Review – ‘Spider-Gwen: Most Wanted?’

My only experience with any kind of superhero franchise before last week was a trip to see The Amazing Spider-Man at the cinema with my dad five years ago; so reading this spin off, alternate-reality version of characters from Spider-Man comics was a bit of baptism by fire. Spider-Gwen is set in a universe – Marvel’s Earth 65 to be precise – where it wasn’t Peter Parker who was bitten by the radioactive spider, but Gwen Stacy! Hence Spider-Woman is created and dives into her own adventures; facing a battle with the Vulture (an infamous Spider-Man villain, I found out after reading it – one of the many things that went over my head), hiding the truth of her identity from her police chief father, and arguing with her fellow members of girl band The Mary Janes (a reference to another well known Spider-Man character).

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As a story, it is fast paced and very action packed, as one would expect from a superhero comic. However due to my lack of experience in this genre, I struggled to understand what was going on as I missed some references to previous comics (such as Spider-Verse) so found the plot hard to follow. Whilst reading comics over the last few weeks I’ve also discovered something which was especially highlighted to me during this book; as someone who’s grown up reading lots of novels, I tend to focus on the text in comics and not so much the pictures. It’s my autopilot to just read the text boxes or speech bubbles and not necessarily pay close attention to the art – however, in this comic the pictures are incredibly detailed with lots of action so I was missing vital information! I realised this midway through and so spent some time re-reading the comic and paying more attention to the art, which helped it to make sense.

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Spider-Gwen has put a very modern, edgy twist on traditional Spider-Man comics; firstly, the protagonist is a strong woman, which as a girl I find really inspiring but is also positive in terms of representation – and reading this so close to International Woman’s Day was good timing! Also the art style is a bit more modern and digital, while the colour scheme used by the artist is very bold and vivid. Again, this isn’t something I’m used to after my first experiences of graphic novels being with the black and white Persepolis and The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage, but it was good to have a change!

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Honestly, I feel a little guilty saying that I didn’t really like Spider Gwen as I know that this is partly down to my inexperience with this genre of comics. So whether you are a hardcore superhero-traditionalist needing to get caught up on what’s cool these days, or a young hip comics fanatic looking for a superhero with a feminist twist, I recommend you give Spider-Gwen a go!

– Caitlin

Review – ‘Asterix in Britain’ by Goscinny & Uderzo

As a change from the three graphic novels I’ve reviewed so far, this week I was tasked by Damon with reading Asterix in Britain, volume 8 in the Asterix series. This is more the kind of comic that I had experience with before being introduced to DCCS; The Broons and Oor Wullie annuals were popular Christmas presents from my granny when I was younger. Asterix is definitely a classic – so much so that my dad was happily shocked to see me reading one of his childhood favourites!

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In this specific book, the hero Asterix is visited by his (very stereotypical) British cousin Anticlimax, who pleads for help on behalf of his village in withstanding the Roman invasion which has swept up the rest of the country – the Roman legions are beginning to take advantage of the Britons’ tendency to stop fighting at 5 o’clock every night and their refusal to engage at weekends. Accompanied by his strong, bumbling best friend Obelix and armed with a barrel of magic potion cooked up by the Gauls’ druid Getafix (one of the many good puns within the book – it does sometimes take a minute for the penny to drop), Asterix heads to Britain to assist his cousin. A stream of mishaps and adventures ensues; from being confronted by pirates to losing the magic potion amongst a sea of wine barrels (yes, the Romans did decide to taste-test them all, resulting in some giddy guards). Obelix is imprisoned in the Tower of Londinium, the gang confronts the Romans in slightly less organised formation, and Asterix is introduced to some of our strange British customs; from the national drink of ‘hot water with a spot of milk’ to a reckless game of rugby in which Obelix realises his true calling in life.

