Small Press Sundays

Like so many others I started out in the business making minicomics, collaborating on fanzines and concocting stripzines with fellow weirdoes, outcasts and addicts. Even today, seeing the raw stuff of creativity in hand-crafted paper pamphlets – or better yet professionally printed packages which put dreamers’ money where their mouths are – still gets me going in ways which imperil my tired old heart…

So here’s a long-overdue peek at a brilliant publishing project bringing a wealth of independent graphic craft to your attention…

DiRTY ROTTEN Comics #8

By various, Edited by Gary Clap & Kirk Campbell (Throwaway Press)
No ISBN

Graphic narrative and cartooning covers a vast range of genres, formats, disciplines and tastes. Moreover, to my jaded old eyes, these days all the very best and most imaginative work seems to come from outside the pool of professional creators and publishers from what used to be called the “Small Press” …

At the moment in Britain we’re blessed with a fresh, vital and engaging wave of strip-makers and DiRTY ROTTEN Comics is periodically gathering up a wide sampling of the most impressive work and packaging it in sleek, professional-looking black-&-white books I would have killed to be printed in back in the so-cool, tech-deprived Seventies…

The brainchild of – and edited by – Gary Clap and Kirk Campbell, this splendidly broad church of graphic recollection, exploration, extrapolation and fancification is a superb snapshot of the creative vitality, welcome diversity and uncompromising inclusivity of the modern stripzine scene, and sheer heaven for an avowed sucker for all forms of black and white art such as we. I gravely mourn its passing in both film and comics media…

This particular compendium – the Autumn 2016 edition – opens with whimsical rumination in ‘Lady Masque’ by David Robertson and segues into nostalgic reflection with Henry Miller’s charming ‘Real Roman Coins’ before sliding towards comedic anarchy in ‘Journey into Stupid: Summer’ from Claude T. C. & Kyle Gerdes…

Andrew Warwick then heads into spooky M. R. James territory with ‘Insert 20 Pence’ whilst Joanna Harker Shaw waxes poetic with ‘Extract from ‘The Lesson’’ after which ‘Wallace’ experiences a technical itch in a comedy short from Kevin Loftus.

Maria Stoian explores domestic isolation in ‘Nighttime Routine’ whilst a child’s salient question gets a typically brusque adult answer in ‘Seabass’ by Stanley Miller.

Petitecreme’s manga-styled discursive debate on mourning in ‘It’ll Be OK’ quickly gives way to frustrating and surreal terror courtesy of Benjamin Leon’s ‘Knots’ and trenchant black humour in ‘What A Catch’ from James Gifford.

Social overload leads to a welcome moment of calm in ‘Dandelion’ by Francis M. whilst Faye Spencer displays another method of maintaining equilibrium in ‘Bile’ even as Lukasz Kowalczuk shows the world’s next owners at their unsavoury worst in ‘Hollow Earth’.

Benjamin A.E. Filby introduces us to a very human monster in ‘SANGUISUGE’ whilst Scott Wrigg nervously anticipates ‘Those Days’ and bereavement concerns inspire Rozi Hathaway’s bleak and languid ‘Sørgedag’.

Mock heroics and a search for love (or at least acceptance) concern diminutive ‘Sir Tramsalot’ in Ben Hutching’s mirthful, moving vignette, whilst Jey Levang examines the downside of immortality in ‘Amaranthine’ and Tom Mortimer considers the ramifications and necessity of population control in ‘#Neutered’.

A delicious moment of domestic veracity in depicted in ‘Maladroit’ by Josh Hicks after which Elias Bevan comments on the small press creative mill with ‘Grow Them…’ before this aggregate walk on the personal side concludes in epic style with James Wragg’s poignant mystic ‘Remembrance’

Concise, expressive, intimate and evocative, this is a compendium with something for everybody who loves the comics medium and is well worth your time, money and impassioned support.

All content © 2016 by their respective creators.
For more information and sales details check out THROWAWAYPRESS.COM

Krazy & Ignatz volume 2 1919-1921: A Kind, Benevolent and Amiable Brick


By George Herriman, edited by Bill Blackbeard (Fantagraphics Books)
ISBN: 978-1-60699-364-4

The cartoon strip starring Krazy Kat is unquestionably a pinnacle of graphic innovation, a hugely influential body of work which shaped the early days of the comics industry and became an undisputed treasure of world literature.

Krazy and Ignatz, as it is dubbed in these glorious commemorative collected tomes from Fantagraphics, is a creation which can only be appreciated on its own terms. It developed its own unique language – at once both visual and verbal – and dealt with the immeasurable variety of human experience, foible and peccadilloes with unfaltering warmth and understanding without every offending anybody.

Sadly however it baffled far more than a few…

It was never a strip for dull, slow or unimaginative people who simply won’t or can’t appreciate the complex multilayered verbal and pictorial whimsy, absurdist philosophy or seamless blending of sardonic slapstick with arcane joshing. It is the closest thing to pure poesy that narrative art has ever produced.

Some brief background then: Herriman was already a successful cartoonist and journalist in 1913 when a cat and mouse that had been cropping up in his outrageous domestic comedy strip The Dingbat Family/The Family Upstairs graduated to their own feature. Krazy Kat debuted in William Randolph Hearst’s New York Evening Journal on Oct 28th 1913 and mainly by dint of the publishing magnate’s overpowering direct influence spread throughout his vast stable of papers.

Although Hearst and a host of the period’s artistic and literary intelligentsia (notably but not exclusively e.e. Cummings, Frank Capra, John Alden Carpenter, Gilbert Seldes, Willem de Kooning, H.L. Mencken and Jack Kerouac) adored the strip, many local and regional editors did not; taking every potentially career-ending opportunity to drop it from the comics section.

Eventually the feature found a home in the Arts and Drama section of Hearst’s papers. Protected there by the publisher’s heavy-handed patronage the Kat flourished unharmed by editorial interference and fashion, running generally unmolested until Herriman’s death in April 1944.

The basic premise is simple: Krazy is an effeminate, dreamy, sensitive and romantic feline of indeterminate gender hopelessly in love with Ignatz Mouse: rude crude, brutal, mendacious and thoroughly scurrilous.

Ignatz is muy macho; drinking, stealing, neglecting his wife and children and always responding to Krazy’s genteel advances by smiting the Kat with a well-aimed brick (obtained singly or in bulk from noted local brickmaker Kolin Kelly). A third element completing an animalistic eternal triangle is lawman Offissa Bull Pupp, utterly besotted with Krazy, well aware of the Mouse’s true nature, yet bound by his own amorous timidity and sense of honour from removing his rival for the foolish feline’s affections. Krazy is blithely oblivious of Pupp’s dilemma…

Also populating the ever-mutable stage are a stunning supporting cast of inspired bit players such as deliverer of babies Joe Stork, hobo Bum Bill Bee, unsavoury Don Kiyoti, busybody Pauline Parrot, pompous Walter Cephus Austridge, Chinese mallard Mock Duck, Joe Turtil and a host of other audacious characters – all equally capable of stealing the limelight and even supporting their own features. The exotic quixotic episodes occur in and around the Painted Desert environs of Coconino (based of the artist’s vacation retreat Coconino County Arizona) where the surreal playfulness and fluid ambiguity of the flora and landscape are perhaps the most important member of the cast.

