Litro #109: Comic Fiction




‘Once Upon a Riot’ by Louie Stowell

ArtistLouie Stowell has been drawing cartoons and other illustrations for Litro for a year or so. Her drawings have appeared in other off and online magazines and an annual charity art exhibition called ArtSHO. She also writes children’s books for Usborne and recently co-wrote a book called the Write Your Own Story Book, published at the start of June.

 




I See The Promised Land by Arthur Flowers & Manu Chitrakar










Writer: Arthur Flowers teaches in the English Department of Syracuse University, USA. A native of Memphis and co-founder of The New Renaissance Guild, he is a performance poet who considers himself heir to the western written tradition as well as the African oral one.

Artist: Manu Chitrakar lives and works in Naya village in Bengal. A Patua scroll artist who sings and paints, he is part of a living art and performance tradition that is as open to contemporary news stories and politics as it is to ancient legend and myth.




Leonard Cohen by C.M. Evans




New Superheroes by C. M. Evans

Cartoonist: C.M. Evans, author, artist, thinker, recycler, philanthropist, grew up in Upstate California. His work, (both art and literary) has been published for many years online and offline in places like Milk Magazine, McSweeney’s, Dear Sir, The Bridge and displayed at various venues in the US, China, and Mexico. He is cartoon-editor- at-large for opiummagazine.com

 




‘Buffalo Chris’ by Chris Wiewiora & Dan Folgar






 

An Adventure of Buffalo Chris: Inspiration & Collaboration
By writer Chris Wiewiora

I came up with the idea of a comic series called The Adventures of Barista Chris while I was working for a corporate coffee chain. The storyline would be based on my job. And so, I planned for my co-workers to be drawn as animals (i.e. my bad-tempered boss would be a bear), thus disguising their names, if not their identities.

For each The Adventure there would be an accompanying An Adventure – a tangent narrative that would somehow connect back to The Adventures. For instance, An Adventure of Buffalo Chris is an adaptation of the Texan-American tall tale of Pecos Bill and the taming of his wild horse Widowmaker. The parallels to The Adventures is that Barista Chris rides a dangerous motorcycle he named Betty Jo (in the tall tale the wild horse is named Widowmaker) and also in The Adventures, Chris eventually falls in love with an apron-only wearing – otherwise nude – woman named Eve (like how Sweet Sue captivates Pecos Bill).

But there’s a problem: I can’t draw. Well, it’s not that I can’t draw, it’s that I don’t draw. I don’t draw, because when I do draw, the best I can do is draw birds as a lowercase m up in the sky.

And so, I got my buddy Dan Folgar (also a former corporate coffee employee) to collaborate with me on The Adventures of Barista Chris. I write. He draws. More accurately, Dan illustrates – he brings alive the imagery of my words.

The first thing at the top of my script for Buffalo Chris was a summary of the character(s), desire, and plot in one sentence:

Buffalo Chris is a feral boy who seeks danger via taming a wild horse.

I noticed the word that I kept using in my script was “wild.” And when I think of wildness I think wilderness, and the struggle to survive in that dangerous and unforgiving environment. But I was curious to see how Dan would represent wildness. The concept sketch Dan sent me was of a wiry boy in a loincloth and wearing a buffalo headdress.

I realize that American tall tales are about the United States’ folk heroes like Pecos Bill (or Buffalo Chris). However, I don’t believe that those stories are only about their characters; rather the characters embody their stories’ settings. The character’s character represents their story’s region. More simply, a story is about place, too.

In Dan’s concept sketch, Buffalo Chris’ hands float out and away from his body over the empty space around him. And maybe here, I can switch roles and give some words for Dan’s illustrations of Buffalo Chris: His landscapes are lush as well as wild. Dan gives dynamic images starting in the Texan deserts heading westward along the prairie, through the forests, over the mountains, and all the way to the Pacific Ocean where the sun sets.

 

Writer: Chris Wiewiora (chriswiewiora.com) is a MFA candidate at Iowa State University’s Creative Writing and Environment program. He mainly writes nonfiction, but previously collaborated with Dan Folgar illustrating another comic titled Life of the Coffee Bean, published in Bateau. Together, they have compiled a comic anthology that is seeking a publisher.

