Apr ’17 – A Year In Orbit – Unearthly Science Fiction….

Posted: April 12th, 2018 | Author: | Filed under: A Proper Blog | Tags: , , | No Comments »

Rest, weary space traveller….

Can it really be a year since Agent Rob, Agent Johnny and Adam Smith watched Unearthly Science Fiction roar off into the night sky over Edinburgh never to be seen nor heard from again…?

http://futurefire.net/links/index.html

And yet, just when Agent Rob had finally given up all hope he happened to receive a transmission from the lovely people at The Future Fire. It seems they had tuned their frequencies to ‘far out’ and successfully intercepted a communication from our lonely satellite somewhere over London in November 2017….

‘Steve Mason and ‘Olgur Zen’ by John G. Miller

‘Codename: Cosmos’ by John G. Miller and Rob Miller

….and boy did they like it! It’s hard to deny that sending an unmanned space mission out into the publishing universe is a long, lonely (and more or less) thankless task, so it was a real pleasure to read N.A. Jackson‘s in-depth review….

‘Maria 3’ by Rob Miller

“In some ways the fiction is all too earthly, collectively the stories evoke a grungy, malfunctioning world, disturbingly similar to our own in which the characters wrestle with the pointlessness of life or are consumed by ambition or bitterness.”

‘Splashdown one’ by Adam J. Smith

In particular Adam J. Smith‘s ‘Splashdown One‘ was singled out as “One of the most memorable pieces in the collection” while Ian Wark‘s ‘The Pod‘ was praised for being “one of the more resolved of the stories… benefitting from its length.”….

‘Agent X4 and The Deep Fix’ by John G. Miller

Furthermore, the “amazing illustrations”, successfully “evoking the luridly coloured science fiction mags of the sixties”, lead the reviewer to comment “It’s not often that illustrations complement fiction so well, but here they do and they help to give the magazine a unified look.”….

‘Planet Of The Jakey’ by Neil Beattie

The reviewer concludes that the collection is “an intelligent and irreverent glimpse into how humanity may grapple and grope its way onwards. In the conception of these authors, we may head for the stars but we’ll be taking along all the trappings of dysfunctional late capitalism.” 

‘Steve Mason and ‘Olgur Zen’ by John G. Miller

It’s great to see our wee book receive such a thoughtful and encouraging review, justifying Agent Rob and Adam J. Smith‘s early decision to intentionally go (if not, er, rub up somewhat) against Agent Johnny‘s (more traditional) grain – this collection couldn’t simply be another run through of well worn riffs on the favoured SF of our youth. True, it might have been a somewhat bumpy ride until we cleared the atmosphere, but a write-up like this made the frequent bends all very much worth it….

Anyone who fancies heading to the dark side of the moon with us can book a ticket >> here….


Mar ’18 – A Chronicle Of Doom….

Posted: March 31st, 2018 | Author: | Filed under: John G. Miller | Tags: , | No Comments »

“Thank God It’s Only A View To A Swill!” An excellent ‘view to a swill‘ on ‘Woden’sday‘ of this week, Agent Rob (surprise?) visiting Agent Johnny at Ice Station Zebra for the first time since the end of January. In spite of the fact Our Man In Pester Wails looked initially bemused by Rob‘s being washed up at his front door things thereafter went swimmingly, the vintage swill was quickly retrieved from the fridge and cranked open as seat springs sprang under the strain, the contented chuntering already well underway….

As ever, Philip K. Dick, The Grateful Dead, The Shadow and The Masque Of The Red Death were ‘finely whined’ topics of conversation. Add to that an intriguing discussion about Agent Rob‘s enjoyment of ‘skunk rock’, then on to the impact of ‘punk rock’ in Lanarkshire – it seems it raised barely a sneer – and (alleged) meetings with Siouxsie Sioux and The Stranglers – tentatively filed away in the same folder as Agent Johnny‘s extra-ing in The New Avengers – and you have a cracking afternoon’s entertainment. The Dark Horse reprints of the Doctor Solar title – it seems Johnny’s been tanking a full volume a day – and Crack In The World – watched along with The War Lord as a double bill at the Regal Cinema in Lanark – also kept the swill flowing at a brisk pace. Finally there was mention of a fascinating sounding 1968 ‘skill jottir’ comic of Johnny‘s featuring the leery ‘Cylindricone‘. How ‘Mr Christian‘, the strip’s hero, dealt with that, well, only Johnny knows….

