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


Posted on April 23, 2008

For the anonymous creator/s of Fugger the bath of promise grows tepid, but the surface scum this publication filters through comics, prose and parody-pieces provides a good-humoured misanthropy and the kind of philosophy of bemusement familiar to the non-conformist and the cynically depressed. Peopled with disillusioned characters out-of-step with society, struggling either to fit-in or to drop-out, the strips of Fugger are underdeveloped and offer little crafting know-how; however, afflicted flashes of potential are in evidence, the cartooning is functional-enough and a voice that engages the adult ear bolsters one's reading stamina. The ragged prose of The League Of Super Bitter Scientists is equally at odds: a high concept – get God back for all the suffering in the world – is awkwardly delivered and devoid of guile; but in funny satire The Fugger Book Club a lyrical prose style is aided by an un-structure which presents four random pages of a book written in Dublinese – to persuasive effect. Ultimately then, Fugger's glaring flaw is a lack of storytelling polish, but with a satisfying focus and disarming, off-beat appeal, it provides agreeably diverting entertainment.

24 A4 pages, free. Email: fugtheworld@gmail.com and/or download the PDF at http://osheamedia.com/comics.html