The Comics Explorer Archive

Comica Festival Comiket April 2013 - A Punter's Perspective

Posted by Andy Oliver on Apr 23, 2013 at 15:58

There’s never been a better time to renounce the bile-flinging antics of the super-hero-obsessed message board culture, and get out there and experience the true face of the British comics community.

Saturday 20th April saw Comica Festival’s twice yearly Comiket – the comics fair that showcases the wonderful diversity of output of British publishers of the pro, micro and self varieties – arrive at a brand new venue at Central Saint Martins, part of the University of the Arts, London.

As part of my ‘Small Pressganged’ column at Broken Frontier I’ve covered the ethos of Comiket in the past, including a comprehensive report on the November 2011 event at the Bishopsgate Institute here.  From a punter’s perspective, however, I can never re-iterate enough the value of events like Comiket in shining a spotlight on the quite remarkable growth of material from British small press creators over the last few years, nor the focus it gives on the plethora of publishers, and graphic novel divisions thereof, that have emerged onto the U.K. scene in recent times.

What always strikes me as being of premium significance at Comiket, though, is the sheer sense of community involved.  Like the Doctor taking a new companion off in the Tardis for the very first time and experiencing the wonders of the universe through their eyes, I had brought along a chum relatively new to the world of comics for her first comics mart-style experience. And what an opportunity it was to introduce her to creators whose work she’s been enjoying, to watch admired artists at work in the live Drawing Parade (we were particularly pleased to catch Oliver East and Gary Northfield but with the likes of Stephen Collins, Mark Stafford, Neill Cameron, Dan Berry, Frazer Irving, Viviane Schwarz, Hannah Eaton and more on offer we could easily have sat there all day), and to just soak in that amazing multiplicity of styles, approaches, subject matter, and methods of narrative delivery on offer across the two rooms of the fair.


Oliver (Trains Are... Mint) East sketching in copies of his new book Swear Down at the Blank Slate table (left) and Broken Frontier's own man on the small press beat, Andy Oliver, posing with a copy of 12-year-old Zoom Rockman's energetic self-published comic The Zoom! (reviewed at BF here). Photos via Keara Stewart and Zoom Rockman.

The new locale at CSM (which had hosted a number of Comica Festival events the day before on the Friday) also offered an opportunity to expand the scope of Comiket in other directions via creator interviews in the Platform Theatre, exhibition space that included the unveiling of Dave Gibbons’s response to Roy Lichtenstein in the form of WHAAT?, and drawing competitions. Adopting a purely visitor P.O.V. it has to be said that the most tangible advantage of CSM as a site, in comparison to the Bishopsgate Institute, was in ease of circulation around the stands and tables, allowing much greater access to exhibitors and markedly reducing the stress levels of the heaving and often difficult to navigate gangways of the Bishopgate. And while the opportunities for passing trade of the former location may have been lost I imagine this would have been compensated for by that crossover captive art student dynamic of CSM.

As a consumer, then, Comiket at CSM offered a relaxed and friendly environment and a welcome opportunity to wallow indulgently in positivity towards the medium. With this year’s East London Comics and Arts Festival and BD and Comics Passion at the Institut francais imminent – and Comica Festival events now scheduled throughout the year – there’s never been a better time to renounce the bile-flinging antics of the super-hero-obsessed message board culture, and get out there and experience the true face of the British comics community.

For more on Comica Festival events check out the site here. BD and Comics Passion will be held at the Institut francais in May while ELCAF comes to York Hall, Bethnal Green this year in June. And don’t forget both the Lakes International Comics Art Festival and Thought Bubble later this year.   

Comica Festival Comiket Hits London this Saturday

Posted by Andy Oliver on Apr 18, 2013 at 18:53

Celebrate the diversity of the British comics scene at Central Saint Martins on Saturday!


IDW Presents Banshee Origins

Posted by Richard Boom on Mar 15, 2013 at 10:30

Cinemax, along with the creator of True Blood, are running a new action series since Jan. 11, 2013 called Banshee.

The series stars Antony Starr as Lucas Hood, an ex-con and master thief who assumes the identity of the sheriff of Banshee, Pennsylvania, where he continues his criminal activities, even as he’s hunted by the shadowy gangsters he betrayed years earlier.

To give viewers the back story on Banshee, a comic was created called Banshee Origins, which sets the stage for the first episode.

