Archive for Anthology

‘Legends’, an anthology by IndieManga

Posted in Review with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on March 7, 2010 by comicmole

‘Legends’ by IndieManga, 130 pages, A5, black and white with colour covers, £6


“What discerning eyes have you,

to notice here our humble book,

now there’s just one thing to do,

open it and have a look!” – Legends

And thus begins my adventure into Legends, the newest anthology from the comic circle IndieManga.  This book contains five short comics revolving around the central theme of exploring fantastical tales, and in some cases their ties to the real world.

Every member of IndieManga is featured here: Kate Holden, who was one of the winners of this year’s Manga Jiman competition, Anna Fitzpatrick, who writes and draws Between Worlds, Sally Jane Thompson, who created Little Thoughts, Rebecca McCarthy, who’s writing also appeared in IndieManga’s first anthology ‘Origins’, and this time they introduce a new member in the form of Sarah Burgess, who also writes and draws the webcomic Far-Out-Mantic.

Below I’m going to give an example of a page from each comic in the anthology to show their different art styles, and also say a little about what I took away from the story in each short as well.  First up is the 23-page Lucky, by Sarah Burgess:

Lucky is about a lowly squire who loses his pride and joy – his silver-haired horse – to some otherworldly thieves.

The story overall is well-paced, carrying the reader through the fantastical events with ease.  The ending could possibly have used an extra page, just to slow it down and give it more impact, though it closes out with an interesting resonance to the real world.  Similarly to her webcomic, Far-Out-Mantic, Sarah’s art for Lucky has a sketchy, emotions-first-accuracy-second, kind of feel to it.  This means elements like her characters’ expressions and the organic flow of a lot of the pages, are practically perfect.  However, some parts come across as rushed or even just anatomically wrong, which jerks the reader out of the story a little.

But what will bring you back in though is the hand-written text.  Hand-drawn speech bubbles settle comfortably into the layout of each page, and parts where the text breaks free and takes your eyes all around the page as you read are really quite special.

Sharing Lucky’s page count of 23 is the next comic – Vitality, written by Rebecca McCarthy and drawn by Anna Fitzpatrick:

Apothecary shop assistant Bryther had been drinking a vitality elixir to keep herself going thorugh a day’s work, but when the shop gets demolished one day she gets a lesson in how much of a good thing might be too much.

Unfortunately I didn’t quite ‘get’ this story.  It felt very much like it was trying to say something, but I’m still not entirely sure what that thing was.  The plot begins in quite a slice-of-life way, focusing on the main character and her shop, but then introduces a lot of characters and big world events in quick succession.  The reader does not really have enough time to digest all of this information before being taken back to a focus on the main character again for the ending.  It seems like this story either needed to be much longer, with time given to introduce world events and the significance of these characters within them, or more stripped-down and simplified to fit into a shorter page count.

Art-wise, this comic has a painterly feel brought about by a use of flowing organic shapes to portray real human anatomy, rather than reducing the forms down to a more graphical style.  Backgrounds are present and correct, and range from a riot of sketchy detail that can be hard to follow, to some wonderfully balanced and atmospheric scenes.  It seems like some of the pages were a labour of love for the artist, and some were more rushed through.   As a lover of small press endevours, I feel that the atmosphere brought out by the tighter, more considered, pages in Vitality makes this comic worth reading.  However a more mainstream audience would probably expect the entire comic to be presented at this standard.

The impact of popular fantasy stories is considered in the next comic from the Legends anthology: A Walk – or a contemplation on fairy tales, viewpoints, creativity and growing up, by Sally Jane Thompson:

A Walk is 11 pages long.  The story follows a young girl, who at the beginning is being read to before bed.  As she hears the tale being read to her, a beanstalk begins to grow out of the book, and take her on a journey where she encounters lots of the stories and artistic styles that inspire her as she grows up.

These inspirations range from simple fairy tales to sparkly romance, into realism, and even some tinges of menace.  As she interacts with each scene the girl visibly grows up, and at the end of the comic she clicks the lid back onto her pen as an adult artist.

This comic is obviously a very personal one that portrays several stories that have been inspirations or influences on the creator’s own development as an author and artist, perhaps also as a person.

Many different artistic styles and drawing media are used throughout this comic.  The girl herself is always drawn with Sally’s trademark brushpen strokes, which both links her character to Sally as a person and brings all of the disparate art styles used in the comic together as one piece.  As she takes her walk we pass panels drawn in a shojo (girl’s) manga style, simplified cartoons, patterns inspired by art nouveau, use of natural media, ink and screentones.  Its a completely wordless comic, but you won’t miss the words at all.

Also making quite a sparing use of text is the next Legends entry: the 15 page 5 Finger Discount, by Anna Fitzpatrick:

In 5 Finger Discount, when a girl tries to steal a transformation potion from an old witch, an amazing transformations occurs…that could get her into a lot of trouble.

