Tuesday, 15 October 2019
Being a comics creator outside of established publishers is not an easy life. There's plenty of great titles out there that have had the heart and soul of their creators poured into them, and if we're honset there's a fair bit of shite as well - just like anything, really. Let's just say that doing your own comic isn't generally a way to fame and fortune, but it's the best way to get your vision out there, and deeply satisfying if you're the one creating it.
Edge Of Extinction is an interesting one. Originally started in 2015, it had a rather large break between issue one and two due to the personal circumstances of writer Baden James Mellonie (which he candidly writes about in issue 2). Indie books traditionally have a slow rate of publication (for good reason), and when the series returned in July 2018 it was with intent, and issue 3 followed a mere 9 months later, with issue 4 promised any day now. Yeah, it's a slow burn, but as I say it's pretty standard. So what's it like?
I'm not normally a big horror fan, although I've certainly enjoyed my fair share. What I mean, I suppose, is I don't tend to track it down, but will happily give it a go if it comes my way. I loved The Walking Dead, and found Crossed to be a marvellously guilty pleasure, so zombies aren't a literary turn off if done well. As you may have guessed, EOE is a zombie book, but as it's by UK creators it's set firmly in the UK, in Bedford of all places. with locations taken from real life. The three issues don't fart about and we soon get to the zombies without yet having a clue why it's all happening. We get the standard group of survivors trying to stay alive and work out what's going on, mainly because that's how stories work. As I read them all in one go I got to enjoy them as a free flowing narrative, and I have to say I'm really enjoying what the lads have done so far. Nothing is rushed, with the story given priority over gratuitous corpse reanimation, and in issue three there's a real gut punch of a scene that is handled really well.
The art is handled by Paul Peart-Smith, who contributed some art to 2000AD in the 90s and has done a fair bit of work since, including curating the history of black comics exhibitiion "Black Power" as well as Horrible Histories and more. His art in issue 1 is, well, a bit scratchy if I'm honest. It does the job and is in no way offputting, but it didn't quite grab me. Fast forward to issue 2 and it all comes together much more, as there seems to be that bit more thought put into it and it works really well, improving even more for issue 3. At this point I can safely say I'm a fan.
The comic itself is very solid, with thick covers and pages that use thick paper that will stand up to a marmite stain or two (sorry guys, I like to eat crumpets whilst reading comics). For a £2.99 cover price it's remarkably well made, and this is only made better by the fact that variant covers are available by the likes of Ryan Brown (top man, top artist, top drinker), Max Millgate (top Rush fan) and more. Basically, everything about EOE shouts "Quality Product" which is always good to see, especially when it's backed up by a story worth reading.
Obviously, if you dislike zombie comics you may not get much out of this. The Walking Dead and 28 Days Later are obvious paralels, but EOE is it's own beast rather than anyone's pale imitation. The absolute best thing I can say about it is that I want to see what happens next. If you don't feel that way about a comic series then it's failed, and EOE issue 3 ends in a way that had me quite pissed off that iuuse 4 wasn't at the bottom of the pile, hissing and biting and daring me to read it. So if you want to read a really good horror comic and support enthusiastic, talented comic creators you should certainly checkout Edge of Extinction, because if you don't the zombies'll get ya!
BUY ALL ISSUES HERE!
Wednesday, 2 October 2019
After his successful autobiographical book on his life in comics, concentrating on his years at 2000AD ("Mighty One"), Steve MacManus has decided to take a stroll through the fiction section with the strangely titled "The Sheerglam Conspiracy", although it's clear his roots are still firmly planted in the golden years of British comics. After all, they do say you should write what you know, and Steve knows comics.
The book is set in the 1970s, at the offices of Goodenough Publications, who produce several big selling weekly UK comics such as Whaddagoal!, Frightful and Patsy (for girls, naturally). The readers are intoduced to the variety of staff and comics through new girl and aspiring artist Sinead, as she does a turn on each comic and is introduced to the odd buggers that create it.
Underneath it all we have Gloria SheerGlam, head of the Patsy team and a formidable lady to boot. She has plans to enlist Sinead into her cult that worships Wagner (not John) and Hitler whilst dressing in Liederhosen (hence the odd cover). Seriously, this is pretty bonkers stuff. Meanwhile there's the standard inter office shenanigans as well as a pair of genius Scotsmen locked in a room whilst creating a super secret new comic that will blow away rivals Tartan Comics.
