Interviews

Life, Death and Irish Comics: An Interview with Paul Carroll

Paul Carroll is a Dublin-based writer and comics creator. He made his start in writing with Irish folklore books, before starting to work in comics. In this interview, ahead of the release of Life & Death from Limit Break Comics, Paul was given questions from his creative partners, Gary Moloney and Gareth Luby. (Side-note: Paul is the editor for this site, and aside from writing about himself in the 3rd person, also suffers from not knowing when to shut up.)

You’ve worked a lot with properties and characters created by others (Meouch, The Wren, Chuck), how different was working on Life & Death to those projects?

The big difference for me was the creative control in the stories at a script level. There was a lot more freedom to play around with ideas in the script when I was working with my own characters. It’s much easier to “kill your darlings” in a script when you don’t have to worry about the artist’s emotional attachment to a character or an idea. (In some cases, the killing is also literal in Life & Death – decisions like that don’t really happen with the likes of Wren unless Jason Browne requests it, or with Frankie unless it’s a target.)

After that, it comes down to finding the right artist for the story. It’s the total reverse of how I’d previously worked on comics. I learned a lot more as I worked on the book – and as Limit Break Comics was coming together – about what I’d look for in a collaborator, which should in theory make the process more fluid next time.

What was it about the stories in Life & Death that meant they had to be told in a comic?

The short, obvious answer is that I needed the art to make the impact for these stories. When I wrote the scripts, there was a real sense of trying not to overwrite everything, to allow the other creators to pace things and make the revelations and twists more apparent in their own ways.

Colour is a big part of that. Blood Bounty and Mourning Coffee rely heavily on reds, while Death and Taxes needed more everyday tones, and Wake the Dead required a change of colours from orange to green – my experiences in writing prose fiction warned me way in advance that that would make for some sloppy, boring writing to get the point across.

You’ve recently taken on the duties of penning The Wren, what drew you to the character and what do you hope to explore in your run?

I was approached by Jason – the artist and original writer for The Wren – to take over the series after our work together on Tomte: The Warrior Elf. It was the first book I’d read from the Irish small press community (aside from work by Anthea West, who I knew way before I knew there were people in Ireland making their own comics!) It’s a fun character to write for and to think up stories about.

I’m very much about returning to the roots of the comic as much as I can. The first season (issues 1-12) built up in a big way. Now that Jack is back in school, in a new home, and knows much more about the superhero society, we have an opportunity to play with his secret identity a bit. Jason has some ideas about how he wants the main plot for the season to go, but otherwise I’ve something of a free reign with characters and where they’ll appear.

There’s obviously a lot of pressure with this; aside from the work of Anthea West, who I’ve known since the days of Bebo, The Wren was the first Irish small press comic I read, and the longest running small press title in the country. I like to think Jason’s faith in me is well-placed. He’ll still be a big part of the plotting process, and he’ll likely have something to say about the direction I take with certain parts of the story, but that’s a safety net for me, and it means I can throw out some crazier ideas with him and see what’s interested in before scripting it.

You colour and letter a lot of your own work, can you explain your approach to those disciplines?

Lettering was the first thing I tried in comics that wasn’t writing, and it came as something of a necessity. Having some understanding of the Adobe suite, I thought, was enough. It’s not a bad start, knowing how to use the programs, but it took some feedback from a few people to really figure out what I was doing wrong. The first Meouch books had been readable, but that’s about it. So I learned as much as I could, and I looked at different ways other letterers worked to see how I could do more than just throw words onto the page.

With the colouring, I started with flatting a couple of short Meouch stories. When myself and Gareth were working on A Knight’s Tail, I wanted to try colouring it myself. Gareth finished off the colours on that one, making it a lot more vibrant and giving it more depth than I’d managed, but I’d at least figured out the palette for the story.

When it came to colouring the stories in Life & Death, I was a little more aware of using colour as a storytelling tool. Colour choices define the world in which a story takes place, and the shifting tones on a page can inform the reader of characters’ emotions and the atmosphere on the page, working in tandem with the artist to make the storytelling pop. I spent the project seeking feedback from Gareth and Gary about colour choices and tones.

It was exhausting, to say the least, trying to balance a day job and a few other responsibilities with the comic work. A big takeaway from it is more confidence and awareness in the additional processes in storytelling when it comes to making comics, which is now etched into the back of my mind any time I start writing something!

Your first prose stories were based on Irish folklore in the 21st century; can you tell us how you approached this adaptation?

