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

Lost Property #2

Posted on December 1, 2005

A mix-bag of three and four panel newspaper-style strips (or properties, the appeal of which are, presumably, lost on press editors), this attractive, landscape publication produced by Dave Evans is not remotely satisfying, but offers glimpses of the skilful writing and cartooning ability of some small press talents eager to thrive in confined space and just maybe secure a foothold in the world of strip syndication. Indeed, as one who has always preferred reading about short newspaper strips to reading the actual things, for the most part I can detect no absence of professional quality in this work, though the poignancy of a Lynda Barry, the hilariousness of a Max Cannon, or the originality of a Jesse Reklaw, is sorely lacking.

Working best (and best workable) in this unflattering, non-complementing accumulation are Mark Woodland's Mike The Monk and Gervais Edwards: Psychic Defective by Clements and Stonebridge, both of which operate from absurd situations that are inherently funny. Comicana Miscellania by Berridge and Harper plays inventively with the artist/creation relationship to diverting effect, and the text-piece by Ed Berridge, a potted history of the short comic strip, provides a concise overview of its chronology. Overall, Lost Property is worth a casual goo; there are polished cartoonists aplenty in this collection, and capable-but-hindered scripters satisfied to deliver sorry gags and flat adventure. No different to the regular newspaper fare, then.

56 A5 pages, £1.50 (+ p&p) - available from http://groups.yahoo.com/group/lostproperty