Oh Shit, Comics!

May 14th, 2020

Short and to the pointless, here are a few comics you might want to check out online if you haven’t done so already…

Erika Price – Disorder

A series of experiments in unmaking, Disorder doesn’t need me laying it on thick, a quick glance at a couple of pages will tell you that you need to read more.

What impressed me most my second time through the series as it currently stands was the range of approaches Price adopts from a strip-to-strip basis.  Episode 2 achieves a sense of real vulnerability by showing us a figure in motion, its shifts in mood and physicality tracked in great detail panel-to-panel:

Episode 3, meanwhile, plays out a similar drama in a totally different format.  Here, whatever pain happens is framed by a writhing, corporeal, semi-expressive landscape, inner space projected outward until the difference between self and world is obliviated:

The next six strips see Price trying out a variety of different approaches to narrative, image making and panel layout without every blurring her vision of what Disorder is.  It’s remarkable work.  It’ll get under your skin.  You’ll want it there.

WANT TO LEARN MORE?

Quick Snacks

April 21st, 2020

Sophie B – Last Orders (self published, picked up at Thought Bubble comic con, 2019)

A confident comic book debut from the talent behind 2018′s You Can Be Anything, Last Orders gives you attractive characters in an attractive setting then works to show you how much flavour can be achieved with just the right combination of ingredients.

Those elements being “Gays, Ghosts and Grub”, obviously.

Even a passing glance will tell you that every aspect of this comic has style to spare, but a more attentive eye will reveal a sense of purpose underpinning the design. After all, it’s not just the info boxes that tell us who Robin and Esther are.  The way their outfits reflect each other’s haircuts, the way their conversations move from friendly sparring to sparkling monologue by way of shared glances, the way that those info boxes drop down into the story itself as it progresses – all of this tells us the same story, with no single aspect overpowering the light feast of narrative detail.

That it manages all this and plot about unfinished business almost seems like too much to ask from a first issue…

Dis-orientation

March 28th, 2020

Esther McManus – Windows (See You at the Potluck, 2018)

This one comes from what my partner calls the “They Saw You Coming” side of the comic/zine world.  Every time I visit a comics festival or zine fair I come back home with at least 2-3 books full of pictures of buildings, or parts of buildings, or spaces where buildings used to be.  I rarely regret it.

Esther McManus’ Windows is an excellent example of the form, a series of portals that have been removed from any supporting context in a way that serves as startling prompt to the imagination:

The work demanded by this zine doesn’t just come in the form of having to reconstruct the urban environment – that’s the most immediately striking element, of course, a natural by-product of the composition of the piece, but it’s the start of a process rather than its final conclusion.

In its gradual blurring of the distinction between windows and the shapes that frame them, its removal of the human from the urban environment, and its finding of new ways to recombine familiar shapes, Windows is ultimately more Ballardian in its effects than it may initially appear.

Moving beyond brutalist cliches, this is a work that re-imagines the city as something that is no longer for us – a space that exists on the other side of the portal, where there is nothing to be reflected except windows looking on windows looking on windows all the way down.

It is March 2020.  I suspect that this scene is more familiar to many of us now than it would have been at any previous point in my lifetime.

Suds McKenna – Bunged (O Panda Gordo, 2018)

True to its origins as ‘an ongoing series of urban sketches’, Bunged looks like something that you might encounter in scraps, as a series of drawings that had been left around the house, flat share fragments that tell the story of a busy mind in a busy world. Thankfully for your future prospects of cohabitation, this mind seems to be a little bit scared of what it sees, but not to the point where the idea of humour has been made to seem miraculous:

You would feel puzzled but not deeply perturbed by these portraits.  You wouldn’t mention them to anyone, wouldn’t deem them any more necessary of commentary than the fact that a bar was crowded on a Friday.  Or indeed, that some of the streets pictured here – like Buchanan Street, above – were filled with bodies at the weekend.

It’s the distortions of the human form that give this work its non-banal aspect, suggestive as they are of both a deep subjectivity (as drawn into the page by your mystery flatmate/as read into the page by you) and of the fact that these people have more going on than you can fathom (as drawn into the page by your flatmate/as recognised from the world you’ve seen with your own damn eyes). This is itself is hardly a startling realisation, of course, but it’s vividly expressed here and comforting in context.

