Too serious about comics.

Adam Cadwell

Phonogram: The Singles Club #6

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pgsc6Note: Phonogram: The Singles Club #6 is released on Wednesday 9th December

Phonogram‘s always done a nice job of surprising us, but I knew a long time ago that issue #6 of The Singles Club was going to be one to look forward to, based on the hints about Lloyd and his character seen dotted throughout earlier chapters. Sure enough, it doesn’t disappoint, offering one of the most satisfying experiences the series has offered so far – taking a character with whom it’s all too easy to identify (although, thankfully, from the distance of no longer being a late-teenager wrapped up in his own thoughts and emotions) and showing us a pivotal moment in their progression towards emotional maturity. And, of course, it’s music that provides the catalyst.

That’s not to say that, just because “Ready to Heartbroken” (and I still love that title) is as good as I was expecting, it can’t still surprise. While Gillen and McKelvie have shown a willingness to play with form throughout this run, it’s experimentation that drives this particular issue like no other. Indeed, while most of us talk about the personal or emotional reactions the comic instils when reviewing it (it’s just that sort of book), it’s all-too-easy to forget that it is a comic, and to bypass appraising it on that level. But it’s a point that bears repeating – this is comics made by people with an innate understanding of the medium, and sufficient ability and confidence to snap its form in half if they so desire, safe in the knowledge that they’re skilled enough to put it back together again. And so here, following a Morrisonian moment of metafiction (and one of those glorious ones that only comics are able to achieve), the lines between fanzine and comic are blurred more than ever before.

And yet at the same time as the issue is flouting tradition – even so far as to be the first issue whose “present” is set after the nightclub closes, returning to it only in flashback – it positions itself firmly as The Singles Club‘s most obvious tie (notwithstanding the fact that we’ve had an entire issue about Aster, of course) to the world and themes established by Rue Britannia. Magic in the more ostensibly literal sense returns to the fore, as Lloyd is the first of this series’ phonomancers to actually mess around with grimoires and symbols and that sort of thing. It’s appropriate, of course, given the intense seriousness of his character – of course he takes the whole magic thing more seriously than some of his peers. Yet it’s magic of a very different kind that informs the latter half of the issue’s events – to say much more would risk spoiling a wonderful moment of surprise, but it’s utterly inspiring stuff, casting David Kohl in the unexpected role of a benign, Obi-Wan Kenobi-esque figure before leading to a sequence of pure joy, choreographed perfectly by McKelvie. And admittedly, while the experience is universal, it’s one of those rare Phonogram moments made richer by knowing the reference involved – as you wonder why you didn’t see it coming, so natural and obvious (both in relation to the character, and to Gillen’s own tastes) it is, and so conspicuous by its absence up to this point.

It’s also an issue that seems to cater more specifically to McKelvie’s strengths – he’s required to employ his singular skill with emotions across a range of Lloyd’s moods, from uncontained fury to unabashed joy; and it has to be said that his design sense is actually as much of a talent as his art itself, and the unique format employed for much of this issue allows him to play with that much more than usual. Gillen, meanwhile, is just enjoying filling in the pieces left out of earlier Singles Club issues – and credit is due for, despite it always having been obvious that Lloyd’s words to Penny in issue #1 had more to them than it seemed on the surface, still making something a bit tragic and heartbreaking out of the moment of revelation.

Backed up as ever by classy short stories (although there’s a hint of disappointment that Indie Dave seems to have disappeared, and the backups now revolve largely around what seem to be real-life Gillen experiences that he’s transposed onto Kohl, the first one is still a strong little tale, while the second features Adam Cadwell, an artist who – if he keeps this sort of thing up – might just start to get called “the next Jamie McKelvie”), Phonogram remains about as essential a purchase as any comic gets at the moment. Regular readers will be tired of hearing us say it, I’m sure, but if you’re not reading it, then one has to wonder just what you expect from the medium.

Seb Patrick | 8th December, 2009

UK Web & Mini Comix Thing 2009

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To my eternal discredit, I’ve never been very good at showing up to small press events and supporting up-and-coming indie creators – but when one takes place a short bus ride away from my flat, and I’ve been paid the preceding week, I really have no excuse whatsoever. And so it was that I found myself on a D6 to Mile End on Saturday for the 2009 UK Web & Mini Comix Thing, hoping to pick up a few exciting odds and ends and discover some new writers and artists to enjoy.

