Big Scoop of Ice Cream


By Conxita Herrero Delfa: translated by Jeff Whitman (NBM)
ISBN: 978-1-68112-294-6 (PB) eISBN: 978-1-68112-295-3

Comics are a nigh-universal, extremely powerful medium that lends itself to a host of topics and genres, but the area where it has always shined brightest is in its chimeric capacity for embracing autobiographical self-expression. Whether through fictionalised narratives or scrupulously candid revelation, imaginative forays into self-realisation and self-expression frequently inevitably forge the most impressive and moving connections between reader and author.

Conxita Herrero Delfa’s vibrant collection Gran bola de helado was originally released in 2016, containing lifestyle short stories crafted before COVID changed the world. She is Barcelona born – in 1993 – and studied Fine Arts, but found another outlet for her artistic and raconteurial tendencies by publishing fanzines exploring aspects of free discourse, tireless observation and personal introspection. If you’re open-minded and well-travelled, you may have seen her follow-up work in various magazines and collective books. She’s also a singer, so look out for the album Abducida por forma una pareja by Tronco, if you’re so inclined…

Big Scoop of Ice Cream sees Conxita explore in compelling detail her metamorphic life via comic strips, with what appears to be relentless honesty and inspired veracity. Gathered here is a broad menu of experiences true, slightly true, made up, tedious, meta-real and maybe even a bit untrue, made in response to an ineffectual youth becoming – in fits and starts – a grown up. Everyday tasks, major achievements, personal breakthrough and moments without merit jostle beside strange days and minor miracles in ‘Resolutions’, after which we survive spectral invasion ‘Ghosts’ and learn what “adulting” means in ‘The Bathroom’.

The significance of playing alone shapes ‘Talking’, and perhaps a hint of potential romance looms in ‘The Couch Cushion’, before ‘The Arrival of Spring’ induces travel and causes a mini crisis. Sex happens in dusky pink monotones while ‘Relating’ before solitude returns, sparking thoughts of ‘The South of California’ and triggering ominous internet hook ups in ‘Enter’

Acquiring an item of furniture attains the status of ‘The Metaphor’ for her and her friends whilst a beach break with Ricardo in ‘Alghero’ turns into a partial break with reality before ‘The Castles’ sees perspective restored – and endangered – by an over-sharing drinking buddy and other travelling companions…

A temporary liaison doesn’t pan out, but that’s okay because of what Conxita carries in ‘The Pocket’, and there are always marvels in abundance when ‘Looking Up’ or finding someone who will play ‘The Game’

Visually experimental, the eponymous ‘Big Scoop of Ice Cream’ contrasts flavours and relationships without reaching any useful conclusions but segues neatly into a strange encounter in a bar with ‘The Reject’ before the ruminations conclude with confirmation that ‘People are Only Human’

Boasting quotes from Marcel Proust, José Sainz, and Conxita herself, this whimsical confection is uplifting but never self-deluding, wryly inviting and features a breakout performance by pet cat Julia and a recurring box of toffee apples.

These 17 slices of Latin soul are delivered with verve and gusto in a minimalist cartooning style afforded surprising depth by swathes of flat colour: stylishly masking earnest inquiry and heavy introspection with charm, wit and carefully ingenuous nonsense. Big Scoop of Ice Cream is a book to delight and enthral and get in your head, and should be there with you wherever or however you holiday and forever after when you get back to mundane reality.
© 2016 Conxita Herrero Delfa and apa apa comics. © 2022 NBM for the English translation. All rights reserved.

Big Scoop of Ice Cream is scheduled for UK release July 14th 2022 and is available for pre-order now. For more information and other great reads see http://www.nbmpub.com/. Most NBM books are also available in digital formats.

Cyberman – An On-Screen Documentary


By Veronika Muchitsch AKA L.B. Jeffries (Myriad Editions)
ISBN: 978-1-8383860-2-3 (TPB) eISBN: 978-1-8383860-3-0

In modern society somebody is always watching. Are we unconscious – often unwilling – objects of voyeurism or participants in an increasingly intrusive overwatch?

