Travelling Man's Blog

The Glass Is Half Full: Small Press Land by Travelling Man

I’m Al Ewing, and a while back I promised Travelling Man I’d do some reviews for them. These reviews, for obvious reasons, will be entirely positive. And that’s okay, because there’s always something positive to talk about in comics. The glass of Comics is always half full.

For example, there’s the Small Press.

I don’t know what things are like across the pond, but in the UK the Small Press is the lifeblood of comics, and the petri dish for the new. It’s where all the most interesting and exciting work is happening, a hothouse of energy and passion that proves that comics don’t need giant entertainment corporations to micromanage them or famous TV screenwriters to grace them with their presence. All comics need is paper, ink and imagination – and even the first two, not so much. (There’ll be another time to talk about webcomics.)

Recently I got an email from Rol Hirst, whose comics I read as a kid – I remember devouring The Jock with great fondness – asking if I wanted to take a look at his newest venture. Too Much Sex And Violence is a tag-team effort, split between eight artists – a nifty solution to one of the basic problems of the Small Press, which is that it’s a lot easier to write for nowt than it is to draw, and artists aren’t always in a position to commit to a giant page count. It works well here because of the nature of the story – a multiple-character piece set in a creepy English village where strange (and violent and sexy) things can happen, in the style of The League Of Gentlemen or Psychoville. We’re introduced to various characters – a particular favourite of mine, for some reason, was the vampiric DJ who gets his morning listeners to send their blood in to the radio station in the manner of Simon Bates receiving Our Tune letters – and the basics of the plot are set in motion, with various murders and unpleasantnesses being committed and a new copper walking into town to come face to face with it all. It’s a solid read, and I’m looking forward to more.

Art comes in all flavours, from the stark noir tones of Adrian Bamforth to the clear-line style of Rob Wells, also including such Small Press luminaries as Andrew Cheverton, Paul Rainey (of whom more later), Nigel Lowrey (ditto), Kelvin Green, Martin Eden and what’s apparently the first work from Mark Renhard. (Design, lettering and assorted other stuff by Dave Metcalfe-Carr.) Everybody aquits themselves well, but if I had to pick a favourite it’d probably be Lowrey’s depiction of the postie’s wonderfully goofy porn fantasies, which he unwittingly broadcasts to the neighbourhood telepath – beautifully overdone stuff.

If you can’t find it at your local comic shop, it’s available here.

Now, because of TMSAV‘s nature as a team effort, I’m in the happy position of being able to seque into other Small Press offerings I’ve enjoyed.

For example, while we’re discussing Paul Rainey, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention his 13-part series, No Time Like The Present – an examination of time travel and, well, time – everything from how the mortifying embarassments of youth fade into insignificance with the onset of old age to what happens in a culture where future history can be accessed on the internet with the same ease as the past. It’s a staggering work of SF – of fiction, full stop – and deserves a place on everyone’s shelf. Again, check your local comics shop, or order online.

What else, while we’re here in Small Press Land? The genius of Ben Clark? How about also-genius Steve Tillotson? I should really mention Futurequake as well. In fact, next time you’re in your local shop, check for a Small Press shelf and see what you can find there. Next time you’re at a convention, have one less pint at the overpriced hotel bar and blow the savings on photocopied mystery. You might find a writer or an artist you’ll be following for life. You might find the comic you always wanted to read but didn’t think existed.

And if you don’t, you can always make it yourself.


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