March 18, 2015, Posted by Paddy Johnston in Books, Comics

Comic Week: 5 highly influential cartoonists

Tom originally asked me to write about the five most influential cartoonists of all time for Comic Week, but I decided to change the focus slightly.

I’m always wary of making suggestions towards a canon, but I also didn’t want to imply that any other cartoonists were more influential than Tom himself, as the creator of Mr Book. So I thought a better and more interesting post would be one about five cartoonists who have been influential on my own comics. Some are well-known, some are not so well-known, but all have absolutely floored me with their comics in one way or another, and have changed the way I approach comics as a cartoonist…

Michel Rabagliati

rabagliati© Michel Rabagliati

Michel Rabagliati writes and draws elegant, poignant graphic novels about growing up in Québec, told through his avatar, Paul. Michel Rabagliati taught me the true extent of how writing from life, but providing slight distance with fictionalization, can make for a really emotionally resonant comic. Paul has been called “The Tintin of Québec”, and Rabagliati’s art owes some debt to Hergé, but is a unique style, fitting well with his unique vision of Québec.

Kate Beaton

beaton © Kate Beaton

Kate Beaton’s Hark! A Vagrant was one of the first webcomics I got really into. As an undergraduate student at the time, I appreciated the mixing of highbrow literary references and historical figures with bawdy humour and acerbic wit, and Beaton’s visual style inspired me to pick up the pen and have a go myself. She continues to go from strength to strength today, with two books on the way this year.

Michael DeForge

DeForge-625x311© Michael DeForge

Michael DeForge combines elements of sublime visual horror, slacker comedy and bizarre surrealism in a truly unique way. His comics really opened me up to the medium’s potential for expressing universal and accessible ideas in very extreme ways, and of the medium’s potential, which appears limitless in his hands.

Meredith Gran

octopuspie© Michael DeForge

Meredith Gran’s Octopus Pie was the first long-form webcomic I got into, waiting eagerly for the next page to be uploaded, obsessing over the lives of the characters as they navigate life in Brooklyn. It showed me that the web could provide the platform for a longer form narrative, to be collected later in book form, and taught me a lot about shades and toning, on the visual side.

Ethan Rilly

rilly © Ethan Rilly

The best cartoonist you’ve never heard of. Seriously. Not being on Twitter and releasing comics only sporadically, Ethan Rilly flies below the radar, but in my opinion he’s one of the most important cartoonists working today. There’s a new issue of his series, Pope Hats, due to be released this year, and I can’t wait. Pope Hats taught me about the importance of finding your own voice, and of the significance of doing things on your own terms as an indie cartoonist.

Thanks to Paddy for a great piece, and check out his awesome work at

March 17, 2015, Posted by Mr Book in Books, Comics

Comic Week: Neill Cameron on why they’re awesome

As part of our special comic week, Neill Cameron, comic creator for The Phoenix and author of How to Make Awesome Comics and Pirates of Pangaea, explains why comics are just awesome…

On Comics, Maturity, and Farting Robots

Comics are a serious art formfor respectable grown-ups. We know this because for the last 30 years, since the successes of creators like Alan Moore (Watchmen) and Frank Miller (The Dark Knight Returns), the press has documented the growth of comics for adults – given a veneer of respectability by cunningly rebranding as Graphic Novels – with a seemingly endless round of news stories excitedly informing us that, as the by this point extravagantly clichéd headline puts it: “Bam! Pow! Comics aren’t just for kids any more!”

What got lost a bit in this decades-long rush for Maturity and Seriousness was the fact that, you know what, actually, comics are for kids. You can tell, they have robots in and farting and everything.

MRB ep17 excerpt

I’ve loved comics ever since I was old enough to hold a pencil. I’m a bit too young to remember the heyday of weekly comics in this country, when every newsagent’s shelves bulged under the weight of a staggering line-up ofBattles and Actions and Valiantsvying for dominance with Jintys and Tammys and Mistysand you couldn’t swing a cat without igniting a fierce argument about whether the cat was a Whizz-Kid or a Chip-Ite. But there was still a lot of choice, and I grew up loving the Beano and Oink and Transformers and 2000AD and generally spending most of the week counting the days till Saturday morning.

