Wednesday Adventures 18th July

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A brief weekly rundown of recommendations of new releases I’m intrigued by, excited for and will be grabbing off the shelves to curl up with every new comics day before delving into them later in the week! Have you hugged your local comic store owner today?

 

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Skyward 4- Image

Henderson and Garbett are slowly but surely building up and expanding on the premise of Skyward and it’s ‘low g’ world, with every issue bringing an interesting new concept to the forefront alongside the rip roaring action, simultaneously exploring the ramifications for those left living after the event’s of ‘G day’ and the story of Willa,who has quickly become embroiled in plots from parties wanting to either restore the earths gravity or keep the current status quo, both, unsurprisingly for their own financial gain.

Four issues in and the team are still crafting a story that like it’s protagonist floats effortlessly between the childlike wonderment of flying and low gravity parkour that the younger characters experience and the scars left by the devastation of the world changing event, felt by those who were old enough to experience it first hand. A great deal of this is from Garbett’s striking artwork, juxtaposing both sides of this new world from the gorgeous mid air acrobatics with images of terrified people floating of into space, capturing both the excitement and horror of this upside down world.

With more ideas then it possibly knows what to do with, Skyward feels like a world that could be explored for along while to come, without ever seeming gimmicky in any way. Issue four looks set to deliver on more of it’s breathtaking and gently frightening world as Willa heads out of the relative safety of the city into the wider world, where the sky is even more dangerous then ever.

 

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Royal City 12- Image

Ever since Essex County through to The Farm of superhero epic Black Hammer, Lemire has always made the locations and geography  of his stories as much  characters as much as any of his human protagonist. The crumbling, fading glory of Royal City is no exception. The perfect backdrop for his slowly unfolding family drama, populated with the deeply complex and richly fleshed out residents that keeps you coming back month after month in an attempt to understand and pick apart their puzzling inner lives and secretive pasts.

Lemire’s intimate and heart wrenching story of a family torn apart by tragedy continues and while it has been a series I’ve had to have on the day of release since it’s debut issue. It’s twelfth issue, even more so. It’s rare a comic can make me audibly gasp and then bring me almost to the brink of tears, but the shocking revelation of Clara’s daughter’s relationship to the rest of the Pikes is one that did just that, and left me eager to see how it will change the families already fractured dynamic going forward.

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“You fucking resplendent flower!”- Chuck draws anxiety and depression, but mostly Pigeons

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What’s the first thing to pop into your mind if I were to mention pigeons? The noble racing bird? Hmm, maybe. Dirty diseased rats with wings? Most likely. A way to embody, personify and express mental illness? Probably not, maybe the last one was a little too specific to Chuck Mullins who uses the unjustly maligned bird to process and explore her own experiences of dealing with long term depression. For anyone who follows her twitter or tumblr feeds however, I’d wager good money it’s the first thing they think off now whenever they spot one of our fearless feathered friend’s pecking at bread crumbs or chips on the street. A regular dose of cathartic pigeon positivity, a wing on their shoulder and a comforting coo in their ear to keep on keeping on.

“I feel a pigeon makes a very good ‘underdog’ figure that’s good for projecting a lot of my feelings onto!” Chuck has said on her website when asked why she chose them to document and work through her own anxiety and depression, which she has stated started back in her teens. Her delightfully plump pigeons show the up and downs in the often exhausting battle (even once being shown like this, pigeon tap tapping forward in medieval armour) with depression along with the extra societal pressures to add on top such as the worry of how people perceive mental health, the still ever present stigma of medication, how those meds often help but are not an instant fix or indeed, a constant one. Depression itself often just showing up full blown deeply negative and self destructive, depicted as a dark, avian presence looming over her protagonist pigeon. While she has stressed and even made fun of not being able to make each and every strip outright funny ,Chucks comics are frequently both hilarious, deeply touching and motivational. Although sometimes, like depression itself, some strips just…are, and that’s okay too.

