In his introduction to Swimming with Shoes on, David Ziggy Greene describes the titular sensation as a process where "The back of your brain is dealing with the issue but the front just won't accept the situation.". It's an almost perfect analogy that sums up the left-field content of this "best of" selection of his mini-comic work. Almost perfect because the reader won't find themselves so much swimming, as being thrust along an often gross, always funny white water ride of tentacles, allegorical boxing matches, geriatric space adventurers, touring bands, and belly button lint. Just as in white water rafting, there’s a chance you might want to vomit, but it was well worth it just for the experience.
A champion of small press (setting up the wonderful Samu.co.uk in 2008), Greene is unmistakably one of those people who love to create regardless of the reward or audience. Greene openly advertises his lack of formal artistic training, and his work has a very idiosyncratic, visceral quality about it. Not just visceral in the grotesque jokes he employs, but in the frenzied, organic nature of his illustration also. With the collection’s content being drawn over a period of time, the clear development of his style can be seen. With his frenetic, enthusiastic drawings building in intensity throughout the book, the artist pushes the humble clear-line to its absolute limits of fidelity, resulting in a delightful, ultra-busy style that is best embodied by the book’s interior cover image – a bundling mass of fists and legs fighting for supremacy.
This isn’t to say that his home-grown aesthetic doesn’t have a structured composition to it though, and my favourite piece from the collection is the rather sedate “Library Talk”; a one-page gag strip ironically depicting the silence taking place between the bookshelves, it’s a good example of the devious and often underplayed wit that exists at the heart of Greene’s work. Anyone who is able to make a well-crafted, rewarding joke about an extra-terrestrial Emperor potentially puking himself to death is OK in my book.
The work in Swimming with Shoes On happily exists between the worlds of professional comics and off-the-cuff zines. Made with equal parts frantic energy and thoughtful construction, Greene’s collection manages the lofty task of being gross, funny and charming all at once. Overall, it’s a wonderfully-bound collection of small press work that provides an interesting insight into the development of a cartoonist over time. Full of dry (and sometimes wet) humour, it’s a diverse collection including a large variety of work including parody (The Unbelievable Adventures of Chip Buckminster), epic occult westerns (A Briefcase Full of Dollars), as well as autobiography (“Cats on Tour”, following Greene’s time touring with Cats in Paris).
Printed in association with Alternative Press, the collection is available now from Samu.co.uk for the extremely reasonable price of £5, it’s worth it entirely to see an advertising representative get shot point-blank by a cowboy. If you’re feeling incredibly esoteric, you can even buy an extract from the book as a shoe. No, really.