Friday, 29 October 2010
...and here it is: the first work-in-progress cover image from the series, featuring the book's... well, let's call him a "protagonist" for now. Meet Sidney:
See that man with the meathook, the electrical stun forceps and the bloody apron? That man right there is the closest thing this book has to a "good guy". Food for thought...
Tuesday, 26 October 2010
Being a science fiction fan, I sometimes ache for a comic that will challenge my perceptions of the world, of the universe, of my way of thinking. While I enjoy reading comics immensely, not many of them really fill my SF needs. Oh, occasionally one like Unique from Platinum Studios will come along and make me think about multiverses and ask my beloved question, “What if?” But not many really accomplish that.
The Indifference Engine, written by Cy Dethan (Cancertown) with pencils by Robert Carey, scratches that itch spectacularly, thank goodness! It is being produced by Markosia, and it is well worth accessing and reading.
Synopsis:’ “My name is Alan Blake. I’ve got no resources, no skills and no friends. But if I were you, I’d be the very last person on Earth I’d want coming after me…”
Responding to a strangely specific job advertisement, a distinctly ordinary twenty-something suburban slacker finds himself in the middle of an inter-dimensional task force staffed entirely by superhuman alternate versions of himself. Struggling to fit in, he uncovers a conspiracy that strikes at the very heart of the organisation–a conspiracy that only he can stop.
Alan Blake, by any credible standard, is a waste of good skin–a directionless and ambitionless slacker whose single most notable characteristic is that he makes other people feel good about themselves in comparison to him.
Alan considers himself a good listener, but it’s more complex than that. It’s almost like he absorbs other people’s problems and somehow unburdens them. If he weren’t such a loser, that one character trait alone could have made him immensely popular. Still, at least he serves a purpose of sorts. Whatever your own personal flaws or failings, hey–it could be worse. You could be Alan Blake.
Review: The four-issue series starts with two men who look very much alike falling from a skyscraper window. That’s important to remember as you read on.
Basically, the comic is about we influence each other as human beings, and how we look at ourselves. Alan Blake seems average enough, but he’s able to talk people into and out of things that he really shouldn’t be able to do. Looking for purpose in his life, he discovers that he is something special in the world–in fact, all of him are!
It comes down to two groups, the Infra-reds and the Ultraviolets, who are both after “our” Alan Blake for different reasons. But Alan gets to meet his maker, in a sense, who gives him a purpose and a destiny that he never expected.
The story is gripping, and the pacing of the storytelling is quick and fervent even during the explanations of what is going on. I couldn’t stop reading it! My impression of the art was that, while it fit the mood, was a little sketchier than I like. But my biggest quibble, since I’m a proofreader by profession, is that several words, including some two-letter ones, are actually divided into two! I hope someone will fix that for future versions.
I hear that Indifference Engine is something of a departure for Mr. Dethan, but I hope he continues to make trips like this on a regular basis. I LOVED having to pay attention and taking my time to keep track of what was going on. I LOVED the pay-off at the end as well. It’s a great mental exercise–my brain was tired for a long time after reading it. In fact, I LOVED that, too! What a great comic!
Want to download the digital version of the first issue of this comic? Click on the icon below:
Score: 4.5 out of 5.
Monday, 18 October 2010
This is Nic, by the way, Cy has hurt his hand and can't type much now, but more on that later...
Wow, then, a BICS blog? Where shall I start? There's a lot to say, and as a result of all of that I've got a LOT of emails to write, so I guess I'll get on with it.
Pictures to follow at a later date if the scanner can be appropriately propitiated!
First things first: a big change from Bristol was all the good news around the Sleepless Phoenix and a lot of the ex-Insomnia books finding new homes.
The Sleepless Phoenix anthology that was produced to raise funds for the CBA (Comic Book Alliance) was incredibly well received. It had 250 pre-orders and sold over 100 more copies at the weekend. This is in addition to it having smashed its Kickstarter funding project by over $1500!
Huge congratulations to Lauren Ann Sharpe, Michael Moreci, Adam R Grose, Andrew Croskery and Alex Wilmore for putting this together.
Special thanks from them also go to Harry Markos for all his help with the printing. More on him, and speculation on his true mission, later!
Great to hear that the Kronos City team (Andrew Croskery, Alex Wilmore, Lauren Anne Sharpe, and Jim Campbell) have found a new home for the book with TimeBomb Comics. That is really a match made in heaven.
Although announced just before BICS, we'll take the opportunity to congratulate the Babble boys (Lee Robson and Bryan Coyle) on their move to Com.X.
I also heard some good news about other books, but I am not sure how common the knowledge is yet - so I won't mention until I've checked!
It really is wonderful to see so much talent being recognised, though, and all that hard work being worth it in the end.
