comics

Current comic obsession: Spell on Wheels

Writer:Kate Leth
Artist:Megan Levens
Colorist:Marissa Louise
Published by Dark Horse Comics

I’ve been waiting for a new comic book series to become obsessed with, so Spell on Wheels came at exactly the right time. When I saw Dark Horse promoting the new miniseries, I knew in an instant that it was something I absolutely needed to read.

Jolene, Claire and Andy are three witches that live and work together in Boston. When their house is robbed of some important magical instruments, the girls head out to try and track down what has been taken – and to discover who the mysterious person is who has robbed them. The road trip story takes them throughout the upper East Coast, and straight into a lot of trouble.

The story is a lot of fun. Plus it stars three totally badass ladies who are honest-to-God witches (helloooo magic). The ingredients are exactly that I would throw into my dream story: feminism, magic, mystery, road trips, diversity and fabulous art.

Megan Levens is probably my second favourite Buffy artist (after the great Karl Moline, of course, who is probably my favourite comic book artist full stop), and her art was key to what I think was a much-improved season 10. She really brings out the personality of each girl, whose personalities are already different and totally fleshed out by writer Kate Leth.

It is, unfortunately, just a miniseries and is only planned for five issues. But I would totally dig in a second series. With the success of other short-run series at Dark Horse like Lady Killer, I’ll be keeping fingers crossed.

Spell on Wheels issue #3 will be in comic shops on December 21st.

Lady Killer 2 Issue #3

Lady Killer 2 Issue #3
Dark Horse Comics

Story and art by Joëlle Jones
Colours by Michelle Madsen
Letters by: Crank!

You know, for being such a tough, strong, quick-witted lady, Josie can be a bit dim at times. Frustratingly so.

The whole thing about “following your gut”? Well, it’s a good thing she just flat-out ignored her gut feeling. For a series about a housewife/hitwoman, this issue was a particularly dark one for Lady Killer.

Josie is rather happy with her decision to turn down “the union” and stick with her long-time friend, Irving. While their clientele isn’t exactly high-end, they are making a name for themselves as a pair. But of course, things are about to go very wrong.

When Josie has “Uncle Irving” over for supper one night, Mother Schuller begins to freak out. The woman chucks Christmas ornaments as the man and threatens him with a meat cleaver. Not exactly the poster child for hospitality.

Understandably, Josie is pretty confused by the volatile response from her mother-in-law. So Josie sends Irving out with her husband while while she and Mother Schuller work things out. Her husband (increasingly tired-looking throughout the Florida issues) tells Irving about how he can’t manage his new job and boss anymore as he is beginning to shoulder more work than he can possible handle.

Mother Schuller promises to tell Josie the story behind her actions, as long as she just makes Irving leave. So Josie obediently sends Irving away and prepares to hear what is truly an appalling truth behind her partner’s previous life.

Mother Schuller was a civil service officer for the Nazi party in Germany during the war. She wasn’t high ranking, but was often assigned to investigate someone. One special case was a doctor who was believed to be running a fraudulent escape network, getting people out of Germany and into America.

But of course, Irving’s true intentions are much more sinister, as Schuller finds out. Irving had been tricking people into giving them their money for “safe passage” – but was giving them inoculations of cyanide instead.

Immediately, Josie tries to rid herself of Irving. She arranges a meeting with Mr Hawley from the union. She thinks it would be great to have someone larger looking over Irving, but Hawley immediately rejects her offer as they aren’t exactly members of the Irving Reinhardt fan club either. So he rescinds his previous offer.

Irving has Josie in a bad spot, which only gets more problematic when she returns home and finds her husband’s boss in their ice chest.

Issue #3 was dramatic, and way dark. I do love where Jones is taking the story by building up the suspense little by little. Over the seven issues of Lady Killer, you grow quite fond of Josie and all of her flaws. It will be plenty interesting seeing how she tries to get herself out of this mess.


Why yes this comic did come out on the 16th. But life gets busy and some weeks a girl just doesn’t give a damn.

Lady Killer 2 Issue #1

Art and Story: Joëlle Jones
Colours: Michelle Madsen

Josie Schuller is back, and I haven’t felt this giddy to go to the comic shop in a while.

Lady Killer 2 returns after 2015 successful five-issue run. Joëlle Jones and Jamie S Rich created a great little world for the 60’s housewife/assassin Josie to run around in. It was nominated this year for four Eisner Awards, including best limited run. It was a fun series, despite the fact that I wanted to much more out of the story (if Jones ever wants to revisit Josie’s backstory, please do).

