Filed under: Events, Our favourite things, Thought Bubble Festival | Tags: Beautiful Darkness, British Comic Awards, Comic Book Slumber Party, danielle corsetto, David Hine, donya todd, Douglas Wolk, dr geoff, Fairytales for Bad Bitches, howard hardiman, INJ Culbard, Jock, John Aggs, Matt Taylor, Ody-C, ricky rouse has a gun, romantically apocalytpic, scott snyder, Self Made Hero, Storm Dogs, Stray Bullets, Supreme Blue Rose, the man who laughs, The Salt Lakes, The Wicked and The Divine, thought bubble, travelling man, Zainab Akhtar
It’s the end of November and, once again, Thought Bubble was a roaring success. Perhaps no bigger than last year, it had some noticeable differences in organisation that went down both positively and negatively, depending on who you’d talk to.
The most obvious change was the introduction of the marquee in the centre of the convention space. Immediately, you’d think that this had increased the size of the convention, although comparatively it was probably about the same size as last year’s extra room. The advantages, however, were that a marquee is a lot easier to keep warm than the hollow bare-brick wall. Also using the central space for the major signings (people you knew would be busy, like Scott Snyder and Jock) meant that the New Dock Hall wasn’t completely full of seemingly endless queues. The downside to that was having to queue outside, in November. Still, you can’t have it all.
Fortunately the weather held and we barely saw a drizzle of rain – I expect there was great thanks from the cosplay crowd, of whom there were an incredible amount this year. I’m not sure how but it seems that every year I think I must have seen all of the costumes, until I see the post-con pictures and wonder how I could possibly have missed the adorable child in the jumpsuit with a Portal gun.
Other than that, it seemed like business as usual at the convention, which was great. There seemed to be a few things that fell through – the Diversity in Comics panel wasn’t racially diverse, for instance, but more on that later – although nothing ground to a halt. When you’ve been to Thought Bubble a few times you begin to see the patterns of exhibitors – you always know Dr Geoff is going to be there, and the Romantically Apocalyptic crew.
As a socially awkward person, I don’t always revel in being brought into conversations at exhibitor stalls, but I did have a few wonderful chats this year with independent artists. While not independent, my favourite talk was probably with David Hine, whom I queued for patiently to have Storm Dogs signed last year, but whose desk was virtually empty this year. We had a fantastic discussion about his book The Man Who Laughs, the origins of the Joker and the private life of Victor Hugo. These are some of my most treasured moments of Thought Bubble, when I can geek out on something that excites me with someone who’s managed to make something awesome.
The talks seemed hugely popular this year – several that I tried to attend in the Bury Theatre had snaked back to the door and then doubled in length again, and the line for the Gotham talk had been hopelessly long, which was a shame. The ones I did attend were pretty great though; the first of which was one of my favourites, The Best Thing I’ve Read All Year, which was alternatively dubbed “The White Bearded Man Panel” thanks to a few guests falling through. At least they were aware of it!
This is the best place to get recommendations, and I walked away with a whole bunch. Huge thanks go to Tom from Gosh Comics for recommending the Comic Book Slumber Party table, and specifically the Fairytales for Bad Bitches anthology which was read on the Saturday night and gratefully enjoyed. Supreme Blue Rose was another big push, and of course The Wicked and The Divine, which just won the British Comic Awards prestigious Best Comic award.
Other potential highlights – which have either been positioned on my radar or gone onto my Christmas list – included The Salt Lakes by Matt Taylor, a translation of three Japanese history comics for which I can’t remember the name, Beautiful Darkness, a new Stray Bullets, The Wrenchies and the upcoming Ody-C, z gender-swapped sci-fi version of the Odyssey which I cannot wait to get my grubby mitts on. I’m going to be poor for quite some time.
It was a good laugh of a talk though, and the suggestions were great. I was particularly pleased that riot grrrl comics were being actively promoted! The riot grrrl anthology is now sat on my bookshelf, screaming to be read. In time, my beauty!
For the second year of Diversity in Comics, there maybe could have been a bit more diversity – both from last year as well as in general. Howard Hardiman was in attendance again, the self-professed “gay cripple” who penned the excellent The Lengths which I snatched up last year after hearing him talk. I also noticed for the first time this year that he has a fantastic puzzle piece tattoo all over his lower arm – love it. He also showed a segment from one of his new books about a sleepy badger, where the titular badger comes across a black, disabled lesbian, which was a fantastic nod.
Unfortunately the panel was overwhelmingly white this year, largely because Barry Nugent hadn’t been able to come. He was fantastic at the talk last year but I couldn’t help thinking, with the increased amount of non-white exhibitors I’m beginning to see in the halls, they might have been able to get someone else. Donya Todd was charming though, and from my South-West neck of the woods, so I was pleased to find that I had already picked up her work in the riot grrrl anthology.
