Wednesday, 29 June 2011

The Lust Boat: A Twisted, Sexual Underground Type Thing

I did this little number last year, but I thought I'd share it for those who haven't seen it.  It started out as a sketchbook doodle which I just kepy adding shading too... It was fun to draw, I got a perverse little thrill from it!
It's interesting to hear what other people make of this stuff...For instance, I drew the dapper bloke who is popping his cookies at the back of the boat, with no particular meaning attached to him... But someone on facebook thought it looked like a younger Salvador Dali, which I like the idea of, as he was "The Great Masturbator" after all...

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Review: Decadence #7

This is an interesting 68 page Science Fiction Comics Anthology with an Underground slant for those seeking something a little different. Although thoroughly contemporary, the book feels as though it could have been made in the 1970's, as it has the feeling and mixture of experimentation, rawness and psychedelia that was present in that era of Science Fiction comics and films.
First up; "Energy Magician" by Leon Sadler is a very bizarre tale indeed. It involves a kind of taoist space-travelling hobo, who goes with the flow and is able it seems to transfer living matter of any kind into energy, which gives him special powers.
After waking up in a forest under a geometric shape, on an unknown world, and realising that his boots don't fit, he sets about looking for 'fuel'. After a grisly scene of 'energy transferral' ("how could I let energy like this go to waste?" says the magician) the character gives thanks, and sets out to look for his living spacecraft and to add a somewhat unsavoury souvenir of his visit to a selection of others. This is a very unique strip; Leon's unusual and expressive art style adds to the twisted sense of humour.
"Island 3" by Lando is an ongoing strip which is full of intrigue. The story is set on a futuristic island where it initially seems that all the inhabitants are dead, save a bald teenage cybernetically altered boy, referred to as "316". He is watched over constantly by 'serving' robots who guide him through the landscape and act like overly protective nursemaids. When 316 fails to follow the directions he is given, he detours, crashes his bike and things are revealed to him that he's never seen before.  The line-art drawing style is first rate (kind of a cross between katsuhiro otomo style manga and 70's European comics), and this is the driving force of the storytelling; the strip having very little dialogue. This works really well, giving a feeling of a creepy, deserted dystopian world and a cinematic approach to the visuals. Definately has me hooked.

Next, Daniel Swan presents a wordless psychedelic strip which seems to involve some kind of omnipotent being, that we only see as a hand which seems to be full of space and stars. It felt more like an artistic interval than a story though.

Cover artist Stathis Tsemberlidis however, provides a superb visual story about an Astronaut who lands on a strange world and has some very intense psychedelic/ evolutionary experiences. I don't want to give too much away, but this is a fantastic strip(& trip), kind of akin to Jodorowsky's The Holy Mountain, in space. It makes the end of Kubrick's 2001 look pedestrian in comparison. The artwork is brilliant, detailed yet clear, I would say influenced by Moebius, but in no way an imitiation.

In John Chandler's strip we enter the story in the middle of some kind of relationship breakdown. A helmeted astronaut works at seperating a vessel into two, which then splits, leaving the ship's other astronaut (an unhelmeted man) in the other half. The two then have a last conversation, before we see the astronaut who's left dealing with his own hurt, isolation and loss. The void of space being the ideal metaphor to bring home that kind of loneliness.  There's also a touch of dark humour in it I would say, as only Mr Chandler can provide. I won't give any more away, the ending seemed very fitting.

"Sputniks" by Dan Hanlett is nicely drawn comic, where satellites come to life, and go from being inert, benign objects into a potential threat. A simple and nicely executed 5 pager.

The last strip by Alex Payne is a sci-fi horror comic which didn't really do much for me I'm afraid, i felt like it was covering well-worn territory, and i felt that quality of the work was the poorest of the bunch.

Overall though, there is some very interesting material. You can get the book here.

Friday, 17 June 2011

THE GUARDIAN DOES BILDERBERG!

This is an informative, refreshing and entertaining article from The Guardian about The Bilderberg Group; who are, for those who don't know, a clandestine organisation made up of politicians, bankers, corporate execs, royalty, 'national security' types etc, who apparently 'just have our best interests at heart'.  If you used to talk about them once-upon-a-time, people would say you were some kind of conspiracy nut, that they didn't actually exist. You were basically lumped in a sack with David Icke, Alex Jones etc, and who would want to be put in a sack with the likes of they? Not I (The tinitus I would have from Jones' constant yelling, and sustained nausea-enducing monologues I would receive from prophet Icke would be too much).  But now, it's official! They DO exist, and they even have their own website (oh how things have reversed; nowadays, WE don't exist if we don't have a website!).

Throughout the year, every year, (with one larger annual event which is now at least publicly acknowledged), the world's most powerful people meet in secret  to discuss running the world, so us lowly peasants don't have to worry our little heads about it, or quibble about semantics such as conflict of interest vs equality, corruption vs transparency & regulation, world domination vs democracy...silly little things like that.

