Tuesday, August 29, 2017

THAT COMIC SMELL: Valerian / Jack Kirby

Two new episodes of the podcast are now online.

Episode 13: Valerian

From the website:
"In this episode the folks here talk "Valerian" The comic series created by Pierre Christin & Jean-Claude Mézières.
We go into the likes and dislikes of the series, what other projects the series inspired and whether they think it will make for an interesting film.
We weren't long back from the Glasgow comic-con in July, so we talk about the various books and goodies we acquired whilst there.
Plus! There is an added bonus review from our very own Tom at the end.
So plug in those headphones. Get ready to ride the podcast roller-coaster to the wonderful world of comics.
That Comic Smell!
*Music: Domiciles - Nothing's Ever Changed in the Whole Time That I've Been Here*
Some of the other titles we discussed:
The Mighty Women of Science (Claire Forrest, Fiona Gordon)
Dragon Ball Super (Akira Toriyama)
Toxoplasmosis, Parasites, Sleeping Sickness (Jaime Hall, Edward Ross, University of Glasgow)
Hot Schitt (Gordon Johnston)
Misc Fits, Hourly Comic Day 2017+2016 (Sammy Borras)
DTH RTL II, DTH (Bob Turner)
Left (Steve Ingram)
Sol (Rebecca Horner)
Video Games for Good (Various Artists Compiled by Claire Hubbard)
Space Captain (Michael Park, Chris Baldie, Dave Morrow)
Modern Slorance: The Canada Issue (Neil Slorance)
Digital Memories (Norrie Millar)
RASL (Jeff Smith)
The Bionic Man (Kevin Smith)
Superman Blue+Red (Dan Jurgens)
Leaf (Daishu Ma)
Reworking Walter Scott (Various Artists)
Sea Creatures: Reef Madness (Christophe Cazenove, Thierry Jytery)
Rostam: Tales for the Shahnameh (Bruce Bahmani, Karl Altstaetter)
Settle Petal (Alfie Pound)
The Demon (Garth Ennis, John McRea)
Boy Commandos (Jack Kirby, Joe Simon)
Love Bites (Zu Dominiak)
Transformers Collection (Various)
Kids Are Weird (Jeffery Brown)
Terra Obscura (Alan Moore, Peter Hogan, Yanick Paquette, Karl Stor)
Daredevil #283 August 1990 (Ann Nocenti, Mark Bagley, Al Williamson)
Valiant 1966 (Various)
Providence (Alan Moore, Jacen Burrows)
The Amazing Spider-man Annual 21 (David Michelinie, James Shooter, Paul Ryan, Vince Colletta)"

From the website:
"Happy 100th Birthday Jack! From all of us here at "That Comic Smell"
I'm sure I speak for the world of comics when saying that, without you the comic world would not be what it is today and possibly wouldn't even exist. You were a creation genius and an inspiration to everyone and anyone within comics, whether they know it or not.
In this episode we talk all things Kirby. There is not much more to say except to sit back and absorb all the Kirby chat.
We are also joined by an extremely special guest: Comic Artist, creator and all round good guy Mr. Dan McDaid.
Enjoy Folks.
*Music: Chart Smasher - Play*

Monday, August 28, 2017


In 2015, I became aware that it was going to be Jack Kirby's 100th birthday in a couple of years, and I felt I wanted to mark it in some way, being a huge fan of his work.

An image came to me of a large canvas, with his name in bold and some of my favourite panels painted very large indeed. I could take my time deciding which panels to choose.

I sketched out a rough idea of how I wanted it to look...

Now, I never paint. I've never touched a canvas, never mind put paint on one. I went out and bought the biggest one I could find, along with tubs of acrylics, a set of brushes and a palette.

Armed with this, I set out to begin.

Are you supposed to sketch on a canvas with a pencil? Can you rub it off? Who knows?

Off I went. 

Slapping the black paint on – KIRBY

I put the blocks of colour on first, then once they were on, paint the black on top. I thought this intermediate stage looked nice...

It's interesting the way that a canvas pushes back onto your brush. This doesn't happen with paper, of course. You need to factor this movement into how you apply the paint. I was starting to get the bug for painting on canvas.

As I worked, I listened to Jack Kirby being interviewed. The man was present in the room while I painted. 

Oops, I spilled a bit.

Coming together now...

I covered the spill with a bit of Kirby Krackle added to the background of the panels...

The four panels were originally in the following comics:
Captain America #213
Mister Miracle #6
The Incredible Hulk #1
The Losers #153

I worked on this painting 31st December 2016 into 1st January 2017. I painted my way into the new year; the centennial year of Jack Kirby. It was great.

