By Tom Gauld & Simone Lia (Bloomsbury)
Tom Gauld is a Scottish cartoonist whose works have appeared in Time Out and the Guardian. He has illustrated such children’s classics as Ted Hughes’ The Iron Man and his own books include Guardians of the Kingdom, 3 Very Small Comics, Robots, Monsters etc., Hunter and Painter and The Gigantic Robot.
At the prestigious RCA he met fellow genetically-predisposed scribbler Simone Lia – author of Please God, Find me a Husband! and Fluffy (a Bunny in Denial), kids books Billy Bean’s Dream, Follow the Line, Red’s Great Chase and Little Giant and she produced the strips ‘Sausage and Carrots for The DFC and ‘Lucie’ for Phoenix Comic as well as the Guardian and Independent.
Clearly comics kindred spirits, Gauld and Lia formed Cabanon Press in 2001and began self-publishing quirky, artily surreal strips and features. Their first two publications enigmatically entitled First and Second were collected in 2002 as Both and serve as a shining example of the kind of uniquely authorial/literary cartoon creativity and wonderment British pen-jockeys excel at.
Likened to the works of Edward Gorey, their studied, intense tirades, animorphic escapades and meanderingly perambulatory excursions are more Stream of subtly steered Consciousness than plotted stories: eerily mundane progressions mesmerisingly manufactured and rendered in a number of styles to evoke response if not elicit understanding.
Which is a long-winded and poncey way of saying: “This stuff is great! You’ve got to see this…”
Within these digest sized, hard-backed monochrome pages you will encounter a talking table lamp, sensitive sentient food, quarrelsome knights, and socially inept and incompatible astronauts, and discover the human tragedy of contracting ‘Road Leg’.
There are of course bunnies, big bugs, sheep, steamrollers, the frustrations of ‘Outside’, love poems, comedy feet and a belligerent, outraged sweetcorn kernel, plus vignettes like ‘I’m in Love’ before the low-key domestic serial ‘End of Season Finale’ introduces off-duty Mexican Wrestlers, as well as political insight from the ‘Bread and Bhagi Show’ and psychological thrills courtesy of ‘Monkey Nut and Harrowed Marrow’. There are, however, no ducks…
Some comics pretty much defy description and codification – and a good thing too.
The purest form of graphic narrative creates connections with the reader that occur on a visceral, pre-literate level, visually meshing together on a page to produce something which makes feelings – if not necessarily sense.
When creators can access that pictorially responsive area of our brains as well as these two by ricocheting around the peripheries of the art form with such hilariously enticing and bizarrely bemusing concoctions, all serious fans and readers should sit up and take notice.
No more hints: go find this fabulously funny book now.