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

Feed America's Children

Posted on November 2, 2005

When the motivational-speech of superhero Major Impact is received with disdain by a refuge of underprivileged children weary of cliché platitudes, he has cause to examine his role as defender of a society that is in dire need of re-invention. The anguish prompted by the Major's newfound sense of powerlessness attracts the attention of his fellow super-beings, and with his hero-ing affected to the extent that lives are lost, they get pro-active in their pursuit of a solution. Fortunately for them an adversary emerges in the form of a malevolent entity (and eater of souls), whose presence in the Major's dreams proves more than just manifest and latent content…

Combining 'classically dexterous storytelling skills and post-modern delineations', writers Paul H Birch, Clark Castillo and Mel Smith manage to craft a coherent narrative, which delights in melodrama, but possesses the vague pull of subversive undercurrent. With over fifty contributing artists – including Norm Breyfogle and P Craig Russell, Garen Ewing and Neill Cameron – cohesion is achieved through a homogenized style, which mercifully favours storytelling clarity over inventive layout. It's slick, glossy malarkey with the odd over-inflated word balloon, and big heart. All profits go to a charity for America's homeless children.

US size, 52 pages, colour interior, $4.99 - available from www.feedamericaschildren.com