Archive for Horror

Cold Sweat and Tears, an Anthology by Sweatdrop Studios

Posted in Review with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 6, 2009 by comicmole

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Cold Sweat and Tears is an anthology by Sweatdrop Studios which was first published in 2007 and is available to buy from their online store.

The book is a compiled collection from 2 previous anthologies: ‘Love, Sweat & Tears’ and ‘Cold Sweat':

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As a few readers might already own the original anthologies, firstly I will be looking at the differences between ‘Cold Sweat & Tears’ and the originals, and the pros and cons of buying this book in addition to the other two.  After that there will be a run-down of the actual comics (if you want to skip to that section, scroll down the post and it’s just after the photo of the book).

A Little Bit of History

‘Love, Sweat & Tears’ and ‘Cold Sweat’ were Sweatdrop Studios’ first and second anthologies. They were both released in a simple stapled format, so it seems to make sense to bind them together as a collected volume for future sales.

Saying that, if you are interested in the creators’ newest work then this is not the book for you. This is a good buy however for anyone who is interested in UK manga in general (especially UK manga history), those who are just starting to create their own comics who are interested in seeing what some of the Sweatdrop members were producing when they were also first starting out, or for those who are specifically following the work of one or more of the artists in question.

Additional Material in Cold Sweat & Tears

Introduction (by Dock): this explains where the book came from and why it has been produced.

The History: some freshly written information about the original anthologies, along with a reproduction of the original introductions by Keds.

‘About Us’ Section: there is about a paragraph of information on each creator, positioned towards the end of the book (similarly to the notes about the creators in a Tokyopop Rising Stars of Manga anthology). This covers the achievements of each creator since the original anthologies were printed and makes for an interesting read.

Illustrations: new black and white illustrations of some of the characters from the original comics, produced by the creators specifially for this volume.
– 2 new illustrations by Emma Vieceli, based on ‘Love Senseless’ and ‘The Politics of Tears’
– 2 new illustrations by Dock, based on ‘Out of Reach’
– 1 new illustration by Laura Watton based on ‘Black Peace’

Comic Strips: 10 strips from ‘Rabid Monkeys’ are printed towards the back of the book.  This was webcomic by Fehed and Shari that ran from 2002-2004 but has now ended. One strip from it had appeared at the front of each of the previous antholgies.

Trivia: there are 2 pages of trivia at the end of the book covering the production of the original anthologies. They range from stories of printing mishaps to some of the cameos and references present in some of the comics.

Ads: a few pages of ads for books the artists are now appearing in.

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Lineup of Comics in the Anthology

Note: ‘Biomecha: Thought’ by Laura Watton, which originally appeared in ‘Love, Sweat & Tears’ has been removed from the lineup for this re-print, however it is still in print and now appears in Biomecha volume 1 instead.

‘Love Senseless’ by Emma Vieceli

Love Senseless is a moving 20-page story about how a chance encounter changes two people’s lives, and how we should cherish the things we have as we might never know when they might disappear.   As this was Emma’s first comic there are quite a few inconsistencies in the artwork, however the writing holds up remarkably well – the story fits well into the page count and has a very satisfying (if not completely happy) ending.

‘Simple Love’ by Hwei Lim (no longer a Sweatdrop member)

Simple Love takes a look into quite a grown-up situation regarding love – losing someone you once loved through divorce.  A man is taken on a trip through some of his memories by hearing the words to a song.  The comic is only 6 pages long but manages to portray the situation well.  The art is also well thought out, switching from stark black and white for the present time to softer tones for the memories.

‘Out of Reach’ by Dock

Similarly to ‘Simple Love’, the 7-page comic ‘Out of Reach’ also looks at adults dealing with a separation.  However, this time there may be hope, as a memory jogged by a playful child might help to bring the couple back together.  The artwork uses some uncommon camera angles in some of the panels, adding interest to a simple story.

‘A Message to You’ by Keds

17-page story ‘A Message to You’ shows some definite Japanese influences.  Even though the artist has challenged himself by tackling lots of different character poses and backgrounds, he had not quite found his own style and rather seems to more directly reference Japanese manga.  Also the characters’ names are Japanese, which just reinforces this influence.  That aside though this is a sweet little story which is easy to understand and wraps itself up well within the page limit.

‘Faded and Torn’ by Fehed Said and Keds

‘Faded and Torn’ is an interesting short piece which very much reads like it came directly from the mind of its’ young writer onto the paper.  This 6-pager questions the place of creativity in our modern lives – asking that, if we live like drones going from 9-5 work to inane socialising day-in, day-out, are we any better off than being dead?  Its easy to see how the creators, just beginning on their professional adult lives, would worry that their imaginations might be crushed by the monotiny of everyday grown-up life, and how they might believe that if they ever stopped expressing their individuality through writing and drawing, they might as well be dead.