The strips are a masterful mélange of unique experimental art, strongly referencing Navajo art forms and utilising sheer unbridled imagination and delightfully expressive language: alliterative, phonetically and even onomatopoeically joyous with a compelling musical force (“He’s simpfilly wondafil”, “A fowl konspirissy – is it pussible?” or “I nevva seen such a great power to kookoo”).

Yet for all that, the adventures are poetic, satirical, timely, timeless, bittersweet, self-referential, fourth-wall bending, eerie, idiosyncratic astonishingly hilarious escapades encompassing every aspect of humour from painfully punning shaggy dog stories to riotous slapstick.

There have been an absolute wealth of Krazy Kat collections since the late 1970s when the fondly remembered strip was generally rediscovered by a far more accepting audience and this particular compendium continues a complete year-by-year series begun by Eclipse and picked up by Fantagraphics when the former ceased trading in 1992. This specific and fabulous monochrome volume – A Kind, Benevolent and Amiable Brick – re-presents the years 1919-1921 in a reassuringly big and hefty (231 x 15 x 305 mm) softcover edition.

Within this magical atlas of another land and time the unending drama plays out as usual, but with some intriguing diversions, such as recurring tribute’s to Kipling’s “Just So Stories” as we discover how the Kookoo Klock works, why bananas hang around in bunches and why Lightning Bugs light up.

Joe’s natal missions go increasingly awry, disease, despair and dearth of alcoholic imbibements take their toll in the years of Prohibition, the weather thinks it’s a comedian and the value of the common brick rollercoasters from low to high and back again.

We also meet a few trans-species alternates of our triangular stars and even peer into the misty past to see Kwin Kleopatra Kat and Marcatonni Maus whilst exploring the ever-changing seasons in a constant display of visual virtuosity and verbal verve…

Frontloading Added Value to the romantic tribulations are fascinating articles and background features such as ‘A Mouse by any Other Name: Krazy and Ignatz’s Early Life Under the Stairs’ by Bill Blackbeard, intimate photo portraits and the mesmerisingly informative ‘Geo. Herriman’s Los Angeles’ by Bob Callahan.

At the far end of the tome you can enjoy some full-colour archival illustration and another batch of erudite and instructional ‘Ignatz Mouse Debaffler Pages’, providing pertinent facts, snippets of contextual history and necessary notes for the young and potentially perplexed…

Herriman’s epochal classic is a remarkable one-off: in all the arenas of Art and Literature there has never been anything like these comic strips which have shaped our industry and creators, inspired auteurs in fields as disparate as prose fiction, film, dance, animation and music whilst delivering delight and delectation to generations of wonder-starved fans.

If however, you are one of Them and not Us, or if you actually haven’t experienced the gleeful graphic assault on the sensorium, mental equilibrium and emotional lexicon carefully thrown together by George Herriman from the dawn of the 20th century until the dog days of World War II, this glorious compendium is the most accessible way to do so. Don’t waste the opportunity…
© 2011 Fantagraphics Books. All rights reserved.

Wet Moon volume 1: Feeble Wanderings


By Sophie Campbell (Oni Press)
ISBN: 978-1-93266-407-2

Wet Moon seems like one of grown-up comics’ biggest secrets. Published intermittently by Oni Press since 2004, it’s a winning blend of the literary traditions of Southern Gothic with experimental comic strip endeavours like Glenn Head’s Chicago – a Comix Memoir, Brian O’Malley’s Lost at Sea or Liz Suburbia’s Sacred Heart

Looking like a beautifully rendered young adult soap opera filmed in monochrome, the story unfolds in the bayou-lapped Deep South, where the eponymous township of Wet Moon is the venue for an art school and home of a thriving Goth/Newest Wave/counterculture scene.

If you’re my age you could think of it as a modern corollary to Athens, Georgia when REM were attending college at U of G or the B-52s were learning to play…

The focus of our attention is pensive, introspective young student Cleo Lovedrop; a bespectacled, overweight, marginally-pierced, heavily made-up Goth-girl attending the aforementioned college. Like every teen she’s a mess of insecurities and irrepressible urges, but all she wants to do is understand both the world and herself. She also has her fair share of dark melancholic secrets…

Cleo is still finding her feet after moving into shared digs, but her mind is elsewhere; something from her past that she doesn’t even want to think won’t shut up even now that she’s here and starting fresh. Thankfully, her best friends Trilby Bernarde and Mara Zuzanny are scoping out the place with her and are proving to be the usual distraction…

Elsewhere, absent pal Audrey Richter is with Martin. They are busy avoiding Pete, the “Pringles Guy”.

He’s one of those pests who always has to show you his artwork. Whilst dodging him, Audrey hides in the public toilets and sees lots of graphitti. The only bit she remembers however, is the clearly scrawled legend “Cleo eats it” boldly adorning the stall partition…

Cleo spends a lot of time examining herself in mirrors. At first the reader is unsure exactly what she’s looking for or at and Campbell is smart enough and bold enough to let the art advance these scenes, using silence as a method of conveying both meaning and mood; letting the observer reach their own conclusions, right or wrong…

What Cleo cannot know is that the girl in the apartment next door is doing the same thing, and will soon become very important to her…

Audrey rushes off to warn Cleo and – after a deputation examines the offending libel – agrees it must be aimed at their friend: after all, Cleo is a pretty rare name…

Also at last agreed that it’s a damn lie, they go their separate ways. Still feeling sick and uncomfortable, Cleo heads home and meets another room-mate: pretty, standoffish Natalie Ringtree who seems to live in a world of her own…

Soon after, Cleo visits her older sister Penny and walks home humiliated after another one of “those” fights…

She would have caught the bus back but when she boarded “he” was there and she had to dash off and puke up her guts…

Back at the flat, she’s still throwing up when final flatmate Malady Mayapple introduces herself at Cleo’s moment of maximum embarrassment…

Audrey lusts for the girl at the Head-Butt Video, but when the delicious Myrtle Turenne surprisingly responds a certain way, the panicked Ricter bolts and flees the store. Luckily big, dependable, dumb-as-dirt Slicer is there when she stumbles right into another petty domestic crisis…

That night Trilby is rescued from a pathetic evening watching Star Trek when Cleo and Mara turn up and drag her to Goth nightclub House of Usher. It’s an eventful soiree. Cleo has a close encounter with a self-obsessed art-weirdo and Mara punches out the girl who stole her boyfriend…

Everything freezes when Fern walks in. She’s the most amazing and breathtaking vision anybody has ever seen… even with her unseeing eyes and malformed, withered hand…

That night is a revelation for so many lonely, hungry people, but all Trilby remembers is that she got really, really drunk and made a pass at Cleo…

