The Excel Centre is lighting up again to welcome the 32nd London MCM Comic Convention: a celebration of movies, comics, and media that has been growing each year since 2001 to become Britain’s leading pop culture festival. Taking place over the weekend of the 27th-29th of October MCM Comic Con has found itself in an envious hotspot between an explosion of new gaming releases this Friday featuring Mario Odyssey and Assassin’s Creed: Origins, and Halloween on the 31st ensuring a startling array of cosplayers ready to bare their best outfits.
This year Goomba Stomp will be heading down to cover what has become the third largest comic convention in the world: featuring the 2017 championship final of the Euro Cosplay Competition, a host of special guests, and a range of games, comics, and TV exclusives. Our American readers might be used to enormous conventions, but for British gamers MCM Comic Con is a favorite contender that returns twice a year to bring our community together and celebrate the works we love. So if you’re thinking of attending, or have already got your ticket, check out our break down of the events you won’t want to miss and keep an eye out for our coming gaming coverage!
Video Game Demos and New Releases
With Friday the 27th of October bringing together a slew of releases you’ll absolutely want to head over to MCM Comic Con’s video game corner and take your pick of Mario Odyssey and Assassin’s Creed: Origins and decide which you’re going to have to play through first. The video game corner will be demoing a range of titles from Ubisoft, Nintendo, and Bandai Namco as well as KT Games, Rice, Idea Factory, and NIS America. You can also hit up the recent releases South Park: The Fractured but Whole and Fire Emblem Warriors if you’re still undecided about buying a copy. We’ll be on the lookout for indie games popping up around the convention centre, so watch this space if you’re waiting to hear about the smaller games that’ll be worth checking out.
Special Guests and Signings
MCM Comic Con have a range of celebrity guests over the weekend doing book signings and photo shoots for varying fees. You can find the full listings here but our highlights are Hayley Atwell, Peggy Carter from Agent Carter and an ever-increasing number of Marvel movies, and Andrew Scott, who plays Moriarty in the BBC series Sherlock. If you’ve been following the bloody trail that is Game of Thrones you can also find David Bradley (Walder Frey), and Julian Glover (Grand Maester Pycelle), as well as an Iron Throne replica elsewhere in the convention centre ready for reclining upon, as long as you’re willing to pay the iron price.
Euro Cosplay Championship Final 2017
Alongside the Cosplay Masquerade for cosplayers of all skill-levels taking place on Saturday and Sunday, attendees will also want to watch out for the Euro Cosplay Championship final taking place at 16:00 on Saturday in the Gold Theatre. Cosplay costumes are always a feat to be marveled at, and with Halloween just around the corner, there might be some inspiration to be found on stage and around the centre whether you’re a cosplaying pro or new to the world of incredible make-up and spandex tights.
Books, Comics, and Video Streaming
As well as a host of other stalls MCM Comic Con is also divided up with events from Vidfest UK, the Comic Village, and the Author Corner. You can catch TomSka and Mr. Weebl, as well as a whole range of other YouTube and Twitch streamers running panels and producing content around the clock, as well as buying a ticket for a special pub quiz event with Yogscast hosts.
The Comic Village has a staggering range of talented artists where you can pick up indie zines from new comic start-ups, satisfy your poster needs with original art prints, or head over to the Marvel sections for the latest comics, collectibles, and apparel.
Last, but not least, the Author Corner is also running panels covering topics from breaking into screenwriting, the dystopian appeal of science fiction, and how the new Superwoman movie marks a change in pop culture. You can head down to what I can only assume will be an Author Corner filled with cushy chairs and aged bookcases to meet the likes of Simon Scarrow, author of Hearts of Stone, Ben Aaronovitch, creator of the Peter Grant series, and Jason Arnopp, screenwriter for Dr. Who and Friday the 13th. And when you’ve finally finished checking everything out, you can sit down and watch the new series of Stranger Things. This weekend isn’t going to be busy at all.
For a full schedule of the weekend’s events, and a map of all the convention halls check out the MCM Comic Con’s website’s official guide.