 

 

Artist: Dan Folgar is a cartoonist/artist from Miami, FL. He is currently seeking an MFA in visual arts at the Miami International School of Art and Design. He has comics forthcoming in Candy or Medicine, and an online comic series at sometime-this-century.blogspot.com.




Me and my Dad and a Long Time Ago by Neil Dvorak





 

Writer/artist: Neil Dvorak says: “I think the farthest a human can go is to ask a really great question. Right? There are so few truths or answers on Earth … here are three: I love my friends and family. I love bugs and drawing. I made everything else up.” See easypiecescomics.com




Hand me my Hand by Alan McCormick

‘You can pin a maggot on a mackerel but you can’t pin a mackerel on a maggot,’ whispered the featureless child, his unheard words of wisdom floating away on the wind.

There was lot of wind on the Suffolk coast that day and it was busy dragging the kite belonging to the father of the featureless child along the far side of the beach.

‘Feck it, feck it and feck it,’ scalded Dad.

The snake on a rope thought he said ‘fetch it’ but his impulse to slither over and fetch it was curtailed by a sharp yank on the tie-rope around his neck. His trunk slinked and then coiled up into itself; his gasping tongue protruding to fork the passing currents of air.

Amongst the masses of messed up line attached to the kite emerged a giant ugly deep sea fish. It stank and shouted at a woman and a baby ahead of it.

‘Not mackerel, not a maggot and not a monkfish,’ mumbled and murmured the featureless child.

‘Mmmmer mmmmer mmmmer, can’t make any fecking sense of any fecking thing you say, lad,’ blasted Dad.

‘Sssssand shark, it’sssss a sssssand shark,’ hissssssed the snake.

Dad went to have a closer look. The stinking sand shark bit. He came back with the kite but without his hand.

‘That takes the biscuit,’ sobbed Dad.
‘That took your hand,’ corrected the featureless child.

Dad looked at him for a moment. ‘I understood that bit, lad, you’re right. Good to hear you talk normal for a change.’

The snake slithered back with Dad’s hand.

‘Thanks, snake,’ said Dad with a playful yank at his tie-rope. ‘Now let’s go home, your Mum has got some serious sewing to do.’

 

Writer: Alan McCormick’s collection of short stories, and shorter pieces illustrated by Jonny Voss, Dogsbodies and Scumsters, is out now on Roast Books. Alan was recently Writer in Residence for the Stroke charity, InterAct Reading Service. His short stories have won numerous prizes and have been widely published and performed, often in London with the Liars’ League.

Artist: Jonny Voss studied illustration at Brighton University and then went on to study at the RCA. He has been working in London as an illustrator since 2000 – see jonnyvoss.com. Alan and Jonny collaborate on illustrated shorts as SCUMSTERS – see scumsters.co.uk, dogsbodiesandscumsters.wordpress.com, 3ammagazine.com and deaddrunkdublin.com

 

 




Alison Willis – Comeback

I believe in giving people second chances.

My shrink, for example. Caitlin was disbarred three years ago for having an affair with a patient. When I first met her, she was working in a run-down cathouse on the South Side as a hooker. We live in tough times. I was in the neighbourhood, on duty but out of uniform, luckily, and I happened to save one of the girls from a john who cut up rough. Caitlin and I got talking, and she told me her story. Ever since, I’ve been telling her mine.

[private]Every Thursday, three o’clock on the dot, I turn up – incognito, of course – and ask for Caitlin. The Madam nods knowingly and shows me up to Room 9.

“Nurse,” she says to Caitlin, smirking, “your patient.”

She thinks it’s all part of the fantasy. She thinks I’ve got a thing for blondes in nurses’ uniforms giving me enemas. If only she knew. It’s much worse than that.


I lie back on the cheap vinyl couch and Caitlin starts the clock. We have fifty minutes precisely. She’s very professional. Cheap, too. Most psychiatrists cost twice as much per hour as most prostitutes. Like I said, tough times – especially if you’ve got emotional issues.

