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Tuesday, 27 February 2018

Presenting Mr. Tommy Ross's Better Than Nothing!

40 pp
black and white
A5 (US Digest)
Adults Only
I suggest checking out the Face Book page for more art and to ask about p&p or:

I will point out that the quality of printing is superb and the paper-stock used is not just glossy but quite thick so you'll need to make an effort to accidentally rip a page! For £4.00 this is a bloody good comix (yes, "comix" as in Underground").

Let me start out by writing that when you look at the art pages you might see the occasional "naughty word".  Move on and live with it.  The character on the front cover has big boobs -outrage! Scandal!

Here is a little secret you might not have noticed.  Neal Adams has said repeatedly that comic readers like to see strong, attractive men and beautiful women -that's natural.   So he draws women his way. Look at how Kirby drew a lot of his female characters -many are so obviously inspired by actresses in those old sword and sandle epics like Hercules (you see this a lot in the Asgardian women he drew). Don Heck drew women in his own style -both John and Sal Buscema had their own styles.  I was once told (several times actually) that I drew women who "look good but they aren't typical comic females". I'll call BS on that because the people talking were probably basing their views on just American comics.  France, Spain, Italy, Philippines -where ever- each artist will have his/her personal likes and they draw according to that.

Ross likes a "woman with a bit of meat on her" as my old gran used to say.  Live with it.  Move on. His comics are semi-biographical so obviously that is personal.

Look at this cover:

It still has plenty of shading work but it's subject style I have seen in French bandes dessinées and I've reviewed those in the past.  So no silly "outrage" just grow up -unless you want to round up and arrest every woman who looks like this, and there are a lot.

It is the art style that helps to convey the personalised stories. If you are not reading the stories just complaining about "sexism" or whatever then you need to really be quiet because you just make yourself look silly. When I got my first Ross comic I looked at the cover and thought "Can you do this stuff in the 21st century?"  I was, of course, being an ass. Because I read and review everything sent to me which means it only took a few pages before I could see how good this all was.

I burst out when I saw this back cover because it is, obviously, based on Harvey Pekar's American Splendor. Take a look at the record covers.  This is all very personalised to Ross and if you read his comics you'll know why.

Sadly I am having to use the alternative scanner so these are not great. That said, had there still been anything resembling a British comics industry Ross should be earning well from it.  I have a lot of old British comics and some of the professionals providing work were a lesser standard. Thomson or Amalgamated Press/Fleetway would have employed him because he has the technique and style that could be used for mainstream or Underground Comics.

It may well look a simple enough page but take a closer look.  Look at the amount of tedious cross-hatching applied to give the 'material' the right look. Have you any idea just how much work and concentration that takes?  I once strained my eyes badly as every one of 7 panels on an A3 sheet of paper was loaded with cross-hatching (it hurt my eyes, thanks for asking).
 Now this next one may be a small panel (I have no idea what sheet size Ross draws on) but look at the work in this -the shirt, the outline of the lighted area, the back of the drawing board and even the tiny window in the background. The spectacles even have shading! If this were a full colour comic all of that would be filled with colour but if you are dealing with b&w work you have three choices:

1) Leave the art clean with no cross-hatching just solid b&w areas

2) Light shading lines, or

3) Go the full. totally committed to what you are drawing and creating .

So when you pay £4.00 for a 40 pager like this do not complain because you are not paying enough for this amount of work.

"Confessions of a Teenage Pervert" might make it sound sleazy but it isn't.  I think they call this a "Rights of Passage" story -American Underground and European creators get awards and put on pedestals for strips like this.  However, we are in the UK where people will look and read these comics but feel obliged by some stupid "sheep-flock" mentality to declare how shocked they are. An actual real adult would understand this story.

"Town Monsters" know I thought it was only the UK had these types, in Bristol we call them "tatters" -imagine the usual type that appears on Jeremy Kyle or the American version of "trailer trash family fighting" show.  These are people who, seeing an electric grass-cutter that has been in every type of bad weather for over a year will actually sneak into the neighbours's garden to "steal it"!

"Evening With The Stars" is another tour de force and the cross-hatching made my eyes turn.

The comic is A5 (US Digest) in format so you really need to look and you'll see (apart from the two familiar figures above Ross's head) that there are people inside the entrance hall.

 And I've noticed the figure behind the bald photographer.  This detailed work takes effort.  I've not seen comparable from someone who works via computer.

"Plague Jobs" does not entail clearing up after some apocalyptic cataclysm.  It's 13 pages of work that had me guiltily laughing.

There are other strips but I suggest you buy a copy of Better Than Nothing. In my opinion one of the publishing houses that treat graphic novels as trendy or art forms should be paying Ross to actually produce "English Squalor" because it would have the controversy as well as provide a real look at British life than any middle class, mummy and daddy financed art school flounder can.

Can we call Ross's work British Underground Comix?  Yes, because we simply have very few if any of those left (don't get me started!).

Buy a copy.

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