Friday, 28 November 2008

LLC Recommends: Love Story From Nation Of Silence

Well, I still have head full of green stuff, but I do feel a bit better and have managed to read a few of my purchases from last Saturday's Comiket at The ICA.

My favourite of a generally enjoyable bunch of Indie goodies is Takayo Akiyama's charming tale: Love Story from Nation of Silence, Daisy and Violet Siamese Twins.

Clearly influenced by the likes of The Mighty Boosh (several of the stars from that show make cameo appearances in the comic) this is a quirky story about co-joined pub singers and a bar full of strange creatures. It's a surreal little comic, full of gentle jokes and beautifully detailed panels which only the most serious of souls will fail to enjoy.

There's some adult humour, (principally involving the efforts of one of the twins to get a Yeti into bed), but it's nothing that you'd call shocking, and while the book is aimed at the adult reader, there is much about it that I think children would enjoy as well. Indeed, I think Akiyama has the germ of a kids classic on her hands here. Sure it would need tweaking before any publisher would consider marketing it to a young audience, but there's enough to look at in this comic to keep most kids entertained.

Akiyama is a VERY talented artist who is able to pack her panels with a huge amount of detail. I spent a good time soaking up some of the scenes, and I'm sure that kids would return to the book to enjoy multiple viewings of panels like these...


That's not to say this book is of no interest to adults; if you appreciate 70s kids shows like Mr Benn or Bod or, like me, still get a kick out of reading Where the Wild Things Are, you'll love Akiyama's stuff, it's magical, crazy and a lot of fun to look at. She's clearly bursting with ideas and she has a special talent for loading up those ideas without making a mess of the page.

Some of her dialogue is a bit muddled and there are several spelling mistakes in the story, but with a judicious editor those problems could be ironed out easily enough. Even with the mistakes, the story moves along at an entertaining pace. The main characters, Daisy and Violet, are well fleshed out and, while they are meant to be adults, would work equally well as children. Yes, you'd have to get rid of the references to sex and alcohol if they were to be truly kid friendly, but that wouldn't compromise the comic in any serious way. In fact I think it would make it more enjoyable.

Perhaps I'm doing Akiyama a disservice here then, but I really think she should aim the future adventures of Daisy and Violet squarely at a younger audience. I believe she has a real eye for childrens storytelling and illustration and it would be a shame if some of the more adult themes in the book were to prevent young kids from getting their hands on Akiyama's stuff. As it is, I'd still be happy to give my son Love Story From Nation of Silence to look at, I'm sure that like me he'd get a lot of pleasure from it.

You can read a web version of the comic and order print copies from Takayo Akiyama's website. She also designs clothes! Check her out HERE

Tuesday, 25 November 2008


I'm a snotty sack of sickness, so is son - hence lack of updates. Will return to blathering about comics when I can stop couging.

Saturday, 22 November 2008

Comiket 2008

I made it to Comiket a little later than I planned, which meant I just caught LLC reader Bruce and his missus as they were leaving. Was nice to meet you both though and hopefully we can sort out a drink sooner rather than later. Also present was Mike Leader who was lashing what little cash he has on a selection of the huge amount of small press comics on sale. He's just made the move to London and is struggling for work at the moment, but is a talented writer who I'm sure will make it as a journalist sooner rather than later - check out some of his excellent stuff HERE.

And so to Comiket itself. I had planned to take some photos, but my usually trustworthy camera phone has packed in. All you need to know is that there were a LOT of young (and some not so young) indie creators there hawking their wares. Among those I recognised was Jamie McKelvie of Phonogram fame, and Mr 2000AD Prog Slog - Paul Rainey who as well as reading the Galaxy's Greatest in chronological order also makes his own comics (one of which I bought).

Apparently the chaps behind LLC favourite The Sound of Drowning were also around, but while I located their table, they themselves were nowhere to be found. Shame really as I would have liked to have met them.

Most of the other creators were new to me, and with more new comics on offer than I have seen for some time, I have to admit I was overwhelmed. In the end I picked up seven comics ranging in price from £1 to £8. I've already read a couple and will have a bash at reviewing them all over the next week or so.

