The Gods of The Wicked and the Divine - part 2

By now, all 13 of the gods of the latest recurrence have been revealed (yes, we'll get to that), as well as a few extras from past cycles. So we're overdue for an update.

Spoilers? Damn straight, spoilers.

We covered previously revealed gods: Lucifer, Baal, Woden, Amaterasu, Sakhmet, Morrigan, Baphomet, Minerva, Innana, Tara, Ananke, and Susanoo (1923) in an earlier post

This is loosely based on WicDiv #1-28 and the 1831 stand-alone story Modern Romance (eighteen-thirty-oneshot?).

So, who's who who's new?


The dancefloor that walks like a man. Bacchus to the Romans, he's easy to think of as a jolly, tubby party god. Dionysus is god of wine and grape harvest, drama, ritual madness, and springtime fertility. But WicDiv didn't pick comedy Bacchus. This is a younger, leaner Dionysus, something more like the ephebic trickster of Greek drama.

His emblem is a grape bunch of little pills, and he looks like an archetypal raver kiddie. Gillen, naturally, points us to Spaced.

Cults of Dionysus have appeared on and off at least as far back as the pre-Greek Minoan period (about 2000 bc), and his worship has a consistent element of mystery and the ecstatic.

Dionysiac mysteries (the practice of his cults) blended dance, frenzy, drugs, booze and trance states in their worship. There was an outsider element, too - sexual and social transgression, and a hint of danger.

In Euripides' The Bacchae, Dionysus (a young god, with human relatives) is decried by Pentheus, ruler of Thebes - and his cousin - as both a fraud and a public menace.  His response doesn't do much to address the latter: he initiates the women of the town into the ranks of his most hardcore followers, the Maenads, and in their frenzy they tear Pentheus apart with their bare hands. Imagine cleaning up after that party.

In WicDiv, Dionysus is a good guy(ish) with something moving under the surface. Laura calls him "the best of them" and he does not leap to agree. Self-proclaimed as a lover not a fighter, he tries to keep his hivemind safe in #21's face-off at Valhalla. But he mucks in with Amaterasu's cult and Woden's experiments, and it's worth remembering he's a god with strong underworld associations. Mythically, one who visits the underworld, and one of few that have brought souls back.  

So far, The Wicked and the Divine has shown us a Dionysus with an undercurrent of danger, rather than full-blown bloody bacchanal. He pops his signature Thyrsus staff as neon nunchaku at Valhalla, but we don't see it elsewhere.

In Greek tragedy, the Dionysiac is often set in opposition to the Apolline. That is to say - kind of - chaos vs order. They're different takes on the ideal of kouros - smokin' hot muscle twinks, basically; one side all Preppy College Boy, the other all Scuzzy Sk8r Boi. Apollo is prophecy, fate, and structure. Dionysus is more free-for-all: emotive and chaotic. The impulses frequently clash in Greek literature, and it's picked up in Hegel and Nietzsche's respective takes on tragic theory.

Interesting then, that Gillen and McKelvie's Dionysus, while emotive and ecstatic, feels far less chaotic, even explicitly choosing study over anarchy in #26

Also conspicuously absent: relentless penises. 

Dionysus is a dick god. Not like Woden. Like, he's just all about the dicks. They're his symbol, and they're everywhere in his representations. Some of his followers would wear giant strap-ons in religious ceremonies and processions. Bring that one back, I say - really spice up the church fete. 

Urdr & The Norns


Like Baphomet and Lucifer, The Norns are in the not-quite-gods camp. Imagine the Greco-Roman fates, but Norse. They're three (usually) powerful giants who sit at the foot of the world-tree Yggdrasil, keeping it watered from the well of Uror.

Seen as law makers and arbiters of fate, one reading which might be particularly interesting for WicDiv is that they set the length (as well as course) of mortal lives. 

In this recurrence, their symbol is Yggdrasil, and it's deliciously fitting  that Urdr should be Cassandra. Prophetic gods are a nice echo for her name, as is their journalistic investigation of the pantheon. 

Unlike Amaterasu, Lucifer, and especially Woden, Cass attempts to keep her name, rather than leaning on "Urdr". She's cast by the others as the token grown-up, and is, frankly, done with their nonsense. She gest some of the very finest "what is this fresh crap" reaction beats:

There's a lot of really interesting identity stuff cohered around Cassandra/Urdr. It's dissected brief in her fight with Woden over his cheap crack about their apotheosis and previous identities, versus her transition. Her discomfort at having to perform the role of Urdr is palpable, as is her discomfort at the crowds just not getting it.

A skeptic become a god, with the name of a disbelieved prophet, disbelieved in turn when she tries to tell the world there are no gods and there is no prophecy. Tough gig.

In the Snorri Sturluson version of Norse myth (a 13th century monastic compilation of the old tales) there are many Norns, drawn from many races. In particular, from men, dwarves, and elves. This may give us the visual touchstone for Verdani and Skuld - one willowy, one shorter and broader.  

She was the last good to be "found" by Ananke, or at least so we thought until we met...


