November 30th, 2013
A collaboration with Edinburgh based artist and ghost merchant Lynne Henderson, Cut-Out Witch contains twenty five pages worth of lost souls and lo-fi monster magic – imagine a teen goth Terminus and you’ll be on the right track. Lynne provided the pictures, I added the words, but if you want to cleanse yourself with holy water after reading then I’m afraid you’ll have to bring your own bottle.
“Cut-Out Witch is really good… Lovely creepy stuff” – Twitter’s own James Baker
UK & Europe £2.50 + £1.50 postage & packing:
International £2.50 + £2.00 postage & packing:
November 30th, 2013
Fresh from Thought Bubble 2013, it’s the zine full of comics and essays about suicide, hubris and social housing that everyone – well, at least one person! – is talking about, Looking Glass Heights!
This first issue features:
- THE BLOWNDOWN OF BARRY BROWN – a comic about a man who goes up a a building then comes back down again, though whether the man or the building are the same in the end is up to you to decide.
- REALITY WAR – US vs. THEM – an essay on social housing and the customer service reflex.
- FLOWERS IN A FOREGROUND – another essay on Frank Miller, Eddie Campbell, and art vs. reality.
- BREAKDOWN OF A BLOWDOWN – a deconstruction of the method used to create the art for Looking Glass Heights #1 (“a comic drawn by someone who can’t really draw, using a tool that wasn’t meant for the job”).
“…made me feel thing with a limited size and toolkit” – Twitter’s own James Baker
UK & Europe £2.00 + £1.50 postage & packing:
November 27th, 2013
Jupiter’s Legacy #1-3, by Marky “Mark” Millar, Frank Quitely and Pete Doherty
Forgive me for the somewhat less than timely review, but fuck me – three issues in this is still a startlingly uninteresting book, from pig (Millar) to lipstick (Quitely) and beyond (???).
It should go without saying that this response is merely a product of the reaction between the lines on the page and those etched into my long-suffering brain, but that in no way makes this a good or even halfway entertaining comic. So while it’s true that both Millar and Quitely have thwarted all expectations here by failing to irritate and innovate respectively, the only real problem experience poses for Jupiter’s Chegacy is that a lifetime of reading and watching stories will train you to spot a tired duffer like this miles off.
Familiarity itself isn’t the issue here, per se: the old power/responsibility theme could easily survive yet another regeneration, and there’s no reason why a story about the famous children of rich superheroes couldn’t be made timely and interesting. It’s the old world vs. the new, the people who made the world vs. those who have to limit in it, and surely that’s an easy sell in this post moneygeddon landscape? The problem, at least so far as this cynical critic is concerned, is more that no one involved in this comic seems particularly interested in how they’re saying anything:
Page after page of dialogue mounts up to little effect, with passionate arguments sitting on the page like undeveloped notes from the plot breakdown, lacking either the vanity of realism or the courage of true artifice. This is a comic full of gestures, which would be forgivable if we were dealing with the mangled mitts and marvelous manifestations of Ditko-era Doctor Strange. Instead, Jupiter’s Children nods absently towards a half-busy suburban street in the daylight, hoping that you’ll find something interesting there and mistake dumb luck for careful planning.
November 25th, 2013
Iron Man 3
Dir. by Kiss Kiss, starring Bang Bang, written by the pretty drones of north america
It’s important to remember that everything that happens in this film takes place while Tony Stark is trapped in the wormhole in The Avengers. All of that talk about demons in the opening voice-over? Not metaphorical. This is the story of a man whose self has been shattered, trying to work out which shards to save and which ones to cast away. That’s why none of the characters feel real, except from Tony – they’re all figments, fragments of his essence, their nature and actions defined purely by the gaps in his form.
Having touched heaven, Our Hero sees the way back down to Earth, and realises that it’s angels and demons all the way down:
The kid represents true self love, while Pepper represents tough self love, and having embraced these twin fictions and annihilated his monstrous reflections Stark is free to imagine himself to be healed.
