Thursday, 30 July 2009

Normal services will resume soon

I'm in the midst of a house move right now, which has been eating up all my time. Expect some new posts once all this is over and done with.

Friday, 17 July 2009

2D Cloud mini comics round up - Beard Growing Contest & Manny plus Bigfoot

I’ve always had a soft spot for mini comics, and these are amongst the best I’ve read in recent times. These fine specimens come courtesy of Raighne and Megahn Hogan, who head up Minnesota based publishing house 2D Cloud. With Beard Growing Contest and Manny plus Bigfoot, they’ve created beautiful, finely crafted comics, both of which are lovingly assembled to a high standard.

Both minis come bound in high quality card covers, printed on eco friendly 'Ellie poop' paper which, you guessed it, is made using elephant dung. The interior pages are also printed on 100% recycled paper which has a nice textured quality to it. These uniformly gorgeous, tactile little artefacts sum up the 2D Cloud aesthetic perfectly.

First up is Raighne Hogan's Beard Growing Contest, a light hearted 12 page mini, which chronicles one child's efforts to grow a beard. In this case, 'growing a beard' involves the child in question belching and passing gas whilst brushing his teeth with his brother. When these physical exertions do not produce the desired results, the ill mannered little tyke retires to bed, and dreams of flying through the night sky, propelled by his own flatulence, a sizable beard trailing in his wake.

There’s a pleasantly expressive roughness to Raighne’s art, with its thick bold lines and clean open spaces. His characters' facial expressions carry a great deal of the story's humour, which alternates between the absurd and the obscene. All in all, Beard Growing Contest is a deeply amusing little diversion, one that feels strangely complete despite its brevity, and at the end of the day, don’t we all dream of growing really big beards?

Meghan Hogan’s effort, Manny plus Bigfoot is an equally surreal affair and comes wrapped in a sturdy velcro fastened sleeve in the shape of an envelope. Bigfoot, the comic’s cover star, brandishes a letter, as if inviting you in, beckoning you to open up the comic and experience the adventures that lie within.

The first thing that hits you is Megahn’s art, all flowing watercolours and softly contoured lines, painted with a serene, languid palette of baby blues and muted browns that seem to melt into the page. The comic opens with a wash of pale blue, as Manny travels home in his VW Beetle, flanked on either side by shaggy bison that amble idly across the arctic wilderness. When he arrives home he finds his pet bunny chewing on a mysterious letter.

The letter, it soon transpires, is a ransom note, demanding Manny's pet bunny in exchange for a girl he's never met. With only moments to digest its contents, a marauding Bigfoot comes crashing through the house, causing all manner of chaos, before making off with Manny’s knitting. All very disconcerting, I think you’ll agree.

There’s a playful child like glee to Megahn’s narrative, told with a haphazard sense of free association that that reminds me of Ron Rege Jr. There’s little to be gained by trying to rationalise the plot, far better to simply accept the random flow of events and enjoy the comic for what it is; a beautiful, whimsical story told with charm, warmth and humour. Wonderful stuff.

Both comics are limited to 100 copies a piece, so act fast if you want one.

Review by Matthew Dick.

Tuesday, 14 July 2009

This Week's Comics

A quick selection of stand out titles arriving in comic stores this Thursday: (Wednesday if you’re in the USA):

LOST GIRLS HC by Alan Moore & Melinda Gebbie

A new 320 page hardback edition of Alan Moore's erotic epic, which will no doubt be welcomed by those who couldn’t afford the lavish three book slipcased version. This may not be Alan’s strongest work to date, but it’s definitely an interesting experiment in comics as erotica / pornography, written with all the usual intelligence and creative zest that you’d expect. You can read Neil Gaiman’s review here.

INCOGNITO #5 by Ed Brubaker, Sean Phillips & Val Staples

Supervillains in witness protection? Quite clearly a disaster waiting to happen. Brubaker and Phillips continue to deliver the goods. More information here.

RASL #5 by Jeff Smith

Dimension hopping science fiction from the man who brought you Bone. Well written and effortlessly stylish.

Preacher HC Book 1 by Garth Ennis & Steve Dillon

Hardback reprint of Garth Ennis’ Vertigo classic Preacher. This new edition collects the first 12 issues. The perfect starting point for all of us who never quite got round to reading this, myself included. For shame!

