Monday, 21 December 2015

Festivities at the Old Piano Factory

Since 1976, Leo Baxendale's first Willy The Kid Book has gone mostly unchallenged as being amongst the funniest books ever written, and I say that completely without hyperbole. Filled with trained goldfish, vampire cows, plenty of Daleks, a family of Loch Mess Monsters, a Nazi witch, progressive attitudes toward racism, leering snowmen, hidden cunts, demonic bus drivers, a dwindling zoo staff, anally-violated elephants, King Kong, flying teeth, and enough background jokes to keep you reading and re-reading for years... It really ought to be a staple part of ANYONE's bookshelf.

And of course, it being an annual, there's a Christmassy story in it too - a proper "festive spirit" one too - presented below for all to see. Enjoy the festivities if you're of the sort that likes to do that kind of thing...

Them's the vagaries

Two whole years ago I started a "thing" that involved looking at some of my favourite annuals from over the years (because it was December, and annuals are "traditionally" given/received at Christmas). Like most things in life, I didn't get anywhere near finishing it, but 'tis the season and all that so here's another entry. One from my ninth Christmas now, it's Zig and Zag: The Killer Official Annual from Outer Space!

You'll have to excuse the image quality here - all my scanner settings got reset after Windows 10 was installed, and I've only just figured them out again AFTER I'd scanned in this lot, so... apologies for that? Still worth a gander though.

Saturday, 5 December 2015

Progressive Political Pornography

It's been out a while now, this one - almost everyone else has reviewed it already, and I've had it for a couple of months too. Only just read it today though, and it'd make sense to get the last of 2014's posts off the bottom of the page before 2016 stumbles upon the world... So here's a review of John A. Short's Octobriana: The Underground History.

Fascinating stuff, this is. For those that don't know, Octobriana is a public domain character, first getting the world's attention with Octobriana and the Russian Underground, "by" Petr Sadecky, in 1971. This book purported to tell of a mono-browed superheroine that represented the spirit of Communism, created by members of the PPP ("Progressive Political Pornography"), an underground publishing group on the other side of the Iron Curtain. The twenty or so pages worth of comics within the book were smuggled over to the West, and over the years (continuing to the present day) the "public domain" status of the character meant she appeared in dozens upon dozens of comics all over the place.

In actuality, it was all bollocks. Petr Sadecky was a pathological liar and a shameless capitalist who ripped off his artist friends, putting them in a lot of trouble in the process. The story behind the whole thing is an interesting one, and Mr. Short tells it all here - a story dating back to 1924, that takes in Soviet art house cinema, palaeontology, David Bowie, a pin-up artist, Goldie Hawn, Billy Idol, a brain tumour, Colonel-General Rodimtsev, Coca-Cola, Pussy Riot, The Shend, Bryan Talbot, investigative journalism, Trina Robbins, plenty of lawsuits and so much more. I usually take a few days to read a book, but did this in one sitting - as I say, fascinating stuff!

There's a detailed bibliography of all the known comic appearances of Octobriana, with fine analysis of most of them. A synopsis of the Octobriana stories that Short himself has been writing for the last twenty years, stuff about her film appearances, webcomic cameos, the lot. "Exhaustive" as they say. There's a new 34-page comic in there as well, written by Short and drawn by Gabrielle Noble (Noble's stuff has previously been featured on this blog, with the stuff done for Wasted). Personally I think the book works better without this bit - when reviewing all the various takes on Octobriana throughout the book, all her physical details are analysed and compared to the "original" comics, yet Noble presents her as just another blonde-haired red-lipsticked type. Public domain, free interpretation and all that, but still, double standards? Small criticism - there's much to enjoy here, I've learnt a lot anyway. Whilst reading it, I was thinking to myself - "Why not just put the original comics in the book, seeing as they're public domain?", but the answer to that lies in the story.

A few new pictures of Octobriana are in here too, by Lew Stringer, Vincent Danks, Neil Edwards and the ever-dependable Hunt Emerson:

Picture taken from his Facebook page - didn't want to wreck my book's spine fitting it under the scanner, see.

Diamond Distribution apparently aren't interested in this book, so it's probably going to be hard to find... Best bet is to order it from John directly, from his Kult Kreations blog. Worth the £9.99 asking price, certainly. You won't find a more comprehensive look at this cult heroine than this one...