Adapting stories always comes with some difficulty. I took some liberties with the way in which some stories were told. The first book, Balor Reborn, takes the story that defines how Balor can be killed and turns it on its head. With everything else that followed, I sought to find something interesting about a creature or a god and make a new story out of it. Irish folklore is wrapped up in Irish history and informed by the introduction of Christianity; the Famine and the notion of sin become as integral to some tales as the blood-ties of the gods and the relationships between different heroes in the old stories.

I try, as hard as I can, to stick to the original story as close as possible, but sometimes liberties have to be taken. Whenever I have doubts, they’re usually cleared up by a friend of mine who has an interest in Irish folklore – who just so happens to read ridiculously fast – so I can clear up whether I’m making something up from scratch or if in bringing the story to the twenty-first century, I’m “allowed” to do what I do.

And, of course, within the books the old stories are real. They’re actual history, lost to the passage of time and hidden in plain sight as just stories.

You have recently launched Limit Break Comics with Gary Moloney and Gareth Luby. How did this come about and what is the idea behind Limit Break Comics? What can we expect?

There’s a bit of a background story to this, going back a few months. I’d been talking to Gary about an idea for a fantasy comic, but didn’t have a name. He’d suggested Limit Break, but it sounded more like an anthology name to me. Nothing really happened after that, until the three of us started speaking about setting up a label together over some drinks. We threw around some names, some of which were cringy, some of which were pompous, and none of which I was sold on.

At some point, the name popped back into the conversation.

By that time, myself and Gary were looking to publish our collections of short stories, so it made sense to have a brand name to trade under. We were both working on some fantasy and sci-fi ideas, which fitted the name, so we mentioned it to Gareth.

The idea behind Limit Break Comics is to provide a voice for storytellers. We have a few other ideas in mind for our online presence, and a few ideas for books in the works. The main thing for us is to be as an open and welcoming as possible. It’s how we all ended up becoming friends in the first place, first with myself and Gareth at the Geek Mart, and then the two of us with Gary at last year’s Small Press Day. We’re all about being supportive of each other and providing honest feedback on comics throughout the production process. It’s allowed us all to learn a lot about comics, and about how to talk to people about them.

There are more exciting things in the works for Limit Break Comics, including the first Meouch stories under the brand. In the meantime, we’re focusing on getting our names out there, on attending some events, and on helping each other grow as storytellers.

You have always been an avid follower and supporter of the small press scene in Ireland. How do you feel the scene has progressed since you first became a follower of it, and who would you feel are the stand out creators/up- and-comers in your eyes?

I properly became aware of the Irish small press scene in 2015. I was in DCU doing a Master’s in Multimedia, and my group for my thesis settled on doing a documentary on comic book culture in Ireland. This meant having to familiarise myself with a few new names. Anthea helped with that, but mostly my knowledge of who’s who came from attending events. The first Small Press Day, and the subsequent Dublin Comic Con, allowed me to talk to more of the indie creators in Ireland.

All of that in mind, it seems like there are a lot more people making comics than there used to be. At the very least, I’m aware of more of them, and of the different roles people assign to themselves. A few things disappeared over the years – Lightning Strike stopped doing their anthologies for a while – and more creators were releasing different sorts of work that 2015-Paul would have loved to talk about for the documentary.

The big change since I started following the scene is the number of people finding professional work. Ireland has an abundance of colourists working professionally, now, and almost as many people who’ve drawn Spider-Man comics. The Comics Lab stopped functioning independently, becoming part of DCAF, and more comic related events have sprouted every year. It means there’s a lot more opportunity to find markets in Ireland, but it does also mean the potential for some overcrowding.

It’s almost impossible, now, to figure out who’s due to make their professional break. I’d like to think that some people – like Hugo Boylan – will have their creator-owned comics reach the wider market. Colourists tend to move into the professional scene more quickly, here, and part of that is likely because of the support network between established pros and the small press creators. Sometimes the idea that everyone in Ireland knows each other is both accurate and helpful. As a community, the comic crowd are consistently dragging each other up.

In your first release on Limit Break, Life & Death, you have written stories focusing on horror or supernatural themes; what draws you to this genre?

I grew up on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, is the short answer. When I was in primary school and definitely not supposed to be watching shows like that, I became enthralled. There’s something special about supernatural stories, to me; almost everything about them can be ordinary, until you hit one little detail. Buffy is just a regular teenage girl to most people, but at night she’s the warrior at the Hellmouth. Willow is the school nerd who discovers herself in college; her coming-out story runs parallel with realising her magical potential.