As if all this ‘jolly good fun’ wasn’t enough, Agent Rob is pleased to report that he was allowed to return to Glasgog with the completed 7 pages of ‘John Stark: Death March of the Missile Men‘ – quite possibly the best thing Agent Johnny has ever done! – in his possession. And indeed, if that isn’t enough for you, dear reader, the borrowing of 5 aged issues of The Alchemist and 1 issue of Chewing Bricks in which there must be 10-15 pages of earlier material (that have thus far evaded the printed clutches of Braw Books) was also sanctioned. Whatever remains in the tank – both Agents had a quite frank conversation about the possibility that Johnny‘s drawing days are all but over – you can rest assure Rob will do his very best to realise every and any last drop of this most secret of agent’s astounding creative output. Surely after over 30 years toil at the comic coalface any man would be entitled to put his feet up, read a few books and comics and enjoy whatever programmes or fillums of yesteryear took his fancy on the ‘One-Eyed-God‘ – heck, as far as Agent Rob‘s concerned the return to nibblingg at the salad days can’t come soon enough….

Sounds: Two From The Vault by Grateful Dead: Sky Pilot by Eric Burdon & The Animals: Piper At The Gates Of Dawn by Pink Floyd and Nerve Pylon by The Lines….


Jan ’18 – A Chronicle Of Doom….

Posted: January 31st, 2018 | Author: | Filed under: John G. Miller | Tags: , | No Comments »

http://cloud-109.blogspot.co.uk/2010/09/snippet-literally-of-wrath-of-gods.html

Long ‘overNeu Year’s visit to Ice Station Zebra on Monday, Agents Rob and Johnny dodgin’ the January ‘blooze’ – likely helped by the fact that neither has done a one-eyed-god damn’s worth of ‘comic drawin’ in the ‘winterim’ since their last meeting – by easin’ themselves gently into 2017’s first official ‘View To A Swill’….

It was contented chunterin’ all the way, ‘Our Man In Pester Wails’ takin’ great pride in showin’ off his recent Spaceship Away/Dan DareThe Big City Caper (controversial?) issue and a few other ‘oversize colour reprints’, includin’ Brett MillionThe Angry Planet and Wrath Of The GodsThe Bow Of Delos (by Michael Moorcock and Ron Embleton)….

The latter especially, with its simply gorgeous fully painted artwork, harks back to a far superior era of ‘comic illustration’ that it’s quite clear will never be seen again (aside from in loving reproductions such as these). It’s fair to say a good amount of time was spent staring in wonder at these vintage masterworks, Agent Rob scrambling to pick his jaw up from the floor….

Then, Grateful Dead playing quietly in the corner – well, until the startling, rousing guitars of Turn On Your Lovelight (slowly filtering in from 10:30 in the video below) scorched a path across the room! – it was time to discuss the epic, explosive ‘grande finales’ to both Tobruk and Escape To Athena as well as the Hammer Film Productions of Kiss Of The Vampire and The Plague Of The Zombies and obviously Philip K. Dick‘s The Game-Players Of TitanClans Of The Alphane Moon and A Scanner Darkly (“….it’s very well written….”)….

Sounds: Two From The Vault by Grateful DeadBlows Against The Empire by Paul Kantner, Grace Slick et al and Cool Snap and Nerve Pylon by The Lines….

Grateful Dead – Turn On Your Lovelight 24/08/1968


Jan ’18 – The Year Of Giving Dangerously

Posted: January 15th, 2018 | Author: | Filed under: A Proper Blog | Tags: , , | No Comments »

What better way to help readers beat the January blues than to announce that (following on from Lulu‘s December discount) we here at Braw Books have decided to knock a whopping 15% off the RRP of all our available titles. Yep, if you head over here you can browse our superior comic bounty on offer for inferior comic prices….

