After some months of repeatedly going down the incorrect road, I found Proud Lion‘s new location.

PROUD LION, 8 ST GEORGE’S PLACE, CHELTENHAM

The old one? That’s rubble.

Round the corner from the library and opposite a real live record store, it’s not a bad location for culture. And good news! The layout is way more comfortable in the new place. Till’s on the fight at the back, door’s at the front on the left. Shelves all around the walls, and a gondola full of cute merch (do they have your Gamora pop vinyl? Yes) in the middle. New issues are all along the right-hand wall, with the side of the gondola facing it reserved for current issues of child-friendly books. A nice touch is the large table and chairs directly under the front wall’s large, light-giving window: what’s it for? Workshops? Reading before you buy? Chatting with your comics pals? Etc etc. All of this and more, I am sure.

The best thing about Proud Lion, to be frank, is the proprietor. Ben Fardon, whom I have now met twice (this visit and the last), is just an extremely nice man. He can do two things: leave you to browse with your thoughts, and engage you in pleasant and personalised conversation. Peak retail personality! I have been in comics shops where people are kind, where they are courteous, and where they know their stuff regarding title recommendations. But I’ve not been in a comic shop before where the owner was all three, and immediately personable to boot. I can’t over-emphasise how little I believe you need to worry about your shyness, your awkwardness, or your social fear if you’re a prospective Proud Lion customer. He will treat you well!

Often enough the Proud Lion twitter feed will alert their customers that the shop will be closed for a spell whilst the school run is completed; it shouldn’t say a lot that a man will publicly prioritise his children over his business hours, but I can’t lie, for me it does. Proud Lion is a family-friendly shop, so if you are or have been a member of a family, why not stop by? Here’s another local write-up.

As this is a second visit, I asked if there were any events coming up I should know about, besides the regular stuff such as D&D. Bit of extra interest, yeah? And it turns out that there is! Anything can happen on Halloween — it’s better than a video. It’s comics! Free comics! Free Halloween Comics, and Halloween fun, at Proud Lion, Cheltenham. Try out a spo-oOOo-ky comic, for free, and have a fun time with likeminded freeloaders! It’ll be a gas. You’ll find a new series you love. And it just so happens that I can tell you a little something about each of the comics on offer.

RACHEL RISING #1 HCF 2013 EDITION, ABSTRACT STUDIOS (W/A/CA) Terry MooreRachel Rising #1: Modern witches and necromancy, no male leads

Black and white, with little shading but a lot of detail, the comic starts with a single figure in a wood. She’s bundled up against the cold, and I don’t know about you but I can feel the environment while I read. Another woman digs her way out of her own grave. Neat start, huh? I’m not a big fan of Terry Moore’s faces, hair, or fashion choices, but this title has been recommended to me by a number of people — including Ben, who is keen to get this title into your hot little hands, local reader — and I do like the spook factor. Does it sound like your thing? Try it, it’s free!

GRIMM FAIRY TALES HALLOWEEN SPECIAL HCF 2014 EDITION, ZENESCOPE ENTERTAINMENT INC (W) Joe Brusha, Ralph Tedesco (A) Jean-Paul Deshong & Various (CA) Mike DebalfoGrimm Fairy Tales Halloween Special: Trash, but fairly solid trash

Zenescope makes these comics that seem to be all about light-bondage themed bustiers and high-legged panties in uncomfortable fabrics. I’d find more joy in the world if they didn’t exist and I didn’t have to look at them, but if you’re locked in on enjoying that kind of thing, then this comic is bitty & slightly baffling, but a dense enough outing of the Monkey’s Paw anthology format. The colours are dirty, but I guess that’s what you’re after? I’d not price it higher than free, but apparently neither would anyone else. Cos it is.

AFTERLIFE WITH ARCHIE #1 HCF 2014 EDITION, ARCHIE COMIC PUBLICATIONS (W) Roberto Aguirre Sacasa (A/CA) Francesco FrancavillaAfterlife with Archie #1: Bafflingly good high school zombie apocalypse (with sneak peek at new, amazing-looking Sabrina (the Teenage Witch, you know her))

I’m legit confused about how Archie is so good now. I DON’T GET IT. I THOUGHT ARCHIE WAS ALL JUST A JOKE. But here we are, in this, the year of Afterlife with Archie, and Chilling Adventures of Sabrina. AwA is the bulk of the issue, and it’s great. It’s touching, creepy, sad, sweet, familiar, and uncomfortable. This free issue is greyscale, I don’t know about the ongoing series, but it works fine in grey. Zombies + grey just gel, right? Not a DeCarlo-style Archie jaunt, Francavilla’s art is based in realism. This helps the story, and is only weird to me on Veronica. Why? Not sure.

Plot: Archie’s best pal Jughead turns up at Sabrina’s door with his dog in his arms. The dog is dead (who killed the dog with their car? Subplot!); Sabrina’s aunts refuse to revive him. But Sabrina’s got a tender heart, and a teen witch can be persuaded to take dark paths to help out a friend. Uh oh! The dog comes back wrong! I LOVED this issue, and I will be catching up with the series ASAP.

Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, Aguirre-Sacasa, Robert Hack, Archie Comics, 2014

Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, of which a few short pages are added at the end, is also one to watch. 1960s-set, finely detailed art, magic and mental health, with hints from the writer that this might wander through Crumrin-esque caverns of moral ambiguity? Sign. Me. Up. The preview’s a black/white/grey affair, but the ongoing series is in colour? Blessed be!

STK650029Ponies thing: Not my bailiwick, but I did not hate it at all.

You can trust your own feelings regarding My Little Pony. This issue (written by Princeless creator Jeremy Whitley) follows three younger-sister characters on their wacky daily adventures clubhousin’. There’s a weird piecemeal dragon thing making trouble, and they’re along for the ride. It’s cute and cheerful and there’s a Star Trek ref that made me lol for real; if you aren’t as sour as me, maybe you’ll dig it. If you are as sour as me, come on, it’s free. Give it a whirl.

Proud Lion’s Halloween ComicFest will be taking place on October 25th.

The shop’s open ten til five, and if the door’s closed but the sign assures you they’re open … don’t be put off by the gross, unfriendly, lumpy door itself. They know it’s a problem. They’re getting it fixed up nice. And once that’s done, wheelchair ramp.