Issue 11: exploded head on the cover, 12 gods revealed, "It's going to be ok" on the flyleaf. Boom. Laura is Persephone. Persephone is dead. Grab a pomegranate and strap in.

Persephone's pretty well known as a concept: a stolen celestial daughter, spending half (sometimes a third of) her year in the underworld, her absence/return signifying the transition of winter into spring. 

She's also deeply entangled with one of classical Greek religion's oldest mystery cults, and has back-story continuity arguments that make Madelyne Pryor look like some weaksauce Spot's First Walk intelligibility. 

Persephone was a daughter of Demeter, goddess of harvest and agriculture. She was abducted by Hades, ruler of the underworld. In searching for her, Demeter created a great drought and famine, pressuring Zeus to intercede, and leading to hades granting Persephone's return. As ever with these wily deific bastards, there was a catch. 

Persephone didn't read the fine print before snacking down on a juicy pomegranate, and having eaten the food of the underworld, she was bound to remain there. In this case, for one month for each seed eaten (4 or 6, depending on who you believe). 

So far, so harvest myth. But it does get wibbly. 

Four months of Persephone in Hell just about gets you the drought of a Greek summer. But her return rites are celebrated at the beginning of spring, as part of a rebirth/fertility cycle. The Eleusinian cult probably grafted together Persephone with earlier Minoan harvest goddesses, Demeter with ur mother figures. Other mystic takes on Persephone mix in the nature goddess Kore, so it gets kinda mangled.

Above ground, Persephone is all vegetation and plenty, and a bit better know. But her role in the underworld shouldn't be downplayed. She ain't sitting around down there.

As queen of the underworld, Persephone is probably fused with the older, weirder figure of Despoina. Think: birth, death, and a whole load of must-be-appeased nature worship. In her cult it was forbidden for the uninitiated to speak her name, a tradition that clung to the chthonic Persephone. She presides over the dead, and in the tradition of Orpheus, metes out judgement. 

WicDiv picks this up heavily, in particular associating her with the idea of "the destroyer", which is one possible etymology of her name. Her nascent cult, too, won't name her. She likes it. She has root and vine powers, is potentially stronger than the other gods, can drag people down to the underworld, and shows this dual aspect with her flashes of skulls-for-pupils.

In #11 she apparently dies. In #18, she's back. In a basement dive bar, of course. We later find out that she spend months hanging out in the underworld with Baphomet. Moping, fucking, planning. 

A lot gets hinted at. Ananke expected her back, but no so soon, and her status is debated by the remains of the pantheon. In a millennia-spanning set of ninety year cycles of renewal, it seems unlikely that a Persephone figure - heretofore hidden - has no significant role to play. 

Nergal (Baphomet)

We spilled some ink last time on godhood as identity performance in WicDiv, and shit just got recursive. Baphomet comes from recent-ish demonology, and only get the goaty horn business in the 1800s. There's something fishy about him as one of the WicDiv gods (we covered this in part 1) and he certainly seems twitchy.

In the underground with Persephone, Baphomet tells us his origin story as... Nergal? 

No, me either, a bad rendition in the Hellboy movie notwithstanding. 

He's... Baphomet with lion bits? Certainly explains the teeth. Except emblematically it should probably be a fighting cock, and - look the whole thing's a joke about nobody knowing who Nergal is, and Baphomet still having to LARP as a god, even post ascension to actual godhood.

But that doesn't mean it isn't interesting. 

Nergal is a Sumerian/Mesopotamian figure, and so could go back a couple thousand years BC. There's a nice irony there with Baphomet being a relatively modern invention. There are plague associations, and he's depicted variously as a lion or a chicken. In this case, a string of "raging cock" jokes seem appropriate.

Nergal's a sun god (with war aspects) who became an underworld god, perhaps via a sunset association. This makes him a fire god of the underworld, and you can picture the character as written scrabbling around for a fit before coming up with Baphomet, probably via early Christian mystics and demonology.

The figure was co-opted there as a demon, perhaps by 18th century occultist. 


Hades (1831)

On the one hand (ahem) it's a two-page appearance in a one-shot side story. On the other, it is a new god, so here's the quick version.

Hades is king of the underworld in Greek mythology, and here represented as John Keats, the original teen emo poet.

In his writers notes, Kieron Gillen hangs this off Keats' poem This Living Hand:

This living hand, now warm and capable
Of earnest grasping, would, if it were cold
And in the icy silence of the tomb,
So haunt thy days and chill thy dreaming nights
That thou wouldst wish thine own heart dry of blood
So in my veins red life might stream again,
And thou be conscience-calmed — see here it is—
I hold it towards you.

That's pretty on-brand for Keats. Check out Ode to a Nightingale one of his better-known bits of gothing about.

It's easy to mock Keats for what feels like melodrama, and if I had another couple hundred words to spare, I would. But his work is also gorgeously sensual, with a real ear for rhythm and cadence. The morbidity is fascinated, dream-like. Through all of its florid verbal garishness, there's something to Keats that I resent myself for responding to.

We don't get much of him in the 1831 special. As with his factual counterpart, Hades here dies in Rome. Keats of tuberculosis, Hades, of Ananke sticking a knife in his heart.

