I Bought a Lot of Comics at the Lakes International Comic Art Festival

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As mentioned in the previous post, I recently attended the Lakes International Comic Art Festival. As also mentioned, I summarily failed to take advantage of most of the amazing opportunities to purchase from and support the thriving small press scene, as I am relentlessly poor and only capable of making terrible decisions.

I did, however, see fit to justify delving into the 25p comic boxes and charity shops (and also received free comics in a Forbidden Planet promotional bag with an advert on it for one of those sleazy-looking ‘bad girl’ comics that made anyone carrying the bag look like everyone’s stereotypical idea of a comics reader, which was tonally at odds with the general ‘vibe’ of the festival).

This didn’t feel like spending real money. I am a monster, but here are all of my comics purchases, as a result. Spanning genres and years and quality, there’s rather a lot, and I worked my way through them all on a series of train journeys, enforced periods of toilet-sitting, and just plain ol’ hanging about in town, relaxing.

Read on? There probably is at least one comic here that’s of interest to you?

ESSENTIAL SILVER SURVER VOLUME 1 by Stan Lee, John Buscema and Jack Kirby

Och, look at his forlorn face!

I was rather pleased to find this in Kendal’s Oxfam shop for a delightful £2.99 (seems to be aboot £30 on Amazon), and snapped it up with my grubby little claws. Expecting, at the very least, some intense powerful Kirby art, I neglected to notice it’s mainly John Buscema doing the pictures. Ocht well, he’s a good artist also, and his linework becomes interestingly simplified as it goes on, it’s just lacking a bit in the “OH SHIIIT, SO COOOL, WHAAAT” stakes. The Kirby’s right at the back of the book, so it is certainly something to look forward to.

I’m still working my way through this book, and it’s a rare laugh at the moment, though the Silver Surfer himself is starting to grate somewhat, hilarious though his melodrama often is. “A bloo hoo!” he says, “Why is it that I who have been all around the fucking universe should be stuck here on that stupid planet boringly called Earth?!?!?”, ad nauseum.

He mainly hangs around New York, and I can’t help thinking he’d have a pretty good time on Earth if he just explored it a bit, you know? Though, I suppose, when he does he is mainly confronted by Springfield-esque locals who jump to all sorts of conclusions and want to stab him with pitchforks.

Stan Lee gets a bad rap these days (and rightly so, in most cases), but I do enjoy his verbose, energetic writing even though whole swathes of it are utterly redundant. It’s kinda charming, see? It’s quite hard to take in huge chunks, however, so I’m probably going to give this collection a break for a while before it makes me resent Norrin Radd (I LOVE how his surname is a word a surfer might use), the moaning silver jerk.

THE AVENGERS VS. THE X-MEN #3 OF 5 by Christopher Yost, the Dodsons, Jeph Loeb and Ed McGuiness

Oh wow, I can’t really remember a single thing about this comic other than it had some unsatisfying fight sequences. Considering it’s a comic that’s purely about the violence, it probably should have had slightly more well-thought out fights, but I guess mainstream superhero comics haven’t really done that well for quite some time.

I do remember this comic has a really shitty ‘hilariously glib’ intro page, that’s written by someone that isn’t half as funny as they think they are. But that’s okay, I can empathise with that.

ALL-NEW WOLVERINE SAGA written by Wolverine/Jeph York

I can’t believe I actually read this glorified Wolverine-written Wikipedia entry detailing his dogshit recent history. It fails to make any of the Romulus/Daken/X-23 etc stuff sound in the least bit interesting, and also doesn’t answer any of the burning questions regarding how Daken’s stupid mullethawk’s growth relates to his healing factor, or why X-23 isn’t stout and hairy. What a thankless task Jeph York was given, pretending to be Wolverine to write this.

DEATHMATE BLUE by Ostrander, Califiore, St. Pierre, Chen, Fontenot, Simpson, Vanhook, Grau and a host of others

Deathmate‘s a big joke on the internet for various reasons, and I was hoping for some super-90s muscly trainwreck. Sadly, I got the Valiant Comics one meaning it’s a competently told, slightly stale bit of superhero fun for squares. No amount of actual art chops can make the Liefeld/Silvestri/Lee Image characters look anything other than abysmal, however. It has the air of the bit in Box Office Poison where the veteran creator has to debase himself by designing new xtreeeeme heroes, and it’s a bit depressing.

