Review – Hostile Take Over by Morgan Gleave

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This is a fun little comic.

This first issue is an A5 colour comic with card stock cover and glossy paper insides, with 16 pages of story and 4 pages of supplementary history.

It’s a fun read; a quick and silly story with stripped back stylised artwork that’s worth coming back to linger over for its lovely design work.

There’s nothing deep going on in the story here, just a slight jibe at the bloodthirsty nature of multinationals but dressed up all silly like Bond supervillains of old. I’m reminded of the 90’s here with the irreverence and gloriously silly violence and over the top anger on show. There’s something of early Tank Girl or Milk & Cheese in the atmosphere of the writing.

It’s heavily tongue in cheek and definitely a story to allow the drawing of lots of fun action, pretty shapes and great looking sound effects.

The art is fun, really fun in fact. Stripped down and heavily designed. It’s clearly manga inspired, sort of chibi style, but quite blocky and very much about designing shapes to portray action.

Just seeing how much fun the creator is having making this is a big reward. They’re having a huge blast making themselves laugh and impressing themselves with their drawing chops and it makes for fun to read.

Also, the cover needs a shout out (that’s it at the top), with its loose painterly look making a striking and attractive image.

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Review – Texas Tracts by Rachelle Meyer

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I’ve come to realise that, as much as railing against the system or raising a fist to the sky feels like you’re making a big statement, sometimes the quiet voice plainly speaking its own truth is the most convincing. 

Texas Tracts are based on a conceit. You may have heard of Chick tracts; you may even have seen them or own them. They are little polemic comics stridently arguing against various social ills as perceived by a very right-wing American version of Evangelical Christianity. They’re held in high regard for the very extreme nature of their politics and the hysterical (with both meanings being applicable) way in which they depict such things as playing Dungeons & Dragons. They’ve become almost like Tijuana Bibles in their underground cache. Look them up online and you’ll easily find examples. 

Texas Tracts takes the format of these comics and subverts them entirely. What gives them their emotional strength is the lack of satire or derision of the originals. Instead of trying to knock down Chick Tracts, Texas Tracts dances around them, weaving something beautiful, artistic, and emotionally powerful, showing us beauty instead of spite. Rachelle Meyer uses the power of real experience and calm honesty to undermine everything about those hate filled, hysteria driven tracts. 

Drawn in an open cartoon style with plenty of detail where needed, the art is completely in service to the story. It’s got a lovely quality of design and communicates emotion very clearly. It manages to portray happiness without passing into cheesiness helping to add punch to the delivery of the three stories.

These comics detail aspects of her upbringing as a Catholic in Texas. She crafts these simple anecdotes about her experience and delivers them gently and artfully. Each tract builds on the power of those experiences until you reach the end of the third and, at least I did, when you get to the end that final message of hope feels both small, but genuine, hard won and incredibly meaningful. It actually brought a lump to my throat and raised goosebumps. The light tone of the storytelling, particularly the lack of didacticism or high-handed lecturing makes the stories much more human and accessible.

What Rachelle Meyer manages to do is gently and efficiently delineate the bounds of acceptance strictly laid down in the society around her. She makes clear the stakes and consequences faced when either conforming or rebelling against the strictures placed upon her. Then she gently drops the final story in the full knowledge that the impact of what she chooses to do will be fully appreciated by her audience. It’s a very masterful and very mature approach to writing polemical fiction.

We often hear about people talking truth to power and here you can see what power simple honesty has to reach your heart and engage your mind.  

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Review – Requiescat In Pace by Livor Mortis Zine and Cameron Zavala

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This is a grim zine dealing with loneliness, abuse and self-hatred.  It’s handled with an extremely dark humour. It doesn’t make light reading, but it’s got a pure angry voice that’s laughing whilst making you sick. It’s a classic underground comic, gross out, and in your face, but busily dealing with life at the extreme margin of society.

The zine mixes comic pages from Cameron Zavala with photographs from Livor Mortis Zine. These photographs have been used as a springboard for the settings of the story and it’s fascinating to see the original and the drawn version in combination. Impressive how such a loose and quick looking style managed to still take these references and render them so recognisable. But more interesting is seeing how a few images can inspire the creation of a story. 

I’m a huge fan of Livor Mortis Zines photos and these are great, managing to capture corruption, decay and out of time artifacts of fashions left behind, with a grimy beauty. The star of this zine is Cameron Zavala’s comic story. Riffing on the images and the mood within them he takes it and runs, making a story that delves deep into cruelty, absurdity and boundary pushing extremity. It scores its points against alienation faced by those rejected from love in their lives. It digs at homophobia and the othering and criminalisation of those outcast from mainstream society.

