Tuesday 10 January 2017

REVIEW: Axel America by Andy Luke

I enjoyed this book a great deal. I'd describe it as a Gonzo surrealist satirical journey through American political skullduggery, conspiracy theories, corrupt media and crazy ideas made flesh. Along for the ride are Axel America, his family, and his conspiracy theorist allies. They're up against ambitious, arrogant billionaire and presidential candidate Morgan Rump, the Faux News media tycoon Oliver Macgregor, anchorwoman O.K. Burly, shady government agents, an ex-nazi scientist (Hermann Martian) and even at one point, the satanic minions of hell!
Axel is a loud, anger-fuelled, paranoid shock-jock (with his own video podcast, 'truth live'), who I would say was based more than a little on a real-life conspiracy-theorist, down to their mutual love of using 'the bullhorn' as a means of communication. Anyone who is familiar with him (and the other character parodies mentioned above), will immediately get the humour and real-world parallels in this book.

Axel is a man too busy being angry, and ramming 'the truth' (as he sees it) down everyones throats, to check his 'facts' and sources. He is enjoyable and palatable as a character however, because although he's a severely flawed, overbearing, raging, confused, self-unaware and delusional fool, he's also at times completely sincere, vulnerable, likeable and has a certain amount of integrity.
He's someone who really loves his family, and will go all out to protect them, even if a lot of the perceived threats are imagined. Sometimes he hits the nail on the head though, and things that others laugh-off prove to be right. He also comes out with some hilarious phrases, mannerisms and ideas of the laugh-out-loud variety.

Another parody of a real-life British conspiracy theorist in this book is the more new-age orientated, alien-obsessed character and friend of Axel named 'Milk Falk'. There's one chapter in the book, where Falk thinks that the best way to infiltrate a dinner party for the power-base of the elite is by attaching a fake lizard tail. I'll let you see whether or not he pulls it off.

At the heart of the story is the all American family unit; which takes the age-old American sit-com idea and subverts it. There's Axel, his long suffering, upstanding wife Liberty, the good natured, sensitive and eager-to-please son Constitution, and the rebellious, tempestuous teenage daughter, Martha.

There's room for little episodic chapters, lots of action and comedic skits, even some slapstick within the longer story arc of the clandestine power-mongers trying to rig the election, and them using Axel and a member of his family to do so.

The book is often chuckle inducing and also a cathartic read, finding absurd humour in even the blackest veins of the Corporate American rabbit hole, or when lampooning the unscrupulous behaviour of the deluded, and the devisive. Andy Luke also has fun with his characters, fleshing them out and having them interact in amusing and interesting ways, and isn't afraid to poke some fun at all sides of the equation, with interesting and original ideas.
Stand out episodic moments for me included where Axel is forced to attend an anger-management group, and ends up causing mayhem but also a kind of anarchic bonding session, a chapter where Axel & his son are out hunting, and stumble across a bunch of  animal rights activists (the banner slogans were priceless), the devasating effects of Axel's super-powered bullhorn turned up to full, and where his weaponised home-security system 'Axel-bot' is accidently triggered while Axel is away, and locks down the house, targetting his family and friends, and carries out it's programming to eradicate the threat.

Maybe it's just me, but I felt like there was a touch of the old Spike Milligan  or Douglas Adams in this book, ie; the mischievous relish in finding the ridiculous and worrying in real-life and sending it up in a very funny and surreal manner. The book looks also at the hyperreality and hyperbole that exists in “The Greatest Nation On God's Green Earth” and much of the world today, where many people now believe whatever they want (or what they are told from manipulative sources).

 The author comments on all this in numerous ways, never becoming preachy, and adding comic book-esque and pop-culture touches which are welcome and recognisable and part of his sense of humour.
What I liked most about this book is the humour and imagination. It takes lots of ideas and has fun with them in often original and off-kilter ways. I enjoyed the ending a lot too, which I won't spoil. All that I'll say is that there's a good Axel moment where he addresses the public with one of his rants, and makes some pretty good (and funny) points. What happens during and immediately afterwards also made me think a little about the hypocrisy about those who just talk the talk and those citizens and activists who actually take on responsibilities and the thankless task of trying to create real change in a corrupt world. But I also think it was mainly about the character figuring out, in his comical way,  in the moment, what he really wanted to do, and what was important to him.

