comicbookGRRRL Do not offend the chair leg of truth; it is wise and terrible.

7Aug/150

First Look: ‘The Puma Blues’ Returns in Complete Form

The first First Look of August spotlights a newly finished classic.

Fabulous manta rays soar across open skies in this formerly forgotten classic, a labour of love that succumbed to distribution difficulties now fondly restored by Dover Publications.

The original cult series, an environmental sci-fi experiment in visual narration by Stephen Murphy and Michael Zulli, ran for twenty-three and a half issues between 1986-89 to great critical acclaim. Ostensibly following the work of government agent Gavia Immer, stationed in a Massachusetts cabin in the woods, as he is tasked with displacing the transmuted creatures that have thrived in a post nuclear fallout America, the comic soon turns into a weird and wonderful passage of creativity.

As Immer struggles to find his place in the world, haunted by videotapes left behind by his late father who sought some incredible truth, loose narrative moves further into the background allowing Zulli to take the reins on a comic that becomes more poetry than prose as the lone puma stalks the edges of the shadows of man.

The melancholy puma is in stark contrast to the joyful swooping mantas, freed from their oceans to touch the clouds, and several sequences dispense with the need for humans or dialogue completely, simply following the unfurling nature that surrounds Immer – taking what is usually confined to the background and promoting it firmly into the fore.

Zulli is perhaps best known for his Eisner-nominated work on The Sandman, as well as his fan favourite run on Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, but his black and white portrayal of nature and wildlife within The Puma Blues is a highpoint of the comics medium, and deftly captures the environmental chaos and threat of ecological ruin that lies within the loose threads of narrative. Stream of consciousness meets dream sequences amidst more traditional fare, with startling layouts, epic gutters, montaged panels and breath-taking transitions.

Best of all, this deluxe 480 page hardcover contains a brand new 40 page ending from the original creators – the tale of The Puma Blues is finally complete.

Read the full preview here: ‘The Puma Blues’ Returns in Complete Form

Puma Blues

28Jul/150

The Guardian: Interview with Ales Kot

Last week saw my interview with rising star Ales Kot published at The Guardian, where we tore into new horror noir Wolf and the very angry Material, particularly on matters of systematic racism.

“My honesty gets me in trouble,” Kot allows, “but my take is that if they can’t handle me at my realest, they don’t deserve to have me anyway. Which maybe sounds privileged, but it’s not – I turned down plenty of gigs when I had nothing in my bank account and was very sick, without a home, staying at my friend’s studio, not knowing what to do, or where I would be in a month, or if I would even be alive. Turning down work that does not feel right continues to be crucial for my attainment of the kind of career and life that I want.”

Read the full interview here: Ales Kot, the writer taking comic books to mindbending new dimensions

Wolf

27Jul/150

Sequential Summer Sale: Top 10

It's no secret that when my life was turned upside down last year by bringing home a tiny, adorable, paper-chewing puppy, that I swiftly made the switch to reading almost all of my comics digitally, and went so far as to rescue/donate my single issues to charity.

Aside from the ease of having my entire library at my fingertips, I've been really impressed by how many comics are available digitally, including indie titles. I first came across Sequential at the Edinburgh Book Festival and since then it's been a regular destination for me when I'm looking for something different.

Right now - and until August 1st - Sequential is celebrating its two year anniversary with a big 50-90% off the print price sale across over 350 titles from the likes of Dark Horse, Fantagraphics, SelfMadeHero, Blank Slate, Avery Hill, Secret Acres, Koyama Press and more.

And okay, I LOVE top ten lists. Not as anything objective, but the chance to see what everyone else is reading that I might be missing out on. So, without further ado, here's my pick of ten titles from the sale to feast your eyes upon.

(NB - each title has a short preview at the Sequential links.)