The movie? Oh, it’s a decent enough post-Iron Man action movie, better than the second film, probably just about as good as the first, and if you find yourself wondering how a movie that gleefully burlesques the absurdity of The War Against Terror (lol TWAT! lol foreigns! shout outs to Ben Kingsley!) can also rel on the redemptive power of drones for its ending, just watch old Droney Starks as he swans off into the sunset, wrapped in his latest and most impressive invention – a suit of armour made out of a microscopically thin layer of lies. That should tell you everything you need to know.
Much Ado About Nothing
Dir. by Captain America, starring your special friends, adapted for the screen by the reanimated head of William Shakespeare
Joss Whedon and co’s Much Ado About Nothing is a goofy, enjoyable movie that’s made just that little big bit sexier by the absence of what you might call Mouse Muscle. Don’t get me wrong, Whedon organised all of the Mouse Muscle at his disposal well in The Avengers – he even managed to keep yon blockheeded cock who plays Hawkeye out the way for the most part! - but it was always clear who and what was being serviced.
The priorities are different in Much Ado About Nothing, a luxurious indulgence in which Whedon services the script, cast and audience equally. One of those is you, and another is yours, if you want it to be, and it’s hard not to be flattered in such generous company, but let’s not act like everyone has access to the friends and production values that Whedon makes use of here because the lush setting gives lie to that notion. Whedon’s house is big, and the shadows it casts are long and dark, so by filling this setting with crisp suits and gun holsters and presenting it in black and white, Whedon successfully dresses up this screwball romance in noir clothing.
Amy Acker’s Beatrice is the main draw here, though Fran Kranz deserves props for managing to make top creeper Claudio’s sudden swings from infatuation to rage seem like the product of a genuine (if unstable) consciousness, and the duo of Tom Lenk and Nathon Fillion deliver the shaky comedy double act of Dogberry and Verges with admirably steady hands. This story is still Beatrice’s if it’s anyone’s though, and Acker plays her like someone whose “merry” manner is a tightrope, a thin line of barbed jibes from which she cannot imagine herself departing. It’s her role to poke fun at the conventions of the compound she lives in, and also to make the violence that underwrites her existence obvious, to draw it back into the foreground when she feels her cousin wronged. Alexis Denisof’s Benedict might make the transition from striking hero to total goof in record time, but note how quick he is to agree to violence when Beatrice demands it of him and try to remember that this is a movie about what spooks do on their time off.
Of course, having made it explicit that she lives in a world full of merry killers (a grand house that, like this whole project, has been made possible by the brute force of The Mouse and The Fox and other such creatures) Beatrice then allows herself to be tricked into a happy ending.
Ask yourself, in all honesty: would you do any less?
November 22nd, 2013
For the third year running Team Mindless will be in (almost) full effect at the Thought Bubble comics convention in Leeds. I’ll be there trying to shake off my current Brendan McCarthy inspired appearance in front of my adoring public, and I believe Andre Whickey, Bobsy, Gary Lactus, Mister Attack and The Beast Must Die will also be in attendance on Saturday and Sunday.
If you fancy stopping by for a chat or buying our wares, we’ll be at Tables 21-22 in Allied London Hall for the duration of the weekend.
Fans of word/face combinations should note that the beautiful mugs behind our SILENCE! podcast will be performing SILENCE! Live (in 3D) at 11.40am on Saturday morning at the Speech Bubble Panel Arena in Armories Square. As if the prospect of matching face to voice wasn’t exciting enough, Mssrs Beast and Lactus will be joined by comics’ own Kieron Gillen, Brandon Graham, Al Ewing, and Ales Kot as they discuss love, life, and (obviously) comics in bottom-wetting detail.
Back in Allied London Hall, those of you lucky enough to have pennies in your pocket will be able to exchange them for the following shiny treats!
In his secret identity as “Fraser Geesin,” Britain’s Next Top Cosmic Apocalypse Gary Lactus will be glad to take your Earth currency in exchange for…
Headrust – a collection of 20 years worth of family strips
The Cleaner #1 - about a true hero of our times
Knights of the Realm – as serialised on this very website!
