“I only want to do good things”- Gerard Way is rebuilding the Doom Patrol, Brick by Brick..

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“Your head’s like mine, like all our heads; big enough to contain every god and devil there ever was. Big enough to hold the weight of oceans and the turning stars. Whole universes fit in there!-

Grant Morrison

Three months into the new Gerard Way penned Doom Patrol and issue one still seems to be kicking around the place with it’s peelable, Warhol inspired gyro sticker still clinging defiantly to the front cover, taunting me. I can’t help but fret over what’s underneath? Am I missing something vital? Pealing it off seems obvious, right? One flick of the wrist is all it takes, and yet..surely Gerard knows the average comic readers mentality? No  matter how cool and hip you make your new imprint, the strongest instinct is to store these away like priceless artefacts, bagged and boarded, catalogued and cared for. Not very rock and roll is it? Not exactly what a ‘dangerous human’ would do. A dangerous human would have stepped out of the comics store, peeled it off immediately without even a second though and months later found it at the bottom of an increasingly precarious pile of these beautifully inspiring but ultimately disposable objects, the delicious sticker stuck onto the fridge among crappy takeaway menus, gig tickets and terrible snapshots. Fuck it! I’ll probably just go and buy a second copy…

I only mention this because looking back it seems the perfect representation of his Doom Patrol work, even for a series only on it’s third issue. From to this little hoarding, compulsive tic, Way knows how our minds work, how His mind works. He knows us, he is us. It’s been clear from the get go, issue one, the cover, that he’s going to use all that against us. It’s not going to be an easy ride. “Think you know the Doom Patrol?” you can almost hear Cliff Steele snarling from the page “think again, Jerk sauce!” In any given issue Way can take a Morrison idea, turn it through itself  and twist expectations, your own preconceptions against you.  Just in case you thought you’d got a grasp on Doom Patrol, he makes what at first seems familiar into the unfamiliar again with a few simple twists and tweaks into a different directions. A lot of the imagery might seem similar with its stylistic callbacks to iconic Morrison moments almost as a stepping on point, but the delivery and pacing is pure Way. It’s the Doom Patrol at a breakneck speed with a rock star sneer, lyrical dialogue and confident cocksure attitude. It’s the comics equivalent of a dizzying wall of feedback buzz, the clatter of drums and hum of guitars as he splices in the DNA of a fizzling, defiant two-minute-something punk-pop song onto the printed page with the pure unbridled energy you’d find in any of his music.

“I’m going to put it in a fucking blender” claimed Way before the first issue when asked about the Doom Patrols history and legacy and three issues on he’s not shied away from this claim as we enter issue three, as questions are answered while more sneak up behind your back. No matter how far into weird and experimental areas of comics writing Morrison’s went into during his tenure, the book always had a solid anchor in the characters he explored as part Doom Patrol roster, all with bizarre, grotesque yet simple origins and ultimately relatable drives and personalities. It’s a trick that Way has continued here to great success already. In this respect this issue is perhaps the most conventional and straightforward of the new Young Animals incarnation, not to say that the easy read makes it any less creative when this issue turns out to the be super secret origins issue of new protagonist, Casey Brinke in more ways than one. It’s an origin story told perfectly in step with the Doom Patrol style.

dpa_3_2Last issue Casey found herself face to face with the man of muscle mystery, Flex Mentallo and we pick up with the Hero of the Beach welcoming her through the Perpetual Cabaret and on to Danny Le Street as she reluctantly and irreversibly throws her lot in with the still disparate Doom Patrol, her strange origin finally revealed to her. Taken on a “it’s a small world after all” ride in Danny-Land, he introduces her and new readers to the team of misfits greatest hits album, The Scissormen, The Painting that ate Paris all rendered like cheap, wooden  carnival dressings for her to walk around. Elsewhere we get caught up with Cliff and Larry dealing with Way’s new spin on the negative spirit with some terrifying and stunning panels courtesy of artist Nick Derrington, who brings a sharp visual style to the title. Some pieces fall into place at least thematically this issue, as we start to realise the small  touches that make this such a fascinating read. At first it seemed Flex Mentallo showing up was a welcome, if random callback, while this issue reveals why Danny felt it best for him to the be the one to usher her towards joining the team as she reluctantly and irreversibly throws her lot in with the still disparate Doom Patrol.

