Sunday, March 28, 2010

Friday, March 26, 2010


I was at a local high school this week speaking with the pupils about comics. Specific examples I looked at were Jeff Smith’s Bone, and the upcoming Twilight series.

Twilight seems to be Marmite for teenagers. I also took a selection of library books including Alex Ross’ Marvels, Scott McCloud’s Understanding Comics, Matt Groening’s School is Hell, Alan Moore and David Gibbons’ Watchmen.

They were good bunch of kids. They were not all that clued up on comics. I started with “Does everyone know what a comic is?” and “Can you name three comics?” Answers given were “anime”, “Spider-Man”, “Beano”, “Marvel”. There was one enthusiastic cry of “I love manga”.

I also took them through a five minute exercise – using a 9 panel page to do a comic translating a movie.

I handed out some books for the last ten minutes so they could peruse them. They also each got a copy of Metaphrog’s First Men on Mercury to keep. This got quite a few laughs when they were reading it.

The talk went well, apparently the kids told their teachers it was “awesome”, so they were definitely interested.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Saturday, March 20, 2010


I’ve been sick all week. In-between shaking, coughing, headaches and the rest, I’ve been lying in bed reading some Justice Leagues from the late 80s.

The trend for revamps really got going in the late eighties. Monthly comics that had been regularly running since the '30s were renumbered, starting again from #1. The companies like doing this as there is always a sales spike with a new number one as readers pick it up to be in at the start of something new. I recall John Byrne taking over Superman with a new number 1 (after Alan Moore and Curt Swan’s enjoyable two-part “Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?” in Superman #423 and Action Comics#583). Byrne’s book looked pretty mundane to me, but this revamped Justice League series looked good.

The cover sat on the shelf, the team looked tough and confident and a bit threatening. Anyway it was enough to make me pay up 40p in John Menzies. When I got it home I really enjoyed it. Plotter/layout artist Keith Giffen was a writer I’d enjoyed before on his Ambush Bug comics. I thought scripter J.M.DeMatteis was worth watching too, as he’d written the Kraven’s Last Hunt story for Spider-Man a year or so before. I viewed that as a take-off on Frank Miller, in that it dropped the thought balloons and put loads of disjointed stream of consciousness into boxes instead. Justice League #1 was the first time I’d seen penciller Kevin Maguire’s art too, and I really liked his work. The Justice League comic went on to be a consistently good comic for the next five years.

So. In issue 23, January 1989, the story ends with Green Lantern (Guy Gardner) and Mister Miracle (Scott Free) arguing, and an “atmospheric inversion” taking place – portrayed by printing the artwork in negative:

It was an intriguing way to end an issue. I always thought it would be good to see the art as it must have been drawn though. Eleven years later I got a scanner at home and thought about doing this every so often. And now ten years on, an enforced time-out has given me the impetus to do this:

Seeing those images at last has tickled me!

PS. I still don’t know what “the deadly secret of the atmospheric inversion” was. You’ll note it says “Revealed in Invasion Book Three (on sale now)”. I refused to buy any of these tie-in issues on principle – and due to budgetary reasons. The next issue of Justice League started with another story entirely.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Thursday, March 11, 2010


True Story, Swear to God
#12 is finally out, a year and a half after #11. Cartoonist Tom Beland fell down some stairs and has been recovering the use of his drawing hand.

It was particularly bad timing as Beland’s story was reaching somewhat of a climax before it disappeared. The comic is biographical, with the story’s backbone being his relationship with his girlfriend Lily. Issue 12 promised their wedding. Their wedding which took place at Disneyland.

I’ve been aware of Beland’s work for almost ten years, since he took part in Shiot Crock – the Amateur Press Anthology based at (still going, the next one is being set up here, and is open to everyone). Tom has always had an extremely assured inking style. His brush work is very appealing. His strips in Shiot Crock were slice of life gags, with an extended story about a party of stoners being paranoid about a pizza delivery boy at their door. The emergence of his romantic style over these kind of stories seemed to come as a surprise to him. He was just carrying on depicting his own life, and began writing more and more about Lily.

Beland used to send out his comics free via e-mail to subscribers. I was on his list circa 2001, and as well as his cartoons he also wrote little diary style entries. I remember him getting married and sending out his photo from the Magic Kingdom.

Quite soon, he began self-publishing his own series under the company name, “Clib’s Boy Comics”, touchingly named after his Dad who himself nursed cartooning ambitions. I sent off for 7 issues of his original True Stories Swear to God mini, but was sent 2 #6s and no #5! The 17th issue of the Clib’s Boy series was the last, as Image took over publishing with a new #1.

His comic has serialised his initial meeting with Lily at Disneyland, his move to Puerto Rico to be with her, and has now caught up with the time I was receiving e-mails from him. But I remembered something else while reading this latest issue.

On the following page Beland writes on how he is physically shaken when he meets a woman wearing a burqa:

As you can see, the sequence is written to show you how he manages to get over his prejudice and admit his own shortcomings. But “Taliban uniforms” is a strikingly bad interpretation. Beland writes like this a lot, along the lines of “Here’s why I’m an asshole. But I’m trying my best / have learned better”. I often think of him as the opposite of Peep Show’s Joe Matt , who writes more along the lines of “Here’s why I’m an asshole. No, the biggest asshole ever.”

But what this reminded me of was a cartoon Beland sent out after the 9/11 attacks. It was a single panel with Uncle Sam’s hands opening up a can with “Whup-Ass” written on it . I remember this panel affected me a lot. It symbolised a feeling among the American public that I thought could easily be manipulated into committing terrible acts. It genuinely stopped me in my tracks and made me worry about the future.

It's now nine years later, and I can still enjoy Beland’s work. I do like the romantic storylines, and his work remains funny. He’s always willing to put his personal feelings out there, and it will be interesting to see where his storyline goes now that he’s portrayed the wedding.

And if anyone has a spare copy of True Stories Swear to God #5, let me know. I’ll pay!

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Monday, March 01, 2010


The Scotsman 01/02/10 carried an obituary for Bill Ritchie:

"Ker-pow!" - The Times 05/02/10 on studying comics academically. If you can't be bothered reading the whole article , here is the one comics sentence: "Many Shakespeare tales have been published as comic books in recent years."

TV funnyman Peter Serafinowicz expresses his admiration for Michael Kupperman's Tales Designed to Thrizzle in the pages of The Times 06/02/10:

Film director Mike Leigh writes on cartoonist Ronald Searle in The Daily Telegraph 27/02/10:

And while Peter Serafinowicz is in mind, have a look at this...

Kitchen Gun