The only criticism I have is a minor one, and that is the choice of title. “The Election Race” part of it. I think they shot themselves in the foot a bit there. Although topical, the election has been and gone, and the book is about far more than that event, and was written with not just the two candidates in mind (In fact one of the candidates only gets mentioned once or twice). The story and satire is of a much more broad, surreal, richer and ambitious scope, and I feel the title sells it short a little. So it's possibly misleading to anyone who just sees the title, who may think it's no-longer relevant, when in fact it's very much so.

Story-wise however, I have no qualms, it's a really enjoyable romp which I've recommended to my friends.  I'd love to read a sequel one day. Oh, and did I mention I did the artwork for the cover?

You can buy a copy here.

Sunday 16 February 2014

Review: Sleazy Slice #5 by Robin Bougie feat. Maxine Frank, Jim Rugg, Tom Crites, Steve Carter, Antoinette Ryder, John Howard & more

All I can say to this one is, what a comic! 68 pages of filth, hilarity, unfettered imagination, and a little bit of stuff to make you think...

Jim Rugg does the honours with the great cover, which includes lots of humourous toilet graffiti.

Robin Bougie and Maxine Frank collaborate on the epic 20 page 'Nakedgirl Bigbattle'; a fun comic which starts off like an autobio strip, and quickly morphs into a pornographic kaiju fantasy.

After a brief introduction by the pair, the strip begins when Maxine's cat start's acting weird, talking to her and ordering her around. It is soon revealed that her cat is a vessel to an alien consciousness which has been sent to give earth the chance to prepare a giant titan to protect them from an imminent threat, and that he'll give Maxine the blueprints to create such a gladiator once she's fed him moist treats.

Maxine creates an underground science lab and get's to work, and a week later is almost finished and tells Robin to come over to tell him what's going on. When an accident occurs with one of Bougie's drawings in Maxine's underground science lab, it inadvertently determines the form of Earth's champion (a sexy naked girl who looks a little like Velma from Scooby Doo), and she breaks out onto the streets, where she awaits for them to climb inside to pilot her (see pic).

With Robin navigating the Giant's motor functions, and Maxine controlling her weapon systems, they're off, leaving mayhem and destruction in their wake as they get used to the controls.

Suddenly, the alien invader arrives; a Giant alien woman, who leaps to the attack. Thus begins the epic battle through Vancouver city, with some brilliant pages of art such as these:
The alien starts changing shape, developing tentacle like fingers, and it soon becomes apparent she's not only interested in fighting, but getting it on.

Just when it looks like our Giant earth girl is overpowered with pleasure, and that she's going to get a particular brutal arse-fisting, Maxine unleashes a secret weapon (I won't spoil it), and the battle begins afresh soon reaching it's very funny and O.T.T. climax.

S.C.A.R. Comics (Steve Carter & Antoinette Ryder), provide a brilliant 16 page strip entitled "Australia After The Fall", a dark fantasy set in a post-apocalyptic world, full of weird and wonderful chimera-esque mutants, the product of cruel genetic experiments, who had once been human.
Two trackers have been sent to find two missing women, in the dangerous outback where different species vie for dominance. As the story unfolds we see more and more of the different creatures and discover that some have strange laws, breeding rituals and religious rites.

When they eventually find the two women, all is not is at it seems, and the two manhunters need to figure out what has happned, or else lose their lives, or become sexual prey to one of the mutant group's breeding rituals.

I love the imagination in this one - all the numerous creature designs are inventive, there's a couple of twists and turns, and a nice philosophical bit right at the end.

Next up is "The Leather Whore" conceived by Bougie, with art by the perversely talented John Howard, and words, believe it or not, by Andrea Dworkin!

This is kind of a strange, hardcore, radical feminist exploitation revenge strip (I don't think Tarantino will be making this one though).

The first half depicts a catalogue of abuses inflicted on the prostitute by misogynist johns, next to the Dworkin quotes about victimisation of women. The second half of the strip shows the prostitute exacting bloody revenge on each of her abusers, along with some of Dworkin's more controversial quotes about women fighting back, that fit what's going on well.
It made me think. I know that Dworkin herself had been a prostitute for a short while and also said she had been in an abusive relationship, which seems to have heavily influenced how she viewed male-dominated society, prostitution and sexual imagery afterwards.

It also shows how violence and power can shift, where the victim can endure so much to the point that, in extreme circumstances, they turn on their abusers with rage and violence.

I can't see that Dworkin would have approved of this strip at all, being as anti-sexual imagery as she was, and having such entrenched generalisations, but I found it strangely fitting, as it deals with the dark side of the sex trade, and a woman who had no power previously, getting her own back on the men with a bloody climax, and I feel that Bougie and Howard's sympathies lie towards her in the story.  As controversial as some might find it, it's a very interesting strip which also shows on another level, sadly, how sexual violence and abuse, can cause such gender divides in people. Well, that was my take on it anyway, maybe I'm over analysing...

Jason Karns (AKA Fukitor) give us 'Carny Tramp', a darkly funny tale with a gory climax about a small-town woman who frequents the visiting carnival, run by a creepy freak-show owner. It feels like a 70's grindhouse film, and has a twist ending.

Karl Wills has a selection of his really nicely drawn 'Jessica of the schoolyard' strips that features a tomboy leader of a gang of schoolgirls, who spend most of their time picking on others and getting into fights

Finally, there are 4 pages of the late Tom Crite's excellent illustrations, which are beautiful, brilliantly detailed, laced with psychedelia, mandalas and occult imagery, and are something to behold.

Tom tragically committed suicide in the August of last year and I only discovered this today, and it came as quite a shock.
I'd chatted with Tom quite a few times online in the past, and we swapped comics with each other (he produced the brilliant Malefact books). He always came across as a kind,intelligent, funny and supportive person, and he was a fantastic artist. One of the good ones.

It's sad news that he's gone, I'm going to miss him.

Anyway. This is an excellent comic, a middle finger to those who say that porn comics aren't art, and don't have anything to say.

Also, Sleazy Slice #7 and Cinema Sewer #27 have just come out so check those out too.

This issue is still available from:


Review: Cinema Sewer #23 By Robin Bougie feat Bob Fingerman, David Paleo, Patton Oswalt, Steve Rolston & more

This 44 page Adults Only comic sized/style zine from 2010 is the 23rd outing of the long running brain child of Canada's Robin Bougie, and for those who haven't heard of him, Mr Bougie knows more about Sleaze than Silvio Berlusconi!

This crammed packed, professionally produced zine is full of reviews, articles, comics, illustrations and humour, and with Bougie's encyclopedic knowledge, there's an infectious, obsessive enthusiam to it all.

First thing to grab you is that great Bob Fingerman cover, like a classic, raunchy noir-pulp novel illo, complete with buxom, shapely Femme Fatale... Her victim died with a smile on his face.

Inside the theme continues as Bougie writes an excellent article on Film Noir, running through many classics of the genre (some well known, others lesser) with a brief synopsis of each, accompanied with great illustrations (by the brilliant David Paleo) and original film poster art.

The sadly departed and much loved Andy Copp who died last year, writes about and reviews two classic  video mixtapes from the '80s and '90s: 'The Amok Assault Tape' and 'Video Macumba' (the latter being rumoured to have been made by Mike Patton, although this has never been proved). The article is accompanied by Bougie's excellent drawings.

There's a 5 page article where gay Belgian porn historian Dries Vermeullen talks about frequenting fleapit adult theatres in the '80s, and he also looks at some of his favourite classic XXX cinema, obscure exploitation and blaxploitation flicks, replete with old film posters and more of Boug's great illustrations (I really like how he draws women) .

Josh Simmons contributes an interesting comic all about 'Messiah Of Evil', which he described as "The greatest early-1970s Southern California Fractured-Stoner-Magic-Lovecraftian-Blood-Moon- Zombie-Slow-Nightmare Horror Movie ever made".

Comedian Patton Oswalt writes a funny article (illustrated by James Lloyd) about his obsession with Jason Statham movies, and fantasises about how classic movies would be if Statham appeared in them. 

'Dying To Be In The Movies' is  a comprehensive history of on-set film deaths from 1920 to 2004, with background info on what happened in each fated film. Just a few examples of the fatalities include stepping on a live landmine, shark attack, decapitation by helicopter blades, and being struck on the head by a telegraph pole

There's an interesting review of  the instructional video 'Self Loving With Betty Dobson'  (known as the "Godmother of masturbation"). And a list of Bougie's favourite films of the ten years previous.

Other cult reviews include Jennie Wife/ Child, Fuego, Virginia, The Final Sin, Easy, Neon Nights, Beyond Love & Evil, Hell Of The Living Dead, Pumping Iron, She's On Duty& more, and there's also the very enjoyable "Ask The Bougieman" section where fans and readers ask Robin all manner of questions, and he gives his honest reply.

Finishing things off is this beautiful back cover illustration by Steve Rolston, dedicated to the strange, camp, Chinese Sci-Fi movie "I Love Maria" with Bougie's synposis underneath which makes it sound great fun.

If this magazine sounds like your thing, go to:

Friday 14 February 2014

Review: Hootiebits The Magic Owl by Ralph Kidson (For Adult Birds & Mammals Only)

This 44 page comic by the brilliant Ralphie Kidson is one of the funniest comics I've ever read, and i've finally got round to reviewing it (see my previous review of Giant Clam #3 for another great comic).

Hootiebits is a foul mouthed, no nonsense magic owl who works for god -  fun work, he admits in his introduction.  He could kill you if he wanted to ( Don't worry he's only killed 6 people in 10,000 years), he also gives magic treats to those who have been very good and who are deemed worthy enough. These usually amount to magic pellets (made up of the remains of digested pixies and fairies) which he'll puke up onto the pillow of the lucky sleeping recipient. These magic pellets grant wishes, like the guy who wanted to be invisible for example, who then proceeded to fuck his neighbour, and the next door neighbours dog. "I don't make the rules" Hootiebits informs us.

The one draw back and serious limitation of his power is that he's not allowed to leave the confines of Newick, Chailey, Barcombe and nearby areas. And so, has never been able to visit a branch of Waterstones. Bummer. Well, there is one other place he's been to, but I won't spoil the surprise.

He spends his time mostly getting shitfaced on booze before playing pranks on humans, or hanging out chatting with his friends who include Frowning Derek Nimmo Lion (from the future), the Elephant Man (who has his own sherry cart) and Scented Bin-Bag, who once saved Hootiebits life (you'll have to read it to find out how).
He also, after getting blind drunk, is shocked to wake up in the bed of an amorous celebrity (I shook with laughter at that bit I can tell you), and he also later reveals his shrine to his favourite TV presenter. With guest appearances from the wicked nazi Swastikat, Blinky the pyramid, and Stamper  Lloyd the elephant, and much more besides, it all adds up to a brilliantly surreal mix.

As usual, Ralph uses hilarious dialogue between his characters and impeccable comic timing, and the story goes off at lots of unexpected tangents that all seem perfectly plausible in hootiebit's world. There's lots of comedic gems in here you'll have to discover yourself, - I've read this comic a few times now, and it never fails to cheer me up and make me chuckle, so yeah, Hootiebits does have special powers.

You can buy Hootieboots and also Ralph's Giant Clam Comics (I've read issues #1 & #3 and they're very funny too) here: http://wildseedstudios.com/ralph-kidson/

Saturday 8 February 2014

Review: Stories Vol.2 & Catch Me If You Can by Martin Cendreda

Two very impressive self-published comics by Martin Cendreda here. What's immediately apparent when looking at Martin's work is his quality of cartooning. Whilst reading these books, I also became aware that he's a very accomplished, and varied storyteller.

Stories Vol.2 is a 28 page comic containing 2 short stories, and 3 one page gag comics.

'Copy' is a story told visually, and is a darkly comic psychological thriller about an office worker who hates his job, and starts finding 'help me' messages amongst his paperwork. Looking around the office he tries to see if his co-workers are playing a joke on him. After a trip to the photocopier, he notices another message immediately after, which wasn't there previously. Freaked out he locks himself in the copyroom, and writes 'is this a joke?' on the paper and photocopies it, but the out-tray reveals the message "No joke".
As he becomes increasingly anxious, and his co-workers start noticing and mocking his strange behaviour, whilst the copier begins giving him mocking messages, the question remains is the protagonist loosing his mind, or has the office copier got a mind of it's own? And how is he going to react as things come to a head and man goes to war with machine?... Through subtle use of expression, dramatic angles, movement and contrast, Cendreda really creates a comedic but dramatic and slightly creepy atmosphere, whilst in the background, lampooning some of the attitudes, indifference and politics of office life.

