Brit-Cit and beyond

At The Comics Journal: a review of David Roach’s Masters of British Comic Art book, which takes up a fair portion of any coffee table it sits on. The histories of those Brits on the cover have been mulled over before (nearly a cottage industry in the case of Judge Dredd) but this book looks at less common parts of the map, while also trying to balance the scales a bit for a profession which has been as diverse and progressive as most of British publishing ie. not much. Another reason for a hefty tome is that it’s published by Rebellion, which has bought vast chunks of old British comics IP and surely spotted a moment to express commitment to that purchase via the medium of kilograms.

At Tripwire: brief words on Barking, Lucy Sullivan’s graphic novel about a mental breakdown. Unfair to compare everything in this area to Sloane Leong’s A Hollowing, bits of which I’m still thinking about three years after reading it; but both of them choose Expressionist horror as the way to shove a reader into the mind of someone in a bad place, while also stressing that they’re built from ink marks scratched onto paper. Realism does not offer a transparent window onto reality, reckoned Linda Nochlin and me.

Tank Girl gets onto the Masters cover and Jamie Hewlett gets his place in the line-up; but he already had a Taschen volume to himself in 2017, a book that puts your coffee table under even more strain than Roach’s does. Masters displays its artists alphabetically, which equalises things but downplays the historical moments, like the one when Hewlett spliced Moebius and MAD magazine and changed the course of the river a bit. Selecting three pages of Tank Girl for Masters restricts Hewlett’s energies much like an atom bomb squeezed into a tin can, while the Taschen book can venture into things like Hewlett’s sketches from Bangladesh for Oxfam, part of the humanitarian anti-war sentiment that runs through his art. Plus it has his drawings of Aquitaine pine trees, rigorous study of light and shade on a French headland being about as legitimate a fine arts project as it gets, historically speaking.


30 April 2020