Archive for the ‘News’ Category

Gallery additions #3

Sunday, July 10th, 2011

Started a new galery for “foreign” small press comics, that is to say non-UK small press publications. My collection of these is not very extensive and I expect the entire collection to fit into a single gallery. We’re starting off with titles from A-D, with some beautifully produced items from the USA, Canada, and France. More to come.

Gallery additions #2

Sunday, July 10th, 2011

Created a new gallery for 1980s UK article zines; these are mostly text-based reviews and interview fanzines. Not quite in my line as they mainly covered genres of comics which held little interest for me personally, but AKA was a very incisive and well-written Scots publication; the 7th issue has an extremely readable interview with Harry Harrison, the science fiction writer who worked in comics in the 1940s. It ends with his scathing comment about working in the industry at that time: “It was utterly boring, you know, I was very glad to leave it behind”. Also published in this issue was the two-pager by Graham Johnstone, ‘Dead Trees’, his experimental rendering of a brief excerpt from L’Etranger by Albert Camus.

Catalyst was edited by Norman Herrington in Sussex. I’m not sure if it went beyond two issues. The magazine folded out into a large poster, with each panel of the folded page containing one short article; it covered small press and more mainstream comics in its reviews. In #2, I contributed short articles on Joost Swarte and Asterix.

Probably more titles to come; watch this space.

Gallery additions #1

Sunday, July 10th, 2011

Some additions to the UK small press gallery of A5 comics…this includes some issues of Automatic, a 1990s venture seeing an editorial collaboration between Darryl Cunningham and Rich Holden, representing the work of artists in the north of England.

Burton on Flickr!

Monday, June 13th, 2011

Lawrence Burton has made a large number of his small press comics available on Flickr. He’s uploaded some very hi-quality scans up there, enabling anyone to download and read his comics for free. There’s also a set containing one-off gags, drawings, cartoons, drafts and sketches – over 300 images!

A few examples are linked below, but once you browse the photostream you’ll find more things, including examples of his Mexico paintings.

New Primitif Comic

Sunday, May 15th, 2011

Available now from print-on-demand service, this is a short unfinished Primitif story from 1996.

Additions to comics galleries

Monday, March 28th, 2011

Added a sizeable number of scans to the A4-sized comics galleries, including Witch #2, Velocity #6, Scenes From The Inside, Beathag #1-4, Dark Tales, and numerous issues of Mauretania Comics. The work of Chris Reynolds and his friend Paul Harvey is, to me, one of the most singular achievements in the world of the UK small press, although I realise you might not appreciate this from seeing the covers alone (even though they are beautiful). One of these days an appreciative essay is in order. In the meantime, please browse the covers in my collection (I’m shattered to realise I’m missing a few issues). Issues #1-3 are photocopied A4 size; it went to US comic book size for issues #4-6, then settled on a magazine digest size until #16, which might have been the end of the run. The books were professionally litho-printed by Robert Blamire, the third partner in the Mauretania triumvirate. To me, the cover to #8 is just sheer perfection.

Fast Fiction info sheets

Sunday, February 27th, 2011

I’ve started to add scans of the Fast Fiction info sheets, which I hope will do something to enhance readers’ understanding of the history of the UK small press. These four-page pamphlets contained listings of small press comics as they appeared, offering what was then a form of “instant” recognition. As Nick Jones has expressed it, “Fast Fiction was the name of the ’80s scene’s mail order distributor (with Elliott and Pinsent in command, as well as Paul Gravett), not to mention the name of the table the outfit had at the regular London Westminster Comic Marts. Essentially, Fast Fiction was the hub around which countless small press comics creators twirled, and the means by which one bought small press comics back then. The way it worked was, you either bought comics off the Fast Fiction table at the Westminster Mart, or picked up one of their four-page flyers, chose the titles you liked the look of, and sent in your order form and money.”

My collection starts in October 1982 with #7 of these sheets, which marks the date when I first went to the Westminster Mart. If anyone has copies of #1-6, please get in touch. I’ve scanned everything quite large to allow for maximum legibility, although the text isn’t OCRd (if you read them, you’ll understand why). Later years will be soon added to the resource, so watch this space.