A Lost Comic?: Remembering Emily Carroll’s ‘Anu-Anulan and Yir’s Daughter’
The internet has the potential to be an archive for a phenomenal amount of information and creativity from countless people who share their work. But it’s not an automatically foolproof archive. Take for instance the poignant short webcomic Anu-Anulan and Yir’s Daughter by Eisner-winning author-illustrator Emily Carroll, now missing from her website without comment.
It’s unfortunate, and raises questions. One possibility is that it no longer fit the tone of Carroll’s growing portfolio. She has always been renowned for her horror comics. Her chillingly imaginative His Face All Red put her on the digital map in 2010, grabbing the internet’s attention. She entered traditional publishing with her horror anthology Through the Woods and When I Arrived at the Castle. In contrast, Anu-Anulan and Yir’s Daughter doesn’t terrify; it doesn’t even creep you out a little. It sticks out of Carroll’s horror portfolio as an innocuous anomaly. Without it, her body of work becomes more apparent in its bloodcurdling intent.
But part of the unique appeal of Anu-Anulan and Yir’s Daughter stemmed from the fact that it was so different from the rest of Carroll’s work. It was fascinating to see her art in a softer context. Her line work soothed instead of horrified. This short webcomic was ultimately a charming love story with fairy tale overtones.
It starts with the goddess Anu-Anulan in love with the silver hair of a mortal woman, Yir’s daughter. Anu-Anulan shapeshifts into three different disguises — a crow, a child, and a warrior — to trick Yir’s daughter into giving up each braid of her hair. But when the goddess has them all, she realizes it wasn’t the hair she loved. Without a disguise and finally as herself, Anu-Anulan meets Yir’s daughter, whose name is Yorenn. The goddess shows Yorenn that she has made the moon out of her silver hair. In the end, the mortal woman reciprocates Anu-Anulan’s love, and they live a full life together.
Anu-Anulan and Yir’s Daughter had the rhythm, philosophy, logic, and language of a fairy tale. It even had repeating lines that were thematically reversed toward the end. But it was also a fairy tale that told a new story with nuance and deeper characterization. How the goddess realized her true feelings for Yorenn was approached with thoughtful and subtle execution, deftly moving from playful whimsy to a dawning self-awareness of a more down-to-earth love. There was a tender montage of the couple living a normal life, celebrating the small moments that build and maintain a relationship.
“I wanted to show that they ended up in love, but that love needed to include moments that were both mundane as well as passionate—and simply showing a panel of them old together at the end wasn’t enough,” Carroll told The Comics Journal in a 2011 interview when discussing Anu-Anulan and Yorenn. “And I also wanted to show that it’s not just a single sweeping romantic gesture that makes a love story, it’s also the everyday moments (like having a meal, or taking a walk, or just having a laugh together) that can mean just as much.”
Besides Carroll’s interesting discussion of “Anu-Anulan and Yir’s Daughter” in The Comics Journal, other snippets of it fortunately still exist. There are screenshots of some scenes on old blog posts that recommend it. It’s part of a TV Tropes page about Carroll, and it’s included in a scholarly article from the Journal of Multimodal Rhetorics. There’s even a YouTube video that almost preserves the comic in its entirety, only lacking the very last part. These traces are also a sign of the impact that Carroll’s fairy tale romance left behind, ranging from suggestions for a good story to academic study.
Although Carroll is a master at crafting horror in comics, she also produced one of the best love stories with Anu-Anulan and Yir’s Daughter. She packed so much meaningful storytelling and heartfelt emotion in a succinct and elegantly drawn tale. The whole thing felt like a snapshot of fairy tale logic meeting raw emotion, which then forged a new balance between each other. This short comic held the mythic quality of a goddess and a mortal falling in love, and then contrasted it with the domestic flow of their relationship in practice. Whether or not it will ever resurface in its original form, Anu-Anulan and Yir’s Daughter persists as a fond memory.
- Alyssa Wejebe
Scott Snyder’s ‘Wytches’ Cast a Hypnotic Spell that Still Lingers
One of the most hotly anticipated comics released in 2014 came from Image Comics and writer Scott Snyder (American Vampire). The horror series titled Wytches was met with such critical acclaim that it had been optioned by New Regency, with Plan B set to produce a feature film adaptation– and that was only after one issue hit the shelves. Unfortunately, the movie adaptation was never made (and likely never will be), but the limited series became one of the hottest comics of that year and in a way, sort of revolutionized the witch mythology for a new generation of horror fans.