There’s something very special about what comics can give to kids – mind-blowing artwork and thrilling stories that pull you joyfully into reading and make it something cool and fun and exciting – but also the sense that they give you a whole world. A private world, a world that gets to live on in your head in that deliciously agonising weeklong wait between issues. And a world that spills out onto paper when you try to fill that long week by picking up a pencil and drawing your own. The ease of imitability and sheer fun of comics naturally encourages kids to have a go themselves, developing their literacy skills and artistic abilities without it ever seeming like work, because they’re having too good a time drawing robots farting to notice. That’s what comics gave me in my childhood, and I’m incredibly happy that I get to pass that on and give it to the young people who read my comics today.

So, sure, comics aren’t just for kids any more. But, in a world increasingly full of Batman videogames you have to be 18 to play and ‘dark and edgy’ reimaginings of characters that once belonged to 9-year-olds, perhaps we ought to remember that they shouldn’t be just for grown-ups, either.

PoP FINAL Cover Design 150dpi

Neill Cameron is comic creator for The Phoenix and author of How to Make Awesome Comics and Pirates of Pangaea (David Fickling Books, £8.99). Follow him on Twitter: @neillcameron

March 16, 2015, Posted by Mr Book in Books, Comics

Comic Week: The Etherington Brothers’ Cultural Picks

This week is comic week on MWSAB, and to kick us off we’ve got the mighty Etherington brothers, Lorenzo and Robin, picking out some of their cultural highlights…

And keep an eye out for more great comic content coming later this week.


Lorenzo: I tend to have favourite songs as opposed to favourite bands, at the moment my late night sessions at the drawing board are accompanied by 2-Player Co-Op by Danny Wiessner, Wicked Games by Parra for Cuva and Anna Naklab, and Love Like This by Wild Belle.

Robin: The Chemical Brothers. Twenty years at the top of their game, seven unique albums, a killer soundtrack to the film Hanna, and the pair continue to find new ways to make great music that transcends the dance genre.


Lorenzo: Picking a favourite artist is like picking a favourite Coco Pop, though you can’t really go wrong with Earl Oliver Hurst, in particular his covers for Collier’s and Home in the ’40s.

Robin: Albert Uderzo. The thirteen book run from Asterix and the Golden Sickle to Asterix in Spain is some of the most consistently brilliant cartooning I’ve ever seen.


Lorenzo: Who Framed Roger Rabbit. If I need to explain why, you’ll never understand.

Robin: So hard. If I’m not buried in books I’m watching movies. There’s a dozen vying for the top spot but I’ll go with Raiders of the Lost Arc. Just flawless fun. And LA Confidential. A stunning reworking of a superb book. And Open Range. And Who Framed Roger Rabbit. And The Untouchables. And on and on and on. I’m not committing to this list! I can’t and I won’t!


Lorenzo: The Ground Beneath Her Feet by Salman Rushdie. Rushdie’s sixth novel, and in my opinion his finest.

Robin: The Gun Seller by Hugh Laurie remains a firm favourite. As does anything from the satirical pen of Christopher Brookmyre. I’ll always have a soft spot for Spares, One of Us and Only Forward by Michael Marshall Smith, and the Hyperion Cantos by Dan Simmons remains the most startling piece of science fiction I’ve ever encountered.

4 and 5 low res


Lorenzo: I have nothing but love for Richard L. Breen, his characterisation and nuance in writing dialogue that stings and sings is unrivalled.

Robin: I’m breaking the rules and picking two. Rene Goscinny for the best of Asterix and the best of Lucky Luke, and Terry Pratchett for pretty much everything.


Lorenzo: Courgetti with red chilli and lemon juice. Must be stir fried in coconut oil. Great by itself, but it also goes with pretty much everything.

Robin: Everything! I live to eat! A perfect porterhouse steak, plump, medium-raw verging on the bloody, is pretty hard to beat. Especially with a rich peppercorn sauce and a Jenga pile of fat chips.


Lorenzo: It’s got to be a Caipirinha, though you need to make it with good quality cane sugar and proper Brazillian Cachaça, my favourite brand of which is Pirapora. Make sure your limes are fresh, and roll them around the chopping board a few times before juicing to get the most out of them.

Robin: Everything! If I’m not eating, I’m probably drinking. But let’s keep that steak in mind a pick either a pint of honey pale ale or a large glass of red wine, rich and warming.


Lorenzo: There’s a little cafe in Prague called Mezi Zrnky that I’d go to every day if it wasn’t 787 miles away.

