Interviews

Drag Queens and Comedy: An Interview with Chris Fildes

Kickstarter has become a safe haven for new works in the midst of the pandemic, a place where creators can turn to have their books shared with the world while conventions remain artefacts of the Before Times. Among the ranks of Irish creators putting their own through Kickstarter is Chris Fildes, writer of Fanny Galactic and the currently funding Crime&D’Sorder. The books centre on the drag scene in an English seaside village, bringing a new wave of comedy to Irish comics. Chris was kind enough to agree to an interview in the middle of his campaign – almost fully funded at the time this interview is going live.

It’s an awful cliché to ask a writer where they get their inspiration from, but I have to ask: why drag queens, and why now? Where did the characters come from?

Chris: I thought of the idea for the first book while watching a drag show in Dublin about 5 years ago. The performers wind machine had seen better days and I started to think about what would happen if it exploded. I then came up with this story in my head of this drag queen waking up in the future Buck Rogers style. So that’s how it started. I decided to make my characters a little older as I wanted a mix of fun, naughty humour but with the undercurrent of having been around and seen it all over the years. This lets me look at some weighty topics such as homophobia in 1980’s Britain (where I grew up), dealing with HIV and how growing up gay back then affected the characters – and still affects them.

How much of your own experience with the drag community came into play when writing this book?

Chris: I used to be involved in an annual Irish charity fundraiser called Alternative Miss Ireland. It started in 1987 in a small nightclub before coming back in 1996 hosted by Irish drag royalty Panti. It first went to see it in 1998 shortly after I moved to Ireland. I loved it so much I ended up building their website and going to committee meetings. It was such fun. It wasn’t just drag – it was a pastiche of a beauty contest so anyone could enter. I think a dog entered one year. What I loved about it was it was a bit rough around the edges and things would often go wrong – if we were lucky! I’ve always been drawn to slightly off-kilter entertainment and this really got me. I haven’t really been involved for years but it was a huge inspiration. 

We already know that Crime & D’Sorder is a comedy, but what else can people expect from the book? Is prior knowledge of Fanny Galactic required?

Chris: No prior knowledge required. All you need to know is in the first book Fanny Galactic’s pub gets blown up and she ends up in the future. There she discovers a world taken over by drag queens presided over by a friend of hers. The second book looks at the pub explosion scene from book 1 from the perspective of one of her friends caught up in it, and explores what happens next. The first book was a sci-fi comedy romp whereas the new one is more of a thriller/horror with comedy moments. It’s still funny (I hope) but it’s more serious and more the tone I’d like to take the series in going forward. I’d actually rather people start with this book to be honest – they can be read in any order. So we look at how and why the world got taken over by a drag queen and how Fanny’s friends get caught up in it.

Sybil D’Sorder

You moved to Dublin recently; how have you found the reception of the Irish comic community given the current state of the world? What are you most looking forward to post-pandemic?

Chris: Oh I actually moved here in 1998! I only started connecting with other Irish comic creators during both Kickstarter campaigns and haven’t had a chance to meet anyone properly. It’s my intention to get more involved now we can meet up. I’m so thrilled Little Deer Comics has opened up a stones throw from my house in Stoneybatter so this will give me a nudge to check out new Irish comics and start getting involved.

Editor note: Little Deer Comics has a store lease for 9 months, so don’t miss the opportunity to see it before it’s gone!

My mistake! We’ll have to make sure you get properly introduced to people soon! Back to the comics for now, what’s coming next from the world of Fanny Galactic and the drag queens of Dublin? Or will you be steering your craft to explore other areas of interest to you?

Chris: I’m hoping if this book is successful to work on the next instalment 20,000 WIGS UNDER THE SEA which continues Fanny Galactic’s time travel adventures – this time on the Titanic. This is going to be such fun. I’ve plans for more books in the series but I’m trying to work out how to get them out. CRIME & D’SORDER is a shorter comic than the first book and I’m not sure whether to split the new story into 2 books or do it all as one (which will take much longer). 

Violet Crime

I’m also working on some other stories too as I’ve been working on Fanny Galactic for a few years now (I first started plotting it nearly 7 years ago) and would like to spread out a bit. I’ve fully plotted a medieval horror story which I’m really, really excited about. It looks at a particular well known story in a very different way. I’m a big fan of David Lynch and this is scratching an itch to do something darker and more experimental. It came to me fully formed one night I couldn’t sleep – it scared me a bit as it felt like it was poured into my head from somewhere else…

Once this Kickstarter is done I’m going to finish writing this. I also have a new story I’d love to work on, which is an LGBT sci-fi love/adventure story. It’s an epic tale and the first issue I have mapped out and I think it could really work and lend itself to an ongoing story. So I need to balance that with budget and also wanting to carry on working with artist Edward Bentley on Fanny Galactic as I love our collaboration. At the moment it looks like there will be a gap before I start a new Fanny Galactic but I think it’s good to spread out and try a few other things. I’m going to be taking both Fanny Galactic books to Thought Bubble and it will be great to see the reaction and see what people think about it. 

