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Rok is back! Rok the God

It is commonly know how much I loved Rok of the Reds; mainly because at any given opportunity I tell everyone. You can read my review of it here. I was also very enthusiastic about the first chapter of its sequel Rok the God, which was released as a teaser for the Kickstarter campaign. You can read that review here. Well now the whole thing is complete and I have taken my time to get my thoughts down because I wanted to write a review to do it justice.

So, as an instant reaction to Rok the God. I Bloomin’ loved it! The mad as a weasel that’s had its gin stolen story, flows with such joy I challenge anyone not to smile while reading it. It has all the intergalactic shenanigans you want from an alien story, action-packed football matches for the sports story, a boo-hiss bad guy and some utter quality boys own adventure with the shrunken ne’er-do-wells who are on the run and trying to figure out what is going on.

The humour bounces off the page with a script from John Wagner and Alan Grant that feels original and yet has the familiar touches that allow you to settle into the world without trying too hard. The characters are strong and in the case of the nefarious Malcolm Greidy, a not too subtle satire of a certain money-grabbing American businessman who owns another football club that also plays in red, is wickedly realised.

For me, all the elements work. I read one review that didn’t like all the space opera bits as much. For me, these were the roots of the Wagner/Grant partnership at 2000AD. The shrunken Kyle Dixon and Ref Nigel Bull have all the elements of the great 1950s B movies, and the football set-pieces (yes I did) channel all the drama of a classic Roy of the Rovers.

However, the script and story are only half of what makes this such a great comic (my maths will be brought in to question later in the review). Dan Cornwell, the artist who realised the big red fella has yet again produced some of the finest art you are going to find in the pages of a comic book anywhere on the planet. His detailing, movements, recreations of both alien worlds and actual Earthly locations are jaw-dropping. The likenesses he produces for the stadiums, and some of the characters (both myself and my son appear in the book; it was a Kickstarter thing) are truly fantastic. Dan’s visual style allows the script to come to life with passion. There is not a single pencil line on the page wasted. Every stroke adds to the overall detail that pulls you into the frame giving you the ability to live the scene, not just read it.

We may already be at 100% of why this is good, but there is more. The colouring from Abby Bulmer and Jim Boswell is strong and has a consistency that lifts the images when required and produces dark moods just at the right time. I’ve mentioned Jim Campbell’s lettering before. I think he is a genius in this field. It’s not just about putting the words in a bubble, it’s about creating flow and making it easy for the reader to understand where to go next. This is all done to the same high level as every other part of the comic-book.

To sum up. Rok the God is, as I have said before “sharp, funny and just nuts” but now it is complete, you get to fully understand how incredibly sharp, how utterly funny and just how out of this world nuts it is. The Rok comics give me the exciting feeling I had reading 2000AD and Scream comics back in the day (which is the late 70s, through the 80s for those of you asking). Thank you team Rok for making me feel like a kid again without me having to go through a crisis and buy a motorbike.

You can order your copy of Rok the God here

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The Lost Doves

The Lost Doves – Set your sights towards the sun

The Lost Doves

I have known Ian Bailey and his music for several years. We even have a show together which combines his wonderful solo album ‘Empty Fields’ with some of my poetry. It’s a very emotional affair. So when he told me he was releasing a new CD, my interested was and truly peaked.

The CD doesn’t officially get released until the 21st of September (though this may change), but lucky old me managed to get my hands on a copy. So with much excitement (I am a fan after all), I unwrapped the CD and placed it into my system.

The first thing that made this project stand out was the fact Ian isn’t working alone. His previous releases have been solo works whereas here he’s teamed up with singer-songwriter Charlotte Newman to form a duo under the guise of ‘the Lost Doves’.

This is a collaboration of new material, with a couple of exceptions. ‘She’s Waking Up To Close Her Eyes’ and ‘See Saw’ both being originally recorded as purely single acoustic guitar track on ‘Empty Fields’ but have now been given the full band treatment here.

The sound quality of this recording is nothing short of outstanding. Produced and recorded by the duo at Ian’s ‘Small Space Studios’ between late 2019 and pre-lockdown 2020, the space generated around the instruments and vocals is the kind of high production values you’d expect from Rock Fields in Wales, not a small studio in Preston.