SUPERMAN: THE MAN OF STEEL ANNUAL 2; BLOODLINES OUTBREAK by Louise Simonson, Eddy Newell and Mike Barreiro

Same again: Bloodlines is an internet joke, so I was hoping for some gnarly ‘shoulderpads and guns’ homoeroticism with hunks ‘nailing’ each other. It was instead a decent done-in-one origin story about a friendly toughguy who gets stupid 90s superpowers (explody knife-skin wrapped in barbed wire). Louise Simonson’s a solid writer of superhero fun, so that’s not too much of a surprise, really. It’s quite well-drawn, as well, Eddy Newell having an almost Vertigo-y Steve Pugh sort of over-rendered gristliness which I like (though it is sometimes a bit difficult to parse the action). You can tell Newell’s actually good at art, y’know? Not exactly what you think of when you think of an early-90s superhero comics person, is it?

ASTRO CITY SPECIAL #1 by Kurt Busiek and Brent Anderson

Another done-in-one, featuring a complete story about a sort of Superman guy and a bad wizard person. It’s the wizard’s origin story, with the framing device of him and Not-Superman having a nice meal interspersed with flashbacks. It’s a vaguely compelling character piece, about a person who doesn’t see himself as the bad guy, as much as he sees himself as naturally superior to everyone. I enjoyed it! The art’s on the ‘realistic’ side but not in a Deodato/Land photo reference sort of way, more just like it’s drawn by someone that’s neat at life drawing. It’s a bit dull, but that’s just my personal preferences showing, eh.

The cover by Alex Ross is nicely uncluttered and didn’t put me immediately off, which is no mean feat for him.

AVENGERS ARENA #1 by Dennis Hopeless and Kev Walker

Battle Royale -‘homaging’ comic from Dennis “great name if it’s real, awful if it’s a pseudonym” Hopeless and reliablely chunky Kev Walker, about a bunch of Marvel’s teen characters on an island, having to kill each other off. It’s well told and drawn and paced, and it’s such a fun set-up (in as much as kids killing each other is ‘fun’) that I think I’m going to hunt down more of this (And murder it? To survive?). I gather some people are a bit annoyed by this comic, but I have no real connection to any of the characters so I don’t feel it’s sacrilege to be putting them into this enjoyably crass scenario or anything. The trick’ll be for Hopeless to make me give a shit, and on the evidence of this first issue, he’ll probably be able to manage it.

Can’t see Nico from the Runaways or X-23 dying, though, which leads me to think that either they won’t, or that it’s not actually a ‘real’ situation (VR or that), and they will. Hmmm. As I say, I’ll check some more issues out! To the back issue bins/library!

(Like there’s such a thing as a ‘back issue bin’ in my local comic shop. This ain’t Noo Yoik, slugsy. We’ve got shelves here, instead.)


I’m fairly sure I’ve read this before? I don’t know, I’ve read so many Ultimate collections from the library, and the Spidey ones especially tend to blend together in my brain.

Anyway, this is about Ultimate Peter Parker being dead, and there’s a hilarious Ultimate Kitty Pride page, of her being ‘badass’ and hating criminals. Elsewhere, some teens that don’t dress like real people act sad for a bit, and Aunt May is stoic.

I can’t even remember how Peter Parker died? Shot by the Punisher then drowned, or something? I don’t know.

Ultimate Memories: gone.

SOLO: JORDI BERNET by Jordi Bernet, John Arcudi, Joe Kelly, Andrew Helfer, Chuck Dixon, Brian Azzarello


Forgot about that big Solo collection I plan on buying that’ll have this in it, but oh well, it’s only 33p this cost me. This issue of DC’s bizarrely anomalous series (in that it was good) focusses on the art of Jordi Bernet, who I am unfamiliar with. His art is undoubtedly attractive and is ‘cartooning’ in the best sense of the word, to my idiot eyes looking to be on the Will Eisner/Joe Kubert spectrum of sinewy confidence. I guess he’s not a writer, as all the short stories here are by other people, but that’s okay. As you’d expect, these tales are a mixed bag.