Illustration on this page is © Eddie Campbell 1983/2011.

John Watson

Saturday, January 15th, 2011

Continuing the galleries for UK small press mini-comics, I’ve started a page for John Watson. 16 covers up so far; more to come from this exceptionally wonderful and talented illustrator. As an introduction to this artist, here’s an appreciation I wrote for him soon after his death in 2002. It was published, along with other tributes, on the occasion of an exhibition of his work.

John Watson (2002)

John Watson was an exceptional artist, and one with a quirky side which he exhibited in an extraordinary series of small publications. Between about 1986 and 1988, John produced at least 25 titles of these small-run pubs, most of them under the general title SPY. Other titles included HUMP, CUCKOO, OVO, FLY, MONSTER, NOSE, MOUTH and HUM. I helped to sell these through the Fast Fiction distribution system which I was operating at the time. John’s little publications were sold as mini-comics, although they weren’t strictly comics at all. Usually xeroxed onto sheets of A4 cream or blue paper, they unfolded to reveal – not a strip cartoon, but a huge sprawling imaginary landscape, peopled with weird semi-human creatures parading around bizarre, twisted cities and crazy ramshackle buildings. Characters spoke in word balloons, but that’s about the only concession to conventional comic strips John made. He never told a story and never had a recurring character.

Everyone bought the SPY series and came back hungry for more. No wonder. These tiny slices of oddness were addictive – I think that nobody (myself included) could quite figure out what was happening in them, and we just kept reading to try and get onto John’s wavelength. Sure, they promised plenty laughs. The characters looked superficially like ‘bigfoot’ cartoons; but a closer look revealed them as ingeniously delineated grotesques, positively reeking of ugliness. His one-liners promised conventional gag-joke hilarity; read them carefully, though, and they turned out to be absurdist utterances, each one operating with a bizarre, self-cancelling logic.

I’m looking again at the SPY comics now after some 12-13 years, and find they are steeped in fairly dark, bleak observations on the human condition. At the time I used the phrase ‘life seen as an energetic pageant of lunacy’. John wasn’t a bitter man. The callous indifference and casual selfishness of his characters is observed, not with a Swiftian despair, but with a complaisant shrug. John was preoccupied with the way human relations didn’t really work. All his characters fail to communicate; instead, they speak in twisted versions of well-known phrases, mostly to themselves (I can’t recall a single dialogue taking place in any SPY). Suicide is the life-option of many of them; usually they do it by leaping from one of Watson’s many bleak tower blocks, to the general indifference of the remaining populace, who either don’t notice, or don’t understand.

John couldn’t escape the physicality, the dirt and filth of human relations; most of his characters stink, and cheerfully discuss their smelliness with each other. If there isn’t any stink, John will find some to dig up; even his buildings proudly displayed their huge sewage pumps, spewing effluent onto the streets. Perhaps he found human behaviour too clinical; we all like to hide our feelings, but John’s SPY would dig them up and make us wallow in them. Maybe he used stink as a metaphor for real emotion. I think this also informed his totally idiosyncratic take on sexual relations. I can’t figure out if John found sex completely absurd, or dangerous and frightening, or all three. He stopped short of drawing it in a vulgar way, but he found other ways to really let fly. Never afraid of huge phallic symbols (or breast substitutes), he allowed his characters to develop enormous growths and protuberances which were little short of nightmarish. The nose was his favourite penis-substitute, but long worm-like necks and tentacles also abounded. These growths acquired a life of their own, literally. Lust In Space depicts a half-human, half dustbin-robot with the ubiquitous Watson condom on his nose, while his sex organ has grown a pair of feet and walks ahead of its owner, boasting ‘My mental capacity is as big as my sexual capacity’. There aren’t many artists short of Hieronymous Bosch who could pull off an image like this.

I always wondered if John was troubled by what he saw as a basic lack of compassion in the world – certainly nobody in SPY world exhibits much in the way of love. Rather, everyone seems motivated by need. Basic human needs – they’ll use each other for sex, but in the end will settle for anything they can get their hands on. ‘Can I have your tin of beans?’ they ask one prospective suicide. The most touching statement he ever made was on a visiting card. ‘Your heart doesn’t work properly until it’s been broken’.

John Watson – the Spy in the House of Lust!

Mini-Comics galleries

Monday, January 3rd, 2011

New galleries recently added…a small selection of mini-comics from the UK Small Press. These are mostly A6 and A7 size; A6 is half of A5, A7 is half as much again. An A7 comic could easily be created by printing an A4 sheet on both sides and cutting it into 4 rectangles. Even more clever would be to create a 16pp booklet from that process; it’s just a question of how you do the pasteup and trimming. There are some other unusual sizes and formats in these galleries; for example, Rich Holden went even smaller than A7 with his Mini-Mesh item, which more or less requires a pair of tweezers to read it. More galleries to be added, so watch this space.

The Comica buzz

Wednesday, November 17th, 2010

On Sunday 7th November 2010 I went to the Comica Comiket event organised by my old friends Peter Stanbury and Paul Gravett, who used to publish my work in Escape magazine. Outside of my NYC experience a few years ago, it’s the first small press comics event I have attended for a long time. It was quite a revelation to me and a very enjoyable day all round; I was expecting to feel like the lone and forgotten man in the corner, but that wasn’t how it turned out. I even managed to sign and decorate a book for a reader I’d never met before, but who turned out to be quite familiar with my work.

Firstly, it was wonderful to see so many friends and familiar faces from my small press days, artists and publishers who had regularly attended the Westminster comic marts and numerous social occasions of the food-drink variety. Darryl Cunningham, Stephen Poulacheris, Andy Williams, Woodrow Phoenix, Hunt Emerson and Tony Bennett, Ed Hillyer, Bob Lynch, Paul Grist, Martin Skidmore, Martin Hand…Woodrow gave me a welcoming bear hug that practically crushed my ribs. Ed Hillyer told me how the place reminded him of the San Diego comics con – everyone was balding and bearded. Bob Lynch asked me to send him scans of some items in my collection which he might be missing. Martin Skidmore is relaunching FA, a fanzine with a pedigree longer than your right arm. And Darryl is doing very well of course, since there’s currently a tremendous amount of interest in his fine hardback book. He told me the other side of the story to Psychiatric Tales; it seems to represent one of his aborted attempts at following a conventional career path.

Secondly, equally wonderful for me to see the vibrant and vital UK small press scene as it obtains in 2010. Perhaps I’ve been missing out. It’s impressive to me that there is now enough talent in the UK to occupy an entire roomful of tables piled high with smart-looking and colourful publications, many of them boasting high quality production values. Paul Gravett assures me that the content within the pages is equally exciting. I did briefly meet a few creators and publishers who are new to me, mainly thanks to the evening drinks at The Lamb and meal at the nearby pizza place. One comic I bought which impressed me was an astonishing full-colour affair by John Miers. These largely wordless, intricate, and multi-layered strips of his reminded me of Boris Artzybasheff and Virgil Partch, at least in the stylisation of the figures. Apparently large-scale colour prints of some pages were exhibited by Gravett at the Print Gallery event. Later, Miers was kind enough to greet me and I learned how his strong narrative leanings were not exactly encouraged by his tutors on the fine art painting course he had attended. That resonates with me; I did go to art college, and although I didn’t have the exact same experience, I often sensed that story-telling (along with lowbrow entertainments like TV, cinema and comics) was regarded with high-minded contempt and suspicion.

Also: I did an actual drawing for 25 minutes, depicting Windy Wilberforce meeting a large owl, taking my turn at the table in a line with many other talented ink-slingers in a live event which was broadcast to the room on a big screen, thanks to Stephen Poulacheris and his camcorder. Later he used the same device to interview me for five minutes in the slowly-emptying rooms just as the more conventional comic dealers were packing up their crates of Golden Age rarities. Steve’s best question was along the lines of “Primitif or Conan the Barbarian – who will win?” I think my answer was even-handed, and fair to both characters. I was mainly there trying to sell copies of my Magic Mirror book and other old comics, and even if I didn’t make much money, the social buzz is what I will remember from the day.

What a day to leave my camera at home! Lucky Garen Ewing took a couple of pictures…