This means that the Collected Works of John G. MillerDave Alexander and Pudsy can now be “yours to own on paper forever” – or somesuch outlandish claim that neglects to consider charity shops, ebay and the fact we’re all going to die at one point (and quite possibly at the same time, who knows) – at a fantastic knock me down with a feather price….

Aye, for near enough a tenner you can own some of the very finest comedy writing this country has ever produced…. writing that easily goes toe to toe with countless far more famous and celebrated (and rich!) Scottish novelists and comedians. And these guys can actually draw too – bonus….


Nov ’17 – A Chronicle Of Doom….

Posted: November 24th, 2017 | Author: | Filed under: John G. Miller | Tags: , | No Comments »

We’re off to see the wizard, the wizard of Wester Hailes! A much more magical visit to Ice Station Zebra to see Agent Johnny this month, Agent Rob cheered to find his auld pal looking far more fighting fit! As such it wiz straight down to the business with The Sweeney – featuring future, er, ‘Brush Stroker’ Karl Howman – getting things off to a flying (squad) start….

Next up our Men In Pester Wailes stayed tuned fer the ‘Stay Tuned‘ episode of The Avengers, notable fer featuring both Roger Delgado (Dr Who‘s The Master) and Kate O’Mara (Dr Who‘s The Rani) in supporting roles. Ironside, featuring a low-key turn from George Kennedy, then really upped the ante with it’s decidedly downbeat and leery ‘Priest-Killer‘ episode….

Unable to stomach the grim pulpit drama any longer – or maybe that wiz just the ‘Motherwell Odeon-style’ hot dogs Agent Johnny whipped up! – the channel wiz soon changed from Ironside ‘fer to catch’ the end of The Guns Of Fort Petticoat (1957) and thus making sure to catch the start of Dakota (1945) with John The Duke” Wayne on early comedic form….

There was much contented chuntering throughout, E. E. “Doc” SmithPhilip K. Dick and John Brunner’s ‘Stand On Zanzibar’ – “Oh, flip! Havnae seen one of those in a while!” – coming under close scrutiny, but Agent Johnny showing off a near-pencilled cover for the ‘Paranoiac‘ comic he’s ‘dreamed up’ wiz the paraticular highlight….

Visions: The Sweeney, The Avengers, Ironside, The Guns Of Fort Petticoat, Dakota.

The Avengers: Season 6 – Opening & Closing Titles


Nov ’17 – An Archive Of Doom….

Posted: November 20th, 2017 | Author: | Filed under: John G. Miller | Tags: , | No Comments »

Back! Back! Back! Let’s do the warptime again! It’s well over 10 years since Adam J. Smith and Agent Rob tentatively approached Agent Johnny at a SCCAM meeting in ‘The Mono‘ in 2005 and thus quite impossible to imagine the current underground creative landscape had this hesitant first encounter – Agent Rob remembers Adam pointing out “that guy” sitting, swilling at a table alone – never occurred (to Adam)….

Fast forward this rewind two years and in late 2007, after countless truly amazing letters (from John) and encouraging letters (from Rob), Rob agreed to head through to Pester Wails to join Johnny on one of his regular reconnaissance missions (AKA a ‘View To A Swill’) over the hill to Cramond Island (AKA ‘Crab Key‘)….

They say a picture’s worth a thousand words, so there’s no sense in wasting too much time describing how damp and dreary the day itself was, both Agents of S.H.I.E.LD. trudging on, boots squelching, bones soaked. An initial highlight was bumping into one of Johnny’s numerous ‘girlyfriends’, Lyndy Henderson – she blew up the world, dontcha know! – at a set of traffic lights en route. She was out walking her dog and it was heartening to see her affection for Agent Miller, who was clearly oozing (if not in fact visibly dripping) some of that old 007 magic….

The swill was duly cranked open – setting a template the decade that followed – and, to the drone of ‘airyplanes’ cruising in to land at Edinburgh airport, cans were necked and munchies munched. Nothing lasts forever, and in a flash the afternoon was over, years evaporating in the blink of an eye, our two sodden souls heading back to (equally not as) dry land….

There was to be no let up in the weather and, having missed his return train – by this time it was around ‘nineteen hundred hours’ at night – Agent Johnny kindly offered Rob some shelter from the storm until the next one. And so the threshold at Ice Station Zebra was crossed, thereby accidentally opening up a whole brave new world that would come to irrevocably shape the duo’s next ten years….

