Welcome to a world where galoshes are worn as a matter of course, people are shushed because Greta Auntie is polishing her coronation spoon, and clackers have been totally banned since Sister Concepta's accident. John Bagnall's funky linocut-style brushwork and staccato lettering were first seen in the Fast Fiction and Escape anthologies of the 80s but this collection gathers the best of Bagnall for the first time.The major story in the collection. The Chemist and the Capuchin is an instructive verses science morality tale about an apparent miracle, set in a beautifully rendered late 50s environment. What makes the story unusual is the lack of obvious hipster signposting of what we are supposed to think of the chemist's experience. This ambiguity will arise again in the other obviouslyCatholic-themed story in the collection, Our Lady of the Tower Black which relates the healing of an alcoholic eacher by possible religious intervention. Both stories feature creepy religious characters with obscure motivations, and blur religious fervour with brain injury and sexual sublimation.My personal favourite is the Berlin diary of David Bowie, Get My Own Groceries, presented in "Dear Diary" format and featuring superb characatures of pop triumvirate Bowie, Iggy Pop and 'my ne chum' Brian Eno. The illustrations are hilarious in themselves but it is Bagnall's language which makes the Berlin diary so superb: "it was my old mucker, Iggy Pop". Bowie's an incarnation of self-indulgence and pomposity as the artist in exile, for whom 'minimalist' window displays are merely an artistic statement for him to sample. Iggy's presented as a sozzled simian who sensitively turns up wearing a swastika baseball cap.The remaining cartoons show Bagnall's affection for Northern times past, peopled by parochial, inbred characters with low but comfortable horizons. A Nation of Shopkeepers is a series of vignettes from 70s shops, and Disappearing Phrases rescues such gems as 'he couldn't stop a pig in a passage' (i.e. he's bandy-legged). The past is indeed another country - don't forget to pack your galoshes."
Heather Middleton Honeypears #3 Sept.2004
John Bagnall's "Don't Tread On My Rosaries," published by Kingly Books of Glasgow, Scotland, collects a group of short stories, the best of which, "The Chemist and the Capuchin," tells the slightly nutty but heartfelt story of a scientist who suffers a chronic injury and rediscovers his lost faith. Another tale imagines David Bowie's diary from his Berlin days. Created with no apparent pretense, Bagnall's work has a warm and funny eccentricity.
Andrew Arnold Time.com July 2004
Don't Tread on My Rosaries by John Bagnall is a more low-key example of British comics publishing, featuring as it does a collection of short stories from an 'indie' favourite. One autobiographical tale concerns an English oral test at school, in which the children are persuaded by their new hippie teacher to talk about 'my holiday'. All goes well until Tina Lyons begins to explain how her family got caught in a traffic jam due to a crash, and goes on to describe the carnage in awful detail. Pupils faint and throw up: the narrative text informs us: 'There was no more "self-expression" for quite a while.' This is drawn in an almost woodcut style with intricate hand lettering, and is as far removed from the Alan Moore cinematic aesthetic as you could imagine. It's one of my books of the year and deserves a much wider audience than it will probably receive.
The Observer November 2003
In Dont Tread On My Rosaries John Infuses his short stories with unpredictable wit and evocations of vanished history. Where else are you going to read comics about the life-changing Catholic conversion of a Heinz food-colour chemist or David Bowie grocery-shopping in West Berlin? Johns gifts as a raconteur have never been more engaging.
Comics International October 2003
Bagnalls eccentric, defiantly English comics are easily the equal of more lauded US fare like Dan Clowes Ghost World, depicting a familiar, yet slightly off-kilter world of corner shops, convent schools and bangers and mash... Along with the like of Glenn Dakin, Phil Elliott, Ed Pinsent and Eddie Campbell, John Bagnall represents a school of under-appreciated British alt. comics creators whose work, when you can find it, is even more vital than it was when they debuted 20 years ago.
Jockey Slut September 2003
..a darkly funny read including compelling epics and witty short excerpts... a punchy fast moving anthology filled with oddball characters, bittersweet tales and bizarre events in black and white.
The List Sept 18 2003
Offbeat, funny but insightful, it blurs the line fantastically between reality and fantasy in ways that Harry Potter and his jolly hockey chums arent old enough to even imagine.
The Scotsman 19 July 2003
Full of cracking cartoons and charming tales it's a camera obscura trip to a slightly quirky, pleasantly musty, parallel universe.
www.ilike.org.uk July 2003
Read a review by Pete Ashton at Bugpowder