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

Slow Science Fictions #4: Graphic Novel

Posted on April 25, 2007

Two generations after virus 3W4T transferred to human beings – in Social Reality Earthtime 2054 – Aminah Coppe grows into goth-angel, the first of Croydon's superheroes to develop avian skills; he answers his calling and prepares to fly to Neptune with the Cosmic Squad. From secret underground Golgonooza in 2001, Lieutenant Commander Hussain Elmaz watches his young team of Cosmic Crusaders reach Neptune on his palmscreen; this is the same Hussain Elmaz who years earlier was an original member of the All-New Cosmic Crusaders Of 21C – that was the sub-header on Mike Weller's small press covers storytelling nineties adventures of the team. In 2003 at the Antarctic World Justice Centre, a hooded figure – Pugh, possessed by dead Nazi, Biff Scourge – spray paints 'Death To Crusaders And Zionists' amid demonstrations heavy-handedly suppressed by police under the management of multinational EarthCo's General Choat. (It was the Choat character Mike Weller used in his cast of comic villains for graphic novels.) A remote voice suspended in time and space – that of the Great Mortido, Sir Michaeal Spearate, the Man-With-Blanked-Out-Eyes – approves of Pugh's actions.

In 1999, Addingcombe writing group The Nibs are thrilled by Mike Weller's mysterious stories about 1930s Cosmic Crusaders and about Mike's fictional self who lives in a made-up place called Penge. Weller, not satisfied merely with role of catalyst, was a cartoon character himself once – Captain Stelling – active in the Otherworld, he tells the group. Three years later, Creative Comics first New Cosmic Crusaders prestige graphic novel is amongst the comic books Mike gives to the Kid Doctor Clinic charity shop; the GN is bought by Hussain Elmaz, who'd been fictionalised by Weller to be a Cosmic Crusader character in the book. In 2007, illeism-convert John Robbins reviews Mike Weller's newest book, Slow Science Fictions #4, and describes it as narrative origami (sic) (sic), suggesting that it flips and folds fantasy and reality, providing something oddly shaped and fascinating in its shuffled, overlapped regression/progression of story and character. 'It's an osmotic process that works,' says one of the characters in this 3World in 4Time universe writes Robbins. 'There's an Otherworld in these pages.' Robbins can be a grandiloquent eejit at times, but he's spot-on here. (Welcome to the MWarvel Universe!)

28 A5 pages, £2 inc p&p, available from www.homebakedbooks.co.uk