This fantastic anthology features a who’s-who of some of our favourite small press creators, and was so good it managed to gatecrash our top 10 of the year at the last minute. However with a print copy now nestling in our hands, we take a full look at what makes SKRAWL Comix Magazine the epitome of a small press anthology.
Publisher: SKRAWL Lordz
Price: £5 Digital or £12 in Print from the SKRAWL Lords Online Store
We often find ourselves writing on this site about what makes a great anthology, and you can’t go a lot better than looking at the pages of SKRAWL – The Comix Magazine. This anthology is compiled by the self proclaimed ‘SKRAWL Lordz’, a rag tag band of indie creators who include Gustaffo Vargas (MANU), Russell Olson (Gateway City), Nick Prolix (Slang Pictorial), Rosie Packwood (The Incredible Bun) and Pete Taylor (The Seven Sagas of Silverbeard) – to name but a few.
Just this combination of talent would be enough to make an awesome book, however these lot have pushed things beyond a simple collection of Coll strips and in the process have created this wonderful mix of comic and magazine which is not only a showcase for their own unique talents but is done so in a really awesome package that brings everything together to perfection.
From the minute you hope it in your hand and take in the glorious large format printing and stunning cover fro Martin Simpson (The Needle Man) then you know you are in for something special. Then as you start to read it you are treated to gloriously designed pages which feel like the perfect continuation of classic indie comic mags like Deadline and Tripwire or more recent offerings like IDW’s Full Bleed.
The strips are an interesting bunch and see familiar creators trying out new styles and different stories from their usual work and so this is a fantastic showcase for their diversity of work. For example Russell Olson starts things off with a 50s style spy story set in the alps. While it echoes the pulp style of Gateway City, the use of coloured marker gives it a really unique and vintage feel that is very familiar, but also very new. The same is true with Gustaffo Vargas’s The Oak Tree, which starts off as a beautiful autumnal pastoral tale, but soon evolves into Gustaffo’s unique tech merging world and is a another delight.
Other stand outs in this first issue include Mark Stafford’s Clash of the Behemoths (and surreal kanji story from the artist behind Lip Hook), Phil Elliot’s Me And The Jukebox, Nick Prolix’s look at his own experiences with racism and Black Lives Matters (all told his own wonderful news strip style that we love in Slang Pictorial) and Martin Simpson’s out of this world The Void (which is a gloriously piece of science fiction told in his own unique style)
But to single these out is to do a disservice to the other wonderful strips in this issue. Mark Hughes and Pete Taylor bring us new tales from the Catfood Comics archive (also home to the Seven Sagas of Silverbeard), while artist Simone D’Armini brings to life an Olson and Vargas original that is just breath taking and Packwood’s anime inspired gameshow is a monochrome antidote to every else on offer. There’s even an exclusive short story collaboration between Lucy Sullivan (Barking) and John Reppion (Conspiracy of Ravens) – any one of these would be the jewel in the crown of another anthology and that just shows the range and diversity on offer here – and why it will be hard to top this amazing debut in subsequent issues.
There even an interview with I Am Zoot’s Roger Langridge and goofy editorial articles that round this off to make into something which has genuine depth that will make you want to return to it and read it cover to cover.
In short, SKRAWL encapsulates everything we love about small press comics. It is packed with full of originality, creativity and a genuine sense of fun from all involved. It has everything you could for from a small press anthology and at a time when we don’t get to go to comic conventions any more, this is an amazing showcase of the camaraderie and community spirit that is at the heart of the UK comics scene.