Naturally, much of this is drawn from Steve's own experiences of working withing the offices of a comic publisher during the golden age, although hopefully not the cult part. The style is very similar to that of Pat Mills, whose "Serial Killer" books are set in the same type of place. Whilst Mills' books are more densely plotted, both authors seem to agree that comics in those days were made by a bunch of sex mad perverts with only a slight grip on sanity and reality.
The SherGlam Conspiracy is an entertaining book, made more so if you are a student of British comics history or are of an age to remember buying the sort of comics it describes. It's funny and completely bonkers in equal measure, and if you are happy to let some of the more off the wall plot points go on their merry way I'm sure you'll find it a fun read, as I did. It's not that long a book so doesn't outstay it's welcome, and the ending sets up volume 2 nicely, after which you get some sample scripts from the stories you've just read about, which is a nice touch.
A solid, entertaining first novel, The SheerGlam Conspiracy should be devoured hungrily by anyone who wants a nostalgic romp through the 1970s British comics scene.
Buy From Amazon
Wednesday, 10 July 2019
Hot on the heels, appropriately enough, of Techofreak issue one comes issue two, and the continuing adventures of private eye (and technofreak cyborg) John Sherlock, aided and abeted by the real star, robot cat Maurice, who again gets all the best lines as he hogs any exposition required ("Who ya talking to, ya dumb cat?" - "He's narrating. He does that"). Also along for the ride again is Neville the Private detective cum dimbulb thug, and the lovely Loretta.
In this issue the team (mnus Loretta) head to glamorous Dorking to investigate a possible rebooting of the Technofreak programme, and give the reader a little more info on where exactly he comes from, of course. Cue a mad scientist, a creepy castle and plenty of fun that ends up like a cross between Frankenstein and Scooby Doo.
Newell, John Charles and Barry Mayhave delivered a strong continuation of the Technofreak story, and I feel this issue will go down extremely well with comics fans who don't want anything too serious. A quality piece of work that's a genuine pleasure to read, Technofreak is definitely something to freak out about. Now... where's my Maurice sketch...
CLICK HERE TO BUY
Monday, 1 July 2019
Like a terrier snapping at the heels of a badger, Dogbreath issue 36 screams 'buy me as well' at anyone who has sampled the delights of the latest issue of Zarjaz, coming as it does from the same stable. Unsurprisingly dedicated to the galaxy's greatest bounty hunter, the superb exclusive cover from comics legend Colin McNeil tells you straight away that this is a good un.
This issue kicks off with 'Back To Basics', from writer Daniel Whiston and fan favourite artist David Broughton. We find Johnny hanging from the neck on a gold mining colony, with no weapons and seemingly no hope as his air is slowly cut off. Then he dies – the end! Nah... of course not, but to find out what happens you'll have to read it. It's a very good tale indeed, with a Western-y vibe that has always suited the character and first rate art from Broughton (including the least subtle Carlos tribute EVER). A great start.
Next up is that crazy Scottish mutant Middenface McNulty in 'McNulty's Law'. Kev Hopgood tells a tale of a mystery man (complete with a bag on his head) being transported through the rad wastes. Naturally, it all goes shite shaped, but you know that at some point someone is going to be told 'Take your lumps like a man', and that's fine by me. It's all a bit political (possibly an accurate picture of post No Deal Britain), with some nice art from Richard Waugh that helps carry the story. At fourteen pages it has a strong whiff of the overlong about it but it's well presnted and does a nice job of displaying the UK in the time of the Stronty Dogs. One thing bugged me a bit, and that's that McNulty does not seem remotely Scottish in anything he says – Hopgood needs to be reprogrammed with McNulty speech patterns before he does the character again, ye scunner!
Away from our regular characters next, with David Fenn delivering a Strontium Dogs tale, aided and abeted by artist Adam Caudill. It concerns the Weyland mutant prison (although it says 'HMP WAYLAND' on a big ass sign – woops!) and the sinister goings on within. Tobe brutally honest it's the opposite of the previous story, with ten pages of story squeezed into five. Caudhill does his best with a solid art style, but in the end it's one of those stories that left me scratching my head at the end, wondering who the characters had been and why I should care that much.
