True Believers Round Up: Tales From Beyond Infinity, The Show, Circuside, Artist’s Angst, Tails of Mystery, Awesome Comics Anthology, Mandy The Monster Hunter: The Legend of The Spindly Man, Monkey Nuts Volume 2
This weekend sees convention season get off to a flying start with the brilliant True Believers Comic Festival in Cheltenham. And with the start of Con season, comes a raft of exciting new titles, as the UK’s best small press creators reveal what they’ve been working on in the cold winter months. We’ve been lucky enough to get a sneak look at some of these titles round-up some of the books you really need to check out this Saturday!
Tales Beyond Infinity
Following in the foot steps of the fantastic Nottingham Comic Con anthology, Outlaws Wanted, comes a superb collection from Stuart and the True Believers team. Featuring a similar roster of small press stand outs, Tales From Beyond Infinity is a really fun and enjoyable read, featuring one shots from familiar characters such as Vince Hunt’s Red Mask From Mars, Jon Laight’s Brethren Born, Mo Ali & Andy Bloor’s Midnight Man, Rob Jones & Mike Sambrook’s Griff Gristle and Susie Gander’s Perrywinkle. However, our favourite of the bunch, has to be Mike Garley’s Samurai Slasher and his tale of an auction full of techno nazis that get interrupted by the slasher himself! Each story offers a snapshot of the characters via an exclusive self contained story, which gives readers a brief look at what each character is about without the actions being taken out of context or added in for the sake of it, which works really well. Alongside these small press standouts are strips like Craig Turl’s The Wages of Sindy and The Inheretics’ Curious Tale of An Anorak Kid, which help broaden the appeal of the book and make it a really fun and eclectic bunch of stories. It’s also clearly been put together with an emphasis on all-ages accessibility and above all, humour, which makes it a really fun and entertaining read. Even those stories which might not always be laugh out loud funny (Brethren Born and Griff Gristle for example), benefit from having a lighter tone for this issue and although the downside to this means, it does feel a bit light on substance in place,s we’d rather have an enjoyable read than a book which is faithful to the cannon! With all proceeds going to a great cause, this should be top of everyones list to pick up on the day – and you won’t be disappointed if you do, because it’s a great collection from some great creators.
Jed McPherson’s satire on reality TV and pop culture stars Johnny, a heavily bearded man who is kept in a cell and tormented by a drug addled, mohawk sporting, TV producer and a fetishised nurse – all in the name of ratings. But with action dwindling our drug crazed TV exec introduces a new character to Johnny’s world: a Stockton teddy bear. Not only is it something for Johnny to talk to but it’s a fantastic piece of product placement too, and ultimately leads to Johnny learning something important about his world. On first impressions The Show is very reminiscent of the Truman show, with its 24 hour reality concept. But with its grim and gritty setting and the enforced nature of Johnny’s stay it also has shades of Park Chan Wook’s terrifying Oldboy. But the compairons continue, as once Stockton arrives there are hints of Castaway’s Wilson the volleyball and also Robocop with its intercut adverts. By making these comparisons it may seem like the comic is nothing new, and in many ways it’s not, but that doesn’t stop it from being a really smartly conceived and really interesting read. The world is dark, uncertain and rather unpleasant, and so works as a nice antidote to the more sugar-coated reality satires. It has an energy and a rawness to it that makes it carry you along with the story, while the characters feel unlike the usual archetypes you would expect in a book like this. With an inevitable twist at the end it is up to McPherson to take his strong use of familiar tropes in this opening chapter and turn it into something original and fresh for issue 2 as he has done most of the legwork to make this happen as he’s created a really interesting world and concept in this debut. He is ably assisted by the artwork of Joseph Velazquez whose work has a very solid big two style. There are hints of Leinel Yu in the linework and also Erik Larsen (especially in the mohawked TV producer), and although the artwork is a bit hit and miss in places it has a slickness to it that makes for a very strong and well produced packaged. So be sure to tune into The Show, as this is one which has ratings hit, written all over it! (And if you like Jed’s work also be sure to check out Deadbeat, a really smart crime drama about a father and daughter bank robber.)