Mythically, Hades was both the god and the realm. The land of the dead and its ruler. Not a satanic figure, and not presiding over a hell, per-se. Hades officiated more than he tormented, and was never quite a tempter or a figure of evil. As a Death figure he is implacable, and like Persephone it could be taboo to name him. 

In The Wicked and the Divine Hades' main role is to get his hand cut off, which is then used by Lucifer to create a necromantic golem on the shores of Lake Geneva. We have very little sense of him, but it may be salient that at least some of Hades is potentially still out there, and in a universe that contains an unexpected return of Persephone.

...and bonus Pink Woden?

Totes the monster from the 1831 story, right? (The eighteen-thirty-onester). Well, maybe. What could you make from the hand of Hades, a squeeze of Morrigan and Lucifer, and a heaping tablespoon of Woden?

"Pink Woden" is briefly glimpsed in #14, as part of the remix issue's original art parenthesis. Woden is talking to someone, and with what could even be earnestness or affection. A Valkyrie he actually likes? Someone to monologue to? Or something more complex entirely?

Now, a couple of the other gods have multiple aspects, some maybe everyone's favourite neon MRA dickhead is only part - or rather half - of the story. If Nergal can call himself Baphomet, and given Ananke explicitly calls Green Wooden "the pet of a god" in #14, well, might we not wonder about Huginn and Muninn (Knowlwedge and Memory, Odin's raven spies/pets)? Or Geri and Freki (similar, more bitey, wolves), if thought and memory have a bit too much finesse for the character as seen?

Some fan theories say Pink Woden is Laura's sister. I could buy that for the emotional punch, but it would lack the mythic heft. I absolutely cannot buy that the 1831 monster is a thread that won't be picked up again, either. Throw in the colours, and my money's on the monster.

But I wouldn't bet against wolves or ravens. If we fancy getting proper twitchy, well, there's Baphomet's "idea golems", introduced just before we find out about Woden's dead mother, and as he talk about reverse-engineering the other gods' powers. Pink Woden, in the tiny glimpse we have, is not unlike one of the Valkyries, and dead-mum simulacrum would be weirdly on-brand for both Woden as presented, and a comic that's so knowingly post-Buffy.

If it is the eighteen-thirty-onester (not sorry), there's a lot of quite exciting fanwank on the table. The best way to ensure Lucifer would do a thing was pretty much to warn him not to, and then give him the bits, so we can be pretty sure than Ananke was at least basically cool with the monster's creation. We know she's lonely, we know she talked to Robert Graves, and we know she's writing to someone at the end of #28. Someone colour coded with pink sparkles, perhaps?

Enough speculation. Whaddya reckon - mummy, monster, magic raven?

Cowboys and Insects - David Hine & Shaky Kane

Now, I can't promise that if you watched King of the Hill after dropping acid it would look exactly like Cowboys and Insects. But those already familiar with Shaky Kane's style and the amped-up pulp vibe he created with David Hine in The Bulletproof Coffin would likely find the experience quite familiar.

Cowboys and insects -  cattle drive

With its giant bugs, bright colours, ranch hands with rifles, and a sickly uncoiling of fifties American paranoia, Cowboys and Insects is a lurid thing that takes us to a pretty severe place.

Childhood wonder to lynch mob in twenty pages, each step feeling natural and normal, and not worthy of moral scrutiny. 

Cowboys and insects - cover closeup

First published digitally in 2013, when it wasn't a given that white America would plump for fascism in a fit of butthurt cultural pique, Cowboys and Insects seems oddly prescient now.

Much of its effect, I think comes not from being on-the-nose preachy, but rather from running full-tilt at the joyous daftness of the premise and letting that carry it through.


(The spoiler-averse may wish to stop here; also folks who don't like gross stuff with insects)

Cowboys and Insects blends a frog-boil to the monstrous with a red herring around just what the monster is. Giant bugs are a B-movie staple, and so is the idea that the real monster is man. But the book does a sensational job of splashing around in the weirdness of gargantuan beetles while also selling us on a world where they're quite, quite normal.

It's full-on Uncanny. Something like a housefly, turkey-sized, gracing a roast dinner platter, nuclear family all gung-ho to tuck in. Mom in  meat-packing plant, tossing slime-slick larvae off a conveyor belt, squealing sound effect at the bottom of the panel, half-cocked job-well-done smile on her face at the top:

Cowboys and insects - Mom

A cattle drive of giant ants down a fifties street of cadillac tailfins.

All through, it's sold by Chip's voice. We're watching through his eyes, but we can't escape our own. It's normal. It's fantastical. It's just a memory from highschool of the first girl he had a crush on. It's a gut-churning hate crime, perpetrated without pause or conscience. 

This kind of voice-of-the-child deal can be easily overused. Much of the power of Barefoot Gen lies in showing us something that attempts to be a normal childhood while the world around it counts down to eight fifteen. It could be clumsy. It isn't, and part of what does that work is the visual style - breezy and casual in just the right places - part of it is how well realized the childhood voice is. 

The styles are very different, but the same applies here. Art and voice, selling this vibrant pulp adventure adolescence.

