For the ninth year in a row the Mindless Ones will be hawking our tawdry wares at the Thought Bubble comics convention, which is taking place in Harrogate this weekend.

None of us have cracked the secrets of eternal life, but the dadforce is strong in this group, and at least three of us are more handsome than we were back in 2011, where Andre Whickey tried to sell me for low low price and failed completely.

Will the gang manage to make some money off me this time?

Unlikely. Everyone knows my love is free.

But we’ll be more than happy to see you either at our stall – ComiXology Originals Hall, Table 16 – or at the SILENCE! to Astonish panel at Room A – Queen’s Stage, 2pm on Saturday!

Here’s the blurb for the panel:

Gary Lactus and The Beast Must Die of SILENCE! and Al Kennedy of House of Astonish inflict daft games, badly researched questions and ill-advised impressions on a very special, hand-picked, crack group of comic professional victi-err… guests.

House to Astonish is Scotland’s longest-running comics podcast and has been featuring comics news and reviews for over ten years. SILENCE! is the world’s only comics podcast.

This year’s guests are: Giant Days writer and Steeple jack John Allison (not my uncle), Analog scribe Gerry Duggan, These Savage Shores writer Ram V, and word/art specialist and Breaks-smith Emma Vieceli.

Team Mindless will also be happy to savour the sweet, sweet taste of money in exchange for the products of our labour.

Here’s who’ll be selling what at our table…

ANDRE WHICKEY / ANDREW HICKEY

Dre isn’t selling any books at our table though you may be able to buy some off him.

GARY LACTUS / FRASER GEESIN

The big massive genius of his generation, Larry Gactus will be in the building with his latest misterpiece, Journey To The Surface Of The Earth #1.

Twenty pages pf A4 full colour and B&W goodness, Journey To The Surface Of The Earth was described as “a fittingly witty celebration of the mundane” by Broken Frontier’s Andy Oliver, who quite rightly asked us all to celebrate “the unique mindscape of this seriously underappreciated mainstay of the UK self-publishing scene”. DARE YOU DENY HIM?

Larry Leesin will also be selling a brand new micro-zine, Good Frence #1

Good Frence has new Amusing Brothers strips and what I’m reliably told by the postman is a full page, ham-fisted Brexit analogy. Andy Oliver might not have told you to buy it but I am, right here and now. Am I not good enough for you? Fair enough, but you still deserve Good Frence, for all your sins.

Gazer Freesin will also have copies of his phenomenal autobio comic The Cleaner, the world’s best Ikea comics anthology KOMISK! and a fistful of other treats for the faithful on the table too.

ILLOGICAL VOLUME / DAVID ALLISON

I’ll be there with Beyond Whiles, the latest in my series of comics about abandoned places and the people who live in them.

A leisurely walk through a glitchy environment in the process of rebooting, Beyond Whiles is also an attempt to turn cheek into currency – in this case, by adapting the works of Weegie author and mural-enthusiast Alasdair Gray into comics form.

I’ll also have copies of LGH and Labyrinths if slow explosions or hauntings are more your thing, and I’ve reprinted Cut-Out Witch, my 2013 collaboration with Lynne Henderson.

Praise for my solo comics:

Classic British indie small press pamphlet, and a sharp burst of mood and ideas. It’s very much comics as poem – it’s the sort of work that Douglas Noble has been known to do” – Kieron Gillen

A spooky zine… Liked this a lot. The writing is really strong and the art suggests just enough to make you uneasy – Sarah Horrocks

Praise for my comic with Lynne:

“Cut-Out Witch is really good… Lovely creepy stuff” – Twitter’s own James Baker

“You do seem to be able to dash such things off quite easily, I kind of wish I could do that…” - A Trout in the Circus’ very own Plok

Praise for you, praise for me – PRAISE ME!

THE BEAST MUST DIE / DAN WHITE

The mighty Beast is back with the second installment of his new horror anthology, Sticky Ribs!

Broken Frontier’s Andy Oliver, who you worship as a god, forsaking far less useful and productive deitys-in-waiting like me, had this to say about the latest release from the werewolf factory at Dead Light Comics:

This is prime White material with the juxtaposition of innocent, childlike diary entries and horrifying reality perfectly counterpointing each other and, through their contrast, making events all the more chilling. It’s Maurice Sendak by way of Cormac McCarthy, with wide-eyed innocence going hand in hand visually with a surrounding inescapable devastation.

