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Resolution of Sound @ Stained Glass Centre 3rd June 2017

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Friday, 11 July 2014

Comics & Comix

On Tuesday I managed to pop along to the Comics Unmasked:  Art & Anarchy in the UK at the British Library.  I got there nice and early, and it was pretty quiet as I dipped in and out of the strangely shaped rooms of comics on display from the early satirical publications dating back to Hogarth and jibes at the Napoleonic War through to strange 60s & 70s freaky comix and, of course, endless silent watchful mannequins of what the British Libraries assumes to be protestors adorned with V masks.

I have a deep love for the strange and wonderful world beneath the accessible establishment-sanctioned Beano comics and the American glean of Marvel & DC, though I don’t profess to be an expert by any means.  But as I always understand it, the medium of comics has always fought to be a recognised and respectable genre, and yet there are many comic-writers and artists trying specifically not to be accessible, attempting the spikey and the subversive.

My main issues with the exhibition was the focus on writers and artists like Grant Morrison, Neil Gaiman, Alan Moore and Pat Mills who inevitable did huge amounts for the genre, but whose creations are well and truly part of the establishment now no matter their humble punky origins.

I wanted a focus on the nerdy, DIY comix being made for zine fairs and Etsy shops, the ones you find in the corner of independent shops like OK Comics in Leeds.  I wanted to thumb through some comics, read up some short stories, feel the story unfold in my hands, as comics are designed for.  Instead they were caged in glass.  I caught a page of a Nemesis The Warlock story which looked interesting, but couldn’t see which collection it was from.  I would have nipped to a comic shop to guy it if I could have peered round the glass to see.

But I suppose my main issue is this question of Anarchy in Comics.  I think there’s a distinct difference between politics in comics and ‘anarchy’ in comics.  Anarchy, for me, means a rejection of the current system of organising, designing, publicising, writing or thinking.  Morrison’s Arkham Asylum:  A Serious House on Serious Earth may have been a revolutionary take on psycho-analysis and artwork for the medium, but was still a massive cashcow for its writer and DC comics.  V For Vendetta is an exciting look at Anarchy vs. Fascism which was turned into a Hollywood star-studded film about Conservatism vs. Liberalism, which wasn’t really unpacked much from where I was standing.

I’m not sure exactly what I was expecting, or indeed what I’m even looking for, but there’s something saturating about putting comics about politics, LGBTQ, sex and anarchy behind glass in a British institution, there’s a loss of rawness which I feel and love when I visit independent comic shops, zine fairs or get a load of new zines in the post.

Also, where were the mention of Fight The Power, Wild Cat, Anarchy Comics or Breaking Free?  It’s possible I missed them, but those were REAL anarchist comics.

Anyway, I have read a few new comics recently and wanted to quickly shout their praise/shout them down

SAGA

Me and my girlfriend have been totally hooked on this book, now in it’s 3rd collected volume.  Essentially Romeo & Juliet in space, the booked manages to create a huge and varied cast of soldiers, mercenaries, writers, wizards, Princes and ghosts and, in very carefully crafted writing, I’m totally invested in all of them.  It also has huge possibilities for a whole new world to explore and take the characters across a universe not limited by exiting canon.  Plus, I want to be Lying Cat’s friend.

BATTLING BOY

Another huge universe I can’t wait to explore, the premise is a city overrun by monsters and ghouls relies on a young God, Battling Boy, to defeat the baddies.  Very much a 80s Young Hero Saves The Day style romp (think Karate Kid meets The Never Ending Story).  The art work is really cool and unique, there’s a nice nod to Marvel’s Thor and bizarre cartoon baddies you’d likely see in TMNT, Street Sharks or Biker Mice From Mars.  Can’t wait to give this a re-read.

OCCUPY COMICS

Very much like Occupy itself, the comics spends a lot of its time trying to justify its existence.  Plenty of heroic and images of people (non-violently) standing their ground, references to the political issues and a strong sense of commendable spirit.  Unfortunately this feels (a bit like Occupy) a bit flimsily and more admirable than inspiring.  Also…where are the people of colour of the LGTBQ  community?  Sometimes I feel like our movement digs its own grave…

SEX CRIMINALS

I haven’t given this a proper read yet, but I do really like it.  Someone recommended it to me when I was on tour (sorry…can’t remember who you were…but thanks!).  It’s about a couple who can freeze time when they orgasm.  It’s a lot about perceptions of sex growing up, and I think most people will relate to both characters and their awkward-heavy teenage years.  It’s pretty explicit, but has quite a lot of heart actually, and does what good sci-fi should, use the fantastical plotline to explore relationships and love.

BLUE IS THE WARMEST COLOUR

Thanks York Library!  I never normally read romance graphic novels but this was a really sweet story about love and the oppression of society on lesbian and queer couples.  Though I ‘ve been told the sex scenes are quite fantastical and unrealistic, overall it’s a touching tale you need to read.

TANK GIRL

Yeah, I know.  I should have read this year ago.  But I’m getting round to it, honestly.  I have Vol 1-3 and loving it.  Such madcap artwork, it wish that paradoxically messy & sharp style was around a lot more.

HINTERKIND

Bought this on a whim, don’t know if it’s because I read a negative review but it’s not inspired me all that much.  Feels like it’s cashing in on the Walking Dead-style maxi-series rolling-cast-of-characters style hoping to be commissioned for TV.  Feels a bit more TV-ish than comic, actually.  I feel like it should be better, but characters all seem a bit derivative.  Maybe it’s because all the way through the series, the magical creatures accuse the humans of being evil and monstrous, when I can’t quite see much difference between the humans and Hinterknd, and maybe that’s the point, but that lacks a punch of philosophy.  Compared to Saga, which takes a good dark look at war, this feels the weakest comic I’ve taken a punt on, sorry.

NOWHERE MEN

Been out a while now, and I’m eagerly awaiting vol 2, this has a really cool (albeit predictable) premise about a bunch of scientists being turned into super-beings by a plague in space, this pays true to the Fantastic Four but uses the Ultimate Marvel style of sweary grumpy characters, nasty corporate businessmen and secret government agencies to tell a super-hero story with very few heroics.  It could go the Ultimate route (the final chapter is mostly a crash-bang-wallop affair) but what I love is the Watchmen-style background it weaves, with little hints, clues and riddles to secrets behind the scenes.  It’s very much going to be a comic I’m looking forward to re-reading.




Hey, Neil Gaiman, finish Sandman:  Preludes so I can judge it, will ya!?

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