Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Biopsy Report: The Prognosis is Good...

More reviews for Cancertown 2: Blasphemous Tumours, the first from Jay Faulkner over at Following the Nerd:

Review: Cancertown 2 - October 15th, 2012 by Jay


A couple of years back I happened upon a wonderful, bizarre graphic novel entitled Cancertown. When I say ‘happened upon’ it is fairer to say that I hunted it out as I had a passing acquaintance, at the time, with the artist, Stephen Downey.

As a self-admitted Marvel zombie (and DC aficionado) my taste in graphic novels normally ran to the mainstream, regular tales of spandex covered heroes and heroines, with only the occasional foray into the ‘other side’ of comics, such as O’Barr’s The Crow, Watchmen, etc.
Then Stephen recommended Cancertown: An Inconvenient Tooth – which is an amazingly complex and twisted story that feels like it is part fantasy and part gritty crime noir in which society’s lost and dispossessed sometimes lose themselves – to me, written by the breathtakingly weird genius that is Cy Dethan; the rest, as they say, is history.

The anti-hero , and main character, of the story – Vince Morley – was an awesome character, who deserved to be up there with the likes of John Constantine and Dresden and while Cancertown: An Inconvenient Tooth could very well have been a stand-alone story – and while Cy was kept busy penning the likes of The Indifference Engine, Slaughterman’s Creed, and White Knuckle – it was also crying out for a sequel.

And, like a willing genie, Cy granted our wish as, as if fully formed from his temple (not to mention artist Graeme Howard, colourist Peter Mason, and the letterer extraordinaire that is Nic Wilkinson!), Cancertown 2: Blasphemous Tumours sprang to life!

Set six months after the events of Cancertown: An Inconvenient Tooth, Vince Morley is a dangerously sick man. Bugfuck is in a psychiatric hospital, sticky fingers picking through the darkest corners of the mind that brought Cancertown into existence. The crossing points between Morley’s two realities are wearing thin and all the rules are changing.

From the start the stakes seem somehow raised in Cancertown 2: Blasphemous Tumours.  That isn’t to say that the original was a slouch, by any means, but there is a much greater sense of urgency here.  The fact that familiar faces are seen, and dispatched, in pretty short order is definitely a key factor here, and one that I found surprising as I thought that the Players were going to be one of the corner stones of the tale, along with Morley himself.  Of course, if you want to introduce a new threat what better way to do so than by taking down one of the big guns?  As Ric Flair was wont to say, to be the man you have to beat the man … and to be the Player you have to beat the Player.  And mutilate, and decapitate, and so many other –fates that I can’t even think of!

It isn’t all action, of course – though there is plenty of gut-wrenching carnage along the way – as Dethan is extremely adept at writing dialogue that is a realistic and believable as the characters deserve.  This is where Nic Wilkinson’s  lettering comes into its own, with a unique ‘voice’ created for each of the old and new faces alike.  The original Cancertown had some of the most amazing art of any comic title that year (or any year) and while Graeme Howard and Peter Mason may not bring the same level of detail and clarity to the story – especially where Downey and Cook separated reality and Cancertown itself with such brilliance – they more than make up for it with truly harrowing and emotive art that easily portrays the horror of where Morley finds himself this time around.  Howard’s art has a nightmarish and fevered quality to it that makes you feel that Morley is always in Cancertown, even when he’s in reality – or as close to reality as he manages to cling on to, this time around. Peter Mason’s colours are extremely well suited to the art, warm and rich when required and macabre and stomach churning too as evidenced by the decaying and decomposing giant floating eyeballs.