Although daubing marks on a surface is possibly our oldest art form, the potential to ask questions, make stories and simply communicate via that primal process remains infinitely adaptable to modern technologies and as powerful as it ever was in exploring the unchanging basics of the human condition.

Narrative plus image – and the interactions such conjunctions can adapt to and embrace – underpin all of our communal existence and form the primary source for how we view our distant forbears. When employed by an incisive, sensitive, uncompromising agent and interlocutor such as Veronika Muchitsch, the road from “seen” to “created” can also shed light on the furthest fringes of human behaviour.

Veronika Muchitsch is an Austrian artist who distinguished herself at Falmouth University before settling here. In recent years she began participating in a uniquely modern phenomenon. Entire countries away, fifty-something Finnish man Ari Kivikangas was live-streaming his entire existence, 24 hours a day without pause or let up. Drawn in, Veronika began regularly watching him inhabit his simple flat, sleeping, eating, playing his music and occasionally interacting with the observers tuned in to Cyberman.tv.

Entranced, Muchitsch – while becoming increasingly concerned about her own unchecked voyeurism – began painting the images on her screen, fascinated by the bland yet ominous existence unfolding with staggering constancy and endured with brutally frank, ferocious honesty every moment of every day. Ari was poor, ill, isolated and solitary and hungered for fame and validation: a shut-in managing life by his own rules. He accepted potential intrusion, condemnation and actual abuse from the inevitable inescapable trolls infesting social media with staunch bluntness and just carried on streaming.

The compulsive viewing led to Muchitsch reassessing her own views and first impressions. Over the course of a year, she surrendered anonymity and neutrality: becoming one of the people interacting with Ari – even getting his exultant approval to make him famous in one more modern medium…

She initially adopted the username L.B. Jeffries to interact with Ari, as compulsive observation evolved into a project based on parallels she recognised between her own actions and responses and the role played by Jimmy Stewart in classic Alfred Hitchcock thriller Rear Window.

The result is a stunning pictorial re-evaluation of modern life, interactions and relationships at the overlap of physical life and virtual existence – which can apparently be far more mundane than our “real” thing…

The story unfolds as a parade of singular images lovingly painted: captured moments that fall almost unbidden into a narrative. How much of that is calculated, curated direction and how much of the story comes from the reader looking at the pictures of the live stream of a stranger’s life? Only you can decide…
© Veronika Muchitsch 2021.

Cyberman – An On-Screen Documentary is scheduled for UK release May 26th 2022 and is available for pre-order now.

A1 – The World’s Greatest Comics 


By various (Atomeka/Titan Comics) 
ISBN: 987-1-78276-016-0 (HB) 

We were saddened to learn of the sudden death of Garry Leach on March 26th. An extremely talented artist best known for Illustrating Marvelman/Miracleman, Dan Dare, and The V.C.’s, he was also a dedicated mover and shaker behind the scenes; quietly helping many other creators on the way to their own fame and glory. Our condolences go out to his friends and family, and here’s a review of one his most important and significant ventures… 

A1 began in 1988 as an anthology showcase dedicated to comics creativity. Freed from the usual strictures of mainstream publishers, the project consequently attracted many of the world’s top writers and artists to produce work at once personal and experimental, comfortingly familiar and, on occasion, deucedly odd. 

Editors Garry Leach & Dave Elliott periodically returned to their baby and in 2013 the title and concept were resurrected under the aegis of Titan Comics to provide more of the same. 

Similarly committed to past excellence and future triumphs – and following the grandest tradition of British comics – this classic compendium offered the same eclectic mix of material old and new… 

After a colossal 2-page dedication/thank you to everyone from Frank Bellamy to Face Ache in ‘The Dream Days are Back: The One’s Especially For You…’ the cartoon carnival commences with a truly “Golden Oldie” as Joe Simon & Jack Kirby (and inked by Al Williamson) provide science fiction classic ‘Island in the Sky’ – which first surfaced in Harvey Comic’s Race for the Moon #2 September, 1958. Here an expired astronaut returns from death thanks to something he picked up on Jupiter… 

Each tale here is accompanied by fulsome creator biographies and linked by factual snippets about most artists’ “drug of choice”. These photographic examples of coffee barista self-expression (with all ‘Latte Art’ courtesy of Coffee Labs Roasters) are followed by illustrator Alex Sheikman & scripter Norman Felchle’s invitation to the baroque, terpsichorean delights of the ‘Odd Ball’. 