There were some great recommendations, including a seventies feminist publication called Spare Rib, and great women in comics like Suzy Varty, Trina Robbins and Eileen Crumb. We also discussed the problems when it comes to complaining about events like Thought Bubble and making them more accessible – I’d be curious to see if there are many negative reactions and how they are dealt with.
The Self Made Hero British graphic novelists talk was another great one, with the master of Cthulionic adaptations INJ Culbard joined by the creators of Ricky Rouse Has A Gun, which is another on my ever-growing Christmas list. I had already bought a series of grotesque cyberpunk postcards from John Aggs who describes Ricky Rouse as a “dumb book”, so was quite excited to see them talk about this piece that had been making waves for some time.
Finally, the only other panel I was able to make it to was the Journalism in Comics talk. The biggest topic of conversation was that of criticism, which was very interesting – we heard from Douglas Wolk, who prides himself on critical journalism, and Zainab who, like me, would rather be positive. Like her, I also shy away from giving negative reviews, being too aware that the subject could be reading it, although for someone in Douglas’s position this isn’t a luxury he can afford. I suppose it’s also about where you feel your responsibility lies – with the consumer, or with the creator of the work.
Again, the panel might have been a little better chosen. With only four panelists (including the moderator) it seemed out of place for one of them to barely do any comics journalism. Unfortunately music journalism doesn’t really translate as easily, and her comments – while insightful – felt out of context.
All in all, Thought Bubble still reigns supreme in the comic book festival circuit, especially as more and more conventions are going toward more mainstream media forms. Yes, Jason Momoa is very attractive, but comic book icon he is not – give me Tim Sale any day!
So thank you once again Thought Bubble for the laughs, the inspiration, and the severely depleted bank account funds. I’m looking forward to next year already!
Filed under: Exquisite Reviews | Tags: Adventure, Centre of the Earth, Darryl Cunningham, Death, Frankenstein, Uncle Bob, Vampires, War of the Worlds
Written and drawn by Daryl Cunningham
Published by Blank Slate
Uncle Bob has had a very long, very storied life. He’s happy to talk about it too, especially now he’s no longer a spy, the Martian invasion was stopped, he saved the world from Frankenstein’s Monster and survived a journyt to the centre of the Earth. So get comfy, because Uncle Bob’s got some stories to tell…
These are the sweetest books you’ll read this year as well as some of the cleverest. Cunningham’s gentle, wry sense of humour cuts to the heart of the famous stories Bob tells and manages to re-frame them without losing anything. They’re still the same stories but Bob’s ebullient, honest delivery means you only get the bits that matter. Often those are surprisingly sad too. The Martian Invasion story is my favourite, because there’s just a hint of what else it could mean and, in the end, it’s a story about grief, how we move past it and how sometimes we don’t. The fact that it’s also an action story and has a couple of good jokes thrown in is just an added bonus.
That’s how it is for everything here; gentle humour and love of life combined with some surprisingly hard choices. The Frankenstein’s Monster piece is equally grim when it needs to be and ‘Uncle Bob on Skull Island’ manages to be funny, action packed and about Bob reconnecting emotionally with the nations he’d fought against in the war. It’s very clever stuff, and it’s all rendered in Cunningham’s chunky, expressive, friendly style. That just makes the big points here shine all the brighter and ensures that you’ll leave Uncle Bob’s house with a smile on your face. Joyous storytelling from start to finish.
Filed under: Exquisite Reviews | Tags: Ben Oliver, Clem Robins, Dan Brown, grant morrison, Multiversity, The Just
Written by Grant Morrison
Art by Ben Oliver
Colours by Ben Oliver and Dan Brown
Letters by Clem Robins
Cover by Ben Oliver
£3.60 or £2.60 with that SuperCard Go! You inherited from your superhero relatives
Earth 16 is a utopia. Superman’s robotic army has protected the planet for years. Damian Wayne and Chris Kent are Batman and Superman and, once, best friends. Now, with Damian dating Alexis Luthor and Chris increasingly isolated from the nihilistic, me-obsessed superhero party set, the two are drifting apart. Then something impossible happens…
I nearly didn’t make it through this issue. Every page is crammed with DC continuity nods, in jokes and postmodern dissections of the superheroic ideal. There’s a brilliant, gut punch moment in the opening act and another in the closing pages. There are at least three ideas in the issue that other series could build an entire plot line out of and at absolutely no point did I invest in any of the characters.
The first reason for that is deliberate. This is the tabloid Earth, where celebrity and superhero are interchangeable. Alexis and Damian are spoilt rich kids and Sister Miracle, the other lead is more concerned with the party she’s throwing than anything else. This is a vacuous, fame-obsessed Earth with vacuous, fame-obsessed heroes and as an exploration of celebrity culture it’s very nicely put together. In fact, too well put together as the deeply unlikeable lead cast don’t so much get under your skin as wander apathetically past, throwing the odd blue steel look to camera.