So it was nice to read a very clear-headed and balanced article that sticks 'just to the facts ma'am' and indentifies some of those who take part in the proceedings (whilst many still remain anonymous), as well as highlighting some of the hypocrisies and double standards of this two-tier system....I urge you to read it...It is quite funny too. Also, strangely, some of the Bilderbergers went on a mountain walk which led them right past protesters, who for the time, intercepted them:

Bilderbergers seen in the video clip include "Prince of Darkness" Peter Mandelson, Google founder Eric Schmidt, Peer Steinbr├╝ck, Franco Bernabe, Jacob Wallenberg, and Thomas Enders.

Seeing the article's photos of some of the Bilderbergers who look decidedly human (as opposed to reptilian usurpers or bond villains), I like to think that in some aspects the Bilderberg conference is just like most other business seminars; that even the likes of  The Rothschilds, Goldman Sachs executives, Rockefeller and Kissinger, can't escape the boring tedium of powerpoint presentations, cringeworthy icebreakers, dull small talk and name badges (The idea of Kissinger for example, donning a sticker which says "Hi I'm: Henry" cracks me up). I'm guessing though the nibbles and refreshments are a bit more upmarket, and aren't served on cheap cash-and-carry paper plates.

And would there be the obligatory embarrassing after-seminar meal and piss up?  Corporate-sponsored disco where all the innebriated Bilderbergers dance badly and sing along to "We are family....I love all my 'bergers and me"?

Getting back to the point of this post, I read a good comment below the article, which I thought was very relevant:
"What is the point of having a freedom of information act when things like this are going on with the involvement of British officials?  Is it the case that we are "free" to know anything that they want us to know and "not free" to know anything they DONT want us to know?"...a fair point I thought.

Certain people claim that people who question this groups motives and are suspicious of what they get up to are paranoid fantasists (just look at some of the messages on the comments forum). Paranoid or not, we don't know what these people are getting up to...I don't think they'd all get together in secret just for a glass of pinot grigio 1959, a lobster dinner, and to do the hokey-cokey, do you?

For those nay-sayers who believe that nothing untoward is happening, and that we should just let these 'guardians of out well-being' continue as they are, behind very closed doors, I'll end with this quote by Thomas Jefferson (swiped from this article):

"Whenever the people are well-informed, they can be trusted with their own government." And: "If once they [the people] become inattentive to the public affairs, you and I, and Congress, and Assemblies, Judges, and Governors, shall all become wolves."
Without the people's attention to government, government grows fangs; but: "Enlighten the people generally, and tyranny and oppressions of body and mind will vanish like evil spirits at the dawn of day."
 
http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/jun/16/bilderberg-2011-tipping-point

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

"This Dog Barking": The Strange Story Of U.G. Krishnamurti

I've got to mention this beautiful graphic novel which is  in production right now, written by James Farley and Drawn by Nic Grey

"This Dog Barking" tells the story of U.G Krishnamurti, a man who, in his youth, searched for enlightenment, and who would later violently reject it, saying that "I would rather be called a criminal than an enlightened man".  After seeing-through the charades and hypocrisies of various teachers and gurus who he studied under, U.G. believed that enlightenment didn't exist and that thinking itself was a barrier that got in the way of the natural rhythms of the body, which he believed to be the true self.

Rejecting god and the idea of univeral love, he became a kind of 'anti-guru', critical of the conditioning created by religion and society. He was adamant that he was not a teacher and had nothing to give, yet when friends and strangers who spoke to him started to record and share his thoughts, and even write books about him (often taking what he said out of context, as some kind of teaching), U.G. ironically attracted many 'followers' and inspired many; including philosophers, psychologists and spiritual people, even though he was very clear that his words offered no comfort, meaning or road to truth. He believed it was a waste of time to try and change yourself or others. "I am just a dog barking" is the quote that inspired the title of this book.

From what I've gathered he was quite a character; at times nihilistic, opinionated and often with a short fuse when confronted with ideas he had no time for, but also with a sharp sense of humour, and a quick mind which allowed him to jump out of any box that people tried to put him in. He also had a no nonsense approach that endeared him to many.

James' writing is meticulously researched, and Nic's art meticulously drawn (click to enlarge the beautifully drawn page on the right).

The book is to be written in English and published in India at the end of the year, and will hopefully be available in the UK too (I hope so, it looks like it will be an amazing read).