Storywise, this series third issue once again goes a long way to re-introducing elements of the Doom Patrols now pureed ‘legacy’, establishing it’s own idea and also firmly re-cementing the team’s roles as DC’s finest band of outcasts as they both deal with the sorts of threats that would send the average hero mad and provide refuge and a purpose once again for the misfits and outcasts. Like Danny-Land this comic is one hell of a ride. Chaotic, confusing, and gloriously silly.

Also posted to Graphics Policy

“To be a fire when I feel like ice”- Cecil Castellucci delves deeper into madness and isolation with Shade the Changing Girl

comic, review

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School is Hell. School is madness, even for the displaced avian Lomo currently inhabiting Earth girl Megan as she returns to Amelia Bloomer High School, much to the confusion of her fellow students. Insisting on being called shade in her new amalgamation of body and personality. Her peers are obviously wary of her, assuming her strange and oddly calm behaviour is a result of her accident and resulting comca as she struggles to make sense of her place in the social strata of the school, her relationships with other students and even lunchtime.

Series writer Cecil Castellucci is crafting a strangely off kilter look at this world through the eyes of her uniquely alien, avian creation Loma. Far more advanced and intelligent then the primitive world around her she none the less has to work to make sense of her strange new home and the people around her already questioning her act of rebellion in stealing the M-vest. Thrown into school Loma has a lot more interactions this issue as we start to learn more and more about Megan’s life. Faced with the tense and confused reactions of Megan’s former friends, unaware the majority wanted her dead. While initially indifferent to those around Loma is still left with the creeping uneasy sense that she’s logged herself firmly into a human with a very complicated and prickly past than she might have first thought. So far there is no sign of the previous occupant, Megan, beyond her memories but it’s such a tantalising layer to add to an already out there story,  I have a hard time believing that Castellucci won’t bring some of this into the mix during her run.

Being no stranger to writing teens in her long career as a novelist or indeed the criminally overlooked Plain Janes for DC’s last teen oriented imprint, Minx back in 2008, She has an amazing grasp on writing what feels like authentic teens dialogue and speech patterns without ever slipping into groan worthy cliche or dropping in social media mentions and in fact seems to be actively avoiding this particular pitfall with Shade. The comic slips between this tone and Loma’s more poetic inner monologue beautifully. Ultimately I was left with the feeling that even if the alien elements were stripped out, this series is strong enough already that it would still work wonderfully as a story of identity, change and dealing with the preconceptions others bring into that equation. Working as it’s own unique story even for those like myself who might be coming to the book with only general idea of Shade’s long and esoteric character history.

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Matching this with some sensational art  from Marley Zarcone further sets this apart from the rest of the comics crowd, Imbuing the comic from start to finish with it’s own loose flow and momentum as the story drifts almost lazily and fluidly from one moment to the next. A page featuring Megan getting ready for school shows this in a single panel showing her movement from the room and time, fain versions of herself around the room almost like echos which emphasises the books dreamlike qualities and elements of madness. Despite the book’s solicitation saying “No one can have a little bit of madness” the visuals are toned down this issue letting the book breath a  little after the stunning visual spectacle of it’s debut issue. Subtle and effective when they are used, a small poster here, the madness takes over small parts of her surroundings almost seeping through into the panels.