But it’s immediately clear that Jones is trying something a bit different this time around. Things are a lot more personal with Josie. We get to read her thoughts as she begins her venture building a business of her own. Of course that is the business of being a paid assassin.

The Schuller family have made the move from Seattle to the city of Cocoa Beach. Here Jones’ style absolutely pops off the page. The art is filled with the same graphic, bloody imagery of the first series, but within the much more romantic-looking setting of mid-60s Florida. Despite this new setting, Josie is very much up to her old habits (instead of Avon products, she’s switched things up to Tupperware).

Josie meets with her husband’s boss and his wife, and still has her battle with her awful mother-in-law. But she’s a woman of many talents and still achieves being both the perfect wife and assassin. Though Jones manages to throw in some subtle looks of the unrest that’s bound to occur in following issues. Hopefully this means there will be development for Josie as a character as she continues on a much more independent path than the one she had in Seattle.

I’m really excited for Lady Killer 2, and though issue 1 offers some familiar ground, there’s already a taste of how exactly this series is going to develop in a different way going forward. I love Jones and believe in her wholeheartedly. Whatever happens to Josie, it’s going to be fantastic. It’s really great to have these two ladies back.

Saturday at MCM Comic Con London summer 2016: A laureate, a preacher and a few demons to boot.

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Saturday was a sold-out day for MCM Comic Con London. The day boasted some of the biggest names of the weekend while being filled with people enjoying their Bank Holiday weekend. There was some pretty outstanding panels this week, some of my favourites ever in fact. And it all started first thing in the morning.

Three phases of Dave Gibbons

Dave Gibbons is one of the most highly-regarded artists in the world of comics. The man has had a long and respected career working on iconic books such as Watchmen with fellow Brit Alan Moore, The Originals and The Secret Service – Kingsman. And he was the first comic laureate in the UK, being appointed in 2014. The man hardly needs an introduction, but a reminder of his achievements was key when revisiting his life and work during Saturday morning’s panel.

Joining Gibbons on stage was Robert Milazzo from the Modern School of Film in New York. The school set Gibbons with the task of naming three films that were influential in his life. The first from his childhood, was the Dinsey symphonic classic, Fantastia. 

The artist recalled his time going to see the movie alone when he was about 8 or 9 years old and crying during the film. He was inspired by the technical ability of it all and the film’s ability to create something that was a total experience (if perhaps not a constant narrative). The particular section he admired, was “Death of the Dinosaurs,” particularly the fusion of art and science. But a theme that Gibbons and Milazzo touched on was the unconscious and unregulated imagination both film and comics had early on, lending to some of the greatest creativity in the genres.

That ignorance of success is what Gibbons said allowed him to reach his greatest opus with Watchmen. He talked about how he and Moore really had no idea what their book was to become, but only focused on making what they believed would be the greatest comic they could make. This brought the conversation on to the second film, Nicolas Roeg’s 1985 film Insignificance, which Gibbons said influenced Watchmen in several ways. There was even a personal message from Roeg to Gibbons, remarking on how there is no such thing as a right or wrong way to do something, only the right and “another.”

When choosing his contemporary film, Gibbon’s choice was Guardians of the Galaxy, stating that Marvel had kept their act together and didn’t lose their nerve when taking the time to create small stories from within a single movie. His love of comics really showed through when discussing James Gunn’s film. His wide-eyed enthusiasm for the film brought the conversation full circle, with both men emphasising the way we love things when we are children.

It’s certainly a trait worth holding on to.

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Outcast cast and the best of Michael Cain impressions 

Outcast is one of several comic-book adapted shows that are heading to television this spring. The show, based on the Image comic book of the same name by The Walking Dead creator Robert Kirkman, follows a man who lives in a town filled with people battling demons – both literally and figuratively.

Several of the show’s stars were in attendance: Patrick Fugit, English actor Philip Glenister (of the excellent Ashes to Ashes and Life on Mars), Wrenn Schmidt, Kate Lyn Sheil and everyone’s favourite rib shack owner Reg E. Cathey.

Fugit plays Kyle Barnes, a character the blames himself for the strange going-ons in Rome, West Virginia. There is an element of him being haunted by these demons, but the show also explores his relationships (or lack thereof) with his family and others in the town he’s been hiding himself away from. It’s a slow, Southern thriller. Each actor reiterated the differences with Kirkman’s other show, The Walking Dead, saying that there was more horror than gore, and Fugit said while reading the script that he saw the scares were more unsettling than anything.

