letters to walter kovacs

A Cardiff Comic Blog

Month: November, 2014

Yellow kicks off its first week with Stanley Chow

Last week I posted about the new exciting project that OFF LIFE are undertaking in which for the next 52 weeks they will get 52 artists to illustrate their interpretation  of that weeks news.This week is the first week of this ambitious project. On Monday OFF LIFE posted ‘Mr and Mrs Manson’ by Stanley Chow which tackles the bizarre story about Charles Manson being granted a marriage license to marry the 26 year old Afton Burton

You can see Stanley Chow’s illustration here:

In the illustration Stanley Chow parodies the iconic painting ‘American Gothic’ by replacing the married farm couple with Charles Manson and Afton Burton.

Stanley Chow said this about why he chose this story.

The news of an 80 year old Charles Manson being allowed to marry Afton Elaine Burton (26) struck me as one of those ‘Only in America’ stories. I’ve always had a fascination with who Charles Manson is since hearing U2’s live cover version of The Beatles’ Helter Skelter, where Bono shouts: ‘Here’s a song Charles Manson stole from The Beatles, and we’re stealing it back!’

Once I decided to go with the Manson story, the first idea that came to my head was to base it on Grant Wood’s American Gothic painting. I just felt the title ‘American Gothic’ – as well as the actual piece itself – works well with portraying the Manson’s being wed.

Announced alongside this illustration was a list of more artists who will be creating work as a part of Yellow across the next year. With over 400 artists emailing OFF LIFE over the last week about the project I am guessing they have hand picked the best.

Here is the updated list:

-Jean Jullien

-Sofia Niazi

-Matt the Horse

-I Love Dust

-Chris Martin


The Story Of Cardiff Comics


Cardiff Comics first started selling comics over thirty years ago and is the oldest comic book shop in Cardiff. Many spend their weekends trawling through the multitude of brown boxes of comics in the shop in attempt at finding that rare gem.

I went down last week to see if I could find out how it all got started. I was pleasantly surprised to find David Bath still standing guard on a Saturday afternoon. He was more than happy to reveal all the secrets behind the history of Cardiff Comics. Above is Dave’s story.

OFF LIFE Comics Are Delving Into The World Of Journalism . . . . Sorta.




Today OFF LIFE announced the launch of their new 52 week project entitled ‘Yellow’. Each week for the next year OFF LIFE will get a different artist to produce a two page comic about their take on that weeks news. Gradually this will build into a year long image of that years news. Then at the end of next year OFF LIFE will publish all the work created for Yellow in a book with some accompanying essays. Read their official announcement here: http://offlife.co.uk/2014/11/yellow-our-new-series/

OFF LIFE may not be the most credible newsagent but they have already set out their journalistic agenda. It is a little different to what you might see in the BBC’s guidelines.

Yellow Journalism: reporting that exploits, distorts or exaggerates the news to create sensation and attract readers.

The Yellow project is set start next week with the first piece of art work being posted on their blog next Monday. The first strip is being created by Manchester’s Stanley Chow ( http://www.stanleychowillustration.com/ ). OFF LIFE have several other artists signed up for this project which includes the likes of Jean Jullien, Grace Wilson, Paul Davis and Krityna Baczynski. Yet just like their free magazine they accept submissions from anyone. So if you think you might be the new Joe Sacco here is their contact page: http://offlife.co.uk/contact/.

To check out the other stuff OFF LIFE have been published in you can read their entire back catalog for free online here: http://offlife.co.uk/magazines/


(from Left to Right) Saam and Dean of Hats and Milk Comics.

(from Left to Right) Saam and Dean of Hats and Milk Comics.

I recently spent some time interviewing Saam Watkins and Dean Smithers the two very talented people who create comics under the very bizarre title of ‘Hats and Milk’. In our interview I managed to find out Saam and Dean’s creative process, how references to Weezer’s new album ‘Everything Will Be Alright In The End’ may end up in their future work and why Dean keeps stifling Saam’s Colour dreams.

For those unfamiliar with their work Hats and Milk have been creating online comics over at http://hatsandmilkmakecomics.tumblr.com/ for a few years now. They create moody and fantastical strips that deal with themes such as love, relationships, how to deal with wizards and ‘Twin Peaks’. It is clear that both Saam and Dean’s style is influenced by a range of artists. Their black and white work remind me of Charles Burns’ ‘Black Hole’ while the simplistic cartoony faces are reminiscent of more contemporary cartoons such as Adventure Time.

