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 Book #4

Posted on September 2, 2005

A mix culled from Andrew Luke's overflowing unpublished archives - his Henry Darger-like legacy - in some ways this publication is the paper equivalent of Miranda July's film, Me And You And Everyone We Know. Beneath its agreeably quirky, whimsy-strewn surface, bobs some universal truths, which, despite the oddness of under-realised subject matters, provides a curiously up- and off-beat entertainment with an accidentally personal quality.

TV trash, with value measured only in its ability to trigger glimpses of wasted youth, surfaces in the form of a trilogy of strips featuring a Luke-affected A-Team, Knight Rider and Incredible Hulk. Automan (?) puts in an appearance too, his car uttering the soon-to-be-immortal words, 'Walter, could you put your finger against my ram-pack for a minute'. The humour continues in the bizarre Unwanted (In Minor), a strip that echoes the reality-filled pressures of the LiveJournal logger's next entry as a character interrupts the enactment by friends of 'a secret story' in which he has no role. Guitar Festival Diary is an on-the-spot art diary covering two of the annual events, including gigs by John Martyn and Gordon Giltrap. It is here that Luke's relatively primitive drawing style suddenly transforms to a swarm of kinetic squiggles, evocatively capturing the live music vibe with synaesthesia-related accuracy – something of a revelation, this.

Also amongst the peculiar offerings is a controversial coffee in Coyle's Bar, an Eno Link Gallery, and a resistentialist lament for retired drawing pens, which further focuses this publication's forlorn hope that nostalgic objects might ease our sense of abandonment, and proves that the author himself is most likely outside the proverbial box, thinking of ways in. Let's not even go near Callista Flockhart And Beefburger!! ))<>((

20 A5 pages - check availability at http://andyluke.livejournal.com