Tuesday, 30 March 2010

Best of Baltic Comics Magazine š! Issue 1 (2008)

kuš! and its various spin-offs; as seen on the magazine's website

kuš! (pronounced “kush”), "Latvia’s only comics magazine", was created to, in the words of its editors, "popularise comics in a country where comics are practically non-existent". Being a purpose that ATF holds close to our collective heart, we wholeheartedly support the kuš! team's fantastic efforts to provide a platform for the medium in their homeland. Following six successful issues of the magazine in Latvian (although some are available for purchase with English translation sheets), a smaller, more compact all-English spin-off was created with the appropriately truncated name of š! (as in "shh!").

Featuring talent from around the world, š! continues to be an excellent window into a wide range of comic artists that are seldom seen in the English-speaking market. So impressed are we with the pint-sized publication, that we've decided to dedicate a week to reviewing our favourite entries in the first five editions of the mini-anthology, starting with its debut "Green Issue".

BALTIC COMICS MAGAZINE š! #1: The Green Issue (November 2008)

Cover by TeER

New Festival in Montargis, France!

A new comics festival is born! Straight outta' France, the Montargis Coince la Bulle festival will open the doors to its debut offering on the 29th and 30th of May, 2010. Many comic artists, both French and international, will be there, including Arnaud Floc'h (as seen in our Tribute to Popeye review) and the Burkinabè creator Ledon who will sign his new book Bila. So if you're a comics lover in France, or you fancy a trip to the Republic, you now know where to spend the last weekend of May.

Friday, 26 March 2010

Transgression and Transfiguration: Iain Laurie's Powwkipsie

It's no wonder Bill Watterson thought better of merchandising Calvin & Hobbes

Although a reasonably versatile (and consequently overused) word, "beautiful" isn't always an appropriate superlative for approval of an artist's work; but when it comes to Iain Laurie’s blogger-based comic Powwkipsie, it ceases to function altogether. Featuring grotesque, misshapen figures and twisted sexual imagery en masse, much like the "car crash" cliché, the Blogger-hosted comic is as engrossing as it is revolting. "Transgressive"? Maybe. "Nightmarish"? Definitely. "Beautiful"? Never.

Running sporadically since 2008 as a creative outlet for the obscenely-talented Edinburgh-based illustrator, Powwkipsie collects such disparate themes as vampirism, otherworldly phallic puppeteers and pop-culture satire - combining them with his compelling malformed, hyper-organic art. Laurie creates short and often-abstract narratives that require a bit of analysis on the reader's part. Like all the best nightmares, there’s an incomplete but pronounced severance of logic in many of the strips, endowing them with a psychological unease that’s difficult to shake.

Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Small Press Spotlight: Lauren Barnett's Mini Comics

Oh velociraptor, you're always putting your enlarged sickle-shaped hindfoot in it.

I assume that it’s with knowing resignation that Lauren Barnett, in her introduction to Secret Weirdo, states her pet peeve is people calling her comics “cute”. After all, this statement does directly follow a whole-page image of an open-armed stick-limbed figure offering “free hugs”. 

Whilst a lot of the content in  Secret Weirdo and Barnett's mini-comics, Was That Supposed to Be Funny? and I’d Sure Like Some Fucking Pancakes, creeps into “adorable” territory, it’s certainly not all there is to her work. Conversely, there's an anxious nostalgia that permeates through her autobiographical strips, acting as a balance against the comedic cuteness on their surface. Affectionate childhood anecdotes of fun and development are played against tales of dead-end office-ennui, the depressing process of apartment hunting, potentially cancerous soda sweeteners and debt.

Monday, 22 March 2010

"Newave! The Underground Mini Comix of the 1980s" - Mini-Reviews 21-30

Little Big, yellow, different.

This week, we've produced our timeliest collation of Newave reviews yet! Collecting micro-reviews 21-30 from our Twitter page, readers are invited to scroll down for a strange creature-themed 10 days-worth of mini-comics, featuring monsters, pea-based consumption issues, more monsters, Big Daddy Roth and EVEN MORE MONSTERS.