“How has your week been?” she asks. She’s thrown a white cotton lab coat on over the naughty nurse outfit: she always does this before we start now, since I mentioned that the uniform was kind of distracting.

I shrug against the squeaky couch.

“Oh, same old same old. Saved a few lives, averted a few crimes, got some cats down from some trees.”

“Uh huh.”

“That train crash that almost happened – maybe you saw it on the news?”

“That was you, huh?”

I nod at the ceiling.

“Yep. Pushed it aside just in time.”

“Why didn’t you take credit?”

“Well, y’know … I don’t want to be over-exposed. I want to lie low right now. Stay in the shadows.”

I hear her pencil scraping swiftly across the paper. She’s making a note.

“An interesting choice of words,” she says.

Damn.

“It’s just a turn of phrase.”

“Uh huh.”

There are no coincidences, nothing is meaningless, not on Caitlin’s couch.

“You been having the dream again?” she asks.

I shift uncomfortably. It’s hot in here, and I’m wearing my uniform underneath my civilian clothes, which doesn’t help. The city’s been restless, recently. When someone like Shade goes down, it leaves a power vacuum in the underworld. So much crime there for the taking, so many hoods scrambling for the crown. Very Shakespearean.

“On and off,” I admit.

She nods and notes.

“Still the same?”

I close my eyes. I’m standing over his grave. His armoured, lead-lined, concreted-filled grave. Shade. More than my enemy: my nemesis. A villain like him gets sunk twelve feet deep, not six. The red sun trembles on the horizon and vanishes. The shadows of the headstones in the cemetery lengthen, stretch, reach out for me. There’s scratching, like mice behind linoleum. It gets louder, closer. Then there’s an almighty thud, and the flat coffin-shaped slab of marble bucks and cracks, just as though a fist had punched it from within

My eyes snap open and I jerk upright on the couch, staring and sweating like I’m in a cheap Hollywood flashback.

“Yeah,” I say, “Always the same.”

Caitlin recrosses her legs. She’s forgotten to take off her fetish shoes: transparent vinyl platforms. They’re distracting too. Fortunately, I know I can trust myself with her. When you’ve had the kind of experiences I’ve had, with the kind of women I’ve known, you can’t go back. Civilians are just too … fragile.

“And are you still seeing Miss Knight?”

“If you call frustrating her repeated suicide attempts seeing, yes, I suppose I am.”

Caitlin stares hard at me over naughty-nurse half-moon glasses. I can’t see the look, but I feel it. Her pencil jitters brusquely on the pad. She’s getting exasperated.

“What would you call it?”

“Saving her.”

Her laughter is a cynical snort. “Ever since Shade’s death, you two have been locked in a self-destructive, highly co-dependent relationship. And this unhealthy cycle can’t be broken until she stops endangering herself – or you stop rescuing her.”

“How can I, for God’s sake? It’s what I do.”

“Don’t pull that hero crap with me. You killed Shade readily enough – Aurora Knight was his sidekick. What’s the problem?”

I squeeze my fists together. Shade’s neck snaps again beneath my fingers.

“You don’t understand.”

“So make me. If she wants to kill herself, that’s her business. Why must you get involved?”

I often wonder if Caitlin’s somewhat confrontational style of therapy might have been another contributing factor in her professional disbarment. Most shrinks would rather strip naked than express an opinion in the consulting room. Although, come to think of it, Caitlin’s probably done both in the past.

“I … it’s not like … It’s a cry for help,” I mutter, sheepishly.

“Oh puh-lease. What about the sex?”

My blush is fierce and instant.

“Look, we’ve both been through a lot recently. It’s just part of the grieving process.”

“For you or for her?”

I twist on the couch and half sit up, staring at her. Sweat pools in the small of my back, beneath the Spandex.

“What?”

She stares back, evenly.

“You heard me.”

“Don’t be so ridiculous.”

“Don’t be so defensive.”

With an effort, I uncross my arms and lie back stiffly on the couch.

“That’s better,” says Caitlin. She flips through her notes. A cat cries somewhere outside. Probably stuck up a tree. Well, it can wait.

