Indie Comic Review – Little Heroes Comics Charity Anthology #1

Our pal Kit reviews comics for us! This is one of those reviews.

Warning: minor spoilers.

I wanted to do something a little different this week. While I’m still reviewing a comic this is something a bit more special as the publisher is also raising funds for a charity by selling these. To give a brief overview of what they do, Little Heroes was started by Aaron Rackley to distribute comic-making kits to children following his own experience of cancer.

The first anthology is entitled ‘Strength’ and was written by talented comic book creators who provided a wonderful range of stories that make up the anthology. This anthology was bought to us by:

  • Totally Beast – Creator (and cover art for the anthology) – Ross Burt
  • The Bike Force – Writer – Tony Esmond, Artist – Susie Gander, Letterer – Dan Butcher
  • Ell and the Vile Alien – Creator – Kev Brett
  • Rule of Three – Writer – Vincentius Talbot, Artist – Stefan Nymzo
  • Strong / Invincible – Creator – T. Leal
  • New Fish in Town – Creator – Tom Curry
  • Strength – Creator – Simon Russell
  • The Flying Halfpennies – Creator – Nick Prolix
  • The Hero Within – Creators – Mo Ali and Andy Bloor

While the comics are primarily aimed at kids they are a lot of fun. They cover a range of genres, from action adventure to super heroes, sports to animals. The theme of strength is picked up through many different lenses, and there are homages to the superhero genre, with the creators showing a clear passion for the form of media their stories are presented in. I really enjoyed the accessibility offered by the stories where there is a portrayal of strength for everyone. Strength is far from limited to being a purely physical or triumphant act as well. Strength is shown to be facing your fears, overcoming huge obstacles or when need be punching an invading alien in the face (physical strength is still an important type of strength!).

Naturally there is a different art style for each of the individual comics and each of the artists is unique. Each of these matches the tone of the comic from over-exaggerated loony toons to accentuate the action and comedy, to simple black and white line drawings to add an edge of realism. What is more impressive is the number of small teams and solo efforts for each of the mini comics. There aren’t full teams working on these but usually one or two or at most three people taking on the whole task.

Due to the huge number of artists I’ll have to forego my usual ‘can the artist draw hands’ question otherwise I’ll be writing this all night! Needless to say though, across the board they definitely can.

Final Verdict

As I said, this is something special and can offer kids going through an incredibly hard time a creative outlet that anyone would crave. I would really recommend checking Little Heroes out. You can buy:

  • Physical issues on their website at: http://littleheroescomics.co.uk/
  • Or in person at the True Believer’s Comic Festival in Cheltenham this weekend! (3rd – 4th February)
  • Digital issues on the Comichaus app at: Google Play or iPhone App Store

Score: 14 out of 10, would read again and again.

Indie Comic Review – The Inheretic

Our pal Kit reviews comics for us! This is one of those times.

Warning: minor spoilers.

“They held great store in the various scriptures they acquired, and wanted to know if it was true, if the meek do inherit the Earth” Zachary

Time for the final indie comic review from my haul at True Believers. This week I (finally) checked out The Inheretic, a sci-fi thriller by Stuart Jackson and Leon Reichel. This is a four part, self-contained comic, which I read in one sitting. Most of the comics I review are single issues, or long on-going series, so things may never truly be wrapped up. This story, however, very much does.

The Inheretic is a story about Zachary Rowan, seemingly a nobody who has his only possession, an old radio, stolen. He looks to get it back, tracking down who stole it, but things go wrong. Next thing we see he’s waking up late for work, and the only survivor, an undercover cop called Cooper wakes up in a hospital. At the crime scene there’s blood and gore everywhere. Cooper sets out to investigate. She ends up tracking Zachary down and the majority of the comic plays out in conversations between them.

As you may have guessed things are not what they seem. We are treated to the story of a chronicler, sent to our planet thousands of years ago to observe us and see what will happen to our species, will the meek inherit the Earth? Or will humanity screw up the entire planet and generally be assholes throughout our time on this planet?

The art is very impressive, and at times surprisingly gory. The characters look good, the colouring suits the scenes perfectly and in general the art feels very professional. Throughout the comic we’re shown seemingly random flashbacks to times in the past, where somebody seems to die or suffers throughout history. I really liked these, they add a real air of mystery to the plot.

There are a few twists in this tale, the final one in particular when everything comes together and seemingly odd character behaviour is explained was fantastic. It wasn’t one I saw coming, and the kind of thing I really enjoy.

