Help! Shark was a small press comics imprint based in Chester in the North-West of England. I suppose the main man behind the operation was Chris Flewitt, a talented and self-effacing artist who approached me to submit a strip of his own to Fast Fiction magazine in early 1985. He was also the designer behind the Help!Shark comics catalogue, which featured stories, strips, graphics and poems by his friends Steven Martin and Gavin Butler. As I recall, they had access to cheap offset litho printing at a local community centre, and the economics of the situation allowed them to experiment with paper stocks and colours.
Chris’s cover designs were always striking, elegant and inventive. They are simply not like conventional comic book covers in any way. As can be seen Chris made good use of typography, bold geometric shapes, enlargements and unusual printing methods. Some of his covers involved elaborate die-cuts and folded elements, sadly not really visible in this gallery. Every book in the series had a serial number, and it’s clear Chris was more influenced by record cover design of the period (especially Peter Saville’s work for Factory Records) than by Marvel Comics or Fantagraphics.
Around 1986 Cally Stapleton joined the Help!Shark gang, making all her images out of potato prints, craft stickers, and hand-stencilled lettering. She turned out to be an alias for Chris Flewitt. Others spotted this far more quickly than I did, yet when challenged Chris was readily able to produce a photograph of the fictional Cally and provide further detail about her life story.