A hangover breakfast at the local Denny’s then devolves into an over-heated debate about suicide, potential partners and worse before breaking up acrimoniously. Then as they pass the video store, Audrey tells Cleo about what till-girl Myrtle did and, curiosity piqued, Lovedrop has to see for herself. The so-casual meeting does not pan out anything like she expected…

Making her way home, Audrey finds “Cleo Eats It” fliers all over the place, and while she’s disposing of them, deep in the bayou Penny Lovedrop is at Fern’s palatial mansion applying for a job. This strange client, however, seems far more interested in her annoying half-sister Cleo…

The girl in question’s day keeps getting worse. She can’t avoid “him”. Everywhere she turns that bastard Vincent shows up: not following, just always waiting for her…

And when she reaches the apartment, she learns from Malady that the tenant she replaced vanished one night. She was there at bedtime and gone by breakfast. Nobody saw her go…

Clutching her always roiling stomach, Cleo heads to bed and just can’t rest. Even so, she oversleeps, and dashing out next morning, crashes late into her first class. When she sees “him” sitting there, she hurtles right out again, plunging down the stairs, landing on the girl who will change her life forever…

And deep in the Bayou, other people manoeuvre into position; ready to make their own dramatic entrances…

To Be Continued…

This initial, introductory book is the tantalising tip of a vast iceberg of inter-related life-stories which, like alligators in a swamp, present only the merest hint of what lurks beneath. An ongoing saga encompassing the mystery of a missing girl, lost babies, sinister plots and a malicious hidden enemy utilising the power of lies and innuendo, this engrossing ongoing epic ferociously targets the contemporary battleground of appearance, sexual orientation, acceptance and self-identification, exploring themes of isolation, friendship, trust and body dysmorphia with great wit, keen insight, clever characterisation and immense heart.

Before finding higher profile work in the mainstream with series like Glory, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Jem and the Holograms Sophie (Ross) Campbell was astounding readers with this sprawling yarn (six collected volumes thus far and at least two more planned) and this edition comes with a large selection of extras.

As well as ‘Older Wet Moon Artwork’ pages, there are developmental sketches and an abortive introductory sequence which works perfectly as a 5-page silent vignette introducing pre-college Cleo, plus an absolutely crucial ‘Who’s Who in Wet Moon’

With welcoming echoes of Gilbert Hernandez’s complex and delicious celebrations of unique, flawed yet uncompromisingly human communities in Love and Rockets as well as off-kilter televisual landmarks like Twin Peaks, Maximum Bob or American Gothic, this is a series at the fringes, but make no mistake, Wet Moon is every inch its own creature: sinisterly enticing, seductively unconventional and emotionally compelling.
™ and © 2004 (Sophie) Ross Campbell. All rights reserved.

Krazy & Ignatz volume 1 1916-1918: Love in a Kestle or Love in a Hut


By George Herriman, edited by Bill Blackbeard (Fantagraphics Books)
ISBNs: 978-1-60699-316-3

I must admit to feeling like a fool and a fraud reviewing George Herriman’s winningly surreal masterpiece of eternal unrequited love. Although Krazy Kat is unquestionably a pinnacle of graphic innovation, a hugely influential body of work which shaped the early days of the comics industry and a paragon of world literature, some readers – from the strip’s earliest antecedents in 1913 right up to five minutes ago – just cannot “get it”.

All those with the right sequence of genes (“K”, “T”, “Z” and “A”, but not, I suspect “Why”) are lifelong fans within seconds of exposure whilst those sorry few oblivious to the strip’s inimitable charms are beyond anybody’s meagre capacity to help.

Still, since every day there’s newcomers to the wonderful world of comics I’ll assume my inelegant missionary position once more and hope to catch and convert some fresh souls – or, as today’s indisputable pictorial immortal might put it, save some more “lil Ainjils”…

Krazy Kat is not and never has been a strip for dull, slow or unimaginative people who simply won’t or can’t appreciate the complex multilayered verbal and pictorial whimsy, absurdist philosophy or seamless blending of sardonic slapstick with arcane joshing. It is the closest thing to pure poesy that narrative art has ever produced.

Think of it as a visual approximation of Dylan Thomas and Edward Lear playing “I Spy” with James Joyce amongst beautifully harsh and barren cactus fields whilst Gabriel García Márquez types up the shorthand notes and keeps score…

George Herriman was already a successful cartoonist and journalist in 1913 when a cat and mouse who had been cropping up in the corners and backgrounds of his outrageous domestic comedy strip The Dingbat Family/The Family Upstairs finally graduated to their own feature.

Krazy Kat the strip debuted in William Randolph Hearst’s New York Evening Journal on October 28th 1913 and, mainly by dint of the publishing magnate’s overpowering direct influence, spread throughout his vast stable of papers.

Although Hearst and a host of the period’s artistic and literary intelligentsia (which included Frank Capra, e.e. Cummings, John Alden Carpenter, Gilbert Seldes, Willem de Kooning, H.L. Mencken and Jack Kerouac) utterly adored the strip, many local editors -ever-cautious of the opinions of the hoi-polloi who actually bought newspapers – did not, and took every career-threatening opportunity to eject it from the comics section.

Eventually the feature found a home in the Arts and Drama section of Hearst’s vast empire of periodicals. Protected by the publisher’s patronage, the strip flourished unharmed by editorial interference and fashion, running until Herriman’s death in April 1944.

The basic premise of the eccentric enterprise is simple: in an arid, anthropomorphic region of America bordering the mighty Rio Grande dwells Krazy; an effeminate, dreamy, sensitive and romantic feline of indeterminate gender, in uncompromising total love with rude, crude, brutal, mendacious and thoroughly scurrilous, married-with-children (so very many children) bad boy Ignatz Mouse.

Ignatz is a real Man’s Muridae; drinking, stealing, cheating, carousing, neglectful of his spouse and progeny. He revels in spurning Krazy’s genteel advances by regularly, repeatedly and obsessively belting the cat with a well-aimed and mightily thrown brick (obtained singly or in bulk, generally by legitimate purchase from noted local brickmaker Kolin Kelly).

The third member of the classic eternal triangle is lawman Offissa Bull Pupp, hopelessly in love with Krazy, well-aware of the Mouse’s true nature, but bound by his own timidity and sense of honour from removing his rival for the cat’s affections. Krazy is, of course, blithely oblivious of Pupp’s true feelings and dilemma…

Also populating the dusty environs are a stunning supporting cast of inspired anthropomorphic bit players such as Joe Stork, (deliverer of babies), the hobo Bum Bill Bee, larcenous Don Kiyoti, busybody Pauline Parrot, Walter Cephus Austridge, Chinese mallard Mock Duck, Joe Turtil and a host of other audacious characters – all capable of stealing the limelight and even supporting their own features.

The episodes occur in and around the Painted Desert environs of Coconino (based of the artist’s vacation retreat Coconino County, Arizona) and the surreal playfulness and fluid ambiguity of the flora and landscapes are perhaps the most important members of the cast.

