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Our Reviews of Other Peoples Comics

The Old Dark House (Inktober 2015)

B/w, 28 pages.

&

Shore Leave – Views from Quinthaven

Colour, b/w & monochromatic, 42 pages.

Both created by WJC (Warwick Johnson-Cadwell)
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Reviewed by Gareth Sleightholme

After following his output on twitter @WarwickJC, and picking up WJC’s fantastic Tom Hand – A Tale of Stories and beautiful fold out Quinthaven (some of which is reproduced here) the year before last at TBF14, I wasn’t going to miss the chance to pick up more of Warwick’s great artwork. So I snuck away from the IronShodApe table again and drifted past his table and grabbed these beauties (Shore Leave with a great bespoke tentacle tattoo on the arm of the character on the front page).

I’m not sure when I cottoned to the fact I loved this style of image making.

I know a younger me that bought so heavily into the works of Giraud, Hughes and Frazetta would perhaps have avoided, even derided it… I found it strange that I liked it. But I did.

Kind of like the moment you realise you love Tom Waits’ voice and all those box-kicking, guitar twanging, pot’n’pan-banging beautiful melodies about black wings and murders in the barn.

I can’t tell if it’s because his art is maybe (just to me probably) somehow reminiscent of a blend of the quirkiest of Ted McKeever (Plastic Forks), Bill Sienkiewicz (Stray Toasters), and Dean Ormston (Lucifer), or if it puts me in mind of an elaborated, sophisticated jazz riff on Edward Gorey or Tom Gauld (Goliath)’s character work… or all or none of that.

The visual language here is certainly off-kilter, all Cabinet of Dr. Caligari angles and shadows, figures with elongated, stunted or stretched geometric anatomies, like pages from a German-expressionist Giles, Feiffer, or Oscar F. Howard cartoon.

Ultimately what I’m trying to say is… it’s wonderful.

The Old Dark House is a re/interpretation of the 1932 James Whale film* starring Boris Karloff about a unlikely group thrown together in the foreboding manor house of the eldritch Femm family… done as part of the Inktober art celebration, strewn with glorious scratchy figures with baleful eyes and malevolent intentions.

While Shore Leave adds more lyrical mythology, characters, geography and shanty/fiddle ballad fodder to WJC’s port of Quinthaven, a dark, lyric soaked, labyrinthine town of old soaks, pirates, merfolk and tattooed exotics.

What else can I tell you? Just pick up everything if you can, but particularly these great little books he brings to Thought Bubble, then go home and read them whilst listening to Tom Waits or Jolie Holland.

Go check out their blog: http://warwickjohnsoncadwell.blogspot.co.uk/ and their Twitter feed: @warwickjc

*based upon the novel Benighted (1927),by  J B Preistley.

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DTHRTL – Book 1 of 3

Created by Bob Turner

Full Colour, 20 pages.

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Reviewed by Gareth Sleightholme

Bob Turner’s wordless comic (even the cover appears* wordless) plays with varied rigid-format panel layouts and a graphic character and environment aesthetic, reminiscent of both side-scrolling platform games and the clean lines of Chris Ware’s Jimmy Corrigan books, all to tell the tale of a Hokusai admiring recluse and reluctant hero who within the first two pages of this fast paced book challenges Death itself, then heads off on an adventure with nothing but their wits and a rucksack stocked with a handful of important items (including what I can only assume is special forest-dwelling monster-gang distracting bacon**). Our protagonist’s journey is filled with perils natural and unnatural, curious landscapes, and monsters…

Yet, you can’t help feeling that under the Herriman-surreal landscapes and the seemingly simple narrative there is something rooted in classical antiquity happening here. Scenes have a archetypal, monumental familiarity, like an echo of something half remembered from a folk tale or myth.

I am, without doubt, intrigued…

It’s lovely stuff, each panel beautifully graphically balanced, with each page equally balanced. To the point where every character design, panel, page layout and double page spread could be a winning Threadless T-design. But here we have a whole book.

For me, picking up DTHRTL II will definitely be in order. I’m looking forward to it.

Find out more at: castlerockcomic.bigcartel.com

NB. I was fortunate enough to get time to chat to both Bob and his TBF table-mate Alan Henderson (Penned Guins) both at the show (briefly) and down the pub, so that was great. You should follow them on twitter, @castlerockcomic and @Shadow1972.

The weirdest part of all this was getting DTHRTL home and realising there was a great parallel between DTHRTL and one of the books I put out this year, Drakon… especially in that last scene. Weird.

*beyond the graphical, hexagram-like two-tier stack of DTHRTL type tucked behind that beautiful cover illustration.

**to be fair, that’s probably just one of the powers of regular bacon (bacon, the unsung superfood).

Papercuts & Inkstains – Issues 1, 2, 3a & 3b

Published by Madius Comics

Various Creators.

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Review by Gareth Sleightholme.