The Amusing Brothers Collection – as featured in your least haunting dreams
Scott “Mister Attack” Mackattack (Sorry, I’m a dick – Scott McAllister, that’s his name. This is his website. Go show him some love!) will be selling the first two collections of his Wake Up Screaming comic (Everyone’s Felt Like This Once and A Head Full of Maybes) alongside Points on a Graph, his new comic about the growing crossover between post-human entities and customer service work.
He’ll also be giving away samples of his new Webcomic, The Weegie Board, as written by some prick called David Allison.
The Beast Must Die might have had to pretend to be a mere mortal called Dan White in order to have his Cindy and Biscuit nominated for Young People’s Comic Award at this year’s BCAs, but that doesn’t lesson his achievements at all.
Cindy and Biscuit is one of the best comics around. Check it out:
When pressed for details as to what its host body would be selling this weekend, Andrew Hickey‘s beard made the following statement out of its many gorgeous tendrils:
I will have the first ten copies ever printed of my collection of essays about Doctor Who, Fifty Stories For Fifty Years, available — it comes out tomorrow, the day of the anniversary itself (I haven’t even looked at the copies myself yet, so they’re unproofed — caveat lector). I will also have copies of my book about Grant Morrison’s Seven Soldiers, An Incomprehensible Condition, and my essays about comics and Doctor Who, Sci-Ence! Justice Leak!, as well as my short story collection Ideas And Entities. I may have one or two copies of my music books as well if I have any left over from last year (I haven’t checked). I will also scribble in the books if you wish.
Bit weird how the beard thinks it’s in charge, but I’m not brave enough to contradict it so we’ll let that pass for now.
Finally, I’ll be there with copies of Cut-Out Witch (a book full of melancholy ghosts and lo-fi monster magic, as drawn by my friend Lynne Henderson and captured in caption by my good self) and issue #1 of Looking Glass Heights, a mix of comics and essays on a set of common themes (housing, hubris, reality, the weather):
There might be a few other tricks and treats for you if you stop by over the weekend, but I won’t ruin them for you by spoiling them now.
Thought Bubble is easily the best comics convention I’ve ever been to, and if you can make it to Leeds this weekend I’d urge you to attend even if you don’t want to have to look at us/give us money/touch our many gorgeous heads.
November 9th, 2013
One of the strange blessings of the internet is its ability to serve as an external memory system. Thoughts that would once have been lost to time if they were even lucky enough to have made it out of your head are now preserved for an indefinite eternity in places over which you have little to no control.
For example, if I want to know how I felt about Brendan McCarthy’s Doctor Strange/Spider-Man comic Fever after the first issue came out in 2010, a quick google search will turn up this flouncing defense of the book, written in response to a review by Sean Collins:
Say it Vibrational Match style: Where you see “inert physicality”, I see a Spider-Man who’s all harsh angles and elbows being squashed, flattened out, and a Doc Strange who’s at home with the harsh geometrics McCarthy conjures up.
Where you read flat pastiche, I read Spider-Man as a jerk who gets shut the hell up by the story (his words like jutting elbows –> drooping limbs), and Doc Strange as a badass who can turn exposition into information with the right gestures (verbal, physical).
Also: the mystic spider dialogue is genuinely fucking creepy, for reals, when combined with the images, yes?
In lesser hands this would be mere set-up, but this issue had a whole lot of “?something else?” working for it — that creepy wee arachnid bastard, crawling up the Vulture’s back, fr’instance! Like something from Seven Soldiers, only (yes!) far more unsettling.
I saw the biggest, most bulbous-assed spider of the year last night, sitting on my windowsill. I’m a bit of a wuss when it comes to these wee beasties, but last night, after having read Fever? I tell you, I wanted to kiss the wee fucker!
The “hey, I’m a black guy!” dialogue was a bit cringey though, pastiche or no.
Looking at the book this week, I find myself agreeing with every point but the last one.
It’s not that I don’t find the dialogue McCarthy gave to the African-American comedy character cringe-inducing anymore – I do! – but that Brendan McCarthy’s recent Facebook comments on race make me feel ashamed the structure supporting that final sentence.