Because this is the blog that loves to give (in a sense), below you'll find the one Octobriana thing that I have in my possession - that is, her 1992 appearance alongside Cherry Poptart, by Larry Welz and Dan Fogel. According to Short's book, this is the one that aesthetically is most faithful to the original comics, so that's nice. At the end of it is Larry's summation of the history of Octobriana, written (naively and fairly sweetly) before the "truth" about the whole thing came to be known on a wider scale.  If you've no idea what Welz's Cherry comics are like, be warned that they're very graphic, but still a lot of fun. In other words, if you're at work, surrounded by impressionable types, under eighteen, Puritanical, or otherwise not interested in that sort of thing, stop reading now! You'll probably be okay until the eleventh page (or the sixth, depending on your sensibilities) but still, fair warning and all that.

Saturday, 31 October 2015

Don't go to Snowdonia

A series of happy coincidences led me to being on the staff at Cardiff's Film & Comic Con last weekend - at which, coincidentally, all-round good egg Arfon Jones had a new comic being "launched". Afron himself wasn't there, unfortunately, but the writers of said comic were - those being Matt Warner and AJ Ballard (of Hellbound Media), so after a bit of a chinwag I got the new issue of Slaughterhouse Farm (apparently I was the first one to buy it, fresh from the printers as it were), as well as the first and second issues. And this being a "comics blog" of sorts, and feeling oddly motivated today what with the aptness of it all (horror comic, Hallowe'en and so on), here's something that might pass for a "review".

Essentially, Slaughterhouse Farm is a video nasty in paper form, with all the grisliness and brutality you'd expect from such a thing. A Camden couple are driving a group of wayward teenagers into the heights of North Wales for a camping/team-building weekend, when they encounter the Welsh answer to Ed Gein - the appropriately-named Pigfucker:

And obviously, that's when things turn nasty - heads are sliced in half, brains are cooked, dogs are chopped down the middle, kids are impaled, decapitated heads are interfered with, characters you expect to be the "heroes" are suddenly and brutally killed off... All in good fun, of course.

"Reading the scripts for the first time can be quite a shock... They killed off a few I thought would make it!" - Arfon Jones (the one who does the drawings)

There's some hinted-at mysteries in there too, mysteries we won't know the full answer to until the fourth and final issue, which is due (I'm told) sometime around September next year. Gah!

So if this sort of thing is "your bag", or you just fancy something a bit different, Slaughterhouse Farm comes "recommended". The comics themselves might be haunted too, as they're DEFINITELY black and white, but under my scanner they seem to've picked up a somewhat psychedelic colour scheme. Interesting.

You can get the first two issues, and probably eventually the third issue, from the Hellbound Media shop - read them enough times and maybe they'll do for Snowdonia what John Landis did for the Yorkshire Moors (thunder crash, lightning etcetera).

For more "spookiness" on this here blog, have a look at Bloody Hell!, a horror anthology from Kev Sutherland, Nigel Maughan and so on; this list of things that frightened, disturbed or upset me as a youngster; a book of Spooky Riddles; some monstrous cartoons (a few dead links here, but most of them are still up); some gory stickers culled from a scrap book; some Hallowe'en music mixes (probably a bit late for that now, but it's still good stuff); Gahan Wilson's version of Edgar Allen Poe's The Raven; Zig & Zag's "scary special" of their Zogazine by Kev Sutherland and John Moore; and some "spooky" Buster covers by Tom Paterson...

Thursday, 3 September 2015

Entirely Adequate

Another new thing, that you can go over and buy if you have the inclination and the funds. From the Comix Company comes something else from Lee James Turnock. The LAST thing, ever, from him, to be accurate. More on that later, but it's a bit of a shame. He's going out on a high with this fantastic Roy Wilson-ish cover:

Can you spot Mr. Natural? Or Little Peanut?

Content-wise, it's all that can be expected to those who've been following his comics for the past decade or so. For those that haven't, this includes parodies of beloved past comic-folk:

Wonderfully creative swearing:

Collaborations (of sorts) with Rob Yuppies (of Filth fame):

Hatred in list form:

NB: I love most of these things - a product of the Nineties am I!

Plus a load more stuff - Louis Barf's a highlight, there's a few pages of painful childhood anecdotes, and the whole thing ends on an eight-page ranting against the world in general, stream-of-consciousness sort of style-like. 32 pages in all, for cheap! Recommended, certainly... It can be purchased: HERE (if you have trouble with the site, like I often do, just send Dexter an email - he's a friendly chap and will sort you out good and proper).

