Archive for Fantasy

‘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: Between Worlds

Posted in New Comic with tags , , , , , on October 21, 2009 by comicmole

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Tis the season of new comics (October Expo season that is), and this year the IndieManga table will be the home of this delicious-looking new edition of ‘Between Worlds’ by Anna Fitzpatrick, alongside IndieManga’s new anthology ‘Legends’, which also features more work by Anna.

Between Worlds first debuted last year as a full-colour limited-edition run.  This new volume is a black and white version of the atmospheric hand-painted comic, friendlier to the more price-conscious among us at £4.

However, if you can afford the £15 price tag, I still recommend asking Anna if she has any copies of the limited edition left for sale, as the artwork really sings in full colour (as you can probably tell by the cover image above).

To see more of her work, check out Anna’s art blog Between Two Worlds.

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 ^_^

New Comic: Dragon Heir Reborn

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

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Hot on the heels of her announcement in our recent interview, Emma Vieceli has unveiled the first five pages of her new series ‘Dragon Heir: Reborn’ as a webcomic.  Its free to read so go check it outHer blog post about it provides some more info, and would-be commenters are directed there too.  Happy reading!

FanDanGo Rebooted!

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

Remember way back when I wrote a column about Kate Holden’s webcomic, FanDanGo? Well after a hiatus the comic is back!  Its being entirely rebooted from scratch as Fan Dan Go (note the spaces), making use of Kate’s signature super colourful 70s stylings right from the start.

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Regular updates are scheduled for Wednesdays and Sundays, and there have even been mutterings about a black-and-white print version in the future, for you types who prefer to read comics on actual sheets of paper ^_~

Kate has stated that she is leaving the old version of the comic up online for posterity, so its interesting to go back and see how all this began – but more importantly, here’s to more Fan Dan Go in the future!

10 Questions for Emma Vieceli

Posted in Interview with tags , , , , , , on October 1, 2009 by comicmole

Hi Emma, its great to have you here today on Comic Mole!  So lets start right away with the work perhaps closest to your heart

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CM: As well as your professional comics work, you have been writing and drawing your own self published series, ‘Dragon Heir’, for several years now – could you tell us a bit about the story and what it means to you?

EV: *phew* You start simple, don’t you? haha.  Dragon Heir is a story that started developing in my head when I was about 16, and just hasn’t left me alone since, haha. I take it as a good sign when a story haunts you for that long…so I know I need to finish telling it at some point! To explain it is…umm…tricky. Do you have a week or two? 🙂

Dragon Heir is set in a world where human life is dictated by Spirit signs; marks applied to human babies’ foreheads at the age of five. It is believed that these signs were given to humans by Spiratu, the spirit world, in recognition of skills and powers bestowed. The truth to their origins has long been forgotten.

The story follows the trials and tribulations of four dragon heirs; human vessels chosen by the spirit world to house a part of the Dragon’s full spirit. Protus (protective spirit), Furose (Fighting Spirit), Kalm (Empathic spirit) and Lyntra (Wise spirit) are part of Spiratu’s task to transport the Dragon spirit to the hall of beasts, where it earned its place during its race’s life cycle. No human can house an entire dragon spirit, hence the four heirs for this great beast. Their mission should have ended when, at the appointed time, a spirit binder would come down from Spiratu, gather the spirits as one and transport them, leaving the heirs to continue their mortal lives blessed by the Spirits. However, early on in the story we realise it won’t be that simple, and for the heirs a race is on to fulfil the prophecy before the spirits within them grow too powerful and consume them from the inside. There is a far greater consequence at stake should the prophecy fail, but that will be revealed in the fullness of time…it has a lot to do with Verance; a mistake born from a duplicate dragon soul.

Enter into this bizarre situation Ella, a normal worker spirit with big ambitions, who just happens to be someone also tied into this prophecy, though her over protective brother has not informed her of this and has left her pretty clueless as to the whole shebang.

Drama, legend, love and lots of PAIN follow….that’s Dragon Heir. ^_~

For me, the story means a lot for several reasons. 1. It’s been with me so long that the characters really are old friends. 2. each character represents a part of me as their creator. 3. I now have my wonderful husband helping me with finalising bits of the story and scripting…and seeing him fall for the characters has made me love them all over again!

I think we can all empathise with the five main characters. We’ve all felt that we’re the pacifier in a mad situation, or that we could just let go and fall into anger…or maybe we’ve all wanted to escape what can feel like a pre-destined role in life sometimes. I like to think that every reader will find one character that they feel closest to. I just can’t wait to get further into the story so that more people can share in it with me. ^_^

CM: How many issues of Dragon Heir are there available, and when might fans get to see the next one?

EV: Herein lies an interesting answer. *ahem*

There are currently 9 issues of DH available through Sweatdrop. 1-6 are contained in the volume, with 7,8 and 9 still in single form.  HOWEVER….the story is an old one, and also one that I know I dived into far too early. I tried to tackle a vastly complex story in comic form before I really knew how to make comics…so: as I’m 40 pages in now, I feel I can reveal what I’ve been conjuring up in my secret basement ^_~

Issue 9 did leave us on somewhat of a cliffhanger, and I do want to ease the tension very soon, but I hope readers will also be excited about the fact that I am currently working on Dragon Heir Reborn – the first five issues, retold and re drawn from scratch! This will not be released as issues, but will possibly see a webcomic release – and, when I’m done, I’ll be looking to release 9 or even 10 issues together as one shiny, shiny graphic novel.

