RIP Jack Davis

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Where do you begin with Jack Davis? I first saw his work in the UK versions of MAD magazine in the 80s but he had been producing countless numbers of comics, illustrations, record covers and film posters for decades before that. He was one of the original ‘usual gang of idiots’ from US MAD’s inception in the 50s, a regular on Tales From the Crypt, producing the cover for the later issues, as well as war comic Two-Fisted Tales and a ton of other EC Comics. He drew some of the best monsters including the classic Frankenstein which was made into a life-size cut out poster (see below).
He worked for a lot of the MAD-a-like humour titles too like, Sick, Cracked, Help and Panic as well as regular work with publications such as Time and TV Guide. He has a huge body of film posters to his name, It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World being a particular classic, which in turn led to record sleeves for the soundtracks. From here he drew sleeves for music from rock to country to brass bands to soul, I have a particularly great Sesame Street album with Davis art all over it which I’ll post soon.
He was a legend of comic art, up there with Jack Kirby and Moebius, RIP

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Spider-Man Music 1967-69 (ALL Background Music)

This is SO awesome – all the background music by Ray Ellis from the first season plus some from seasons 2 and 3 of the late 60s Spider-man cartoon series. Check the tracks at 54:52 and 1:04:50 ! YouTube user 11db11 explained how he put it all together:

“I cut out every piece of music from all 3 seasons (that took like a month) – Then I grouped them together (multiple incidents of each song) – Then I built each song from the best parts of the multiple versions. – I had to EQ each individual clip to even the levels, bass, treble … – – I left the video alone so people could see where the clips came from.”

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Judge Dredd: The Cursed Earth uncensored signing

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The Gosh Comics signing of the new Judge Dredd ‘The Cursed Earth uncensored’ book was smash hit on Saturday. When I arrived the queue snaked out of the shop, across the road and round the block and they’d just sold out of the graphic novel in question. A quick run to the nearby Orbital Comics revealed the same and Forbidden Planet too. No joy but I did manage to get a snap of the legends, Mike McMahon and Brian Bolland inside the shop before I departed – not a wasted journey at all.

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In case you’re wondering what all the fuss was about, the story in question was the first ever Judge Dredd ‘epic’ (ie. a multi-issue story that spanned over 20 issues) that ran in 2000AD back in 1978. Several episodes featured characters from the McDonalds, Burger King and Jolly Green Giant companies who swiftly slapped the comic with a legal warning that these properties were their copyright. Since the original issues, all reprints of the story have been missing these episodes but recent changes in the law meant that they can now be restored because they fall into the parody category and thus, don’t infringe on copyright as they once did.

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From what I’ve seen, the new hardback version is beautifully restored and features both character and career-defining artwork from McMahon and Bolland, the only artists on the strip, alongside writer Pat Mills. Co-incidentally, the first issue of the comic I ever picked up, as an impressionable eight year old, contained the first episode of the story and I was hooked. I even went so far as to commission Mike to recreate his cover for that prog (61) for me a few years back. The initial print run is now apparently sold out so good luck in tracking one down.

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Smut and Jeff comic kickstarter

Smut n Jeff promoThis is a new comic Kickstarter from Kody Camberlain (remember Punks – the comic that I raved about last year?) This time round Kody is writing rather than illustrating. It’ll be a 5 issue, 32 pgs per issue, series if it gets funded and I think many of a certain age will identify with the story’s angle, below:

“SMUT AND JEFF is not a porn story, it’s a story about scarcity. It’s an homage to the quest for those unattainable treasures of youth before the internet took hold of humanity. A time when search engines were librarians and encyclopedias. Beyond that, and unknown to many, there was a secret underground of information spoken softly in certain areas of the cafeteria and the movie theater parking lot. With enough information, a bold teenager might venture into an unknown neighborhood to purchase a hip hop album the stores wouldn’t dare carry. SMUT AND JEFF is a tribute to those noble quests of the 80s, and the adventurous youth that dared embark on the adventure.”

