UK Web And Mini Comics Thing Anthology 2008 by Various Artists

Categories:  Reviews

UK Web And Mini Comics Thing Anthology 2008
By Various Artists

uk web and mini comix thing
The offer of this column, and the buxom cheerleaders and G&Ts that come with it, came a little late for me to plan, and afford, a field trip to The UK Web And Mini Comics Thing in London. Still nursing a bruised ego from previous expos where my wares had lay unsold, I’d vowed never to return. But having gotten over myself and stopped sulking, I’ll be returning to the Bristol expo in May with my tail between my legs, hoping I haven’t burned too many bridges.

So while I remained in my studio changing the face of comics, one page at a time, everyone else was selling, trading and drinking down London town. There was also a rival event at that Camden Comics Stall. I say “rival,” because it would seem some people are all bent out of shape about the prices being asked to exhibit at The Thing, and it’s hard to disagree with them. Although I can’t see what arguing with one another is going to achieve, any kind of fringe event that puts profits right back into creators’ pockets—and then back into comics—is to be applauded.

My wife got her hands on the UK Web & Mini Comics Thing anthology before I do, due to a particularly picky indie band needing a new single sleeve “yesterday.”

“How funny’s that, the two pages I laughed out loud at were Gareth’s and Jim’s”, she says from the bath.

It bodes well for my ability to side with talent that the first page Clare points out, without having looked at the credits, is Gareth Brookes’s.

Not having been able to make the actual con itself, the anthology makes a distant second best, but it arrives in the post with me hoping to find a few hidden gems to pad a few columns out with.

Every story in the book has a giraffe in it. Not too shabby a theme for an anthology.

After reading it for a while, I start to worry that it’ll be juvenile in narrative and execution, all big hair and manga-lite, until I stumble upon a completely unselfconscious one-page pencil crayon drawing of a giraffe and his mates. Apparently the giraffe wants to be a Web designer. It’s a welcome breather from being punched in the face by Photoshop/Illustrator. The piece was created by some fella called “Jimmy” in London. He’ll be my cyber friend in no time. I don’t usually like all this computer crap but this stuff’s all right.

I’ve always said that good writing can carry bad art but, well, it’s difficult to get past bad art in the first place. Am I alone in finding overtly computer art a tad soulless? Maybe I’m getting old, but pick up a pen every now and then will you? See, this is what I mean; Modern Monstrosity has done a lovely couple of pages. The story might be divertingly nonsensical but the art’s a joy. It looks like it’s done with felt tip pens but I’m betting someone’s going to e-mail in, saying it was done on Illustrator with a felt-tip-pen-tool of some kind. I hope it’s not; people should use felt tip pens more. I’d wear the last panel on a t-shirt. Not out the house, mind—just in bed.

“I’ve devoured that book so you don’t have to,” I say. “You’re right, most of it is shit. There’s a few too many girls who think they’re cute ‘cos their main character’s a bunny or something”

Don’t speak too soon honey.

Bloody hell, it’s on a roll! Just on the next page, Monkeys Might Puke gets round the problem of how to include a giraffe in a story about a temp getting the sack, by cutting and pasting a photo of a giraffe’s head over the head of a character in the crudely pencilled strip. Reminds me of badly made punk zine strips, made with Pritt Stick and no concession to aesthetics. It’s class because of this.

Ninja Bunnies’ strip looks like what would happen if Jeffrey Brown was asked to contribute to a giraffe-themed book. There’s no boys being crap with girls, but there’s a deceptively simple style, which makes me look them up online. It’s a Webcomic? Hold on….he… draws it by hand (so says his site). It’s all right; calm down, everything’s going to be fine.

It’s fun, this reviewing gig. I get to find out there’s better comics out there then I’d initially thought. Newthink Books carries on the anthology’s strong centre run with a single page visualization of his regret no. 43 “I’ve never seen a giraffe”, which makes me make a mental note to pursue Tom Gauld for an interview at some point. A good one-liner on a hangman’s futile efforts to execute the anthology’s animal of choice precedes a very attractive strip by Will Kirkby, using the most beautiful colours of the whole book. He’s a got a similar style to a lot of illustrators you see all over the place, but this strip avoids style clichés with the his choice of angles and that. They look like images stained on leather, like some native Indian-type thing, but they’re probably all done in Illustrater, thus contradicting my whole belief system. Well, easy come easy go. Liz Greenfield offers some redemption with a scruffy pink strip that makes me wish I’d drawn all my life.

“Are you writing all this down?” my wife calls from the bath.

“Aye, you’re writing my review for me”

Silence.

“You’re thinking about it too hard now. You’ve lost it.”

“I don’t respond well under pressure. You shouldn’t have told me what you were doing”

And like that (poof) she’s gone; back to her bath, leaving me to write the review myself.

If this is the cream of the UK crop then we might be in trouble. There are some good artists but it’s difficult to see where the stars are. There are, however, about a handful of artists whose work I’ll keep a close eye on in the future, so in that respect, the book’s a success of sorts. You hope there are a few more creators who couldn’t afford the train fare though, or might have been at the rival thing in Camden, instead. I won’t know until I make the trip down. That’ll come in time. Until then I’m heading to Bristol and Edinburgh via Leeds, so I’ll have a bigger picture after that, but this is an encouraging book nonetheless. Oh and it’s also a steal at £2.00 (about $4) for 108 pages of full colour art. Order it now and tell me I’m wrong; I dares yer.

–Oliver East

One Comment to “UK Web And Mini Comics Thing Anthology 2008 by Various Artists”

  1. John Robbins | April 6th, 2008 at 5:57 am

    I’ve seen just one of the event’s anthologies, the Mardou-edited ‘Small Pets’ (which I review here: http://www.smallscrutinies.blogspot.com/), from its “disaster” anthology era – as recently described by the Thing organiser in an interview with Andy Luke at Comics Village (http://www.comicsvillage.net/column.aspx?ArticleID=167). Sounds to me as if this giraffe-triggered anthology is more a reflection of the Thing organiser’s preference for fun and flimsy reading matter (fair enough) than any semblance of cross-section of work produced by the cream of the UK crop.