Sneak peak: a never-before-seen page from Dragon Heir Reborn

Sneak peak: two never-before-seen pages from Emma’s upcoming work ‘Dragon Heir Reborn’

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I think readers should be pleased with Reborn. I know I am. Largely it follows what we already know, but the younger me creating issues 1 and 2 way-back-when was a scaredy cat and would omit certain scenes or moments purely because I didn’t know how to draw them, haha….this is me revisiting those early scenes as a professional comicker, and those who have read the early issues of DH will see a few marked changes in scenes, and even brand new scenes in some cases! The reborn section will meet up with issue 6. I won’t be redoing anything from 6 on, as 6 – though a little old – was created post-Hamlet….so there’ll still be some legacy artwork in the new book ^_~

I really hope people will look forward to this! I can’t wait

(I for one certainly will be! – CM)

CM: How do you find writing and drawing your own story compares to doing professional work for others?

EV: Freedom is a wonderful thing. I love playing with the page, with layouts and pacing…and though some writers will let me get away with murder, most of the time I can only really do that with my own work.  So i feel a lot more in control with my own work.

That said, I feel I learn so much as an artist by working with writers…and the ability to work to a panel description and find the most interesting way of showing what I’m being asked to is a totally different skill, and one I really enjoy as well. It’s great sometimes to just relax into the role of an artist and not think about the script, just enjoy drawing what I’m given. I guess I love both in their own way….though like anyone, I love to tell my own stories more than anything ^_^

CM: You’re probably best known in the UK comics community for being the artist on SelfMadeHero’s Manga Shakespeare adaptations of ‘Hamlet’ and ‘Much Ado About Nothing’ – what is it like to work on adaptations of such classic and well-loved material?

EV: Tiring and challenging, but fun and ultimately hugely rewarding. The series has really touched people from all walks, and I love knowing that the books are being enjoyed by comics fans and Shakespeare scholars alike ^_^

I’ve learned shedloads through doing both books…combined they make up 400 pages of comicking, and that’s a BIIIIIIG learning curve! They’re also my 2 favourite Shakespeare plays, so you can imagine how much fun I had, knowing certain scenes were coming up and such!

It’s always a little scary approaching such well-loved texts, but I think we’ve been clear from the start that what we’re offering are not alternatives to the originals, but complements and stepping stones…and as a Shakespeare fan myself, I love them!

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CM: ‘Hamlet’ was originally released in 2007 and ‘Much Ado’ was released earlier this year (2009) – have you found that your production techniques have changed over the years with experience?

EV: Gosh, was Hamlet only 2007? It feels much longer ago…it’s been a busy couple of years!! Yes, definitely. When starting Hamlet I had only just moved onto digital work. I had an A5 tablet, comicworks and was at the start of the learning process. It was all new and really a HUGE thing to dive into. When I started Much Ado, I was in a far more confident place and, thanks to Hamlet and later projects, I knew much more about pacing myself and scheduling workload. I had an A4 tablet and Manga Studio. Hamlet was almost entirely digital, pencils and all. Much Ado was all pencilled manually on paper and then scanned for inks and such. So there were several differences!

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CM: Conversely to the ‘Hamlet’ adaptation, which was set in a cyberpunk future, ‘Much Ado’ was set in period Italy.  As the artist on the project, did you have a say in the setting of ‘Much Ado’? And did your Italian heritage help at all with the comic?

EV: I did indeed. And I desperately wanted to set it in the warring states as they’re so close to my family. I had a great opportunity for background reference, and the setting fitted the story so well! Thankfully Emma and Doug at SelfMadeHero agreed with me ^_^

CM: Who are some of your biggest inspirations in art at the moment?

EV: Hmm…so many! Right now: Adrian Alphona, Terry Moore, Clamp and Yoshinaga Fumi would be my top four I think ^_^

There are a crazy amount of people I draw inspiration from. I couldn’t possibly list them all, but artists like my Sweatdrop cohorts, my DFC chums, Kate Brown, Paul Duffield, Nana Li, Jamie McKelvie, Amy Reeder Hadley, Svetlana Chmakova and lordy, tons more all teach me over and again how much we should strive for and what can be achieved with hard work and dedication…I’m so lucky to be friends with such talented and amazing people!

CM: As well as illustration, you write your own comics – are you inspired by any particular writers or genres in literature or comics?

EV: When I was younger I ATE books…seriously, read SO MANY books. I wanted to be a writer (who didn’t? haha!), and was hugely influenced by a strange combination of Anne Rice, Douglas Adams and Douglas Coupland. These days I read comics far more, and some of my favourite writers are Brian K Vaughan, Terry Moore, Warren Ellis, Kieron Gillen and Bill Winningham. I also adore Morag Lewis’s ability to create worlds and fantasy realms that feel so real! But really, I absorb anything I read and see…you have to ^_^

CM: Working back to the very beginning now: what first made you want to start drawing and writing comics?

EV: Ranma 1/2. Though not the first comic I read, it was the first time I thought ‘hmmm, maybe I could try this’. And then, years later, I met Sweatdrop! haha. Sweatdrop really was the biggest inspiration and drive I could have hoped for. Without the group I simply wouldn’t have made comics. Simple as. ^_^

CM: And it just wouldn’t be a Comic Mole interview without this final question!  What’s your favourite dessert?

oooooh, Apple crumble and custards…TONS of custard ^_^

I’d like to say a massive thanks to Emma for giving me her time for this interview, and my first scoop with the news about Dragon Heir Reborn!  As mentioned earlier, Dragon Heir is published by Sweatdrop Studios and is available to order from their online shopSelfMadeHero‘s Manga Shakespeare volumes Hamlet and Much Ado About Nothing are readily available from high street bookstores or online through shops such as Amazon.

Emma also has a work blog and art site where you can keep up with her current projects ^_^

Urban Beasts by Daniel Hartwell, Anna Rubins and Karen Rubins

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

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“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.