I'll certainly make a point of attending future independent comic marts. There's a lot of good stuff out there.

Thursday, 20 November 2008

A (possible) visit to Comiket at Comica

Due to work and childcare commitments I've been unable to make any of the events at this year's Comica, but I'm planning to head down to The ICA this Saturday and buy some independent comics at the Comiket market. 

I say "planning" because I'm still not 100% sure that I'll be able to make it (son's been ill, Missus was going to go visit friends with him, illness jeapordises that, ergo my plans to wallow in a weekend of comics filled sickness hang in the balance). Assuming I do go though, and assuming that there's anyone else out there reading this who also fancies a trip to The ICA, then hey, let's meet up! 

The London Underground Comics folks are selling their wares between 1 and 7pm. I'd probably aim to get down there between 1-2pm, buy some comics and then retire to the bar where we could talk briefly about Marvel Team Up or something, before lapsing into a painful period of prolonged silence.

If that sounds like your idea of a fun afternoon, let me know either by contacting me at the e-mail address in the bar on your right>>>,  or by leaving a message in the comments section of this post.

Wednesday, 19 November 2008

Look what I got....

Yes, SEA-MONKEYS! Purchased at Woolies for a fiver. Oh man, I am so excited. Nothing, and I mean nothing, blew my mind like those old Sea-Monkey adverts they used to have in American comics when I was a lad....

Obviously I chose to ignore the small print and believe that Sea-Monkeys looked like the creatures in the ad and not the frankly unimpressive pieces of floating debris that they actually are. This made it quite disappointing when I finally got my eight-year old hands on some.

Nevertheless, I convinced myself that if you were to put them under a microscope these dull looking plankton would actually be revealed as grinning fleshy sea people. Imagine how distressed I was when I came home to find my dog had drunk them. Dark days chums, very dark days.

No matter, I have a chance to erase those painful memories with my new set of aquatic pets. The water is purifying as we speak. Tomorrow I give them LIFE!

Monday, 17 November 2008

Ghost Rider v The Orb

So, I keep hearing that Jason Aaron's take on Ghost Rider is D@ BOMBZ! 

Fair enough, Mr Aaron is indeed a very fine writer of comic books who, from what I've been told, has come up with a suitably high-octane dose of Hell-fired moto-madness.

But tell me, is there really anything in it to compare with that time that Johnny Blaze beat the shit out of a stuntbike riding eyeball?

Props to artist Bob Brown for making an eyeball look scared. 

Scans from Ghost Rider 15, reprinted in Essential Ghost Rider volume one

Saturday, 15 November 2008

Fantastic Realm

NOTE: This shop closed in October 2009

To Finsbury Park to check out Fantastic Realm, a comic shop which I had heard some good things about...

view through the front window of Fantastic Realm

Tucked away on a side street behind the tube station, Fantastic Realm is a relatively new shop which is worth checking out if you're ever in the area. They do the bulk of their business online, but also maintain a bright, clean and well organised B&M store.

The focus here is firmly on mainstream American comics. There's no small press, manga or books for children, and you'll probably be out of luck if you're after some of the more leftfield non-spandex stuff from the States. If however the big two are your bag, you'll be well catered for here.

To your left as you enter the shop is a HUGE wall of new and recent releases...

while in the white bin in the middle of the shop there is a small, but well priced selection of older back issues.

On the right, behind the till, the shop keeps a good sized collection of variant covers (not my bag, but if you like that sort of thing they seem reasonably priced) and a few nice looking silver age books...

The back of the shop is taken up by a healthy selection of super-hero trades. For anyone interested, there are also trading cards and a small selection of toys and statues to be had.

The staff are extremely friendly and very keen to ensure repeated custom. They dug me out a couple of recent books I'd missed, found me a signed copy of another book I was looking for and, after just one visit, offered me the chance to take out a weekly subscription with the promise of a 10% discount. Setting aside the fact that I'm slightly put off by the lack of Indie books in the shop, I have to admit that this is quite a tempting offer which would probably net me 5 or 6 free comics every month.

