Review: Clone

Clone is another new comic from Hugo Boylan, one of Ireland’s most prolific small press writers. This time, he’s teamed up with Tara Ferguson on the story, who also took up the role of artist for this mind-mess of a comic. Joined by Rebecca Reynolds on colours and Kerrie Smith on letters, this is one of those books that makes you question everything from dinner to your reflection (and, in some cases – like mine – your twin brother.)

I was warned that this would be a weird book. I did not expect this sort of weirdness. It’s the sort of lingering weirdness that akin to sand on a beach, getting everywhere, even long after you think you’ve cleaned it all up. But it’s also akin to the lasting sensation of a good drink. It’s maybe not good for you, but you want it to last a little bit longer.

When dissecting a comic, I don’t normally start with the letters, but as Smith’s intelligent design in the book comes early in the story, I’ll start there. A pair of stories unfolding simultaneously in the book’s opening pages requires either (a) the audience to figure out which is more important or (b) smart lettering. Smith helped with the latter, adding opaque speech bubbles to the messy subplot of the first act. (I mean messy in a “get it off me” sort of way; on a narrative level, it worked incredibly well.)

The story deals with a lot with identity, responsibility, regret, and insanity. There’s not a lot to say that won’t spoil the book that’ll spoil your appetite, so let’s say this: I really enjoyed the story – which isn’t for everyone, but which is worth trying – and while I won’t say it had a nice ending (nice in the “you look nice” sort of way), it was ended well. Nothing in the story is “nice”, which is perfectly fine for a book that doesn’t pretend to be something it’s not.

Ferguson’s art style is simple, but suitable. With a relatively complex story to tell in a few short pages, there’s no room for playing around with mind-numbing artwork – though I can see something more complicated being suitable for her storytelling in the future, if this book is anything to judge her taste and style by. I should note, simple isn’t a bad thing. Simple makes the story tell itself, and simple worked. The visual elements of the book were, when they weren’t supposed to be otherwise, easy on the eye. There’s a lot to fit into the book – a lot that’s supposed to look the same, if the title didn’t give that away already – and she didn’t let herself down.

Adding the Reynolds’ vibrant colours, we’re given a slightly chilling dichotomy of easy-on-the-eye images against a story that might make you want to rip your own eyes out – just to be safe that what you’re not seeing isn’t there.

Again, this isn’t a book for everyone, but fans of sci-fi horror would probably find something they like in it. It’s worth trying, and it’s worth telling Hugo and Tara how insane they probably have to have been to write this book. The comic launches at Dublin Comic Con on August 12th.

Check out the creators on Twitter:

Hugo Boylan: @hugoboylan

Tara Ferguson: @TaraaFerguson

Rebecca Reynolds: @brobexx

Kerrie Smith: pocketkerrie


Review: Red Sands

‘Mad Max’ meets vampires in Red Sands issue 1 from Lightning Strike Comics. I received a digital copy of the comic from the book’s writer for review. Written by Ciaran Marcantonio, illustrated by Cormac Hughes, coloured by Triona Farrell, and lettered by Bob Kelly, the book collects two parts of a tale originally published in Lightning Strike 6 & 8.  

While the divide in the story as a result of how it was originally published it slightly jarring (right up until the next page turn, that is), each part of the story presents the reader with different sets of information, and charges the tale with tension amidst the dystopian history lesson. Years of working in comics – and a collection that would leave casual buyers in awe – have prepared Marcantonio for the creation of this horrid world, haunted by a burning sun, long nights, and bloodthirsty vampires. There’s a nice blend of tension-building with the narrative guidance of the book’s protagonist, providing us with all the information we need to understand what’s happening in the moment, without providing all the answers.

Hughes’s artwork loads itself well to the style of the story. Snippets of gear changes and exploding blood bags capture quick movements, while lines of tension are drawn between panels as characters square off against each other, poised for strong words. With the addition of Farrell’s colours, the story is brought to a dark and bloody life. Cool blues and stark yellows dominate the pages of the book, with deep reds drawing bloodied warning lines throughout the book.

There’s a lot to like about this book. Dealing with issues of parentage, survival and the common good, this vampire dystopia is much more than meets the eye. The book is reminiscent of classic genre flicks from the 80s and 90s, from Mad Max 2 to From Dusk Till Dawn, with a climate change apocalypse thrown in for good measure.

While the exact cause of the events that led to Red Sands is still uncertain, one thing is clear: dying is almost inevitable. The sun will burn you up, human or vampire. The vampires will drain you as quickly as you drain your fuel tank. And, if Red Sands Testament (Writer: Marcantonio, Artist: Robert Carey, Colourist: Ruth Redmond, Letterer: Miriam Abuin) is anything to go by (a bonus story at the back of the book!), the battle is being fought on all fronts.

