SMALL PRESS DAY IS COMING!
Saturday July 9th sees the first Small Press Day in the UK and Ireland – an event that seeks to spotlight the exciting new voices in self-publishing and celebrate the philosophy of the small press scene. Across both countries shop signings, workshops and associated events will be taking place. You can find out all about it and what’s on in your local area at the official Small Press Day site here.
This week, as part of our SPD coverage, we’re pointing you in the direction of some of the most interesting uses of the form by UK-based small press creators working in a number of different fields of comics practice. Today’s column is something of a diversion from what’s preceded it over the last few days at BF as some of the UK ‘s most exciting small press creators recommend the work of their peers!
If you like what you see then you can investigate further with the online store links included…
Danny Noble on Fear Of Mum-Death and the Shadow Men by Wallis Eates
Reviewed here at Broken Frontier
I’ve always been in awe of Wallis’s beautiful brutal honesty. Whereas I and other folk might hide behind a punchline she pours herself all over the page in deep dark scratchy swashes and in lines so faint they nearly float away. It’s not that she’s not funny….she is quite hilarious, but it’s never used to make a story more comfortable.
This is her best work yet, I think. It made my heart ache and my belly laugh. It is dark and mysterious and so very familiar. A lot of the cultural references mirror my diaries, and the intense childhood fears too, though we led very different lives.
I wanted to go back and read through so I could mention more specifically the clammy men and the fret-filled nights that populate this book but I’ve lent it to someone. Because as soon as I’d finished it, I wanted everyone to read it! Ma Noble bought a copy too and she thought it was wonderful. And Ma Noble is rarely wrong.
Gareth Brookes on Sister Sabia by Laura J.L.B.
I picked these up at a recent Comiket and was immediately impressed. The story follows a frustrated art student who, feeling his genius ignored, resolves to make an ‘undeniable’ artistic statement. A concept that could easily have been inaccessible is rendered anything but by some excellent characterisation.
The central character spends most of his time sitting around wearing nothing but socks and a watching his incoherent rants back on his laptop, but the humour slowly gives way to an atmosphere of impending menace as it becomes clear what he has in mind.
The artwork is big and confident, the big dot riso printing looks fresh at a time when some might argue peak riso has long been reached. Plus I’ll always give anything extra points for a spot of hand binding. I love the way that niceties like having a front cover are brushed aside too.
All in all I can’t fault this, and reading it back I’m finding that as a pathetic portrait of the impotent rage that everyone from the amateur terrorist to the old age pensioner appears to feel these days, it’s already become more relevant than when I bought it not six weeks ago.
I’ve heard tell of more out there by this artist, but minimal web presence adds to the intrigue, so I’ll have to keep my eyes peeled, which is part of the joy of small press collecting.
– Gareth Brookes won the Myriad First Graphic Novel Competition in 2012 for The Black Project. You can buy his self-published comics online here, visit his website here and follow him on Twitter here. He will be signing on Small Press Day at Gosh! Comics. Full details here.
You can buy copies of Laura J.L.B.’s Sister Sabia here priced £5.00 each.
Katriona Chapman on Style and Fashion by Ryan Cecil Smith
I picked up a couple of zines from Ryan Cecil Smith at TCAF in May, who had a table opposite mine at the show. I knew he did a regular zine called Style and Fashion, and I was worried that I wouldn’t be that into it as I don’t have much interest in fashion. But in fact I really loved the one I read! It was funny and playful and and beautifully presented.
He also does travel-based zines and sci-fi and all sorts… he has a really broad range of work. I also got his travel diary zine Un Petit Carnet de Voyage II: Hiroshima, Miyagima & Saijo. What I liked in both was the informality of the tone. The drawings are great, and the personal notes and little asides make reading them feel like you’re chatting to a friend, or having a peek into someone’s private journal.
– Katriona Chapman is the creator behind the critically acclaimed Katzine. You can buy her self-published comics from her online store here, visit her site here and follow her on Twitter here. She will be signing on Small Press Day at Gosh! Comics. Full details here.
Richy K. Chandler on How to Make Catfish Pie by Amber Hsu
Reviewed here at Broken Frontier
Amber Hsu’s minicomics are all beautiful hand, printed glimpses into a fascinating mind. They feel like they’ve been around for a hundred years or more and yet are completely fresh. Her new How to Make Catfish Pie is essentially a recipe set within a world of nostalgic nursery rhymes, with the usual slightly twisted creepiness that come from much of Amber’s Tiny Empire Enterprises’ publications.
