Marc Bell – ‘Boof’ and ‘Hep’ comics

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Back at some point in the early 90s I found an odd comic called Hep in the old Gosh! comic shop when it was across the road from the British Museum. I had no idea what it was about and had never heard of the artist but the artwork was cool and it was a bizarre mix of weird and crazed nonsense so I bought it. It’s an oddity alright, full of strange turns of phrase and stream of conscious madness and I always looked for a second issue but never found one.
Now that we have the power of the internet at our fingertips I found myself googling it the other week and finding out more about the artist and author, Marc Bell, and seeing if a #2 did ever materialise. Seems it didn’t as Hep was the second of two different titles he made for Calibre Press that flopped before he moved on to doing weekly strips for Canadian free mag Exclaim. I used to pick up copies of this on tours of Canada in the mid 90s and I’m pretty sure I have some of his strips somewhere, extracted from various issues because I liked the look of them. While reading this Comics Journal interview with Bell I chanced upon this flyer for an exhibition opening featuring my good friend DJ Wig (now Ghostbeard – head of Ninja Tune North America) on the bill.
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Anyway, all this to say that, during a weekend trip to Amsterdam where I had the good fortune to strike it lucky at Lambiek (post forthcoming), I happened upon a comic called Boof which looked interesting. It wasn’t until I got it home that I realised it was by the same artist and a quick internet search revealed that these two were his first ‘proper’ comics and hard to find now. No Hep #2 but something as good as.

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Artifacts #19 – Copying Robert Williams

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Back in early 1989 – aged 18 – I was going out with a girl who loved Guns n’ Roses‘ debut album with a passion. Wanting to make something personal for her as a present before her birthday I decided to paint a version of Robert Williams’ cover image from the original album cover (it was later replaced when the group blew up commercially). What I was thinking I don’t know what with the very dodgy subject matter it contained but that’s the fog of love for you.

I’d discovered Williams’ work a few years before via Zap Comix and loved this painting, despite the sexually assaulted woman (lord knows what she’d have thought of it, had it been finished). I set about copying it as accurately as possible in acrylics on a large piece of thick card, primed and gridded out to get the proportions correct. Below are a couple of in-progress shots I found from ’89 and you can see that I was enjoying painting the orange monster to start with. The chrome elements were incredibly difficult (and boring) to paint given the small reproduction I was working from (an LP cover borrowed from a friend, that I still have, sorry whoever has a sleeveless copy from back then).

Appetite_copy_progress1 March89 Appetite_copy_progress2 March89I’d covered up the lower part of the image, partly to stop it getting dirty as I was generally leaning on the bottom half but mostly because I was still living with my parents and I was embarrassed about the subject matter of the assaulted woman. I wasn’t looking forward to painting that part at all if truth be told but it was integral to the original. As it turned out I never got to because she dumped me about a month before her birthday, any impetus to finish it vanished instantly and it was filed away in an old portfolio.

Appetite_copy_detail6 Appetite_copy_detail2 Appetite_copy_detail3 Appetite_copy_detail4Appetite_copy_detail5Appetite_copy_detail7Over the years I’ve spotted it whilst rifling through the folder, pulled it out a few times and admired the level of dedication I must have had to go to such lengths. I recently shot details of some of the more finished bits to share here, you can see the layers of acrylic paint in parts and I was working with totally inadequate brushes, some with only a few hairs for tiny details.

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One day I’ll have to finish it, just so all that work doesn’t go to waste but I’ve no desire to include the stricken woman so maybe I’ll paint something else in her place. As much as I admire Williams’ work – and copying this gave me a next level appreciation of the techniques he used – his depiction of the woman in this piece is the only thing I’m not a fan of.

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DJ Food featured in the PHONO+GRAPHIC exhibition, Kendal

Food_Flintx4My last album cover (The Search Engine, 4-panel vinyl edition) that I collaborated on with Henry Flint is the first cover you see in an exhibition of record sleeves by comic artists entitled PHONO+GRAPHIC, curated by artist Sean Phillips.

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This is a bit of a dream come true for me, to be one of 60 sleeves displayed alongside artists like Brian Bolland, Dave Gibbons, Brett Ewins, Hunt Emerson and Moebius!

IMG_2004 It opens next week at the Kendal Museum and will be on until the 20th October, including the weekend of the Lakes International Comic Art Festival. Many thanks to Sean for selecting the cover completely unbeknownst to me until he’d announced the exhibit and framing it so nicely.

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Photos taken from Sean’s blog and here’s more info

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Island

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I can’t say enough good things about the new anthology comic Island. Put together by Brandon Graham and Emma Rios it’s a collection of stories by all manner of artists working in the field from the well known, the lesser known to first timers. There’s no over-arching themes although visions of future societies do feature largely but these aren’t super hero, big brawl shoot ’em up comics, they’re about ideas, relationships and a bigger picture. Some strips are self-contained and some continue in the next issue, some even continue several issues later and the hit rate per issue is high.