A favourite was Old Dog/New Trick by Andrew Helfer, which is about some old people in prison in a sort of Cuba-style country while a revolution takes place, while a definite low point is Poison by the reliably not-for-me Brian Azzarello (basically, Poison Ivy acts ‘sexy’, Batman punches her). Is Bernet famous for dullsville cheesecake, then?

Reminds me I need to get round to buying the collected edition, eh, if it’s still in print?

2000AD PROG 907 by Wagner, Ezquerra, Morrison, Millar, Parkhouse, Mills, Skinner, Walker, Hogan, Hughes, Ranson

Good vintage of prog, this (30th september 1994). It’s got a Wagner/Ezquerra Dredd I’ve never seen, with some compellingly ugly art – the colours are over-rendered and stodgy, the backgrounds (some sort of lava planet?) look like treated photographs, and it’s got a sweaty, pulp charm that feels tossed-off and disposable and tailor-made for pumping out serially. YEAH!

The main draw of this issue was Millar/Morrison/Parkhouse’s Big Dave, as I remember enjoying it a few years ago, when I was young and full of laughs and got loads of 2000ADs from a charity shop. It’s basically a pisstake of Sun readers that reads like it could also be a straight-ahead comic FOR Sun readers. Know how Romper Stomper  got criticised for being a film showing modern Nazis that could be seen as either a critique or just be enjoyed uncritically by the kind of people it portrayed? It’s that sort of thing. Homophobia, sexism, racism etc that is obviously parodic, but, well, there’s at times the feeling of the hellish MillMorr having their cake and eating it. If you do take it as critique, then there’s a slightly icky “haha the sheeple” edge to it, as well, and oh, I don’t know.

It’s not even funny? Cracking Steve Parkhouse cartooning, though.

There’s some ABC Warriors and it’s a bit of an example of a 90s post-Bisley painto-muscular mulch from Kev Walker, which is a shame, as his more straight-up comics pencils-and-ink stuff is excellent. I’m not too enamoured with the ABC Warriors unless it’s The Black Hole, and as a result this instalment sort of just passed me by. There’s some nice lava tones in it, though? This issue of 2000AD LOVES Lava.

I don’t care about Robo Hunter at all, but the Rian Hughes art is as iconic and endearing as ever, and Peter Hogan’s story about a Futurama-style revolutionary robot gathering is a good laugh, until that fucking Speedy Gonzales cigarette character shows up that was a dodgy anachronism even back when this was printed.

The final story in it is Wagner and Ransen’s Button Man 2, and I skimmed it while enjoying the art, as I plan on reading the full thing in trade format when I get the money, and didnae want spoilers. Arthur Ransen does lightboxing/photo referencing/I’m not sure right, and I love him.

On art alone, this prog is a total winner. Fuck, imagine getting a comic with Rian Hughes, Arthur Ranson, Carlos Ezquerra and Steve Parkhouse in it, every week!

I should have been buying this, and not Overkill or Hero Turtles or whatever I was into back then…


Some prime 90s Vertigo here, in a potentially-yawnsome story about a city where anyone not blandly attractive is incarcerated and raised in a monolithic sort of prison complex, away from society. Bit of a shit setup, that, as it screams of “ooh, conformity/sheeple/norms, no way!” reflective of the terrible ‘edgy’ adverts for ‘alternative rock ‘ that peppers these comics.

Luckily, it’s by Ted McKeever, so the story seems less about that tired old “I’m a non-conformist in black with an ankh necklace” crap and focusses on establishing the rather Svankmajer-y setting of the maze-like prison complex, the endless rooms that remain undiscovered, and the coping mechanisms of the people forced to live in its steamy interiors. A gang of them try to escape, and it becomes about the compelling relationship between two of the people attempting this.

The art, as you’d expect from McKeever, is fairly fantastic. It’s angular and has a great textural, varied line, with a kind of agressive flatness in places, and it feels coherently experimental, with a sort of woozy consistency?

