Friday Night Fights [Round 11]

Welcome back fight fans, to Sin City Nevada for another “rear naked choke” edition of Friday Night Fights!  This week’s bout is a battle of the SHIPwrights, with control of the outer-rim planets on the line.   Without further preamble, let’s go to the tale of the tape.

Fighting out of the red corner, from the land of Lego , it’s Anders “The Sledgehammer” Sinding  and his “World_Eater “.

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And fighting out of the blue corner, from somewhere beyond Antares , it’s Cecilie “The Samurai” Fritzvold and her “Zea’x Dauphyz“.

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As usual, constant reader, you are tasked with deciding the outcome of this pugilistic endeavor and determine who will receive a week’s worth of bragging rights.  Simply leave a comment below and vote for the MOC that best suits your individual taste. I will tally up the votes next Friday and declare a winner before announcing the next bout.

Last Week, on Friday Night Fights….

It was the battle of recreational vehicles made famous by popular American television shows.  In the end, “Murderin” Misterzumbi and his “1973 Winnebago Chieftain“ scored a dominating 11-1 victory over Alex “The Assassin” Jones and “Breaking Bad”.  This is the largest margin of victory in the brief history of Friday Night Fights.  Misterzumbi records his first win and improves his record to (1-0) while Alex Jones falls to (0-1).

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The Siren Song of SHIPtember 2016 [Volume 4 of 4]

It’s the last Matango in Paris, constant reader, the dream of SHIPtember is over for this year.  I realize there is still about a week left on the calendar but it will not be enough time to make any meaningful progress.  I spent the last week hammering on the build, trying to adopt one of Pico’s designs, but it just lead to greater frustration.  I can’t really blame the failure on lack of parts availability in orange, the challenging subject matter, or even the divided time between building and blogging.  At the end of the day I simply lost interest and became ambivalent about the model and that is the death of any creative project.  The comments both on the Manifesto and Flickr gave me a boost of energy last week, but it quickly went south when I couldn’t find the right way to push the design forward.  Sometimes models just don’t work out, and you have to know when to cut your losses.

Many of you suggested I abandon the time restrictions of the contest and proceed at my own pace, to value the ‘art’ over the collective experience.  That’s a reasonable take on things and normally I’d be on board with that course of action, but SHIPtember is all about embracing restrictions and going through the same pressure-cooker as everyone else. What I’m not willing to do, however, is push forward a piece of crap just meet a deadline.  I chose what Simon calls “the hard road” but my orange Ford Pinto couldn’t handle the action and it sits broken down on the side of that hard road.  Matango definitely had potential and I’ve saved the legs with an eye towards revisiting the concept some day, but for now it’s back to the bin and back to the blog.

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So in the end I chose the Manifesto over the Matango, and that has me thinking about the future of both activities as it relates to my free time.  There is no way I could consider another project the size of say Bucharest and remain committed to this place.  Right now I don’t have a strong urge to build, so running the blog is a nice way to stay connected to the hobby and indulge my interest in writing.  Long term though, I’m not so sure how to strike the right balance.

Best of luck to the rest of the SHIPwrights who are still in the fight!  I applaud your perseverance and I now I’ll have the time to encourage you from the sidelines.

Digital Death-Machines

Maybe it’s the hangover from the Matt Bace double-shots talking, but for this spotlight post we’re staying in the realm of the digital. It seems like we’ve been trippin’ down memory lane a lot lately so with that in mind, today’s offering is fresh as harvest day.  The builder in question is Sergey Cat, who has only been on Flickr since last month.  MOCpages is predictably down for service so I was unable to find out if he has an account over there.  Don’t ever change, MOCpages, may your unofficial motto always remain “Bonk! Smash! … Thud.”  I don’t think I could bear it if gentrification hit that ghetto…it’s mediocrity shall never tarnish or fade away.

I think Sergey Cat is a good example of the uphill battle digital builders face in the community at large.  Sure they can rise to prominence pretty easy within their genre (given a stable of good builds) but to get that much coveted wider recognition is more difficult.  I think if Sergey Cat had used brick instead of a program, he’d be enjoying a much higher degree of visibility and statistical success, even when considering the short period of time he’s been around.

