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Interview: Joel Meadows and MASTERS OF COMICS

MASTERS OF COMICS

Masters of Comics: Inside the Studios of the World’s Premier Graphic Storytellers is a unique behind-the-scenes look at the studios and work habits of some of the all-time great comic book artists, published by Insight Comics, with interviews by Joel Meadows. It is a pleasure to get a chance to chat with Joel Meadows, a fellow comics journalist. Mr. Meadows jumped into comics journalism in 1992 with his own Tripwire Magazine. In this interview, we’re going to unpack what that all means. There have been so many others who have joined the ranks of comics journalists, including myself, so there’s plenty to unpack!

HENRY CHAMBERLAIN: Joel, thank you for joining me for this conversation. We’re going to chat about Masters of Comics and the world of comics journalism. You begin in 1992 as a young guy who is compelled to create Tripwire, a magazine of genre culture, and that has evolved into an exciting new website presence and the publication of significant books on pop culture. I believe you really hit upon something with the original Studio Space and now the current Masters of Comics. As a jumping off point, share with us some of the thinking that led you to pursue a collection of in depth process interviews.

It started with the magazine, you mentioned Tripwire. We used to run a feature, Studio Space, where we interviewed artists and illustrators in order to get a closer look, get behind their work: the way they work and how they approach their work. We began with Tim Bradstreet, Phil Hale, and John Bolton. I found it fascinating and I thought it might be fun to pursue this further as a book. We put together a line up of artists for Image in 2008 and that was an impressive book. I was very proud of that book. That came out 11 years ago. We had the late great Joe Kubert. We had Sergio Toppi. We had Steve Dillon. We had Howard Chaykin. I can’t recall everyone. It was a pretty amazing list. I was very proud that we had managed to gather all these great artists together and get into each of their headspace and look at how they actually created work and how each studio was different from the next.

Tripwire magazine, circa 1990s

I love the fact that you have books out in the world. For me, my first loyalty is with print. We both go back to a pre-internet perspective. It used to be that to have something in print was the be all, end all. You feel secure with print. You can feel a bit uncertain about the internet: things can be completely wiped away. The whole website might blow up but you can always have a print edition somewhere. Do you feel like that sometimes?

A little bit. We switched to the web back in 2015 and it has its pros and cons. If you make a mistake you can always go back and fix it. But there’s something about the physicality of a book or a magazine. There’s the tactile nature of it. Say, if you meet someone and they ask you what you do, you can direct them to a website but, in some ways, it’s even nicer to be able to show them the book that you’ve published or the magazine that you edit. There’s something about having something physical that is hard to beat.

Exactly, that’s what I want to stress to everyone. Of course, you can go to a tutorial on Youtube but it’s so great to be able to pick up a book and pore over the pages and make discoveries. I think of someone like John Paul Leon, an amazing artist who will be new to a lot of readers. There’s one title that he worked on, The Winter Men, that really sticks with me. You’ve got such a wonderful range of talent, everyone from Frank Quitely to Bill Sienkiewicz to J.H. Williams III, and everyone has their own way of working. There’s so much to consider, of course, over creating the work physically or digitally or a combination of the two. 

Maybe it’s a generational thing. I interviewed Mike Kaluta for the book and he works physically with pen and ink. J.P. has more of a mix. Walt Simonson works physically but he does fix lines digitally. I think it was Laurence Campbell, who does work physically, who said that, with digital, he misses the idea of being able to have a happy accident. You might make a mistake but it’s a good mistake. It brings the work to life a little bit more. In some ways, it comes down to digital coming across as too precise. The idea that you can go in and fix a mistake in Photoshop can leave some artists feeling that something is missing. Obviously, other artists love digital. Sean Phillips he draws his line art digitally but he also paints physically. He went back to painting for some of his covers and some of his work for Criminal. He likes to jump between the two. It really depends upon the artist. Some like the tactile experience of physically painting. Others like the convenience of digital. So, it comes down to a case by case basis.

Sean Phillips doing digital work.

Yes, I think it does come down to a case by case basis since you can’t totally peg it as generational. You have so many young artists who enjoy doing work physically. I even wonder sometimes if using markers is really the best approach to coloring your work. But, hey, if an artist can make it work with markers, then why not.

