The Whore Chronicles – review


Possibly not one for the feint-hearted, and certainly not one for your nan, here’s a review of this short anthology brought to us by the small-press man-beast that is Tony Esmond (@Ezohyez  –

There are seven stories in this book, all written by Tony, amounting to 36 pages. We have five sequential pieces (each by a different artist) and a couple of prose shorts. Here’s the artwork credits:


‘Shelly’: Rachael Ball @Rachaelcartoons

‘Peggy’: Sarah Harris @implausible

‘Diane’: Rik Jackson @gojacksongo

‘Lana’: Tom Curry @thischucklehead

‘Sasha’: Charles H Raymond @not_so_tiny

The cover-art is by your man Vince Hunt @jesterdiablo

The two pin-ups in the back of the book are ‘Behind the Camera’ by Stuart Mulrain @TokenNerd, and ‘Reality Sucks’ by Vince Hunt

The two prose shorts written by Tony are: ‘The Story of Sidney Small’ and ‘Peggy was a Rubbish Prostitute’.

Let’s start at the start: Vince might have come up with anything for the cover – a rough London pub where some of the women in the book ply their trade, or the shadowy alley where some of them service their customers. But no. Instead we’ve got a cover that’s an old VHS cassette which immediately sets the period of the comic – this is a solid pre-turn of the century piece and we know it before we open the book. I don’t know whose idea that was, but I like it!

Not everyone will want to read this book, which is a bit of a shame. With that title, I’d probably hesitate to read it in public myself to be honest, but, while the title is entirely representative of what’s inside, it perhaps isn’t w

hat you might expect – there’s no actual sex in the book and no nudity, i.e. what you might expect from the title. None of the stories tries to present the sham glamour of Hollywood prostitutes, or the one-dimensional whore we often see as bit-part characters on TV; the women we meet here are all different, all individual. Their stories are unique with many motivations and experiences.

Each sequential story is a short interview with one of the women where they give you a brief insight into their lives. It would be easy to feel sorry for them, but I don’t imagine that pity is what they would want. I wonder if some of them would even know what they did want if you took the time to ask them – most of their world’s feel pretty damn bleak, where the luxury of hope is something that they probably don’t allow themselves.

The exception to this format in terms of the sequentials, is a back-story relating to a background character from the brilliant Cockney Kung-Fu, one of Tony’s other creations. In fact, there are two stories in here about Peggy – the sequential and a piece of prose. Knowing Tony, the fact that this sequential comes first is probably deliberate as there’s a definite cause and effect relationship between the two stories. I won’t say more but see what you think.

Finally, there’s a sort of flipped story in there too by way of the other prose piece. The Story of Sidney Small makes you realise that the punters aren’t all husbands whose wives don’t understand them or pissed business-men away at a conference. Some of them are just bastards.

I particularly enjoyed the sequentials in this book – the artwork has real variety and, for me, Rachel Balls’ work on Shelly is the stand-out.

When you read the stories told in the prose you make that face like you’ve just sicked-up into your mouth, but sometimes, it’s worth reminding yourself how good your life is and there are people who have to taste a bit of sick more often than not. For me, I’d have liked a little more punctuation in the prose now and again but nonetheless, powerful stuff from a guy who has obviously seen some right horrible shit in his long and, possibly, illustrious career.

All in all, I’d recommend this to anyone who isn’t too squeamish or too easily offended. If you want a flavour of what life on the streets is like, get yourself a copy of this moving book and, while you’re at it, think about donating to the charity Tony mentions at the back of the book; Beyond the Streets – they’re a UK based charity who sees the possibility of life beyond sexual exploitation. Find them at






Out of Time – review

Story: Luke James Halsall @LJHalsall

Art / colours / letters: Cuttlefish @cuttlefishcomic

Publisher: Markosia @Markosia 

When Luke sent me the link and I downloaded Out of Time, I immediately realised that I’d seen this comic before – I still can’t remember when exactly but I thought at the time I really liked the cover, so getting to dip inside is real treat. 

Before we get into detail, let’s sum up: I’m reviewing the whole book here which is a collection of three issues, numbered 1, 2, and 4. This may seem odd, but as I only write spoiler-free reviews, you’ll have to read it to find out why this doesn’t make sense in a good way! You’re getting over 60 pages of story for your money here, so great value for a book you can download for under $4 (check out DriveThru Comics for the download). The guys were on the con-circuit hawking the book before it being picked up by Markosia after a meeting at Thought Bubble – just goes to show, it’s always worth making those connections at cons! 

So, let’s start with the artwork – it’s the first thing you notice about a book of course, and in this case it’s a good thing. The artwork isn’t entirely conventional but is nonetheless fantastic and that’s coming from someone who really got into, and then out of, comics in the ‘90s – and we all know what that means as far as artwork’s concerned: ’90s style art this ain’t, and the book is all the better for it. The characters only occasionally have mouths, sometimes don’t have arms (but still have hands) and frequently miss out on the joys of noses but that only adds to the wonderfully stylised appearance of the book. 

Backgrounds aren’t heavily detailed, colouring uses a really limited and largely unrealistic palette, and word balloons are funky hand drawn affairs. None of this, however unusual, is bad – every bit of it appears a consummate stylistic choice topped off by some really neat inks which are most successful when they are kept nice and simple. A slight criticism, and I’m working hard here to pull something out, is that I think both the inking and the colouring are slightly less convincing in panels where the palette gets too varied (in that you lose that really strong graphic element of shades of a single colour) or inks are too detailed (where inked shading goes further than solid blacks) – the middle section of issue one is an example, but this is pretty minor in what is otherwise really solid work from Cuttlefish. Does anyone know who this person is by the way or am I looking for a guy who squirts ink in my face if I approach too quickly from a jaunty angle at a con…?

