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Amateur (c) Chris Butler (script) & Gavin Butler (art)
Amateur © Chris Butler (script) & Gavin Butler (art)

Gavin Butler, Chris Butler, Jonathan Edwards, Steve Martin.


Steve Martin:
Terrible Sunrise
Rapid Fire
Stars & Gutters
The ZUM! Terrible Sunrise Sub-site
Jonathan Edwards:
The British Sketchbook v2

Once upon a time, in a comic community not so different from our own, it seemed that there were only two sorts of people. You could either be a 'fan', usually a buyer, reader and collector of US comic books, or a 'pro', a writer, artist or editor working to produce the comic books bought, read and collected by fans. The comic retailers and 'dealers' seemed to be left out of this social relationship, unless they doubled as fans or pros, and pros often doubled as fans anyway. So the fan was the common element and the pro was a kind of superfan, with special contributory powers. This was, in effect, a fan's-eye view of social identity, with comics and their contents as its currency.
Fastforward to just after the comic collectors' speculator bubble burst. The slump in the direct market, the firm sales system of distribution built by fans - their bid to become 'pros' - that had grown to encompass almost the whole US comic industry, precipitated a questioning and a revaluation of the currency on all sides.
Amateur captures some of the feeling of that latter period. Chris Butler's written intro puts it in its very title 'Marvel Comics Were Ace' - ie they aren't anymore. It's not simply a matter of disappointment or desperation. It seems to involve a kind of yearning to have Marvel comics' value restored. Amateur puts the yearning into practice, taking the next step and trying to reinsert Marvel superheroes into a history marked by personal understanding or brought by the passage of time.
First up, Steve Martin's treatment of Captain America puts Cap in 1942 Russia following the Red Skull, but in a winter setting which could be derived from the Nazi's invasion of the USSR as they slaughtered their way through what is now Belarus. Martin puts in the scenes that would have been left out of a Marvel Cap story: bodies from mass executions taken away for a christian burial, soviet guards kicking crucifixes from graves, an old woman making Cap wear the military fur hat that belonged to her dead son before returning Cap to the fighting.
The second story, New York 1966 by Gavin Butler and pre-Guardian Jonathan Edwards, features the FF with Johnny Storm as alienated youth in Lost Weekend mode who hides from his sister and Reed Richards in a friendly lesbian bar. In the last story, Chris and Gavin Butler have Peter Parker drag Matt Murdoch uptown to pull by impressing a pair of ladies with Pete and Matt's super identities.
All stories turn on common humanity and a lack of uncomplicated resolution - that is, truer to social identity as lived outside the classic comic fan community, or indeed the classic Marvel comic. The FF story contains the closest attention to illustrative detail, enabling Edwards create strong characters graphically. However, despite a trite ending, it's Cap's moment in Russia which is the most touching, in that the real history of Eastern Europe is still out there, and still haunted by memories made of the materials used for this story's background.
Steve Edgell

2 A4 pages, colour ctock cover with B&W tipping.
Price: £2 +P+P? Would strongly advise checking availablity.
Address: Steve Martin, Mitch & Murray Ltd, 40 Glouster St, Newton, Chester, CH1 3HR.
Received at ZUM! HQ:
no info
Review Posted:
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