Sure, I agreed with Sean Collins’ assessment of the embarrassing nature of McCarthy’s throwback characterisation, but I did so in a tossed off, casual way, after five paragraphs of flame flecked enthusiasm. The implicit message being that everyone should just chill out about this racist after taste and enjoy the “septic salsa” of the comic itself.
In 2010, the story of McCarthy was that he was that of the hero freshly returned from the wasteland, ready to save the kingdom from itself. His new work confirmed his status as a trinity of psych-pop ghosts, the faces of Brit comics past, present and future combined. What interest could a couple of dodgy panels hold against all that? Solo #12 remains McCarthy’s late period masterpiece, but even in lesser books like Fever there are moments of astonishing beauty. The scene in the second issue where Spider-Man steps through a portal and into a crunchy insect killing field still burns bright in the light of its own toxic logic:
September 11th, 2013
The Comics Journal Website is composed of a number of phantasmagorical pages, some of them ordered as blog posts, others as columns or interviews or features, all of them dedicated to an art of uncertain value.
Wars have been fought over the best way to define this paper-thin phenomenon, many of them on previous incarnation of the Comics Journal site. On quiet Sunday afternoons in the early 2000s gangs of rabid comics scholars could often be found tossing verbal molotovs back and forth: are comics sequential art, made compelling by the gaps between images, or is any attempt to define a medium based on what it *doesn’t* contain doomed to folly? Does this alleged art form have its roots in ancient tapestry or arcane graffiti? Are stories that strain to make childhood fantasies relevant for adult consumers really that much worse than stories that are at pains to distance themselves from the same fantasies?
Which is to say: Do you prefer Dan Clowes or the Sex-Men?
Mickey Maus or Krazy Kat?
You could catch many notions while trawling the endlessly, depthless sea of these online arguments, but no matter how long and hard you toiled you would be hard pressed to find a convincing definition of comics that didn’t fall back on the tautological – no one knows what comics are, but everyone trusts that they will know them when they see them.
First off, the word “muslim” is never implied. Second, the terrorists aren’t real. They are cartoons based loosely on the fact that there are people on this planet who will kill you because you don’t believe in their imaginary god. Again, they are CARTOONS. It’s complete fantasy. So, your last line about “justification for the depiction of terrorists” really makes no sense. Are you a censor? Depiction of what exactly? They aren’t real to begin with. The key phrase in your ridiculously reactionary statement is “having not read it”.
Indie cartoonist Jason Karns there, responding to a question about whether or not his small press comic Fukitor was as “insanely racist” as it looked. Here we see Karns displaying a sort of thinking that transcends Keats’ “negative capability”, tending instead towards a sort of unfathomable emptiness – the ability to hold a jumble of seemingly contradictory ideas in one’s head without grasping the implications of any of them.
And what sort of work does such an ability lead to?
Work that looks a little bit like this, apparently:
August 15th, 2013
If the first volume of Batman Incorporated exploded out of the gloom and propelled the character back towards life, then the second iteration of this latest re-branding was a far different proposition.
Every stage of Morrison’s Batman has followed a similar trajectory, starting off light-hearted and energetic before eventually plunging right back into the overarching mega-plot, and with it, the grand absence that unifies the whole run:
In the previous two iterations this has entailed an increase of complexity, either in the form of the deconstructionist absurdity of Batman RIP or in the twinned conclusions to Batman and Robin and The Return of Bruce Wayne. Batman Incorporated 2.0 represents a different approach. This final flourish of Batman comics represents the ultimate reduction of all that had come before, with the stresses of the plot compressing these twelve issues down to the barest element as it plays out to its logical conclusion: a man in a cape punching people in the face forever.
July 17th, 2013
You might not know it, but you gamble every time you pick up an issue of Dial H: the ink in which this comic is printed contains a rare sort of toxin, exposure to which dials up one of three parallel universes. Before your eyes make contact with the page, you know that any given episode has a 33.333333333% chance of being: (A) a sloppy pastiche of the Morrison/Case Doom Patrol run, (B) a snazzy pastiche of a good proto-Vertigo comic (like the Morrison/Case Doom Patrol run, for example) or (C) a genuinely effective post Alan Moore/Grant Morrison superhero comic.