I still haven't signed it. It exists to celebrate Kirby. I'm thinking I'll write, “David Robertson 2016/2017” down one side of it. Not on the front.

Happy birthday to an astounding talent and inspiration. Much love to Jack Kirby.

More on Jack Kirby:
Click here for an article on Jack Kirby as a writer, here for a favourite comics covers piece, and here for thoughts on a specific Kirby page.

Sunday, August 27, 2017


For a few weeks, I've been running a series of guest posts from my friends over at That Comic Smell podcast. The pieces have been any length, style, whatever. The only brief I gave was to write something about comics. This time around, it's Fernando Pons.

Happy 100th birthday Jack!

I didn’t like Jack Kirby’s art. There you have it, I said it. It’s out for everyone to read it. So you’re probably thinking that’s fair enough, I have my own opinion, but... probably you don’t agree.

How could I dislike Jack Kirby? The creator/co-creator of Captain America, Fantastic Four, Hulk, Thor, the Avengers, the X-Men, the Inhumans, Galactus, Doctor Doom, Silver Surfer, Nick Fury and the Howling Commandos, the New Gods, Mister Miracle, Forever People, Darkseid, Kamandi, OMAC, The Demon, The Eternals, Machine Man, Devil Dinosaur...

Well, if you have few minutes and you aren’t bored so far, I’ll explain why.

Let’s go back in time, Spain 1980. Not much going on in entertainment for a 6 year old: There were only 2 TV channels, no computers, no videogames and I lived in a small town in an island in the Mediterranean Sea.

As one of many modest working family households, we didn’t have much money, but comics and magazines were cheap are ready available at any newsagent.

T.B.O. , Tio Vivo, Mortadelo, Zipi Zape, Hazañas Bélicas, Capitán Trueno, Don Miki..., all of them created in Spain by Spanish artists and writers, with the exception of Don Miki (the Spanish equivalent to the Italian magazine Topolino), a magazine reproducing the Disney comics by Carl Barks, Floyd Gottfredson, Romano Scarpa and Giorgio Cavazzano, amongst others.

Like many other kids of my generation, I learnt to read with comics. My parents encouraged me to read more, and one of my aunties, another comic reader, used to lend me many of her magazines, in particular Hazañas Bélicas, a black and white war comic by Boixcar.

Tintin and Asterix followed fairly soon. Many birthday and Christmas presents were hardback editions of these 2 European comic giants.

So there you are, no superheroes, no American comics (with the exception of the stories from Don Miki), no Kirby.

Let’s move forward to 1985: La Patrulla-X #8 (Containing Uncanny X-Men 146 & 147), my first superhero comic.

I had heard of Superman, Spider-man, la Masa (Hulk)...thanks to the TV series and the cinema, but not Patrulla-X. Heroes born with special abilities, mutants hated by the people they are trying to protect. It absolutely blew my mind. The art was by Dave Cockrum and Josef Rubinstein. The writer was Chris Claremont. That was the first series I started to collect.

John Byrne’s Fantastic Four, Romita JR and Layton’s Iron Man, Mike Zeck’s Captain America and Walter Simonson’s Mighty Thor followed my favourite mutants. Then I discovered Arthur Adams in the X-family annuals and Longshot, and eventually, I managed to read Frank Miller’s Daredevil. I also tried some DC superheroes: The Teen Titans by Wolfman and Perez, Batman and the Outsiders by Mike W. Barr, Jim Aparo and Alan Davis.

The art of all these comics was amazing. I was mesmerised. I started to follow the artists. John Byrne was my favourite. I started to collect his Alpha Flight too. Then I managed to get Byrne’s stint in Captain America and his Uncanny X-men comics, when Classic X-Men was eventually published. He was, and still is, one of my favourite artists.

The more superhero comics I read, the more I wanted to know about them. So I started to find out about the origins of all these series. Stan Lee was introducing all the Marvel titles in Spain (“Stan Lee presenta: “), so his name was familiar. The magazines said that Stan Lee created practically all the Marvel comics, with the help of someone called Jack Kirby and another guy called Steve Ditko, but their names were not introducing any titles on any magazines.

Very occasionally, the Marvel magazines would publish an article about Kirby. If you were lucky, you would get 1 or 2 illustrations, or perhaps a cover and that would be all the art you would see. I was used to the fine art of the likes of John Byrne, Alan Davis, George Perez, Arthur Adams, Walter Simonson, Frank Miller...I didn’t like the defiant-gravity bodies, the massive fists, the big rectangular fingers or the box-like faces of this Kirby guy. His art wasn’t refined and his figures weren’t svelte.