Exactly.

Michael William Kaluta doing physical work.

I want to ask you about your own process. Maybe you can take us behind the scenes of how you got the book put together. Did you personally interview each artist in their studio or were some interviews over the phone?

It was a mix. I got to visit some of the artists personally: Mike Kaluta, Walt Simonson, Posy Simmonds, Laurence Campbell, and Sean Phillips. The rest were e-mail or telephone interviews and, for those, they supplied the photographs. I would have loved to have interviewed in person Eduardo Risso but he’s way over in Argentina. The same with Rafael Albuquerque. He’s in Brazil. I did the photography for the artists that I met with in person.

It’s a seamless presentation, how all the profiles were put together into such a compelling whole.

Insight did a great job with the design. It looks beautiful. They did a great job with the typography and the way all the images fit, the comics art and the photography. It holds together really well as a cohesive package.

There are 21 profiles here. Maybe you can tell us something more about the decision-making process in choosing artists. It is a stellar line-up of artists. Rafael Albuquerque. Tim Sale. Yumo Shimizu. The list goes.

We wanted to have a cross section of artists coming from different disciplines. For instance, Walt Simonson is very much a pen and ink guy. John Paul Leon is more of a marker artist. Dave Johnson is a cover artist, one of the best.  If we picked 20 or so artists that were all in the same style, then it would have gotten repetitive. So, we wanted to have something that was varied in terms of approach and actual work.

Share with us about the world of comics journalism. It was a whole other world when you began in 1992. The field was wide open. Back then, there were only a few outlets, like The Comics Journal. Today, it’s a relatively crowded field, especially when you add in all the various tiers of involvement.

It has changed. The Comics Journal had its moments. I used to enjoy Amazing Heroes, going back to the late ’80s. The biggest one was Speakeasy. It had a column by Grant Morrison. It was a very irreverent magazine. That was a big influence on us at Tripwire. Back in the ’90s, you also had Wizard, which really wasn’t for me. And, yeah, I never connected with The Comics Journal. Today, there are a number of good websites. There’s a digital magazine based in the UK that is doing a lot of good work called, PanexPanel, run by Hass Otsmane-Elhaou. And Forces of Geek, with Stefan Blitz, does excellent work too. A lot of sites are just running press releases. At Tripwire, we try to dig deeper. We interview the creators and the key players. We try to look at the bigger picture. It’s a challenge.

Amazing Heroes (1981-1992), published by Fantagraphics

The thing with press releases is that it’s a balancing act. You don’t want to rely on them. You have to really pick and choose. Some are quite informative and newsworthy. What is the criteria for you when it comes to content on Tripwire?

We try for variety and we try to cover people that other websites don’t. For example, we’ve recently run two interviews with Scott Dunbier from IDW. His artist collections and special projects are a great celebration of comics history. So, we try to pick people like him. We’ve interviewed Chuck Palahniuk a couple of times. We’ve interviewed Philip Pullman. We try to go beyond the boundaries of many comics websites. I want to dig a bit deeper like we did with our interview with J. M. DeMatteis. We try not to cover everything. And we try to contextualize our interviews and explain the significance of our interview subjects.

I do my best to go in depth with my interviews. And I’m always on the look out to go beyond the boundaries of a typical pop culture website. I will naturally gravitate to some novel, which may or may not have anything to do with comics. I might bring in an essay, or whatever. It just happens organically and it helps to keep things fresh and bring in a cross section of readers.

Yes, we do that too on occasion.

Speakeasy, “the organ of the comics world,” March, 1990

I wonder what your take is on alternative comics. My partner, Jennifer, and I are both cartoonists. We come from that indie alt-comics scene. I’m sure you’re familiar with the Page 45 quote.

Yes, I am.

It’s a brilliant observation by Stephen Holland, owner of the UK comics shop Page 45, about how “alternative comics are the real mainstream.”