Thanks again to Chris for taking the time to talk to us! Be sure to check out Crime&D’Sorder on Kickstarter – the campaign ends on September 30th! From the sneak peek we got before the interview, this is the sort of book the Irish comic scene needs.

About Chris:

Chris is a new Irish comics writer born in the UK but based in Dublin for the last 20 years. Last year he Kickstarted his first book FANNY GALACTIC : TUCK TO THE FUTURE about the adventures of a time travelling drag queen. It funded in under 3 days so now he’s come back with a follow-up CRIME & D’SORDER. He grew up on a diet of 1980’s Doctor Who and 2000ad and which inspire both his humour and writing.

Follow Chris on Twitter @IamChrisFildes

Interviews

Ireland’s Newest Comic Site: An Interview with Aaron Fever and Clare Foley on IrishComics.ie

Ireland has had its events closed for 16 months. That’s been almost a year and a half of no conventions at which creators could showcase new work. If not for an uptake in digital platforms for communication, like Discord and Zoom, it would also have been a year a half during which Irish comic creators would not have spoken nearly as much as they have been. Out of one series of Zoom calls comes Ireland’s newest comic website: IrishComics.ie.

Joining us today, as part of the Comix Ireland revival, are two of my co-founders of IrishComics.ie: Aaron Fever and Clare Foley.

Where did the idea come from? What excited you about it when it first came up in conversation?

Aaron: Well like you said, we had a year of weekly zoom calls between us talking about how we were all trying to make independent comics and how much of a struggle that can be. As part of those conversations we also talked about what we hoped the future of the Irish comics community would be coming out of the pandemic. A big theme in all of that was just how important supporting each other is and how difficult things can be when we’re trying to hussle individually. 

I remember talking about my early days of writing articles for websites and how they were a great source of pot-luck entertainment. You’d go to check out one thing but stick around to read something else. I feel like Twitter etc has removed a bit of that culture due to picking and choosing who you follow but I think there’s a demand for it now that folks have become wary of social media.

I won’t lie and pretend that I also didn’t mention Eclectic Micks as an inspiration. It’s a great example to show that when Irish comic creators work together, good things happen.

Clare: The weekly Zoom calls began around the time I was really struggling creatively, I was just floundering without any sense of “comics community” that I’d usually get from events, conventions, meeting up with friends… It left me very unmotivated to create anything. The calls themselves began as a general catch up and chat about what work we’d be trying to complete for next week, but we began to really talk  about the scene, our future careers, and how we could best support each other.

The idea seemed quite natural, especially in light of how digital all our lives had become. When the idea began being discussed, it very quickly snowballed into something really possible, and I think we were all quite excited by it.

What’s the purpose of the site? What’s it for? Who is it for?

A: I’m jazzed to hopefully draw some eyes to different Irish comics people might never have tried otherwise. Do you like one of my comics? Well here’s another cool one next to it. And vice versa. Maybe you’re a big fan of Anthea but never had heard of me before. Great, well now you can see we’re all part of the same community of creators.

It’s free, none of us are gonna make money directly from it (in fact, we’ve put in money) but the hope is that we can raise all of our profiles and provide a place for every Irish comic creator to come and contribute and get some new admirers. Get your name out there. Let’s show what we can do.

C: I think when we talk about ‘Irish Comics’ as a concept, it’s scattered across a lot of different websites and platforms, which all update on different schedules or maybe quite infrequently.

The idea of the site really simplifies it down – if you go there any week day, there is a new comic page. If you click around, there are loads of other stories.

As Aaron said, maybe you read a page and want to see more from this writer. Maybe you read a page and want to see another story from this artist. Maybe you’re curious about the creative team. It’s all easy to find more of.

It’s also the kind of site I’d be happy to send to someone a bit less familiar with comics, as it serves as a sort of sample-plate of some cool comics, and is a bit more enticing than linking to a series of different Twitter threads, or a ton of different artist websites.

What do you hope will come from the website’s existence?

A: You know from experience, I’ve said this phrase maybe a 100 times during the build up to this: A rising tide lifts all boats.

I really hope everyone involved both currently and in the future gain support and valuable interactions from putting their comics on the site. I hope it becomes a great hub for both showcasing your work and interacting with the rest of the Irish comics community. 