It can be accessed if you click here as well as a direct download here.

The Study and Use of Graphic Novels

Posted by Richard Boom on Feb 27, 2013 at 10:29

While millions are spent each year on video games, books, and other self-help materials designed to improve memory, graphic novels can be an effective tool.


Christmas through the Decades: Marvel Team-Up #127, 1982

Posted by Andy Oliver on Dec 24, 2012 at 15:05

Christmas 1982… and the amazing Spider-Man was about to find himself mixed up with some uncharacteristically cosmic forces when he “teamed up” with that omniscient observer known as The Watcher in the pages of Marvel Team-Up #127. The holidays had come to May Parker’s boarding house where, at the time, Peter Parker’s aunt was living with her then fiancé Nathan Lubensky and a house chock full of elderly residents, all of whom were part of the sprawling Spider-Man supporting cast of the day.

One of those houseguests, the lonely Mr. Chekov, was hoping for a Christmas visit from his estranged granddaughter Bette. Little did he realise that Bette had become caught up in a petty drug dealing scheme gone awry and was now fleeing for her life from underworld figures. As Peter/Spider-Man does his bit to help reunite the Chekovs, he is aided by a mysterious, unspeaking figure who appears and disappears at whim, guiding him in his quest with almost supernatural powers…

This issue was published at a point in Marvel’s history that was very unlike their current crossover-intensive and rather homogenised output; when most characters existed largely in their own little pockets of the Marvel Universe. In that respect, at the time of publication, Spider-Man running into The Watcher (someone he doesn’t recognise) ranked up there in the unlikely MT-U guest-star stakes with the likes of Killraven, the Frankenstein Monster, the Not-Ready-For-Prime-Time-Players and Red Sonja.

Throughout, the characterisation is absolutely spot-on: the self-doubting Spider-Man, the paternal and reliable Captain America (who pops up briefly to give Spidey a pep talk), and Uatu the Watcher as unable as ever to avoid interacting with the humanity he has clearly grown to love over the long, silent centuries of his enforced duty. J.M. DeMatteis’s run on this book took that most difficult of formats – the “team-up title” – and, instead of churning out the usual contrived encounters between heroes, provided instead some clever, imaginative and playful meetings. Finding the promise in such a forced premise was no mean feat at all!

Marvel Team-Up #127 remains a fitting tale of Christmas redemption that echoes back to certain other classic seasonal stories with a similar theme, and one which highlights not just the importance but the necessity of family and loved ones at this time of year. With a rousing and poignant concluding speech from The Watcher – has Uatu’s raison d’etre as a character ever been better captured than on the final page of this issue? – this rather beautiful issue is still my very favourite festive super-hero offering, and a suitable closing entry for this series of Yuletide flashback blogs that we’ve been running here at BF over the last few weeks.

From all of us at Broken Frontier a very, merry Christmas to you all!

Archaia Spotlights Space and Rust

Posted by Richard Boom on Dec 21, 2012 at 05:11

In a series of interviews on their site Archaia has tried to showcase in more depth the process behind making comics as well as getting to know their creators. This resulted in Q&As like this:

ARCHAIA: You are also working on remastering classic SPACE: 1999 comics. How are you improving on them?

GASKA: Yes! The classic SPACE: 1999 comics of yesterday were mostly in black and white, so first off we are coloring them for the first time! Second, due to likeness issues, we were required to make some changes to characters appearances in the original art. Rather than just do that, I thought it would be interesting to correct errors that cropped up as well, such as the commlocks (the SPACE: 1999 communicators) being held incorrectly, or the Eagles (the main spacecraft) having thrusters in the wrong place.

On top of this, the writers and artists were not given proper reference or information in order to tell gripping SPACE: 1999 stories, so the stories of the time reflect a certain generic science fiction viewpoint. With respect to the intent and spirit of the original body of work, the SPACE: 1999 CLASSIC stories have been enhanced and clarified within both the story and art, in order to bring these Alphan adventures more in line with both the established continuity of the original Space: 1999 original televised series and the new graphic novel series, creating a sort of “Season 1.5” to help bridge the gap between the changes which occurred in the show between Seasons 1 and 2.

What that means is that these are not necessarily the same stories older fans may have read as a kid, but they now make sense within the established epic that is SPACE: 1999.

More of the interview over at Archaia.