Cowboys and insects - DinnerChip moves to a new town with his folks. Bug Town, Colorado - a ranching monoculture for the fifties economic boom. He finds a new school meets people, enjoys the scents and sights of a giant stag beetle rodeo. It's golden-age teen memory stuff, all worked through with these perfect vignettes in flat simple colours that make this sci-fi scenario seem like workaday picket fence stuff.

We're told this as memory, coming of age style, just a little Stand By Me:

This was to be the year when I lost my innocence. The year I became if not a man then the person who would become the man.

Cowboys and insects - ChipThe definite article feels salient there. "The man". Performance of duty and enforcement of white bread normalcy become key, but we're walked through it with this tone that never slips - Chip's conviction that this is the world, that daddy knows best, and that this is all part and parcel of growing up into a right thinking adult.

"It's not always easy to choose between right and wrong" he remembers thinking, sat in his bedroom, sad and anguished about a girl he's fallen for, choosing a path that ends with her being eaten alive by burrowing beetles. 

Again, it feels natural. We move through this experience with him, exploring this strange world as he does. The strangeness of it is never far away - there's hardly a panel without some kind of giant insect detail or oddity. It's remarkable to us, but only remarkable to Chip as a new experience in a familiar world. There's some wonderful cake-and-eat it there with breaking the suspension of disbelief. Chip's excitement at getting to dissect a giant bug, the oddly human-seeming Insectum Erectus, lets us feel the strangeness without coming up for air. 

At his new school, busily dissecting bugs and learning about their place in modern agribusiness, Chip meets Cindy Krupski. Her family are shown more pale, dressed severely, and often in black. It's not subtle othering, but played against the cartoon colouring it's a great sell for their terrible secret:

Cowboys and insects - Vegetarian

Cindy doesn't fit in. Chip is infatuated. Cindy certainly doesn't want to dissect a novel species of insect that's shown visibly afraid, walking upright, and - entirely unremarked - wearing a loincloth.

Chip doesn't get it. 

Chip asks his dad for advice. 

Chip has the narrative framed for him in terms that echo miscegenation. 

dadThe Krupskis are the only dissenting voice in Chip's world, and their behaviour is so strongly framed as deviant, as a danger, that as readers we're not incredulous for a moment that Chip might not pause to interrogate his circumstances. We're watching what inculcation into systemic and structural prejudice feels like from the inside, and by the end I felt almost nauseously complicit.

What an ending, too. Things escalate pretty fast, as Chip confides in his father that the Krupskis are sheltering the escaped bug, and the town isn't happy.

The Knights of the Head are a legendary brotherhood of men who stalk the night, seeking out those who transgress the boundaries between man and insect.

Yes, they wear masks made from hollowed-out insect heads. Yes, they have robes like klansmen. Yes, it goes very, very badly.

Cowboys and insects - Lynch mob

That panel. The simple geometrics and the limp dangling. The loincloth. It doesn't even stop there.

As we reach the conclusion, there's a slight shift in Chip's voice, something febrile and excited by the moment, with a storyteller's feel ("But the knights weren't finished with the Krupskis, not by a long shot..."), moving to a factual acceptance. By the end, they're "the wretched Krupskis", and Chip has pulled forward to being the adult narrator more cleanly: "...I've become something of an expert on the Necrophorous Vespillo over the years".

His childhood excitement is still there, as he related the lifecycle of the burrowing beetles, but it's distant, more future factual.

It's interlaced, too with a new panel structure, big bordering gutters against black, tall vertical panels where the book's tended to the horizontally sequential. It suggests a series of snapshots, memories perhaps, but more fractured: 

Cowboys and insects - final page

What's remembered is monstrous, the beetles are finally horror movie schlock. The vertical feel is almost like drowning - insects and their sounds rising from the bottom of the panels to horrified faces compressed at the tops. 

Imagine that - alive for a month or more under the ground, with insect larvae growing inside you.

His tone doesn't judge. Is it horrified, or just showing his amateur-entomologist glee? It doesn't commit.

Why would it - this is his normal now. It's "They way we raise 'em here in Colorado", and nobody in the town bats an eyelid. Chip's a grown man, and only remembers when he catches a flash of something, perhaps on TV, and for all the thin whisper of guilt on the page before, it's still a memory of the first girl he kissed.

The iconography cribs from southern racism, but the book offers a highly transferrable view inside the machineries of group supremacy, identity policing, and structural power.

This doesn't feel like a period where we have to look far for the horrific becoming ideologically mundane. It's not a great world to be any kind of Other in, and the scope for that getting better seems scant. In playing so neatly with normalization, and with what does and does not seem extraordinary, in rendering it all in this kitschy/pulpy growing-up caper, the print edition of Cowboys and Insects feels timely and urgent.


(We briefly interviewed David Hine about the book at Thought Bubble, and it's on the podcast)

Look at all this amazing queer stuff!

Queer comics (and the whole super-set of LGBTQ goodness) are a perennial topic for us, not least because I won't shut up about them, and we've done an annual round-up episode on the podcast for the last couple of years:

So I was on the lookout for queer content at Thought Bubble this year, and delightfully, just so many of the books at the show seemed to be somewhere in the LGBTQ ballpark.



