This weekend saw the great and the good of the UK comic scene descend on Leeds for the annual Thought Bubble Comics Arts Festival. As well as featuring big names from the mainstream it was also one of the most important weekend’s for the indie and small press scene with dozens of new books being released and showcased. We take a look at some of our favourites – and we’ll keep updating it as we gradually work our way through our pile of books to read from the weekend!
For her follow up to the critically acclaimed Artifical Flowers, Rachael Smith has put together a collection of autobiographical comics looking at her struggles with depression and anxiety called Wired Up Wrong. This highly personal and very open account sees Rachael’s depression represented as a pair of black dogs (one fluffy and one slightly more sinister) and also via some Numbskulls style characters, complete with a spinning wheel of emotions. These two devices allow her to represent very subtle and complex issues with simple and eye-catching visuals, which say so much without having to fill up a page with talking heads and loads of dialogue – although she does fall back on that too when required. When these emotive subjects are combined with her charming, expressive artwork, it makes for a wonderul collection of comics which are insightful and thought-provoking but also funny, witty and warm and represent some of the Rachael’s most accomplished work to date! You can purchase Wired Up Wrong from Rachael’s Etsy Store.
At the other end of the comic book spectrum, the guys from Madius Comics have been busy boys. Along with the new issue of their anthology Papercuts and Inkstains #6 (which features an awesome Monster Squad inspired cover from Angela Sprecher) they have also released Laudanum as part of the Horrere offshoot. Written by Rob Jones and Mike Sambrook, Laudanum is a Victorian take on the Exorcist which sees a well-to-do gent haunted by the ghostly spirit of his deceased wife who died in unpleasant circumstances. There are shades of the Woman in Black with some of the sinister element on show here and Alisdair Wood’s dark and scratchy artwork amplifies this with a mean and moody monochrome style that looks almost charcoal or pencil drawn, and brilliantly captures the dark and creepy story that Jones and Sambrook have crafted. They even manage to avoid cracking any funny, which makes for a seriously spooky gem from the Madius boys! Purchase Papercuts and Inkstains from the Madius Big Cartel Store
The second issue of Chris Welsh’s dank, dark, monster book Ness has emerged from the depths of a Scottish loch in time for Thought Bubble. After the fairly straight horror movie formula of the debut issue, this second issue takes things off into a new weird and sinister direction, taking our heroes underground to escape a group of pitchfork wielding locals, and while down there they encounter a small Irish character (who doesn’t want to be called a leprechaun) and a creepy naked gollum lady who leads them astray. This new supernatural element does a great job of fleshing out the story and taking it in a new and interesting direction – and we mean that quite literally as they head underground into the lair of the beast! Rob Carey’s artwork has a raw quality that perfectly suits the ghoulish world Welsh has created – the reveal of the creepy woman being particularly grim – and although it lacks a sense of polish, that raw edge is what makes lo-fi horror do much better than the high gloss mainstream and is definitely a massive plus for Ness. With a superb cliffhanger, we can’t wait to get our hands on issue #3 and #4, which fortunately are on Kickstarter right now!
Heart of Time’s Sarah Millman is back with a stunning looking new series called NCP Tea. Set in a world where orcs and elves and magic are a part of everyday life, a young student finds out that an ancient godlike being may be a bit closer to her than she first thought – in her local teashop! It’s a fantastic mix of mythology and fantasy, set in a contemporary world, and is packed full of Millman’s own charm and personality which makes it infinitely readable. Along with a superb intro section that looks like a stylized medieval manuscript, the book is rendered in a stunning blue/green and pink duotone colour scheme that corresponds with different scenes and characters, which helps make a really great book into something very interesting and unique. We’ll have a full review very soon, but for now you can purchase it from Sarah’s Etsy Store.
There were also debuts at Thought Bubble for Dead Canary Comics’ gloriously gonzo Last Driver which we reviewed in full here; Fraser Campbells throwback spy-fi Alex Automatic which we reviewed here; as well Markosia’s festive action adventure Santa Claus vs The Nazis from Ben Dickson and Gavin Mitchell which you can read our thoughts in more depth soon!