The Quest for the Big Woof

quest-for-the-big-woof-coverReview by Matthew Nielsen

The Quest for the Big Woof, written by Lenny Henry and illustrated by Steve Parkhouse, is a British comedic graphic novel from 1991 about the life and mind of Lenny Henry.

The story is pretty straightforward: Henry is in the process of writing gags for his upcoming stand-up tour, but he is hit with a severe case of writer’s block. So one day God shows up to help him. Not in a religious praise-Jesus kind-of-way, but more like a wise teacher Gandalf kind-of-way. This makes for some interesting little adventures into the mind and imagination of Lenny Henry.

A great part of the jokes are British cultural references. However, though I lived in Britain for the first 22 years of my life, because Big Woof was written the same year as I was born, a lot of the pop-culture specific jokes didn’t connect with my cultural experiences. Those jokes would be better understood if you were touch with Britain’s comedy and were born, say, before 1980. However, the rest of the jokers don’t require such a knowledge of pre-90s British culture. That’s where I found myself laughing the most. My favourite parts of the book were when Henry talks about his childhood and personal history; short stories of a young man of Jamaican-heritage growing-up in England and experiencing discrimination or being tempted by peer pressure. Stories like these have quite an impact when juxtaposed with comedy.

The artwork syncs-up very well the jokes. Parkhouse manages to capture life, emotions, and absolutely hilarious faces. He has done a downright wonderful job in terms of artwork. The artistic references make even those unfamiliar with the exact references pretty intrigued at the styles produced. I found myself laughing so much at some of the quirky drawings alone.

Though I found much of the writing somewhat lacking, the number of cultural tributes, different styles and the highly energetic artwork of Parkhouse really push the book up again. It’s worth a little look if you come across it. It’s pretty obscure, but you might be able to get it used on I found mine when I was helping out in my high school library (more like a bookshelf, to be honest); they had wanted to throw it out! But I saved it, and it is mine now!


The TradeWaiters 26: “Americus” by M.K. Reed and Jonathan Hill

Special guest Jess Pollard returns to the TradeWaiters studio for Americus by M.K. Reed and Jonathan Hill. She proceeds to get Socratic on the group as we discuss censorship, culture wars, and comics. Meanwhile, we confirm the existence of actual IRL TradeWaiters listeners, and everyone’s got an opinion on a certain ultra-popular young adult fantasy book series.

Also mentioned in this episode:
Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling
Jack Chick tracts
Dykes to Watch Out For by Alison Bechdel
Nausicaa of the Valley of Wind by Hayao Miyazaki
No Exit by Annie Mok
A Wizard of Earthsea and Annals of the Western Shore both by Ursula K. LeGuin
Liquid Shell by Jess Pollard
And don’t forget to check out Angela’s Kickstarter for Wasted Talent.

Music by Sleuth.

Our next episode will cover Aya by Marguerite Abouet and Clemente Oubrerie.

You can also follow the TradeWaiters on Tumblr, Soundcloud, Twitter, iTunes, Google Play, and Stitcher.

Gothic Romance Anthology Seeking Stories of Love & Horror

gothic-talesHope Nicholson, comic historian and publisher of Bedside Press, has announced a call for submissions for Gothic Tales of Haunted Love, an anthology of new gothic romance comic stories:

“Stories should take into account the style and feel of the 1970s gothic romance comic genre. This is a genre where happy endings are not guaranteed, where romance can be beautiful, heartbreaking, or horrific. All eras and settings are welcome, they don’t need to be stuck in the Victorian era, and originality and creativity here is encouraged. Horror elements are allowed. For more information on this genre, read posts on Sequential Crush here.”

The following creators are currently attached to the project:

  • Cecil Castellucci & Willow Dawson
  • ALB
  • Sarah Searle
  • Melanie Gillman
  • Nicholas Burns
  • Leslie Doyle
  • Rahzzah
  • Katie West & Ray Fawkes
  • Janet Hetherington & Ronn Sutton
  • Xavière Daumarie

Submission periods will be open until February 1, 2017, and the comics will pay a $50 page rate. For more information, visit Gothic Tales of Haunted Love.


How to Understand Israel in 60 Days or Less

how-to-understand-israelReview by Matthew Nielsen

How to Understand Israel in 60 Days or Less is an autobiographical graphic novel by Sarah Glidden that explores how she, an American with Jewish heritage, went on a birthright trip to Israel in March, 2007. The birthright trip is a charity-funded service that allows any Jewish person from anywhere in the world to receive a free trip to Israel, possibly in hopes that they may choose to move there.

During the birthright tour, Glidden is exposed to much of Israel’s history and many different perspectives about its political situation, as well as the everyday life of a lot of Israelis. Throughout the book Glidden weighs-in various differing points of views, some that challenge her preconceptions and some that confirm. It is fascinating how the various histories, ideologies, and life stories are explored through this journey. Glidden is able to describe everything from her deep political opinions to her feelings of sometimes alienation and sometimes assimilation, and lots of other stuff in between.

A lot of Glidden’s thoughts are told not just through captions and text, but also through more metaphorical imagery. This blurs the lines of reality, and connects us even more to Glidden’s personal journey.

