Awesome Comics Anthology – Issue 1, Review

Awesome Comics Issue 1Ever since Lizzie Boyle (@lizzieboylesays) told me, much to my amazement, that there was such a thing as a small press scene and I dragged my good lady to Frome and the delights of my first ever comic event, I’ve been listening to the rantings of the Awesome Comics Podcast crew. Vince (who appears to do all the work), Dan (who literally will read anything out on air) and Tony (who has a mouth like the potty of a toddler with norovirus) who entertain us with their comic-based shenanigans each week. Oh, those guys…


We all know that they’ve been making comics of their own or collaborating with others for years, but now they’ve really gone and done it; they’ve come together in the heady whirlwind of monochrome pages and alcohol fuelled (I’m guessing) madness that is their first anthology. Three stories told over four issues. Let’s check out issue one.


First up: Murder road


Story: Vincent Hunt (@jesterdiablo) and Daniel Marc Chant (@danielmarcchant)

Art / Letters: Vincent Hunt

From the first page, and even without reading the text, you know this story is going to be dark. Once the story kicks in, it immediately has the feel of an 80s action movie (for some reason it put me in mind of The Wraith although I’ve not seen that since it went straight to video about the time I left school) which gives it a great nostalgic feel boosted with some awesome cheese in the script.

The characters here stand out as classic tropes – the testosterone-high jerk, his under-appreciated girlfriend, a concerned mother, and the local cop, all of which are hitting just the right notes as a perfect cast of characters for the story. Assuming they survive!

There’s obvious jeopardy building up here as things hot up on the road, and other characters are racing against time to intervene in what I suspect will end up being a pretty messy situation come issue 2!

I enjoyed the scripting in this comic and you can certainly hear Vince in the dialogue but I did feel like the conversation between the cop and the mum could have been a little tighter – I can see exactly what the guys were trying to do, but a judicious edit would, I think, have carried what needed to be said with fewer words and helped to keep the pace up across these panels.

Overall the feel of the story is great, and the deceptively simple rendering belies the quality of the work and, in particular, the facial expression art which, take it from me, is really tricky to pull off.

So, a solid start to Murder Road and I’m looking forward to getting some properly dark action in issue 2 – I’ll definitely be back for it!

Next: “Back off boogaloo”, The Big Old Kent Road Kick-off, Parts 1 and 2

Story: Tony Esmond (@ezohyez)

Art / Letters: Nick Prolix (@nickprolix)

Right. Give me a minute to work out what my eyes have just had done to them…ah yes, I see…

I’ll be totally honest; I wasn’t sure about the art to start with – my real comic education was in the 90s and, for better or worse, that creates expectations. I’m glad of the week I gave the book before I wrote this though as it gave me time to realise just how wrong I was.

The thing I realised that I had missed originally was how Nick’s wonderfully classic style of art has been used to create a harsh, but not jarring, contrast to the subject it’s portraying which gives the whole story a quirky feel that really suits – an inspired choice of artist by Tony; I wonder if that was a conscious decision…

A week of reflection and then coming back to the comic and I can see how good that is: the artwork is in Nick’s signature style and is work (if it weren’t for the content) that would fit right in to the pages of a comic I was reading when I was still in short trousers, but the content is unapologetically violent; even the Bash Street Kids would wonder if they’d crossed the line.

A little like Murder Road, the artwork is deceptively simple and sits perfectly in the context of a gritty 70s London that doesn’t treat anyone very well who can’t give as good as they get.

Part 1 and 2 are each five pages, Tony’s preferred approach to scripting, which works really well here. The dialogue is sparse which lets the artwork tell the story and is suggestive of the trust that Tony obviously has in Nick to deliver.

Part 1 set’s us up with the main protagonist; Red, the Soho Sista, and leaves in no doubt that a) you really shouldn’t whistle at ladies in the street and b) you probably wouldn’t take her home to meet your nan. Part 2 confirms her badass status but also helps us understand something of the environment she’s surviving in with fickle ‘friends’ who would likely turn you over for the price of a pint and everyone doing what they need to to survive.

The atmosphere throughout is sort of jaunty but with a raw edge that gets darker and seedier as we move through the 10-page story. There’s every indication that Red is going to be fighting for more than money in issue 2. Bring it on.

And finally: Vyper

Everything: Dan Butcher (@vanguardcomic)

The opening page of Vyper sets the story up so that we know this is an action movie – and it couldn’t fit the mould any better if it tried.

