Monday, August 31, 2015

Review: The Bizarre Adventures of Gilbert and Sullivan

Any comic by Laura Howell is always fun and entertaining, whether it's Les Pretend in The Beano or her own creations. Laura's latest book, The Bizarre Adventures of Gilbert and Sullivan is a fine collection of her creator-owned strips of the Victorian composers and their secret life as defenders of the realm. Yes, that's what they did apparently. Who knew? 

The strips in the book are, as Laura tells us, "re-drawn versions of very sketchy and loosely-scripted strips dating from 2001 to 2006". The originals were funny and these re-crafted ones are even funnier. The beauty of comics is that anything can happen, and in these pages it certainly does, with Gilbert and Sullivan having strange and surreal escapades. It won the Best Comic Award at the International Manga and Aninie Festival, and whether you love or hate Manga you should enjoy this as it both embraces and spoofs the Manga styles in equal measure. There are also elements of traditional British comics in there too of course, as one would expect with Laura's background in comics, but more than anything this is distinctly Laura Howell doing things her own way, and it's brilliant. 

The book comprises 17 short stories of 2 to 6 pages in length, drawing inspiration from Gilbert and Sullivan's compositions and Victorian society. In the back, there's a Guest Art Gallery by other talented artists such as Jamie Smart, David Leach, Hunt Emerson, Woodrow Phoenix and more. 

This really is a must-have book for fans of humour comics and a great addition to the swelling ranks of modern British comics. 

The Bizarre Adventures of Gilbert and Sullivan by Laura Howell. 76 pages, softback, published by Soaring Penguin Press and available now from their website here:

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Are you ready for ICE?

One of the most enjoyable comics conventions I attended last year was the International Comic Expo in Birmingham, - and it's back again next weekend! Situated in the city centre just a few minutes walk from New Street Station at The Studio venue in Cannon Street, just off New Street. I'll be there, along with many other guests from the comics industry. Here's the details from organizer Shane Chebsey....


Some of the biggest names from the world of comic book art and publishing will be descending onto the Studio Venue in Birmingham city centre this coming weekend.

The International Comic Expo, or ICE as it is known by the fans, plays host to over 30 top artists and writers from both sides of the Atlantic and beyond. On Saturday 5th September, in the heart of England’s second city, expect a spectacular fun day for fans of popular characters like The Avengers, Spiderman, Batman and The Flash.

Of course comics are far more than just super heroes and visitors to the annual event will also be able to meet creators such as Charlie Adlard, artist on The Walking Dead and writer John Wagner, creator of Judge Dredd, who will be joined by co creator and artist Carlos Ezquerra who is flying in from Spain especially for the convention.
There are also guests from further afield making the journey over the Atlantic to see fans, including legendary Iron Man artist Bob Layton and Wolverine artist Joe Rubinstein.

In addition to the usual sketching and signing there is a full program of exclusive free events for ticket holders scheduled for the duration of the convention, including interviews with featured creators, fun quizzes, a workshop for kids and some more serious industry discussion panels.

Dave Gibbons.
Highlights include a free talk aimed at younger readers and fans by Watchmen artist and Comics Laureate Dave Gibbons, plus an interview with Green Arrow and Losers writer Andy Diggle.

Unlike many UK conventions ICE has a strong international presence and joining the major UK Publishers like Titan Comics are representatives and editors from American publishers including DC Comics, Dark Horse Comics and the most recent major addition to the industry Aftershock Comics who is represented by Editor In Chief Mike Marts, who recently left Marvel to help form the new company.

Of course no convention is complete without a varied selection of exhibitors, and ICE is no exception to this.
As well as thousands of comics and graphic novels, there will be collectibles, merchandise, and original artwork for sale from over 120 exhibitors, so plenty of chance to fill those gaps in your comic collection, or to own a unique piece of artwork form your favorite creator.

Not only that, but the ICE exhibition halls feature a huge selection of independent and small press publishers, who offer readers a whole new level of diversity and really show everything the medium of comics has to offer.

