Crustaceans and Kitty Cats: Grey Area, ink + PAPER and The Best of Eat, Sleep, Sniff
Posted by Andy Oliver on Jan 17, 2013
Small Pressganged is Broken Frontier’s weekly column designed to shine a spotlight on the often overlooked world of small press, self-published and altcomics. Every week we provide a mix of review round-ups of the best of current small press comics and spot interviews with some of the movers and shakers of the scene.
This week I'm looking at some old favourites of this column including the most recent issue of anthology ink + PAPER, more from the world of Eat, Sleep, Sniff, and another trip to the domain of SP publishers Avery Hill with a focus on Tim Bird's Grey Area. As ever, prices quoted are those given at point of origin. Please check out each individual store for details on international orders and postage and packaging costs.
The Best of Eat, Sleep, Sniff volumes 1-2 and The Day Job
Rus Hudda (writer/artist)
Last year I reviewed a small press comic called Goodbye Kitty by Rus Hudda here – a rather inspirational and heartwarming book about a young girl dealing with the loss of a pet that I described as “a truly beautiful piece of storytelling that was a joy to read, and one that I feel could have a practical use with younger readers in similar situations as the comic’s protagonist.”
Rus has been producing his feline-based diary webcomics, revolving around life with his cat Tali, for some time now on his eat, sleep, sniff website and the top strips are also available in two minicomic print collections. The Best of Eat, Sleep, Sniff volumes 1 and 2 contain a selection of four-panel one-page strips about the mischievous Tali and are full of situations that will, no doubt, be familiar to the cat owners among you. It’s throwaway fun but the observational comedy here is endearingly good-natured in delivery and guaranteed to bring a smile to your face.
Taking a break from the usual cat-centric antics, Hudda also has The Day Job, his entry to the Thought Bubble Festival’s NSAC competition on sale at his online store. This is one of those comics that’s very hard to discuss given that it’s essentially a 7-page gag strip building up to a punchline. But it’s a fun piece of expectation-defying, audience-manipulating wit revolving around two workmates having the type of conversation about employment frustrations that we’ve all taken part in at some point in time.
Illustrated in an engagingly cartoony style, this is work that epitomises feelgood comics. Well, unless you're a dog person of course...
For more on Rus Hudda’s Eat, Sleep, Sniff comics visit his website here. You can buy The Best of Eat, Sleep, Sniff priced £2.00 for volume 1 and £3.00 for volume 2, as well as The Day Job for £2.00 at his online shop here.
Grey Area #1
Tim Bird (writer/artist)
Published by Avery Hill, whose anthology Reads! I reviewed here on ‘Small Pressganged’ last year, Tim Bird’s Grey Area #1 is a sequential art tour of London’s streets, thoroughfares and hidden corners at night. Three tangentially intersecting tales explore the U.K capital city in the wee, dark hours beginning with ‘Nightshift’, a short pictorial essay on the overnight work required on London’s tube train system in order to maintain its daily running.
This opening entry establishes Bird’s approach to the comics on show here. An exploration of unseen or barely considered elements of London’s existence where a kind of stream-of-consciousness flow replaces plotting, and characterisation is restricted to the one true star of the comic: the city itself. ‘Nightshift’ is also a rather haunting piece, replete with the phantoms of the past that linger within the recesses of the underground network; closed forgotten stations, long-gone commuters, journeys taken and lives led.
The other two stories to make up this opening issue’s trilogy are ‘Nightwalker’ and ‘Nightlife’ maintaining the overarching nocturnal theme of the comic. ‘Nightwalker’ follows an insomniac as he walks the city streets creating a sense of detachment as he wanders, isolated, from the rest of London’s teeming humanity. Careful visual detail ensures that this story is a true marriage of verbal narration and evocative imagery. ‘Nightlife’ focuses on London’s leisure scene; on the hours of escape from the daily grind, and the solace and refuge from the realities of life that it provides.
Presented on a larger A4 canvas that gives Tim’s art more space to breathe, Grey Area reminds me very much of Simon Moreton’s Smoo Comics (reviewed here in a previous 'Small Pressganged') in the way it uses architecture and environment to reflect mood and emotion. Atmospheric and enticing, this twisting tour of the city at night is a very promising start to what looks to be a very distinctive series.
ink + PAPER #3
David O’Connell (editor) Anthology – Various creators
A quick mini-review now for the third issue of handsomely bound anthology offering ink + PAPER which, alongside The Comix Reader, was most assuredly one of my favourite multi-creator small press offerings of 2012. In this latest issue showrunner David O’Connell has conjured up his customary magic presenting the usual ever eclectic mix of styles and subject matter, a host of creators both established and less familiar, and the now familiarly welcome combination of comic strips and related text articles. I’ve become somewhat infatuated with this near digest-sized little package of graphic goodies of late, and firmly believe it’s one of the most accessible pieces of work to tempt in the potential non-comics reader out there at the mo’.
Picking out just a small sample of the strips that particularly caught my imagination now and first up is Euan Cook’s ‘The Fisher Girl and the Crab’ (below left); a beautifully illustrated Indian fairy tale with a storybook feel to it that follows the troubled relationship between a young woman and her crustacean beau. Moving into an even more surreal romantic arena (if that’s possible) kus! comics contributor Akvile Miseviciute gives us 'Potato Story' (below right); an account of tender affection between two spuds that proves that even in the world of troubled tubers true love conquers all.
Emma Donnelly’s ‘Edwin Harold Lloyd’ is a simple yet touching tribute to her grandfather with real feelgood appeal, while John Cei Douglas brings his usual precisely constructed sense of design and careful use of colour to ‘Bottling It’ (bottom image below), a tale of being trapped on a desert island that evolves into something quite sinister and frightening as the story progresses. And in a column that’s already covered our cat-type chums in Rus Hudda’s output I can’t go without mentioning Kelly Walton’s poignant ‘The Rest Box’ that reminds us of the less cute side of our feline friends in an effectively memorable, if slightly gruesome, fashion.
I’m only scratching the surface here because each and every issue of ink + PAPER is full of little gems, and the variety of material on offer ensures there’s something for every reader in its pages. There’s a reason I included it in my small press highlights of 2012 column here. And if you’re not going to take my word for it then please note that that great British champion of the medium Paul Gravett himself spotlighted ink + PAPER in his 2012 “best of” article here. David O’Connell is providing us with something very special indeed in these pages. Pick up a copy and find out what all the fuss is about.
Andy Oliver is Broken Frontier’s Managing Editor and a contributor to Paul Gravett’s 1001 Comics You Must Read Before You Die.
If you are a small press comics creator, or self-publisher, and would like your work to be reviewed in a future edition of Small Pressganged then e-mail Andy at firstname.lastname@example.org for further details. You can also follow Andy on Twitter here.
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