Curated by Richard Cowdry.
Featuring: Tobias Tak, Steve Tillotson, Ralph Kidson, Ellen Lindner, Paul O’Connell, Saban Kazim, Bird, Tim & Alex Levin, Gareth Brookes, Paul Ashley Brown, Lord Hurk, Kat Kon, Daniel Locke, Julia Homersham, Lawrence Elwick, Alex Potts, Jimi Gherkin, Scott Smith, Peter Lally and Sina Evil (Full contents and artists links here)
Actually that image above is slightly misleading. It actually looks a lot more like this:
Because The Comix Reader is another one of those lovely newspaper comics. Or in this case – Comix. Because Richard Cowdry – the organising talent behind the Comix Reader is determined to create something with a hint of the 60s underground about it. Or, as he puts it in The Comix Reader:
“Where did all the fun go? The Comix Reader is in part an attempt to recapture some of the free spirit of the underground press, and also an experiment in distribution: 9000 copies paid for and distributed by the artists. Printed on cheap newsprint, it’s the opposite of the expensive limited edition; accessible to all who are interested.”
I had to double take when I saw that – 9000 copies? Impressive. And at just a quid it’s surely good value for money and hopefully a way to take something moderately alternative into a wider readership.
The first thing to say is that the tabloid size is absolutely lovely for reading comics. It’s something our ancestors knew so well, but we’ve forgotten it over the years. But that size is not only a tactile delight, it’s also an opportunity for the artists to do a couple of things – either push their art bigger or keep the small size and make a page that reads more like 4 at normal size.
And the diversity of the artists in The Comix Reader is certainly impressive. Some I’d seen before – always a pleasure to see Elwick and O’Connell‘s Charlie Parker Handyman strip and of course, Richard Cowdry has been, of late, the artist sort of in residence at the FPI blog with his Somersault strips.
Here’s a few samples from some of the strips that caught my eye:
Paul O’Connell doesn’t just have Charlie Parker in The Comix Reader – he’s got Sabrina; a tabloid biography of a forgotten 50’s glamour girl in that classic Diana Dors mold. And it’s done in O’Connell’s best eye-popping photoshop-esque photorealistic style – lovely.
(A sample of panels from Paul O’Connell’s Sabrina)
Gareth Brookes‘ Treetop Singers may not even be comics – more illustrated poetry, but the art and the rhymes are great.
Ralph Kidson decides to use his page as a comic in itself – fitting 9 mini pages onto 1 here. A bilious rant against national news broadcasting, that inexplicably switches after 7 mini pages to a two mini page gag about facial features getting taxis. Crap ending to a great strip to be honest. But there’s 7 mini pages of great to two mini pages of crap. Works for me.
(Just one of 9 mini comic pages Ralph Kidson fits onto his one tabloid page – rant, rant, ranty, rant.)
Steve Tillotson’s untitled monkey strip was one that I didn’t really register in his recent Banal Pig Showcase (review to come soon), but here, with the same characters, added colour and more page to work with it’s bloody great:
Now, I have to say there’s a fair bit of The Comix Reader that didn’t really do anything much for me, just like I really expect with a lot of anthology work. Too many of the strips had too little to say, or did it in a way that just felt unappealing to my eye. So it goes. I’d still rather something like The Comix Reader was a success, just so I get a chance to see another issue. Hit and miss is the almost inevitable price you pay for any anthology, and even here, where it was amybe 50/50, I’m still glad to see it exist, especially in such a wonderful form.
The Comix Reader is available from any of the contributors and direct from The Comix Reader website.