Weak As I Am

Fan art / mini-review time!

I finally picked up a copy of Weak As I Am by Nigel 'Spleenal' Auchterlounie at the Sunderland Comic Con. I'd read the story when Nigel had first published an early version of it online and I'd been impressed - impressed enough to want to obtain a slightly beautified but mainly similar print version. Why? Because it's mint.

It's an indie superhero story. That is to say: IT IS A SUPERHERO STORY. It's not a spoof (though it's very funny), it's not just using superhero motifs in a more personal story (though it does have a grounded sense of humanity in its everyman main character who accidentally gains superpowers), it genuinely has a load of awesome superhero stuff going on.

And the thing is: I usually do not think superhero stuff is awesome. I find that it's often tired, empty showboating, mired in continuity knots. Weak As I Am manages to keep all the potentially cool stuff (including varied powers, complex superhero-superhero and superhero-society dynamics), drop the baggage, and inject vitality, wit, and humanity, telling a story that clearly feels part of the superhero tradition whilst at the same time standing apart from it.
So I did a drawing of two characters from the book - Durmot and Gary, they are (literally) super friends. Durmot is made of stone and has a non-Newtonian field (maybe that's what that blue stuff is, not just poorly-rendered blue sky, ahem), and Gary has a variety of superpowers including super-strength and speed. There's a whole load of other super-powered characters, and even when they only have brief 'screentime' due to the blazing pace of the book, there's a definite sense of character and identity to all of them.

The art style (and central character) continue from the equally excellent Speenal, and while there's still much of the same humour and ingenuity, in Weak As I Am, the humour is occasionally dialled back to allow some moments of genuine drama.

I think, as with all indie superhero comics, there's a risk that the 'indie' readers don't give it a go because it's superheroes, and the 'superhero' readers don't give it a go because it's indie. And that's a shame, because I genuinely think both groups (well, y'know, everyone really) would get a lot out of this.


Endangered and More Strange Stories

Daniel Clifford and Lee Robinson of Art Heroes have educated and enthused countless kids about comics over the last few years, running workshops at schools, libraries, and events. They rule.

Part of what makes them so effective as comics educators is the fact they're making great kids' comics themselves. Their first series, Halcyon and Tenderfoot, has recently been collected, and they've just published a brand new comic, Endangered and More Strange Stories, featuring three substantial standalone action-adventure tales in full colour. It is a smart piece of comic goodness, really polished, with clear attention to detail, and crucially, bursting with a tonne of fun ideas and fab Saturday-morning-cartoon-style art!

What's in the book? Time-travelling scientist heroes - CHECK! Derring-do wild west vigilantes - CHECK! Supernatural-mystery-solving kids - CHECK! Pigeon vicars - CHECK! What more do you need?!

I think my favourite section is Monster Book with its 'Byker Grove-meets-Scooby Do' vibes, but I couldn't resist trying to do a little doodle of The Outlaw outlining a new ingenious plan to his long-suffering sidekick for how they're going to foil local corruption.

No doubt it will involve  extreme danger.

Anyway, it's not clear whether Daniel and Lee will be tempted back to do more with any of these characters, but there's loads to enjoy in this issue for readers young and old.

Check out the Art Heroes website for more info about purchasing this fine comic or attending one of their workshops.

Verity Fair

Been meaning to do some more little fan art sketches/reviews and the release of the collected edition of Terry Wiley's Verity Fair seems an ideal prompt.

Verity Fair is great. It's also very difficult to explain why, as it pretty much defies categorisation. Approximately, it's a comedy-drama about a bit-part actress (the eponymous Verity) who has to deal with trying to get paying gigs whilst confronting unresolved issues in her past - but that doesn't really do it justice.

It's core strength is a foundation of engaging character interaction. Terry has a knack for judging characters and situations so that they're balanced between recognisably slice-of-life and quirkily oddball, and every scene is delivered with well-crafted dialogue, facial expressions and body language, so you're drawn in to whatever's happening - be that a drama at the casting agency, a  pseudo-'Never Mind The Buzzcocks' game show or a psychotherapy session.

It's also quite a formally experimental comic occasionally, happy to playfully muck about with the medium when the need arises - but always with purpose, so that it doesn't distract from the smooth delivery of the story.

Anyway, here's my attempt at sketching Verity, blasting out a show-tune fuelled by one too many celebratory cocktails after landing a gig.

Though she's supported by a fine cast of characters (linked to other excellent comics Terry has drawn in the past - Sleaze Castle, Surreal School Stories, Petra Etcetera), really its Verity's own charm as a character that pulls you through the book. She's loud and feisty but her depiction is full of nuance and depth, and it's hard not to warm to her.

In short: ... wait, no, as I've explained I CAN'T DO AN 'IN SHORT', Verity Fair is just good, and you should read it. It's available at all good comic shops, and digitally on the Sequential app.

For more info follow Terry Wiley on the Twitter.


Funktacular and Spooktacular

The Creature From the Funk Lagoon is returning!

You are aware of the Tyneside Cinema's swish new(ish) café-bar? YOU ARE NOW. It has all kinds of cool stuff on - quizzes, DJs, bands, plus fine food and beverages.

Well, the official Best Clubnight In The World Ever, the Funky Butt Club (which has been on hiatus for the last few months), is returning and it's new home will be fortnightly Fridays at the Tyneside's café-bar! AND the first one is TODAY, 24th October! AAAAAAND the Creature From The Funk Lagoon will be taking to the decks - to spin some funk, soul, disco, rhythm n blues, with maybe a sprinkling of rock n roll and hiphop and other funky goodness. Gonna be tops.

You are also aware of Nerd Hutch, Newcastle's new(ish) super-awesome DIY venue-space for super-awesome things like gigs and comics? YOU ARE NOW. Check the listings and see which cool bands and whatnot will be playing in the near future.

One of those fine upcoming events is a Halloween gig, featuring top punk tunes from Uniforms, solanos, and Skull Puppies. The Creature From the Funk Lagoon will be warm-up DJ, trying to set the tone with some spooky tunes (which aren't just the Monster Mash on loop all evening). Get yerself along for spooky good times.