“I have to study up. Do my homework to really live this life” Shade promises herself setting out her plan for the future as this issue itself does,  expanding on last issue this one treats us to just a little more of Megan’s life, a world that Castellucci makes you eager to explore and learn more about as Loma sets about discovering too. Gorgeous art and sharp writing sets this as perfect allegory for being an uneasy teen and a story of identity put through a psychedelic, kaleidoscope filter.

 

“Doom will consider your request!” -Victor Von Doom suits up as the Infamous Iron Man

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Tony Stark is dead. Sorry, spoilers I guess. Although considering this is only one of two Stark-less Iron Man books hitting the shelves it should hardly be a surprise that everyone’s favourite playboy, billionaire, philanthropist would be taking time off from heroics and calling in dead for the foreseeable future. Along with the invincible Iron Man Riri Williams, longtime villain Doctor Doom on a questionable path of redemption after Secret Wars will be filling the shell head’s Iron shoes as a more, infamous hero.

It’s a headline grabbing premise and one with a proven track record, even as recent as Doc Oc becoming the Superior Spider-man and now as Doom becomes the latest of the Marvel rogues gallery to start “breaking good”.  Although here it somehow doesn’t feel as natural a fit as Slott’s tale. Whilst ‘rescuing’ Sheild’s Maria Hill and demonstrating his own brand of heroics, Victor gives a brutal  verbal strip down of a c-list science villain and whilst it’s a cool moment in a book sorely lacking them it does highlight why this first issue lacks any real conflict or excitement. Stripped off all the bombastic, larger than life theatrics Doctor Doom comes across as creepy, rather than menacing. Bendis sets Doom up to be an intimidating presence even in a regular business suit but it feels like we are the ones who are following a c-list bad guy rather than one of the companies most feared and wildly popular characters.

While Bendis has always had his fair share of detractors from his pacing and decompressed style, this issue feels almost glacial in it’s pacing. Opting to spend the bulk of the issue reiterating Victor’s desire to atone for his past, moving along slowly until a first reveal of him suited up in new Iron Man armour. Considering the character has spent the majority of his time already encased in metal, what should have been a jaw dropping final page feels decidedly underwhelming and doesn’t have anywhere near as much punch as I suspect the creative team intended. While Doom’s debut as Iron Man sets up some interesting ideas with his struggle to prove he can do good in the world whilst struggling with and exploiting his reputation and could make this an interesting series, the sheer lack of exciting moments and it’s slow pacing left me without any real interest or indication where the story might lead.

Picks of the week 19/10/16

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Even a few titles in, Gerard Way’s ‘Young Animals’ is already proving to be a shot in the arm for DC’s comics line, with the My Chemical Romance front-man and his team embracing the weird and cherry picking the most obscure and weird characters from the company’s vaults.They don’t come any more obscure than Cave Carson, the one with the cybernetic eye, first appearing in four issues of the ‘Brave and the Bold’ in the 60’s before making his way onto the aptly named “Forgotten Heroes” along with Animal Man in the 80’s.

“Inspired by the visionary work of DC’s experimental past, but shaped and focused on the absurdity of today” is the imprints mission statement and it would seem that Way and Rivera are taking the spelunking hero down a psychedelic, self exploratory path as he struggles with his grip on reality after his wife’s death.

Following in the footsteps of Doctor Octopus as Superior Spider-man, this month Iron Man becomes infamous as the leader of Latveria dons Stark’s armour. One of two characters taking over the Iron Man Mantle along with Riri Williams it remains to be seen if Bendis and Maleev’s Victor is truly on a path to redemption or working an angle to a new devious master plan.

While his last big plan saw Doom elevate himself to the status of God of the newly formed battleworld, can one of the biggest and most complex villains of the Marvel Universe really step up and become a true hero? With the series’ second issue featuring long time adversary and sure to be sceptical Ben Grimm, it’s sure going to be an interesting look into an already layered character.