Tab Kimpton (of Discord Comics) put together a "Thought Bubble Rainbow Road" this year, highlighting LGBTQ comics, creators and merch. Chatting to him (more of that on the podcast), he put the proportion somewhere a nose over eleven percent.

I didn't scratch the surface of that, but here's a quick round-up of what I found.

I've pulled out three things I thought were cool and that I'd not heard about before the festival. So this isn't so much a best-of as a big ol' serendipitous grab bag, but I reckon that highlights the ambient quality. 

Laid - Cicy Reay

laidanthemThis was literally the last thing I bought at the show. Three quid on impulse, and my way out the door. Damn, I lucked out. 

"We lived pretty close to each other" begins the body of the story, terrace and park spliced across tall panels "except his street was much nicer than mine". It could almost be a Beautiful Thing rerun, all hesitant teens and loaded friendship. Except we've just seen six pages of avuncular (and really professionally fastidious) sex work. Oh, and a nasty car accident. 

Connection but distance is the thing here. That's called out pretty strongly in the client relationships, and mirrored in the way the panel focus zooms in on details at points, pulling away to backgrounds at others. But it's the nameless protagonist's relationship with Sam - more than a client, perhaps, but held at a distance still - that makes up the body of the emotional heft.

I'm not his boyfriend. I'm there for - well, for business. But I cared about him.

They fuck, they talk, they laugh at the shipping forecast. They have a just-missed moment of emotional connection that deftly ducks the temptation for cheap happy endings. 

It's 24 pages of A5, and crazy-dense with little personal moments. All blue-on-white like a linocut printer lost a fight with an ancient gestetner machine. It's a style that works wonderfully with the tight panel grid layout, mostly 3x4 with occasional breakout pages. 

It's sex work in close-packed terraced houses, and so much less grim (or patronizing) than that could sound. 

If I had to nitpick, well, does anyone actually use KY Jelly any more?

Meh. ID Glide probably lacks the brand recognition, and in any case this gives us one of my favourite pages:

Laid - 3 panels

It's all about the angles and simple geometrics. Lube logo mirroring landscape and rumpled bedsheet. The textures all echo the body hair of the previous page. It's a blend of posed mundanity, and pushing the reader into the protagonist's gaze. A gaze that's here fixating on detail, ambiguously just before or just after the conclusion of a sex scene that's both plausibly tender and completely transactional. 

Like I say, it's dense. And it's delightful. 

It's from Black Lodge Press, and was new for November - so not yet available on their site when I wrote this. Hopefully it will be. If you enjoyed The Lengths (and you should) then you might trace some associations through to Laid - it's a neat little human thing that just happens to involve fucking for cash.

Get Your Man - Kami D (via Dragonhoard)

As a differnt end of at least some spectrum, Get Your Man is a goofy universe-hopping sex comedy that doesn't dodge the squishy bits. It embraces the squishy bits. Heck, it's a clear 40% squishy bits.

This made photographing some highlights tricky, even with my cavalier attitude to "NSFW" content. Even the cute little doggie get's a full-page butt shot:


What? Yes, of course I bought it when I saw the line "You're a corgi werewolf, Charles!" But(t?) also because the folks at Dragonhoard (the publisher/distributer) were utterly lovely. We talk to them on the upcoming podcast, so I won't dwell on that here, but just lovely.

 It's a story about versions of Charles and Francis, usually a couple, across various manga-inflected universes and genres. So it breezes through sci-fi, vampires, contemporary romance, and of course coffee-shop chibi antics. It is relentlessly tongue in cheek, in both ways you might care to read that.

getyourmanpolicetapeThe stories vary between vignettes and gag strips in places, and a couple of longer pieces in the middle. There's a robo-mountie finding love (and elaborate upgrades) after being decommissioned, and a sweet, colourful/cartoony piece about versions of the same characters first getting together in the near present day. There's awkwardness in a coffee shop - it's cute. Then there's fucking, because that's the deal here.

It's reasonably body diverse, mind, and feels often emotionally real as opposed to a purely sleazy gaze. There's a levity and joyousness that carries through the whole thing, even into the downstairs funtime interludes. It helps that the stories often end with a big dumb joke. 

I'm a sucker for a non sound effect

Look, what it comes down to is, would you like to read a comic featuring a robotic mountie who ejeculates maple syrup?

Ok, great. You can buy it here.

The Foldings - Faye Simms

In the pre T'Bubz roundup, I called The Foldings "charming as balls", and I stand by that. It's just come off the back of a successful kickstarter, and the print edition includes a bonus prose story foregrounding some of the other characters.

Just look at this adorable shtick:


 I'm loving that huge cascading vertical panel. It's got a couple of those, and it uses them well. As you'd hope for a comic set in a flying city full of magic, really.

One of the (few, come at me) things I like about the Harry Potter books is the gleeful little bits of imaginative engineering. The weird sweets and critters and plants, and little disorienting details. The Foldings opens on that, with a market stall selling fabric that eats dust, and warming top hats with built-in chimneys. I'm a sucker for that stuff, as is Jasper, the character who's introduced all kid-in-a-sweet-shop, handling it all.

foldingsfallJasper's immune to magic, which gives us the body of the plot driver, and no end of a headache top his partner Micah, who is - obviously - a Mighty Wizard. It's a short story, really, a little thing of twenty pages or so. Jasper falls off a building, Micah catches him. There's adorable smooching and a pun.

