Reviews & comments on 'The Bart Dickon Omnibus'

Borin Van Loon: Bart cover 3
"...
it comes across like Chumbawamba getting loaded up on magic mushrooms, finding themselves
possessed by the Butthole Surfers and staggering off to play with the glue and scissors awhile.
"
Dirk Deppey: The Comics Journal review
Bartcard 15a Small
Original, signed artwork for sale: click here.
12/5/09
A nice visual quotation from 'The Bart Dickon Omnibus' on the Reviewer Magazine (San Diego, California) website. Any chance of that review, chaps?
Borin Van Loon: Unspeakable cad!
(http://reviewermag.com/press/?p=28)

The exploits of Bart Dickon is a true Menippean treat full of pataphysical wonderment:
a veritable Grand-Guignol of comics not to be missed by any connoisseur of the absurd. [The comics are great. You have really pushed the medium in a new direction. I am a comics scholar who teaches a class in the history of comics I am interested in doing an essay on collage comics. I was wondering if it would be possible to interview you on the subject sometime?]
Dr. Robert S. Petersen, Assistant Professor, Art Department, Eastern Illinois University [Dr Petersen and the author will meet up in the ether, no doubt.]

I fear for your psyche.
Mr David Spirit, Gentleman

"For all those who lie on the bed of ignorance. 'Politically Correct': a definition.
The often quoted earliest cited usage of the term (in the form "not politically correct") comes from the U.S. Supreme Court decision Chisholm v. Georgia (1793), where it clearly means that the statement it refers to is not literally correct, owing to the political status of the United States as it was understood at that time.[4]
 The term "political correctness" is said to derive from Marxist-Leninist vocabulary to describe the "party line".[5] By the 1970s this term, re-appropriated as a satirical form of criticism, was being used by some on the Left to dismiss the views of other Leftists whom they deemed too doctrinaire and rigid. It was in this sense that the popular usage of the phrase in English derived.[6][7] The alternative term "ideologically sound" followed a similar trajectory to this point, appearing in satirical works such as Bart Dickon.
 In the 1990s, the term became part of a conservative challenge to curriculum and teaching methods on college campuses in the United States (D'Souza 1991; Berman 1992; Schultz 1993; Messer Davidow 1993, 1994; Scatamburlo 1998). In a commencement address at the University of Michigan in 1991, U.S. President George H. W. Bush spoke out against a "movement" who would "declare certain topics off-limits, certain expressions off-limits, even certain gestures off-limits."[8]
 The phrase "politically correct" has become popular in other countries as well, including several Scandinavian countries (politisk korrekt=pk), Spain and Latin America (políticamente correcto), France (politiquement correct), Germany (politisch korrekt), The Netherlands (politiek correct) and Italy (politicamente corretto).[citation needed]" [An even more oblique reference to Bart Dickon in the virtual world.]
Nirvana-Guy - Christian Conservative (http://www.city-data.com/forum/immigration/108695-what-teddy-roosevelt-had-say.html)


Written by the father of the most talented family in Ipswich,
Borin Van Loon (what a cool name!). This took Borin seventeen years to compile, and it really shows in the amazing details he has managed to put into the montages that make up the story in this book. The images are largely based on what appears to be English comics of the early twentieth century. There is a storyline running through this but I must confess that I was at a bit of a loss to figure out what that was, but then I'm not the sharpest knife in the rack! This is a real work of art, though.
Andrew Culture, Beat Motel magazine, Issue 7 (www.beatmotel.co.uk)


Peter Blegvad card
Ahoy, Bart Dickon!
Many and much belated thanks for sending your OMNIBUS. Cor! It maketh the jaw drop. Congrats on this extraordinary achievement.
Bests, Peter Blegvad, Musician, Bon viveur, raconteur and creator of that fine comic strip 'Leviathan' (http://www.leviathan.co.uk/, also available as 'The Book Of Leviathan' published in the UK by Sort Of Books, 2000).