Dan’s worked hard here to cover plenty of ground in the first issue – giving us a taste of the sort of action I hope we can expect from the whole story and an introduction to all the key players (with the exception of the big bad, who I can just feel lurking in the wings): our hero, his sidekick, their brow-beaten boss and the woman I’m assuming will become the love interest. Classic.

The dialogue is sharp, witty and on point, and there are also some really funny touches in here – not only in the script but in nonsense like the police captain’s sphincter issues and the huge junk on display when Sloan Vyperini makes his first appearance. And there’s another classic trope: the guy is called Viperini, he’s also Vyper, the titular character, but you can bet no-one will pick up on that little gem of a coincidence.

There’s a lot of talking in this issue and I wondered a couple of times if there was more than it really needed. It’s not that there’s much in the way of exposition so it’s not like a couple of extra pages would have allowed Dan to thin out the dialogue per panel, it’s just that he looks to have wanted to get as much cheese in as possible. And on balance, I think it just about works out.

The artwork is classic Butcher and anyone familiar with Vanguard will recognise it immediately. The almost airbrushed finish and plenty of edge lighting alongside some great graphic elements make it a good-looking comic.

A fitting finale to a superb anthology. Can’t wait for issue 2.

Marvel Classics – Psylocke

I mostly draw original characters. Not really sure why. I guess there’s a sense of freedom in that – no-one but me knows what those characters are meant to look like so I can’t be wrong, right? Well, maybe. But to continue the theme of trying (and mostly failing) not to worry what people might think of my work, I figured I’d start drawing some well known characters so that everyone can judge the hell out of my art…why not, eh?

Pencil drawing of Marvel's Psylocke

Judge Anderson

This year, 2000AD celebrated it’s 40th anniversary – quite a feat for a weekly anthology comic as that’s more than, well, a lot of issues! I was never a really regular reader of the mag but I do recall enjoying  the classic stories of Slaine, Halo Jones, ABC Warriors, Strontium Dog, Rogue Trooper and the rest. One of most prized possessions is the perfect bound series of full colour Slaine graphic novels with art by Simon Bisley and words by Pat Mills – both legends in the sequential art world.

Anyhow, although I couldn’t make it to any 2000AD anniversary events, I wanted to draw something to mark the occasion and settled on a sketch of Judge Anderson, Judge Dredd’s erstwhile psychic colleague. Here it is!

I’m thinking of doing some other characters from 2000AD so if anyone has any requests, let me know!

Learning from J.AKE

So, I finally manged to publish a total of two pages of sequential art – only about 35 years in the making and I’m feeling pretty good about my rate of production! Anyhow, I wanted to say something about the unexpected development of just about every aspect of the process. I guess this is something that must (presumably) happen to every artist when they draw their first few comics – I figured that I’d learn one or two things as I produced the story (I’m talking about J.AKE, The Waves was knocked up entirely traditionally in a couple of hours) but, as it turns out, it feels like I knew jack-s#&t before I started and now I’m at jack+1 – which is still basically bugger all…

It’s not unusual for me to launch into a project (not just art btw, but like, anything) with essentially no planning whatsoever. And, as that method had only let me down entirely on a small, but notable, handful of occasions in the past, I thought it’d do here too. I now realise just how stupid I am.

The list of cock-ups is pretty extensive and I want to talk about them all but this would be a very long and probably intensely boring post if I did so I’ll reign myself in for now. Let’s just say that there are a few things that I’ll be doing differently with the next story which are often about making the final product better but are always about making the process easier.

First up, I’ll be doing more (read ‘some’) storyboarding. Not really thinking about that has caused me more than a few headaches so I’ll definitely be considering the relationship between layout and script more carefully next time.

Next is remembering that each panel isn’t just a piece of artwork but, in the main, has to include space for word balloons. This near catastrophic error was summed up by the face Milmo pulled when I told her that I wasn’t sure I’d left enough space for my letters at the True Believers Summer con earlier this year. “Idiot” it said (in a nice way, natch).

Finally, and this is one for the two pages of J.AKE that are still to be inked – I’ll be doing the inking traditionally. I realised that I wanted to use cross hatching to make the whole thing a bit darker and grittier right at the end of making page 1, and I just couldn’t get it right doing it digitally but had no choice to carry on so I’m ditching the stylus for the pen when I get to that on P3 and 4 (Page 2 is largely already inked – apart from the cross hatching…)

The other thing to say is that it’s taken me an age to finish page 1. Partly due to the random way I’ve been going about the whole project but also because I’m learning with each and every aspect of the process: script, layouts, pencils, inks, colours (kicked those into the long grass in the end ‘cause they just weren’t good enough), using Clip Studio…all of it. Hopefully, I’ll be getting quicker from here on in because I really can’t wait another 35 years for the next page…

Here’s a panel from page 2, just in case you’re interested.