Stand out characters here are the old witch and the horrible blob monster you can see on the page above.  They’re gloriously grotesque!  The entire comic is of course drawn in Anna’s signature painterly style, but compared to Vitality, which she also drew, the screentones used here are of a larger scale (meaning that the dots are larger and further apart than the screentones used for Vitality).  This means that some of the forms of the characters and backgrounds are a little bit less solid and more confusing to the eye, but it also gives the comic a lighter, more airy feel than Vitality, and thus its own personality.

The digital text used for the lettering in 5 Finger Discount is certainly very readable (which should be the first priority), but its also a little jarring over such natural-feeling artwork as Anna’s.  On the other hand, the hand-written sound effects used here (such as the ‘wugableeugh!’ in the page above) are a real high point of the comic – perfectly legible throughout, balanced very nicely with the artwork on each page that they are used on, and suiting the unique personality of the story extremely well.

Showing yet another side to the personality of IndieManga as a group is the final entry in the Legends anthology, the 17 page Adventure, by Kate Holden:

At a foreboding castle in the desolate mountains, a group of three adventures goes toe-to-toe with an ancient foe and his army of automaton minions.

…did I mention the foe had epic flares?

The story and chracters in Kate Holden’s Adventure are pretty simple and archetypal: plucky heroine, brutish warrior, semi-naked elf…but the injection of Kate’s own personality makes it into a fun quirky parody piece.  Her villain here is a good example: you can tell that he’s an epic foe right out of a fantasy story or RPG, but he also has a bit of a shonen (boy’s) fighting manga look to him.  On top of this he wears a superhero-style mask, but forgoes the cape-and-tights for 60s style flares instead.

You might think that all of these influences would make for a bit of a muddled comic, but nothing could be further from the truth – its a very streamlined reading experience.  The only thing holding it back is that, though the experience is fun, it is perhaps not quite hilarious enough as a parody comic to surmount the use of the very stereotypical characters and setting.

But setting aside,a high point to look out for throughout Adventure is the creator’s proficient use of solid blacks and whites in her artwork, giving a punchy, eye-catching finish.  The only hiccup in the art is that, with such a structured style, it seems like buildings and interiors in the backgounds would need to be drawn with straighter, more confident, lines in order to make the best use of accurate perspective and have more impact alongside the characters.

Presentation:

Legends is a tidy and good-looking little book.  Its perfect bound with black and white interior pages and full colour covers.  The covers have a matte finish which gives a high quality look and feel to the book.  A unifying, tongue-in-cheek, graphic design style throughout the book really brings the creators’ different styles together and makes this anthology into one cohesive volume.

The price was a bit hard to find as it wasn’t printed in big friendly numbers on the front cover like you get with a lot of comics.  This may have been a conscious decision not to mar the cover design, and the price was mentioned in the blurb on the back, but something a little easier to spot would have been helpful.

If you enjoy UK manga, or dare I say it even small press comics in general, then I think you will find ‘Legends’ by IndieManga to be a rewarding pickup.  As their name suggests, the group is inspired by manga, but certainly not a slave to stereotypical ‘manga’ art tropes.  Barring some confusing sketchy pages pulling the reader a little out of the experience, overall I was struck by the unique personal creativity on show here – something that is hard to find in the mainstream, and I’m sure one of the reasons why us avid readers love the small press so much.

More books are available, including their first anthology ‘Origins’, on the IndieManga website.

Sarah Burgess has an ongoing webcomic, ‘Far-Out-Mantic’, and more of her work can be found on her portfolio website.

Kate Holden’s ongoing webcomic is Fan Dan Go, and she also has a portfolio website.

Sarah Jane Thompson also has a portfolio up online, plus an art blog.

Rebecca McCarthy has a website/blog.

Anna Fitzpatrick regularly updates her webcomic Between Worlds, as well as keeping a portfolio site and an art blog.

A review copy of this comic was provided.

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New Comic: Talking to Strangers, from Sweatdrop Studios

Posted in New Comic with tags , , , , , , , , , , on October 19, 2009 by comicmole

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‘Talking to Strangers’ is a new anthology from Sweatdrop Studios, which is debuting at the upcoming October London MCM Expo.  Its a black and white book that boasts a page count of 228 at a standard price of £7 (but will have a special price of £6 over the Expo weekend).  More information, plus page samples, can be found on the thread over on their forums.

This comic is a collection of short stories written by Fehed Said (who also wrote The Clarence Principle) and illustrated by a variety of up-and-coming UK manga talent.  The book features work by

But don’t worry if you can’t make it to Expo!  Sweatdrop assure us that will we be available from their online shop soon after the event.  This promises to be a world-class release, so do keep an eye out for it if you’re going to the show ^_^

New comic: Legends, from IndieManga

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , on October 19, 2009 by comicmole

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Debuting at the upcoming October MCM Expo in London, ‘Legends’ is the latest anthology book from UK manga circle IndieManga.  It will be a black and white book of 130 pages with a price of £6.00.  It will feature work from