There’s a lot of great material. I read indie comics. I’ve read the likes of Joe Matt and Daniel Clowes and Adrian Tomine back in the ’90s. I tried to keep up with their careers. There’s incredibly talented people. You have someone like Ed Brubaker who started life as an indie cartoonist and moved into the mainstream. He’s one of these guys who can straddle the two. I believe the Page 45 quote gets it right. You can give someone who doesn’t normally read comics a book like Berlin, by Jason Lutes, and they can appreciate it. But they will have a much harder time with a Batman or Teen Titan graphic novel which relies on more in depth comics knowledge.

MASTERS OF COMICS

I just need to ask you about what’s been on your pop culture radar. For instance, what was your take on how Game of Thrones on HBO resolved itself?

You have to feel sorry for the creators of the show since you can’t satisfy everyone. I remember when the Sopranos ended. I really liked how it ended but there were a lot of people who weren’t happy. A big show like that, which has been around for years, it’s almost impossible to satisfy all of your audience. I think the ending to Game of Thrones was okay. To be honest, I’m not sure how else HBO could have ended it.

There are some shows that we in the States have to wait for from across the pond. But then there’s also the reverse. For example, the new Twilight Zone on CBS All Access. Are you looking forward to that one?

I am curious. I enjoyed Get Out a lot. I think Jordan Peele is quite talented. I’m curious as to whether or not they’ve managed to keep that original flavor.

I’ve gotten a chance to view the whole season and I think it’s coming together. I think it’s going to be of those shows that will probably remain a bit uneven but can have exceptional episodes so you root for it.

There’s quite a bit of TV. I’m trying to catch up with Jessica Jones. I’m a bit ambivalent about the Marvel shows on Netflix. I enjoyed a lot of Daredevil and Luke Cage. I think the big problem is that a lot of these shows run too long. They would be much better off with shorter runs of six episodes per season. Another one, Punisher, I just couldn’t finish that.

How would you like to end our talk? Anything else you’d like to add about Tripwire or Masters of Comics?

We continue to evolve the Tripwire website. We’re hoping to organize a talk that ties in Masters of Comics at the Society of Illustrators in October during New York Comic Con. It would include Walt Simonson and Shawn Martinbrough. It would be very nice to have an event tie-in for the book. We’re also looking forward to some collections of interviews from Tripwire. This is something we’re working with another publisher on. The plan is to have the first book available in time for next year’s Comic Con in San Diego. So, that’s exciting. We’ll be returning to print after a bit of a break.

That would be so exciting to have a talk at Society of Illustrators. I hope that works out.

Well, thank you. We’re hoping to pin that down.

Thanks so much, Joel.

Thank you, Henry.

You can listen to a portion of the podcast interview by just clicking the link below:

Masters of Comics: Inside the Studios of the World’s Premier Graphic Storytellers is a 184-page full color trade paperback, with 21 profiles, with art samples and studio photographs, published by Insight Comics.

Keep up with Joel Meadows and Tripwire magazine by going right here.

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Filed under Comics, Illustration, Interviews, London, New York City

Review WINDOWPANE by Joe Kessler

Windowpane by Joe Kessler

One of the first pages from Joe Kessler’s Windowpane, published by Breakdown Press, shows a wandering dog searching for food and finally finding a baked pie sitting out on a windowsill. There are splotches of color overlay on some of the blue line art. Welcome to a most experimental work in comics. Kessler covers various themes: childhood trauma, alienation, sexual dysfunction, and religion. Everything is a bit off kilter and on edge. What could be better for this kind of work, right? Well, this kind of work can often fall short and not measure up. But, in this case, there’s a lot to like even if it seems that things don’t always add up as the general reader might expect from the comics medium.

Like any artist, Kessler wants to challenge the reader. For instance, he enjoys the harsh use of basic colors. He also likes tossing his characters from one situation into another. He has them suddenly running away from things. He has them hurting each other. Then, in a fit of petulant bravado, he will take a gob of primary colors and fling them like a bolt of lightning. A blast of these harsh basic colors will blow up some characters to bits. Others will be saved for a proper decapitation. All in a day’s work.

There goes that iguana.

Quieter moments will serve for such scenes as an iguana forcing its way into a sleeping woman’s mouth.