Read the 6 page preview and then maybe check out the different packages on the Kickstarter? You can get original art, meet the creators or even be drawn into the book

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Hunt Emerson advertising illustrations

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(Above) An advert for the Forever People comic shop in Bristol, taken from issue 4 of Street Comix (ArZak 1977) (Below) A pair of lesser-seen ads by Hunt from the back pages of Sounds, the Xmas one being from Oct 11th 1980. You can see how much more detailed his style was at the start of the decade.

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(Below) Emerson‘s Jester character on the warpath for a Knockabout comics carrier bag from the late ’80s. Hunt EmersonKnockaboutbag80s

Unseen Vaughn Bode story from 1968 unearthed

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Amazing! From Mark Bodé‘s Facebook page:

“Never before published Vaughn Bode story. Vaughn presented this to his college professor at Syracuse University as a gift. Its so great to see new stuff after 41 years like finding a new unrecorded song by Jimi Hendrix out of the blue. This has risen up for auction at Heritage Auctions May 13th and 14th by the family it was gifted to. Thanks to John P Rovnak for bringing it to my attention. I was able to save large files for future printing of the art. Enjoy!!!”

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2000AD Free Comic Book Day issue

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As is usual each May, in the same way as Record Store Day, we have Free Comic Book Day (FCBD) upon us soon – May 7th to be precise. 2000AD has its own issue again with a mixture of new and reprint material. Henry Flint, who has provided covers for the last 3 years, has a strip inside and it’s Mike Allred who graces this year’s issue. As far as I’m aware this is his first work for the comic and he pays more than a tip of the hat to Brian Bolland with his Dredd pose here. Trying to break into the American market the comic has commissioned another American artist, Eric Powell of ‘The Goon’ fame, to provide interior art too.

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Here we have a large portion of my 2000AD collection, a comic I’ve read since I was 8 years old, fast approaching issue 2000 itself. It’s time for these issues to go to another place, to people who will read them rather than being tucked away in my studio as some of them have for decades now. I’ve kept the first 600 issues (another 3 boxes) for purely nostalgic reasons plus the last 18 months worth but these approx 1200 issues will be going to Orbital Comics next week to do with what they will. Just in time for Free Comic Book Day and only a few months short of the comic’s 2000th issue in September.

2000ADs to go

The excellent documentary about the comic’s history – ‘Future Shock’ – was just shown on TV and is currently available to view online for the next month in the UK via Channel 4. I also found about 25 doubles of very early issues including no.20, issue 100 and more, they’ll be going with these too.

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Here’s a few scans of images that caught my eye as I went through them: Brendan McCarthy masquerading at ‘Loaf’, a couple of Dredds by the incomparible John Hicklenton (RIP) and some pages from a beautiful Ace Trucking Co. story. No one draws the cosmos quite like Massimo Belardinelli.

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Tharg’s Future Shocks

2000ADFS pg1Whilst recently going through many boxes of old 2000AD comics, before I send them off to a better home, I ran across this little Future Shock story in Prog 672 – Mar 31, 1990 – which did something a little different with the comic medium. Written by Paul Carstairs (not a name I’m familiar with) and drawn by old hand Massimo Belardinelli, it starts out as you would expect but quickly takes a new turn. All copyright is 2000AD/Rebellion
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Rough Trade 40 book

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I’m very chuffed to have an interview with Savage Pencil aka Edwin Pouncey in the new Rough Trade book celebrating 40 years of the shop and associated labels. Just published by Thurston Moore‘s Ecstatic Peace imprint it’s packed with scrapbook-like anecdotes, photos, poems, drawings and interviews by a who’s who of the independent scene.

My piece runs to five pages and covers SavX‘s career from aspiring cartoonist and early employee of the Portobello shop to Blast First cover artist and abstract painter with Battle Of The Eyes. The interview was so long that I had to cut it down by more than half so I’ll publish the full thing here with many illustrations once the book has been out a while.