He’s not wrong, this Andy Oliver. I can see why you’re currently building an alter for him, out in the woods, where you think no one can see you. I don’t approve of your methods but the impulse behind them… that I can get. Anyway, here’s a sneak peak of the horrors of the first story in The Beast’s latest:

As always, the ever-loving, red-eyed Beast will have copies of his astonishing kids comic Cindy and Biscuit to sell, and stories to tell that will add or remove hair to various body parts as required.

THRILLS / PAUL JON MILNE 

Paul will be debuting his new comic Hard Ships at our table this weekend.

In a move that will astonish and tantalize my fellow Miln-o-maniacs, Hard Ships looks deep into the muscle mysteries that are Milne’s muse and finds itself out there in space, exploring new frontiers of braw humour and shame.

Or at least, that’s what the postman tells me.

Milne will also have copies of  Grave Horticulture #1 and #2 for sale at our table.

Here’s what Sarah Horrocks had to say about that mulchy wonder for The Comics Journal:

Milne is an artist who can effortlessly land a fiery car engine on the neck of a musclebound maniac and you immediately understand what that’s all about. And unlike most writers today, he can give an origin story for a character in two pages or less.

The result is a tome of addled freaks, violence poets, and blood vegans who all feel coherent within a swamp of UK housing and geographic dilapidation.

Bobsy and Mister Attack will also be in full effect all weekend, dishing out love and violence to those who know how to ask for what. I pity the fools that use the wrong code words at the wrong time. Those poor souls. Those hopeless, shattered wretches. So hard to imagine their suffering. So hard not to want to be them.

So… where was I?

Yes. Thought Bubble 2019. Harrogate. Table 16, Originals Hall. See you there?

Last time we caught up with the Hitsville boys, they were young and reckless, caught up in that pop life and looking forward to the end of their story. That end finally came with the publication of Hitsville UK #7 last year. Dan Cox and John Riordan are broken men now, no longer a pair of jolly cartoon heroes

…but a couple of real live humans, with families and feelings:

As such, it didn’t seem right to feed them the same recycled Smash Hits interview questions we’ve used a few times over now. This time round we would do it right, with glib, insultingly stupid questions of our own.

As far as a general overview of what Hitsville is and why you should read it, I can’t much improve on what I wrote last time around:

More than any other comic about bands or music, Hitsville UK mimics the thrill and excitement of its subject.  Somewhat perversely, this comes from its overwhelming commitment to the comic book form.  Where other comics about music feel like extrapolations of zine culture or traditional adventure stories themed around pop stars, Hitsville UK actually feels like music.  By reveling in the joys of putting weird looking characters into even weirder situations, trusting that they can keep a rush of daft words and pictures coming and that they can keep it relevant, Riordan and Cox capture something of the hyped up love buzz of being into music.  A mix of wanting to keep up with the story and wanting to feel part of the moment as it happens around you.

What I will say is that the issues of Hitsville that have been published since then have had an increased sense of urgency to them. The boys may not have set out to create a fantasy of communal resilience in an age that seems increasingly under threat by undead attitudes, shambling zombie racism, and the endless monetization of your every passing daydream, but fuck me if they didn’t do it anyway!

Hitsville UK is great, kaleidoscopic fun. You should probably buy it.

But don’t just listen to me. Listen to handsome hunk Dan Cox and bedazzled urchin John Riordan, who were generous enough to give me their time while they were in the middle of preparing their lush summer survival bunker, rumoured to be located in the abandoned underwater garden of a shady octopus…

1. When the first issue of Hitsville UK was published back in 2011, David Cameron was out in the wild hugging unsuspecting hoodies and Malcolm Tucker impersonations were still just about socially acceptable.

Are you the same people you were back then? Have you switched faces? Traded names? Sold parts of your souls in return for those sweet comics dollars?

Dan Cox: Switched faces, traded names, switched back, rinsed and repeated. I’m pretty sure we’re back to being the other. It is depressing looking at our cameos as I go from this svelte long-haired snake-hipped lovely to a portly beardy man. Interestingly John hasn’t seemed to change much, I’m sure this is nothing to do with him being the artist and everything to do with healthier lifestyle choices and superior grooming regime.

