Blog

Archived posts: Comics

Dickens Dark London

You’d be hard pressed not to have noticed it, but this year is the 200 year anniversary of Charles Dickens’ birthday. The Museum of London is hosting a major exhibition about his life, and to coincide with that, they’ve created a rather delicious iPhone & iPad app called Dickens Dark London.

The app is an interactive graphic novel, illustrated by the frankly brilliant David Foldvari, and based on Dickens’ Sketches by Boz. It will run to five issues (just the first one is available so far), each one centred on a different location. As well as Foldvari’s stunning images, the app includes excerpts from the sketches, read in gravelly tones by the actor Mark Strong; as well as a map that shows story locations on a map from 1862, which overlays the standard Google Maps.

The first issue (available free) is set in Covent Garden’s Seven Dials - here are a few of the pages:

Simply stunning.

The Lengths

It’s a dog’s life.

Eddie is an art-school drop out from Barking who likes sports, visual art and loafing by the river. He’s sort of seeing someone, but he also does a bit of rent on the side… though he hasn’t told his boyfriend Dan that just yet. Oh, and he’s also got a crush on Nelson, who’s tall, muscular, hung, and can fulfil your wildest fantasties.

Welcome to The Lengths.

Drawn in stark monochrome, The Lengths is the brilliant new comic series written and illustrated by Howard Hardiman. Set in a contemporary London where men are dogs, literally and metaphorically, it revolves around Eddie, a young gay guy who’s trying to have a successful relationship while working as a rent boy.

The illustrations are powerful yet sensitive, with a real eye for physical form, but fortunately without ever becoming simply pornographic, despite the subject matter. The characters might all have the heads of dogs, but they feel like people you know all too well.

The comic is four issues in so far (you can buy all four as a bundle for just £10), and Issue 5 is on its way mighty soon.

Can’t wait.

Joe McLaren on Whizzer and Chips

~ While Alistair is away cycling the length of Great Britain, we’ve invited twenty disgustingly talented people to each write a post for our blog. Today’s post is from the wonderful illustrator Joe McLaren (who also writes a rather fantastic blog of his own). ~

We were a Beano household when I was a child. I’ve no idea why exactly, but it would have seemed unthinkable to have taken The Dandy instead- like changing political allegiance, or your religion. We read and relished the Beano week in, week out, my brother and I. We were paid up members of the Dennis the Menace Fan Club, and a trip to my uncle’s was a chance to pore over his huge collection of decades’ worth of old issues.

Occasionally though, a copy of Whizzer and Chips would find its way into the house; my mum worked in Dillons the Newsagents, and she saved the odd unsold copy from the bins for us. It seemed a bit more exciting than the Beano: more disreputable, a little cruder. Also, it took far longer to read. The pictures were tiny, and every spare corner of its cheap newsprint pages were crammed with frantic action.

Favourite strips included Norman Mansbridge’s Fuss Pot (“the fussiest girl of the lot”), Terry Bave’s Oddball, about a sentient rubber ball from space who would assist its owner Nobby by turning into a rubber version of any object at will, and Colin Whittock’s seminal Lazy Bones, the picaresque chronicle of young narcoleptic Benny Bones and his eternal quest for a bit of shut-eye.

The artwork bristles with vigour, and as a whole owes a bit more to American stuff like the Disney comics of the ‘60s than the slightly more sedate Beano or Dandy (Leo Baxendale’s willfully chaotic Bash Street Kids notwithstanding). The cheapness of the paper, the sparing use of colour ink and the always wonky printing gave Whizzer and Chips the feeling of a scurrilous chapbook or incendiary revolutionary pamphlet.

Unlike American superhero comics, this part of British comic heritage is vastly under-appreciated. A look at the children’s comic section at the newsagent tells you how much we’ve lost – the Beano and the Dandy hang on, but everything else is a franchised magazine spin-off of a TV programme, with a free toy. Whizzer and Chips perished in 1990. Some of its characters found homes in Buster, which itself ceased publication in 2000.

For the price of a Dora the Explorer comic or Ben 10 fortnightly magazine you can buy a young relative a bundle of old Whizzer and Chips from eBay or a couple of annuals from a charity shop – they’ll still be chuckling weeks later. Decades later, in my case.

 

~ Alistair is raising money for Cancer Research UK during his ride – please wander over to his Just Giving page and donate a little cash. ~

Small Publishers Fair

The annual Small Publishers Fair is on this Friday and Saturday (12 and 13 November) with a feast of independent contemporary artists, poets, writers and book designers showing their wares; including the very wonderful Tom Gauld (above). On Saturday there’s also a series of free talks and readings. Brilliant.

The fair takes place at Conway Hall in Holborn, from 11am to 7pm each day.

