Page 45 Review by Stephen
On the surface, Wimbledon seems to be a harmless old buffer. Pompous, to be sure; opinionated, certainly; and obsessed with ancient comics to a far further extent than anyone I've ever met. But he just seems like one of those eccentrics that know more about their chosen enthusiasm than they do about human interaction. Ask around, however, and you'll start to hear several other sides to the man and his personal history. Here, for example, is another collector, equally bereft of social skills, and hats off to Seth for so sensitively observing the fine line between shared enthusiasm and - on Chip Corner's part - showing off, and in Wimbledon Green, the prideful jealousy of someone determined to be the unequalled expert:
"I assumed Mr. Green would appreciate a private viewing of my exquisite pieces. He accepted. Our first and last such evening.
"I decanted an excellent vintage from my wine cellar -- a 1928 St. Ogan. Initially Green seemed quite affable. ("A lovely wine, m'boy.") But this subtly changed as I led him through my collection rooms. I showed him my treasures - my one-of-a-kind items. I pulled out rare oddities and seldom seen editions. ("The only copy!") His mood fouled by the moment. He radiated a sullen aura! ("We've barely scratched the surface.") I must admit, his sulkiness only encouraged my desire to parade enviable items before him. ("Now here's something you'll enjoy!") By the end of the evening he would barely utter a word. ("Just a few more."). Though I do recall two statements. Upon completion of my little tour he had but one comment: "My copy of "Smoky Stu" is of a superior condition."
"Nothing more -- that was it. And upon leaving, he thanked me for the wine, walked off, and then turned and said: "Good night sir! I've never really considered a collection anything beyond amateurish without a complete run of "Tiny Tales". Sleep well." I was furious! Of course I had no "Tiny Tales". Still, you have to laugh. Wimbledon Green -- he's the real thing alright. A collector to the core."
Or is he? Early on, there are two small, unsettling pieces. The first is a series of portraits of Wimbledon's mostly ancient rivals, which suggests an alarming intensity of competition involving huge sums of money, divorce, and bitterness. The second comes from another observer, remarking:
"Oddly, <Actinic:Variable Name = 'Wimbledon'/> had an impressive collection right from the start. No-one can figure our how he acquired it... Expensive comics like that don't change hands unnoticed... And just where did he get all that money?"
This, to be sure, is an unusual book. Like the red ACME NOVELTY LIBRARY hardcover, it's composed of vignettes from throughout the decades - mostly to-camera, conversational pieces which together form a wider picture of Wimbledon's possible history. For nothing is ever confirmed, it's up to you to decide whom and what to believe. Is the man an impostor, a grand-scale thief, or merely a ruthless entrepreneur? To complicate matters there's an entertaining middle section which Seth slipped in later, which is something of an action-adventure farce.
"This book was created on a lark," writes Seth. "Actually, it was never even intended to be a book at all - merely an exercise in one of my sketchbooks." Well, it's one hell of an exercise, for when he continues later on, "the work is clearly of sketchbook quality," well, that may be his honest assessment, but this man's sketchbook is most artists' finished masterpiece - if they're lucky. "The drawing is poor, the lettering shoddy, the page compositions and storytelling perfunctory." Well there may be some truth to the term "perfunctory", but the rest is utter balderdash. This is a fully realised mystery full of masterful animation, as sublimely coloured as ever, with each line, each expression perfect. It's just a little unusual in that it takes place in some strange world that doesn't quite exist, with the odd break for a gallery of comics that never existed either (1949's Alimony Comics #3 - "I'm taking every cent!").
And you know what? This medium was made to be unusual.