In fair warning though, it does this with huge amounts of depraved and cruel dark humour. The kind of bitter humour that isn’t so much funny as a cry of anger. Yes, it’s out there pushing your buttons (and this could trigger abuse survivors for sure) but it wants to because it’s damn angry about the cruelty being called out.

The art and the story are ugly and in your face, are crude and bitter and scratched out and it’s horrible. But it’s got a bleak humour in its hysteria and it’s making its points against the cruelty of making people outcasts from love and hope.

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Review – Adam Yeater – (I’m not going to tell you the name, because you should find it for yourself!)

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I love Adam Yeater’s art. For some of his work, like Blood Desert it’s simple and cartoony and unpolished and deliberately so. That bluntness, that getting it done and not worrying about the anatomy is what’s appealing. It’s the lines and storytelling that matters. 

But I love it the most when he takes that style and then just fills the space up with visual noise. He does this a bit with World of Knonx, but best of all are his big mushroom or plant paintings and images. They channel psychedelic art and that lovely scratchy line of black metal art.

This zine takes that visual noise and scratchy line and drags them through Where’s Wally to make a horror monster picture search. 

I personally hate doing Where’s Wally because I get bored with looking for things, but I love just drinking in those pages and letting details surface up. This zine is so much fun to stare at and see how inventive all the character designs are or to just let the noise drown you. 

A great little zine to pick up and drink in when you feel like it. 

I asked Adam why we are looking for little toads and he explained his reasons to me, which I thought were fascinating, so I thought I’d share what he said with you.

“It is a tribute to the Sonoran Desert Toad. Its habitat is in my local desert region here in Tucson, Arizona.

It is going extinct from people abusing them for the DMT in its poison glands. 

People dry and smoke the poison. I have seen them when it rains. I have never been on a toad trip but I heard it is very intense.

I did the comic as a tribute to these magical toads.”

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Review – Cui Shirts

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Cui Shirts is an online project and zine that documents t-shirt slogans gone wrong. It’s a fun project with a big task. It’s squarely aimed at making fun of bad design, poor translation and the sometimes genuinely weird slogans on the fast fashion of Asia, but at its heart it wants to show the hollowness of that consumerism and the lie that it lets you be an individual. 

Fast fashion squarely sets its stall in sass and an ‘up yours if you don’t like’ attitude, with the occasional foray into ‘positivity meme’ territory. At its heart it’s crass, trying to sell individuals the sense that mass production can make them truly an individual. 

So, whilst there’s a little sense of harshness to laughing at awkward translations into a foreign language, there’s the balance of mocking such a hollow cash grab and the lying mask it wears. 

Cui Shirts latest zine really pushes into that thought by adding additional commentary in the form of the life costs these slogans carry with them. You can see its aim clearly, it’s about trashing consumerism and it’s fake ‘I’ll set you free to be you’ lies and not so much about  poor grammar or translation. 

I also love the shiny, textured paper that the zine is printed on, it looks and feels lovely. 

There have been previous issues, including my personal favourite that came hung on its own coat hanger. 

Cui Shirts is a touch of class in the trashy fashion slogan market. 

P.S. even the envelope is great, look at those seals!!

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Review – Purple Hate Balloon by Fraser Geesin & Laurie Rowan

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It’s hard to define Fraser Geesin’s humour, but it’s fun to give it a try. In all his work there’s a feel of the satire being spot on in an uncomfortable way. My favourite of his is The Cleaner where he’s doing humorous, gentle observational humour about his life. However, he’s excellent at handling farce, loves to throw in social satire and is often about pushing things to absurd extremes to make his point.  

Even when he does really push it, it still doesn’t have that sense of hysteria to it that absurd humour often does, for want of a better phrase it’s not zany or wacky, in fact, even with how odd it is, it doesn’t feel odd. The best way I can describe it is that it has a hyper real sense of absurdity. You know it would never happen, but it feels only one step away from being real. I think it’s the way he mixes farce with the absurdity that keeps it feeling grounded.

Purple Hate Balloon, co-written by animator and director Laurie Rowan, is working in that vein of believably absurd, too close to the bone humour that makes you laugh and bears thinking about afterwards. It adeptly makes its points, has a good plot whilst telling funny jokes.  It’s a fun read and it scores some good points.

It’s all helped with Fraser’s amazing art. A fine balance between realism and cartooning that just adds the feeling of being one step off reality. There’s a lovely rubbery realism to it that makes it good to look at and easy to understand.