It’s moody and engaging, and it works as a single issue story, though it’s part one of five. That’s good comics!

STREETFIGHTER #1 by Ron Fortier and Gary Kato

Initially suspecting this may be a comic of the Street Fighter GI Joe toy range, I was quick to have a leaf through this with no small amount of delight, fully expecting the worst kind of kitschy licenced product. Turns out it has fuck-all to do with Hasbro or Capcom (though it is set in Metro City!) and predates all the Street Fighter video game larks it shares a name with.

It’s quite a thrilling relic of a period of U.S. comics I’m obviously rather ignorant of, mid-80s non-Marvel/DC genre comics. I’d probably think of Cerebus or Toitles if quizzed on that whole thing, my knowledge extending not much farther than that.

Anyway, this comic has an interesting and charmingly self-deprecating introduction from the writer, Ron Fortier, that provides some insight into that comics era, describing how this idea came to be, the nature of publishing it and so forth, and it’s a cool little history lesson, so it is.

The comic’s story itself didn’t engage me that much, being a fairly straightforward action story about a vigilante and his support network fighting against the organised corruption of the aforementioned Metro City. It’s got an enthusiasm that tends to come with small publisher’s works, though, and it does move at a fair zip.

This is helped immeasurably by the excellent Steve Ditko-influenced art by Gary Kato, which feels not quite generic and polished enough for the grey-faced superhero chumps of Marvel and DC at the time. The characters feel in constant motion, flailing around, ducking and weaving, with an energy that distracts from any polish that might be lacking.

And the colours, by Kathy Palin! The book’s littered with acidic yellows and sickly mauves, the main character himself having an entirely blue palette, and it only benefits from being on cheap paper that’s nearly 30 years old (fuck!). I know it’s not technically as proficient and eye-leading and clean or whatever as yer super-slick modern colouring, and it might harm the storytelling, but whatever. It looks great! Eye Party!

The comic feels a bit like a raw, genuine example of people outwith the mainstream doing their own take on the mainstream, and making something strange and unique as a result, even if they don’t intend to do so. It’s what I imagine a straight take on the sort of thing a Benjamin Marra/American small press genre person goes for, without the layers of Vice sexy sexism/racy racism, might be like?

And what a great cover! The cover for the next comic I’m talking about it is, too, so here it is a bit large:

SPEEDBALL: THE MASKED MARVEL #4 by Steve Ditko and Roger Stern

Actual Steve Ditko comic this time!  ‘The Masked Marvel’ is quite a weak way to refer to Speedball, given that he doesn’t wear too much of a mask and is not defined by it (though he does worry people’ll recognise him), but luckily he’s also known as ‘The Bouncing Blockbuster’, which is much more lovable and accurate.

Robbie Baldwin (because he’s bouncy like a ball and he wins) is a straight-laced, fairly uninteresting kid, and he’s got to unravel a mystery regarding a refreshingly dull burglar and his meoldramatic parents. He bounces about, and this gives Ditko an excuse to draw his ace action scenes, Speedball flailing and bouncing, with the room always drawn at off angles, creating a great sense of him not yet being in control, of his powers being unpredictable, of the raw damn fun of RAD BOUNCING.

I mean, it’s not a great comic, the story is fairly dull, but you can never really go wrong with Steve Ditko art, the strange, timeless, suburban and constricted atmosphere he conjures with his stuck-in-the-50s outfits and decor, his gesticulating goons and sturdy men’s men. His attempt at a baseball cap’s pretty off-putting, though. It’s good he tried?

It’s not Raw Ditko here, given that Roger Stern’s onboard, but that just means it becomes less of a Randian tract, perhaps? Filtered Ditko is still of absolute interest to me. An important turning point in my development as a comics person was when I bought a Ditko-heavy Spider-man collection instead of some shitty Spawn thing or gothy Batman Elseworlds. I MADE THE RIGHT CHOICE (though I will certainly not cock a snook these days at an old Kelley Jones Batman alterna-verse thing).

