Today marks the release of Minor Leagues #6, my new zine of comics, writing and stuff. It’s a whopping great 112-page zine, printed and assembled at home, complete with fancy hand-folded french flaps (well, teaspoon-folded) and probably some cat hair (sorry). This issue is the first to be given over wholly to the start of a big, new, three-part thing called ‘Where?’
‘Where?’ is a big, long autobiographical exploration of life, death, grief, memory and childhood, explored through the lens of the South Shropshire countryside where I grew up, and told through comics, prose, photos, drawings, paintings and collage.
This issue contains stories about falling in love with nature, about being bullied; cooking with my Dad, messing around with my brother, exploring forests and learning about life and death; being an adult faced with an ill father; local history, superstitions and folklore.
The stories in ‘Where?’ all revolve around a big hill in South Shropshire, not far from the Welsh border, called Titterstone Clee.
I grew up at the foot Titterstone Clee, where Dad worked as a radar engineer. We lived in a little village nearby called Caynham. My Mum looked after us until we went to school, and then got work in the nearby town of Ludlow. My brother and I played in the woods, explored, upset one another, loved one another, played with the cats, climbed trees. It was, as the story goes, a happy time.
Last year, my Dad died, barely six weeks after a cancer diagnosis. Death is weird. It does not endear itself to you, but it also doesn’t take the hint and go away, like a guest who comes to crash on the sofa for a night, and still won’t move out, months later.
If you’ve read Minor Leagues in the past, you might know that my Dad’s passing has informed lots of the comics I’ve made lately, and this one is no different.
In my grief, I found myself thinking more and more about the time we spent in Shropshire, about the role the place played in our life.
“I was thinking about all of this one day while driving home to Bristol. We had been stuck in a traffic jam, watching a man in his camper van feed water to his dog from a plastic shoe, waiting for the cars to move. Then the traffic unclogged, and a few exultant miles later, I saw it. We were just south of Bromsgrove on the M5. I had never twigged before that you would be able to see it from the motorway, but there it was, across the other side of the carriageway, fuzzy in the summer heat, just on the horizon, like a big, looming, ambivalent statement, like an indifferent salutation saying, ‘what can you even remember about me? Does it even matter?’”
- Excerpt from ‘Where?’ Part One, from Minor Leagues #6.
But I also want to write critically about nostalgia, and memory, and yearning for the past, or romanticising it. It’s a powerful impulse that makes us rose-tint things, but also one of which we should be careful. I guess I just want to think really carefully about how I understand myself in relation to my past, who I am, and where I’m from.
‘Where?’ will continue for the next few issues of Minor Leagues, after which I might try and see about turning it into a book.
There next instalments will feature tales of antiquarian vicars, enthusiastic but misguided historians, nineteenth century high-society scandals, prejudice and fear; plane crashes, industrial decline and automation; hill forts and missing castles; haunted cliff faces; working on a radar station; of being a kid, of hospitals, of growing old, of the seasons passing, of my family, of my Dad and his kindnesses; of how I became whatever it is I am, and how this big hill was a backdrop to so much of it … and a whole lot more that I don’t even know yet.
As ever, I’m making it all up as I go along, so please do join me as I try and work out just what on earth I’m doing.
Minor Leagues 6/‘Where?’ Pt 1 available now.
- 112 pages long,
- printed and assembled at home,
- hand-folded French flaps
- 225x210mm approx.
- Black and white throughout.
£6/5/4 (choose what you can afford pricing) + P&P, https://smoo.bigcartel.com/product/minor-leagues-6
You can also also get a four-issue subscription. https://smoo.bigcartel.com/product/minor-leagues-four-issue-subscription
Cat helps proofread