The comic is done in both ink and watercolour. The lighting and colours are always spot on, and background objects and buildings have everything in the right place, nothing over-simplified. The people and characters are a tad more stylized, though without the lifeless uniformity. I like it; the more cartoony depiction of the people adds a sense of honesty and life.

So if you’d like to see Israel through the eyes of a questioning Jewish-American, then this book might be for you. There are several other books about the region and the situation, including Joe Sacco’s Palestine, and it’s always worth getting a lot of people’s experiences and points of views about things. I’m glad to have travelled to Israel once again through this writer’s journey.


Cloudscape still looking for refugee stories

Cloudscape is still looking for two refugee stories that could serve as comics in our upcoming Comics in Transit series. We wish to interview people who have left their home countries to seek a new life in Canada and adapt their stories into comics that will appear on various transit stops throughout Vancouver. If you would like to contribute your own experience to this unique take on the comic medium (or know someone who would), please contact Oliver McTavish-Wisden at [email protected].


Pulp Literature Kickstarter

Over the past three years, the fiction magazine Pulp Literature has published a dozen issues packed full of genre-busting short stories, comics, poetry, novellas, and novel excerpts. Their comics have included the works of such Cloudscape members as Bevan Thomas, Kris Sayer, and Eric Johnson. Now their company is branching into novels, the high fantasy Allaigna’s Song: Overture by J. M. Landels and the mystery Stella Ryman and the Fairmont Manor Mysteries by Mel Anastasiou. The Kickstarter they’re using to raise the funds to publish the two books has a lot of great stuff available. In addition to the two novels themselves, there is also a subscription to Pulp Literature magazine, a writer’s journal, art prints, and more! If you are interested in supporting Vancouver-based genre fiction, then check out the Pulp Literature: Something Novel Kickstarter. It ends December 1, so check it out as soon as possible.

Our Cancer Year

our-cancer-year-coverReview by Matthew Nielsen

Our Cancer Year by Harvey Pekar and Joyce Brabner (illustrated by Frank Stack) is an autobiographical book by two writers at once. Harvey and his wife Joyce tell about a year in their lives in which they move house and work at their jobs, and then, as the title suggests, cancer comes along to make everything all the more complicated. What I love about this graphic novel is how detailed the narrative is! We learn about Harvey and Joyce’s living situation and the neighbourhood, but we also get into their heads to explore all the things they were going through. A very challenging time for both of them.

This graphic novel is more focused on the writing than the art. Stack’s art style is able to show everything that needs showing, but it’s also a sketchy mutating sort of deal that feels quite scribbly at times. From what can be gathered from the story, Harvey Pekar probably had an average income, and with that it’s hard to hire a whole team of artists to get to those immaculate levels of detail that some of us crave. Good job nonetheless. It’s like having a house when you want a mansion; in the end, a house’ll do just fine.

Anyway, if you want to share the challenges of Harvey and Joyce, if you want to get to know these two, and how they behave and think through seriously refreshing and brutal honesty, then give this book a read!

True Loves

true-loves-vol-1-coverReview by Matthew Nielsen

True Loves by Jason Turner and Manien Batoma is a romance comic set in Vancouver, Canada, that tells the story of True, the owner of a used clothes store, and Zander, a grocery clerk with a positive attitude. The story starts with True in a relationship with Dirk, a busy and well-to-do man, but the two aren’t on the same wavelength. When Zander comes into play, True finds that he’s someone she can relate to more. The book balances the perspectives of both True and Zander, equally following the life of one, then the other, while also presenting the times they meet up together.

The characters are likable, believable, and all-round good people. The story has a positive vibe to it, but plenty of realistic challenges come along as well.

The artwork, by Turner, whilst not at the level of detail of, say, the average manga or superhero comic, still shows everything that needs to be shown, and in a bold, clean, and clear style. The comic flows really well at a fine pace, and if you want to read it fast, that can be done no problem.

Be ready for a good little graphical trip to Vancouver with a short and sweet story. I’m looking forward to reading the next volume.

The TradeWaiters 25: “Sacred Heart” by Liz Suburbia

Stuff is bad right now. Let’s read a book! In this episode Jon, Jeff, Angela, and kgros read Sacred Heart by Liz Suburbia, about a group of punk teens surviving in a town that seems to have no adults. Spoiler alert: something mysterious is going on. Also in this episode you’ll find out our panelists’ favourite conspiracy theories, and our thoughts on depicting atmospheric sound in comics.

Also mentioned in this episode:
Cyanide Milkshake and Egg Cream, also by Liz Suburbia
The Less Than Epic Adventures of TJ and Amal by E.K. Weaver
American Gods by Neil Gaiman
Sex Criminals by Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky
Fullmetal Alchemist by Hiromu Arakawa
Moonshot volumes 1 & 2 edited by Hope Nicholson
Josie and the Pussycats by Marguerite Bennett, Cameron DeOrdio, & Audrey Mok
Band Vs Band by Kathleen Jacques
Brick directed by Rhian Johnson
Gingersnaps directed by John Fawcett
Night of the Living Dead directed by George Romero
Kill Bill directed by Quentin Tarantino
and this interview with Annie Mok.

Music by Sleuth.

Our next episode will cover Americus by MK Reed and Jonathan Hill.

You can also follow the TradeWaiters on Tumblr, Soundcloud, Twitter, iTunes, Google Play, and Stitcher.