I like taking something ordinary and twisting it. Mourning Coffee and Death and Taxes are just office stories, until their respective twists. My novel, A Death in the Family, is a story about a Millennial getting a new job and things not going as smoothly as he’d anticipated – the fact that the job is that of Grim Reaper is just a matter of genre.

It’s the same with any genre narrative, really. With Life & Death, I needed to identify mystery in regular life. With Meouch, it’s about needing to find little quirks to reality in as funny a way as possible, while The Wren is about needing to see the hero inside normal people. The beauty of writing, whether for comics or for prose, is that it allows us to look at the world through a different coloured lens.

Advertisements
Interviews

Horror in Watercolour: An Interview with Clare Foley

Clare Foley is an artist and illustrator based in Dublin. She works in watercolours, creating a unique style in the Irish comic scene.

What made you choose watercolours as a medium through which to work?

This is a question I get a lot. Truthfully, the watercolour was an accidental find. When I was initially searching for how to draw my first comic, La Grande Breteche, I tried a lot of different media and drawing styles. I was in college and we were constantly being drilled about developing a style. I didn’t have a particularly well defined style or even a favourite media. I found that the watercolour produced a really moody image, and so I stuck with that for the first book. I sort of fell in love with it in the process of drawing that book. People seemed to react well to the style, so I stuck with it for other projects, and it ended up becoming what I’m known for! I know that answer isn’t particularly meaningful, but a happy accident can be how you find something that works.

You’ve done a lot of horror work; do you ever envisage working in other genres?

It seems that I keep being approached for horror comics! I get a sense that this is because it suits the watercolour style. Once your work in a particular genre gets out there, you get offered similar work.

I think my strength as an artist is mood and atmosphere, and those are some of the same ingredients for good horror. Certainly a lot of the media I consume (and a lot of my favourite books, films, comics and other inspirations) have a somewhat heavy dark atmosphere to them, though are not necessarily horror genre. I would be perfectly happy to work on a comedy or a kids story, but it seems for now I’m destined to do a bit more spooky work…

How do you think your style might work with different types of stories?

I work in a highly stylized way, so there are some limits of course. I’d love to work on some other genres, they would provide a much greater challenge for me. I have something extremely whimsical in the works for much later, and I’m really looking forward to working on something much more irreverent and colourful.

Your first book was an adaptation of an older work; how was that process for you?

Adaptation is an interesting process. I chose someone who was long dead and therefore well outside copyright so I could really mess around with the story and make it my own. I took a lot of liberties with the story and I’m sure Balzac is spinning in his grave. Adaptation at a distance, as I did, is a great way to really play with a story and bend it to its absolute limit without stepping any toes (hopefully!).

Page 1 from Last Stop, written by Gary Moloney, Lettered by Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou

You’ve worked with a lot of writers over the past year; what’s your process for working with other creators?

Continuing on from above, I had to learn how to work with other creators after adaptation. Working with writers is a totally different experience, and very rewarding. It’s exciting to try and bring someone’s vision to life while offering your own unique direction, emphasis and aesthetic to it. I love seeing how two different artists can take the same script and produce such different work. The people I’ve worked with have all been fantastic collaborators, and have taught me different ways of brainstorming and creating together. (Most recently @jp_jordan, @m_gearoid & @writeranonymous)

If you were starting from scratch, would you do anything differently?

I don’t think so. At the end of each comic I always look back and think “I would have done so much differently if I was beginning now” but that’s just showing that you’ve grown and learned from the experience. I think overall I don’t regret any choice I’ve made in terms of the stories I’ve worked on or anything else. It’s been great.

What’s your one tip for people wanting to make a start in comics?

Stop talking about it and start doing it. Everyone has ideas. They’re only worth a damn if you try them and you follow through.

What’s next for you in the world of comics?

I’ve got two stories coming out at an event shortly, featured in different anthologies. I’ve got a new project just confirmed yesterday which I’m really excited to be involved with, and hopefully two other release announcements shortly. Sorry to be vague, just keep your eyes peeled!

Reviews

Review: Swift

With Thought Bubble’s comic convention on its way this weekend, Aaron Fever (Ship WreckedFrozen WasteArtos) is launching Swift, the latest interpretation of the superhero genre from an Irish writer. The creative team involved gathers a lot of experience and talent in one issue, with line art by George Kambadais, colours by Rebecca Nalty, letters by Hassan Ostmane-Elhaou, and Declan Shalvey as Editor. I was fortunate enough to get a digital copy sent to me by Fever for the sake of this review.

