Top row (l-r): Joel Meadows' new Tripwire magazine (no.54) is out now and it's absolutely packed full of great reading - visit the website to learn more and you can order a copy there too. This issue also includes a short interview with me; the latest Cinebook release from Leo is Betelgeuse vol 3: The Other - I think this is a fantastic series and I snap these up as soon as they're released, though this is the last in the current saga; NBM's latest Dungeon release is Twilight vol 3: The New Centurions - one of my favourite series (as I mentioned in Forbidden Planet International's recent Bastille Day piece).
Second row (l-r): Mw by Osamu Tezuka - I'm only a little way into this 582-page manga but am pretty gripped already; Fantagraphics recently translated Tardi's stunning and harrowing It Was the War of the Trenches; Alex Milway's new book, part-comic, part-prose, Operation Robot Storm - chock-full of Yetis!
Third row (l-r): Black Blizzard by Yoshihiro Tatsumi - I bought this after reading the author's autobiographical A Drifting Life, this is an early work and fairly crude by today's standards, but still an excellent (if unsurprising) read; Darryl Cunningham's brilliant Psychiatric Tales - highly original, wonderfully drawn, educational (though not at all preachy) - a very readeable and important comic - I think everyone should get themselves a copy (and it's published by the marvellous Blank Slate Books); Wilson by Daniel Clowes - bought after seeing Clowes and Chris Ware at the Brighton Corn Exchange a few weeks ago, a darkly enjoyable read if a little monotone - good though!
The main character is Evelyn, whose over-active imagination is directed into the comics she draws - the adventures of Zirconium Man and his sidekick (and Evelyn's alter-ego), Scooter. It's also her imagination that conjures up German spies on every street corner, and a trail that eventually leads to a possible spy-ring right in the heart of New York itself.
The story is written by two new-comers to the art of comics, but you wouldn't know it as it's a clearly told tale, and not overburdened with narration as some comics by pure wordsmiths are prone to. There are a couple of rather unlikely moments (the secret code that relies on a published work of fiction and the floor plan to a piece of 14th century architecture is a great idea but would seem impossible to match in reality), but they are far outweighed by the many moments of fun and excitement that move the story along at a perfect pace.
The relationship between the bohemian aunt and the flat-footed policeman reminded me of the romantic comedies of the period, perhaps played by the likes of Cary Grant and Paulette Goddard or Katharine Hepburn.
The cartooning, by a graduate of the New York School of Visual Arts, is lively and clear in both line and storytelling, and has hints of the European school of Hergé, Floc'h and Yves Chaland, with the two children often reminding me of Hergé's Jo and Zette in character, though the setting and atmosphere is very definitely American (indeed Evelyn's own comic is rendered in a fitting 1940s pulp comic style). All in all, it's another great book from First Second.
It was a very enjoyable evening and it was good to meet some fellow Sussex artists, including Fraser Geesin (also podcast master), Rory Walker and Nye Wright. It was great also to finally meet Dez Skinn (who included my work in his book, Comic Art Now, but also edited and published many of the comics of my youth, most importantly Warrior magazine), and David Lloyd (co-creator of V for Vendetta and author of Kickback). It was also nice to see a familiar face in Gavin Burrows, and to meet the lovely Corinne Pearlman of Myriad Editions. If you're a cartoonist or comic creator in Sussex, I'd highly recommend taking a look at Cartoon County - they meet on the last Monday of every month.
Cartoon County were also involved in my trip down to Brighton on Tuesday (25th May) to see Paul Gravett talk to Dan Clowes and Chris Ware at the Corn Exchange, as we were supposed to have dinner with them after the event. Alas, train trouble from London meant it all started 45 minutes late, and with a huge queue for signings afterwards, dinner had to be abandoned as they rushed for the last train back to the city.
The talk itself was very interesting. Clowes and Ware were obviously a little tired after the journey down, not to mention their London appearances the previous day after coming straight from Denmark over the weekend. Being the angst-ridden authors they are, it was sometimes difficult to get a lot out of them, but Paul did a great job of making it look effortless and as the talk went on they opened up a lot more. At the end there were questions from the audience, the best one coming from Fraser Geesin who simply asked "are you happy?". Ware, the more introvert of the two, did reveal he was ("Yay!" replied Fraser), but didn't like to crow about it too much in the face of people who had to 'go to work for a living'.
Again the evening was spent in the company of terrific comics people including Tim Pilcher and Karen Rubins, and it was a lovely surprise to bump into Patrice Aggs and her husband, Chris. I was also very pleased to meet Britten and Brülightly author, Hannah Berry, as well as some of the Cartoon County regulars I'd met on my last visit. You can see Tim's report over on the Bleeding Cool site.
On Thursday night I went to the second Comica Social Club with Ellie (who now has a membership badge too - I'll have her actually making comics soon!). This time we were able to sit inside the Festival Hall which turned out to be a pretty decent venue as various comics people spilled out around a couple of central sofas. A list of people met and chatted to would be a bit much (I've done too much of that in this post already!), but I did get to compare plane-route maps with the brilliant Alex Milway, who's first Mythical 9th Division book is out in about a week's time. Had a lovely dinner with Ellie afterwards, then got the train home, ending up rather late to bed, but comic-batteries somewhat re-energized.