“Okay, he was the first artist to draw them, but things are different now and the artists I like are better”, I was telling to myself.

Eventually, Comics Forum (publisher of Marvel Comics in Spain at that time), started to publish classics Marvel stories, which had been edited or mutilated by previous publishers, or never seen before in Spain. The Kree-Skrull war (Thomas & Neal Adams) or the Death of Gwen Stacy (Conway, Kane and Romita) were some of these stories.

Then, one day in one of these magazines (Marvel Héroes #35) I found this story written by Stan Lee and drawn by Jack Kirby. The tale was from Super Villain Classics #1, which in turn, it was reprinted material from Fantastic Four #49, Thor # 160, 162, 167 and 169. The story told the origin of Galactus. This was the comic that made me realise how good Kirby was. The energy effects (later I found out it was called Kirby Krackle, in honour to his creator), the shinning armours, the outlandish machinery, the mythologically influenced aesthetics, the larger than live characters, the fantastic locations...

With time, my appreciation for Kirby and his work has been growing exponentially. I realised how much John Byrne’s Fantastic Four was inspired by Lee and Kirby’s Fantastic Four. Looking at Walter Simonson's art, I realised how much influence Kirby had in his art. I also appreciated how much Miller’s heavy and older Dark Knight had inherited from Kirby. Jim Steranko was heavily influenced by Kirby’s art, so was Keith Giffen too, at his stint in The Defenders during the late 70's. More modern artists have been influenced by Kirby too, for example: Erik Larsen (Savage Dragon), Jose Ladronn (Hip Flask and Elephantmen), Tom Scioli (G0dland) or Fabian Rangel (Space Riders).

And many more, but we don’t have time to go over all of them.

Kirby was a force of nature, a unique artist, a comic-book genius. The quality of his workload was outstanding. The volume of work he produced is incredible; even now we still find some unused cover, poster, pages... He wasn’t a realist, but his figures exuded energy and drama. He knew how to project the emotion from the page to the reader. He was the master of the splash page. He knew how to draw the reader’s eyes to the character. His big scenes did not lack detail, not even on the backgrounds.

As a writer, Kirby brought a mix of slang, science fiction, myth and biblical references to the reader. Perhaps at the time, this cultural cocktail was too heavy for the readers, but his vision has lasted. Writers like Jim Starlin (Dreadstar) and Grant Morrison, amongst others, have been influenced by Jack Kirby’s storytelling.

All these feats didn’t make Kirby a prima donna. Fellow artists who knew him say he was an honest hard working guy, very down to earth, very respectful to others artists and very respected by fellow artists.

So, if you are interested in comics, especially superhero comics, regardless of your age, go and check this Kirby guy, believe me when I say, you won’t be disappointed.

Happy 100th Birthday Jack Kirby!

Stan is the Man, but you were, are and will always be the King.

You can listen to That Comic Smell podcast on iTunes, Soundcloud and YouTube.

Sunday, August 20, 2017


For a few weeks, I'm running a series of guest posts from my friends over at That Comic Smell podcast. The pieces are any length, style, whatever. The only brief I gave was to write something about comics. This time around, it's Allan Lowson.

Illustration by Louise Limb.


A block before the convention centre, Big Bill parked his VW bus. The old split-window model housed a complete tattooist’s parlour, as the ‘TAT2U’ custom license plate and carnie-painted exterior proclaimed.
Tinker pulled in behind on ‘Babs’, Biggie’s ULH bobber, removing his half helmet and unbuckling a saddlebag. In it went; out came a full-head rubber skull mask. He arranged its red, yellow and orange flowering of string LEDs on top into flame shapes, and switched on. Their senders had an interrupter option and Tinker had timed them apart to flicker most convincingly. Babs’s chrome security chain, worn bandolier-style with Bill’s old docker’s hook on his shoulder, completed Tinker’s black leather costume—Johnny Blaze, aka Ghostrider.
Biggie regarded him, and laughed.
“You’re just envious,” groused Tinker, admiring himself in Babs’s mirror.
Actually, Biggie was green with it, as in body paint. He wore Thrift Store pants torn into rags and split-seamed. The black wig, hacked into a fright, capped off his Hulk impersonation. After a major heart attack a year ago, Bill got serious about his health. He had lost a hundred pounds, none of it muscle, and needed no padding to look the part.
Figuring to arrive in style, Biggie got on the fanny pad and they wheelied past the crowd lined up at the entrance. No unappreciative cops around, so they mono-wheeled back to catcalls and applause before leaning Babs against a handy wall and presenting their pre-purchased tickets.