For those interested in finding out more about U.G or about the book and creators, there's a "This Dog Barking" facebook group here where there are numerous videos and links to U.G.'s anti-teachings and also light hearted links to other stuff that relates to the themes that U.G talks about, with friendly and challenging discussion between members of the group. Even though, according to U.G that would be a complete waste of time ;)

To see more work from this particular book (including a downloadable PDF) click here
Too watch a youtube video with great music and glorious artwork from the book click here

To see more of Nic's other solo comics and art, click here

Monday, 13 June 2011

Review: Up A Blind Alley by Scott Jason Smith

This comic is the first autobiographical work i've read by Scott Smith.  I'd previously read his 3 issues of "Paunch"; a suberb, darkly funny, well written collection of strips, with some very interesting characters (Charlie Cymric and Forbes Thorpe are memorable). The tone and feel of those issues of Paunch, I would say, was kind of like a lovechild of Dan Clowes and British small press veteran Paul Rainey, but a child that had long since cut the umbillical chord, stood on it's own two feet, and had gone off to explore weird and wonderful terrain of it's own. In other words; it was good.

So I was eager to read Up A Blind Alley.  The pace is slower, a bit more considered than paunch, and the humour more slight to start with. Scott portrays himself as an affable if somewhat isolated character, a little at odds with the world (like most comic artists in auto-bios). We see his anger at the reaction of a youth when an old lady falls and bangs her head badly, we join him at one of those uncomfortable parties where everyone else knows each other and talks exclusively amongst themselves, or else act like rude, self-obsessed c**ts. After the party, and the walk home, the next few pages have a Chester Brown look & feel about them, there's a dream sequence, then the process of Scott on his own, waking up and deciding what to do with the day...I enjoyed the little joke in this section, a subtle dig at the TV show "Friends". Up to this point of the comic, I was engaged but not as wowed as I had been with paunch.

Then the book picks up pace, as Scott decides to spend his Sunday in a pub, and meets a few annoying and unsavoury characters, my favourite being the guy in the sample to your right (click to enlarge).  This is more of the kind of  humour I enjoyed in Paunch; well-observed and laughter inducing, especially when followed by Scott's horrible realisation that the bloke has the same jacket as him, and wonders if that's how he'll end up.

By this point, it feels like the comic has gone from a self-conscious slow pace to a more confident stride. A paranoid misunderstanding in the local fish shop is done really well (a bit of a Larry David moment), and other highlights include an insight into Chatham nightlife, and an overheard conversation on a train where a teenager tells tall tales to his mate, in an effort to impress him, which is comedy gold. The ending isn't the best, but it feels non-contrived and the comic IS to be continued. There's plenty of funny moments, pathos and intelligence in this book to keep the most jaded stalwarts happy, and the artwork is really nice....I'm looking forward to part 2 & also Paunch #4. Here's a link to more of scott's comics, and you can also contact him from the same site.

PSYCHOANALYSIS! The Couch Of Fear...

I love this old EC cover, it makes me wonder what the stories are like. It seems the ghastly physical horrors of other EC titles have been replaced by the equally terrifying horrors of the mind!

I think other suitable titles on this theme could have been "Couch Of Fear", "The Void Of Freud" and "Complex Horror", but that's just me.



Saturday, 11 June 2011

Fancy a Bite? Gahan Wilson's Diner

Gahan Wilson is one of the kings of twisted one page funnies, who's dark and very funny cartoons featured regularly in publications such as Playboy, National Lampoon and The New Yorker. To me he's up there with the likes of Harvey Kurtzman and Charles Addams for clever black humour and satirical wit, and great, expressive art style which went on to influence many, probably the most obvious being Gary 'Farside' Larson.

So here is a short animation which Gahan Wilson conceived and penned, where we finally get to see Gahan's creations and wild imaginings escape from the page and onto the moving screen. A ghoulish little treat for all you sickos and macabre little monsters out there...Enjoy!

Review: Pneuma by Dan Locke

I'm very lucky to have one of the very limited first print-run of this comic, that features the cover art on the left. Dan has since produced a second run, printed on very nice stock with a different, more minimalist cover, but I love this version, so I'm chuffed.

Anyway, cover aesthetics aside, let's get down to business!

Pneuma is a solid work, a collection of autobiographical comics (with one biographical), which transcends most of the autobio stuff out there. Every strip is interesting in it's own unique way, and it never feels samey, the stories suck you in and are very immersive, as is Dan's art style, which has developed from years of printmaking.

The comics use stong bold black and white contrast (although the art is printed on yellow paper) and solid grey mid-tones, and Dan plays around with this format with precision, creating striking work.

As for the stories, well they all have a personal and warm heart to them, and they intrigue, often amuse and occassionally beguile. The first story "No Word Of A Lie" is an account of the author's childhood experience of seeing what he believes to be a ghost. It avoids sensation and comes across as very plausible and a little unnerving.

"George Watts", one of the stories made especially for War: The Human Cost, is reprinted here and tells the remarkable true story of an old navy sea-dog from WW2.