 

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As weird as it might sound, although I love the strips that make me laugh out loud (often in the worst places!) some of my real favourites of her strips are these “just are” ones. The one’s that show not the dramatic highs or heart wrenching lows but the strips which try to communicate the middling joyless grey that comes with dealing with depression on a daily basis. It’s an important point to communicate, as with “Sometimes I’m a Possum” which I wrote about recently, Chuck has addressed how it can become self defeating when trying to be funny with every strip or converting difficult experiences down to be consumed by an audience. Yet, Chuck’s strips have found an audience, and one that has been more than eager to tell the artist how much her work has resonated with them and  helped them with their own mental health. Chuck is currently collecting them together alongside new material such as her writings on mental health into a crowd funded book. The appropriately titled “Bird Brain” it’s already 70% funded with a physical copy of the book costing a backer about £15 or an ebook version for £10.

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As someone a year into getting on top of things mentally I love this new crop of comics and creators willing to put themselves out there and openly discuss mental health issues. It’s often difficult to get help and it’s wonderful to have reminders like Chuck’s pigeons that we are doing our best and to look after ourselves, that life is still worth the effort through the grey “meh” times. Maybe even to laugh at ourselves once in a while. Her strips are honest, heartwarming and most importantly while helping herself can help us all to loudly and honestly stare that red eyed looming presence on our shoulders and yell “I’m getting better bitch!”

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Chucks strips can be found over at chuckdrawsthings.tumblr.com or you can contribute to the “Bird Brain” kickstarter efforts at unbound.com.

Wednesday Adventures 4th July

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A brief weekly rundown of recommendations of new releases I’m intrigued by, excited for and will be grabbing off the shelves to curl up with every new comics day before delving into them later in the week! Have you hugged your local comic store owner today?

 

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Cosmic Ghost Rider 1- Marvel Comics

Rule of Cool: (1) The limit of the Willing Suspension Of Disbelief for a given element is directly proportional to its degree of coolness. (see also; suspension of disbelief, Rad Herring)

Despite what you might assume from some of the lengthy, borderline pretentious posts around here on comics as art or books tackling deep, heavy subjects I still love the comic books potential to just be bizarrely and unashamedly out there. To be fun, silly and perhaps most importantly, cool. If ever there was a book to give us all that and more whilst stretching and twisting the rule almost to breaking point, it has to be Cates and Burnett’s Cosmic Ghost Rider. Revealed to be non other than Frank Castle, the now insane earth based vigilante finds himself space bound on weirder and weirder cosmic adventures.

Riding out of the pages of Thanos into it’s own five issue title, Marvels unexpected character find of the year and weirdest “What if Story” feels like it’s been ripped wholesale from the mind of a daydreaming fanboy and makes it impossible not to sound like a little kid on a crazy sugar high when breathlessly explaining “it’s Ghost Rider, in space, but, you know, also Punisher..oh and and…Silver Surfers Power Cosmic and also right hand of thanos combined”. With more smile inducing character mash-ups like the unstoppable Juggerduck the team will hopefully be able to carry the bonkers energy on with the space faring Spirit of Vengence.

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Marvel Rising: Squirrel Girl and Ms Marvel 1- Marvel Comics

Having begrudgingly adjusted to a Henderson-less Squirrel Girl, I’ve found myself really enjoying this all star team up of two of Marvel’s most surprising heroines of recent years Squirrel Girl and Ms Marvel as well as the equally thrilling combination of North and Wilson on writing duties. The two characters  played of each other perfectly in the previous issue of this series, coming together to defend their college campus against the new Inhuman menace, Emulator and her video game based abilities.

Relevant without ever becoming preachy, amidst the fun of the super hero team up Marvel Rising takes on a lot of “ripped from the headlines” issues with Ember herself bullied by overzealous gamer bro’s in it’s set up for it’s central “villain” which seems perfectly suited to both Doreen and Kamala’s skills of non violent problem solving, asking questions first, and maybe punching later.