Matt Finch of Dead Canary Comics on A Tale of Shadows by White, Wilson and Clark-Forse
Recommending a small press title is always hard. The sheer wealth of choice and variety out there means there’s something for every taste, so choosing which one to champion is like choosing your favourite child.
But I think I may have managed to find a title that hits pretty much every target audience while somehow being its own awesome thing. Tale of Shadows is sci-fi, fantasy, action, adventure, coming of age drama and social commentary all rolled into one.The story centres on Felix, a young loner who finds himself caught up in a confrontation between religion and science when a mysterious new technology known as ‘the machine’ is unveiled in his hometown.
The writing by Paul Clark-Forse is sublime. You won’t find deeper, better written dialogue in all of small press-dom. The structure, the pacing, and most importantly what goes on beyond the panels are all first class.
The art, by Lyndon White and Tyler Wilson, is like nothing you’ve ever seen, and it suits the otherworldliness of the story perfectly. Not surprising, when you consider that the original idea for this opus came from the artists themselves, who were smart (and humble) enough to hand it over to a true wordsmith – something I wish more artists with great ideas would do.
Tale of Shadows #1 and #2 are available now and issue #3 is in production as we speak. Jump on the bandwagon now before it gets overcrowded and buckles under the weight.
– Matt Finch is co-publisher of Dead Canary Comics. You can buy their comics here, visit their site here and follow them on Twitter here. Matt will be part of the Small Press Day events at Orbital Comics. Full details here.
You can buy A Tale of Shadows from Lyndon White’s online store here.
Rozi Hathaway on Irgendwo im Nirgendwo by Anja Uhren
I must admit, I’m a sucker for a poetic narrative in comics. The atmosphere that can be created with not only image, not only text, but the two together working in a melodic unison is something I explore within my own work – and when it comes to other small press creators it definitely hits a soft spot.
Anja Uhren’s Irgendwo im Nirgendwo (Somewhere in Nowhere) was originally written in German, and though I can’t comment on the German version (my GCSE German of a decade ago has long since been forgotten) the English version encompasses everything I look for in small press comics, and to an excellent standard.
This twisted tale of brightly yet softly coloured figures teamed with overlapping and contorted panels makes for an atmospheric and eerie otherworldly experience. Plus, bonus points definitely going to posting out such a beautiful package!
– Rozi Hathaway is a Broken Frontier 2015 ‘Small Press Creator to Watch’ and the artist behind Njálla. For more on the work of Rozi Hathaway check out her site here, visit her online store here and follow her on Twitter here. She will be signing on Small Press Day at Orbital Comics. Full details here.
You can visit Anja Uhren’s online store here.
David Robertson on The Cleaner: Man of Destiny by Fraser Geesin
At the two most recent Thought Bubble conventions, I have picked up the first issues of The Cleaner: Man of Destiny by Fraser Geesin. An engaging first person narration is used throughout and holds your interest, from the opening page’s four panels onwards (see above): “Spider-Man”, “Wolverine”, “The third, more realistic choice was stunt man.” “Cleaning was never considered.” The story is funny and poetic in places. The art is detailed without dragging down the pace, with effective greytones by Edward Nottingham. I’d definitely recommend this.
– David Robertson recently released his latest self-published comic Zero Sum Bubblegum and is a contributor to anthology Treehouse Comics. You can visit his site here, buy his comics online here and follow him on Twitter here.
Lord Hurk on Browner-Knowle by Paul Ashley Brown
Paul Ashley Brown’s ongoing small press comic Browner Knowle is an anti-delight. 100% concentrated English miserableness that paradoxically gives me so much joy every time I pick it up. The art alternates between beautiful pencil drawings to beautiful bold, black ink drawings whilst the writing is consistent, melancholic…and addictive.
– Lord Hurk is part of Fancy Butcher Press and his new book Ready for Pop from Knockabout is launched at London’s Gosh! Comics on July 22nd. You can visit his site here and follow him on Twitter here. He will be signing on Small Press Day at Gosh! Comics. Full details here.
Wallis Eates on Katzine by Katriona Chapman
Reviwed here at Broken Frontier
Reading Katriona Chapman’s autobio series, Katzine, is like sitting in a really comfy chair and being shown an example of how one person does a really good job at getting through all this existence stuff. It seems that Chapman knows her own mind so completely that it’s no wonder her drawings are so solid, fully executed and lovingly crafted. It suggests that Chapman’s relationship to the world is one that she bothers to take her time with, articulating how she feels and engaging with the things she likes.
