A re-blog from the archives of my regular column for Alltern8; Comicking.
Artists across the Atlantic picked up their instruments to accompany Hip-Hop poet Scroobius Pip and lay new dimensions to his range of pieces. The illustrations largely draw from the language of comic strip, although only CJ McCracken’s work employs speech bubbles, and they’re quite suited. In his introduction, Scroobius recalls being shown a comic book on philosophy and finds the subject matter accessible because of the form it was presented in. As fair a testament as any to the excellent alchemy at work within this book. Each of the artists bring very different styles to very different works.
The scribbly scrawly of beserk and abandon of Cowfree relating Scroobius’ head time in ‘Rat Race’.
Ben Williams, On Thou Shalt Not Kill, delivers meticulous AND free-form zine culture sigil art.
Damian Claughton’s Phonogram-esque designs, impressing style and warmth and class, at home with this piece of book: professional and managing simplicity.
Joe Cunningham’s contribution to “When I Grow Up” which approaches like your favourite dog: full of love, bringing belonging and an ounce of silliness. Cunningham is part-Herge.
Anthony Gregori and Michael Spicer on “1,000 Words”, underwater mysticism, with a fairytale quality which would have been at home in the DFC.
CJ McCracken’s shaped orange and greys, sliding and angular, going for that slacker webcomic feel.
Mister Paterson’s living tattoo man, frozen with animated arms, alike a comix real treatment of a DC character in “Shamed”, the empathic and undoubtedly stark relation to homelessness.
Often from darkest places, Scroobius is and Co. are on missions to retrieve and return with insight and inspiration. This is most evident in “The Magician’s Assistant”, a love poem and hell rage on the subject of self-harm. It’s deeply compassionate in realism to the point. The most effective work I’ve seen on the matter. It’s an engaging survival call which illustrator translates perfectly the integrity of in sketchbook and scrapbook collage. Both artists come across as nothing less than genuinely important and brilliant.
From dark places also come delightfully frivolous works, which impart experiential wisdom. Matt Frodsham and Pip team up on a wonderful blend of these matters in “Waiting for the beat to kick in”. Poetry in the form of structured short story, Scroobius relates meetings with characters from some of his favourite old films. Elwood P Dowd (Harvey), Lloyd Dobler (Say Anything), Billy Brown (Buffalo ’66) and Walter Neff (Double Indemnity) are each encountered by the narrator on his journey through the city. Frodsham illustrates their attempts to offer advice in exemplary cine noir style. Like Pip, his senses have paid close attention to the screen and the record re-envoked here is a joy to see.
The theme of advice runs through the book, subject to scrutiny and so rarely annoys as preachy. Scroobius etc seduce, and employ the fine coffee table edition quality print to good effect. Titan Books have generously made this 104-page
hardback accessible by putting it out for a tenner ($17.95 US/$21.50 CAN). The book’s (possibly uncredited) designers provide the collection a strong visual feel which give it an extra showiness.
The piece is lined with a great set of sleeve notes from Scroobius Pip to you, the reader. Decorated with a fine assortment of gig posters there to show off how pretty they are. And they are. On the whole, a well-rounded package and one I’ll return to. Built to last. Thanks guys.