 

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Shade the Changing Woman 5- DC Comics

If  you’re “looking for a little heart” in your pull list then Young Animals Shade the Changing Woman should be among your purchases before it reaches the end of it’s gloriously mad and grown up second arc, with Loma Shade as she peruses her own hastily cast aside heart whilst the world around her succumbs to madness.

Following the mind melting Milk Wars, Castellucci has spun the series towards slightly more grounded storytelling and themes. Previously in Shade the Changing Girl Castellucci and Zarcone explored personal isolation with Loma and it’s high school setting, the change in title and time jump has resulted in these themes being magnified, heightened to a global scale with the world falling into paranoia over “aliens” on planet earth. At the same time the pair keep Shade’s story is wonderfully dreamlike and abstract in no small part to Zarcone’s artwork as it continues evolving and morphing into a series that you really have to feel your way around and experience first hand.

Wednesday Adventures- 27th June

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A brief weekly rundown of recommendations of new releases I’m intrigued by, excited for and will be grabbing off the shelves to curl up with every new comics day before delving into them later in the week! Have you hugged your local comic store owner today?

 

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Multiple Man 1- Marvel Comics

Through the various incarnations of the X-Factor all the way to the haunting image of piles of his killed by the Terrigen Mists, Madrox has always been one of my favourites among the X-men’s huge roster of mutants. So it was little disheartening to see him unused for so long only to appear and quickly pop his clogs in the “Death of X” story line. As any good Marvel fan knows you can’t keep a good mutant (or profitable IP) down for very long as the Multiple Man returns from his two year dirt nap this week with the team of Rosenberg and Macdonald’s new miniseries.

Already no stranger to the X-Men franchise with the writer currently penning the “New Mutants: Dead Souls” series, Rosenberg looks to be leaning hard into the problem of Jamie being, well…dead, hinting that the series will focus heavily on his grizzly and untimely on Muir Island and ultimately how to keep himself that way. Rosenberg has a darkly comedic style I can see lending itself well to Madrox as he grapples with mortality and mysterious mutants hot on his trail.

 

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Sex Criminals 25- Image Comics

I’ve wavered back and forth like a maniac over Fraction and Zdarsky’s most recent arc declaring myself done with the series more than a few times, but much like Jon and Suzie, I find myself unable to resist Sex Criminals many enduring charms even as it plunges into more downbeat and sombre subject matter with at times a much more disjointed storytelling even as far was last issues “previously on” cutting to the point with a short and terse “Everyone’s miserable”. Yet, while I’ve found much of Sex Criminals initial energy missing with this story arc, at it’s core there is still a comic with an important and positive message to impart which makes it a  book that is damn hard to stay upset with. “Five Fingered Discount” draws to an end with Myrtle Spurge reluctantly turning Sex Criminal herself after butting heads with her thoroughly dislikable former boss, Kuber Badal and hopefully the much needed reconciliation of Jon and Suzi we’ve all secretly,desperately been pinning away for these last five issues.

 

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Marvel Two–In-One 7

Two-in-one and two for three for Chip with this week’s purchases as I found myself quickly and quietly obsessed with his Human Torch and Thing driven series after reading last weeks surprisingly touching annual and it’s war of words between Victor Von Doom and his longtime adversary. Anyone who thought Marvel’s first family would be missing from the comics landscape for very long or brought down by a lacklustre silver screen outing is clearly kidding themselves.

While we can probably expect the remaining members impending return to be the usual Marvel wallet draining next big event, it’s surprising that what could have been just an exercise in keeping two of team in publication or just a cynical cash-in has been an exciting and thoughtful series from Zdarsky whose writing on this and Spectacular Spider-man has proven his writing skills match his considerable art talents.

