One particularly gratifying occurrence over the last year or two has been the 'rediscovery' of the Fast Fiction/Escape school of Brit cartoonists. While From Hell and the various Alec books have kept Eddie Campbell firmly in the limelight, other graduates from the mid-'80s UK small press explosion have until now enjoyed less acclaim. Happily, they're now getting the exposure they deserve - Glenn Dakin thanks to his Sunday Times 'Robot Crusoe' strip and Top Shelf's Abe collection; Phil Elliot courtesy of various Slave Labor offerings; and Ed Pinsent, Chris Reynolds and John Bagnall via their respective Kingly Books collections.
Bagnall has also been producing utterly charming mini-comics, Bushels of Coalsmoke being the third and most recent. Like its predecessors, and in common with much of the cartoonist's work, it contains parochial pleasures a-plenty, harking back to a half-remembered/half-imagined age of flat caps and flares, pie shops and pitmen. Bagnall has refined his instantly recognizable lino cut-style artwork and quirky storytelling over the years, and Bushels boasts some sterling examples of his work, particularly the distilled 'week of comic strips', which play like idiosyncratic public service announcements. There are further additions to his 'Disappearing Phrases' collection (“Nora's been working here since pussy was a kitten” being a memorable example), and a look at the Police Bottle, a forgotten working class flu remedy. Who said comics can't be educational?
Review by Nick Jones
£1.50 for Bushels or £3.50 for all three mini-comics (postage inclusive), cheques payable to John Bagnall at 4 Belgravia House, Gilesgate Moor, Durham, DH1 1DY, UK, or visit http://mysite.wanadoo-members.co.uk/johnbagnall