In the course of this, though, it does a lot. It's got that feel of the city being a character, introduced in a few great panels looking out over it. Buildings are stacked onto each other like you showed the Ewoks the Winchester Mystery House and then asked them to build an aerial Venice. 

Kids jump of buildings for kicks, knowing the air will catch them, magic has an amped-up Kirby Krackle, and the light plays over all of it. It's got this slightly cel shaded feel in places, with thick line work, and great use of colour for the light.

Oh, and it is Just. So. Sweet.

There's a bit more online, and the print edition is chock full of concept art. I'm really hoping we get further volumes of The Foldings in future. 

...and more

Damn, I've missed so much here, including the fantastic looking Queer: A Graphic History from Meg-John Barker and Julia Scheele.

TB haulI also picked up:

We'll probably cover these and a few more on the podcast.

So yeah, look at all this great queer stuff! 



Thought Bubble 2014 - Roger's comics haul

This weekend, as has probably be annoyingly obvious from our Twitter account, we went to Thought Bubble. It was aces. If you spent the weekend hiding under a rock, or just muted the hashtag because you didn't want to hear about my hangover, Thought Bubble is a fantastic comics con in Leeds. It's been growing like crazy, and is now a brain-buggeringly vast opportunity to discover new comics, talk to comics creators, and make a right old tit of yourself on a dancefloor.

Roger's Thought Bubble swag

Here's a quick run-down on what we bought, what we liked, what we missed, and possibly some other things as well.

I bought a lot less this time than last year, and looking at my bank balance I wasn't sure how; until I clocked that I'd likely drunk the difference. Taking that indictment as a segue: the on-site bar this year was a splendid addition. Having some sit-down breakout space with beer and great coffee made it much easier to crash for a bit. And let's face it, that's pretty essential at a hectic con, even without the Thought Bubble Sunday Hangover.

Ilkley Brewery supplied the beer at the con and party bars, and this was a damn fine call. If you see their stuff, check out the Mary Jane (big hoppy zing), and the Westwood Stout (white chocolate funtime).

There were also some comics. Probably.


Specifically, there were far too many cool looking things for me to get around, but here's what I picked up:

  • Atomic Sheep - Sally Jane Thompson Canadian high school coming of age tales - art clubs, homesickness, discomfort, and great line work.
  • Horizon: The Falling - Andrew Wildman Robots! Anxiety! Escape fantasies! Great pencils! A young girl falls into what might be a dream world, maybe, if her dreams were funky robotic.
  • Orbital, vols 1-3 - Sylvain Runberg & Serge Pellé More great Sci fi from Cinebook. Diplomacy, drama, and a hugely realised universe.
  • Mulp - Matt Gibbs & Sara Dunkerton Indiana Jones with mice, and a gorgeous colour palette. But after all the humans are dead. Yeah - just buy it.
  • Aama, vol 2 - Frederik Peeters Volume two. I loved volume one, and this is the next one.
  • Porcelain: Bone China (sampler) - Benjamin Read (writer) & Chris Wildgoose (artist) The teaser for the follow up to Porcelain, a kind of twisted fairytale fantasy of bone china automata and bleak secrets. Look out for our interview with the creators on the next podcast.
  • The Wicked and the Divine, vol 1 - Kieron Gillen (writer) & Jamie McKelvie (artist) Every ninety years, Tumblr is incarnated as... #WicDiv #Inevitable

Then there's a bunch of stuff I didn't quite get around to buying, but wish I had. So this is basically the big old list of apologies for not doing a capitalism at funky creators:

Thought Bubble "Best thing I've read all year" panel


Part of the reason I didn't pick so much stuff up this year was not - in fact - the bar. I didn't make it there until the Sunday. No, Saturday was in the main swallowed by a really good panels line-up. The regular "Best thing I've read all year" session was what it always is - a neat piece of quick-fire curation to kick off the show.

The two Images panels (writers and artists) had interesting stuff on process. In particular, a blend of artists who've worked primarily with one, or with multiple authors. This let them talk about collaboration styles, and different approaches to interpreting scripts. It was a lot less of an Image leg-frotting love-in than last year, and so bubbled along with more sincerity and fluency.

Thought Bubble diversity panelThe session on diversity at the end of the day will have made for a pretty decent introduction to the topic. Amusingly (if sadly) they kicked off by apologising for a relative lack of diversity - they were a couple of folks down  due to travel and/or personal issues. It's hard to criticise that, and actually I've not that often seen a diversity discussion that is at once so superficially culturally homogenous and so aware of the privileges and issues that brings.

I say "introduction" because it did feel like we started quite basic, and the discussion took a while to warm up. For a minute there I was worried we were in for an hour of bourgeois hand-wringing. But it perked up hard towards the end. In particular, there was some strong stuff on physical access, and what events like this and other comics cons can do to be more inclusive. Discussion touched on representation and conservatism vs risk taking in the retail chain, too, and that could easily have occupied a full session.