Issue 3 just came out – worth it for the Faryl Dalrymple cover alone (above) – you can see previews over on the comic’s tumblr and order digital versions from Image if print copies are hard to find. What’s also refreshing is that it contains no ads whatsoever and all the usual publisher guff is kept to the smallest possible point size in the most inconspicuous place so you get the maximum amount of comics and the minimum amount of distraction. There’s no standard Island logo either so each issue looks different but you can tell it from other standard comics as it’s larger and has a perfect bound spine rather than staples.

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New comics for September

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I’ve not done a comics round-up in a while and I don’t think I’ve bought an issue of Heavy Metal (well, not a current one) for over 20 years either. But the Jack Kirby cover on this months issue made me pick it up and plenty of the other content inside was a pleasant surprise. What with Grant Morrison promised as editor in future issues then it might be time to return to it.
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Brandon Graham and co. continue to redefine what comics can be with the anthology title, Island and issue 3 of 8House with some of the most fantastic art by Penalta, part Moebius, part Geof Darrow.
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These three titles from Mike Mignola‘s Hellboy universe are always on the pull list. B.P.R.D. is a fully functioning title of its own now with most of the main characters absent from its pages but enough slow-burn story line to keep me hooked. The Ape Sapien spin-off is still good and finally going somewhere, there’s going to be one almighty pay-off soon, I can feel it. And here’s the annual issue of Hellboy (in Hell) from Mike although we are promised another before the year is out. It’s great to have him back on the art with this and no doubt it will run and run as Hellboy wanders the different levels of the Underworld.
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I dithered on Low when it first came out but recently read the first 6 issues in the trade and it’s excellent, so now I’m catching up with the monthlies. The world has been irradiated and mankind has gone underwater to survive with various warring factions, cities and more, the art is gorgeous and it’s a fresh take on a dystopian scenario.
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This Damned Band is a fun re-imagining of a 70s rock band (Led Zeppelin basically) told in a Spinal Tap-esque documentary style with the feigned Devil worship more real than a fashion pose and East of West is always on the list along with Black Science, Saga and Ody-C. Other series’ in various stages of completion not featured: The Surface, Nameless, Empty Zone, Lady Mechanika, Kaptara, Space Riders and Sandman Overture. Roll on Xmas for the beginning of the end of Brandon Graham’s Prophet epic too after a wait of a year.
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Cliff Robinson

JD MegaColAlienNationsCliff Robinson has been knocking out some stunning Judge Dredd pieces for 2000ad over the years and the cover of The Mega Collection #15 (on sale now) is another – a similar riff to a Mike McMahon cover for 2000ad back in the late 70s. He’s also recreated another McMahon, complete with surrounding graphics, below for a commission some years back. Keeping with the homages he referenced the poster for Clint Eastwood vehicle ‘The Gauntlet’ for the Lille Comic Con poster recently too.
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Look-In magazine covers

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Painted covers for the UK weekly magazine/comic Look-In from a huge online collection over at Comic Vine.
I used to get this in the late 70s and early 80s although I’m not sure I had many of these issues. The mag was full of tie-ins with TV, film and music with features, comic strips, interviews and posters. They sure had favourites as well, Steve Austin – The Six Million Dollar Man was on so many covers and DJ Ed ‘Stewpot’ Stewart seemed to rule for a period in the 70s (check for two of him inside the gallery below).

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Brian Bolland Forbidden Planet illustrations

BollandFPgang(Above) A rare Brian Bolland image for Forbidden Planet sans the “People Like Us Shop At…” line. (Below) An even older advert when FP was in Denmark St.
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UPDATE: Martin Ward just sent me several snaps of original bags he still has. The one of the old man in the circle is one of my favourites, would love to have that on a T-shirt. That bottom one of Zirk for Eternal Comics may well be Garry Leach actually, not Bolland.

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Further Update: I found this in an old sketchbook and in an effort to keep these things together, have include it below Brian Bolland FP flyer

The Mercy Giants ‘We Think So Loud’

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Here’s a late 80s oddity that I was turned onto recently by Steve Cook – he of Secret Oranges fame. A 1988 Acid House 12″ made by the late, great Brett Ewins among others that comes with an 8pg B&W ‘lyric sheet’ featuring the art of Brendan McCarthy, Steve Dillon, Jamie Hewlett, Shaky Kane, Philip Bond, Jamie Hewlett and more.
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The tracks themselves are primitive attempts to make Acid House (without the aid of the all-important Roland 303 by the sound of it) but have a period charm to them. Brett intones creepily over the top of the A side sounding like a riled up Timothy Leary on speed. The B side houses two instrumental cuts with ‘The Church of Acid’ coming on like Bam Bam with a sledgehammer and there IS a snatch of 303 but it sounds sampled and slightly out of time.