“Last time we talked about your emotional reaction to killing Shade. You said, and I quote: It was my comeback, my big victory – and I didn’t feel triumph. Do you remember what you said you felt?”

I grit my teeth. Of course I do.

“Emptiness.”

“And now you’re trying to fill it with …”

“Look, I know where this is going –”

“Exactly. And so does Aurora Knight. Nowhere. A superhero and an arch-villainess getting it on? It’ll destroy both your careers. Or is that the attraction?”


I picture Aurora. The first time, I didn’t even know it was her. I thought she was just another jumper. Her beautiful dark hair streamed in the night wind as she tumbled sixteen stories to land in my arms with a thud. Her black eyes opened wide and the next thing I felt was her fist on my jaw. And then were in the alley, fighting. She tore my costume. I wrestled her to the ground. And then … There’d been other times, since that night. The gun she’d turned on herself: the bullet I’d snatched at the last second. The poison champagne I’d knocked from her hand. Only last week, she’d stood defiantly on the railtracks, her eyes burning with tears, as the midnight express from Edgwood bore down on her … That one was a close call. Lucky my publicist managed to keep a lid on it.


”What do you think she really wants?” asks Caitlin softly. “To die? Or to be saved?”

“I don’t know. Probably both.” Always a safe answer.

“Or maybe she wants to be saved so badly she’ll risk death for it?”

“Hmm.”

Caitlin huffs impatiently. “OK, let’s try something else. In our previous session – after a lot of resistance from you, I might add – you told me about your Shade dream. The scratching, the cracked headstone, his hand shooting up through the grave and choking you, all that. You even quoted Coriolanus at me. Funny, I never pictured you as a Shakespeare-reading type.”

“No-one ever does,” I say, with resignation. I took a class in Text and Performance at college and played Hamlet in my final year. Does anyone read that part of my website? Of course not. It’s all about the super-strength and the Spandex.

“So what do you think that dream means?”

I ponder it. I’ve been wondering that myself for a while.

“I guess I … want closure?” I hazard.

Her laughter’s frankly scornful. “If you really wanted closure you wouldn’t be humping his closest ally, now would you? You wouldn’t be playing Aurora’s little suicide-watch game.”

I stare at the floor, then the clock. We don’t have long. And I don’t want to have that dream again.

“Can’t you do something about it?” I ask her. “I haven’t slept in weeks! If it’s not Aurora throwing herself off a building, it’s the Shade nightmare. I’m becoming a danger to the public, let alone myself.”

She hesitates. Then: “OK,” she says. “I’ve got a prescription for you. Confront your fear. Enact your dream.”

“What … tonight?”

She’s chirpy, insistent. “Sure. Carpe diem. Go to the cemetery. Visit the grave. What’s the worst that can happen?”

I’m really not so sure about this. I’m not afraid, you understand – I’m just not sure.

“Well, I don’t know … Can I sleep on it maybe?”

“No,” she says, and snaps her notebook shut with such force that her breasts tremble in her low-cut uniform.

“Oh,” I say meekly, “OK then.”

“Great. Session over.” Caitlin glances at her watch and then down at her cleavage. I realise I’m staring. She grins smugly.

“I’ll see you next week, when I think we should discuss your attraction to powerful, dominant women.”

At the threshold, I turn.

“I can’t lose her,” I say. “She’s the only one left worth fighting.”

The cemetery is as quiet as … well, the grave, I suppose, silver and black under the moon. Shade’s tomb isn’t how I remember it from the armed interment. The local criminals and alienated Goth kids have covered it in floral tributes: black pansies, blood-dark tulips, white roses sprayed grey. All dead, of course. There’s a fresh grave in the plot next door. What a neighbour to have.

I stand over the grave, staring down. The clouds gather overhead like they’re waiting for something. But nothing happens.

And then I hear it.

