Archive for May, 2009

Urban Beasts by Daniel Hartwell, Anna Rubins and Karen Rubins

Posted in New Comic, Review with tags , , , , , , , , on May 25, 2009 by comicmole

UrbanBeastsCover

“We’re all animals underneath” states the back cover of issue 1 of ‘Urban Beasts’, and within this comic, people very much are.  The comic is available to buy in print from ITCH Publishing’s online shop now.

We are introduced to Caipora, a Brazilian shaman who has the ability to use totems (magical charms that she wears on her person) to see the animal aspects of the people around her: moths fluttering around a club at night, cats primping in a coffee shop, or pigeons in the crowd.  She is called to action when a clash over animal rights threatens to cause trouble in her adopted home town of Oxford.

This 23-page issue is an introduction to the world of the series and its main character, Caipora, as well as an interesting secondary character who may well require her help.  Its an atmospheric start which has a firm grounding in the reality of modern-day Oxford, with a patina of fantasy laid over the top in the form of the way Caipora sees the world.

The highlight of the writing so far is the little touches of humour in the details, like an emo moth who sometimes burns himself, or the cats stating that if the people intruding into their territory don’t leave they’ll have to ignore them quite devastatingly.  Its not all fluffy humour though; the pages covering the reasons behind the animal rights clash make me wonder whether the series will have political overtones, or whether that aspect will become a backdrop to a more character-driven story in the end.

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With such a range of animal-based characters to portray, artist Karen Rubins has certainly taken on a challenge with this series.  The artwork overall is proficient and it shows that Karen is not afraid to tackle many different subjects (such as action poses or scenes with large crowds).  In particular, she has given the animal characters a unique look which is very memorable.  However, the human characters need to be drawn more consistenly and figure proportions need tightening up for a more professional feel to the artwork.

A big plus point with the art is the Oxford backdrops – I used to live in Oxford and immediately recognised a lot of buildings seen in the comic, which shows they have been well referenced.

Overall I very much enjoyed this offering.  Its a promising introductory chapter and I eagerly await the rest of the series.

New Comic: Codename Pepsi

Posted in New Comic with tags , , , , , , , , , , on May 16, 2009 by comicmole

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“A narrative visual jam session on a stupid idea by a number of individuals whose mental acumen is, frankly, questionable at least…”

Codename Pepsi is a new 68 page book featuring work by Willie Hewes (‘Amaranth’, ‘Leek and Sushi’s Manga Show’), Gwen Corsten (‘Mangam!!’), James Gammel (‘Mangasm!!’), Karen Rubins (‘Urban Beasts’, ‘The Witch’), and Laura Watton (‘Biomecha’, ‘Reluctant Soldier Princess Nami’) amongst many other talented artists.

It features such wonders as secret agents, monocles, giant robots and evil nazi bunny-girls:

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Copies are stricly limited edition (50 in total), and the cover will be hand painted with an evil bunny stencil in the colour of your choice (a preview of the stencil and more page previews can be seen here).  Pre-orders are being taken over on the ITCH Publishing website now – its £5 in total, you can pick up your copy at the May MCM London Expo or if you are not attending it will be posted to you at no extra charge – and for a package like that, its got to be worth it ^_^

“…simply possessing it will increase your level of awesome.”

Bristol International Comic Expo 2009: Highlights

Posted in Event with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 14, 2009 by comicmole

Mole note: this post covers my personal highlights from the 2009 Bristol Expo – for general impressions of the event please see my previous post.

Small press comics heaven, one of the SP Expo rooms at Bristol:

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The best thing about the Bristol Expo for me was the chance to walk around many rooms filled with comic creators and buy issues directly from the people who designed and made them.  Being able to meet an artist who’s work you really like and say to them ‘great work, please keep it up!’ is a fantastic feeling that you just can’t get by ordering comics over the internet.

