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.


More Investigating

There is such a thing as Tales of Extraordinariness #4: The Investigatist Returns. Yes, previously seen in ToE#1, the Investigatist now returns and faces his toughest case yet. It is pretty flipping tough.

Anyway, this mediocre publication might appear at Travelling Man Newcastle at some point (or not), but if you know me, just ask when you see me and I'll see if I've got any copies spare (though possibly not).


Skull Puppies

Skull Puppies should be your new favourite band. A trio of nerdcore punx with sharply observed and emotionally engaging lyrics, delivered with frankness and wry humour, propelled by ridiculously catchy melodic punk tunes, accessible but veering to full-throttle thrashy energy when the mood suits. SO GOOD. How good? Good enough to make me want to draw some weird kid wearing a crazy skull howling at the moon. I DON'T EVEN UNDERSTAND. Yes, that good.

Also, yeah, I scanned it wrong, but liked the effect so left it that way.

Check 'em out, then buy an EP, then see them live, you won't regret it:


Local comics by local people about the locality

So Paper Jam has finally got itself in gear and done a new anthology - Newcastle Stories ...And That. It's themed around PJCC's hometown stomping grounds of Newcastle-upon -Tyne and is being released at a Late Shows event at the Holy Biscuit gallery's 'Urban Fictions' exhibition on 16th May. The Lates Shows is good, you should check it out, generally and also stop by and get some of this fine comic.

However, if you can't make the event, subsequently the comic will probably be available from Travelling Man comic shop.

Forty-ish pages of top comics goodness, with a cover, of course, by longtime PJCCer Gary Bainbridge - renowned purveyor of locally-set comics and art. More info and contributor list.

I did a story called 'Stump'. It was tough coming up with a story that really satisfactorily addressed the theme; after all, what is a place, its essence, what can one say about it that you couldn't say about another place? I tried to combine personal recollection with historical fact and kinda draw attention to the gulf in scale between those two elements to get across some sense of how insignificant we are in an objective sense yet how rooted in our own perspective we are. Also, it features the Hancock Museum and at least two plastic dinosaurs.

Anyway, should be an good comic with loads of interesting local info.


The Return of the Creature from the Funk Lagoon

The Funky Butt Club has again consented to letting the Creature From the Funk Lagoon loose on the decks for one of their fabulously funky Sunday evening club nights upstairs at the Cumberland Arms, Ouseburn.

THIS SUNDAY! 23rd MARCH! 5-10pm! TOP FUNKY TUNES! Soul, funk, rhythm & blues, disco, ska, reggae, all good stuff. Only £3 in.

As you should know, the Funky Butt Club is AWESOME. A great mix of music, a super-friendly crowd and an atmosphere that's both laidback yet totally condusive to busting crazy moves.

The Creature will be throwing down his funkiest sounds 7-8, and then probably dancing like an eejit the rest of the time. Be there!


Ten years of free comics

the ol' hula hoop manoeuvre, bub

It is (approximately) ten years since Newcastle City Library's graphic novel reading group Readers of the Lost Art first appeared on the novocastrian comics scene, meeting fortnightly to talk about comics - particularly those from the library's graphic novel collection. I joined the group a month or two after the start and have been attending meetings ever since.

It survived the total demolition and reconstruction of the City Library itself (via a temporary home at the Lit and Phil) and shows no signs of stopping yet. It seems to be the longest-running sequential art reading group in the UK (and though I have doubts, I can't see evidence to contradict that it might be the longest-running in the world). Some achievement for a buncha nerds.

What's it all about? As you might expect: reading and talking about comics. It's very laidback and informal. There might be a designated book - or, more likely, a book series or selection of books on a vague theme - to read, then we talk about it the next meeting. And anything else we've been reading (and, to be honest, Doctor Who and films and other junk). Then usually a pint and a Wetherspoons burger might be an option for anyone interested.

The City Library, even in these days of heavy library funding cuts, has a great graphic novel collection - and much of it was selected by the group.

Sometimes, folks write reviews for the website, I've done a few (though considering it's been ten years, my volume is pretty poor!)

(There's also the daft Lonkblig link blog repository of links to interesting stuff - invented before Tumblr was a thing!)

And the association, created by RotLA, between the library and the local comics scene led to the Canny Comic Con - the spectacularly free and awesome comics festival (the first of which was the first full comic festival in the North East for over fifteen years).

In honour of the ten years arguing about comics, Readers of the Lost Art will hopefully be involved with some events/exhbitions in the library over the summer. More on that when it's official.

In the meantime, hats doffed to Louise and Pauline for being the organised ones, Andrew for starting it in the first place, and all the other Readers, past and present, for a decade of chuntering on about comics. You dudes are aces.

So hey, if you're in the region and want to talk comics, or know anyone who does, the group meets fortnightly on Tuesdays at 6pm - check the website for dates. We're currently doing a big re-read of the works of Neil Gaiman. Come along and join in the discussion.