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The RE[a]D Diary h/c

The RE[a]D Diary h/c back

Teddy Kristiansen, Steven T. Seagle & Teddy Kristiansen

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Page 45 Review by Stephen

“This is the story of a painting.”

Well, THE RED DIARY is. Written and drawn by Teddy Kristiansen, it’s a bereaved biographer as private detective, and ridiculously clever in its own right. It was published in France and then Denmark.

But then Steven T. Seagle – Teddy’s collaborator on IT’S A BIRD – went and wrote THE RE[A]D DIARY based solely on Teddy’s images, because he needed an excuse to publish it via Image and speaks neither French nor Danish. He thought it might be a fun exercise.

It is a brilliant exercise and I swear that when you get to page 53 your jaw will drop on the floor! Meanwhile I give you a masterclass in black humour as Steven goes all left-field on us in the flooded French trenches of World War I:

“Faldy’s ear rested on the ground, listening… Weldon’s eye watched from a tree stump… Could I make my declaration of cowardice to Lieutenant Hughes, who lies in halves shouting, “God! God! God!”? Should I own up to the mound of meat that was the rest of McQueen?
“I don’t know how long I talked to them. To whatever was left of them that might hear my apology. They seemed to take it as well as could be expected.
“Smyth stared straight up at me like he had words on the tip of his tongue… Wherever that had wound up.”

Let’s pull back to THE RED DIARY, though, in which a writer is researching the life of poet William Miller and is sent a small package by Harriet Birkin claiming to have been Miller’s lover in 1920 and that her brother, Philip Marnham had been his close friend before Marnham’s lonely death in the trenches. The parcel contains Philip’s Blue Diary which begins in Paris in 1910 and ends there in 1914. And at this point the biographer’s research takes a most unexpected turn and becomes something of a paper chase involving a Green Diary written in France between 1915 and 1917 and finally the Red Diary itself which fills in the gaps between Paris and England in 1915.

Philip Marnham, you see, was a painter. A painter who swiftly attracted the patronage of a mysterious M who commissioned painting after painting which made Marnham wealthy enough to indulge himself in opium but which, by his own account, sapped away his own soul and light. Why, then, did he suddenly have to disappear, fleeing France for England? And why is there absolutely no record – not even a footnote – about him in the art world?

I adore Kristiansen’s painting. Have done ever since the BACCHUS COLOUR special, and IT’S A BIRD is a tour de force employing so many different styles apposite to each subsection. Here too the style shifts between the present and the recorded, the biographer depicted in gentle pencil and rich red jumper against colours more fragile and pale, while the WWI scenes immediately put me in mind of George Pratt’s ENEMY ACE. I also love what he does with the panel borders in the final sequence, which become six far crisper frames for reasons I’d better not say.

As to Seagle, you’ll be surprised how closely some of the sequences mirror what Teddy had in mind, albeit seen from a skewed angle – particularly the patron who in each tale finds himself the victim of theft; it’s just that what’s stolen is completely different! – but then he’s paying close attention to the art.

It is however, a completely different story wherein it’s the WWI scenes that count. I cannot tell you any more for fear of spoiling the show, but I want to talk to each and every one of you after you’ve grinned yourselves senseless.

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