Saturday 29 May 4pm, Imagination Station - John Harris Dunning: Salem Brownstone - All Along the Watchtowers
Sunday 30 May 9am, The Ritzy - Philippa Perry: Couch Fiction
Sunday 30 May 2.30pm, Imagination Station - Andi Watson: Glister
Monday 31 May 5.30pm, The Ritzy - Ben Haggarty: Tales from the World of Mezolith
Tuesday 1 June 1pm, The Ritzy - Tim Quinn: Nostalgic & Hilarious Afternoon of Comic Book History
Wednesday 2 June 1pm, The Ritzy - Sally Kindberg & Tracey Turner: The Comic Strip History of Space
Thursday 3 June 4pm, The Ritzy - Martin Rowson: The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman
Friday 4 June 2.30pm, Oxfam Studio - Ian Edginton & Ian Culbard: The Hound of the Baskervilles
Saturday 5 June 1pm, Oxfam Studio - Garen Ewing: The Adventures of Julius Chancer - The Rainbow Orchid
Saturday 5 June 5.30pm, The Ritzy - Paul Gravett with Gerald Scarfe, Brian Griffiths and Simon Grant - Rude Britannia Comic Art
One of the longest-running has been Les McClaine's Jonny Crossbones. At one point it was to be published by Dark Horse, but it became a victim of recessiony cost-cutting and lost its place. But it's beautifully drawn and a super mystery story to boot, so I'm sure it will see print at some point. Les has been pretty busy recently so it's been a while since it updated, but there's plenty to see online in the meantime.
I've enthused about David O'Connell's Tozo plenty of times here, and there's good reason for that - it's a superb strip! It's a romantically-hued science-fiction tale, a bit art deco, a bit steam-punky, and a lovely world to get immersed in. Book three has just come out in print form.
Ellie Connelly is an adventuress of the late-Victorian era, and she's currently involved in the hunt for the legendary Energy Vortex, thanks to her creator, the fantastic Indigo Kelleigh. This is great historical adventure with a hefty twist of the supernatural thrown into the mix. Stirring and absorbing stuff!
A couple of new British-based webcomics have surfaced in the past few months, and both are worth mentioning here too. Michael Ewing (no relation) has been providing us with the antics of Hugo & Co. since last August. Each new instalment turns up the mystery and keeps you riveted, a very enjoyable read. And I also heard from Mike Dutton who impressed me greatly with his work on The Zander Adventure. I love the pastoral setting which lends one to think something of the atmosphere found in Asterix or the Smurfs, and on top of that the characters and dialogue provide some excellent chucklesome moments - I look forward to reading more!
One thing about making comics in the fairly rigid format of a classic Franco-Belgian album is that it forces you to keep a strong narrative going. It's not easy, and there is less opportunity to rely on a number of the shortcuts comic authors sometimes use. The progression of the story has to be kept clear and logical. It's a real discipline, but often results in a comic that keeps good sequential storytelling to the fore.
If you know of any more comics in the clear line style, or in the family of classic Franco-Belgian adventure tales, do leave a comment and a link!
You can win a copy of The Curse of Mousebeard with a lovely original drawing in - just go and look at this post here on the Mousehunter blog. I don't wish to be horrible, but I hope you don't win, because I'd quite like to! But fair's fair... you should certainly have a go :-)
I can also heartily recommend Alex's recent Panel Borders interview, which helped me to while away the hours whilst ruling out several pages of Rainbow Orchid layouts. And keep listening, because it's followed by a really good interview with John Harris Dunning, author of the marvellous Salem Brownstone.
There's no doubt it is one of the best British comics blogs, with no particular bias or prejudice against any kind of comic while exuding an upbeat view of the industry and its creators. And despite being the tool of a retail and mail order shop, you'd hardly know it, as it's not continually (or ever, really) pushing its merchandise or hurling screaming animated advertisements at you while you're trying to read (and it so easily could). It's all about the content, and the content consists of quality writing on a diverse range of subjects, genres and media.
On a personal note, FPI have been very supportive of The Rainbow Orchid and, in fact, if you look at the blog's contributors, I'm privileged with generosity from all. Joe Gordon, captain of the ship, has regularly featured RO news and tidbits; Richard Bruton positively reviewed volume one; Matthew Badham conducted something of a 'master' interview, while Pádraig Ó Méalóid did a spot-on book-focussed interview; and Wim Lockefeer made my day with the following comment on his own blog, The Ephemerist:
"As a Belgian, and therefore assuming that I have anything to say in things ligne claire (which I don't), I think this is one of the best comics to step in Tintin's footsteps, along with Dirk Stallaert's Nino and Peter Van Dongen's Rampokan..."
I've been waiting for ages to quote that somewhere! One contributor who we don't see so often (hopefully it's the success of Blank Slate Books that has kept him away), but whose rare posts are always insightful, is Kenny Penman, and I'll leave you with the Forbidden Planet International advert he commissioned from me in 2007 (click it to see a larger version).
You can see the FPI birthday post here. Thanks for all the great reading, Joe and team. Here's to the next five...
I also wanted to remind you that Dave Shelton's Good Dog, Bad Dog is out next week from David Fickling Books. It's the first of three DFC Library books to be released, with more to follow later in the year. You can even buy it through my shop if you want, and you can read a preview here.
And finally, a little mention of a superb comic I just read, A Drifting Life by Yoshihiro Tatsumi. It's an autobiographical tale that focuses on the author's journey from manga fan to manga professional, coming of age in the 1950s golden era of Japanese comics. It's one of those books where I just had to keep reading 'one more chapter' - and ended up reading several late into the night. Highly recommended, especially if you make comics or love manga.