This is a great little comic, like a Carry On for the angry online troll era.

I’d add in that there’s a nice one-pager from Laurie Rowan at the end. A lovely gross sight gag. Also, go and see his site as it has some very awesome animation to watch.

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Review – Not This House by Gareth A Hopkins

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Gareth Hopkins is really one of the main reasons I got back into comics reading and particularly became interested in the small press and zine culture.

His comics are not comics as you think of them, they’re not linear representations of actions and events. They are stories and his stories have become more linear and less like the broken poetry you’ll find in Intercorstal Extension. His art, though, remains mercurial and abstract, sometimes colourful and explosive, with pages broken up by panel shapes and sometimes, as with Not This House, like mists of lines and spots of black where suddenly something coalesces into almost the shape you’re reading about.

Not This House continues his moves towards prose storytelling and does so with great skill. There’s a sense of really manipulating what’s happening with the images, how they almost make scenes that illustrate the words on the page, in particular page seven evokes the sense of moving through tunnels in the dark, which feels deeply fitting for the story unfolding at that point of the comic.

There’s also the sudden tonal shift that hits home so very effectively with the change in lettering style and tone of illustrations. The shift, feeling sudden and, for me, emotionally affecting.

All in all, this work picks up threads from his earlier work, such as the use of poetic repetition of key phrases, but also adds a sense of intentionalism that is skilled and assured whilst also delivering some very powerful emotional tonal shifts within the story. That Gareth can manage this with the art, the story and the lettering is impressive in an inspiring way, that he can make this work as an emotional story, with emotional heft without any of the normal props of drama shows why I find his work so inspiring.

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go look – Robert Wells

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Rob manages to make bad puns and painful observations that make you laugh without relying on making you laugh at people’s suffering or to relieve the awkwardness. He has a great sense of character design; much like a name in Dickens tell you about the character, so the look of one of Rob’s characters, from their style to their body language communicates something about them.

He’s also very good at drawing dogs, maybe think about getting a dog commission from him…

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Review – The Blame by Jon Aye

A collection of short stories from Jon Aye.

Jon Is currently taking part in the digital Hackney Comic & Zine Fair.

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I enjoyed this. A quick read that I think I could go back and spend some more time dealing with the bigger ideas it touches upon.

I often see these kinds of comic zines or this style labelled as experimental, but I’m not sure the label fits as well as alternative would. I feel there’s too much in the history of comics, I was immediately reminded of the cartooning on Dick Tracy as soon as I looked at this. The story approach is similarly easy to follow and parse, with its brevity seeming at points both dreamlike and histrionic, by which I mean there are strips where each line is designed to be dialogue delivering drama rather than naturalistic speech so it all seems like high drama pounding out the beats.

There are a couple of nice one pagers that amused me, such as the one below.

But there were a couple of strips that I found much more interesting, that got me actually thinking. They both deal with current society in its post-Thatcherite state, one obliquely and one more directly. Specifically ‘Disaster!’ and ‘Problem Solving’.

They’re both still short snippets, respectively four pages and one page, but together there is a personal thesis about post-Thatcherite UK society that I think bears expanding upon. It’s not so much that the thoughts are necessarily in depth in those stories but the combination of the two coming at the subject manages to make it so that we get a more rounded understanding of that thesis. It’s an interesting way to experience opinions without having to commit to reading a long heavy storyline exploring the subject.

I particularly like the approach to sci-fi in ‘Disaster’, it’s a very New Wave of Science Fiction attempt to look at matters, with a good use of ‘disaster’ as metaphor. I’d personally like to see that idea expanded as I think that world has some legs, but it doesn’t need expanding for the story to work as it is.

UKPLC also touches on current affairs in a nicely timed and confidently cartooned way. I like the visual approach and the somewhat abrupt approach to timing in the strips. Not all of the ideas work for me, either they’re a bit too pat  or didn’t have that much of a new idea (‘Writing’ and ‘New Name’), but the work itself is strong and individual whilst still feeling part of a contemporary comic scene.

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Internet find – How to find your way

This is a cool zine to download and print out yourself – I love it when people do this.

