Unless you’ve been living under a rock in the independent scene as a creator, you’ll know about Comichaus. Comichaus is the new British monthly anthology and Comics app, showcasing the best rising talent from the British independent Comics scene.
Now I won’t be going into detail regarding the app itself, I’ll save that for a future article, but today I’ll be talking about the anthology.
I’ve been taking a look through the first 9 issues of Comichaus Magazine, and since the average page count per book is 44 pages, this article will not be fully comprehensive, but I’ve been pulling out the contributions that have made the most impact with me, and telling you about all things groovy with the publication itself.
First up, let’s start with first impressions.
This is a beautifully presented book, with a semi “soft touch” matt feel to the cover, the colours on the covers are rich, vibrant and clear, perfect bound and sharp, with crisp, black & white interiors.
The stock Comichaus is printed on is thick, glossy high grade paper, with a quality cardstock cover, printed courtesy of Comic Printing UK, who are one of the print companies held in high regard over here.
And what’s this on the first issue? Is this a cover by Glenn Fabry? Why, yes it is, as each cover is done by some of the very best talent the UK has produced, also including covers by John McCrea, Boo Cook, Simon Bisley, Steve Yeowell, Gary Erskine, Tess Fowler, Mark Buckingham, and last, but most definitely not least, the, well, quite frankly, legendary Carlos Ezquerra, although not necessarily in that order! Oh yes! And Darick Robertson for issue #10!
It’s lovely to see this kind of support, and let’s not forget that Publisher, Pete Genepool, may be a relative newcomer to the Comics scene, but has over 20 years of experience on the independent Music scene, including running Genepool Records and distribution for over a decade, so believe me, Pete has the chops for all this.
He’s also a bloody nice chap, now I mention it!
It all started when Pete met Writer, James McCulloch at a convention, and shortly after, Comichaus was born. Comichaus would be a ‘mature readers’ anthology, offering the best of all worlds, with an anthology publication, presenting the best British independent and Small Press talent, along with an app that has a database, market place and an app for reading Comics digitally, all from a mere 3 British squid per month (that’s £3, in case we Brits are confusing you).
More importantly, a fair deal for the Creators, profits are split 50/50 with Creators. Can’t really argue with it, can you? Oh yeah, and all published works remain Creator Owned. You beauty.
So, let’s move on with all the goodies the anthology has to offer. First up, let’s discuss some of the great stories that appear within these pages.
Now okay, a good number of these Creators are friends of mine, but don’t worry about nepotism here, I remain objective in my task as a Journalist, and it’d be a little hard for me to avoid them, given the talent we have here.
SECTION 1: MULTI-PART STORIES
Karyn Shade (Comichaus #1-3)
Story: James McCulloch
Art: Jessica L. Byrne
Only appropriate I open up with, as does the first issue, James McCulloch’s “Karyn Shade”.
I like Karyn. Karyn is the sort of gal I’d go drinking with. The sort of gal who doesn’t ask for, or seek, your blessing, the kind that just does whatever she does, when she does it, however she likes.
And without being one of those people who confuse rudeness with strength (I’ve met quite a few of those, honestly I’m not thinking of anyone in particular).
Those are the sort of people I like. Those are the sort of people who I have a lot of fun with. Those are the sort of people that recklessly get you into a lot of trouble, and equally recklessly, get you out of it.
People who are truly alive.
So when Karyn finds herself with a flat tyre, just outside a lovely little Hellhole called “Forth” (I’m sure this is meant to be a fictitious one, so nobody flip), with almost no phone signal, calling her Best Friend, despite them having no car to pick her up in, seems like the most obvious thing to do.
It’s amazing how many times we phone friends just to rant at them about the thing they can never do anything about.
Still, not to worry, there’s a house with lights on over there, and as we learned from “The Human Centipede”, there’s always one person in the middle of nowhere willing to help you out, right?
James has built a very solid reputation for Horror stories, indeed, “City Of Lost Souls”, with Janine Van Moosel, is a book that gets so dark, even Tim Vigil would probably get a shiver go through him, so this light-hearted yarn is a nice little move away from that.
Don’t get me wrong, there’s still all that “tres sinistre” vibe going on in the background, but this book is more in the vein of Indiana Jones than it is Cradle Of Fear (just as well, it’s one of the worst films I’ve ever seen), it’s just one helluva lot of fun!
Equally matching that tone is the artwork of Jessica L. Byrne, which is both nicely detailed and playful, emphasising Karyn’s nature.
I can’t discuss much further without hitting spoilers, but this is a most enjoyable opening to draw you into Comichaus.
Suited And Booted (Comichaus #1-4)
Story: Jon Laight
Art: Dan Butcher
In a market like today, you really need to be able justify the price on your book, after all, for just a few notes, you can buy a DVD or Blu-Ray, CD or video game, so when the standard Comic price is around $3.99, with attempts at raising the price to $4.99, you really have to give your audience their money’s worth. And that’s not even accounting for how much more many indie and Small Press titles can cost.
With Jon’s writing, you get text-rich stories, full and in-depth, in fact, I’m genuinely amazed, not only at how much story Jon Laight delivers, but just how much he can fit on to one page!
Part of this is down to the amazing lay-out work done by Artist, Dan Butcher. In all honesty, this is the very best work I’ve seen from Dan to date. It’s been great watching Dan grow as an Artist over the years, this is particularly noticeable when you look over the archives of his Webcomic, “Vanguard”, a Superhero title with a more refreshing approach.
And speaking of which, I have really enjoyed this “Mini-Epic”, I love Sci-Fi anyway, and though I wasn’t enamoured with the title, it’s probably slightly better than how I had temporarily re-named it in my head as “The Breakers”, I guess!