 

“Gravity’s just a habit that you’re pretty sure you can’t break” – Low G fun in Henderson and Garbett’s ‘Skyward’

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“Don’t stop,Can’t stop
Until you feel it goin’ down
I wish I had said the things you thought that I had said
Gravity’s just a habit that you’re pretty sure you can’t break”

“I’m tired of dystopias. I think we’re all fatigued by them” claimed John Henderson in a recent interview about his debut comic , Skyward “This is a world where something terrible happens, and then humanity moved on.” Created with artist Lee Garbet, Skyward is certainly a comic more in line with societies tenacious nature, peoples’ tendency to pick up the pieces and just, you know, get on with it. Certainly as far as dystopias are concerned, it’s been a long time since one we’ve breathtakingly dangerous yet appealing. Dare I even say…cool?  Truthfully I didn’t initially pick this up when it was released, it took a few days of daydreaming about the simple yet alluring premise of Henderson and Garbet’s world, the double page spread of our young protagonist Willa leaping gracefully and effortlessly between Chicago’s skyscrapers that I was compelled to pick it up. It stuck with me and made me smile the way a half remembered dream does. The fact that flying is a sleepy time staple only reinforces this even further in a book already created to appeal to that child like fantasy of flight, that sense of wonderment at seeing and experiencing the world a new.

Henderson succeeds in delivering to us with both a dystopia and a joyous story too, achieved in part through the flip in perspective from how a story like this would usually be presented. Henderson choosing to present a post “G-Day” world not through the eyes of the more experienced Nate, but instead his high spirited daughter Willa as she leaps and bounds across the windy cities skyline, using places and spaces as they were never intended to be used all the while sporting an unshakeable smile and and sense of delight. Born just after the Earths gravity diminished, Willa knows only this strange new world, which to her is now simply just ‘the world’ not matter how strange it is. Even in her first appearance as a child she seems perfectly calm and wide eyed floating around her nursery. Early on we see relics of the old world treated with humour and derision, stuffy artefacts best left in a boring and dusty past. It’s a compelling way to present a story about the distance and differing experiences between generations using a sci-fi setting. Hinting at friction between conflicting world views, in particular her scientist father who is literally being held down in this new world by the past and personal tragedy while his daughter makes the best of it, setting up the dynamic that looks like it will be at the centre of Skyward going forward.

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Although a regular length comic, most readers will find themselves breezing through Skywards debut issue in a matter of minutes and might feel a little slight to many, but it’s mostly down to the light and speedy pacing, not surprising when Henderson hails from a TV background (most noticeably, the fluffy yet impossible not to enjoy Lucifer). To me at least it’s perfectly suited to a story focused around movement and low gravity. It feels like there are countless things that could be explored in this environment and this issue hits the perfect balance needed for a first instalment, setting up likeable and intriguing characters and showing just enough of the world to want to see more without falling into a front heavy exposition trap with the bulk of this task left up to Garbett to show visually.

Gabbet’s art captures the quick paced, gravity defying parkour like action and free flowing movement of it’s characters and even in the comics few dialogue filled pages, favours character designs that only further serve to illustrate the subtle difference in this world, presenting the effects of the low gravity world in visually inventive ways. Willa’s hair billows and flows about and when embarrassing herself in front of her legless coworker slumps upside down onto the ground in an exaggerated show of embarrassment and defeat. His pages are filled with small background details of the differences in this world such as impossibly high up advertising signs, entrances and safety ropes that are just begging to be explored in future issues.

Although feeling like a breezy and slightly light read at times, Skyward’s first issue still packs in all the joyful exuberance of a hazy, dimly remembered flight dream brought to the page with a stylish and youthful flair.

