By Olly MacNamee
I picked both of these titles up on my recent trip to Birmingham's International Comic Expo back in July, but being a teacher the lure of kicking back and re-charging my batteries won over. But, as the shadow of autumn starts looming and the weather is anything but warm anymore it is time to put away those buckets and spades, shorts and shades and settle back into some sort of sensible routine.
First launched at last year's Thought Bubble, and having nothing in common with Mike Allred's own IT Girl title from Image published a few years back now, this all-in-one mini-comic tells the tale of one of Hollywood's forgotten screen sirens, Clara Bow. It is a very short but concise read running to only 12 pages in total and, while black and white self-publishing is a good idea to keep costs down, it is rather appropriate that a tale from the silent era of cinema is reproduced here in monochrome.
Jessica Martin, herself a performer of screen and stage (some British readers may well be familiar with Spitting Image. Well, she was an impressionist on that show) writes about a period of Hollywood history that she is passionate about and starting her series with such a semi-obscure starlet like Clara Bow illustrates that love. Not for her are the obvious names of that era, the Chaplins, the Keatons or the Arbuckles. What we are given is a spotlight on an actress who had it all, meteorically, before her star lost its sheen from tabloid hackery and mental health issues took their toll on her.
This is not a sad story, however, as in its sparse page count there simply is no time to linger too long on any one emotion, whether it is the joy Bow feels as she takes on her first starting role that made her name, and from which the comic takes its name, It or whether it is following her later life and the woes of paranoia and marriage troubles which are quickly accounted for before the story's final poignant page. In following Bow's life, practically from cradle to grave, we follow what must have felt, at times for the young actress, a rollercoaster of a ride and one that is reproduced in the reading experience too with a strong eye for period references throughout tasked to the artist, Nigel Wolfin, collaborator and husband.
IT Girl can be bought here, priced £3.50 plus postage and packing.
A full-colour comic from fellow comic-book newcomer, writer Eli Mamane, this is a series that includes as much science fact as it does fiction. In this not-too-distant future world humans have battled long and hard against the parasites we find around us each and every day; insects, bugs, creepy crawlies. And the creepy crawlies are winning contrary to the seemingly peaceful status quo this future Earth finds itself in at the start of the story. While there is a focus on wasps as the main threat in this first installment, Mamane keeps it as real as he can by illustrating parasitical creatures as they really are. Their behavior and attacks on what is left of humanity are based on scientific discoveries in nature. These occurrences can happen! Not so much Planet of the Apes but more a Planet of the Parasites.
In this first issue a plane is brought crashing down somewhere in London, brought down by a cloud of wasps. It is only a matter of time before a squad of Quarantine Agents is called in to investigate and seemingly clear up the mess. But, insects are very, very small. It only takes one to lay its parasitoid egg under a person's skin for an epidemic to occur. How that will take form and shape is a story for another issue and there is just enough intrigue for me to want to know how this story progresses.
As this is intended to be an ongoing series so the first issue does what any good first issue should do, introduce us to the world, its threat and the characters we will be following over the course of the first story-arc. These would be the Quarantine Agents (or Quarks, as they are referred to by a foul-mouthed condescending superior); Eazy, Hail, Rae and Zak who sit around waiting for the next emergency to be called through. They behave in the manner any group of colleagues and friends waiting around for a call up would, playing practical jokes on one another and shooting some pool to pass away the time between missions, like fire-fighters without a fire to fight.
The mooted, muddy colours provide by John-Paul Bove add to the sense of horror and foreboding in a world that has seen better days and adds depth and texture to the artwork of Graeme Howard who fleshes out each character and the surrounding often bleak landscape. All packaged together under a striking vertigo-inducing cover by Paul McCaffery. This first issue mixes the two genres of horror and sci-fi effortlessly and introduces us to a world that seems to have become complacent again. Clearly, from the first issue, this complacency will not be lasting too much longer. If you like the horror of Avatar, then you will like this. Go seek it out at comic cons across the country this autumn. Hopefully, it won't be too long before they can get a distributor for this publication. Anyone?
Olly MacNamee teaches English and Media, for his sins, in a school somewhere in Birmingham. Some days, even he doesn't know where it is. Follow him on twitter @ollymacnamee or read about his exploits at firstname.lastname@example.org. Or don't.