Thursday, 1 April 2010

Drinkin' Wine (Spo Dee O Dee)

Gin Palace, originally uploaded by mithering.

I was in Travelling Man with The Kids the other day. They were buying Pokemon cards and feeding pound coins into the bank of machines which spews out clear plastic balls with toys in them. I'd asked if Hate Annual in (it wasn't) and I was feeling a little left out so decided to have my usual browse of the small-press / self-published section. Now, just to explain, I've read many a mini comic and bought a lot of self-published stuff over the years. Initially from Ed Pinsent's excellent Fast Fiction stall at the monthly London comic marts back in the 80s, latterly from the dwindling number of comic shops prepared to sacrifice the space other shops use to display Dunnys and crap action figures. Of late, though, there seem to be a lot which are essentially illustration portfolios which take a minute to 'read' and cost an arm and a leg. I'd almost given up hope, but I was drawn to Gin Palace through a combination of two things; I've been following @robjacksoncomics on twitter, and the cover of Gin Palace is Rob Jackson's reinterpretation of my designated favourite painting, "Bar at the Folies Bergere" by Manet. Or "Bored Shop-worker" as I know it, as it reminds me of my time working in a comic shop (comicbook reader as flaneur is stretching it a bit, I know).

Anyhow, I bought Gin Palace for a realistic £2.50 and read it on the bus into town the next day. Now, it's not a long journey from Heaton Park Reservoir to Shudehill Interchange, but it's long enough and Gin Palace lasted all the way. So that fitted my value for money criteria, but what of the work inside? As with the majority of anthologies there is some good stuff, some okay stuff and some stuff that's not really for me. Fortunately, some of the good stuff comes from the pen of Mr. Jackson, who contributes 'The Ballad of Hatty Jack' to his own collection. This is the tale of a society dominated by those who are privileged to wear hats and one boy's fight back as the mysterious superhero Hatty Jack. It's as daft as it sounds and very, very British. It's also something which could only work as a comic strip; Jackson's scratchy, pen-dominated art and varying panel lay-out create a suitably chaotic background for the story. His work is an enjoyable mash-up of Roz Chast and Mark Beyer, although he has yet to match the craft of that pair.

The other revelation is Francesca Cassavetti's 'Measuring Cup'. She feels like A Proper Comic Artist rather than a fine artist or illustrator turning their hand to comics through necessity or experimentation. I'm sure it isn't, but her confident use of the brush feels effortless. I also enjoyed Jarod Rosello's understated wordless experiment, 'The Rain'.

Gin Palace is available from Travelling Man and Good Grief! in Manchester or from

1 comment:

  1. I was impressed by Rob's interpretation of Manet's painting too. I'm pleased to say that after some pestering I managed to buy his original artwork. Cheers Rob!