It’s pretty wild stuff. Not for kids. Mature content abounds. All in all, this collection of sordid tales is quite fun, original, and worthwhile.

Windowpane is a 272-page full color soft cover. It collects new and previous work by artist Joe Kessler. You will find here reprints of Windowpane issues 3 and 4. This collection is published by Breakdown Press, based out of London.  Visit Breakdown Press right here. And be sure to visit Mr. Kessler right here.

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Filed under Alt-Comics, Alternative Comics, Art, Breakdown Press, Comics, Europe, European Comics, Independent Comics, Indie, Joe Kessler

Review: ‘Maggy Garrisson: Give Us a Smile, Maggy’ by Lewis Trondheim & Stéphane Oiry

MAGGY GARRISSON Volume I

Think of Maggy Garrisson as a more gritty Bridget Jones–dealing with crime noir misadventures. The first book in a graphic novel series sets up a rollicking good time with our main character, Maggy, stumbling into a career as a private detective. That’s pretty remarkable considering she wan’t doing anything in particular prior to her new more challenging situation. The first book in the series in entitled, “Maggy Garrisson: Give Us a Smile, Maggy,” originally published by Dupuis, in Belgium, and now available in an English translation as a digital comic at izneo right here.

On the job.

Written by Lewis Trondheim and drawn by Stéphane Oiry, this crime comedy series is sure to please just about any reader. Trondheim is a legendary cartoonist, both as an artist and writer. Stéphane Oiry is best known for his collaboration with the cartoonist, “Trap,” in bringing back the classic comic strip, “Les Feet Nickelés,” originally created in 1908 by Louis Forton.

A day in the life of Maggy Garrisson.

Maggy Garrisson proves to be a perfect anti-hero in her own way. She seems to only attract grifters and drifters into her life. But she is determined to get a better life or, at least, she really hopes for the best. She is not an ambitious sort. Trondheim and Oiry play up Maggy’s shortcomings for all they’re worth. As Maggy becomes more entangled in what could add up to some fairly sinister activities, the reader will be thoroughly amused. Drawn with a light touch and attention to detail, Maggy moves about a vivid and animated world.

No detail is too small.

This first book is 50 pages in full color and available as a digital comic at izneo.

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Review: SCOTLAND YARDIE by Bobby Joseph and Joseph Samuels

SCOTLAND YARDIE by Bobby Joseph and Joseph Samuels

SCOTLAND YARDIE by Bobby Joseph and Joseph Samuels

As we here in the States, along with the rest of the world, continue to deal with the orange menace, it’s good to gain strength from our friends across the pond. One thing that the creators of the graphic novel, SCOTLAND YARDIE, want you to know is that things are bad all over. Bobby Joseph and Joseph Samuels provide some dark humor for these hard times. This is a provocative work, set in south London, with a smart and gritty vibe.

Darkness fell...

Darkness fell…

No doubt, Bobby Joseph (script) and Joseph Samuels (art) make no bones about their dismay with the current (and ongoing) state of affairs. With such clownish characters in the media, and in government (gasp), stoking the fires of hatred, racism, and xenophobia with such intensity as we have not seen before in recent memory, any form of satire can be cathartic. In this case, we have a plot involving the Brixton Metropolitan Police in need of some diversity. Enter Scotland Yardie, a ganja smoking, no-nonsense “bad bwoy” cop who breaks all the rules to enforce his own harsh sense of justice. This is, by turns, a very silly comic (think Monty Python, for starters) and, ultimately, an eye-opening and worthwhile read.

Is that Brexit heartthrob Boris Johnson?

Is that Brexit heartthrob Boris Johnson?

This comic’s writer, Bobby Joseph, is considered to be the voice of urban UK comic books. He is credited as the creator of the cult comic classics Skank Magazine and Black Eye. He has written satirical pieces for Vice.com, Loaded Magazine, The Voice newspaper, BBC1’s Lenny in Pieces and Radio 4. He is credited on the BBC website as instrumental in featuring some of the “first comics by black creators featuring black characters.”

Some light emerges...