If Dial H #12 saw China Mieville, Alberto Ponticelli and co rolling (dialing) the reader into a hopeless tangled version of their own story in which none of the lines (whether in the art, plot or dialogue) connected meaningfully, then issue #13 (which is now only the second most recent issue due to my Mindless incompetence) provided a clear and direct line to the best of all possible worlds(/comics).
Comics being a collaborative medium, Alberto Ponticelli’s pencils tighten up with Mieville’s script, and the unstable environments of issue #12 are forgotten in favour of an information-dense two-layered landscape. Ably assisted by inker Dan Green and colourists Tanya and Richard Horie, Ponticelli works for maximum accessibility at every turn, framing our regular cast as pedestrian browsers walking through a block in which comics sprawl on every wall, always making sure that we’re able to read over their shoulders:
It might seem strange that an issue that takes a break to recap the plot of the previous few issues should be better than anything being recapped, but Dial H is that rare superhero comic that actively thrives on exposition. Try to remember that other standout issues in this series have explained where the powers Nelson and co dial up actually come from (#0, #11), and explored the difficulties that arise from contact with unreconstructed racist fantasies (no not Game of Thrones, issue #6):
Dial H is at its best when explains its own mechanics because theme is built into the design of this revamp more clearly than it expressed by any of the action on the page, a quirk (or fault, depending on your tolerance for this sort of thing) that only strengthens the book’s Karen Berger-edited pedigree.
Just think of the many walking tours through authorial interests that characterised that first flush of post-Alan Moore, British invasion comics, all those scary strolls through the green, trips out into blue forgotten worlds, the evening walks that lead you right underneath the Pentagon and straight on into the heart of the American scream…
The walking tour we get in Dial H #13 is made possible by pleasantly mixed metonyms, by a double act made of dual purpose characters, Open Window Man and his new friend, a young boy in a world of chalk.
July 11th, 2013
EXPOSITION: From the first few pages onwards it’s clear that this is one of those LA stories, an everyday apocalypse in which a strung out and savvy cast of screenwriters, rappers, astronauts, agents and cultists collide against a genre-mashed backdrop; the prophetic screenplay that drives the story is modeled on The Last Boy Scout, but Richard Kelly’s media-frazzled sci-fi meltdown Southland Tales seems the more fitting tonal counterpoint for this story of a city stuck on an apparently endless cycle of destruction.
The main characters in CHANGE are lost and ambitious souls, tilting after people and projects like a set of modern day Don Quixotes, struggling to find their way to an imaginary elsewhere that might just resemble home if they can stick the landing.
If there’s a criticism to be raised here it’s perhaps that the women in this comic tend to be framed at the centre of the madness, while the men are given more active roles as explorers. Richard Doublehead (“the Virginia Woolf of screenwriters”) and rapper turned movie producer W-2 and find themselves instigating the plot and exploring it respectively, and in their dueling roles both men are spurred on by the loss of their partners. Charlie Kaufman style maverick screenwriter and surprisingly competent car thief Sonia has a more active role than either of the female love interests, but her ability to write what’s about to happen still positions her as being somehow in tune with the madness where her fellow protagonists affect and are affected by it:
Thinking about Sonia’s character, I keep coming back to Angela Carter talking about her experience with the surrealists:
…I had to give them up in the end. They were, with a few patronized exceptions, all men and they told me that I was the source of all mystery, beauty, and otherness, because I was a woman – and I knew that was not true. I knew I wanted my fair share of the imagination, too. Not an excessive amount, mind; I wasn’t greedy. Just an equal share in the right to vision.
If Sonia has anything, it’s vision, but somehow her goals seem less tangible those of her male counterparts; for all that her voice is the most purely entertaining one in the comic, I still can’t help but feel that her arc is also the least satisfying. Even the astronaut, who spends most of his page time cut off from the other characters, finds himself on a journey to be reunited with them and with himself: