Sunday, 28 August 2011

Underground Comix Cover of the Month: Cannibal Romance

Another comic from my collection that I love; this 80's Last Gasp anthology was a crude and darkly comic anthology with some stunning artwork and stories. Not sure who the cover artist is here, but it's beautifully rendered and eye catching, don'tcha think?

Deborah Valentine also did a brilliant psychedelic back cover.

The Higlight strip in this anthology for me was "Portrait Of An American Princess" written by the amazing Lydia Lunch and with brilliant artwork by Mike Matthews. It was very rude, graphic and amusing indeed. A true Underground Comic.

Thursday, 25 August 2011

Don't Forget To Remember Not To Forget

Thought I would share this beautifully illustrated comic by the very talented Tobias Tak (Click to enlarge the picture).  Tobias has a new collection of comics out called "Gaboon's  Daymare".

You can also find his work in both issues of The Comix Reader; a UK Underground Comix edited by Richard Cowdry.

To see more of Tobias' work, visit his blog:

http://www.tobicomix.blogspot.com/



Thursday, 21 July 2011

Crazy Experimental Japanese Animation: OORUTAICHI - Hamihadarigeri

My buddy Ralph Kidson shared this fanatasic Japanese animation with me. It's brilliant! Underground Comix sensibilities and superb experimental music! WOW!

Monday, 18 July 2011

Amazing Animations! Chad VanGaalen


Chad VanGaalen - Peace on the Rise (OFFICIAL VIDEO) from Sub Pop Records on Vimeo.

Two great psyechedelic animation music videos, which are like animated Underground Comix!


Chad VanGaalen "Molten Light" from Sub Pop Records on Vimeo.

Friday, 15 July 2011

One Dead Hen by Charlie Williams: Book Review

One Dead Hen is the fourth book set in the small, grim northern town of Mangel. The backdrop is a typical send up of a small working class town, where prosperity left a long time ago. Boredom and frustration, a fear of change, busy bodies and gossips, petty criminals, mean and stubborn judgemental types. All is rife in Mangel along with many distinct characters.

I heartily recommend, if you haven't already, reading the other three books first, starting with the excellent 'Dead Folk' which establishes many characters who appear in this book. The protagonist of these stories (who also narrates) is Roy Blake or 'Blakey'; an ageing ex club doorman who has now retreated from the world and has hit on hard times, although he has his own ways of convincing himself otherwise.

Blakey is a brilliant comedic anti-hero; unable to see what goes on right under his nose, confused, delusional with a hair trigger temper, overly sensitive, macho, clumsy, a fantasist, and simply not too bright. At times he is a sympathetic oaf or underdog with visions of grandeur, but he also switches to the hulking thug, who when riled, doesn't know his own strength. He is also a dangerous character with a much darker side, with more skeletons in his closet than a killer from Narnia. Blakey is unpredictable and events sometimes trigger him into homicidal rage, hallucinatory mental illness or reliving past trauma. But Blakey is a survivor, and no matter what life throws at him he always seems to wriggle free and come back for more. “If you're gonna be dumb, you gotta be tough” as the country song goes.

At the start of One Dead Hen, we glean from an article from Mangel's local newspaper, that a serial killer is on the loose, decapitating women and taking their heads, and the police are non the wiser. The book is interspersed with these informative local rag pieces which not only amuse with their amateur journalist commentary, but also help the reader piece together what is really going on (as Blakey doesn't have a clue).

Blakey also discovers from Doug the shopkeeper (a recurring character like many of the 'old guard' in Mangel), that a mysterious and 'classy' woman (from Blakey's past) is trying to track him down.

When Blakey is called in for questioning as a murder suspect, he meets a new D.I. from the city, who has different ideas than the yokel bobbies. Inspired by this meeting and also by watching hours of TV cop shows (Miami Vice and The Sweeney being two of his favs), Blakey decides he will solve the Mangel Murders on his own and become a police detective.

As he tears through his surroundings like a bull in a china shop, Blakey's “investigations” force him to cross paths with Nathan; the owner of the 'Paul Pry', Mangel's unfriendlisest pub. Nathan, a recurring character, is sinister and extremely devious, a sly authoritarian who seems to know everything that goes on in the town, and who tries to manipulate all who he encounters. Blakey, who secretly fears the pub landlord (although would never admit it) aims to ask him who is behind the murders. But as always, with Nathan, any help given requires a huge cost in return...

The books are rich with humour, mostly due to the matter-of-fact way that Blakey tells the story, his phrasing, and the way he often understates things. But the humour is often twisted and dark, sometimes pitch-black, and the story can quickly turn from the absurd to the serious and outright horrific.

In this book it is the lead women characters who bring the sobriety into the plot and who try to reveal to Blakey what is really going on, which Blakey, being Blakey, cannot get his head around.

Williams plays with satire, stereotypes, and at times even slapstick, but then unsettles the reader by bringing in elements of gritty realism or grisly horror. Simply put, the author has the ability to tickle your funny bone one moment, before quickly cutting into your marrow the next.

I found One Dead Hen to be, after all the humour and antics, the bleakest and most nihilistic of the books so far; Mangel no longer seems like the laughable town from hell, but now hell itself, and anyone who stays too long is either damned, cursed or slightly demonic to begin with. It's a place where innocence and hope is slowly strangled from all those who stay (or return).

The book digs deep into Britain's rural psyche, as folk horror and old superstitions are added to the contemporary mix of a town whose inhabitants are literally going nowhere.

The end of the book packed a deliberate and devastating gut punch. Williams makes it painfully clear that Mangel is a place where dreams are crushed, opportunities missed, and that the outcomes and pay-offs you'd like to see rarely happen. In that way the book is unsettling and all the more real. 

There's also something excruciatingly painful and tragic in the way that Blakey exercises poor judgement, is distracted when someone is relaying revelatory information to him, or when he trusts the wrong people. The reader may be banging their heads against the table or shouting “Oh Blakey no, no, no!”. But at least the bouncer sleuth is mostly oblivious to these facts.

The author has taken a bolder stride with this volume, as he shows that Mangel is largely a corrupt man's world, a crumbling fortress of chauvinism and misogyny. Blakey himself is positively unsympathetic at moments in this book, his usual forgiveable frustrating stupidity replaced with downright callousness and hypocrisy at times regarding those who are close to him. It is these changes that make you care about other characters, such as Rachael; a true friend to Roy who sees the good him in, and the little boy within the lummox, but now, for once, she is the one who needs his help. Blakey however appears to be a character more lost and further from redemption than ever before.

The finale leaves things open for a fifth book, and no doubt after this one, I will be eager to see what happens next, but I will proceed with caution...I think my laughter will now be tinged with nervous anticipation, daring not to hope that those deserved of good luck will have better fortune, and those beyond contempt will meet some kind of karmic justice. In Mangel's world it's not wise to hang on to such hopes.... Still, on the bright side, Alvin's Kebab shop apparently does the best doner and chips you've tasted. Proper chips mind.

Sunday, 3 July 2011

Review: Cold Sweat Day Dreams by Jonathan Ridley

This is a nicely produced and very unique self-published book. A4 size, perfect bound, 64 pages, quality printing. If you're not familiar with Jonathan's work, then you're in for a treat. To my mind, the talented Mr Ridley is producing some of the most original and interesting work in UK underground comics.

Like all good Underground Comix artists, Ridley does what he wants. This collection skips around genres and styles like a half-man, half-kangaroo mutant playing hopscotch.

The art has a lot of influences but remains it's own boss; there's doses of outsider art, satirical cartoons and caricature, and underground comix sensibilities, and some nice painting here and there.

The first three stories revolve around the themes of seaside tourist towns, although don't expect cheery family fun and postcard humour, this is a much darker trip.
In "Summertime" a family go and visit such a town in search of fun. Instead they pass by and interact with various seedy and disturbed characters; the just-released-from prison skinhead psychopath who acquires a job dressing up as a giant ice cream. The haggered, dried-up racist old crone who wheels herself around casting scorn and spitting vitriol wherever she goes. The burberry hatted chav gangs; skulking around the arcades up to no good. And I won't go into the horrors of the arm wrestler... The story ends with a great surreal twist, which finishes off this wordless and funny dark comedy very nicely.

"All Punched Out" is a twisted tale of Dave, an alcoholic Punch & Judy puppeteer whose wife has been having a string of sordid encounters with men, of which he is painfully aware. After acting out his marital problems with his puppets to a family audience whilst shitfaced, Dave loses his job and returns to his caravan early to discover his wife in bed with his best friend, a particularly sleazy clown. This scene has a particularly funny moment, where Dave gets slapped around the face with a prosthetic cock.

Needless to say, this does not bode well for Dave, and he quickly spirals down into a pit of alcohol abuse and psychosis, where his projections onto his puppets go one step further with terrible results... If you're a fan of League Of Gentleman or Psychoville, then you'll really enjoy this black comedy horror show.

My favourite strip of the book is "The Knotts Family", a startling real-life tale of John's experiences of being sent off to boarding school at the age of 8, and being placed in the 'care' of The Knotts clan; a bunch of cruel and sadistic bullies, who run the school as a fearful fascistic regime. They inflict brutal mental and physical abuse on the children, particulary the weaker and more sensitive ones. Jonathan brings this story home really well in a personal yet matter of fact way; he does not look for sympathy, nor rage with anger anymore, rather the comic seems like a cathartic process and also a rude awakening to the viewer of how institutional child abuse can go on for years totally undetected by adults. What is also impressive is that Jonathan did this as a 24 hour comic, and manages to pack so much raw storytelling into it's pages.

Other strips include the third of the seaside strips; a more serious approach to showing the lost and damaged souls he observes, an untitled story set in a post-apocalyptic world which includes a giant predatory mutant bird, and a macabre tale which is reminiscent of Victorian horror-meisters, classic Hammer and in places has the gargoylish qualities of  Rory Hayes' horror work... All in all, a great collection!

You can view Cold Sweat Dreams in it's entirity and also checkout sample pages of Jonathan's upcoming graphic novel "Knotts" (at much longer & more in depth exploration of his boarding school years) here

The Shit Ship EDL: "Star Jerks"

So here's a cartoon I've just completed for Def Homo- sapien's blog "Star Jerks" which is a sci-fi parody of the EDL (the English Defence League). For those who don't know, the EDL is a neo-nazi group who hate islam (members are made up of soccer hooligans, BNP, National Front, Combat 18, Northern Irish paramilitary terrorists, and perversely, with support from right-wing zionist/ pro-israel groups)... Unfortunately many of it's members are not very bright, and actually believe they are not racist, that they're just typical englishmen standing up for their country by getting drunk, wearing england football shirts and marching and shouting moronic hatespeak at anyone who crosses their path. For those not familiar with the UK, Stella Artois is a rather nasty lager which is nicknamed "Wife Beater". I thought it would be fun if the U.S.S EDL was powered by Inta-Stella "Wife Beater" Warp Drives.... The Muzlamic ray guns reference applies to a very funny youtube video where an EDL member is interviewed by a TV reporter which you can watch here. Def's intro to the blog parodies the original Star Trek intro: "Race! We make it a big deal! These are the demos of the shit ship EDL; Its ongoing decision, to go on a march. To violently harass innocent women and children. To boldly give it all that, before running quickly away..."

Saturday, 2 July 2011

Onanistic Horror!!!

I presume this month's funny old comic cover illustrates the "sensation" of masturbating under the influence of particularly strong psychedelic drugs whilst riddled with Catholic guilt... See how his own subconscious is so disgusted at his sinful pleasures, it's made him think that his own hand will kill him (the finger chaps look a bit like angry and judgemental catholics too). I've heard of the term "beating the meat" but this takes the biscuit! May this be a warning to all you sex and drug crazed beatnik deviants out there... DON'T DO IT!!!

Wednesday, 29 June 2011

The Lust Boat: A Twisted, Sexual Underground Type Thing

I did this little number last year, but I thought I'd share it for those who haven't seen it.  It started out as a sketchbook doodle which I just kepy adding shading too... It was fun to draw, I got a perverse little thrill from it!
It's interesting to hear what other people make of this stuff...For instance, I drew the dapper bloke who is popping his cookies at the back of the boat, with no particular meaning attached to him... But someone on facebook thought it looked like a younger Salvador Dali, which I like the idea of, as he was "The Great Masturbator" after all...

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Review: Decadence #7

This is an interesting 68 page Science Fiction Comics Anthology with an Underground slant for those seeking something a little different. Although thoroughly contemporary, the book feels as though it could have been made in the 1970's, as it has the feeling and mixture of experimentation, rawness and psychedelia that was present in that era of Science Fiction comics and films.
First up; "Energy Magician" by Leon Sadler is a very bizarre tale indeed. It involves a kind of taoist space-travelling hobo, who goes with the flow and is able it seems to transfer living matter of any kind into energy, which gives him special powers.
After waking up in a forest under a geometric shape, on an unknown world, and realising that his boots don't fit, he sets about looking for 'fuel'. After a grisly scene of 'energy transferral' ("how could I let energy like this go to waste?" says the magician) the character gives thanks, and sets out to look for his living spacecraft and to add a somewhat unsavoury souvenir of his visit to a selection of others. This is a very unique strip; Leon's unusual and expressive art style adds to the twisted sense of humour.
"Island 3" by Lando is an ongoing strip which is full of intrigue. The story is set on a futuristic island where it initially seems that all the inhabitants are dead, save a bald teenage cybernetically altered boy, referred to as "316". He is watched over constantly by 'serving' robots who guide him through the landscape and act like overly protective nursemaids. When 316 fails to follow the directions he is given, he detours, crashes his bike and things are revealed to him that he's never seen before.  The line-art drawing style is first rate (kind of a cross between katsuhiro otomo style manga and 70's European comics), and this is the driving force of the storytelling; the strip having very little dialogue. This works really well, giving a feeling of a creepy, deserted dystopian world and a cinematic approach to the visuals. Definately has me hooked.

Next, Daniel Swan presents a wordless psychedelic strip which seems to involve some kind of omnipotent being, that we only see as a hand which seems to be full of space and stars. It felt more like an artistic interval than a story though.

Cover artist Stathis Tsemberlidis however, provides a superb visual story about an Astronaut who lands on a strange world and has some very intense psychedelic/ evolutionary experiences. I don't want to give too much away, but this is a fantastic strip(& trip), kind of akin to Jodorowsky's The Holy Mountain, in space. It makes the end of Kubrick's 2001 look pedestrian in comparison. The artwork is brilliant, detailed yet clear, I would say influenced by Moebius, but in no way an imitiation.

In John Chandler's strip we enter the story in the middle of some kind of relationship breakdown. A helmeted astronaut works at seperating a vessel into two, which then splits, leaving the ship's other astronaut (an unhelmeted man) in the other half. The two then have a last conversation, before we see the astronaut who's left dealing with his own hurt, isolation and loss. The void of space being the ideal metaphor to bring home that kind of loneliness.  There's also a touch of dark humour in it I would say, as only Mr Chandler can provide. I won't give any more away, the ending seemed very fitting.

"Sputniks" by Dan Hanlett is nicely drawn comic, where satellites come to life, and go from being inert, benign objects into a potential threat. A simple and nicely executed 5 pager.

The last strip by Alex Payne is a sci-fi horror comic which didn't really do much for me I'm afraid, i felt like it was covering well-worn territory, and i felt that quality of the work was the poorest of the bunch.

Overall though, there is some very interesting material. You can get the book here.

Friday, 17 June 2011

THE GUARDIAN DOES BILDERBERG!

This is an informative, refreshing and entertaining article from The Guardian about The Bilderberg Group; who are, for those who don't know, a clandestine organisation made up of politicians, bankers, corporate execs, royalty, 'national security' types etc, who apparently 'just have our best interests at heart'.  If you used to talk about them once-upon-a-time, people would say you were some kind of conspiracy nut, that they didn't actually exist. You were basically lumped in a sack with David Icke, Alex Jones etc, and who would want to be put in a sack with the likes of they? Not I (The tinitus I would have from Jones' constant yelling, and sustained nausea-enducing monologues I would receive from prophet Icke would be too much).  But now, it's official! They DO exist, and they even have their own website (oh how things have reversed; nowadays, WE don't exist if we don't have a website!).

Throughout the year, every year, (with one larger annual event which is now at least publicly acknowledged), the world's most powerful people meet in secret  to discuss running the world, so us lowly peasants don't have to worry our little heads about it, or quibble about semantics such as conflict of interest vs equality, corruption vs transparency & regulation, world domination vs democracy...silly little things like that.