With Wytches, Snyder breathed new life into the horror mythos. From the first two pages (which consists solely of the definition of the word “witch” written in a gothic font) to the fiery finish, Wytches sets an oppressive mood with its unconventional, confounding style. The original six issues are both stylish, and compelling and left readers both bewildered and curious about what would come next. Snyder and artist Jock created such a visceral experience that the combination of menacing Grand Guignol atmosphere, dazzling colours, gory violence and interesting set up went beyond the typical feel of a comic. Syder knows how to tell a good horror story in comics, and if there was ever any doubt, Wytches put that uncertainty to rest.
“Across the globe, century after century, men and women were burned, drowned, hanged, tortured, imprisoned, persecuted, and murdered for witchcraft. None of them were witches. They died protecting a terrible and hidden truth: witches, real witches, are out there. They are ancient, elusive, and deadly creatures that are rarely seen and even more rarely survived.“
What is Wytches about?
The story begins on August 1919, focusing on the Cray family. Tim, a young boy is walking through the woods and hears a woman crying out in pain. As he moves closer to investigate, he discovers his mother trapped inside a tree with blood dripping down her face. Her nose is cut off and she begs for help. The young boy picks up a giant rock and begins to smash her skull in. Pledged is pledged he tells her, and just like that, the opening flashback gives us a brief glimpse at the horror we can expect.
Fast forward to the present day and the Rooks have just moved to a new town in New Hampshire leaving behind a traumatic event from the past and hoping the move will put some distance between the family and what transpired. Charlie, the loving father, is a cartoonist who writes children’s stories with a vivid imagination. He’s passionate about his cartooning career but he never puts his work over his family. His wife Lucy has suffered an accident that’s left her in a wheelchair, but she stays supportive and focused on being positive. Their withdrawn, anxiety-ridden, troubled teenage daughter, Sailor, is the centerpiece of the series. Sailor faced an event that has left her emotionally scarred and so Charlie decided they needed a fresh start, but as we all know, some things you just can’t run from. If it wasn’t hard enough for Sailor to try to fit in at a new school, she must now deal with the growing lesion on her neck, a laceration which appears to have both physical and psychological effects on her wellbeing.
The prologue itself is a mystery; a story within a story, a nightmare in endlessly reflecting mirrors, and a place where time can stand still. As the Rooks family begins to unravel, the remaining five chapters offer more questions than answers.
Scott Snyder’s Horror
Scott Snyder, a writer who made his name in the horror genre before moving on to mainstream superhero work, plants many seeds for a disquieting little character study. What makes Wytches so harrowing is the sense of unequivocal dread that’s seeded in every panel – as if at any time something could jump out from the page. This blend of psychological horror, high school cruelty and teen angst is a relentless assault on the nerves and stays with you as would a childhood nightmare or a Grimm fairy tale. True to its brand, Wytches has all the trappings of the genre – but the issue also spends equal time fleshing out the characters.
The majority of Wytches focuses not on the uncanny, but rather on the emotional toll it has on the Rooks family. The presence of the supernatural is present throughout, but it is not the main focus. At its core, Wytches is a story about a father, a daughter, and their bond together, but it is also a story of apprehension and one which relies heavily on a sense of body horror. Supernatural themes can be daunting, but body horror, with its focus on degeneration, mutation, or mutilation of flesh, affects the reader on a gut level. That element alone compels us to sympathize with and root for Sailor and it doesn’t take long before this modern gothic fairy tale spins a tense and lyrical web of emotions. As the story unfolds we follow Sailor trying to cope with the aftermath of her traumatic attack and the horror of teenage life, all while her parents desperately attempt to search for answers.
One of the challenges with writing horror and fantasy is introducing not only the world itself but the background needed to set the stage for what’s to come. Snyder is a master at avoiding overly expository dialogue; not relying too heavily on exposition he finds clever ways to guide readers every step of the way. Wytches is what you’d call a page-turner and Snyder carefully allows the aftermath of that tragic event to brew while slowly opening the doors to new mysteries and the unknown. The first chapter, for example, expertly provides readers with a solid foundation and understanding of who this family is, leaving us with a cliffhanger that will have readers wanting more.