An unexpected citation for Bart Dickon in 'The Jersalem Post'...
...Because soy and tofu
in the West was seen as food for the organic, hippie or vegetarian types, rather than mainstream carnivores, tofu jokes abound. Searching "tofu jokes" on the Internet yields dozens of American soy-eaters complaining about snide comments from their carnivore friends and family.
In the UK comic book style novel, The Bart Dickon Omnibus by writer/illustrator Borin van Loon, a politically correct secret agent is asked, "what evil swarm of purulence is this, the pustulent, bubbly, warty surface cracked and oozing an unspeakable putrescence and giving off foul and bilious odours, you spawn of satan, you?" He replies: "That's my meatless tofu burger. Want one?"
Tofu and soy jokes in the West far predate the vegetarian and health craze, though.
Auto manufacturer Henry Ford's ingenuity with soybean byproducts became the butt of jokes in the 1930s in the US, when he started heavily investing in the agricultural applications of the bean for industry. Soon, newspapers were boasting that Ford had succeeded in using the oil or fiber from his hundreds of soybean crops in car paint, door handles, gearshifts, window trim, pedals and gears. When Ford predicted that cars would eventually be made entirely from soybeans, soy jokes went into full gear. "Man can have his car and eat it too," made its rounds, as well as "The new car wouldn't need gas, just a little salt, pepper and vinegar."...
The Jerusalem Post, May 22, 2007  from an article called 'Fleishig, milchig or soychig?'  by Laureb Gelfond Feldinger (http://www.jpost.com)

Hey Borin! Thank you for the review copies of the comic book
I received today! They totally rock and I look forward to providing you with copious coverage for them!  ~Rob (Reviewer Magazine, California, U.S.A. https://www.reviewermag.com/) - via Bart's myspace page.

>I've read some of the Omnibus. Great stuff...
  was looking at your book again last night. such great collages!
The Sound Of Drowning via Bart's myspace page. Sound Of Drowning

>Hair-raising stuuff!
[This beside an image of Borin's painting of The Slits.] Once upon a time, somewhere around the punk rock era, there was an all-female band called "The Slits" and this is a portrait of them commissioned for a print series at the time. The artist, Borin van Loon, was recently in touch again so I thought a revisit was due. Borin also produced some memorable images of Gary Numan, The Rolling Stones and Siouxsie Sioux. He is currently producing a new comic book and you can see more by clicking on the link.
[Albeit an oblique reference to Bart Dickon, we thought we'd add it here. Mal Burns commissioned the paintings mentioned for the Rock Art series of prints. See http://clipmarks.com/clipper/malburns/ and http://malburns.blogspot.com/]

>Ip1 Magazine  (issue 21) Ip1 Magazine spread
The text reads:
Borin Van Loon, Ipswich-based artist, roadie and graphic novelist extraordinaire, affords IP1 a quick peek at the workings of his latest graphic novella.
"From an early stage, when I started glueing bits of paper together, I believed that this collage approach to the comic strip was something important and unlike anything else. The 'hand-doneness' is an important factor in this aspect of my work and makes it stand out in an age of computer generated images, which are in danger of resembling bland, sausage machine-like illustration. In the case of the Omnibus the only roughs exist as scribbles on bits of paper or in notebooks to help me recall juicy phrases or possible plotlines. Now that Bart is featuring in his own text stories [see Bart's Blog], the reader can create their own images in their heads - which, let's face it, saves me a lot of work."

Borin's inspirations include writing by John Buchan, the Marquis de Sade and the Beano, and his comedic influences: French and Saunders. Eddie Izzard, and Gary Larson, or "Anyone who plays the English language like a finely-tuned instrument."

He is subversive – at least by Ipswich satandards. Images magazine, for example, found that a collage strip of mine proposed as a regular feature frightened the horses. "Perhaps it was the heady mix of opium abuse, homosexuality and vegetarianism which put them off."

Borin's work has, for the most part, existed 'underground'. Not a bad place to be, as he believes the underground is "ripe to be exploited by enterprising artists and writers. If you have the talent, it could be for you. The imp of the perverse sells."

Borin admits that a typical night out for him means "roadie-ing for my offspring who are both musical performers". His son is drummer in Steel Rhino and the punk band Danger's Close; his daughter, is also vocalist/rhythm guitarist in Vortex.

"Surrealism and humour lie at the heart of what I do. I aim to disturb and amuse in equal measure."

Omnibus can be found at Central City Comics, Know Your Product and in Waterstone's. "I sell copies via my gorgeous website and through Amazon.co.uk." www.bartdickonline.co.uk
[Words: Victoria Guthrie, Illustration: Borin Van Loon. The double spread features the full colour inside front cover from The Bart Dickon Omnibus called 'A Bulldog Bleeds'.]


