We love shining a spotlght on the world of small press and we’ve decided to shine that spotlight even brighter with a new small press focused column which looks specifically at the DIY publishing end of the comics spectrum. We start with 3 fantastic example in the shape of Good Comics’ The Time I Knew I Was Gay by Eleanor Crewes, John Tuckers’ Bald and Steven Ingram’s Left.
The Time I Knew I was Gay – Eleanor Crewes (Good Comics)
The secret to writing a good auto bio comic is telling a realistic and grounded story in a compelling and original manner that makes it worthy of being documented and retold. Eleanor Crewe’s The Times I Knew I Was Gay explores her adolescent coming of age and her discovery of her own sexuality via a series of key moments in her life, which she does in a charming and endearing way that is both insightful and articulate, but also entertaining and informative at the same time. Ellie’s story centres around the complexity of coming out, explaining how it is so much more than a light bulb moment and can be a much more involved series of key life moments that evolve and grow. The moments range from her first communion, to primary school, her childhood best friend and first crush, through to uni and beyond. Each are told in a sketchbook style with a pencil sketch cartoon style that juxtaposes on some pages with heavy blocks of hand written text that make them feel like diary entries. While on some she relies on huge swathes of white space which feel more like doodles or snapshots of single moments captured in a sketch book. Both help to emphasise the intimate nature of the story, but also give them an un-styled informality that showcases Ellie’s fun and quirky style. And that’s what makes this such an engaging read. It’s not preachy or overly worthy, but there is enough honesty in there that it should resonate with those in a similar position and educate those who aren’t. Her voice has that confidence which we love in other Good Comics titles like Elizabeth Querstret’s New York travelogue, as well as being very reminiscent of Tillie Walden’s work (especially Spinning) with its balance of articulate and intelligent and emotive stories. This is a very high bar to live up to, but one which Ellie gets very close to matching and so if you love that kind of smart and intelligent story telling which is also very charming and honest then this is a great book for you.
You can purchase The Times I Knew I Was Gay from the Good Comics Store.
Bald – John Tucker
We’re always a sucker for a quirky one shot, and John Tuckers latest Bald, about the worlds baldest man, is just that. Our unnamed hero is the baldest man that ever lived, thanks to a super follicle which stops his hair from growing, and was declared that at the age of 8. But when he ends up going double bald (his skull recedes to reveal his brain under the skin) he is able to commune with the moon and so becomes the unlikely figurehead of a new religious cult. Although this may sound sinister and creepy, it’s anything but. On first reading the opening pages you expect it to be a sympathetic tale about childhood baldness, but as it develops and becomes weirder and more wonderful it becomes a laugh out loud read that is very silly and a lot of fun. It has the same kind of quirky sensibility mixed with bone dry humour that we love in the work of Tom Gauld and Matthew Dooley and is a really fantastic rambling piece of work. Instead of panels, John uses full page images, which allow him to experiment with text and caption layouts to create some truly stunning pages. He has a really light and quirky style which uses only two colours (red and blue) as well as the line work having a strange fuzzy edge to it which makes it look like a digital paint brush. It’s hard to describe but definitely gives the whole book a unique feel that is more slick than your average small press zine style, but without losing the expressiveness and looseness that makes it so charming.
You can purchase Bald for £3.00 from John’s Big Cartel Store
Left – Steven Ingram
We were hooked into Steven Ingram’s Left from the minute we saw it’s ultra-stylish, but beautifully minimal cover. It gives little away about what is in store, which is a story about a young girl attempting to escape from the clutches of a modern day cult who revere logic over artistic expression – and even go so far as remove their followers’ right ear in order to encourage left side logical thought and repress artistic right brain activity. Having escaped the cult as a teen, Samantha is brought back into their world when a letter appears out of nowhere and forces her to go on the run, as well as explore her past and also develop future ways of coping with her links to the group. While this synopsis may make Left sound like a dark and heavy going read, it isn’t. This is thanks in part to Ingram’s light cartoony touch with the artwork, which feels quite Nich Angell like in places, with a bit of Alex Potts thrown in for good measure. It can be quite simplistic in places, but it is also very unfussy and allows the characters and story to play out without distraction. It is this slow building plot which is Left’s other strength. It has a very slow and deliberate pace that reminded us of books like Mann’s Best Friend or How To Survive In The North with the emphasis on character rather than action and raw emotion. Although this means there isn’t much obviously happening from page to page, it does mean that when you get to the conclusion you are very much invested in the characters and the world which Ingram has created. Samantha’s story is fleshed out with flashbacks to her childhood in the Community, cut scenes involving the Community’s leader, and also a look at some of the teachings which the community is built around. While it may lack shocking moments, it still has plenty to say about the perils of religious cultism and also the positives of creative expression over cold hard logic – it just does so in a very quiet and intelligent manner, which combines to make a very readable and interesting book that we recommend doesn’t get left behind!.
You can purchase Left in print for £12.00 from Steven’s Etsy Store. And digitally from his Gumroad store.