These strips are a masterful mélange of wickedly barbed contemporary social satire, folksy yarn-telling, unique experimental art, strongly referencing Navajo art forms and sheer unbridled imagination and delightfully expressive language: alliterative, phonetically and even onomatopoeically joyous and compellingly musical (“He’s simpfilly wondafil”, “A fowl konspirissy – is it pussible?” or “I nevva seen such a great power to kookoo”), yet for all that these adventures are timely, timeless, bittersweet, self-referential, fourth-wall bending, eerie, idiosyncratic and utterly hilarious escapades encompassing every aspect of humour from painfully punning shaggy dog stories to riotous silent-movie slapstick.

The Krazy & Ignatz series of collected Sunday pages was originally contrived by Eclipse Comics and the Turtle Island Foundation and taken over by Fantagraphics when the first publisher succumbed to predatory market conditions in the 1990s. Through diligence and sheer bloody determination matching Hearst’s own, the series was finally completed in 2015.

After years of scarily hand-to-mouth publishing, the entire Katty canon of magnificent Sunday pages has been collected in fabulous compilations and this first colour and monochrome volume opens with ‘And the First Shall Be the Last: A History of Kat Reprints’ and A Word from the Publisher by Kim Thompson delineating at length the eccentric orbit which finally resulted in Herriman’s masterpiece being collected in a complete, uniform, visually stunning 13 volume edition.

That’s followed by ‘The Kat’s Kreation’ from series Editor Bill Blackbeard; a fulsome, fascinating and heavily illustrated history tracing the development of the frankly freakish feline as briefly outlined above, and ‘Before He Went “Krazy”: George Herriman’s Aughts’, offering a liberal sampling of examples of the cartoonists many pre-Coconino strips and features such as ‘Lariat Pete’, ‘Bud Smith, the Boy Who Does Stunts’, ‘Rosy’s Mama’, ‘Zoo Zoo… (Goes Shopping, Entertains, And the Christmas Pie)’, ‘Alexander’ and ‘Daniel and Pansy’, spanning 1903 to 1909, with many sporting a certain prototype mad moggy in the corners…

From there it’s a short hop to the first cautious yet full-bodied escapades from 1916, delivered every seven days from April 23rd to December 31st.

Within that first year, as war raged in Europe and with America edging inexorably closer to the Global Armageddon, the residents of Coconino sported and wiled away their days in careless abandon but totally embroiled within their own – and their neighbours’ – personal dramas.

Big hearted Krazy adopts orphan kitties, accidentally goes boating and ballooning, saves baby birds from predatory mice and rats, survives pirate attacks, constantly endures assault and affectionate attempted murder and does lots of nothing in an utterly addictive, idyllic and eccentric way.

…And gets hit with bricks. Many, heavy and always evoking joyous, grateful raptures and transports of delight from the heart-sore hard-headed recipient…

In 1917 (specifically January 7th to December 30th), the eternal game played out as usual and with an infinite variety of twists, quirks and reversals. However there were also increasingly intriguing diversions to flesh out the picayune proceedings, such as recurring explorations of terrifying trees, grim ghosts and obnoxious Ouija Boards, tributes to Kipling as we discover why the snake rattles, meet Ignatz’s aquatic cousin, observe an invasion of Mexican Jumping Beans and a plague of measles, discover the maritime value of “glowerms”, learn who was behind a brilliant brick-stealing campaign of crime and at last see Krazy become the Bricker and not Brickee…

Fully in control of his medium, Herriman switched into poetic high gear as America finally entered the Great War in 1918.

With strips running from January 6th to December 29th, uncanny brick apparitions scotched somebody’s New Year’s resolutions, cantankerous automobiles began to disrupt the desert days, fun of a sort was had with boomerangs and moving picture mavens began haunting the region. There were deeply strange interactions with weather events, whilst music was made and occasional extended storylines began with the saga of an aberrant Kookoo Klock…

Surreal voyages were undertaken but over and again it was seen that there is literally no place like Krazy and Ignatz’s home. There was only one acknowledgement of Kaiser Bill and it was left to the missile-chucking mouse to deliver it…

And then it was Christmas and a new year and volume lay ahead…

To complete the illustrious experience and explore the ever-shifting sense of reality amidst the constant display of visual virtuosity and verbal verve this big, big book (305 x 230 mm and superbly designed by Chris Ware) ends with rare and informative bonus material such as ‘A Genius of the Comic Page’: a contemporaneous appreciation and loving deconstruction of the strip – with new illustrations from Herriman – by the astoundingly perspicacious and erudite critic Summerfield Baldwin taken from Cartoons Magazine and an oddly enigmatic biography of the reclusive creator in ‘George Herriman 1880-1944’ by Bill Blackbeard.

‘The Ignatz Mouse Debaffler Page’ then closes the show, providing pertinent facts, snippets of contextual history and necessary notes for the young and potentially perplexed…

Herriman’s epochal classic is a genuine Treasure of World Art and Literature. These strips shaped our industry, galvanised comics creators, inspired auteurs in fields as disparate as prose fiction, film, sculpture, dance, animation and jazz and musical theatre whilst always delivering delight and delectation to generations of devoted, wonder-starved fans.

If however, you are one of Them and not Us, or if you actually haven’t experienced the gleeful graphic assault on the sensorium, mental equilibrium and emotional lexicon carefully thrown together by Herriman from the dawn of the 20th century until the dog days of World War II, this glorious parade of cartoon masterpieces are your last chance to become a human before you die…

That was harsh, I know: not everybody gets it and some of them aren’t even stupid or soulless – they’re just unfortunate…

Still, There Is A Heppy Lend Furfur A-Waay if only you try to see…
© 2010 Fantagraphics Books. All rights reserved.

As You Were volume 4: Living Situations


By various, compiled and edited by Mitch Clem & Avi Ehrlich (Silver Sprocket Bicycle Club/Last Gasp)
ISBN: 978-0-86719-822-5

Speaking as a doddering survivor of the first Punk Uprising, I admit to still hankering for those frenzied days of youthful indiscretion, impatient passions, a sense of being completely tangential to most folk around me and a clear idea of who “The Enemy” was.

At least I’m still utterly angry and discontented over inequality, political arrogance, corporate smugness, bigotry of every type and the First World’s poisonous assumption  that we all adhere to their vile philosophy of I’m-all-right-Jackery…

So it’s bloody wonderful to see some of those attitudes still surviving into this century: even if the issues are more about personal liberty and freedom of expression and lifestyle, rather than Fighting the Power or just being listened too…

As You Were is a periodic collection of strips by contemporary cartoonists who self-identify as “punk” and this fourth instance is dedicated to the precarious prospect of daily existence, gathered under one cardboard roof by Mitch Clem (creator of Nothing Nice to Say – arguably the first online punk comic) and Avi Erlich, designated adult of San Franciscan arts collective Silver Sprocket Bicycle Club, who worked in conjunction with Last Gasp to produce this starkly monochrome digest-sized anthology collection.