Swift is a classic coming of age story, about a wheelchair bound teenager waking up on the sixteenth birthday to discover he has a superpower, and needing to figure out his place in the world with this sudden change. (That’s all you get out of me on that; aside from a no-spoiler policy, I’m not here to summarise the book for you!)

Compared to other superhero books by small press creators, it makes a delightful change. We’re not given a world-saving hero in Swift, but a real, human boy who just wants to paint. We’re not given a star athlete turned Superman-knock-off, or a team of eclectic Irishness in spandez. Fever uses the genre to tell a story about how a boy finds his place in his family, and in the world.

Kambadais and Nalty perform excellently together, giving us a charming family tale with the spark of Marketing Buzz that the heroes of Swift seem to demand. There’s a lot of movement throughout the comic, with the feel of a montage rippling through the pages, loud splashes of colour making up for the silence of paper (or the whirr of my laptop fan.) With the additional of Ostmane-Elhaou’s letters, the comic guides us through one of the more difficult times in a person’s life (growing up; not all of us go through superhero training at the age of sixteen) with all the excitement of possibility, and the dread of change, blended in a way only comics can achieve.

I adored this book. There are no other words for it. Perhaps it’s the superhero fan in me, or the Young-Adult-obsessed reader that’s yet to give up on the classic coming-of-age narrative, but I didn’t want to stop reading the book once I’d started, and wanted to go back and read it again once I’d finished. It doesn’t bury itself in unnecessary complexity; Swift is an honest story, packed with wit and humour. If you’re fortunate enough to get to Thought Bubble this weekend, this is one for your shopping list.

Article

#ComicsAtDCC 2017

The biggest weekend for Irish comics is here: Dublin Comic Con. Thanks to Declan Shalvey, the hashtag #ComicsAtDCC began on Twitter, making the job of easily identifying what’ll be available that little bit easier. I’ve gathered a bunch of titles here from what I know about and what I could pick up info about online.

All Ages Comics

Going by my own experiences attending Dublin Comic Con in the past, the All-Ages titles are few and far between. I’ve collected the few that I know about here, to make things easier for readers with kids to find something age-appropriate for them.

Fate by Anthea West. Click here for our review.
Freya, Written by Tracy Sayers, Art by Trisha O’Reilly
Wren #13, Written by Paul Carroll and Jason Browne, Art by Jason Browne, Lettered by Phil Roe
Rabbit and Paul Cover
Rabbit and Paul, by Seán Hogan. Click here for our review.

Small Press

The remainder of the Irish small press, as far as I know, is not quite as suitable for children as the above comics. While some titles may be – it’s a judgement call by parents – there are some that might traumatise kids.

The Guards
The Guards, Written by Shane Ormond, Art by Kevin Keane
Chuck, Written by Paul Carroll, Art by Conor Carroll
100-times-cover
100 Times, by Katie Fleming Deluxe Edition launches at Dublin Comic Con with additional material. Click here for our original review.
Brain Fetish Cover
Brain Fetish by Kinga Korska. Click here for our review.
Carrie & Rufus, by Ben Hennessy
The Broker, Written by Wayne Talbot. Massive creative team listed in review
Will Sinister, Written by Hugo Boylan, Art by John Quigley. Check out our review here.
Clone, by Hugo Boylan, Tara Ferguson, Rebecca Reynolds and Kerrie Smith. Check out our review here.
Hoda Machine, by Leeann Hamilton
Red Sands, Written by Ciaran Marcantonio, Art by Cormac Hughes, Colours by Triona Farrell
How to Live With Your Cat, Written by Paul Carroll, Art by Gareth Luby
Meouch, Written by Paul Carroll, Art by Gareth Luby
The Waves That Breaks, by Aaron Lotsy
Frozen Waste, Written by Aaron Fever, Art by Clare Foley
The Fort Night Comic Project, Written by Dave Hendrick, Art by Peter Marry, Colours by Dee Cunniffe
solstice-1-winter-cover
Solstice, Written by Danny McLaughlin, Art by Nathan Donnell. Books 3 launches at Dublin Comic Con. (As far as we are aware!)
project-crossroads-cover
Project Crossroads, Art by Seán Hogan, Stories by Hugo Boylan, JP Jordan and Adlai McCook, Colours by Stephanie Reville and Dearbhla Kelly, Letters by Kerrie Smith, Flats by Louise Fitzpatrick. Check out our review here.
Solo-Q by Jeklly Draws

Special Mentions

Sometimes, writers and artists work on things that aren’t comics. Launching at DCC, or just released this year, are:

Maelstrom, by Paddy Lennon – Book 3 of the Flare Series
A Little Book of the Coen Brothers, a Sketchbook by Brian Burke

A Death in the Family, by Paul Carroll, launched at K-Con earlier this year

Guests

As well as all of that, attendees will also be treated to the presence of a few of Ireland’s greatest comic creators, including Will Sliney, Declan Shalvey, Stephen Mooney, John Cullen, Triona Farrell, and Robert Carey. Anthea West and Leeann Hamilton, whose books can be seen in the list above, are also on the billing.

