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Ink + PAPER = Triumph

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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 taking a most belated look at the second issue of the near digest-sized Brit anthology ink + PAPER. With the third issue being launched as part of the Comica Festival in a couple of weeks it’s your ideal opportunity to catch up with a project that I described as “winningly charming” in this column last December.

Remember, if you’re a small press comics creator looking for review coverage at Broken Frontier then my contact details are at the bottom of the column each and every week.

ink + PAPER #2
David O’Connell (editor), Anthology – Various creators

When I reviewed the first issue of David O’Connell’s anthology ink + PAPER last year I was particularly struck by the eclectic nature of its interiors, not just in terms of the diversity of the comic strip material presented therein but also the mix of quirky text articles and comics that it embodied. I am sure many of you will be bored with me constantly re-iterating this point virtually every other week but we are incredibly fortunate in the U.K. at the moment to have such a multitude of eminently readable small press anthology books. It’s to the credit of each and every one that, despite an obvious overlap of creative talent, they have all managed to establish their own voices and approaches to the presentation of their material.

In ink + PAPER #2 O’Connell and company continue to subtly influence the readership’s expectations by once again craftily challenging our preconceptions as to just what a publication like this should include between its covers. Comics and articles vie for equal space but boundaries are confused and definitions blurred by a number of the features being presented in comic strip form anyway. It’s a knowing and deft piece of audience manipulation that ensures that ink + PAPER feels as much a magazine as it does a comic. Just one that happens to use sequential art to put across the bulk of its message.

By this point in time, if you’ve been reading this column regularly, then you know the standard guff I spout when dealing with anthology titles – so, as ever, apologies to those creators whose work I don’t mention as I try and give a general flavour of the contents of ink + PAPER #2. And what a zesty taste sensation that flavour is to the discerning and educated comic book enthusiast’s palette! Jumping straight in on issue #2 I was immediately taken by A J Poyiadgi’s opening  strip ‘On Reflection’ (below left) about a man forming a relationship with his own mirror image and the path that takes them both down. It’s a piece that examines every meaning of the idea of reflection – from the literal to the “self-” variety – with pensive and careful consideration. Haunting and, in its own way, strangely beautiful.

Paul Harrison-Davies's ‘A Balloon Story’ is a (mostly) silent tale about a little girl and her lost inflatable that is one of the most touching comics entries I’ve read this year; elegantly simple yet, simultaneously, truly magical in scope and sentiment. Showrunner David O’Connell provides us with ‘Fever’ an account of two holed-up would-be bank robbers casing their next mark from a hotel room with the twist that one of them is suffering from a nasty case of the lurgy. It’s claustrophobic, slightly absurd and very funny, with O’Connell employing the tested appeal of his usual characteristically graceful linework to great effect as ever.

Earlier this year I had big praise for John Riordan and Dan Cox’s funky and psychedelic Hitsville UK. Riordan is present in ink + PAPER #2 with another marvellous off-the-wall offering ‘The Inventor of Colour’ wherein we learn the secret of how our world evolved from monochrome and are warned as to its eventual fate… Sarah McIntyre, whose Vern and Lettuce from the DFC Library should be mandatory reading for every potential young comics fan, treats us to the meeting of two reindeer in ‘The Secret Wood’ – such clever silliness that, depending on your mood, you can take as either a superficial piece of engaging daftness or actually something that is metaphorically far, far deeper.

You can always tell how good a slice-of-life story is when you start feeling nostalgic about events you didn’t actually experience yourself in the past of someone you’ve never even met. ‘Darth Vader Buried in the Sand’ is Rick Eades’s childhood reminiscence of a British 1980s seaside camping holiday with his family and, if you’re of that certain requisite age, I challenge you to read this one and not nod along in wistful kinship with the author as all too familiar family vacation scenarios play themselves out. Life through the eyes of a child is approached from a different slant in Will Morris's unforgettable and darkly surreal 'The Hairlet' - a tale linking imaginary friends and the horrors of a haircut at maternal hands.

 'The Secret Wood' from the ever delightful imagination of Sarah McIntyre

Sarah Gordon’s ‘Fish Soup’ – a dreamlike encounter that takes one diner from a quiet restaurant repast to the depths of a gorgeously rendered undersea world – is a perfect showcase for her distinctively flowing visual style, so memorably realised in The Peckham Invalids: The Cooperage earlier this year. And there’s a lovely little finale in ‘Miss Moti and Ink + Paper’, courtesy of Kripa Joshi, that ends the issue off on a most appropriately uplifting note with a stylish four-pager detailing an inspiring moment of inventive connection between two individual souls.

Interspersed throughout these longer pieces are a number of shorter cartoons. Fred Blunt conjures up some fun antics that would not have gone amiss in the margins or page borders of Mad Magazine, and I loved Andrew Waugh’s series of sketches featuring a rather resilient old lady putting the Universal Studios and other classic film monsters in their places.

Paul Harrison-Davies's enchanting 'A Balloon Story'

As for those text articles, they draw on some familiar faces from the Brit small press scene in a series of interviews and essay pieces. The standout for me was Jenni Scott’s detailed analysis of the evolving cover designs of Jinty, the 1970s comic for girls. Interviews with fashion illustrator and comics creator Zarina Liew, zine maker extraordinaire Katie Green, and print-maker and comics artist Esther McManus are all worthy intros to the work of these creators that will hopefully push the casual reader into investigating their respective back catalogues in greater depth.

In the ever burgeoning pantheon of Brit small press anthologies ink + PAPER has firmly established its own niche. It’s the Sunday supplement of that world; something to put one’s feet up with and enjoy on a leisurely weekend morning with a pot of Earl Grey and some delicate biscuits. And, with the third issue’s imminent publication coming in time for the Comica Festival Comiket in a couple of weeks, if you haven’t picked up the first two issues of ink + PAPER then it’s long past time you ordered yourself some copies of this delightfully eccentric and wittily produced team effort.

Andrew Waugh's 'Old Lady Versus Nosferatu'!

And if you’re already a fan then how about picking up an extra copy and passing it on to a non-comics reading friend? I can think of few other publications that are as perfectly positioned as ink + PAPER to persuade the newbie reader of both the diversity and the potential  inherent in the comic strip form.

ink + PAPER is available from the online store here priced £8.00. For more information about the book check out the site here and the Comica Festival launch of #3 at London's Orbital Comics is detailed here.

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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 andyoliver@brokenfrontier.com for further details. You can also follow Andy on Twitter here.

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Comments

  • Kstewart

    Kstewart Oct 26, 2012 at 2:53pm

    Great article andy! You're doing a good kob because this is the first thing i'm going to buy on payday!

  • Kstewart

    Kstewart Oct 26, 2012 at 2:53pm

    *job!

  • Andy Oliver

    Andy Oliver Oct 27, 2012 at 10:29am

    Thank you! When I hear that readers are going to order projects that I've recommended it makes it that much more worthwhile.

  • Bart Croonenborghs

    Bart Croonenborghs Oct 30, 2012 at 9:13am

    Okay mister Oliver, I'm a bit tired of you just plain beating the money out of my wallet. I mean, just who do you think you are?? :p

  • Andy Oliver

    Andy Oliver Oct 30, 2012 at 5:06pm

    Good to hear I'm putting sales ink + PAPER's way! :-)

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