As I mentioned a moment ago, this is LJT's LAST comic. He's had enough, and time, as with everyone else, is against him. Failing eyesight, low sales and relentless online bullying have seemingly taken their toll (Gerald Groy, whoever he is, is one such twat who has been posting abuse at seemingly every blog that mentions Turnock, this one included!). He's even taken down his blog, which is a shame, as that was one of the main "inspirations" behind me starting this one. Ah well. For his last ever post, Turnock listed a load of reasons why he sees there's little point in anyone pursuing a career in comics, at least not in the UK. Bit of a bum note, but it's hard to argue with. The list was deleted along with the rest of the blog, but for reasons of preservation (as in, read this!), here's a more-or-less copy-and-paste version of it:

1) Self-published books don't sell.
Sure, your friends and family might indulge you and buy a few copies, but once those are gone, shifting the rest of your stock is an uphill battle. An uphill battle that costs money, as well as the effort of trying to convince store owners to stock your work (usually they'll take a large percentage of the cover price just for the privilege of having a small stack of A5 comics on their counter) and the expense of promoting your work. What next? You're left with a stack of unsellable books that will rot away in your spare room. Well done. For the rest of your life, whenever you look at that stack of books, you will think 'I could have spent that money on something else'. Don't think it, do it. Life's too short for regrets.

2) Comics don't sell.
Ignore what a certain other blogger might tell you about British comics being alive and well (it's easy to say that when one of the few remaining 'big name' publishers is paying your wages), comics DO NOT SELL. People don't read much any more (16% of the UK population is functionally illiterate) and those that do don't read comics. In short, self-published books don't sell, self-published comics are even less likely to sell. All aboard the fail train! Ding ding! Next stop, the middle of nowhere!

This I can clarify - I was working in a newsagents for almost a decade, in all that time, we had two people who bought Viz (myself included), one child who bought the Dandy for about three months, one who bought the Beano for even less time than that, and not one copy of 2000 AD was sold in the whole time I was there. The shop was on a road that had around twelve residential roads branching off it, loads of kids everywhere. I know one newsagents is just a drop in the ocean, but it gives a fair idea of the dismal nature of it all at least. Even when I was of the "target market" age, I think I knew less than ten other people who read comics regularly.

3) Self-publishing is for losers.
I mean that in a nice way, of course. One of the main reasons people choose to self-publish is because the major publishing houses won't touch their work with their worst enemy's dick. I've read a lot of self-published comics in my time, naming no names, and it's a real struggle to think of more than a handful that weren't as dull as dishwater - or which I'd spend my own money on if I saw them in a shop. 

4) Drugs, LOLZ!
Sadly, a lot of self-published comic editors and writers seem to think it's still the late sixties or early seventies and that counter-cultural druggie 'humour' is the way to go. It isn't. Trust me, it really, REALLY isn't. So you've got a red, gold and green masthead? Wow, you must be feeling some serious rastaman vibrations. Shame the whole of your comic is full of insipid lookalike characters with big teeth grinning inanely whilst smoking a joint. Oh, so you've done a parody of the Bash Street Kids called the Hash Street Kids? Wow, you are so fucking hip. Cheech and Chong were shit as well. 'Weed makes you high and makes you tired!' Copy and paste for 32 pages, disappointment guaranteed.

To be fair, it's been a long time since I've seen anything of this variety in the shops - think the last one I saw was Wasted which folded around 2010, and even that was mostly reprints of the even earlier Northern Lightz

5) Nobody gives a fuck about your sex fantasies.
So you want to sniff cocaine off Jodie Foster's foot? Nice. Keep it to yourself, though. Nobody wants to see that crap in a comic, it's just awkward and more than a little creepy.

Click on that link at your peril. In short, 'AREN'T I SHOCKING AND ICONOCLASTIC!' type comics that feature the usual shit-eating / rape / incest / arse-shagging shenanigans. 

7) Go cry, emo kid.
Yeah, those twee, cloying comics about slightly outsiderish people and their relationships, drawn in a predictable chibi anime style. Unreadable.

8) Even Alan Moore doesn't give a fuck about comics any more.
It's true, you know. So why should I?