'Swimming' is a first person, possibly autobiographical (?) tale about someone who never learned to swim, who recalls an intense dream where they are alone in the middle of the ocean during perpetual night. The dream becomes darker and more of a torment for the dreamer, but then a sudden change occurs. The story is ambiguous, and explores subconscious fears and what can happen when we manage to surrender and let go.

The three one page gag comics are a real change of pace and style, and feature 2 pages of Martin's anthropomorphic cartoon lowlife dog characters 'Matthew & Buster'. These comics are funny and charming and have the feel of old tough 'funny papers' comics, crossed with the tone or stylings of contemporaries like Clowes, Brunetti & Kaz, but with their own originality. The last one page gag strip is called 'Free Hugs' and features Herbert Hound trying to get some freebies and being out of luck, until the last panel's punchline...This is a great collection and showcase of Cendreda's talents.

"Catch Me If You Can" is a 40 page self-contained story, again told visually, about the relationship between a father and his daughter. The story is split into chapters which are cleverly separated by one panel pages images of an acorn gradually growing into a tree, (which we see the little girl mischievously kicking at the beginning of the story), signifying the aging of both characters and a leap to a different time period, which is also done by showing the daughter sneaking off and when the dad catches up, her having aged. This is a funny, tender and poignant tale, which in the wrong hands (or medium) could have felt clichéd and schmaltzy, but instead it feels authentic and natural, sweet but not saccharine.
There's a  few great scenes, for example, one where the little girl, eyes bigger than her belly as the saying goes, keeps seeing kids with larger ice-creams and hounds her dad for the bigger ones (he gives in). Also there's a part later on where the dad goes to get his growing daughter an ice cream from the same place, and when he returns, she's grown into a woman and his expression reads like 'when did that happen?'

The last third of the book deals with the inevitability of loss, but also new life, and the daughter spending time with her own child in the place where her Dad used to take her, and the similarities between her relationship with her dad and her own daughter. Martin has a great way of drawing and portraying kids, which is animated and fun which really makes the story work.

Now for some great news, you can read Copy, Catch Me If You Can and many more of Martin's comics for free on his website (including new work in progress), you can also buy his original art and check out his illustration work there: http://www.martincendreda.com/

Friday 7 February 2014

Review: Snud #1 & Slasher #10 by Gary Clinick & Friends

Here's two twisted and savagely funny underground comix with a raw punk zine edge straight outta Scotland.

Snud #1 is Gary Clinick's solo A5 comic, full of short, darkly funny comics that all reflect contemporary culture in some way, through a psychotic, angry lens.

"Eat  Shit And Like It!" is the story of a family who do just that. Whether watching high definition crap through their 3D telly, or eating up mum's specialty for tea, this family indeed enjoy all the fecal treats around them without question. Even their teenage daughter finds new shit to enjoy - at her boyfriend's band practice where one of the band takes a dump on a keyboard, or the new cult film they go and see later.
I won't give away anymore, other than to say the comic ends in true underground style and then is followed by an angry rant from the author. Certainly a funny comic about consumerism, materialist culture, and the crap that makes life stink.

"Grave Dogging" was my favourite strip here. A chuckle-enducing send up of dogging culture with a slasher movie horror bent. Karen & Gary are looking for action in the woods when they stumble upon a grave digging necrophiliac.  Karen has a bad feeling but Gary ignores her asking the stranger "'Ere mate, do you want a go on my bird?". Needless to say the corpse-fucker doesn't respond in a way that Gary would like. The strip works well as a short, satirical and nasty horror story.

"Culinary Castration" is a one-pager about self mutilation and how to quickly rustle up a bit of cannibalistic cooking. With more than a hint of real-life Austrian cannibal Armin Meiwes, it really is a Kitchen Nightmare...

"The Healing Power Of Crystals" is a violent one panel funny, hard to go into it without giving the gag away, a somewhat pretentious description might be to say that it juxtaposes dubious hippy new-age beliefs, alongside uptight, pent up conservatism.