We’ll start with the latest effort from Sergey Cat, that I found while stumbling around the usual haunts, looking for something new to blog.  I had two thoughts when I saw the Raider Buggy:”I want one of those” and “I hate those red hex wrenches.”  I’m not sold on the white gem or even the gun when it comes down to it, but the rest of it is money!  I want an RC version too, since I’m thinking about stuff I can’t have, and I want it available in a variety of color schemes to suit my discriminating taste.  That suspension is a monster and I love the doubled-up tires.

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You don’t see too many dioramas from digital builders, and even fewer that have a Sci-Fi theme.  Not surprisingly, I was drawn to this build called “C&C диорама”, which has some rough edges but is really compelling and definitely looks like it’s Command & Conquer RTS inspiration.  In fact, all of Sergey Cat’s models seem to be drawn from the C&C series of games, so it will be interesting to see if he branches out eventually.  I took a quick look at the source material for these models and it looks to me like he nailed the respective designs, and in the case of the Buggy perhaps even improved it a little.  If you’d like to see the individual builds from this diorama, Sergey Cat has most of them documented in his Flickrstream.  My favorite details are the defensive turrets inside the fence, they look wicked and can work as a stand-alone model as well.

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I’ll finish up with this Flame Tank, because how often do you see a good flame tank these days?  Sergey Cat has an arsenal of great war machines from mecha to giant tanks and everybody’s favorite, VTOL gunships!  Let us welcome Sergey Cat to the warm and embracing community, or at least to the ivy covered halls of the Manifesto.

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Constructive Criticism: Oh..that Juan.

Welcome back to the Manifesto’s regular feature where I provide a builder with some feedback that is hopefully both entertaining and helpful.  The format is simple: a reader submits a model for evaluation, I come up with at least one good thing about it, at least one bad thing and one random observation that falls outside the first two categories.

Today’s volunteer victim on the rotisserie spit is constant reader and friend of the blog [thatjuan], you may remember him from such interesting and popular builds as:Bell-Boeing MV-22B Osprey, my personal favorite the CH-53E Super Stallion and the Fairchild Republic A-10C “Warthog”. Normally I select the builder’s latest model for critique but since [thatjuan] requested a specific aircraft from April of this year, we will instead be focusing on the Edgley EA-7 Optica.  You can find some great images of the plane in this gallery, to inform your opinion on both the model and my opinion of the model.  I’m going try to make the case that the Lego version looks good, but ultimately falls short of it’s intended goal.  So let’s talk about the “Edgley EA-7 Optica “, what went right, what went wrong and my enduring compulsion to put a wooden stake through the heart of Tommy Cruise.  It’s the only way to be sure.

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I give the builder kudos for choosing an offbeat subject to replicate, this isn’t a P-51 Mustang or an F-16 .  As [thatjuan] mentions in his description, the Optica was a relatively obscure surveillance plane (just 22 Opticas manufactured), which isn’t exactly a conventional choice for a model.  This model seems to be the only one attempted in Lego, and that’s saying something in an age where it increasingly seems like everything has been built at least twice.  The basic proportions and profile of the aircraft seem to be spot on, and the most critical goal has been achieved: it looks like the Optica.

The highlight of the build is the tail section, this is where the builder really excels in replicating the Optica design, with a nice mix of techniques. From the cylindrical tail booms to the  twin fins, the tail is both eye-catching and accurate.  My only suggestion for improvement would be to use profile bricks on the rudders.  In the photos the rudders have small horizontal ridges that seem easy to achieve by swapping out the 1×3 bricks for some profile bricks and 1×1 bricks.  Obviously the elevator is constructed with plates so the same trick wouldn’t work there.  nitpick aside, the tail is iconic and really well done.

The landing landing-gear are simple but effective, I dig the economy of parts. Sometimes builders try to overcomplicate landing gear, so it’s nice to see them done in a way that blends in to the rest of the aircraft.  The size is on target and they are placed right  where they should be.  It’s a small detail, but the wrong landing gear can really jack up an otherwise fine model.