The fantastic gothic revisionism resumes after another coffee-break as the sublime Sandy Plunkett details in captivating monochrome the picaresque perils of life in a sprawling urban underworld with his ‘Tales of Old Fennario’. 

‘Odyssey: A Question of Priorities’ by Elliot, Toby Cypress & Sakti Yuwono is a thoroughly up-to-date interpretation of pastiche patriotic avenger Old Glory, who now prowls modern values-challenged America, regretting choices he’s made and the timbre of his current superhero comrades… 

‘Image Duplicator’ by Rian Hughes & Dave Gibbons is, for me, the most fascinating feature included here, detailing and displaying comics creator’s admirable responses to the appropriation and rapine of comic book images by “Pop” artist Roy Lichtenstein. 

In a move to belatedly honour the honest jobbing creators simultaneously ripped off and denigrated by the “recontextualisation” and transformation to High Art, Hughes & Gibbons approached a number of professionals from all sectors of the commercial arts and asked them to re-appropriate Lichtenstein’s efforts. 

The results were displayed in the exhibition Image Duplicator with all subsequent proceeds donated to the charity Hero Initiative which benefits comic creators who have fallen on hard times. 

In this feature are the results of the comic book fightback with contributions from Hughes, Gibbons, FuFu Frauenwahl, Carl Flint, Howard Chaykin, Salgood Sam, Mark Blamire, Steve Cook, Garry Leach, Dean Motter, Jason Atomic, David Leach, Shaky Kane, Mark Stafford, Graeme Ross, Kate Willaert & Mitch O’Connell. 

Master of all funnybook trades, Bambos Georgiou offers his 2011 tribute to DC’s splendidly silly Silver Age in the Curt Swan inspired ‘Weird’s Finest – Zuberman & Batguy in One Adventure Together!’ and Dominic Regan crafts a stunning Technicolor tornado of intriguing illumination as Doctor Arachnid has to deal with cyber Psychedelia and a divinely outraged ‘Little Star’… 

Bill Sienkiewicz’s ‘Emily Almost’  first appeared in the original A1 #4; a bleak paean to rejection seen here in muted moody colour, after which Scott Hampton revisits the biblical tale of ‘Daniel’ and Jim Steranko re-presents his groundbreaking, experimental multi-approach silent story ‘Frogs!’ before following up with ‘Steranko: Frogs!’ – his own treatise on the history and intent behind creating the piece 40 years ago… 

‘Boston Metaphysical Society’ is a prose vignette of mystic Steampunk Victoriana written by Madeleine Holly-Rosing from her webcomic, ably illustrated by Emily Hu, whilst ‘Mr. Monster’ by Alan Moore & Michael T. Gilbert (with inks from Bill Messner-Loebs) is a reprint of ‘The Riddle of the Recalcitrant Refuse!’ first found in #3 (1985) of the horror hunter’s own series. It recounts how a dead bag-lady turns the city upside out when her mania for sorting junk transcends both death and our hero’s best efforts… 

‘The Weirding Willows: Origins of Evil’ by Elliot, Barnaby Bagenda & Jessica Kholinne is one of the fantasy features from the later A1 iteration – a dark reinterpretation of beloved childhood characters like Alice, Ratty, Toad and Mole, which fans of Bill Willingham’s Fables should certainly appreciate… 

‘Devil’s Whisper’ by James Robinson & D’Israeli also came from A1 #4, and features Matt Wagner’s signature creation Grendel …or does it? 

Stechgnotic then waxes lyrical about Barista art in ‘The Artful Latte’ after which ‘Melting Pot – In the Beginning’ by Kevin Eastman, Eric Talbot & Simon Bisley ends the affair; revisiting the ghastly hellworld where the gods spawned an ultimate survivor through the judicious and repeated application of outrageous bloody violence. 