It’s from Gregoire Huret

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This is a cool looking zine as well. I like street photography and I think Paris may be my favourite city. These are good portraits and a great idea to mark their positions on a map included in the zine.

go here for the downloads

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lazy sunday read – Darling Zine

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header art by Rebecca Reed

Darling Zine focuses on promoting creative womxn whether in art, music or film. On the website there’s lots of music reviews and there’s also profiles of artists involved in the zine and some comment pieces. I always appreciate a music zine, because I’m always looking for something new to listen to. the print mag

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Darling Issue Three

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go look – Owen Sherwood

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Sharkplant! Sticker

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zine library! zineopolis

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with a whole online collection of zines available to look through, this is an exciting online journey as well as being a physical resource in the University of Portsmouth

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Check out the work of Jackie Batey, one of the curators, on twitter

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go look – Brett Hobson

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lazy sunday read – Artisterium

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This seems to be a new blog started by Miguel A. S. Correia of Ultra Violenta (great zine you should check out here) with posts about various museums and galleries he has visited. There’s only a few posts up, but they are fun. Particularly nice to see so many photos. I was led here when Miguel posted in the zinelove chat group we run on facebook.

This is the article and it’s about visiting the Fanzineteca run by Ogata Tetsuo, another member of the group. That’s a beautiful looking place and is definitely somewhere I’d love to see!

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go look – Eric Orchard

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go look – Ben Humeniuk

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go look – Sarah Harris

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Occasional zinester, current editor and often wall sprayer, Sarah basically makes awesome things and if you ever get the chance to own something made by her, go for it

Buy her zine Unravelling

Unravelling by Sarah Harris (Colossive Cartographies 22)

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go look – Crash Reynolds

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Sometimes Human Issue 4 Perzine Zine

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go look – Pepsi Scrolls

Not active at the moment, but I still go back and look every so often, because it’s just great to see someone on their journey into art and how they shape their own style. It’s a style I very much enjoy seeing as well.

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SHOP! Comic Scene

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ComicScene does a good job of representing the current UK Small Press comics scene as well as more mainstream comics entertainment news – it’s like an online comic fanzine that also publishes a great set of books all about the history of UK and US comics and some fine comics of their own.

you can also find them here:

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go look – Warren Craghead

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WET PAINT, a story

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go look – George Gercke

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lazy sunday read – Pipedream Comics

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header art by Nick Prolix

Focussed on indie and small press comics available in the UK Pipedream’s site has a lot of reviews, some interviews and a nice regular round up of small press comics news. It’s their reviews that are my main interest as they do a nice job of covering small press comics/

read it here

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Here’s a review we liked, the latest small press spotlight and a review with the always interesting Lucy Sullivan as a guide to what to expect.

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SHOP! The Phooks

The Phooks is a project I’ve followed for almost two years. It’s a site focussed on the sales of small -press and self-published photobooks and zines aiming to build a community of buyers and sellers.

It’s expanded to included interviews with creators and some campaigns aiming to fund the publication of books.

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go look – slava banana

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Shop – Etsy

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Shop –

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lazy sunday read – Peter Bangs

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have a read here

I have a number of Peter Bangs mini zines and they’re great this one below is one of the ones I have.

There are a number of his comics up on his site to read as well as some of his beautiful bird drawings (see the header) and other work.

Well worth a click through.

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go look – Shaun Gardiner

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go look – Iain Laurie

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go look – Miranda Smart

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zine library! Fanzineteca / Uzinefanzine

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A list of all the zines in their collection with a little precis for each one.

There’s also a physical exhibition on at the moment at the Casa das Artes Bissaya Barreto.

This is a typical entry and an interesting sounding zine

MONDAY, MARCH 15, 2021

Brevary

A “road zine” by Bruno Pires. Beautiful typewritten texts reminiscent of the fanzines of the 80s and 90s, accompanied by excellent photographs. Brevário could also be a “perzine”, that is, a personal zine, where the author put some pieces of his experiences.

A very beautiful fanzine in an edition of just 50 copies. A pleasant surprise for a “first” fanzine. We want more …

This one also has a lovely little write up

This is the most recent and is one I’ve read and enjoyed myself, I can recommend Peter Bangs zines.

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go look – Danny Noble

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go look – Nick Abadzis

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Nick is such a big part of UK comics history and how the small press bred such an amazing amount of talent. Starting off self publishing and all the creative freedom that allowed opened up opportunities to make truly great stories and it’s a path he’s followed with great success ever since

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foto friday – Jimmy Brimmacombe

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go look – Louisa Buck

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zine library! Salford Zine Library

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go look – Zara Slattery

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I have been anticipating the release of Coma for a long time. If you’re on instagram just go and dive into Zara’s stream and see how amazing his book is going to be.

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I have a different version of this, with lots of yellows and it’s a beautiful looking comic and has a great sense of timing and humour to the writing as well.

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go look – Simon Russell

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zine library! Glasgow Zine Library

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They’re currently running Glasgow Zine Fest, 1st – 30th April

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