Cramond Island is (supposedly) about two hours walk from Pester Wails, but add on the scenic route, jaunts into ‘nooseagents’ fer grub supplies, the comic artist’s mantra of ‘nae rush’, the weight of rain saturating yer jacket slowing ye down and it takes twice as long. Sadly, the leaden pace on the day meant there was no time on the night ‘fer to stop off’ fer some glug at the Cramond Inn – an experience often given an enviable and pleasantly melancholy warm rendering in John‘s letters…

Cramond Island AKA ‘Crab Key’

Journey into fear….

Cramond Inn

“Double Oh flip…!”


Oct ’17 – A Chronicle Of Doom….

Posted: October 12th, 2017 | Author: | Filed under: John G. Miller | Tags: , | No Comments »

A brief and decidedly dispiriting visit to Ice Station Zebra on Tuesday of this week as Agent Rob yet again (and somewhat unwisely) stirred Agent Johnny from his slumber, the resulting couple of hours crawling by in awkward silences, Our Man In Pester Wails spending much of the time dozing in his chair, bare feet boldly on display. When the chat did eventually come – following, rather bizarrely, a long pause for a change of trousers – it was horrendously one-sided, and a much anticipated conversation concerning recent viewings of The Fly (1959) and its various sequels was simply caught short in the web of despair….

Still, there was life in the old slog yet…. and also in the topic of Commando ComicsAgent Rob talking at length about the most memorable issue from his childhood, The Cat, the Rat and the Cobra and Agent Johnny duly responding with honourable mentions given to his favourite titles Crash Dive and Rogue Bomber. At one point Johnny rallied himself enough to reel off a (very pertinent) quote along the lines of, “if you are able to help someone as you pass along then your life has not been in vain”….

There then followed a brief thumbs up for the exploits of Alf Tupper, before, unable to even finish his first can of swill, Agent Johnny turned down the duvet and announced/whispered he was fer ‘hitting the sack’, leaving Agent Rob to ‘consolo’ himself for an hour or so, swilling to the epic sounds of Crippled Black Phoenix, live dreaming wistfully of the days gone by Hope Street ‘view to a swills’….

Sounds: (selections from) The Resurrectionists & Night Raider by Crippled Black Phoenix….


Sep ’17 – A Chronicle Of Doom….

Posted: September 11th, 2017 | Author: | Filed under: John G. Miller | Tags: , | No Comments »

Yet another bon voyage of Agent Rob‘s ‘fer ter visit’ Agent Johnny at Ice Station Zebra on ‘Thor’sday’ of this week. This well coordinated exercise – postponed from last week and honed by years of secret agent training – allowed our two ‘men in Pester Wails’ to settle down in very good time ‘fer to watch’ the exceedingly leery The Masque Of The Red Death on The Horror Channel. Indeed, this followed a failed attempt to retune the ‘one-eyed-god’ to find Talking Pictures TV and a brief interlude of Bob Dylan live in 1966, the swill soon cranked open to smooth over the cracks, the cheese rolls munched, the outside world quickly forgotten by those it’s forsaken….

As soon as Vincent Price had laughed his last laugh Agent Johnny was suddenly (swill?) inspired to give a reading – yep, a reading! – of Edgar Allan Poe‘s original The Masque Of The Red Death short story. And so, like any good kiddie-winkie, Agent Rob – opting against sitting cross-legged on the floor to complete the picture – listened as Our Man In Pester Wails growled (mumbled, snuffled, coughed and hacked) his way atmospherically through the 7 pages of this twisted tale. Fillums and television – You Only Live TwiceThe GauntletVoyage To The Bottom Of The Sea and, of course, The Invaders – then occupied the rest of the afternoon’s contented chuntering before the ‘great white bus’ into town beckoned and where, in Deadhead Comics, Agent Rob picked up Wakeling, the newie by Braw Books favourite Magda Boreysza….

SoundsLive 1966, “The Royal Albert Hall Concert” by Bob Dylan: A Saucerful Of Secrets by Pink Floyd: Sea Within A Sea by The Horrors and Nerve Pylon by The Lines (the grande finale!)….