Robin: The mountains. Anywhere in the world but the French Alps are my spiritual second home.

Long Gone Don_web_large

THE ETHERINGTON BROTHERS are the creators of Long Gone Don and much, much more. Check out their blog HERE, and give them a follow on Twitter: @EtheringtonBros

March 9, 2015, Posted by Mr Book in A Slice Of Murder, Books


Ready for an explosive, edge-of-your-seat thrill ride that will be delivered (roughly) weekly in bitesized chunks of unputdownable joy? Then sounds like you’re ready to eat A Slice of Murder.banner


Madison, Illinois. A place so hot you could fry an egg on it; a place so dirty you put the bins out twice a week; average rain fall: 48 inches. The same as the pants on the fat cats at city hall, thought Detective Inspector Harrison Wye as he stirred his coffee.

‘You on a diet, Wye?’ Rex Worlde, Wye’s partner, could never resist a chance to rib his colleague.

‘How’d you figure that?’

‘Never seen Harrison Wye drinking coffee without it drowning in cream, is all.’

‘New leaf I guess,’ Wye grunted, wondering what Worlde would have said if he’d caught him adding a slug of whisky to the coffee from his carefully concealed hip-flask five minutes earlier. He also wondered how longer he could keep getting a pass from the guy who did his medicals, who just so happened to be his younger brother, Hayon.

‘You ordered yet?’ Worlde said. Wye shook his head and reached for the menu. They were in their favourite pizza joint, The Master and Margherita, run by local entrepreneur Elgar Shroom. As if on cue, Shroom burst through the double doors, nearly decapitating a waiter carrying a meat feast the size of an elephant’s ear.

‘What can I get you boys?’

‘A tall blonde into making bad decisions?’ Worlde said. The three of them laughed. It was the same joke every time.

They ordered and Shroom bustled away, leaving behind the smell of sweat and cheap cologne. The two cops sat in silence for a moment.

‘Right, you gotta tell me what’s biting your ass, Wye.’


‘You’ve said two words all day, and that was “stuffed crust”.

Wye smiled and reached for his wallet. He slid something out and passed it to Worlde.

‘Buy one get one free on Quiches?’

‘What? Oh.’ Wye retrieved the receipt and found the photo he’d meant to show to Worlde – a young man, smiling.

‘It’s ten years to the day since Logan Oswald died. Ten years since the Devil’s Library.’

‘Ten years? Jesus, Wye, you should’ve said something.’

‘What’s there to say?’

Wye had been at the top of his game, a string of high profile convictions under his belt. It was even rumored he was in line to take over from Commissioner Jackson Muldoon. The internecine politics were troubling to a young Wye, having been friends with Muldoon since they were kids, but ambition burned hotly in him like indigestion after a fat blob of brie. But any thoughts of usurping his friend were destroyed with just one case: The Devil’s Library.

Local hotelier Logan Oswald, another guy Wye had known since they were kids, had been found dead in the city library, bludgeoned to death with a copy of Infinite Jest. Dangling around his neck was a trinket left by the killer – a small golden devil. The press immediately picked up on the trinket, and it was the crime reporter for the Madison Tribune – Garrison Hope – who’d coined The Devil’s Library. Despite the deep sadness Wye felt for the death of his friend, he immediately launched into the investigation. Four years, one marriage, and a hundred bottles of Jack later, the case remained unsolved. Wye’s reputation lay in tatters. (Why Oh Wye? – Hope didn’t pull any punches with his editorial on the case.) Commissioner Muldoon had given Wye time off to get his head straight – a disastrous decision which gave Wye the chance to hit the bottle, hard. His rock bottom came on New Year’s Day, when he was caught in flagrante with a prostitute called Trixie in the local taxidermy shop. Wye couldn’t remember exactly what headline Hope had gone with in the Tribune, but it had certainly involved the word ‘beaver’.

It’d been a long eight years of rebuilding his reputation, and the drinking was still problematic, but Harrison Wye was back in business. He just needed that one big case to show everyone what he was capable of.

His reverie was interrupted by Worlde’s phone. The cop demolished a dough ball and licked his fingers clean before answering.

‘Worlde. What? Are you sure? But that’s goddamn impossible! Jesus. OK, OK. Keep the site clean, get forensics down there right away. And don’t let the Tribune get a sniff of this…’

‘Wrong number?’ Wye joked, but Worlde’s face was ashen.

