Snotty, Sexy And Seductive: Reviewing Black Crown Quarterly #1

by Oliver MacNamee

Black Crown Quarterly #1, out today in comic shops, is something similar the old Fat Wreck Chord samplers this punk DIY label used to put out, in that it offers up sample tracks, if you like, of the comics Black Crown will be putting out over the next few months as well as all-new content too. And I use this comparison knowledgeably as a good allusion to what I feel this IDW imprint represents going forward. It’s aiming to offer up less mainstream, more Vertigo-like comics that may appeal to an audience that is more mature and less hung up on superheroes with something of the punk rock ethos about it. A counterculture comic for the counterculture reader.

Alongside previews of comics out now (Kid Lobotomy #1) as well as forthcoming titles (e.g. Assassinistas #1) it also manages to fit into this oversized issue new material and the odd interview with creators too, but all woven together in a manner that fits the overall aesthetics and tone of the book and the imprint. The opening strip, Tales From The Black Crown Pub by Rob Davis, that ties all of the content together, is a great example of what I mean. We are welcome into the eponymous Black Crown Pub in which we meet characters from these comics all in one place and under one roof.

The conceit here, if you’ve haven’t been following Black Crown’s recent whistle stop tour of comic-cons both Stateside and over here in the UK this summer – the home of pub culture and the greatest pubs in all Christendom – is that this pub not only serves the community and offers a communal common ground into which any character from any comic within the imprint could wander and interact with others – like the function of the good old British pubs in any given UK soap opera – but it is also the spring from which the whole imaginary townscape is spawned.

Kid Lobotomy’s hotel, The Suites, one easily imagines is just round the corner from this pub and all the other characters live within this community too, and regularly drink here by the looks of things. But, this is more than just an introductory strip, and has its own story and own mysteries to tell in future issues.

Another link to the world of music is the return of the band CUD, this time in strip form and produced by the band themselves with art provided by the highly underrated Philip Bond, whom I associate with this particular era of mid-90’s Brit-pop explosion. Having been a student at Leeds University when CUD sprung up, and doing my teacher training with the brother of one of the band members (time, and an ale-addled brain, makes me forget which one exactly), it’s a fond trip down Nostalgia Avenue, but I’m sure that’s not just my feelings.

Was Bond chosen for this link, I wonder? Either way, it’s a fun and fantasy fuelled retelling – a secret origin if you want – of the formation of CUD back in the day and a self-aware and self-depreciating understanding of their lower status within this bloated music scene of that time when compared to their peers. I’m sorry to say it was one of the points we also made to the brother of one of CUD too. He didn’t find it all that funny at the time. But, as age would have it, they can all look back fondly and funnily to reinventing their origin and their current whereabouts too. Like a modern day Banana Splits, but without the flea-bitten suits.

Add into the mix articles and a witty and conversational interview with the likes of Martin Simmonds (artist) and David Barnett (writer) of the forthcoming Punks Not Dead (February 2018) that wouldn’t be out of place in the congenial atmosphere often offered by pubs. You get a better understanding of my comparison, and you have a well rounded, well thought out comic that is in synch with all of its rich and diverse content. The Black Crown Pub is the glue that holds it all together. Or, if not the glue, then the sticky, pub carpet gunk instead.

Along for the ride are the likes of Tini Howard and Gilbert Hernandez (creators of Assassinistas), a pull poster of the wonderful variant cover from Kid Lobotomy by Frank Quitely and a cool one pager informing readers of how to master a skateboard move by skater Cindy Whitehead and artist Nicole Goux, the ‘Ollie’ (a personal favourite of mine for obvious reasons) and what this quarterly periodical offers is something akin to the fabulous Deadline I used to read back in the day, but on better paper stock. And, as they say, much, much more!

Snotty, sexy and seductive, Black Crown Quarterly #1 is a warm embrace of a comic and a great ambassador for what Shelly Bond and the gang are trying to achieve with this imprint. Why not visit it for yourself. First round’s on me!

Black Crown Quarterly #1 is out now priced $6.99.