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

The Girly Comic #3

Posted on July 18, 2003

Well crafted but unremarkable, Girly Comic #3 offers a pleasing diversity of art styles and subject matters, but is insubstantial and un-involving. It's the kind of thing that slips past, leaving no trace on the memory - not necessarily a bad thing, but certainly far from satisfying.

Slight, indulgent pieces surface in the form of the polished but pedestrian 'Simple Simon', the appealingly primitive but clumsily delivered 'Housekeeping Tips', the skilled, animatory 'Da Hood' and the tired parody, 'Dr Love Monkey'. 'My Dead And Me' and 'The Cull' at least suggest the possibility of depth, but lose their way, albeit in a diverting manner. The curious 'Oddcases' employs a disarming matter-of-fact approach to the subject of phantom birthing and combines with a delicate, gay artwork to produce a sedate reading experience that is peculiarly seductive. Equally engaging is 'An Open Book'; however, the Vertigo-affected gift/curse take on ESP stifles the impressively sophisticated artwork with chunks of exposition and asks only of the artist that he do his thing with just talking heads to play with. He does so with nonchalant swagger.

In The Girly Comic, editor Selina Lock has an anthology of solid, well-executed strips. That these strips fail to engage emotionally and are more insipid than inspirational will probably not register with a 'teen audience. Adult small press enthusiasts probably won't care either.

44 A5 pages, colour/b&w interior, £2.50 + 50p postage - available from www.factorfictionpress.co.uk