>downthetubes just  received a copy of The Bart Dickon Omnibus
by Borin Van Loon, a wonderful surrealist  graphic novel for grown-ups, packed with crazed montage illustration paying  dubious but funny homage to British comics.
 Illustrated throughout in collage comic-strip style, the book's central  graphic novella: 'A Severed Head' sees hero Bart Dickon (the ideologically-sound  secret agent) intrepidly involved in derring-do. This latter day Odyssey follows him from procreation, via birth, schooldays and an Apprenticeship  In The University Of Life, to his ultimate vocation as 'The English Assassin',  pith helmet-wearing conqueror of something-or-other and subversive spy in  a world of wickedness and treachery.
 The book will appeal to underground comics fans, fans of Terry Gilliam's  anarchic animations for Monty Python's Flying Circus and,  well, anyone with a quirky sense of humour really. Here at downthetubes we  especailly enjoyed the montage strip combined with text from lurid adult  fiction!
John Freeman reviewed on Down The Tubes, a website devoted to British comics on http://www.downthetubes.net/ 18 November, 2006

>Of all the things for which Situationist mastermind Guy DeBord really needs a good and bloody beating, no offense strikes me as more grievous than the concept of "detournment." In theory, it sounds like the sort of thing that great art is made, and indeed, the process of appropriating and recontextualizing the art and communications of our surroundings has occasionally led to just that: the sound-collage ensemble Negativland, for example, have created interesting and thoughtful pieces out of spare parts on any number of occasions.

That said, even Negativland fall on their collective faces half the time. It's a difficult trick to pull off, and many dangers -- obvious symbolism and inane attempts at shock value among them -- lie perpetually around the corner. More often, detournment is used for cheap laughs that inevitably read like something you've seen a thousand times before, and recontextualized comics are among the worst offenders. There's only so many times you can take old romance comics and turn them into odes to cocaine-fueled buttsex before the joke gets old. And let's face it, by this point the joke is most certainly old: Have you ever opened a copy of Comics Buyers Guide and stumbled across an example of John Lustig's Last Kiss strips that you actually found funny? Me neither, and Last Kiss is actually the best of the lot. At the lower end, you've got the comedy stylings of Kieth Giffen, and it doesn't get much more pointless than that.
Bart sample panel TCJ review
Lights! Action! Recontextualization! Panel from The Bart Dickon Omnibus ©2005 Borin Van Loon.

All of this may well be a roundabout way of saying that I'm probably not the target audience for Borin Van Loon's recent collection of cut-and-paste funnies, The Bart Dickon Omnibus, but I must confess to have found it halfway interesting anyway. Partly, it's because this book is one part detournment, one part intricate, Max Ernst-style collage, and the latter goes a fair way toward justifying the former. Mainly, however, I'm willing to give Bart Dickon a pass because its creator isn't interested in making you laugh so much as simply weirding you out -- a goal at which it sometimes succeeds quite well.

Van Loon uses a combination of old woodcut illustrations, panels from decades-old British comics and quasi-anarchist gibberish to create a collection of "stories" -- scare quotes intentional -- that seem like they'd be vaguely subversive if they weren't so flat-out bizarre. It almost reads like a parody of more earnest U.K. socialists; alas, the current variety of English left-wing thought tends more towards humorless sloganeering, whereas The Bart Dickon Omnibus seems to delight in seeing how close it can come to sounding like it has a point of view while still clinging to utter nonsense. Consequently, it comes across like Chumbawamba getting loaded up on magic mushrooms, finding themselves possessed by the Butthole Surfers and staggering off to play with the glue and scissors awhile.
Bart sample panel TCJ review
Actually, this is about as close to straightforward as it ever gets. Panel from The Bart Dickon Omnibus ©2005 Borin Van Loon.

It helps that the old British comics used here were actually more bland and personality-starved than even the old woodcuts with which they're juxtaposed in these pages, and that Van Loon takes his time to make everything look as seamless as possible. It doesn't always work -- there are any number of places in The Bart Dickon Omnibus where differences in source material make the end results look just kludgy, and vast chunks of text fail at exactly the same sort of jokes you'd expect from something like this -- but that it works at all is itself something of a minor miracle. I'm not sure I'd recommend this book; "Wow, this doesn't totally suck" is the closest I can come to a pull-quote for future editions, but it's far more than I expected to say in its favor. That's something, I guess.
Review written by Dirk Deppey, Sunday, 01 October 2006, The Comics Journal [http://www.tcj.com/index.php]

Borin writes: When I published this book, I knew that there was going to be a minimum of one person who liked, nay, loved it: moi. Of course, I hoped I might win some doubters over and reading the above review, I might just have succeeded with Dirk. Pity he can't spell "favour". This review includes two panels taken from the 'Omnibus'.