Of course, the first thing I did upon arriving was to head over immediately to the table of a writer/artist that I already knew rather well – certified Friend Of Comics Daily Marc Ellerby was there, launching – excitedly – not one, but two brand new books exclusively at the event before their general release online. Volume three of Ellerbisms was of course an exciting prospect – having already followed the strips online, it was clear that this would be the best volume yet (complete with cameo appearance from Superstardom’s Jamie McKelvie), with the increased prominence given to the life of Marc’s girlfriend Anna (to the extent that the cover blurb describes the book as being about both their lives rather than just his) adding a new dimension to the series, and the “bonus material” of the pull-out hourly mini comic a neat touch – but the real Ellerby news was the launch of his new mini, Chloe Noonan : Monster Hunter. A short story designed to help push the planned graphic novel to potential publishers, it’s an absolute joy that sees Ellerby moving out of his comfort zone somewhat. There’s action – although not quite as much as the title would suggest, as both Ellerby and his characters are keen to push that this isn’t just a Buffy knockoff, and is as much about going to fight monsters as actually fighting them – and a somewhat different art style to go with it, with a lot more use of heavy lines and black than in the likes of Love the Way You Love. And in getting to string something he’s written out over more than a couple of pages for once, we see that Ellerby is actually a pretty damned good storyteller, with some lovely stylistic tricks. Complete with some genuinely laugh-worthy moments and an awe-inspiring moment of music referencing, Chloe Noonan is a terrific introduction to the character and concept, and a full series can’t come soon enough.

My next couple of purchases were both bought on recommendation, but were both worthwhile ones. Adam Cadwell‘s The Everyday is a diary comic along similar lines to Ellerbisms (the two have even engaged in crossover), and I was faced with a choice of three volumes to try out – I went for volume three because of its utterly lovely cover, and was glad I did, as it not only featured a strip set in Crosby Village (my hometown, fact fans), but also one where Cadwell can’t stop himself from nitpicking at a lovely text message from a girl that doesn’t hyphenate “Spider-Man”. Cadwell’s strips might not be as frequently laugh-out-loud funny as Ellerby’s (although they have their moments), but his art is nothing short of fantastic, and already he’s someone I’d really like to see get a lot more exposure (he’s already done a pin-up for Phonogram and worked with Ellerby on Love the Way You Love – but further recognition must surely be forthcoming). It’s an impressively up-to-date collection, too – the final strip is actually the most recent one featured on Adam’s website, and is dated 18th March.

Chris Doherty‘s Video Nasties was another “I’ll give one issue a try and see what I think” job, but I came away from it wishing I’d gone for at least the second as well – it’s an ongoing narrative rather than a series of strips, and it’s an intriguing little story about high school kids making a documentary about former students that once went missing. The first issue is fairly straight down-the-line, but I’ve seen enough in the way of pages/panels from later in the series to suggest that it all gets rather more sinister. It’s generally a good-looking comic, but what really struck me about it was the quality of the dialogue, in the way that it pretty accurately captures the vocal mannerisms of British teenagers without it seeming forced. It’s effective in setting up the book’s “world”, and helps you buy into it. Although not a huge amount happens in the first issue, enough about it hooked me in that I’m eager to carry on with it.

man on fire dvdrip download Unfortunately, I have to admit that just about everything I bought at the event was overshadowed by my final purchase, thanks to the fact that Roger Langridge had a table there. Langridge is, of course, already known to me – fellow CDer Julian is a huge fan, and while I’ve not read as much of his work as I’d like, I’ve seen enough (including an absolutely wonderful Doctor Who strip) to suggest that he’s a particularly rare talent. I picked up issue one of volume two of his Eisner-nominated Fred the Clown, and it’s truly magnificent. It’s some of the finest tragicomedy I’ve read in a long time, and his meticulous artwork is often laugh-out-loud funny simply in and of itself. He also very kindly let me have two of his uber-mini productions – Henry Plib’s Got Two and Frankenstein Meets Shirly Temple – for the price of one, and both are fairly entertaining in their own way, but Fred the Clown is nothing short of a masterpiece.

I’d also been hoping to pick up the Jump Leads anthology (written by Red Dwarf fandom compatriot Ben Paddon), but a shipping crisis had put paid to their actually having anything to sell (although interest in the book from punters was pleasingly still healthy) – we’ll have a review of it on here at some point, though, when I get hold of one. I did, though, take the opportunity to pick up the show’s anthology, themed around “Mars”, although it’s a shame both that none of the people I bought stuff by made an appearance in it, and that I didn’t have a chance to read it before stalking the tables, as I might have got more hints on books worth checking out. As you’d expect, it’s a mixed bag, but strips by Reckless Youth, Andrew Livesy and Arthur Goodman all made me chuckle and marked out their creators as worth checking out in future.

All in all, while not a massive haul (hey, these things ain’t free, y’know), I was particularly pleased with my selection, with not a dud among them. All the works mentioned are very worthy of your time, and as a demonstration of the fact that I should really be heading along to more of these things and spending more money at them, it was spot on. Marvellous!

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