Recently the duo’s work has made the transition from the virtual world to the physical as their strips have appeared in several issues of Space Junkie Press’ ‘The Gutter’ and the beautiful zine ‘Honey Pot’.

You can find issues of ‘The Gutter’ comic on sale here:


Unfortunately ‘Honey Pot’ has sold out but if you stare at their big cartel long enough you can imagine you have your own copy:


Anyway this is what these two chaps had to say for themselves.

With Hats and Milk comics you have an unconventional way of creating your comics. Can you please elaborate on how you write and draw your comics?

Dean: Dunno if I would call our work unconventional, but I guess everything we like is either dark or weird or whatever you want to call it, so maybe our comics are those things. Anyway, Saam will usually send me a text that contains the bones of a plot and then I’ll add to it, or we’ll meet to discuss it in detail over pizza, burritos or pancakes. Once we’ve fleshed stuff out we start to draft panels and evenly distribute the workload (we’re so cute) and then I’ll make a template, print two copies and we’ll both get to work. I’ll arrange/tweak everything in Photoshop before uploading it to Tumblr or sending it to you or whoever is nice enough to print our stuff.

Saam: Yeah sometimes I have thoughts and Dean is really good at visualising everything. I don’t really draft because I can’t really draw but somehow we make it work.

Music seems to play a big part in your comics. Can you tell me what records / songs have had the biggest influence on your work?

Dean: Totally. I think bands I’m into when working on something will influence me subconsciously, whereas Saam will consciously link certain songs to certain panels. Either way, we’re always listening to or talking about music so it definitely plays a role in what we do. We sing ‘Reach Out to You’ by Adventures at each other a lot, but generally speaking Perfect Pussy are our biggest influence ever. Anything by Mac daddy DeMarco is always okay, plus the new Weezer album. Also, I think we’re both listening to the Trust Fund album right now, which is definitely going to soundtrack future comics. Ellis!

Saam: Music is my favourite thing ever and I can’t turn my brain off from thinking about it so it always seeps into my writing. It is never really intentionally; I just can’t see anything without relating back to a band or song in my head. That’s why there are all these references in our writing. Plus we’re always listening to music when we work.

Most of your comics are in black and white. Is there a specific reason you do this?

Dean: Saam is always suggesting we use more colour, but I’m mean and don’t want him to be happy so I leave everything black and white. Only kidding. I don’t know, in terms of printing it’s cheaper but most of our work is online so I’m just making excuses. I guess I’ve just never had time to experiment with colour properly. I’d rather release something that looks the best it can, which at this stage means being black and white. That said, all of the best comics are black and white so maybe I should use colour? Pass.

Saam: Colour is something I’ve always wanted to play around with because it’s a skill we don’t have. For me the desire to use black and white stems from the work of Charles Burns and Michael Deforge. There’s just so much black in their work and it always looks amazing.

This Summer Is Going To Kill Me: Pilot. A strip Saam and Dean created for Space Junkie Press' Blog.

This Summer Is Going To Kill Me: Pilot. A strip Saam and Dean created for Space Junkie Press’ Blog.

What comic artists do both of you most aspire to be like?

Dean: Since Saam rediscovered ‘Stray Bullets’ and kick-started my most obsessive obsession ever, I haven’t been able to stop admiring David Lapham. I’m also a huge fan of Terry Moore’s ‘Strangers in Paradise’, which Saam hasn’t fallen for yet, but he will. I don’t ever want to be like anyone, but if I’m choosing role models then David and Terry are my guys. I’m also continually wowed by the work of Michael DeForge. He’s always pushing his boundaries and improving on what he did last and basically showing everyone how it’s done.

Saam: Julia Gfrörer’s ‘Black is the Colour’ has some of my favourite line work in the whole world in it, as does ‘In the Sounds and Sea’ by Marnie Galloway. It’s just real simple but affective stuff. I wish I could draw like that. In terms of story writing I’d say Deforge is also a big one for me, real weird shit. Yet, my number one has got to be Jeffrey Brown. He nails auto-biographical comics as a genre and the way he portrays emotion/facial expressions is perfect.

Why the name Hats and Milk, it’s a pretty weird name?

Dean: We were making stuff under the moniker ‘Oh, Sweet Serendipity’ for a while, but figured that should be an umbrella term for our comics rather than a name. I wear hats all the time and Saam has milky skin, so there you go. Richard Walsh pointed out that Saam should be Soya Milk now though because he’s vegan. Maybe we’ll change it?

