I was gonna go to a concert tonight, but my back is acting up (I probably… slept wrong), so I think I’ll do a comics day instead.
The vast majority of Today’s Reading are comics that I picket up at Gosh Comics in London last week. It’s a really nice shop — they’ve got all the big mainstream sellers, of course (Monica, Sabrina, Beverly), but also a big wall of small press stuff. (And apparently a basement full of super-hero comics, but I didn’t go down there. Looked to scary.)
|Den osynliga manteln: Under grön himmel|
14:06: Krent Able’s Big Book of Mischief by Krent Able (Knockabout Press)
Well, this is very British — these pieces were originally published in a free music magazine, apparently, and they fit into that tradition: We’re getting absurd humour featuring celebrities.
But… is it more gross than funny? Able is obviously talented, and there’s some good jokes in here, but…
|Crayola Lectern: Happy Endings|
15:05: Don’t Worry, I Die At The End by Beck Kubrick
This is a collection of short strips and illustrations/gags, and it’s got a nice flow. I’m guessing that these were published on Instagram or something originally, and that this is a collection?
It’s funny, and it’s kinda heartbreaking.
|Brendan Perry: Eye of the Hunter & Live at the I.C.A|
*gasp* Finally they released the Brendan Perry concert at the ICA. I was there! In 1993! At the 13 Year Itch festival. I remember thinking that the Brendan Perry concert was absolutely wonderful, and I couldn’t wait for him to release that material as an album. And then… it didn’t happen and it continued to not happen.
Heh, I just googled, and I found:
So they were planning on doing that, but his solo album didn’t arrive until 1999, and… I was bitterly disappointed. The live show was so intimate and heartfelt, while the albums was so smooth and… professional. (That’s a swear word.)
So I’ve been listening to the live recordings now while reading the comic below, and… does it hold up, 30 years later? Yes. I didn’t hallucinate it — it’s a wonderful performance. And I can see why the album totally underwhelmed me: There’s only a single song from the live performance on the album.
15:21: Je ne sais quoi by Ducie Arnoux (Jonathan Cape)
Hey — it’s not only signed, there’s a nice sketch here, too?
So, this is a collection of one and two page strips, all done in this format. The line is very attractive, and the strips are very chatty autobio things.
It’s very likeable — it’s hard not to smile while reading most of these. But Arnoux recommends (in the introduction) not reading them all in a single sitting, and I think that’s good advice, because the strips don’t really build to anything: You could swap the order of the strips around at random, and it wouldn’t make much difference. So as a book it’s not really a gripping reading experience, even if every strip is compelling.
It’d be perfect for reading a couple of pages before going to bed, or something.
And she’s in a band.
16:44: The Lure of the Flesh & Daddy #1 by Beatrice Mossman
Two oddly-shaped books…
The first book (shaped as a coffin) revolves around her father, who died before the was born.
It’s a very powerful book.
And it’s got these die cut pages. The obsessiveness of it all is very affecting.
The second book (which is very tall and thin) deals with some of the same issues, but fictionalised. In this book, virtually all of the pages have various bits cut out — it must have taken so much work to do.
Again, it’s a very affecting book.
Really interesting stuff. I guess you can see the Dame Darcy inspiration? (And there’s nobody better to be inspired by.)
17:04: Hometime by Stella Murphy
This is a collection of somewhat er abstract gags one page gags.
It’s drawn in a kinda early 70s pop art vibe, I guess? It’s fun.
|Lost Girls: Selvutsletter|
17:08: Seadiver & War Epic by Nathan Cowdry
This starts off as an apparent collection of jokes…
… but then quickly coheres into a slightly incoherent story. It’s pretty amusing, but seems a bit on the edgelord side.
This is possibly the second volume of this — at least it starts very abruptly. It’s about putting on a theatre performance in a Nazi prison (very edgy, I’m sure).
Again, it digresses a lot, and again, it’s pretty entertaining.