So it was nice to read a very clear-headed and balanced article that sticks 'just to the facts ma'am' and indentifies some of those who take part in the proceedings (whilst many still remain anonymous), as well as highlighting some of the hypocrisies and double standards of this two-tier system....I urge you to read it...It is quite funny too. Also, strangely, some of the Bilderbergers went on a mountain walk which led them right past protesters, who for the time, intercepted them:

Bilderbergers seen in the video clip include "Prince of Darkness" Peter Mandelson, Google founder Eric Schmidt, Peer Steinbrück, Franco Bernabe, Jacob Wallenberg, and Thomas Enders.

Seeing the article's photos of some of the Bilderbergers who look decidedly human (as opposed to reptilian usurpers or bond villains), I like to think that in some aspects the Bilderberg conference is just like most other business seminars; that even the likes of  The Rothschilds, Goldman Sachs executives, Rockefeller and Kissinger, can't escape the boring tedium of powerpoint presentations, cringeworthy icebreakers, dull small talk and name badges (The idea of Kissinger for example, donning a sticker which says "Hi I'm: Henry" cracks me up). I'm guessing though the nibbles and refreshments are a bit more upmarket, and aren't served on cheap cash-and-carry paper plates.

And would there be the obligatory embarrassing after-seminar meal and piss up?  Corporate-sponsored disco where all the innebriated Bilderbergers dance badly and sing along to "We are family....I love all my 'bergers and me"?

Getting back to the point of this post, I read a good comment below the article, which I thought was very relevant:
"What is the point of having a freedom of information act when things like this are going on with the involvement of British officials?  Is it the case that we are "free" to know anything that they want us to know and "not free" to know anything they DONT want us to know?"...a fair point I thought.

Certain people claim that people who question this groups motives and are suspicious of what they get up to are paranoid fantasists (just look at some of the messages on the comments forum). Paranoid or not, we don't know what these people are getting up to...I don't think they'd all get together in secret just for a glass of pinot grigio 1959, a lobster dinner, and to do the hokey-cokey, do you?

For those nay-sayers who believe that nothing untoward is happening, and that we should just let these 'guardians of out well-being' continue as they are, behind very closed doors, I'll end with this quote by Thomas Jefferson (swiped from this article):

"Whenever the people are well-informed, they can be trusted with their own government." And: "If once they [the people] become inattentive to the public affairs, you and I, and Congress, and Assemblies, Judges, and Governors, shall all become wolves."
Without the people's attention to government, government grows fangs; but: "Enlighten the people generally, and tyranny and oppressions of body and mind will vanish like evil spirits at the dawn of day."
 
http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/jun/16/bilderberg-2011-tipping-point

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

"This Dog Barking": The Strange Story Of U.G. Krishnamurti

I've got to mention this beautiful graphic novel which is  in production right now, written by James Farley and Drawn by Nic Grey

"This Dog Barking" tells the story of U.G Krishnamurti, a man who, in his youth, searched for enlightenment, and who would later violently reject it, saying that "I would rather be called a criminal than an enlightened man".  After seeing-through the charades and hypocrisies of various teachers and gurus who he studied under, U.G. believed that enlightenment didn't exist and that thinking itself was a barrier that got in the way of the natural rhythms of the body, which he believed to be the true self.

Rejecting god and the idea of univeral love, he became a kind of 'anti-guru', critical of the conditioning created by religion and society. He was adamant that he was not a teacher and had nothing to give, yet when friends and strangers who spoke to him started to record and share his thoughts, and even write books about him (often taking what he said out of context, as some kind of teaching), U.G. ironically attracted many 'followers' and inspired many; including philosophers, psychologists and spiritual people, even though he was very clear that his words offered no comfort, meaning or road to truth. He believed it was a waste of time to try and change yourself or others. "I am just a dog barking" is the quote that inspired the title of this book.

From what I've gathered he was quite a character; at times nihilistic, opinionated and often with a short fuse when confronted with ideas he had no time for, but also with a sharp sense of humour, and a quick mind which allowed him to jump out of any box that people tried to put him in. He also had a no nonsense approach that endeared him to many.

James' writing is meticulously researched, and Nic's art meticulously drawn (click to enlarge the beautifully drawn page on the right).

The book is to be written in English and published in India at the end of the year, and will hopefully be available in the UK too (I hope so, it looks like it will be an amazing read).