‘Dr. Microdot’ is a shorter version of same with the addition of an unidentified voice asking you to relax (we’ve all been there) and both tracks suffer from a lack of a decent arrangement, stumbling along with samples and effects being randomly thrown in and out of the mix. I’m being unkind but it’s fair to say they haven’t aged well although the fact that they were made in the middle of the second summer of love gives them a certain kudos. I’m wondering if the Ken Thomas credited with producing this fascinating artifact is the same one who has worked with everyone from Queen to the Cocteau‘s?

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There’s even a video for a shorter version of the A side featuring Brett spouting his gobbledegook lyrics.


The artwork is the gold here and the free comic is basically of lot of the early gang of artists responsible for Deadline taking a page each and letting rip with whatever they feel is appropriate. Brendan, Philip and Shaky come up with some crackers but I’m not sure where Jamie’s contribution is exactly unless he collaborated with someone and isn’t credited. Ron Merlin, an early Deadline character, makes an appearance but it’s not clear if he is supposed to be the voice on the A side. There’s very little about it on the web but I love these musical comic crossovers (the Madness off-shoot ‘Mutants of Mega City One’ is another) even if the sounds often play second fiddle to the artwork.

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RIP Kája Saudek

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I’ve spent most of the evening looking at the work of Kája Saudek – a Czech artist and designer who worked in comics and created film posters – after being tipped off about him by Markey Funk. Markey had just visited ‘Batalion’, a bar and museum in Prague dedicated to the man and thought I would like the work. He was right, check out all that amazing detail and hand drawn typography – what a find.
I’d seen the Barbarella poster before but never checked on the name, the rest was new to me, a mixture of Rockin’ Jellybean, Robert Williams with shades of Moebius in places. Sadly, upon checking the wikipedia entry it seems that Saudek died the same day that I discovered him after spending nine years in a coma at a hospital in Prague. Art like this can never die though, he left a huge body of work for us all to enjoy.

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Carl Oglesby by Dave Sheridan

Carl_Oglesby_DaveSheridanwebI found this Carl Oglesby album with a cover illustrated by Dave Sheridan, the comic artist who worked on titles like Dealer McDope, The Leather Nun and some of The Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers. Now sadly deceased, Dave’s work is always hyper detailed and tripped out, I featured another of his covers some years back, an Impulse Jazz compilation – I wonder if he ever did any more record sleeves?

Dave Sheridan Impulse LP

Christian Ward ODY-C signing at Gosh! Comics

spacemanI met Christian Ward last Friday when he signed copies of the new trade paperback of his and Matt Fraction‘s ‘ODY-C’, at Gosh! Comics, an epic psychedelic space take on The Odyssey with the roles reversed. If you like your female leads strong and ruthless, your Gods devious and wrathful and your art cosmic then this is the book for you, a gritty, multi-layered take on a classic with out of this world page layouts and colour.

Ward meets Food
(Photo © Gosh! Comics 2015)
He was kind enough to do me a quick Cyclops sketch and Gosh! are selling the lovely Spaceman print above for a very reasonable £20 which looks beautiful framed in my studio.

Ward Cyclops sketchSpaceman framed

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Star Wars seen from two different fan perspectives

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This bit of Star Wars fan fiction is doing the rounds on the web right now and with good cause as it’s visualised and told (wordlessly I might add) beautifully. From a short scene in Return of the Jedi, Daniel Warren Johnson has created an 11 page comic expanding outwards to before and after the event, imagining what led to and ultimately resulted from it.
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The scene is the one where an A-Wing pilot, realising he’s hit and little can save him, turns kamikaze and crashes headlong into Darth Vader‘s Super Star Destroyer Executor causing a chain reaction that causes it to crash into the Death Star surface. Warren Johnson says “For some reason, this A wing pilot MOVED me. Everything about this part of Return of the Jedi made me want to DRAW and CREATE. This is a fan fiction comic I made in April, just because I love this scene and I love comics.”
It’s superbly realised and heartbreaking despite the huge rebel victory that resulted as he’s added a human element to the mix. Also check out his sci-fi web comic, Space Mullet, while you’re there.

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Another bit of Star Wars fan fiction dealing with alternate viewpoints of the saga’s characters is the Tie Fighter animated short I featured a while back. I just noticed that there’s also a poster and extensive background character notes for the seven minute plus Manga-style film by Paul Johnson what has the Empire as the heroes (they always did have the best designs).

Christian Ward ‘Space Mother’ print + ODY-C launch party

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For those of you who like their sci-fi cosmic with a huge dose of psychedelic (and stir in a portion of Greek mythology in this case) then there is no comic more suited than ODY-C by Matt Fraction & Christian Ward. Below are four of six prints that Christian will be debuting at Heroes con next month. For those not in the US (me), Christian will be signing at Gosh Comics on Friday 12th June when the trade collection of the first five issues of ODY-C is released.
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