Jock and Matt Hollingsworth
Scott Snyder has a reputation for being one of the best writers of horror and he earns a ton of respect since he trusts his readers, and often the artists he collaborates with, to fill in the blanks. Jock is well known for his emotive, impressionist style. Even if you are not a fan of his superhero work, you’ll enjoy how his art lends itself well to horror. The ways in which he captures fear and panic in facial expressions is stunning. His landscapes are gorgeous, and the characters navigate the backdrops seamlessly throughout each panel. His sketchy layouts and framing allow for an immersive tone, especially in building towards the big reveal at the end. Colorist Matt Hollingsworth (who previously worked with Snyder on The Wake), is also vital in setting the mood, giving the book a dark, worn-out appearance. And finally, Clem Robins’ lettering in these pages is tremendously powerful, making a great first impression for anyone unfamiliar with his work.
Snyder established himself as an accomplished storyteller with his work on Batman, American Vampire, Severed, and the first half of The Wake, but Wytches might be the darkest tale he’s ever written. He seems to especially excel in the horror genre and in exploring human relationships set against supernatural or extraordinary events. It doesn’t take long for horrible things to start happening, and it doesn’t take long for readers to feel unsafe.
What Snyder, Jock and Matt Hollingsworth have created here is a stunning portrait of the mental and emotional breakdown of a young girl surrounded by the ugliness of the world, both supernatural and earthly. The stranger elements read like a fever dream, the rest resembles a Stephen King novel. Wytches is a textbook example of how to do horror right. From the twisted cold open to the glimpse of the slender figure in the woods, Wytches sets up enough mysteries and poses enough questions to keep readers invested. If you’re looking for a truly original horror story from a creative team who knows how to use the ingredients of the genre to their full potential, look no further. Wytches is that rarest of accomplishments in a field notorious for tedium and repetition.
– Ricky D
‘The Fade Out’ Demonstrates a Mastery of the Noir Genre
Whenever someone who doesn’t read comics asks me what comic I would recommend, I always answer The Fade Out…
Modern noir masterminds Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips began their five-year deal with Image Comics in 2014. It was an unprecedented deal, allowing them to do anything they want with total freedom, total control, and total ownership over their projects. Their first project would be The Fade Out, a sprawling saga of corruption and redemption set against a gritty West Coast Hollywood backdrop.
As the premiere storytellers of crime/noir comics, The Fade Out saw them return to the familiar conventions of the genre, weaving a tangled web through the underbelly of a 1940’s film industry. In addition to unsettling narrative themes of ambiguity and violent death, certain stylistic characteristics immediately spring out: stark, angular shadows; the isolated feel of modern cities; conflicted anti-heroes and boiled down dialogue. It is everything a fan of detective stories could want. The multi-layered plot grabs you immediately — and Brubaker’s achievement as a writer cannot be overrated. This first issue alone moves swiftly from scene to scene, yet finds ample time to quickly define his characters. More importantly, it is quick to establish a mystery, making readers eager to see what happens next. And as you keep reading, The Fade Out keeps spooling out more narrative twists until the ingenious maze turns into an oppressive tangle.
What is it About?
The Fade Out tells the story of Charlie Parish, a struggling screenplay writer who finds himself smack in the middle of the murder of a Hollywood starlet named Valeria Sommers. The story is framed from the perspective of Charlie, a man plagued with nightmares from the war, and now struggling to hide a dark and terrible secret. Luckily for him, a power-crazed Hollywood mogul and his security chief will do anything to avoid another scandal, including a cover-up that frames the crime as an act of suicide. That’s just the beginning, as Brubaker’s script quickly establishes the central conflict before moving on to introduce the key players.
Via Charlie’s quintessential, hard-boiled third-person narration and various flashbacks, we meet a heap of supporting players including Earl Rath (an Errol Flynn lookalike and movie star womanizer) – Gil Mason (one time writer and full time alcoholic) – Dotty Quinn (publicity girl and all-around sweetheart) – Phil Brodsky ( the studio’s Head of Security), and the aforementioned Valeria Sommers, an up and coming actress killed before her time. Like Laura Palmer in Twin Peaks, Valeria is a mystery and remembered differently by different people and part of the fun in reading The Fade Out is discovering exactly who Valeria Somers actually was. The rest of the cast comes across as the usual noir stereotypes – a collection of tough guys, femme-Fatales and corrupt businessmen, but everyone seems to hold some dark secret that makes them necessary in telling the bigger story. And while our protagonist fits the mold of a noir anti-hero, he quickly becomes a likable and sympathetic character, and someone we can root for.