For those living outside London without easy access to a comic shop, the mail order service (which also offers a 10% discount) could be an option. The shop's website isn't very impressive, but if you root around you'll find all the info you need to start a postal subscription. It can be accessed through THIS LINK

Thursday, 13 November 2008

Wednesday, 12 November 2008

Tales from the nerd sack

I feel like I've spent a lot of time moaning about comics lately, which is a shame really because leaving aside the rising prices, frustrating delays and execrable Secret Invasion style crossover muddles, there are actually some damn fine books on the racks at the moment.

I admit that since the birth of my son I haven't had as much time to read them as I once did, but when I do manage to slip on the old smoking jacket and relax with my tottering To Read pile, I'm often amazed by the quality of some of the comics that are coming out.

Take the new Rick Remender book Gigantic, for example. Wow! What a fucking great read. Giant Robot ACCIDENTALLY attacks San Fransisco in a thrill packed blaze of exploding buses and toppling skyscrapers. What more do you want? Well, how about some sci-fi satire on our obsession with reality TV, a healthy smattering of evil aliens and a nice afterword from Remender himself?

Folks, this is a top comic. Perhaps the colour palette is a little too muted for such a fiery spectacular, but the art itself is excellent. Well worth a look, ESPECIALLY if you're the kind of person who makes this sort of thing for a living...

Yeah, if LLC chum Mr Wheatley doesn't like Gigantic, I'll eat my run of Rom!

Final Crisis: Resist is almost as good as Gigantic, particularly if you miss Greg Rucka's Checkmate. I've enjoyed all the tie-ins to Final Crisis, but as a fan of Checkmate, I have to say this is probably my favourite so far.

Story? Well, basically you've got a beefed up revamp of Snapper Carr teleporting around the world blowing up Darkseid's bases, shagging cat women and getting into post coital scrapes with Gorilla Grodd (Mmmm post coital scrapes). Meanwhile, back at the ranch, Mr Terrific figures out that to save the World from the Anti-Life equation he's going to have to sacrifice the woman he loves to free the Omac nanites in her body so that they in turn can release the latent Omac population of earth to do in Darkseid! Whew. I realise that this will make no sense to most people, but trust me, it's great.

As is The Unknown Soldier. Josh Dysart and Alberto Ponticelli's re imagining of the classic DC property is set against the bloody backdrop of Northern Uganda, where Moses Lwanga, a pacifist doctor working in the refugee camps of his wartorn country gets possessed by the spirit of the Unknown Soldier and finds himself compelled to turn to violence as a result.

Dysart went out to Uganda to research the comic, and his righteous anger at some of the atrocities being committed burns brightly in this story. Occasionally this works against him, as some of his characters sound like they're quoting statistics from a UN report rather than speaking their minds, but mostly it makes for an entertaining and informative read. Ponticelli's art is SENSATIONAL - bloody, sweaty, dusty and violent. His style reminds me of Eduardo Risso (of 100 bullets fame) and that's a big compliment.

Funnily enough Mario Alberti's art in X-Men and Spider-Man #1 has a similar feel to it, perhaps with a bit of Marcos Martin thrown if for good measure. Set in 60s Manhattan, this Christos Gage penned tale will probably draw comparisons with X-Men First Class. It's a light frothy take on the early days of Marvel, which I enjoyed a lot. Gage's script is snappy and fun, but the real star here is Alberti who captures the spirit of the 60s perfectly. He makes Gwen Stacey and Mary Jane look like groovy chicks and Peter Parker look like the slightly awkward (not quite ready to leave the 1950s) teenager that he originally was. It's beautiful stuff. Oh and he draws a mean Blob.

Tuesday, 11 November 2008


Don't you wish there were more ageing misogynists working today's problem pages?

From an unknown issue of Young Love printed some time in the late 60s or early 70s. Reprinted in Heart Throbs: The Best of DC Romance Comics

Monday, 10 November 2008

Songs I like to listen to on the bus when I've had a few

#1 The Happy Mondays: WFL (1989, Factory Records)

Sunday, 9 November 2008

Some dates for your diary

Plenty of comics based shenanigans to be had in London this month.

