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

Tales Of The Sidewalk #1

Posted on June 13, 2006

A first issue devoted to establishing a world and a protagonist through exposition so sloppy it verges on soliloquy, essentially the reader learns that the time is whenever o'clock and demon reality-journalist, the conscientious 'D', sells souls to the infernal masses from an independent soul shop situated in a hellish reality anchored to our own.

The frenetic style lends proceedings a skateboarder/graffiti-artist sensibility that I'm too old to appreciate, an occasional absence of dimension/solidity hampers the clarity of some bustling layout, and sequentialism is hindered by a thickly jagged framing of panels. That said, creator Jon Williams' fluid cartooning talent is much in evidence, and a Beetlejuice-like visual kookiness keeps earnest ambition in check.

Writing-wise, the undisciplined, stream of consciousness-like approach has its exuberant charm, but betrays a lack of story-crafting know-how. A more considered structure and tighter scripting applied to the development of future issues should provide the polish that helps realise the glimmer of potential this debut issue offers.

US size, 24 glossy pages - available from www.createtodestroy.com