Small Press Spotlight: Hitsville UK #7, The Little Deaths of Watson Tower, What The Hell Just Happened?!
Our latest round-up of the best of small press sees us check out: the finale of small press cult classic Hitsville UK from John Riordan and Dan Cox; the antics of a group of skeletal teens in a housing estate in The Little Deaths of Watson Tower; and practice a bit of mindfulness with the new book from Richy K Chandler, What The Hell Just Happened?!
Hitsville UK #7
One of the most consistently original and enjoyable small press series of recent years has come to a fittingly frenetic conclusion. Hitsville UK chronicles the antics of an indie record label, it’s owner Gerry (a washed up former bassist looking for success), producer Greg Pastis (a drug addled lizard licking lunatic), accountant Stan (the demonic book keeper) and their roster of eccentric musicians (including troubled troubadour Gwillem, juvenile DJ Haunted by Robots and vampire hunters turned bandmates The Carrie Nation’s Revenge and The Dreadnoughts). Riordan and Cox have created a wonderful mix of razor sharp musical parody and surreal high-energy antics, featuring some of the most outlandish musical acts you’ve ever seen – including a Nazi electro band with a resurrected front man, and a group of demonic goths who aren’t sisters. Cox really gets a chance to go to town in this final issue, including some amazing psychedelic scenes as well as the DOOM inspired robot on a rampage. It’s this outrageous world that he and Riordan have created that has been the star of the show for Hitsville over it’s 7 issue run. Whether it is the feuding bands, all trying to be the next big thing, or Pastis trying to torment Gwillem into creating ‘magic tunes’, or Stan’s devilish plans for world domination, the disparate elements all come together in this final issue to create a very fitting and very well constructed finale – which is no mean feat considering how off the wall some of the concepts have been! With a relatively open ending, which could allow for more adventures if Riordan and Cox choose to, this is like the rabble rousing singalong at the end of a great concert. And so if the house lights have to go up, then it’s been a fitting send off for this cult classic!
The Little Deaths of Watson Tower
From the moment you see it’s striking pink and blue portrait cover, this new book from Nick Bryan and illustrator Rose Alexander definitely stands out from the crowd. The story sees a group of kids causing mischief on a housing estate, only to bite off more than they can chew when they bump into a resident with magical powers. This leads to a surreal and magical misadventure as the kids’ skeleton costumes see them turned into mini grim reapers who terrorise the estate. The plot itself rockets along (a bit too quickly if we’re honest), and is packed full of lively banter involving the kids and their phones. At first there doesn’t feel like there is much depth to this story, however towards the end there is a very sweet subplot involving heroine Kelly and her relationship with her Dad which helps give the whole thing an unexpected heart. What really makes the book stand out though it Rosie’s artwork, which is just stunning. It’s expressive and cartoonish, with a slight hint of Anime in there. But the pages are beautifully constructed and designed with a really illustrative sensibility to them (including hand drawn brush style lettering). Check out the preview pages on Nick\s store here. From the creepy halloween mask opening scenes to the later moments involving a giant skeleton terrorising the estate it feels very carefully and deliberately put together with each page feeling perfectly balanced. This is a superb debut offering from both Bryan and Alexander and we hope to return to the kids of Watson Tower again in the future!
What The Hell Just Happened?!
Part of a new trend for mindfulness and self help comics this new book from Richy K. Chandler (When Are You Going To Get A Proper Job?) is designed to be a little self help manual for dark times. Richy’s bright and colourful style certainly lends itself to this kind of inspiring book and it is very cleverly designed to use the metaphor of falling and being pulled down by an anchor to give it its flow. The pages are designed to read like one long vertical banner and it shows this at the back and looks really beautiful. Although it may lack the narrative or character depth of a book like Wired Up Wrong, or traditional comics like Richy’s other work, it’s also a very different style of book to both of those. On a first read we didn’t quite get this but on repeated reading it’s more like a short and simple mindfulness exercise, as it only takes a few minutes to digest but it’s mix of really quirky and fun artwork and positive messages helps you to refocus your mind, hopefully for the better.