The New Normal (4/9) Tiny Acts of Violence, Write It In Blood, Bad Karma, Making Comics with Matt Garvey and more!
Welcome to the latest edition of our weekly indie comics round-up The New Normal. This week we take a look at an incredible new graphic novel which arrived in our inbox fully formed, discover how to get into comics with Matt Garvey, look back at some great titles from Panel Syndicate, and also look back at one of our favourite series from earlier this year which has recently been picked up by Image comics. Plus some of the best of Kickstarter.
Tiny Acts of Violence
We always love it here at Pipedream Comics when we get sent a new fully formed book from a creator who we’ve not heard from before – especially one that rivals anything put out by a major publisher. The latest title to achieve this feat is Martin Stiff’s Tiny Acts of Violence. It’s a tense, densely plotted cold war thriller about a former Stasi agent with a shady past and a plucky young journalist who is looking into his past – despite having smeared him in the past. This tightly wound mystery is fleshed out with supernatural and folkloric elements as well as plenty of Cold War spy tropes like defecting doctors, assassins and power hungry politicians. Although this is the first time we have read Stiff’s work, it is his sophomoric effort and it really shows as it has such a confidence and ambition. Tonally it reminded us of things like John Le Carré spy novels and spy movies like The Lives of Others, but also it has a very Ed Brubaker and Sean Philips feel to it (especially the recent Kill or Be Killed or their awesome debut Sleeper) and that is just about the highest comment we can give a book as we absolutely adore anything they put out (and this is every bit on a par with their work!). You can tell we enjoyed this book as we set out to write a quick review and it ended up being an epic!.
Write It In Blood gets pick up by Image Comics
As well as loving it when we get sent an exciting new graphic novel, we also love it when a self published comic we have discovered organically gets picked up by a major publisher. The latest to do just this is Rory McConville and Joe Palmer’s Coen Brothers-esque crime thriller Write It In Blood. The story follows Cosmo and Arthur, a pair of low level goons who get a bit more than they bargained for when they kidnap a rival gangster. While Cosmo is hoping this is going to be his final job, things inevitably take a turn for the worst and a caper that is packed of twists turns and bodies begins to unfold. McConville originally released this via his GumRoad store and it was a tense wait for each new issue to arrive. The story was told at such a frenetic pace and packed full of so much dark humour and outlandish moments that it reminded us of the best early Coen Brothers movies like Blood Simple or Fargo, as well as a bit of Tarantino and Scorsese thrown in for good measure. Artist Joe Palmer (who produced the wonderful Grind last year) handles all this with aplomb, packing every panel with bags of personality as well as all the bullets and blood that a story like this requires. With superb colours by Chris O Halloran and the always fantastic lettering of Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou this is the complete package, and it was only a matter of time before a major publisher came knocking, however when a book like this gets picked up it is still a great reminder that talent will rise to the top of the tree!
Bad Karma and Friday from Panel Syndicate
Another ‘indie’ publisher whose work seems to regularly be picked up by Image is Panel Syndicate – but when you are a digital publisher founded by Brian K Vaughan (Saga, Y The Last Man Standing), and you can bring together writers like Ed Brubaker and Alex de Campi, then you tend to bring with you a certain kind of pedigree! This year we have been introduced to the wonderful Friday from Brubaker, which is a homage to all ages teen crime caper books, but sees a former teen detective return her hometown after heading off to Uni. And also Bad Karma, a buddy movie inspired PTSD comedy from de Campi which is a lot more fun than it’s serious description might suggest. With their ‘pay-what-you-like’ model also producing titles like The Private Eye, The Barrier and Blackhand and Ironhead (also currently being released by Image) this is a fantastic site, well worth keeping an eye on, yet it still feels like something of a forgotten secret among indie comic fans, so it’s always worth a re-visit!
Watch Making Comics with Matt Garvey on YouTube
If you want to learn more about the process of producing an indie and small press comic, then be sure to check out this new web series from writer Matt Garvey. One of the most prolific small press writers around (Chunks, White NOIR, The Ether, The Devil In Disguise and more) as well as the creator of our Best Indie Comics 2018 (Red Rocket Comet) Garvey knows a thing or two about making great comics and in this series he shares his process with you. If you’ve ever met Matt at a Con you know he has the gift of the gab and so the presentation on this is really great and makes for a really engaging and informative series. (Plus unlike at a convention you can switch him off after 6 minutes!) If you’re looking to get started making comments, or want to learn new ways to produce comics then this is a really interesting and valuable resource. While Matt will always modestly say that this is just his way of doing this and shouldn’t be taken as gospel, if you look at his output and sales then he must be doing something right and so it is definitely well worth a watch for an aspiring comic creators!
Kickstarter: BZRKR and the Best of British!
This week in the world of crowdfunding, everyone has been talking about the BZRKR Kickstarter from Boom! Studios. While it’s not the first major publisher to try their hand at using crowdfunding for comics (Archie Comics tried it unsuccessfully a few years ago and IDW released their excellent Full Bleed book/magazine as well) this one has been an exception as it is being co-written and created by Keanu Reeves – that’s right John Wick himself!! While this is inevitably piquing people’s interest, and they have smashed their goal, it has also brought up the issue of whether this will have a detrimental effect on crowd funding as a platform – in other words, will it stifle small press? – especially if more big publishers start to do this.
The book is being produced along with writer Matt Kindt and artist Ron Garney, so the quality is there. And with it being a passion project for Reeves and a three volume graphic novel set it is definitely a quality product – not just a cash grab. But how will this affect crowdfunding in general? For me, anything that brings new eyes to comics is a good thing. I can’t help think that because of the celebrity endorsement, that the majority of backers may be new to Kickstarter, and so the threat of it taking money out of smaller titles is potentially reduced. Plus, if new backers are coming to Kickstarter as a result of this, then they will hopefully start backing other titles having seen what a great platform Kickstarter can be. Especially is this is proved to be a quality product. Whether this sees a rush of publishers appearing on Kickstarter we will have to wait and see, however I doubt it as Kickstarter fans are a bit like indie music fans who are discerning and generally very loyal to the products and genres they love. The majority of crowd funders we talk to have built up a loyal following of fans who aren’t likely to be swayed by this kind of mainstream product and so should look for the positive that will come as a result of more users on the platform. However with money being tight at the moment, having this kind of big showy distraction may be to the detriment to some smaller publishers and we hope it works out for all.
Fortunately for UK Kickstarters (or perhaps unfortunately if you actually want to back it!) there is the issue that BZRKR comes with a $38 shipping charge per volume, (and no digital option) and so the threat of taking money out of UK creators is perhaps somewhat reduced. However, we know from talking to creators that this doesn’t put off US backers for their books!
In the spirit of putting an emphasis on the positive here’s a reminder of some of the great UK Kickstarters you should be backing instead:
ComicScene Annual 2021
Featuring new pages from some of our favourite series such as Alex Automatic, Captain Cosmic, Mandy the Monster Hunter, Shaman Kane, and more!
Tales from The Quarantine
Another fantastic anthology, this time from Frazer Brown, which includes 400 creatives from around the world including Charlie Adlard, Hannah Berry, Liam Sharp, Gustaffo Vargas, Russell Olson and many more!
The new series from Nick Bryan and Robert Ahmad, who we last saw on the wonderful Catalyst from Comichaus.
The latest volume of Nich Angell’s awesome series about a world where music is magic.
Cristina Roswell’s gritty werewolf book is back for a second issue. See our review of issue #1 here