Behind the Kriss Stress cover and following a fabulously illuminated contents section embroidered with a border by Autumn Ballard, the domestic diatribes (produce of more than one country) open with a frenetic depiction of ‘Tuesday Night at the Rad House’ from Liz Suburbia after which Ben Passmore details the fantastic rules controlling all dealings with ‘The Punklord’ and Shannon Knox examines the lives of the poor, abused cleaning utensils so seldom used by any house occupant in ‘Takes from the Kitchen Sink’.

‘I Grew Up in a Haunted House’ relates Liz Prince’s odd preoccupation with one room in a certain home after which James the Stanton visually and viscerally recalls a party which was out of this world in ‘Gnartoons’, Brad Dwyer and his partner find some ‘Common Ground’ in the raising of their kids and Evan Wolff vs Campus P.D. finds the author not-so nostalgic about college housing and student crash-pads in ‘One Time at the Hot Tub House’

Wondering if it’s booze or Ska music making everything so swirly in Mel’s ‘This Only Works When Everyone is Drunk’, we stagger on to enjoy Jim Kettner’s gleefully elegiac ‘Tales from the Bookhouse’, recounting the unique selling points of past temporary dwellings before Meg Has Issues realises ‘All Roommates are Asshole’ and Chris (Comics of Mass Distraction) Mindtree details a happy ending resulting from ‘2 Guys 1 Apartment’

‘Homecore’ by Josh PM Frees reveals the trials of two gentle scholarly souls searching for shelter whilst Andra Passen exposes herself in ‘Crowded thoughts and crooked teeth’ before the perennial new-student dilemma (no contraceptives!!!) surely evokes pained, fond memories for many of us as Steve Thueson remembers ‘July 2009’

Sam Grinberg shares a rowdy party experience in ‘Quiet’ before Rick V hilariously ‘Draws A Comic About Every Human He Has Lived With’ and Nomi Kane totally steals the show with ‘Nightmare on Milwaukee Avenue’ as the housemates have to deal with “that guy”: the lazy, shiftless one who has problems with the very concept of menstruation and other girl stuff…

Steve Larder offers a uniquely British outlook whilst recalling his time staying in ‘The Hippy House’ and Emily “Buckwheat” Timm scales flights of fantasy in ‘A Girl Can Dream’ with Joshum sustaining the escapism in fabulous pantomimic sci fi fable ‘Coming Home’.

World traveller Aimée Pijpers thoughtfully details her ‘Living Arrangements: a Timeline’ before true Brit Rob Cureton amuses and outrages with his ‘INFOMERCIAL’ for a very special old folks home after which Alex Barrett exposes the idiocy of the Tallahassee cops in ‘GCF’ and Rachel Dukes depicts a moment of pure romance in ‘Good Morning, Dracula’

Alex Krokus then shares a ‘House Meeting’ like so very many others and Sarah Graley intimately recalls ‘Elly’s Room’ after which Wyeth Yates gloriously predicts a happy future in the ‘Horse Latitudes’ before Ben Snakepit apologises for his many sins as a ‘Roomate from Hell’

‘Buying the Baron’s House’ is Erin K. Wilson’s silent tale told in two timeframes, relating the history of a home and its fate today whilst ‘There and Back Again’ finds Carolina Porras daydreaming as she packs up for another move. After Andy Warner graphically catalogues a ‘House Party’, Will Laren recapitulates a modern manifesto with ‘The People’s System’ before Lindsay Anne Watson pantomimically advocates that we ‘Settle Down’ to close this conference of cartoons.

With a full biography/contact section (for when you want to see more… and where) this is a wonderful collaborative colloquium of cartoon free expression to delight lovers of the comics game, but if your new to all this, British and of a certain age or maybe simply a devotee of anarchic comedy, the (long and disinfectant-dosed) handle you’re reaching for regarding much of this material is Mayall & Edmonton’s The Young Ones or Bottom, possibly by way of John Belushi in Animal House

However, whatever your age, stance or orientation, this splendid collection of funny, raucous, whimsical and thought-provoking graphic narrative is a delicious way of seeing how those kids you claim not to understand think – and surely that’s no bad thing?
Collection © 2015 Silver Sprocket. Contributions © 2015 by the individual authors.

Snakepit Gets Old: Daily Diary Comics 2010-2012


By Ben Snakepit (Microcosm Publishing)
ISBN: 978-1-62106-596-8

If you’ve ever made your own comics or art or music you probably know how addictive that act of creation can become. Pity then poor Ben Snakepit; a bass-playing DIY punk living in Austin, Texas…

He attended Virginia Commonwealth University as a graphic arts major and in 2000 after living his life for a bit began documenting his day. He has done so ever since, three panels per diem, rain or shine, in sickness or in health; immortalising his dire, dreary day-jobs, the bands he’s in and out of (Ghost Knife, Modok, Shit Creek, Shanghai River, J-Church, The Sword), his romantic life, meals, the war against expanding waistlines, sundry friendships, an apparent addiction to computer games, various Star Trek iterations and so many movies and comics. The irresistible making and selling and reading of funnybooks…

The journal cartoons are all delivered in a raw yet deliciously engaging, self-deprecating manner that is impossible to resist, and at the start of this collection he explains why, even though he swore to only draw the strip for ten years (beginning in the summer of 2000), he just can’t stop, before going on to delineate some of the most important moments of his life so far in a non-stop parade of funny, sad, sweet, pitiable and enviable inky snapshots…

Constantly decrying his ability to draw the simplest or most familiar things, he has shared his life in the strips (previously progressively gathered as The Snakepit Book, My Life in a Jugular Vein, Snakepit 2007, Snakepit 2008, Snakepit 2009 and the tome under review here).

As this sublimely readable tome proves, there are actually no unremarkable lives and Snakepit Gets Old is an experience celebrating simple happiness and everyday contentment which you won’t soon forget by a very special author who doesn’t know how to quit…

You can’t see it, but this volume includes a second invisible cover overprinted on the first and only to be seen by holding the book up to the light in a skewed manner. Cool…
He hasn’t said it but I’m guessing © 2015 Ben Snakepit.

Neroy Sphinx: Back in the Game


By Daniel Whiston, Johnny McMonagle, James Kircough, Dave Thomson & Bolt-01 (FutureQuake Press)
ISBN: 978-0-9931849-0-1

If you grew up British in the last half century and read home-produced adventure comics you were primarily consuming either war or science fiction tales – and preferably both.

2000AD launched in February 1977 and quickly reshaped the minds of a generation of readers. It has been doing so ever since, consequently affecting and inspiring hundreds of creators…

Very much in the mould of the anarchic, subversive and wickedly cynical weekly comes this superb collection of tales starring a devious and irredeemably self-serving chancer with the fate of humanity unhappily piled on his shifty, unwilling and mostly uncaring shoulders.

Neroy Sphinx first began intermittently appearing in Indie comics sensation FutureQuake – specifically between issues #4-20, from 2005 to 2012 – and his quixotic escapades have now been fully remastered and gathered in this bombastic black-&-white paperback book, supplemented with two new tales.