Our past Newave roundups can be found on the following pages: 1-10 and 11-20. Ta-da!

21: Other PeopleBrad Foster, 1985, Jabberwocky Graphix

We tweeted: "I live for stuff like this; Eight monstrous portraits. "L'enfer, c'est les autres"!"

Although I didn't realise it then (I'm actually reading these mini-comics for the first time as I tweet about them), this fun collection of far-fetched illustrations sets the tone for our third review omnibus well, with over half of the subsequent comics featuring either a similar format and/or strange monster-like creatures. We get points for the super classy Sartre quote, right?

Sunday, 21 March 2010

A Map in the Dirt Update: Jess Smart Smiley Needs You!

Friend of ATF and all-around great guy, Jess Smart Smiley, is attempting to make his short comic A Map in the Dirt (you can read our review here) into a stand-alone honest-to-goodness book. Calling on benevolent comic readers everywhere, he's set up a Kickstarter page to fund the project, offering bonuses for those who wish to aid his cause. With rewards including posters, comics, original art, pages from the comic, music (!) and more, consider yourself officially advised to check out the fundraiser ASAP. 

Jess has a fantastic full-length all-ages graphic novel, Upside Down on the way from Top Shelf next year, so readers are very much encouraged to get in his good books now before fame and power corrupt his once-gentle soul. 


Saturday, 20 March 2010

Review: Cavemen in Space, Joey Weiser (AdHouse, 2010)

"Cavemen in Space"
Story and art by Joey Weiser
Price: $14.95 (US)
Full-colour; 12.7cm x 19.05cm; 248 pages.
Published by AdHouse Books
Released: May 2010
Diamond Code: MAR10-0679
ISBN: 978-0-615-34445-4

One thing that becomes obvious when reading Joey Weiser’s blog is that he is a man of many influences, all of which are awesome. Not surprisingly, this predilection for fun works its way into the title of his latest graphic novel, Cavemen in Space. As much of a sci-fi pop-culture homage as it is a straight-ahead comic-book adventure, the book dares to ask the important (yet transparent) question of “what if... there were cavemen in space?”. Needless to say, I was interested immediately, and am happy to report that the titular juxtaposition lays the framework for an enjoyable, unpretentious adventure that’s accessible to anyone, regardless of their age or scope of references. 

It's reassuring to see that linoleum is still produced in the future.

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Misc: Joey Weiser's Monstrous Illustration for Avoid the Future!

Many thanks to Joey Weiser for sending us this tremendous image as part of the fundraiser for his Cavemen in Space graphic novel. As previously stated in our interview with him last week, the Monster Isle and The Ride Home creator is self-funding the printing and publication costs of the book before handing over distribution to AdHouse, and is offering some fantastic rewards for donations.

Whilst donating $50 US will get you a piece of custom art (like the example above) and a signed copy of Cavemen in Space, rewards are available from as low as $8 and include everything from signed copies of Weiser's upcoming Mermin series to home-made toy mammoths and having your likeness appear in future comics!

To see the full list of rewards, please click on the banner below:

The deadline for submissions is the 5th of April, so grab these awesome offers before it's too late! Also, be sure to check back in with us later this week for our in-depth review of Cavemen in Space.

Monday, 15 March 2010

Review: Dungeon Quest: Book One by Joe Daly (L'Association, 2009; Fantagraphics, 2010)

Note: Although set to be published in by Fantagraphics this spring, this review is based on the already-released French edition of Dungeon Quest. As such, the content of the following article reflects any alterations that may have been made to names and dialogue in translation.

If I had to reduce the following review down to just one line, I would tell you that Dungeon Quest Tome 1 is about the three “P”s: Parody, Profanity and Poetry. Written and drawn by the man behind Scrublands and The Red Monkey Double Happiness Book, Joe Daly, Dungeon Quest is a caustically funny mock-epic that sends-up both the sword and sorcery fantasy genre and the evergreen nerdish past-time of role-playing.