For those interested in finding out more about U.G or about the book and creators, there's a "This Dog Barking" facebook group here where there are numerous videos and links to U.G.'s anti-teachings and also light hearted links to other stuff that relates to the themes that U.G talks about, with friendly and challenging discussion between members of the group. Even though, according to U.G that would be a complete waste of time ;)

To see more work from this particular book (including a downloadable PDF) click here
Too watch a youtube video with great music and glorious artwork from the book click here

To see more of Nic's other solo comics and art, click here

Monday, 13 June 2011

Review: Up A Blind Alley by Scott Jason Smith

This comic is the first autobiographical work i've read by Scott Smith.  I'd previously read his 3 issues of "Paunch"; a suberb, darkly funny, well written collection of strips, with some very interesting characters (Charlie Cymric and Forbes Thorpe are memorable). The tone and feel of those issues of Paunch, I would say, was kind of like a lovechild of Dan Clowes and British small press veteran Paul Rainey, but a child that had long since cut the umbillical chord, stood on it's own two feet, and had gone off to explore weird and wonderful terrain of it's own. In other words; it was good.

So I was eager to read Up A Blind Alley.  The pace is slower, a bit more considered than paunch, and the humour more slight to start with. Scott portrays himself as an affable if somewhat isolated character, a little at odds with the world (like most comic artists in auto-bios). We see his anger at the reaction of a youth when an old lady falls and bangs her head badly, we join him at one of those uncomfortable parties where everyone else knows each other and talks exclusively amongst themselves, or else act like rude, self-obsessed c**ts. After the party, and the walk home, the next few pages have a Chester Brown look & feel about them, there's a dream sequence, then the process of Scott on his own, waking up and deciding what to do with the day...I enjoyed the little joke in this section, a subtle dig at the TV show "Friends". Up to this point of the comic, I was engaged but not as wowed as I had been with paunch.

Then the book picks up pace, as Scott decides to spend his Sunday in a pub, and meets a few annoying and unsavoury characters, my favourite being the guy in the sample to your right (click to enlarge).  This is more of the kind of  humour I enjoyed in Paunch; well-observed and laughter inducing, especially when followed by Scott's horrible realisation that the bloke has the same jacket as him, and wonders if that's how he'll end up.

By this point, it feels like the comic has gone from a self-conscious slow pace to a more confident stride. A paranoid misunderstanding in the local fish shop is done really well (a bit of a Larry David moment), and other highlights include an insight into Chatham nightlife, and an overheard conversation on a train where a teenager tells tall tales to his mate, in an effort to impress him, which is comedy gold. The ending isn't the best, but it feels non-contrived and the comic IS to be continued. There's plenty of funny moments, pathos and intelligence in this book to keep the most jaded stalwarts happy, and the artwork is really nice....I'm looking forward to part 2 & also Paunch #4. Here's a link to more of scott's comics, and you can also contact him from the same site.

PSYCHOANALYSIS! The Couch Of Fear...

I love this old EC cover, it makes me wonder what the stories are like. It seems the ghastly physical horrors of other EC titles have been replaced by the equally terrifying horrors of the mind!

I think other suitable titles on this theme could have been "Couch Of Fear", "The Void Of Freud" and "Complex Horror", but that's just me.



Saturday, 11 June 2011

Fancy a Bite? Gahan Wilson's Diner

Gahan Wilson is one of the kings of twisted one page funnies, who's dark and very funny cartoons featured regularly in publications such as Playboy, National Lampoon and The New Yorker. To me he's up there with the likes of Harvey Kurtzman and Charles Addams for clever black humour and satirical wit, and great, expressive art style which went on to influence many, probably the most obvious being Gary 'Farside' Larson.

So here is a short animation which Gahan Wilson conceived and penned, where we finally get to see Gahan's creations and wild imaginings escape from the page and onto the moving screen. A ghoulish little treat for all you sickos and macabre little monsters out there...Enjoy!

Review: Pneuma by Dan Locke

I'm very lucky to have one of the very limited first print-run of this comic, that features the cover art on the left. Dan has since produced a second run, printed on very nice stock with a different, more minimalist cover, but I love this version, so I'm chuffed.

Anyway, cover aesthetics aside, let's get down to business!