There is a depth to the sound and an emotional tone that allows you to connect to each track. Both Ian and Charlotte have amazing voices that are allowed to shine against some incredibly well-played music. The talent on show from the duo is evident with each note played. This is certainly an album for music lovers.

As a duo ‘The Lost Doves’ are still finding their way in terms of style. There are definite influences from the chiming overtones of The Byrds to prog-rock to British folk and all coming from the hearts of two people who adore the music they are playing. The contrast between the beautiful ‘Waves’ and the powerful ‘The Clowns Are Coming To Town’ is as stark as it is creative. This is a project that has started life in the studio and still needs time to grow. In saying that, judging them by using these tracks as a starting position, that growth is going to be amazing.

I thoroughly enjoyed my first listen to this album, and enjoy it more and more with each subsequent spin. The reworked tracks from ‘Empty Fields’ are fresh and a nice departure from the originals. The new songs are well crafted and demand your full attention while blasting out of your speakers.

‘Set your sights towards the sun’ is available to pre-order here.

http://ianbaileymusic.bigcartel.com/product/set-your-sights-towards-the-sun

It’s well worth adding to your collection.

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Gormless: a book of poems by Rich Davenport

This blog is a review of Gormless by Rich Davenport (ISBN 987-1-913256-14-2). But first, some history.

My first encounter with Rich Davenport came by way of a poetry slam. I was in the middle of touring my collection ‘The Book of Colin’ before an official launch. My good friend, Big Charlie Poet, had recommended I have a go at the Spotlight Slam in Lancaster, so myself and my partner Heather decided to make a night it. We book a lovely little B&B close to the venue and, armed with a comedy poem entitled ‘The Sexual Olympics’ ventured forth to see what all this poetry slam thing was about.

I had been up and performed my piece with the tittering response from the audience I wanted then returned to my seat, feeling quietly confident at placing in the top three for the night. Then stepped forward, Rich Davenport. H.G. Wells would probably describe him as a ‘Hulk, bigger than a bear.’ I would then add, but twice as cuddly.

As soon as he stepped onto the stage, it was his; delivering quickfire poems filled with nonsense and wit. The audience loved him. I loved him. Laugh out loud, smart and wonderfully performed. His work appealed to me in the same way as Spike Milligan’s poetry does.

That night, after he picked up his winnings, I booked him for the book launch. His work had the same effect that night as well. It was a fun year attending the same nights as Rich. A lovely generous soul and a brilliant performer. The only problem was, Rich Davenport has M.E.

It is a cruel disease that strips people of all their energy and leaves them unable to pursue their passions. This affliction caused Rich to drop out of the poetry and comedy scene for too many years. In this hiatus, I tried to get him to publish some of his work, but it never came to pass. Time moved on, and I lived in the hope that Rich would feel well enough one day to venture onto the boards once again.

But then something amazing happened; he announced the publication of a small book of poetry. Chin Beard Books had achieved what I had failed to do; they had got him into print. With a limited run of just 100 copies (unless it sells faster than Usain Bolt dashing to the toilet because of the sudden onset of the squits), I was quick to the ‘here, have my money’ button.

And thus it arrived, forty-three pages of daft poetry that had me laughing at over breakfast, much to my partner’s annoyance. ‘The Ballad of BLOODY NORA’, about a nit nurse who just loses her mind one day and goes on a killing spree (honestly, it’s BLOODY funny), ‘A Flutter Of Petticoats (or Cop This Jane Austen)’, which is a collection of three fart oriented couplets, and ‘Pantalones De Amor (Trousers of Love)’ with a direction for it to be read with the voice of Antonio Banderas, all had me spitting my Linda McCartney sausages across the table.

These wonderfully funny words are complemented with some beautiful artwork from Minty B. His drawings, published in colour throughout the book, add a cheeky smile to the work. The painting of ‘Bloody Nora’ is an image I would love to wear on a t-shirt. 

To sum up, I loved this book, but then I am a massive fan of Rich. However, I am also someone who doesn’t just blow smoke up someone’s botty. It is a thin book, he doesn’t write long poems very often, but the stuff that is in these pages is hilarious and something you will go back to again and again; especially when you need a cheering up.

