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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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Stark Reviews: West & Soda (1965)

West and Soda

Stark says: “If he’s dead, why is he still smoking?”

I first came across West & Soda a few months back, after taking a tumble into a dusty corner of the Internet. As soon as I saw the words “1960s Italian animated parody Western” I just knew I had to get me a copy of the DVD.

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Review Round-up: The Essex Sisters and Rules of Prey

Kiss Me, AnnabelA quick round-up of some recent reads: The Essex Sisters, four volumes of Regency hijinks by Eloisa James, and Rules of Prey, the first Lucas Davenport thriller.

Eloisa James' Essex Sisters (2005 - 2006)

Eloisa James's books are wonderful. They are charming, bantery romances that are almost entirely populated by nice people doing nice things for one another. I've written in the past about how epic fantasy could pick up some tricks from historical romance, and the Essex Sisters series ticks those boxes nicely. There's clever foreshadowing with the interrelated characters and perspectives, a casual approach to historical authenticity that balances empowered female characters with Regency world-building, and an openness to both humour and (of course) romance. These four books - about the marital prospects of four orphaned sisters - aren't quite as conniving or as surprising as the Desperate Duchesses series, but they certainly have their highlights. The third, The Taming of the Duke, is perhaps my favourite, as both the male and female leads have their obstacles to overcome. (I was a little disappointed by the final volume, as it recycled some tricks, and used a 'woman in peril' shtick that felt tonally different from the rest of the series.) 

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Radio Drama: "First Contact" (1958)

Astounding-Science-Fiction-May-1945

"First Contact" first aired January 15, 1958, from the series Exploring Tomorrow. It is based on a novelette by Murray Leinster, first published in 1945.

Thoughts Before Listening

Aliens probably? It would cool if this weren't about aliens. It’s probably about aliens though.

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Taylor Swift: Are We In The Clear Yet?

TV-1_2623334a

Would that all new years started with fantastic beasts and stormy weather. They don’t, but thanks to Taylor Swift, 2016 did for us. The video for "Out of the Woods", complete with its fairy tale narrative, is my first favourite thing of 2016 and it proves that the indomitable Ms Swift is only getting better and better.

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A One Comic Clip Show!

One Comic Clip Show!

A year in, we've succumbed to the lure of nostalgia and done a review show of all the One Comics to date. Which of the series we said we’d stick with did we follow? Where did we (very quickly) change our minds?

What is the secret to the perfect One Comic? (A combination of smut, Bex and Jared sniping at each other and a healthy disregard for received wisdom.)

As if a clip show weren't exciting enough, the technical challenges that plagued us at the end of the year affected the sound quality of the new parts of this. A fuzzy clip show! What else could you ask for?!


The Moonlit Way by Robert W Chambers

The Moonlit WayThere's good Chambers and bad Chambers and The Moonlit Way (1919) is firmly in the latter camp.

This ponderous and preposterous tale - that of an American artist drawn into a Prussian plot in the early days of World War I - is mostly an excuse for rampant jingoism and patriotic drum-beating. Virtually every other page is given over to a lengthy rant about 'Teutonic conspiracies' and the 'porcine Hun', as well as notes about how Britain fights on the 'side of Christ' and 'pacifism is a type of sexual perversion'. The latter is a lengthy diatribe given by a fictional doctor, so you know it is true.

Garry, our square jawed artist/scion of a rich family, is a typically Chambersian character and is painted by route. Although wealthy, he's committed to his art, and The Moonlit Way begins with him in Paris, pretending to be an impoverished student and enjoying himself immensely. It is there he encounters the dancer Thessalie, a beautiful young noblewoman who is the toast of Europe and the object of many a skeezy lordling's fantasy. Thessalie has been bartered to a French politician by the Teutonic Illuminati, and, when Garry meets her, she's hiding from her future husband.

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Review Round-up: Tedric, A Strange Discovery, Scientific Romances

TedricThree old science fiction stories, liberated from the vaults of Project Gutenberg. Includes E.E. Doc Smith's "Tedric", Charles Dake's A Strange Discovery (his sequel to Poe's Arthur Gordon Pym) and C.H. Hinton's Scientific Romances. They're all... flawed... but very interesting.

"Tedric" (1953) and "Lord Tedric" (1954) by E.E. Doc Smith

"Tedric" is good ol' fashioned sword and sorcery novelette, bracketed by some science fictional wand-waving. Professors from the SPACEFUTURE see the Darkest Timeline coming about and, accordingly, fiddle about in the past to find a way of preventing it. Their roving time-eye lands on Tedric - an ironworker in a quasi-fantasy realm who is disgruntled with the whole 'human sacrifice' ethos of the reigning theocracy. The friendly professors pass Tedric the secrets of steelworking and the ironworker (6'4" and 200+ pounds of man-muscle) builds himself an Iron Steel Man suit and a big sword. A one man revolution ensues. 

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"Star Wars: The Force Awakens" by Adam Roberts

rey hanging with bb8

The most interesting thing about Star Wars: The Force Awakens has to do with the cultural moment into which it was received. I don’t mean that it has been greeted so rapturously by fans and cinema-goers, that it has already earned a shedload of money, that it is set fair to overtake Avatar as the highest grossing movie of all time—we could all see that coming a mile off. I mean the acute and often panicky paranoia about spoilers this release has occasioned. How angry people get! Spoiling Star Wars became suddenly one the worst things a person could do, just below genocide and just above admitting a fondness for Coldplay.

[Editor's note: ...which is probably the right time to say - "contains spoilers".]

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