‘There’s been a murder.’

‘I figured that.’

‘Not any old murder, buddy. I’m so sorry. He’s back.’

A full greasy slice of pollo fungi dropped right into Wye’s lap as he grasped the devastating meaning behind PC Worlde’s words.

‘Please God, you don’t mean…’

‘He’s struck again, ten years to the day. Goddamit Wye, The Devil’s Library has been re-opened.’



Vote below to shape the future of Worlde & Wye. Will they…

a) Head straight to the library to examine the body? Time is of the essence, after all.
b) Go via the station to collect the old case files? Perhaps there was something they missed first time round which could be useful.
c) Leave the case well alone. Why re-open old wounds? Let the other team handle it. Plus, this 14″ mighty meaty won’t eat itself.


And stay tuned for part two of A Slice of Murder, the thrilling new Worlde & Wye mystery, where your decision will be revealed…



February 27, 2015, Posted by Tom in Books, Music

Frank Turner book tour dates announced

Frank Turner’s brilliant tour memoir, The Road Beneath My Feet, is published on March 26th, and he’s heading out on a UK tour to support it.

The tour will see Frank visit Glasgow, Birmingham, Manchester and Liverpool for special events organised alongside PledgeMusic, plus a London event presented in conjunction with Waterstones. These will feature Frank reading extracts from the book; Q&As with rock journalist and author Ian Winwood; questions from the floor and a smattering of songs from his extensive catalogue. Frank will also be visiting Edinburgh, Coventry and Leeds for daytime signing events, so there are plenty of chances to see the singer and songwriter in a city near you.

Full details are on the poster below, and just click the links underneath for more info and to book your tickets. See you there!


For more info on the Glasgow, Birmingham, Manchester and Liverpool dates, and to book tickets, visit PLEDGE MUSIC

And to buy your ticket for the London event at Cecil Sharp House in Camden, CLICK HERE

FRANK-3dThe Road Beneath My Feet is published on March 26th in hardback and ebook

A searingly honest and brilliantly written account of Frank Turner’s journey from the pub circuit to selling out Wembley Arena


February 25, 2015, Posted by Tom in Books

Doctor Who: Time Trips – An extract from Jenny T. Colgan

A few days ago, we were lucky enough to receive a stunning new Doctor Who book, Time Trips. Published on March 5th by BBC Books, it features short stories by an amazing set of writers including Joanne Harris, Cecilia Ahern, Nick Harkaway and Trudi Canavan. It looks properly amazing, and the tales within are brilliant too, written with love and care by proper Whovians.

One of the stories is by the fab Jenny T. Colgan, and we are delighted to be able to share this sneak preview of her Eleventh Doctor story, Into the Nowhere

‘We appear to be in the TARDIS but the Doctor isn’t talking’ said Clara to herself. ‘This extraordinarily rare phenomenon is believed by some observers to be the result of his gob being immersed in a black hole… actually what are you doing? Have you got addicted to Home and Away again? Are you hungry? I have issues with people who never get hungry.’

The Doctor didn’t even lift his head.

Clara jumped round the other side of the red-flashing console to where the Doctor was craning his neck at a large screen. On it, and replicated on the other monitor, was a sight far from unusual: a planet, orbiting a dull sun.

‘Where are we?’ she asked again.

At this the Doctor let out a sigh.

‘What is wrong with you?’ said Clara. ‘Are you missing that dog thing again? You talk about that dog thing a lot.’

‘Yes,’ said the Doctor finally. ‘But that’s not it.’ He stabbed a long finger at the planet on the screen. ‘I don’t like it,’ he said crossly.

‘It looks harmless,’ said Clara. Storm patterns whorled around its surface.

‘I’m sure it is,’ said the Doctor. ‘But still. I don’t like it. Let’s go somewhere else.’ He started tinkering with a large lever.

‘Hang on,’ said Clara, a smile playing on her lips. ‘Where is it? I mean, what’s it called?’

The Doctor carried on tinkering.

‘Ha! You don’t know! That’s why you’re cross. You actually don’t know something. Are we lost?’

‘No! Absolutely not. Anyway, we never get lost. We occasionally… get fruitfully diverted.’

ebury_jennycolgan_authorphotoThe awesome Jenny T. Colgan. Give her follow on the Twitters: @jennycolgan

He patted the TARDIS fondly with his hand.

