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

Imagineers #5

Posted on October 13, 2001

This leisurely eye-stroll through the affairs of the small press community offers relaxed read and refreshing lack of pretentious hyperbole. Both the mildly amusing six panel strip of Tim Brown and the innocence of the publication's 'Let's Make Comics' catch-phrase set the tone and provide sound indication of this title's direction.

The issue in question sees the ego-massaging treatment of interview worthiness dished out to Martin Eden of 'O-Men' fame, 'Cheronna' creator Richard J Smith, and the uh, legendary Dave Morris. It's all unassuming stuff, confidently handled and fluidly presented. Though a little doting at times and lacking any semblance of profundity, all are strangely comforting reads, easy on the brain.
Also on offer are two pointless short pieces: one, a convention report that is not so much a record of events as a laughably self-involved step-by-step guide to manipulating professionals into sketching characters you've created yourself; and the second, a wishy-washy well-meaning instruction on maintaining creative endeavour, which seems targeted towards an early-teens audience.
TRS2 finds itself in the mix as well, Andy Luke lending a much needed critical edge to the publication. And the two-page 'Creator Contacts' provides opportunity for like-minded creative thinkers to devise ways of promoting their skills. A worthwhile service, methinks.

A kind of one-man-and-his-dog Comics Journal, then, Imagineers #5 quietly celebrates the stars of small press publishing and delivers half-hearted rummage through their behind-the-scenes lives. Though some design tweaking is required, and perhaps a less flimsy, less subdued approach is essential for credibility, Shane Chebsey and friends nonetheless provide that which no other paper publication provides: a warm glimpse at the dedication and ambition of striving small pressers seeking only to be recognised in a creative context.

28 A5 pages, £1.50 - available from www.smallzone.co.uk