True Believers Comic Festival Summer Variant write up

With only a couple of hours to spare on Sunday morning away from the seemingly never-ending project to reinvigorate the Chez Couling cludgy, I knew I needed to spend it wisely – a trip to the True Believers Comic Festival Summer Variant was an obvious choice; particularly as it was in Gloucester, only a few miles from home. You can check out the main True Believers site right here.

Given everything else that’s going on, I hadn’t had time to properly check who was going to be at the con, but, having been to the previous Summer Variant and the main TBCF, I had a sneaky suspicion that Mr Mulrain was unlikely to throw me a furball. And so it proved.

I was a little too keen and, after being kicked out for trying to get in before the event opened and spending fifteen minutes looking for a sale at Poundland, I was one of the first through the door.

The venue was fantastic – the 13thC Blackfriars Priory is somewhat tucked away but if some lanky kid in a Spiderman costume can find it, so can you (next time. Obviously don’t go there now as the wedding that’s happening won’t know what to make of your Punisher cosplay rig). To be fair, the Spidey cosplayer did turn some heads as he literally sprinted down the alley from town to the venue – I didn’t see who was chasing him; presumably a guy in a stripy jumper with terrible skin.

Blackfriars Priory

Anyhow, the main hall where the comic tables were set up was great being both huge and historically interesting – an improvement over the previous years’ location which, despite hosting far fewer tables, was somewhat cramped (although they did do a good sarsaparilla…Check out Smokey Joe’s if you have no idea what I’m talking about).

The creators on display were great and I had a fantastic chat with Robin Etherington before snaffling a couple of books to be given as presents later this year. Robin and Lorenzo really have the con thing off to a fine art – they were totally on point with levels of enthusiasm and engagement I haven’t experienced outside a cheerleader convention. This was epitomised when Jack, an 11 year old fan of their creation “Von Doogan”, turned up in wicked cosplay and then produced a near perfect Von Doogan page he had created with his dad. If you don’t know the work of the brothers E (and you should), you can catch up with them here.

After spending quite some time with those guys and their being very complementary about some of my work (after I bought the books btw so I’m convinced it wasn’t a sales tactic), I moved on to chat to Ben, the manager of Proud Lion, the local comics’ emporium. Super helpful (despite mashing his finger in con-prep nightmare hell) and helped me sort out how to get hold of the end of Chris Wildgoose’s Batgirl run. I also picked up a mint second-hand copy of “Low, Vol 1: The Delirium of hope” for a very reasonable price. I’ve never seen this book before but as soon as I looked inside, the art worked it’s magic and money changed hands – check it out here.

After securing that little beauty, I sidled up to the table of the unassuming Mr Prolix. I’ve been following his antics since the announcement of Cockney Kung Fu (a collaboration with Tony Esmond of The Awesome Comics Podcast fame. What do you mean you don’t listen to the ACP? Shame on you! Go subscribe here right now! Unless you’re under 18, in which case just move on; there’s nothing to see here…) and you can sign up to the mailer for that feisty little drunken master of a project here. Nick was good enough to show me some of the pages and they are looking fantastic – can’t wait to see it in print! I grabbed “Slang Pictorial 1 & 2” while I was loitering (I paid, of course) and had to laugh at Nick’s unique (for comic cons) £#.99 pricing strategy – pretty sure he’s the only guy who’s cash tin contained pennies…

Next up was a visit to the several longbox tables, although no luck restocking my original Secret Wars run – I’ll get there in the end, although #8 could be a bit pricey apparently…

At the other end of the hall was a raised area where the mighty Milmo (Sarah Millman for those of you who don’t listen to the ACP) had set out her stall. Sarah was great to chat to – really engaging and enthusiastic about her work and comics in general. I hadn’t realised she was an artist full-time which is pretty freakin’ cool – good for you Milmo! As soon as I finish this post btw, I’m off to read “NPC Tea #1”. I know I’m behind the times but you gotta start somewhere right! Go visit Sarah here for a dose of Milmo magic.

All in all a great couple of hours which resulted in a nice little haul of goodies which I’m desperate to get reading so that’s your lot kids – catch you next time!