John Riordan: Working on Hitsville has been like a nine-year version of Face/Off (NB. I have never seen Face/Off). My favourite review of the comic credited it to Dan Riordan and John Cox. I don’t think I bothered drawing us into the last two issues of Hitsville. Prior to the final issue coming out we both became dads and we now both resemble post-war criminal Tony Blair. I drew my baby daughter into a crowd scene in issue 7 instead. I’m fully embracing vicarious living through the next generation now.

DC: We were the DJ act opening for Gwillum!

<strong>JR</strong>: Oh yes, good point! See, my brain is crumbling as well as my looks.

Looking Glass Heights: portal #8

February 18th, 2019

beyond whiles – an experiment in adaptation

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PRAISE FOR LOOKING GLASS HEIGHTS:

Classic British indie small press pamphlet, and a sharp burst of mood and ideas. It’s very much comics as poem – it’s the sort of work that Douglas Noble has been known to do” – Kieron Gillen

A spooky zine… Liked this a lot. The writing is really strong and the art suggests just enough to make you uneasySarah Horrocks

***

portal #1

portal #2

portal #3

portal #4

portal #5

portal #6

portal #7

***

If you enjoy the above video or any of the LGH comics, please consider giving some time or money to Living Rent (Scotland’s Tenants Union) or another similar group closer to home –

thanks,

David

This is Happening

February 14th, 2019

Super November, directed by Douglas King, written by and starring Josie Long

Sorry to Bother You, written and directed by Boots Riley, starring Lakeith Stanfield and Tessa Thompson

“Rap critics that say he’s money, cash, hoes
I’m from the hood stupid, what type of facts are those?” - Jay-Z, 99 Problems

“Take the big key and open the door to the living, breathing past
The one you enliven over and over,

To the ship’s port, or the house of the welder;
To the library door of Donald Dewar.

Then picture yourself on the threshold,
The exact moment when you might begin again,” – Jackie Kay, Threshold 

Super November is a film of two halves, with a break in filming reflected by a jump in the story we see on the screen. People disappear from the plot along the way. Cameos in the first part don’t get the intended pay off. Haircuts change. The substantial details of the narrative are left largely unexplained.

The first part of the movie concerns a librarian called Josie who’s on the edge of what seems like a pleasantly boozy romance with a nice lad who’s in the Scottish Green Party. The influence of mumblecore is overt enough that it’s been built into the production and promo cycle of this low budget comedy, but Super November‘s endearing roughness highlights the interconnectedness of aesthetic choices and material possibility.

If the film feels like it was being put together on the fly, with everything from its dialogue style to its central narrative conceit working around the availability of certain players and locations, then that’s because it probably was.

Looking Glass Heights: portal #7

February 11th, 2019


Not Because of the People – the collected Looking Glass Heights comics.

***

PRAISE FOR LOOKING GLASS HEIGHTS:

Classic British indie small press pamphlet, and a sharp burst of mood and ideas. It’s very much comics as poem – it’s the sort of work that Douglas Noble has been known to do” – Kieron Gillen

A spooky zine… Liked this a lot. The writing is really strong and the art suggests just enough to make you uneasySarah Horrocks

***

portal #1

portal #2

portal #3

portal #4

portal #5

portal #6

***

If you enjoy any of the LGH comics, please consider giving some time or money to Living Rent (Scotland’s Tenants Union) or another similar group closer to home –

thanks,

David

 

Not Because of the People – the collected Looking Glass Heights comics.

***

PRAISE FOR LOOKING GLASS HEIGHTS:

Classic British indie small press pamphlet, and a sharp burst of mood and ideas. It’s very much comics as poem – it’s the sort of work that Douglas Noble has been known to do” – Kieron Gillen

A spooky zine… Liked this a lot. The writing is really strong and the art suggests just enough to make you uneasySarah Horrocks

***

portal #1

portal #2

portal #3

portal #4

portal #5

***

Please consider giving some time or money to Living Rent (Scotland’s Tenants Union) or another similar group closer to home –

thanks,

David

Life in Plastic

January 24th, 2019

Go-Bots #1-3, by Tom Scioli

You Can Be Anything™, by Sophie Bainbridge

You’ve mounted me and there you sit,
you rotten shit!
You’ve mounted me an there you sit,
but even that won’t really make me think like you.