Pneuma is a solid work, a collection of autobiographical comics (with one biographical), which transcends most of the autobio stuff out there. Every strip is interesting in it's own unique way, and it never feels samey, the stories suck you in and are very immersive, as is Dan's art style, which has developed from years of printmaking.

The comics use stong bold black and white contrast (although the art is printed on yellow paper) and solid grey mid-tones, and Dan plays around with this format with precision, creating striking work.

As for the stories, well they all have a personal and warm heart to them, and they intrigue, often amuse and occassionally beguile. The first story "No Word Of A Lie" is an account of the author's childhood experience of seeing what he believes to be a ghost. It avoids sensation and comes across as very plausible and a little unnerving.

"George Watts", one of the stories made especially for War: The Human Cost, is reprinted here and tells the remarkable true story of an old navy sea-dog from WW2.

"Green Fireball" is partly a youthful reminiscence, and part exploration and questioning of a 'UFO' seen in the sky by Dan and his teenage friends, which takes the reader through Greek Mythology to sci-fi X-Files territory whilst ruminating on this experience. It's good fun and also playful.

The final strip, is the longest and the most satisfying, which recounts a visitation in a dream, nudity, a thought-provoking discussion, sleepwalking, and a genuinely moving finale. I really don't want to give too much away, but this is a brilliant end to the proceedings, a beautiful little story which will stay with you.

I hope this review has inspired you to go and grab one of these beauties; you can check out more of Dan's work here and email him for a copy.

ROM Spaceknight VS Dick Cheney

A few months ago I did the drawing below as part of a benefit fundraiser for Bill Mantlo, creator of Rom: Spaceknight, who was hit by a car and left paralyzed and who has been left with hefty medical bills.

My work was one of many which was auctioned off to raise money for Bill, and I hoped it would also make the book collection, as I was impressed by a lot of the other artwork, some of which had come from very left-of-centre ideas, which I liked.

Unfortunately, I was told that Hasbro (who now own the rights to Rom even though the character has laid dormant for nearly 3 decades) might not take kindly seeing their character attacking one of the most influential men in America. Oh well. That's what I get for doing the things I like to do!

But nevermind, doing the art was fun and I'm pleased that my art may have in some way helped towards Bill's hospital bills.

Here's a few other pieces of Rom art from the project which I liked:

By Ben Marra
By Jon Wilcox

By Pete Toms
For those who don't know, Rom (as well as being a toy brought out ny Parker Brothers in the '80's) was a character in his own comic, who travelled through space, tracking and destroying 'The Dire Wraiths'; diabolically evil creatures, hellbent on planetary domination, and who could take human form.

Whereas, Dick Cheney is a very dubious character in American politics, he has been Republican vice president twice, was head of Hallibuton, and has had more involvement in corruption, dodgy schemes and underhand skullduggery, than your nan has eaten sweet biscuits.

As for the Bilderberg group, they are a clandestine organisation that consist of the world's most powerful business people (including the rothchilds allegedly), whom people know very little about.  Because of such secrecy many wild conspiracy theories have splurged forth about them; that they are really alien lizard people, or part of some dark occult-practicing Illuminati sect. Therefore, I thought i would have fun not only taking the piss out of Mr Cheney, but the wild conspiracies that circulate about him and his ilk. I wonder whether Bill Mantlo ever got to see this, and if he did, did he find it funny? I hope so.

For anyone interested, you can see more of the Rom fundraiser art here.

Review: Can I Borrow Your Toilet? By Gareth Brookes

This is a very wry, enjoyable and lovely produced small press book. I found myself bursting into uncontrolled laughter regularly  throughout the 64 pages, which was a welcome and rare thing.

Let me say this first; this is not a comic. It's more an illustrated memoir of Senor Brookes' experiences and observations whilst working in a warehouse.

There are numerous illustrations however; beautifully rendered and detailed (the boy can crosshatch!), and often displaying the same dry wit and slight caricature which is present in the writing. which are like little snap-shots of the environment and people he is describing. An example is a portrait of a irritated looking middle-aged man with the caption; "In his pocket he rattled his keys aggressively".

For anyone who has worked low paid jobs in factories, warehouses and other similar environments (as I have), then I'm sure more than a couple of the characters in the book will seem familiar. 'Ticking Time-bomb Tom" for instance, who hates everyone he works with, but not as much as those who leave the job.  Or the nicotine stained van driver, who "always had a roll up smouldering in the corner of his burnt mouth", and who tells you that he's never had a day off in his life and alludes to this being due to his beloved tobacco.

