Review by Frank Plowright
In the way of most UK small press comics, Scenes From the Inside began as A5, black and white and photocopied, but this final anthology issue from 1996 really went for it with proper printing, and 150 squarebound pages. It broadened the reach as well, with notable creators from the British self-publishing rubbing shoulders with prominent American counterparts like Joe Chiapetta, James Kochalka, John Porcellino, Steven Weissman and soon to be infamous Mike Diana.
There is no connecting theme, and little quality control either. Creators are left to their own devices, and some have little to say. A dreamlike stringing together of inexplicable events with mismatched illustrations and foreboding captions is frequently indulged, with Ashley Holt an exception for producing a superior example. However, the better known names at the time, and those who’ve since become known provide more. Darryl Cunningham, Glenn Dakin, Phil Elliott, Mark Stafford and Andi Watson are among them, and they’re connected by strips with a beginning, middle and end. A connection can be seen between Stafford’s style and later work, but Watson’s dense black ink, while viable, gives no clue as to his later development. The sample spread shows Dakin’s wistful ‘In Ireland’, a highlight and Luke Walsh representing the more rambling strip.
This is also a reminder of unique creators who never found the audience they deserved. Is Ed Pinsent’s work too erudite in dropping historical and artistic references in his absurdist Windy Wilberforce tale? His ‘Uninvited Batman’, drawn by Cunningham is also very funny. Why did Denny Derbyshire’s equally smart and surreal stories of the bizarre English folklore drop out of view? And whatever happened to someone credited only as Siobhan, then in a band called Pop Girlz. Her absolutely filthy contributions capture the styles of eight different newspaper strips.
Among the US contributors, Brian Sendelbach’s Smell of Steve extrapolates how Queen and David Bowie came to collaborate on ‘Under Pressure’ in wacky fashion and LMNOP still produces Baby Sue strips to this day (as of 2022). Kochalka and Porcellino both arrived fully formed, and there’s been little change in their reductive strips years later. Kochalka’s child-like whimsy is very much an acquired taste, yet his continued publication indicates a significant audience, while Porcellino’s observation offers far greater insight, although his contribution here just recalls a gig stopped prematurely. Also of note is Danish cartoonist Jakob Boeskov, whose strange tale of a small alien hominid constantly wrong-foots and sets a sinister mood.
The better material is worth seeing, but there’s not enough of it to justify buying Scenes From the Inside #7 as anything other than a bargain box dip.