Describing your mission statement in the terms of the lyrics of cheesy ‘80s pop group Bucks Fizz may seem something of an eccentric way to introduce a small press comic but Kirk Campbell and Gary Clap, the gents behind anthology Dirty Rotten Comics, have never been afraid to embrace the idiosyncratic. DRC is, of course, a project that brings together creators of all technical abilities from cartoonists published in Private Eye and Viz through to artists having their first stab at producing work in the medium.
I am a confessed fan of their approach to self-publishing in this column, and the opportunities they afford to up-and-coming practitioners to see their work sitting side-by-side with established names on the scene. As I’ve said before here at Broken Frontier, it’s a philosophy that mirrors that of ‘Small Pressganged’ in promoting exciting new creative voices. If you’re in doubt you can look back on my reviews of issue #3 here, #4 here, and my interview with the Dirty Rotten Comics editorial team here.
Dirty Rotten Comics #5 is a more slimline volume than its predecessor (60-ish pages rather than 90-ish!) making it a little less unwieldy for the purposes of review but still crammed with names both familiar and less so to the casual reader. It kicks off with a cracking six-pager (see above image) from David Ziggy Greene (Scene & Heard) that highlights the brilliant physicality of his cartooning in all its glory as a nocturnally active male attempts to return to his bedroom without awakening his partner. Greene’s brilliantly choreographed elastic slapstick is an absolute delight to behold here.
I’m fast becoming obsessed with the twisting mini-narratives of Jey Levang (below) whose work I only discovered this year but is already one of the most exciting prospects I have covered in 2015. ‘BLAM’ is another of their neat and compact shorts. Perfectly paced, they pulls the rug out from under their audience’s expectations once again with expert timing in this excellent two-pager.
Dirty Rotten Comics has hosted a number of creators to make up my ‘Six UK Small Press Creators to Watch in 2015’; #4 had some welcome longer-form Danny Noble Was it… Too Much for You? and it was Jess Milton’s ‘Kentish Town’ in #3 that underlined to me what a talent in the making she is. Milton is back this issue with ‘MRI Scan’, a four-page examining the discomfort of that procedure that makes extremely clever use of text and speech balloon placement to emphasise the claustrophobia of events.
Rozi Hathaway (below centre) – another of that now legendary six – also goes the slice-of-life route with her account of a long-distance relationship. It’s a beautifully personal piece that has a haunting, almost lyrical quality to it – the weary passage of time and the inhospitable nature of public transport fading into insignificance in a heartwarming, joyous final panel.
As ever Dirty Rotten Comics #5 is unthemed, allowing creators a free rein in subject matter. Of the humour strips James Wragg’s ‘Technophobe’ (above right) about a young man fearfully rejecting the conventions of the modern world is one of the strongest with its witty “silent” storytelling and amusingly ironic turns. James Gifford’s ‘Soup’ (above left) – a horror story set in a time of famine in nineteenth century Ireland – is perhaps a little obvious in execution but his visuals are terrifyingly creepy in delivery. One to watch I think.
Shifting genres again, the same has to be said for Tom Mortimer whose ‘The Ten Minute Warning’, wherein a small English village prepares for imminent attack, is frighteningly oppressive visually with its use of deep black backgrounds and shadowy foregrounds. And there’s some fun to be had in David Robertson’s world where Tiddlywinks is a national sport. It’s Sarah Crosby (right) who rounds the issue off in perfect style, however, with her droll piece of deliciously pessimistic social commentary in ‘The Purrsuit of Happiness: A Space Odyssey’. There is no escape from the rat race.
At just £4.00 for so many pages Dirty Rotten Comics #5 is an affordable and indispensable introduction to a whole host of creators that you may not have encountered before. As the opportunities and possibilities of high quality self-publishing continue to grow and develop perhaps the one thing we are in danger of losing is those platforms that give newer creators an accessible entry point into the small press world. Gary Clap and Kirk Campbell are playing an invaluable role on the current scene in that regard. As long as they continue to support up-and-coming creators in DRC with such style and commitment then, in turn, they’ll always have my backing here at Broken Frontier.
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