Gareth brings home the repetitiveness and predicability of the job, but also the oddball characters and the rituals they indulge in to pass the time and entertain themselves, which he writes about with subtle hints of fondess, irritation, bemusement and sarcasm.

He recalls the piss-taking, wisecracking, anecdote and philosophy sharing, packed-lunch eating contests, and the watching of the mysterious, exotic and alluring 'little red coat girl', who walks past the loading bay every day, and although is only moderately attractive, has become like the fabled maidens that mariners would talk about, when bored and without women at sea.

It is bringing home these absurdities, and strange camaraderies with comedic aplomb, that this book does so well.

I suppose similarities with Gervais & Merchant's 'The Office' could be made, but this has a richness and subtleness of it's own, and it certainly doesn't feel like any kind of imitation. Rather it shines as an authentic and endearing work, which is that rare beast; a small press book that you can return to and still find as funny as the first time you read it.
You can get the book for an honest, working man's fiver (along with Gareth's other books) here.

www.appallingnonsense.co.uk

Underground Comix Classic Cover Of The Month!

Curse Of The Molemen by Charles Burns














BUY WAR THE HUMAN COST BOOK + CD, NOW ONLY £5.29 FROM PAPER TIGER WEBSITE!

 War: The Human Cost contains the work of 67 artists from around the world, with 80% of the work being made specifically for this book. With groundbreaking, visually stunning strips, the book reveals truths regarding the realities of conflict, and the unethical practices of those who profit from it. £1 of every book sold is donated to Campaign Against Arms Trade.

From first hand accounts, through biting satire, to well researched exposés and factual pieces, this expressive and humanist work includes the work of well known and veteran artists such as:

Steve Bell, Spain Rodriguez, Peter Kuper, Mack White, Aleksandar Zograf, Marcel Ruijters, Abu Mahjoob, Colin Upton, Mark Stafford and Mazen Kerbaj to lesser known underground talent including Lawrence Elwick, Christopher Rainbow, Paul O Connell, Hannes Pasqualini, Ulli Lust, Alejandro Alvarez, Nelson Evergreen, Dan Locke, Inko, Eric Theriault, Nicole Schulman, Jimi Gherkin and  Dan Archer & many more; this anthology showcases a moving and visually stunning collection of comic strips and art.

The accompanying War & Peace CD, an eclectic collection of fantastic music features tracks by 20 artists including Michael Franti & Spearhead, Big Youth, Sly & Robbie, The Levellers, DJ Spooky, Zion Train, Blue King Brown, Kal, Bela Emerson, Groove Corporation, Andre Afram Asmar, Axis Of Arseholes & many more. Spanning World Music, Reggae, Punk, Gypsy/ Roma, Folk, Dub, Experimental & Electronica,  like the book, explores the themes of conflict, struggle, standing up for peace and positivity in the face of oppression.

Back cover quotes from those who previewed the book:
  • Joe Sacco (Palestine/ Safe Area Gorazde): “War is hardly glorious, as this hard-hitting anthology, which approaches human conflict from many different angles and with many different pens, makes crystal clear. A welcome push back from artists against militarists everywhere.”
  • David Lloyd (V For Vendetta): “A monumental collection of gripping and fascinating strips telling stories about the grim reality of armed conflict across the globe. A glory-free war zone from people with a passion for the truth.”
  • Paul Gravett (Great British Comics): “This is a landmark project, gathering from across the globe accessible, compelling graphic reportages and reflections on the price we pay as individuals, societies and human beings for the conflicts that besiege our world.”
  • Warren Pleece (True Faith/ American Splendor: Coventry): “This is a really important work and a great compilation of thought provoking, hard-hitting comics that should be on every schools reading list and by the bedside tables of all leaders who claim our best interests.”
And you can read more reviews of the book here

-260 page perfect bound volume (including 50 colour pages)
-High quality stock/ matte card cover
-Includes War & Peace compilation CD
-Limited Edition of 750 hand-numbered copies


To learn more about the book, read reviews, read sample pages, listen to CD clips, buy it and learn about other books, then you can go to the newly launched site,
www.papertigercomix.com

Or you can buy the book on amazon