If you were watching BBC News at 6 o’clock on Tuesday 28th March, you may have caught a glimpse of Dundee Comics Creative Space! A BBC team came to Dundee to speak to the public and gather thoughts on the second independence referendum. A small group of University of Dundee politics students were interviewed and DCCS was chosen as the location and some of our artists were given air time! Catriona Laird and Elliot Balson were featured at work in the Ink Pot studio, with Elliot producing a drawing of Theresa May and Nicola Sturgeon which was featured at the end of the segment. Sadly it is no longer available on the iPlayer but we saved some screen grabs. We’re trying not to let the fame go to our heads too much!
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).
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.
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!
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!
Our latest webcomic is an everyday Dundee horror story from Anna Coughlan.
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!
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.
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!