The cast also talked about their interactions off screen. Fugit learned to speak Northern from Glenister. Glenister also taught the Americans how to make “a props cuppa.” Though, strangely, he said that they always wanted to serve him cheese.

Fugit and Glenister also took a moment to show the audience their Tom Cruise and Michael Caine impressions, which was both amusing and impressive.

Both Sheil and Schmidt agreed that their characters were complex, and it was a sure sign of things improving for role options for females. Schmidt said that she particularly enjoyed her role as Megan because her plot wasn’t solely reliant on a male character’s, but was instead interwoven with one.

But when Cathey sells the show with, “It will interrupt your sleep,” it only solidifies that Outcast‘s future is going to be bright.

Outcast will premier on Cinemax and on Fox’s international channels abroad on June 3rd. It was also aired on Facebook Live in Europe on May 20th.

Though if you were lucky enough to be at MCM that weekend, there was showing of the pilot episode. From the first hour shown, the show makes a firm statement of its intentions. It’s a haunting, psychological show with an incredible cast of characters. While it has moments of violence and just plain horror, there are some moments that guarantee to make a viewer’s skin crawl.

Outcast has already been renewed for a second season, but with a first episode like that – it’s not at all surprising.

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Preacher: The Good, The Surprise and The Butthole. 

Also on Saturday was the ability to watch the entire first episode of AMC’s adaption of the Vertigo comic Preacher. After watching Outcast, it was clear that while the two shows had their similarities, no two shows could be more different.

Developed by Seth Rogan, Evan Goldberg and Breaking Bad‘s Sam Catlin, Preacher follows the story of preacher Jesse Custer (the always-gorgeous Dominic Cooper) in Texas, who has unusual powers after being possessed by an unknown entity. Like Outcast, both shows deal with religion and both are based on comic books. But the similarities stop there.

While Outcast thrives on its slow burn, Preacher throws all subtlety out the window. The story is bonkers, the actors are wacky as fun, but it is certainly one hell of a ride. The highly-stylised show acts as a prequel to the original Vertigo comic.

Not that anyone will have to choose between the two, but if you enjoy humour in the vein of the Evil Dead movies and cartoon violence is more your thing, Preacher will definitely be to your taste. It’s gross and absolutely hilarious.

Preacher airs in the UK on Amazon Prime each week. Episode 2 will air in June.

BUT

As the episode finished, a worker from MCM dashed to the stage to promise a surprise, and that surprise was none other than Preacher star Dominic Cooper.

The English actor talked about the pressures of being in such a highly-anticipated and long-awaited adaption of the comic. While he remembers many of his friends reading the comics when he was younger, the interest passed him by. Cooper said after reading the comics and the script, he was drawn into the show’s ability to jump from genre to genre while also being a debate about religion. An actor’s dream, according to him. It also reminded him of work that he loves dearly, such as early Twin Peaks. Though he also admitted that finding his character was a true challenge, but after reading about Jesse’s background in the script, he was able to understand the son of a preacher man more fully.

In a world that is in the golden age of television, Cooper says its fantastic that Preacher has come to life in this time. He believes that the characters and comic have hours worth of story worth telling. And in a place where there are many superheroes and comic book adaptions, Cooper believes that Preacher‘s distinctiveness will set it apart.

Preacher was another show with a really solid pilot. Hopefully the show continues on the path, and gets to see the light.
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And that’s day two in the books! Sunday at MCM brings the biggest panel yet, which includes Jesse Eisenberg, whose West End play The Spoils begins its run Saturday night. There is still plenty to see, and many actors are are having repeat panels, including Warwick Davis who is also promoting a show he is a part of called Eugenius. If anything, just go and spend time with some of the excellent interactive booths that are available. I know my friends and I particularly enjoyed the Preacher photobooth.

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Special shout out to Leila for being a real queen and sorting out my camera today and taking some great photos.

Wicked Wednesday: Beasts of Burden: What the Cat Dragged In

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Beasts of Burden: What the Cat Dragged In is a one-shot comic from Dark Horse is that both creepy and exciting.

The Beasts of Burden series has won both the Eisner and Harvey Awards. What the Cat Dragged In is the first installment since 2014. The series is about a group of cats and dogs that protect their home of Burden Hill from the paranormal. Writer Evan Dorkin and artist Jill Thompson return with Sarah Dyer co-writing.