Any further background you might require is eagerly included in ‘Who is Neroy Sphinx? – Foreword by James Lovegrove’

Written throughout by Daniel Whiston, a peek into the legendary wrong-un’s murky history is first provided by ‘Blast from the Past: Prologue’, illustrated by Dave Thomson and set in the final days of EarthFed when sleazy politico and trade-whore Neroy saw most of his Ponzi-scheme style deals with alien races coming adrift all at once.

He didn’t care. He was using government resources to sift space for priceless Pre-Collapse artefacts and relics. A fortune could be made with the smallest shard of 10,000-year-old tech and he’s been stockpiling them for years…

However when über-psionic Clarence Griffin located a high-potential prospect, Sphinx, with assistants Anubis and Bast, discovered an asteroid-sized armaments cache of the Ancients and allies quickly became enemies. Sphinx was the only one to return, escorting a lethal and lovely autonomous weapons-system and concealing a deadly secret…

From FutureQuake #4, ‘One Last Job’ (art by Johnny McMonagle with grey-tones by Thomson) opens ten years later with Neroy now a scuzzy conman and partial amnesiac, fallen foul of elderly, astoundingly vicious mobster Mr. Dubblz. The wizened felon wants Sphinx to shepherd an art-heist but hasn’t reckoned on his cat’s-paw fooling not just the cops but also his employer…

Free and finally off-planet, ‘The Job From Hell’ (James Kircough/Thomson) finds the aging grifter on Proxima and slowly recovering memories. Unfortunately the first thing he remembers is that he removed certain recollections himself, in an effort to excise something too horrible to deal with.

In a certain place a decade ago he and Griff had accidentally unlocked a gate which had kept out voracious things from beyond human space for ten millennia. Griffin had done something to slow them down but with the door open they would certainly return one day soon… and now Sphinx again knows they’re coming…

An aimless wanderer, the mountebank resurfaces on a feudal backwater and becomes a pawn in a royal power-grab on ‘The De’Splurge Job’ (McMonagle/Thomson) before getting stuck as an indentured labourer on a privately-owned planet where his native cunning soon exploits the exploiters in ‘Fall to Rise’ (Kircough/Thomson)…

Glimmers of a long-term plan of counterattack can be discerned but things get decidedly hinky after Sphinx’s libidinous nature drags him into a transgender trap and another scammer’s scheme to steal a precious treasure in ‘What You See Ain’t What You Get’ (McMonagle/Thomson), after which more suppressed memories are revealed in ‘Ice Woman’ (Kircough/Thomson) as he is reunited with Fenris, the living weapon he once resurrected.

The meeting is brief and not amicable…

With human space gradually being infested by alien intruders ‘Cassiopian Queen’ (Kircough/Thomson) sees the Machiavellian miscreant captured by the sorry remnants of EarthFed security, only to turn the tables on both cops and the crazy space pirates challenging them for mastery of the void with exactly the kind of illicit tech everyone is chasing him for…

A valued old associate Neroy doesn’t remember fortuitously returns in ‘Enter the Griffin’ (Kircough/Thomson) when Sphinx is infected with a nano-virus to make him a much more motivated thief. Sadly for the gang boss with the antidote, the fabulous fraudster’s former friends haven’t forgotten him…

By now aware of the alien hell that’s coming, the getaway genius finds himself in a most unpleasant Institution beside humanity’s foremost expert on Galactic History, but as he now has a plan to deal with the incipient incursion all Neroy needs is a little more background information before ‘Breakin’ Outta the Bughouse’ (Dave Thomson)…

The final piece of the puzzle means heading back to poor, shattered Earth and a reunion with Griff and Fenris, but sadly ‘Old Familiar Places’ (Thomson) often house bad memories too and Mr. Dubblz has exceptional recall but no mercy…

Everything ends with a tantalising taste of things (hopefully) to come as last survivor Ensign Eudora Carver barely escapes her final skirmish with alien horrors thanks to an infuriating holo-message and bequest from the legendary Neroy Sphinx himself in the Thomson limned ‘Blast from the Past: Epilogue’

To Be Continued…

But Wait, There’s More…

Rounding off the extraterrestrial experience, ‘Extras’ offers a pulchritudinous pin-up of ‘Princess Alloria’ by McMonagle, a handy ‘Timeline of the EarthFed Universe’ and ‘Script Notes & Sketches’ by Daniel Whiston & McMonagle, plus Dave Thomson’s ‘FutureQuake #20 Cover’ of the diabolical Mr. Dubblz.

Ambitious, gloriously engaging and exceedingly well-executed; this is contemporary space-opera with a broad scope and a deft touch that will delight lovers of edgy but light-hearted fantastic fiction.
© 2014 Daniel Whiston. All rights reserved.

Neroy Sphinx – Back in the Game is a mere £5.00 (plus P&P) and the latest issue of FutureQuake and companion mag Zarjaz are also available at the shop on their website.

Hal Foster’s Prince Valiant volume 9: 1953-1954


By Hal Foster (Fantagraphics Books)
ISBN: 978-1-60699-735-2

The stellar Sunday page Prince Valiant in the Days of King Arthur debuted on February 13th 1937, a luscious, luminous full-colour weekly window into a miraculous too-perfect past of adventure and romance, even topping creator Hal Foster’s previous endeavour, the astoundingly impossibly popular comics masterpiece Tarzan of the Apes.

The saga of noble knights played against a glamorised, dramatised Dark Ages historical backdrop as it followed the life of a refugee boy driven from his ancestral homeland in Scandinavian Thule who grew up to roam the world and attain a paramount position amongst the heroes of fabled Camelot.

Auteur Foster wove his epic tale over decades, following the progress of a near-feral wild boy who grew into a paragon of chivalric virtue: knight, warrior, saviour, vengeance-taker and eventually family patriarch in a constant deluge of wild – and joyously witty – wonderment.

The restless hero visited many far-flung lands, siring a dynasty of equally puissant heroes and utterly enchanting generations of readers and thousands of creative types in all the arts.

There have been films, an animated series and all manner of toys, games, books and collections based on Prince Valiant – one of the few adventure strips to have run continuously from the thunderous 1930s to the present day (more than 4000 episodes and counting) – and even here at the end times of newspaper narrative cartoons as an art form, it continues to astound in more than 300 American papers. It has even cut its way onto the internet with an online edition.

Foster crafted the feature alone until 1971 when illustrator John Cullen Murphy (Big Ben Bolt) succeeded him as illustrator. Foster continued as writer and designer until 1980, after which he retired and Cullen Murphy’s daughter Mairead took over colouring and lettering whilst her brother John assumed the writer’s role.

In 2004 the senior Cullen Murphy also retired, since when the strip has soldiered on under the auspices of many extremely talented artists such as Gary Gianni, Scott Roberts and latterly Thomas Yeates with Mark Schultz (Xenozoic) superbly scripting. That scribe also provides this volume’s Introduction ‘More Than Pretty Pictures: Storytelling Beyond Genre, Gender, and Medium’ wherein Foster’s extraordinary facility with expressions and pioneering creation of strong and capable female characters is celebrated, analysed and explained by focusing on the artist’s astoundingly able wife and lifemate Helen.