>Just bought the above from Central City Comics~
Now reading it and loving it! Splindid, splandid and splondid!
Bib Edwards, illustrator and comics bod

>Van Loon’s dapper, nay sartorially gifted, creation Bart Dickon
is ostensibly an affectionate homage to the boys’ heroes of the 1930s-40s story papers and comics. But look closer and you begin to see that the wonderful collage style of the stories hearkens back to a different period – namely, the high-water mark of underground experimentation in the 1960s and 70s (think Oz/IT/Cyclops) – and that Dickon is a very different kind of hero, again with echoes from that hippie era (his intra-dimensional adventuring is pure Jerry Cornelius, and his left-wing politics certainly don’t fit the 1930s-40s template). Dickon may be a delightful mish-mash of influences and styles, but call him ‘postmodern’ and he’s likely to want to ‘teach you a lesson’ – without getting his Jermyn Street tailored shirt creased, of course.
Roger Sabin, comics and graphic novel expert (comics reviewer for 'The Observer', author of 'Comics, comix and graphic novels: a history of comic art' Phaidon 1996)

>... I prefer home-grown superheroes. 
Give me Bart Dickon, "ideologically sound" secret agent, any time. He lives on the pages of The Chap magazine , but occasionally his creator, Borin Van Loon, lets him out in full-length novellas.  In his latest outing, The Bart Dickon Omnibus, Bart refuses to come out of his mother's womb, wins a Second World War battle all over again, stops the future from being privatised, and is caught by the lovely teenager Snowy and her doppelganger "in flagrante osculato with a flippertygibbet". Now there's a proper comic crusader, one who knows that reality and al-Qaeda should be left well alone.
Ziauddin Sardar, extract from his column 'Holy terror! Batman versus Bin Laden!' from New Statesman 18 September, 2006 [The full article is available on the Web at http://www.newstatesman.com/200609180030]
Bart Dickon card
> ... Pretty far out.
Adam, graphic novel buyer, Waterstones Colchester

 
By the way Bo,
 Bin reading the Severed Head anthology, well, truth be known, have been reading it for some time and I’m constantly delighted by its little felicitations which tickle me.
 Such as simple things like
 Jail Bait [bottom of page one of the Prologue]
 Which made me think about the illustrator who originally did the pic and the readership at the time (probably me) and the formative effect it would have had on my expectations of women
 --That I still have!
 Hah!
 Such things are meat to my mind man

 Loves it

 Have a good day you dastardly devil you.

 Graham Weir, Gentleman 21 November 2006

>When I was nine, my father, who had just directed a play at the college where he taught, gave me the gag gift
which had been presented to him by the cast. It was an over-sized coloring book depicting the days of the American Revolution -- tri-corner hats and men in powdered wigs filled the pages, with captions beneath claiming that these black and white line drawing accurately illustrated such moments as the signing of the Declaration of Independence and Ben Franklin's shocking the nation with his spare key. My father gave me this huge coloring book, probably without having thumbed through it himself, because if he had he might not have given it to his pre-pubescent son. His student's had altered the drawings, adding in balloons with "R" rated dialog and altering the physiques of our founding fathers so that they were more... let's just say Benjamin Franklin's reputation with the ladies would have been easily explained by what some creative college sophomore did with a felt tipped pen.

I was captivated by the dual layer of the coloring book. The original story was still there, and the fact that George Washington was now cutting down the cherry tree while badmouthing his mother with a gleeful Jack Nicholson face a la "The Shining" added for effect didn't alter the fact that there he was, ax in hand, mid-swing. There was the original tale. There was the ironic, sarcastic, sardonic second layer plastered on top, commenting, challenging, but evocative of the very past that it was supposedly masking. I was fascinated by this and returned to it, never adding to it -- I felt the book was perfect the way it was, and I would study the additions and laugh at jokes I wouldn't really get for another six or seven years and then I'd slide the whole thing under my bed. This is how I felt as I read Borin Van Loon's The Bart Dickon Omnibus. This graphic novel, constructed out of multiple "borrowed" images from various sources and cut-and-pasted together by Mr. Van Loon is an astounding example of surreal riffing on culture. It's smartly juvenile, crudely polished, and maddeningly simple. This book hits the right notes in many different ways.