Monstrous as we are, it’s good to know that we’re not alone.

Gareth A. Hopkins – Petrichor

November 14th, 2019

The images in Petrichor look like a series of portraits of a flight of stairs as seen by someone in the process of falling down them.

The images in Petrichor are black and white except for those that are in colour.

Individual panels do not contain any words, except from when they do. These words form a non-linear narrative, except for the ones that are drawn on the images themselves, which form a different part of that narrative.

The narrative comes crashing in and out like waves.

This does not mean that it always starts or ends in the same place.

The visual parts of this narrative look like portraits of these waves as seen from the perspective of the sand the waves are breaking on.

Each panel is a wave.  Each page is a wave.  Each wave is…

Every element of the narrative is a grain of sand.  The waves are crashing over.

***

Petrichor is a book about dying.

Petrichor is a book for the dead.

Petrichor is a book about life, for the living.

It’s a book about how ghosts are made up and why we need them anyway. It’s a book about how ghosts are real.

Petrichor is a book of stray thoughts, abstract images, brand names, missing people, scenes repeating as the waves crash over.  It’s a book about love and loss and family.  All of this feels like an accident.  Everything in this books seems carefully put together and well maintained.

Petrichor is a black and white comic except when it’s in colour.

And you are still falling down the stairs.  And the waves are crashing over.  Ghosts and sand.  Missing people.  People who are here.

And the waves crash over.

Kathryn Briggs – Story(Cycle); Magpie; Triskelion 

First things first: if you’ve not done so already, I’d highly recommend that you go back the Kickstarter for the complete edition of Kathryn Briggs’ Triskelion, which has a week to go and could really do with your support.

 

As to why, well… there’s a specific challenge that comes with writing about art that is so obviously accomplished, so unashamed of its ambitions, so confident in the way it ranges across styles and subjects. The fear of showing your whole arse is strong, but the temptation to overcompensate by dressing yourself up in all your finery… that’s the one that’ll get you in the end.

“This supreme quality is felt by the artist when the esthetic image is first conceived in his imagination. The mind in that mysterious instant Shelley likened beautifully to a fading coal. The instant wherein that supreme quality of beauty, the clear radiance of the esthetic image, is apprehended luminously by the mind which has been arrested by its wholeness and fascinated by its harmony is the luminous silent stasis of esthetic pleasure, a spiritual state very like to that cardiac condition which the Italian physiologist Luigi Galvani, using a phrase almost as beautiful as Shelley’s, called the enchantment of the heart…”

James Joyce, Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man

It should come as no surprise that Kathryn Briggs comes from a fine arts background. The most immediately appealing element of her work is its painterly aspect, which is equally well applied to the depiction of classically composed scenes…

…as it is to more intimate portraits:

This is a million miles away from overworked heavy metal style of a million sub-par Simon Bisleys, thought still recognisably in the tradition of comic book artists from Eddie Campbell to JH Williams III, artists who have brought a range of effects to the comics page that are more at home on canvas:

From The Fate of the Artist, by Eddie Campbell

We should be careful that in making such comparisons we aren’t just trying to box an artist in, especially when we’re comparing a women with their older male peers. So for the avoidance of doubt: those references are broad brush strokes, while the real story in Briggs’ work is in the details, all of which are very much her own.

Kathryn Briggs knows more about the visual arts than me.  If I try to pretend otherwise it will end badly for all of us.

All I can really talk about is the experience of actually reading the damn things!

MINDLESS DECADE: PLAYGROUND

February 24th, 2018

A few years ago I was asked to provide a back-up strip for a notable sci-fi comic that Image was publishing at the time. It didn’t end up being used but I thought I might share it with you for this whole Mindless Decade shebang. Enjoy!

Daniel Furnace is the Devil’s Boy – Paul Jon Milne

The shaggiest of shaggy dog stories, which turns out to be the perfect excuse for a stroll through Milne’s aesthetic.

Craggy glam, baying crowds, dissatisfied parents – it all resonates on the same weird frequency.

Ida Henrich – Minor Side Effects

A paper paradox, this.

The cartooning is best when depicting the space taken up by demands, questions, queasy downturns and flailing spaghetti arms.  Somehow, this makes room for Henrich to lay out her thoughts on contraception.

Click here for review of The Wild Storm and The Ultimates!