"Dolphins" tells the tale of a diver who comes to the aid of a helpless looking dolphin who has something caught around his fin. As soon as he is freed however, he repays the diver by sexually attacking him with his snout. The last 3 panels are drawn and written in a very funny way. I think it's safe to say, we won't been seeing these scenes on a David Attenborough documentary.

The comic also has a couple of other full page gag strips focussing on religion (the catholic church to be precise) and the police. It's a great first issue, where Viz style humour and good dialogue collides with underground comix that revel in their own sick humour. These are very limited and very cheap (£1 if I remember correctly), so contact Gary quickly if you're interested (see the end of this review).

Slasher #10 is a 36 page A4 anthology comic with colour cover, and free noise compilation. It's a bargain for £3. Like Snud, it has a similar underground, dark, twisted, humourous feel but with more varied content, and it's not for the easily offended! Some of the comics and illustrations worked for me, others not so much, but overall there was more enjoyable content than mediocre stuff in my opinion.

Gary Clinick again comes up with the goods - His first strip is a strange one - a female policewoman shoots the man who has previously shot her partner, she then becomes sexually aroused, tearing off her clothes and seemingly morphing into Raoul Moat for a patriotic pin-up poster.  Make of it what you will.

There's his one pager commenting on the hypocritical irony of many jihad extremists, where one masked man holds up a drawing of Captain Haddock (a cartoonists representation of the prophet) and explains how upset he is about that fact, about how the artist has gone too far, whilst his accomplice prepares to behead the bound and blindfolded cartoonist knelt before them. Quite a bold comic all things considered.

His one pager depicting Nescafé's 'Abortion Strength African Blend' coffee, might seem in bad taste for some, but for anyone who knows anything about Nestlé's breast milk scandal and their draining of water from poor rural areas of India and Pakistan (leaving disease ridden sludge for the local occupants), will most likely find this comic perfectly apt, as I did.

"A Taste Of Flesh" is a very funny comic about a pub under the sea where football shirt wearing sharks start fights with student dolphins for talking to their girlfriends before the killer whale bouncers move in. There's a surprise ending which brings in a bit of social/ ecological commentary right at the end.  Fans of Ralph Kidson's comics would like this one I reckon.

Clinick also shines on his strip about Saturday night "X-Factor" style 'talent' shows where every character in the strip is depicted with an arse for a head and anus for a mouth. The strip switches to a domestic dispute half-way through, where a self-righteously indignant punk walks in on his girlfriend viewing the show and judges her for it, before changing the channel to a nature program. The second half of this comic has some very real sounding dialogue and a good ironic ending where the punk character ends up being just as full of it as those he judges with contempt.

As for the other comics/ contributors, Noah Brown draws some bizarre and funny full page/ one panel comics with interesting looking characters, and there's a great comic involving a middle class mother and her son enjoying a responsible smoke of heroin. (Not sure who the contributer is on this one, but it's a good strip and actually feels good-natured despite the absurdity/dodginess of it's premise). There's also an illustration of a nightmare which involves a series of wanking and screaming man-baboons.

"So You Took Too Much DMT" is an interesting one page psychedelic line drawing comic with great art and various characters spewing forth their meditations, like hallucinations from a really strong trip. Again, not sure who did this one, but it's a really interesting page. A couple of the pages are a little mean-spirited or done more for edgy shock-value.

The music CD is very varied and interesting too, with lots of different styles and genres, but all experimental in there own way. The comic and CD represent great value for money, even for the most thrifty of buyers.

Contact: slashercomic@gmail.com or visit the bandcamp site for these and more comics and CD projects:  http://mongoloidproduction.bandcamp.com/merch/slasher-6666-issue-10

Sunday 18 August 2013

My Art: Pasta Phelps Sauce

Here's one I did earlier in the year; A drawing for the upcoming Playerist Zine, where I wrote a page of waffle about those who really rely on getting attention from others in the media - namely, hate groups like the Westboro Baptist church, and advertising. This is the combination of the two: Pastor (or Pasta in this case) Phelps Sauce.

As you can see by the pic, Fred 'Gramps' Phelps is no Paul Newman that's for sure.