Nobrow

We trundled over to Great Eastern Street yesterday to have a chat to the folks at Nobrow about a rather exciting project we’re working on (more on that mighty soon), and to check out their lovely shop, which opened in the summer.

Nobrow has fingers in various tasty pies: there’s Nobrow Press, the small independent publishing company which specialises in low edition illustrated books; Nobrow Small Press which creates extremely limited edition screenprinted books; a magazine (called Nobrow, naturally enough); and now the shop, which stocks all their publications, as well as a range of delicious silk-screened prints.

We particularly like Jack Teagle’s Jeff: Job Hunter, the story of a man who’s forced to retrieve the skull of the half-man half-beast from the dungeon of terror, just so that he can claim his job-seeker’s allowance.

Lovely stuff.

Brian Bolland

We nipped along to Central Saint Martins yesterday to catch a free lunchtime talk by the utterly wonderful Brian Bolland, one of the finest comic book artists in the world, and officially a Very Nice Guy. He created the sublime The Killing Joke (above, written by Alan Moore, the guy behind Watchmen, V for Vendetta and a host of other classics), as well as being one of the principal artists on 2000AD, particularly on Judge Dredd, and doing extensive work for DC on Animal Man, Wonder Woman, The Green Lantern and The Invisibles.

Bolland was talking about work from right across his career, and showed early draft work as well as finished pieces. He did a postgrad graphics course at Central Saint Martins in 1974, having previously studied at Leicester School of Art and Norwich School of Art; and had spent his early career working out of his room at 110 Southampton Row, just yards from where the talk was taking place.

He’s best known for his beautifully controlled pen and ink work, though he now works entirely in Photoshop, using a Wacom tablet and pen. Check out his site for some really in-depth (and entertaining) step by step tutorials showing his working process, as well as a huge gallery of work.

Bolland stressed the importance of life drawing, having spent at least one day a week on it at college. It was sobering to hear the silence when he asked who in the room (which largely consisted of illustration students) was doing life drawing.

You can see more of his work in the book The Art of Brian Bolland. Lovely stuff.

Gorillaz Plastic Beach preview

Gorillaz3

We're just listening to the new Gorillaz  Plastic Beach
album in the studio (it's being previewed on the Guardian's site, and comes out on 8 March). As expected, the album's a delicious fusion of styles and artists, including collaborations with Snoop Dogg, Kano, Bobby Womack, Mos Def, Gruff Rhys, De La Soul, Mark E Smith, Lou Reed, Mick Jones and Paul Simonon. Not a bad crowd to make some tunes with.

Incredibly, it's ten years since Damon Albarn and Jamie Hewlett launched 2D, Murdoc, Noodle and Russell on the world, with the Tomorrow Comes Today EP. Back then the world's first virtual band sounded like an amusing side project, a way for Albarn to flex his musical muscles without having to engage with the usual PR circus that accompanied every new Blur* album, and for Hewlett to stretch his legs away from the comic page (where he was best known for his Tank Girl strip).

Gorillaz5

But blimey, Gorillaz developed into so much more than that, producing two truly fantastic albums, Gorillaz
and Demon Days, some killer videos, some pioneering 'live' shows; and in the process picked up the Designer of the Year award for Hewlett in 2006. All the while, they manage to appeal to both kids and adults, which is a damn fine trick. 

Frankly it's just great to watch two extraordinary talents at the top of their game.

UPDATE: Check out their fantastic Stylo promo, which just launched. 

* Their new concert DVD No Distance Left To Run
is out now by the way.

Characters for an Epic Tale

Epic_tale

Tom Gauld has just released his Characters for an Epic Tale as a rather lovely letterpress print, signed and numbered in an edition of 150. Grab it from his site for £75.

The Gigantic Robot

Giganticrobot

Tom Gauld is one of our favourite writers / illustrators, and his latest book, The Gigantic Robot, has just been launched. 

He describes it as "a wry fable concerning the  production of an impressive secret weapon whose promise goes unfulfilled". 

You can pick it up from the comic store at Cabanon Press (the site he shares with the lovely Simone Lia, who also has her own site). And check out some more Gigantic Robot production shots.

We're dead excited about getting our copy – Tom's stuff generally sells out pretty quick, so hurry along now…

Wired

Wired

Wired magazine has always been one of our favourite reads, so we were dead glad when they launched their new UK edition last month. As usual, the magazine's a mix of ideas, technology, culture and business (as it says on the cover), but now with a bit more of a British twist, both in terms of content and contributors.

We grabbed their rather fine subscription offer (£2 per issue), which means that the latest issue arrived by post. And just how brilliant is it that ripping open the mailer (above) revealed the Superman logo, just as if Clark Kent were tearing open his shirt? Clever stuff.