That was just a bit of brief confusion on my part, mainly because “The Breakers” is the name given to an alien race, that, well, “breaks” Humanity, after Humans have been colonising planets throughout the galaxy. Then one day, these “Breakers” turn up, wipe out our technology, enslave us, then bugger off, without any apparent reason.
Well that’s not very nice, is it? Especially when the young Moses Michael’s Mother is slaughtered. Years later, Michaels, now also known at times as “Moses Matthews” (either that, or it’s an error), or by the moniker “Moses Of The Throat”, (which is from a mining site on Mars, called “Apollo’s Throat”, so let’s keep it clean, folks), is a mercenary with few scruples.
Or so it seems. Moses has built up some serious tech over time, including a beast of a mech he fondly refers to as “Big Lad”, or “Biggun”, who appears to have a love of 1980’s British Cartoons, in particular, “Dangermouse” (which is a British institution, by the way).
Since the departure of The Breakers, Humanity has slowly recovered over time, rebuilding its technology, but as nature abhors a vacuum, naturally, The Breakers are replaced by “The Ministry”, which are a bit like if the Tory Party were formed by Ian Paisley, but make the so-called “Alt-Right” look like peace-loving Hippies by comparison. The Ministry control all forms of technology, any unauthorised use or possession of technology is met with severe penalty.
Moses is called forth by Minister Vin, a treacherous and nasty piece of work, who, for some reason, reminds me of Norman Tebitt, (for the benefit of those not familiar with Mr. Tebitt, he’s a bit like a mix of Rupert Murdoch and “The Tall Man”), but unbelievably, has less concern for Humanity than all three of those put together (allegedly, of course).
Vin prescribes Moses with a task; to get the population hooked on drugs and enslave them in the mines. Oh, and also deal with those pesky ‘Techorists’, “The Red Lane” (basically a terrorist organisation that regularly attack Ministry interests). On his way to this mission, Moses discovers that not only does he discover a conscience, but quite possibly the means to end the tyranny of the Ministry, the Red Lane, and find his personal destiny.
Ooh, I sounded like one of those people who writes copy for DVDs just then, didn’t I? If all else fails then..
The bottom line about “Suited And Booted”? Hands-down, this has certainly felt the most fun read, it’s in-depth, beautifully produced, Dan Butcher even provides some of the best lettering I’ve seen for a while as well.
What is really surprising is how well paced and full this feels, especially for what is a total of 24 pages of story. Even in black & white, the art resonates, and while, sure, Dan still needs to improve on form and structure in areas, I really get a vibe of Carlos D’anda, who you might be familiar with as the character designer for the Arkham Asylum video game.
With this much care and attention to detail, you can tell that not only is it very obvious that Jon and Dan had a ball with this, but with Comics this good, yes, the price tag will always be justified. Although the story ties itself up nicely, personally, I’d like to see more of this book, at the very least, a revisit to Comichaus, if not a full series.
The Troubleshooters (Comichaus #1-5)
Story: Aaron Walther
Art: Ed Bickford
Did I mention how much I love Sci-Fi? Well, this is a different kind of Sci-Fi than in “Suited And Booted”, very much more of a Western feel with it.
After initially encountering a cut-throat posse on the outer boundaries of the New Port outpost in The Drylands, two Tradesmen, by the names of Grossbeak and Drongo are delivering a package to the Wren Station courier facility in New Port, surrounded by a desert filled landscape of Bandits and Dragonmen. Yes. Dragon. Men.
The posse are sent packing by Sergio, who runs New Port, sending them back to Boss Peregrine, a Dragonman who has established a fearsome reputation, based out in a tanker ship in the desert of The Drylands, his hordes robbing travelers of not only all their possessions, but an ultimatum to join his crew or be executed.
Sergio has had a truce with Peregrine to not interfere with each other’s interests, provided the Wren Service is not interfered with and can pass freely to carry on their business. This also benefits Peregrine, as he uses the Wren services himself.
Sergio has proclaimed New Port a safehaven against Peregrine’s Bandits, this understanding has been respected until now, when Buzz, the Wren service Courier, fails to arrive.
Buzz has been killed travelling en route, robbed and left in the desert, forcing Grossbeak and Drongo to wait until a new courier arrives. Sergio offers them employment in the meantime, a chance to make some money as hired help, a decision the two Tradesmen quickly grow to regret when the truce between Peregrine and Sergio begins to crumble amid accusations of Buzz’ death.
The first thing that struck me with The Troubleshooters is Ed Bickford’s glorious art, like an early Humanoids publication, blended with Sam Keith absurdism, finished with a style that is.. well.. Ed Bickford.
Bickford’s art style defies comparison, with natural flowing lines and water coloured tones, it’s raw and fits this story perfectly.
Walther’s script doesn’t waste time with any opening “Impressum”, preferring instead to concentrate simply on telling a well crafted story.
This is natural Comics at their best, the character designs are distinct, yet don’t seem to want to dazzle us either, the appearance of the characters stem more out of what they have acquired in possessions along the way, rather than so much through stylistic aesthetic choices, creating a unique look with each of them.
At the end of this run in Comichaus, although more questions than answers will be left, it makes you long for the return of The Troubleshooters already, and though I don’t know if this is intended as a stand-alone serial, possibly later to be collected as a Trade Paperback collection at some stage, or if there will be further development beyond this initial story, either way, this is a very satisfying read that demonstrates what a wonderful pairing Walther and Bickford really are.
Written by: Scott Mack
Editor’s Note: For all things Comichaus, head right here and immerse yourself in some of the finest British comics in their selection! And be sure to stay tuned for the second exciting addition of the Mackhaus Retrospective! Coming soon to a screen near you!