Skyward issue 1 released April 18th with Issue 2 to follow on 23rd May

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“At least you can hiss pretty good”- Jenny Mure tackles despression in candid Possum comics

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One thing I’ve briefly alluded too but never directly addressed is feeling ‘down’ over the course of the last three years, maybe more if I’m being brutally honest with you. It’s harder to admit even after eight months of the stabilising effects of Citalopram that it had, without me really noticing, swallowed up the largest part of these years. I struggled along from day to day and mood to mood believing I could just “shrug it off,  Stubbornly refusing to even acknowledge it for what it really was, barely even able to say the word, depression.  Admitting it to others was one of the biggest hurdles and even after finally reaching out and getting help last year I still find the hardest part is just the sheer difficulty in talking about it without truly understanding why I feel this way. Selfishly it’s  one of the reasons I’ve been attracted Jenny Mure’s possum books, the closest paper and ink, maybe any medium has come to depicting the roller coaster of emotions and the even worse bottoming out and endless emptiness that follows . I know,  I know,  “You’re using someone else’s poetry to express how you feel. This is a delicate thing” but hear me out anyway, please.

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Unlike the rest of Mure’s polished, predominantly fantasy based work her two volumes of Possum comics are undeniably rough and ready with a done in one, raw immediacy that perfectly fits a diary comic about the everyday struggles that go hand in hand with mental health and art. Sketched in black ink with unequal slanted frames (if any) and following no set format they show Mure living with the ups and crushing downs of depression over a two year period. “At times like these, Opossums talk to my soul more then any other animal” declares a sketchy inked Possum on the opening page and as suggested by the title, she discusses and explores these experiences through a Possum alter ego, perfectly capturing the feeling of not quite feeling like yourself when depression tightens it’s grip on you. Even though everyone experiences it differently and the finer details may change, I was surprised by how many I could relate too and would strike a similar chord with other readers such as peoples well meaning advice to just stop being “such a gloomy motherfucker”. If you haven’t experienced it, it’s impossible to know how hollow, annoying and  useless even a well intentioned tit-bit like that can be.

One that really struck me and stuck with me more then I’d like to admit is when Mure explores setting prohibitive standards and worry onto her possum comics. In a strikingly simplistic sketch of a possum who details the lack of possum comics and attributes it to setting unusually high standards where no one else is expecting them. Essentially stripping the comics of their cathartic purpose and deftly showing how depression and works to break down any of the flimsy coping mechanisms you might have dared built up to protect yourself.

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Her second in the series, So I’m still a Possum, tackles the thorny subject of people appreciating and admiring a piece of work that might be difficult for a creator when it’s origins lie in such a dark and difficult time in their life. Mure describes her trepidation about the first volume being the most popular ‘zine in her shop and at shows whilst being “scrappy and unpolished”. It’s something that caused me to hesitate time and time again when I decided I wanted to show my appreciation for her work,not wanting to add anything negative to anyone else’s state of mind. Don’t come to Mure’s comics expecting any advice on how to cope with depression or tackle mental health, it’s not that kind of comic, not by a long shot.  Yet, they are all the better for realising this and not reaching out for a resolution or offering hollow advice. It’s a stark and painfully  honest account of her own experiences coping with depression and hopefully their popularity is derived from people like myself being able to hand it to others when our own words wither and  fail us and say “this”. In the very same strip, Mure succinctly sums up the dark, uncomfortable appeal of her Possum work, “All I can hope is it can do the same to other people in some small way. Something to nod and say me too” she explains through her Marsupial alter ego “To feel a little less alone, if nothing else”

Jenny’s artwork can be found at her website, littlemure.com and tweets here.

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Wednesday Adventures 11th April

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A brief weekly rundown of recommendations of new releases I’m intrigued by, excited for and will be grabbing off the shelves to curl up with every new comics day before delving into them later in the week! Have you hugged your comics store owner today?

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Exiles 1- Marvel Comics

I hope the image book below make up for choosing this in the face of my complaints about Marvels up and coming re-blandening exercise as an event, “Fresh Start”. Barely any of the titles stand out to me. I hadn’t intended to pick any up. I know, What can I say? It’s the X-Men. Everyone has their pull list weak spots and wouldn’t you know it, X-Men is mine. Look, a book about misunderstood misfits will always,always have a space on my shelf and there is none more misfit then the Exiles. Plucked from all manner of mismatching alternate realities to fix the multiverse it was a comic with a delightfully silly mixture of beloved series’ Quantum leap and Sliders. With its comic hitting all the highs that made them such great shows. Larger overarching plots but essentially smaller mini arcs of bizarrely cool and  far fetched “What if” scenarios every issue, ensuring it was anything but boring. I’m hardly surprised that while  looking for a preview I found that new writer Saladin Ahmed (Black Bolt) has said pretty much the same thing in interviews.