Red Sands is definitely one to check out for horror and sci-fi fans, and to give readers a good idea of the sort of stories Marcantonio can tell ahead of his upcoming graphic novel Neon Skies.  

Check out the creators on Twitter:

Ciaran Marcantonio: @ciaronious

Cormac Hughes: @fhiacha

Triona Farrell: @treestumped

Robert Carey: @robcareycomics

Ruth Redmond: @ruth_redmond

Miriam Abuin: @miriamabuin


Photos from DECAF, April 23 2017

On April 23rd, we saw the first Dublin Eight Comic Arts Festival: DECAF. Organised by Dublin Comic Arts with panels by The Comics Lab, the event saw to showcase some of the amazing comic art in Dublin with a market, panels, and a few familiar elements from The Comics Lab that were a welcome sight for those who arrived with kids. More on that later.

Entering the Fumbally Stables, attendees were greeted by Matthew Melis and Debbie Jenkinson, two of the organisers for the day. Matthew put together the market side of things, while Debbie arranged the panels. She was also responsible for the massive selection of comics for sale on the way in, from her, Sarah Bowie, Matthew, Paddy Lynch, Philip Barrett and more.

Julie Nick and Katie Fleming sat the first table as attendees entered the main market room (and we the first to be accosted for a photo!) Julie brands herself as a cartoonist, with a sketchbook and Pulp Stories Vol. 1 to show off (along with an amazing new print!). Katie, on the other hand, is a full-on comic creator, as artist for Helion and creator of 100 Times and 100 More Times (NB: gay werewolves) under her belt (along with a ton of prints!)

Nikki Foster and Hugh Madden were next in line. Nikki had a range of zines of varying sizes with her, which helped to showcase the variety of styles available in the Irish comics scene. Hugh had a range of strange tales featuring anthropomorphised animals – obviously I had to get my hands on them.

Pushing the limits of awesome strangeness were All Things Thom and Miriam Rodriguez. Thom had possibly the widest range of things with her, from t-shirts to stickers, prints and zines – including The Thom Guide to: What To Say When You Don’t Know What to Say, which she says she’s used at parties. Miriam had a range of Spanish-language comics with her, including one that had she censored on a second printing – roughly translating as ‘things that are a pain in the ass’, and featuring said pained-ass on the cover.

Seán Hogan and Dylan Drennan extended the diversity of Irish comics available on the day at the next table down. Seán brought Project Crossroads and Rabbit and Paul with him, respectively a sci-fi-fantasy-horror anthology and all-ages comics about a boy from Bally’O’Jhaysus who buys an anthropomorphised rabbit. (Try saying that with your mouth full!) Dylan, AKA Skabag, had Gayboy with him, a fun collection of artwork from someone who’s only just entering the scene with a book.

Next in line were Clare Foley and Karen Harte. Clare is a traditional artist, creating her books in watercolours, and accidentally reminding people that she can draw hands really well. (We joked about this on the day. It was probably funnier then.) Karen is one of the editors and organisers of the MINE Anthology, a collection of artwork and comics about and in aid of the Repeal the 8th/Abortion Rights Campaign.

At the end of the row were Sarah Bowie and Luke Healy, joined here by Charlot Kristensen who designed the poster for the event. Sarah is one of the organisers of The Comics Lab, and had with a wide range of comics and zines, including one about how she’s not related to David Bowie. Luke had a huge collection of comics of varying prices and sizes, showing off a multitude of stories and skills.

As well as having a market on the day, DECAF also provided an opportunity for people to tune in to two panels; Karen Harte led one, about activism and comics – following the successful publication of MINE, joined by three of the contributors to the book. She was followed by Luke Healy, Clare Foley, Katie Fleming and Olly Blake (pictured above) as they spoke about their inspirations in comics, and what they’re working on now.

As well as panels, the Comic Labs also brought along drawing exercises for adults and kids alike, which took the burden of entertainment off some parents for a few minutes.

Attendees were also encouraged to partake in the Comic Swap, where books could be traded or bought from the table, based on what people brought with them.

The event was also catered by Kev’s Kitchen, providing hot, cold and baked foods, along with a range of drinks.

All in all, it made for a fun day, and only the first for Dublin Comic Arts. They’ll be returning on July 23rd, this time at the Dublin Food Co-op in Newmarket Square. If it’s anything like the weekend’s event, it’ll be one to spend a day at.

