TRS2 puts its fine reputation at stake by negligence of quick reviewing of this collection by Shane Chebsey & Andrew Richmond. However dfense : this squarebound compilation sells itself : by its high print and design values and the creators attached to it : Jeremy Dennis, Nigel Auchterlounie, Martin Eden, Willie Hewes, Anthony Whittaker etc
This reader admits to preconceived bias against horror stories; its a genre boring and derivative. Psychobabble and troll poetry, dismemberment of character's bodies by meathook and chain snarl. Just get me to an ice cream with cherry syrup swirl thanks.
My passive prejudices aside, all the traditional horror cliches (characteristics if you like) are here. Those ordinarily competent and whom make horror familiarity their selves adepts such as Martin Eden and Willie Hewes lose their characteristic sparkle either virtually or as literature. Black inks and paintes pervade with enough McKean-isms as you'd expect, though several such as Chris Wisnia work this advantageously. Others bring a discordian element in and succeed with different effects , remaining thematially relevant. Dennis' piece utilising Richmond's characters Kempble and Faraday is consistent in presentation (of the characters). I initially encountered it as an awkward, jarring read which lost me , suceeding in a coax of several re-reads to 'find' the story journey through decoding by the reader. Ali Graham and Richard Starzecki four page contribs stand out in their full-on deaalings with subject matters the banal of daytime teevee and antiquated sound equipment. Both serve to bring some light heartedness to the proceedings and both have very distinctive styles pleasing my senses immensely.
Favourite piece here is Mary Rhoda's 'Fright Knight' for its European exemplar qualities, attention to detail and clean shine of research. Paul O'Connell and James Hodgkins' have works in here too. I like that !
I still hate the horror genre. The trite tale tales are boosted as being part of the flow of the compilation and there is a sad tendency in the better works to close with some amateur staple such as hack and slash. Talk to folk though, and you'll find the the majority of people who've read it loved it. Dead by Dawn is the head and shoulders of UK comics and as such is recommended. Issue Two has been released and can be ordered from here.
16 page A7 mini on show featuring characters Kempble and Faraday and Adolf Hitler's arrival and lodging in hell. Each image is composed neat, style that is smart and of sharp contrast. The booklet is a warmly enjoyable read.
More about these creators at www.duskcomics.com or look for their works at Bristol Comics meet ot Caption 2006.
Matthew Badham and I seem to be on the same page today cos he's just put a link up for the creator I'm about to give mention to. No comic to hand just an incredibly good flier picked up from the Brighton Expo 2005 featuring a number of wickedly funny stories ink-hatching adding a quaint warmth to contain memorably black, slapstick deadpan gags of merit. Steven Tillotson has put together one of the most immediately enticing comic promo samples I've seen and if an indicator, buy his comics !
For details : Banal Pig Comics
First Floor, 50 Knowle Road
Bristol BS4 2ED
Email : banalpig @di tcb.co.uk
In the foreword to this, Mardou’s second full collection of stories (aside from Manhole #1 three years ago, her work has either appeared in anthologies such as Whores of Mensa or formed one half of a collaboration), the writer/artist states that the main tale here, ‘King of It’, is “fictional for the most part. I guess only emotionally does it count as ‘near biography’.” And in a way, ‘King of It’ could be read almost as wish fulfillment. Ostensibly about an extra-relationship affair, an early interlude where the narrator/lead Heidi discusses her conflicted feelings with her best friend Heather could possibly be interpreted as actual autobio, with the affair itself perhaps a ‘what if?’ scenario (some of the dialogue between the illicit lovers – “You’re incredible” – strikes a near Mills & Boon note). The line is further blurred by the central character bearing a marked resemblance to the author, as in many of Mardou’s comics.
Ultimately, however, the veracity of ‘King of It’ hinges, as Mardou suggests, on its emotional honesty, and it’s here that a deeper truth is explored beyond the establishment of simple ‘fact’. Heidi moves from guilt to longing to excitement to anger and back to guilt as she turns over her predicament in her mind – all this having already made the decision to travel to London and meet Mark, her longtime correspondent and now prospective lover. When Heidi and Mark do get together, the passion she feels and the romance of the encounter is tempered by the constant nagging thought that both of them have long term partners. One sequence in particular neatly encapsulates this, flashing back to Heidi reading Mark’s letters, then detailing a tender scene over the washing up with her boyfriend Dan, and finally returning to the darkened hotel room she currently lies awake in (with Mark sleeping next to her).
What’s striking about the tale is the confidence Mardou displays in the telling of it, shifting around in time as the story suits. Her line has never looked more natural, and the pacing is wonderfully controlled. The page where Heidi and Mark leave the hotel consists of two small panels separated by an expanse of white space, the top one showing the two of them dressing, the bottom one depicting a cleaner hoovering downstairs with Heidi and Mark out of shot upstairs, their distraught off-screen dialogue causing the cleaner to look up curiously.
If ‘King of It’ was all Manhole #2 had to offer, it would already be an essential read. The inclusion of two excellent back-up strips takes it further. The first, ‘Snapshot’, follows two friends as they discover a box of intriguing old postcards in a mildewed bookshop; the second, ‘What People Were Reading Last Year (In My Town)’, inhabits the back cover, a brightly-coloured guide to the books borrowed (and the people who borrowed them) from the library Mardou once worked in. Sporting a striking pink collage front cover, Manhole #2 is indispensable.
Review by Nick Jones
Charming and really quite intriging memory of childhood. The fluid, inky artwork puts me in mind of EH Shephard or Chris Riddell, despite not looking anything like them. It's the movement, I think. Superficially the story is slight, recollections of childhood incidents, merging and blurring into a single journey on an almost neverending day. This comic is saved from fluffydom though, as it starts and ends on a deeper note that gives the whole thing more heft.
In his endnotes Oli Smith almost blows it, making explicit in words things only hinted at or implied in the comic itself -
It all really happened ... Though not on the same day. On his website, he mentions the trip's destination, which isn't given in the story. This is a common problem actually. I love to know about the whats and whys that give rise to comics and stories, but it's difficult to write that stuff without undermining the story itself. We should all aspire to Eddie Campbell's revealingly concise introduction to After the snooter - In this book, I drop the pretence of being Alec MacGarry. Fortunately, Oli doesn't touch on the bigger, adult, question that frames his story and shrouds it in retrospective melancholy.
Hazy Thursday is £2.50 including postage, available from Oli Smith.