We get a glimpse into the dark underbelly of the big top and it’s impact on a local community in the second issue of Grayham Puttock’s deftly layered tale. It reads more like a grim and gritty TV drama or a creepy 70s horror film, than a fun packed tale about your local circus, as we deal with the aftermath of the first issues’ hit and run conclusion. That first issue introduced us to Lolly whose estranged husband is upset when he finds out their child is being looked after by a clown from the circus and who has a nasty encounter on the way to confront her. But this isn’t the main focus of the series. Other loosely connoted stories, based around the local town sees us encounter a group of local skindheads, some slimey developers and a helpful neighbour looking after the children of a depressed man, all of which feel like part of a larger story, which may or may not be connected to the circus. This mix of gritty melodrama and creepy foreboding (a supernatural element is also introduced into this issue), make Circuside into an utterly compelling read that is very different to what you expect. You would be forgiven for thinking it was a book about the wierd characters in the big top, but instead it focuses on the circus as a character who looms large over the local area which allows for a much more interesting and diverse collection of stories to emerge. It’s a book that seems to exist outside a genre and so makes it hard to describe, but that doesn’t stop it from being an engrossing read. The artwork is particularly stunning with Puttock’s detailed pen and ink style rendering every detail and every facet of all the characters, giving it a dark and gritty look without relying on a single stylized approach. In fact it feels quite classic at times, like something that might have come out in the 70s, while some pages lack panels and feel more like pages from a sketchbook, and the artwork is certainly strong enough to warrant this style. It’s A4 size also makes it feel unlike your average small press book, and this really gives Puttock’s work room to breathe and make the most of the intricate detail. Circuside is a a really unique and fascinating read, so if you’re looking for something intelligently written, beautifully crafted and darkly unsetttling then get yourself a ringside seat for Circusside.
From Kevin Brett, creator of How To Run A Comic Con, comes another collection of strips, this time about the creative process of making a comic book. A bit like How To Make A Comic Con it’s strip after strip on the subject of getting started in comics, and works through subjects like inspiration, motivation and procrastination. Ably supported by a roster of friends and his long suffering wife, Kev’s work has an infectious energy and a real smartness to some of the gags that you can’t help but smile all the way through reading it.
Little Heroes Anthology
We recently caught up with Aaron Rackley from the excellent Little Heroes charity, and this is the result of his recent Kickstarter campaign. Featuring work from small press favourites like Susie Gander, Kev Brett and Nick Prolix, it’s a really fun all ages read that is helping to support a really great cause and is well worth picking up.
This debut collection from the hosts of the Awesome Comics Podcast sees Vanguard’s Dan Butcher create a slice of 80s infused action, Red Mask From Mars’ Vince Hunt channels Stephen King in Murder Road, while Tony Edmond teams up with Slang Pictorial‘s Nick Prolix to create the all action cockney Kung Fu.
Tails of Mystery
A body swap crime drama about a private eye who swaps place with a cat after chasing down a criminal who is trying to steal a mysterious amulet. Asa Wheatley and Kat Willott have crafted a solid first issue that does a great job of setting up this unique premise, even if it’s a bit basic in places.
Mandy The Monster Hunter: The Legend of The Spindly Man
Our favourite ass kicking female monster hunter is back with a new adventure from the team at Hellbound Media, with unique artwork from the wonderful Lyndon White who is giving it a really unique and sinister look.
Todd Oliver’s surreal and hilarious series was one of our top 50 books of 2017, but at True Believers Boxes #4 will sees it’s debut in print. If you like your humour strange and dark, then be sure to check it out. And for a full review click here.
Captain Yeah! And The Multiverse
A new psychedelic adventure series from the one and only Andrew Pawley debuts at True Believers. Pop your sunglasses on and check out another journey in to this eye-poppingly bright and truly unique world of the Galaxafreaks!
Monkey Nuts vol. 2
After another successful Kickstarter in November, the irrepressible Etherington Brothers are back with a new volume of their fantastic adventure series Monkey Nuts, which will be available in print for the first time.