Final Verdict

I wasn’t sure what to make of this comic at first. But I enjoyed it a lot, the gory scenes did feel a little out of place at first, but it fell into place as I read on. This was a very good comic. I’m glad I picked it up!

Final Score – 8.75 Old Radios out of 10!

Indie Comics Review – Secret Gardens (Disconnected Press)

Our pal Kit reviews comics for us! This is one of those times.

Warning: minor spoilers.

“You are very brave, we dedicate ourselves to your cause.” – Captain of the Squirrels

A new fortnight, a new indie review. Again, this is one of the titles that caught my attention at the True Believers Comic Festival. Although this one isn’t a traditional comic as such, and more a choose your own adventure book (with fantastic illustrations!). And that is exactly why it stood out to me, amidst the dark and gritty horror or flashy bad-ass comics Secret Gardens (written by Lizzie Boyle, Art by Conor Boyle, production and lettering by Jim Campbell and published by Disconnected Press) presented something fresh and different.

There are four main stories within the book, each in line with a different season, however even when you’re into one these it can go a variety of different ways. Each page is split up into numbered sections, early on you make a choice which branches off into the main stories, and each branch splits again and again. I can’t imagine how much work this might have taken, you do have to flick back and forth through the pages but it adds to the sense of adventure (and cuts down on any cheating by reading ahead!).

As I said before there’s very charming and detailed art to back up the plots. They aren’t on every page, but when you turn to one of the images it adds a lot to the immersion to the story. It’s a case of something being used sparingly but adding a huge amount.

soldiers

The stories are very much light, fun adventures. Don’t go into this expecting anything dark and gritty, or death waiting to jump out at you around every corner. I’d love to see something like this done for a mature audience when this is the case. It’s a book that could easily be gone through with kids, or if you’re an adult like me and fancy something light and fun it’s a good bet too.

I’ve done two of the stories so far, one meeting a girl called Alice and one where I helped save a bunch of animals. I preferred the animal one, though I had just read an excellent Squirrel Girl comic and having my own squad of squirrels to back me up in this was fantastic.

As for downsides, sometimes the choices you make feel either a little pointless, although the majority of them felt interesting and like they’d change things, but occasionally one or two feel like they’re just there for the sake of it. But these choices are definitely in the minority.

secret-gardensFinal Verdict

This was fun, if you want something light and enjoy choose your own adventure games/books then definitely check this out. It’s also worth noting that Lowther Castle, where all of these are set, is a real place in the Lake District which I need to check out sometime! You can pick up Secret Gardens here, or in the gift shop at Lowther Castle.

Final Score – 8 Ancient Tree Songs out of 10!

Indie Comics Review – The Pride #1 (Queer Comix)

Our pal Kit reviews comics for us! This is one of those times.

Warning: minor spoilers.

Billy: “You’re fabulous! I just wish everyone else knew it…”

Fabman: “Maybe someday they will. Maybe someday they will…”

Time to dig into the first indie comic I picked up at True Believers – The Pride #1. This is written and self-published by Joe Glass under the banner of Queer Comix. A small army of artists – Gavin Mitchell, Marc Ellerby and JD Faith, along with Kris Carter on colouring and Kris Anka taking the cover art took care of the images for this comic. Looking at their website you can see many of these artists have quite the professional background, from Dr Who to X-Men. It shows, the front cover drew me to this comic, it has a polished professional look above many indie comics I’ve seen out there. As for the pictures inside, they have again been produced with a high level of professionaliam.

As for the world the comic is set in, it’s depicted as big, whacky crazy old school comic stories take place. In the opening pages we learn that Crabman saved the planet from the angry moon-people out to destroy the world, using a nuclear trout! (Unfortunately Lobsterboy IV died in the explosion, but hey, the public get to vote on who they want for Lobsterboy V!). As you can see there’s a playful tribute to old school comics going on here and the first impression you get is this is a fun, zany world. The thing is, there’s a darker underside to this that many people have to endure. Although Fabman, aka Stephen Wainright, tomorrow’s fabulous man, is celebrated as a hero himself but still faces a hell of a tough battle. As with our world there’s a lot of homophobia and anti-LGBT attitudes in this one.

ThePrideFabman has decided to do something about this, he calls to many of his allies – Frost, The Bear (one of my favourite super powers: that of turning into an actual bear), Angel, Sapphire, White Trash and their newest member Twink – to form The Pride. An all new super team trying to get fair representation for the LGBT community amongst the swarms of other super teams already out doing good in the world.

