspirations, has not shaken off that inspiration enough to call itself its own thing yet, but it has these moments and ideas that could really be exploited if they dig into it. It’s a work you can see where the creators are figuring out their choices and solutions a hitting some and missing others.

Which is an appallingly long way of saying that this is the work of a team finding its feet between doing the stuff they’ve loved reading and wanted to make since they began wanting to make stuff and finding their own style and purpose and their own way to say it. They have made some quick steps between issues though.

I found the second issue, for example, much more interesting than the first both story and art wise.

 

 

Let’s go back in time

Now, we have to establish a bit here. This is a ‘modern’ superhero comic and I am genuinely not a fan of modern superhero comics, they take too long to get to anything and they don’t know that they’re too serious or how to package an idea. They equate heroic poses with emotional gravitas and, as with all modern media, angry emoting is seen as ‘character’ and ‘depicting male emotions’. I’m not a fan of either thing, it’s hysteria not emotion, its going ‘BOO’ when you could sneak up and tap someone quietly on their shoulder. It’s a smiling emoji rather than laughing with your friends.

That’s definitely a taste and age thing. It’s also a bit damn unfair of me to knock something for reminding me of a style that I’m not a fan of. However – there’s work in here that has a much more interesting nature than the genre it’s leaning into, so I need to deal with why I feel this could ‘move up’ (in my estimation). It is also the nature of this blog that I’m talking about my reaction to thing, so honesty around that is required.

To me, this story doesn’t get going into the characters quickly enough because it has decompressed its story too much. Its story also seems more plot than story, as in, stories have character arcs not just things that happen. Stories talk about something relatable to their audience, not relying on a familiarity with genre to carry the weight of identification.

Put another way, these could be interesting characters, but we don’t know them. We know their plot points, not their personality and those two things are very different in my head. We know the main character got his powers in a disaster and that there are shadowy powers at work and a superhero team at work. Just looking at things, we can also see that we’re dealing with a battle between diversity and racism/fascism/the shadow government.

All we know about the personality of the main character is that he’s a bit shy around a pretty girl, loves his family and gets angry when confused. We’re two issues in, for me that’s two chapters of this story, which means two chapters in and I’m still not comfortable about whether these he’s going to be an interesting character to read about. I know he’s there to be a cypher for the reader to identify with so they can be led into this new world through him, but he’s too much of a cypher, really too much of a stereotype and not a person yet. Sometimes you need to know the head of a character before you trust their heart and their insight.

As to the Secret Protectors, the same is true for them, except that there are some moments where you get a little ‘in’ on their relationships. I’m unsure whether issue 2 delivers more interest because of their presence, or their presence in issue 2 mean that they’re treated with more skill and so come across as more interesting.

I think the art also needs to work harder at selling this comic at this point as well. It’s uneven at the moment and fluctuates in ability sometimes panel to panel. There are moments where the anatomy is bang on, followed by some really awkward posing or poorly executed foreshortening and that throws around the reading of the story. On the whole though, those anatomy issues are about time and practice. There are more fundamental decisions here about the approach to the story where there’s an uneven approach that throws the story out. Choices of posing and pacing and sequencing that at points flatten the character portrayal or the excitement of the action, but at other points serve to really punch it up a notch.

 

Diving down into the detail

Now – I’m going to get into a quite close read of this here and this is where I talk about why I enjoyed this comic and what I see as its virtues. That all comes with the caveat that I’m neither writer, nor artist, nor editor and that none of these things are anything other than the reasons I have for reviewing and recommending this.

So, lets begin by picking 2 pages from issue 2 to compare, page 2 and a detail from page 5.

Page 2 is the first half of a double page spread and we’re seeing what should be a really impactful moment where a mech droid is confronting the Secret Protectors. I’ve decontextualized this a lot by removing the big robot, because I want to talk about character and the depiction of those characters.

If you look at the poses being struck here, I find them vey static and generic. There’s nothing individual about those poses where you couldn’t reverse the costumes and be showing them as having the same personality. Also, the composition relies very heavily on the action lines to feel dynamic. That barn in the background carries as much dynamic force as the figures themselves in my reading of the scene.

Compare that to the action shown on page 5, the position and shape of the body, the placing in the frame and the composition of the action between those two panels. They’re small on the page in the actual comic, but they carry much more action and punch and show more of the character’s personality, The writing here adds an extra element to the character depiction, seemingly at odds with the ‘go in there and do it’ look of the action we can see someone concerned with not causing harm to their enemy.

