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Chelsea Boys: Steppin' Out
The Art of HVH
The Vesuvius Club Graphic Edition
Pride High #3
Desert Peach: Afterdead

 

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Entries for March 2007:
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Saturday, March 24, 2007
Review update
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Chelsea Boys: Steppin' Out


Author(s): Glen Hanson, Allan Neuwirth.


Sky, Nathan and SoiréeThe second collection of Allan Neuwirth and Glen Hanson's strip Chelsea Boys has been published by Bruno Gmünder in late 2006 (available from Amazon). It's been three years since the first collection, so it was a real pleasure to see that the strip only improved in the meantime (you can see some strips on the official site).
Most of the crewWhile the 3 rommates began as stereotypes (Nathan is the grumpy Jewish Guy, Soirée is the fabulous, strong-mouthed drag queen, and Sky is the seemingly innocent twink with a perfect bod), their development in this second collection takes them even further from what some readers felt was a one-dimensional presentation. I'd be surprised if anybody said that now. They've all grown into fully realised characters, and the larger cast the authors have introduced little by little has certainly helped. The variety of age, ethnicity, outlook on life and physical appearance is very appealing, as are the storylines, ranging from silly to rather serious: Sky becomes a contestant on a reality TV show, but at the possible cost of his personal ethics; Nathan's mother seems to develop Alzheimer's; Soirée might not fit with his boyfriend's friends' milieu...
The art is a real delight. Hanson manages to blend a very cartoony style (his characters have only four fingers, for example) with a caricaturist's talents, which gives us a combination of Jerry Mills' style on Poppers and mainstream magazine illustration (see his website for all those aspects in his work). He also draws very hot guys of all ages and shapes, in my opinion.
Chelsea Boys has become a fun but definitely not superficial strip, with warm and engaging characters. Let's hope we'll get a lot more collections.


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Saturday, March 17, 2007
Blog review
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The Art of HVH

Category: illustration.
Author(s): HVH.
Year of publication: 2007.


One of the illustrationsPatrick Fillion's Class Comics has begun publishing comic-sized illustrations collections. With this Art of HVH, we discover an artist (website here) who offers a wide range of styles, in the line, the color and the tone.
There's a lightness, a joie de vivre, in his more cartoony works that's well complemented by the heavier pieces, where the weight of bodies and the solidity of his characters is conveyed by muted colors and grainy volumes.
What I really like is that this always looks like drawings (and not photoshopped photos), even though the use of computer is obvious. Maybe it's thanks to the thick line HVH uses, a style I very much enjoy.
One of the problems illustrations collections sometimes face is the repetition of scenes. HVH manages to give us a large variety of scenes, with men of also varied ages and body types, from simple nakedness to complete porn. That's another thing I like.
These 32-page portfolios are a good idea. I hope Class Comics will publish more of them and enable us to discover more gay artists. There's a large number who'd deserve it.


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Blog review
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The Vesuvius Club Graphic Edition

Category: adventure, gay-friendly.
Author(s): Mark Gatiss, Ian Bass.
Year of publication: 2005.


Here's a fun adventure graphic novel I've just discovered: adapted from his own book by gay writer Mark Gatiss, it tells a story of Lucifer Box, a decadent, bisexual secret agent working for the British Crown at the turn of the XXth Century.
What's funny for me is that, even though I only recently learned about the existence of the Vesuvius Club, I already knew Gatiss's name: he's written a nice biography of gay film director James Whale (Frankenstein, The Invisible Man; also the main character of the excellent film Gods and Monsters), and he's worked on Doctor Who, including the current, gay-friendly series.
Box shoots straightIn this 100-page graphic novel, Gatiss builds a slightly skewed world where secret agents meet in loos (was that a reference to Marvel's SHIELD having an entrance at a barber's shop?) and an original type of zombies roam the night. Not that far from the ambiance of Alan Moore and Kevin O'Neill's The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, in fact (the use of period ads for the inside covers is another resemblance). Box himself is a portraitist and lives at 9, Downing Street--he probably doesn't have to worry about the neighbors. He's also a very competent and amoral secret agent who finds himself on the trail of the murderers of a bunch of vulcanologists. A trail which leads him to Italy, and the arms of Charlie Jackpot, a young, hunky servant begging to be removed from the service of an old fogey. Box is more than pleased to help a young man in distress...
The delightful Charlie JackpotIan Bass's art is a lot of fun. He's got an attention to detail that helps realise Gatiss's vision, and his style is a good balance between realism and cartoony (the way he draws faces, and especially eyes, made me think of early Barry Windsor-Smith). That, and he draws cute guys.
The tone of the book is rather light, even in the more somber or action parts, but the humor isn't forced. The Vesuvius Club (available at Amazon) is a really entertaining read, and I now intend to buy the book from which it was adapted and see what Gatiss alone can do. A second book has also just been published.
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Wednesday, March 14, 2007
Review update
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Pride High #3


