A space knight like Rom, consume planets like Unicron, Blasting photon bombs from the arm like Galvatron…*

Rom62-1

If you have a comic book fan in your life, then chances are that they will have a very particular childhood memory of a single edition of one comic book that held their attention for the whole of a glorious, endless summer (or season of your choice). This single edition will be old, but not too old, and found in a dusty corner of an old newsagent or secondhand book store, and will have been read without context or understanding of where or why this comic book came to be where it did. It will have enthralled them, this single comic book, providing a wild and untamed playground for their imagination which spun a world of its own to fill the vacuum surrounding it. In the pre-internet age they will have had no way of finding or buying the next issue. So this single comic book sits alone, lost but still loved, the imprint of it on their imagination still as sharp as ever.

And ROM, the greatest of the Space Knights, was mine.

During a family holiday in the little Brittany village of Fouesnant (I must have been eight or nine at the time), I saw that a local newsagent had a batch of old American comics, roughly bound together with string. There was an issue of the Marvel Universe series (an A-Z compilation of every character in Marvel’s panethon of which, I think, this was the ‘L’ installment) and a couple of other superhero titles that I cared little for…

And a copy of ROM #1.

250px-rom-1

I won’t bore you with tales of how ROM, a comic book published a year after I was born, utterly changed that family holiday in the late ’80s, how I must have read the thing a thousand times, and of the heights to which my imagination went as I devised new adventures for him. I knew nothing about ROM beyond what was in those pages – not even finding out till years later that it was a product tie-in. All I knew was that ROM was brilliant. Even the name of his sworn enemy, the demonic Dire Wraiths, was enough to get my Spidey Sense tingling (see also terms such as forlorn hope).

So it was to my great delight that artist Matt Timson mentioned that a huge on-line auction is currently underway, the proceeds from which will go towards the care of Bill Mantlo, the writer behind the ROM comic books, who suffered severe brain damage after being the victim of a hit-and-run accident in 1992.

Matt’s piece showing the creation of ROM is (and he’s never going to let me hear the end of it for saying this) one of the best in the auction, but there are many other amazing artists contributing unique interpretations of this iconic character. I’ve been outbid on every piece I’ve tried to buy, but don’t let that put you off – it’s a great cause and a great character of which I am very fond.

I must have scoured every newsagents I ever saw in France after that, but family holidays were never the same again.

Oh, and do let me know in the comments section if there was a comic book that had a similar effect on your childhood – always nice to know one isn’t alone 😉

 

(*Title courtesy of a lyric from “Impossible” from the Wu-Tang Clan’s ‘seminal’ – Wikipedia’s words, not mine – Wu-Tang Forever album)

A space knight like Rom, consume planets like Unicron, Blasting photon bombs from the arm like Galvatron…*

Rom62-1

If you have a comic book fan in your life, then chances are that they will have a very particular childhood memory of a single edition of one comic book that held their attention for the whole of a glorious, endless summer (or season of your choice). This single edition will be old, but not too old, and found in a dusty corner of an old newsagent or secondhand book store, and will have been read without context or understanding of where or why this comic book came to be where it did. It will have enthralled them, this single comic book, providing a wild and untamed playground for their imagination which spun a world of its own to fill the vacuum surrounding it. In the pre-internet age they will have had no way of finding or buying the next issue. So this single comic book sits alone, lost but still loved, the imprint of it on their imagination still as sharp as ever.

And ROM, the greatest of the Space Knights, was mine.

During a family holiday in the little Brittany village of Fouesnant (I must have been eight or nine at the time), I saw that a local newsagent had a batch of old American comics, roughly bound together with string. There was an issue of the Marvel Universe series (an A-Z compilation of every character in Marvel’s panethon of which, I think, this was the ‘L’ installment) and a couple of other superhero titles that I cared little for…

And a copy of ROM #1.

250px-rom-1

I won’t bore you with tales of how ROM, a comic book published a year after I was born, utterly changed that family holiday in the late ’80s, how I must have read the thing a thousand times, and of the heights to which my imagination went as I devised new adventures for him. I knew nothing about ROM beyond what was in those pages – not even finding out till years later that it was a product tie-in. All I knew was that ROM was brilliant. Even the name of his sworn enemy, the demonic Dire Wraiths, was enough to get my Spidey Sense tingling (see also terms such as forlorn hope).

So it was to my great delight that artist Matt Timson mentioned that a huge on-line auction is currently underway, the proceeds from which will go towards the care of Bill Mantlo, the writer behind the ROM comic books, who suffered severe brain damage after being the victim of a hit-and-run accident in 1992.

Matt’s piece showing the creation of ROM is (and he’s never going to let me hear the end of it for saying this) one of the best in the auction, but there are many other amazing artists contributing unique interpretations of this iconic character. I’ve been outbid on every piece I’ve tried to buy, but don’t let that put you off – it’s a great cause and a great character of which I am very fond.

I must have scoured every newsagents I ever saw in France after that, but family holidays were never the same again.