I also hope it gives the world, and Ireland, a great sense of the length and breadth of what Irish comics are. What is our style of comics. What makes us stand out.

C: I really can’t add much to this – there is strength in numbers, any success that any of us have can help us all. The Irish comics scene has so much great work to show, this will hopefully act as a place to showcase some of that talent.

How does a site like IrishComics.ie fit into your own plans for making and disseminating comics?

A: I have two successful Kickstarters under my belt but honestly I’m still struggling to make content regularly due to printing costs and relying on events to be able to sell comics. 

I’ve already pivoted a lot of future plans to releasing primarily through IrishComics. I’m not making much money selling physical copies so why am I sinking myself financially to keep printing things at scale? I just want people to read my stuff. So here, read it on our site!

C: I don’t generally have my comics online – I tend to sell physical copies. Although I could put comics on my own website, there is a very narrow window of traffic that goes there. And although social media is good for sharing stuff, it tends to be seen by the same series of people.

Having a website that updates daily showcasing lots of different stories is a great way to share some of your work with a lot of different people, without the pressure of enormous printing costs.

How do creators get involved?

A: So obviously, despite some experience, this is a new adventure for us. This first week or so we just want to make sure the lights stay on and we don’t accidentally blow something up. But pretty much straight after that we’re inviting folks to contribute. We want to get as many people as possible involved. Get the boats on that tide, haha!

We need completed comics (short or longer form) to post, a new page going live each week, sent to us via irishcomics@gmail.com.

Now, we want to be putting our best foot forward and showing off our community in the best possible light so there is a review process involved. Basically, if we feel like your comic might not be quite ready we may not be able to accept it. But we will give clear feedback and try to steer a creator in the right direction. 

Why hasn’t something like this been done before?

A: Honestly, I think it’s because professional comics treats its creators as individuals. Work-for-hire artists. We’re isolated often by the industry.

I’m sure there are other versions of this site around but I think our community has only recently seen a boom in creators. Maybe the last 5-8 years or so? It takes time to find an identity. I’m hoping maybe we can help push that process along. 

C: Well the idea really grew from discussing this very question. I’m sure the idea has been discussed before, and there are probably versions of this in existence. Maybe the fact that there’s no profit-making mechanism in the website; it really is just a place to showcase some work. The focus is really on bringing people together, and I hope it achieves that.

What can you tell us about your own stories on the site?

A: Oh boy, me and Hugh have been working on Mr & Mrs Van Helsing for over a year now. It actually started from an idea Hugh had for a couple of monster hunters and has evolved significantly over time. Think about what it would be like if your favourite married couple hunted trolls and werewolves. It’s a bit like that, haha. I’m really excited for everyone to see it. I’m proud of what we’re doing (don’t tell Hugh I said that).

C: I was working away on ‘Sredni Vashtar’, the Saki adaptation, during our Zoom calls – I used them a bit like ‘homework club’ to finish it off in time! It was around that time we were discussing the site, so I was delighted to have some new work to go up on it.

The story is totally bizarre, and I love it. I’ve made some changes that I’m sure have Saki whirling in his grave. It involves a violent ferret goddess, and a little girl with a wild imagination.

I also did the art for Paul’s excellent story ‘The Fiend in the Forest’ – I loved working on this, and I think it turned into such an atmospheric and spooky tale. I was delighted Paul brought me on to do the art for this one, I think it was a great fit and I’m glad I got to help it shine.

IrishComics.ie launches on July 10, 2021 with the first pages of each of the five stories. From Monday 12, the pages will begin publishing on a daily basis:

  • Monday: Srendi Veshtar by Clare Foley
  • Tuesday: After Yesterday by Jaime Lalor
  • Wednesday: Mr & Mrs Van Helsing by Aaron Fever and Hugh Madden
  • Thursday: Eyes by Anthea West
  • Friday: The Fiend in the Forest by Paul Carroll

Subscribe to the site to keep up with the comics as they’re published.

