Previewing The Comicscene Annual: Something For Everyone And A Great Chance To Discover New Wonders

by Richard Bruton

We’ve told you about Comicscene before here at Comicon. It began as Comicscene magazine, a great looking and great reading mag about comics with in-depth coverage of comics from Britain and the world. And now, perfect for those Christmas stockings, we have the Comicscene Annual!

Hardback Cover – Charlie Gillespie

A slight caveat – I’ve written for Comicscene in the past and you’ll see my name on a few articles in the History of Comics 1930-2030 project that’s coming out later this month and will, hopefully, continue for many years. So yes, I have a vested interest in Comicscene’s ongoing success, but I also have an interest in seeing new comics getting out and seeing lots of good people writing lots of good things about comics, online and in print, as hopefully all of you reading this do as well.

Okay, back to the Comicscene Annual 2021, 116 pages in hardback and softback, published in November, brings back the old tradition of the annual in time for Christmas, but full of plenty of the best of Brit comics around!

Inside the Comicscene Annual you’ll find tales from far too many creators to mention, but to give you a look at those involved and links to their work, here’s the annual’s contents page…

As you can see, plenty of strips from some familiar names and some new names to discover!

Having read through the annual, I can tell you that there’s an awful lot of interesting stuff in there, plenty of really good artists that I like, both old and new to me. And yes, there’s some strips in here that I simply don’t like, don’t get, or that just aren’t for me.

But, over the years of reading comics, over the years of talking about comics, I’ve learned that any really good anthology should never have an entire roster of work that I love. In that case, it’s too narrowly focused to me and those whose tastes are just like mine. No, any great anthology must, absolutely must have a range of strips that appeal to a range of readers. Sure, you won’t like them all, but that’s the point.

Anyway, a few highlights here, starting off with two completely new to me that I’ve been convinced by these shorts in the Annual to investigate further. And, if nothing else, that means that I’m calling the Comicscene Annual a success. If everyone buying it finds a few new comics and creators to love, then the work of the Annual has been done and done well.

Moon by Steve Penfold and Chris Zero

Moon by Steve Penfold and Chris Zero

Another short from an established comic, where the Moon, yes, THE Moon, drops out of the sky every morning, sticks on a suit and goes and fights crime. Something to do with a Celtic ceremony that would bring forth a stunning goddess to decimate whole armies, but instead, they ended up with a skinny bloke in a suit with a moon for a head – they were drunk (obviously).

Since then, Moon has been fighting ‘the forces of the ridiculous‘ for centuries and, right now, he’s teamed up with Agent Shades, a “homicidal traffic warden who pretends he’s from Chicago when secretly we suspect he’s from Sheffield”, working for some weird bit of the British government.

Now, all that sounds superb, doesn’t it?

Off the wall ridiculousness that fits right in amongst the ranks of British comic heroes, with that slight sense of embarrassment and insecurity that means Brit heroes rarely do the whole out and out heroic legend thing that the USA does so well.

And if this is your time experiencing the weirdness of Moon, then you’re in for just the same treat I had.

In a completely bizarre one-off, Moon and Shades find themselves involved in a bit of wonderful strangeness where Moon’s missions are being turned into comic books – which gets even more meta as things go along with some wonderful art apeing everything from Frank Miller to Garfield.

It’s ridiculous and so much fun.

The Many Minds Of Alex Automaticby Fraser Campbell and James Corcoran.

A secret agent gone mad who now imagines that he’s ‘Alex Automatic’, the robot super-spy hero of a ’70s TV show – that’s the hook for Alex Automatic, Fraser Campbell’s latest strange and quite wonderful comic, this time with James Corcoran supplying the eye-popping visuals, Kirby-inspired and then some, but carving out his own style as well…

This particular Alex Automatic tale sees us dive somewhere into the world of James Bond, via Machine Man, Westworld, and so many other touchstones, all through a dive through Alex Automatic’s mind while he’s held by the latest villain to take issue with him.

It’s full of fascinating ideas in just a few pages, switching from scene to scene as we trawl the memories and there’s plenty of clever moments thrown in here, both in writing and art, a case of packing so much into the pages, jump-cutting from memory to memory, all of which contributes towards making this a short little self-contained story that feels a hell of a lot bigger and longer and denser than it has any right to. In fact, there was a moment after I first read it where I thought that it was trying to be just that little bit too clever, teasing just that little bit too much. However, those second and third readings not only convinced me that Campbell and Corcoran were doing great things but also to investigate more of their works – just as I think you should be doing!

Captain Cosmic by Andy Clift.

It’s the Mike Allred -inspired art with a slew of digital effects that makes Clift’s artwork such a delight, right the way down to the cream colour of the pages themselves.

But Clift also gives us the same sort fo Allred-ish nostalgic superheroics, with a short tale of simple, old-fashioned, inspired superhero action that really satisfy an itch for that sort of thing that you might not have realised you even had.

Harker: The Warehouse Incident by Roger Gibson and Vincent Danks

Well, I’m already a huge fan of the detective weirdness of Harker by Gibson and Danks and I’m very much looking forward to reading and telling you all about the new colour versions of their existing books plus the new material that we’re going to be getting,  we’re due to see soon, following the successful Time Bomb Kickstarter.