*Also – there’s a free John Grant one-sided 45 with etched B side if you buy the book from Rough Trade shops

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ROM Returns

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Hands up who remembers ROM: The Space Knight? The character has been tied up with rights-holders Hasbro for years to my knowledge but it looks like that’s been sorted now. He’s coming back via IDW for Free Comic Book Day this year:
“Rom the Space Knight #0 will feature an introductory 10-page story of Rom’s arrival on Earth, an incident that sets up an ongoing Rom series launching in July 2016.”  Great cover by Zach Howard and Nelson Daniel

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Pork free magazine from Goblinko

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I found this by the door of a record shop along with all the other piles of free magazines the other day. It’s nice to see something like this in amongst the slickly designed, oh-so-cool others that vie for your attention. Crammed full of alt. / weirdo / mondo / trash / whatever you want to call it culture and proud of it. Goblinko is a store in the States that sells all sorts from badges to posters to T-shirts, records and fanzines. There’s not many left like this

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Ted McKeever’s ‘Pencil Head’

Pencilhead1+2Ted McKeever fans – he’s been back making comics on his own terms for a while now but Pencil Head might just be the best yet. A thinly disguised McKeever is a main character in a career-referencing look at life as a comic creator working in the industry. He’s pursued by his own personal demon and there’s all sorts of other weirdness going on in a strip peppered with the kind of oddball characters he does best.

Past works get referenced (Transit, Metropol, Eddy Current and more) which make it a joy for the fans to spot the little cameos. It’s only 2 issues in but it’s a lot more fun than his recent angst-ridden output. A one of a kind comic creator making a book about being just this in an industry that wants everyone to fit the same mold.

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Samplerman

SamplermanArmzI really like what this guy does. Comics and collage, two of my favourite things combined, especially when it’s this out there. He’s doing a similar thing to what Cyriak does with film in some instances but the subject matter that’s being used also makes some of his work reminiscent of Robert Williams‘ paintings too. There is a ton of this and much more to view on the Samplerman tumblr

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Highlights of 2015

2015 Albums
They say that creativity flourishes under oppression and bleak times and it’s been a great year for music so there must be a grain of truth there. In an effort to glean something positive to remember 2015 by in light of all the injustice and hate out there in the world, here are some of my favourite things, in no order whatsoever.

There were several amazing music releases that went far beyond the normal album format – the main one being Aphex Twin‘s incredible Soundcloud dump of archive tracks which continue to drip out and now number over 200 tracks even if he has taken a lot of them down now. If there’s a ‘release’ of the year then that wins hands down although I’m still trying to process it all and tried to compile a selection of the cream in this mix for Solid Steel but bear in mind that that was when he’d only released half of it so by it’s no means definitive.
The other mega-release that deserves special mention is Rammellzee‘s ‘Cosmic Flush’ magnum opus that’s still in the process of materializing in a physical format. Released across seven 12″s with one track + remix + instrumentals + art print each, to be collected in a limited box with booklet around Spring 2016, it’s taken a huge effort by the Gamma Proforma label to bring to fruition seven years after the record’s completion and five years after Rammellzee’s death. It’s been a vintage year for independent Hip Hop too with great albums by Divine Styler, Ollie Teeba, Memory Man and The Fabreeze Brothers.
It’s nice to see the Leaf label celebrating 20 years of existence and still as vital as ever with Melt Yourself Down, Polar Bear, Radioland and new signing The Comet Is Coming all releasing excellent records this year. One last mention must go to the album at the top of the list below that crept out under everyone’s noses on Record Store Day and has slowly been gathering attention through word of mouth in the last eight months. So much so that it won the Dead Albatross Music Prize – an alternative to the Mercury award set up by independent Norman Records to nominate records that would otherwise be passed over at such things. If you only listen to one album from the list below, make it the Annabel (lee) one.