Well, it was the L.A. Comic Convention and character costumes de rigueur, many more elaborate than their impromptu efforts, with Trekkies breeding like Tribbles. Different Star Trek uniforms for different generations: ever-expendable ensigns in red, Klingons and Borg, androids and Vulcans—geeks to a man. Tinker made a beeline for the comic swap meet, while a female bodybuilder all done up as She Hulk caught Biggie’s eye, so it was ‘see you later, masturbator’—‘after a while, pedophile’.

“Any old undergrounds?” Tinker went from table to table, receiving more pitying glances than affirmatives, and even then mainly the same disappointing popular reprints. So far he had only found a dog-eared copy of Hunt Emerson’s brilliant ‘Lady Chatterley’s Lover’; someone having permanently borrowed his. Then Tinker caught a wave out the corner of his eye: a young stallholder across the aisle, and not a face he recognized.
“I thought you might be interested in these,” said the spotty. “Cool costume, incidentally, could be the guy in these comics.”
Tinker didn’t get his hopes up, expecting a bunch of ‘Ghostriders’--then he drew in his breath: a complete bagged set of ‘Subvert’. Trying to keep casual, hard with trembling fingers, he checked: first printing and in mint condition.
“Ah, got any more by this artist?” he asked, eyes darting all over.
For reply, the lad heaved a cardboard file box on to the table.
“Some old weirdo died and I picked these up. Thought they might be worth something.”
Tinker had stopped listening at ‘old weirdo’, however his hands were busy. Not just the Trashman strips, all leather and revolutionary ultra-violence salted with gratuitous sex ‘n drugs, the box held damn near everything the artist had ever penned. From early ‘East Village Other’ through ‘My True Story’ to the graphic novel ‘Che’; all by Manuel ‘Spain’ Rodriguez, Tinker’s personal favourite among the ‘Zap’ underground artists.
Underground alright, sighed Tinker to himself. A man’s artistic life lay in this box, and there sure wouldn’t be any more. Spain had died recently of prostate cancer, same as Zappa, and still a roster member in good standing with his old Buffalo outlaw club, the ‘Road Vultures’. Gruesomely enough, his demise had increased the value of these first editions by several factors. However, when things are too sweet they can hit a nerve.
Tinker raised his eyes to the vendor; coincidences weren’t part of his belief system. “Don’t suppose any of these are signed?’ he inquired, the soul of innocence.
And, of course, the first he took out of its bag was. Gotcha!
“So, traded for any good memories today?”
“Yeah, got a sucker’s first kiss for…” The kid stopped abruptly. “Hey, who are you? This is my pitch, bought and paid for.”
“I know,” said Tinker, leaning in. “You’re just trading paper memories for the real ones. Now, either pack up and bugger off or I’ll dispel your glamourie.” He gazed around at the motley crowd. “Even in this bunch a lower echelon tempter will stand out like a sore thumb. Angels don’t dig you lot going public either, do they?”
The little demon and his goods vanished, not, however, before Tinker had clasped the comic box to his chest.
He checked it in at the cloakroom: considering the cost of a full exorcism these days, not a bad deal. On the way back, he bumped into an un-Jolly Green Giant. Bill’s lady ‘green bean’ had not only wanted to appear from the ‘other team’, she wanted to play the same way too.
“You’re such an idiot, Biggie,” mocked Tinker. “That dyke had ‘wish I had one’ written all over her same as most chick steroid-gobbling iron pounders. C’mon, I’ll buy you a beer.”