Some light emerges…

This comic’s artist, Joseph Samuels, is credited as one of the most popular comic artists to grace the pages of Skank Magazine and Black Eye. He is the co-creator of the popular Afro Kid comic strip on Vice.com.

SCOTLAND YARDIE is a 100-page, full color, graphic novel, published by Knockabout. For more information, and how to purchase, visit Knockabout right here.

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Filed under Bobby Joseph, Brexit, Cannabis, Comics, Donald Trump, Graphic Novel Reviews, graphic novels, Joseph Samuels, Race, Race Relations, Racism, VICE

Review: METROLAND #3 by Ricky Miller & Julia Scheele

David Bowie chats with Ziggy Stardust

David Bowie chats with Ziggy Stardust

“Metroland #3,” published by Avery Hill, is the best yet of this quirky series. Of course, you want to read it all as it builds! The hints have been made from the start that there is something unusual, perhaps other-worldly, about rock stars Jessica Hill and Ricky Stardust. They keep abandoning their band, Electric Dreams, leaving them cooped up in a small castle in Greenwich just outside London. Not the worst thing in the world, mind you. Although not until you take into account that the mysterious activities of Jessica Hill and Ricky Stardust could bring about the Apocalypse!

Alright, so the world’s fate may hang in the balance. But this comic’s main appeal is its style and humor. Let me tell you, it’s a particularly British club scene thing going on here but it’s also quite applicable to any scene. The recurring theme is looking and acting cool. Go to a club. See a show. Pose. Make pithy comments. The humor and the style are priceless, way before snark was ever born–and much better. It’s a world-view honed over generations. Funny I should say that, given the nature of this narrative.

Jessica and Ricky are compromising the space-time continuum!

Jessica and Ricky are compromising the space-time continuum!

Ah, yes, this is a story spanning generations–or should I say it goes much deeper than that. This is unnatural. This is cross-polinating generations! Let me come clean: Jessica and Ricky are compromising the space-time continuum in a huge way. Ever hear of President Elvis? No, that wasn’t supposed to happen. So, yeah, we’ve got a mad helping of Doctor Who with just the right hipster vibe.

Where is Ricky Stardust and Jessica Hill?

Where is Ricky Stardust and Jessica Hill?

You see, Ricky Stardust has been leapfrogging all through rock ‘n’ roll history making adjustments as he pleases. Rumor has it that he’s Ziggy Stardust and that he’s set into motion some cataclysmic jinx. Not the sort of thing the David Bowie we all know and love would ever do. Ricky Miller’s script has such droll humor and Julia Scheele’s artwork has such devilish wit.

Henry the Blogger!

Henry the Blogger!

As for comics about gloriously misspent youth, this is one I highly recommend. Come for the repartee and stay for the characters. There is even a middle-aged pop culture blogger who proves to be a pivotal character. Ah, there’s hope for me yet. Well, I must admit the character is pretty spot on in a lot of ways. Eerie, his name is Henry and my name is Henry. Okay, that alone gets my attention! Did someone travel back in time just to spook me? Ha, ha, I do like this Henry the blogger character!

Kevin refuses to meet with Henry!

Kevin refuses to meet with Henry!

“Metroland #3,” by Ricky Miller & Julia Scheele, is a 36-page full-color perfect bound comic. For more details, visit Avery Hill Publishing right here. You can also venture over to Retrofit Comics and find Metroland right here.

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Filed under Avery Hill Publishing, British Comics, Comics, Comics Reviews, David Bowie, European Comics, Graphic Novel Reviews, graphic novels, London, Music, science fiction, Time Travel

Movie Short Review: C.T.R.L

Sophie (played by Helena Dowling) and

Sophie (played by Helena Dowling) and Philip (played by Mathew Blancher)

Here’s the synopsis: “A young man’s attempt at a first contact with a love interest is hijacked in a most entertaining way.” Hmm, so what happens? Well, things look promising at first. Sophie (played by Helena Dowling) is about to walk past Philip (played by Mathew Blancher) but not before something big happens. And that something big is likely to add up to this film short going viral.

ctrl-web-poster

What’s it take for a video to go viral? “C.T.R.L” is brimming with charm. It’s an unexpected treat: a mashup of street performance, music videos, and silent movies.