Original Graphic Novel

Retail Price: $24.95 U.S.
Page Count: 152 pages
Format: hardcover, 6.625” x 10.25”, full color
On-sale Date: Dec. 12 in comic book stores, Dec. 15-25 in bookstores
ISBN-13: 978-1-936393-88-6
Diamond Code: AUG120787
Written by Andrew E. C. Gaska
Illustrated by Gray Morrow, David Hueso, and Miki
Cover by David Hueso and Miki
Rating: T+ – TEEN PLUS (16 and up, may contain moderate violence, moderate profanity use and suggestive themes )

Synopsis: The classic 1970s sci-fi TV series returns with all-new material! September 13, 1999: An atomic accident causes the moon to be blown out of orbit and hurled into the unknown, the survivors of the lunar base stationed there launched toward their destiny across the stars. In the wake of this disaster, Earth itself is ravaged by the scientific, environmental, and social repercussions of a world robbed of its moon. Presenting remastered classic material from the ’70s with all-new material created to update the tale for a modern audience.



ARCHAIA: Rust is currently being adapted to other mediums. Can you tell us about that?

RL: Yeah, I’m super excited that Rust has been optioned by 20th Century Fox and is development as a live-action film. We have incredible talent on the project: Aline Brosh McKenna is writing (The Devil Wears Prada, We Bought a Zoo), Simon Kinberg is producing (X-Men First Class, Elysium), and we just announced this summer that Joe Cornish will be in the Director’s chair (Attack the Block, TinTin). It’s literally a dream team! I’m thrilled.

More of the interview over at Archaia.



Original Graphic Novel

Retail Price: $24.95 U.S.
Page Count: 200 pages
Format: hardcover, 6” x 9”, partial color (sepia toned)
Genre: Fantasy
On-sale Date: Dec. 12 in comic book stores, Dec. 15-25 in bookstores
ISBN-13: 978-1-936393-58-9
Diamond Code: JUN120795
Written by Royden Lepp
Illustrated by Royden Lepp
Cover by Royden Lepp
Rating: E – EVERYONE (all ages, may contain minimal violence)

Synopsis: In this follow-up to the critically acclaimed Rust Vol. 1: Visitor in the Field, the dysfunctional Taylor family continues to rebuild their farm lives after the devastating loss of a recent war and the appearance of the mysterious jet pack-wearing boy, Jet Jones. Jet’s behavior continues to raise youngest brother Oswald’s suspicion, particularly when the appearance of another robot invader puts them all in danger! Rust Vol. 2 is presented in nostalgic sepia tone, bound in high-quality blue cloth, with photographic end papers that set the industrial atmosphere of the title.



Christmas through the Decades: Eagle, 24th December 1954

Posted by Andy Oliver on Dec 20, 2012 at 18:00

Christmas 1954… and it was a Boys’ Own kind of Christmas in the pages of classic British weekly paper Eagle. While most of the regular characters like Dan Dare Pilot of the Future, P.C. 49, Western hero Jeff Arnold and Storm Nelson – Sea Adventurer continued in their ongoing serials, untouched by the festive season, there were notable Yuletide concessions elsewhere in the comic.

The  bumbling Harris Tweed, Extra Special Agent got into a scrape with some Christmas pudding sixpences, and Norman Thelwell’s Chicko gets a gorgeous centre pages spread (partially shown below). Perhaps the most fun strip in this edition, though, is a one-off piece of 1950s metafiction entitled The Editor’s Christmas Nightmare wherein the Eagle characters all find themselves not just depicted in each other’s clothes but inhabiting the wrong comic strips. Investigating further they discover their editor has over-indulged during the holiday season and let standards on the comic slip. The only solution, of course, is a slap-up Christmas meal for all as way of apology! All jolly good fun and there’s something almost sublime about seeing Harris Tweed depicted as The Mekon…

What really struck me about this issue, however, was the following paragraph in editor Marcus Morris’s Christmas-themed weekly letter to the readers addressed to those for whom the holidays might not be as happy a time:

To those of you in hospital and orphanages or who, for some reason, feel a bit lonely, my very special thoughts. Write to me if you feel it would help and I’ll send a letter back.

In a week, sixty years later, where the relationship between comics professionals and comics readers has descended to the new low of death threats this is a sentiment, surely, to melt the heart of even the hardest, and most cynical of Scrooges…?

