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?

PRELUDE

In times like these as in all other times, you are allowed to be relieved when someone else has done the heavy lifting for you.  As such, it’s comforting to find that Clark has put together not only a series of thoughtful posts on the immediate impacts of Covid-19 on the comics industry, but also a run of weekly link blogs to keep folk up-to-date on what’s going on in this little corner of the world.

Free from any delusions of being thorough, I figured I’d write a short post drawing attention to a few free comics / comics related videos closer to home, and maybe highlight a couple of ways you can help the artists involved along the way if you’ve got the cash to do so.

PART 1 – FREE COMICS!

Lockdown has seen a number of comics artists giving away their work for free, or at a discount.  Here are a few such works that we’ve reviewed before, if you’re stuck in the house and want a sense of what you might want to amuse and enervate yourself without splurging your last few iso-bucks!

Sarah Broadhurst, Jules Scheele and an army of sharp feminist voices – Identity: An Anthology (One Beat Zines, originally reviewed November 2015)

DOWNLOAD IT FOR FREE HERE

This is not only a truly beautiful object but a useful one too.  From Sabba Khan‘s elegant self-reflections to Alia Wilhelm‘s too-close photography by way of Sammy Boras‘ more traditional use of the comic book form to explore difficult questions of sexuality, Identity always makes intersectional feminism feel as natural as it really is, despite what some commentators might have you believe, arranging all of these disparate voices and means of expression together in one powerful volume.

This might sound like damning with faint praise but it’s meant sincerely.   Seemingly taking its cue from the punchy, “here’s my point and I dare you not to take it” expressiveness of Scheele’s cover design, this collection of comics and essays transforms lived experience into a rallying cry against complacency, against the possibility of mistaking your own experience for the only one worth listening to.

I can’t recommend it highly enough.

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.

Because everything is entropy right? It’s always all downhill. Part of our ten-year challenge has been to find old posts that we like and can bear to  bring up and choke on again.

This is where I realised that the first post I wrote for the site was my best and favourite, and also offers an excellent opportunity to rededicate myself to John [E.] Smith -  comics greatest lostest poet, who even pops up in the comments on the original because blogs make dreams come true.

Apologies for my bad writing and any broken 10 y.o. pic links or whatever. “Enjoy.”

Dee do dough don’t dee dough? or why Hellblazer #51 is the title’s best issue

If I have to make up a bloggy reason why this post was written, it’s recent noise from the Factual Opinion that Andy Diggle’s current run on Hellblazer is the best it’s been in years. I picked one up, saw with relish that the colour palette they’re using still contains every conceivable shade of mud, put it down. To say it’s currently firing on all cylinders isn’t saying much, as Vertigo’s old horror warhorse is a perpetual disappointment, which it shouldn’t, because the basic ingredients are so solid. It’s about the street-sorcerer John Constantine, magic, and a bit of London grime, all mixed together with a quip and a crafty fag. Despite these perfect alchemical elements something inevitably goes wrong with the final potion, which rarely drips the creep and splatter I hunger for from anything so keen to proclaim itself a horror comic.

More after the jump

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!

I Don’t Like My Hair Neat #1-2; I Wished I Was Married to the Sea

Have you ever underrated someone while praising them to the heavens? A friend perhaps, someone whose dress sense and confidence you’ve long admired without realizing that in doing so you were also reducing them to those qualities?  Worse still, that you had somehow decided that because these attributes were so hard to ignore, your were somehow giving them all the attention they required just by doing that?

That’s how I felt when I read the second volume of I Don’t Like My Hair Neat for the first time. I’d written a snappy, enthusiastic review of the first issue earlier in the same year, one that I thought was appropriate to Jules Scheele‘s talents in tone if not in excellence.

It was clear to me even then that Scheele is a better cartoonist than I am a writer.

The second issue initially seemed to me to be something else, something more traditionally laudable.  Reading it on the train up from that year’s Thought Bubble in my traditional vulnerable, hung-up and borderline euphoric post-con state, I was surprised and overwhelmed.  At the risk of getting a bit Dead Zone about it, I felt like the ice was going to break:

Make of this what you will. For me, it’s evidence that the bullshit critical distinction between Style and Content is somehow alive and in me in the present tense, some half a century after Sustan Sontag publicly annihilated it in ‘On Style’:

Practically all metaphors for style amount to placing matter on the inside, style on the outside. It would be more to the point to reverse the metaphor. The matter, the subject, is on the outside; the style is on the inside. As Cocteau writes: “Decorative style has never existed. Style is the soul, and unfortunately with us the soul assumes the form of the body.” Even if one were to define style as the manner of our appearing, this by no means necessarily entails an opposition between a style that one assumes and one’s “true” being. In fact, such a disjunction is extremely rare. In almost every case, our manner of appearing is our manner of being. The mask is the face…

Click here to find out how any half-decent analysis of Scheele’s style makes my initial confusion about their subject matter seem not only dumb but callow!