It’s going to be a busy weekend. There’s a lot to look at it, so many books worth reading, and so many artists and other creators whose work cries out to be picked up.

I’ll be in attendance as a vendor this year, but I had the utmost pleasure of getting to review a lot of the upcoming books for this year’s event. For those who don’t know, I’m Paul Carroll – just breaking into comics, hence the plethora of new books. Because Comix Ireland is a one-man show, you won’t find reviews of anything (or by anyone) I’m involved in (with) here, which includes anything by Gareth Luby, Tracy Sayers, or Jason Browne of Buttonpress. There’s objectivity, and then there’s bias, and the line gets a little bit finer the closer you get to a book. As for every other book on the list, you’ll likely see reviews popping up ahead of other events. I personally can’t wait to see what these amazing creators, and the ones who aren’t on this list, have to offer in the years to come.

Reviews

Review: Fate

One of Ireland’s longest running web comics is taking its first three chapters and going into print. Fate, by Anthea West, is launching with a collected volume of its first three chapters (and an exclusive print-only prologue!) at Dublin Comic Con this year. The book comes with cover colours by Triona Farrell, a map by Katie O’Meara, and additional colours by O’Meara and Rebecca Nalty. Following an incredibly successful Kickstarter earlier this year, West is ready to bring her beloved back to the convention floor.

Fate is an all-ages comic that combines West’s great sense of humour with a fun and vibrant adventure story. Following the misfortune’s of the only talking dustbunny – later named by another character as ‘Bunny’ – Fate builds up a large, fantastical world with each twist and turn. In a world populated by humans, fauns, dustbunnies, mermaids and demons – and probably a whole lot more – there’s a lot to be discovered with every turn of the page and addition to the site.

West’s sense of humour and style of illustration are perfect for her intended audience, painting a colourful story world filled with friendly and easy-on-the-eye protagonists, and menacing beasts with their eyes (and stomachs) settled on hunting down Bunny. With her art loaning itself equally well to its adorable protagonist and all the nastiness that aims to devour him, readers are in for a visual delight.

The book is certainly a lot less serious than most of the other titles released by Irish creators, but that doesn’t stop it dealing with themes of friendship, prejudice, and finding courage as an unwilling hero. While it’s still quite early in the tale, there’s a lot to uncover within the story about the world, its people, and the things that bind them together. Definitely one to check out, especially if you’re looking for something child-friendly from the Irish small press creators.

Check out Anthea on Twitter at: @antheawest

 

Reviews

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

Reviews

Review: The Broker

Launching at Dublin Comic Con, The Broker is the first book from podcaster Wayne Talbot. The book has an interesting publication history (and it’s not even out yet!), originally intended to be released across three anthologies by Lightning Strike, and changing creative teams when it stood out by itself. The original creative team consisted on Wayne Talbot as writer and Miriam Abuin on lettering, both of whom remained throughout the entire project. For the book’s first act, pages 1-10, Ruairi Coleman served as artist, with Timothy Brown on colours. For the remainder of the book, Brian Corcoran assumed the role of artist, with Talbot picking up colours. Ciaran Marcantonio resides over the book as editor as it reaches convention tables for the first time.

The plot of the book seems less tedious after putting the book’s history into words; conceptually, it’s simple, and thematically appropriate for the current political climate. Talbot deals with corruption, brutality and conspiracy throughout three acts, pacing the tale incredibly well across each part. The protagonists are believable in almost every aspect – we’ll let the team away with the superb reflexes of their heroes due in part to the fact that comics allow a certain distinction from reality. Nothing is held back between the twists and turns of a plot centring around Brokers with their own visions of how the world should run, and wicked and scrupulous means of achieving their goals, playing with lives as chess pieces.

