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

Candy Or Medicine (Volume 2)

Posted on January 18, 2008

Predominantly the work of a jumble of disparate US-based creators, Candy Or Medicine is a quarterly mini-comic anthology with no pretensions – nor clear vision – which features a higgledy-piggledy mix of good-humoured strips, gag cartoons and sketches. Offering evidence of varying degrees of drawing know-how – name contributor Matt Feazell at the developed end of the spectrum; cover artist Emily Puccia at the na├»ve end (but both providing equally beguiling work) – and neither particularly clever nor witty, this happy accident of a shorthand collection still manages a casual persuasiveness which, ultimately, succeeds in sparking the odd smile. Best-in-issue is Liza Miller's delightful two-page strip in which a deceptively well-drawn stick-figure has inventive fun with a scarf.

16 quarter-sized pages, $1.50 postage-paid via www.candyormedicine.com