17:36: Bugs & Kisses by Various (Sputnikat Comics)
The is a jam comic from a whole bunch of people I’m not familiar with… Oh, this is a Russian comic book? I’ve never read one before. If I’d known, I would have boycotted it! That’d show Putin!
Anyway, this is a continuous narrative, but one page per artist — and it’s pretty disjointed. Was this done as a “narrative corpse” kind of thing, or were they able to look at all preceding pages? I mean, it’s less disjointed than these things usually are.
It’s a very… 2022 book. The artists are quite different, but there’s a unifying aesthetic to most of the pages. Like a post-DeForge/post-Euro Manga/CF/riso thing. Which reminds me — I was following last week’s Huge Comics Controversy a bit while in London. It started with an article presented as an interview (that might even have been an interview) from some pseudonymous people, and it had wonderful lines like
As the decade goes on, though, mainstream, direct market comics—so superhero comics and the loose stool that people graduate to dropping at Image after their superhero shelf life expires—it all just collapses into a kind of amorphous mush.
People on Xitter were miffed that somebody dared say something critical about comics (it’s not a “Go Team Comics” kind of article), but didn’t really give much pushback on specifics. It’s a confused article, but perhaps the central point is that there hasn’t been any new developments in comics for the last couple of decades… and … that just seems like a kinda odd thing to say? Looking at the two pages above, as a random example, they are totally 2022 — they couldn’t have been done much earlier, and they’re clearly a part of the same aesthetic.
Another big part of this is the popularity of manga and anime. A huge portion of the increases in comic sales over the last twenty years have come from this, and y’know, that’s great for the One Piece guy or whatever, but Naruto readers do not necessarily become Julia Gfrörer readers, so that money is already captured and isn’t going to flow to American comic makers.
That is indeed true, but nobody who reads some shitty Tom King Batman comic are going to read Julia Gfrörer books, either. More importantly, the influence from Japanese comics worldwide is huge, and has led to new comics forms — you have Scandinavian Manga, French Manga, Aby-bloody-ssinian bloody Manga — and the kids who grew up reading Japanese comics are (of course) reading these new hybrids, too.
In conclusion: I liked the article (I mean interview), but it’s just… wrong.
18:01: Illegal Batman #1 by Ed Pinsent
Speaking of Batman…
I remember reading quite a lot of Ed Pinsent comics back in the day. I think? I possibly remember. This is nothing much like that. Instead it seems like a … pretty normal Batman story, so I’m wondering what the point is. There’s been several of these “bootleg” super-hero books over the past few years, and I have the same reaction to most of them. *scratches head*
|Little Tornados: We Are Divine|
18:20: Stramash by James Corcoran
I like the artwork — it has a kind of 80s quality to it: Lots of heavy blacks, but very brushy.
It’s one of those paranoid noir stories, and it’s just getting going, really, when the issue ends. I like it.
18:26: Bolland Strips by Brian Bolland (Knockabout Press)
I guess Knockabout dumped their overstock on Gosh Comics, and that’s why there were so many of their books on sale there?
This book consists mainly of reprints of the Acress and the Bishop…
… and the Mr. Mamoulian strips. The latter strips are an exercise in spontaneity — Bolland draws directly in ink and eschews his normal, exceedingly exacting style.
OK, now I have to take a nap. Back in an hour or so.
|Various: The Wire Tapper 63|
21:15: Ric Hochet 1999-2000 by Tibet & Duchâteau (Zoom)
OK, I have to eat something, so I think I’ll take a break from the British comics and read a French one while eating.
As Ric Hochet albums go, the first one here isn’t that bad? I mean, the book consists of people just running around aimlessly in castle surrounds until the villain reveals himself (my guess is that Duchâteau decides who the perpetrator is when he’s five pages from the end), but it’s pretty amiable.
And Tibet’s artwork is pretty.
