The Newcastle-based Paper Jam Comics Collective celebrated their tenth anniversary this year and also put out their fourteenth anthology offering – the all-ages Amazing Adventure Comics Machine …and That, which is also the first all-colour one in the series. Each edition has tackled a different theme with the …and That titular suffix representing the local vernacular.
Utilising the Travelling Man comics shop in the city as their community hub, this group are one of a number of longstanding pockets of small press community activism across the UK, bringing together artists who range from the enthusiastic and the “have-a-go” through to the professionally published (Verity Fair‘s Terry Wiley has a strip in this latest issue).
The stories in Amazing Adventure Comics Machine take the broad idea of “adventure” as their starting point and are aimed squarely at the younger reader. After a brief illustrated introduction to the guiding lights of PJCC we jump into 16 or so pages of colourful A4 comics as well as puzzle pages and (mainly mock) advertising features.
The highlights include the fun pulpy sci-fi of Cuttlefish and Anton Brand’s ‘Bash Boredom and the Crystal Onion’ (below) with its energetic cartooning and space hero silliness. Terry Wiley provides the most accomplished work with ‘Space Jumpies!’, a fun educational piece that uses PJCC’s Bosco the Space Monkey character to investigate relative gravity across the planets in the solar system, making the subject matter accessible and understandable for its target audience.
Pauline Holland’s ‘I Want to Swim’ (below) is an adventure story of a different kind altogether, recounting the (presumably autobiographical) story of a clandestine trip to the swimming baths when she was just 9-years-old. Visuals here are raw in delivery but they match the subject matter perfectly, creating a sense of a child’s eye view of the world being embodied in the strip’s presentation. Oscillating Brow’s fantasy hero quest in ‘The Really, Really Long Journey’ is also a notable entry. It’s not especially sophisticated in layout but there’s an enjoyable pay-off to this rhythmically paced wizarding tale.
It’s true that much of the work herein isn’t necessarily particularly polished but that’s not the point. This is more a statement about the democracy of the form than a showcase for comics craft. A reminder that this is a medium that is open to everyone and that, regardless of the creator’s technical ability, the communicative properties of the form are such that you don’t need to be the most elaborate artist in the world to make comics that will connect with people.
But most importantly Amazing Adventure Comics Machine …and That is a welcome reminder of the grassroots community spirit of the small press. And sometimes that’s just as important to support and promote as the next “Breakout Talent” or rising star of the self-publishing scene.