Interviews

Street Art and Going Solo: An Interview with Hugh Madden

Hugh Madden is a comic creator and street artist. His work includes The Duck and the Duchess and Madame Moustache, as well as commissioned art around the streets of Dublin.
You work alone on your comics; is this a conscious choice, or are you just waiting for the right collaborator? 
I work alone mainly because I started out knowing nobody who wrote/drew comics so I had no-one to collaborate with. And over the years, I’ve developed a way of writing and drawing that is very interlinked and also completely allover the place and nothing (including dialogue, plot, faces) is finalised until I’ve inked it. And even then I’ve tippexed out entire panels and thrown out pages. I like the freedom to be able to change everything around on a whim and I could only imagine how frustrating it would be to work with someone like me. I like the IDEA of collaborating with someone (Goscinny and Uderzo always made it look good! (see attached)) but I suspect it wouldn’t work and we’d both end up frustrated.
How do you decide which ideas to work with if you’re working solo?
Usually it takes me a day or two of playing around to figure out whether an idea is just a flash in the pan or if I can make something out of it. It’s usually starts off something like “What if A did X?” and then I work out who A is, what A looks like, the style I want to draw A in, what is X? All those things can fluctuate wildly. Depending on the character I’d do research on how they dress, where they’d live, develop other characters for them to interact with, work out who is in A’s way, are they a simple villain or more complex? And often the idea will just fall flat. Sometimes it’s because the plot won’t work, or the setting is wrong, or the characters don’t connect with the plot once they have been developed or much more likely it’s just something derivative and it takes you a while to realise that. When that happens I just put them away, hoping that someday the right plot for the characters will come along or vice versa.
But even when everything seems fine in my head, when the characters, plot etc meld perfectly, it can end up going off the rails. Sometimes the characters develop on the page differently from how you thought they would and then you are no longer able to corral them along to the ending. Other times you just get stuck and can’t figure out how to get from page 5 to page 7. When that happens, I just put it aside for a few days in the hope of being able to look at it with fresh eyes.
But the best test is always when I ask myself, are you interested enough in these ideas/characters to waste time making this comic? And if the answer is yes, then I go for it!!​

What’s your production process like? Do you script the whole book first, or do you make it up as you go along?
As I’ve said, my production process is a mess. I generally know how and where the book is going to end but if the book evolves I’m not wedded to it. Often the biggest hurdle is figuring out how the comic starts. I generally squash character design, page lay out, thumbnails and script onto the one page, so one page of dialogue can be scattered over several pages of doodles. I usually go back and number the dialogue so that I know what panel I want it to be in but that is more of a guideline. Anything can change on the page. Normally I have a solid idea and layout concept in my head for 4-5 pages at a time and by the time I’ve finished pencilling those pages, I know what to do with the next batch of 4-5 pages.  I don’t wait until I’ve finished pencilling the comic to ink a page. I usually start inking early once I am convinced that the page is ready. (And partially so that I stop worrying about whether it will ever be ready)
Your art has popped up along the streets of Dublin; how did that come about? Do you think it’s beneficial to experiment with art like that? 
This is part of the Dublin Canvas project (www.dublincanvas.com) I saw a poster in relation to it when the project was still in its beta testing stage and kept an eye out until it was looking for more submissions. I applied and one of my submissions got chosen and I have applied every year since. Both my comics and my street art tie in to Irish history and folklore and I think that working on a different scale and with different tools keeps me from getting bored in one medium. And I always find that experimenting sparks inspiration.
You’ve been getting involved in the Irish comic scene more and more; have you faced any barriers to entry? 
The only difficulty I had with getting into the comic scene here is finding out about it. Often the only way I hear about an event/market/festival is when I am told about it by people at a different event/market/festival. The actual applications are usually straightforward it’s the finding out that is difficult.When young people stop by my stall and talk about how they want to get into comics, I  tell them about the different events I attend and how they can apply for them too and they often seem surprised at how easy it is to get a table.

How have you found the process of finding an audience for your work? 
Finding an audience is without doubt one of the more difficult parts of comics and always the thing I think about after I’ve made the comic (ie too late!) I’m always struggling to find an audience but I think/hope that if the art is good enough the audience will eventually find you. It’s important to keep putting your stuff out there on facebook/instagram/twitter where ever you can but going to markets etc is a really good way to find out who your audience is. Because you will always be surprised at who makes a real connection with your comics and it feels great when they do. But I have about 100 followers on twitter so take all my advice with a LARGE grain of salt!!
What’s your one tip for people wanting to make a start in comics? 
Just do it. Don’t hang around waiting for the right day or the right pen or the right atmosphere. Just sit down and force it out of you. Make it short and self contained but do it! Because your first comic is not going to be good. I know that mine wasn’t! And the sooner you finish your bad first comic, you can do your better second comic and your even better third comic and so on and so on.  You won’t get better sitting on your hands or day dreaming.
My second “one tip” is to sign up for a table at one of the markets because that way you have a deadline to get your comic finished by and there is no greater inspiration than the knowledge that you need to make something/anything!! to put on your table!
What’s next for you in the world of comics? 
What’s next for me is to finish inking my second “Madame Moustache” comic, I have a children’s comic about Vikings that I have to finish and I have about 30+ pages of a graphic novel I would like to continue. And of course I have that drawer full of unfulfilled characters and unfinished plots  to get through!
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