If the history of comics was a 24-hour period beginning on the day George Herriman gave up baking, then the current wave of UK Alternative Comics would only appear at one minute to midnight. One of the few people that can claim to have been around at two minutes to midnight, lurking in a corner and nervously checking their watch is Richard Cowdry.
Yes, 2002 seems a very long time ago now, The Queen Mother was still quaffing Gin, Blazin’ Squad were riding high in the charts And Ireland was securing its economic prosperity by joining the Euro. Meanwhile in a bedsit in Brighton a young Richard Cowdry was putting the finishing touches to ‘Everything Sucks.’
At least I think that’s what it’s called, but it might just be the name of the first strip. This comic is so raw and unpolished that it doesn’t bother with things like front cover and launches straight into a fearless and unrelenting savaging of society and everything it stands for.
Every page is a call to arms for anyone who finds modern life crass, noisy, lurid and boorish. Among the highlights is a seven-page guide to bedsitting, in which Cowdry rails at the unbelievable selfishness he encountered daily whilst residing under such living arrangements. The strip contains delightful subheadings such as ‘How to go to the Toilet’.
Rage and frustration waft from the pages of Everything Sucks, but its very funny stuff. Another brilliant strip is ‘Kidult Culture’ about twenty and thirty-something’s obsession with childish nostalgia. A strip far more relevant today than on the day it was written. A special mention must also be made of ‘Lifer’, about a man whose attempts to kill himself are thwarted at every turn by news bulletins. In other parts of the comic there are moments of delightful playfulness as in ‘When the Finger Points’.
For those familiar with Cowdry’s work in The Bedsit Journal, The Stool Pigeon, as unofficial artist in residence on FP Blog and as the editor of The Comix Reader, much of the artwork will appear a little rough and indeed by Cowdry’s more recent standards a lot of it is quite poor. The methods of printing readily available to the small presser in 2002 certainly doesn’t do the artwork many favors either. But ‘Everything Sucks’ still stands up against the best of today’s small press efforts.
One thing that has always set Cowdry apart from other creators is his assimilation both stylistically and formally of 20’s and 30’s artists like George Herriman, E.C Segar and Max Fleischer. While many of his contemporaries only trace their lineage as far back as Chris Ware, Cowdry brings these influences into the present in a very convincing way that lends a certain authority to his commendable ludditism.
Those unfamiliar with Cowdry’s work should de-unfamiliarise themselves without further ado, for the bitter seed sewn into the barren soil of 2002 bear strange and wonderful fruit in 2013.