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Hubble, bubble, toil and feminism: Witches in comics

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Halloween is upon us and the usual parade of monster, ghouls and goblins are sure to be out in force. Chief among those will be the 'big three': vampires, werewolves and, of course, witches.

Unlike the first two, however, witches have a real-life history every bit as chilling as the stories in literature and film. The persecution of women (and, less often, men) for the crime of witchcraft is widespread and well known, with the most famous example being the witch trials in Salem in the 1690s. 

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Growing Up On The Ice: Tillie Walden's Spinning

SpinningTillie Walden (A City Inside, The End of Summer) says of her new autobiographical novel, Spinning - covering her teenage years as a figure skater - that "it ended up not being about ice skating at all".

Instead Spinning ends up being one of those rare books that's not particularly about anything, but potentially about almost everything. This quality means that what you get out of this book really does depend on what you bring to it.  In writing about it, therefore, you may end up revealing more about your own preoccupations than you'd really like to.  With that in mind, let’s delve into just what I thought Spinning was all about.

The graphic novel, published by SelfMadeHero, written and drawn by Walden, covers the years of Walden’s life between 12 and 17, the prime teenage years, and so sits firmly into the ‘coming-of-age’ genre. While it is mainly set on or around ice rinks, its first movement features the 12 year old Walden discovering her family is moving from New Jersey to Austin. This unexpected and life-altering change is, I believe, characteristic of much of a child's life. So often children face massive, inexplicable upheavals and go through their lives without control or consent. Coming-of-age stories can be seen as a move from the lack of control a child has, subject to the whims of parents, teachers and (as we see) ice-skating coaches. 

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The End of the World(s) as We Know It

I'm fascinated by instances where the creators of video games, RPGs, or comics change their worlds. The joy of fantasy is that everything is completely malleable. The history, the politics, the very physics of the universe - all can be changed at the creators' whim.

But what happens to the readers and players who are committed to that world? How do they deal with the upheaval?

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50 Books on Imagining and Re-Imagining Cities

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Moil houses from China Miéville's Un Lun Dun

I've been thinking about cities - and how we imagine and definite and interpret them - since the panel at Nine Worlds was announced. The panel itself, chaired by architect Amy Butt, and featuring Verity Holloway and Al Robertson, was brilliant and free-ranging.

One thing we didn't do is lapse into 'here are some books about cities that I recommend'. I'm grateful we skipped that because a) that's boring on a panel and b) that makes cracking blog content. Listicles are good fun.

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Hamish Steel's Pantheon - 'Because gods are people too…'

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…terrible, terrible people.

The great civilizations of the past are most often portrayed with a great deal of dignity and respect, be they the martial-and-marble Romans, the philosopher Greeks, or the austere, death-obsessed Egyptians.  As well as being terribly inaccurate, this approach is highly reductive, preventing us from seeing these as cultures made up of real people; every bit as varied and three-dimensional as we are today.

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Velvet: Sex, spies and stereotype

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I recently saw a trailer for the upcoming film, Kingsman: The Golden Circle, a sequel to Kingsman: The Secret Service, a 2014 film based on a comic by Mark Millar and frequent collaborator, Bryan Hitch. Directed by Matthew Vaughn, Kingsman recaptured the over-the-top violence of their earlier collaboration Kick-Ass but was playing in the sandbox of a Bond-style spy-action-thriller.

In fact, the film was essentially a Bond spoof and, while it sought to make a point about class prejudice (although what that was I’m not exactly sure), their approach to women was much more in the vein of having their cake and eating it too. The female characters in Kingsman: The Secret Service are almost entirely sidelined, silent or uncomfortably sexualized. While womanizing has been a part of the Bond-style spy movie since its inception, is it a necessary part?

Well, if you want a spy thriller every bit as Bond as Bond (or Kingsman) but without the uncomfortable sexism, I’d highly recommend Ed Brubaker and Steve Epting’s Velvet (colours by Elizabeth Breitweiser, letters by Chris Eliopoulos).

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Finding Balance in Opposites in Asterios Polyp

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We live in a world today which seems, or is made to seem, more divided than ever. Asterios Polyp is a book about division, but it turns that which divides us into positives, finding balance in opposition and progress in compromise. David Mazzucchelli, best known as the artist for the seminal Batman: Year One, is sole creator on this book and, while he doesn’t deal in geopolitical division or the problems of race or wealth that plague the world currently, the lessons that can be learnt from the deeply human philosophy in Asterios Polyp are ones that we all need to be reminded of.

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Wolverine rides off into the sunset - with heart, style, and more than a few scars

Logan

If you’re even slightly interested in seeing Logan, you probably know that it’s getting rave reviews. So much so that for some people, it’s going to be tough for it to live up to the hype. So let me say right out of the gate that Logan isn’t a perfect movie. But it is a very good one, and a significant enough departure from previous instalments in the X-Men franchise that your enjoyment (or lack thereof) of the earlier movies probably isn’t a very good predictor of whether you’ll like this one. On the other hand, if you’re a fan of Westerns – and specifically the gritty, melancholy, washed-up-gunslinger-reluctantly-takes-on-one-more-job trope, this film is for you.

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The Action-Packed Secret Origin Story of Judge Dredd

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The most intriguing part of Judge Dredd’s origin isn’t the fictional character’s designer birth by DNA cloning, nor that he was based in part on a disciplinarian monk, nor even that when the strip first appeared in the second issue of 2000AD, the original creators had already quit. It’s that Dredd's embryonic form is found in an unpublished issue of different comic – one that was scandalously violent, allegedly dangerous, and deliciously subversive.

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