The dreary indolence of suburban life acting as the catalyst for adventure, the colossally-craniumed Millenium Boy (Strengh: 3; Intelligence: 50), the cast of the book violently punch, kick, clobber and stab themselves through a world that ranges from urbane to insane. With no real focus other than adventuring itself, MB sets off from his parents' residence (in the suitably banally-named “Glendale”) with nothing more than a bandana, his underwear and a Swiss Army knife, the volume concludes at the fantasy-inspired Fireburg Forest with the characters fighting street thugs, murderous molemen, and reanimated pirate skeletons along the way.

Translation: "MOLEMEN!!!"

Sunday, 14 March 2010

"Newave! The Underground Mini Comix of the 1980s": Mini-Reviews 11-20

2010: A Mini-Comix Odyssey

Mainly for your reading pleasure, but also because we're obsessive: here are mini-reviews 11-20 of our ongoing Newave! Twitter project. Click here to read more about our epic quest into the world of 1980s mini comics as well as our round-up of reviews 1-10. Onwards!

11: Nart #2 - Jim Siergey, 1985

We tweeted: "Made 7 years after #1, there is a great improvement in (n)art. + Mao & Elvis, together at last!

This was interesting to read, mainly to see how much Siergey's art had developed between mini-comics. Cleaner linework and image construction frame more of classic puns seen in Nart #1. Like any self-respecting Newaver, the artist makes sure to include Elvis, Jesus, Chairman Mao and a Moose.

Thursday, 11 March 2010

Interview: Joey Weiser, creator of "Cavemen in Space" & "The Ride Home"

Joey Weiser, creator of The Ride Home and Monster Isle recently spoke to us about his upcoming graphic novel Cavemen in Space. Best known for creating characters as varied as Van Gnomes, Sewer Dragons, Sarcastic Kaiju and ineffective Superheroes, we were definitely expecting our interview with him to be fun, and we certainly weren't disappointed. Read on to read Mr Weiser's thoughts about his new book, the process of self-funding a project, his appreciation for Akira Toriyama, giant monsters, the oft-unexpressed creative benefits of serialised comics and the pitfalls of the "all ages" label in American comic books. Enjoy!

Cavemen in Space features a prehistoric cast that have been transplanted through time to a space station ("The Wheel") in a future where humanity is in contact with alien life and intergalactic conglomerates. In terms of narrative and setting, what were your influences and intentions when writing the comic?

Well, the sci-fi element was just something that I thought was funny, and a good starting point for a concept. I don’t have a particularly strong interest in science fiction unless it’s really goofy. Like Mystery Science Theater goofy. When getting started on Cavemen in Space, I watched a lot of the original Star Trek series. 

The main concept that I wanted to focus on with Cavemen in Space was to have a large cast of characters, and pay as much attention to each one as possible, and give them all individual stories that are intertwined. My first book, The Ride Home, was very much about following a single character from point A to B to C. With this one, I wanted to challenge myself a bit more. 

Evolution of the species: The "Cavemen in Space" cast as they were initially designed... 
... and as they appear in the final version of the book.

Wednesday, 10 March 2010

Review: A Map in the Dirt, Jess Smart Smiley from HIVE FOUR

Excitingly, Jess Smart Smiley recently sent us his contribution to Grimalkin Press’ upcoming fourth HIVE anthology. Entitled A Map in the Dirt, it’s a short and, at times, abstract tale featuring a group of animal-people on the run from the barbarism of the human world.

Mysterious from the outset, the story follows the protagonist, Deer, and her friends Bird, Rabbit, Bear and Fox, as they attempt to evade the murderous hunters that have intruded into their habitat. Curiously, these characters are (mostly) presented as humans wearing animal masks and their behaviour has a similarly  conflicting naturalistic ritualism to it. Jointly human, animal and anthropomorphic, the exact nature of these creatures remains unclear, but the ecological and existential themes they represent are anything but.

