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Sunday, 26 February 2012

Freddie and Me (LGBT History Month)

A coming of age (bohemian) rhapsody

Writer and artist: Mike Dawson
Publisher: Jonathan Cape

What's it about?
This is Mike's life story, as soundtracked by Queen.

When I say soundtracked by Queen, I mean everything is told through a Queen filtered lens.  Dawson is something of a superfan, and so all major moments in his life are linked to the band and their music.  He's born in England, where he first discovers Queen on Top of the Pops (an old BBC music programme that ran weekly for about 30 years, it was an institution) by watching the video for I Want to Break Free.
This starts a lifelong obsession which follows him through primary school, his family move to America aged 11, his teenage years, his first girlfriends, his first jobs and meeting and marrying his wife. He's also pretty passionate about art, which explains why this is a comic and not a prose book.

What's good about it?
Oh gods, it's embarrassingly accurate to being an obsessed teenage fan.   I don't know how many of you were also into music as a teen, but I was.  I'd read the music papers from cover to cover.  I had my favourite bands I'd listen to over and over.  I knew all the trivia.  I'd learn the words.  I'd spout off about the amazingness of said bands, their music and the members.  I'd connect everything with certain bands.  I'd take it personally when someone insulted my favourite band.  I lived and breathed music.
Reading this comic flung me straight back into that feeling - I recognise all the nerdy, fannish things Dawson does.  He captures the intensity and the awkwardness perfectly.  His sister is massively into Wham and George Michael in particular, which gives us some great sibling/band rivalry scenes.

If you identify with where he's coming from, you'll probably laugh and cry and cringe, just like I did.  Then perhaps you'll feel a little bit of pride at the fellow superfan who's grown up and still nurtures that love for Queen.
What's bad about it?
If you aren't a Queen fan, or aren't a big music fan, you may not find much to interest you.  Dawson's life story, judged on it's own merits, isn't particularly interesting.  It's the tidbits about his fannish love of Queen that bring life to it, that provide the sometimes funny, sometimes moving, sometimes sad, moments.
What's the art like?
Ahh, this is another high point!  Dawson's cartooning is fabulous.  It's all black and white and it's so expressive.  He draws familial resemblances while making each person distinct.  His depictions of other rock stars are eerily accurate even though they are a bit caricatured.  I've rarely seen real people captured so well on paper.

When he draws Freddie Mercury singing, or himself singing, as in for example the cover of the book, you can feel the energy streaming off the page.  Dawson is a natural at drawing epic, intense, charged scenes.  When he shows us how he reacted when he found out Freddie died, well, my heart broke for him.

In short, the art is great and is one of the standout aspects to this book.

More information
Apparently only available in hardcover, Amazon prices this at £9.89.  The ISBN is 0224081934.
Mike Dawson has a website here.

Thursday, 23 February 2012

Demon Knights (LGBT History month)

 We find the source of the problem, and we throw dragons at it
- The Questing Queen's war strategy
Writer: Paul Cornell
Pencils: Diogenes Neves and Robson Rocha
Colours: Marcelo Maiolo
Inks: Oclair Albert with Rocha and Neves
Letters: Jared K Fletcher
N.B. These are the credits for issue 6 but I'm pretty sure think issues 1-5 had the same creative team.
Publisher: DC Comics

What's it about?
Demon Knights is a new ongoing comic book series published by DC Comics.  It's set in England Southern France (so the writer told me) in the Dark Ages, and gathers together an unlikely group of magic users who end up fighting side by side against the enemy.  The group is made up of Exoristos, tall, super strong woman; Sir Ystin, the Shining Knight; Jason Blood, host of the demon Etrigan, Madame Xanadu, magician who was at the fall of Camelot; Vandal Savage, immortal; Horsewoman, archer extraordinaire; Al Jabr, saracen and inventor.

The Questing Queen sends her horde to battle the kingdom of Alba Serum.  To get there, they have to go through a village named Little Spring.  When the front runners arrive in the village and barge their way into the local pub, our 'Demon Knights' take this interruption to their quiet pint seriously, and start fighting the invaders.  Things escalate, and before you know it there's dragons and demons, and winged horses, giant rhinoceroses and magic shields and sacrifices and so on and so forth.

It's a full on fantasy series, and it's ever so English.

Monday, 20 February 2012

The Princess (LGBT History month)

 The Princess
A webcomic by Christine Smith
What's it about?
The Princess is about Princess Sarah, aged about 8 years, maybe 9 or 10, who was born with a male body and named Seth by her parents.  The first strip introduces Sarah to us as a happy, confident girl:
Sarah's parents are divorced and she lives with her mother.  Her mother is having difficulty accepting Sarah's decision to dress as a girl, as she's worried about Sarah being bullied and having a hard life if she doesn't present as male.  However, Sarah finds support from her best friend Irma, her father, her aunt and her aunt's friends.

As much as it's a story about being trans, it's a also a story about young kids, their imaginations, school, pre-pubescent crushes and adventure! 

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Love is in the air....for everyone!

As has probably been noted by most people in the UK, it's Valentine's day today!  If all the commercial schmaltz hasn't annoyed you too much, you may want to pick up some romantic comics.  If you do, well then, we have quite a few for you!

Sunday, 12 February 2012

Claymore vol. 1: The Silver Eyed Slayer

Writer and Artist: Norihiro Yagi
Publisher: Shonen Jump Advanced

What's it about?
In a pre-industrial world in which monsters called yoma infiltrate human settlements in order to hunt and feed on human viscera, female warriors known as Claymores (after the huge swords they carry) are employed to hunt and kill the yoma. Half yoma themselves, these warriors have the strength and speed needed to fight yoma, and the ability to sense them out when they're hiding among humans. The warriors' inhumanity, clear in their lack of pigmentation in hair and skin and their shining silver eyes, makes it hard for humans to trust them, and leaves them outcasts in the society they work to protect.
Read right to left!

If it sounds familiar to you, you probably already know whether or not this series is for you.

Clare is a warrior that the Organization sends to a village for a routine yoma hunt, where she meets Raki, the young boy whose parents were the first victims. His gratitude to her when she saves him, combined with the village's distrust when they realise how close he was to the yoma, causes him to follow her out of the village and into her dangerous world, where a hesitant friendship develops between a boy who has lost everything and a girl who has shut herself off from the world.

Monday, 6 February 2012


Writer: Steven T. Seagle
Artist: Mike Allred
Inks: Philip Bond
Lettered by: Ken Lopez
Colored and separated by: Laura Allred
Publisher: Vertigo Comics

What’s it about?
Vertical is a little original project from the minds of Steven T. Seagle and Mike and Laura Allred.
Part conceptual project, part life segments.

It is quite an innovative comic, which doesn't really to innovate as much as simply exploring the format.
It is a fun experience all in all. Telling a simple enough and straight forward story/content and having fun with its form.

Vertigo's story focuses on Brando Bale, artist and daredevil living in the city during the Cold War era.
It's the struggling life of young artists trying to get a sense out of live will tension, economics and war loomed over new generations.
Brando makes art by putting his life in danger, doing public stunts-happenings.
One day, he meets Zilly Zane, aspiring actress.
The forces behind his life's goal and dreams will finally meet a stop, as Brando will ponder at this crossroads of life.
He needs to either cease to put his life in danger and embrace life, or continue this useless quest...