Author(s): Tommy Roddy, Brian Ponce.


coverAs the second one, the third issue of Pride High mostly deals with the consequences of the loss of one of the debut issue characters in various ways, and advances the plot by introducing a replacement character for the gay-straight alliance group, which was necessary for them to compete in the school's games.
Writer Tommy Roddy and artist Brian Ponce tackle some serious problems head on: at the church ceremony, a bunch of homophobic bigots spout gay-hating religious slogans, something that's rather close to reality in the USA, apparently.
Back at the school, daily life reasserts itself, as does the search for a new member needed for the group. As in the previous issues, the pace is good, characters are built on little by little (there are interesting exchanges between two out gay teachers, for example), and Ponce's art is mostly solid, altough I must admit I found the fight sequence between students to be a bit hard to follow. But I'm pretty sure I'm in the minority there (and after all, that's the part I least enjoy, personally).
This issue felt a bit like a transition issue, with the aftermath of a death and the introduction of a new, presumably important core character. I think it won't feel that way when more issues are published and they can be all read one after another. It will just be one chapter in a large story which does continue to hold my interest, no doubt about that.
This issue can be bought as a pdf from the publisher (you'll find a preview there, too) or in print from the Prism site.


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Sunday, March 11, 2007
Blog review
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Desert Peach: Afterdead

Category: fantasy, gay-friendly.
Author(s): Donna Barr.
Year of publication: 2007.


This 224-page collection of Donna Barr's Desert Peach (which you can buy at Lulu.com) is a mix of already-published and new stories: included are issues #31 and #32 of the series, while the rest hadn't been printed. At first, I was wondering why Donna Barr was reprinting two stories which were still available, but it makes perfect sense: the two issues are the end of the "historical" Peach stories and the beginning of the new status quo (if one could ever say that there's a status quo in Barr's stories), with the Peach arriving as an "afterdead" in a future world where society is a new Reich, a militaristic organization which hasn't much to do with the third one, and more with Barr's ideas of what would happen if the army held the reins.

"Nobody cares if you're gay"It's weirder than you could imagine, and far funnier, too. Everybody's a soldier, raised in kids communes, with dead, undead and afterdead mingling with the living (and the cyborgs), and all of the author's characters find a new life here, making this Afterdead world a complete cross-over of The Desert Peach, Stinz and others, in a reader-friendly way: although one gets more out of all this when one has already read Barr's previous work, this thick collection is so different from what she has done before that it can easily be read for its own worth.
For example, Erwin Rommel, the real-life Desert Fox and brother of the fictional gay Pfirsich, is now an unofficially state-sanctioned rebel who nibbles at the Reich's borders, while Pfirsich is a gardener. Oh, and "Nobody cares if you're gay" in this world, as is often repeated to Pfirsich (which allows Barr to give free rein to her very personal and very moving portrayal of Pfirsich's love life). As I said, weird. But also extremely convincing and subtle. There's a lot of uncommon wisdom in Donna Barr's tales, and a clear sympathy for all her characters. Love happens in the strangest places, too.
Pfirsich and his new lovePfirsich will meet his new love, who has some troubling (for the Peach) points in common with his old flame Rosen (who also appears here, in a cute role). Donna Barr has an uncanny ear for dialogue, managing to make the reader laugh out loud and feel all romantic at the same time.
With this new chapter in her characters' lives, Donna Barr has launched into her own brand of world-building fantasy, all the while retaining her sense of real-world complexity which made the previous Desert Peach issues so compelling. And it's still as gay-friendly as it ever was!


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