Monday, 16 January 2012

Brendan McCarthy - "Dr Cyper"

I need to give you some background on this one. Back in 1980 I picked up a couple of issues of a magazine called Cipher. I no longer remember where, but it may have been from Compendium bookshop, because that was where I used to find all the really cool books and mags when I came up to London. Compendium is sadly no more. It died more than ten years ago, but it's still remembered as London's best bookshop ever.

Cipher was one of the first of a new wave of magazines that was made possible when Chelsea School of Art installed Britain's first Xerox colour photocopy machine. Two of the students there were Jake Tilson and Steve Whitaker. Steve went on to become a very much loved comics creator and educator who sadly died, far too young, in 2008. Jake Tilson went on to become a renowned designer and food expert, recently making a programme for BBC Radio Four on sustainable fish! You can see more about Jake Tilson here and see some of Steve's work here. Jake and Steve together created two radical art mags, Cipher and Atlas, which collected fiction, art, poetry and found objects, establishing a style of publishing which continues to this day. The Colour Xerox was the forerunner of the home printer. It allowed you to print small runs of colour magazines, which previously were impossibly expensive. 

I never saw the first issue of Cipher, but I immediately recognised the art on the cover of issue 2.

I was familiar with Brendan McCarthy's art from Sometime Stories and The Electric Hoax (posted yesterday on Waiting For Trade). Here he was again, his style unmistakable. Look at that amazing character, with the cyberpunk spex, gloves from Eisner's The Octopus and a cover design based on the mod/ska revival record label, Two Tone. So timelessly trendy it makes you want to weep! Even the balloon recalled the line "Hey you! Don't watch that, watch this!" from Madness, One Step Beyond.

Inside the mag there's an eclectic mix of fiction, reportage, collage and illustration with the hand-made feel of a publication that actually was very much hand-made, with the occasional colour xeroxes pasted onto the black-and-white pages. Here's the lineup for the second issue, a limited edition of 200.

Reproduced here, possibly for the first time since 1978 and with Brendan's permission (he tells me he hasn't seen it himself for a very long time), the 8-page strip, Dr Cypher, an existential Cyberpunk Noir, guest-starring Jerry Dammers of The Specials. As usual, clicking on the images will bring them into full-size glory.

To see lots more McCarthy Magic, check out strangenessofbrendanmccarthy. And that's not all folks. Tomorrow, here on Waiting For Trade you can see Brendan's The Eyes of JFK (a statement of intent) from Cipher #3.