John Romita Sr
Glasgow has a wealth of graphic artists who illustrate for Marvel or DC Comics or a selection of their own imprints, like the Hope Street Studios or Kev Harper, the major talent behind Scheme Comix. The reason Glasgow has such an array of artistic talent, so the story goes, stems from the influx of American comics during the fifties, sixties and seventies, which were carried as ballast in cargo ships that unloaded their goods along the docks of the River Clyde. The ballast was unpacked and then split into packages of comics sold across the city in kiosks and book stalls to eager kids.
For me, it Spiderman halfway-up a skyscraper fighting the Lizard, aka Dr Curt Connors (issue 76, fact fans) that turned me on to the power of graphic art. A few words can easily create a fictional world - ‘The cellar in the castle was dark and gauzed with cobwebs, the only light came from a flickering candelabra that limned the shape of a coffin on the flagstone floor, its lid askew, and the white of old flesh glimmering inside.’ But to illustrate such a world takes time, dedication, patience and considerable talent. When I first bought these comics, I’d often skip the words just to pore over the fantastic illustrations, frame-by-frame, by the likes of Steve Ditko and John Romita Sr. The excitement and sheer bloody joy these artists inspired is akin to that achieved by Kev Harper with Scheme Comix.
Just a few years ago, when still a student at Glasgow’s College of Building and Printing, Kev Harper put out the first Scheme Comix:
My original idea was to do a ‘zine which was purely for the love of doing it so the first issue featured two strips, one by myself and the other by a classmate who I sort of pressured into contributing, I printed them up on a photo copier and then left them in pubs, record shops, comic shops basically anywhere they’d have the best chance of being picked up.
I’m lucky enough to know some very talented people so Scheme quickly became a show case for our comics & illustrations. My main strip at the time was Deadbeat74 which was a shameless attempt at trying to be the Glasgow Harvey Pekar and that’s how it carried on for I think it was 6 issues and then it just kind of got sidelined until this year when I decided to re work the idea and put out a new issue (numbered issue #1) as part of my degree in digital art.
Scheme Comic # 1 contained several different strips: Joe King, Future Detective which plants a Chandleresque P.I. in a sci-fi landscape, reviews have described Joe King as “excellent” and “an enjoyable pulpy read.” Next up is, Space Kittens 1,2,3,4! follows the adventures of an all-female space crew, which has been parised for its “great artwork and witty lines.” While Dining with St Peter, is “a delightful” stand off between two beings with super powers and Break on Through: A Journey Beyond the 4th Dimension! has been described by Comic Bookbin as:
...a story with a fantastic twist that wouldn’t be out of place on The Outer limits or Armchair Theatre. Once again, Kev Harper gives us inspired visuals to feast on and T. Bye gives us a story to give us goose bumps.
The final tale, Tijuana Bible co. is the adventures of two drifters on the road. Scheme Comix takes the form of a traditional UK comic, with many different story lines; but it does in the style and with the ease of the very best US comic.
What are your influences?
I’ve always loved comics but recently the whole medium seems obsessed with being “dark” and ultra violent which in my opinion is a hangover from people trying to emulate Watchmen and The Dark Knight Returns for the last 20 years. For me unless it’s in books such as Hard Boiled or Preacher it’s just boring so with Scheme Comix I wanted to try and make it a Sci-Fi anthology that was fun like the early issues of 2000 AD used to be. So I started looking at things like the original Flash Gordon and Dick Tracy comics and trying to come up with ideas that would be adventurous and entertaining so out of that came the Joe King: Future Detective strip.
The biggest problem for me is that even though I can just about string a simple story together I’m in no way a writer but like I’ve already said luckily I know some very talented people so with some gentle persuasion I got the excellent Cramps inspired Tijuana Bible Co. by the equally excellent Sharon Irvine and Dining with St.Peter by David Walker, who came highly recommended to me and did not disappoint. Along side them I managed to get some top editorial work from Louise C. Davis (then Gordon) and some help from the guys at Root Creative, that’s when it all really came together
What sort of response has Scheme Comix had?
So far, touch wood we’ve had nothing but excellent feedback from all our reviews particularly from a personal point of view for the Space Kittens 1234 strip which was inspired by a Glasgow based punk band I used to go see (I have to shout out a big thank you to Penny and Shona for getting behind it) but I’m pleased most by the response from everyone who has bought a copy of Scheme Comix.
Kev has certainly proven he is a major talent, who can draw with the best of them, and, it’s fair to say, with such talent at the helm, Scheme Comix has a great future ahead.
Previously on Dangerous Minds