Of course it’s a trifle arrogant and rather daft to claim any collection as “The World’s Greatest Comics” and – to be honest – these weren’t. There’s no such thing and never can be… 

However, this absorbing, inspiring oversized collection does contain plenty of extremely good, wonderfully entertaining material by some of the best and most individualistic creators to have graced our art form. 

What more can you possibly need? 
A1 Annual © 2013 Atomeka Press, all contents copyright their respective creators. ATOMEKA © 2013 Dave Elliott & Garry Leach. 

The Lagoon


By Lilli Carré (Fantagraphics Books)
ISBN: 978-1-56097-954-8 HB/digital editions)

What do your comics sound like? What beats and rhythms echo behind your eyes when you absorb pictorial narrative?

The Lagoon delivers fragments of young Zoey’s experiences growing up in a rural outpost where she, her parents and her grandfather live beside a cold black body of water. Within the brackish, weed-choked mire, a bizarre, monstrous beast dwells, but her family and the sundry other disparate souls who live adjacent gladly tolerate it since it does no obvious harm.

In fact, over the years, the incredible, indescribable call of the creature in the night has led to many odd happenings and disappearances. The plaintive cry of the creature obsesses and possesses the mere mortals and as years pass, Zoey gradually loses everyone but her grandpa to the night-singer.

Her time is taken up with music and learning the piano, but all anyone really hears is that plaint on the midnight breezes…

Dark, ambiguously chilling and comfortable at the same time, the naïve-ist illustration compulsively uses patterns and symbols to depict how sounds look and music appears while recounting the relationship of the creature – far, far more than a dumb beast – and the inevitably maturing and isolated young girl. This intensely experimental picture-parable is mesmerising and powerfully effective for all its brevity.

Lilli Carré (Tippy and the Night Parade; Heads Or Tails; The Deaths of Henry King) first drew critical attention with her short stories – collected as Tales of Woodsman Pete – and this slim monochrome tome was her first graphic novel. It’s a whimsical, expressive and bleakly enchanting exploration of great power and gentle lyricism apparently stemming from idle experimentation with pens and brushes. Oh, if only all doodles grew into such sweet storytelling…

Lying far from comics’ genre-ghettos, this is a perfect book for the discerning reader in search of something different.
© 2008 Lilli Carré. All Rights Reserved.

A Love for the Ages


By Florence Cestac & Daniel Pennac translated by Edward Gauvin (Europe Comics )
No ISBN: 978-1-910395-63-9 (digital edition)

A writer and an artist go into a restaurant. They make comics for a living, but tonight the talk is of love. Before long, the entire place is involved in the conversation. No, not conversation, Story. Any relationship that has, is or may develop is irrelevant here. The writer is talking about years ago when an impressionable waif encountered and observed the most incredible romance and was forever after beguiled…

Now it’s time to immortalise the affair through words and pictures, and like that keenly observed life of domestic paradise, it must be perfect…

Memories flow, snippets are recalled and a story within a story unfolds and gels. Years back, before the Riviera reinvented itself as a haunt of international snobs and wastrels, inland from Nice in rural La-colle-sur-loup, old folks congregated in picturesque village enclaves and  grandparents got stuck with the youngsters in summer.

Bored and watchful, our kid and his local pals’ best chance of amusement was watching Jean and Germaine Bozignac: she, a delightfully feisty and affably bubbly sharing soul, and he, a hideously ugly yet startlingly charismatic and charming rogue. By all lights, Jean should have been a blight on the community: a cheating cardsharp who never worked after being cut off and disowned from his aristocratic wine-growing family. Yet somehow, the disgraced Marquis was adored by most and accepted by all.

Jean and Germaine were inseparable and lived by, with and through books, and on the day the little the writer-to-be learned that the cashiered lord’s reduced circumstances stemmed solely from his refusing to give up house servant Germaine, the passionate child’s future was set. This was what Love Should and Must be…

Expansive yet grounded, witty, compelling and outrageously funny in all the right ways, A Love for the Ages is the kind of tale our continental cousins excel at: light, fluffy, hilarious yet packed with heartbreaking moments and lined with hidden steel to hit hard when you least expect it.