Oh, and do let me know in the comments section if there was a comic book that had a similar effect on your childhood – always nice to know one isn’t alone 😉

 

(*Title courtesy of a lyric from “Impossible” from the Wu-Tang Clan’s ‘seminal’ – Wikipedia’s words, not mine – Wu-Tang Forever album)

Scene of the crime

Photo

Space. The final frontier. Or, in the case of magazine writing – the writer’s eternal nemesis. I refer to the awful sinking feeling that pervades one’s gut as you try and cram just one more fact, one more little morsel of information into those few hundred words. Maybe you might nudge it past the limit by a little bit to see if you can get away with it, but ‘word count’ stands as implacably as any gravestone – thou shall not pass!

The latest issue of Comic Heroes (pictured above) is now available from newsstands. It contains (amongst delights such as a piece on how to draw comic books and an interview with Kev O’Neill about the VERY exciting next installment of the League of Extraordinary Gentleman) some pieces by your’s truly.

“A blog post pimping something you’ve written for something?!” I hear you cry! Yes, bizarre and unlikely as that sounds…

There’s my feature interview with writer Warren Ellis about the future of digital comics, a Q&A with Ultimates artist and nice guy Bryan Hitch about his new ‘how to’ book and Andy Diggle talks about his excellent upcoming Vertigo Crime graphic novel Ratcatcher. Alongside the latter is a whole feature by moi about crime comics, in which I recommend a whole series of titles for the uninitiated.

The only problem was space.

There’s only so many titles you can recommend when you’ve only got a few hundred words in which to do it. Do you play it safe and recommend the ‘classic’ titles or do you try and show off and go for the obscure but with the risk that your taste won’t necessarily translate. Crime comics are such a wide genre that it’s difficult to know where the edges are – everything from capers to murderers, thieves to vigilantes are technically ‘crime comics’, so picking even a couple of dozen was a hell of a task.

Anyway, read the damn magazine and make your own mind up. But ONE recommendation that I couldn’t squeeze in, no matter how much I played around with the word count was the work of Rick Geary.

2012402474

I love these books. Each one picks a particular historical crime – in his latest it’s the elusive Axe-man of New Orleans from the turn of the last century – and recreates it in exacting detail. The amount of research that goes into each grisly case is breathtaking, and Geary is one of those illustrators who seems to revel in the menacing mudanity of life – how simple everyday objects can, in a murder case, assume deadly importance. Rendered in a meticulous – almost obsessive – Ligne clair style, Geary’s books are just fantastic reads. The stories may be true, but his dispassionate recalling of them has an almost Holmesian quality to it. Despite their omission from my piece in Comic Heroes, they’re some of the best crime books you can pick up. So do.

Scene of the crime

Photo

Space. The final frontier. Or, in the case of magazine writing – the writer’s eternal nemesis. I refer to the awful sinking feeling that pervades one’s gut as you try and cram just one more fact, one more little morsel of information into those few hundred words. Maybe you might nudge it past the limit by a little bit to see if you can get away with it, but ‘word count’ stands as implacably as any gravestone – thou shall not pass!

The latest issue of Comic Heroes (pictured above) is now available from newsstands. It contains (amongst delights such as a piece on how to draw comic books and an interview with Kev O’Neill about the VERY exciting next installment of the League of Extraordinary Gentleman) some pieces by your’s truly.

“A blog post pimping something you’ve written for something?!” I hear you cry! Yes, bizarre and unlikely as that sounds…

There’s my feature interview with writer Warren Ellis about the future of digital comics, a Q&A with Ultimates artist and nice guy Bryan Hitch about his new ‘how to’ book and Andy Diggle talks about his excellent upcoming Vertigo Crime graphic novel Ratcatcher. Alongside the latter is a whole feature by moi about crime comics, in which I recommend a whole series of titles for the uninitiated.

The only problem was space.

There’s only so many titles you can recommend when you’ve only got a few hundred words in which to do it. Do you play it safe and recommend the ‘classic’ titles or do you try and show off and go for the obscure but with the risk that your taste won’t necessarily translate. Crime comics are such a wide genre that it’s difficult to know where the edges are – everything from capers to murderers, thieves to vigilantes are technically ‘crime comics’, so picking even a couple of dozen was a hell of a task.

Anyway, read the damn magazine and make your own mind up. But ONE recommendation that I couldn’t squeeze in, no matter how much I played around with the word count was the work of Rick Geary.

2012402474

I love these books. Each one picks a particular historical crime – in his latest it’s the elusive Axe-man of New Orleans from the turn of the last century – and recreates it in exacting detail. The amount of research that goes into each grisly case is breathtaking, and Geary is one of those illustrators who seems to revel in the menacing mudanity of life – how simple everyday objects can, in a murder case, assume deadly importance. Rendered in a meticulous – almost obsessive – Ligne clair style, Geary’s books are just fantastic reads. The stories may be true, but his dispassionate recalling of them has an almost Holmesian quality to it. Despite their omission from my piece in Comic Heroes, they’re some of the best crime books you can pick up. So do.