Tom (played by Jack Everson) and PJ (played by Moe Bargahi)

Tom (played by Jack Everson) and PJ (played by Moe Bargahi)

So, we’ve got a potential case of star-crossed lovers. But, lo and behold, in the background lurks trouble. Seated nearby in a cafe, Tom (played by Jack Everson) and PJ (played by Moe Bargahi) control the destiny of the young man and woman byway of some wicked app that can manipulate their every move. Dance mayhem ensues.

Director Mariana Conde

Director Mariana Conde

This is a triumph for new director Mariana Conde, creative/executive producer Stu Grant, and choreographer Damien Anyasi. Here’s what Mariana Conde has to say about her short film: “I believed in C.T.R.L from day one. It was a risky idea but that made it even more appealing. I could grasp the potential and the bigger the risk, the bigger the achievement. It’s a visionary short that will add another spark to the discussion of how far we are willing to take technology. From young professionals looking for a quick shot of entertainment, to dance enthusiasts, gamers, kids and a more mature audience in search of something different, C.T.R.L will appeal to a vast and varied audience.”

Storyboard Art by Vitor Hugo

Storyboard Art by Vitor Hugo

The performances are exquisite. You’ll root for Sophie and Philip as they follow their fate. And you’ll hiss at Tom and PJ, the fiendish villains. This short work is truly worthy of mention. It provides a nice uplifting vibe with an urban attitude, a decidedly English style.

Where can you find out more about this film short? Go here. And, of course, be on the look out. You’ll be seeing more of C.T.R.L.

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Filed under Dance, film, Filmmaking, Music, Short Film, Video, Viral Video

Review: THIS IS BACON, published by Laurence King Publishing

This-is-Francis-Bacon

Francis Bacon is a little bit less well known to the general public than Warhol and Pollock but every bit as powerful. Bacon was the product of the vibrant and gritty London Soho scene of the ’50s and ’60s. It was a world of rough trade and intellectuals. It was a bubbling cauldron of sexual liberation and creative abandon. Bacon quite naturally exemplified the zeitgeist. Having been caught by his father as he was reveling in wearing his mother’s underwear, he was summarily kicked out of the home at age 16, left to fend for himself. He wasn’t involved with art at the time, never had formal training, but art became his outlet, and he mastered it.

Francis-Bacon-Laurence-King

The British contemporary art scene was more introverted than the American. It really wasn’t pop as much as personal. Its answer to Abstract Expressionism was a return to the figure and to the self. Along with various other artists exploring the inner life, like David Hockney and R.B. Kitaj, it was Bacon who took this soulful approach to some of its greatest heights.

Laurence-King-Francis-Bacon

Funny how some people mistake Francis Bacon with the great philosopher. And how ironic that this artist, by the name of Bacon, would come to paint on, in part, the theme of meat.

Part of Laurence King Publishing’s This is Art series, this little book packs a lot of valuable information. It is quite a compelling narrative, written by Kitty Hauser with illustrations by Christina Christoforou. It will prove inspiring to any artist working today. Here’s a little taste of the text:

Bacon’s training took place not at art school but through the voraciousness of his eye, and the extremity of his experiences. He liked to observe human behaviour, especially when it was governed by instinct rather than convention. His relative lack of a formal education meant he did not make the usual kinds of distinctions between life and art, or between high culture and low. His mind and his studio were well stocked with images from a multitude of sources – cinema, medical literature, art galleries, everyday life – and some of these images inevitably found their way, sometimes consciously, sometimes unconsciously, into his paintings. ‘Don’t forget that I look at everything’, he said. ‘And everything I see gets ground up very fine. In the end one never knows, certainly I myself never know, what the images in my paintings are made up of.’

Francis-Bacon-art

Learn more about this fun and informative new artist series by visiting our friends at Laurence King Publishing right here.