For the horse thinks one way as he strides;
thoughts quite different from the one who rides” – Alexandre O’Neill, The History of Morality

“We are what we’re supposed to be
Illusions of your fantasy
All dots and lines that speak and say
What we do is what you wish to do” – Aqua, Cartoon Heroes

If I’m honest I never really gave a fuck about the Go-Bots. I was always aware of them, but only to the extent that the shapes Tom Scioli draws here are familiar from my childhood, albeit they’re not the most familiar shapes in their own comic:

As a measure of my unfamiliarity, consider the fact that I’ve had to edit this piece twice now because I got confused about whether I should be writing “Gobots” or “Go-Bots” throughout. Unlike Scioli’s previous work on Transformers vs. G.I. Joe, then, Go-Bots provides me with a deeply unsettled experience rather than a complex nostalgic one – where I was able to process that earlier series’ abundant exuberance as both a celebration and détournement of a lifetime’s worth of merchandising that I had somehow mistaken for my soul, this latest project has a more genuinely uncanny quality to it.

The figure-work here is similar to Scioli’s previous work in this arena, similarly true to ’80s toys and box art, the (crayon? pencil?) colour tones still evocative of everything from old tie-in comics to the adventures you’d draw yourself if you were an abnormally talented kid. As in TF/Joe, there’s a sense of play to every page of the comic, the sort of play that thrives on the creation and destruction of relationships – any order that is established is soon found to be ripe with chaos, and all chaos comes complete with the threat of latent order.

This drama is played out in Scioli’s page layouts, which tease the possibility of a break from the two-dimensionality of the comics page…

…while also constantly reveling in the expressive possibilities of that same flatness, stacking images on top of each other, keeping just enough of a sense of narrative coherence while pushing ever closer to the joyous impurity of collage:

Given the nature of these franchise comics, their origins as indifferent product, this flatness extends to the narrative ruptures and inversions. Are the Go-Bots loyal friends or alien monsters? Is treating them like chatty tools justification for a bloody revolution or yet another example of bad dating etiquette? Are any of these binaries any more real than the shite we were sold as children?

Like the best of Scioli’s TF/Joe work or his Super Powers strips for Young Animal, Go-Bots creates the illusion of real freedom for the time it takes to read any given page.


Not Because of the People – the collected Looking Glass Heights comics.

***

PRAISE FOR LOOKING GLASS HEIGHTS:

Classic British indie small press pamphlet, and a sharp burst of mood and ideas. It’s very much comics as poem – it’s the sort of work that Douglas Noble has been known to do” – Kieron Gillen

A spooky zine… Liked this a lot. The writing is really strong and the art suggests just enough to make you uneasySarah Horrocks

***

portal #1

portal #2

portal #3

portal #4

***

Please consider giving some time or money to Living Rent (Scotland’s Tenants Union) or another similar group closer to home –

thanks,

David

Punishment Through Time

January 16th, 2019

Holocene, by Horehound 

Our Raw Heart, by YOB

“It is our suffering that brings us together. It is not love. Love does not obey the mind, and turns to hate when forced. The bond that binds us is beyond choice. We are brothers. We are brothers in what we share. In pain, which each of us must suffer alone, in hunger, in poverty, in hope, we know our brotherhood. We know it, because we have had to learn it.” – Ursula K. LeGuin, The Dispossessed 

“An audience of old stone in ancient theatre, watching a circle made hard to last. Each rock a number against years to come.” – Douglas Noble, Counting Stones: A hymn of Castlerigg

I’m a metal dilettante, always have been, but 2018 was a good year for really wallowing in some bad feelings, what with ever escalating anti-refugee rhetoric that can only act as an appetiser for brutality, anti-trans campaigning from “moderates” who’d call their own arguments out if they saw them applied elsewhere, the fact that people in power are so wedded to what they have that we’re all fully booked up for climate change and mass death in our lifetime, endless dead storytelling, the flailing triumph of tactics over strategy…  all of this served as my excuse for listening to endless spiralling riffs and blown out shredder symphonies last year.

The connection between the music and my mood is probably bollocks, mind, but I’m in my mid-30s now and I sometimes need to lie to myself about my indulgences. Thankfully, Horehound were there to help me out at the end of  2018. Their sludgy blues takes the idea of defeat for granted, uses it as a starting point, even – the first words on Holocene are “Rise/Rise/We take and give nothing”, words that are howled with revulsion, an embittered acknowledgement of a detested status quo.

Defiance follows, a yearning for a break that is so dramatic as to seem impossible…