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Getting Familiar With Zombies - Afterlife With Archie

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There are certain genres with which audiences are so familiar that it seems impossible to create something really new. It’s rare to find a romance, for instance, that doesn’t follow the familiar pattern of boy-meets-girl, boy and girl get together, something comes between boy and girl before a final reconciliation.

Teen movies ending in the big game or big dance has become so formulaic that teen movie parodies are now almost a bigger genre than the original source. Classic monster horror, bound by such narrow constraints, is a genre in which things grow increasingly stale. This is perhaps particularly true of zombies whose specific conventions prevent much experimentation; 28 Days Later and World War Z may have been refreshingly new, but they also bent convention so far as to be dismissed by purists. How then, does one take two stale genres in this case zombies and teen-romance (look how that worked out!) and create something with impact and excitement?

Well, to everyone’s surprise, the answer came from Archie Comics.

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Ramón K. Pérez: a man of many styles

Wow

It’s not unusual for a comic book artist’s style to develop or progress as their career continues. It’s a bit rarer for an artist to totally change their style or technique over time or between projects, although many artists do experiment. It’s rarer still for an artist to use two totally different styles or techniques at the same time, in the same book and even on the same page... but one who does is top comic artist and cartoonist: Ramón K. Pérez.

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From tiny acorns... the growth of Giant Days

Giant Days

Most media artifacts come to the public fully formed, the creative process long since edited away or consigned to the rubbish bin. With comic books that process has typically been more open to the public. For starters, when following a long-running series over a number of years, you can see how characters and concepts grow and change in time. If the series has the same creative team you may also see how an artist’s style or a writer’s craft develops as they gain experience.

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2000AD: Why is Judge Dredd so damn good anyway?

Dredd

As 2000 AD reaches its landmark 2,000th issue, it seems like an appropriate time to look back at the weekly anthology’s greatest creation: Judge Joe Dredd.

First appearing in 1977 in the second prog of 2000 AD, created by John Wagner and Carlos Ezquerra, Dredd is a hard-line law enforcer in the dystopic future, dispensing justice in the enormous Mega-City One. The character has gone on to star in pretty much every subsequent issue of 2000 AD, spawned numerous spin-offs and two feature length films. So, 1,999 issues since he first appeared, just why is Judge Dredd so appealing?

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Box Brown's Tetris: The Games People Play

Tetris-for-blog_coverPublished by SelfMadeHero in October, Tetris: The Games People Play, is Box Brown's follow-up to his biography of wrestling and Hollywood legend, Andre the Giant. In his new graphic novel, Brown marries a philosophical view of humanity’s relationship to games with the true story of the rise in popularity and subsequent legal wrangling of the '80s sensation Tetris. Although artistically snappy and warm, the creator only pulls off this marriage with debatable success. Regardless, the story of Tetris is full of humour, warmth and surprise, even if it falls slightly short of the book's loftier aims.

I confess, I’m not much of a gamer; I’ve never spent hours curing patients in Theme Hospital or worked my thumbs to the bone for that perfect combo on Street Fighter, heck, I’ve never even had a phone with Snake on it. So when I heard about a graphic novel about the creation of Tetris, I wasn’t particularly excited. Tetris? That annoying game from the 80s with the stupid blocks that never go where they’re supposed to? Why would I want to read about that?

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Hate by Peter Bagge, or, Buddy Bradley is You and Me

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If the recent and successful relaunch of Archie Comics is any indication, it appears that the age of youthful cynicism is dead. While punk had a rebellious spirit, it was the grunge movement that solidified the apathetic and bleak outlook of the 90s MTV Generation X-ers, which might have faded before now had it not been swept up in the chain of catastrophes in the noughties. Optimism had no place in the world of 9/11, the War on Terror, natural disasters, climate change and financial crises instead fatalism and malaise carried on the grunge spirit of the previous decade.

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The Manhattan Projects; or, ‘These Ain’t Your Momma’s Physicists’

Manhattan_projects_4The Manhattan Project was a now legendary U.S. military programme responsible for the creation of the atom bomb, operating between 1939 and 1946. The scientists that worked for the project have become legendary figures in their own right; Robert Oppenheimer, Richard Feynman, Enrico Fermi to name just a few. Regardless of the moral implications of what came out of it, the Manhattan Project was an undeniably impressive feat of science and a major step forward in the human understanding of physics.

Jonathan Hickman, Nick Pitarra and Jordie Bellaire take this incredible human achievement and add in murder, cults, corruption, sex, drugs and the most kick-ass Albert Einstein you’re ever like to see. Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to The Manhattan Projects.

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Will Eisner and Three Visions of New York

Eisner new yorkNew York, New York.

Is there any city that has featured in as many stories, songs and films? Ok, maybe Paris, but ignoring that - definitely New York. The representations of New York are as varied as its famously melting-pot population, but there are threads and themes that connect them.

Will Eisner’s New York; Life In The Big City is a classic collection of vignettes and short pieces about New York, published between 1981 and 2000. It is perhaps the most famous graphic text dealing with the city itself. It collects four of Eisner's works: 'The Building’, ‘City People’, ‘Notebook’ and ‘Invisible People’ - all drawing on Eisner’s lifetime of observing the people of New York and the changes it has undergone over the years.

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The Bus: Journey into the Strange

The Bus img 1Have you ever had that feeling where you’re going about your business just like any other day, and all of a sudden everything seems strange to you? Nothing’s changed, nothing’s wrong, but you look at totally ordinary people or things and they just don’t make any sense. You start asking yourself questions like: why are they doing that? Aren’t clothes weird? Who ever thought buildings were a good idea? It’s this feeling of dislocation, of finding the surreal in the absolutely banal, that Paul Kirchner taps into in ‘The Bus’.

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The Wake: Shades of Horror and Adventure

WAKE-part oneI started writing this article several times, and came to realize two things.

First, that The Wake is simply too stuffed full of interesting things to talk about that I couldn’t possibly cover them all in the few hundred words I have, and second, that all I really wanted to talk about was the colouring.

Colourists get so little attention in the comic book world, yet their contribution is staggering and undeniable. What Matt Hollingsworth brings to The Wake (written and pencilled by Scott Snyder and Sean Murphy respectively) draws out many of the themes of the book and lays them right on the page, hidden in plain sight. What’s more, The Wake is a book that illustrates the different effects colour can have excellently by neatly dividing itself into two parts - the first horror-inflected and the second full of high-stakes adventure.

At this point I’d like to say that The Wake is a book that really benefits from being read cold and with little knowledge of the twists and surprises that are waiting.

Unfortunately that makes it pretty hard to talk about without giving it all away. So I urge you, if you don’t want the surprises ruined for you, stop reading now and go read the book - you have been warned.

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