Albums:
Annabel (lee) – By The Sea & Other Solitary Places (If Music/Ninja Tune)
Rammellzee – Cosmic Flush (Gamma Proforma)
Divine Styler – Def Mask (Gamma Proforma) (technically 2014)
Memory Man – Broadcast One (Chopped Herring)
Eagles of Death Metal – Zipper Down
Jane Weaver – The Amber Light (Bird)
Cavern Of Anti-Matter – Blood Music (Grautag Records) (technically 2013)
The The – Hyena (Death Waltz)
The Fabreeze Brothers – S/T (AE Productions)
Markey Funk – Instinct (Audio Montage) (released fully in Jan 2016)
Aphex Twin – Soundcloud Archive dump
Amon Tobin – Dark Jovian EP (Ninja Tune)
Radioland – Radio-Activity Revisited (Leaf)
Ollie Teeba – Short Order (World Expo)
Kurt Stenzel – Jodorowsky’s Dune (Light In The Attic)
Various Artists – The Delaware Road (Buried Treasure)
Floating Points – Elaenia (Pluto)
Morgan Delt – S/T (Trouble In Mind) (technically 2014)
Gaz Coombes – Matador (Universal)
Black Devil – Disco Club (Lo Recordings)
Bruce Ditmas – Yellow Dust (Finders Keepers)
Rodinia – Drumside / Dreamside (Now Again)
Various Artists – In A Moment (Ghost Box)
Jaga Jazzist – Starfire (Ninja Tune)

Tracks:
a few of these are from a few years ago but new to me…
Noel Gallagher – The Right Stuff (Sour Mash)
Graeme Miller & Steve Shill – Moomins Theme (Finders Keepers)
The The – Everybody Wants To Go To Heaven But Nobody Wants To Die) (Cineola)
The Comet Is Coming – Neon Baby (Leaf)
Reso – Richochet (Hospital)
Black Channels – Oracles (Death Waltz Originals)
Paul Rutherford – Get Real (Hardcore) (1989)
Beck – Dreams (Capitol)
Band of Skulls – Hootchie Cootchie (Ignition Records) (2014)
Pond – Zond (EMI)
Ash Grunwald – Walking (2011 but via the Amorphous Androgynous ‘Wizards of Oz’ 2015 RSD comp)
Olivier Libaux – No One Knows (feat. Inara George) (2013)
Alan Copeland – Mission Impossible/Norwegian Wood (ABC) (1968!)

Packaging 2015

Design / packaging / covers:
so many incredibly high quality creations, a oglden age for record sleeve packaging and design…
Science Fiction Dancehall Classics compilation (Trevor Jackson) (On-U Sound)
The The – Hyena (Cineola / Death Waltz/Mondo)
Kurt Stenzel – Jodorowsky’s Dune (Signal Starr) (Light In The Attic)
Jaga Jazzist – Starfire (Ninja Tune)
Tame Impala – Currents (Robert Beatty)
The ‘Beat Bop’ record case (Jean-Michel Basquiat)
Grasscut – Everyone Was A Bird (Lo Recordings)

Artists2015

Artists:
Dan Lish
Kim Jung Gi
Signal Starr
Oddly Head
Ameet Hindocha
Reuben Sutherland
Stan & Vince
Jonathan Edwards
Laurie Lipton
Larry Carlson

Books2015

Books / Comics:
Augustine Kofie – Keep Drafting (ZERO+ Publishing)
Stephen Coates – X-Ray Audio (Strange Attractor Press)
Roger Perry – The Writing On The Wall (Plain Crisp Books Ltd)
Hanson, Godtland & Krassner – Psychedelic Sex (Taschen)
Island – Various (Image)
Sandman: Overture – Gaiman/Williams (Vertigo)
Ody-C – Fraction/Ward (Image)
8-House – Various (Image)
B.P.R.D: Hell On Earth – Various (Dark Horse)
Punks: The Comic – Fialkov/Chamberlain (Image)
Judge Dredd: Enceladus – New Life – Williams / Flint (2000AD)

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Exhibitions:
Peter Kennard at the Imperial War Museum
Charles & Ray Eames at the Barbican
Cosmonauts at the Science Museum
X-Ray Audio at the Horse Hospital
Trevor Jackson / Format at the Vinyl Factory space
Zulu Nation 42nd Anniversary at House of Vans

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Film / TV: (I really didn’t watch much this year)
Mad Max: Fury Road
Star Wars : The Force Awakens
Love & Mercy
Dune The Complete Saga (Fan edit)
‘Colossus: The Forbin Project’
Rick & Morty