Tuesday, 9 March 2010

Interview: Michael Neno, creator of "The Signifiers"

Looking at Michael Neno's press materials, you'd be forgiven for thinking that the man is a mysterious figure; a self-appointed "Culture Czar" operating some sort of clandestine comic cult from the shadows. All available depictions (both on his website and in his work) either show him from a distance or cast him in an imposing suit and sunglasses ensemble, and, consequently, there is an element of unknown about him.

Paradoxically, however, his comics speak volumes. Having an intelligent yet visceral quality about them, it soon becomes apparent that Neno is something of a culture vulture. Low-brow and high-brow have been mixed together many times before in comics, but, in my opinion, no one does it quite so honestly as in his work. There seems to be no limits to what might influence his output, and apparent references range from F. Scott Fitzgerald to Bob Dylan, Jack Kirby and everywhere in between.

Also having a Xeric award, Negative Burn contributions and a stint working with Paul Pope under his belt, we couldn't pass up the chance to invite Neno for a chin-wag following the release of his new comic, The Signifiers. Covering the influence of the silver-age on his work, his thoughts on current-day Marvel comics, the Xeric Foundation, self-publishing and a whole lot more, you can find his detailed and often-insightful answers below. Enjoy!

A hell of a lot happens in The Signifiers issue 1, as characters, settings and relationships are introduced. What are your intentions and motivations behind the comic?

My intentions were to set a stage, introduce characters and the world they live in and to entertain and intrigue. I could have been more explanatory about the world I created for my characters, but I'm adamant that that context be gradually discovered by the reader through the story I'm writing and will be writing, not through footnotes or interviews. In creating The Signifiers, I was creating something that amused myself and, as a reader and viewer, I enjoy comics and films wherein the author thrusts the characters (and the viewer) into a situation and expects/allows the viewer to catch up on their own. The first ten minutes of playwright and director David Mamet's films, The Spanish Prisoner and Redbelt are textbook examples of this technique; so were Jack Kirby's Kamandi comic books, which thrust the character/viewer into a startling and unsettling new environment at the beginning of each story.

Not that The Signifiers is necessarily in this category, but I do think there is a place in comics for work that is defiantly enigmatic, that doesn't explain itself in an obvious way or promise to. Stories can effectively adhere to their own dream logic, apart from mainstream expectations. Work of this nature is accepted in film (Bunuel, Stanley Kubrick, David Lynch) and in music, literature, painting, photography and poetry. I think comics are also up to the task. Few cartoonists, for example, have attempted to meet the challenge Moebius laid down in the '60s, a free-floating, psychedelic conception that opened a new avenue for communication.

Also, like the work of Mamet and Kirby, The Signifiers is personal, even autobiographical. It's difficult for me to create work that isn't meaningful to me in one way or another. The hope is always that someone else will find meaning in it, too.

One of Neno's wonderfully-rendered Desert Thugs from The Signifiers

Friday, 5 March 2010

Misc: Derik's Cartoon Invasion in France

Although not exactly comic-related, we thought that this was too fun to pass up:

Derik (not Derrick) is an artist based in the South of France, who has been up to some fun tricks of late. Like some kind of mad scientist, he's launched an invasion of colourful characters into the streets of France (Bordeaux, we suspect). Nowhere seems to be off-limits to his creations: utility boxes, walls, doors, train stations, road signs and even cars have all fallen to this cartoon coup d'état. 

Reminding us a little of 60s/70s French culture phenomenon Les Shadoks, there is something magical about seeing these 2D creatures infringe upon the "real world".

More pictures after the jump:

Wednesday, 3 March 2010

Small Press in the UK: Our Favourite Comics from the Alternative Press Festival 2010

In North America, or anywhere else with a significant comic culture, self-published comics often represent an artist's creative urge to distribute work outside of the often-oppressive commercial system. Whilst the same principle may be true for cartoonists in the United Kingdom, the unfortunate case is that, generally-speaking, self-publishing is the only route by which they'll see their comics in print.