There are two issues with Cancertown 2: Blasphemous Tumours, but these are both relatively minor.  The first is that you really need to have read Cancertown: An Inconvenient Tooth prior to the sequel or you may find yourself drowning in the deluge of characters and story; the second is that, as good as it is, this sequel isn’t as good as the first one.  Now, bear with me here for a moment as I explain something: Cancertown 2 is still an EXCELLENT book, which shows that there is still an alternative to Marvel and DC – to the mainstream heroics found in the Avengers or Superman – and it delivers on many, many levels.  It just felt like it ended as it got going; if there is a sequel on the horizon, and Cancertown 3 is the finale in a trilogy, then this will be an amazing mid-chapter book and even if there isn’t then it is still a pretty damn amazing one in its own right.

So, all I can say in summary is that if you like stories that straddle the thin line between fantasy and reality, between nightmares and daydreams, between love and hate – like a lovechild of Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere – then you will like this too.
…and, so you should!

Following that, we have this little gem from Adam Cheal at Comic Booked:

Cancertown 2: Comics Review ~ Comic Booked

Vince Morley is a dangerously sick man. Within the monstrous alternate world of Cancertown, a creature of horrific violence and limitless rage has burst from the nightmare landscape. The foundations are shaking and the old powers are falling. In response, the deadliest of Cancertown’s inhabitants seeks Morley out to claim a favor that could cost him more than just his life. 
Cancertown 2 is the eagerly awaited sequel to the original horror graphic novel “Cancertown” written and co-created by Cy Dethan. I first heard about this book from the book artist Graeme Howard and the publisher Markosia when they featured in a British Showcase column and were both very excited about the book. With this kind of endorsement, I wanted to get stuck in and review it.

The first volume of Cancertown concentrates on the lead character Vince Morley, a man suffering from Cotard’s Syndrome. This ailment convinces the person that they are dead, rotting away or have missing organs. Vince however has a tumour the size of a fist in his brain that lets him experience visions from a diseased world co-existing with our own that quite frankly, we are lucky not to know about. In this second book, Vince is really on the edge of reality and takes the readers down into the rabbit hole with him. The book opens up into the realms of Cancertown, a nightmare plane of pain and suffering filled to the brim with creatures and beings that seem to have spawned from the depths of Hell itself. One thing to learn from this opening is that no matter how big a deal you think you are, there’s always a bigger fish!

Our leading man Vince awakes in a fluster and receives a phone call requesting that he come to the hospital to see an extremely sick girl, who would appear to be the source of the origins of Cancertown. After some heated exchange and disturbing revelations, Vince is forced to enter the inner sanctum of Cancertown to find answers. What ensues is a rollercoaster of twisted brilliance that will have you either turning pages to find out what’s coming next, or closing the book before it gets dark to ward off the nightmares.

The writing by Cy Dethan is bold, daring and interesting. The book and writing style really reminds me of the early Sandman books by Neil Gaiman, but pushing the boundaries that those books never could in a mainstream world. The dialogue has not been diluted down and is some of the most extreme I have seen in a graphic novel. This is a testament to both Dethan for being brave enough to write it and publisher Markosia for having the guts to print it. The characters are also really original and like nothing I have ever seen before. The main character is so realistic, you won’t know whether to love or hate him. He reminds me somewhat of a cynical John Constantine character, but one you would be even less likely to want to piss off!
Cancertown 2 issue 2 page 2
The artwork by Graeme Howard is fantastic. The creatures and monsters that have been created for this book are original and disturbing. The panels and angle choices all work really well and add greatly to the experience of reading the book. The storytelling works and flows effortlessly.  The colours by Peter Mason compliment the artwork and really add the tone to the book. Everything is full of grime and grit, which add to the nightmarish nature. Letters by Nic Wilkinson are worth a mention too. There are some interesting fonts on offer and many characters have a unique style which distinguishes them from one another. The layouts are good and well placed, so the artwork is allowed to shine. The sound effects are kept to a minimum which works well within the context of the story. Too much would have added a cartoony style that would have looked weird, so I am happy with the way this was handled.

Overall I would say this is one of the sickest, most disturbing and harrowing books I have read, needless to say that I loved it! This novel is one for adult readers only and may not be everyone’s cup of tea. Anyone that loves a good original horror would be more than happy to read this. So if you are in the market for something engaging, different and scary for this Halloween, you can’t go far wrong with this. 

