When Marvel UK shrunk its original strip output in the mid-1990s, not being a 2000AD reader, comic creator and reader Andy Luke had nowhere to go. He came to find that the small press, often photocopied works, were a core part of British comics…
Small press makes up the bulk of British comics output. In assembling this list, I’ve gravitated to comics costing between 50p and £5, often reproduced using a photocopier. By no means a hierarchical or definite list – in fact they’re generally from the last twenty years – there are treasures aplenty from today’s pros, underground stalwarts and dabblers, even one-hit wonders. Some are a hard find and others are readily available, so we’ll start with one of those.
21. Twelve Hour Shift – Sean Azzopardi
Real-life working man’s comics. Sean has since co-created Necessary Monsters with Daniel Merlin Goodbrey, published by First Comics. More recently his “Smile & Say Hello” poster campaign in Crouch End has gone a little viral.
22. Talamander – Tim Brown
A fantasy comic with cover-to-cvoer powerful landscape art reminiscent of the best of Gerhard on Cerebus. Tim also drew minimalist comics Brin, Part-Time Lights and Nightclub Nick, and several collaborations with Ralph Kidson. Currently off-radar.
23. Topaz – edited by Jason Lynne
A rich comics anthology with a penchant for art, style and global collaboration. Topaz always brought something special through the mailbox.
24. Angel Nebula by Tony McGee
Following five part thriller Dark Weather, Angela Nebula is a SF horror exploring identity, playing on McGree’s strength creating characters. It’s available on Lulu along with his other SF horror series, Frontiers.
26. The O Men – Martin Eden
Described by its creator as EastEnders meets The Invisibles, this long-running superhero series is now on Comixology in entirety, published digitally by Titan Comics.
28. Fuzzball – Gary Parkin
At 16 years old, Gary was regularly putting out heart-warming children’s comic, Fuzzball, and his adventure comic, Hero, regularly, to an audience of 300. Nowadays he draws art commissions and is working on his new graphic novel. A good guy.
29. 2000AD Stripzines
All right, this is a cheating three entries in one. In my time I’ve seen Class of ’79 edited by the late, great WR Logan, and Zarjaz and Dogbreath edited by Amanda Kear, Andrew Lewis and Colin Dinnie.
The comics have featured the work of Barry Renshaw, David Morris, Darren Chandler, Rik Hoskin, Tim Brown Patrick Brown, Jay Eales, PJ Holden, Chris Askham, Adrian Bamforth and more.
30. Freakshow – Rob Curley, Stephen Mooney, Stephen Thomson, Declan Shalvey and Bob Byrne
This Americana-focused supernatural detective comic published the first works by a host of big names, and Rob continues this trend with his Atomic Diner imprint publishing the likes of Will Sliney, Stephen Downey, Maura McHugh and thankfully, ole Malachy Coney.
31. The Bruising Pit: HMS Elephant Cemetery – John Cake
Surreal and funny, with the punk aesthetic of early Vic Reeves. It’s a domestic sitcom featuring a Geordie, a washing machine and a skull in a suit. Two of the strips are online here.
32. The Sound of Drowning – Paul O’Connell
Brilliant and sublime. Paul’s 228-page graphic collection is available now.
To see currently available print versions of Sound of Drowning books as well as dozens of archived online comic strips visit www.soundofdrowning.com
33. Sleaze Castle – Terry Wiley and Dave McKinnon
Down the quantum rabbit hole, this popular domestic SF favourite was followed by the prose-based Surreal School Stories, and Adrian Kermode and Wiley collaborated on its sequel, Petra Ecetera.
More recently, Wiley has created Verity Fair, which has been collected in print and eBook.
34. Favourite Crayon Stories – Arthur Goodman
Think the ethos of Friends or Big Bang Theory, without any of their effluence. Arthur, and his brother David, are still drawing wonderfully warm and fun comics.
35. Inner City Pagan – Lee Kennedy
One of the UK SP stars, Lee’s autobio comics are always fascinating. She creates new work daily at crazycrone.livejournal.com and a big collection is on the way from Factor Fiction Press.
36. The Girly Comic – Various
Edited by Selina Lock, much of this anthology series has been collected in two whopping great tomes, featuring a large number of British cartoonists. Like the Bulldog book, this presents a great overview.
37. Hellspoon! – Debra Boyask, Jay Eales and Various
Ever wonder what cartoonists do on their weekends away from comics? Well, it’s all fighting the interdimensional portals of the apocalypse of course. The Midwinter Comics Retreat jams are archived on the Factor Fiction website and are free to enjoy.
38. Stonebroke – Tom Lennon
There were three issues of this witty, gripping adventure anthology.
Nowadays Tom writes for Time Out and his own very readable blog, http://tomlennon.com/
39. Toenail Clippings – Big If Publications
From a gang of Irish creatives: Brendan Byrne, Steven Weekes, Des McElroy, Gavin Beattie, Gabriel Reyes and Paul Jennings. They published early work by Bob Byrne, the comic was stocked by Virgin Megastores and gained European acclaim during its short run.
40. Psychosense – Mark Bickley and Mitzy
When I attended my first comics fest, these guys were practically mobbed with fans! This fun-hearted superhero comic ran on pure flow.
There was also a wonderful Psychosense/Fuzzball cross-over with Gary Parkin (see above).
Andy Luke is a writer who draws. He has made comics, notably: Bottomley: Brand of Britain (with Ruairi Coleman) for the double Eisner-nominated To End All Wars anthology; Absence: a comic about epilepsy, (with Stephen Downey), winner of an UnLtd Millennium Award; and the critically acclaimed Gran: a 24 hour comic.
He’s also written widely on the form as well as co-producing NVTV’s The Invisible Artist documentary (with Carl Boyle), on Belfast’s underground comix scene. Andy has also contributed short prose tales to the anthologies 12 and Tense Situations.