At the center of this series is the relationship between Charlie and his partner Gil. Brubaker presents Gil as an alcoholic devastated by his professional blacklisting in Hollywood while being investigated for communism. For the unfamiliar, the Hollywood blacklist was rooted in events of the 1930s and the early 1940s, encompassing the height of the Great Depression and World War II. The U.S. government began turning its attention to the possible links between Hollywood and the party during this period and many screenwriters, producers, and directors were banned. In The Fade Out, for example, we learn that Gil has been working as a ghostwriter for Charlie. The two support one another both financially and artistically and despite his addiction, Gil remains a proficient author of successful screenplays and uses Charlie’s name to allow his work to be sold and brought to life on the big screen. Gil may be a drunk, but he’s a talented drunk, but for Charlie, he’s a mere typist who’s experienced in the war have left him with a prolonged writer’s block.
Brubaker does a superb job in sketching out the main cast here and fleshing out a larger sense of emotional damage the protagonist Charlie Parish carries with him. Charlie is more or less an anti-social loner that is subject to existential angst. He’s burdened with a sense of guilt, desperation, and frustration. Much like Fred MacMurray’s Walter Neff in Double Indemnity, Charlie is a nice guy, modestly successful, but a man with a faint smell of cynical opportunism within his persona. While he may be our protagonist, he can’t be trusted, and so we sense that his fall from grace isn’t from a great moral height.
The Fade Out is a Modern Masterpiece
What makes The Fade Out great is how quick it establishes many subtle, subliminal clues between the flashbacks and real-time sequences; every page is loaded with rich painstaking detail, making this the most ambitious series yet from the award-winning duo. Brubaker pulls from the decades-old lineage of hardboiled tough guys channeling the likes of Sam Spade, Walter Neff, and Joe Gillis. Tension and suspense are increased by the use of Charlie’s inner monologues and flashbacks, in that the audience is always cognizant of impending doom. The seamless connection and disconnection, between the thoughts of a character and what we see on the page, is brilliant. The voice-over in the series isn’t used to tell us what we are seeing, rather tell us what we aren’t seeing. More so, it lulls the reader into a false sense of security. Notes of racism, sexism, and antisemitism are also peripherally present, but this allows for Brubaker and Phillips to naturally explore a time and place where these behaviours were socially acceptable.
As the story unfolds, The Fade Out moves away from beaten-down protagonists Charlie Parish, shifting its spotlight on new characters while more familiar faces slide into the background. Using unexpected flashbacks and unique third-person narration, Brubaker reveals the complicated personalities of these additional characters at the opposite end of the Hollywood spectrum. Included are Mr. Thursby (head of Victory Street Pictures who has been doing everything in his power to silence the true nature of Valeria Sommers’ death), and Maya Silver (a young actress hoping to replace Valeria’s lead role in an upcoming film). Ed Brubaker shows us more of the dirty side of the film industry, capturing the various power struggles and moral dilemmas that come with seeking fame and fortune. Maya, for example, is an actress waiting for her big break and hoping to fill the void left behind by Valeria Sommers. She’s been promised the role that once belonged to the now-deceased actress, but she’s had to endure countless indignities to help get her to where she is now. Maya has certainly been a victim of a horribly sexist system, but while she is preyed upon, she’s far from weak. Her past continues to haunt her, but with the help of a new friend, she may be able to finally escape her demons.
Many of the characters in The Fade Out are polar opposites but they share one common goal: they will do anything it takes to ensure the film moves forward, and that they each remain involved. Thursby who wields immense power in Hollywood, reflects on his voluptuous past, wishing he could go return to the life he once knew; meanwhile Maya longs to escape her demeaning past and climb up the ladder of success. Thursby is a man who was once happy and free, only now he seems trapped by the studio system. In a way, he probably feels just as trapped as his actors do. As The Fade Out slowly begins to pull the curtain back, the story reveals a chilling noir tale about murder, immorality, gender roles, lust, greed and the position of women in the early 20th century.
