Cover Versions: THE SHADOW

March 11th, 2013

Being an irregular series wherein I spotlight some particularly beautiful cover runs, from some comics you might have forgotten about, or never seen before. This time it’s Andy Helfer and Bill Sienkiewicz / Kyle Baker’s wonderfully gonzo and short lived 80′s version of The Shadow.

Of all the radical character reinventions of the mid-80′s ‘mature’ boom, the Andy Helfer helmed Shadow series was one of the most brazenly strange; quirky, black-hearted and surreal, with gorgeous art from Bill Sienkiewicz and a young Kyle Baker. Following Howard Chaykin’s controversial mini-series Blood & Judgement, that reimagined the steely eyed pulp vigilante for the smart and cynical 1980′s, Helfer took the set up and ran with it.  He also stripped out some of the weird misogyny and nihilism from the title, bringing in a healthy sense of surrealism to the revisionism. This was a black hearted, New York art school comic, masquerading as a superhero comic, and it was thrillingly unusual as a monthly read. It lasted 24 issues, before DC pulled the plug on it, after facing severe backlash from ardent fans, and pressure from the owners of the trademark. It’s possibly my favourite of the slew of character reinventions from the late 1980s; it’s wild, creepily unsettling and beautifully drawn throughout.

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The Beast Must Die: So frazzled, bedraggled and maybe even bedazzled we all arrived safely back from this year’s Thought Bubble 2012 comics festival in Leeds, which once again proved itself to be a thoroughly enjoyable experience for everyone. It gets the tone just right – an even balance between mainstream and fringe, with the small press rubbing shoulders with industry pros. Girls, boys, seasoned fans, neophytes, kids, pensioners, cosplayers and the just plain weird, the TB crowd is diverse, good natured and one of the best aspects of the whole affair.

Attending something like Thought Bubble also reminds you first and foremost why you love the artform, a welcome shot of 4-colour adrenaline to enliven even the most message board weary fan.

The Mindless Ones were there in pretty full effect, with Andrew Hickey, Gary Lactus and myself  joined by Legendary Weapons Bobsy & Illogical Volume, as well as Mindless Cadet, Mister Attack and the living juggernaut that is Plok. We were positioned on the right hand side of the newly christened New Dock Hall. Andrew was selling his arsenal of wonderful music and comics books, as well as a new volume of his short stories. Lactus had the collected full colour beauty of The Amusing Bros and Andrew & Steven in Knights Of The Realm, and I was touting Cindy & Biscuit, including the brand new 56 page issue no.3. Mr Attack had his comic Everyone’s Felt Like This Once for sale, and Bobsy brought along a free comic featuring both the current PM and Lord Horror no less. Together we formed like Bruticus and set about ensnaring the public.

 

 

On a personal level I don’t think I could have had a better time of it. The reception that Cindy & Biscuit received was heartening, and I sold almost everything I took with me. What was especially gratifying was the breadth of customers I had – I sold a lot to kids this year, which was ace. It’s great to think of them reading mys stuff at home, and I just hope they were all appropriately thrilled, amused or spooked by Cindy & Biscuit. Lots of nice people said lots of nice things about it too, from comics pro’s to fans who bought earlier issues the previous year. All in all I was pretty damn chuffed.

It was great chatting to friend of SILENCE!, Al Ewing, whose gift to us was surely the best comic con exclusive that has ever been. He and his lovely friends were all most accommodating to our frazzled selves in the hotel bar on Sunday evening. It was as nice to see Kieron Gillen as ever, and I enjoyed talking to ace 2000AD scribe Rob Williams about Low Life. I was too nervous to speak to John Wagner, and certainly too nervous to ask him to say ‘I AM THE LAW’ in his stentorian Hibernian brogue. We happened to be on the table next to British comics catalyst  Paul Gravett, along with comics artist and scholar John Miers and his lovely partner Megan, who co-runs the Comica Festival with Paul. Paul was his usual enthusiastic self, and did the circuits with his usual charm and aplomb. John and Megan were also  excellent company, and truly sympathetic hangover buddies on Sunday. John’s comics are here and info about Comica is here.

Add to that the thrills of our ongoing experiment in listener alienation with our SILENCE! Thought Bubble special, the epic drinkery at the post TB Saturday night bash at the Leeds Corn Exchange, and you have a pretty full weekend. As I stated earlier, the atmosphere at Thought Bubble is open, friendly and enthusiastic. I can’t rate it high enough, and will certainly back next year.

But really, I hear you pretty much scream, FOR THE LOVE OF AQUAMAN, WHAT ABOUT THE COMICS???????!

Well…

August’s Cartoon County turned out to be the dawn of a bright new age for comics as David Lloyd and Bambos unsheathed their plans for the unique webcomic project, Aces Weekly.

 

Aces Weekly is a genuinely exciting venture which involves original new work from the likes of Herb Trimpe, Bill Sienkiewicz, Kyle Baker, John McCrea, Phil Hester, Steve Bissette, David Leach, Colleen Doran, David Hine, Henry Flint, Mark Wheatley, David Hitchcock, Lew Stringer, Carl Critchlow, Phill Elliott, Rory Walker and more!  Here’s how it’s going down:

Aces Weekly

 

It really does seem like a great model for creators and readers alike so get along and subscribe!

Cartoon County is an association of over 100 cartoonists and comic artists in the Sussex area. Our regular meetings are usually on the last Monday of every month at The Cricketers, Black Lion St, Brighton, from 6 til late. If you’re a cartoonist or a comic artist, or use those particular styles of drawing in your work as an illustrator, animator or storyboard artist, you are very welcome to join us.

 

 

golden_nuggets

Because what the world needs now, is another end of year list…

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I certainly hope so: I plan on swearing a lot today, in order to emulate my newfound hero: Jamie McDonald, the Crossest Man in Scotland.

Here’s Jamie exemplifying really what, in substitute of wit, insight, that sort of thing we’ll pursue today, Toosday.

Spider-builder? Batbuilder?
I fucken love a swear. Ready, dickheads? Aye, let’s go then