Do Anything!

This is very much worth reading. Warren Ellis discusses Jack Kirby and Anthony Braxton, amongst other things. Plenty of music / comics crossover.

"Braxton conceives of music in terms of space vehicles –

“Now, the Ghost Trance Musics… is a prototype that’s a transport prototype, that allows for the friendly experiencer to be re-positioned inside of the space of the music, the area space of the music… Ghost Trance Music is a telemic prototype, and by telemic I’m saying that, if the area space is solar system or galactic, the Ghost Trance Musics is the point to have telemic signals come back, in the same way as satellites circling the planet give signals…”

Do Anything 7 over at Bleeding Cool.

Tuesday, 7 July 2009

March of the Moonbat - Yearbooks by Breutzman, Feltz and Hogan

"The skies don't ever remain the same like we like them. They become disturbed... and gravid... and pass like night terrors."

So begins Nicholas Breutzman's Yearbooks, setting the scene with a dour black and white six panel prologue. As a storm converges on an isolated country schoolhouse, three children stare sullenly from within. Their teacher stands behind them, visible only as a shadowy silhouette, as ominous and menacing as the storm that rages outside. Her cold gaze cuts through the darkness like a nocturnal bird of prey on the hunt.

With a sudden jarring shift of tone, we find ourselves inside the schoolhouse; grey monochrome replaced by garish neon technicolour. An aging teacher assigns her class the task of drawing a 'sad day', the results of which prove too much for her to bear. The childrens' drawings drive her instantly insane. Poof! She turns into a Moonbat, ascends to the ceiling, and proceeds to shower her entire class with Guano. One begins to wonder if the children have more to fear inside the schoolhouse than they do outside of it.

With the turn of a page we snap back to reality. Ryan wakes from his dream only to discover he’s already late for school. When he does finally arrive, it soon becomes painfully obvious that he isn’t the most popular kid in school. With few real friends to speak of, save his 'hopelessly goth' friend Michelle, Ryan establishes a close friendship with his art teacher Mr Feltz.

As their relationship develops, Feltz beings to shows Ryan his early sketchbooks, filled with studies of down and outs and ‘crack babies’, as Ryan excitedly dubs them. In spite of his affable and friendly manner, Feltz's art belies a darker side to his character. Whilst his life drawings are technically impressive, they come across as cold and callous, with little or no emotional connection to the subjects he's portraying. Ryan however, entertains no such suspicions and is taken in by sheer the shock factor of it all, spurred on by his adolescent curiosity for the new and the extreme.

It’s only when Ryan accidentally witnesses Feltz taking advantage of his friend Michelle, that he realises the suspect nature of Feltz's ‘close’ relationships with his pupils. As the full weight of his discovery becomes apparent, Ryan's world slowly begins to melt away, segueing back into dreamlike abstraction. The cryptic warnings of the book’s opening pages come full circle, leaving the reader to contemplate the sometimes questionable motives of our peers and authority figures.

In the book's final closing panels, a group of students dance their final dance, blissfully unaware that the Moonbat has returned to unleash the raging waters of the outside world. Smashing the school's windows, she brings about a flood of biblical proportions, drowning and suffocating all that reside within. The flooded schoolhouse, a watery grave for the dead, heralds the metaphorical end of an era and serves as a stark reminder that growing up isn't all its cracked up to be.

From the jarring psychedelic dream sequence that opens the book, to its closing apocalyptic meditation on the intrusion of the adult world, Yearbooks presents a realistic, sometimes darkly skewed vision of high school life. For all its forays into the fantastic, Yearbooks possesses more than enough realism to bring you crashing back down to earth with a thud. Breutzman's comic is vivid, unsettling and altogether more believable than you’d perhaps like it to be.

As it stands, this is strong work with a distinct voice of its own. Breutzman and Feltz have penned an engaging story, packed with inventive layouts and whimsical visual experimentation. Raighne Hogan's colouring is also highly impressive, lending a radioactive neon sheen to everything he touches. If anything, I’d be intrigued to see something more substantial from the same creative team, perhaps with a higher page count to give them all a little extra space to play with. With a larger scope, I could very well see Breutzman, Feltz and Hogan creating something truly special further on down the line.

You can snag yourself a copy of Yearbooks here. Many thanks to Raighne at 2D Cloud for hooking me up with a copy.