University of Dundee 50th anniversary mural

For the University of Dundee’s 50th anniversary we were asked to create a mural showcasing events from those 50 years. Many of our Ink Pot artists designed different elements, including Norrie Millar, Rebecca Horner, Elliot Balson, Anna Coughlan, Catriona Laird, David Robertson, Andy Strachan, and Damon Herd. We captured it all on video before it gets washed away by the rain – what events do you recognise?

Review – ‘Roy of the Rovers: The 1980s’

As a huge football fan interested in comics, Roy of the Rovers seemed like the perfect fit for me, and it didn’t disappoint! For years I’ve heard phrases like “this is real Roy of the Rovers stuff” – such as surrounding underdogs Leicester’s incredible Premier League victory in 2015-16 – but I never fully understood what it meant. However, I saw just how popular this comic was when I took the annual home and my mum reminisced about how her younger brothers’ whole week used to build up to getting the new issue, and I think my dad spent more time reading it than I did!

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Roy of the Rovers is a British comic strip about fictional player-manager Roy Race and his team Melchester Rovers, which first appeared in 1954 and ran as a weekly (and later monthly) comic magazine from 1976 to 1995. That’s almost 40 years of adventures – Roy had an illustrious playing career and the writers were very creative with their storylines to keep it going! This annual is a collection of strips that were published in the 1980s; each weekly strip is 2 or 3 pages long and they run in chronological order. It felt slightly strange to read lots of strips in a row; each one is built to a climax, often with a cliffhanger, to create anticipation for the next week’s issue, but reading so many together meant it was always very high tempo and intense!

In this almost “soap opera” like annual, Roy is at the peak of his career – unleashing many a left-footed volley into the top corner – but is forced to deal with difficult off-the-pitch problems as well. Roy faces criticism after selling fans’ favourite Geoff Giles to their rival club, the Rovers are relegated after a poor season but bounce back the next year, Roy’s wife Penny leaves him because of his football obsession but then returns and becomes pregnant with their third child, and Roy is the victim of an assassination attempt! He is shot in the Rovers’ ground and the police investigation reveals many suspects – from his Mafia-involved cousin to jealous actor Elton Blake. Clearly the strip, though focused on football matches, has much more to it and there is lots of drama, tragedy and victory both on and off the field!

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Roy of the Rovers is definitely my favourite comic that I’ve read so far, mainly because of the football scenarios which as a player I can relate to, but also because of how easy it is to read; the time passed so quickly as I was constantly wanting to know what happened next! A man of outrageous skill and incredible integrity, Roy Race is an amazing character who I think every young reader wanted to be and he certainly is the perfect role model. However, things have changed since the ‘80s and I noticed many differences between football then and now; for example, nearly all of the Rovers are English and homegrown which is not the case in any top British teams nowadays! There are many examples of classic style, from the players’ haircuts (a few mullets) to their very short shorts. The art is colourful and detailed in a classic comic strip style.

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For me, the only thing that Roy of the Rovers is missing is any mention of girls and womens’ football! Of course in the ’80s it was much less popular and it has grown exponentially since then, so I can imagine that any possible modern-day reboot would perhaps feature an affiliated Melchester Rovers Ladies team! Overall, if you are a football fan now or were obsessed with Roy of the Rovers when you were younger, hopefully this has filled you with excitement (or nostalgia) and inspired you to dig out an issue or annual!

– Caitlin

DCCS on the news!

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!

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Elliot’s drawing of the V&A museum on Dundee Waterfront which opened the news segment
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Elliot hard at work in the Ink Pot Studio
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Catriona working on her latest comic
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A close-up of Catriona’s work
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The University of Dundee politics students interviewed by the BBC news team – in DCCS. Great shots of our workshop space!
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Elliot was shown colouring a drawing he’d produced of Theresa May and Nicola Sturgeon to represent the debate over the referendum
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The final copy of Elliot’s drawing shown, captioned “To be continued…”
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This was Elliot’s first version of the Sturgeon and May picture – the BBC decided it was not impartial enough!

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.

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!

Review – ‘Nimona’ by Noelle Stevenson

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.

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Nimona by Noelle Stevenson

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.

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Nimona by Noelle Stevenson

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!

– Caitlin