Characters are the focus of The Fade Out, not just plot beats and despite the central mystery, The Fade Out is not about solving the question of who killed Valeria Sommers, but about the consequences that a corrupt Hollywood system had on her, and continues to have on everyone else involved. If anything, The Fade Out is a study of men and women destroyed by the 50s success ethic, left broken, alone, and in some cases, left dead.
If there was ever a comic that would make a great television series, it is this…
The artwork for The Fade Out is exquisite. Each panel is framed and lit much like a movie from the late 40s, and as you are reading, you can’t help but visualize it on the big screen. Sean Phillips is indisputably one of the most talented artists in the business, and when it comes to depicting gritty, realistic settings, he’s the best. Phillips’ character designs are so photo-realistic that one Tyler Graves looks like a young Montgomery Clift reincarnated in animated form.
Phillips has been a regular collaborator of Brubaker’s for quite a while now, but this is the first time they’ve worked with Elizabeth Breitweiser, and her work here is a blessing. Everything from the backgrounds, landscapes, dutch angles, heavy shadows, low-key lighting, and depth of field captures the era and look of noir perfectly. Meanwhile, Elizabeth Breitweiser must also be given credit for her fabulous work as the colourist. There’s something to appreciate around every corner — most of all, visuals to astound and amaze. Mostly, though, the book comes across like the fever dream of an artist who’s been up all night watching every black-and-white crime movie made in the ‘40s.
The series also masters the art of juxtaposition juggling between multiple timelines and subplots seamlessly. Along with the third person narrative, Brubaker and co. communicate subtle relationships between characters, plot, and an overall arching theme of corruption. The level of detail and the attention to every line of dialogue speaks to the effort to capture 1940s Hollywood as accurately as possible – so much so – they hired Amy Condit (a Hollywood expert who manages the L.A. Police museum), as a research assistant.
A Classic take on Classic Hollywood
Brubaker’s name has been synonymous with the noir genre from the very start of his career, but The Fade Out marked his first trip into Hollywoodland, the never-innocent city of illusions. The Fade Out relishes in classic Hollywood tropes – so much so – that every page looks like a storyboard from an Anthony Mann film. This is clearly, a labor of love from its creative team who even went the extra mile by assembling a series of supplementary content that helps readers get into the mindset of the time. The painstaking attention to historical detail cannot be overlooked. Using the murder of a Hollywood starlet as a catalyst to expose the web of dark secrets that runs through the City of Angels, the award-winning team has put together one of the most intriguing comics of the decade and a series that is destined to be a cult classic. Everything from the distinctive characters to the shadowy visuals to the thick labyrinthine plot, the cynical, hopeless tone, the dialogue and so on, makes it an incredibly fascinating read.
Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips will always be remembered as one of the greatest teams in comics’ canon. Their work is unmistakable, and consistent in quality since their early days working on the indie crime series Sleeper, to the modern masterpiece that is Criminal. Like Jack Kirby and Stan Lee or Frank Miller and David Mazzucchelli, they can do no wrong when working side by side. Fade Out isn’t quite up there with classic Hollywood noirs, but it’s the closest thing since Chinatown. This is a wonderfully entertaining series in which dark secrets; the mystery and allure of Hollywood; double-crossing; and secret alliances, are all but some of the ingredients found.
Ed Brubaker’s darker than dark drama about the inner workings of Hollywood is essential reading and further proof that Brubaker and Sean Phillips are two of the industry’s best, performing at the top of their game. Every chapter of The Fade Out is designed to set up the many things to come and advances the plot a few inches forward while exploring the backgrounds of the entire cast. The dead body which turns up at the start is just but one mystery – The Fade Out has so many more mysterious for readers to unravel.
Given the success of The Fade Out, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the bestselling, multiple Eisner Award-winning creators renewed their exclusive deal with Image Comics in 2018. And thanks to Image Comics, the duo can continue to follow their creative instincts and continue to produce what is arguably some of the best stories you’ll find in the medium without having to sacrifice their artistic and creative freedom.
– Ricky D
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