Dark Judgement from the twisted minds of Rich McAuliffe and Conor Boyle (published by Futurequake Press) made its thrill-powered début and sold really well. The Judge Fear story is my personal favourite, but you need to judge for yourselves.
The humorous heroics of Hero 9-5 by Ian Sharman, David Gray and Yel Zamor (with intro by Cy Dethan!) premièred in print with a special limited edition for the convention and is now on PSP - and we now have it in writing that Ian "luffs" us both, according to the signing plate.
The biggest news for us was that we signed all the physical contracts to move Cancertown, The Indifference Engine, and Ragged Man to Markosia. We also signed new, improved versions of contracts for the books that already had homes there. It only cost Cy the top joint of his left ring finger!
A shout out (blog out?) to Paul Richardson (also known by some of you as CrimsonArcher) for rescuing the poor, forlorn Cancertowns that had not escaped their imprisonment in The Works. The CBA and the Sleepless Phoenix guys kindly let us put them for sale on their tables and they have now found new and loving homes.
Thanks to everyone for all the good wishes about getting Cancertown resigned! It really meant a lot to both of us.
Talking to Harry about Markosia's plans for the digital future on Sunday was so inspiring. I really think he sees the way to go. Perhaps he has been sent back here by John Connor to make sure comics turn out the way they are supposed to and are not used to start the machine war by Skynet.
But this is not the place for my digital evangelism - I shall beg another post for that at some later date.
Speaking of Markosia, I saw a wonderful demonstration of publisher gratitude to a reader this weekend when Harry Markos gave Paul Convery (@Ravenblade86 if you want to follow him on twitter) copies of their comics that he had not already bought that will not be appearing on PSN, to thank him for all his support and personal promotion of Markosia's digital adventures.
As I heard Harry say to readers on a panel at Bristol, "We do it all for you."
Look out for Paul when he takes his place as as Lieutenant in Harry's Human Resistance!
It was lovely to meet John Freeman in person at last. We've been in touch a lot online over the last 18 months or so but always managed to be at different events. Strip Magazine and the new graphic albums he had on his table looked beautiful.
Exciting new projects are on the horizon. More news on these to follow in later posts, but there were conversations about collaborations the whole weekend. Simon Wyatt, Aaron Moran and Valia Kapadai will be joining Cy on new projects, and it looks like there will be more from old favourites Stephen Downey and Rob Carey in the future as well.
Speaking of Simon Wyatt (who drew me a mousey, a Day of the The Jack Rabbit, and an "inspirational" picture for Cy) I can cryptically and cryptozoologically say that there will be an Unbelievable announcement very shortly!
We secured the permission of a famously bad-ass ninja podcaster to use his likeness for the hero of an upcoming story. When you see who and why, you'll understand why this is so perfect and necessary - and what a Dangerous Idea it could turn out to be.
A couple of interesting opportunities were presented, including a reunion of the Starship Troopers team that never was... do you want to know more?
All in all, it was a great weekend and lovely to see everyone - even if very briefly in some cases.
Until we see you at the MCM...
Friday, 8 October 2010
Considering its ridiculously successful launch weekend at the 2009 Bristol Comic Expo, the string of bookshop signings that followed and its consistent top-ten status on the PSP download charts, Cancertown: An Inconvenient Tooth was always a book with a much higher profile than we had any right to expect. With the echoes of the apocalyptic Insomnia Incident still ringing in our ears, the Cancer Cell (that is, Nic, Stephen, Mel and I) started trying to work out precisely where the book now stood. It was at this point that Markosia stepped in and saved the day once again.
Right from my first steps in comics, Markosia has been nothing but good luck for me, so when Harry Markos signed Cancertown up it was a significant, even hazardous amount of joy to dump on me all at once. Right now we're looking at getting the book back up on the PSP store as soon as possible, with other formats to follow.
So, yeah - I'm happy.
Tuesday, 5 October 2010
Last Saturday was the official launch of AccentUK's long-awaited Fall of the Wolfmen, by Dave West and Andy Bloor. As always, Whatever Comics threw a full-blooded event and packed the place out for the whole day. There were even guest appearances by a couple of the book's more carnivorous characters.
From what we saw, the signing table was swamped the entire time, with Andy barely getting a moment to look up from his sketchbook. The book itself is every bit as polished and gorgeous as the first volume, and the whole event was a huge success.
Nic and I spent a long time talking with Laurence Campbell, unquestionably one of the nicest people we've met in the industry so far, and I was lucky enough to meet three new artists and scan through their portfolios. Just a few days later, I'm already in talks with one of them, Aaron Moran, about collaborating on a six-man, three-team crime book that's currently in the works. The two other guys I talked to, on the off-chance they read this, need to get in touch with me if they can, because my damn phone never received the details they sent.
Anyway, congratulations are due to Dave and Andy. I'll be back soon with the latest on the future of Cancertown.