All this without even mentioning a new secret star merely two issues away! Peggy Carter: Captain America! All the loud cries of “it’s only an alternative reality version!” that always come up, or the dismissal owing for her apparently unforgivable ties to a video game, don’t care. I’ll take my Carter action wherever and whenever I can get it thank you very much. The other, much more excited half of the Internets enthusiastic reaction upon the reveal makes me feel that this could be an interesting take that will end up informing the character in general going forward.

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Dry County 2- Image Comics

When he’s not busy with she wolves and aquatic spy stories, Tommaso has been carving out his own little niche of criminally good neon-noir crime comics with the lies of Dark Corridor. This time around billed as “the everyman crime series”, Dry County finds Lou Rossi in the backdrop of a neon soaked nineties Miami trying to track down a woman he met one night in a laundromat.

Like a lot of Tommasi’s books, this ones taking a while to get up to full speed, and it helps that his past projects has proven he is very much worth sticking to with in this regard.

 

 

 

Rocketing from Avery Hill to a Retrograde Orbit in Kristyna Baczynski’s new graphic Novel

artist spotlight, comic, Comic spotlight, First Impressions, interview

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Over three years ago, and twice as many old fashioned’s, I found myself so completely  moved and drawn in by Kristyna Baczynski’s comic “Vessel” that I somehow ended up writing close to a thousand words about it. Diving deep and gently dissecting it.

A little excessive maybe for a comic comprising eight pages? Well, you can imagine the strange mix of excitement and trepidation I was feeling this week as the Leeds based creator announced her first full length graphic novel to be released by Avery Hill Publishing this September to nicely coincide with her home cities celebration of comics, Thought Bubble. You can expect a full review here around about this time 2019. Maybe.

“It’s something I’ve wanted to do for a long time, for years really. Alongside my other freelance commitments and part-time jobs, making a longer comic book could never quite fit into that scenario” said Baczynski of her previous work on her shorter self published comics, including the poignant and touching “Hand Me Down”, nominated for best Graphic Short in the 2016 Eisners. Having quit her lecturing job to go into comics and illustrations full time, Retrograde Orbit will mark her first foray into full length graphic novels and the first to be picked up by a major publisher. “Avery Hill had always been interested in and supportive of my work so we decided to finally get the ball rolling together” Baczynski commented on the subject of her new home with the publisher, who also announced new books from B.Mure and Tillie Walden to be released this autumn, “Avery Hill wanted the ball to be science fiction, so that was a nudge that started things off”.

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While another of her stories, the quietly sweet and hauntingly introspective “A Measure of Space” featured sci-fi elements with it’s cosmic disaster, Retrograde Orbit already feels like it’s fully embracing the genre, set on a mining planet at the edge of the solar system and the experiences of Flint as she grapples with her own notions of home and the possibilities of leaving it. Her unique composition and panel layout is something I talked about endlessly before and Retrograde Orbits structure clearly sets out to firmly launch her latest works sci-fi premise beyond just the, admittedly gorgeous, looking futuristic set dressings  “The mechanics of the story are based on the cycle of planets in a solar system, so that took some time to get right. I’m also trying to avoid sci-fi exposition. As much as I love Geordie LaForge and his technobabble, I wanted the science fiction world to be an immersive setting, a narrative metaphor, instead of something that needs explaining all the time”

Coming out in September it should come as no shock that Retrograde Orbit’s launch will coincide with this years Thought Bubble which as well as being a genuinely welcoming and uplifting showcase of comics talent, has also snagged a fair few exclusive releases for their comics celebrations in past years. “Thought Bubble 2018 will be my tenth show. That’s wild. So, we decided to pitch the release date for then” shared Baczynski when asked about the seemingly cosmic connection of convention and release dates “I absolutely love Thought Bubble; it’s my hometown show, they have always been supporters of my work and raise the profile of my home city. Not to mention all my comics friends visiting for a weekend every year. It’s the best. I’m so excited to share the book with them in September.”