First, the collage technique used here affects the overall presentation of the story by being a visual pun on one of the through-lines of the book. Bart is the "ideologically sound secret agent" with an oddly communist agenda that forces him to remain in protest of Thatcher's administration. The pun that history has ended, as all good communists aspire to prove, is illustrated by the use of decades worth of images. It collapses history and continuity, it evokes the past while being very contemporary. The styles of the drawings (and there are many, I can't even begin to guess how many sources were used; the copyright page includes a note which claims that some of the art reaches back through the past two centuries) and the constantly changing appearance of Bart and every other character as a result, is a constant reminder that you are looking at history mushed together, that this is artificial, manufactured. Bart's actions are standard heroic daring-do, but patched together from every imaginable angle and style of pulp art. Some graphic elements are obviously silly ads (I was sadly excited to find a chapter which uses the "dork on the beach gets exercise instructions and kicks the bully's ass" ad from the back of comics circa 1975), others may be Buck Rogers comics, Lone Ranger style westerns, romantic boudoir shots, or even illustrated medical journals (as is used in the chapter on Bart's refusal to be born).

The difficulty of all this is that while the book's hyper-awareness of the past, the use of and playing off of the antiquated views of women, school, war, art, death, etc., invites smart critique, it is unrelenting in its mocking of criticism and intellectualism. It's like taking a film course being instructed by the Mystery Science Theater 3000 crew (not the cast, but literally the characters), or a writing class by Thomas Pynchon. There is more interest in the telling than in the story. Despite all this, there is some story here, and like Pynchon it may require more than one sitting (a little can go a long way while deciphering what is going on when it takes so much effort just to know who you are looking at). The use of any continuity is impressive. How long must it take to get panels that flow when every image is from a different source? One way that Mr. Van Loon provides structure is by breaking the book into chapters which involve specific elements of Barton's life. This breaks our culture (the real subject of the book) into digestible parts for lampooning: birth and medicine, war, exploration and masculinity, sex.

But, in the end, who cares about plot, characters, evolution, conflict, resolution, or even continuity? There are puns to be made, jokes to throw at the wall, and the time for counting to see what has stuck will come later and be done by someone else. Inevitably, that someone else is the reader. When everything looks different from panel to panel, when the dialog or captions sometimes speak directly to the reader (pointing out a bare nipple, for instance, as acceptable on "artistic" grounds) who else can provide the context and continuity? You have to say, in other words, "I'm in on the joke." Like Mystery Science Theater or meta-fictional writing the reader is responsible for "getting it," as jokes are thrown quick fire at you (and some may be lost due to a difference between Brits and Americans) you can't merely wait for the man in the cape to swoop in and rescue the damsel, you have to be aware that drawings of capes and drawings of damsels are beyond swooping and saving, unless we find room for them in the stories we create for ourselves.

It's been said that comics are like watching a movie with the sound off. In this case, Bart Dickon is a little like watching the news with the sound off-important stuff is happening, nothing necessarily leads logically to the next, and there's a good deal that's disturbing, but the stories march on, and who the hell knows what they're about. There are some surreal games and texts in the Omnibus as well, but the real joy is the main story, a graphic novella entitled "A Severed Head." Like the pulp art that the work is pulled from, "A Severed Head" is filled with stereotypes and cliches, but when the simplicities of these are put together, they create a complex whole which is compelling and hard to ignore.
Sean Ferrell reviewed on PopMatters, international magazine of cultural criticism on http://www.popmatters.com/comics/bart-dickon-omnibus.shtml 17 April 2006
[Update from Sean, November 2011:
"Dear Borin,

Thank you so much for your kind note. I was just thinking about your Omnibus the other day as a matter of fact. I recently moved and was wondering which box it was pack away in. It's a brain-tickler of a book and I am glad that my enjoyment of it was clearly expressed in my review...."  N.B. Sean's first novel is entitled 'Numb' and is available on Amazon.]
Bart Dickon postcard

>This 108 page work has been described by the creator as a "surrealist graphic novella for grown ups.
Illustrated throughout in collage comic- book style." Truly distinctive and unique The Bart Dickon Omnibus deserves top marks for originality. I have never seen anything quite like it before. Imagine Monty Pythonesque humour presented in classic British "Boys Own" comic book style and you start to get somewhere near what is on offer here, but only somewhere near.

What Borin Van Loon has done here is collect a huge range of illustrations and comic frames from a wide variety of ‘historic’ sources such as early British comics and Victorian style magazine illustrations. He has then let himself go crazy with scissors and glue and cut and pasted away to create a collage style comic. He has then overlaid his own storyline and dialogue and, Hey Presto, there you go, an original comic is created.

I believe David Bowie sometimes utilised a similar cut and paste approach to lyric writing and it worked for him so why not. The omnibus is made up of one main story and several, often related, subsidiary tales. In reading this graphic novel it helps to have an understanding and appreciation of British comics such as Eagle and literature generally [such as Conrad’s Heart of Darkness] as allusions to these and other works are sprinkled liberally throughout.