Only available in English digitally at present, this is what it means to be in love all your life – and trust me I know whereof I speak: my good lady wife has put up with me for nearly 33 years and all I’ve ever had are flesh wounds, contusions and minor bouts of food poisoning. If that’s not proof of a love divine, then what is?
© 2015 DARGAUD – Cestac & Pennac. All rights reserved

The Fall of Homunculus


By Pentti Otsamo (Drawn & Quarterly)
ISBN: 978-1896597157 (PB)

Joel and Anna are a young couple just getting by. They both have great artistic aspirations, but when Anna falls pregnant their previously harmonious partnership begins to unravel. Does Joel’s confusion and reluctance mean that they are not as compatible as he’d believed? Does Anna’s willingness to put her career on hold show her lack of dedication to her art?

Unless they truly communicate, how can they learn what each truly wants and needs?

This pensive Graphic Novella is a brief yet telling examination of the creative urge and process that makes some telling points about competing human drives, and the nature of creativity.

Such a gentle tragedy makes no great leaps forward or claims to innovation, but this tale is honest and engaging, and the inviting and expressive black and white artwork is subversively addictive.

Regrettably out of print and currently unavailable in digital editions, this a beguiling and rewarding yarn long overdue for a comeback and creative reassessment. Get it if you can.
© 1998 Pentti Otsamo. All Rights Reserved.

Pulling Weeds from a Cactus Garden – Life is Full of Pricks


By Nathalie Tierce (Indigo Raven)
ISBN: 978-1-73783-260-7 (PB) eISBN: 978-1-734174-4-1

Win’s Christmas Gift Recommendation: Particularly Pointed Party Favours for all those Imminent, Inescapable Get-togethers… 8/10

The marriage of image and text is a venerable, potent and astoundingly evocative discipline that can simultaneously tickle like a feather, cut like a scalpel and hit like a steam-hammer. Moreover, repeated visits to a particular piece of work can even generate different responses depending on the recipient’s mood.

If you’re a multi-talented artist like Nathalie Tierce, who’s excelled in film and stage production for everyone from the BBC to Disney and Tim Burton to Martin Scorsese; music performance design for Andrew Lloyd Webber and the Rolling Stones; gallery art; painted commissions and latterly, graphic narratives such as Fairy Tale Remnants, challenges must be a hard thing to find.

Thankfully, human-watching is frequently its own reward, resulting in books like this slim, enthrallingly revelatory paperback (or digital digest) which forensically dissects human nature: exploring modern times and unchanging human nature through a lens of Lockdown and via the immortal truths of folklore as expressed in Aesop’s Fables.

On show in this handy art boutique are stunning paintings in a range of media, but all rendered in the bizarrely baroque classical manner of Breughel or Bosch, albeit blended with the quixotic energy of cartoon satirists Gerald Scarfe and Ralph Steadman.

Each condemnatory visual judgement is deftly wedded to moving, querulous and frankly often quite terrifying epigrams capturing contemporary crisis points of isolation, confusion, despondency and simple surrender to fate: summarised in fractured haikus and weaponised odes such as ‘Lost in a Supermarket’, ‘Domestic Bliss’, ‘Thoughts on the Outside’,‘Destiny Guides Our Fortunes’, ‘Say No Meore’, ‘The Lamb and the Wolf’, ‘Clown Adrift’, ‘Plucked Grumpy Chicken’,‘Speeding Back to the Comfort of Hell’, ‘Tragic Circus’ and more.

Blending wicked whimsy with everyday paranoia and neighbourly competitiveness, Pulling Weeds from a Cactus Garden is a mature delight for all students of human nature with a sharp eye and unforgiving temperament – and surely, isn’t that all of us?
© 2021 Indigo Raven. © 2021 Nathalie Tierce. All rights reserved.

