Thursday, 3 September 2015

Entirely Adequate

Another new thing, that you can go over and buy if you have the inclination and the funds. From the Comix Company comes something else from Lee James Turnock. The LAST thing, ever, from him, to be accurate. More on that later, but it's a bit of a shame. He's going out on a high with this fantastic Roy Wilson-ish cover:

Can you spot Mr. Natural? Or Little Peanut?

Content-wise, it's all that can be expected to those who've been following his comics for the past decade or so. For those that haven't, this includes parodies of beloved past comic-folk:

Wonderfully creative swearing:

Collaborations (of sorts) with Rob Yuppies (of Filth fame):

Hatred in list form:

NB: I love most of these things - a product of the Nineties am I!

Plus a load more stuff - Louis Barf's a highlight, there's a few pages of painful childhood anecdotes, and the whole thing ends on an eight-page ranting against the world in general, stream-of-consciousness sort of style-like. 32 pages in all, for cheap! Recommended, certainly... It can be purchased: HERE (if you have trouble with the site, like I often do, just send Dexter an email - he's a friendly chap and will sort you out good and proper).

As I mentioned a moment ago, this is LJT's LAST comic. He's had enough, and time, as with everyone else, is against him. Failing eyesight, low sales and relentless online bullying have seemingly taken their toll (Gerald Groy, whoever he is, is one such twat who has been posting abuse at seemingly every blog that mentions Turnock, this one included!). He's even taken down his blog, which is a shame, as that was one of the main "inspirations" behind me starting this one. Ah well. For his last ever post, Turnock listed a load of reasons why he sees there's little point in anyone pursuing a career in comics, at least not in the UK. Bit of a bum note, but it's hard to argue with. The list was deleted along with the rest of the blog, but for reasons of preservation (as in, read this!), here's a more-or-less copy-and-paste version of it:

1) Self-published books don't sell.
Sure, your friends and family might indulge you and buy a few copies, but once those are gone, shifting the rest of your stock is an uphill battle. An uphill battle that costs money, as well as the effort of trying to convince store owners to stock your work (usually they'll take a large percentage of the cover price just for the privilege of having a small stack of A5 comics on their counter) and the expense of promoting your work. What next? You're left with a stack of unsellable books that will rot away in your spare room. Well done. For the rest of your life, whenever you look at that stack of books, you will think 'I could have spent that money on something else'. Don't think it, do it. Life's too short for regrets.

2) Comics don't sell.
Ignore what a certain other blogger might tell you about British comics being alive and well (it's easy to say that when one of the few remaining 'big name' publishers is paying your wages), comics DO NOT SELL. People don't read much any more (16% of the UK population is functionally illiterate) and those that do don't read comics. In short, self-published books don't sell, self-published comics are even less likely to sell. All aboard the fail train! Ding ding! Next stop, the middle of nowhere!

This I can clarify - I was working in a newsagents for almost a decade, in all that time, we had two people who bought Viz (myself included), one child who bought the Dandy for about three months, one who bought the Beano for even less time than that, and not one copy of 2000 AD was sold in the whole time I was there. The shop was on a road that had around twelve residential roads branching off it, loads of kids everywhere. I know one newsagents is just a drop in the ocean, but it gives a fair idea of the dismal nature of it all at least. Even when I was of the "target market" age, I think I knew less than ten other people who read comics regularly.

3) Self-publishing is for losers.
I mean that in a nice way, of course. One of the main reasons people choose to self-publish is because the major publishing houses won't touch their work with their worst enemy's dick. I've read a lot of self-published comics in my time, naming no names, and it's a real struggle to think of more than a handful that weren't as dull as dishwater - or which I'd spend my own money on if I saw them in a shop. 

4) Drugs, LOLZ!
Sadly, a lot of self-published comic editors and writers seem to think it's still the late sixties or early seventies and that counter-cultural druggie 'humour' is the way to go. It isn't. Trust me, it really, REALLY isn't. So you've got a red, gold and green masthead? Wow, you must be feeling some serious rastaman vibrations. Shame the whole of your comic is full of insipid lookalike characters with big teeth grinning inanely whilst smoking a joint. Oh, so you've done a parody of the Bash Street Kids called the Hash Street Kids? Wow, you are so fucking hip. Cheech and Chong were shit as well. 'Weed makes you high and makes you tired!' Copy and paste for 32 pages, disappointment guaranteed.

