Matt C: The Bristol Comic Expo isn’t all about buying back issues or listening to various creators who work for one of the big US publishers pimp their latest projects. It also encompasses the Small Press Expo which, following the downsizing of the event last year, now takes place concurrently round the corner from the Ramada at the Mecure Hotel. It’s certainly worth the short journey, and I’m really glad I made the trip this year. Previously I’ve spent too much time hovering up back issue bargains to pay much attention to the indie publishers flogging their wares. It’s been a mistake on my part, because having now sampled a few offerings on sale I can say without a doubt I’ll be returning for more in 2011.
West: Distance #1 (Andrew Cheverton & Tim Keable, Angry Candy, £2.50) is set amidst the American Civil War and focuses on a soldier haunted by his past. A sombre, reflective script and some evocative use of silhouettes for the battle scenes ensure this take on conflict (both internal and external) has real grit. 8/10. Travelling back further through time, The Cattle Raid Of Cooley #1 (Patrick Brown, paddybrown.co.uk, £2.00) deposits us in Ireland during the Stone Age for a comic book translation of an old Irish legend. It’s enlightening, the contemporization of the language doesn’t jar, and the scratchy linework conveys the emotional content of the story well. 7/10.
Day One #1 (Clare Lowe & Nuala G. Murphy, dayonecomix.blogspot.com, £1.00) is a rather creepy and disturbing look at one woman’s struggle to come to terms with her new life following a severe physical trauma. Out of all the books I picked up, this was obviously the one that lacked any significant financial input (access to a photocopier was as far as the budget stretched it seems) but there’s a definite passion for the potency of the medium that shines through. 7/10.
Brown Bottle Bear #1 (Kristian Griffiths, Fallen Angel Media, £1.00) is a bit of an oddity. It seems like we only get fragments of the overall story featuring this beer-swilling teddy bear. There are many elements that show potential, but it’s too early to get a real handle on where it might be headed. 6/10.
Last Bus #2 (Patrick Lynch, Cardboard Press, £2.50) is collection of slice-of-life pieces of varying length that aim, with some measure of success, to put their finger on some emotional truths regarding the human condition. Even the witty one-pager, 'Paddy And The Giant Robot', manages to make an astute comment on the modern world. 7/10. Also from Cardboard Press, The Elephant & The Top Hat (Katie Blackwood, Cardboard Press, £2.00) is a quirky, two-page tale in an appealing foldout format that highlights, in an amusing manner, the consequences of selfishness. 7/10.
Lots of great stuff so far, but I’ve left the best discovery until last. I’m not sure who Lando is (I’m betting he’s got nothing to do with Cloud City!) but based on the two books of his I picked up at Bristol I am sure he’s something of a unique talent. Untranslated #1 (Lando, Decadence Comics, £1.50) is a freaky sci-fi short that seems to encompass the entire lifespan of an alien being during its brief existence: from birth, to knowledge, to coupling, and finally onto death. It’s dialogue-free so Lando’s simple but extraordinary imagery does all the talking. 8/10. There are no words in Last Drink (Lando, Decadence Comics £2.50) either, just more striking visuals. Set in a post-apocalyptic wasteland, our lone protagonist must journey through intense heat to find the last drop of liquid he stashed away some time beforehand. 9/10. Lando’s art in both these books depicts worlds of desolation and isolation and his panel composition - especially those images of lonely figures wandering across the barren landscapes - really brings those feelings across. I think I’ll be seeking out more of his work in the not too distant future.
As I mentioned earlier, the Small Press Expo is back again next year. If you make it up to the Bristol Expo in 2011 be sure to head over there – there’s some fantastic stuff being published, and it really shows the depth of untapped creative talent there is in this country.