Small Press Spotlight: True Believers Comic Festival 2019 Special

This weekend is the fantastic True Believers Comic Festival 2019 in Cheltenham, and if you are wondering which of the many wonderful small press books launching this weekend you should check out, we have some handy reviews including: Nick Bryan’s Moon Frame, John Tucker’s Plan A/Plan B, the latest issue of Awesome Comics and Grayham Puttock’s Circusside.

Moon Frame

This slice of near future sci fi comes courtesy of newcomer Nick Bryan, whose excellent debut, The Little Deaths of Watson Tower, made our Best of 2018 list. This new book is very different though and sees him team up with artist Lucas Peverill, to create a really smart piece of high concept sci fi. Harriet is a scientist who invents a new online back up system which involves computers made of brain tissue, that are backing up our internet history on the moon. When the tissue gets infected with a disease, Harriet is punished by her boss and her husband sent to the moon to fix it. So begins your typical man in space, in peril story as the moon frame starts fighting back and Harriet and her hubby must stop it. Moon Frame is one of those books that is built around an amazing central concept. Bryan has clearly had a moment of inspiration here and the mix of organic and machine make for a really interesting and sinister concept. As does the fantastic juxtaposition of a moon based repair man and his earth based manager. While the ideas behind the story are solid, the actual execution isn’t quite there and it could do with a bit of clarity to make the story into something really special. It ends up being quite a jumbled read which is in part down to the art. Peverills almost roto-scoped style mixes photo real faces with computer generated background, which means it can be both stunning and confusing in equal measures. There are some truly breath taking space visuals and shots of the moon frame itself, but there is also a chaotic and scratchy approach to the more workman-like panels. It also doesn’t really help with this style for it to be in black and white as a lot of the detail just jumbles together. Which is a shame because the concept is very strong and on the surface, the look and design are really unique.

Pick up Moon Frame from Nick Bryan’s online store or from table XX

Plan A/Plan B

The latest from the brilliant John Tucker is as much an exercise in story telling and printing logistics as it is a comic and we christened it the worlds first ‘two-shot’ in our recent preview. The book comprises two stories which each build to a  single point in time, represented by a single image in the middle of the comic. Each story is then told in different halves of the book – meaning you read plan b first, then flip the book over to read plan a. Plan b is all about a pair of brothers giving their dad the perfect send off using fireworks, while Plan a is about a bunch of prisoners who are trying to escape jail but who get rumbled by some unexpected fireworks – so you can see the common thread. It’s another delightfully daft story from Tucker, with his usual quirky ideas and daft visuals. But compared to Adrift or Bald is actually quite straight laced – but not in a bad way. It still has the quirky Tucker sense of humour on show though, as well as some fantastic visuals (especially One Eyed Owen) which really make the most of both scenarios. While this is perhaps not the most gripping or deep story, the highly original presentation of the book make it a must read, and definitely one you should be picking up from John in person.

Purchase Plan A/Plan B from John’s online store or from table XXX

Awesome Comics #4

Having launched this anthology at last years True Believers the Awesome Comic Podcast crew have brought their respective stories to a blood-soaked, engine-revving and cockney-kicking conclusions in this final issue. This 4 issue series has been lots of fun, with three very enjoyable and outlandish stories that perfectly matches the personalities of the three podcast hosts. If you’ve not been reading it from the start, Murder Road is a slice of Stephen King-inspired 80s road movie horror and is packed full of blood guts and evil motor cars. While Cockney Kung fu sees east end bad girl Red drawn into the seedy underbelly of 6”s London in a foul mouthed, fist flying adventure with art from Nick Prolix whose work is probably the stand out for the series (especially his hand drawn lettering!). And finally Vyper channels the best of 80s tv series like Streethawk and Airwolf but mixes them up with a R-Rated  level of violence to make a really fun pastiche of 80s action movies. It’s silly, daft fun and if you enjoy the Awesome Comic Podcast you will love this fantastic series. But even if you’ve not listened to their weekly antics then there is still plenty to get to grips with in this excellent anthology!

Pick up Awesome Comics #1-4 from the Awesome Comics Online Store or from table XX

Circusside #3

When not providing the artwork for award winning Red Rocket Comet, Grayham Puttock is the man behind the the sinister soap opera known as Circusside. Another book we discovered for the first time at last year’s True Believers, and this year Grayham is back with a brand new issue #3. Although nominally based around a circus called Queequgs and it’s motley roster of misfits (including a mute clown), it is the oddball cast of the local town who are the true focus of the story. From a chainsaw wielding skinhead, to ambitious property developers to council worker Xxx, who was caught up in a hit and run at the end of issue 2 and is now dealing with consequences. Circusside is one of those books that really defies pigeon-holing – it’s part crime drama, part small town kitchen sink soap opera, and after this issue, there is also a strange supernatural element involving a woodland witch. It’s an ambitious and intricate story all brought to life by Grayham’s incredible photo realistic pencil artwork. As with previous issues, and also RRC, he uses celebrities as source material (we spotted Harry Dean Stanton and Sheila Hancock in this issue) which can jar a little bit and take you out of the story, but it’s testament to Grayham’s eternal for detail that they are so recognisable! With each issue in large format A4 format, Circusside is one of those delightful curiosities of the small press scene and one which we are always intrigued to see how it develops.

Pick up Circusside from Grayham and Table XX