Put to shame by our sequential art-loving neighbours to the east (France & Belgium, respectively; although Japan certainly does too), the UK comics industry has gradually degraded until the reader's choices are pretty much non-existent. With only Rebellion (publishers of 2000 AD), DC Thompson Co (publishers of severely bastardised forms of The Beano and The Dandy) and a tiny handful of independent set-ups operating today, the comics industry in Great Britain is anything but.

Put bluntly: If you don't like Judge Dredd or Dennis the Menace (not the same lovable rogue as in Hank Ketcham's classic news-strip, mind), you're up the proverbial creek without a paddle.

Thankfully, due to the work of several dedicated individuals and groups, things may be beginning to change for the better. Collectives like Alternative Press and anthologies like Tom Humberstone's Solipsistic Pop are making efforts to draw together the brightest talent from a new generation of creators and providing them with a small press platform to present their work to the world.

Eager to jump on the bandwagon, Avoid the Future recently attended the Alternative Press Festival and Brighton Zinefest 2010 in the hopes of finding some small-press gems to take home. Below you'll find some of our favourites from the events. We hope that you'll support the creators by purchasing some of their work via their various websites.

Static Revolver No.1, The Fancy Butcher (2010)

Visually calling out to us from across the crowded APF venue like a sea-siren, we were pleasantly surprised to find that, rather than mercilessly drowning us, Static Revolver was as awesome as it seemed from a distance. A collaboration between London-based artists Kevin Ward and Lord Hurk, this issue serves to showcase their vastly different styles and debuts serials from both.

Monday, 1 March 2010

Animation: "Anna et Froga" by Anouk Ricard

Via Youtube, for your viewing pleasure, we've translated Anouk Ricard's wonderful stop-motion short Anna et Froga, an adaption of her comic book series of the same name. Comprised of short stories, the series follows Anna, a little girl who likes to see friends and play guitar, and Froga, a frog who likes gardening, as they interact with their friends René (the cat), Christophe (the worm) and Bubu (the dog). Twice nominated in the youth category at Angoulême (2008, 2009), the series has won critical acclaim for being cute and funny without being stupid or gross (a bit like us, really).

Anna et Froga Bibliography
Tu veux un chwingue? (Sarbacane, 2007)
Qu'est-ce qu'on fait maintenant? (Sarbacane, 2008)
Frissons, fraises et chips (Sarbacane, 2009) 

Frissons, fraises et chips (Thrills, strawberries and chips)


Newave! The Underground Mini Comix of the 1980s - Mini-Reviews 1-10

Marvellous and monolithic: definitely one of our favourite book designs ever

Almost a fortnight ago, in a fit of madness, we decided that it would be fun to tweet-review one mini comic a day from Fantagraphics' excellent Newave! anthology. Throwing caution to the wind, our evil cliché-mongering inner-marketers attached the tag-line "Mini-reviews for mini-comics" to the project and away we went. Now, 12 days into this epic journey, we're collating the first 10 reviews in a special omnibus edition for the blog.

As appropriate as Twitter may seem for posting these truncated mini-reviews, it soon became obvious to us that there was never enough space in 140 characters to do the comics justice, let alone give our comments context. So here you will find our original comments plus a few added "director's-cut" extras thrown in for good measure. 

1: Purple Warp #1 - Al Greenier, T. Hosier; 1972

We tweeted: "Crank Ludlow is like the Batman of mucus: a determined vigilante with questionable methods. Brill"

We meant: Loin-cloth-wearing Crank Ludlow pretty much sets the tone for the anthology. A charismatic prankster, his adventures are solely about forcibly imparting his snot onto others via his feet. He even manages to booger-kick Bob Dylan (but not quite Richard Nixon, for shame).