It’s so easy to overuse the superlatives when it comes to describing some of the work on show on the current UK small press scene but in the case of SkinnyNib’s cover on the most recent issue of the Radio On anthology then “stunning” doesn’t even begin to do it justice. Lively, intricate, exuberant and whimsical it sets the scene for Analogue Press’s latest collection of music-influenced comics short stories.
As ever in this semi-regular offering, approaches to the subject matter are varied in terms of both subject matter and style. The opener – Riyadh Rateme’s four-pager ‘Ministry of Sound’ (below) – shakes off an exposition-heavy opening page to give us a story that exploits the pure glorious visual language of comics to powerful effect. This near-future tale of a mood-complementing music app is dystopic in tone, cleverly crafted in delivery and marks the artist out as someone to keep a careful eye on.
Kathryn Briggs’s work always has an interesting approach to page construction whether it be in terms of her use of collage or her often dreamlike visuals. In this issue she contributes a tale of love and the senses-shifting condition of synaesthesia (below) that is essentially just four panels over four pages and yet it’s perfectly timed, pulling us into the characters’ relationship through a clever and subtle manipulation of colour and shadow that reflects its subject matter. The standout story in the issue.
Also featured in #3 are Ed Syder’s mini-homage to Sonic Youth in ‘Little Trouble Girl’ – his crisp, clear black and white artwork as eye-catching as ever. Alfie Gallagher gives us a very different kind of horror story with a folk music twist in ‘Highways, By-Ways and Folk Ways’ (below) which makes particularly strong use of lettering tricks to build up a sense of horror. And, finally, while it’s essentially simply a throwaway gag Lydia Wysocki’s ‘Sing Your Camels to Bed’ is neatly paced in comedic terms.
If there’s one thing that still strikes me about Radio On, though, it’s that it always feels far too brief a read. There’s something too fragmentary about its current format – the broadness of its theme sometimes swamping the specificity of its content, and those bite-sized intros to each creator’s work giving something of a sense of disconnection to each issue. Extra space to allow creators to more substantially explore the themes of their tales would, perhaps, help to raise the comic’s profile.
Despite that air of the fleeting to its pages, though, it’s impossible not to find editor Rob Carter’s project an appealing and thoughtfully curated affair. Books like this are just so, so important for the role they play in giving a platform to both established and lesser known small pressers, and trust me when I say that Kathryn Briggs’s story this time round is worth the cover price alone…
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