I wanted to cheer a bit when Howard Hardiman emphasised the point that it falls on all of us to educate ourselves about diversity, and not just shrug, muttering that we've done our bit, and offload the work onto marginalized groups themselves.


The mid-con party is one of the TB highlights. I've heard it referred to quite often as Nerd Prom. Fair. But Clarrie nails it:

It's a big, fun, inclusive thing, and this year it was a big, fun inclusive thing with actual drinkable beer. (And no cloakroom, and toilets that would make the architects of the Guantanamo interrogation regime raise an eyebrow, muttering "Hang on a minute, mate". But that one's on Leeds town hall)

It turns out that if you have Paprika playing as the visual background to a dance set, no music on earth is so compelling that everyone won't just stop and gape in horror at the rapey butterfly scene.

Good times. Weird Times.

At this point, the Safe Space Disco is basically my favourite club night. Good work, Thought Bubble. Good fucking work.

If you want to hear a bit more, check out our hasty mid-con podcast.

There's a neat short write up here, from Liz, who we were mooching around with.

We also did a few interviews with creators and publishers, so look out for that on the site soon.

Dave, there, having a lovely time.

Reading Around Comics - The Best Comics Reference Books

If you’ve ever had the nagging sensation you’re not getting something in comics, or you just want to know more about a broad and complex range of books, genres, characters and creators, you’re certainly not alone. Here to help is a list of the best books to help get to grips with all of the above. To make this list as broad as possible, I’ve mostly stayed away from books on creating comics - this will be a separate post further down the line. This will focus on comics theory, history, and some broad reference books. A list like this can never be comprehensive - if you think I’ve missed something, leave a comment or shout at us on Twitter.


Understanding Comics

By Scott McCloud

Understanding Comics Scott McCloudIf you want one book that covers as much comic theory as you could possibly need to get started, this is it. It’s presented as a comic itself with McCloud appearing as a guide-slash-lecturer, and covers art and literature theory, perception of space and time in comics, before trying to present a “unified theory of the language of comics”. This is the one book that will inform you the most on comics theory.

Comics and Sequential Art

By Will Eisner

Before Scott McCloud had a go at it, the godfather of comics, Will Eisner, presented his theories on the comic as an artform. This focuses mostly on art and composition, but it’s fully accessible to non-artists. Eisner was one of the most consistently inventive comics artists of the 20th Century, and what he has to say here is worth reading.


By Art Spiegelman

MetamausObviously recommended only if you’ve first read Maus, this is a hugely-detailed companion to the first graphic novel to get recognition outside of comics fandom. It’s full of the  interviews, notes, and research that went into Maus - if you don’t mind making some of the connections for yourself, this is a great look at comic creation.

Tintin and the Secret of Literature

By Tom McCarthy

This book takes a good stab at applying straight-up literary theory to Tintin, reading around the themes, Hergé’s biography, and global geopolitics at the time the books were being written. The result will appeal only to the degree that you can digest such rarefied efforts, but it’s a well-written and well-handled take on an analytical approach rarely applied to comics. English graduates may get more from it than the rest of us.


By Grant Morrison

This is not pure theory - it’s a mixture of Grant Morrison’s life story and his thoughts on (mostly superhero) comics. Given his employment history, it naturally focuses mostly on DC, but Morrison has never shied from using superheroes as a canvas for grand, mythic, and frequently flat-out psychedelic tales, and he goes into this aspect of comics storytelling in a far broader sense than just covering his own work. He’s as mad as a sack of stoats, but he has plenty of interesting ideas.


Men of Tomorrow - Geeks, Gangsters and the Birth of the Comic Book

By Gerard Jones

Men of TomorrowThe early comics industry was one of dirty deeds done dirt cheap, and that’s the focus of this book - the unlikely alliance of the earliest sci-fi fans and the hustlers of the 1930s that created the comic book industry. The prose isn’t dazzling, but it’s packed with anecdotes and is a robust history of the time.

Anyone who has read Michael Chabon’s The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay will recognise many of the anecdotes here, Chabon having borrowed them (from the original participants) for Joe and Sam’s story.

Marvel Comics - The Untold Story

By Sean Howe

A detailed history of Marvel from their inception as Timely Comics in the 1930s right up to the present day, Sean Howe’s book is a fascinating look at the personalities that shaped Marvel. Some of it is already well-known, but it’s all so well-told here as to be utterly compelling. It also features my favourite footnote of all time: “Blade was born in an English brothel and trained in hand-to-hand combat by a jazz trumpeter.”

Wordless Books

By David A. Beronä

Wordless BooksThis is a bit niche, but in the early 20th century a small group of writers experimented with woodcut novels, similar to wordless comics. This book is an overview and history of the authors, as well as a showcase for some of the spectacular artwork.

The Golden Age of DC Comics

By Paul Levitz

This is a puff piece, but what a puff piece. Produced by DC and art publisher Taschen, this is a giant, glossy hardback full of high-quality art from the Golden Age. Don’t expect balance, but it’s a glorious artefact. It is only the first of five planned volumes covering the history of DC though, so it could become a costly purchase.