Scratching. Quiet at first. Like in the dream. The scrape of nails against a coffin-lid buried under a ton of earth. All the other sounds I can hear – the whine of police sirens, televisions talking to themselves in uptown apartments, rats scampering through the sewers three miles away – vanish, drowned out by ragged, clotted breaths, and scratching. I fall to my knees, press my ear against the cold marble, waiting for it, willing it –

A long white arm breaches the earth. But it’s not from Shade’s tomb, it’s from the grave next door. And I’d know that hand anywhere.

I pull Aurora out. She’s choking and spluttering, spitting black soil, breathless and ashamed.

“Couldn’t hack it?” I said sympathetically.

She shakes her head, not looking at me.

“Claustrophobia.” Angrily, she wipes dirt from her pale face. “I really wanted to do it this time. But I screwed up. Again.”

She’s shaking and cold. I put my arms around her.

“Aurora,” I say, “you’ve got to stop doing this, you know? We’ve got to stop doing this.”

“I know,” she says, and looks over at Shade’s grave, as though he might be listening.

“Listen,” I say gently, “I know someone who can help –”

“He’s not coming back, is he?” she says. She stares up at me, her eyes like black stars, vast and dark. She wants me to say Sure he will, he’s a super-villain, they always come back. But I can’t. I won’t.

She sees the answer in my eyes and starts to cry. I hold her head against my chest and let her sobs shake us both.

“It’s all right,” I say into her night-black hair. “I miss him too.”

I wait until she’s okay again, or something like it, and then I take her hand, and we fly away.[/private]

 

Writer: Alison Willis watches a lot of bad films, reads a lot of good comics, makes a lot of strong cocktails and writes a few short stories while she decides what to do with her life.

Artist: Sam Mead is a writer and artist from Findon Village in West Sussex, now living and working in Peckham. A Horse Named Peto appeared in Litro 100, and you can find more of his art and writing online at alcoholandbirth.tumblr.com




How to Enjoy Doom




 

The Coffee Table Book of Doom, by Steven Appleby & Art Lester, is published by Square Peg on 3 November. £14.99.




Listings: Sep 2011

From the latest comics to undiscovered classics, new musicals and plays to retro boat parties, there's plenty to do this month. You might think the festival season is over, but we've got literary and fashion weekends to delight you, as well as Bankside's eclectic Merge Festival – so pack away that parka and  stave off the end of summer with Litro's pick of September's events.

2 to 4 September: The Vintage Fete, ‘Village Green’ at Foyles, Southbank, FREE

Celebrate 21 years of Vintage Books with a colourful weekend of circus performers, creative workshops, games and fun for book lovers of all ages. Authors appearing at the Vintage Fete include Guardian cartoonist Posy Simmonds, acclaimed food writer and urban gardener JoJo Tulloh and Rob Eastaway, author of Maths for Mums and Dads. The event is free and unticketed, no need to book. See: www.vintage-books.co.uk/events/

2 to 7 September, 4pm and 8pm: Carnival the Musical, Cockpit/Tabernacle, £6-12

Capturing the heart and soul of Notting Hill Carnival: a reluctant Carnival Queen dreams of escaping her elaborate costume and dancing through the crowds. When her world collides with a street smart hoodie, together they must dodge gangsters and seek help from Rampage DJ’s, Calypso Monarchs, and international superstars, before discovering the true meaning of Carnival – freedom. The piece premieres with five performances at The Cockpit Theatre between 2-4 September (4pm and 8pm), and then Tabernacle on 6 and 7 September (8pm). See: www.thecockpit.org.uk/show/carnival_-_the_musical

6 to 11 September, 7.30: Kiss, White Bear Theatre Kennington, prices vary

Kiss is a new play by Peter Brook Award winner Ritchie Smith. It’s you, though it might have been somebody else. You’re happy enough. Aren’t you? The long-term partner, the place to live. Then one day you meet somebody new … who turns your world upside down. And then? Then you’re in a clinic waiting for the results of your HIV test. See: www.whitebeartheatre.co.uk

