“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

Moments_from_My_Adjustment_to_an_Emulated_Brain_Inside_a_Prosthetic_Body_001
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.

Advertisements

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

comic, review, Uncategorized

GA2524

“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.

img_0782

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

Wednesday Adventures 9th August

anthro, comic, First Impressions

banner2-medium

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?

 

STL053792

“The object of life is not to be on the side of the majority, but to escape finding oneself in the ranks of the insane.” – Marcus Aurelius.

Mister Miracle 1- DC Comics

From the unravelling of the best made plans or mice and sythanoids, deep dissections of the inherent darkness of Batman’s sprawling playground to the horrors or armed conflict, Tom King has quickly proven himself to be one of the comic industries top talents. This time he delves back into DC’s roster for a politically charged take on the master of escapism, Mister Miracle.

Part of Jack Kirby’s sprawling Fourth World saga, the future Mister Miracle, Scott Free is imprisoned on the tartarus planet of Apokolips before escaping to the sanctuary of New Genesis. This twelve issue series promises to explore Mister Miracle, still haunted by his time on Apokolips and take the cosmic grandeur of Kirby to tell a trademark personal King story. Early previews show Mitch Gerads, artist on King’s Sheriff of Babylon, using an impressive and immersive range of comic visuals from Ben-Day dots, watercolours and other visual distortions to give Miracles adventures a rougher, grounded feel.

King is a master of heady yet accessible storytelling and his new series is already garnering a lot of pre-release buzz and should be a great entry point for readers like myself who have yet to full dive into the world of one of comics true greats.

 

TheWickedAndTheDivine_30-1

“They don’t even know what it is to be a fan. Y’know? To truly love some silly little piece of music, or some band, so much that it hurts” -Sapphire (Almost Famous)

The Wicked and the Divine 30- Image Comics

Magic, music and mayhem continue to lead the cast of Gillen and McKelvie’s Wicked and Divine on a merry and mystical dance. Continuing the pairs Imperial Phase arc the focus this issue is on Dionysus. Drawing on Gillen’s obvious passion for music with knowing nods with musical archetypes and subcultures, the series has offered a real world hook before Gillen lays his deeply intricate mythos of gods, humans and the music that irrecoverably ties their fates together. 

Wicked and Divine is akin to falling in love with the music again, each and every issue and like the rest of his comics perfectly capture the energy, pain and passion of loving a band or song.

 

STL052851.jpg

The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl 23- Marvel Comics

Although solicitations, especially Marvel ones, are usually the place for hyperbole, bombast and grandiose statements, describing North and Henderson’s Unbeatable Squirrel Girl as “the complete package, really” rings true! Come on folks, stop being so self deprecating, it really does have it all! Friendship! Fun! Computer Science! Dinosaurs?

Yeah, if you expected fourteen years of hilarious Dinosaur comics to have gotten giant reptiles out of his system, then think again as this issue continues Doreen and Nancy’s trip to the Savage Lands (that of X-men and big freakin’ dinos fame!) after taking a break from school and thankfully the off putting events of Marvel’s Secret Empire. Brilliantly presented as a pun filled Dino theme park, the pair are tasked with saving it and all it’s Triassic glory. While Henderson’s art ranges detailed to deceptively simple when letting a joke or scene breathe, last months issue really let her indulge with spreads and spreads of squirrel and giant lizard fun!

 

 

 

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

comic, review

5505599-0b+stcg_cv2_open_order_var.jpg

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.

stcg-02-1

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.

 

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

comic, review

detail.jpg

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

jessica-jones-1-cover

“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

56d602a372b35

 

“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

Star-Trek-Waypoint-Cover.jpg

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.