“Panic in Detroit Baybah!” Zac Gorman and Will Robson reassemble the Great Lakes Avengers

comic, review

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Calling the Great Lakes Avengers Z-list heroes would be an insult to other hardworking Z-listers. Indeed, an insult to the very concept of lists itself. Unless it’s a “most obscure Marvel characters of all time list”, which like most people is where my knowledge of this quirky little group of lovable underdogs both starts and ends.

Created by John Bryne, and subsequently deemed unfit to even be a part of the Avengers “brand” due mostly to the combination of crap powers and weird personalities, the team has always been a tongue in cheek, off kilter look at the world of well intentioned, yet hilariously inept superheroes. With the run of success from books with more humorous bent, such as former member Squirrel Girl it’s perhaps not surprising that Rick and Morty comics scribe Zac Gorman has brought the team back.

Thrown back together through a legal loophole and perhaps the most ridiculous fall out from the still ongoing second Civil War, the majority of the book revolves around getting the four team members; Flatman, Big Bertha, and Doorman back together. Eventually moving the team out to new digs in Detroit. Beyond that Great Lakes Avengers’ debut issue stubbornly refuses to offer up any solid hook for readers or indication of it’s direction beyond bored genius Flatman wanting to get the team back together to relive the good old days. For a first issue featuring a team with such an interesting history, the plot feels strangely low key.

Gorman does a great job re-introducing these characters and portraying their varied personalities and powers, but it’s just somehow never quite as funny as you’d expect it to be. It has a few solid moments early on with some perfect comedy pacing, with so much of the remaining humour feeling forced or flat. The funniest parts of the book centering around the group’s well meaning leader and his predictably squalid home as well as a great moment involving an ex-member’s recent rise to the big time. Overall it just doesn’t quite have the effortless delivery or laugh out loud moments that elevate the likes of North’s Squirrel Girl or Zdarksky’s Howard The Duck just yet.

Robson’s cartoonish, exaggerated artwork is what sets this book apart right now, ringing every bit of physical humour from the outlandish cast with his gorgeously over the top facial expressions and character design, each with their own distinct look and feel. He gives a strong sense of movement and action throughout, which helps in an issue with a lot of dialogue heavy set up, and callbacks to the characters past exploits. The introduction of new character “Good Boy”, a huge blue werewolf, is when the writing and artwork finally come together for one of the issues funniest moments. Although not the strongest first issue of any of the recent humour focused Marvel books, overall it’s still has a solid enough base to build upon in future issues, and hopefully establish more clearly what Gorman has in store for these misfit heroes in the months to come.

‘For the usual fee–plus expenses’- Bendis and Gaydos are back with new Jessica Jones series

comic, Comic spotlight, review, Uncategorized

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“Everybody feels beleaguered at some point, That’s the universal truth of punk, that you are going to feel, in whatever role you’re living, that everybody is against you”

– John Darnielle

Say what you like, Jessica Jones is a character who is at her most compelling when beleaguered, set upon and troubled. Alias reveled in seeing her overcome great odds and her own actions and although her appearances since her own title had her finding some semblance of peace and happiness it’s clear that on returning and picking up her story after over a decade away, Bendis isn’t interested in a happy Jessica either. With original artist Gaydos back on board as well we find our reluctant heroine, with a few tweaks here and there, pretty much back where they left her all those years. This issue finds her fresh out of prison and stubbornly dodging questions about the mysteries mounting up in her own life, her marriage, her incarceration and most importantly what, if anything has happened to her daughter, Danielle.

Barely skipping a beat, Bendis drops us back into her world weary frame of mind as if we were picking up the story from last month, never mind over ten years ago. His characters voices are all distinct and sharp, never more so than when they are giving a knowing wink to the changes in the Marvel landscape since Alias wrapped up. Although it’s comforting to once again to hear Jones’ jaded inner monologue, this time we can most definitely see where it might trip her up. Over the years she’s tussled with superheroes and seen incredible things, but when her new client mentions her husband’s unusual behaviour and outlandish claims of having lived another life, started “eight months ago”, dismissing the obvious answer and leaving us on the edge of our seats as Bendis teases us with a mystery of a character who is either on the con, or an unwitting casualty caught up on the wrong end of Hickman’s recent cosmic reshuffling. Reminded in part of the classic Astro Cities storyline, “The Nearness Of You”, with average citizens caught up in universe altering events they can scarcely comprehend, let alone react against, it sets up one of the books many, many mysteries.

