Adam Cadwell, best known for his autobiographical webcomic, The Everyday, takes a slightly different approach to self-chronicling with the tragicomic “The Tears of Tommy Cooper”. Ostensibly a story about the writer/ artist’s encounter with an elderly stranger one Saturday afternoon in 2006, its tone and style are a world apart from the brief, diarist snippets seen in the aforementioned strip. Funny and heart-wrenching all at once, his contribution offers a window into the life and character of the talkative stranger.
Drawn in his ultra-attractive clear-line style, the comic sees Cadwell being told ambiguously veracious tales of his special-brew drinking companion's life as he courteously wheels him home. With stories including time spent teaching at Manchester College, Army life and his friendship with the titular (and much-beloved) comedian, there's a genuine human loneliness to the piece that is cemented towards the end as the old man looks directly into both Cadwell and the reader's eyes, dispensing advice for the future.
The piece is extremely mature in its construction, with subtle characterisation that largely leaves the audience in to judge or deconstruct the mutton-chopped gentleman. What results from this is something complex, unclear, yet absolutely empathetic, that acts as a reminder of just how enjoyable autobiographical comics can be when used effectively and with purpose. In shifting the focus away from himself and onto the experience of his interaction with others, Cadwell succeeds in telling a meaningful story that almost anybody can relate to. Good autobiographical comics are extremely hard to come by, and by virtue of that alone "The Tears of Tommy Cooper" is well worth your time.
Stephen Collins returns from his outstanding work in Solipsisic Pop 1, once again achieving a land-grab of Napoleonic stature by appearing in both the book and the supplemental pull-out. Rightly so, to be honest, as his work is just that good, having appeared in The Times, The Guardian and The Wall Street Journal (just to name a few).
His central contribution this time is “Jumble”, a quasi-philosophical take on the oddity of jumble sales (or rummage sales, if you prefer). Not many comics can get away with a splash page of Freddie Mercury appearing to exclaim “Ooh isn’t that lovely” whilst accompanied by a trio of wolves, but here, Collins manages it successfully and with purpose. The image (revealed to be a strange composite of a Queen/ wolf fanatic’s principle obsessions on the back of a leather jacket) becomes a totemic representation of the ordered, human chaos of the jumble sale tradition.
Containing perhaps the best metaphor ever committed to print - “they are the hand of God rummaging around in a box full of shite.”- the quantum mysticism of Collins’ writing is further complimented by his gorgeous artwork. Making liberal use of this volume’s green/blue colour palette, the comic is endowed with an otherworldly quality that fits the ethereal church-set mood perfectly. In the words of the piece’s narrator, “Jumble sales, man. They’re portals, I tell you.”. Great stuff.
Much credit is due to Holiday and Humberstone for taking what is a simple recollection of a lost neighbourhood cat, and extrapolating it into a comic that’s mysterious and even a little sinister at points. Charmingly, Xena is lionised (groan) and presented as a noble monster “more than one hundred times bigger than any spider” whilst her owner is treated with much suspicion by the narrator, leading to an atmosphere that has more in common with a classic Noir-thriller than Homeward Bound.
Visually, Xena herself is drawn gracefully and with economy, full of the commanding grace a cat of her mythical stature should have. Taking place in the anthology’s full-colour supplement, Humberstone emboldens Holiday’s anecdote with a strong palette that really makes the atmosphere of the piece come alive. In terms of its place within the anthology, the comic is just like its subject, comparatively small but absolutely mighty.
Finally: As if his awe-inspiring gatefold cover wasn’t good enough, Luke Pearson also found it necessary to create one of the absolute highlights of the volume. Four pages long, "Ghosts" sees a young man recount his childhood fear of the paranormal and how he eventually conquered it by realising that, rather than inciting terror, seeing a ghost would be “TOTALLY SWEET!”.
Deftly told, it's a very funny take on a commonplace and identifiable fear. Taking comfort in the idea of a ghost-sighting confirming the idea of an afterlife, the narrator’s younger self goes on to considers all the other positives it may have. Of course, one of his first thoughts is what any hormone-plagued teenager would see as the chief benefit of being a barely-visible apparition: spying on people "in the act", so to speak. Ultimately a bittersweet lament of the passage into adulthood, straight-faced (for the most part) narration anchors the more exuberant content taking place within the panels themselves.
Pearson’s got a fantastic bold visual style that contrasts rounded, bendy cartoon figures against the much more rigid geometric lines of their environment. Also incorporating an approachable diagrammatic quality, I found myself drawing slight comparisons to the work Kevin Huizenga, which is titanic-enough praise in itself. Readers can (and should) head over to Pearson's website (linked above) immediately to check out further examples of his work. Absolutely bursting with potential, I, for one, cannot wait to see more from him in the future.