GLAD YOU'RE BACK

The birth of Brainstorm Comix by Lee Harris

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 published one.

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.

Two magical 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.



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