The second reason I didn’t get on with it is far more insidious. Morrison at his best has a perspective unlike any other writing working today. He sits outside the narrative, assembles it into something new and shows us both how well it works and why the narratives we use to understand the world exist. It’s an intellectual but ultimately hopeful and enthusiastic approach.
Morrison at his worst sits outside the narrative and, instead of showing us new things to do with it, keeps throwing finger guns to camera. That’s what you get here as he has characters in a comic discuss the importance of comics and what they can teach us, or not, whilst simultaneously complaining about how empty their lives are. There’s no heart, no hope, just an insectile, cold exercise in style and perspective peppered with references and jokes that at times read far more like snark than satire.
By contrast the art is lovely. Ben Oliver has an incredible grasp of pose and character and there isn’t a single panel here that isn’t beautiful. The art is kinetic, expressive and brutal when it needs to be and the character work is all detailed, fluid and expressive. Oliver and Brown do remarkable work with the colours too and the opening cut between Malibu and Metropolis shows just how versatile they are. One is sun drenched, the other is steeped in rain and both feel well realized and unique. Robins’ lettering is also impressive throughout and handles the excellent design of the book with ease and grace.
This is a technically great comic book, just like every other issue to date. Unfortunately, unlike the others this one really feels like it’s running in place. It’s a very successful study of celebrity culture but it sacrifices emotional investment for technical excellence. Buy it for the art, because that’s amazing, but don’t expect much progression of the plot. Perhaps Pax Americana will see that change,
Filed under: Exquisite Reviews | Tags: Abbie Mills, Ichabod Cran, Jim Campbell, Jorge Coelho, Leftanant, Marguerite Bennett, Noelle Stevenson, Sleepy Hollow, Tamra Bonvillain
Written by Marguerite Bennett
Illustrated by Jorge Coelho
Colours by Tamra Bonvillain
Letters by Jim Campbell
‘Movie Night’ written & illustrated by Noelle Stevenson
Published by Boom!
It’s a good time to be a supernatural TV fan. Sleepy Hollow, Constantine and Supernatural are all on top form and, whilst we wait for the inevitable (SHUT UP IT’LL HAPPEN IF I WISH HARD ENOUGH LET ME HAVE THIS) crossover, we’ve got the further adventures of Ichabod and Abbie Mills to tide us over.
Marguerite Bennett has an effortless grasp of dialogue and language and she’s on top form here. Her Crane is immense fun; pompous, utterly good hearted and relentlessly confused by the modern orld but it’s her take on Abbie that really shines. Abbie Mills is one of the most fun, interesting female leads genre TV has ever had and Bennett absolutely knocks her portrayal out of the park here. She’s absolutely in charge, a detective applying real world logic to the supernatural horrors Crane is familiar with and it’s huge fun to see. Bennett puts them into a plot worthy of the show too, with a welcome dash of moral ambiguity and an equally welcome and very specific focus on the female population of Sleepy Hollow. Oh and there’s a SCIENCE VS MAGIC! Moment that’s brilliant too. Coelho’s art is incredibly impressive throughout, especially on the main characters (His Crane is delightfully tall and stretched) whilst Bonvillain’s colour work is the secret star of the show. The night time scenes are stepped in deep blues and yellow candle and firelight and the big action beat of the book works entirely as a result of just how good her colour work is. Likewise, Campbell’s lettering shifts gear between Crane’s form of speaking and everyone else’s with grace and ease. Rounded off with a glorious two page strip by Noelle Stevenson that’s gentle, funny and completely in character this is a great start to the run. The town may be no fun to live in, but you’ll be visiting Sleepy Hollow in comic form every month once you read this.
Filed under: Exquisite Reviews | Tags: Benjamin Marra, Image, Keenan Marshall Keller, Kristina Collantes, The Humans, Tom Neely
Written by Keenan Marshall Keller
Drawn by Tom Neely
Colour by Kristina Collantes
Back cover pin-up by Benjamin Marra
Published by Image
£2.20 or £1.70 with that SuperCard Go! You got when they let you into the gang, pledge
The Humans are a biker gang who’ve just lost one of their won. Mojo was one of the best, a wild, hard driving, hard drinking party animal who loved his friends. They bury him, the honour him and then they do what they do best; party. But rival gang the Skabbs have other ideas.