"Green Fireball" is partly a youthful reminiscence, and part exploration and questioning of a 'UFO' seen in the sky by Dan and his teenage friends, which takes the reader through Greek Mythology to sci-fi X-Files territory whilst ruminating on this experience. It's good fun and also playful.

The final strip, is the longest and the most satisfying, which recounts a visitation in a dream, nudity, a thought-provoking discussion, sleepwalking, and a genuinely moving finale. I really don't want to give too much away, but this is a brilliant end to the proceedings, a beautiful little story which will stay with you.

I hope this review has inspired you to go and grab one of these beauties; you can check out more of Dan's work here and email him for a copy.

ROM Spaceknight VS Dick Cheney

A few months ago I did the drawing below as part of a benefit fundraiser for Bill Mantlo, creator of Rom: Spaceknight, who was hit by a car and left paralyzed and who has been left with hefty medical bills.

My work was one of many which was auctioned off to raise money for Bill, and I hoped it would also make the book collection, as I was impressed by a lot of the other artwork, some of which had come from very left-of-centre ideas, which I liked.

Unfortunately, I was told that Hasbro (who now own the rights to Rom even though the character has laid dormant for nearly 3 decades) might not take kindly seeing their character attacking one of the most influential men in America. Oh well. That's what I get for doing the things I like to do!

But nevermind, doing the art was fun and I'm pleased that my art may have in some way helped towards Bill's hospital bills.

Here's a few other pieces of Rom art from the project which I liked:

By Ben Marra
By Jon Wilcox

By Pete Toms
For those who don't know, Rom (as well as being a toy brought out ny Parker Brothers in the '80's) was a character in his own comic, who travelled through space, tracking and destroying 'The Dire Wraiths'; diabolically evil creatures, hellbent on planetary domination, and who could take human form.

Whereas, Dick Cheney is a very dubious character in American politics, he has been Republican vice president twice, was head of Hallibuton, and has had more involvement in corruption, dodgy schemes and underhand skullduggery, than your nan has eaten sweet biscuits.

As for the Bilderberg group, they are a clandestine organisation that consist of the world's most powerful business people (including the rothchilds allegedly), whom people know very little about.  Because of such secrecy many wild conspiracy theories have splurged forth about them; that they are really alien lizard people, or part of some dark occult-practicing Illuminati sect. Therefore, I thought i would have fun not only taking the piss out of Mr Cheney, but the wild conspiracies that circulate about him and his ilk. I wonder whether Bill Mantlo ever got to see this, and if he did, did he find it funny? I hope so.

For anyone interested, you can see more of the Rom fundraiser art here.

Review: Can I Borrow Your Toilet? By Gareth Brookes

This is a very wry, enjoyable and lovely produced small press book. I found myself bursting into uncontrolled laughter regularly  throughout the 64 pages, which was a welcome and rare thing.

Let me say this first; this is not a comic. It's more an illustrated memoir of Senor Brookes' experiences and observations whilst working in a warehouse.

There are numerous illustrations however; beautifully rendered and detailed (the boy can crosshatch!), and often displaying the same dry wit and slight caricature which is present in the writing. which are like little snap-shots of the environment and people he is describing. An example is a portrait of a irritated looking middle-aged man with the caption; "In his pocket he rattled his keys aggressively".

For anyone who has worked low paid jobs in factories, warehouses and other similar environments (as I have), then I'm sure more than a couple of the characters in the book will seem familiar. 'Ticking Time-bomb Tom" for instance, who hates everyone he works with, but not as much as those who leave the job.  Or the nicotine stained van driver, who "always had a roll up smouldering in the corner of his burnt mouth", and who tells you that he's never had a day off in his life and alludes to this being due to his beloved tobacco.

Gareth brings home the repetitiveness and predicability of the job, but also the oddball characters and the rituals they indulge in to pass the time and entertain themselves, which he writes about with subtle hints of fondess, irritation, bemusement and sarcasm.

He recalls the piss-taking, wisecracking, anecdote and philosophy sharing, packed-lunch eating contests, and the watching of the mysterious, exotic and alluring 'little red coat girl', who walks past the loading bay every day, and although is only moderately attractive, has become like the fabled maidens that mariners would talk about, when bored and without women at sea.

It is bringing home these absurdities, and strange camaraderies with comedic aplomb, that this book does so well.

I suppose similarities with Gervais & Merchant's 'The Office' could be made, but this has a richness and subtleness of it's own, and it certainly doesn't feel like any kind of imitation. Rather it shines as an authentic and endearing work, which is that rare beast; a small press book that you can return to and still find as funny as the first time you read it.
You can get the book for an honest, working man's fiver (along with Gareth's other books) here.

www.appallingnonsense.co.uk

Underground Comix Classic Cover Of The Month!

Curse Of The Molemen by Charles Burns