Friday, 1 October 2010
Script and Art: Bryan Talbot
Let’s get one thing out of the way up front: Bryan Talbot is a god among comics creators. In complete control of both script and art his visionary work has a pure an uncompromising brilliance. He is also a really nice guy. He drew me a Nemesis, you know, and a bad rat.
So what can I say about Luther Arkwright that has not already been said? Superstars of the comics world have already lined up to pay tribute to this astonishing work. I’ll show you what they said first:
“Luther Arkwright is probably the single most influential graphic novel to have come out of Britain to date”
“It's probably Anglophone comics' single most important experimental work.”
"A work ambitious in scope and complexity that still stands unique upon the comics landscape ... stunning"
“From riveting action scenes to beautiful silent sequences, from studies in hateful obsession to humour both ribald and gentle ... surely one of the all-time great epics of the medium.”
"I love the illustrative style. Talent is profoundly international and Luther Arkwright should sell on a universal scale. I get a great joy out of it."
"The stunning amount of work and commitment that goes into "The Adventures of Luther Arkwright" makes me weak at the knees. It's phenomenal.”
You see what I mean? These are important people. Why don’t you just go away and read it? Alright then, I’ll tell you what I think about it as well, and some more about the story.
The book is set in a “multiverse”, similar in some ways to that in Michael Moorcock’s Jerry Cornelius stories. There are many parallel universes with parallel Earths, inhabited by parallel versions of the same characters. Well, that is apart from Luther Arkwright. There is only one Luther Arkwright.
Luther exists in the one parallel that is aware of the existence of the others. He can travel between the parallels and this, coupled with extensive psychic powers, makes him a key player in the battle against The Disruptors – a shadowy organisation looking to destabilize the realities and cause the ends of the worlds.
While Luther is unique, though, he is not alone in his struggle. He is assisted by "agents" who can communicate with their parallel selves, telepathically, and an intriguing supporting cast, including Rose Wylde an agent whose relationship with Luther is constant across all parallels. The (main) villain of the piece is Nathaniel Cromwell, leader of the Puritan British Government.
Most of the action is set on a parallel where the English civil war is happening in what most closely approximates the 1930s. The original series takes place over 9 complex, sprawling issues (now collected as a TPB). The action is epic in scope and hops effortlessly between multi-dimensional battles happening in simultaneous timelines, philosophical speculations, sly humour , sex, political satire, and fart jokes – a rich tapestry of all that is human from the highest to the lowest, the angelic to the apish.
The book starts out as pretty much an adventure story, but that is only “what happens”, it’s not “what it’s about”. The real heart of the story is a discussion about change, development and evolution. It is about perspective and truth, history and time. It is a story of transformation, following the progress of Luther as he accepts the truth behind his own insanity and embraces a different conceptual framework and emerges as a new kind of superbeing.
As you might expect with this kind of story, it is not told sequentially. There are multiple story-lines running at different speeds and told in different styles that only all pull together, in a feat of superhuman plotting genius, towards the end. Amazingly, though, this does not make the story hard to follow, the flashbacks and forwards are handled so artfully that they add to the flickering instability of the world perfectly. To have told this as linear plot would not have worked nearly so well.
The art is black and white, dense and beautiful. There is an obsessional glee about the detail that shines out of the page. There can be no doubt that this is a very personal story and a labour of love. Once you have seen the “page with the skull” and the “transformation of Luther” you will realise that Bryan Talbot probably does have otherworldly powers himself.
There is a delicate, ephemeral unreality that seems to shimmer as you look at it. You know that behind every panel you look at there are multiple panels from different comics in different worlds stretching off to infinity. The influences displayed in the visuals are extremely rich. For those who enjoy the “spot the reference” game in Alan Moore’s work Luther Arkwright is a wildly indulgent treat. The beauty of Bryan Talbot’s work (here and elsewhere) though is that he doesn’t just reproduce a multitude of styles but uses them to create a perfect fusion that would not work anywhere else but a comic book. It is an example of the form and the content in perfect alignment.
Buy this and you’ll be reading it over and over again for many years to come, though, so don’t worry if it seems a lot to take in.
There is also a sequel “Heart of Empire” that came out in the late 90s and follows the adventures of Luther’s daughter, Victoria in an alternate restoration court. As well as a collected paperback edition, Heart of Empire is available on CD containing scans of the pencil roughs, black-and-white inks, final colour pages and high resolution versions and a great deal of annotation and supplementary material from Bryan Talbot. It also includes scans of the whole of The Adventures of Luther Arkwright, from the recently created digital remastered version at the best resolution that it has ever been seen in. The CD is in some ways the "Directors cut" of the comic and was created to answer the perennial "where do you get your ideas from?" question asked by fans.
And finally a huge thanks to Bryan for writing the foreword to Cancertown Volume One: An Inconvenient Tooth.