Yet more evidence that cartoonist Philip Barrett is a creator in control of his craft. With foundations of skill, sequential know-how and good judgement, even on automatic he is capable of affecting, absorbing work. More often than not, though, this sturdy, underlying support provides platform for achieving that effortless surface one associates with the likes of Eddie Campbell, which of course oozes its own kind of seductive charm.
Explored in opening strip, 'The Record', is an all-consuming obsession - of the Clowes Velvet Glove ilk. Executed with the kind of ease that requires meticulous planning, it's the tale of a life haunted by the sounds of mysterious vinyl The Landing, and of the vacuum its absence bequeaths. Gag-like but ambitious strip 'The Divils' follows with slightly indulgent page-count. Lacking the omnipresent finesse of the opening strip, it engages visually, proves both amusing and disturbing in equal measure, but ultimately provides superfluous script. In 'Touched', space/time is tweaked to resonant effect before (and after) the strip settles to offer a wonderfully knowing characterisation via a glimpse of domestic life - in which the omnipotent voice of mother organises the fates of those below her, and the daughter finally gets off with Paul Speers! 'Girl On Chair' ends the issue in bizarre fashion, somehow succeeding in making sexual beings of both Mr Benn and King Rolo while delivering insight into the mind-set of female gallery attendant!
One is seduced not so much by the slight stories of Matter #2 as by a close-to-faultless story-telling possessed of a lulling sentimentality. Even when a hollow note is struck - which is rare - compensation takes the form of a work ever imbued with infectious warmth and good humour, which marks something of a tonal deviation from the cynicism of earlier publication 'A Crack In The Shell'. Also added here - in 'The Record' - is an interruption to passivity by a decision made; a thing done as opposed to a thing happening. Recommended.
Matter #2 is A5, card-covered, 24 pages. For detail on ordering - write: Phil, 32 Celtic Park Avenue, Beaumont, Dublin 9, Ireland. Email: email@example.com. Site the Web: http://homepage.eircom.net/~jinx.
Stephen's Second Little Book of Charity Shopping
Posted by Mardou
As self-evident from the title Stephen Drennan’s little book is a collection of descriptions of charity shop finds from around Brighton and Hove. The entries are beautifully written matched with luscious monochrome illustrations by Erica Smith (of GirlFrenzy).
The dinky book is a simple concept executed with heaps of style and it manages to make an eloquent consumerist statement about the present, whilst taking an affectionate stroll through the consumerist foibles of the past.
Stephen’s Little Book of Charity Shopping
Stephen’s second Little Book of Charity Shopping
Priced £1 each, available from :
PO BOX 2927
BN1 3SX, UK
Calibre auto recording
Unearthed in Blatchington Road’s Red Cross shop, on the final day of April ’98, this one- sided seven brought back memories of Catholic boy gangster Pinkie and the young-and-in-love waitress Rose, in the cinema adaptation of Graham Greene’s Brighton Rock. Recorded in a make-your-own booth, perhaps on one of my hometown’s piers, what can actually be heard of My Sweet Lorraine through the numerous skips and scuffs is rendered with genuine zest by…well, who knows? Such is the allure of record booth discs – the total lack of raised expectations, of prejudices for or against artists, of belief in clever advertising and music weekly hype. These are (extra-) ordinary folk, day trippers or longer-stay holiday makers enjoying themselves, momentary stars creating a vinyl souvenir, with background passers-by and shrieking kids adding flavour. I’ve since discovered a second auto recording, and would like to find enough of these audio snapshots to release a C90 compilation – the aural equivalent of Dick Jewell’s handsome volume of found photo booth portraits.
In Dublin City
Another title with Atomic Diner imprint, and, as advance publicity optimistically suggests, just the second in a courageous line of Irish comics packaged with mainstream ambition. Publisher Rob Curley is fast becoming the Dez Skinn of Ireland's nascent comics industry! And, despite his ambition, obviously recognises that 'industry' more often than not contains dark, satanic mills in which the souls of men are ground to valueless dust - all proceeds from the sale of this book are donated to the Simon Community. (A charity for the homeless.)
In Dublin City, by Gerry Hunt, is an incantation to and of this fair city, but not so much penned by a James Joyce as by a Ronnie Drew! It bustles with common muckers and oozes a seductive salta-de-eart exuberance that demands affection, but that fails to engage as a work of sequential art. Centred around a card game destined for urban folkloric status, a crowded proximity of peripheral characters, Dublin city itself and a ballad-like narrative combine to allow the reader to witness the magical transition from the everyday to legend. It is a chemistry that almost overwhelms the reader with urgent appreciation.
In Dublin City is flawed, though. A tour of exquisitely detailed city buildings is obstructed by jarring figure drawings inconsistant in both style and quality; lettering is cramped in squared word balloons that at times are poorly placed; and the often dissociative narrative fails to focus the montage effect.
Not wholly satisfactory as a comics work then, In Dublin City occupies that space where the fusion of words and images make something related to sequential art. But believe me, a sense of guilt is unavoidable if read with failing stamina, because there is much to admire here. Eisner gave us 'A Contract With God'; Hunt offers 'A Contract With Sod'. It's a charmer; and just that little bit sozzled, perhaps.
Glossy A4, colour covered, 36 paged, and a mere 3 Euro from: Atomic Diner, 51 Tyrconnell Park, Inchicore, Dublin 8, Eire.