‘Skrawl Comix Magazine’ Volume 1.
Created by Various (see below).
Edited by Russell Mark Olson.
Designed by The Skrawllordz.
Front Cover by Martin Simpson.
You can buy a digital copy for £5 and a physical copy for £12 at the Skrawllordz BigCartel Store here.
‘All for one and one for SKRAWL!’
Well, this was a pleasant surprise. The print copy of ‘Skrawl Comix Magazine Volume 1’ arrived through my letterbox this week. I’d been avoiding reading the digital copy as I wanted the full saucy experience. This did not let me down! I’m going to review a few of the choice moments in this chunky perfect-bound new delivery in a moment. But in case you’ve forgotten who is involved and what all this is about here’s the handy summary from the Kickstarter page with all the required links.
‘Continuing in the grand British tradition of Escape, Pssst!, and Revolver, SKRAWL is a comic anthology magazine featuring cartoonists, artists, and writers primarily from the UK’s independent comic scene. The core group is composed of the SKRAWLLORDZ (🐩Mark Hughes, Russell Mark Olson, Nick Prolix, Martin Simpson, Pete Taylor, and Gustaffo Vargas🐩) and will feature guest spots by their chums. Issue #1 will feature UK indie royalty Phil Elliott, Bun’s Rosie Packwood, cartoonist Jessica Lucas, Cats the Butthole Cut‘s Matt Simmons, and the Cartoon Museum‘s artist in residence Mark Stafford. John Reppion and Lucy Sullivan will also be making an appearance, providing the mag with an illustrated short story. Simone D’Armini, will also be gracing the pages with a two page comic written by the SKRAWLLORDZ.’
The Cover – The cover is by Martin Simpson and cheekily gives a little side-eye to the purchaser. With a pencil and a brush tucked behind the ear of the central artist figure it presents a solid iconic image that at once has character but is also a nice image showing brand consistency. Surrounding this large head in browns and oranges are some blue comics panels that highlight the ‘X’ in Comix. Something that would be immediately noticeable on a shelf when we eventually get back in to those long-missed comics shops that inhabit my sleeping and waking dream(z).
The Package – I originally almost balked at the seemingly high price of £12 for an issue but seeing this in the flesh it is pretty impressive. Served up in a perfect bound magazine format it has high quality production values throughout. For those who haven’t seen one up close yet it has the size of something like the old SFX magazine in size but has much more girth and heft to it (OK I’ll stop that!) It’s interior pages are on a gloss paper and although are mostly comics also have the odd text piece or hybrid comics/illustrated story format.
The Stories – I’m having trouble finding a duff strip in this but thought that I would pick out a couple of my favourites without spoilers.
Undeniably one of the most beautiful stories in this collection is ‘The Oak Tree‘ by Gustaffo Vargas. The lush deep colours of this ten page story deal with the natural world brutally clashing with the modern technological world. Only Mr. Vargas could turn a simple dog-walking afternoon into something quite so frightening. I’ll never look at a frog the same way. His use of colours in this story feels like a real stepped up game for him, they have a brushy and more instinctual feel to what I have seen from him previously. His animals take centre stage with the human world a indistinct background visual. His work in this magazine format allows for more exploration in a larger framed page. There are a couple of pages that seem to cram the panels into a smaller space (the cliff page for example) but this is really quite something! When I took this out of the envelope this was the page that fell open and Fuck a Nun that’s a hell of a first impression to make.
Catfood Comics presents ‘Slab Sharif‘. This is a character created by Pete Taylor and this story is written and drawn by Mark Hughes.
‘On the cusp of his greatest victory, prizer fighter Ismael ‘Slab’ Sharif has been teleported across the Universe by the Galactic Boxing Federation and chosen to be Earth’s champion.
This reads like a story from Deadline Magazine with all the hallmarks and punk stylings of someone like a Jamie Hewlett or a Philip Bond or maybe even the anarchic vibe of an Evan Dorkin. It’s basically a bar fight but on an alien world. If anything it feels a little short and I would have liked to see something a little more long-form.
You can really see where the love and effort went into producing this anthology. Other worthy mentions go to Russell Mark Olson’s sixties vibing assassin/spy short called ‘Goldhorn‘. This has a Parker/Bond coolness about it that I’d also like to see as a longer format GN at some point. Olson knows how to press those Dean Martin buttons!
How would I hold my head up in public if I didn’t mention my old mucker Nick Prolix. He remains a class act. His art manages to walk a cool line between the more cartoony elements of European BD and the comedy strips from UK weekly humour comics. In his story he lays down some political facts. in ‘Remember The Dead, Fight For The Living‘ we see a page showing the portraits he did memorializing those NHS who have died from COVID. My old eyes are finding it hard to read the copy on this page so something larger might have been better but it’s a poignant and thoughtful moment to include and I doff my cap to him.
Conclusions – There has been a bit of a wait since the KS closed but it was absolutely worth the wait and you can really spot the blood, sweat and tears. You sense a genuine comradery with the core Skrawllords and they even feature a saucy fumetti that has some flatulent allegations flying about! They’ve also pulled in some excellent extra art jobs from Mark Stafford and Lucy Sullivan that add a little bit extra sparkle.
The stories aren’t gathered thematically and I think that this was the right decision. Whilst the core group can be seen to have a similar artistic attitude in studying the craft and an enthusiasm to get going they are all inevitably different fish stylistically. So what you get is a group of writer/artists doing what they enjoy and making stories that aren’t hemmed into a larger narrative. Everyone here knows what they are doing and they get on with it.
As anthologies go there were a couple that weren’t my cuppa but that’s inevitable in a large collection of this type. The format, design and printing are top notch and a few people out there should take note at this new Gold Standard. I notice that the spine describes it as ‘Volume 1’ so come on then and let’s see that second volume in the near future.
Many thanks for reading.