Archive for Selina Dean

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.

‘Stardust’, An Anthology by Sweatdrop Studios

Posted in Review with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on December 9, 2008 by comicmole

This review was written a little while ago but thankfully the book is still available to buy from Sweatdrop Studios’ online store.  Many of the artists whose stories appear in this book have since gone on to even better things, so keep an eye out for newer work from them too.

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This is a collection of short stories that were originally entered into Tokyopop’s ‘Rising Stars of Manga’ competition (Sept 2005). They may not have won, but each short story reflects the artist’s best work at that time, and showcases these creative individuals’ talents.

Stardust is a chunky little book

Strange Harmony by Johanna Zhou (Scorpio)

This is a sweet story based around a country girl (Melissa) and her cousin from the city (Jazmine) who comes to visit. Some funny moments come from showing their differences, like when burying a hedgehog (as Melissa often goes out and gives roadkill a proper burial) Jazmine drapes her necklace over the grave, saying it can enjoy some bling in heaven. The characters are slightly cliched, but they work for the story. The artwork and pacing is very strong, at least on a par with the year’s winners of RSoM.

Dollhouse by Jaqueline Kwong (Marbles)

A dark short story with a gothic lolita style, Dollhouse is about a girl and her relationship with one of her dolls, who is more than she seems. The characters and dialogue bring across the gothic lolita style very well, being well spoken in a slightly disturbing way. Some might say that the scary doll story has been re-trodden quite a bit lately, but then again what hasn’t? The artwork is strong – especially the detail on the figures, faces and clothing, although the placement of the text and lack of backgrounds means it falls short of some other stories in this book.

On with the Show by Rebecca Burgess (Bex)

A heartwarming tale about a rich man who throws it all away to become an actor in the West End. There are a few ups and downs in the storyline (in terms of what happens, not how good it is), but ultimately it is a happy tale about following your dreams. The characters and art style both reflect the Victorian era English setting well. The artist had obviously studied the clothing, buildings and transport of the time before putting pen to paper, and bravely includes a lot of relevant visual information in the panels. The busy line and tonework means that sometimes the reader will have to think about what is going on in a particular page, but that does give you time to appreciate the passion that went into producing this story.

Bad Luck by Selina Dean (Buu)

A slightly creepy short story about a girl who sees a strange dog one night and from then on has terrible bad luck. The story fits very well into the page allowance and has a snappy ending. The characters are not explored in a lot of depth, but this does not harm the story in any way, in fact it makes it nice and easy to get to grips with as a short. The artwork is uniquely styled and has a chibi look, which contrasts well with the more grown up storyline. It could possibly use more detail, but the simple style does make it easy to read and understand. The pacing is well carried out and some interesting camera angles are used in a lot of the panels.

New Year’s Kiss by Sarah Burgess (Denji)

New Year’s Kiss is a shonen-ai short with a little bit of angst and a little bit of fluff. It involves two guys who work in a cafe and war over the affection of the new girl, only to find out their real feelings once she shows her true colours. The characters are slightly stereotypical: the artist, the playboy and the hot new girl, but their motivations are delved into which makes them more unique. The artwork has a sketchy style, which shows promise in a lot of instances but sometimes is difficult to understand. However, the pacing is good and the writing has a strong manga feel to it.

Reya by Sergei and Morag Lewis (Moonshadow and Sun Kitten)

A fantasy tale of a girl from a distant land and her encounters with a group of magicians and their dangerous pets – tigers. The narration has a gentle pace and is written in quite an olde worlde style (not old English, but not completely modern either). Characters are believable and the cast is diverse and well thought out, although they are not particularly quirky or emotional. The art style suits the story very well, having been drawn with a nib pen. Some of the depth may be lost to readers as lineweights do not vary much from foreground to background, however there is a lot of detail to be savoured.

Different for Girls by Laura Watton and Jake Laverde

A manga with an English edge, this story centres around student life and romance here in good ol blighty. It about Angie, a student who’s looking for her perfect man but doesn’t realise he might be right under her nose. Its a sweet little tale -you may work out whats going to happen almost straight away, but enjoy the ride as some quirky elements have been thrown in (like featuring the lyrics from a song which complement the story). The characters are easily identifiable. Some might say they’re quite sterotypical, but the story is somewhat using this to its advantage with a message that stereotypes of ‘perfection’ are possibly not that great after all. The artwork is professional and at least as strong as the winners of this RSoM competition. There are also some little Japanese manga moments which are a nice touch.