Shining a light on the UK’s thriving small press comics scene...
Sometimes, the big guys get all the love. The international publishers, the critically acclaimed mega-selling writers and artists, the juggernaut titles that have been running since the dawn of time – they hog all the limelight. And while that’s all well and good, here at Comic Heroes we’re about much more than that. We know that toiling out there, often with minimal recognition, are the people of the small press, and they’re creating work that is every bit as exciting, challenging and downright entertaining as anything the big boys can produce.
Take Scorgasm , a 21st century update on Roy Of The Rovers that takes a good old-fashioned footy strip, throws in super powers, celebrity culture and cut-throat journalists and leaves you gagging for more after a mere 16 pages. The story of super-speedy Billy Foley and his meteoric rise from small club player to big league hero is not only breathlessly entertaining, it’s also got something relevant to say to lovers of the beautiful game. Gloriously evocative black and white artwork will have you reaching for those old annuals before you can say ‘but I don’t even follow the sport ball’.
The Ballad Of Frank Sartre
If the trials and tribulations of super human footballers isn’t for you, then how about a slice of deliciously dark rock and roll? The Ballad Of Frank Sartre contains everything you want from a comic about Satan’s soundtrack, namely shagging, chemical overindulgence and buckets of late-night atmosphere. The pages reek of drug-fuelled decadence, and in between the dog-headed reporters and the grim futuristic setting populated by wannabes and has-beens, there’s an artful story waiting to take you on a three-chord thrill ride somewhere you probably shouldn’t go.
Sometimes a traditionally told tale is exactly what isn’t required, orwe’d all be watching Eastenders on repeat and resigning ourselves to an eternity of grunting cockneys shouting at each other. Roachwell is an antidote to the usual: a webcomic that has now been collected, it’s refreshingly weird, effortlessly funny and at times just plain psychotic. Full of terrifying concepts (like the guy who drinks a skinfull and wakes up to find he’s joined M People), at its best Roachwell is like being told a bed time story by that guy you keep on seeing eating cat food outside Tescos. Funny, frightening, and a world unto itself, it’s as if the writers of Psychoville had a breakdown and threw up on a comic; gloriously wrong and yet so very right.
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If Roachwell is the ravings of a Tennents Super-addled tramp savant, then Hitsville is its distant hippy cousin, the one who took one two many trips before disappearing into the bowels of the music industry. An acid-fried report from the edges of sanity that is ostensibly the story of a demonic record label on the hunt for fresh new talent to exploit, Hitsville is both a dissection of the worst practices of muso idiots and a feverishly inventive psychedelic odyssey. Lunatic producers and pissed off punks rub shoulders with mournful singer songwriters and super-cool synth bands in dingy cellars, while the devil does the washing up. Take it from us, you will find no more accurate portrayal of life on the toilet circuit than this; a perfect three minute chemical infused rush of a comic.
For anyone who spent too much time as a teenager reading comics and watching obscure films (let’s face it, we all did), Video Nasties will be instantly familiar. The story of a shy kid, his obsession with dodgy snuff horror and a school project commemorating a group of kids that went missing a decade ago, it’s full of the sort of incidents that will be all too familiar for those of us who spent our school days tongue tied in front of pretty girls. Beautifully observed school-based shenanigans aside, this is a tale with a dingy underbelly, compellingly told in stark black and white. It’s almost enough to make you pine for those school days. Almost.
■ SMALL PRESSERS! Send in your work to: Rob Power, Comic Heroes , Future Publishing, 30 Monmouth Street, Bath, BA1 2BW, or alternatively send links to firstname.lastname@example.org. Ta!