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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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5 Silent Comics - Worlds Without Words

Arrival

Jamie's back!

One of the ways in which comics can be defined is as a combining of words and pictures in order to form a narrative. But what happens when the words are taken away?

The following five comics are all ‘silent’, by which I mean without word balloons, narration or thought bubbles (sound effects are still allowed). Often used in tales where dislocation or surrealism are key elements, wordless comics can also focus on playing on strong emotional reactions as there’s one less thing intellectually separating the reader and the characters. With silent comics, the reader’s involvement becomes deeper and more active, as you have to bring so much more to putting together a story without the guiding hand that words provide.

If you’re looking for a ‘reading’ experience that’s a bit out of the ordinary and will flex parts of your brain you didn’t know you had - here are five examples of amazing silent comics.

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Friday Five: 5 Stories by Jeff Lemire

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Jamie's back with more recommendations! 

Canadian writer/artist Jeff Lemire is a comics creator whose work is bound together by a strong thematic consistency. Lemire really proves – as if there was still doubt – that comics are a serious literary medium, but he doesn’t forget the power this medium has to engage with our emotions.

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Friday Five: 5 Wonderful Webcomics Now in Print (And They Say That Print Is Dead!)

Ellerbisms-13Say hi to Jamie, who is leading us through the wicked world of webcomics...

Webcomics, they’re a tricky beast.

The spiritual successors to daily newspaper strips, given the entire scope and resources of the World Wide Web in which to spread their wings. Just keeping up with a tiny fraction of what’s available can amount to a full time job and, for luddites like me, they represent a unique problem: I want to read them, but books are just so darn nice!

Luckily, some very nice people (publishers, mostly) have collected some of top webcomics into print editions. Here are five of my favourites:

Ellerbisms by Marc Ellerby (published by Great Beast) 

Ellerbisms came out in 2012, but the comic itself began way back in 2007 and charts Marc Ellerby’s own life, specifically his relationship with Anna: the girl he never thought he could have, then had and ultimately lost. Autobiography is a common genre for webcomics, the daily, or near-daily, nature of them being a great way to chart day-to-day experience. What sets Ellerbisms apart is the charming honesty of its warts-and-all storytelling. Ellerby himself is not always the hero here, but that doesn’t mean he’s the villain. There are no villains in this story, there’s just life. This honest account is tied together by Ellerby’s disarmingly simplistic artwork: simple lines construct amazingly expressive faces, with quirked eyebrows and slight frowns saying so much more than words could, the art belying the raw emotional punch this comic carries.

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