Those subterranean purveyors of four colour fun, Orbital Comics have just announced that Daredevil artist Alex Maleev will be signing copies of the various trades and comics he's drawn. If you're a fan, get yourself down to Orbital's basement at 148 Charing Cross Road on Tuesday November 18th between 5pm and 7pm.

If you can't get down to Orbital but still want to meet Mr Maleev, fear not! He'll be among the panoply of comic stars making an appearance at this year's Comica Festival. Other stand out guests and speakers include Alan Moore, Melinda Gebbie, Art Spiegelman, Gilbert Shelton, Pat Mills, Posy Simmonds and the crime novelist/soon to be comics writer Ian Rankin.

Running from the 14th to the 26th of November, the Comica festival kicks off with an all day symposium at the V&A and continues for the next 12 days at the ICA.

As well as the various talks, the ICA leg of the event will feature a couple of free exhibitions and the chance to catch two new manga influenced films.

London based Indie collective London Underground Comics will also be in attendance, giving you the chance to pick up some new comics from the capital's up and coming small press creators.

More info on Comica can be found at organiser Paul Gravett's website.

Thursday, 6 November 2008

Tales from the nerd sack

To Gosh, where once again I spent a shameful amount of money on new comics.

I tell you, it's getting to the stage where I might have to ditch single issues altogether. I love getting my weekly fix of floppies and all, but things are getting ridiculous. Not only is the old $3.99 price tag becoming more prevalent, but us Brits are now paying £2.15 for the $2.99 issues. That's starting to get silly (ADD ON 07/11/08: This should have said: "are soon to be paying £2.15". A rumour I'd heard, but one which might not actually be true. Doh!). Forbidden Planet do offer a 25% discount to online subscribers, but what I'd save would more often than not be wiped out on postal charges.

Even if it were worthwhile I'd miss going to the West End. The Thursday trip is part of my routine. Bar a short break in the 90s, I've been buying my comics in town for 23 years now. I enjoy the connections it has with my past and in an effort to keep the tradition going, I'm even dragging my 14 month-old son along with me these days. Hopefully he'll be coming with me for a good few years yet, but there's going to come a time where like every other collector I'm going to have to admit that single issues are just too expensive to make the trip worthwhile anymore.

For the moment I'm still there though. Here's what I shoved in the old nerd sack this week...

BPRD 1946
Trade of the recent mini. Demons and Nazis. The usual. Obviously being Mignola it'll be ace.

The new Remender Dark Horse comic. I almost forgot this and was grateful to Andrew for reminding me (Note: Helpful staff. Another reason I like going to comic shops). What with the brilliance of End League, Fear Agent and Crawl Space, Remender's one of THE names to follow at the moment. I'm not so fussed by his mainstream superhero stuff, but I'll buy anything he does for Image or Dark Horse.

Invincible Iron Man
Loved Fraction's first arc and am one of the few who seem to like Salvador Larroca's art. For me this is one of the few books coming out of the House of Ideas that feels like a PROPER Marvel superhero book (I'd say Amazing Spider-Man, Captain America and Captain Britain are the other three)

Amazing Spider-Man
I've warmed to this now, there's a nice rhythm to it. The various writers and artists seem to be working well together and the weekly release schedule makes buying the singles seem a better option than waiting on the trade.

Storming Paradise
A-ha! I was wondering where this had gone. A gem of an alternate history war comic which I wittered on at some length about HERE. Gritty scripting by Chuck Dixon and spot on World War II visuals by Butch Guice. This is definitely going to be worth picking up in trade if you're not already reading it.

Adventure comics Special: The Guardian
I just about had my fill of The Guardian in Seven Soldiers, but this is part three of the New Krypton saga (you know the huge crossover about whale killing aliens) so I have to buy it. Let's hope the interior is better than the cover.

X-Men and Spider-Man #1 of 4
Recommended by Andrew who likes the Mario Alberti art. After a quick skim I'd have to say he's got a point. I enjoyed writer Christos Gage's Union Jack mini, so this looks like it could be a decent shout.

Final Crisis Resist
I really liked Submit. Everyone else seemed to hate it. This looks like more of the same which is fine by me. Yet to read any Final Crisis crossovers I haven't liked.