Gaydos’ art for the first issue is as despondent and melancholy as it ever was. His tired and worn out characters set against his un-superheroic, washed out New York City managing to feel both fresh and familiar, emphasising just how unusual his style and tone is to comics even on the second time around. It’s thrilling to see the recently formed Champions striding through New York in Gaydos’ gorgeously grimey and downbeat style as Jessica sits on, suitably nonchalant at the public posturing and heroic antics around her.

“Is she a big deal or not?” asks a prison guard early on in the book, with some firmly tongue in cheek Bendis dialogue, daring the reader to answer. While the more cynical might point out his earlier remarks on having written everything he wanted with Jessica, or the success of this years Netflix show for his  sudden return to the world of Alias Investigations. Let’s face it comics are based on “never say never” and this issue seems almost genuinely reluctant to trade on the success of the TV show or even show off about getting the band back together, so to speak, lest the book stray too far from it’s scrappy underdog roots and with a subtle first issue might have just pulled it off. While some might be put off by Bendis’ deliberately slow pacing or knocking Jessica down once more for the sake of restoring her status quo somewhat,  the first issue sets up some intriguing conflicts and mysteries, all with the chance of her coming back stronger than ever.

 

Ragnarock the Vote in Marvel’s Vote Loki

comic, review

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“America. If I was your president I’d have the guts to lie right to your face..and you’d love it!”

In between the twitter fights, promises of wall building and genuinely terrifying calls for the other nominee to be hacked, or shot, whichever, that the actual US Election is still a month away. One. Whole. Month. Easy to see then why we now have writer Christopher Hastings and artist Langdon Foss boldly striding into the oddly familiar political landscape of the Marvel Universe with the satirical, Vote Loki. Like Howard the Duck in ’76, the trickster god throws his horned helmet into the ring ,announcing his intentions to run for leader of the free world.

With the real run up to the elections fresh in everyone’s mind you might think setting a showy, media friendly , rabble rousing Loki right in the centre of things was a bit on the nose, then you’d be right. Broad swipes at the current political climate, general mistrust of politicians and the distracting circus surrounding it all run through the entire series. However for a while this works in it’s favour drawing the obvious parallels between the two and the ridiculousness of both and for a while manages to explore new elements of what at first seems like a simple one joke satire. Part of this is that despite his good looks and sharp tongue, Hastings and Foss have made the former agent of Asgard into a secondary player in his own book. Told from Nisa’s point of view it definitely helps the story seeing it through her eyes in much the same way that Marvels gave us a glimpse of the dawn of the greatest heroes from a street level. Ultimately though it feels as if Nisa isn’t given that much development and even her speech in the rushed final issue can’t help shake the feeling that Nisa didn’t get a lot of agency and like the main story, hers just doesn’t really go anywhere interesting.

Even having a few other Marvel titles to his name it was still surprising to see Langdon Foss, whose art was part of what made his collaboration on Ales Kot’s The Surface so new and exciting. Even with the vastly different styles across their line, Vote Loki still feels like an outlier  with it’s very strong indie-creator owned feel. Foss has a unique and style and texture to his work both in terms of characters and settings that feels perfectly suited thematically for a topical, street level title like this. As with “The Surface” and it’s highly detailed and precisely inked surreal landscapes, his work is elevated when drawing the fantastical. Here it’s when the Asgardian’s showboating leads to him using his powers, floating in heroically in issue one surrounded by glowing Nordic knot work. Even when delivering a speech from his podium, Foss’ Loki has a huge and attention grabbing presence. However like the series itself it starts to get very repetitive with the same few locations and the art definitely slips towards the end of the series, with issue four looking noticeably rushed and a little lacklustre.