Wonderland Reading Order

Posted by Richard Boom on Dec 20, 2012 at 04:00

With the massive library on its sassy, gore and grimm version of Wonderland being developed over at Zenescope over the last few years, it might be helpful to have a visual reminder of all the stories to date, to have a time-line of sorts.


Welcome the present with these titles, shipping to stores worldwide in March 2013:


Written by Raven Gregory, art by Sheldon Goh, covers by Stjepan Sejic, Ale Garza.

Calie and Violet find themselves face to face with the cannibalistic flower girls from Wonderland who are intent on using them for their own diabolical designs. It's up to Calie to find a way to defeat them and save Violet from becoming just another flower in their garden of madness. Elsewhere in Wonderland, the Queen of Spades has the Red Queen right where she wants her. But is her victory assured, or will the Red Queen find a way to overcome the darkness that threatens to consume Wonderland? The best selling and critically-acclaimed ongoing Wonderland series continues here!

32 pages, $2.99.


Written by Dan Wickline, art by TBD, covers by Mike Krome, Sean Chen.

The mind-bending sequel to Call of Wonderland is here! Detective Legrasse's investigation into the recent brutal murders lead her to discover a similar case from the past -- one that involved Johnny Liddle. Meanwhile, the story of Lovecraft's journal continues as Jacob Hall returns and has plans to use Wonderland's power for himself -- however, there is one thing standing in the way: Lovecraft. A comic that ties directly into Zenescope's ongoing Wonderland series!

32 pages, $3.99.

Christmas through the Decades: Gross Point #7, 1997

Posted by Andy Oliver on Dec 18, 2012 at 06:30

Christmas 1997… and the inhabitants of Gross Point, the town so weird it made Eerie, Indiana look positively pedestrian in comparison, were settling in for a suitably morbid Yuletide in the pages of Gross Point #7. The book was DC’s late ‘90s stab at comics sitcom with a supernatural twist, and followed teenagers Terri and Brian Pickett as they tried to adjust to life in the bizarre town of Gross Point after their parents had uprooted them and moved there.

Gross Point is no Dullsville, U.S.A. however. While the kids’ parents remain blissfully unaware of what an odd place it is, Terri and Brian spend the fourteen issues of this series encountering the likes of lovelorn zombie heirs, ghostly teenage detectives and monster schoolboys. The book perhaps never quite lived up to its potential but there was enough gruesome fun to be had from its year or so of publication to make it worth hunting down the run in the back issue bins should the mood take you. And it had some of the best footnotes (remember them?) in the history of comics…

In this piece of festive grotesquerie the Pickett family face an impoverished Christmas when dad Howard accidentally spends $12,000 on a giant gold nosehair clipper for his nasally-challenged boss Mr. Septum. Distraught at the thought of their cancelled Xmas plans the Pickett twins wish they had never been born – only to find themselves in a kind of Bizarro version of It’s a Wonderful Life wherein they are shown how great a place the world would have become without their presence in it.

For all those who prefer to dream of a black Christmas, Gross Point #7 was a most suitably macabre and cynical celebration of the holiday season…

Christmas through the Decades: Mickey Mouse Weekly, December 25th 1948

Posted by Andy Oliver on Dec 17, 2012 at 07:00

Christmas 1948… and in those austere post-war years the British weekly version of Mickey Mouse’s comic numbered just 8 pages. Albeit 8 very jam-packed pages for threepence, packed to the rafters with eye-squintingly tiny-fonted features, cramped comic strips and congested educational entries.

Not everything in this issue has a seasonal theme but we do get to see Mickey’s preparations for Christmas on that gorgeously illustrated front cover and Donald Duck crafts a cunning plan to clear his path of snow in his feature inside. We also get to learn about Christmas in Other Lands and Doc of the Seven Dwarfs gives us a festive version of his Doc’s Woodland Wonders strip.

As this edition draws to a close the Mickey Mouse Weekly editorial team not only wish “A Happy Christmas chums, everywhere” to their loyal readership but also describe some jolly holiday party games that I’m sure the Broken Frontier staff will all be partaking in at the office Christmas party - just before we distribute the "Secret Santa" gifts, all desperately hoping we'll be the lucky one to receive that exquisitely tasteful Watchmen toaster DC so kindly licensed this year of course. There’s also a quick plug for Walt Disney’s Christmas Day 1948 appearance on the Light Programme on BBC radio. Ah, happier, more innocent times. No children fighting over the wireless dials that year I imagine…

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