A note first. I have always supported the Small Press -since the 1970s but mainly from the early 1980s when I started up Zine Zone. In the UK, Germany, Australia, New Zealand, Finland -if it was/is Small Press I'll review and publicise it. I get the occasional Small Press title these days and I never criticise for the sake of negativity: positive criticism helps the publisher/creator re-look at what they have done and I have had "thank yous" for that in the past and changes made to books. Negative reviewing is simply to get the crowd that love the "It's so rude and nasty" drawn in. Those sites and people we can do without.
Nobody really gives a crap what I write here, even if it's meant to be constructive, so I may as well go ahead and write it. But bear that first para in mind!
Things I learnt that not only I thought about yesterday's Bristol Comics and Zine Fair:
(1) "There are no comics" People travelled a good ways because they were expecting back issue comics, etc. This is not the first time I've heard this. "Zine and Small Press Fair" is far more apt.
(2) "They are very rude" and another comment I won't publish. You see, because this is a clique you had friends of pressers who were grouped together -sometimes the entire length of an aisle- with back packs on and one two occasions, after the fourth "excuse me" I had to say in a loud voice "Your choice to let me through or BE moved".
(3) "A great deal on sale here isn't of any real substance"
I'll come back to (3) in a whiles.
Above: A cider soaked Darron Northall takes over the Browner Knowle while Paul Ashley Brown goes off to get his leg over....a sweet wrapper on the floor.
The venue is great. Hot, sweaty but there is the old fire station courtyard to get fresh air in. You can also see the old fire rescue training tower and impressive doors. The old doors provide great light for the venue.
The draw-back, as noted, is that groups clung around the tables of their friends and that, for safety reasons should be a no-no. The young lady with crutches was literally being jostled about as she tried to get through the groups and, as when I asked politely to be let through, she got glaring stares. At proper comic events you tend to not get this clumping together of people -meeting up tends to mean moving to a quiet corner or go out into a hallway. I've seen this sort of thing at most of these zine events and the people blocking the way seem to have no interest in the event just chatting -there are plenty of cafes in Bristol for that.
And noise. I'm not even going to sugar coat this but to have a LOUD PA system pumping out music so everyone has to shout is not enhancing the event to any degree. Low background music that you can just about hear -yes. Loud music that at least five people commented on -no.
"Excuse me, I have a blog called Comic Bits Online do you mind if I take some photos of your table?" How many people do you think even responded to that question -and they were looking right at me when I asked? Yeah, absolutely none. In fact, at one table, all three people behind it looked at me and turned away and played about with their phones.
I need to make it clear that these people are in no way similar to the Small Pressers of the 1970s-early 1990s who were friendly, chatted and were more than happy to pose for photos. Probably a phase they are going through until the next craze comes along.
Now, it was not only me who realised something about what was on sale at the event. I've noted that at German comic events there are far, far more women involved in not just cos-play but in comic creation which is a good thing. I mentioned this to someone who replied they had noticed more women at this event. However, it was pointed out that most were using a very derivative art style made popular by another female comic creator. "There's lots of style but no substance" I was told. Yes, putting a lot of pretty images together can make a nice little pamphlet to browse through but when you have twenty people doing the same thing.....and very little if any text gives these books no substance. But why is this?
You see, these people go to art college and they do not really learn much about art these days -stick two tooth brushes onto an image of teeth and you graduate. But these people hear a name. They see the name's work and it's popular and "I can do that style" and -voila! A new Small Press creator. Now when people other than me notice this it becomes clear that this sort of thing is rife. And as Small Pressers in "A" don't know or talk to Small Pressers in "B", "C", "D" or even "E" they only see what their own little clique is producing.
If I see one more "Oh, my life as a student is terrible -I have to study and I can't go out with my mates because mummy and daddy have not sent me extra money!" "bio zine" I will preoduce one titled "Why I Killed All Them Spoilt Little Bastards!" There are also the (by female creators) "That bitch was nasty so I'm going to draw about it!" and so on and so forth.
Somehow, the Small Press lost it's way. There are still a few people trying out there but what happened to the Small Press as a place to put forward political criticism of the government or business -was "Barbed Wire Lies" the last of its type?
Yes, poetry. Why not? I miss the old punk zines like Claustrophobia or even the 1980s/1990s zines like Skate Board Muties From The 5th Dimension or Psychedelic because the Small Press is freedom: no publisher constraints, no editorial interference -you write, draw and publish what you want but it appears to have become the Lack-of-substance Generations outlet for bland and lack of substance piffle.
I know that I am a dinosaur and should have died out long ago -probably in the 1980s after I published Liz and Jen -Coming Out- but for fecks sake someone self publish something with substance.
That's it. A moan. The Small Press is nothing more than a comfy little hobby to share with a few friends who might be humouring you.