  • Kate Holden, who should be familiar to Comic Mole readers as the multi-talented creator of the webcomic Fan Dan Go, as well as writing our recent literary article on Hamlet from Manga Shakespeare
  • Rebecca McCarthy, a writer who’s shorts ‘The King’s Silver’ and ‘Rake’ appeared in IndieManga’s first anthology ‘Origins’
  • Anna Fitzpatrick, who’s hauntingly beautiful comic ‘Between Worlds‘ will also be seeing a new release at the October Expo.
  • Sally Jane Thompson, who created Little Thoughts and had a story in Leek and Sushi’s Manga Show: 150 Years of Friendship, amongst other things.
  • IndieManga’s new member! Sarah Burgess, who also writes the fantastic webcomic ‘Far Out Mantic’

So all in all a pretty exciting new anthology title from some proven independent talent! More information plus preview pages can be found on IndieManga’s website.  The comic should also be available to order online from the website shortly after the event, for all those (like me) who can’t make it to the show this year ^_^

Review: Leek and Sushi’s Manga Show

Posted in Review with tags , , , , , , , , , , on August 21, 2009 by comicmole

(This review was originally written for REDEYE magazine issue 2.1.)

Leek and Sushi’s Manga Show: 150 Years of Friendship

Anthology: various contributors, 204 pages, A5 digest format, ITCH Publishing, £6.00

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If you’re new to the world of UK small press manga-inspired-comics then Leek & Sushi’s Manga Show is a good place to start.  This anthology compiles 17 short comics by different creators, which were originally entries for the Japanese Embassy’s annual ‘Manga Jiman’ competition in 2008.  The tagline ‘150 Years of Friendship’ references the theme of 2008’s competition: to celebrate 150 years of co-operation between Japan and Britain, the creators were asked to somehow link their entries to the number 150.  This makes for some interesting and varied reading in the volume.

Before each short story begins, a cartoon version of its creator is welcomed to the ‘stage’ for a short interview by Leek and Sushi: quirky comedy characters who represent Britain and Japan respectively.  These introductory segments were designed and drawn by Willie Hewes, who also compiled and edited the book.  They help to tie together each of the 17 individual comics into a volume that is entertaining to read from start to finish, rather than pick-up, put-down affair.

Seeing as ‘Leek & Sushi’ is a compilation, artwork and writing styles do vary within the book.  However in general the standard is very high compared to a lot of other small press offerings; several of the stories that are featured in the book placed highly in the 2008 competition.  For example, among others, ‘B+’ by Susan Golton and Steve Cook won 2nd place and ‘Stars’ by Donna Pesani won 4th.

‘Stars’ is an 8-page story with a steampunk aesthetic, about a little girl who gets her first chance to visit where her parents work: hanging the stars in the sky.  The artwork is beautifully detailed and the story fits well into its allotted page count.

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A page from 'Stars' by Donna Pesani

Other creators of note featured here are: Kate Holden (who placed as a runner up in 2007’s Tokyopop Rising Stars of Manga competition), Faye Yong (who has just finished work on the Manga Shakespeare version of The Merchant of Venice for SelfMadeHero), Karen Rubins (who is currently comic-illustrator-in-residence at the V&A museum), Sally Jane Thompson (who created ‘Little Thoughts‘), and writer Fehed Said (who wrote the graphic novel The Clarence Principle, published by Slave Labour Graphics).

A page from 'Tales by Ghost Light' by Karen Rubins

A page from 'Tales by Ghost Light' by Karen Rubins

The comic is presented as a chunky 204 page, A5 digest format book.  Interior pages are printed on good quality white paper rather than the more flimsy paper you can get with mass-market manga.  The cover is a little thin and papery, but other than that it’s a good-looking volume, well worthy of a place on any UK manga fan’s shelf.

Information on contributors, page samples and online shop: http://www.itchpublishing.com/news/leek-sushis-manga-show/

New Comic: Leek and Sushi’s Manga Show, from ITCH publishing

Posted in New Comic with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 9, 2009 by comicmole

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Here’s to a cute new comic in town!  ‘Leek and Sushi’s Manga Show’ is an anthology from ITCH Publishing featuring work from a large selection of artists in the form of their entries to 2008’s ‘Manga Jiman’ competition, organised by the Japanese Embassy in the UK.

The theme to the competition was ‘150’, after 150 years of friendship between Britain and Japan, so its interesting to see how the different artists have tackled this subject in their own ways.  And what artists they are!  There is some top quality work in this book – just take a look at the preview page on ITCH’s website and you should be convinced.

The anthology is available online from the ITCH website shop, or look out for their table at events.  It’s a chunky little volume, printed at manga tankoubon size (which is around paperback size).

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As you can probably tell from the photo I’ve already bought and read this one – just haven’t had time to write a more in-depth post about it – but needless to say, I heartily recommend it and there will be a full review ASAP.

New Comic: Mangasm, from Speedlines publishing

Posted in New Comic with tags , , , , , , , , , on March 9, 2009 by comicmole

mangasm

Heads up, there’s a new comic now available in print from Speedlines Publishing – it’s an anthology called ‘Mangasm’ featuring, if you can’t guess from the title, a collection of manga-inspired comics.

Its available to buy from Speedlines or other reputable resalers such as Amazon.

Not much more to say as my copy is shipping as we speak, but I’m sure there will be more to talk about as soon as I have my hands on it ^_~

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.