Pass Me By: Gone Fishing and Pass Me By: Electric Vice



By Kyle Simmers & Ryan Danny Owen, with Derek Simmers (Renegade Arts Entertainment)
ISBN: 978-1-98890-359-0 eISBN 978-1-98890-371-2 (Gone Fishing)
ISBN: 978-1-98890-385-9 eISBN 978-1-98890-385-8 (Electric Vice)

Win’s Christmas Gift Recommendation: Enchanting and Chilling Exploration of Life at the End… 9/10

Once upon a time, comics were all thud & blunder action or spoofing slapstick shenanigans. I will always have a soft spot for those Good Old Days, but the world has moved on and is now a far more complex place with more sophisticated and variegated demands.

Oddly, that’s one of the underlying themes in a gently beguiling, award-winning graphic narrative sequence that began in 2019 with the release of Pass Me By: Gone Fishing – a bittersweet human-scaled reverie constructed by visual artist, author and Queer historian Ryan Danny Owen & artist/illustrator Kyle Simmers.

Both are Canadian and their collaboration is very much in the manner of the perceived national character: the kind of funny, weird, no-holds-barred, heartbreaking yet civil, decent human drama Canadian creators are so adept at pulling off (check out movies and shows like Men With Brooms, Slings and Arrows or Bon Cop, Bad Cop if you need further clarification of the easy je ne se quoi, we’re talking about…).

In a rural Northern Canadian town, old Ed is getting used to some distressing news. After the life he’s led and the things he’s done, it’s hard to adapt to his recent dementia diagnosis. As his innermost history, mental faculties and simple patience daily slip away, the few folk he’s allowed to get close try to watch over him, but that’s never been Ed’s way.

Increasingly, with the demands of his existence pressing in on him, Ed’s mind turns to the past he’s resolutely avoided and tried to forget; the travelling; the men he’s loved and the music he played… but some things can’t be erased by time, distance or desire…

Second volume Pass Me By: Electric Vice picks up the story in 1973 via a deferred coming-of-age/out event as a young, frustrated and confused country musician playing local bars and dives is lured away by an androgenous minor god of the glam rock circuit.

Ed has never met anyone like Lou or the bizarre assemblage of ambivalent personalities comprising Electric Vice. Despite being wracked with doubt, Ed jumps when Lou offers him a spot in the band, and they tour north America, making what then seemed like unforgettable memories…

Now, he can’t tell if it was opportunity or love that made him go and made him stay. Decades later, poor brain-addled old Ed is drowning in memories and still confused when life hits him hard yet again as Lou turns up like a tarnished bad penny…

Compelling, wry and cheerily laconic , this is a slyly seductive paean to being human and the obsession with our “Glory Days”, but conceals an emotional knockout punch ready to slip past your so-sophisticated, drama-hardened heart. Pass Me By allows its characters room to act and lets the pictures tell a simple but captivating story. Kyle Simmers’ illustration is straightforward with a winning charm, always promising more and even better to come.

I just can’t wait…

© 2019, 2021 Kyle Simmers and Ryan Danny Owen. All rights reserved.

Catalyst


By Asia Alfasi, Charlotte Bailey, Jason Chuang, Dominique Duong, Catherine Anyango Grünewald, Shuning Ji, Pris Lemons, Sonia Leong, Calico N.M., Tyrell Osborne & Woodrow Phoenix, edited by Ayoola Solarin (SelfMadeHero)
ISBN: 978-1-91142-402-7 (PB)

Win’s Christmas Gift Recommendation: Heartfelt, Fantastic, Full-on and Unmissable… 8/10

At its best, the comics biz is companionable, collegiate, welcoming and wonderfully supportive. We all like to help each other along, especially if the end result is more and better stories for all. That even extends to the publishing and managerial arena, as seen here with this anthology of tales resulting from SelfMadeHero’s 2021 Graphic Anthology Programme, which was set up to tutor and mentor emergent talent from diverse backgrounds. The first intake were all people of colour and the broadest range of backgrounds and life experience.

As explained in the introductory Editor and Publisher’s Letter by Ayoola Solarin & Emma Hayley preceding 11 extremely enthralling pictorial yarns, this tome results from a 12-week training course, for which seven participants and their assigned mentors produced many 8-page graphic short stories based on a specific theme: “Catalyst”.