Unrelated to the bricks, I have to give the builder props for choosing a great background color.  I’m so sick of the retina-burning, digital white-outs that the soft yellow was a welcome reprieve.  The photo quality is also pretty good and all the angles are covered without overkill.

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From the point of conception, this model was destined to succeed or fail based on the canopy.  While I’m not calling it a failure by any means, the crew cabin doesn’t really work for me.   I know the builder is capable of great brick-built canopies, so it was a little disappointing to see this one.  When you zoom in on the profile, there are gaps between the transparent elements that are distracting and the radar dish on top especially bad, like it hangs suspended over the cockpit rather than integrated.  The assembly works very well from the front, where everything looks seamless and the white round plates on the side work best to give the illusion of a frame round the glass. My biggest objection to the canopy is the rear portion with the 1×1 trans-black tiles.  I know they are supposed to represent windows but that section looks like it’s behind the cockpit and into the beginning of the engine.  I think it’s the octagonal-bar piece that throws me off, it seems like it’s the transition between engine and canopy, not a place where someone would potentially sit and look out the window.

On the issue of scale, the real aircraft can accommodate 3 people and the Lego version only one. To make this work, [that juan] would have to increase the size of the entire aircraft and that presents another set of challenges due to the odd proportion of the minifig, but when you’re trying to replicate a real-world design I think you’ve got to give it a try.  I also kind of wished there was a camera and/or a light on the nose to drive home the notion of surveillance.

The wings are simple but have a nice shape to them, although I wonder if they should be a bit wider.  The real-world Optima has wings that are roughly the same width as the engine, but that is not the case with the Lego model.  The builder widens the wing right before it transitions to the engine, where it should be a consistent width.  The transition is a little rough too, all of a sudden the wing gets thicker and wider.  This isn’t a deal-breaker but it is noticeable enough to mention.

Unlike the real aircraft, the engine assembly is basically an extension of the cockpit and I didn’t like the lack of separation.  The actual housing for the 5 blade ducted fan is so smooth and round that anything less than a smooth interpretation seems inadequate.  While I appreciate the builder going for a brick-built solution, rather than a one-piece-wonder, I don’t think this radial treatment is the right technique.  [thatjuan] might have come closer to the original design by just using curved slopes in a more traditional manner to mimic the shape.  The engine also seems to be a bit too small, it should be at least as big as the cockpit and perhaps a tiny big bigger.

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The weird thing is, if the builder had simply slapped a different name on the model and I didn’t have photos of the real-deal to compare it to, I probably would have liked it better.  I’m not sure what that says about me, but some of my complaints about the design would vanish pretty quickly, or rather never form to begin with. The subject matter was an admirably challenging one, I doubt I could do any better trying to brick-build that cockpit, it’s a bear of a design.  So the bottom line is that I dig the Optica, but it’s a near miss.

The Optica also reminded me of the Bubbleship from Oblivion….which is awesome and so are the rest of the futuristic designs in the film….but it also reminds me of Tommy Cruise, who is not awesome.  I don’t think there is a more overrated actor in my generation and that’s saying a lot.  Tom Cruise always plays Tom Cruise, the smarmy frat-boy who looks like he’s got beer-bongs and date rape on his mind, even when he plays a secret agent or a white samurai.  Tommy owns one of the most punchable faces in Hollywood, a face that hasn’t changed a bit in over 10 years.  He also managed to start the trend of foppish vampires and also screw up the near perfect record of Stanley Kubrik.  Have you ever met a person who liked the movie Cocktail, who wasn’t an idiot?  I started an active boycott of Tommy’s work after sitting through the War of the Worlds remake, that film was like sandpaper for the soul and I kept waiting for Cruise to stop mid-dialogue and try to sell me something I didn’t need.

We will close with this boilerplate reminder…if you’d like to have one of your models get the (good/bad/whatever) treatment, just sign up in the comments below.