This enormously entertaining and luxurious oversized (362 x 264mm) full-colour hardback reprints the pages from January 4th 1953 to 26th December 1954 (pages #830-933, if you’re counting) but before we proceed…

What Has Gone Before: Having negotiated a truce between Val’s Scandinavian nation Thule and the kingdom of Orkney, the restless Prince undertook his most momentous task yet. Bringing back missionaries from Rome at his father King Aguar’s request, the rowdy knight of Camelot began overseeing the nation’s slow conversion from Paganism and Druid worship to Christianity.

The job was not without risk with the missionaries and their regal escort (who was still far from a believer in the One God himself) encountering stiff resistance and worse from the Thor-loving populace – and especially their profiteering priests…

The saga resumes with Val and companions Helgi and Torr presiding over a tenuous truce between new and old faiths which is soon threatened after the Prince exposes the seeming “miracles” of the Thor priests for what they truly are. In retaliation the new Christian chapel is burned down, but the missionaries’ stoic acceptance and calm rebuilding impresses the masses far more than all the druids’ tricks and bombast…

Assuming their job completed Valiant and his men depart only to be caught in a terrible forest fire which only two survive…

Struggling home to his family, saddened Val monopolises all his wife’s attention and jealous first born son Arn acts up by leaving home to have adventures of his own. The little lad takes with him a hound of dubious pedigree and ancestry – dubbed Sir Gawain – and has a grand old time. Before true peril can threaten however the wanderers encounter an old friend of Valiant’s: another Round Table knight who is less than pleased to learn that he shares his noble name with a mangy, flea-bitten mutt…

A pleasant time of gentle recuperation amongst friends is capped by another birth as Aleta’s Amerindian maid Tillicum produces a first son for her Viking husband Boltar but marred by separation as Valiant’s wife is called back to her own kingdom in the Misty Isles to quell a rebellion. He is unable to join her when Gawain’s mission is revealed: the Danes and Saxons have invaded Britain in a vast army with unbeatable new battle tactics and now lay siege to Camelot itself…

Assured by Aleta that she can handle her crisis, Valiant and Gawain take ship and soon rejoin Arthur at Tintagel. The troubled monarch has learned that five kings of Cornwall are planning to ally with the invader Horsa and hopes the devious mind of the Prince of Thule can again trump overwhelming odds with keen wits and courage…

The campaign begins as Val impersonates a troubadour and sows treachery and dissent amongst the new allies. Soon one Celtic king is dead and the remaining quartet are frantically realigning with Arthur. With the defenders now united against the Saxons the long campaign to repulse them begins and once more the Prince’s unique and imaginative grasp of unconventional warfare is the defenders’ greatest asset…

With the tide turning, Val is surprised to be ordered away from battle to undertake another impossible task. Throughout Arthur’s reign the realm had periodically suffered raids from Ireland. Now they are a distraction England cannot afford and Valiant is despatched to the Emerald Isle to secure peace.

He has no idea how to accomplish the task but dutifully sails off, and gets into a fight as soon as he touches ground again. Happily his brawl with local chieftain Brian O’Curry impresses everyone so much that the boisterous hulking brute proclaims him a friend for life.

Soon they are travelling to capital outpost Cashel to meet current and pro tem overlord Rory McColm, but the journey is delayed as Brian’s clan encounters and has a quick war with a rival tribe. As Val learns from keenly observing holy man and Christian missionary Patrick, there’s nothing the Irish love more than fighting…

That also proves true when the visitor is finally granted an audience with the cruelly arrogant McColm, who spurns Britain’s entreaties and insults the infamously hot-headed Prince of Thule. Before long diplomacy is abandoned and a furious duel ensues. After Val ends all hopes of Rory’s retaining his crown – by defeating and mildly maiming him – the visitor becomes a harried fugitive running for his life…

With Brian and Patrick’s assistance Valiant escapes Ireland and heads for home where he meets Merlin who has an important prognostication for Arthur. Unfortunately before he can completely reveal it the aged mage is whisked away by enchanting temptress Nimue, leaving Valiant with nothing but frustrating fragments of a vital warning…

Rejoining the king as he struggles against the entrenched Saxons in Kent, Valiant finally deciphers the truncated message and goes about orchestrating the invaders’ ultimate defeat. The crucial first step is to allow himself to be captured and tortured by Horsa’s forces…

The scheme works perfectly and as deep snows give way to spring the crushed and starving enemy are driven from Britain’s shores, allowing the wily tactician time to wonder how his wife fares in sunnier climes. He is eager to join her but sworn companion Gawain has fallen in love with the wrong maiden – again – and by the time the affair ends all he has to show for it is a new, exceedingly homely, inept yet oddly effective servant dubbed Pierre

When Aleta arrived in the Misty Isles with her three children she found her sister and regent Helene increasingly under the sway of her husband Dionseus. The cagy thug had visions of turning the prosperous and peaceful trading nation into a piratical kingdom raiding and conquering the region. To achieve his aims he had slowly infiltrated the government, padding it with his cronies.

He has no idea of Aleta’s incomparable political acumen and astute manoeuvrings and, after failing to poison her and her heirs, somehow finds himself and all his mercenaries banished without a drop of blood being shed…

Humiliated and infuriated, Dionseus retrenches and begins planning his murderous return at the head of an invasion fleet, just as Valiant and Gawain finally arrive in the Misty Isles. Aleta, delighted to see them, has matters well in hand and prefers that they hang back and let her handle matters her way.

The Queen is grateful however for information provided by Pierre who, after a night of low carousing with servants in town, uncovers a plot by a coterie of nobles who plan to betray her for advancement in Dionseus’ men-only regime…

Eventually, outthought and overmatched in every way, the usurper is utterly defeated and bored Valiant grows even more restless as Aleta sets to reforming her kingdom so that such a coup can never threaten again.

After tedium leads to a ferocious domestic spat the Prince and Gawain resolve to get out of everyone’s hair and go on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. Of course, no sooner have they arrived in the Holy City than they find themselves in hot water after seeing the plight of a Christian knight.

Thanks to another drunken debauch by Pierre the sly truth is soon revealed. Sir Basil has been held in an impenetrable but easily observed dungeon for a decade: an unwilling Judas Goat used by Sheik Ben El Rasch to trap European knights who would attempt to rescue their fellow and fall captive to a master of the art of ransoming.

The soon to depart occupying garrison of Roman soldiers are too busy preparing for their withdrawal to bother themselves with strictly local affairs so the Sheik has grown rich trading on the good intentions of noble Christian pilgrims and warriors, but now, forewarned, Valiant and Gawain are resolved to teach him a lesson he will never forget…

Sadly they succeed all too well and taking El Rasch hostage leads to them being approached by his deadliest enemies who wish to buy him! Baulking at such barbarism but stalling until they have freed Sir Basil, the Round Table heroes thus incur the wrath of Syrian tribesmen too, but undaunted determine to finish their pilgrimage.

