Scott McCloud’s Facial Hair – Reviewing Comics

Over 2008 I wrote weekly for, during a very exciting time in the UK comix scene. Since then, I’ve seen new ways of approaching things, changed opinions. This is the 3rd column, about reviewing – of course, reviewing is agency, so why not become an agent instead?

My columns are concerned with four aspects surrounding comics – social community, economic factors, festival and exhibition coverage and modes of distribution.


Less of a column, more of a surmountable object for reaching the top shelf this week. Facility is the engine by which uk small press comics, maybe logically, became the uk comics industry.

The fan of fanzine is not the be all: reading through my notes from a degree module which appears to focus on film critics. I come to film studies as an outsider – I go to cinemas but once or twice a year. In the last five years I’ve seen maybe fifty films. So, as an outsider coming to films (and gosh, some people don’t watch tv!), I see things…

(This may be in conflict with my experienced tutor’s stance on reviewing)

1. Verbose brow-wankers
2. Unbalanced to fiction
3. Lacking in punctuating.
4. Obligated to mention how they’re not going to give away what happens in the film.

That’s criticism for you !

I’ll not tell any of you how to review comics. I reckon most of the people reading this have read a small file binder on the matter – the fan thing just runs out of enthusiasm, doesn’t it ? If you know what makes a review difficult to read then I’d hope you wouldn’t inflict that on others.

I’m immensely proud of the 300 reviews of comics I wrote for Bugpowder-TRS2, largely over 1999-2001. I had a lot of fun experimenting with self-expression. Also thinking TOO MUCH, deliberating…I heard a story once about a well-known comics reviewer who went mad through the action, and went to live in a remote hilly region and never again touched the area of comics. However, I prefer the story about Ralph Kidson creating a comic book on a door or doors – sad to hear about the successful buyer trying to get it onto the bus, even with the sub-thought of it being bound together with hinges.

If you want a starter for reviewing I’d suggest looking to Pete Ashton’s original TRS reviews. A practical fifty words which touched upon key features such as genre classifying,  background info, advertising, abbreviated arguments and evaluation, social and redemptive values, motivational theory. Condensed synopsis sometimes got a look in. Pete’s reviews, in retrospect, read as if he has ascribed one or two words to each of these aspects amd joined them all together. I remember reading these at the time and them coming across simple and practical.

Reviewing small press comics in the olden days happened in small press comics. A few lines to cheer for comix that caused enjoyment rescued this medium from isolation and devoted readers to new and surprising joy.

You have to decide for yourself nowadays on whether to include the purchase details of the comics, and take advice from the author on including contact details. With the small press scene being fed into progressive places of business, its not quite as simple for a commentator to include a single address. I’m not buying comics through the post as I used to, and I suspect web-people are letting that happen less and less.

Shorter column today, rather than none at all. The Camden Lock fire yesterday has us all emotionally upset. It was a terrible fuckedly inconsistent end to a day.

So anyway,

Tofu + Cats / A Dinosaur Tale by Lizz Lunney : It’s in the title, and better for a chant.

Jason Elvis – Sex Change Diaries of a Pear Shaped Boy. Rich honest human quality with a trad zine feel. Great grasps !  & speculation, commentary – Very naughty and very very funny

Club Mephistopheles by Grave Graham – 3-D comics that hit the nose, where definition is told to relax by stream-of-conscious improv and energy.

The Wrong Girl – A welcome return to friendly minutiae of social relationships stories by a master translator, Tony McGee.

Monkeys Might Puke by Dan Lester – embarassingly funny, shallow, comedy gold, miss or hit, enthusiasm, ambition, passion and devotion.

Rocket by Bridgeen Gillespie – Works on so many levels, and it’s quite worth the shiny heavier stock paper it’s been so well printed on. Black, white and greyscale merit !

Predator Vs Columbo – Not sure this is an ‘instant classic’ as Johnston states on his website, it is very good and delivers the smiles from memory. The website is and you can read the piece up there.

Inner City Pagan by Lee Kennedy caused a bunch of teenage students to stare at me with envy.

Karrie Fransman’s ‘Abigail Tells All’ is a work of great merit, long resonance and deserves to be on the agenda of more readers.

Sheridan Cottage will continue building on the fortnight, at this very website. I’ll be popping around the comments section, though now I’m going to hear if I could learn a few tricks from Mark Kermode’s podcast. 

Pete’s reviews
Also recommend do I, 

(I’ve read Comics Village are also keen for reviewers !)

Donate to Andrew Luke’s personal grooming fund

Andrew Luke

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