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

Ghost Of A Doubt #1

Posted on November 26, 2005

A collection of gentle, poignant strip-vignettes by creator Greg O'Brien, this publication offers perfect entertainment for the small press enthusiast not yet jaded by first-person narratives wistfully caught in life's momentum and primitively drawn with endearing lack of know-how. The universality of its themes – realised through the juxtaposition of captions which speak of the author's inner turmoil, and pictures which illustrate this turmoil in a humorous, self-deprecating way – succeeds in sparking a connection with the reader. No, there's not a lot to get excited about, but with sure-footed rhythm, adroit, neat storytelling, and curiously effective and affecting pencil-shaded panels, Ghost Of A Doubt is pleasantly beguiling; which, like, is a bit annoying really.

16 A5 pages, €2 - available from ghostofadoubt@hotmail.com