 

 

“I’m still working on taking my own ideas seriously”- Talking comics and body horror with artist Tessa Black

artist spotlight, comic, Comic spotlight, First Impressions

Sea Wpage 76

One of the biggest pleasures for me reading and collecting comics this year has been the sheer volume of exciting and interesting anthologies that have been released thus far. Between the ones from the major publishers and kickstarters, it’s been really easy to find something inventive and interesting from complete newcomers to more well known names. I’ve sung it’s praises on here before, a lot I know, but for me Image comics Island is still one of most consistently inventive in terms of content and creators as well as being readily available in comic stores. One of the clear standouts for me so far has to be Tessa Black’s “Seawitch” which was featured way back in Islands third issue.A trans Designer, Illustrator and long time artist from Vancouver, Seawitch is surprisingly Black’s first foray into the world of comics and it’s instantly striking in how confident, fully formed and realised the idea and execution is.

Created over the course of a single weekend, this deliciously unnerving and thoughtful comic depicts a woman stood alone on a beach, before entering the ocean as she begins drifting down to the depths and slowly undressing in a slow build of body horror. Clothing and jewellery and even body parts discarded as she descends to the ocean floor.A long dead pilot the only silent observer on this arresting and quietly unnerving, yet intimate scene. Slowly transforming her body to match the environment around her it culminates on the final page with the Seawitch at ease in her new surroundings, undressed and comfortable in the silent watery depths. For me it’s the collection of smaller moments leading up to this. A series of panels depicts a figure gently pulling a pair of socks, each pulled down with the other foot. It’s an every day act but here it is oddly intimate, sensual but uncomfortable.Black reframes this almost crushingly mundane act and make it feel voyeuristic, a far too personal and intimate an act for us to be witness to.

With it’s clean fluid lines and coloured only in minimal blues it captures the solitude and coldness of the sea, adding in alien, oceanic textures to the figures body. Although it works on a surface level as a slow build body horror, after being lucky enough to  talk to Black over e-mail she also expertly uses her first comics creation to communicate her personal experiences of being trans, addressing the idea of clothing as performance and how environment and peoples ideas of us shapes both our identity and form to certain extents.

Before Islands and Seawitch, had you ever considered producing comics before? If so what ideas did you have and what prevented you from making them?

I’ve been around comic artists for a few years, but always felt the burden of their expectations or opinions of certain genres and approaches in the medium. I still don’t consider myself a comic book artist or even an avid reader, but it’d definitely something I’d like to explore.

Did you find yourself changing your approach to drawing a comic rather than single illustrations? How did the idea for the minimalist color palette come about?

I think you can definitely see the change in approach when you compare my regular art with the comic. I was pretty pressed for time, so I would have coloured it with flats in a limited palette if I’d had more time. I still intend to do so when I get some time, so I can re-release it anywhere else. I’d probably add in illustrations on the side, similar to to the work of William Stout, which inspired me greatly as a kid.

On your tumblr, have a run of insect girls, or people with insect parts. What about insects appeals to you? Is it there bodies mostly or also behaviours?

I really like insects for a whole host of reasons. Their anatomy is so different from ours, more similar overall to the things we make than the way we see ourselves as humans. Despite drawing sexy bug ladies, I’m more interested in conforming the layers and segments of insects to conform to a more familiar silhouette.

SeaWlow

Also a series brightly colored goo-girls.  What attracted you to draw them, the malleability of them or some other aspect?

I like goo girls and shape shifting in general. I’d like to play around with the idea of being able to fluidly present your own body based on subconscious thought. Having a form decided by the subconscious, without being predisposed by genetic or environmental (physical) pressures.

You also mentioned you went through a phase of drawing yourself, what broke this series of drawings, or was it just a desire to move onto something else?

I think I started drawing who I wanted to be just after starting my transition. A lot of folks recommended that to work towards feeling comfortable with my body or thinking about clothing styles. I tried being pretty realistic with how I expected to look, and that shape formed the basis for a lot of my exploration of erotic art.It all started with a fairly simple and cartoony bodies but adapted to become softer and more varied as I experienced changes in my own body. I also get bored of things pretty easy and dislike seeing repetition in themes or processes in my art. I never really had much of a signature style and I’m always much more interested in trying new things than sticking to old ways. It feels like the best way to learn is to shake things up and tackle new directions in art, but that’s just me!