We’ve been inundated with fantastic new indie and small press comics over the Christmas and New year period, so we thought we would share some of our favourites with you: this week we look at a larger than life character in The Eel Man Chronicles; travel through time with Out of Time; and go older than old school with a pair of bickering pensioners in The World of Diedre and Albert.
Eel Man Chronicles #1-4 (Chris Spalton)
We’ve all got some pretty strange relatives in our family, but are they worthy of their own comic series? Well Chris Spalton certainly thinks his Dad is ripe for immortalising in comic strip form, and who are we to argue when we read his Eel Man Chronicles. Comprising 4 short stories, they are a weird mix of anecdotes about his Eel loving Dad that involve burglar shooting farmer Tony Martin, a chance encounter with Prince Philip, a ferret called Ferret and his Dad’s love of a crazy dog. They are hilarious and strange, but also really endearing and charming as Chris stops short of ridiculing his Dad and instead portrays him as a loveable larger than life character. Chris uses a quite low-fi cartoon strip style with hand lettered text underneath that feels almost Viz like at times. And the crazy nature of the stories certainly make it feel like it could appear in a comic like that, except it’s supposedly all true! In a way it reads like a Coen Brothers-esque true story where it feels too far fetched to be real, but Chris assures us it is all true (apart from the sub plot about the Golden Eel). While it may look quite basic at times (you can still see the pencil lines in places) it has a denseness to each page and a really strong sense of being designed and drawn with a plan, that makes it feels a lot more sophisticated than you might first think. But after a few reads you stop thinking about it like that, as there is a story about a crazy dog or an eel joke and you get reminded that first and foremost this is an h-eel-arious comic strip and a real top class catch!
Out of Time (Halsall/Cuttlefish)
The great thing about time travel comics, is that you can pretty much get away with anything – especially if it’s a comedy! And thats what Luke James Halsall and his brilliantly monickered pal Cuttlefish have done with Out of Time. Set in a company that offers time travel trips for customers, it focuses on the staff who work there, rather than the time travellers themselves, creating a kind of The Office meets Quantum Leap scenario that is packed full of quirky humour and strange scenarios. The staff includes Redmond a manic depressive who hates his job, Lizzie a struggling singer and perhaps best of all is NC-1000 (aka Nigel), a guy who has been on so many trips to the future he now believes he is a robot. There’s also a talking Dog called Annette, who isn’t a martian! Packed full of surreal humour and stunning visuals (Cuttlefish’s use of colour is particularly dazzling!), Halsall and Cuttlefish’s work is reminiscent of the excellent Tom Gauld at times, but with a more anarchic sense of humour and more out and out gags. In fact, it is that gags which make this such a great read, with a relentless torrent of quips and jokes that will have you laughing out loud at least once a page! In issue #1 the team hunt down a customer who has inadvertently changed the future, while in issue #2 it sees them travel to the past to prevent a cat from taking over the world. And soon we are also set to get issue 4 which involves a search for the lost issue #3 and sees our heroes visited buy themselves from a parallel universe and hunt down Halsall and Cuttlefish at a comic convention. An hilarious time travelling treat!
Read issues #1 and #2 for free at oot.thecomicseries.com
The World of Diedre and Albert (King Pudster)
Starring a pair of cantankerous old folk, Andrew Johnsons’ The World of Deidre and Albert is a series of one panel strips that introduce to the bizarre, violent and strangely funny world of a couple who live in a food blender on the edge of the universe. It has a Gary Larsen meets Ren and Stimpy quality to it, but with old folks, and while not all the jokes hit, it has a peculiar originality to it that draws you into their odd world and is darkly amusing. Johnson mixes surreal visuals (Albert pickles his head or Deidre with a giant leg) with dark scenarios (a monster under the stairs or a fridge full of body parts for their tea) to create a book which is both funny and unsettling. With a back story that has very little bearing on the characters actions, instead you are left with a pair of malevolent old folk who are as vicious as they are loving towards each other but as a result it manages to have an element of heart to it that stops it from being too nasty and unreadable. If you liked books like David Leach’s Psycho Gran for Todd Oliver’s Boxes then you’ll love this.