To be fair, it's been a long time since I've seen anything of this variety in the shops - think the last one I saw was Wasted which folded around 2010, and even that was mostly reprints of the even earlier Northern Lightz

5) Nobody gives a fuck about your sex fantasies.
So you want to sniff cocaine off Jodie Foster's foot? Nice. Keep it to yourself, though. Nobody wants to see that crap in a comic, it's just awkward and more than a little creepy.

Click on that link at your peril. In short, 'AREN'T I SHOCKING AND ICONOCLASTIC!' type comics that feature the usual shit-eating / rape / incest / arse-shagging shenanigans. 

7) Go cry, emo kid.
Yeah, those twee, cloying comics about slightly outsiderish people and their relationships, drawn in a predictable chibi anime style. Unreadable.

8) Even Alan Moore doesn't give a fuck about comics any more.
It's true, you know. So why should I?

9) The explosion of Viz clones in the late eighties and early nineties not only killed any remaining interest in Viz clones, it almost killed Viz as well.
You know the expression 'enough is as good as a feast'? Well, obviously the hordes of hacks who tried their hand at grabbing a slice of the Viz phenomenon had never heard that expression, otherwise they would have realised that boom leads to bust and a glut leads to boredom.

All of these, of course, only apply to those that wish to make a career out of comics. A lot of my favourite things appear to be about as far from profitable ideas as you can get, and it's rare that you'll find a medium more personal than the comic, both in terms of those that make them and those that read them. Once upon a time, people COULD make a living out of doing something they love, but, apart from a lucky few, that just isn't the case these days. There's a guy I know who works for 2000 AD (won't be mentioning his name here) who has loads of ideas, but knows that if he attempts to have a go at them, he's risking his house and his family, so instead has to stick to drawing for scripts he has no interest in. Looking at a lot of my favourite "modern" comics - as in, ones that are still getting made right now, as a I type - how many of their creators have "comics" as their "main income"? Not many, if any at all. 

I don't want to be part of the doom and gloom brigade - the Beano, after all, has just reached its 3800th issue this week, making it the world's longest-running weekly comic, so celebrate! There's obviously SOMEONE out there still buying them. But then again, there's maybe less than ten titles regularly on the shelves these days. Compared to even ten years ago, that's not at all healthy. Ten years ago I'd regularly be looking at the small press sections of the specialist comics shops, mostly finding new and interesting and crazy things - gradually they all but disappeared. One shop hasn't updated their stock in years, still the same things sitting on the shelf that were there in 2010. Another shop stopped stocking them altogether. I asked the owners what had happened to the small press section, their response? "You're the first person who's asked!". Shame, definitely. For a long, long, LONG post about the "state of things", go and have a look at Terry Hooper-Scharf's blog.

Personally, I'm looking at things as if "time" isn't a thing. DEFINITELY as if "making money" isn't a thing. I was too young to know what was going on when the majority of the comics covered on this blog were out, and have been having a great time getting my hands on as many of them as I can. There's still LOADS of these "sort of things" that I haven't got around to covering yet, and that list is tiny compared to my actual reading pile! There's still "new stuff" that's good too - all of it's of a fairly "specialist" nature, as in, nobody's making any serious money off of them, but the comics are still fun, and to me as a mere "fan", that's good enough. Take a look at the wares of the previously mentioned Comix Company (adults only!) for one, and then there's the homegrown goodies of Braw Books. Eyeball Comix do some crazy stuff, Knockabout Comics still have the occasional new release, John A. Short's Kult Creations is a varied beast, Jack Teagle's done a couple of goodies...

There IS good stuff out there, it just takes more effort to find than it used to. Ouch. It's seemingly more of a hobbyist's game nowadays. And when you DO find good stuff, that makes it all the more rewarding. Just don't keep it to yourself, tell everyone about it!


  1. Someone calling themselves Hissing Sid tried to have a go at Lee in a comment sent to me, after an initial, seemingly innocuous, comment saying that Lee's Blog had disappeared, but I didn't publish the rude one. I'm not really into underground comics, but for those who are, Lee did them as well as anyone. Funnily enough, I had recently removed Lee's site from my blog list, but that was only because I mainly operate on a reciprocal basis, and Lee didn't have a blog list. At least he proved he could do it, and his work showed more promise than some of the stuff that had appeared in The Dandy's dying days.

  2. It's a shame that Lee has removed his blog from the web altogether, following his decision. I don't know if you both saw the comments which came AFTER ours, bug there were some very nasty, goading comments made ( by people I'd not heard of ) and Led posted them. I thought he should have just deleted them.

    1. By default Blogger just lets the comments show up anyway, then the blog owner can decide what to do with them. Maybe he's just not into censorship, the only comments I've ever deleted have been that of the Spam variety.