For me, Rich Davenport sits alongside other great comedy poets: Spike Milligan, Pam Ayres, John Cooper Clark, Ashley Lister, and John Hegley.

If you manage to get a copy of Gormless, you’ll be one of the lucky ones, and if you manage to catch him live ever, you will be in for a treat. The following is a limerick taken from Gormless with kind permission of Rich Davenport. Enjoy.

An ambitious young gymnast called Fritz
Tried to force himself into the splits
But he pushed down too hard
Ruined his leotard
With a violent attack of the squits

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We all share a universe.

Since Marvel went all crazy on the whole fictional shared universe thing, it has become a point of interest with many people. So much so that clues and easter eggs have been hunted down to establish links between already created works. Search to see the evidence that Bladerunner and Alien share the same universe. There is also an easter egg the Star Wars prequel, The Phantom Menace, which shows the alien race from E.T.: The Extraterrestrial has a seat on the council. Maybe E.T.’s ability to make Elliot’s bicycle fly was due to his Jedi powers and control of The Force?

I love these links, these little nods to other creators as a way of showing your admiration for their work. That is why in my book Blood Ink, the mysterious Ms Nikita‘s legal representation comes from the firm Raven and Skull. A law firm so full of evil intent that it would seem folly to have her affairs handled by anyone else.

For those of you who are unaware of who Raven and Skull are here’s a little review. Raven and Skull is the title of a book by the fantastic British author Dr Ashley Lister, though most of the time he seems to drop the Doctor part on his books. It tells the tale of six colleagues from the legal firm’s offices and how they all meet up in a pub to discuss each other how bad, horrible, evil and darn right nasty their week had been. Each story is full of adultery, theft, betrayal, murder, cannibalism, black magic and death. Twisted encounters that play out like an old hammer movie. An anthology of short stories all tied together by the narrative that they all work at Raven and Skull. And it is brilliant.

I am such a fan of old school horror like Dr Terror’s House of Horrors and the Tales from the Crypt comics. This way of publishing an anthology appealed to me and was very much in my thoughts as I started to compile my collection of short stories together.

The stories I was presenting had a much broader thematic. I have stories covering going into space, time travel and the horrific outcome of when apps go wrong in the future. Raven and Skull, while having a lovely variety in its horror stakes, was less out there and thus the leitmotif of everything happening to these employees of the law firm worked exceptionally well. Blood Ink had to pull these very different stories together, hence the creation of Ms Nikita.

She is the mysterious protagonist that links all the stories. A very powerful agent/producer, her story is told by short interludes that bookend each of the tales. Even the writers of the stories are characters in the book, in her story. As each short story is ‘pitched’ to her, we the reader learn more about her true nature. So when it came to setting up a meeting between one of her writing stable, the London based Duncan Brashill, and Ms Nikita, for me there was only one place it could happen, the London offices of Raven and Skull, her legal representatives.

When I thought of this idea I smiled, t made so much sense. When you read Raven and Skull, you realise how evil and twisted this law firm is, and so it really couldn’t be any other firm. So I sent an email to Dr Ashley Lister to ask if I could do this. Remember, by saying yes, he would be placing my agent/producer in the same universe as his law firm. I was delighted with his positive response.

So that’s how it happened, the reason Ms Nikita has a meeting at the London offices of Raven and Skull. Because I liked a book and thought a link between the two other than it is an anthology that holds together like a novel would be cool. That by using this simplest thing like the name of a company, this new universe of horror has expanded and become much more extensive than we envisaged.

Raven and Skull also appear in the next novel from Ashley Lister, Doll House. It is in the background of a street scene and works well to establish the environment of the location. It’s another good read and well worth your time. 

I have started planning a sequel to Blood Ink, mainly because the few that have read it so far have been rather excited about it and have already begun to badgering me for one. So Ms Nikita will be back, and maybe she will frequent the offices of Raven and Skull again. Perhaps she will make an appearance in one of Ashley Lister’s novels, or perhaps both Ms Nikita and Raven and Skull will turn up (as long as permission is sought) in some other works. Wouldn’t it be incredible to see a universe shared by new, exciting horror authors?

Here are the important links:

Raven and Skull

Doll House

Blood Ink