On April Fool's Day 1972,
Alchemy began trading as a headshop in an indoor market
in London's Portobello Road. It was a colourful time when nearly everyone
you met had either just been to India or was
about to embark on the journey. On the tide of great gurus you encountered
beautific smiles and enlightened spirits. If you saw some long-haired 'freak'
in his sheepskin coat and flares walking down the Portobello on a Saturday,
you'd greet him thus: 'Hi man, far out!'
I met Bryan
Talbot during that first year. While at art college he was running
a basement shop in his home town of Preston, Lancashire, called White
Rabbit and I supplied him with incense, perfumed oils, herbs and balms
from the East.
In September 1975 Bryan
arranged to come down to London to show me the comic
story he had just finished. It was almost two years since I'd last
seen him. He reminded me that I'd once said that if he got his comic together,
I'd be interested in publishing it. He had spent three months working on it
and it was finally complete. I had hardly read a comic in years, let alone
On the day he came to
my flat, I had just been ripped-off by some 'bob-a-job'
kids who I had let in to clean the place up. They had taken some small change
and other items and I had gone out to look for them but couldn't find them.
I felt dejected and sad that I had been robbed
while I trusted them.
When I returned to the
flat, Bryan was already waiting for me. My girlfriend
Brigitte had made him some tea. I sat down and
Bryan put the pages of artwork in my lap. As I turned the pages over I felt
deeply moved. Something had been taken from me and here was something being
given. I felt as if it had been drawn especially for me. Chester
P Hackenbush had restored my faith in humanity.
Later we went to see
a printer friend of mine who gave Bryan some technical
advice on how to do colour separations. At that stage all we had were
twenty pages of artwork and no cover. Bryan duly returned to Preston to do
one. Meanwhile I solicited my headshop contacts
around the country to get some advertising to help cover the publishing costs
and to add bulk to the volume. I found a printer who agreed to print the comic
and with scarce resources went ahead.
events took place
on the same day - the 26th of November 1975.
On that day Brigitte
and I were married in a Buddhist temple. The
ceremony was attended by a few close friends of whom Bryan was one and he
took a photograph. Afterwards, Brigitte and I
cooked and served a meal for the five Thai monks
who had blessed us and then we returned to the flat for a party.
Many friends had gathered
and were sitting cross-legged on the carpets or lounging on cushions. Then
I got a call from the printer informing me that the first batch of comics
would be arriving at nearby Paddington railway
station. Bryan and I rushed off to pick them up.
When we got back to the
party we opened up the parcel and there they were - Brainstorm
Comix number one with their bright red covers. Bryan took one out and
just looked at it in awe and wonderment. I passed a few copies around and
a little while later everyone was reading them.
I republished the Chester
trilogy in one volume, seven years later on the 26th November 1982.
Bryan came down to Alchemy, which had by then moved to larger premises
a few doors up the road, to do a signing for both it and the first Luther
Arkwright book which came out at the same time. The accompanying photo
was taken then.
The three epic adventures
of Chester P Hackenbush were a seminal work,
an experiment in visual story-telling styles
that encompasses many popular cultural influences. Chester's cerebral
journeys into inner and outer space take us along a mystical
quest for spiritual unity. Like an alchemical text, it is riddled with
subtle hidden references and allegorical situations that delight the adept
and enlighten the apprentice.
I am pleased and proud
to have made friends with Bryan and Chester all those years ago.