‘Good’ said Clara, putting her hand over his to stop him moving the dial. ‘So, just tell me what this planet’s called then we can get on our way.’

‘Um… it’s called… it’s called…’ The Doctor cast around the room for inspiration. ‘It’s called Hatstandia,’ he said, then screwed up his face at the choice.

‘Hatstandia?’ said Clara. She pushed a button, which lit up red and glowered at her. ‘Hush,’ she said. ‘I’m just checking.’ She looked up. ‘The TARDIS doesn’t think it’s called Hatstandia.’ She stood back and folded her arms. ‘Do neither of you know what it’s called? Now it’s getting interesting.’

‘It’s not on any maps,’ said the Doctor crossly. ‘It’s not referenced anywhere. It’s not in any of the literature.’

He threw a hand-sized item covered in buttons with a ‘D’ and a ‘P’ just visible on the cover across the control room, then checked to make sure it had had a safe landing.

‘Normally if I don’t recognise a planet then the TARDIS knows, or something knows, or I can find out somewhere,’ he said, rubbing the back of his hair. ‘This one, though… It’s just nowhere. Nowhere.’

‘Maybe it’s just too dull to bother giving it a name,’ said Clara.

‘They named Clom,’ said the Doctor. ‘No, it would have a name. Or at the very least, it would still have coordinates and references. But this… It’s like it’s just appeared from nothing.’

‘Oh, a mysterious planet,’ said Clara. ‘Well in that case we’d better leave it alone, don’t you think? Just head off and never think about it again. Yup that will be best…’

They had already landed.

Doctor Who Time Trips

Doctor Who: Time Trips (The Collection) featuring a short story by Jenny T Colgan is published 5th March by BBC Books, price £20.00 in hardback


February 17, 2015, Posted by Tom in Books

The best puntastic autobiography titles

We like puns, and we’re also partial to a good autobiography title. So when these two worlds collide, the results can be glorious. Here are a few of our favourites…



The End Of An Earring by Pam St Clement

The EastEnders legend has recently published her autobiography, and the title alone makes it worth taking note. Also worth remembering with Mother’s Day lurking on the horizon.



They Made a Monkee Out of Me by Davy Jones

If you’re part of a hugely successful pop group called The Monkees, there are plenty of chances for good punning, and fair play to Davy for seizing this opportunity with both paws.



Kiss and Make-Up by Gene Simmons

Gene Simmons is from the band called Kiss. They are famous for wearing make-up. You do the math.



Me: Moir by Vic Reeves

This works on so many levels. It’s a memoir. Vic’s real name is Jim Moir. It doesn’t get much better. For no other reason than we’re talking about Vic Reeves, here’s his take on Loyd Grossman.



The Stone Cold Truth – Stone Cold Steve Austin

Late 90s WWF hero ‘Stone Cold’ Steve Austin opens a can of whoopass on the literary world with his autobiography.



It’s Not About The Bike – Lance Armstrong

Not a pun at all, but still quite funny in retrospect. It never was about the bike, was it Lance? No, it was about all the dirty, dirty drugs. And drugs are for mugs.

Got any others? Let us know: @StareAtBooks

All images © the respective publishers

February 11, 2015, Posted by Tom in Books, Music

Motherless Child: new Eric Clapton biography out this March

With Eric Clapton hitting the big seven zero this year, it seems the time is right for someone to write a definitive biography of this rock legend and guitar god. Rather luckily, renowned music journalist Paul Scott has done just that, and the result is the brilliant Motherless Child.

Publishing two weeks before Eric’s 70th birthday, it charts his amazing career from the 1960s to now, taking in Cream, The Yardbirds, his impressive solo work and the impacts that his fame and fortune have had on his personal life. It gets quite serious, looking at his battles with drink and drunks, his failed marriage to model Pattie Boyd, and the pretty shocking news he discovered when he was just nine years old: that the woman he thought was his sister was in fact his mother, and that the couple he thought were his parents were his maternal grandparents.

Now in his sixth decade in the music business, Clapton has sold over 75 million records worldwide, is the only three-time inductee into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and is a true global icon. For his millions of fans, Motherless Child promises to be an essential read.

motherless child

Motherless Child: The Definitive Biography of Eric Clapton by Paul Scott is published March 12th 2015 in hardback and ebook