All this and it smells great too. Solipsistic Pop Vol 1…

Published On January 6, 2010 | By Richard Bruton | Animation, Comics, Reviews

Solipsistic Pop Volume 1

Editing, art direction and design by Tom Humberstone

Contributors: Phillipa Johnson, Julia Scheele, Anna Saunders, Daniel Locke, Howard Hardiman, Rachel Reichert, Matthew Sheret, Robbie Wilkinson, Stephen Collins, Mike Rimmer, Andrew Blundell, Joe Decie, Tom Humberstone, Phillip Spence, Richard Cowdry, Mark Oliver. (Full list with relevant weblinks here)

Solipsistic Pop Books

sp01cover

Solipsism: The belief that all reality is just one’s own imagining of reality, and that one’s self is the only thing that exists.
Pop: Of or for the general public; popular or popularized.

Solipsistic Pop … features diverse, beautiful, twisted and peculiar Comics that you won’t be able to find anywhere else. Comic artists old and new are encouraged to contribute. Solipsistic Pop intends to provide a support structure and outlet for UK alternative Comics.
Each book of Solipsistic Pop will be a boutique, tactile product. An interactive, unique artefact designed to suit the content of each edition with an extremely limited printrun.
(From the Solipsistic Pop website)

Solipsistic Pop is a new anthology, biannual, published and edited by Tom Humberstone (of How To Date A Girl In Ten Days). I think it may well be something of a “game changer” for small press/self published works since Solipsistic Pop looks, feels, reads (and yes, even smells – see here) something more like a high end arts/design magazine than some small press anthology of old. It’s sumptuous, beautiful, stirring, optimistic stuff, an anthology to move the British self-published/small press scene into the next decade. It’s expensive at first glance at £13 – but really it only costs about as much as a standard graphic novel for something that will probably take you longer to read and give you far more enjoyment.

Credit must go to Tom Humberstone for making this something special on every level, starting with a beautiful, lush, decidedly non-comics cover by Phillippa Johnson. Inside is a very forward looking, design and artist driven selection of comics, but Humberstone also includes two affectionate nods to the mini-comics origins of the British small press, with comic inserts on the front and back covers by Anna Saunders and Sarah Gordon. Both mini comics are simple, mini tales, perfect for their format. And deep inside the body of the book comes the master-stroke; a beautiful, magazine sized fold out section – the Sunday supplement if you like.

This could so easily have been an Emperor’s New Clothes in comic book form; pretty to look at but nothing more. But happily, almost every single strip, large or small, more than meets the promise of the beauty of the design and packaging.

A quick perusal through the contributors list yields an interesting truth; those involved are not simply small pressers or cartoonists or designers or illustrators or print makers or sculptors, these are artists who choose to work in the comic form for Solipsistic Pop in addition to whatever else they may do. And it shows. Every strip has an artistic leaning. These are not story driven pieces, but that is not to say that they fail as enthralling and intriguing narratives. Just that the artistic elements are the primary motivator for entry here.

I could go through almost every strip, extolling their virtues at length but instead lets just look at four pieces;

christianyear

(Julia Scheele’s My Year As A Christian, the opening strip in Solipsistic Pop, edited and published by Tom Humberstone)

Julia Scheele’s My Year As A Christian is a major step up for Scheele, whose work prior to this has been slighter and more ephemeral. Here she tells a simple yet effective tale of a childhood as a daughter to a family always on the move and her year spent in a Christian school in Honduras. Like she says herself “It didn’t, um, go very well“. But as a perfectly crafted piece of autobiog comics it goes very well indeed, with Scheele’s art and limited colour palette capturing all the difficulties of fitting into an alien culture.

Sol Pop3

(Tom Humberstone’s Special Guest Appearance, a perfectly pitch tale of growing up and the pain of growing apart. From Solipsistic Pop, edited and published by Tom Humberstone)

Tom Humberstone’s Special Guest Appearance also concentrates on the trials of childhood, although not Humberstone’s own. Instead he paints a perfect picture of growing up as a teenage girl, complete with all the emotional torment of a once close friendship that’s been lost. Growing up is hard to do, and writing about female teen years even more so, but it reads so true. And it looks absolutely lovely; just like Scheele, Humberstone limits his colours but his artwork is just gorgeous, I especially liked the simple touch of dropping the focus off slightly for the flashbacks.

pspence1

(Philip Spence’s Ninja Bunny as you’ve not seen him before; in gorgeous full A4 page technicolour. From Solipsistic Pop, edited and published by Tom Humberstone)

Philip Spence’s Ninja Bunny has featured here on the FPI blog a few times, but never like this. Freed from the tiny 3 inch square, mostly black and white single panels, Spence’s work in the Solipsistic Pop magazine fold-out simply soars with huge, page filling vertical panels, lush, flat colours and a tale of an epic battle obviously influenced by Spence’s Japanese trips and his love of Hokusai, Hiroshige, and Ukiyo-e. The extra size of the fold-out insert gives Spence the space to really let rip with some of the best work of his career to date.

Sol Pop2

(Stephen Collins’ Exit Music, a stunningly accomplished piece of reflective work. From Solipsistic Pop, edited and published by Tom Humberstone)

But as good as those three works are, as good as most of the contributors works are, there’s one artist whose work lights up the book; Stephen Collins. He comes from illustration and strip cartooning and this seems to be his first comic story, but you’d never be able to guess. He has a confidence, a fluidity, a grace to his work that makes every panel and every page a sheer joy to behold.

Whether it’s the excellent Exit Music where a swimmer ponders on the choice of music at his local pool and how bad it would be to die to something so bloody bland and uninspiring, or the two pages in the magazine section; full of extras, gags and inspired moments it’s all so incredibly accomplished. In fact, the immediate and most obvious comparison is Chris Ware. Collins’ stuff really is that good.

scollins1

(Stephen Collins’ work from Solipsistic Pop; just one small, incredibly funny moment amongst many. From Solipsistic Pop, edited and published by Tom Humberstone)

Solipsistic Pop; from it’s very first pages and Humberstone’s introductory manifesto; “Declaration Of The New Vague” to it’s final optimistic call by Matthew Sheret to “Do Everything“, is something to be cherished and enjoyed. It works whichever way you look at it; as an object, as a design item, as a physical artefact it’s lovely. And as a collection of some of the best in new British comics it’s a spectacular success – a full colour delight packed with artists making the very best of the luxurious surroundings afforded them.

Over at the Solipsistic Pop website there are many previews of some of the work I’ve not managed to cover here. It’s well worth a look. And a second volume is promised sometime in 2010.

Richard Bruton.

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About The Author

Richard Bruton

– Started in comics retail aged 16 at Nostalgia & Comics, Birmingham. Now located in Yorkshire, he’s written for the Forbidden Planet International Blog since 2007. Specialising in UK Comics and All-Ages comics, Richard’s day job in a primary school allowed him to build the best children’s graphic novel library in the country.

9 Responses to All this and it smells great too. Solipsistic Pop Vol 1…

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  3. Kenny says:

    Wow Richard – you liked it a whole lot more than me. Stephen Collins though is the real deal.

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