Shhhh, let’s not mention what they did with this happy-go-lucky character in the last 10 years, okay?

liberty2012 cbldf2011
THE CBLDF PRESENTS LIBERTY ANNUAL 2011 and 2012 by a fuckload of people

Felt mildly guilty buying these for 33p each, given that they are for charity, but if the retailer had them in the first place, that means the charity had got their money, right? The charity in question is the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, which is a worthy cause for sure, as so many people in comics from the ground up get fucked over for so many reasons, and it’s great there’s an organisation that can help.

The inside covers show the huge list of talented creators on offer, including Frank Quitely, Fabio Moon and Gabriel Ba, JH Williams III, Carla Speed McNeil, Brandon Graham, Chris Giarrusso, Chynna Clugston-Flores, Howie Chaykin…

As they’re anthologies, they were always going to be hit or miss, and the misses are pretty bad, including an X-Men pin-up by Greg Land (heavy-lidded pornsmiles, obviously) , a hilariously-earnest and eye-rolly piece about creativity by Jonathan Hickman, and a piece of baffling misogyny by someone that knows better that is so overtly sexist that I must be reading it wrong and it’s actually amazing satire.

The anti-censorship issue of these annuals is too often just an excuse for men to draw naked women, really, which is pretty fucking dull.


The issue that’s a tribute to Dan Savage’s well-meaning-but-kinda-insulting “It Gets Better” campaign is a bit lighter on the cheesecake (other than the afore-mentioned Greg Land), and though the comics do err on the trite and worthy, as you’d expect, the work within’s a bit more of a satisfying read. There’s the odd bit of cringeworthy “AMERICA! YEEEEAH! WE CAN BE WHO WE WANT TO BEEEE!” bullshit, but this is luckily tempered by a healthy “America is still fucked up, we’re not quite there yet” realist attitude of some of the other strips.

A standout for me is a two-pager by Steve Niles and Michael Montenat which is a fairly enervating tale of punks siding with the other oppressed kids while at high school in the face of bullying, and it’s kinda righteous and has the actual ring of truth, and isn’t just a syrupy, simplistic “hang in there kid, it’ll get better!” piece of patronising, unhelpful bullshit.

I dunno. I edited out a whole bunch of complaints, as critiquing a charity thing I got on a sale seems a bit harsh.


(Not the covers, above, but my scanner is making my PC grind and grind, so I found an interior from the internet)

Having seen a talk featuring Aneurin Wright, where he spoke about this comic (dealing with his father’s illness and how the author’s life adapts and relationships change etc. in response to it), myself and Significant Other couldn’t afford to purchase what sounded like an interesting memoir. Luckily, the small press section of the comics festival was selling sampler minicomics of the first two chapters on the cheap, so we purchased two of those.

It’s a visually busy comic, with pages crammed with cartooning, and you can tell Wright obviously has a passion for his work. This sometimes works against the flow of the story in these samplers, which are in black and white, but the ‘proper’ comic itself seems to address this by nice use of spot colours, so it’s not too much of a problem.

Wright’s coming from an animation background, and as a result his work wouldn’t look out of place in the anthology Flight, where there’s a clear influence from yer animés and Don Bluths and that. I’m not always super-keen on his style, but it certainly works to tell the story. I’m also not super-keen on the fantasy sequences, which though they stop the comic from becoming a visually-staid exploration of one sad location, served to derail and take me out of the story somewhat, but there’s no denying these sections are more complex than that.

Wright wrote and drew this comic as he was looking after his dad, so there’s intrinsic emotion to the entire thing. Was this section being used as escapism? Was this other section being used to help him address horrible reality? That sort of thing. Makes me feel a bit voyeuristic, but I suppose that’s always going to be an issue with a memoir comic, eh?

The two samplers are a compelling read, and I’d like to get stuck into the complete thing at some point, where I think the nit-picky flaws I perceive to be here will be dealt with or smoothed out. It’s an interesting story, intelligently told and with real personality.

I also like that Wright’s chosen to depict himself as  a meaty hunk of a minotaur. And why not?



1 Comment

Filed under Comics, Memories

One response to “I Bought a Lot of Comics at the Lakes International Comic Art Festival

  1. Pingback: Libraragey | The Slow Bullet

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