Seasoned scripter Matt Sharp is up next, paired with Gail Nedry for a Durham Red tale set in Egypt, so scope for plenty of crypt action. Although Red's appearance is limited to the end, it's a smart story that works very well. Nedry's art (showcased well in Rogue Trooper for Zarjaz) ,is scratchy but endearing, with a fleeting similarity to Mike McMahon in the early days. Overall this is a really solid entry that keeps things simple but stays smart regardless.
More Strontium Dogs now, as Mark Keenan and Scott Twells bring back the potato headed Spud Murphy, and yes, there is a chip pun included. In 'One Patoot, Two Patoot', we get a slightly muddled story of murder on a patoot farm. What's a patoot? Some sort of alien vegetable, and that's all you get from me. It's another strip that may have benefitted from an additional page to flech out a couple of things, but has a decent core story and nice art from Twells.
Matt Sharp returns for the last story, another Strontium Dogs tale 'What Goes Around', this time assisted by artist Matt Sandbrook. Their story of a couple of executions is a simple concept but one that's remarkably effective. The art is really good, although the main character could have been more distinctive, and there's very little not to enjoy here despite the pitch black story idea (or maybe because of it).
As ever, Dogbreath is certainly worth picking up if a little less structured than Zarjaz. The art throughout is worthy of attention and there's decent writing that may have flourished better in a couple of cases with an an extra page to play with (that could have been taken from' 'Weyland' tbh). Personally, I wanted another cool Johnny Alpha story, but that doesn't detract from the enjoyment the stories included provide.
It can be bought from the Futurequake website HERE
Wednesday, 26 June 2019
Remember that little tingle excitement that you used to get when 2000AD would drop through the letterbox? Me, I don't get that tingle any more, although I still thoroughly enjoy the prog each week. The thing is, the tingle has returned (new Star Wars title? Return of The Tingle? Naaah...), and it's connected to the one and only ZARJAZ, the long running 2000AD fanzine. Each issue is guaranteed to feature original takes on classic characters and a few surprises on top, starting this issue with a cracking cover by 2000AD artist Neil Roberts as seen above.
The cover leads the reader into the opening story, a rare fanzine outing for everone's favourite grumpy Robo Hunter, Sam Slade. 'Guy, Robot' sees Sam, Hoagy and Stogie up against new robo hunting rival, a robot called Guy (hence the painful title pun). Alan Holloway's script captures the personalities of the main characters very well, as well as the humour of the original strip, whilst Denis Vermesse's art pushes Sam and co even more towards noire with great flair and detail. A solid story with a classic payoff, this should keep fans very happy.
Dredd crops up in two stories, namely 'Double or Nothing' and 'Iron Chief''. In the former, Mega City gamblers find something new to wager on - Judges, whilst the latter sees some criminal get more than they bargained for when they steal from Justice Department. Both stories are nice, neat one shots, with 'Double Or Nothing' being the more humerous. The art, from Jack Davies and Tom Bonin respectively, is of a good standard, suiting Mike Lynch and Santiago Mayaud's scripts down to the ground. Zarjaz always gives good Dredd, and these are no exception.
Perhaps the standout story in this issue is 'Harlem Heroes: Feat Of Clay', written and drawn by John Farrelly. Iit's a six part story to be serialized in Zarjaz, with the first two parts in this issue. The story is a prequel, concerning young John Clay, later to be known as Giant, his introduction to Aeroball and his rough family life. As a Harlem Heroes (original series) fan I was looking forward to this and it doesn't disappoint in any way. As any good serial should, each part left me wanting to read the next one, and this is an instance where the long gap bewteen Zarjaz isssues is gonna grate. Great script, great art and a great contribution, this is going to be popular.
In a sideways move but a welcome one, there's also a text story in this issue, featuring Judge Anderson. I'm not generally a fan of text stories featuring comic strip characters but a good tale is a good tale, and Matt Sharp provides a rather decent, dark story here. Aided by some nice illustrations from Gail Nedry, 'Tom's Diner' breaks up the issue very well, adding a slab of minutes onto the reading time if savoured properly.