    2. Lee used to have his comments moderated and would only usually print those he approved. In the past, any heckling commets would not get shown, but this last post he printed some of them and gave as good as he got in reply, but I thought, if it were me, I wouldn't have given them the web space. I have told him in the past, don't even bother reading them, - as soon as you see shite, hit the delete button!
      Still, for a brief moment, I did catch a glimpse of probably only a fraction of what he's had to put up with!

  3. Well said sir, having bought his last issue I was sorry that it was his last. I still believe (as I have told him) that he still has one more comic in him, something along a spoof version of Tv Comic that would present him the opportunity to salute his favourite comedians and shows but I know he will find another outlet. Eyesight and cost aside the bulling aspect had reached ridiculous proportions so much so that I really feel for him, all we can do is assure him that we are on his side and that we love his work.

  4. Does anybody really make money from small press comics, though? Japan has the worlds biggest comics scene, and the writers and artists of professional comics do make a living from it, but I doubt their small pressers do! Though they have print runs in the thousands, and can sell those in hours at a million-attendance con, they're probably still back in the office the day after!

    1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    2. Dexter Cockburn left a comment here, but I accidentally deleted it like the short-sighted fool that I am!

      Essentially, Dexter's doing okay for himself with his publishing business, and for that I am very happy, as the stuff he does is all terrific.

    3. No worries! :) I think that Lee has a great potential market here in North America (he sells moderately well without the benefit of hardcore shilling), we just have to come up with a way to promote him! :)

  5. Hi Ryan, I am enjoying going through your "short" list of comics over on Kid's. I may have some questions to ask you!

  6. Call me a troll, but those Turnock comics weren't funny, might be something to do with why he can't sell them. They're either the artist being angry at things, not in itself funny, or the same adolescent jokes that I already read in the many Viz clones I bought for some reason decades ago.

    Also he draws women's hair weirdly.

    Must be hard being funny on demand. Viz manages it, mostly, and Oink did every week. There's some kind of special spirit demanded. I think it's a rare gift.

    1. I won't be calling you a troll, everyone's allowed an opinion...

      That's one of the oddest things about the Internet nowadays - if you disagree with something you're usually labelled a "troll", it's not on!

      It's the "personal"-ness of Turnock's comics that I like the most. We all need our catharsis and the happy coincidence that his is in my favourite medium... Well, therein lies the attraction!

    2. IKWYM, I've got a couple of Harvey Pekar collections on the bookshelves. Lee just seems a bit... angry and frustrated, and it makes him unsympathetic, guy needs to chill the fuck out and maybe smile occasionally. At least in his comics, never met him in person. Sure, as an intelligent person who sees the world, I am of course a huge misanthrope, but I realise people don't want to hear about it too much of the time.

      I realise Pekar is basically the god of personal, real-stuff comics, but he's humble and takes a couple of steps back, his stuff's philosophical and relates to the human experience in many ways. Of course Pekar's not really funny either, but he's not supposed to be.

      OTOH Lee's not bad at drawing. Maybe he needs to draw other people's stuff. And get them to pay for the printing! The cover for the comic in particular is really good, I imagine he took a lot of time over it. And he's good at taking off Leo Baxendale, among others, in style, in some of the characters you see in the background.

      I'm sure he's not angry and pissed-off all the time in real life, but all his comics I've read (here) seem to be. Needs to be a bit more whimsical, or something.

      Know what he means about Vic 'n' Bob though. They were BRILLIANT in Big Night Out, I've never laughed so much since. But I think, to be blunt, the coke got to them, and they started believing every utterance they came out with was comedy gold. The later series of their stuff was AWFUL, Shooting Stars makes me cringe, can't even watch it! Bob Mortimer in particular, making random noises isn't funny. Bloke should shut up, let Vic do the work, and Vic should put some bloody effort in!

      And they should quit the coke, thinking everything they think of is fantastic and great isn't really the discernment a creative genius needs.

      And Matt Lucas and his mate are cunts as well.

    3. Underground comics don't have to be funny. I thought everybody knew that? Peter Bagge's stuff is funny to some people (myself included) but I've met plenty of folk who consider the likes of Hate and Neat Stuff a chore to get through. Similarly, the Beano's readership were apparently split fifty-fifty on Calamity James - there was absolutely no middle ground with the character, people either loved him or hated him. It's all down to taste.

    4. I'm of the pro-Calamity James yet anti-Peter Bagge crowd... his stuff's good-looking, and everything about it suggests I SHOULD like it, but I find it hard to get into, horses and all that. I've got a comic he did with some other folk all about the Spice Girls though, that one's fun.