There is a heavy use of pun and an equally heavy use of Victorian verbiage. The former technique works well but the later starts to get as little tiresome due to the length of the novella.

The main story is the 15 chapter Severed Head tale where the heroic secret agent Bart Dickon does indeed get his head cut off and for the rest of the adventure has to operate without a body. No easy task, it is just as well that his female sidekick, Snowy, is there to help out. And yes, in case you were wondering, Tintin’s faithful canine sidekick of the same name does have a cameo spot.

This is a very brave publication and great fun but it is not easy to read. I have already mentioned the weight of words, this is a deliberate stylistic technique but one that does get a little too weighty, the other problem is inherent in the nature of a collage style comic. That is that due to the selection of picture the characters often change dramatically in appearance, this can be confusing. There is also a tension created by the necessity to marry picture and word. At times the storyline sometimes seems to try to justify the pictures and vice versa.

Van Loon alternates between telling his tale and providing humerous dialogue that sets up a contrast between what is written and what is seen. This often works brilliantly as a one off gag but sometimes obstructs narrative coherence. An example of this being a frame where an exhausted pith helmet wearing British explorer is floating down an African? river in a small boat and says "So this is Bourenmouth, what a dump." While this is very funny the dichotomy between gag and narrative sometimes gets a little confusing.

The Bart Dickon Omnibus is so innovative however that these quibbles should be put aside and the glory of risk taking creativity be left to shine brightly and proudly.

From the opening Foreword not written by Stephen Fry to the following hallucinogenic experience resulting from sniffing a banana skin we are plunged into a world that sets its own rules as it goes along. My favourite page is the self contained Dickon Guide to Great Movements of Cultural History which provides the reader with a history of Punk Rock, I think. An example of how subversive and challenging comics can be when the imagination is let loose.

In a Word: Ground-breaking
Steve Saville reviewed on Silver Bullet Comics web'zine on http://www.silverbulletcomicbooks.com/smallpress, March 2006

>The Omnibus has arrived -- and it is splendid!
I will be sure to show it around to all my friends.
Mary Ruefle, poetess, Kalamazoo, U.S.A.

>Good–even adequate–comic book art should serve the same function as watching a film with the sound turned off. Without any dialogue or captions, comic art should be able to tell the story by itself, as much as a comic without any words is able to.
The “collage comic” then is an entirely different beast where, for example, one character can be represented by several different drawings of people cut out from various magazines, books, comics, etc. The writer is then forced to tell the story entirely through words, including explaining to the reader what he is looking at, such as pointing out that the chap in Panel 2 with blonde hair is the same chap seen in Panel 1 with black hair. The artwork then serves simply as an object, providing general scenarios onto which a story is overlaid.

This isn’t a criticism of the collage format, but I just wanted to point out that it’s a totally different reading experience from traditional graphic novels. Collage comics almost take a certain kind of patience that other comics don’t demand. This is almost doubly so for the Bart Dickon Omnibus where creator Borin Van Loon creates collages of words to go along with his art collages.
Omnibus is an absurdist comedy adventure following the travails of the titular “ideologically sound secret agent.” However, Bart never really seems to do any secret agenting. The book, which is a collection of short strips Borin created for different comic/magazine anthologies, is just an excuse to throw the main character into various ridiculous situations, not unlike Bugs Bunny in old Warner Bros. characters.

Aside from some unrelated short bits, the Omnibus collects the serial “A Severed Head” that begins with Bart’s conception, his birth, a trip to outer space, a visit to a haunted house, plus an adventure where a succubus bites off Bart’s head, which is rescued by his female partner and her doppleganger from another dimension. The stories, though, are really just excuses for Borin to be silly and layer each page with both visual and verbal puns.
Images are culled from a variety of sources, mostly unknown to me–although Borin thanks in the front of the book “the largely uncredited, anonymous talents of engravers, artists and illustrators from the last two centuries”–and some known, such as classic movie stills from the original King Kong and From Here to Eternity as well as comic staples like the ubiquitious 1940s Charles Atlas ad. Borin also seems to have some sort of fetish of pasting down giant baby heads in the middle of his collages.
The writing, in dialogue and captions, are largely an excuse for Borin string along jokes and bad puns, some sexual and others just plain goofy, like this exchange from the haunted house chapter:

“What evil swarm of purulence is this, the pustulent, bubbling, warty surface cracked & oozing an unspeakable putrescence & giving off foul & billious odours, you spawn of satan, you?”

“That’s my meatless tofuburger. Want one?”

