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!
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.
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.
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).
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!
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.
Click on the links for more details!
In the summer, when she was our social media intern, Caitlin Mitchell, reviewed Persepolis. In her new role as our Digital Marketing volunteer Caitlin will be reviewing some more comics for us. Here is the first, Nimona by Noelle Stevenson:
As a relatively new entrant to the world of comics, I had no idea where to start and what to read, but Nimona was suggested to me by Damon (having not yet read it himself, this was quite a risky move) [although I’d only heard good things about it – Damon]. However it paid off as I was gifted with a humorous yet touching tale of adventure and conspiracy. The book follows Lord Ballister Blackheart, renowned ‘supervillain’ – I use inverted commas as we learn that the roles of good and evil in this story are not as they first appear – and his sidekick Nimona, a young, impulsive shapeshifter, as they attempt to expose the shady antics of the Institution of Law Enforcement and Heroics.
Led by Blackheart’s nemesis Sir Ambrosius Goldenloin, the Institution are after the pair, and their plotting leads to much havoc and many near misses before a final battle in the climax of the book. There are many factors that make Nimona a great read; I love the art style, which starts off simple but becomes more detailed and assured as the book goes on. I grew attached to the characters – to Blackheart, who, almost comically due to his supervillain reputation, seems to be the only character who cares about saving human lives, and who turns out to have a much deeper relationship with Goldenloin than we first realise. To Nimona, who is incredibly impulsive and fiercely loyal to her partner in crime, and whose shapeshifting power lends an air of magic to the story.
The book takes a darker turn in the latter few chapters as the true depth of Nimona’s power is revealed, yet Stevenson still manages to create laughter and uses dry humour very well throughout, making it an easy read! I think that the book also puts an almost apocalyptic twist on many aspects of today’s society; the need for a common enemy to unite people, even if the designated enemy is not to blame; the gap between different social classes, symbolised by the Institution’s disregard for civilian life; and the ongoing battle between science and faith, explored through scientist Blackheart’s need for an explanation of Nimona’s shapeshifting abilities. Nimona is a tale of loyalty, adventure, magic, science and deadpan humour, and I would definitely recommend that you give it a go!