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

Mike's Yellow Fever

Posted on May 6, 2006

Here, a short story allied to a flurry of press cuttings provides effective socio-political commentary from conscientious craftsman and agitator Michael J Weller, author of 'S Club 7 versus the Anti-Capitalists' and thirty years-worth of outré small press titles.

Mike wakes one morning to a world painted in primary colours and inhabited by yellow-fill people short a finger on each hand. With the tweet tweet of birds on repeated sound loop, he pours a tea-looking brew, wears Harry Potter coke-bottle-bottom glasses over bulging white eyes, and can't seem to think straight. Mike too is caught in the grip of yellow fever.

This allegory concisely highlights with Textliner-luminosity our commercially arbitrated, dumbed-down relationship to a world in which the response to global homogenisation is dictated by an increasingly synthetic value-system. It's also a fun, thoroughly delightful read.

20 A5 pages, £2 (inc. p&p) – available from www.homebakedbooks.co.uk