Vote Loki was a title I really wanted to like, especially considering the team involved, but despite a strong start in the first two issues it really burns through that initial goodwill when the third issue spins it’s wheels telling a story it had already pulled off so well in the previous issue. Once again Nisa brings evidence against Loki, which he spins through the media machine to his own advantage. Given it’s oddly rushed finale that jumps closer and closer to the election every few pages, it’s a shame it squandered the chance to let the story breathe a little or maybe a few more issues to properly flesh out it’s ideas. A fun premise that is let down by a boring repetitive plot, uneven artwork that like Loki’s campaign never really delivers on it’s initial excitement.

Vote Loki is available Wednesday 5th October and collects Vote Loki 1-4 and material from Journey Into Mystery 85 and Avengers 300 (1963)

The Pull List 28/09/16

comic, First Impressions

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Star Trek Waypoint 1 (IDW Comics)

Even as a kid I was shrewd about my money and quickly learnt that a lot of my passions and obsessions had some truly awful and lazy spin offs, Star Trek being one of the worst offending money grabbing staples of my youth, and one I happily ignored for a decade or two. I’m a fan, but money will always trump slavish devotion to any ‘franchise’, even now. Except somewhere in between then and now licensed properties quietly became, well, kinda awesome. IDW‘s unstoppable Doctor Who or Boom’s magic touch on the seemingly inexhaustible Adventure Time comics,  get great ideas and writers and the readers will follow. Even so I’ve been sceptical of my childhood repeat offender until now.

Waypoint is a brand new series from IDW offering up anthology stories from all across the breadth and time of the thankfully lens flare free Prime Universe for all us bitter old school nerds. This time around with two stories,  a classic original series story by Sandra Lanz and one that finally got me buying Star Trek comics again, “Puzzles”. Written by Donny Cates and Mack Chater set sometime after the Next Generation, with a mysterious ship appearing, with Data and Geordie sent out to investigate. Not giving too much away, it gives a heady sci-fi spin on Data and Geordie’s unusual but lasting friendship and the preview pages made me smile with where Cates and Chater have taken it and how much they understand the unusual pairing.

Jonesy Vol 1 (Boom Comics)

Collecting all six issues of the colourful, charming and captivating miniseries from writer Sam Humpries and artist Caitlin Rose Boyle. Self described “cool dork” Jonesy,  introduces readers to her high school life, spending her time making zines and most importantly, using her super secret power to make people fall in love. A modern day Cupid with converse, plaid and attitude.

Like Allison or Tynion, it’s hard to believe this isn’t written by teenagers. Told from our anarchic math makers point of view the dialogue is snappy and genuine, coupling perfectly with  the delightfully brash and vivid cartoon style of Boyle, it would appeal to fans of slice of life fantasy-realism like Scott Pilgrim or Giant Days.

The Pull List 21/09/16

comic, Comic spotlight, First Impressions

The Backstagers 1 (Boom Studios)

A little bit of a cheat this one given it came out weeks ago, but this second printing is perfect for certain people who despite regularly singing the praises of Boom  for the likes of Giant Days and The Spire, Still somehow manages to miss out on delightful new titles like The Backstagers. Written and created by current Detective Comics scribe James Tynion IV and artist Ryan Sigh,  it takes the Lumberjanes template of adorable art with an everyday setting with magical elements.This time the magic of the stage that turns out to be very real for the private school theatre crew of the title.

With two openly queer creators at the helm, Backstagers boasts a strikingly diverse queer cast it’s the kind of book I champion, and it’s refreshing already to know it’ll explore the kind of identities and personalities beyond the tired and tested. If ever there was a safe bet, then The Backstagers would be it, already released to rave reviews and praise, it looks to be every bit as heartwarming and welcoming as it’s camp based cousin.