Onto the story. As I say, no spoilers (although the book’s been out for some time and I’m not sure that the script is really built around surprises, so I think I’m pretty safe), so I’ll keep things relatively general. 

The story is about a small team of employees at a company who offer holidays to different periods in time to rich clients – when I say different periods of time, I don’t mean dressing up in green tights, sticking a feather in your cap and pretending you’re robbing from the rich. No, we’re talking actual time travel – which, as everyone knows, is a mind bender of a concept and something one would be well advised to steer clear of as a plot device. Given that, you have to hand it to the nutcase that is Luke James Halsall for taking it on! 

Halsall sails above the old time-travel pitfall of getting bogged down in the “major boring shit” of the mechanics of it all – his main tool for this nimble little authoring trick? The classic time-travelling-sofa; naturally. I know, but it just is, ok? 

While the story gads along at a rare old pace, it isn’t full of any great suspense which is fine because what we have here is a tale that relies on the characters and comedy to entertain the reader. Just before we get to those features though, it’s great that the story “gets about a bit” with scenes both in antiquity and in the future, all well visualised by Cuttlefish. Different realities are also mentioned but not explored in this book: I’m hoping that’ll be the subject of a future publication! 

In terms of characters, some are more successful than others, with Redmond, NC-1000 and Dave being the ones that stand out. The dialogue of these three really works to give you a sense of character and quickly established itself as the distinctive voice of each. The other characters are good supporting players but perhaps lack the more clearly drawn appeal of these three. 

One issue that jarred slightly was that the characters often use language that feels a little less natural than is comfortable, with fewer contractions than you might expect (e.g. “…what we are saying…” instead of “…what we’re saying…”). For many people this probably isn’t an issue, but writing natural dialogue is a really tricky business and it’s something that I find takes me out of a story if it doesn’t quite flow which happens here occasionally. 

As for comedy, I found the funniest moments of the book were those delivered by characterisation rather than dialogue written purely for laughs – both Redmond and NC-1000 have some great lines which are funny because it’s an insight to their heads rather than being funny per se. I’d definitely say that this is something to focus on in the future as it works really well here.  

To sum up, Out of time, is a good book full of fantastic artwork, some neat story and cool characters. I’d certainly recommend taking this little beauty for a spin! I’m really looking forward to what these guys are cooking up next. 

J.AKE – Page 6

Welcome to the final page of J.AKE.

After spending years doing the wetwork of the Department of Justice, our hero has a dream in which he sees the death of innocence. The awakening makes him realise the horror of the work he has carried out with impunity, and he’s pissed. Heading straight for the Director, he visits terrible revenge on the staff of the Department of Justice. The Director decides J.AKE is expendable and, after failing to terminate him, he cuts her down and she is revealed as a cyborg, more sophisticated, but just like J.AKE. Later, she (or maybe a copy) turns up in Sam’s bar and he understands that the Department can’t be stopped so easily. The Director explains that the organic part of his brain has developed what amounts to a conscience as a consequence of being secretly fed stem cells. Let’s see how this mess ends…

It’s about bloody time…

Fair enough. I’ve been reading sequential art (most people know that as comics – more on that in another post) for a pretty long time – let’s see, I’m 45 now and I reckon I started when I was maybe 10 or so; I’ll leave you to do the maths. Despite that, and the fact that I’ve always loved creating art, I’ve never managed to motivate myself to actually produce sequential stuff before now.

You’d be forgiven for thinking that that’s just damn lazy. You may well be right of course, but that’s not it – honest. The truth is that I’ve never thought my art was up to scratch and it doesn’t really matter how many times someone tells you that a piece is great, you (or at least, I) never thought was good enough.

I guess I held that comic art had to be as good as Zeck or Portacio or Lee or McFarlane to qualify because those were the guys that I really looked up to from when I read Secret Wars in the mid-80s onwards. Because, for me, it was all about the artwork – it didn’t matter too much if I only picked up a single issue of a comic and missed the arc, because I only picked up comics with artwork that made me desperate to be that good.

So, if you’re a vertical thinking kinda kid you might conclude that, now I’m about to release some sequential into the nasty old world of the internet, I must have got to a point where I think my art is good enough. Wrong, genius; I still think my art isn’t good enough, but what’s changed is that I don’t really care. At 45, lots of things look different to the way they did at 15, or 25 or even 35. Take it from me kids, if you want to make comics, don’t bother waiting until you’re good enough, ‘cause unless you’re pretty up your own arse, you’ll probably never think you are.

Without going into detail (I might do that later), there are a couple of people to give the proverbial nod to for me arriving at this understanding. First, Lizzie Boyle (@lizzieboylesays) – made me realise there was such a thing as small press comics in a café at Addenbrooks Hospital while we were working for Cambridge Uni. Second, the Awesome Comics Podcast guys (@theawesomepod): Vince “Help! The cats have locked me in” Hunt, Dan “Let that sink in” Butcher and Tony “Sex wee” Esmond. Yeah, they really moan about the state of comic cons, but they single-handedly do more for small press than anyone else I know of (admittedly, I don’t really know anyone, but y’know…) – thanks all.