VisionsThe Masque Of The Red Death (1964)


Aug ’17 – A Chronicle Of Doom….

Posted: August 7th, 2017 | Author: | Filed under: John G. Miller | Tags: , | No Comments »

Half-swill, half-grub, and all S.H.I.E.LD.! So it was with Agent Rob‘s first visit in a good while to Ice Station Zebra ‘fer to see’ Agent Johnny (who answered the door with his best ‘bedhead’ on, a truly impressive sight!). Seems the ‘aches and pains’ are often a little too much to bear and that ‘hittin’ the sack’ is the only sensible option. Of course, always best to gather one’s strength ahead of an afternoon’s ‘View To A Swill’. With nothing worth watching aside from Our Man In Pester Wail‘s brand new rug – a magic carpet fer sure! –  it was time to ‘mugdock’ the ‘music box’ and crank open some swill….

It was (nearly) 50 years ago today…. Imagine Agent Rob‘s surprise when presented with a ‘stack’ of Sgt. Fury and his Howling Commandos comics – gifted to Agent Johnny by an old ‘Sheffield Fart College’ pal – that were published in 1967! Seems every pop-culture milestone’s hittin’ the hallowed half-century, er, milestone this year! As if trying to comprehend this sudden passage of time wasn’t enough, creative lives blinking on and then off, Agent Johnny then stated that, as well as conversing with Gareth Hunt on the phone several times, he’d met Patrick Macnee as he’d been an extra in 3 or 4 episodes of The New Avengers! (IMDB unable to verify this outlandish claim unfortunately….)

Following on from in depth discussions about ‘Woden’sday’s screening of The Curse Of The Mummy’s Tomb, that evening’s screening of Thunderball and the fillums Enter The Dragon and Shout At The Devil it wiz time for gettin’ on for time gettin’ on and Agent Rob ‘buzzed’ his way into town to drop off a bale of Braw Books at Deadhead Comics. Seems the festival spirit suits Agent Austin down to the grind and a guid hour of guid humoured chunterin’ ensued before Agent Rob left fer pastures old clutching Rumble Volume 1 and the ‘True Believers’ edition of Black Panther #1, a celebration/further milking of (what would have been) Jack “King” Kirby‘s full-century(!)….

Sounds: Memory Span by The Lines: Two From The Vault by Grateful Dead and Blows Against The Empire by Paul Kantner, Grace Slick et al….


Jul ’17 – Happy Bacch-omnibox-day, part 3

Posted: July 21st, 2017 | Author: | Filed under: Review | Tags: , | No Comments »

And so we conclude our (er, week long) Bacchus-day celebrations with a nice shiny new review of Alec: The Years Have Pants….

So here we have it, six hundred and thirty eight! 638! Six! Three! Eight! pages of Eddie Campbell‘s “groundbreaking autobiographical comics” collected in their (near enough) entirety. About 1/6th of this hefty collection is new or long out of print, and the compilation and readying for (re)print was undertaken by Campbell himself, organising the assorted books – the King Canute Crowdgraffiti Kitchenshortshow to be an artistLittle ItalyThe Dead MuseThe Dance of Lifey Deathafter the SnooterFRaGMENTS and ‘The Years have Pants‘ – into an approximate chronological order, with a little reshuffling here and there to improve the overall clarity/effect.

Imagine setting yourself the challenge of drawing this?!

I’ll confess that, whether it was the expectation built up by the mighty Bacchus tomes or not, I found this Alec collection surprisingly hard to get into. The first book, the King Canute Crowd, is at times a frustrating and chaotic read, the plethora of characters careening in and out of view – there’s a Danny and a Dave a ‘big’ Jane and a ‘little’ Jane – make it difficult to get a good handle on who’s who, who’s where and just what exactly’s going on. There are slight (but sudden) jumps in the narrative that can’t help but upend the story’s flow at times, throwing off the reader’s rhythm and the tale’s momentum. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with the art here, it’s of Eddie’s usual high standard – he’s always to be found attempting locations or sequences that many artists (especially writer/artists) would shy away from (for fear of either exposing their shortcomings or from a general wariness of the challenge of portraying the mundane as/with interest) – and is very accomplished. For all Campbell’s skills I guess you just had to be there….