Cancertown 2
Reviewed by Adam Cheal on Oct 29.
Outstanding British horror book, a must read!

Bold, Brave and Beautiful

Rating: 9.0

Cancertown 2: Blasphemous Tumours launches at the Thought Bubble convention in Leeds this November, and can be ordered directly from me via email.

Friday, 19 October 2012

Cancertown is Coming Home

With the official launch of Cancertown 2: Blasphemous Tumours now only weeks away, it's time to announce the first signing event for the book. I've talked before about Whatever Comics in Canterbury, but for the avoidance of doubt let me reiterate that its owner, Manny, has been the sole guardian of my personal pull list since October of 1990. If over twenty years of customer loyalty isn't enough of a recommendation then there really is no hope for you.

Anyway, see the details on the flyer above and, if you're remotely local and interested, then feel free to come by and meet the entire creative team.

Friday, 12 October 2012

Cancertown 2 Pre-Orders: It's Now or Never

We've now had the call for final pre-order numbers from the publisher, so this is the last chance to confirm if you want a copy. Markosia won't have a table at Thought Bubble this year, so the number of extra copies we'll be taking to the show will be limited to what we can carry home with us without a car - meaning there won't be many.

The book was recently reviewed by Lee Grice for the Small Press Big Mouth podcast. You can listen to the whole episode here but, as a taster, here are a few of my favourite quotations:

"Cy's really set himself up as one of the best writers in Britain...

"It's kind of like Chinatown in Hell, is what it is. It's like Chinatown filtered through Clive Barker.

"I swear to God it gave me weird sensations behind my eyes when I was reading it. It gave me weird dreams. A couple of nights afterwards I dreamt my house was kind of like growing tumours, all very bizarre.

"Graeme Howard's artwork is fantastic... it reminds me of the guy who did the artwork for Shade the Changing Man [Chris Bachalo] back in the day.

"The colouring is brilliantly done by Peter Mason... this is his first professional colouring job which is amazing. He absolutely nails the atmosphere." 

"It's brilliant. Again, it's going to be one of the best of the year."

Here's one from Ian Cullen of the SciFi Pulse website:

Comic Review: Cancertown 2: Blasphemous Tumours

Due for release next month is the long anticipated sequel to Cy Dethan’s Cancertown. We reviewed the first book in this series back in 2009 when it was released. Cy sent me a copy of the sequel, which is appropriately called ‘Blasmphemous Tumours.’ Which is appropriate given how this story brings a close to Vince Morley’s traversing between two worlds. You can read the synopsis and my review below:

Synopsis: Six months after the events of Cancertown: An Inconvenient Tooth, Vince Morley is a dangerously sick man. Bugfuck is in a psychiatric hospital, sticky fingers picking through the darkest corners of the mind that brought Cancertown into existence. The crossing points between Morley’s two realities are wearing thin and all the rules are changing.

Review: First off, aside from some great writing from Cy Dethan (and I especially love his creative use of colourful metaphors) I have to give credit to Nic Wilkinson, who did a great job of the lettering, and of course artist Graeme Howard. They all did a great job and I particularly liked Howard’s art in this book, in that it made sense for the change in art especially given some of the narrative changes that have taken place in Cancertown since our first visit.

Nic Wilkinson does a brilliant job of giving each character, including the wonderful new characters that Cy has developed, their own voices. I loved how she made alterations to the text for the different characters.

But to the point: if you enjoyed the twisted, messed-up, drug-induced feel of the original Cancertown, which at the time was compared to Lovecraftian horror fused with the Wizard Of Oz, you’ll no doubt enjoy the second installment, which sees the stakes raised for Morley who is trying to figure out why the hell Cancertown is falling apart. The answers to that question alone will surprise you.