The surprise for issue 34 comes courtesy of Santiago Reyaud (who also writes a Dredd) and Barry Renshaw as they resurrect Night Zero, an android cab driver who does, um, stuff. Look, it was a long time ago and I barely remember it. Luckily, it's fully accessible to new readers (or forgetful ones), as we see the hero, Tanner, being drawn into a crazy guy's murderous intentions because he's that sort of cabbie. The smart story with a little twist impresses, whilst the art is a little blocky but quite suits the story and clearly shows the action.
Another blast from the past is Bix Barton, still wibbling on about the rum and uncanny with the help of his cane, Michael. Mark Howard again brings us a tale of fourth wall breaking that will have readers scratching their heads and laughing out loud, also managing to bring back a character from 2000AD history that will delight ancient squaxx like me. Simon B Hayes' art is pretty decent all round and this strip is a nice sidestep overall.
Finally we get a two page Strontium Dog story from artist/writer Brian Corcoran, and it's a perfectly condensed tale that doesn't waste too much time bringing the reader to the end gag. The art really stands out as well, full of detail yet never overcrowding the panels. A perfect way to end the issue.
As usual, Zarjaz manages to throw everything it can at the reader without missing a beat. The return of old favourites plus those nearly forgotten makes it a heady mix of thrills that Tharg himself would be proud of. Long may it continue.
ZARJAZ Issue 34 can be bought from July 1st at: https://www.futurequake.co.uk/zarjaz/
Friday, 21 June 2019
Goold old Roy! There's a phrase that you'll know very well if, like me, you followed the golden haired hotshot's adventures over the years. Publisher Rebellion have scored a credible brace by not only giving us new adventures (see my reviews elsewhere) but also chucking out some collections of Roy's earlier adventures, starting with the very genesis of the character in the 1950s.
Roy Of The Rovers was given the esteemed front (and back) cover spot in Tiger weekly ('The Sport & Adventure Picture Story Weekly'), a comic aimed at boys who wanted to read thrilling tales of heroism and footie. Debuting in September 1954, Roy was popular with readers, eventually getting his own comic, but that's for another day. Although created by Frank Pepper, he only wrote a handful of strips at the beginning, and the remainder of the 140 pages are supplied by UK comic legend Joe Colquhoun, for some reason supplying art and script as Stewart Colwyn. It has to be said that he does a fine job of making the reader want to find out what happens next after the two page weekly instalment, and he sets up many of the tropes that would roccur in the strip for the next few decades. Although the art is very of it's time, not like Joe's beautiful 70s work, it's decent enough with plenty of nice detail throughout as he gets into it.
Story wise, we follow Roy as he joins the legendary Melchester Rovers as a lad, going from the reserves into the first team through sheer talent and determination. We meet team mate Blackie Gray, who is a constant throughout the strip's history, and a few others readers from the 70s and 80s will recognise. Each instalment is two pages long, consisting of a colour front page and black & white rear page, never failing to whet the appetite for the next one. Naturally, much of it involves Roy battling nasty types trying to hinder his career and shining on the pitch, often scoring the traditional last-kick-of-the-game goal. My only rea gripe is a story is set up that culminates in a trip to South America with the team, but there's then three months of strips that are cut out, with a new thread starting when they return. I can only assume there was missing material, but it's vexing! I assume Roy gets kidnapped whilst abroad, as this happened quite regularly.
This is the first time I've had the chance to experience Roy's early days in print, and I thoroughly enjoyed it throughout. There's nothing big or clever about this type of strip, but if well done it's just a joy to read, with thrills and spills and plots that vary the sublime to the ridiculous. If, like me, you enjoyed Roy's later years in his own comic, then I can guarantee you'll enjoy this, and whilst you're at it buy Williams and Willsher's new Roy stuff for the grandkids.
ROY OF THE ROVERS: BEST OF THE 50's IS RELEASED JULY 25TH BY REBELLION, WITH THE BEST OF THE 60's FOLLOWING 22ND AUGUST
Tuesday, 14 May 2019
The lastest issue of Belfast based fanzine Sector 13 certainly grabs the eye, with a superb Rogue Trooper (well, Venus Bluegenes anyway) cover made from live cosplay and digital tinkering. It's a cover that makes you want to see what's inside and so does it's job perfectly. Of course, regular readers will be wanting to take a look anyway, as Sector 13 is a high quality fanzine that has been getting better with each issue. It's A4 size with 42 thick, glossy pages and sumptuous colour, not your usual fanzine by a long shot.