The result of this is at once calming and inspiring. I have lots of pleasurable agreement happening in my head when I read Chapman’s work while at the same time recognising certain qualities that I would like to strive for; such as being less slapdash and making more time for things that I like. For example, I read my most recent Katzine purchase in bed, just before turning the light out, and I can honestly say I went to sleep a more contented person that night for it.
– Wallis Eates is an autobio comics creator and a finalist in the 2014 Myriad First Graphic Novel Competition. You can visit her online store here, her site here and follow her on Twitter here. Fear of Mum-Death and the Shadow Men is available from her online store priced £5.00.
A work you can swim through. Jayde Perkin captures loss and grief in Breathe in Deep in a delicately detached way. Blue orchids, soft knitted jumpers and train journeys paired with the lyrics of Kate Bush, leave you with a mellow sinking feeling. It’s a gorgeous farewell letter in twenty-four autobiographical pages that anyone should feel a kinship with.
– Ellice Weaver is one of the 2016 Broken Frontier ‘Six Small Press Creators to Watch‘ and the creator of Collector Cabinet. You can find out more about her work on her site here and follow her on Twitter here.
Craig Collins on the Work of Sajan Rai/Childish Butt Vomit
Reviewed here at Broken Frontier
Don’t let the frankly alarming name “Childish Butt Vomit” fool you. While Sajan Rai’s comics – and certainly his high-speed con sketches – are certainly full of outlandish and unhealthy material, this London cartoonist’s work shows a creative intelligence, adventurous mind and sophisticated hand in his work.
His Petty Beach (above) is a marvellous unnerving and surreal drama, and his Brocko n’ Frens (below) is some of the most outrageously funny small press comedy I’ve ever read. There’s oddly warm relationships between the characters, off-the-wall events that are well-judged enough that you’re not thrown out of the book, and lines of dialogue that completely blindside you and left me laughing incredulously.
Sajan has a skilful but natural and easy style that lends itself very well to his writing interests, and the books I’ve read have been riso-printed and beautifully produced, and just have that lovely “small press treasure” feel about them. Fantastic stuff.
Sajan Rai is a member of the Backwards Burd collective. You can his comics on the Backwards Burd site here and follow him on Twitter here. You can also read his comics online on the Childish Butt Vomit site here. Backwards Burd will be signing at Gosh! Comics on Small Press Day. Details here.
John Riordan on Meanderings by Matthew Dooley
Full disclosure – Matt Dooley is a friend, and I knew Dooley the man before I read any of his comics, collected in his recent book Meanderings. We met in 2012 when we were both working a strange and spectacularly pointless job at the Science Museum and bonded over the daily absurdities of the job and our shared interests. Like me, Matt is obsessed with comics and weird music although we part company on the subject of films (he claims to have only seen 10 of them) and his first love, football.
The cover of Meanderings shows Matt in an old-fashioned pub, resplendent with his large ginger beard (he draws a very good version of himself), staring vacantly into an empty pint glass. Not half-full or half-empty, very definitely empty. His comics do a great job of capturing the downbeat aspects of life – the existential absurdities and disappointments of crap jobs and human interaction, but filtered through a surreal and inventive sense of humour. Meanderings’ comic speculations on humdrum reality range from pseudo-autobiography to the internal monologues of inanimate objects.
Its 17 short stories introduce us to the lesser known saint Rhombus of Tyre (who healed the lazy and workshy), a pompous London park bench and The Rt Hon Sir Herbert Cheesemore, an unusual imaginary friend of the young Matt Dooley. Overall the tone reminds me of the American novelist Kurt Vonnegut, bleakly honest about the frequently stupid tribulations of life, but shot through with a consoling humour that is whimsical and kind.
Visually, Matt’s style draws on US indie cartoonists such as Chris Ware and Peter Bagge. Everything’s boiled down to a clear but appropriately scraggly line, as if the characters are being roughed up by life. Matt’s comics have been shortlisted twice for that Jonathan Cape/Observer/Comica Prize and some of the stories in Meanderings have featured in Throwaway Press’ anthology Dirty Rotten Comics. Throwaway have also published this, the first collection of his work. They’ve done a fine job, printing the strips in gorgeous, muted colours and wrapping the whole thing in a handsome pink cover. Because real men wear pink. Matt also posts comics at ballwatching.tumblr.com. Sometimes they’re about football, in which case I don’t always get the jokes. But I bet they’re very funny.
For regular updates on all things small press follow Andy Oliver on Twitter here.