The newest story opens with Scout and Orphan as they investigate Dymphna, whose coven was taken out by Orphan and the wise dogs destroyed them. Dymphna surprises them and explains that she has been trying to get access to the house where her familiars used to live, but has been unsuccessful.

The three cats seek the assistance of Hoke, a raccoon who will be able to open the door for them. Hoke is a fantastic, light comedic relief in a darker story of magic and witchcraft. Plus he’s a raccoon. Hoke eventually gives in to their requests and helps them enter the home where Dymphna’s familiar and her partner lived.

Inside they find the house in a poor state; it’s covered in mold and rot. But they proceed down into the depths of the home where Dymphna faces two cats who were a part of her coven. They are alive only in the fact that the Harrow she summoned are making them suffer. They kill themselves only to be brought back every time.

Dymphna has to face the choices she’s made and pay the consequences. While her friends are spared, she makes a deal with the harrow that finally breaks the hold it has over the other members of her coven. While she survives, they finally move on. Her quest for vengeance eventually leads her to loss.

What the Cat Dragged In is my first experience with this series, but it seems to be a pretty great entry point. The premise certainly sounds a bit silly, but it’s treated with a dark and mature flair that makes this story rather good. The best stories are layered with lessons and pain, and What the Cat Dragged In manages that in only a few pages.

I love Thompson’s artwork as her painting style seems to capture the emotions of these animals and gives them genuine personalities. This one-shot really perked my interest in this world that Dorkin and Thompson have created. I’m hoping to be able to pick up some collected editions in the near future.

Pointless side-note: I love seeing the vintage Dark Horse logo on these comics this year for their 30th anniversary. I need to pick up some of the variant issues, especially Joelle Jones’s cover for the first issue of Tomb Raider. Not that I’m into Tomb Raider. But still. It’s gorgeous. Also speaking of Jones, the next series of Lady Killer has officially been announced for August! Wahooo!!

Wicked Wednesday: Revival Vol. 1: “You’re Among Friends”

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I know Wicked (Wisconsin) Wednesdays is supposed to be over, but is it really any surprise that I’ve dug up another way to discuss Wisconsin and horror in the same post? Well, it shouldn’t be, anyway. But this time, though, we explore the relationship through a different medium: comics.

My husband bought the first volume of the “rural noir” Revival while we were in Edinburgh for our honeymoon. He read the entire thing on the short flight back to London where he immediately bought the next two volumes that he read shortly after. Revival has been on my to-read list for ages now, considering the premise certainly sounds a lot more my taste than his. But other things have somehow managed to get in the way.

Thank goodness I finally sat down to read this. After finishing the first collected volume of comics, titled “You’re Among Friends,” I immediately saw why this series called for such rapid consumption. Tucked in these pages is one of the most creepy, intriguing and haunting comics I have ever read.

Revival follows a premise that on first glace sounds familiar: the dead have risen and walk the earth again. Only creator Tim Seeley brings something new to the tale. The dead are back, but instead of the brain-hungry zombies we are used to, the revived dead remain much as they were before death.

The story centres around the central-Wisconsin city of Wausau where Officer Dana Cypress tries to balance her life as a single mother with impressing the local sheriff – her father. On the morning of January 2nd, several of the dead in the area came back to life. Somehow this happened in the small, unremarkable countryside of Wisconsin.

The dead coming back to life is obviously a massive deal to the rest of the world. Many religious zealots and scientists alike are trying to gain access to the small community, but it has been quarantined off. Meaning not only can no one get in, but no one can leave.

This creates a very claustrophobic atmosphere for the comic. The cabin fever the characters suffer from make them react in strange ways, especially when so much is left unknown about the dead who have come back, what the locals call “Revivers”.

Dana is asked to join the Revitalized Citizen Arbitration Team, a task-force that her father has started to deal with Reviver-related crime. She immediately botches things up when she brings her younger sister Martha (“Em”) to her first case. Her sister is stabbed by a scythe while trying to protect Dana from an attack by an elderly Reviver. But Dana soon discovers that she knows a Reviver personally when she watches Em heal before her eyes.

The two sister agree to keep Em’s state a secret, but the scene shows that Revivers didn’t come back exactly as they were. They have regeneratitve abilities that make them a bit more extraordinary than the average Wisconsinite.

Though there are more strange going-ons beyond the Revivers. Self-proclaimed demonologist Blaine is making his rounds around the area, “helping” girls who are pretending to be possessed. His motives seem to be quiet sinister as he’s mostly after the strange spirit/demon that seems to be wandering the woods of Wisconsin. He has a brush with Em when he takes journalist May Tao hostage. May was filming a cremation for an article when the Revivers first came back, making her at the centre of getting the story out to the wider world.