10 September, 8pm: SS Atlantica, The Silver Sturgeon, Savoy Pier, £20

Prepare to step back in time as we revisit the thirties! As the sun sets over St Katharine Docks, arrive draped in your best ‘at sea formal wear’ to celebrate the event’s maiden voyage. Dance the night away immersed in decadent glamour and fine entertainment. Curving balustrades and portholes encircle an immense dance floor, lined by round tables dressed with pristine white tablecloths. Classic deck games like shuffleboard and dominoes will be on hand for those tired of dancing, while gamblers can try their hand at the roulette table. Entertainment is provided by London’s finest live bands, singers, dancers and cabaret acts, all performing in the style of the era. To book call 0207 724 1617 or see: www.ssatlantica.com

11 to 13 September: Hampstead & Highgate Literary Festival, Hampstead, £7 upwards

Join Raymond Blanc, Esther Freud, Peter Snow, Diana Athill, Martin Sixsmith, Nicholas Parsons, Barbara Taylor Bradford, Andrew Morton, Daisy Waugh, Alan Hollinghurst, Sarah Brown and many more authors and speakers at Ivy House. This year there are also workshops on offer in creative writing, poetry, genealogy, playwriting, food writing and how to get published. Book for 5 individual events priced at £7, across the three days of the Festival, and save £5. Call 020 8511 7900 to take advantage of this offer which cannot be activated online. See: www.hamhighlitfest.com

13 September to 22 October at 7pm: Constance, King’s Head Theatre Pub, £15-22.50

Olivier Award Winning company Good Night Out Presents will stage the world premiere of the only unproduced Oscar Wilde play, Constance, a drama of class and morals written after his exile and disgrace. See: www.kingsheadtheatre.com

15 September to 31 October: Merge Festival, various Bankside locations, prices vary

The Merge festival will bring together artists and performers in experimental partnerships in unusual venues and situations which draw on Bankside’s rich heritage, local identity and contemporary culture. Through a series of exhibitions, performances, events and happenings, Merge will bring art, music and theatre to Bankside. For more information contact Louise Errington on 020 7928 3998 or see: www.betterbankside.co.uk

18 September, 11am onwards: Comic Expo Ealing, Ramada Hotel, Ealing, £3

In  association with Tripwire, Forbidden Planet and Ace, Comic Expo presents many prestigious guests from the world of comics including a very special DC Launch signing with Paul Cornell. See: www.fantasyevents.org

22 to 25 September: Vodafone London Fashion Weekend 2011, Somerset House

A must for anyone wanting to catch a piece of the London Fashion Week action. Buy from designer brands, such as Jaeger London, Alex Monroe and French Sole, and boutiques such as KJ’s Laundry, Designer Studio and Winter Kate who will sell pieces at up to 70% off. Check out the Vintage Comes to Fashion Weekend area by Wayne Hemingway, The Weekend Boutique and a dedicated area for Menswear. Also, Toni & Guy and Elizabeth Arden will be on hand to give tips on the season’s hottest hair and make-up trends. Contact Liv Newiss on 0207 886 3070 or [email protected]

23 to 25 September: Soho Literary Festival, The Soho Theatre, 21 Dean Street

Soho has always been London’s Bohemia, around which staggered an impossibly talented herd of drunken and promiscuous artists, actors, writers and musicians. So it’s the ideal place in central London to hold a literary festival. Starting at 7.30pm on Friday 23rd, the programme will cover a wide spectrum of literature and the arts as well as writing workshops and cabaret evenings. See: www.soholitfest.com

25 September, 3pm: Storytails, The Drop, Stoke Newington, FREE

The Sunday afternoon literary event returns in September with readings of short stories and novel extracts from up and coming London authors you’ll wonder why you haven’t heard of. The vibe is relaxed and entry is free, so just turn up and enjoy. See: www.storytails.org

27 September, 8pm: Fitzrovia Radio Hour at the Royal Albert Hall, £13.50

After a hit run in London’s West End, a sensational national tour and a triumphant return to the Edinburgh Fringe, The Fitzrovia Radio Hour comes to the Royal Albert Hall! Step into the 1940s as a company of stiff-upper-lipped actors presents retro radio comedy for the new Millennium. “Deliciously un-PC … A collision of comedy heritage”★★★★ The Independent. See www.fitzroviaradio.co.uk

Compiled by Alex James