‘Black Peace’ by Laura Watton

‘Black Peace’ is 9 pages of distilled Japan-influenced melodrama, from the Tokyo location through the gang member and gothic lolita clothing, to the Japanese names of the characters.  The artwork uses lots of screentone and heavy inking, but has a level of energy that complements the dramatic subject matter, even though sometimes it can be a little wonky.  Most of the content will seem very fannish nowadays, especially as UK manga artists are striving to find their own identity outside of a direct Japanese influence, but at its heart this comic is a glimpse into the not-too-distant past of UK manga creation, and an entertaining one at that.

‘Eine Kliene’ by Selina Dean

As the title suggests, ‘Eine Kliene’ is a very short comic – just 4 pages in all.  The artwork is simple but punchy, as is the story.  It just goes to show that not all dreams end well…

‘Caveboy Bink’ by Monkey-X (no longer a Sweatdrop member)

‘Caveboy Bink’ is a cute little 4-pager about a cave boy, a small dinosaur, and an intrepid snail.  Its a slient comic with no text apart from sound effects.  The art is sometimes a little wonky, but the pacing and panel layouts work well, and it brought a smile to my face at the end which is always good.

‘The Politics of Tears’ by Fehed Said and Emma Vieceli

Comics where the text is a poem, accompanied by images, are often interesting as they can make it easier for the reader to interpret the text.  This time, I think that Emma’s story illustrated a certain interpretation of the text using a particular story, but the poem itself I believe is meant more generally than just to refer to the events portrayed in this comic.   The poem paints a pretty grim view of humanity (well I guess this is the ‘nightmares’ portion of the book), and unfortunately the artwork is a little hard to follow, with confusing panel layouts and oddly placed screentone – although readers should be aware that this is some of Emma Vieceli’s earliest work, and doesn’t really compare to later projects.

‘Bunny’ by Selina Dean

This comic is a rare opportunity to see some of Selina Dean’s non-chibi-style artwork, however it is one of her older comics in print so the art is not as polished as newer projects.  The story is a mildly disturbing one about a girl who treats a bunny like a baby (or perhaps she gives birth to a bunny, its never clearly stated which and anything can happen in comic land…). As with several of Selina’s newer one-shot projects, the plot fits very nicely into the page allowance and gives you a nice little punch at the end.

Conclusions

If you have never seen the 2 original anthologies that this book was compiled from and you are at all interested in UK manga, then you will probably find this an interesting (and possibly even essential) addition to your manga collection.

However, if you aleady own the originals and are not someone who is very into extra content you are not going to find any new comics here.

So, having thrown scepticism about buying a volume full of comics I already own aside, the extra content needed to be examined. Luckily it has had a lot of thought put into it, and on the whole lends more depth to the experience of re-reading the comics. Should I want to re-experience these short stories again, I would most likely pick up this book from my shelf rather than the originals, as it is a neat microcosm of comics and extras.

‘Shrouded’ by Vanessa Wells

Posted in Review with tags , , , , , on December 2, 2008 by comicmole

This post was previously published as part of my old ‘Webcomic Mole Investigates’ column over on IndieReview.co.uk, but as its still relevant, please enjoy!

The comic in question stands as a good example of a small press work which straddles the boundaries of both web and print media, as well as both western and manga influenced art and storytelling.

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It’s called ‘Shrouded’ and is written and drawn by Vanessa Wells of Studio Withbits. There are three issues currently available which can be read for free on the comic’s own website, or purchased on Forbidden Planet online. The blurb on back cover (or first webpage) of issue one introduces the story like this:

“Marle, Alee and Ceea are travelling to the Palace. They stop off for the night along the way, but nowhere is safe to stop in this world”

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I won’t say too much about the plot as I don’t want to spoil these three issues, but what I can say is the story centres around the three sisters, Marle, Alee and Ceea, who are travelling to a Palace to dance at the King’s birthday celebrations. On the way they are forced to spend the night at an olde-worlde tourist village, where strange things are afoot…

This is a fantasy/horror story set in a mysterious world, somewhat different to our own. If you read the first issue and think it might be a bit clichéd then be sure to read issue two as the story changes direction and becomes much more interesting from then on.

The artwork is finished to a standard that would not look out of place on a shelf with professionally produced comics. It’s a black and white comic that uses strong, dark linework with grey tones to denote colour and shadow. Dynamic character poses and camera angles are used to good effect, but not to excess. The artist does not shy away from her backgrounds either: they include some lovely sweeping scenery shots as well as bird’s eye views of towns and buildings. The character designs and linework style show a definite western comic influence, however the page layouts and story pacing are very manga-like, with more open and freeform page layouts.

In each printed issue there is an artist’s blurb and some extra standalone artwork at the back. If you prefer your extras web-based, on the website there is an ‘About Shrouded’ section and a ‘Character Art’ section, showing some standalone character sketches and paintings by the author, as well as fanart.

Apart from a little stilted dialogue at the beginning of issue one, the only disadvantage of getting into this comic is that there is not enough of it! The creator is a professional artist working in the games industry and so obviously does not have a huge amount of free time to work on comics. Issue one of ‘Shrouded’ was released in 2005 and issue three has only just been released this year, but if you can stand the wait or just want a comic to keep you happily satisfied for a little while, then you should definitely check this little gem out!

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