I suppose we all grew up with comics. They were a guilty pleasure for me – for some reason my mother thought that they would addle my brain somehow so I used to read them in secret, borrowed from friends or picked up in those bargain bins they used to have in the news agents for pennies. Beano. Hotspur. All those ones with Spitfires and plucky tommies dodging bullets on the covers. As a student, my mate Mark had a thing for 2000AD, which both thrilled me and horrified me with its creative dystopian bleakness. Then I sort of stopped reading comics. They were for kids after alland my mum might have been right all along.
Something is changing though. The dominance of Marvel might be part of it, with the superhero genre taking centre stage. They are emphatically NOT my thing though, even the films that transcend the limitations of the superhero genre (bombastic conversation – ludicrous fight – bombastic conversation – ludicrous fight – repeat) to deliver something more nuanced and intelligent tend to leave me cold. And anyway, these films are live action now, despite all the CGI. No, something else is going on. The Graphic Novel is on the rise…
Forget comics. These are not disposable pieces of distraction. They are not even comic. They can be moving, inspiring and challenging in ways that all the best art really should be.
My window into this world is my mate Si Smith, who for years I have heard get excited about graphic novels and animated films that I had never heard of. I still mostly did not ‘get’ them, even if it was hard not to be caught up in his enthusiasm. I am too wedded to words perhaps. Also, the incredible craft needed to put together a whole story line in graphic form is hard to grasp for muggles life me.
Well, time to change all that.
A few months ago, I got my first read of this.
It is brilliant. You should buy it. If it is a new art form to you, here is some advice; treat reading it almost like you would a spiritual discipline. Lectio Divina or something like that. I know, that sounds blasphemous right? Follow me on this though- I suggest reading it through once quite quickly. Then notice the sound track- read it through again, much more slowly, allowing the songs to filter in too (there is playlist on Spotify under the same name if you use this.) Of course, the story will have nagged at you as you were reading. Then it might be time to think about meaning. What is this story about? Why is the main character doing what he is doing? What is driving him? Perhaps too, you will come to ask, what is the relationship between this story and Lent? Next, allow individual images to speak to you. Expressions, moments of tender observation…
Or you could forget all that and just enjoy the creativity- which brings me to this. Si has been running a side blog that reveals something of the process of how a piece of work like this comes together. Check it out here.
It gives a glimpse onto the way that each image is constructed layer by layer. A lot of the images are from another piece of work, also brilliant, called Abide with me.
This is a very different piece of work, concerning itself with the ever present but often ignored issue of dementia. It is the story of one day, told from three different perspective, in three different zines. A man with dementia, his wife and their visiting son.
It is really great to celebrate the success of a friend, but this is no puff piece. Don’t take my word for it, get hold of these things for yourself. Allow them to open up a new world for you. You won’t regret it.