All the characters from the first book are back, but some don’t hang around for long. I especially enjoyed the witty banter that Morley has with some of these characters, which are so twisted and messed-up they can only really come from the mind of a deranged individual with too much time on his hands. And trust me when I say this - that was a compliment. :)

Each chapter in this book ends on a brilliantly twisted and, if you scare easily, scary cliffhanger, which makes you want to just keep reading. In fact, they hypnotize you into reading each individual page until your eyes bleed and foam spews from your mouth.

If you haven’t read the original Cancertown, you should start there because reading ‘Blasphemous Tumours’ on its own would be a bit of a struggle without reading the first book, but still makes for a good story.

To sum up, you have to buy this book when it comes out in November. If you don’t, the residents of Cancertown will likely torment you until you do. But if you are of a delicate disposition you’d most likely be better suited sticking to comics about caped superheroes, which this is not. Much like the original Cancertown, Cancertown 2 is one of those stand-out books I’d use to show people that there is a lot more to comics than the stereotypical stuff that you can read in Batman or Superman. I have to wonder if we’ll see a sequel to this, especially given that the ending was a bit ambiguous at best, but that works for this book.

Written By: Ian Cullen

Speaking recently about the book, former Marvel UK editor John Freeman had this to say:

"Dethan ably picks up the threads of the original graphic novel, weaving a heady unsettling mix of nightmares. This time out, the story is brought to life by the talented Graeme Howard, who ably takes Stephen Downey's original look to the world of Cancertown and makes it his own, with some amazing sequences of the bizarre and grotesque, juxtaposed with the 'normality' of Morley's 'normal' life."

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

"Stream-of-Consciousness Profanity"

Foreword for Cancertown Volume 2: Blasphemous Tumours
David Hine – September 12th 2012

In volume one of Cancertown, Vince Morley, the book’s narrator and lead character, is diagnosed with Cotard’s Syndrome, also known as Walking Corpse Syndrome, a condition where a person believes they are dead, rotting away, or in milder cases, have organs missing. I once worked as a porter in a psychiatric hospital and did actually meet someone who suffered from the delusion. This woman insisted that the doctors had removed her internal organs. I’m still haunted by her mournful whimpering at mealtimes as she pushed her plate away. “It’s no good. I can’t eat it. I’ve got no stomach.” In Vince Morley’s case he’s gained an organ, a tumour in his head that gives him visions of another world – a diseased world that lies beneath the surface of what we like to think of as ‘reality’ – the world known as Cancertown.

This time round Dethan has a new art team to share his vision of hell. Graeme Howard and Peter Mason have taken up the challenge of painting us the picture we probably would have preferred not to see, and they have carried it off with flying colours (mostly bile green and fecal brown with a spattering of bloody crimson). Cy Dethan’s prose has a wonderful stream-of-consciousness profanity. I envy his talent for coming up with brilliant names for his characters. Anyone writing comics will tell you it’s next to impossible to come up with original and appropriate names, but Cy does it repeatedly: Headrush, Bugfuck, Piecemaker, Corpsegrinder, Nemesister. He even has Vince affectionately refer to the tumour in his head as Baby Meatfist. My personal favourite is Papercut – so very appropriate for a comic where the pages will draw blood if you don’t handle them carefully.

Reading this book has been quite a trip. In his foreword to the first volume, Bryan Talbot gave a warning to potential readers, and I feel compelled to do the same. Cancertown is normally only visible to those who live on the margins of society - the addicted, the homeless, the destitute, the diseased, the pathologically delusional. Cy Dethan, charming fellow that he is, has made it his mission to make that world apparent to the rest of us too. The thing is that once you see it, you’re only a step away from being sucked into Cancertown. So I’m going to repeat Bryan’s warning in the hope that you’re reading this foreword before you actually read the book. Don’t go any further. Put it back on the shelf. Throw it away. Give it to your worst enemy. Got that? Do not under any circumstances read this book…

David Hine
South London
September 2012

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