Volume one collects only the first five issues of the series, only hinting at the beginning of what is to be a much larger, deeper story. But these first five issues set up a story so fantastic. It’s only enhanced by the wonderful art of Mike Norton, who does such a great job of capturing atmosphere.

Much of what makes Revival so successful is the great attention not only given to the characters, but the setting. Seeley was born and raised in the small suburbs of Wausau, and the realism of the comic makes that so apparent. The dialogue and the characters are ripped right out of any small Wisconsin town. It’s filled with small details like the community of Hmongs that live in Wisconsin (it’s relatively unknown that Wisconsin is home to so many Hmong refugees, the third-largest in the country) and the strange, very Wisconsin way some people are stuck in the past.

In the foreword from Essex County author Jeff Lemire, he describes his feelings growing up in a small farming community, “And maybe it was just me, but death seemed to be everywhere when I was a kid. I can’t tell you how often I was stuck going to a funeral for a great aunt or a second cousin I hardly knew. …. it always seemed like someone was dying.” Further, he discusses a few of the more personal and traumatic deaths he had to deal with. This sentiment struck a particular cord with me. I knew that when I kept moving to bigger and bigger cities, the more people I met, I often realised that I had dealt with a lot more death than they had. Perhaps, like Lemire suggests, this is a part of growing up in a small town where families are often bigger and hardly ever leave.

But death is only a part of Revival‘s story. Much of it is also about what our lives mean to us. Whether that means our family or what we do with our lives while we live it the first time.

Revival is a truly gorgeous comic. I’m so grateful that my husband found this, as I will definitely be reading the next volume soon – and it’s not going to wait this time.

The series is still running, being published by Image comics. Issue #38 is out March 30th.

IDW bring announcements and flannel shirts to MCM Comic Con London

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Comic book publishers IDW brought great conversation to an engaging discussion of ponies, art books and those pesky constant restart comics at a morning panel at MCM Comic Con London.

VP of Marketing at IDW, Dirk Wood, and Comic Book Legal Defense League Fund deputy director Alex Cox ran the panel with a presentation before a Q&A. Wood introduced a number of new books. The big announcement for IDW this weekend was their procurement of the Action Man rights, which was news warmly received by the overwhelmingly British audience.

Also announced were the new Micronauts comic and the Star Trek Starfleet Academy, a title aimed at the young adult demographic. A second Orphan Black book is also in the works with the title “Helsinki”, which any Orphan Black fan who has watched Season 3 will fully understand the meaning. They also spoke about the Star Wars Artist’s Edition that is due to be out later this year. The book will include scans of originals artwork. Artwork that had to be hunted down by buyers from years past.

Amelia Cole artist Nick Brokenshire and comic book writer M Zachary Sherman joined the panel to lend their advice to aspiring comic book creators. In a world that is increasingly open to new comics, Brokenshire and Sherman encouraged the hopefuls to begin creating their own work not only to share it within the industry, but to also use options such as crowd funding as a way to get comics off and running.

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Team Flannel: Brokenshire, Wood, Cox and Sherman at the IDW panel at MCM Comic Con London.

When asked about the new Jem and the Holograms movie that was released this weekend and it’s relationship with the well-received comic, Cook seemed tight-lipped other than saying that they were not approached for anything related to the movie from Universal.

Sherman further explained that several titles are more tightly controlled, like his America’s Army comics. But Wood and the other panelists sang praises of artist Sophie Campbell, who will be returning as artist for issue #11 with Dark Jem.

The group also spent time talking about the ups and downs of comics. There was a general agreement that the constant restarting a comic series may change the way classic characters once were, but that the comic scene has never been more diverse and inclusive.

For a laugh, the group also included some dream crossovers like the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles with Daredevil. Wood explained that at IDW they usually think tank great ideas. When he was working at Dark Horse (where he was for fifteen years before he moved to IDW five years ago) that’s where he saw the birthplace of the idea for Alien vs Predator.

Wood also mentioned that his dream books would be Goonies or Gremlins. IDW spent nearly five years trying to procure the rights to publishing the Back to the Future comics. Hopefully Gremlins will be just around the corner because there’s probably no publisher who could do it better.

Back to the Future issue #1 was released on Wednesday and is in stores now. All attendees were given a copy with an Artist Edition variant cover by Dan Schoening.