9) The explosion of Viz clones in the late eighties and early nineties not only killed any remaining interest in Viz clones, it almost killed Viz as well.
You know the expression 'enough is as good as a feast'? Well, obviously the hordes of hacks who tried their hand at grabbing a slice of the Viz phenomenon had never heard that expression, otherwise they would have realised that boom leads to bust and a glut leads to boredom.

All of these, of course, only apply to those that wish to make a career out of comics. A lot of my favourite things appear to be about as far from profitable ideas as you can get, and it's rare that you'll find a medium more personal than the comic, both in terms of those that make them and those that read them. Once upon a time, people COULD make a living out of doing something they love, but, apart from a lucky few, that just isn't the case these days. There's a guy I know who works for 2000 AD (won't be mentioning his name here) who has loads of ideas, but knows that if he attempts to have a go at them, he's risking his house and his family, so instead has to stick to drawing for scripts he has no interest in. Looking at a lot of my favourite "modern" comics - as in, ones that are still getting made right now, as a I type - how many of their creators have "comics" as their "main income"? Not many, if any at all. 

I don't want to be part of the doom and gloom brigade - the Beano, after all, has just reached its 3800th issue this week, making it the world's longest-running weekly comic, so celebrate! There's obviously SOMEONE out there still buying them. But then again, there's maybe less than ten titles regularly on the shelves these days. Compared to even ten years ago, that's not at all healthy. Ten years ago I'd regularly be looking at the small press sections of the specialist comics shops, mostly finding new and interesting and crazy things - gradually they all but disappeared. One shop hasn't updated their stock in years, still the same things sitting on the shelf that were there in 2010. Another shop stopped stocking them altogether. I asked the owners what had happened to the small press section, their response? "You're the first person who's asked!". Shame, definitely. For a long, long, LONG post about the "state of things", go and have a look at Terry Hooper-Scharf's blog.

Personally, I'm looking at things as if "time" isn't a thing. DEFINITELY as if "making money" isn't a thing. I was too young to know what was going on when the majority of the comics covered on this blog were out, and have been having a great time getting my hands on as many of them as I can. There's still LOADS of these "sort of things" that I haven't got around to covering yet, and that list is tiny compared to my actual reading pile! There's still "new stuff" that's good too - all of it's of a fairly "specialist" nature, as in, nobody's making any serious money off of them, but the comics are still fun, and to me as a mere "fan", that's good enough. Take a look at the wares of the previously mentioned Comix Company (adults only!) for one, and then there's the homegrown goodies of Braw Books. Eyeball Comix do some crazy stuff, Knockabout Comics still have the occasional new release, John A. Short's Kult Creations is a varied beast, Jack Teagle's done a couple of goodies...

There IS good stuff out there, it just takes more effort to find than it used to. Ouch. It's seemingly more of a hobbyist's game nowadays. And when you DO find good stuff, that makes it all the more rewarding. Just don't keep it to yourself, tell everyone about it!

Saturday, 29 August 2015

Draw the Line Here

The world really is a terrible, terrible place, and the best that most people can do to stay sane is indulge themselves in hobbies and interests, things that make them happy. Easier for some than others, obviously, and some even choose to block out any kind of news at all, anything that doesn't affect them directly is cast to the wind like so many... Crisp packets? Anyway, this place right here is predominantly a comics blog. Stuff about comics, both good and bad, but never (hardly) anything "heavy". It's not a place to discuss the world at large and isn't trying to solve anything - I'm neither qualified nor clever enough to do anything of the sort. BUT, when something comes along on the "world stage" that the whole world pays attention to, and is also directly related to the "main thing of interest" on this particular blog, well, something has to be said.

Back in January, following the massacre at the offices of Charlie Hebdo in Paris, everyone responded in their own way, mostly along the lines of "this is an attack on freedom of speech" - I went along with the option of posting the cartoons that "caused" all the trouble in the first place (because I'm dead cool and all that) whilst pretty much every cartoonist alive went ahead and did exactly what they'd been doing all along, which was to carry on doing what they've always been doing. Cartooning, that is. "We shall not be silenced" and all that, yes! The Professional Cartoonists' Organisation, meanwhile, along with English PEN gathered sixty-five cartoonists and got a book crowdfunded, with profits split between a fund for the families of those that were murdered in France and English PEN's Writers At Risk programme, which defends freedom of expression world wide. And this is that book:

It's for a great cause, obviously, and you can order yourself a copy here if you like. Back in this corner of the universe, let's have a peek at some of the wares on offer within the book's 100+ cartoons...