The bar looked out over the arena, perfect for people watching, and always the right time for a beer—‘for being wet or being dry, or lest we should be by and by, or any other reason why’--in Tinker’s philosophy.
He watched, with a mixture of amazement and admiration, as this reborn Biggie ordered lo-cal beer and no snacks. Bill had larded to well over three hundred pounds before his heart dialed him a wake-up call. Green greasepaint currently covered the full-suit tattoos that, as their canvas shrank, increasingly resembled intricate cameos.
A pint of Sierra Nevada’s pale ale chased a double Jack Daniels and together they mocked the worst Trekkies, Furries, and ‘Walmartians’ living out fantasies in public best left private.
The day’s events offered a bewildering array of choices: twenty program rooms with constantly changing topics, celebrity talks and, hooking Bill, a comic tattoo venue. Tinker decided to check out Artists’ Alley where he had heard there might be some underground representatives.
He nearly dropped when he saw an old guy sitting in a wheelchair at a table. White hair and goatee above a chequerboard tie; another demon, but from the pages of ‘Zap’ comix and a character raunchy as they get. Tinker first came across the Checkered Demon on the pages of ‘Zap’ #2 in ‘The American Bookshop’ at Het Spui square in Amsterdam back in late ’68. Now he could finally meet its creator.
“Hi, S. Clay, the name’s Tinker and I’m right chuffed to be able to shake your hand.”
They shook. Weak grip, bit of a tremor.
“Hiya, Stinker.”
An attractive older woman with a shock of white blonde hair came over from talking at another table.
“He’s not razzing you,” she explained. “It’s his aphasia, words get mixed up.”
Tinker realized she must be Lorraine Wilson, S. Clay’s wife and caregiver. After the December 2008 Alternative Press Expo in San Francisco and a day’s heavy drinking at a pal’s on Landers Street, ‘Checks’ had been found face down in a rain-swollen gutter just after midnight. Unconscious with facial injuries, fractured neck and brain damage, S. Clay had no memory of the event, which remains a mystery. Once a prolific artist, it was all he could do now to draw breath, walking and talking being a major effort.
Tinker bought a couple of posters: Ruby the Dyke and her all-girl bike gang offing aliens, Captain Pissgums and his pervert pirates carving a path through rotting zombies, and, of course, Checks mixing it with the Hog-Ridin’ Fools. S. Clay used to ride a Hydra-glide, which probably explained why he’d been one of the few underground artists who could draw bikes accurately. Tinker handed Lorraine a William McKinley $500 bill, raising her eyebrows: they were discontinued by Nixon in ‘69 to thwart organized crime money laundering.
“I can’t change that,” she gasped.
“I can,” said Tinker, passing his hand over it. Now it became a $1,000 Grover Cleveland. “Keep the change for medical expenses. Oh, and you don’t have to worry, it isn’t counterfeit or fairy gold, and worth a hell of a sight more than face value to collectors. Put that puppy on eBay and watch ‘em scramble.”
He took his leave, happy with a Scout’s good deed for the day done. Tinker hadn’t known that Spain had been dying of cancer and missed the opportunity to help out.
He found Biggie still at the comic tattoo meeting. Greasepaint wiped off, he had been displaying his body art and taking orders.
“Hey, Tink,” he boomed, “Show these needle-freaks your tat.”
Reluctantly, Tinker hoisted his ‘Zippy the Pinhead’ tee shirt while Bill doused the lights. They wouldn’t be needed to see the Cerne Abbas Giant superimposed on planet Earth, blazing through his chest hair. It shone as if a stained glass rose window, being inked from a palette of refracted light. Needless to say, everybody wanted one. However, as with outlaw club membership, money counted for dick. You had to be chosen to become an illuminated man.
Lights back on, Tinker dragged Bill out before the questions got too pointed. They were walking past the Professional Critique room when Tinker remembered something.
“Hang on, Biggie,” he said, and reached into his jacket’s poacher pocket, producing a sheaf of papers.
“What’s that, your last will and testament?” joked Bill.
“Nah, I strung together a few of my diary entries into a story for fantasy submission,” Tinker replied. “I’ll hand it in now and come back later after the real writers have had a butchers.”
“There you go with that Limey rhyming slang again,” grumbled Biggie.
Tinker patted the hook and chain slung over his shoulder. “Yeah, butcher’s hook for look,” and nipped in quickly to submit his effort.
“Hey, let’s dump the costumes in my van and grab a bite somewhere,” Bill suggested on his return.
“Sounds good,” replied Tinker. “My belly thinks its throat is cut. I’ll drop my posters and box of comics there while we’re at it.”