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Filed under Art, Art books, Francis Bacon, Laurence King Publishing

Graphic Novel Review: Cory Doctorow and Jen Wang’s IN REAL LIFE

Comics-InRealLife

“In Real Life” is one of this year’s most intriguing graphic novels as it raises questions not asked often enough. A New York Times bestselling graphic novel written by Cory Doctorow and drawn by Jen Wang, it is the story of Anda, a gamer, who discovers a black market system through the friendship she makes with, Raymond, a poor boy in China. The focus is on what exploited people must do in order to survive and what can be done to help them rise up and out of their circumstances. But it’s also about the avatars we use to hide from the world. As is clearly depicted here, Anda has problems with the real world and her place in it.

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Filed under Comics, Cory Doctorow, First Second, Games, Geek Culture, Graphic Novel Reviews, graphic novels, Jen Wang, Orbital Comics

Review: THE LENGTHS by Howard Hardiman, published by Soaring Penguin Press

The-Lengths-Howard-Hardiman-2013

“The Lengths” is a graphic novel about addiction, published by Soaring Penguin Press. The title refers to the lenghts to which a young man, Eddie, will go to feed his desire. Howard Hardiman has written and drawn a graphic novel about a youth out of control and in conflict. It is a very rough story about a rough subject that Hardiman navigates quite well. His character, Eddie, is a 24-year-old art school drop out who is gay and unsure about what he wants. He may want a relationship but he is also attracted to what he gets from his role as Ford, an escort. It’s a pretty lurid and gritty premise. Something like this could easily fall apart, as can happen with any story that deals with sex. But sex is only part of what Hardiman has to talk about. And to create some distance to better address and understand the content, he represents all his characters as dogs. It may seem odd at first, but it turns out to be a wonderful narrative device.

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Filed under British Comics, Comics, European Comics, Gay, Graphic Novel Reviews, graphic novels, LGBT, Soaring Penguin, Soaring Penguin Press

Review: THE BLACK FEATHER FALLS Book One (of four), by Ellen Lindner, published by Soaring Penguin Press

Ellen-Lindner-The-Black-Feather-Falls

Ellen Lindner has a wonderful way with prose and composition. Her intricate artwork and distinctive voice give life to her latest creation, “The Black Feather Falls.” This is a webcomic told in four parts, which you can view at ACT-I-VATE here. The first part is now collected and will be published by Soaring Penguin Press.

The-Black-Feather-Falls-Ellen-Lindner

The beauty of Lindner’s work is on many levels, not the least of which is her dynamic composition. We begin with the main character, Tina Swift, juxtaposed by her striking view of two pyramids that act as visual and symbolic thrust. They lead us to more energetic play with geometry of body language and setting.

Black-Feather-Falls-Soaring-Penguin-Press

Take a closer look at Tina Swift. On Page 2, we see her face is a crisp collection of lines and angles with a few accenting curves. We take in the rest of the page: in the first panel, we see a typewriter rendered to the last detail acting as a still life accompanied by Tina’s sharply rendered hands. The last panel caps off with another view of those pyramids. In the span of time that we’ve read the first two pages, we already know a mighty adventure is about to be retold.

Black-Feather-Falls-Activate-webcomic

And, by Page 3, we have entered a new world. Tina is an American abroad. She’s in 1920s London. As engaging as Lindner’s artwork, her prose charms you and immerses you in the customs and logic of another time. Lindner was an American abroad herself and you sense a loving attention to her past home byway of this murder mystery. It’s as if Lindner travelled back in time and is reporting to us her observations with a fresh vitality. She provides a somewhat similar treatment of Brooklyn in the early 1960s for her work, “Undertow.” The writing for this story is quite fun and feels in step with such British writers of the time as Agatha Christie, Dorothy L. Sayers, and the Mitford sisters.

Our team of brash young American, Tina Swift, and young British spinster, Miss McInteer, are delightful as polar opposites that manage to attract. They do have quite a compelling murder mystery to solve that apparently will turn into another cold case if not for them. All the elements are in place for a delicious read.

You can read the latest installments of The Black Feather Falls at ACT-I-VATE here. Be sure to pick up the first collection of The Black Feather Falls from Soaring Penguin Press and look for updates here. And do visit Ellen Lindner at her site here.

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Filed under Comics, Comics Reviews, Dean Haspiel, Ellen Lindner, mystery, Webcomics