I don’t normally find tofu jokes amusing, but that one made me laugh out loud. Much of the humor, too, is very British in nature.
As I said, a collage book like the Bart Dickon Omnibus requires a bit of patience to get through, but with the strange, dry humor of it’s author that patience is well rewarded.
The Bart Dickon Omnibus is self-published by Borin Van Loon and is available at Borin’s website.
Mike Everleth reviewed in BadLit on http://www.badlit.com/
February 2006
Bart Dickon postcard 2
 >Van Loon's been busy, illustrating freelance for three decades, his oeuvre encompassing a DNA/genetics mural for the Science Museum's Health Matters Gallery, and illustrations for several see-'em-everywhere educational crash-course guides like Capitalism For Beginners, Introducing Cultural Studies and Introducing Mathematics. You may also have noticed his art in the now defunct music mag Sun Zoom Spark.

This graphic novella (there are a few bonus strips thrown in, too) concerns the birth-schooling-adventure-decapitation-and-reassembly life of one Bart Dickon, "ideologically-sound secret agent and all-round good egg", with whom perusers of The Chap should be well acquainted. Like Max Ernst reared on a literary diet of Biggles, Jennings, Bunter, The Eagle and Angela Brazil (and his adolescence spent soaking up Ripping Yarns on the gogglebox and - contravening parental regulations - Beefheart, Stanshall and early punk via Peelie on a tinny pocket transistor (with earpiece) under the bedcovers), Van Loon collages imagery from a wealth of musty old decorative-cloth-covered story books, and incorporates laid-out-in-reverse sequence frames from that famous bodybuilding ad (muscleman-to-be weakling gets sand kicked in his face). Van Loon constructs a world of numerous vintages simultaneously ('thirties, 'fifties, twentieth century's turn) : hockey-playing gymslip-ed schoolgirls a-plenty, much pith helmet-wearing and pipe-smoking, folk named Simpkins and Fotherington-Thomas, and wartime air battles - and there's a blink-and-miss-it cameo from Tintin's dog Snowy, moniker-sharer with Bart's very faithful female sidekick.

I love how objects and characters change their appearance entirely from frame to frame, e. g. what's supposed to be the same car jumps forward a bunch of decades stylistically for no apparent reason - I guess there was the practical difficulty of trying to locate sufficient pics of the same vehicle from which to compose the comic, but Van Loon's turned this seeming handicap into a virtue, the lack of attempt at pictorial continuity only serving to enhance this bizarre tale's appeal.

Particularly amusing are the clever references to the work - for instance, going into hyperspace gives Borin an excuse to "bleed off the page... with an intergalactic backdrop"; and "Quick he's escaping onto the next page through another door !" made me smile too. Also commented on is the fine art of waffling on like crazy until the bottom's reached in overlarge text panels.
Whilst Borin displays a real affection for the source material (and it was nice for me to have the opportunity to re-appreciate that sort of stuff), he's not slow to give it a well-earned seat-of-pants kick where necessary : a railway porter is possessed of a salt-of-the-earth accent even more preposterous than that of working class-ers in the Famous Five series, thus satirising Blyton's clumsiness; and there's a send-up of that boys' school story convention, the token colonial, a comedy figure with his too-precise grasp of English language - here we have an impressive-looking shaman (referred to by a speccy chap as "Inky") in full regalia. And the headmaster (or "beak") of Bart's school actually has a beak - an entire bird's head, in fact, a comment on the unfathomability of dormitory slang.
Each frame in this story has been assembled most painstakingly - "You can't see the join", as the catchphrase went - and bubble-cloud-and-panel-filling comic lettering's been executed in trad hand-drawn fashion throughout, rather than easy-option computer.

My verdict ? In keeping with the retro sensibility of the strip, it can be nothing but a resounding "Hurrah !".
Stephen Drennan reviewed in ByPass Small Press 'Zine on http://community.livejournal.com/bypasszine/ February 2006

>You may have met this ideologically sound, bizarro Dick Barton in The Chap magazine. 
From Max Ernst and the Situationists to Biff, collage strips lend themselves perfectly to wild surrealism and satire, key ingredients in Van Loon's madcap remixing of old British comics and story papers. In A Severed Head, the central novella in this 108-page gatherum, our ideologically sound secret agent literally loses his head. Can female sidekick Snowy save the day? Van Loon disturbs and amuses equally.
Paul Gravett, comics and graphic novels expert, reviewed in Comics International,  January 2006; also onPaul's site http://www.paulgravett.com/articles/pgtips_1/001_pgtips.htm

>An excellent piece of work: both funny and weird.
Sam Woodman
Bart Dickon Postcard 3