So far so Sons of Anarchy, right? That’s an accurate comparison too as there’s the same macho posturing, the same overriding sense of tragedy and the same fast and brutal violence. The only difference is that every single character in the book is a chimp. It’s a deeply weird and very successful choice and marks the book out as occupying some unique territory. Stylistically it’s Planet of the Apes of Anarchy, and Keller uses the animalistic nature of his leads to show just how brutal the war between the gangs is. There are no characters here you especially like, yet, but the entire book is shot through with the sort of grim flair that early Walter Hill movies show.
That initial kidney punch of atmosphere is rammed home again and again by the art work. Neely’s style is fast, loose and shot through with hints of Robert Crumb’s work. It’s clean lines and creative panel work allow the Humans to do their violent work in a wide variety of fun new ways whilst Collantes’ colour work manages to both emphasize the curious nature of the book and ground it in reality. Plus special praise has to be given to the lettering, especially when the Humans ride out. It growls and roars with the same enthusiasm and rage as the bikes and their owners.
This is a deeply weird book, one part Russ Meyer, one part Roddy MacDowall but if you can take it there’s a ton to enjoy here. Saddle up and get ready to ride, because the Humans are most definitely going places.
Filed under: Exquisite Reviews | Tags: Evelyn Latimer, Feancis, Gabriel Cassata, Image, Jacob Semahn, Jorge Corona, Josiah Latimer, Lyle, Raleigh Latimer, Steve Wands, Zoe Latimer
Created by Jacob Semahn and Jorge Corona
Written by Jacob Semahn
Art by Jorge Corona
Colours by Gabriel Cassata
Letters by Steve Wands
Published by Image
Raleigh and Evelyn Latimer are heroes. Renowned monster hunters, they fight the supernatural with science, courage and rockstar cool. Their children, Josiah and Zoe are used to mom and dad ‘s job. They know it’s dangerous. They know their parents are heroes.
They don’t know what’s coming.
It’s a rare pleasure to get my ass kicked by not one but two books in a month. Ghost Fleet and this are the two best books I’ve read this month by a mile. From page one, Semahn and Corona set up a world that feels lived in and real, but also brand new. It’s like a really well constructed pilot episode; the world existed before the episode started but you still get everything you need to figure it out.
You also get hit by as many surprises as the characters do. The opening action sequence is a master class in pace as Semahn and Corona walk us through the worst day in the Latimer family’s lives. The action only builds from there and the book constantly shifts scale and focus to show you the impact that opening scene has had. There’s one image of the Latimer family house being swarmed by a host of dark figures that’s chilling. There’s another, of the kids realizing just how much the tide is about to turn, that will make you punch the air. Each action beat is there for a reason and each hits with total accuracy. Corona’s art is a huge part of that, combining some wonderfully sleek, icky monsters with a loose, fast style that’s immensely easy and fun to look at. It also matches the script’s pace, never slowing down but never leaving you behind.
That pace runs straight up to the last page too, creating a book that sprints but never feels breathless. The leads are both instantly sympathetic, Francis, their guardian, has one of the best first appearances of 2014 and the final panel is brilliantly unpleasant. Horror comics have had an incredible year in 2014 and, if Goners has anything to say about it, 2015 will be even better. Brilliant fun, and a must for anyone who ever wanted to hunt the monsters under the bed instead of hide from them.
Filed under: Exquisite Reviews | Tags: Avatar, Digikore Studios, German Erramouspe, German Nobile, Justin Jordan, Kurt Hathway, Michael Dipascale
Written by Justin Jordan
Art by German Erramouspe, Michael DiPascale and German Nobile
Erramouspe Interior colour by Digikore Studios
Letters by Kurt Hathaway
Published by Avatar
Josh suspected his company of wrongdoing. He had no idea.
This is the smartest use of art I’ve seen in a horror comic for a long time. The Erramouspe, DiPascale and Nobile have complimentary enough styles that they fit together neatly but are unique enough to ensure the flashback sequences stand out. They use ancient religious iconography and a precise, almost photographic style to give the basis to Josh’s modern day nightmare and each page works beautifully, the modern era stuff too. That, inevitably, is less detailed but it needs to be. Plus there’s a frantic energy to it that really helps the action sequences and sets Josh up as a likeable, unusually sensible, leading man.
The meat of the book lies in its premise though; an eternal war between the gods that seek to control us and the humans standing in their way. It’s faith vs science but without the hypocrisy of one side and the wilful ignorance of the other stripped away. As a result it plays a little like World War Fortean, as the truth about the universe is shown to Josh at the end of some claws and a particularly well placed grouping of bullets. Nothing will be the same, nothing slows down and by the final page you may be as out of breath as Josh is.
Jordan is one of the best writers working today and is clearly setting up for a long haul here. Coupled with the excellent art and the always reliable Hathaway and Digikore on letters and colours, that’s bad news for Josh but great news for readers. As usual with Avatar it’s incredibly strong stuff but if you don’t mind that then Dark Gods is definitely one for you.