Here, we get a little vignette to get you into the main series. It’s essentially just Harker and Critchley having a bit of a chat while following up a lead. So it’s fun but somewhat light. Trust me, the main Harker comic is a LOT more satisfying and deeper than what you’ll see here – consider this a tasty appetiser for the main meal that is Harker: Book of Solomon Book 1, available right now from Time Bomb Comics.

Poker Night, A Mahoney’s Short by Richard Carrington and Brian Dawson

Another short from an established comic, this time featuring the super-villains bar that is Mahoney’s.

Poker night works really well, switching the narrative on the heroes and the villains, giving us just that little look into the villain’s life and what it’s like when one of those superheroes decides to go all dark avenger on you. Because, seriously, even villains need a little downtime where they’re not getting beaten up by the hero all the time.

A cracking little vignette from a comic I should know more about – and so should you.

NPCTea: The Interview by Sarah Millman.

NPCTea is all about, as Millman says, Orcs, elves and fire summons running a tea shop in modern-day Cardiff. Yep, what could go wrong. There were 8 issues, funded through Kickstarter and Patreon, plus a collection funded through Kickstarter.

And, if you’ve been following the series (as you should), you’ll be more than aware that this is a delight of a little short, all about inclusion, acceptance, beautifully drawn and minimally coloured. A lovely little thing.

Dick Turpin And The Crawling Terror by Steve Tanner and Roland Bird

So, Dick Turpin and a fellow highwayman find sanctuary overnight deep in a cave while the hunt continues for them. Then it gets a little weird… the infamous highwayman & weird fantastical monsters?

Okay, accept it and enjoy it, short and sweet with Bird’s artwork playing with plenty of superhero poses along the way.

WESTERNoir by Gary Crutchley and Dave West, colours and mood by Matt Soffe.

Now, quite a few of the stories in here either go too short or too inconsequential, others just seem to stop at the wrong place, and some are mere tasters for the comics. Westernoir goes the far more sensible route of giving us a recap and intro to the whole idea of the comic.

And although the concept is simple – the story of Josiah Black and a pair of goggles that show him the true nature of the monsters of the old West – it’s a damn well-done thing. Here, Black’s on another mission to track down another monster masquerading as human, this time a sheriff and gives us the full tale of how the hell he got into this situation in the first place. Very skillfully done by West, and some nicely done art from Crutchley, alongside colours and mood from Matt Soffe, and it really is one of those strips where the colours do contribute so much to the mood of the strip.

 

Captain Wonder by John Farrelly

Part of the Corker mini-section of the annual, with all the old-school silliness of an inept superhero and his smarter than he seems sidekick. As you’d expect, the fun comes from the great visual and verbal gags and a good sense of comedic comic timing from Farrelly.

Whackoman by Marc Jackson

More from the Corker section – more dumbness with comedy superheroes from Jackson’s Whackoman (‘everyone’s favourite costumed half-wit) whose sidekick is off doing other stuff meaning it’s time for a team up… Wander Woman – that tickled the funny bone.

Hobbies by Rachael Smith

Well, you already know of the brilliance of Smith from me talking about her books Stand in Your Power and Wired Up Wrong, as well as her Quarantine Comix, so it shouldn’t be any surprise that a single pager on new hobbies, good and bad, that she’s picked up in lockdown is a perfect example of hitting comedy punch after comedy punch.

You can get hold of the Comicscene Annual 2021 from the Comicscene site, either as hardback, softback, or as part of a Comicscene subscription package where you’ll get the Annual, the new anthology Shift, and the History of Comics partwork.

Softcover Cover – David Broughton

Contents

News story featuring Dick Turpin by Steve Tanner and Roland Bird,

New story Fathers Day by Michael Powell and Phil Elliott,

Geek Girl by Sam Johnson,

New Character Girl-Knight by JGV ,

New Story Gone Viral based on story by Corbin Webb,

New story featuring Harker by Roger Gibson and Vincent Danks,

New story featuring Project Hoax by Samuel George London and Dan Butcherr,

New story featuring Mahoneys by Richard Carrington and Brian Dawson,

New story featuring Mandy the Monster Hunter by Matt Warner and Mark Adams,

New story featuring Moon by Steve Penfold and Chris Zero,

New Story Trip of a Lifetime by Peter Gouldson and Luke Haynes,

New Characters Neil-Lithic and Tim by Alan Holloway and Ed Doyle,

New story featuring NPCTea by Sarah Millman,

New story featuring Shaman Kane by David Broughton,

New story featuring WESTERNoir by Gary Gary William Crutchley and Dave West,

New story featuring Whackoman by Marc Jackson,

End piece by Rachael Smith

Cover Charlie Gillespie

Softcover Cover David Broughton

You can pre-order the Comicscene Annual here – the hardback for £25 and softback for £14.99 (including P&P).

You can also find the Comicscene name with both the Comicscene History of Comics (I told you about that here) and a small section in the new comics anthology, Shift.