There was, believe it or not, more to the 1980s than Thatcher, the New Romantics and shoulder pads. It was also a fine time for Chinese cinema, New York novelists and, let's not forget, British small press comics.

Growing up alongside the punk and post-punk fanzine culture, British cartoonists began to break away from comic book conventions and explore new areas. Eddie Campbell pioneered the British autobiographical comic in his Alec strips, while the likes of Ed Pinsent reinvented British whimsy with a surrealist twist.

And then there was Chris Reynolds. In collaboration with Paul Harvey, Reynolds launched the small press magazine Mauretania Comics in the mid-1980s, a black-and-white comic featuring short stories full of aliens and detectives and a character in a helmet called Monitor (or sometimes Jimmy).

Full of mysteries that were never really resolved, Reynolds's strips for Mauretania had a curious late-afternoon-sun-in-a-bottle atmosphere. What really snagged you was the sense of place and time in the strips, a bittersweet, troubled awareness that life was passing by in front of us.

Penguin Books published an original Mauretania graphic novel in 1990, but in its wake Reynolds rather disappeared for a while before resurfacing online.

His work remained largely overlooked, however, until the Canadian cartoonist Seth wrote a love letter to Mauretania Comics in The Comics Journal in 2005. And now, 13 years later, Seth has been instrumental in getting a selection of the Mauretania strips republished, going so far as to design the handsome new hardback edition from New York Review (look out for a review in The Herald Magazine in the coming weeks).

No better excuse, then, to chat to Reynolds about his past, present and future. So, come with us, now, to Mauretania.

The Herald:

Chris, can we start with an introduction? Where are you now? Where have you been? Are you content?

Well, Teddy, I'm still being mysterious and still doing comics, mostly for sale online these days, although occasionally some get made into properly printed books as we see. I am in Bournemouth. Not content, though. I have been given the gift of non-contentness to help me with my work.

What is your own history as a reader of comics?

Almost entirely Batman until about 1985, plus the UK comics of the 1960s and 1970s, plus Harvey Pekar's American Splendor.

When did you start making them yourself?

I began doing comics in what you might call a serious and intentional way in 1984, but I was writing text stories about the same characters and situations before that. The material that went into Mauretania Comics began in 1974 when I took my parents' typewriter upstairs and began my never-finished big novel Time Off.

It was a huge story that contained Monitor and Robert, and looking back on it now, it had the theme of exploring places that is a big part of Mauretania Comics. Then, in the early 1980s I began doing very short stories of about five lines each, about the same kind of subject. So, in 1984, with Paul Harvey, who I had done some experimental comics with, we started "Mauretania" which was an anthology comic in that incarnation.

What were the influences visually and narratively that fed into Mauretania back in the day?

Visually, I made it up as I went along. I didn't consciously get the style that I draw from anywhere. A lot of it came from experiments with Super-8 films and trying to get a 3d effect on those by using thick black outlines for the screen and having a second screen with a big hole in the middle a few inches in front of the main screen.

Did you know what you were trying to do from the beginning or was it a case of finding your feet as you went along?

I didn't know what I was doing and I still don't. It took Seth's appreciation of Mauretania Comics in The Comics Journal to point out to me what was going on. It caused me to panic a bit, as I hadn't realised how I was coming across, and then I didn't know whether then to carry on in the same way or to try to react against what he'd seen in the stories. It was a big thing for me to be given that insight.

Time and place seem central to the strips. Discuss?

I did these strips originally because I wanted to preserve, to trap, to maintain, to transmit, certain very happy but elusive feelings I had about my favourite places, places that I dreamed about, and places in books. I made the attempt to capture those times and places in comics. I was not 100% successful of course, but then no art is. But I did end up in some interesting places along the way.

I remember reading Mauretania back in the eighties and seeing it as quite political in some way I couldn't quite articulate. A kind of retreat, maybe, from the Thatcherite present. Is that something you'd even recognise?

Could be a retreat, but more an invitation to a different way of thinking ... Yes, actually, it is a retreat. I get so fed-up with that stuff. I still get very wound up about it and I don't like it. (My friend Michael from South Africa who has come to live in the UK calmed me down though. "This place is like heaven," he says.)

Which leads to the question, what is the most unlikely reading other people have projected onto Mauretania?

This is it - that's what I had in mind - the readers bring their own drinks to join in the party - the reader supplies half the story from what they bring to it. But there are not many different interpretations. A couple of reviews of the story The Dial contained various ideas about there being a split in the story where "the dream" began, but otherwise people seem pretty consistent about what the stories mean to them.

Mauretania arrived at a very fertile time for the British small press. Did you feel part of a community?

I didn't at the time, but, looking back on it, we had a lot of support and probably didn't appreciate it enough. Paul Harvey and I would still have done Mauretania Comics without the help of Escape and Fast Fiction, but with their help it was wonderful.

After the Penguin graphic novel you seemed to disappear. Did you just decide to take a different path?

What happened was that Titan Distributors were taken over by Diamond, and they didn't want to continue distribution of Mauretania Comics which meant that it wasn't financially viable anymore and so we had to stop. We switched to doing exhibitions of artwork but they're impermanent of course. This went on for a couple of years. Then I got enough money together to make the Mauretania Comics film, Hunters of The Sun (five-minute version available on YouTube! Films are a worse form of expression than comics - far worse).

And then I was away from comics doing other stuff, not creative things, living. Just occasional experimental ones like Jenny in Stringtown, and a some of commissions. I even did some "Manga" for a Japanese publisher in those days. Not seen here, of course.

When did online comics begin to interest you?

It was when Kindle started up. In about 2008, I thought, I'll go for it with comics again.

What do you make of Seth's design for the new collection? Do you feel like he is a kindred spirit? Did you ever imagine you'd make it into hardback?

Seth has done a wonderful job both in the stories he's selected to run and in his design. It makes a really strong package and he's put these comics together in a better way than I could have imagined. He's seeing the structure behind it of course, in the way that I don't. He has to be a kindred spirit. There's such an aura of friendliness about what he's done. I thought I would make it into hardback one day, but I'd accepted that it might be after I was dead.

How does it feel to revisit these 30-year-old strips? What do you make of the younger you?

Younger me was a very sensitive chap. I couldn't re-do these stories now though. I've become a lot lighter in my personality, more personally confident, fewer rough edges.

Is Mauretania still a place you enjoy visiting? How has it changed?

It's still there. I still get the dreams. Except that now, part way through the dream I think, "Oh yeah, this is the one I wrote that story about ..."

What are you working on now?

I've split off Ken Prime from the Cinema Detectives and he now lives in Aberystwyth and is Ken Prime - Psychic Detective! You see, there's no plan. I'm just going forward into what I think might be interesting. It's a six-pager.

Who are your own favourite cartoonists?

Gary Dumm and the other American Splendor artists. All the Batman artists from the 1960s, all the artists from the British comics of the 1960s. I like anyone though. I like painters. My friend George sometimes lets me watch him paint.

Complete the following sentence. The great thing about the comic strip is ...

That they are a unique form of expression which takes no money, equipment, or obligations. The pictures will tie everything together for the reader and so you can be free ...

The New World: Comics From Mauretania, by Chris Reynolds, is published by New York Review Comics, priced £24.99.