Page 45 Review by Stephen
"It's terrifying riding something that is still hatching and by the end, I was only two weeks ahead. That meant making decisions very quickly and very rashly.
- Posy Simmonds MBE, on the weekly schedule of producing 110 consecutive TAMARA DREWE pages for The Guardian.
There are so very many pleasures to behold in this heavily illustrated retrospective, including rarities I'd not stumbled across, as well as some startling behind-the-scenes secrets.
I'd no idea how substantially rewritten, redrawn and recoloured TAMARA DREWE had been between its episodical outings and the Jonathan Cape collected edition, let alone that she'd dropped in extended scenes and at least a dozen completely new pages. Here you'll be treated to a startling 'before' and 'after' comparison of Tamara's head-turning entrance among the writing retreat clique, including the removal of her green wellies which not only enhances her sensuality by showing a bit of ankle and walking barefoot on the grass, but also gives one of the cast the opportunity to be rebuffed when offering to carry the shoeless gossip columnist over the gravel. I don't imagine the easily puffed-out Glen could have managed it anyway.
You'll also be reminded of just how consistently and scathingly satirical Posy's been in her fiercely feminist, left-wing, fifty-year career producing single-panel cartoons, illustrated prose and comics like CASSANDRA DARKE, TAMARA DREWE, GEMMA BOVERY, MRS WEBER'S OMNIBUS and A LITERARY LIFE (REVISITED). On the subject of how the plight of British women has progressed during this time, for example, she pithily asserts, "Things are much better, then same and worse".
With Punch Magazine as of one her earliest influences, this satire is hardly surprising, and Paul Gravett is on hand to identify precisely which artists she most absorbed which makes so much sense once he's said it. Paul Gravett, who appears as The Man At The Crossroads in Eddie Campbell's autobiographical ALEC, is comics' most knowledgeable historian bar none, as well as one of the medium's most eloquent ambassadors, and his prose here is an evocative joy to read. For example, I can't believe I've promoted the subtleties of Shaun Tan's THE ARRIVAL for so many years without once employing the word "grisaille".
Paul provides us with Posy's 'A Christmas Carol' from 1987 which deftly combines the chief conceit of Charles Dickens' prose novel - that of the ghostly walk-on wake-up calls - with the rhythm and rhyme of 'While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks By Night' to deliciously damn the exchange-rate speculators of greed-centric Thatcherite Britain. I don't have that one for you, sorry, so you'll just have to buy the book.
Nor can I show you her 1972 cartoon which was well ahead of the relatively recent TV commercial lampooning the way some of us suck our stomachs in to impress before letting them out once the object of our desire has passed by!
I do have the institution of marriage being given a right old rodgering, though, especially women's subservience within it and the promotion of their self-obsessed spouses' dreams and aspirations over - and at the expense of - their own.
You'll be given unprecedented access to previously unpublished pages, like the detour she decided not to take within GEMMA BOVERY, and there are a great many sketch pages and process pieces from pencils to finished, coloured art. Posy talks about her working methods and techniques, and Gravett gives you enough to go on to Google for yourselves in a Posy Simmonds Online Treasure Hunt.
Plus you'll be reminded just how raunchy she's been be as well. As Gravett notes:
"Don't be fooled by her demure manner and upper-class accent; her powers of observation across the classes are laser-sharp, her mimicry of accents and types stingingly precise. No wonder Simmonds is one of the most astute chroniclers of contemporary British society."
For more, please see all the books listed above, reviewed. Here's the publisher:
"In the course of a career spanning more than fifty years, Posy Simmonds has become one of Britain's best-known satirical cartoonists. She is also as a much-loved author and artist of widely translated children's books and graphic novels. These include Fred, animated in 1996 into the Oscar-nominated short film Famous Fred, and Gemma Bovery and Tamara Drewe, both adapted into films, increasing her international fame.
Simmonds once described her job on a census form as `a visual engineer'. Her extraordinary precision of drawing, her powers of observation and her sharp but well tempered wit have made her one the Britain's most sophisticated innovators, renowned especially for expanding the scope and subtlety of comics. This is the first book to explore Simmonds's life and work from her early childhood to the present day.
In a series of interviews with Paul Gravett she offered insights into her creative process and provided unprecedented access to her 'workroom' and archives containing sketchbooks and rare or never-before-seen artworks. A portrait emerges of Posy Simmonds as a chronicler and critic of contemporary British society and a storyteller in words and pictures of rare perception and humanity."