Welcome to the ‘new normal’ here at Pipedream Comics. Every week we will bring you a rundown of the books we’ve been reading, the news stories that have caught our eye and the Kickstarters which we think are worth your support. This week that means the ComicScene State of Indies Yearbook, Rachael Smith’s Quarantine Comix, What We Don’t Talk About from Avery Hill Publishing, a pair of awesome kickstarters and the results of the UK Comics Creator survey.
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ComicScene – State Of Independents Yearbook 2020
ComicScene has been a fantastic product over the last couple of years and we’ve been really proud to be a part of it, supplying them with indie comics reviews and interviews. However with Covid impacting magazine sales and the title decidigin to go in a new direction we were really happy to help them compile this final hurrah. A collection of the best indie and small press reviews and interviews from the past 12 months, along with an exclusive interview with Pat Mills about his up and coming anthology series Spacewarp. Weighing in at a whopping 200 pages it’s a fantastic snapshot of indie comics and even includes our rundown of the top 25 comics of 2019.
One of the few comics which have managed to keep us smiling through lockdown have been Rachael Smith’s wonderful Quarantine Comix which she has been posting on her social media (and surely a collected edition is a formality). Her previous books Wired Up Wrong and Stand In Your Power, have been firm favourites, however each has required a certain emotional stimulus in order to become a reality. With Wired Up Wrong it was her struggles with depression and anxiety, then with Stand In Your Power it was the fall out of a break up that helped inspire her uniquely personal and soul searching comics. So how do you follow up those two high moments in your life – well, by documenting a global pandemic of course! Rachael’s highly personal, witty and emotionally truthful style is perfect for shining a light on the highs and lows of the Coronavirus situation. She captures the absurdity of the situation, but also continues to give it that emotional depth and range that only she can. Reminding us all that we are in the same boat – separated from loved ones and just trying to live our best lives in challenging circumstances. There are very few creators who can make the current global situation into compelling reading, but Rachael manages just that and has not only produced a wonderful tonic to the current global crisis but also has created an incredible documentary about the time we’re living in, that is told in a very real and very honest way. This really is an exceptional piece of work, that will definitely stand the test of time once collected, however we are genuinely concerned about what is going to have to happen to the world now in order for Rachael to write a fitting follow up!!
What We Don’t Talk About by Charlot Kristensen
We were fortunate enough to be able to read and review this before lockdown began, however thanks to the rise of the Black Lives Matter campaign it has shone an even brighter light on to this thought provoking story. Farai and her boyfriend Adam are on their way to visit his parents in the lakes. They’ve been together for five years, yet she has not met them and she soon discovers why as it turns out her boyfriend’s mother is a bit of a racist and doesn’t approve of her Zimbabwean heritage! What starts as under the breath comments and subtle snubs develops into something much more unpleasant, and see Adam drawn into the dispute between the women in his life as he refuses to stand up for Farai. It reminded us a lot of the excellent Get Out with it’s themes of middle class white racism, and it has a really empowering ending which readers should get a lot out. It feels even more pertinent with all the discussion around race that have bubbled up as a result of the black lives matter movement. Writer and artist Charlot Kristensen adds a really strong and personal voice to that discussion thanks to this really engaging and warmly told story that manages to deliver a message without feeling like you are being lectured or preached to – which is a tricky art. It’s also fantastic to see a return from Avery Hill, and they have a host of fantastic books slated for the remainder of the year, yet this has been a wonderful starter!
The Late John Lewis and March Book One -Three
With news of the recent death of Senator John Lewis in the USA, we were inspired to revisit his incredible graphic novel memoir March, which was released by IDW in 2015. Co-written with Andrew Aydin and illustrated by Nate Powell, this is one of those books which we find ourselves recommending to non-comics readers as an example of the power and potency of the medium. Mixing personal reflections on the fight for civil rights in the 1960s (including the march in Selma and his own mistreatment by the police) they are juxtaposed with the inauguration of President Obama. All in all, it’s an incredible account of how he and his fellow civil rights activists had to fight and struggle to make a difference. Even now, with the country divided and racial politics at an incendiary temperature, this is a stark reminder of where the current tensions have come from, and how far they are from being solved. A truly awe inspiring read from a really interesting and important man, this is an essential book that stands up to repeated re-reading.
SKRAWL Comix Magazine on Kickstarter
With conventions cancelled, Kickstarter has become an even more powerful platform for indie creators than ever before. And so we were delighted to see several new campaigns coming through during lockdown. From Mike Garley’s Our Final Halloween to Matt Hardy and Mad Robot Comics’ Hell in Stalingrad and many more. One of our favourites that is currently running sees Russell Mark Olson (Gateway City, and the recent Ditch Angles), assemble a who’s who of indie talent to create a new anthology title. While another anthology may not be everyone’s idea of what is needed in the world right now, this one feels like it could be something special. The line up include Olson, Pete Taylor (Silverbeard), Gustaffo Vargas (MANU), Nick Prolix (Slang Pictorial), Rosins Packwood (Bun), Phil Elliott (The 77) and more – including an incredibly looking cover from Needleman’s Martin Simpson. The quality of the stories looks second to none, especially the stretch goal stories from John Reppion, Lucy Sullivan and Mark Stafford. With plans for this to be more of a magazine than a straight anthology it feels like the so called SKRAWLLORDZ have a title that is packed with potential as well as quality story telling and art. With it being release in a larger format as well it looks like it could well be a wonderful physical piece as well and we can’t wait to check it out when it has finished.
Saxon’s Second Hand Books on Kickstarter
Also now funding on Kickstarter is the wonderful Saxon’s Second Hand Book from writer Ash Deadman (Murder Most Mundane) and the artist of our reigning indie comic of the year Gustaffo Vargas (MANU). Released by Mad Robot Comics, this feels very much like a companion piece to Matt Hardy’s A Study In Scarlet from earlier this year with it’s Victorian supernatural sleuthing storyline – as well as it’s strong female character at the forefront of things. Deadman’s writing on Murder Most Mundane and Cadavers should really suit this kind of classic story-telling and will give it a nice mix of grit and dark humour. And you couldn’t ask for a more exciting rising art star than Vargas whose fantastic line works will definitely help to bring the back streets of London to life as only he can. With issue 1 of this 5 issue mini series now funding this looks set to be a story well worth investigating.
UK Comics Creators Survey
And finally, just as we were about to press publish on this new article news broke of the results from Comics Laureat Hannah Berry’s UK Comics Creator Survey. The results it has compiled give a fantastic look into the state of the UK comics scene, which is even more insightful considering the current state of the industry.