Friday, 31 May 2013

Comica conversation - Jaime Hernandez and Woodrow Phoenix

Ti-Girls: Espectra and Angel
Though I have been reading comics ever since I was big enough to pick one up (see my biography for proof of this) there are huge gaps in my knowledge. I had heard of Love & Rockets by the Hernandez brothers before and knew that it was held in high regard but never actually read any of it. Gilbert and Jaime Hernandez have been creating comics for 30 years so I've got a lot of catching up to do.

Last night Woodrow Phoenix did a wonderful job of interviewing Jaime Hernandez as part of the launch of BD & Comics Passion being held at Institut Fran├žais in London (30 May - 2 June 2013).

Woodrow Phoenix is a fan of Jaime's work and highly knowledgeable about it, his gentle questioning helped novices like me to understand the importance of Jaime Hernandez's comics and the ground-breaking characters he created. A bonus was that Woodrow and Jaime both came across as funny, charming and mutually respectful. It was one of the best interviews I have seen.

For this post I will concentrate on Jaime Hernandez's Ti-Girls stories. The Ti-Girls are a group of female super heroes that are not in the usual mould - many different body types and ages are joyfully represented here. Jaime draws women in a way that is rarely seen but I wish there were more of it, every bump and bulge is lovingly celebrated and the women are full of life and humour. Each character moves and stands in her own way, these are fully realised personalities that almost seem ready to step off the page. I like all the Ti-Girl characters but perhaps my current favourite is Xochitl/Espectra (see image above), I have been trying to work out what her super hero costume is made out of - it almost looks knitted but I think it might be Crimplene. It is this kind of attention to detail that makes Jaime's work so wonderful.

Not all of Jaime's stories are about superheroes but they all seem to be full of fantastic characters. I might have to build another bookshelf to accommodate all the books of his that I want to buy.

For more information about Jaime Hernandez and his books go to his publisher's website Fantagraphics.

Sunday, 19 May 2013

The Phoenix - a weekly comic for children

a display of issues of The Phoenix comic

I usually pick up copies of The Phoenix at Comica Comikets. During the recent Free Comic Book Day my 10 year old daughter won a five week subscription and we have just received the first of this in the lovely envelope you see on the left.

The stories in The Phoenix are wide ranging in style, complexity and tone. For example, in this weeks issue there is Gary's Garden by Gary Northfield (in which a caterpillar learns to be more tolerant of his brother), Corpse Talk by Adam Murphy (Archimedes is dug up from his grave to talk about his life) and the last episode of the brilliant adventure story The Pirates of Pangaea by Neill Cameron and Daniel Hartwell.

My daughter has learning difficulties, she can read text but struggles with meaning. She can't manage all of the stories in The Phoenix at the moment but seems to enjoy the simpler, less text heavy ones. Reading comics appears to be helping her communication, this morning she used speech balloons in a drawing to tell us how she was feeling. Perhaps reading comics helps to reinforce the highly visual style of communication and teaching at her special needs school, for instance her teachers use Makaton picture symbols along with text to reinforce meaning.

Over on the Phoenix website you can read a free sample issue online. It is a great comic for kids, one of the many things I like about it, besides the high standard of the stories, is that it has no advertising at all. 

Sunday, 5 May 2013

Free Comic Book Day - worldwide event

Free Comic Book Day (FCBD) is a worldwide event that happens on the first Saturday in May every year. The clue is in the name really, you turn up at a participating comic shop and you take away some free comics.

This year it was on May 4 and I took my 10 year old daughter for her first visit to Gosh! Comics in Soho, London. She has heard me speak of Gosh! before but it became clear that she had underestimated the wonderfulness of the place. "I love it here" she said at one point, looking like she wanted to move in - this from a child who generally dislikes shops of any kind.

She was given some comics in the bag you see in the photo and then became engrossed in creating her own comic (something about an evil snake, electricity and a girl) on the "Draw with the Artists" table leaving me free to browse the free comics laid out on benches - one of my best finds was a little comic book called Airship by David O'Connell and Sarah McIntyre. Along with the freebies I couldn't resist buying NoBrow 6 and my daughter bought a comic from the huge selection in the downstairs part of the shop.

I guess I am like most parents, I'd love to be able to share my interests with my daughter but don't want to push her too hard in any direction. I have to be particularly careful because she has learning difficulties and can easily become overwhelmed. The real delight for me during FCBD this year was not that we got free stuff, though that was great, but that for the first time my daughter showed a real interest in comics - both as creator and reader. I think the artists she drew with, the atmosphere of the day and of the shop all combined together to work a little bit of magic on her.

The delights of FCBD did not end on Saturday. I've just found out that my daughter has won a 5 week subscription to the wonderful Phoenix Comic - we are both very happy about this and I promise that I will wait my turn to read them.

Information about Free Comic Book Days can be found on and you can find out more about Gosh! on their website Details about the Phoenix Comic are here