Personally, I also like to ask the creators that I meet if they will sign the comic I’m buying from them, as a kind of memento of meeting them at that time.  Side note: this is why I don’t usually request a signature on a comic I’m ordering over the net, unless its extremely unlikely that I will ever get the chance to meet the creator(s) in person.  If a comic arrives signed then there’s no point in me taking it along to meet the creator(s) and get it signed, therefore the signature means much less to me (do others feel like this or am I just a tad weird?…)

Anyway, as well as the general greatness of actually being there, here are some specific highlights of the event:

  • Going to the SelfMadeHero Manga Shakespeare table  (pictured below) and picking up an advance copy of ‘Much Ado About Nothing’, illustrated by Emma Vieceli.  Also, telling them how much I was looking forward to their verions of ‘Twelfth Night’ and ‘The Merchant ofVenice’ (illustrated by Nana Li and Faye Yong respectively).  I got a free poster for that – motto: it can pay to tell publishers if you are eagerly awaiting their books ^_~

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  • Getting the new ‘Cupcake of Doom’ t-shirt from Genki Gear (very apt as I’m trying to lose weight…)

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  • Chatting with Sally and Azure at the IndieManga table and getting very excited about their upcoming release Between Worlds by Anna Fitzpatrick (which is debuting in just a couple of weeks at the May MCM London Expo).  The bookmarks I got from them give a glimpse of the fantastic art in ‘Between Worlds’, which is being printed in full colour.

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  • Getting to meet and shake the hand of Paul Gravett, author of ‘Manga: 60 Years of Japanese Comics’ amongst many other books about comics , and say how much I enjoyed his work.  Once again, you don’t get to do these kinds of things over the internet ^_^

OK, highlights end there!  Next time I’ll be back with more comic reviews (and belive me I’m not short on material for those now ^_~ ).

Bristol International Comic Expo 2009: General Impressions

Posted in Event with tags , , , , , on May 13, 2009 by comicmole

(My Bristol write-up was getting a bit long, so I’ve split it in two: General Impressions here and Highlights to follow)

Last weekend myself and my other Bumblemoo compatriots Wren and Banemoo went along to the Bristol International Comic Expo.  It was a first for me and Banemoo, although Wren had been once before.  Seeing as I was introduced to comics through manga, and have since gained a love of small press work and non-manga comics too, I saw Bristol as a good opportunity to pick up some exciting new books to read and get out of my comfort zone of sailor suited high school girls and mechs (hmm…sailor suited mechs? anyway…)

The Expo was held in two hotels this year: the Ramada Plaza held the main event and the Mercure held the Small Press Expo.  Luckily both hotels were only 2 minutes walk from each other and a 5 minute walk from the train station, making the event very easy to find.

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When we got there we had a choice of two free comics to collect – I chose this little number with the Simon Bisley cover:

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But free comics aside, our general impression of the Expo was more one of a series of fantastic dealers’ rooms to look around, rather than somewhere we might have wanted to spend two whole days.  There weren’t many panels we were particularly interested in –  we don’t really keep abreast of industry affairs and we’re not ‘inside’ enough to know which creators are which in the flesh, and who would be the most interesting to listen to.  However, taking another look at the website after we got back home, I think I would pay more attention to the panel lineup if I was going to visit again and try to attend at least a couple of them.  It might actually be more fun to attend as a creator, so time could be spent meeting and socialising with other creators in a more relaxed way.

As someone who didn’t know what any of the more famous comic creators looked like, I found it quite difficult to navigate around the different artists offering sketches.  It was quite crowded in the Ramada where the main event was held (an atmosphere not helped by a lack of opening windows or adequate air conditioning), so most of the bigger name artists’ tables were obscured by a cluster of people queuing for sketches or signatures, and more people trying to squeeze past.  The only artist we knew that we wanted to search for, to perhaps request a sketch, was Simon Bisley.  However we couldn’t find either him or a table with his name on it so we gave up in the end.