Two for Tuesday: Matt Bace

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Good evening constant reader, its happy hour and our bartender Lloyd is setting them up neat, just the way you like it. Tonight’s V.I.P. in the Manifesto lounge is an empty bar-stool, because much like Elvis, the builder in question has apparently left the building.  In doing so he has deleted all of his Lego content from the internet, which is a shame.  Matt Bace still resides on MOCpages, but only as a ghost, preserved  for the moment in the legion of comments he left behind on other people’s models.  I’ll tell you up front I have no idea why Matt left the scene, I was not able to find any final statement or even a discussion of his departure. In fact, had Christopher not mentioned it in the comments section of the recent Poland article, I never would have known he left.   Unlike the previous subjects of Two for Tuesday, I don’t know Matt Bace beyond our brief but always friendly communication on MOCpages and Flickr. I never met him in person, so there will be no personal anecdotes in this installment, just a salutary raise of the glass to a guy I wish was still around.  It seems like the assholes never leave, and the stand-up guys fade out, wander off or just disappear one day.

Obviously we’ve lost a skilled builder who raised the bar with LDD creations that ran the thematic gamut from giant battleships to this remarkable Analog Equalizer.  In fact, I’m hard pressed to think of a digital builder who stretched himself quite as far, tackling diverse subject matter and scale with such compelling results. The real loss though, was Matt’s influence on other builders and his frequent encouraging comments.  In my brief bit of research for this article, I came across a dozen example of builders citing Matt as inspiration for their own efforts.  From personal experience running the Decisive Action war games on MOCpages, and looking at hundreds of models in the process, there were two commenters whose names came up again and again, with good advice and praise: Clayton Marchetti and Matt Bace.  We go on at length here at the Manifesto, about critique and communication and I can’t think of a guy who better personifies those values.

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Tuesday means double-shots, and for our second round, I couldn’t very well pass up Matt’s masterpiece, a 1:200 scale model of the USS Kitty Hawk that would have been over 5 feet long in the brick.  I’ve included the builder’s take on the USS Missouri as well, because it was just as influential at over 4 feet, the average length of a SHIP, which we’ve been talking about so much lately.  If you’re not a digital builder, (like me), then it is difficult to understand how important these models are.  I remember seeing it when it was posted and being impressed, but again, while researching this article I saw so many references to both of these ships.  Builders from all over the globe talk about how much they learned from seeing how these warships were constructed and talking to Matt, who was apparently quite willing to offer advice and insight into the process.

I was not able to locate a photo of Matt, so we’ll depart from the format here and abandon any notion of fashion critique.  As I said in the opening I’ve never met Matt and I don’t know the circumstances of his departure, so instead I’ll conclude the proceedings with his take on Rutherford’s hero…General George S. Patton, who was also very fond of the word “attack!”  We salute you, Mr. Bace, for your compelling builds and contribution to the warm and embracing community.  If you have any information about Matt’s departure that you’re at liberty to share, hook us up in the comments.

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I’ll close with a call for suggestions how to best preserve what’s left of Matt’s work online.   You may have noticed that the majority of the photos I used for the article are quite small.  With the exception of the equalizer, I wasn’t able to find anything large to work with on Google.  I’m far from an expert in ferreting out content like this, so if there are other  resources or places I’m not aware of to find and preserve Matt’s photos, let me know.  If nothing else we could start a Flickr Group to slowly accumulate what’s left.  Beyond the technical side of things…should the builds be preserved?  Maybe Matt wanted it all gone and we should respect that wish?  What say you, constant reader?

SHIPrites Vol 3: The Childhood Spaceship Dream

The Manifesto is proud to present the third installment of a month-long series by friend of the blog and creator of SHIPtember, Simon Liu.

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Welcome to volume 3 of SHIPrites, the SHIPtember Sunday spectacular. The Last two weeks I went on and on about the Journey.

This week we talk about the obvious: SHIPs.

SHIPtember is frankly the most obvious theme month and it was a just a matter of time before someone took the usual theme month concept and said, let’s focus on the thing most builders aspire to create in all of Sci-Fi/Space-dom.