Rumble 14 (Image Comics)

At the risk of repeating myself, this months issue of Rumble is another regular returnee onto my weekly  picks, and deservedly so. Aided by the enthusiastic but idiotic Del, Rathraq must face off against his own earthly remains and an impossible decision. With a unique and engrossing mythology, Arcudi and Harren continue to develop their mystical brawl-em-up’s cast of complex and conflicted characters. The question of “what colour darkness” is increasingly “shades of grey” to Rathraq as he faces the consequences of his life long vendetta. Action and intense visuals you can only find on the printed page, Rumble is constantly at the forefront of what makes comics so exciting.

 

 

“You’re a Dublin Aunt!”- Looking back on ‘Roasted’ and Andy Riley’s coffee shop wasters

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More widely know as the mind behind the winningly inventive self destruction of lapins in the hugely popular Bunny Suicides,  Andy Riley also charted the minutia and obsessions of the world as it stumbled blearily into the early noughties in the weekly comic strip Roasted and the venomous wit of reluctant Barista, Karl. On cold Sunday mornings delivering papers (good lord!) it was the one strip I’d read, before eventually chancing upon the neat little collected hardback. It’s an overlooked gem that I’d been looking for an excuse to write about for a while now. Riley’s new book and a recent craving for cereal finally gave me the perfect one!

Originally running in the Observer Magazine for a whopping eight years, Roasted follows the lives of three “coffee shop wasters”. Karl, sardonic, beleaguered and firmly on the wrong side of his thirties and his long suffering co-workers the dim but amiable Nev and the overly anxious Lottie. All three work, or more accurately, have found themselves stuck in a boring but comfortable Coffee Shop gig as they work their way  through the early 2000’s zeitgeist with it’s complicated coffee, charity wristbands and iPod inadequacy.

The excuse for this little look back at Roasted is the main reason I finally got around to writing it. It’s funny, I mean really funny. Going out for cereal recently I was encouraged by a health conscious husband to buy Muesli, Bran Flakes or Weetabix, basically anything that wasn’t “choconut choc frosted sugar nut choc loops” in reference to Lottie’s shocking choice of breakfast foods and my own struggle to stay on course and act like an adult in the cereal aisle. It’s unsurprising really, with Riley having worked on Black Books and a number of comedies that Roasted has all the punch of a great sitcom and the same instantly memorable, laugh out loud quotability. For me at least they have wormed their way into my brain alongside all the TV, film and pop culture references and  after years of living on my coffee table a lot have become in jokes with friends whenever confronted with similar situations as Riley’s trio.

While it’s only been a scant six years since Roasted ended a lot of the strips are almost cringe inducingly perfect time capsules. “It looks like some mind control device from some nightmare future society” comments Karl on Nev’s Bluetooth headset “It makes you look like an agent from the Matrix” and he’s right. Looking back on these strips in particular it was particularly hard to remember a time before all of these devices became ubiquitous and became socially accepted rather than looking, you know, weird?  Ultimately it’s the reliability of the characters and their situations from the bad jobs, terrible life choices and bewilderment at popular culture that still makes it so funny and darkly humorous.

While working on screenplays, pilots as well as his second book in the more kid friendly and brilliantly titled, King Flashy Pants and the Creature from Crong, Andy found time to answer a few  questions on the days of Roasted.

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Are you ever tempted to revisit the Roasted cast and see what they are up too, or do you think it’s better to leave things rather then revisiting them?

I have drawn them for my own amusement once in awhile, but after the strip ended, I never considered carrying them on somewhere else. I decided I would leave them there, still in that coffee shop. However! I have adapted the face of Karl for the villain in my new children’s book, King Flashypants and the Evil Emperor. It’s an entirely different character though. But you’d recognise the beard.