The second book, graffiti Kitchen, finds him in more cohesive voice, even if the art is pretty rough around the edges throughout – it often has that ‘first draft‘ look and even the dreaded ‘that’ll do‘ crossed my mind.

Agreed. Why is ‘the final product’ always such a non-event?


However, by ‘how to be an artist‘ things have really kicked into first gear, and Campbell guides us through the small press > UK comics boom > British invasion of the US > the coming of the ‘graphic novel’ with skill and aplomb, making this an essential read/record of an important bubble as it was formed, floated and popped. There’s a lovely trajectory to this section and the many layers of comic ‘creativedom‘ are slowly peeled back and revealed for all to see. The fact that this all takes place in the pre-internet age – Campbell spends a lot of time writing letters of praise to and receiving similar letters from – only adds to the interest as, beset by insecurities, he makes connection after connection whilst navigating his way through this (often) lonely and unforgiving landscape.

Beamed in from a spell in Northern Australia ‘Little Italy‘, as Campbell states in his short introduction, “consists of brief moments captured, thoughts expressed immediately, and anecdotes illustrated the day after hearing them…“. There’s plenty to enjoy here in these 1-4 pages shorts, covering everything from gruesome murder (‘The Pyjama Girl‘), legal shenanigans (‘Jack Gets Even’) to the nuances and (entertaining) banalities of everyday family (and not so everyday) comic drawing life. ‘The Dead Muse‘ picks up where ‘Little Italy‘ leaves off and – though shorn of the other artistic contributions which rounded out the publication and which are introduced in Campbell’s remaining strips – still manages to maintain a (Bacchus-esque) consistency of style and theme, carried on through ‘The Dance of Lifey Death‘ (a similar mix of thoughtful longer pieces and single page observations) and the sizeable ‘after the Snooter‘. This book reads like something of a spiritual sequel (or warning) of sorts to how to be an artist and deftly alternates between the struggle with mid-life/career, the fun of the family and reflections on childhood experiences without the tales ever feeling too mismatched.

FRaGMENTS‘ represents some 20 or so pages, forming the 3 Chapters Campbell completed of a proposed 160 page ‘The History Of Humour‘, an interesting enough exercise (that reads a little like a truncated companion to Bacchus, only this time the Greek god Momus looks set to be our guide). The entire collection rounds off with ‘The Years Have Pants‘, a further smattering of new anecdotal pieces.

There’s no denying ‘Alec’ is a considerable (artistic) achievement, but the variety of approaches to the material – not Campbell‘s fault really, when you consider this is various separate books latterly assembled and reordered into a chronological whole – means there is something lacking across the entire reading experience. My expectations were just too high, thinking that this book would have a far weightier central narrative that would slowly build towards an emotional pay off (continually examining The Fate Of King Canute Crowd as time slowly catches up then overtakes them, for example), but with Campbell’s move abroad and the constant (understandable) devotion to his work it’s not to be. There’s definitely a cumulative effect, and many of the shorter strips are quite sweet, but overall I really only came away with a greater admiration of Campbell‘s tremendous work ethic, his exceptional skill and incredible output – it’s now a wonder he did anything at all, let alone create this, the towering works of Bacchus and From Hell – than any altogether deeper feeling or vast insight into life.


BUT….


When scanning the excerpts for this book, flicking through it from page to page, stopping to read a bit here and to examine a panel there a whole new world of appreciation opened up. To sit with this book, to jump forward and backward across (Alec)time – in a way no other medium really allows – to relax and simply enjoy tiny snippets of Campbell‘s tales, marvelling at a short sequence of panels or just enjoying the relation of the dialogue to the panel or the subtle nugget of wisdom he’s flying by. What a joy it is to dip in and out of! Okay, so I’ve completed the groundwork, the traditional ‘front to back’ approach that is expected of me (or I expect of myself) and now I’ve conquered that I can dip in and out at my leisure. Ah, there’s nothing like a good old fashioned FLICK….

Amazon Softcover — Top Shelf Hardcover — Top Shelf Omnibox