We were saddened to learn of the passing of a singular comics creative, Chris Reynolds, earlier this month, but delighted to hear his work is to be honoured, possibly in print but most certainly in film, in the near future.
Chris is, perhaps, best known as the creator of Mauretania Comics, and was once described by Canadian comic creator Seth as “the most underrated cartoonist of the last 20 years.”
He died earlier this month aged just 62, He had, we understand, been ill for some time.
Comics archivist and advocate Paul Gravett first broke the news of his death earlier this month, Chris’ partner, Laura announcing he had passed away peacefully. “He wanted me to thank you both for your friendship and encouragement,” he told Paul, and designer Peter Stanbury.
Best known for his creation Mauretania Comics, while I didn’t know Chris that well, I’ve followed his work since the days of the Westminster Comic Marts in the 1980s, enjoying his unique take on the comic form.
He was, it seemed to me, always pushing the envelope in terms of storytelling, even exploring the possibilities of digital comics with some experimental reformatting of another creation, “Moon Queen”, while I was working for ROK Comics.
A singular talent, my sympathies and thoughts are with Laura, family and friends.
Above: Always at the cutting edge of pushing the comics form, Chris Reynolds happily experimented with bringing his comics to mobile phones as early as 2007, through ROK Comics
Chris Reynolds was born in Wales in 1960 and studied fine art at the North Staffordshire Polytechnic. He worked as a filmmaker, publicist and art teacher, but turned to drawing and self publishing comics, creating and producing his Mauretania Comics from the mid-1980s, often sold through the Fast Fiction stand at the Westminster Comic Marts, started by Paul Gravett and Peter Stanbury, later run by comic creators such as Phil Elliott and Ed Pinsent.
Fast Fiction was a focal point for independent comic creators at these Marts, enabling the distribution of small-run titles curated by Paul and others, and also sold through the Fast Fiction mail order service. It was leg up into comics publishing that many benefitted from, including me, and often proved a melting pot for new ideas and discussion, at the events, and in the nearby Westminster Arms pub.
Later in Chris’s career, his work became more widely recognised, and he was a guest at numerous comics events, both in the UK and internationally, including Canada’s Toronto Comic Art Festival, and a full-length graphic novel was published by Penguin Books in 1990. An anthology of his works, The New World, was also published, to critical acclaim, in 2018.
“We have lost much too young a poet and visionary of the comics form,” says Paul Gravett.
“I’m so glad he lived to see his work more widely appreciated, edited and designed by Seth into the beautiful collection from New York Review Comics – which has gone into multiple editions in other languages.”
“One of my all-time favourite cartoonists – [an] absolutely unique voice,” noted Dylan Horrocks, one of many creators who paid tribute on social media when Chris’ death was first announced. “… We were blessed to have him in our strange little corner of the world.”
“I love Chris’s work and he was a true original,” said author and publisher Paul Duncan. “My condolences to his loved ones.”
“A true original,” said artist Paul Ashley Brown. “Monitor’s Human Reward is one of my all time favourite comic strips by anyone. I really hope people find his quiet, all-too-modest genius for themselves. Incredibly sad.”
“I am so sad to hear this,” says John Bagnall. “Chris was a unique talent in the comics form. I still read his books regularly and will continue to do so. It was a privilege to have known him. I particularly remember Chris coming to Newcastle for the Mauretania exhibition and also viewing the film he made which was shown at the ICA.”
“I can’t say I knew Chris that well, but he was unique in the small world of small press and it was great to set him get the recognition he deserved,” cartoonist Bob Lynch, creator of Sav Sadness and a contemporary of Chris and other Fast Fictioners, told downthetubes. “People like Chris and Ed Pinsent are in a way the soul of small press, as their work falls outside the mainstream, while providing a high level of artistic quality.”
“Chris was a master of mood, in which landscape and buildings overshadowed the characters,” notes former Escape magazine artist Philip Laskey.
“He was such a great talent, and a lovely man,” noted comic creator Al Davison. “I have fond memories of hanging out with him in the early days of Mauretania comics.”
“Chris has long been a distinctive and unique voice in comics,” mused comic creator Paul Grist. “I’ll miss him.
“Along with Eddie Campbell’s Alec, Glen Dakin’s Abe, Chris Reynolds’ Mauretania comics was one of the earliest Indie comic books that I read when I was about 15 years old in Edinburgh,” comic writer Sean Michael Wilson told downthetubes. “I was very impressed by the air of poetic mystery to the stories. It was one of those early experiences that inspired me about the potential range and literary quality of comics.
“It was also interesting too later discover that Chris himself didn’t really consciously plan his work to be the way it was. It came up instinctively.