It’s not what you’d call “good”, but it’s OK to read while eating.
|The Virgin-Whore Complex: Succumb (Japanese Version)|
21:54: Big Ugly by Ellice Weaver (Avery Hill)
I mostly buy comics en ligne so I don’t actually know what they look like beforehand. (A cover tells you nothing.) But I picked this up at Gosh, and I put it back on the shelf, because this art style is really not my think. (“Corporate Memphis”, I guess the term is — bulbous bodies without any details (and small heads).) But then I saw that it was published by Avery Hill, so I got it anyway.
This had better be good!
And… nope. The storytelling is really choppy and awkward.
And it’s not that I have anything against books with horrible people as protagonists, but these people manage to be The Worst People Ever as the same time as they’re really, really boring, which is something of an achievement.
22:25: Thieves by Lucie Bryon (Nobrow Press)
Speaking of les manfras (i.e., mangas français)… This is pretty high concept — it’s about two girls plotting to return stolen goods. A reverse heist movie.
And that’s basically what this is: It feels like a pitch for a movie. But I guess it’s fine — it’s intermittently entertaining.
22:57: The Land of Uncertainty by Hatiye Garip
This is printed in a unique way — at least I’ve never seen a book like this before. Every page is printed with an extra “embossed” plastic layer — and each colour has a different pattern, so the purples always have diagonal lines going through, and the red always has dots. It’s cool. Tactile.
And it’s a good book all over.
|Marvin Pontiac: Greatest Hits|
23:03: Currencies by Pau Sampera
I was going to say “fewer British underground comics deal with drugs than American ones”, but then I flipped to the indicia, and it turns out that this book is from Barcelona.
And it’s all about drugs.
It’s a pretty original book — the milieu is fun, and the artwork is lively, but the storytelling is just rather choppy.
|Peter Broderick & Ensemble 0: Give It to the Sky: Arthur Russell’s Tower of Meaning Expanded|
23:27: In by Will McPhail (Hodder & Stoughton)
This starts off as being a kind of hipsterish flippant thing — but with some actual good jokes, which is unusual.
And it could have been insufferable, but it’s really well told — it’s got a real flow, through all the digressions and jokes, and then it shifts gradually into being a totally different thing, with real emotional depth. It’s just really well put together — everything works, and you’d have to be made of stone not to tear up by the end.
Is it emotionally manipulative? Yup. But that’s OK.
00:09: Ready For Pop by Hurk (Knockabout Press)
I think this is the final book I bought at Gosh…
This certainly looks sharp, and it’s got a bonkers storyline…
… but I found it hard to keep being interested. It just seems to move so slowly for this kind of thing — it’s like everything was over-explained in every scene. So I dropped it about 30 pages in.
00:26: Nogozine by Antoine Eckart (Colorama)
This is a collection of illustrations — at least I couldn’t detect any narrative here.
It’s cool. I guess it’s kinda like Paper Rodeo?
00:29: Where Is Aisha? by Aisha Franz (Colorama)
Another book that’s printed in a unique manner — it flips up vertically, and is like one of those notebook things.
It’s a somewhat metaphorical story, I guess.
It’s about being a ghost — but the ghosts are still on Instagram, and still live their lives, but in an intangible way. Or something. It gets a quiet, pensive mood going, and keeps it going. It’s good stuff.
00:44: The End
And now I should probably go to bed. Soon.
So what’s the state of British comics these days? Well, I don’t know — my sample here probably isn’t representative of much beyond the tastes of the people at Gosh Comics. But there seems to be a definite… er… move towards global trends in art comics? That is, a decade ago (say), British comics were more often immediately recognisable as such: They were often brash and satirical and political, and you could see that everybody involved had grown up reading 2000AD. In this batch of comics, most of the comics could have been from anywhere — Latvia, the US, Germany — and the comics that most stood out were the ones from Knockabout, which were a decade old.
I don’t mean this as a criticism or anything — there’s a lot of really strong comics here — but it’s a thing? The books are more international, more professional, and more compelling in many ways: They aren’t as afraid of talking honestly about emotions as British art comics used to be.
I think. Possibly.