Sunday, 9 August 2015

Crazy golf with a Swedish couple we befriended

And so back to Scotland once more, this time in a celebratory vein. If you "enjoyed" any combination (or even all three) of Electric Soup, Northern Lightz and Wasted, this may be of interest. It's a thing that you can actually buy in real life! Presenting, for your pleasure, The Khollected Khaki Shorts:

You can go and buy it from the Braw Books shop, for just under ten of your Earth pounds, right now if you want. Definitely worth it, 220 pages collecting the "best of" the 28 issues that were made between 1999 and 2011. Because I'm dead cool and so on, I was already familiar with a lot of the stuff in there. Bought the final last issue spectacular thing when it was first out, and then early last year, co-founder Adam Smith sent me as many of the older issues as he could find - nice of him, yes? You can pretend to be hip and with it by familiarizing yourself with some of the contents before ordering yourself a copy, by following on and reading this summary sort-of-thing about Glasgow-based underground sensation Khaki Shorts, right here...

Monday, 27 July 2015

One piece short of Legoland

Greetings... anyone?

Two years ago (two!), I scanned in/posted the issue of the Beano from the week I was born - refresh yourselves if you like. This year, as in, last weekend, it was one of those "milestone" birthdays that's really just a number, but it's a bloody scary sounding number nonetheless. And I realise most of the folk who read/comment on this particular corner of the Internet have already gone through that particular year, but... Ah, no point will be made here. Here's the Viz that was on the shelves on the day I was born (from their bi-monthly days)...

Read the rest if you like? Then there's some "words" at the end of it all. The Viz bit's just there to "reel you in", a bit.

Sunday, 1 February 2015

Not Quite Dead

Been a while (sort of), since the last "proper" update (definitely), so here I am in a how-do-you-do sort of way. This blog IS still amongst my favourite pastimes, but the current "bit" that I'm working on is taking a LOT longer than I anticipated. Plus, real-world events (don't worry, they're good ones) means I'm getting less time for it too. So just to keep things happy around here, allow me to present some examples of another hobby of mine, if you will?

I work in a newsagents, so I can browse every newspaper every day without giving any money to certain Australian dictators, doddery old billionaire Nazis or American psychopaths. I like to "document" front page headlines that amuse me as well, using my trusty low-resolution camera phone. Presented here is a "best of" for the period of latter 2014 up until today...

This one's fun - I cut it out and sent it to the Fortean Times but they didn't seem interested.

These ones DID make it into the FT, probably because it was on the front page of the Star for nearly a full month.

Nice double-treat here of scary things and evil mastermind sort of thing.

"Scary clowns" was briefly a thing as well - love the matter-of-fact way these stories are printed.

Even the ho-hum world of reality television had the shits put up it by spooky things.

It's cruel, but I can't read that headline without laughing, loudly.

Similar. The "context" for this story had a fat sod trying to climb through his ex's bathroom window, failing, and then hiding under a trampoline until the police turned up.

Nice bit of subtle product placement there, courtesy of the Sunday Post.

And as of today, the clowns are back!

It's the little things that keep us going blah blah blah.

Next article HOPEFULLY up before February escapes out the window.

Wednesday, 7 January 2015

For Charlie Hebdo

...and for cartoonists, satirists, anti-censorship campaigners and advocates of free speech everywhere.

The film which enraged the Muslim world
"And my arse? Do you love my arse?"

A film about Islam triggers the rage of fundamentalists
"Show us an intelligent film and declare the Third World War!"

The Arab world is revolted by images of a film about Mohammed
"No, it's the Eight O'Clock News."

Mohammed sets back youth unemployment
(Film critics)

Mohammed: A star is born!

Stop messing about, Mohammed!
"I am Jewish!"

Salafi bullshit: All pretexts are good!
"Even insulting representations of our prophet!"

Riots in Arab countries after the publication of photos of Madame Mohammed

Charb, CabuHonoré, Tignous and Georges Wolinski... RIP to them all. The French attitude towards humour, satire and saying whatever the fuck they want ought to be admired, celebrated and REPLICATED, and you can bet that today's cowardly events won't be changing that any time soon.