“It’s cliche to say that someone deserves to be better known and appreciated, but those early comics of his very much do deserve that.”
“As you can imagine, I’m devastated at the news of Chris Reynolds’ passing, even though I knew it was coming,” says comic creator and publisher Douglas Noble. “For me, working with Chris on the half dozen issues of A Pocket Chiller that he created over the last couple of years, both as editor and designer, has been one of the most rewarding and joyous things that I have done in comics.
“I first encountered Chris’s work in the Mauretania book that Penguin put out,” he recalls, “which must have been in my local library’s tiny comic shelf, nestled alongside Rian Hughes-designed Love and Rockets and black and white Titan editions of Hellblazer. There was something in its elusive, fraught landscapes and constantly searching characters that immediately connected with me.
“When, during lockdown, I reached out to Chris to see if he’d be interested in contributing to A Pocket Chiller, a series of digital horror comics that I edit, he replied almost immediately. Though his comics aren’t overtly frightening, there is a beautiful sense of unease that runs through them all – a sense of things that may not be quite right.
“As an editor, it was always a joy to get a new comic from Chris,” Douglas adds. “They would arrive complete, unheralded, a wonderful surprise in my inbox. I did a little design around the credit pages, and I’m pleased to think that he was pleased with these – in particular the railway themed issue The Creeping Shadow.
“I think that Chris had a real affection for horror comics – I think he would have liked A Pocket Chiller even more if it had had a horror host to open proceedings, and he’d suggested such. Someone to invite you in to experience something new and strange, as his comics always did.
“I knew his death was coming, Chris had told me himself last year,” Douglas ends, “but that doesn’t make it any less awful. Comics have lost a quiet titan, and I invite you to remember him by his work. If you haven’t read it, get hold of the NYRB edition of Mauretania. It’s instantly accessible, direct, yet seems to operate in a space carved of from dreams. And, like the best dreams, it stays with you – it fills the spaces around you. It endures.
Tributes Planned, perhaps in Print but also on Film
Endure Chris’s work does, with tributes planned, including the possibility of further work, as yet unpublished, seeing the light of day.
“I still have a pile of artwork, sketches, notes, scripts, letters and printed matter from my collaborations with Chris,” says Philip Laskey, “in particular The Dolphin, plus an unpublished sequel.” This news prompted Paul Gravett to ask if a new edition with both parts could come out as a tribute, a suggestion Philip felt might be a possible.
What is definitely in the works is documentary about Chris and his work, from Jon Tapsell, who told downthetubes he was upset to hear of his passing, but honoured to have known him.
“I met Chris through a mutual friend, John Parke, in 2019 just prior to the pandemic,” Jon told us. “I conducted an interview for a podcast and we discussed hauntology, his work going back to the 1980s and other inspirations.
“It led to me filming him only two years later in a more indepth look at his work. It was interesting to have him in a psychogeographical setting, that is, his home town, and talking about process behind his art and characters.
“The documentary has been entered for a large comic event in Cyprus, so I am hoping people who might be interested in comics can know more about the man behind the pen, as it were. Let us hope it raises his profile among a new generation of readers.
“He was a true gentleman, a fine artist and great man to have known. Chris Reynolds portrayed all the good in the human spirit, even in adversity, his artistic legacy is only just beginning.”
Chris Reynolds (16th July 1960 – 4th May 2023)
• Chris Reynolds Official Site: Cinema Detectives
• Chris made many of his works, new and old available digitally and Print on Demand through AmazonUK
Obituaries and Tributes
• Broken Frontier: The UK Indie Comics Scene Loses the Great Chris Reynolds, Creator of ‘Mauretania Comics’
• The Comics Journal: Chis Reynolds 1960 – 2023 by Dean Simons
• Memories of Chris Reynolds from friends and fellow creators, via Paul Gravett on Facebook (5th May 2023)
Profiles and Further Links
• Paul Gravett on Chris Reynolds
• The Virtual Memories Podcast – Episode 274 (2018)
“I once had this idea that anything that was already in the world when you were born was okay, but anything that was invented or came up after you were born, you weren’t quite sure.”
• Watch: TOXIC (the last shadow) by Ivan Unwin – Chris cameos, and was one of the cameramen
Categories: Art and Illustration, British Comics, Comic Art, Comics, Creating Comics, Digital Comics, downthetubes Comics News, downthetubes News, Features, Obituaries, Other Worlds
Thank you so much for your wonderful tribute to my greatly missed friend Chris Reynolds. I was very glad you included the comments from Jon Tapsell. Together we made the short documentary about Chris that is on You Tube. Later in the year Chris’s final comic will be released, “Games Demon” which is in the “Pocket Chiller” series.
Very best wishes,
John M. Parke