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Moments:
The X-Wing Fighter flying overhead during Star Wars Secret Cinema
The Frankie Goes To Hollywood box set getting nominated for an AIM award for best box set design
Interviewing Edwin Pouncey aka Savage Pencil for a forthcoming book
Getting to wear a full Stormtrooper suit whilst DJing during Star Wars Secret Cinema
DJ Shadow & Cut Chemist – Renegades of Rhythm show at Koko
Writing a piece and creating a mix about Rammellzee for the Quietus
The moving sale finds at Lambiek in Amsterdam
Crazy scenes at the Southbank for the Big Fish Little Fish free Sunday session

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Heroes:
Ben Coghill (again) for being the best agent in the business
The NHS – for saving my mum’s life and generally being incredible
Joshu Docherty – for recommending me for Star Wars Secret Cinema
Jeremy Corbyn – for giving hope that there can be an alternative
Sarah Coleman & Leigh Adams – for releasing their first film, making unique and
interesting things and generally being great people
Pete Williams – for getting the keys to the basement
Shindig! magazine – for overcoming the odds and turning a bad situation to their advantage
Pete Isaac & Scott Boca 45 for getting the whole 45 Live crew together and building an international collective
Everyone who gave their time and dug through their collections to contribute to the weekly Flexibition posts on the site: Jonny Trunk, Pete Isaac, Jon Brooks, Markey Funk & Ofer Tal, Stephen Coates, Jon More, John Stapleton, Steve Cook, Anton Armtone, Sarah & Leigh, Spencer Hickman.

RIP:
Mike Allen (Legendary Hip Hop DJ), Lemmy, Demis Roussos, The Pizz, Don Joyce (Negativland), Shusei Nagaoka, Kája Saudek, Errol Brown (Hot Chocolate), Daevid Allen (Gong), Leonard Nimoy, Brett Ewins, Noriyoshi Ohrai, Rod McKuen, Edgar Froese (Tangerine Dream), Mark B.

Looking forward to:
Transmission shop opening in Margate
David Bowie – Black Star LP
Mute 40 book
The Black Channels LP
The Allergies – Rock Rock feat. Andy Cat (Ugly Duckling)
Prophet: Earth War

Jamie Hewlett ‘The Suggestionists’ at the Saatchi Gallery

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I finally got round to checking out the Jamie Hewlett exhibition at the Saatchi Gallery just before Xmas. Split into three sections – colour renditions of the Tarot, Russ Meyer-esque posters of his wife as ‘Honey X‘, and B&W tree studies – it was good to see him pushing out of his comfort zone. The huge tarot images are in the style we know and love him for but all the pieces looked like prints rather than original art which was disappointing.

Hewlett_HoneyX2The Honey X fake film posters were enclosed in a black draped section that added to the seedy B-Movie vibe, their luminous glow alluding to the kind of dimly lit emporiums that would show such films. It’s hard to equate Hewlett with them as there’s so little of his established style visible. They weren’t bad per se, but I found it hard to care too much about them aside from the odd nicely observed graphic design placement here and there.

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Much has been made of the tree studies and they are a revelation in that you can see his hand in the execution but they couldn’t be further from his usual source material. In recent years there’s been a stripping down of Hewlett’s style, a minimizing in detail and the stark contrasts of the tree images and some of the tarot remind me a lot of Mike Mignola’s work about 20 years ago when he first started drawing Hellboy. Since then Mike’s stripped his own style back even further and it will be interesting to see where Hewlett is in two decades time.

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Is this the point where comic artists in the UK finally start to be accepted into the fine art world? What with this and the Comics Unmasked exhibition at the British Library last year could this be the tipping point that sees the UK catch up with our friends on the continent? Could we one day see major retrospective shows of the likes that Crumb, Hergé and Moebius have been afforded overseas in some of our major galleries? It’s been happening for years in comic shops and minor spaces but the Saatchi is a big player and tastemaker. The exhibition has been extended until January 3rd so there’s still time to catch it and it’s free.

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