Of Cermamic Submarines and The King
There have been so many great comics passing through my hands recently that itís felt like Christmas and Birthday and every other special day rolled into one. Mind you, any day is a special day when thereís a new Seth book to read. Anyone with a brain and a heart will of course love Seth for his great Palloka-Ville comics, and the collected strips that make up the Itís A Good Life, If You Donít Weaken and Clyde Fans books. And now thereís Wimbledon Green (Drawn And Quarterly). Considerably more text heavy than previous outings, this is nevertheless a great showcase for Sethís classic comics style. With a post-modern narrative structure and a nod to Chris Wareís dense grids of small frames, Wimbledon Green is a book about comics and obsession; about self (re)invention and integrity (or lack thereof). Itís whimsical, witty, ironic, satirical, honest and an exceptionally grand romp.

Now it seems to me that thereís a growing sense of comics being increasingly fashionable again. Browsing the displays of the London museums certainly suggests as much, as there seem to be growing collections of comics and graphic novels taking up space beside books on painters, photographers, architects and so on. One of the finer titles prominently on display at the moment is the fifth issue of Kramerís Ergot (Gingko Press). Itís a hefty compilation of fully formed strips, reproduced sketchbook pages (check out Gary Panterís 30 years of sketchbooks in 30 pages) and other intriguing and adventurous illustrations. And whilst itís unfair to zero in on individual contributions in what is a remarkably varied and always excellent collection, I canít help but particularly recommend Chris Wareís typically architectural and melancholic offering, and David Heatleyís epic strip that tells the tale of his sexual history. Be prepared for 320 pages of endlessly entertaining and inspirational art. Iím already eager for issue six.

Meanwhile from Top Shelf thereís been another string of excellent titles, not least of which are Rich Koslowskiís The King and Aaron Renierís Sprial Bound. Koslwoskiís book is a fabulous Pop adventure/mystery that uses a former tabloid journalistís exposť of an Elvis impersonator to explore themes of faith, self-reflection, and the bonds of mutual need that bind all cultural media together. Oh, and itís funny as hell too.

Spiral Bound is funny too, but in an altogether more innocent manner. Like Wimbledon Green, itís an addictively grand romp, filled with impossibly exciting underground tramways, a hidden underwater monster, a ceramic submarine, a fearless bird photographer, an authority challenging rabbit and a young elephant of great insecurity but rare nobility. And thatís just scratching the surface. A marvellously engaging and warm tale that explores themes of friendship and loyalty, this is the kind of book that whilst undeniably aimed at kids is no less enjoyable for adults too. Comes complete with raving recommendations from the likes of Lemony Snicket, Tony Millionaire and Craig Thomspson. So what are you waiting for?

And finally, in the self-publishing stakes, this issueís prize of most entertaining and artfully assembled artefact goes to Brighton based illustrator Alex Bec with his Everybodyís Talking AboutÖ All the elements you could ever want are peresnt. Sticker? Check. Badge? Check. Hand stitched booklet of fine ink drawings illustrating snippets of overheard conversations? Check. Hand stamped, individually numbered brown paper bag to stuff it all in? Why check, of course. On sale in selct Brighton and London outlets, apparently, or email alex_bec@hotmail.com for details.

© 2006 Alistair Fitchett