“So, what got you into that kids’ stuff anyway?” asked Bill, polishing off the last of his cottage cheese and undressed salad.
“Well, being half gypsy I got picked on as a ‘dirty tinky’ at school. My only pal was Specs, who was bullied ‘cos be were a ‘four-eyes’. He had relatives Stateside who sent him comics: Captain Marvel, Blackhawk, Plastic Man etc. Britain had nothing to touch them until the ‘Eagle’ came along and Frank Hampson’s Dan Dare blew everything else away.”
“No, Tink, I meant as a grown-up.”’
Tinker pointed at Zippy on his tee shirt. “The Undergrounds, then DC’s ‘Vertigo’ line after flower-power faded.”
“Okay, but why comics?”
“You’ve heard a picture is worth a thousand words, right? Well, they also preceded writing. Think cave art, and once that evolves into sequential images, you get hieroglyphs which tell a story same way as comics. Speed it up and you got movies. Comics were the only way to warn illiterate street orphans in South America about AIDS. Comics cut across time, language barriers, class lines, and unmotivated readers—people just love pictures.”
Tinker pointed at Biggie’s technicoloured arms. “Daubed on cave walls, injected under the skin, or made 3-D by sculpting, we all want to make our ideas permanent as possible. Marry language and art, you can tell better stories than either alone and reach all ages, everywhere. What’s not to like?”
“Guess you weren’t big on the Comic Code Authority,” said Bill, teasing him.
“That bastard, Fredric Wertham, and his bullshit book ‘Seduction of the Innocents’ put the boots to Entertaining Comics back in ’54, although they had the best artists and writers.” Tinker had taken the bait. “Hell, the Code even nixed strips with black lead characters and a writer whose name happened to be Wolfman. ‘Mad’ only survived because it was a magazine, not a comic.” He grinned, “Of course, Undergrounds simply ignored those ignorant book burners.”
“Didn’t they try to ban anti-fascist stuff too?”
Tinker nodded. “And the British government wanted to prohibit Chaplin’s ‘The Great Dictator’ while still in production as part of their appeasement policy to Hitler. So did other European nations—at least till the war started.”
“I guess cartoons of Mohammed are right out too,” Biggie observed.
“Yeah, ‘Jyllands Posten’ in Denmark found that out the hard way. Still, fifty other countries re-published the cartoons, unlike the wimps in Britain, Canada, and America. Funny how religions think they can force their fantasies, no matter how nutso, on non-believers under threat of death.”
Bill finished his coffee, and got up. “Fuck ‘em all, Tink. I’ll ink what I want on my own skin and anyone wants to cut it out is welcome to try.”
Biggie slept with a loaded Civil War Colt under his pillow, could play darts with throwing knives, and definitely not the man to irritate in a dark alley. You wouldn’t need to strap on a suicide vest to be fast-tracked to the joys of an imaginary paradise.

Back at the convention the joint was still jumping, geeks and freaks, nerds and fans, all milling around on the main floor. Tinker and Biggie worked their way through the throng to the program rooms. The Portfolio Review one wasn’t hard to find. Starry-eyed authors and artists, clutching folios to their chests, were emerging from it with spirits high and hearts aglow from professional praise.
Tinker popped in for his share while Bill got buttonholed by an artist taken with his original skin work. Biggie designed all his personal paints, and living skin is an infinitely harder medium than paper or canvas, with no room for error where eraser and whiteout don’t cut it.
Shuffling out, Tinker’s long face told it all—rejected!
“Hey, what gives, Tink?” asked Biggie, with a malicious grin. “Didn’t that mean ol’ panel dig your manuscript?”
Tinker stuffed his story back into the jacket’s inside pocket, stifling a sniff.
“Can you believe? They said it was utterly incredible, way too far out even for fantasy.”
Biggie convulsed with laughter. “Sure, Tink, nobody ever tell you—fact is always stranger than fiction?”

You can listen to That Comic Smell podcast on iTunes, Soundcloud and YouTube.

Sunday, August 13, 2017


For a few weeks, I'm running a series of guest posts from my friends over at That Comic Smell podcast. The pieces are any length, style, whatever. The only brief I gave was to write something about comics. This time around, it's Mike Sedakat.

Imagine the setting, the end of the Cold War, the height of Thatcherism and outrageous styles and fashions! It was 1988, I was 10 years old and spotted a graphic novel based on one of my favourite tv shows – Spitting Image on top of a table in a supermarket. I begged my mum to get me it and she did, thinking that because it was a big comic book alongside stuff like My Little Pony and Care Bear books that it was safe for kids! My parents always let me watch Spitting Image as this really helped my grasp of politics in the 1980s (the show’s absence from today’s satire scene is all too obvious), however, when we got home my mum was outraged to see the extreme nudity, swearing and complete filth which I so easily adored (I was a mischievous schoolboy). She confiscated it and within a few hours I found it on the top shelf of her cupboard. I pinched it back and it remained hidden under my bed for decades (even when I’d moved out of home!).

This book is the work of several comedy geniuses and is a much more honest look of the world back in the late 80s than many a textbook now. Ronald Reagan dressed as a gun-wielding cowboy about to shoot the big pimple off a pensioner’s nose, Jeffrey Archer being shrunk and being plopped out of Thatcher’s bottom and an SAS soldier assassinating characters throughout the book. That said, there is no real overall story to the book, it’s a bit like a Viz comic or an adult version of The Dandy or The Beano. There are many nods to sci-fi here from Restaurant Reviewer John Hurt having a polite alien burst out of his chest to a time traveller who aims to visit Victorian Times, disgusted by the horrendous poverty and corruption only to discover he’s only zoomed a week into the future when he sees Anneka Rice on the telly! Fans of the show would love to see the Robo-cop PC Dimbleby.

