I came, I saw, I lugged my own weight home in comic books.
As ever, the British International Comic Show in Birmingham was an eye opener. It’s difficult to conceive of any other storytelling medium that would receive such an intimate display of affection. From the established talent that not only offered signings but were always willing to chat, to hopeful self-publishers unveiling their creations on the world, there was something for everyone.
In fact, if anything struck me most about BICS 2009, it was the diversity of the indie and self-published books on offer. So often comic books are crudely categorised as simply superhero tales or manga, with a gaping chasm in-between. BICS 2009 emphasised that this simply wasn’t the case, the sequential art translations of literary favourite published by Classical Comics alone defy this ignorant overgeneralization.
There were some great events on too, including a talk by Japanese illustrator Michiru Morikawa – her images graced much of the show’s publicity material – about her work and career. DC editor Michael Wright and some very artistic company chatted about 70 years of the Dark Knight, and Mike Conroy discussed the creative exchange between the comic book and film industries. The ‘Comics Insider’ symposium was particularly interesting, as publishers, creators and retailers alike exchanged ideas
But that’s enough about that.
I’ve been meaning to commence a regular feature for several months now, in which I simply mention several self-published or small press books that have taken my eye. Nothing more, nothing less; these aren’t reviews as such, but a nod to the charming and inventive work that is being produced on the periphery. Visit these talented people’s sites, buy their books or enjoy their webcomic, and tell your friends. Spread the word. That’s the most anyone can possibly do.
Anyway, enough pontificating! Here are five titles that grabbed my interest at BICS 2009. They weren’t necessarily the best or the most awe-inspiring books at the show, but they all have a unique flavour that offers something you will not find elsewhere.
P.S. And for those vendors who weren’t approached by an odd bookish fellow who looked fit to buckle under the weight of his purchases and scavenged freebies, please get in touch and let us know about your literary offspring.
The Mutilated Dead
Martin Ian Smith and R.H. Stewart have released the second one-off from their Attackosaur brand. Their first effort, Paralysis, was a ambiguous little horror tale that would have felt at home on the Twilight Zone, and this combination of the Wild West and the Walking Dead is in a similar vein. Smith’s writing is sophisticated and Stewart’s idiosyncratic art is brutal and memorable.
Mortaine Publications (www.comicknits.com)
You asked for it, you got it. That’s right, superhero comics and knitwear have finally been spliced into one slick package. Fortunately, for a concept that relies on a gimmick, the story itself is pretty good. Writer Stephanie Bryant keeps the spandex to a minimum, instead focussing on the personal lives of her team, while Marc Olivant’s art is as polished as many mainstream titles. Each issue ends with a knitwear pattern by Erssie Major (www.erssieknits.com), based on an item worn by a principal character.
Graphite Fiction (www.graphite-fiction.com)
Chris Kent’s haunting story of memory and loss, set partly in Iraq, reminds me greatly of the sort of work Neil Gaiman and Dave McKean produced together in the 80s. This is writer/artist Chris Kent’s work, but you wouldn’t know it. Kent doesn’t waste words, often letting his magnificent paintings echo his character’s emotions instead, and the book has a eerie yet grounded quality about it that stands against the genre-specific trappings that so many comic writers stumble into.
Anthologies were a popular format at the show, allowing several creators to combine their talents – and, more importantly, finances – into one glossy brochure. Eleventh Hour is one of the best of these anthologies, combining the dark humour of 2000AD at its finest with art that rarely dips below a professional quality. The stories have no theme or style, and the first collected volume I picked up has such an eclectic mix of fantasy, sci-fi, horror, war stories and classroom drama that every reader is bound to come away from reading it with a different personal favourite.
COMIX is another anthology, though it’s not an self- or independently published title but a “creative, cultural and professional exchange project” that encourages young artists and new talent to each produce a two-page comic. Naturally, each book is a mixed bag, with entrants ranging from 12 years of age to their early 20s, but some are incredibly inventive; and it’s often not the older, more talented illustrators who are producing the most original work here. The volume I picked up, ‘COMIX from Three Countries’ features work from the United Kingdom, Spain and Bulgaria; you won’t like all of the work featured in it, but in this case that’s perhaps a good thing.