Small Press Day Dublin

Small Press Day 2016

In celebration of the indie comics of Ireland, Forbidden Planet Dublin hosted an official Small Press Day event at Filmbase in Temple Bar, on July 9th. Featuring a host of artists and writers, and with panel support from The Irish Pubcast and Irish Comic News, the event was a testament to the enthusiasm of comics creators and the variety of work available in Ireland.

Small Press Day Dublin
Drawn and Coloured by Eoin Marron and Rebecca Nalty

Lined up in the room were the works of well over a dozen artists. With work published in four languages – English, Irish, Spanish and Polish – and addressing an astonishing variety of genre and theme, the diversity of comics was unlike anything at Irish conventions gone by. Let’s address a few of the comics from what was on offer.

Clare Foley and Kinga Korska

Clare Foley (left) brought to the table her 1850s  mystery, La Grande Breteche. Each page was pencilled and water-coloured to bring Honoré de Balzac’s short story by the same name to life. Kinga Korska (middle), sharing a table with Clare, brought her graphic novel Brain Fetish. The book tells the story of a mother and daughter pair, with a focus on human relationships throughout. (Kinga was also accompanied by Angie on the right, to help talk to people about the book during panel talks.)

John Cullen and Sean Hogan

Popular web-comic artist John Cullen (left) brought along a selection of prints of his comics, and one pun-filled comic to show off his sense of humour. Sharing the table was Seán Hogan, writer and artist of Rabit and Paul, a graphic novel about a young boy named Paul who gets lost in the small Irish town of Bally’O’Jhaysus.

Aidan Courtney and Sarah Bowie
Crowd-bustling meant I missed the fact that Sarah’s eyes were closed. She was not sleeping on the job.

Aidan Courtney represented Coimicí Gael, an Irish language comic publisher, with Ruaille Buaille in-stock for the event. Beside him, Sarah Bowie – one of the founding members of the Dublin Comic Labs and Stray Lines – brought her comics dealing with introspection and Dublin in fresh and unexpected ways.

Anthea West

Anthea West sat solo with Fate issues #1 and #2, and The Earthbound God, her graphic novel. She also brought her prints and bubbly personality to the event.

Jason Browne and Rob Curley (rep)

Jason Browne (left) is the artist and publisher of Buttonpress Publications, an all-ages comic book publisher in Dublin. With three titles and nearly 20 issues to their name, they’re covering superheroes and the paranormal, and are soon to launch a new title, Stoat, written by Ciaran Marcantonio. (Check that out at Dublin Comic Con.) Beside Jason are Atomic Diner Comics, with a range of Rob Curley comics on sale. Curley’s work covers alternate history and vigilantism, with some paranormal activity thrown in in the former of the ghost of Oscar Wilde in Jennifer Wilde.

Philip Barret and Olly CunninghamOlly Cunningham

Philip Barrett (above, left) brought with him a wide collection of contemporary fiction comics, and an enthusiasm for getting away from his table to mingle with the crowds. Olly Cunningham (above, right; solo) had the first issue of Black LinesDodgy Pills. Trippy and risque, it stands out for dealing with a more controversial topic than most artists address with their first issues.

Leeann Hamilton

Leeann Hamilton had Finn and Fish, as well as her comic Kiteenies, a collection of adorable kitten stories. On the day, she also produced some astounding illustrations.

Paul Bolger

Paul Bolger brought with him the first book of Hound. Retelling the story of Cú Chulainn, Hound is unique take on Irish folklore. Book two is set for launch at DCC.

Ciaran Marcantonio

Ciaran Marcantonio represented Lightning Strike Comic Books, and, with his colleagues in the Irish Pubcast, and Irish Comic news, hosted the panel talks during the event. Lightning Strike is an anthology comic, with several stand-alone comics in accompaniment. Launching at DCC in August are The Phantom and A Clockwork Universe.

Not all of the artists are pictured, unfortunately, but the works of Paddy Lynch, Debbie Jenkinson, Elida Maiques and more were to be found throughout the room.

It was a busy day, with the event constantly filled with chatter and laughter; a massive thanks have to go out to Forbidden Planet Dublin for their work in putting it together. In particular, kudos to Scott and Dan for all their work on the day.

Scott FPD
Scott from Forbidden Planet, with the original artwork for the poster
A close-up of the drawing by Eoin Marron, fitted onto a signed board

Plans and ideas are already in place for similar events in the future, based on the success of the day. In the meantime, keep an eye out for interviews with some of the amazing artists from the day, and reviews of the comics they brought to the table(s).