A big thank you goes out to Kristyna for taking time out of her busy schedule to talk to me. You can find more of her work here and learn more about Retrograde Orbit over at Avery Hill.

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“If an idea resonates with you, as a creator, there’s absolutely an audience for it” -The world of furry cartoonist Lobst

anthro, anthropomorphic, comic, interview

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Growing up on a diet of sci-fi and fantasy, transformation stories were the ones I loved and could always rely on the writers of most shows to fall back on one of it’s most loved tropes. For me they were always the most frustrating though, as characters spent their time trying either freaking or trying to change back, usually both. Frustratingly they almost never explored a person staying that way, gaining a new perspective on the world. It’s something I’d find renewed interest in when encountering the Furry Fandom and finally found quite literally in the works of Lobst, a furry comics artist who uses their anthropomorphic characters and an individual take on magical realism to express their unique experiences as a trans person.

As with the bulk of their work two of my favourites, both adult comics, prominently feature transgender characters and story lines. A Slightly Different Role follows the exploits of two huskies, Connor and Alex, the latter of which with the aid of a suitably gothic book of curses, magically endows the other with a vagina. The second, more science-fiction orientated That Curious Sensation takes the subject in an entirely different, rarely explored direction. Distracted from work by unwanted erections red panda Clover strikes upon the idea of nullification, quickly achieving his goal with an easily obtainable injection. In both instances the initial transformation is dealt with quickly and often humorously, instead shifting the focus onto how characters react and adapt to the changes, rather than the change itself as a way to explore other parts of a trans individuals experiences and struggles beyond the post surgery aspects that a lot of mainstream representations fixate upon.

Lobst tells stories and presents her trans and gender fluid characters in an interesting and entertaining manner without the fetishization often present in a lot furry comics staring trans characters. Their artwork explores them in entirely different ways ,and using the fantasy elements as a springboard to ask more intimate and rarely asked questions about individuals in the trans community through anthropomorphic characters. Despite the ears, tails and fur, her extended cast appear on the page fully rounded and human. Ultimately what sets Lobst’s work apart is the warmth and tenderness it exudes in both the ways their characters interact and the playful way they write about a complicated and multifaceted subject, tackled both playfully and honestly.

Has art always been a part of you life or something picked up later? How did your art change after coming into contact with the furry fandom?

I’ve always drawn artwork, although it took quite a while for me to start developing original ideas that spread out into stories.  I was a furry-in-denial for a very long time, since the “mainstream” of it — at the time, comics like Sabrina Online and Jack — either seemed too cloying or edgy for my tastes. It took a long time for me to realise that like any other fandom, furries comprise a wide spectrum of interests, so there was a gradual shift from anthro-animal comics like Cigarro & Cerveja/Living In Greytown to Gene Catlow/Kit & Kay Boodle to Associated Student Bodies, Circles, and the webcomics by my friend Moult, after which I spent yet another very-long-time producing furry media “ironically” in groan worthy “extreme” ways. And I think it was only around 2007 or so (yes, seriously) when I started actually looking at furry art, that I learned how to successfully draw furry snouts; until that point a besnouted face was seriously just a box in front of the standard comic-artist human face shield.