Reading Roasted back a few of the strips are almost time capsules. The mention of flash mobs made me visibly cringe! Are there any strips in particular looking back that make you despair at the early 00’s?

When you look back at a different time period, it’s always interesting to see how quickly an amazing new thing becomes an accepted part of life. Maybe the second or third strip that I did – So this would be 2002 – was about camera phones. The observation was to do with how sending pictures around really meant that we were all expected to be CCTV cameras aimed at each other, so we would inevitably sacrifice our privacy. And that is more or less what has happened since.

It was the decade when digital technology became something which surrounded us, rather than something which you turned on and off as and when you needed it. I’m still not quite comfortable with that fluffy digital cocoon. Mostly if I look back at these strips, I keep thinking: why didn’t you draw that one better? It took me about two years to really get the hang of drawing the characters. Even then I seemed to get Lottie wrong more times then I got her right. To my eyes anyway. If I cringe its at my own line work when it gets shonky.

The larger strips not included in the book is one of my favorites, what brought about the idea of doing something more epic in terms of the story and the layout with that one?

The Observer magazine gave me extra pages for Christmas and I jumped at it. This happened a few times over the years, but the first one, where Karl goes home for Christmas and meets an ex-girlfriend, then nearly gets hit by a train, is my favourite. They were too big to fit in the compiled book though, sadly.

Do you still prefer to “kick it old school” now in terms of your comics work or do you find yourself using technology in your art since Roasted finished. Why do you think inking and painting works more for you and why did you choose it for Roasted?

I only got a tablet at the beginning of last year. Until then I had never drawn anything on a computer at all. At a young age I learned to draw with pen and ink – the kind of spidery nib which you dip into a pot of Indian ink. I enjoyed it so much, I just couldn’t understand the impulse to draw on a screen. As time went on I rationalised it in a couple more ways: I noticed that The technology was de-skilling parts of the cartoon business. You know, the kind of web comics where people draw the head of the main character, and then just paste that same picture file in again and again with different speech bubbles. That drives me up the wall. Some people won’t even draw heads any more, just letting the machine draw a circle for them. Ugh. So, I thought: I will carry on drawing by hand, and my characters will continue to be expressive from frame to frame, thank you very much. Anyway, i’m not drawing manga where everything must be smooth: I like my style to be a bit blotchy and rough around the edges. software will militate towards making things clean looking, so blotchy stuff actually takes longer on a tablet because you have to add it in on purpose.

At the beginning of last year I made a concerted effort to learn how to draw using Manga Studio, but in the end real pens and paints were getting me the effects I wanted quicker. And here’s the thing I discovered: digital is not necessarily quicker. When I am doing the grey wash on the cartoons for my children’s book, I just use a single number five brush, and I can get so many different effects with just a split second flick of the wrist. On a computer, I would have to scroll through lots of brushes to get all these variations. Drawing on a computer means you can keep taking back what you do. So it opens up a terrible vista of fiddling, fussing, adjusting. I like drawing in a decisive way where you really commit with each line. It’s more visceral. So I don’t use the tablet much. Except for cleaning up the artwork. Removing unwanted smudges, adjusting a tiny line in the wrong place, that sort of thing: infinitely quicker on a computer. Saves me a lot of time with tippex and white paint.

I’m 46, so old enough to have learnt about drawing when digital drawing didn’t really exist. I was just drawing, using physical tools, the way that people had since the dawn of time. It’s how I learnt, and I like it. Back then it wasn’t something I had to justify. In The 21st-century, just carrying on like that has become a stylistic decision as far as the world is concerned. I knew I was out of step when, a few years ago, I did an email interview for a Belgian comics website which asked me, regarding the Bunny Suicides: “do you draw the whole thing on the tablet, or do you sketch with pencil, then scan it in and just do the inking on the tablet?” The idea that I did the entire thing on a sheet of paper, with no tablet involved, simply hadn’t occurred to this person.