Archive for ITCH Publishing

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/

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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.

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 ^_~ ).

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.

Willie Hewes’ Webcomics

Posted in Column with tags , , , on November 6, 2008 by comicmole

(Mole note: all relevant website links are at the end of this column – enjoy!)

Willie Hewes' 'The Toll'

Willie Hewes is ‘a girl who likes sad things, but sometimes they are funny’.  In fact ‘Willie Hewes’ is the pen name of a comicker who currently lives in Bristol but hails originally from the Netherlands.  She has been making comics for about six years now and is showing no signs of stopping, having created the anthology website ‘Webcomic Shorts’ in 2007 and the small press publisher ‘ITCH’ in 2008.

Willie Hewes has collaborated with other small-press artists as a writer in the past, but mainly takes on both writing and art duties for her comics.  Several short comics, many with an otherworldly twist, can be found online nestling together on a page of her website.   Therefore today, instead of investigating one comic in depth, the Mole will be sweeping the ol’ magnifying glass over each short comic in turn for a brief review. Read on…

First up, ‘The Suckiest Angel’ is a funny little 5-page comic about an angel that doesn’t feel he’s as good as the rest of the heavenly host.   The art style is simple and in pure black and white, which gives a graphical feel to the pages.   It might have looked better with a little more detail, but in general this is a solid short comic offering.

‘Free Z’, another 5-pager, hits home because it is based on a true story and it has a message of acceptance to impart to its readers.  The main character is a teenager whose parents send him away to a therapy camp to try and ‘fix’ his homosexuality, and he wonders whether he will have to live a lie forever.   As well as the message, another stand out point about ‘Free Z’ is that the text is in the form of a poem, which is rare in the world of webcomics.   Art-wise, it is one of the artists’ older comics on the website so the drawing is less polished, but its well worth a read for its uniqueness.

‘The Toll’ is a beautifully coloured 4-page comic about a troll guarding a bridge – you can’t pass without paying a toll… I especially liked the way the troll was drawn, and the way the pages are coloured is imaginative and worth checking out.

‘White Saints Day’ is an 18-page comic which is a little sad, in a gentle way.   It is about the one day in a year when the statues of the ‘White Saints’ come to life to bless the people of their city.  However not everyone considers this a blessing… The art style used for the backgrounds, ink wash and hand-drawn linework, perfectly suits the medieval atmosphere of the comic.  The character designs don’t fit in quite as well, but the page layouts are effective with a good balance of pure black and white as well as shading.

Comedy 10-pager, ‘Hero/Villain’, is an amusing glimpse into the life of a terrible villain who meets a noble and pure hero.  This has ‘just a bit of fun’ written all over it, and a slightly more cartoony art style in the backgrounds complements this nicely.   Characters are a bit lacking in detail (especially round the hand area) but as this is a simple comedy it doesn’t impact on the reader’s enjoyment of the comic as much as it would on a more serious piece.

And last but not least, Willie has uploaded online versions of her 4 Gothboy mini comics, for our comic-reading convenience.   The characters appearing in these were introduced in her previous Gothboy webcomic, an older comic that no-longer updates, but has a large archive still online.   The 4 short stories are entitled: ‘Normal’, ‘The Thingy’, ‘Just Dance’ and ‘Ghost in the Machine’. In ‘Normal’ lead character No gets happy, and there is also a random happiness in the air in ‘The Thingy’ and ‘Just Dance’.  To contrast, ‘Ghost in the Machine’ is a gripping cyberpunk thriller about disembodied spirits in artificial bodies!  The artwork is a bit more unpolished in these comics – they’re mainly drawn with ink and sketchy charcoal.  However, the inked faces and hands and smudgy charcoal bodies of the characters are often really endearing and cute.

All in all some interesting comics to sink your teeth into, and most are short enough to read easily whilst relaxing with a cuppa!  In addition to these comics, Willie Hewes keeps a profile page and a blog on her website, as well as an interesting links page where she recommends some different webcomics and writes a little about each.

In my next post I will be quizzing Willie Hewes on the role of webcomics in the genre of sequential art, her inspirations in both writing and drawing comics, and whether she’s a fan of ice-cream… or maybe something completely different?  Catch you next time!

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Useful links:

Willie Hewes’ webcomic page

Start of the older Gothboy webcomic

Webcomic Shorts

ITCH Publishing

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