>It's anarchic, isn't it?
Keith Dersley (Poet, musician and Beats aficionado. www.raggededge.btinternet.co.uk)

>Book arrived safe and sound - and v.impressive it is, too. The 'Exquisite Corpse' story, with its ultra-violence and man being chopped into segments by helicopter blades, particularly so. I don't buy The Chap, as it happens, so I wasn't aware of this.
-Roger Sabin (author of 'Comics, comix and graphic novels', Phaidon)

>'The Bart Dickon Omnibus' by Borin Van Loon. Severed Head Books ISBN 0955157900 £14.00
This is a graphic novel of the adventures of the eponymous hero, 'the ideologically sound secret agent', produced by a very talented Ipswich-based artist. The literary puns will make you groan, as will all the others ('Legal Aid - the sparkling drink for lawyers'?) but the wit will amuse. Van Loon admits that as this is a collected work, some of the political jokes are no longer topical. His website has a link to his interesting Ipswich contribution to the Historical Lettering site, as well as offering you the chance to buy 'gifts for the laconic solipsist in your life' - a chance that occurs all too rarely in my experience, and just in time for Christmas, too.
-Kay McEllhinney, Suffolk Book League Newsletter

>The most extraordinary book we've ever received.
Rachel Sloane: BBC Radio Suffolk

>Thank you so much for your Omnibus of Bart Dickon - stunning to have it all gathered under one cover.  I just visited the site and was impressed by your emporium of mail order goodies. A veritable cottage industry and empire in the making! Paul Gravett: Comics and Graphic Novel Supremo

>Many thanks for the copy of The Bart Dickon Omnibus which will instantly join our most treasured tomes, after a sojourn on the coffee table to amaze our friends.
May I just say that you are very weird? No? Okay!... PS This 'Stollen Pustule' can I cook it in the Aga? Sally Kibble: Southwold author and artist [The Stollen Pustule - shown being devoured in the image at the top of this page - is a delectable sweetmeat whose origins can be read about in 'The Bart Dickon Omnibus', best served cold with sweetbreads, a jellied eel compote and a coulis of kumquats. The author]

>Hi matey, we have in our midst a most wonderful book that max and I aare reading on the loo. Well not together. We have this ideal cross-over point where him and I share the same book for some time — for a long time it was Framley, then various Mad’s and the Traveller’s guide to Moldavia (de ye ken the title the noo?), then up till last week it was the 2006 Guinness Book of Records, but NOW its Bart Dickon — the Omnibus!!! What a stunner! The books him and I like are thick books, er, I’ll re-phrase that, densely packed books and boy does Bart fit the bill. We keep crossing over and saying things like ‘have you seen...?” Brilliant.
I dunno but I thought you might be interested in my initial thoughts. But don’t let these sway you. Max and I love it. Right up our street.
My initial thoughts are:
wow, he(you)’s so self-conscious about what he does
blimey he has some real depth about things
where the hell does he get so many apt references
things trot along until the post-modern fun carpet is pulled from the story and I’m left conscious, highly conscious of me and the author
some of the references leave me wondering whaa?, but then why should I get everything you refer to? as long as I get some the mystery of the others adds to the enjoyment of opening the book again and again
love the subtlety AND the majesty (subtle long pull-away scenes of reflection / shotguns blasting through people’s faces)
Enjoy the stories. The plot. (plots)
Nothing predictable. Is good.
Oh yes man
a good read.
Thanks Loooney.
Thanks for thinking of us and giving us (and others!) a gas, gas, gas.
Graham Weir: typographer, designer extraordinaire and computer boffin


>Amazon!
Amazonian listings of the book continue to yield surprises. Whilst not yet listed on amazon.com, the entry on amazon.co.uk now (Nov., 2005) has an entry for a 'New and Used' copy from a supplier called 'jazwuk' with a note that it's an "Unwanted gift"; worse still, Mr jazwuk is only charging £12.00, when the cover price at launch is £14.00!  This seems to be the trend: I'm proud to state that 'The Bart Dickon Omnibus' is for sale on the Extra section of Tesco.com. Yes, the UK's (world's?) biggest grocer is selling Borin's book (as well as five other titles, including one he didn't have anything to do with) at a knock-down 5% (70 pence off). All very interesting, since these people definitely haven't got copies of the book. Definitely virtual shopping! Oh, yes, and the book is for sale on amazon.de - the German site.

>do your thing borin,
best to you and your little people made of ink,
-Carol Gesbeck (USA)


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'The Thunderer' (excerpt from the short story in the book!)
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