The decade-delayed Basil is eager to join them, but on every step of the quest they are pursued by two furious rival desert factions as keen to kill them as each other…

Although implacable and numerous, the burnoosed hunters have never encountered fighters as cunning, imaginative and skilled as Valiant and his companions. Despite their best efforts – and even the seductive eyes of El Rasch’s daughter – the questors complete their journey and safely head back to the Misty Isles…

During their absence little Arn has grown old enough to notice girls and he does not like them. He and noble playmate Paul make an exception for kitchen-gamin Diane however, since she can sneak them out of the palace, teach them to fish and outfight them both.

When she subsequently saves their lives, Aleta neatly sidesteps all manner of court scandal and disapprobation by declaring her to be for a full year, a royal companion and a boy…

Everything seems spoiled though after the pilgrims return and the lad Diane develops a crush on Gawain. The legendary lover is deeply mortified by the sprite’s attention, but when a palace lothario attempts to get rid of Valiant and pursue the queen, Gawain steps in to defend her honour and is grateful for bold Diane’s help in avoiding a treacherous trap…

Soon however dull peace breaks out once more and before Val and his brother knight can ruin it again Aleta decrees it’s time for the royal family to head North once again…

To Be Continued…

Closing this astonishing epic of daring-dare-deviltry, Brian M. Kane scrutinises in searing detail the history of film and TV iterations in ‘Prince Valiant and the Sacking of Hollywood: The 60th Anniversary of Hal Foster’s Creation on the Silver Screen’, featuring the apparently accursed 1954 movie and Foster’s subsequent starring role on This Is Your Life as well as the 1997 international film remake and animated series The Legend of Prince Valiant

Rendered in a simply stunning panorama of glowing visual passion and precision, Prince Valiant is a non-stop rollercoaster of boisterous action, exotic adventure and grand romance; blending human-scaled fantasy with dry wit and broad humour, soap opera melodrama with shatteringly dark violence.

Beautiful, captivating and utterly awe-inspiring, the strip is a true landmark of comics fiction and something no fan should miss.
© 2014 King Features Syndicate. All other content and properties © 2014 their respective creators or holders. This edition © 2014 Fantagraphics Books. All rights reserved.

Department of the Peculiar #1 & 2


By Rol Hirst & Rob Wells
No ISBNs:

In strikingly similar vein from alternative press veterans Rol Hirst and Rob Wells is a splendid mash-up of X-Men and X-Files, given a splendidly seductive British taste and tone.

DotP #1 sees scripter Hirst and illustrator Wells take a laconic look at what ails the world in ‘Sick Day’ where we meet Malcolm Drake: an American metahuman embarrassed by his powers and hiding out in the UK.

His sad life didn’t get any better this side of the pond but suddenly changes forever when he is blackmailed by the ever-vigilant government quango known as the Department of the Peculiar into joining their covert, severely under-funded and cash-poor rapid response team.

Malcolm makes people sick (that’s his power, not his attitude – well, maybe a bit of his attitude too) and when abrasive chief administrator Lisa Cole confronts him in a Manchester shopping centre that is exactly what she needs.

Another “Peculiar” has seized control of an office building owned by food conglomerate Matheson-Beaumont. He did it by making people ill and wilfully distributing heart attacks and transfats amongst the security staff.

Threatened with deportation unless he replaces D.O.T.P.’s already-downed field agent, Malcolm reluctantly approaches the hostage building, but discovers that his strange gift can’t protect him from a heart attack either…

The story concludes in #2 with ‘Cure for Cancer’ as Drake provides a life-passing-his-eyes flashback and origin tale whilst aggrieved eco-warrior and nutritionally-abused walking cholesterol bomb Paul Aday carries out his ghastly revenge on the execs who poisoned a nation.

However Malcolm is made of stern stuff and rallies just enough to do the necessary…

Gross, scary, funny and wildly beguiling, this is outrageous non-stop spoofery, surreal whimsy, deceptively gritty action and bureaucrat-bashing as only world-wearily laconic Brits can do it, marking this as one of the best indie titles I’ve seen in decades…

Comicbook sized in stunningly powerful black & white, Department of the Peculiar #1 & 2 are available from rolhirst.co.uk and you can follow him on Twitter (@rolhirst) whilst these and Rob’s other wonderful canon of cartoon fun can be found via crispbiscuit.co.uk. He can be Twitterstalked on (@robertdwells).

© 2012, 2013 Rol Hirst and Rob Wells.
www.facebook.com/departmentofthepeculiar

Vreckless Vrestlers #2-5


By Lukasz Kowalczuk, translated by Aneta Kaczmarek (Vreckless Comics!)
No ISBNs

Vreckless Vrestlers is a 5-chapter miniseries by Polish cartoonist Lukasz Kowalczuk, with a breathtakingly simple yet irresistibly engaging premise. The star is a temporally-transcendent fight-promoter abducting the greatest warriors from all time and space to fight in his Professional Interdimensional Wrestling League – brutal gladiatorial contests with only “One Rule – No Rules!”…

Produced as 210x150mm flip-book fight-fests, the progressively more excessive bouts feature astounding cartoon hyper-violence in the manner of Johnny Ryan’s Prison Pit. Unmarred by subplot or subtext these tales delivering tons of spectacular, primal, monster-hitting action with oodles of juicy, oozy, gory sound effects and no tedious dialogue or badinage to slow down the horrific bone-crushing action…

Issue #2 sees Original Hippie Killer battle beaded barbarian lass Barbarica in one half whilst Sergeant Reptilion takes on Spike Lee (no, not the film guy), on the flipside, augmented and segregated with a 4-page puzzle section, whilst the next power-packed instalment sees Barbarica face Reptilion for a place in the ‘Mean Event’ that concludes hostilities.

Also tussling for a championship slot in #3 are Vegan Cat and The Eye, and the bouts are separated by hilarious faux merchandising ads, battle stats and a cut-out mask of current champion Bullgod for you to excise and wear with pride…

Issues 4 and 5 comprise one big, all action big bonanza finale-extravaganza which takes the reader to the edge of the seat and into bizarre metaphysical territory so hold on to your hats and your free stickers…

These little booklets are manic, eccentric and eminently addictive celebrations of the unfettered artist given carte blanche. Each black-&-white issue (limited to print runs of 200 in English and Polish) comes with all sorts of extras like promo cards, collectible stickers – and mini-album – and can be obtained by contacting www.vrecklessvrestlers.tumblr.com, www.fb.com/vrestlers or Lk@tzzad.pl.

Daft, thrilling, madcap and wonderful, if you need a little break, or contusion, or abrasion, this might be the very remedy…

…And if you’re irresistibly wedded to the future, Vreckless Vrestlers is also available on ComiXology and at Streets of Beige so there’s no reason not to grab a ringside seat in the comfort of your own cosy crash-pad, dude……

© 2014 Lukasz Kowalczuk. All rights reserved.