And if you’re not quite sure what all the fuss is about when it come to comics, entry to the event is just £12 (£6 for students) and kids go free, so you won’t have to break the bank to satisfy your curiosity and discover something new for all the family.

The event starts at 10am for those booking in advance with doors opening to the public at 11am and closing at 5.30pm. There is also a special VIP after show party running 7pm until late for the most dedicated fans, all happening under one roof, just a few minutes’ walk from New Street Station.

To book tickets for the expo and to find out more go to the main website at:

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Review: The House of Daemon

I've had this book a few weeks now but I'm eventually catching up with doing my reviews so please excuse its lateness. 

Hibernia Comics have been producing some excellent reprint albums of classic 1980s British strips and their latest release, The House of Daemon, is one of the best. With scripts by John Wagner and Alan Grant, and art by José Ortiz, you know you're in for a treat. The serial originally appeared in Eagle Nos.25 to 47 in 1982 to 1983 and this book collects the run. 

The story is an atmospheric supernatural tale of a haunted house, but it goes beyond the usual 'ghost story' tradition to plunge its occupants into nightmarish otherworldly situations. There are quite a few twists along the way and although the horror has to be reigned in to a certain extent (because it appeared in a children's comic) it's still quite creepy and a good 'all ages' horror comic. 

The art by José Ortiz is perfect for the horror theme, creating the right tone and menace throughout, plus of course his mastery of the human figure is superb. Sometimes collections like this feel a bit 'choppy', because the episodes were never designed to be read in one book, but with writers as skilled as Wagner and Grant the serial flows perfectly. It would actually make a very good movie, but as a comic it also stands on its own as a fantastic story. 

The reproduction of the strips is top class too. Although the pages are scanned from the comics, not the original art, they've reproduced perfectly, with sharp blacks and subtle grey tones. 

The House of Daemon is available from Hibernia Books here:

Friday, August 28, 2015

Piracy Is Inexcusable

This cannot be emphasised enough. 'Piracy' of comics, or films, TV shows, music, games, whatever, is morally wrong. It's also illegal. Yes, I've heard all the excuses about how piracy "helps creators get more exposure" (cobblers!); how people "can't afford to buy every comic they need" (theft is never an option, and 'needs' include food and water, not comics); how they "wouldn't buy it anyway" (yet they like it enough to download a series); how they're "only sampling to see if I like it" (still no excuse for theft)... and so on. All the excuses boil down to the fact that some people just want something for nothing.

Some people might think it's cool to flout the law and gain comics illegally. Hey, they're "sticking it to the man". Except they're not. They're hurting the creators, damaging sales of a comic that publishers might then cancel because they think there's little interest in it, - when in fact thousands of copies are being read illegally. 
One of my favourite British comics at the moment is Surface Tension, written and illustrated by Jay Gunn and published by Titan. It's a fantastic, intriguing story and as the cover and panel sample shown here demonstrates the artwork is stunning. (And a fine example of how UK artists are still in the same league as those of the past.) On the Down the Tubes site today, Jay Gunn has written a passionate and important post about how piracy affected him. Perhaps if people aren't bothered about breaking the law they might consider the human cost of piracy instead. Give it a read...

And to critics who will undoubtedly say I'm "banging the same drum again", bloody right I am! Myself and many of my friends depend on comics to earn our living, and I'll defend our right to protect our work and our livelihoods against thieves as much as I can. 

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Jessica Martin art exhibition

Artist / writer Jessica Martin has an exhibition of her comics work launching at Orbital Comics this Saturday, 29th August. The creator of It Girl, Vivacity, and the upcoming Elsie Harris Picture Palace graphic novel will be presenting a short guided tour of her work and a talk / Q and A session, at 7pm at Orbital Comics, 8 Great Newport Street, London WC2H 7JA.

It's been fascinating seeing Jessica's style develop over the past few years and I'm sure the exhibition will be a great success. I can't make it there myself unfortunately but if you're in London on Saturday night, Orbital Comics is the place to be. The exhibition runs until early October. 

For more info, see the excellent Broken Frontier website here:
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