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excellent writing
exceptional art
historical bonus 3
total score 8
not available
_ Brain Storm Comix 2 _
brainstorm comix 4
Brainstorm Comix #1
Brainstorm Comix #2
#3 Mixed Bunch #1
  Brain Storm Comix 3 _
brainstorm comix 5
not available
#4 Brainstorm #3
#5 Brainstorm Fantasy
#6 Amazing Rock & Roll
Brainstorm Comix

1975-1978 / Alchemy Publications

Brainstorm Comix was perhaps the last truly underground comic book series published in Britain, though I suppose it could be debated whether Graphixus, Warrior, Near Myths, Pssst! or Knockabout, which all followed Brainstorm, were actually British underground or alternative titles. David Huxley, author of Nasty Tales: Sex, Drugs, Rock 'n' Roll and Violence in the British Underground, categorizes all of the latter comic titles as alternative. I consider Graphixus, Near Myths and Knockabout to be undergrounds, since they launched in 1980 or before, but I'll grant you that's a pretty abritrary definition when it comes to the British scene. Knockabout in particular, launched in 1980, was really an alternative.

Early on, Brainstorm itself defines its genre as "adult fantasy" comics, but by traditional American standards (namely the publication's content) there's no doubt that the series is an underground comic book title. And Huxley agrees on that.

In any case, Brainstorm Comix stands as one of the landmark comic book series in Britain, largely due to the contributions from the fairly legendary British illustrator Bryan Talbot, who not only provided most of the content but literally inspired the launch of the series. Lee Harris was inspired to publish the first book in 1975 after Talbot approached him with the first chapter of his drug-fueled story "Chester P. Hackenbush, the Psychedelic Alchemist." Harris had never published a comic book before, but he did run a head shop in west London and had already produced some pioneering drug-related magazines (Alchemical Almanac, Handbook of Herbal Highs). He took one look at Talbot's story and said, "Right, let's go find a printer."

Although Talbot's Hackenbush saga dominated the first three issues of the series (excluding Mixed Bunch, a companion title published between issues two and three) and he continued to appear in subsequent issues, his work for other publications and his burgeoning career as a commercial illustrator reduced his contributions. Editor Mal Burns (who went on to launch Graphixus and helped edit Pssst!) states in Huxley's book that he thinks Brainstorm would have kept going if Talbot had contributed more to the series. Given the excellence of Talbot's work, I would not doubt that for a moment, even in the tough-to-succeed market of the United Kingdom.

Brainstorm ended up with a convoluted issue numbering system, thanks to the publication of its third book, Mixed Bunch #1. Mixed Bunch was actually the third issue in the Brainstorm series (its indicia reads "Vol. 1, No. 3"), but then the fourth issue (Vol. 1, No. 4) was published as Brainstorm Comix #3. That was because Mixed Bunch was considered a "companion title" and did not continue Talbot's Hackenbush story from the previous two issues (though it featured different Talbot content and a few other artists). When Brainstorm returned to the Hackenbush story, they continued their numbering system on the front cover from the second issue, hence the #3.

Since the fourth issue was called #3, it pretty much screwed the chances of calling the fifth issue #5, so the fifth issue was termed Vol. 2, No. 1. The front cover declared it was Brainstorm Fantasy Comix #1. The sixth and final issue attempted to restore order by simply calling itself #6 in the indicia, though it was officially titled Amazing Rock & Roll Adventures with no numbering at all on the front cover.

What a mess even having to explain it!

Despite all the confusion, Brainstorm Comix was actually a damn fine comic book, most of the time. Talbot carried the series, and the more he was in it the better the quality of the book. But there were a lot of charming aspects to the series beyond Talbot, including the editorials from Harris, Dennis Gifford (who later published Ally Sloper), the local advertisements (considered a big negative back then but cool to see now), the letters to the editor, and (perhaps most of all) the interesting and informative articles that Burns wrote in most of the books.

The dud in the series, issue #5 aka Brainstorm Fantasy Comix, probably spelled the doom of the run, as Harris had piles of the issue sitting unsold long after it came out. But there were other factors that influenced the title's demise, including Talbot moving on to other projects and the general apathy towards all underground comics from the buying public in England. Still, Brainstorm was perhaps the best series Britain produced in the first decade of its alternative comic book era.