While this is being put together we get introduced to our first villain, it seems we have a more than slightly evil preacher with monstrous goons they’ll have to deal with eventually.

Finally Fabman seeks out Wolf, who appears to be this world’s Batman. Who’ll need to make a choice, as the Justice Division also have their eye on him.

One thing I really liked about this was how the Fabman feels powerful. He saves a bunch of civilians at the start of the comic and you get the impression that generally he can handle the super hero bit. He’s clearly strong and seems like this world’s Superman. As I mentioned Wolf has a real Batman feel to him and I spotted a few other tributes to big name super heroes throughout. But even though he’s that powerful he still has a real challenge when it comes to the societies he and the other heroes live in.

Final Verdict

As you can tell I enjoyed this a lot. The plot so far has been very simple, more to be a vehicle for the character interactions and their personalities than major twists so far. My main criticism would be it almost feels like too much is packed into the first issue. There are a lot of characters here I’d love to get to know more. If the comic had been paced over two books we could have had a little more background/history on each of them which would have been great, though if that wasn’t an option then just a couple more text boxes with a note on how they got their powers or a little more info on who they are would have been perfect.

If The Pride sounds like your sort of thing, check out all of the issues here or on Comixology!

Final Score – 8.75 Slam Dunked Drug Dealers out of 10!

True Believers Comic Festival 2016

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Kit headed off to the True Believers Comic Festival at the Cheltenham Racecourse this year. Here’s what he thought!

Mission: To put the comics back into Comic-Con!

Do you like comics? Well you’re reading this so I’m going to assume that yes, yes you do. With that in mind you really need to check out the True Believers Comic Festival. There are many conventions around the UK, you can go to the likes of MCM Expo, which although fantastic and a hell of a lot of fun is not for the faint of heart. I have many fond memories there, but also less fond memories of being stuck in queues for entire mornings or being caught in a crush of people trying to get to the loos. If you want something similar, but on a smaller, far more relaxed scale then True Believers is for you. It’s only been running for two years, and I’ve had the very good fortune to have been to both cons so far.

It’s based in Cheltenham at the beginning of February each year, located at the Racecourse. When my partner, Charlie, and I got there (her in cosplay, a dress down Black Cat and looking fantastic… I was lazier this year and didn’t dress up myself…), 15 minutes after opening we were greeted by a packed entrance hall! There were a lot more people there than last year (no figures to back this up, but it certainly felt like this!) but once we’d hacked through the small crowd to the entrance we made our way in. The main hall itself was full of stalls with plenty going on around each. There’s collectible figures, merchandise of all the mainstream comics, there’s artists, cake and my personal favourite – indie comic books!

One of the things I love about attending True Believers is the time you can spend chatting to the indie artists and writers. They have a great chance to promote their work here and are naturally very passionate about it. When you pass a table and something catches your eye take the chance to talk to them and next thing you know you’ll be even more intrigued by their work, will be the proud owner of a new comic book and a few pounds worse off. I’ll be doing my next few comic reviews based on the comics I picked up at True Believers.

We attended one of the main panels, Celebrate Cosplay lead by GCC, Kurostyler, Limegreenjelly and Tris Trinket. They talked about all things cosplay, they gave advice, spoke about their experience and answered questions. The whole atmosphere was fun and relaxed, plenty of people in the audience felt comfortable asking things or contributing themselves. They promoted a very positive attitude towards cosplay, focusing on enjoying it whoever you are and discouraging elitism.

TB1

There was also a new table-top gaming area, where anyone could step in and play a board game and get to know other con-goers. There were group meet ups (Charlie joined in the Marvel and DC group) and some incredible costumes.

TB2

TB3There was also a real family friendly environment, plenty of kids dressed up as their favourite character and enjoying themselves.

The main event in the afternoon was the cosplay catwalk. I didn’t take part this time, but Kurostyler did an excellent job MCing it. He kept the crowd entertained and introduced all of the excellent costumes.

All of the people working there, from organising the big events to shepherding people into the convention, work really hard, and as a note if any of them are reading this – thanks a lot for putting on a fantastic event. We’ll definitely be back next year!

Anything they could have done better? Well as the convention is growing, the demand for panels and other activities (maybe a video game area) is going to grow. So basically yeah, the same again please, but even more!

Kit