Page 45 Review by Stephen
"Seven comics as diverse as they are witty as they are beautiful to behold, each created within the same 24 hours. An extraordinary accomplishment."
- Stephen L. Holland, Page 45
Whoever the hell he is.
What a stellar line-up! What fertile imaginations! What a variety of styles!
What a bunch of cheats.
Or at least that's what contributor, editor and all-round director Dan Berry would have you believe in his introduction. He's so funny! All seven comics were indeed created within the same 24 hours then printed within another to go straight on sale in Page 45's Georgian Room in Kendal's Clock Tower at The Lakes International Comic Art Festival 2014. Magnificent! Ridiculous! Miraculous!
So they had a little prep time! I made notes for this review. These reviews may all look so randomly free-form with a word lobbed in here and a paragraph casually cauterising one half of a sentence from the next for no very good
Reason. But at least no one is standing over me with a stopwatch.
Let's begin our mad dash with Sarah McIntyre 's 'Scribble' in which only the scribble is scribbled and even that scribble is accomplished. It really is! It's a dab hand at mimicry, posing as a grass stain on one day, a smashed fly on another, a bogey, a spider, then What Will Happen To My Sister If She Doesn't Give Back My Book. That particular scribble is awfully succinct. I'm not sure which day it attempted to represent Chaos as a two-dimensional piece of graphite gurning but that was pretty existential. Almost certainly a Saturday, don't you think?
Anyway, Jamie (the scribble's name is Jamie) began life on a young girl's napkin, got thrown in the bin then escaped and let out a roar: instant teeth. It began to cry - for which you need eyes. Then Jamie ran around, ever-so-excited and found itself with legs. Legs! Suddenly it's darting about like a mad-eyed monster from Michael Bentine's Potty Time. Next stop: social media frenzy and huge artistic acclaim!
The cartooning is so exquisite that I will forgive its two pages of mid-'70s wallpaper because that's what inevitably happens when you begin to wield orange. Sarah McIntyre has all the best scribbles and if you think Jamie's a dude then wait until you bump into his best boyf, Bob. Bob is besotted and has flap-flap wings and a wide-eyed innocence and adoration which are beyond adorable.
Here be wit, here be glee. It's not easy trying to represent philosophy, France or a full English breakfast in scribbles.
Fumio Obata's 'Anywhere Road' couldn't be more different in style, in tone, in genre, in subject matter. Fumio created the graphic novel JUST SO HAPPENS in gentle watercolours. Here he brings his familiarly soft and gentle line to a tale of truancy as a woman walking her dog on the beach discovers a young boy in a sleeping bag. She takes him to a seaside cafe to buy him breakfast but the lad is reluctant to open up or own up to having run away from home. At first he tries to run away from his good Samaritan as well but there's something about the woman that intrigues him and it's not just her kindness or persistence. Obata had me holding my breath for the entire duration.
Jack Teagle's terracotta 'Witch Cat' finds a crowd-shy country cat forced to fly into town after running out of ingredients for a potion. Her worst fears are realised when she runs afoul of some particularly bad apples. No really, they're very bad apples - one has a worm wriggling its way out of his head! Fortunately our anxious feline is befriended by Bananasaurus, a fruit magician and - yeah, crazy indeed and one to read with your young 'uns at bed time!
So we come to Dan Berry (THE THREE ROOMS IN VALERIE'S HEAD etc) and Joe Decie (COLLECTING STICKS etc).
I love everything about Joe: his mischief, his timing, his otherwise mundane household objects
even his handwriting. Yes, his handwriting! It's one of the most attractive in comics: capital letters, far from rigid, that dance up and down while remaining as crystal clear as the layout here.
'I Blame Grandma' (also on sale separately tells how his gran invented the paper clip, fashioning it from fuse wire while working as a clerk in Sir Gerald Patten's War Office around 1940. So that's several household objects on the very first page. Our Joe draws a perfect pair of pliers, you know.
Joe's grandma felt the need to file faster and keep what she filed better organised. The paperclip quickly catches on and before you know it she's given her own office in the reappropriated Malvern Road Tube Station. She even had access to the station down below where she said she used to eat her sandwiches in the dark.
Fast-forward to the present day and there are repercussions for Decie himself. Well, you have to think of the patent and all that implies. You couldn't make this up.
I will just add that his gran was given a St Hubbins Cross medal and - typically - kept it in an empty tin of boot polish. Joe draws a mean tin of boot polish too.
In lovely, loose, full-colour washes project director Dan Berry delivers a haunting tale of love, longing and lament.
In a small village by a vast lake 'Nicholas and Edith' are in love. Their parents disapprove of their relationship for no better reason than a petty family feud. To be together they must therefore find sanctuary away from the spying eyes and tattling tongues of the idle-minded villagers. And there is an island, you see, an island on the lake.
It is an object of local superstition involving some so-called spectre of doom but you know what close-knit communities are like. You know how local legends endure. You know how parents keep their children in check: with a little elaboration and fear. But when you're in love you can see right through these things, so one evening when the waters are calm Nicholas rows Edith to the island. They find a clearing in the trees overshone by the serene, silver light of the moon.
"I love you.
"I want you.
"I need you."
I will say little more except think Becky Cloonan - BY CHANCE OR BY PROVICENCE in particular. When you've read this through once you will want to start again from the beginning immediately. Entreaties are reprised word-for-word like echoes. Reproachful echoes, you could argue.
Visually, interesting things are done with Edith's hair. Oh, how how I wish I could say what they were!
We're all at sea with Warwick Johnson Cadwell's 'Tom Hand' too. Like any good sailor's yarn it's set in a tavern where all the tallest of tales are told. There three sea dogs take it turns to show off their tattoos, each dedicated to the old Tom Hand and his watery demise. Each differs in what finally did him in, but the barmaid's tale trumps them all. She has a tattoo too, you see, but it's not necessarily where you'd expect to find it.
The forms are big, bold and as burly as the barflies', the monsters are terrifying and the deep blues are rendered as energetically as the stormy seas themselves. You'll almost certainly end up soaking wet.
Finally, RETROGRADE ORBIT's Kristyna Baczynski tells a wordless, anthropomorphic, semi-cyclical tale spanning millions of years which made me smile with enormous satisfaction throughout. Her leaf and timber textures - as well as the bone and stone - are perfectly balanced, never once bogging the page down or cluttering it up but letting the light shine through, while the brightest of sage greens prove to be perfectly placed tones.
'Hand Me Down' begins slightly upsettingly when a three-eyed prehistoric lovely hatches from an egg, grows up, falls for a female, curls up in cave with his beloved then before you know it Junior is hatched. All very idyllic but before you know it (once again), he ages, is exhausted and dies.
Eons pass before the creature's bones are discovered, his horn is detached and that's when the repurposing begins as the horn is handed down through history as one ornament then another, whittled away each time through wear and tear and outright vandalism. Where and when it ends up I will not say but there's a Tom Gauld moment towards the end that had me roaring with laughter.
If you stop to consider for a moment that these 170-odd pages of comicbook magic were all created in the same room within the same 24 hours, I defy you not to shake your head slightly and smile.
This creativity was captured in a collection of colour photographs published at the back of the book which give you a very real sense of the energy involved and the exhaustion staved off by espresso coffees and galvanising visits by Jeff Smith, Mary Talbot, Bryan Talbot and the original instigator of the 24 Hour Comic challenge, THE SCULPTOR's Scott McCloud himself
There the creators all stand round their printed pamphlets on sale in the Kendal Clock Tower's Georgian Room on October 19th 2014, beaming with pride and accomplishment and quite right too. Bravo!