Saam: Milk is a good bracket because I love oat and rice milk too. I love milk. I have been looking for a hat recently so this could throw a spanner in the works?!

Guts - The Strip that appeared in 'Honey Pot' #1.

Guts – The Strip that appeared in ‘Honey Pot’ #1.

What do you think of the British independent comic scene?

Dean: To be honest, most of the comics I read are American/Canadian. I don’t feel qualified to answer this question, but I really, really like Donya Todd and everything she does!

Saam: Donya Todd’s ‘Death and the Girls’ and her Bimba comics stuff is really empowering and funny. I love all of that. I’m a big fan of Jack Teagle too, he’s got a great imagination for crafting characters. The 24hr and Simpsons comics he does always make me super jealous of his writing abilities. Also everything Nobrow and Breakdown Press put out is incredible.

Every person I interview I ask for his or her 3 favourite comics that have come out this year. I will then read and review one of these comics. This is all an excuse for me to find out about loads of new comics. Can you recommend me your three favourite comics that have come out this year?


Michael DeForge – ‘Lose’ #6

David Lapham – ‘Stray Bullets’ #8

Gillen & McKelvie – ‘The Wicked + The Divine’ #5

Saam: I’m going to try and remember what was from this year and say different things to Dean and give you a top 5 because a top 3 is never enough.

Noah Van Sciver – ‘Youth is Wasted’

Donya Todd – ‘Bimba Vol 1’

Shaky Kane – ‘That’s Because You’re a Robot’

Evan Dorkin – ‘Eltingville Fighting Club’

Jason Aaron and Jason Latour – ‘Southern Bastards’

Thank you very much to Saam and Dean. I will be reviewing one of each of their comic choices very soon.

Cardiff Comic Con 2014 – Freaks, Geeks and Super Nerds

Anyone in Cardiff this weekend would have been surprised to see a mass of Bat-mans, Doctor Whos and Supermen milling about amongst all the rugby fans. The cause for this was the scheduling clash of Wales vs. Australia in the Millennium Stadium and The Cardiff Comic-Con in the motor point arena.

It seems that every year this event draws bigger and bigger crowds. Even on Sunday a huge line of eager sci-fi, television and comic book fans stretched all around the Motor Point arena.

The que outside of Comic-con 2014

The queue outside Comic-con 2014

On the inside stalls were set up to fulfill the materialistic needs of even the most obsessive fans. You could purchase autographs from every person who has ever appeared in an episode of Doctor Who since the start. But for those more into Games Of Thrones do not worry. There was a stall selling real life replicas of all the swords featured in the show. Who doesn’t need their own version of “oathkeeper’ or ‘longclaw’ hanging above their bed.

Inside Comic-Con 2014

Inside Comic-Con 2014

The only place not swamped by people was a misplaced sports memorabilia stall. It seems no one at comic con is interested in a pair of shorts signed by Eric Cantona or a pair of boxing gloves worn by Joe Calzaghe. The traditional looking man who owned this stall looked particularly awkward as Chewbacca and Luke Skywalker walked past without even a second glance at his Man Utd top trumps cards. I am sure he realizes now that comic con might have been a bad business move.

For those brave enough to make it through the crowds of the first floor to the second floor were rewarded with the comic zone. The comic zone is where all the comic artists were hanging out signing comics and drawing original works for people. This year attending Cardiff Comic Con were David Roach and Lee Townsend who have both drawn for 2000AD, Mike Collins who began his professional career by joining up with Alan Moore, Simon Williams who is Aces Weekly’s newest recruit and David Lloyd the artist behind Alan Moore’s British dystopian classic V for Vendetta as well as a dozen other talented artists. However, it was disappointing to see more people queuing to get an autograph from long forgotten actors than from these comic artists and writers.

But before I end no post on Comic-con would be complete without the obligatory pictures of people who really, really, really, really love dressing up as comic book characters.

Brit- Cit Justice Department. (From Left) Featuring Judge Drone, Judge Broad, Judge Spike, Judge Purcell and Judge Harrington.

Brit- Cit Justice Department. (From Left)
Featuring Judge Drone, Judge Broad, Judge Spike, Judge Purcell and Judge Harrington.



Ben Jordan as Galactus.

Ben Jordan as Galactus.


Jon Johannson. He started building his costume in July!

Jon Johannson. He started building his costume in July!