Supermen! The First Wave of Comic Book Heroes 1936 - 1941

Edited by Greg Sadowski

Essentially, this is a collection of superhero tales from the guys who didn’t make it big. If you enjoy the strong pulp of the early days of comics, this is a good collection. There are some big names in the mix like Jack Cole, Will Eisner, and Siegel and Shuster, but mostly these are comics by the uncelebrated workhorses of the early funny book industry. A companion volume, I Shall Destroy All The Civilized Planets focuses on lunatic visionary Fletcher Hanks, who has one demented story in this volume.


Art by Jiro Kuwata, Edited and curated by Chip Kidd, with Geoff Spear and Saul Ferris

Bat Manga Chip KiddThe second title worthy of a self-appointed exclamation mark, Bat-Manga! is a collection of licensed Japanese Batman comics produced in the 60s by Jiro Kuwata based on the Adam West TV show. Author, designer and Batman scholar (a CV that suggests there is such a thing as a charmed life) Chip Kidd was already a collector of Japanese Bat-memorablia and comics when he decided to translate and publish the comics in English. The resulting collection is scattershot and frequently bizarre, but there are few books that are this much fun.

Kirby - King of Comics!

By Mark Evanier

And again with the exclamations. If you’re a fan of Jack ‘King’ Kirby, this is a potted history of the man and his career, with some large-scale reproductions of his original linework. Unless IDW do a Jack Kirby Artist’s Edition, this is probably the best way to see his work in reproduction.


Reading Comics

By Douglas Wolk

This is the book that will give you a shopping list a mile long. The first third of the book is dedicated to a general overview of comics, while the latter two-thirds is a series of essays on notable creators, spanning a range from the oh-so-serious indie auteurs, to people like Gene Colan and Jim Starlin. While Wolk treats the subject seriously, the whole thing is filled with fan-ish enthusiasm, and it’s this that sticks. This book will make you read things you never would have considered before picking it up.

McSweeney’s Quarterly Concern Issue 13

Various authors, Edited by Chris Ware

McSweeneys Issue 13For one thing, this is full of comics by great creators like Dan Clowes, Adrian Tomine, Chester Brown, and, as they say, many more. A lot of them are excerpts from then-upcoming books, all of which are now available. The more interesting stuff, though, is loaded at the front of the book - lots of historical nuggets like early sketches for Peanuts and Krazy Kat, a history of Rodolphe Topffer, the man who invented the comic form without really knowing it, and essays from very serious people like Ira Glass and John Updike.

1001 Comics You Must Read Before You Die

Edited by Paul Gravett

This is a really wide-reaching and well-researched book. Broadly split by era, it takes in the mainstream and indie US and UK comics (the primary audience seems to be assumed to be a UK reader), but it also covers a lot of manga and less-well-known European and South American comics. It’s another book that’s hard to flick through without coming away with a huge reading list.

A Brief Ode to Foyles

Like most other vaguely literate twenty-something book nerds living in the provinces, I really like Foyles. There's something about going there - although I am at perfect liberty to do so whenever I please - which feels like a bit of a treat. The Jazz Café. The enormous poetry section, which was willing to sell me the collected works of Anne Sexton when a) neither of the Plymouth branches of Waterstones would and b) it was probably a bad idea to do so. And, of course, the really excellent selection of comics - far better, especially in terms of indies, than many dedicated comics shops outside of the capital.

And now they've turned the hoardings in front of their main shop on Charing Cross Road into a giant comic detailing the history of the Foyle family and the store. John Miers kicks things off in 1903, when the Foyle brothers failed their Civil Service exams and made rather a lot of money selling their textbooks, Donya Todd brings us up to the present day with a charming, witty literary salon, and Rian Hughes illustrates the future of the Foyles site. In between, there are panels from Karrie Fransman, Steven Appleby, ConSequential sweetheart Hannah Berry, Bryan Talbot and a whole host of other artists.

It's fantastic. And if you don't want the hassle of going to London, the entire thing can be read here from the comfort of your own home. The building works behind the hoardings are now partially blocking the pavement, which meant that a lot of angry people gave us very pointed looks when we stopped to read the comic properly, but it was totally worth it. I'm a huge fan of anything which uses public space to display artistic or informational content, either entirely visually or using text, instead of selling it for advertising. Sure, this is technically Foyles advertising themselves, but they do so in such an engaging and interesting fashion that this comic straddles the frontier between public advertising and public art. I'd rather there was more of this sort of thing than more pictures of David Beckham in his underwear, but I don't have a lot of influence in those spheres.

There's an entirely different blog post to be written on what this says about the rising status of comics in British culture, and how the explicit endorsement of retailers like Foyles (as well as the tacit endorsement of everyone who walks past it and doesn't recoil at the fact that their visual space has been infiltrated by cartoons) is contributing to the validity of the medium within society, but I promised that this ode would be brief, so I'll leave you with that as a thought and say no more.

Get thee to London, dear reader, to see this lovely thing and to do a spot of learning while you're at it. Bonus points if you can convince some of the rushing masses to slow down and read along with you.