The world of comics is represented in the piss-take of popular culture. Tum Tum is a crude adult Tin Tin drawn in the same way. Tum Tum is a complete drunken bastard who would stoop as low as he can to get a scoop. Seeing him pissing on the wall after being chucked out of his flat by his landlord is absolutely hilarious! Judge Deaf is of course a parody of 2000 AD’s favourite lawman, but more scary (imagine Dredd wearing a judge’s wig while riding a bicycle). Deaf’s biggest problem is not being able to hear anything so when someone calls for his help, the Judge shoots him for shouting in a public place! This story is filled with gems such as: “MORNING JUDGE DEAF!” “How dare you call me a moron. Ten years hard labour.” And “Loitering in a public place. I sentence you to death.” “He’s already dead, Judge Deaf. You had him hung a week ago for not knowing the cricket score.”

Johnny Onejoke is based on a combination of Dennis the Menace and I think a real comedian who I haven’t been able to figure out yet! The Transformers are taken the mickey out of by the Merchandisors TM. No story, just a bunch of robots that want to fight each other for absolutely no reason at all! Sound familiar? The appearance of each robot is signified with the price of the toy version. Dare I say that Superman is er,,,, parodied by the show’s version of God. This has to be the bravest (or most reckless depending on your point of view) story in the whole book! The Adventures of GOD The Ultimate Super-Hero shows disasters about to happen such as a train crash, a plane crash, the Chernobyl eruption and mass famine with people crying out for God to help them before they perish. The show’s version of God appears in the last caption (dressed like a super-hero) stating that having given mankind free will, it would be wrong to interfere. I’m not sure if given the current social climate if a book like this would be released again. I could be wrong.

All in all, Spitting Image: The Giant Komic Book is certainly a good laugh over most of its pages plus it is a no-holds-barred piss-take on everyone in the spotlight at the time. There are some extremely controversial stories, but mostly it’s a well-informed look at politics and popular culture in the 1980s and I wish the show would return to our television sets soon. 

You can listen to That Comic Smell podcast at iTunes, Soundcloud and YouTube.

Sunday, August 06, 2017


For a few weeks, I'm running a series of guest posts from my friends over at That Comic Smell podcast. The pieces are any length, style, whatever. The only brief I gave was to write something about comics. First up is Tom Stewart.

Dear comics,

I think it’s about high time you and me sat down for a little chat. Don’t worry I won’t take up too much of your time. Before you ask, yes I have been fine. No I haven’t had time to read any of your vast back catalogues as of recent. I’m still trying to plough my way through “The Stand” which is taking approximately 100 years. I’m sure you will still be there when I finish up though.

Enough about me, let’s talk about you. Haven’t you been a busy lot recently? Not only have all of your medium been taken and adapted into various films and TV Shows (Some good. Some utter shit) but your vast array of genres, subject matter and styles are getting bigger and bigger by the day. No your bum doesn’t look big on that shelf, although some of your works do come in all shapes and sizes. I’m just getting a bit shocked at how far you have come over the years. The snowball that is comics (you) shows no signs of stopping either. With the sheer enormity of comic conventions cropping up these days, also the size that some of them have become is crazy!! It almost seems like you’re a respected art form. Yet... are you?

As far as I am aware, whenever I mention you to people I still get “oh, that thing about superheroes. Isn’t that a bit kiddy” I honestly thought that with the popularity of the superheroes these days that, that kind of thing wouldn’t matter. It’s funny as well seeing as how the folks that come away with such phrases are usually the first people to sprout things like “Have you seen the new Avengers?” or “Spoder-min looks AWESOME doesn’t it?” and that’s the problem isn’t it? People only take you seriously when it suits them. They don’t see you as this platform for artists and writers to get down some of the most gutting punching and heart wrenching philosophical/political ideologies on paper in an understandable manner by accompanying it with diagrams and detailed references. To show how really fucked up the world can be or similarly how their world can be. To show the most romantic feelings ever conveyed or the most evil even one person can commit. The power to tell someone’s entire life and have it beautifully rendered also. To have 2 worlds colliding in perfect synchronicity on paper. Writing and pictures. I’ve got to say, you do one hell of a good job. These folks don’t understand you the way we do. By “We” I of course mean your fans. Now stop blushing, you know you have a massive fan base out there. I mean hell, there is an entire industry of incredible writers and artists that have worked with you over the years, there’s no need to modest. Stand proud. You have worked with some of the best. Alan Moore, Frank Quitely, Moebius, Frank Miller, Robert Crumb, Derf Backderf, Scott Snyder, Jack “The King” Kirby, Stan “The Man” Lee, Bill Finger, Steve Ditko, Mike Allred, to name but a few. These folks have been eager to work with you too. You have a lot to be proud of. So why do you reckon the stigma still?

