Small Press Spotlight: Zoot! #3, Comichaus #12, Glorious Wrestling Alliance

The final one of our Thought Bubble small press review spotlights takes a lot at a glorious book from Roger Langridge (which we wished we’d discovered earlier), the new issue of the fantastic Comichaus anthology and a collected edition of a perennial small press favourite.

Zoot!

This is one of those books which we really wished we had discovered earlier. Roger Langridge’s annual anthology of stories features his characters Fred the Clown, McGonnagal the Worlds Worst Poet, alcoholic adventurers Art D’Ecco and the Hump and the enigmatic Fez in a rip roaring collection of laugh out loud strips that mix the retro styling of The Chap and the anarchic humour of Viz. Although Zoot started life in the 90s, this new selection of stories feels like a glorious statement of intent from one of our new favourite creators. Visually it has hints of the anarchic spirit of Ken Reid but with immaculate simplicity of Bill Watterson, and the pulp sensibilities of Nick Prolix. Meanwhile the humour ranges from the smart to the surreal to just down right nutty. Art D’Ecco and The Hump get caught in a party full of smiling butlers, while McGonagal relives the moment he was stitched up by a theatre impresaario, and then te Fez… well, he just does what he does! While the individual strips are great fun on their own, this issue is framed by a scene involving Roger struggling with insomnia and getting ideas for stories which is what introduces each chapter. It gives the issue a fantastic structure to play with, and even allows Roger the chance to pause for breath between the outrageous antics of this main characters. In previous issues Roger has included some personal stories, which do feel missed in this collection, but not so much that it stops this from being a glorious new chapter to a truly wonderful series – and one which we already cannot wait to see continued next year!

Comichaus 12

The latest issue of the Comichaus anthology features 5 fantastic black and white stories from some of our favourite small press creators. Opener The Everlasting from Stu Perrins and Anna Morozova sees an ageing superhero actor attempt to find new meaning for his career when meeting a young co-star. It’s a smart look at superheroes and the movies and has a clever twist and some really slick artwork from Anna which reminded us of Frenemies. Next up is Time Miners from Mad Robot’s Matt Hardy and Clark Bint. It’s an interesting slice of high concept sci fi that feels like a 2000 AD Future Shock, and while this chapter feels like it crams a bit too much into its short run, it definitely feels like an idea which would benefit from being given a full 20 page story. Following that is Jon Laight and Rory Donald’s The Morals of Milo Twiceborn, which is another story which feels like it is only just getting started, as it introduces us to the strange world of our titular hero – but fortunately has a to be continued on it. Rory’s unique art helps it to really stand out, and looks fantastic in black and white. Finally there is Ascensions, a slice of slick sci-fi from Paul Penna and Dave Pekoe and Mormor, a piece of short horror from George Fredericksburg, Chris Simmonds and Stephen Horry which rounds off the book nicely. Overall it’s a solid collection of stories, that feels like classic 2000 AD. We really like the new direction Comichaus is heading in with it’s mix of classic Sci fi and horror, which is all told in a really accomplished way. It helps it to really feel like a classic anthology like Battle or Warrior and helps continue making this one of our favourite regular anthology series – we just wish it came out more regularly!

Glorious Wrestling Alliance: Premium Collection

If you thought you had seen it all in the over the top world of professional wrestling, then think again. Josh Hicks’ stellar series takes the antics of a bunch 80s pro wrestlers and gives them a quirky small press makeover. The heroes in GWA are not your usual muscled up stereotypes, instead you get characters like Carpman (a fish based fighter who is plagued with guilt about his position on the card); Death Machine (a bruising heavyweight who also writes poetry); and the human gravy boat, (who is constantly trying to make it big despite his obvious flaws!) While Josh brings his love and passion for pro wrestling to the project, he also brings a gloriously surreal sense of humour to it as well. Each chapter is based loosely on a wrestling concept – the supercard, the tour bus and the struggling business – but really each chapter is a series of character based skits where Hicks gets to riff on the weird world he has created. As well as telling some genuinely enjoyable stories his artwork is gloriously simple, yet effortlessly cool. His cartoonish style gives the characters the perfect look for over the top wrestlers but also means they can happily co-exist in a world where a fish-man is the champ! Meanwhile his smart panel designs (such as the tour bus in chapter two) give it all a very well designed feel, which feels even smarter in this new collection. While you don’t have to be a wrestling fan to enjoy GWA, if you are then it is packed full of obscure references and subtle in jokes. But if you’re not a grappling fan, then don’t worry, it’s not all there is to this book, it’s still laugh out loud hilarious and filled with some gloriously weird and silly characters who are a lot of fun to spend time with. At a time when we are getting some fantastic wrestling based comics, GWA is at the very top of the card, and is a champion example of how to make a truly heavyweight wrestling comic!