Rather like political power, high life expectancy and nice weather, most of the opportunities for comic artists in this country are concentrated in the south-east of England. This is a real shame, because as I discovered on my recent jaunt to Edinburgh, where the Stripped strand of the Edinburgh Book Festival held an excellent mini comic fair, Scotland is full of comics talent deserving of more attention, not to mention it’s own regular large comic con.
Armed with some weird banknotes that I new I wouldn’t be able to spend in London, I acquired the following items.
I know from experience that publishing small press anthologies can be hard work, every imaginable thing gets in the way and before you know what’s what several years have past and some of the contributors have died of old age.
Not so with the juggernaut that is ‘Team Girl Comics’, now on it’s 8th Issue. To have lasted to number 8 is an achievement in itself and testament to the ‘Team’ in ‘Team Girl’. I can only think of a couple of small press anthologies that have done the same.
TGC8 is full of strips by artists who have figured out that by focusing on something small you can say something very large. ‘Lilias Day’ by M J Wallace, ‘I Killed my Hamster’ and ‘The Last Laugh’ both by Gill Hatcher and ‘My Public Apology” by Nondo all focus on quite small childhood events made monumental by the distorting prism of childhood, wryly reflected on by the adult artist.
All are excellent as is ‘The Model Family’ by Kat Sicard, which while being based on a dreadful pun, achieves enough intimacy through the artwork to end up being oddly moving.
It’s thoroughly recommended reading for anyone who likes Teams, or Girls, or Comics, and if all this wasn’t enough there’s also a Team Girl Webcomic to check out.
‘Fear’ by Tom Kindley is a strange, dark and quite beautiful risographed comic-zine about some kind of soldier who, in the midst of battle, has to confront the spectre of his own fear. It’s formally innovative, breaking up the pages with odd Escher-esque architecture and skewed perspective. The result is unnerving to say the least. The one colour riso really adds to the brittle nightmarish quality, my only real criticism is that he hasn’t put his name on it.
Carolyn Alexander’s ‘Haughty Bitches’ will console any man who, emboldened by drink has attempted to approach a pretty girl at a party only to be savagely rebuked with an icy one-liner. Page after page of impeccably impassive trend girls deliver ghastly put-downs, all of which I have at one time or another been on the receiving end of. It’s a great idea for a lovely little book, with a delightful sting in the tail. Buy it for your favourite singleton on Valentines Day.
Prize for the most creatively restless work has to go to ‘See Far Enough’ by Coll Hamilton. This little comic is full of experimentation, each strip utilises a different medium and colour palette, whilst maintaining the constant of Hamilton’s strange and unique drawing style.
His line work is so erratic and wayward, breaking characters and scenes into a fragmented collection of forms. It really works in pieces like this beautiful pastel strip, and in the final strip ‘The Day Before The War Began’ and although there are one or two places in the comic where it threatens to get in the way of the story slightly, everything is carried off by Hamilton’s darkly humorous storytelling and an excellent ear for dialogue. Coll Hamilton is definitely a name to look out for in future I think.
My absolute favourite however has to be Amber and Chelsea, in which we see combined the powers of Coll Hamilton and Carolyn Alexander. Hamilton’s artwork is great in this but Alexander’s is absolutely exquisite. Each artist takes on the character of either Amber or Chelsea, and tells the story from their perspective. In this first part, which presents us with the most tantalising set up I’ve seen in a comic for a while, we establish that they are looking for each other, and that neither of them is very well balanced.
This comic is available online, so I suggest that rather than reading my pontificating on the subject you get over there and read it…. Well go on then.