Both of these comics from Gareth Brookes are part of that small but significant part of the British Small Press scene that just doesn’t bother conforming to the traditional idea of what comics should be. Gone are the panels, gone is the sequential narrative; these are more illustrated prose than comics. But it really doesn’t matter. This is happening more and more with small press comics now, where the fine line between comics, illustrated prose and god only knows what is just disappearing until the only way you can even look at these things is as entertainment and art objects. Beautifully presented, handmade items seem to be the norm now. It’s small, it’s limited, it’s special.
The Smell Of The Wild
by Gareth Brookes
Beneath it’s hand-stencilled cover, The Smell Of The Wild starts off looking rather worryingly like perfectly nature poetry (indeed it reminds me of the cover of some Faber & Faber poetry collections – Joe):
Thank god that this doesn’t continue. From then onwards it’s very pretty black and white cross-hatched nature pictures of great delicacy to offset the increasingly silly and funny text poking fun at the wonder of nature. It’s a clever little piece and, without knowing Gareth, I have no idea how tongue in cheek he intends this to be. Of course, there is an outside chance that it’s serious in which case it’s not clever, but a classic example of why sixth form poetry should stay in private notebooks. But on a quick perusal of Gareth’s website I think his tongue is firmly in his cheek:
The wildlife of Britain is under threat! And not from pollution, a far greater enemy is afoot; Man. That’s why nearly every penny of profit from this fine book of serious poetry will be spent on the author’s tireless quest around the British isles by road, plane and sometimes even on foot, to record in verse the ageless beauty of our countryside. Oil painting in the Cotswolds recently the author was struck by the thought that many ‘sophisticated’ city types have probably never experienced the simple pleasure of smelling a flower, looking at the sky, or feeling the rain on their faces. Emptying his bucket of white spirit into a nearby lake, the author vowed that only he himself, touched by the blessed gift of poetry, was possessed of the power to enlighten the less fortunate masses.
Can I Borrow Your Toilet?
by Gareth Brookes
An equally strange piece. This time illustrated fiction with a laid-back and downbeat approach. The illustrations are delicate, cross-hatched pen work of portraiture and still life, rather reminiscent of Dave Sim to be honest. And the whole story tells a fiction (or autobiography? It’s never quite clear) of the everyday life of warehouse men. It’s a tiresome, grey life, endlessly repeating the same simple, mundane things with the same workmates doing the same things all day, every day. Brookes absolutely nails that sense of apathy, malaise and quiet desperation to do something else on almost every page here, but also manages to make the whole thing rather uplifting. A great little comic.
And Gareth does a grand job of describing this one as well:
Have you ever dreamed of working in a real life Loading Bay? Of conversing with genuine Van Drivers? Of sharing the highs and lows of Stock Room life with a dynamic team of ambitious young Stock Room Staff? Of feeling the thrill of climbing your way towards a bright lucrative future in the world of Stock? No? Oh dear. Because I’ve just finished a 64 page epic on that very subject. Looks like I’ve wasted my fucking time then.
Personally, I don’t think he has.