A Review Asks Only Whether One Can Live With It Or Die Of It

I've been reviewing small press publications on www.bugpowder.com for a few years now. Totemic small presser Andy Luke recruited me; he'd been impressed with my essay, Closing Shots From A Grassy Knoll, and was convinced that I could restore some cheer to the reviews section.

Ostensibly a scoff-mixture, Closing Shots From A Grassy Knoll discusses the pathogenic presence in UK small press of comics creators eager to produce work sterilized by an ambition to be adaptable to the strictures of an intrusive company bent on 'product development', and who derive a vanity-buzz of satisfaction from tucking themselves into deadlines and knocked-off scripts. "This budding hack is fuelled by little more than the desperation for a sense of celebrity," I wrote, "and must be destroyed."

My muscular reviewing-style grated with small press enthusiasts' indulgence in self-satisfied congeniality and writer/artist shape-throwing, but I refused to conveniently dismiss creators with throwaway compliments, employing instead a reviewing discipline based on four simple tenets: 1, perspective is to be achieved; 2, the standards by which one is judging the work are to be made clear; 3, credit is to be given where it is due; and 4, one should not be such a fucking misanthrope, you above-being-human narcissist.

Regularly achieving three of the four principles with my aesthetic evaluations, and quickly developing an obsessive-compulsive urgency for production of symmetrically paragraphed reviews, the meaningless absurdity of opinionative writing soon revealed itself to me. I was not deterred.

John Robbins

Andrew Luke's Comic Booklet

Posted on September 22, 2001

Yet further evidence that the investment of time and energy into the production of a small press publication is not necessary. Or rather: is necessary only if you wish to impress.

Half-baked and oh-so-disposable, this booklet seems to revel in its unattractiveness, providing eight pages of comics visually dissimilar to the work of Gary Panther only in their lack of design sense - the very element which makes Panther's doodles so irresistible. There is a tangible desperation here for the strips to come naturally, devoid of those dreaded Mainstream tools of craft and graft. Frankly, evidence of skill is in short supply; and considering the obvious effort afforded Luke's far superior illustration work on The Implausibility Of Reason, there is little excuse for the poor draughtsmanship in evidence here - beyond reflecting the lack of effort involved in perfecting his scripting skills.
Yes, the writing is no less immediate, and in keeping with the precious 'I thought it/I drew it, so it stays' approach to comics creation - after all, missing out the bulk of steps in the creative process gets the job done that much quicker!
This Comic Booklet is not without its merits, though. True, the ideas are much more impressive than the execution, but with these quick bursts of ideas not being elaborated on to any great length, they come thick and fast - and some come thicker than others! (Though all offer, at the very least, a glimmer of amusement.)
My favourite strip is 'The Ice Cream Van' - an autobiographical story that echoes Eddie Campbell both in impotent tone and, to a lesser extent, page layout. It's subtle, unassuming stuff, really, and I defy anyone to find no humour in its resonant punchline.

All-in-all, Andrew Luke's Comic Booklet proves an amusing distraction that allows/demands the brief shut-down of those brain cells responsible for scowling.

A4 leaflet, free – check availability at http://andyluke.livejournal.com