The phenomenally far-ranging works are subdivided into ‘Dissolution’, ‘Reaction’ and ‘Repercussion’, with the entire catalogue of imaginative wonders bookended by extensive biographies of the creators, mentors and Editorial Team.

Dissolution opens with a chilling view of the potential pitfalls of video conferencing in Catherine Anyango Grünewald’s ‘The Host’, after which Shuning Ji reveals horrors hidden in ‘The Camera’ and Jason Chuang offers a disturbing view of public transport interactions in truly disturbing vignette ‘The Guessing Game’.

Tyrell Osborne then wraps up the openers with a quiet stroll through a very off-kilter London and some introspective dilemmas satisfactorily solved in ‘Same Tall Tale’…

Under the aegis of Reaction, Pris Lemons indulges some internal investigation in party tale ‘Orbital Decay’ whilst Sonia Leong shares her love of manga and search for creative camaraderie and approval in ‘Just Like Me’. Calico N.M. then whimsically explores natal wonders and fantastic beasts in ‘Because I’ve Got All Of You’ before we move on to final revelations in Repercussion.

Dominique Duong sets the ball rolling as ‘One Small Thing’ chillingly exposes the monster within, before Asia Alfasi beguiles with an Arabian tale of traditional versus hereditary storytelling gifts in ‘Happily Never After’ after which Charlotte Bailey amazes and amuses with a mesmerising love affair and marriage of ultimate opposites in ‘Cetea & Clay’.

Concluding on a true high, the small sagas cease with ‘Convolute’ by the inimitable Woodrow Phoenix, revealing how the true saviours and secret stars of the 1960s space race was a team of seamstresses led by forgotten black hero Hazel Fellows…

Offering a hand up or a way in is something we can all do, and the rewards are enormous and never-ending. When it also results in superb storytelling and the first full flexing of creative mettle its practically a civil duty to encourage more.

Do that. Buy this.
All stories and artwork © their respective creators. All rights reserved.

Sour Pickles


By Clio Isadora (Avery Hill Publishing)
ISBN: 978-1-910395-63-9 (TPB)
Win’s Christmas Gift Recommendation: A Peep at How the Other Half Works… 8/10

There are countless reasons to draw and even more to tell stories. For an increasing number of talented folk the primary motivations are curiosity and therapy. When combined with ruthless honesty, creative boldness and a sense of whimsy the results can be instructional for the author, and hugely entertaining for those of us privileged to be coming along for the ride.

Clio Isadora has drawn remorselessly but with sublime care and attention on her rather extraordinary life for her risograph minicomics such as Damp Candy, Soiled Fantasies, Is It Vague in Other Dimensions? and others, and in her first full graphic novel, takes those shared observations to a new level of humour and poignancy by revisiting her final year as a student at prestigious Central St Martins art school.

Like most slice-of-life sagas – no matter how well or judiciously curated – the true joy is in experiencing it unfold, so the précis portion of this review is deliberately meagre…

Pickles Yin doesn’t have the financial resources of her rich, posh, fancy art school classmates. She’s got by so far on talent, drive, hard work, bursaries, frazzled nerves, frantic overreactions and few true friends. Now the final year and big show are looming and beyond that the gaping unknowns of adult life and a career.

Unlike almost everyone else she knows, though, Pickles can’t rely on the buffers and comfort zone of parents, money and connections if she fails. Or even decide on what kind of job she wants if she gets through the year. She’s drowning and floundering and in a panic, when her pal Radish suggests what would help her get by and even the odds is some pharmaceutical enhancement…

Witty, fraught, heartwarming and quite frankly a bit scary – my days in art school in the heyday of Punk were filled with fun, excess, budding pop stars and a complete dearth of career pressure – Sour Pickles is a fabulously wry and subtle examination of mental health, the unexpected legacies of parental prejudices and the crushing pressure of modern living.

Recommended for anybody wondering about the “road not taken”…
© Clio Isadora, 2021