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

Whores Of Mensa

Posted on August 13, 2004

Probably fuelled by a fug of Bacardi Breezer and Marlboro Light, this flirty, giggly anthology of strips comes courtesy of libidinous cartoonists Jeremy Dennis, Mardou and Lucy Sweet. Comprising work created individually but with (mostly) symbiotic intent, the collection manages a cohesive, light-hearted whole, coloured by muted sophistication.

Dennis offers 'The Society Of Dead Poets', an amusing, character-driven piece which describes an interruption to the cartoonist’s discipline and art-time by lusting literary sorts of yore, amongst them: John Keats, Aubrey Beardsley and Aphra Behn. (No, me neither.) Kind of lacking direction, and consequently impetus, this erotically charged strip is best savoured for its spellbindingly fluid cartooning of the clean-line variety, which dances oh-so-seductively from panel to panel with pic-teasing allure.
The Sweet section opens wide with double entendre-strewn ‘Justin Timberlake Laid My Laminate!’ - “Ooh! You are awful!” indeed! – and then frantically follows with short, punchy strips which mostly revel in the excesses of fad-informed life. Occasionally shooting blanks script-wise, but always with endearing Carrie Bradshaw-like exuberance, Sweet’s sound design sense and delightfully earthy cartooning prove an irresistibly lovable combination.
Appealing goofballery abounds in ‘Dojo My Love’ as Mardou beckons with a sequentially indulgent reworking-of-sorts of also-featured 1-page gem ‘Sillitoe’s Baby’ – both of which are sexually concerned with The Karate Kid’s Mr Miyagi, among others! With Mardou’s artistic effort seemingly diverted towards achieving a visual polish at the expense of detail and textural nuance, her cartooning is mostly reduced to role of functional support. No bad thing this when final strip ‘Fahrenheit 50/50’ offers a clever script and fitting climax as it adapts book/movie ‘Fahrenheit 451’ for a comics audience - to hilarious and slightly unsettling consequence.

Whores Of Mensa? You’ll not find intellectual experiences peddled here. No, these whores are faking it. However, if you yearn for a bit of frothy, lip-glossed entertainment that tolerates little emotion and eloquently says nothing, this is the trick for you. It’s the perfect book-buddy!

32 A4 pages, £3 - check availability at http://cleanskies.livejournal.com/