Even though we didn’t end up participating in any ‘special’ con activities like panels or signings, we still had a great time and came away with some really unique purchases!  I would still recommend going to the Bristol Expo to anyone who enjoys UK small press comics (and assorted mainstream publishers, and related paraphanalia), as you just won’t find the same kind of collection of niche and hard-to-get items this side of the internet.  And unlike the internet, where you would have to order and pay shipping from many individual websites, everything at Bristol is under one roof (well two rooves, but who’s counting?)

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Away from the more crowded hallways, foraging through the work of a lot of the indie publishers in the dealers’ rooms was a fascinating experience; there were so many different styles of art on show, from heavily inked horror through wordy thought-provoking comics to lighthearted bits of fluff.  Most artists and publishers were very happy for people to flip through a copy of their comic and most were unobtrusively friendly and helpful.  However, to those pushy sellers who would repetedly take me through a comic’s extra features and tell me I’d get a free sketch if I’d just buy it, please try to cool off a bit or I’ll be too busy trying to get away from you to notice how good your comic is.

One thing I did notice, which might spark some discussion if people don’t agree with me, was that quite a few of the indie and small press comics seemed a little bland and archetypal.  Things like anthologies of ‘Zombies’ or ‘Werewolves’ or ‘The Girly Comic’.  Seeing titles like this immediately puts me off the comic.  Even if it turns out to be an amazing anthology of varied work, I wouldn’t know as the title would have made me think it was boring and mainstream, like being spoon fed some kind of single flavour food that the sellers know that fans will buy, similarly to Hollywood churning out blockbuster sequel after blockbuster sequel.  What was interesting to me about this was that it was the indie publishers who seemed to be doing it most, and I would have thought they would be the ones being more experimental.

…and if they are in fact being quite experimental, as my brief perusal of ‘The Girly Comic’ website seems to hint at (one of the shorts in issue one covers what you might do if you had your own gimp?), then maybe they could try using a name that doesn’t make it sound like their comic was written for male geeks to buy in order to ‘get their girlfriend into comics’ Cosmo-style.

(Disclaimer: I’m more making a general point about bland derivative works rather than saying ‘The Girly Comic’ in particular should change its name, in fact the more I peruse the website the more I want to read an issue of ‘The Girly Comic’…although I’m still kind of hoping it will turn out to be a joke name and actually be full of robot stories ^_~ )

Robot love aside, next up will be my personal highlights of the Bristol Expo, so please stick around for that ^_^

New Comic: Aya.Takeo, by Lloyd Prentice and Sonia Leong

Posted in New Comic with tags , , , , , , , , on May 4, 2009 by comicmole

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Debuting at the May MCM London Expo this year is a new print volume of the free webcomic Aya.Takeo by Lloyd Prentice with art by Sonia Leong.  The volume collects the first year of the webcomic and, quite uniquely for a small press book, is presented in full colour.  It will be available to buy online from Sweatdrop Studios’ online shop shortly after the event, so it should still be easy to get hold of if you’re not planning to attend ^_^

Mole side note: as you can probably tell from the scarcity of posts lately I haven’t had an awful lot of time for writing comic reviews in the last month, but I’m hoping to be able to get back on track with more solid updates soon so please bear with me.

New Comic: More comics by Rachel Saunders available to read online

Posted in New Comic with tags , , , on May 4, 2009 by comicmole

Rachel Saunders, the artist who drew First Law, has a new home on the web for her comics at Ciao Gatto, her online portfolio. At the moment there are some intriguing hints as to what she has planned for 2009, but unfortunately very few preview images or links to webcomics.  One comic you can link to from Ciao Gatto though is her 2007-08 Tokyopop Rising Stars of Manga entry ‘Parasites’ which got through to the final of the competition that year.

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As you can see from this page, the art is top-notch and its well worth checking out if you enjoyed First Law.  Also of note on Ciao Gatto is Rachel’s gallery, where you can see some examples of her standalone work.

One last thing to note: if you are planning on attending the upcoming May MCM London Expo, look out for a new print comic from Rachel called ‘A Night with a Wolf’.