Monday, October 18, 2010


By John Allison

I wasn't going to review this originally. "It's all glossy!" I proclaimed (to myself). "This wasn't made on a photocopier at all!"

But then John Allison was one of the exhibitor's at the Birmingham Zine Festival, which clearly means that he makes zines. Plus, he has had characters in his comic Scary Go Round create zines, and in the back of the most recent collection of that there were links to two you could download and print off yourself. I'll review those too, so this is really three reviews in one!

I've been reading (and enjoying) Scary Go Round (and Allison's new comic Bad Machinery) online for years, so I was excited when I managed to pick up Ghosts, a comic that is only available in print. It features many of the same characters as Scary Go Round did, but now in exciting black and white! (Or is it a very deep blue?)

However, I was kind if disappointed by the story included here. Allison's art is just as good as it usually is, though the lack of colour does detract to some extent, and I enjoyed the design of the ghost. However the story didn't really manage to grab me for some reason. I laughed at some bits, I found other bits amusing, the characters seemed to be themselves, yet it didn't click, and I cannot explain why.

The back of this comic also features two pages of (fake) letters concerning ghosts, (how to get rid of them, and how to get better ones to show up the neighbours), which are pretty funny, and a one page story by Maury Dennis which is basically just one big long slog until the last sentence punchline which is pretty amusing.

Still, Scary Go Round is really good and you should read it. A new story starts today!

One of the final storylines in Scary Go Round was about a fight between two high school students, one scrawny and pathetic with strangely shaped hair, the other bigger and stupider (as is usually the case in fights like this). Two of the other characters made a zine as a sort of event programme to sell at the fight, and Allison created it and offered it as a PDF download.

It's interesting to read a zine that is written so as to seem to be made by fictional characters. Allison has their voices down pretty well, and the low-tech feel here (typewriters and hand written corrections) looks pretty good. I do wonder where he got the photos he used to represent his characters. They look pretty much like how you'd expect them to. It's kind of creepy.

There are also some fight techniques listed, which include greasing yourself up and fighting naked ("Imagine a big old nudey raining blows down on you, isnt it a horrible thought?"), or getting a chimpanzee drunk, dressing it in your clothes and sending it off to fight for you.

Rounding out the zine there are some pretty awesome music reviews written in the style of another character. They describe Katy Perry's "I Kissed a Girl" as "a Nazi scientist's idea of what the future of girl pop was going to sound like", and a Pink track as "written by a computer or someone who hates music." I kind of wish all music was reviewed like this.

Okay, so what's harder than creating a fake zine made by pretend teenagers? How about one made by pretend little kids? This one is supposed to be made by some characters in Allison's comic who are like eight or nine years old.

It is filled with spelling mistakes, stuff about British celebrity things I barely understand, and poorly drawn comics. I often wonder how comic artists intentionally draw badly, is it incredibly difficult for them to get things to look "just right"? Anyway, this is kind of amusing, possibly even if you haven't read the comics it's based on.

The only bad thing about these zines is that the PDFs they're available from are formatted so that each page is a full page! Terrible! I resized them down so that I could print them off in proper zine format, but it totally screwed up the quality as I was using jpgs and stuff. Oh well.

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