“A weirdness creeping around the edges of things” – Jeff Lemire unearths family ghosts in Royal City-Next of Kin

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“and then nothing turned itself inside out”

Yo La Tengo

Ever since learning about, and subsequently becoming hooked on Jeff Lemire’s Sweet Tooth I quickly and almost slavishly devoured everything he’d  put out, reading back from his indie roots in Lost Dogs to his more recent work with the more established stable of super hero types for the big two. Indeed some of my favourite stories of his feature the “long underwear” lot, making me deeply invested in characters I had no previous interest in such as Old Man Logan, or following up already acclaimed runs of both Hawkeye and Moon Knight to pull and stretch them, twisting their own recently established styles and motifs around and back in on themselves to surprising effect. Between this and his Image work like Plutonia and Descender there really hasn’t been a shortage of stories to enjoy from the prolific writer. Still, there’s something truly magical when Lemire swaps powers for the powerless, spandex for flannel with his more personal projects. Taking over both art and writing duties, this years Royal City is the book I’ve really been waiting for.

Struggling to write his make or break third novel Patrick Pike is unexpectedly and reluctantly drawn back to the squat, broken down city of his youth after his father suffers a stroke that leaves him in a coma. The once thriving city and the families relationships have both seen better days as Patrick quickly become entwined once again in the lives of his mother and his two elder siblings. Noticeably more grounded than a lot of his other recent work, a quick description of Royal City makes it’s initial premise sound very simple, which at first, it is. However, the real draw here is how intricately and complex and raw he writes each member of the Pike family.

In lesser hands it’s easy to see how they could be reduced to simplistic one note characters. The Bitter arguing couple, the burnout, the beleaguered father and passive aggressive mother, Royal City takes it’s time to explore these characters where other books would skim the surface. Lemire digs deeper here and mines the darkest and most destructive elements of the family, yet still manages to round them out and humanise them into a deeply flawed yet relateable cast. Slowly peeling back the years of familial resentment in it’s first five issues, it presents everyone as a lot more complex then they at first seem, showing the choices and circumstances that shaped each of them, including the devastating event at the centre of the book that haunts the family. Lemire even uses the familiarity some might be feeling with both the set up and his work to great effect here, the subtle supernatural element at work throughout is used to show each character failing to deal with the loss that it leaves the reader wondering if there really is “something different about this place” or simply the effects of psychological trauma on the family. For those waiting for a high concept twist, Lemire teasingly dangles one in front of the reader early on and instead turns a reference to his one of his previous works into a poignant and succinct summation of the relationship between Christopher and his wife Greta.

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Expecting artwork more akin to Sweet Tooth, I found myself reading it back at the same time and was instantly struck by how even more stripped back and stylistic the artwork of Royal City is. This book is probably the most “Lemire” of his work and we see him as an artist stripping everything back to it’s simplistic forms and telling a deep and moving story in the most economical way possible. There’s a deserted abandoned feel to the eponymous city and the gaunt, troubled faces of it’s inhabitants. His lines are loose and expressionistic, complimented with a muted pallet and washed out watercolours. Sparsely beautiful and haunting in it’s own unrefined way.

While I loved reading Royal City monthly and enjoyed the wait between issues and the time to re-read and speculate about it’s developments, Lemire is telling a very slow burn human story and some issues don’t have a ‘story shaped’ conclusion or cliffhanger in the typical way comics readers might be looking for. Despite all the back material, essays, playlists and the like, it might make for a more satisfying experience collected as a trade for the majority of readers. Royal City succeeds in giving readers something wholly fresh and compelling out of instantly recognisable characters and settings by pausing to look at their motivations. Lemire’s choice of a slower pace to allow them to time and space to play out in detail over the course of it’s first arc, becoming more complex and nuanced every issue. The paired down artwork and minimalist approach to dialogue makes the book initially feel a lot simpler then it turns out to be, quietly obscuring all the hard work being performed on every page and every panel right in plain view. Five issues in and Royal City is a title that Conveys perfectly the feeling of lost time and potential through both the Pike family and the ailing city, that permeates through it’s engrossing first story arc.

Royal City Next of Kin is released September 27, 2017

Royal City Issue One playlist