Lo-Fi Brits: Gin Palace #2 and B.A.S.T.A.R.D.S #2

Posted by on December 29th, 2010 at 6:35 AM

Rob reviews the British anthologies Gin Palace #2, edited by Rob Jackson; and B.A.S.T.A.R.D.S. #2, edited by Francesca Cassavetti.

Great Britain’s small press scene is still a relatively small one, but one can see how certain groups have certain aesthetic sensibilities.  The group behind the Solipsistic Pop anthology represents one approach, one based on high-end design and production values.  Editor/cartoonists like Rob Jackson and Francesca Cassavetti favor a more immediate, ragged, lo-fi aesthetic, and that certainly plays out in how they put together their anthologies.  Jackson’s line is sloppy and simplistic, yet retains a high degree of storytelling clarity.  He’s as comfortable putting together a diary comic as he is a genre story, in part because he treats both with a high degree of absurdity.  Cassavetti’s scribbly line is expressive and fluid as she specializes in creating a sense of time and place.

Gin Palace #2 is an anthology that revolves roughly around the concept of time travel–both in terms of reminiscing or traveling forward or backward in time.  Unsurprisingly, stories by Cassavetti and Jackson are two of the highlights.  The former did a lovely story about going to a bar with her father when she was a child, an experience that was clearly a treasured memory (if a slightly scandalous one).  Jackson’s ridiculous story is about a space explorer leaving behind a life of growing peas who eventually winds up on a planet of intelligent, evolved peas.  The ending is telegraphed but is so silly that it doesn’t matter.  Most of the entries in this anthology are at least solidly entertaining (other than Lee Johnson’s incoherent and vaguely preachy “Sin Cat” comics), with the Sean MacRoibin/John Robbins collaboration “Dog-Eared” replacing wistful regrets with vain hubris–and punishing the latter appropriately.  It was interesting to see long-time Nuwave artist Brad W. Foster in here with a typically well-drawn strip riffing on death/rebirth and lost/found.

The B.A.S.T.A.R.D.S. anthology started as a group of UK cartoonists needing to slap together a book in order to get a table at the Angouleme comics festival.  This is a case of acronym coming before its actual meaning (British Artists Standing Tall And Reaching Distant Shores), and the collection is very much one that feels thrown together.  Cassavetti does her best to bring some sense of order to the proceedings, but there’s a tremendous amount of dead weight to be found here, along with some excellent entries.  Every Paul Rainey story is an example of this dead weight: corny, genre-based humor that is painfully repetitive.  Sally-Anne Hickman’s twenty pages of diary comics amble on aimlessly as she circles around the listlessness of her life; the specificity of her anecdotes isn’t interesting enough to sustain reader interest, weighing down the emotions she’s attempting to convey.

The Jackson diary entry, “Tales of Pusan”, details his time spent as a (mostly unsuccessful) English teacher in South Korea.  His self-deprecating anecdotes are hilarious, both in terms of how he views the country and how its natives view him.  Schmurgen Jonerhaffs’ crazy stories about trying to find a job and war are simply rendered and totally over-the-top, as this luchadore-masked simpleton bumbling his way through every situation.  Cassavetti’s entries (“Watford Three” and “Re-Members”) focus on musical mythology from Britain’s punk era, with the latter crossing into funk as well.  David Baillie’s suite of strips are a particular highlight in this book, with “Davey” and “Grandad” being memory-related strips that used 4 circular panels with illustrations and comments in the margins.  Honestly, B.A.S.T.A.R.D.S. 2 was more of an APA than a true anthology, which undoubtedly put Cassavetti in a tough position.  Cut by about a hundred pages, it would have been a fine collection that went from strength to strength.  Stretched out to 200 pages, it was more clubhouse yearbook than one editor’s aesthetic statement.

Be Sociable, Share!

Tags: , , ,

One Response to “Lo-Fi Brits: Gin Palace #2 and B.A.S.T.A.R.D.S #2”

  1. […] now a review at The Comics Journal. Most of the entries in this anthology are at least solidly entertaining (other than Lee […]