Then you look at that pose in the panel and instead of opting for a typical ‘blasting out flames’ pose, the arms are thrown backwards whilst getting into position, so now I see that the writing explains why they are thrown back without banging you on the head with a hammer.

Interestingly, the anatomy in both drawings is no better on a ‘realistic’ scale, it’s just that the flame panels have their own rhythm where those shapes put together make sense as a person running fast. Also the shapes made by the flames between each panel match up dynamically, twisting the eye around in a near circle, moving your eye down from top to bottom before retuning it to the right so you move on to the next panel. My eye moves quickly, like the action it’s depicting.

Even the computer art works differently; the orange flames, though very painterly, sit within the context of the image; whereas, the action lines on page 2 stand apart, almost speaking a different language to the image on the page.

Secret Protectors 1 page 4 detail
Secret Protectors 1 page 4 detail

The computer art has a nice pace of its own at points in this comic as well. There’s a panel on page 4 of the 1st issue that is just orange colour with a white speed line filter applied. It works, at that point, as a nice story beat, it’s very otherness serving to break out the rhythm of the story. The approach is not used in such a considered manner throughout though.

Secret Protectors 2 page 1
Secret Protectors 2 page 1

The 1st page of issue 2 also has an interesting moment like this and shows my point more clearly, I think. If you look at the whole page, the middle panel again uses some computer made speed lines to give a sense of dynamism. This time, I feel, they’re working against the real dynamism achieved in the figure drawing and panel composition. They’re dumped so artificially onto the panel it breaks up the flow of the story where it should move dynamically. Then you get that final panel, where there’s this amazing, expressionistic depiction of the van shown very realistically in the first panel. Break beat. Sinister yellow eyes glowing out. Impact of the message driven home. Game changer engaged. Essentially, such a different outcome.

 

Secret Protectors 2 page 1 close up final panel
Secret Protectors 2 page 1 close up final panel

I guess the point that’s being skirted around is that there is some really good work here, but I’m not sure that it’s a choice as part of the story delivery. I hope so for the creators, because these are interesting techniques to employ consciously. Personally, it doesn’t matter so much, intent doesn’t stop me from stopping and looking at that and thinking it is awesome.

But the application is inconsistent throughout the two issues and that’s a shame as it can really block the story at points.

Maybe one last group of examples might make my point clearer.

Secret Protectors 1 page 1
Secret Protectors 1 page 1

The use of computer colour and design on the drawings, particularly on the buildings, has a sort of deadening effect on the art quite often, as do the pacing and drawing choices. If you look at the 1st page of the 1st issue, the very precise nature of that building, the point of view disappearing into the centre of the building, the matching tones of most of the page, all of these serve to force you to just stare at the centre of the hospital complex. It’s a real work of effort to move your eye on.

When you do, it’s the same battle over again to move your eyes off those repeated panels, then again, the first panels of the bottom tier are matched so closely that the final panel of the page seems like it’s clipped from a completely different story. That page is just hard reading all the way through. Yet I can feel that it’s trying to create a rhyme on the page, a pace to draw you through.

Secret Protectors 1 page 9
Secret Protectors 1 page 9

I get the same feeling about the pacing set up on pages 8-9 of issue 1. Just looking at page 9, you can see the rhythm being aimed for. Yet it’s so flat, the characters aren’t made interesting in either drawing or writing. It’s stiff at all points. Maybe not stiff, forced, like the creators know they’ve got something to get across and they’re going to make it happen.

Now, why I’m interested in this comic can be seen when you contrast that with issue 2 page 13. Just stop and look out the layout and how it rhymes and matches up, window panes below matching panel layout above, colours in top and bottom tiers balancing yet contrasting. Even the way that the panels show the change in character personality. The anatomy may be no better or more consistent, but the pacing is on point so it doesn’t matter to me.

Secret Protectors 2 page 13 detail
Secret Protectors 2 page 13 detail

Look at how the relationship of characters is mirrored between their powers at work, the story beats are well chosen and well depicted. They sell the relationship of those characters to each other, rather than labouring the point. It’s subtler already. It’s unfolds before you rather than TELLING you about itself.