Marvel Zombies III #2
If you've been put off this one because you think the whole Marvel Zombie thing is past its sell by date, then think again. Fred Van Lente (whose book Comic Book Comicsis REQUIRED READING by the way!) has breathed new life into the undead in a comic which on early evidence is going to be every bit as fun as the original Kirkman series.

House of Mystery#7
Ah, now this is quality. A PROPER Vertigo book that tips its hat to the classic anthology version of HOM while at the same time telling an ongoing story. Just seven issues in and this has already become one of the comics I look forward to most.

And that's it. I'm off to get my arse kicked at Magic The Gathering by angry American teenagers. Ciao!

Wednesday, 5 November 2008

LLC Recommends Watching The Watchmen

My copy of Watching the Watchmen arrived today, it's a beautiful beast of a book that weighs as much as a concrete paving slab and is packed with Dave Gibbons goodness. If you love Watchmen (and given that you're a comic fan, I'm assuming you do) then this is essential, and can be picked up on Amazon for 50% of the RRP

I've ploughed through it already, and can't recommend it highly enough. It's a fantastic insight into the process of comic creation that sheds new light on a work about which I thought there was nothing left to say.

Gibbons laces the book with some interesting anecdotes, but with its glossy paper and oversized reproductions of previously unseen art, the book is primarily eye candy. There are a host of breakdowns and layouts for the individual issues and some brilliant and long overdue insights into the colouring, but the most interesting part of the book for me was the section on Gibbons' early concept art.

For example, prior to picking up this book I had no idea that the original designs for Rorshach included a full body suit. From the sketches for this initial design, it seems the idea was to have Rorshach periodically whip open his grubby mac to reveal his costume...

It's a terrible idea that makes the character look like a flasher and was mercifully dumped. But, how great is it as a fan to be able to see stuff like this?

What with these early ideas, the sketches for rejected covers, original designs for the Owl ship, colour guides and original page layouts, there are a wealth of goodies on show here.

Like Watchmen itself, Watching the Watchmen is a book that I'll be returning to again and again over the years. In my opinion it's a must have for everyone's bookshelf.

Monday, 3 November 2008

Bad Magic/Red Lanterns

Apologies for the lack of activity imaginary web chums, I've been busy with work, babies and errrm Magic The Gathering Online. Yes, rather shamefully I've fallen into the trap of playing a collectible card game on the internet - what a plum. There are many reasons to hate MTGO, the main one of course is that I'm absolutely shite at it, like, REALLY terrible. Honestly, if I had a penny for every time I've been called a retard by my angsty teenage opponents, I'd have about £1.20 by now. It's soul crushing stuff. I have to stop.

The other thing to hate about this time gobbler of a game, is the huge expense involved in playing it. To be anywhere near competitive, you have to lash the cash on wadges of "virtual" cards. That's right virtual. You pay real money for non-existent trading cards. Bah! Never have I wasted my dosh on a more ridiculous idea.

So all in all, a terrible thing, but I've got myself completely hooked on it. The need to play about with wizards and orcs has obviously eaten deeply into the little spare time that I have, and consequently my plans to read lots of comics have been put on hold.

I did make space to take in Rage of the Red Lanterns #1, which was fantastic. I've said it before and I'll bore you by saying it again: if you want to do a good Green Lantern comic, you need do just two things: find a good artist and get him/her to draw a shitload of weird aliens punching holes in each others heads. Geoff Johns understands this and it's why Rage of the Red Lanterns ROCKS!

In Shane Davis, the book has a penciller who clearly revels in drawing aliens, there are dozens of them on show here including...


What a glorious, ridiculous thing that is. I mean, come on it's a blood spewing domestic cat in spandex. Ha Ha Ha. That'll do for me.

I sincerely hope we get a back story for this one. I'm willing to wager that it involves some cosmic mouse shenanigans. Please Mr Johns let's have a mouse in the Green Lanterns so that we can enjoy some interplanetary Itchy and Scratchy style fun.

Saturday, 1 November 2008

It's that time again

Feeling the cold?

Warm yourself up in a room full of sweaty comic collectors...