Issue Five kicks off, as usual, with a Dreddworld photo story featuring the Sector 13 cosplayers, a motley crew of perps and ne'er do wells who meet up to get drunk and discuss knee pads. What they also do is star in very impressive photo strips that look great considering this is done on a budget. 'When I Lost Control' features the unexpected result of an EMP blast let off at Ed Norton Block by a known seditionist. It's a tight, interesting story with plenty of nice small touches, featuring character development for one of the strip's regular characters, Judge Knight.
'The Lament Of Gravlax' is next, and despite the title it's a rather silly four page humour story written and drawn by the very talented Cat Byrne. Basically, Aliens want to abduct some humans but because of all the PC nonsense on their planet they have to be subtle and kind about it, no 'zap bam boom' or death rays allowed! It's a wonderful antidote to the seriousness of the photo strip, and Byrne has a knack for humour that combines well with the colourful, cartoony vusials that jump off the page. Excellent work!
The third strip introduces the reader to a new title character, the excorcist Judge Whatley, who is not the barrel of laughs you might think. A demonic wossname is threatening the city and only Whatley and his apprentice West can stop it. A standard type of set up from writer Peter Duncan, but the devil is in the details, and this is an extremely good story that has a dark twist that left me hungering for the next issue. The black and white art, from Joseph V Parangue, is very impressive, reminding me quite a bit of 2000AD legend Boo Cook, and I can't wait to see more of his stuff.
The centre pages (and the next two!) are given over to a second Gronks story, following last issue's 'Legend Of Snarki'. 'The Gronk With No Name' is unconnected apart from the titular character's race, and we meet a Gronk who just isn't like the other Gronks, starting with the fact he's hanging out in a spaceport bar. Alan Holloway's script once again blends pathos with action and humour, while artist Ed Doyle (a known Gronkophile) delivers bright, colourful images that suit the story down to the ground. Your poor heartses will never be the same!
A short interlude, called 'Interlude' (ya see what they did?) is next, following on from the photo story as Judge McBride investigates a recent case converning Judge Knight. Donna Anita Black's Simon Harrison-esque visuals work very well with Peter Duncan's script, effectively filling out Knight's story a bit more, making you realize why he has become disillusioned with Justice Department.
We return to the darkness next, with another Excorcist Judge story, this time featuring Judge Merrin, sent to apply Judge boot to a demon's backside in 'The Terror Of Titus Tower'. Firstly, the strip looks great, with lovely clear black and white art from Morgan Brinksman. Secondly, it's another case of what is a standard set up being built on with clever twists and a satisfying pay off, so thumbs up for writer Mark Keenan as well. A great one off strip that made me think a bit more of what exactly is inside a cloned Judge.
Things get very silly for the next two pages, as Davy Francis' 'Revengers: Deadend' throws a few laughs around with a throwback to the likes of MAD magazine as some robot superheroes go nuts at a screening for the new Revengers movie. It's very daft but funny with it, but looks quite messy, like he sent the Editor a few pages out of an A4 notepad, with the result being we actually miss the final pay off line that is cut off by the page size. I'd have liked to see it redone on white pages, although it's still a good laugh with plenty of nice touches.
Finally, we return to the story of Judge Knight, and I can't go too deep into this without spoiling the ongoing plot. It does a decent job of setting up the next chapter in his story which I assume will continue next issue, and Sector 13 has to be appluded for this approach which has resulted in a magazine you have to take your time with to follow the story properly. Peter Duncan scipts again, and whilst I find Scott Twells' art a bit rough, it's rough in a McMahon sort of way, and fans of the old master should certainly appreciate it. Composition wise I've no conplaints, though, as it's all well handled and well told.
So that's Sector 13 issue 5. It's a ludicrously solid read, with thrills, humour and theological discussion. I genuinely think that several strips would be very at home if you found them in 2000AD itself, and as ever the photo strip is very well done. The fact that the story from it is continued throughout the mag is testament to the ambition of the people involved. Available through the post or at various conventions (such as Lawless May 18th in Bristol), it's well worth picking up.