 

One last dive

I just want to look at this last page, mainly because of those bottom three panels and the way I like the look of them! Also though, because that middle panel works so well to deliver an emotional moment. Simple, good facial expression and body language and colours focussing the moment. Then those last three panels delivering such a different artistic style, changing the rhythm of the comic instantly. It’s moments like this that make me enjoy this comic.

Secret Protectors 2 page 7
Secret Protectors 2 page 7

It’s served up in a way that shows me some character and emotion, in a way that feels like it’s a personal solution for its creators. It’s fine entertainment and I’m all about that at times.

 

all art copyright and trademark it’s respective owners.

content copyright iestyn pettigrew 2019

The Short List – Zeno Carta

Disclosure – I am currently working with Zeno Carta on an anthology planned to release in June.

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ZL – Your work is, so far, all black and white linework, would you like to see your work coloured?

ZC – I’ve been focusing for now on the rhythm of black and white because, while colour can do a lot, it can also easily overwhelm. Black and white is all most comics need to do their work, and I find that, when done well, black and white is actually clearer and more appealing. It’s hard to match good black and white design for pure impact.

That said, my most recent comic as of writing, “Warehouse (nsfw)” uses limited colour to do what black and white can’t.

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C-Series – Rev.0.978 – Warehouse – detail – page 10

I think that many comics treat colour almost like an afterthought, but colour has its own rhythms to consider–otherwise you lose the focus that black and white line art often has on its own. At the very least you need to know the colour wheel and basic pleasing palettes like dual and split complimentary.

ZL – Do you remember the first time?

ZC – No idea when I first liked something, but the comics I read as a kid were mostly Tintin and Peanuts. I pretty much believe that Herge and Schulz can teach you most of what you need to know about comics, before learning on your own. Learning comics is mostly practice–more of a craft than book-learning–but Tintin and Peanuts make a pretty good foundation.

Going back to those comics now, I think you can still see a sort of spark that explains why everyone knows them. I mean, it’s no fluke that they’re still popular, while the vast majority of comics never make it out of the basement. They have something to say, but know how to say it in a way that feels like a real experience.

ZL – Given an unlimited budget and all the time in the world what would you create and where or how would you send it into the world?

ZC – Given unlimited time and resources and time, I’m sure I would start a whole bunch of crazy projects and never finish any of them. There’s far more creativity in restriction and discipline than there is in unlimited resources.

Restriction, both in time and money (and even in skill) forces you to think of new ways of doing things. If you’ve got to draw a page that’s supposed to be an intricate city scene but you’ve only got a few hours left, you’re going to have to figure out some different way of doing things that might actually end up being better from a design or story perspective, while still taking less time. In other words, restriction forces you to experiment.

This isn’t an excuse for laziness in comics, but rather what I mean is that, when given unlimited freedom, there’s nothing to spur you to change bad habits and discover new ways of doing things. (This the is the reason I tend to stick to a grid. I’ve got to box myself in or else I lose all sense.)

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MKVI-3 – Default Mode – page 4

ZL – I’m new to your work but have dug through your website and really love what I see. How long have you been drawing comics and what was the impetus to start putting them online?

ZC – I made comics as a kid but only came back recently. Right now I’m just sort of seeing what people might be interested in.

Or in more modern terms: In order to reach #success you must #motivate and #extricate your thoughts #fromdepressiontoinvention to #testthemarket and #findyourself today in this web of internet tubes that create a mirror on our life and demand our attention at every moment but take us even farther from the nature which would make us #happy, which is why you could do with a monthly #successquotes postcard (from my Patreon) with a custom sketch to help you out of the trap.

ZL – What is the most important influence on your current work?

ZC – Impossible to pick one. Some prominent influences recently would include 40s noir films, Mike Mignola, W.T. Frick, and vaporwave. There are ideas everywhere if you’re a curious sort.

I really liked those “influence maps” from a few years ago (basically ancient in internet time) because they revealed how far away influences can be even for people who have stuck with a similar style their whole career.

Or in other words, once when I was a teenager I was out in an old flat-bottomed aluminum boat. The water was really low that year, and a shoal that had never been a problem before suddenly looked way too close to the surface. I was still running fine, but instead of skimming the surface I decided to slow down. The boat lowered just enough that the propeller crunched where it shouldn’t, which snapped the shearing pins. And being the idiot I was at 15, I hadn’t replaced the spare shearing pins after tangling with some lily pads in a marsh the previous fall. I had to prop the motor and paddle a mile home, meaning that when I got there I had to eat moose instead of venison.