“Papercuts…” is a four (or more correctly, three and a bit) issue, b/w horror/SF anthology comic series, at this point amassing a total of 108 pages. Scripts come from staple Madius storytellers, Rob Jones and Mike Sambrook, with art by Brian Burke (Incandescent Memories), Dan Butcher (Vanguard), Rory Donald, Nick Gonzo (50 Signal), Jim Lavery (Zarjaz, Detective Werewolf), Paul Moore, Rosie Packwood, Kevin Pospisil, Mike Smith, Angela Sprecher (hotstuff-webcomic.com) and Stephen Weafer. A title in which the narrative confidence, design and overall quality has improved with each subsequent issue.

Jones and Sambrook’s narratives cover subjects from the hygiene issues of time-travel; married life and zombie death; Poe-esque, raven haunted, existential angst; loopy blue collar occultists; nefarious cosmic corporate-military shenanigans; werewolves; demon-brides; rootin’- tootin’ wild-west gamblin’; vampires; horror hotels; post-modern pop-culture vigilantism; toasted cyclists a T-Rex and… well, you get the picture… all the food groups, with stories veering from humorous to poignant, sinister to action-packed and all paces and atmospheres in between.

Four “Papercuts…” books in and Jones and Sambrook show no signs of slowing either. The enthusiasm for the medium (from all concerned) that rushes out of the pages of the Papercuts & Inkstains anthologies is palpable. At times it feels like being caught by that guy down the pub, the one who tells his stories at a thousand miles an hour, gesticulates wildly without spilling his drink or dropping ash; charismatic and more than a little mad, but somehow compelling. Elsewhere it feels like they’ve tapped into the vibe of those anthology comics you picked up at your first cons, or that strange underground comic that somehow came into your possession as a kid, from who knows where, that left you hanging for more, but kept dragging you back to pour over the panels.

At the book’s heart is the ongoing tale of those urban, ne’er-do-well, would-be acolytes of the dark gods. Smith, Jones & Sambrook’s Profits of Doom, a group of housing estate, hooded high-priests attempting to juggle the seriousness of their occult calling with the vicissitudes of everyday living in a northern town; the madcap humour of this central story, snappy dialogue and the great art a welcome recurrence with each issue.

Other stand out moments for me include Jim Lavery’s sophisticated art style on Together Forever (issue 2), Paul Moore’s dynamic action-packed art on Vampire Wonderland, and the euro-indie stylings of Angela Sprecher on A Roll Of The Dice (issue 3a). But there’s plenty for everyone here.

I’m yet to dig into the rest of the Madius offerings (they’ve published/co-published over a dozen titles in their first year alone), but if P&I is any indicator there is going to be a wealth of great stuff to choose from, their books already having had a run of great reviews from podcasters and other comics creatives…

Now, what’s this about a Funk Soul Samurai?

Follow these loons on twitter: @MadiusComics, @RobJonesWrites, @Rapiaghi, @Nick_Gonzo, @DeadCertMike, @pocketmouse, @imnotdaredevil4, @ARiseToDarkness, @VanguardComic, @sprech4, @karl-ellie, @Burky126, @Jimlavery1, @PMoore121

WesterNoir – Book Three – Siren Song of the Mississippi Mermaids

Published by Accent UK

Dave West (writer) & Gary Crutchley (writer/artist)

Supernatural/Western Genre – b/w, 36 pages.

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Reviewed by Gareth Sleightholme

I picked this book up at Thought Bubble (TBF15). They had issues 1 to 4 on the table, but for a first time buy I thought I’d just try the one (though I’m regretting not picking all four up now). I went for issue 3 mostly due to the beautiful mermaid cover featuring Crutchley’s linework along with some equally excellent subtle colours by Matt Soffe.

I’m a sucker for mermaid/sea creature stories*, plus I was raised on westerns by my father so this combination seemed too good to pass up; and it didn’t disappoint. It also turned out I didn’t need to have read the other books to enjoy this issue, it being pretty much a self-contained tale.

The basic premise sees our dour but noble anti-hero protagonist Josiah Black moving through a frontier America, part Silverado, part Maverick. Black seems exhausted, a man who has perhaps seen and done too many bad things, and he appears to be looking for rest or redemption. Following a chance encounter with the beautiful owner of a riverboat casino, the victim in a crime thwarted by our hero, it seems that Black might just have found a place to rest his head. There are twists aplenty however, and soon this redemption story took a darker turn straight into the transformation folk tale territory I love.

Westernoir is definitely a series I’d be willing to read more of, Black’s character seems fully formed in the creator’s imagination and as such, has depths and subtle nuances that make the reader want to know more… the same goes for some of the other obviously recurring characters.

There is some genuine pathos here provided by West’s pacing and dialogue, whilst Crutchley’s art (black & white with some tonal greys) conveys the tale without fuss or confusing over-embellishment, though I’d love to see a whole story given Soffe’s colour treatment.

Check out more from the creators behind Westernoir at: strangestoftimes.blogspot.com, gcrutchley.blogspot.com, @mygrimmbrother and @AccentUK.

*Hence, Severed Head Cult