Posts Tagged ‘UK small press’

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…

The Longbox of Yesteryear

Sunday, October 3rd, 2010

We just discovered an excellent blog by Nick Jones, who has posted on the UK Small Press with a detailed overview of The Elephant of Surprise. He also has some images of some Fast Fiction info sheets. Which reminds me that we must get around to putting scans of those online here, although it’s not exactly a trivial task. By rights one ought to OCR the text as well, which is not something I’m looking forward to; the sheets were originally produced using an Amstrad PC1512, whose printed font (while legible) is not exactly conducive to the scanning process.

Nick’s blog also covers many other aspects of books and comics, and is beautifully written and illustrated.

Help! Shark gallery added

Sunday, May 2nd, 2010


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.

Fast Fiction #1

Sunday, February 28th, 2010


Our thanks go to David A. Simpson, a long standing reader and collector of UK small press comics, who kindly sent us scans of the covers of Fast Fiction #1 from his own copy. He also provided the catalogue description of the contents.

This is the first time I’ve ever seen this artwork, an early example of Phil Elliott‘s quirky humour and distinctive use of Letratone. David also sent us scans of the Fast Fiction Catlog 1989, which isn’t a comic but a listing of the Fast Fiction back-stock I produced in an attempt to sell various unsold items. This missing piece of the jigsaw now completes the Fast Fiction cover gallery. Well, almost. Neither of us can identify the artist who drew the back cover of FF #1.

The ever-elusive Russell Christian

Tuesday, December 8th, 2009

woolf-4a
We were absolutely delighted to hear from Russell Christian last month. “Check out my World In Disarray“, he suggests. “Mostly old comics, but stuff you’ve never seen. Putting them up on the blog might even encourage me to start drawing comics again (when I’m not spitting fire at the Big Bankers, or teaching little kids how to have fun with Art at the Bruxist Manifesto Institute. Ah yes! The ever elusive Art, who always evades. You get to the bedsit and he’s gone and the trail is cold.”

Russell’s oblique mind continues to find art hidden in the most unlikely places. “Your site wouldn’t let me comment,” he told me. “To the question: Are comics made of paper or glass? I answered: They are see-through and yet strangely opaque (when they are good that is). But my answer, apparently, was wrong.”

As I said in reply: that is because computers are not poets. Even though some say ‘code is poetry’.

Budden and Brock

Sunday, September 27th, 2009

Down The Hole
To our great delight we were recently contacted by Tim Budden who got in touch by email from Taiwan. In the 1980s, this Welsh artist contributed his extraordinary badger stories to issues of The Wimp, which he co-published with Mike Hemsley and other art school friends, sometimes working under the alias of T.N. Neddub. He also contributed to Escape and Fast Fiction. Using the figure of Brock The Badger (which could be read as an alter-ego), Budden created strange rural visions of a life beneath the ground, where the activities of the badger community seemed to connect to long-forgotten and semi-magical burial rites. They often got the better of the human beings who wanted to kill them and stuff their bodies. The stories, and the unusual way they were told, have puzzled me to this day, but what’s also striking is Tim’s powerful black and white artwork, and the strong patterns he could make from arrangements of the badgers’ pelts. Since his distinctive work never appeared on the covers of The Wimp, I have reproduced (with his permission) some examples for Budden’s page on this website. Now let’s hear from the man himself and what he’s doing now:

“I spent many years being a teacher and a non-artist. I realised that that was due to some kind of cultural dislocation. I couldn’t find a connection between my art and Taiwanese culture, then I discovered paper cutting and since then have produced numerous cuts using a kind of silk paper. It has a graphic and sculptural quality I really like plus it is all about story telling. So for the last 4 years I’ve slowly rediscovered the artist in me and have a website, which is about to be updated big time and a blog.”

“The badgers are there still, but nobody is sure what a badger is here, which makes Brock’s role more difficult. Even North Americans are confused. The North American badger is a real mangy looking nasty beast – more like a rat weasel than the gentlemanly badger I grew up with in the UK. I have a new character called Daniel, a cherubic curious asexual child. In Taoist philosophy the innocent child is seen as embodying the best way to experience the world – curiosity unencumbered by indoctrination – a pure openness coupled with playfulness. Since following this path of working I’ve been working up to producing a longer cartoon strip called Lost in Forest Wild. It is a work in progress and bits of it can be seen on my blog.”

“As to the history of The Wimp, I remember the high point was when the National Library of Wales asked for copies and gave us an ISBN number. For me the whole Wimp FF Escape thing is still important. Last year I even got a fan letter from a guy in Kent who told me how moved he was by the badger tales, so much so that he became a wildlife officer in Kent. Every time he picks up dead badger roadkill he always pauses for a moment and thinks of Badger Tales and Brock!”

Small press galleries update

Saturday, August 22nd, 2009

Added a second gallery of A5 comics, covering titles E-L. This includes six issues of Fred Herring by the very wonderful Russell Christian. Russell is more of a painter and a poet than he ever was a comics artist, and as I recall UK fandom generally found his stream-of-consciousness works hard to understand. Russell moved to New York at some stage in the 1980s; I think this is Russell Christian’s current blog.

Also in this gallery is an item by Merv Grist, an English artist who sent his eccentric comics and booklets from Trowbridge in Wiltshire. I wish I could reproduce the whole of The Melvin Moments Story here; it’s a fine pastiche, illustrating the life of an imaginary rock singer from the early 1960s. All the ‘clippings’ from old magazines are lovingly created and hand-drawn by Grist, and packed with spot-on parodies of adverts and movies from the era. More covers from Merv in future galleries. His recent paintings are for sale here.

I decided to include two issues of Bagnall’s Hairy Hi-Fi even though (technically) it’s a music zine and not a small press comic. In same vein, the Harlan Ellison interview by Reynolds and Harvey is all prose, but it’s a part of the Mauretania publishing output.

Small press galleries update

Monday, July 13th, 2009

Many thanks to Russell Willis, the editor of a fanzine called Infinity in 1984-85, who sent us a link to his Facebook galleries of UK small press cover art from his personal collections. “Feel free to use whichever ones you feel fit,” he adds encouragingly. I’ve added a few of his images to the first gallery and I’m sure his collection will be extremely useful for filling gaps in future additions. I regret I’m currently unable to credit the artists, or ascertain dates, for some of these comics.

UK small press galleries opened

Monday, July 6th, 2009

gallerybanner1We’re starting to build a gallery of UK small press cover art from the 1980s (and 1990s). The first gallery (A5 titles A-D) opened today and further galleries will be added over time. I hope the collection will build into a fairly representative sample of the unusual and imaginative small press comics and stripzines published in England in this period.

We are publishing these covers online since we regard these artworks as an important and neglected part of UK comics history. If you are one of the artists and you object to this, please contact me if you wish to have your cover removed from the site. Conversely, you should also contact me if you wish to further the enterprise and submit any further examples of small press comics from this period.