Vaughan & Chiang's "Paper Girls" Builds a Familiar Yet Disconcerting World
It’s shaping up to be a red-letter day for fans of free quality comics: As if that digital edition of Warren Ellis and Jason Howard’s Trees #1 weren’t proof enough, this morning also saw the debut of Moose Kid Comics, an impressive children’s anthology featuring the work of more than 40 creators.
Created and edited by Jamie Smart, the 36-page digital comic boasts such talents as Roger Langridge, Tom Plant, Neill Cameron and Abby Ryder, Mark Stafford, Aaron Alexovich, Sarah McIntyre, James Downing, and Samantha Davies. And did we mention the “Young Tank Girl” strip by Alan Martin and Warwick Johnson-Cadwell?
“Here in the U.K, mainstream children’s comics have been dying out, especially ones featuring original content,” reads the comic’s mission statement. “The Phoenix and The Beano are the only commercially available weekly titles still producing entirely original characters, but they are competing against big-name licensed titles based on TV shows or merchandising. We want to help change things. We want to be creating the next generation of loveable characters for the world to embrace, all created by artists who retain their copyrights and put all their heart into their creations. We want to remind both children and adults alike how fantastical and imaginative comics can be, and to help bring children’s comics back into the public consciousness.”
It’s been a big couple of weeks for U.K. comics publishing, and a lot of that might have to do with this weekend’s Comica Festival (a.k.a. “the 10th London International Comics Festival”). There has been a rush of titles from British graphic novel publishers of late, no doubt timed for a big push at this most art-centric of U.K. comics conventions (it’s hosted this year at Central Saint Martins College of Arts and Design, and I dare anyone of a certain vintage to think of that place and not start humming this).
There’s a lot of great stuff out there at the minute that’s maybe not getting enough coverage internationally, so let’s do a round-up, shall we? There’s a myth that the American comics audience is insular, so let’s disprove it: These books are even already available in English, although their spelling is a bit suspect at times. Yeah, you heard me, buy a dictionary, limeys!
• The Man Who Laughs, the oddest of Victor Hugo’s novels, adapted by David Hine and Mark Stafford, published by SelfMadeHero: Hine has posted a host of panels from the book at his blog. I was previously ignorant of Stafford’s work, but these are some handsome-looking samples; they reminded me a little of the great Dave Cooper. Hine is always good value, and has a track record of making some genuinely unsettling comics (Strange Embrace, The Bulletproof Coffin), so this sounds like the perfect alignment of talent to source material.
You may have already heard about Orbital Comics’ Image Duplicator art show in London (probably via this piece at The Beat): This story is right in my wheelhouse, but I was resisting writing about it until there was a large enough stockpile of art from it to present here. The show is a reaction both to the recent Roy Lichtenstein exhibition at the city’s already-iconic Tate Modern gallery, and to the BBC’s coverage of the event (which I wrote about at the time elsewhere).
Dave Gibbons is a long-standing critic of Lichtenstein (you can find footage online of him complaining about what he calls Lichtenstein’s “dishonesty” from as far back as 1993). Gibbons appeared on the BBC’s documentary to put the case for the accusations of plagiarism that may always dog Lichtenstein’s reputation. The segment featuring Gibbons debating with presenter Alastair Sooke was filmed in front of the famous “Whaam!” canvas. Sooke was all too dismissive of Irv Novick, somewhat deriding his work in order to flatter Lichtenstein. It seems odd Sooke chose to criticize Novick’s compositional decisions and praise Lichtenstein’s, when every element of Roy’s piece was lifted from Irv’s. Anyway, these new perceived slights seem to have been enough to stir Rian Hughes, Jason Atomic, and the Orbital Gallery regulars into action.