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

Deshabille #1

Posted on August 12, 2002

With Deshabille, creator Emma Connolly does indeed attain a state of partial undress, but shrouds herself in a puff of conjured strip vignettes that are captivating and disarming, and mysterious in the way that Mauretania Comics were always mysterious, with answers ever just on the tip of one's brain. Deceptively aimless yet deceptively ambitious, this reserved publication is embroidered with an ethereal idleness that just manages a fey sophistication when twee melancholy lurks with intent. Written and drawn to pass through you like an eidetic memory of childhood, Deshabille is the Bagpuss we all craved - where Professor Yaffle remained a carved wooden bookend in the shape of a woodpecker, and where the mice knew no life other than that of mere ornaments on the mouse-organ.

20 A5 pages, £1 - available from www.smallzone.co.uk