One of the highlights of every comics reading week for me is on a Saturday morning, when the U.K.’s Guardian newspaper has a new strip in its magazine supplement by Stephen Collins (they’re all available to see on the website). Collins won their Observer/Cape graphic short story competition in 2010, which resulted in a book deal with Jonathan Cape, the fruits of which is the upcoming The Gigantic Beard That Was Evil.
As you can tell from his weekly strips, Collins is something of a master at finding new angles to view the world from, as likely to see the absurd and the unsettling as the humorous. Liberated from the joke-of-the-week short form, Collins has produced a rich allegorical work with a certain Kafkaesque quality, with the story told in a rolling, rhyming blank verse (you can see examples on both his blog and this preview at It’s Nice That.
He’s also produced a great director’s commentary feature for Joe Gordon’s FPI blog that goes some way to show the scale of the hard work that goes into producing such a hefty end product. It’s telling that Cape have secured a quote from Raymond Briggs for the back cover. Like so much of Briggs’ own work, this book has a timeless, ageless quality, that could be as enjoyed as much as an entertainment by children or as a satire by adults.
It’s been a big couple of weeks for U.K. comics publishing, and a lot of that might have to do with this weekend’s Comica Festival (a.k.a. “the 10th London International Comics Festival”). There has been a rush of titles from British graphic novel publishers of late, no doubt timed for a big push at this most art-centric of U.K. comics conventions (it’s hosted this year at Central Saint Martins College of Arts and Design, and I dare anyone of a certain vintage to think of that place and not start humming this).
There’s a lot of great stuff out there at the minute that’s maybe not getting enough coverage internationally, so let’s do a round-up, shall we? There’s a myth that the American comics audience is insular, so let’s disprove it: These books are even already available in English, although their spelling is a bit suspect at times. Yeah, you heard me, buy a dictionary, limeys!
• The Man Who Laughs, the oddest of Victor Hugo’s novels, adapted by David Hine and Mark Stafford, published by SelfMadeHero: Hine has posted a host of panels from the book at his blog. I was previously ignorant of Stafford’s work, but these are some handsome-looking samples; they reminded me a little of the great Dave Cooper. Hine is always good value, and has a track record of making some genuinely unsettling comics (Strange Embrace, The Bulletproof Coffin), so this sounds like the perfect alignment of talent to source material.
I’m not sure who turned me on to Stephen Collins, but I just spent a half-hour enjoying his short comics when I should have been working. Collins is British, and he has that wry sense of humor that blends incongruity and wit to make you look at something ordinary in a new way. The comics collected on his website Colillo span a number of topics, from sentient hand dryers to Martian invaders who are Tom Cruise fans to Thomas Pynchon’s dark secret. Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem to be possible to link to individual comics, but just head to that left navbar and start clicking — there isn’t a clunker in the bunch.