But why is a SHIP so special? Let’s start with the definition of a SHIP.  Despite what some claim, SHIP stands for: Seriously Huge Investment in Parts. And I can prove it. I asked some OG spacers for help and we actually found this original LUGNET post concerning the coining of the phrase. In 2002, James Brown first proposed SHIP acronym: Seriously Huge Interstellar Plastic, and it was the great Jon Palmer who was first to christen the phrase:  Seriously Huge Investment in Parts. And ever since then it’s been some what of a communal aspiration to create a SHIP.

A great builder, Mark Kelso once said: “You’re not a man (or woman) until you’ve built a SHIP.” And judging from his latest, he is da MAN.

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But what makes SHIPS so special to Space builders? We have said it’s a rite of passage. Heck, this whole series is dedicated to the idea of building this milestone, in a month none the less!

If you look at all the other themes there isn’t really a comparison. Sure in castle you build.. well a castle. And trains you build… trains. That’s like saying space builds space.

No other group seems to be so obsessed with defined categories of builds. There are some strict limitations in say train – to build on the LEGO based train chassis but that’s because it’s effectively defined by LEGO. In town, in recent years there’s a pretty big shift to build on the Cafe Corner ‘modular’ standard – but do town builders aspire to build their ‘dream modular’?

Maybe there is, and please let me know, as I’m a primarily sci-fi or space builder. I like to think that I’m a well-rounded builder and know all the various facets of the community, but really I don’t, I’m heavily biased towards the groups that I tend to build in, and even going to the ‘big three’ conventions in the United States, that’s still a drop in the proverbial bucket of LEGO builders out there.

It’s kinda interesting if you think about it, sci-fi and space themes are all about exploring the new and different, strange new world and civilizations and such. Where anything can happen. And Space builders are encouraged to build weird and funky designs of the impossibilities.

Yet the Space/Sci-fi theme tends to have the most constrained rules to build the most unconstrained imaginative builds. Look at the plethora of Sci-fi theme months:

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That’s 1/2 the year right there! And yet each one of these so-called open construction months have a very specific requirement and/or aesthetic.

I’m not actually sure why this is the case, or why that Sci-Fi has a disproportionate number of yearly theme months. There are definitely some others out there, but these are the established ones that almost run themselves. I believe the first true theme month would be Novvember, started by the late, great NNENN:

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With this first theme month he created the standard which we have all seemed to have prescribed to, define an objective – in his case a specific type of starfighter – two forward prongs, two rear fins and a big ass vertical stabilizer.And there it was, magic. Everyone bought into this seemingly simple criteria and built a slew of some of the best styled starfighters in LEGO form.  And others started repeating the pattern, creating a simple set of criteria and letting the imagination run wild. But again, mainly in space.

I look at the Classic Castle Contest – which has been running longer than all these theme months and their approach is slightly different, the categories usually state ‘what’ to build but not ‘how’ to build it. For instance build a ‘battering ram’ not ‘build a battering ram with 4 wheels and a skull head’ – when placed in context of the castle theme, these rigid design criteria seem totally draconian!

Yet in the sci-fi months – this is what happens time and again, and builders thrive on it, flexing and building around the rigid constraints! I don’t get it – Someone please explain!

Though the most hallowed design criteria of all sci-fi/spacers is the SHIP – the 100 stud long golden yardstick. How did this happen? The LUGNET thread isn’t exactly specific how the 100 stud marked was chosen, though it’s probably safe to surmise that it’s simply a nice round number. But it’s interesting that this number is extremely arbitrary to most builders, many SHIPtember vets don’t really aim for 100, just aim to be MORE than 100. I think this relates directly to the fundamental childhood dream of building a big spaceship. And it is just that, a spaceship, it’s not defined by 100 studs when we were younger. SHIPtember facilitates a bit of that dream – and there have been some builders that used the theme-month as their first time to finally build that bucket list item, not just spacers, but all sorts of builders.

But I think we’re missing a critical element that defines a SHIP.  I don’t know about you constant reader, but when I was a kid, and was dreaming about building a big spaceship it had an interior. Note that for all the restrictions in theme months SHIPtember is pretty lax in terms of design criteria, interiors are encouraged but not mandatory. And that’s MY mistake and shame to bare. SHIPtember has almost come to redefine what SHIPs are, and it was an unfortunate choice that interiors or minifig-scale wasn’t more of a defining design criteria for SHIPtember. But if you ask enough of those same OG space builders – it WAS.

In an effort to accommodate builders with various collection sizes and styles, this one design criteria was purposefully de-prioritized. Andrew Lee eloquently pointed out how I basically screwed over the definition of SHIP. Over the years definitions do change as do building styles and capabilities,  a decade ago  a SHIP used to be such a huge deal to get to the 100 studs mark, now with LUGbulk, Bricklink, PAB walls, 100 studs is actually pretty easy for most people. But with a full interior ?  …

Even 4 years later, and after some deep thought over this article I still debate that off the cuff decision. It was a pretty fundamental design criteria from the ‘childhood’ spaceship dream. But if we had added that to SHIPtember, would it have made the challenge too difficult?  We’ve talked in the past about how SHIPtember is only as hard as you want to make it, but if minifig scale with interior was such a requirement, would that make it simply too hard?

The reasons I think SHIPtember is so popular is that it’s fun. It’s probably only the only ‘collaborative’ theme month and people latched on and worked towards building in this month. For the most part most people are able to accomplish what they set off to do. Those more ‘advanced’ builders choose to build harder builds, with more advanced techniques, or even stupidly brick intensive designs. But would this still be what it is today if we had made it much harder to start off with?

At the same time there’s been a huge resurgence in giant SHIP building these last few years. At BrickCon 2015, one of the higher SHIP nexuses in the United States, we counted I believe 15 SHIPs on display, 12 of which were built just the month before in SHIPtember. We may have gained a new era in SHIPs by burying one of the key designs of the old era.

So I now sit here staring at my hull pieces and I ask myself, and in turn you constant reader, what’s does a SHIP mean to you?

Cheers,

Simon

 

Sunday Comics: Thule’s Gold

The Manifesto is proud to present the first volume of a highly irregular series by legendary builder Karf Oohlu.  If you’re not familiar with Karf’s work, slap yourself twice…really hard and then educate yourself immediately.  There is no other builder like Fedde, to call him prolific is an understatement, his models number in the thousands.  My guess is close to 5000, but only Karf knows the true number and he’ll never tell anyone but the creatures who live in the inky blackness between the stars.  In the time it takes to write this post, he’s more than likely posted a new model.  Productivity aside, I can’t think of another builder who so perfectly personifies the concept of NPU, in fact, if Karf’s exhaustive catalog of work can be summed up in 3 letters, it’s NPU.  I interviewed the builder in 2010 for my Boilerplate and Beyond series on TBB, so if you’d like to learn more about Karf, you can dive into that link.

When I started the blog I always had the newspaper format in mind (without the news), featuring various columns for different aspects of the hobby.  My favorite column as both a kid and an adult was the comics, forget all that wind-bagging I want to see Spiderman, Calvin & Hobbes and Hagar the Horrible.  Karf’s work has always reminded me of a weird stream-of-consciousness comic strip, with some common elements and themes but nothing as coherent as a plot.  I also have a certain fondness for the work of H.P. Lovecraft, who’s writing and ideas feature prominently in Karf’s building.   It seemed like a perfect recipe to combine Comics / Karf / and Lovecraft, so I contacted Karf to see if he had any interest to build an original cartoon series exclusively for the Manifesto and fortunately for all of us, he agreed.  Without further blathering, enjoy the first edition of Thule’s Gold.

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Although we will be seeing more of Thule’s adventures as the weeks pass, Karf is a creature of chaos and spontaneity, so there is no telling how long the interval will be.   You’ll probably feel a sense of dread on Saturday night, when he’s about to deliver a new installment for the Sunday Comics.

If you’re interested in having your own work featured in the Sunday Comics, contact me through the usual channels to include the comments section below.
Please welcome Fat Thule, to the Manifesto…