Rol Hirst is one very sick puppy.
That much is evident to anyone who picks up any of the three issues of Too Much Sex and Violence, a small press, collaborative effort from Rol and a collection of some of the most interesting and exciting artists in the UK.
If you’ve ever seen an episode of the League of Gentlemen, or Psychoville, in just a few pages you’ll soon recognise the feeling that’s creeping up your spine and into your brain: - a sort of whispering dread that tells you that something just isn’t right, but isn’t speaking loud enough to tell you what… Before screaming loudly and directly in your ear.
“LOOK AT IT!” it says. “HOW COULD YOU NOT MISS THAT!? I MEAN… JUST LOOK! MILK ISN’T SUPPOSED TO COME OUT OF THERE! NOBODY SHOULD EVER HAVE THAT MANY LEGS!”.
Like Royston Vasey before it, Fathomsby is a veritable zoo of miscreants, creeps and weirdos, left to roam their own little Camphill Community left hidden in plain sight somewhere in England. And like Royston Vasey, Fathomsby is home to a wonderfully dark story that you never feel you’ve uncovered the entirety of. Geriatric Men with giant arms, corpses with extra limbs (and… extremities) and celebrity vampires all take residence in the seaside town, and TMSAV is a document of their intertwined lives and, well, un-lives.
Normally at this point I’d discuss the art found in TMSAV, but in this case that’s a little tricky. You see, each episode is written by Hirst, but the pages are drawn by whomever he can round up to put ink to paper at the time, from what I understand.
While the difference in styles can inevitably jar at times, it’s impressive how little that happens: While characters can look very different depending on who’s drawing them, at no point are you left confused as to who a character on the page is - and besides, you’re normally far too busy trying to work out what on earth is going to happen next than worry about little niggles like a character being a little bit taller/fatter than last time you saw him. On the whole the art is great, and while a few panels could be a little clearer and less full, on the whole the story works perfectly. We flit all over the town of Fathomsby, slowly seeing the pieces fall into place and connections between characters clicking together like creepy B-movie Lego pieces.
If I sound like I’m being deliberately vague when it comes to the story found within the pages of TMSAV, then I am: TMSAV is mental, unpredictable and dangerous, is the long and the short of it, and I feel that spilling the beans - of divulging details of the throbbing, gristly, muscular plot - on the pages of this blog would ruin the enjoyment first time readers will have. It’s weird, compelling and dark, and it doesn’t give a damn whether what’s within its pages is too difficult, too vivid, or too twisted for you - after all, it does say “For Mature Readers” on the front…
This is the joy of the Small Press; It’s punk rock, it’s indie, it’s anarchic. It’s an author writing the story they want to write, doing anything to get it released - possibly even losing money in the process - and not once considering the core demographic, the movie franchise or how to appeal to that elusive tween market. The Small Press doesn’t care if you like it, but it will love you if you do.
Here’s the deal: Go and buy TMSAV right now. The money goes straight to the people who put pen to paper to bring you this pitch black seaside legend, and the more you do that, the more they’ll make. You can get the first three issues for £6.50, and they’re absolutely great.