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.
4 Replies to “Help! Shark gallery added”
Cally Stapleton WAS Chris Flewitt? Well its only taken me 24 years to find that one out! I still have lots of that Help! Shark stuff, I remember the designs being very good for the small press stuff of the time…I’ve got the one above where the comic comes in the small paper bag.
Thanks for that! There aren’t many people in the UK who would recognise either Stapleton or Flewitt, let alone care about why we think this stuff is important, so give yourself a pat on the back. In some ways I feel bad about blowing Flewitt’s cover, but we have a right to know the truth…please let me know if you have any Help! Shark front covers missing from my galleries. Or indeed any small press items I’m missing. I want to get as much coverage as possible!
Ed, all your comments above are spot-on, Chris was more interested in Postcard and Factory record labels than comics. I can’t really remember any comics that he particularly liked. He was (probably still is, I haven’t seen him in years) an unusually talented man. The picture he would have shown was no doubt of his sister, who was a very entertaining teenager at the time. ‘Cally’ was taken from a daytime soap character and Stapleton (and the idea to have a fake personality) came from Julian Cope’s brief spell as ‘Kevin Stapleton’, a working class pop star who (as I remember) ‘liked the odd pint’. Just came across this by accident, made my day. Will tell Steve Martin about it. Cheers.
Thanks for commenting Gavin, very good to hear from you.
What I have left out of the above is that Chris was also an excellent story-teller too. In a very understated way he produced character studies of English people that are almost on a par with early Paul McCartney songs…he made very bold use of the comic page layout to get strong effects, particularly in the timing of dialogue or captions.
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