Maybe it’s that when you put pictures with words people think that it lacks intelligence. Maybe that you lack imagination, even though I can’t think of anything more imaginative than the majority of the stories to come out of your being. Who knows?

All I know is, those folks are missing out.

It’s so good catching up with you. I know you don’t get a lot of time due to the aforementioned rate in which you are growing. Yet, the more you grow, the more I feel we all have time to catch up with you.

I best let you get off though. You’ve got more minds to mould and melt. I’m sure we will sit down and have another one of these catch up’s soon. There are lots more we need to discuss in the future.

Take care.


You can listen to That Comic Smell at Youtube, Soundcloud and iTunes.

Thursday, August 03, 2017

THAT COMIC SMELL 12: Image Comics

25 years of Image Comics!
The new episode of That Comic Smell is now online.
Have a listen at Soundcloud here and YouTube here.

From the website:

"Welcome again folks to another exciting episode of "That Comic Smell" Podcast.
The folks, this time around, discovered that it had been Image comics 25th birthday not too long ago and thought that they should celebrate by talking about the company, what books made them aware of Image, some of their most well known titles, how they changed the landscape of comics creation and so much more.
All of that and so much more on the only podcast to be coming to you in 3D!
*Disclaimer. This podcast does not guarantee 3 dimensions. Only enjoyable sound*
Thanks again folks.
These were some of the titles discussed:
Airboy (James Robinson, Greg Hinkle)
Spawn (Todd McFarlane)
The Wicked + The Divine (Jamie McKelvie, Kieron Gillen)
The Walking Dead (Robert Kirkman, Tony Moore, Charlie Ardlard)
Battle Pope (Robert Kirkman, Tony Moore)
The Maxx (Sam Kieth)
Sex Criminals (Matt Fraction, Chip Zdarsky)
Invincible (Robert Kirkman, Cory Walker)
The Astounding Wolf-man (Robert Kirkman, Jason Howard)
Velvet (Ed Brubaker, Steve Epting, Elizabeth Breitweiser)
The Creech (Greg Capullo)
Jupiters Legacy (Mark Millar, Frank Quitely)
Hip Flask (Richard Starkings, Joe Casey)
Prophet (Barndon Graham, Simon Roy, Rob Leifeld, various artists)
Outcast (Robert Kirkman, Paul Azaceta)
Black Science (Rick Remender, Matteo Scalera)
Big Man Plans (Eric Powell, Tim Weisch)
Fadeout (Ed Brubaker, Sean Phillips, Elizabeth Breitweiser)
Good Hates Astronauts (Ryan Browne)
The Goddamned (Jason Aaron, R.M. Guéra, Giulia Brusco)
Spread (Justin Jordan, Kyle Strahm, John Bivens, Felipe Sobreiro)
Pisces (Kurtis J. Wiebe, Johnnie Christmas)
Birthright (Joshua Williamson, Andrei Bressan)
Huck (Mark Millar, Rafeal Albuquerque)
ODY-C (Matt Fraction, Christian Ward)
The Dying and The Dead (Johnathan Hickman, Ryan Bodenheim)
Chrononauts (Mark Millar, Sean Gordon Murphy)
Lone Wolf and Cub (Kazuo Koike, Goseki Kojima)
1963 (Alan Moore, Rick Veitch, Steve Bissette, Dave Gibbons, Don Simpson, John Totleben)
Cinema Purgatorio (Alan Moore, Kevin O'Neill)
Bone (Jeff Smith)
The Last Christmas (Brian Posehn, Gerry Duggan, Rick Remender)
The Great Unknown (Duncan Rouleau)
Silver Surfer - Marvel Platinum Collection (Jack Kirby, Stan Lee, Marv Wolfman, Marie Sevrin, John Buscema, Gene Colan, Moebius, John Byrne)
The World of Edena (Moebius)
Terminal City (Dean Motter, Michael Lark)"

Tuesday, August 01, 2017


The latest edition of Reference Reviews - Volume 31, number 5 - is out now, featuring a review I wrote of William Patrick Martin's "Wonderfully Wordless: The 500 Most Recommended Graphic Novels and Picture Books"

For more information, please go here.