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The book is full of fun and I can see why Asterix was so popular amongst children – yet there are puns and ironies which are maybe only clear to older readers, making it a good read for all ages (this was Damon’s feedback, saying that a lot of the jokes went over his head as a child!) The art has a very classic style that fits exactly what I think of when I think of comics, and the pictures hold an incredible amount of detail, allowing them to be pored over endlessly! I’ve yet to read any other Asterix books but with such adventurous, lovable characters, I’m sure the excellence of this comic was no outlier of the norm!

– Caitlin

Ink Pot opening

We had a great time at the opening of Ink Pot, our newly-branded comics studio on the evening of February 8th. We also launched Time & Space: An H.G. Wells Comics Anthology, a comic created as part of the University of Dundee’s contribution to the Being Human Festival. The winners of the competition to create a strip for the anthology were in attendance to pick up certificates for their achievement, as well as their own copies of the finished comic.

The was also a DeeCAP session of comics and performance, which included Boney M, cosplay, missing castles, and detective stories, as well as performances of strips from Time & Space. A great night was had by all, as can be seen in the photos below. A big thank you to Cara at media services at the University of Dundee for the photos.

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Ink Pot studio manager Norrie Millar cuts the ribbon to officially open the studio.
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Ink Pot artists Elliot Balson and Anna Coughlan reading Time & Space.
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Time & Space organisers and winners. From L to R: Dr Daniel Cook, Norrie Millar, Colin Maxwell, David Robertson, Michael Philp, Molly-May Lockhart, Andrew Strachan, Professor Chris Murray, and Dr Keith Williams.

Review – ‘The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage’ by Sydney Padua

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When I finished my internship at DCCS in the summer holidays, Damon presented me with the perfect gift for an aspiring female mathematician with a newfound appreciation for comics – The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage by Sydney Padua. At first glance it is a humorous tale of two eccentrically brilliant characters, but as soon as you dive in, the sheer amount of research and information that Padua has packed into this densely illustrated and written book becomes clear.

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The novel starts by telling the true story of Ada Lovelace, imaginative mathematician and daughter of infamous poet Lord Byron, and her collaborations with Charles Babbage, a mechanical engineer / “supergenius inventor” who originated the concept of the computer. However Babbage’s invention the Analytical Engine – basically the first computer – was never completed, hence inspiring Padua’s imagination and compelling her to write the rest of the book set in a ‘Pocket Universe’; an alternate reality where Babbage and Lovelace did finish the Analytical Engine in 1840, and embarked on many a crime-fighting adventure with it. I found the book captivating through its humorous portrayal of two historical figures who played hugely influential roles in the development of maths and computing, yet who I knew next to nothing about; we learn that Ada was raised to be the exact opposite of her father and was conditioned from an early age towards science and against imagination, yet it was her imagination that helped her conceptualise advanced maths. We learn that Babbage was an under appreciated, misunderstood, eccentric inventor who sometimes needed Ada to keep him under control (in the Pocket Universe, she prevents him from offending Queen Victoria who pops up in need of assistance).

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The book also explores complicated concepts such as imaginary numbers and how the original Difference Engine worked, so anyone with an interest in maths would also be entertained! As a maths geek myself I was inspired by Ada’s story and though a lot of the engineering ideas went over my head, it was great to read about maths in a light hearted form. Because of the incredible amount of historical information contained in the book, it is quite a commitment to read, but you are also able to skim over the footnotes and purely appreciate Padua’s detailed yet light art style. It is definitely one to reread as I gained a lot more from it the second time around!

– Caitlin

Comics Club Spotlight

We are delighted to be this month’s featured comics club on new website comicsclub.blog

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comicsclub.blog is a site very much after our own hearts here at DCCS:

It is “dedicated to providing ideas and resources to comics clubs around the country, and to anyone who wants to join in with our ongoing project of Helping Awesome Kids Make Awesome Comics.

On this site we’ll be posting regular monthly Comics Challenges – activities and worksheets that can be used by anyone as a spur to getting kids writing, drawing, reading and making.

comicsclub.blog is a project by Neill Cameron and Hannah Sackett, with technical assistance from Sam Hardacre.”

Click on the links for more details!