Pimpage: more Molcher for your moolah!

Photo

Ho yes! In this month’s Judge Dredd Megazine (#305, available from all good – and bad – retailers) you have not one, not two, but THREE features crafted by my fair* hands!

First up there’s the ma-HA-sive interview with comic book legend Liam Sharp – co-creator of homicidal teenage wunderkid PJ Maybe. Coming relatively late to 2000 AD (around ’91, I seem to recall) my first real exposure to Sharp’s work was his involvement in Overkill, the anthology comic launched by Marvel UK as a potential rival to 2000 AD. It didn’t work out that way in the end – Marvel UK eventually overstretched itself and folder, taking Overkill with it – but since my comic book reading habit existed in comparative isolation (none of my friends ever read comics) I knew none of this. I was heartbroken when Overkill faltered and sank, not discovering what had happened until years later, and alongside Dermot Power and Gary Erskine’s work Sharp’s Jim Lee-inspired art on Death’s Head II stayed with me for a very long time.

I touch on this in the interview, with Sharp recounting his spell at Marvel UK: ‘[This] was my big break and I had an amazing time working with Paul Neary back then. He got behind me, mentored me, and encouraged me at a time when things were not great.

‘He gave me confidence, and he reintroduced me to US comics – that great run Jim Lee was doing on the X-Men. McFarlane on The Hulk. Wilce Portacio and all those guys. He had a vision of Marvel UK tapping into that – and for a brief wonderful year or two we really did. 

‘Death’s Head II was, and remains, the biggest UK produced exported comic ever, selling half a million copies. Insane!’

Also in this issue of the Meg is my review of 100 Months, the haunting but beautiful last work by the late and very great Johnny Hicklenton. I’ve talked about John befor; he was a quite amazing guy and one of the nicest people I’ve ever interviewed. I also look upon the resulting feature as one of the best things I’ve ever written, which wouldn’t have been possible had he not been so forthcoming. He will be missed, but this amazing book will remind us of him.

There’s also an interview with former 2000 AD artist Bryan Talbot about the second in his Grandville series of anthropomorphic detective stories.

With such amazingness on offer how can you resist, eh? But wait – there’s more! There’s also a heartwarming** Judge Dredd tale by my drinking buddy Al Ewing – drawn by the aforementioned Mr Sharp – and the beginning of the new Samizdat Squad series by the disturbingly-far-away Arthur Wyatt.

So, y’know, go buy.

 

* Warning: levels of fairness may vary over time

** May be opposite.

Pimpage: more Molcher for your moolah!

Photo

Ho yes! In this month’s Judge Dredd Megazine (#305, available from all good – and bad – retailers) you have not one, not two, but THREE features crafted by my fair* hands!

First up there’s the ma-HA-sive interview with comic book legend Liam Sharp – co-creator of homicidal teenage wunderkid PJ Maybe. Coming relatively late to 2000 AD (around ’91, I seem to recall) my first real exposure to Sharp’s work was his involvement in Overkill, the anthology comic launched by Marvel UK as a potential rival to 2000 AD. It didn’t work out that way in the end – Marvel UK eventually overstretched itself and folder, taking Overkill with it – but since my comic book reading habit existed in comparative isolation (none of my friends ever read comics) I knew none of this. I was heartbroken when Overkill faltered and sank, not discovering what had happened until years later, and alongside Dermot Power and Gary Erskine’s work Sharp’s Jim Lee-inspired art on Death’s Head II stayed with me for a very long time.

I touch on this in the interview, with Sharp recounting his spell at Marvel UK: ‘[This] was my big break and I had an amazing time working with Paul Neary back then. He got behind me, mentored me, and encouraged me at a time when things were not great.

‘He gave me confidence, and he reintroduced me to US comics – that great run Jim Lee was doing on the X-Men. McFarlane on The Hulk. Wilce Portacio and all those guys. He had a vision of Marvel UK tapping into that – and for a brief wonderful year or two we really did. 

‘Death’s Head II was, and remains, the biggest UK produced exported comic ever, selling half a million copies. Insane!’

Also in this issue of the Meg is my review of 100 Months, the haunting but beautiful last work by the late and very great Johnny Hicklenton. I’ve talked about John befor; he was a quite amazing guy and one of the nicest people I’ve ever interviewed. I also look upon the resulting feature as one of the best things I’ve ever written, which wouldn’t have been possible had he not been so forthcoming. He will be missed, but this amazing book will remind us of him.

There’s also an interview with former 2000 AD artist Bryan Talbot about the second in his Grandville series of anthropomorphic detective stories.

With such amazingness on offer how can you resist, eh? But wait – there’s more! There’s also a heartwarming** Judge Dredd tale by my drinking buddy Al Ewing – drawn by the aforementioned Mr Sharp – and the beginning of the new Samizdat Squad series by the disturbingly-far-away Arthur Wyatt.

So, y’know, go buy.

 

* Warning: levels of fairness may vary over time

** May be opposite.