      Vic and Bob too - yeah, the newest series of Shooting Stars was bloody terrible but I've got a lot of love for their mid-90's "Smell Of" stuff - suppose I was the right age at the right time or something?

      Back to Lee again... He's drawn some of Phil Neill's stuff (but I didn't like Phil's stuff to begin with, whoops!) and some of Rob Filth's as well (which is all great), so there's that... But yeah, everything's all about taste. Outside of this blog I hardly see any love for the Viz-ish comics, but there's clearly a lot of people who DO like them... Nothing like a good ramble on a Wednesday evening!

    5. To Greenaum:
      He sells well enough over here (ie: North America), but maybe you could suggest how he could market himself better in the UK? :)

  7. First a quick note on Peter Bagge, who I've not read, but heard of. He wrote the script for this very funny cartoon, at least if you know owt about the Beach Boys, and Brian Wilson's dad Murry. He was jealous of their success, he had one novelty hit himself in the 1950s. He bulldozed his way into the boys' work, and was a horrible, critical arsehole, as a father as well as professionally. This is "The Murry Wilson Show". It's very funny, Bagge or no Bagge.

    There's about 3 or 4 episodes.

    Of course I realise underground comics (like Harvey Pekar's) aren't all funny, but I assumed Weird Ball was supposed to be, as well as a couple of others. The "get it off your chest" thing about the 1990s looked like it was intended to be a comedic-type rant, but it just came across as really angry, no light side to it, no relief. Weird Ball was just the sort of cliches you'd see in the not-very-good Viz clones young Two-Heads has reviewed on here.

    Far as Calamity James goes, Tom Paterson's really a one-joke pony. I found the surreal stuff in the background funny at first, when I was 9. By the age of about 11 I think I'd had my fill. And now the silly old cunt's doing Viz, only he seems to think it's the 70s and he's Robert Crumb or something, only instead of San Francisco hipsters they have weird Yorkshire accents. I dunno, he's missed his mark there.

    That and all the Daily Mail-style poverty-hating shit. Was bad enough when Alex Collier joined Viz and started with his endless strips about those amusing council-estate people he loves so much. Obvious jokes with a healthy dose of vermin-criticism. I don't think the low standard of behaviour you get among the very poor is entirely caused by moral fibre failure among the lower orders. Call me a radical, I also support votes for women, which is a more modern idea than the Victorian judgemental shit young Collier plops out.

    I'm pretty sure Tasha Slappa only came about cos a schoolboy Alex was pissed off that none of the easy lasses would shag him. Schoolkids who do their own photocopied comics are always weirdoes, I know cos me and 2 mates made one.

    Ooh, my chest doesn't half feel light. I might continue this in another post, so as not to crash Blogspot if this one got any longer.

    Something positive - I loved Oink, every issue. A rare gift in a lifetime, I think, such a brilliant brilliant comic for a few years when I happened to be a kid. Lucky 80s kids (born in the late 70s).

    1. We've spoke extensively on Paterson's Viz-shite on Facebook. The first time he was in Viz, I was excited - the story didn't make any sense and I got the feeling Tom'd been waiting all his life to have a comic character say "Fuck", but I thought it'd just be him finding his feet and things'd improve. Unfortunately not, he just got worse and worse, and it's got to the point now where I open the comic, see Paterson's in it again, and groan. Never thought I'd see the day, but his stuff and Cat Sullivan's I mostly don't even bother reading nowadays.

      Alex Collier though... Aside from his Daily Mail/Channel 5-ish sensibilities, he's done good stuff with Johnny Fartpants, and Kewl Chix and Billy No-Mates used to be good (my "main friend" in school was the image of that one). It's troubling really... How Viz is somehow becoming the Murdoch-tabloids in comic form.

      Positivity's always welcomed at Two-Headed Towers (I like that!), so feel free to speak all you like about Oink! I'd heard of it, never actually read it until 2008 when an older friend of mine handed me a carrier bag of the first sixty issues, all the summer specials and both the annuals (plus a load of Buster and Whizzer & Chips comics), completely free, as his mum was having her shed knocked down and his wife wouldn't have them in the house. I fully approve of the majority of Oink!

      I watched the first episode that Murry Wilson Show thing (ta for the back story - I mostly can't stand the Beach Boys), the "Suck my glass eye" bit gave me a laugh. This thing was in the "suggested videos" bit on the side, which I greatly enjoyed, so there's that at least: