Private Beach


By David Hahn (Dover Comics & Graphic Novels)
ISBN: 978-0-486-80749-2

Win’s Christmas Gift Recommendation: Epic and Intriguing… 8/10

Most of these reviews follow a strict formula. Say something to prove how clever I am, offer a smidgen of background and context, list the contents, précis the story in the book and then urge you to buy it.

That’s not just going to work with this astoundingly beguiling collection, gathering a cherished personal project from Montana-based artist and writer David Hanh, who first came to mass popular attention with Bite Club, Robin, Fables, Batman: The Ultimate Training Guide and Lucifer; before gaining more acclaim and career traction on Ultimate X-Men, The Escapist, Marvel Adventures: The Fantastic Four and Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane, as well as his 2011 creator-owned series All Nighter.

His most recent successes include Erfworld and Batman ‘66 Meets the Man From UNCLE

In 1995 at Antarctic Comics, Hahn had begun an oddly quirky, semi-surreal slice-of-life drama with distinct overtones of Twin Peaks and the witty, sleek flavours of Love and Rockets. It was entitled Fun and Perils in the Trudyverse but became Private Beach when the increasingly overworked creator transferred the series to Slave Labor Graphics. That latter revision comprises the seven issues (released between February 2001 to December 2002) collected and reprinted in this splendid monochrome tome. Of course, the pot is infinitely sweetened for long-term devotees with an all-new 30-page concluding chapter plus many pages of pictorial and text extras.

Following an Introduction from Jeff Parker and Preface by Hahn we are ushered into the beguiling life of affably ordinary but enchantingly engaging wage-slave Trudy Honeyvan and her interesting pal Sharona Cupkey – but that’s only after a brief scene-setting aside from God…

‘Slappy’ opens in 1978 where teen Trudy sees something strange in the night sky, and thereafter begins a lifelong relationship with the numeral 8. Moving to now, forthright adult and crappily employed clerical drone Miss Honeyvan heads to the beach with Sharona to acerbically pass judgement on movies, culture and the other sun-worshippers whilst watching a celebrity seal being returned to the wild.

It is a memorable moment for all the wrong reasons…

Everyday weirdness begins to mount in ‘Doors Opening’ as strangers and old friends all uniformly take on a fresh significance and Trudy is offered a bizarre second job in new nightclub Heaven’s Rift. Then there are the visions and the impossible messages on Trudy’s cherished Magic Eightball…

‘Land of Sam’ focuses on outer entourage Siobhan Cupkey, Sam Murphy and Junior Watkins as a succession of petty, minor and increasingly bizarre events threaten Trudy’s coolly cynical, socially-aware mellow, after which ‘Three Wishes’ finds our increasingly off-kilter star moving towards making a life-altering decision…

The pressures of Sharona’s soul-crushing nursing job, Sam’s disability and Junior’s lack of direction are explored in ‘Wednesday as Usual’ whilst Trudy adds to her growing collection of tension-boosting written warnings from persons unknown before breaking down in ‘Gears Shifting’; destroying her eightball, enduring a mind-altering experience and surviving a life-threatening criminal encounter…

When her dire clerical job abruptly ends, Trudy surrenders to whatever the universe is trying to tell her and hires out to drive a classic car across America to its new owner. All geared up to start ‘Counting Horizons’, she nervously agrees to turn the job into a road trip by inviting Sharona and Siobhan to share the tedium. Before too long all the encircling oddity and ominous events converge in bloody tragedy and a confrontation with something incredible…

It was 14 years before fans and addicts were to receive the incredible answers to the sly parade of astounding events which are shared here in ‘CHAPTER 8’. Happily, it was worth every moment as a horrifying confrontation explains what has been going on around Trudy since 1978 and sets her on a most unique and dangerous path.

I, for one, couldn’t be more content and if you are reading these adventures for the first time you are in for the ride of your life…

Supplementing the grand progression is a collection of Beach Shorts from Hanh and his friends, starting with a traumatic formative moment ‘Alone’, after which Trudy and Sharona suffer traffic jams and introspection in ‘Boxed’.

‘Mall Watching in the Trudyverse with Trudy and Sharona’ dates from 1994 and depicts the friends in gobby, declarative mode whilst ‘Faithless’ – illustrated by Mike Worley in a delightful Archie Comics pastiche – displays the abiding patience Sharona applies to her patients every day.

The perils of casual encounters are explored in Hahn’s experimental vignette ‘Inklings’ before the author shares ‘7 Things About the Movies That Make Me Want to Vomit’, and invites David Membiela, John Kissee & Ray Villarosa to show Sam Murphy’s contemplative mood in ‘Footwork’.

Trudy and Sharona then blend pop-cultural hot-dogging with the ancient art of shopping in ‘Mabel & Gloria’ before this marvellous confection concludes with a ‘“Sharona and Trudy” Pin-up’ by Kerry Callan and a ‘“Pie Fan” Pin-up’ from Hahn & Chad Smith.

Blending the easy female camaraderie of Walking and Talking with the existentialist unease of Blue Velvet or the latest iteration of Westworld – sweetened by stunning black-&-white art and breathtakingly smart dialogue – Private Beach is a captivating tale to ponder and savour over and over again.
© 2016 by David J. Hahn. Foreword © 2016 by Jeff Parker. All rights reserved.