Readers can be understandably concerned when they hear about the change in artist between two parts of the story, but fear not: Coleman and Corcoran’s styles compliment each other well. Where Coleman dealt with some of the more explosive scenes of the book, relying on dynamic movements between panels, Corcoran deals with the forensics in greater capacity, picking apart the plot with a fine pen. It helps that each artist deals with a different primary protagonist, with Corcoran and Talbot creating a new tonal quality to the book as it enters its second act. Talbot and Brown’s colours blend well together, and while I would personally question one particularly vibrant background colour choice, Talbot succeeded in completing the colouring of the book as well as any seasoned creator could hope.

Between them, Talbot and Brown created a theme of colours to track throughout the book, working with Abuin’s lettering to tie the whole piece together neatly. Reds carry violence, purples hint at the presence of the antagonists, and oranges case a light on Catelyn’s past.

The risks involved in changing teams are many, but a book like The Broker was perfectly designed to make use of it in the best way. I would question it if the division in acts wasn’t apparent in the writing, too, and any reader should worry when they see such a drastic change in a book’s lineup; thankfully, The Broker blends its second team’s styles with its original creators.

A couple of side notes before I finish: I love that there’s a soundtrack to listen to while reading the book (interior back page, for those of you yet to read the book), and; Catelyn is perhaps my favourite single character from an Irish small press book. As well as being incredibly Bad Ass, she has a few choice panels that really stand out for me towards the end of the second act. When you’ve read the book, then you can ask about it if you don’t immediately spot what makes her so relatable.

I look forward to something new from Talbot, whichever creative team he works with. And, while this is no criticism of The Broker, I’m thankful that the next project he’s announced is less contemporary in nature, so that we might see more of how he creates, and less of the current politics that fills newsfeeds daily.

Follow the creators on Twitter:

Wayne Talbot: @waynetalbot

Miriam Abuin: @miriamabuin

Ruairi Coleman: @ruairicoleman

Timothy Brown: @artoftimbrown

Brian Corcoran: @_brian_corcoran

Ciaran Marcantonio: @ciaronious

Reviews

Review: Will Sinister

One part Western, one part ‘whatever-we-can-call-Boylan’s-creative-madness’, Will Sinister is one of a few new books launching at this year’s Dublin Comic Con; we were lucky enough to be sent an advanced review copy. Hugo Boylan (MalevolenceHigh FantasyBlack White and GreySuperhero Helpdesk… you get the picture yet?) teams up with artist John Quigley (Malevolence) and letterer Kerrie Smith (Girls Like YouSuperhero Helpdesk) to bring us a new tale of death, violence, and broken expectations. With Dearbhla Kelly on cover colours, it makes for a pretty package with a rustic interior.

There’s an expectation from the book’s beginning for there to be some traditional gun-slinging and contextually appropriate racism (maybe not slurs, exactly…but hate), and in many ways we’re not disappointed. There’s a clear divide between the “cowboys” and natives, and an unravelling tale behind this particular snippet of history.

Typical of Boylan, there’s a twist in the feel of the book; also typical of him is the unpredictability of when something like this will happen. The particular splicing of spirituality with the Western tale is reminiscent of Jonah Hex and Preacher, and while the later arc of the book raises a few questions about the history of the comic’s scruffy protagonist that aren’t quite addressed, the blending of the natural and the supernatural works incredibly well in Will Sinister, while preserving the character’s dodgy integrity.

Quigley’s art gives the story a rustic, wild feel, perfect for the brutality of the dark reality of the era. Expertly capturing distress, agony and disgust, and he creates a visually disturbing narrative, with a few choice character designs standing out. As a bonus, the book contains the concept art for Sinister and his most intimate, primal companion. Perhaps its a bias for Irish small press, but it stands out as one of my favourite representations of the character.

Adding to the tale are Smith’s experienced lettering hands. There’s a sense of power given to certain characters, and the barriers between the natural and the supernatural are broken down further still with her inclusion in the book.

If I had to criticise the book, my one judgement would be that I felt like we’re left with a loose end or two by its final page, and no promise within its pages of a follow-up. Maybe it’s a personal thing, and a familiarity with continuing narratives across multiple books, but when a book ends the way Will Sinister does, I’d like to think there might be something to come later, and an opportunity for unanswered questions to be resolved. Don’t let it put you off picking up Will Sinister at Dublin Comic Con; think of this as an excuse to keep an extra close eye on future releases from this team of creators.

(Update: the story will continue. Confirmed by Hugo Boylan shortly after this review went live.)

Follow the creators on Twitter:

Hugo Boylan: @hugoboylan

John Quigley: @johnquigley209

Dearbhla Kelly: @dearbhlala

Kerrie Smith: @pocketkerrie

Reviews

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