Sequential Sale

20Jul/150

ComicsAlliance: Matt Pizzolo Covers Hip Hop His Own Way for ‘Young Terrorists’ [interview]

With the Marvel hip hop variants causing quite the argument across comics land regarding appreciation versus appropriation, Black Mask Studios publisher Matt Pizzolo contacted me to talk about another set of hip hop covers and how Black Mask is tackling the thorny issue of diversity in comics.

Matt Pizzolo: Yeah for what it’s worth the characters of Young Terrorists are ethnically diverse — the core team is a black man, a Chinese young woman, a Guatemalan young man, and a white woman who’s the heiress to an oppressive power structure and knows she has to reject and combat that — but I realize I’m a white man writing this stuff and my collaborator/cover artist, Amancay Nahuelpan, he’s Chilean but he grew up in Vancouver and we can’t hide behind the characters… although I do think those characters are partly what makes the hardcore hip hop homages feel thematically genuine to the story.

It’s hard to A/B these covers and assign “who’s more appropriating” or whatever, and certainly I’m not the one to judge that anyway, but obviously we’re both appropriating. All we can do is try and be creative while showing respect to those who came before us and who inspired our work.

Read the full interview here. 

After ‘Straight Outta Compton’, by N.W.A.

After ‘Straight Outta Compton’, by N.W.A.

20Jul/150

First Look: Jason’s Triumphant Return with ‘If You Steal’

Panel Mania has been renamed First Look and continues as normal twice a month - this time around it's an exclusive preview of Norwegian's finest!

Jason's upcoming If You Steal, complete with hitwoman Frida Kahlo and 50s horror comic pastiche.

The multi-award winning Jason has been consistently publishing at least one critically acclaimed hit per year since the turn of the century, with 2014 the only omission. Fans and critics are awaiting this new collection with keen anticipation, not least due to the alluring title in the original Norwegian: Frida Kahlo’s Parrot.

If You Steal collects eleven new stories, with a definite if extensive focus on pop culture pastiche. A 50s horror comic styled take on Van Morrison’s Moondance, Frida Kahlo as a hitwoman (as seen on the cover), the JFK assassination conspiracies concluded, Santo and his greatest challenge, a heist story with touches of Magritte… Jason casts his net wide, threading these disparate comics into one seamless tapestry with Nostradamus at the helm.

With his signature four panel grid, simple anthropomorphic animal characters, and ligne claire minimalism throughout, Jason’s work is often at risk of being discounted on sight. Yet the uncomplicated surface gives way to complex layers that hold far deeper meanings.

Jason is the master of haunting comics that wriggle into the reader’s brain and very often break their heart. If You Steal is a tad lighter than some of Jason’s previous works but it is still a tremendous example of the power of amplification through simplification – he forges a world so universally recognisable one cannot help but be captivated completely.

Jason’s entire oeuvre is published in English by Fantagraphics and is absolutely essential reading for any fan of comics, art, pulp fiction, or silent/near-wordless narratives. From the earliest Hey, Wait… through I Killed Adolf Hitler and Athos in America, each is an instant classic. If You Steal, complete with Chet Baker, Night of the Vampire Hunter, 50’s style big bug horror fare and all, is no exception.

Read the full preview here: Jason’s Triumphant Return with 'If You Steal'

If You Steal

10Jul/150

The Independent on Sunday: Review of Nimona by Noelle Stevenson

The web sensation hit the books market last month to enthusiastic acclaim, and today's Independent on Sunday carries my large review of one of my favourite complete comic stories of all time.

This review was great fun to write, and it was fabulous to see artwork from Nimona adorning the sunday papers!

"Nimona though is where it all began, and where Stevenson’s most pure artistic expression is to be found. What begins in simple panel layouts and shark jokes, turns through expressive colour palettes into playful design and incredible characterisation that matches the dark evolution of the story. Stevenson has prioritised accessibility above radical composition, with simple but effective transitions and easy to follow dialogue bubble paths. This is perhaps why Nimona is as popular with new comic readers as it is with long-time fans."

Read the full review here: Nimona, by Noelle Stevenson - book review

Nimona