By Brian Bolland (Knockabout – Palmano Bennett)
Brian Bolland is probably one of the best artists in the comics biz, with a precise, almost super-real, photographic style that has won him many fans and probably just as many imitators. His work is meticulous and time-consuming, and indicative of a high degree of self-control. The man himself is gentle, quiet and self-effacing. If you’ve ever met him you probably came away thinking, “Wow! What a Nice, Quiet Guy,” and never for a moment thought that those are the sort of words most neighbours of serial killers use when rabid News-crews shove microphones under their noses during an interview scrum.
With this collection of strip work – not even blackmail or threat of physical force seems able to convince him to draw whole cartoon stories on a regular basis any more – we get a glimpse of the fevered mind locked behind all those ultra-fine lines and rock-solid visualisations. And what a mind it is.
Gathered together from such disparate sources as Escape, A1 and Vertigo comic anthologies, these strips are sly, clever and just plain witty inner explorations that have as much to do with Samuel Beckett, Alan Whicker, Viv Stanshall (for Mr Bolland too knows the sublime mystery of the Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band (“Look over Walls! Wrestle Poodles… and Win!”) and Freud as it does with x-ray vision, spandex, gloved fists and winged boots.
Fans will be delighted to know that there are plenty of knockout naked women on hand, although you will be asked in a positively Crumb-like manner why you want them, as the lavishly rendered tales of The Actress and the Bishop give way to the introspective, therapeutic yet oddly engaging Mr Mamoulian, a loose, experimental and quintessentially English series of short picture essays that explore inner myths, and creativity, rendered directly into ink in a free-form manner and oddly reminiscent of John Ryan’s wonderful Harris Tweed strips for the Eagle.
Mr Bolland’s dark brand of whimsy can be experienced in the latter portion of the book with reprints from Vertigo’s Heart Throbs and Strange Adventures, where even the chore of taking the readership – Americans at that! – into consideration doesn’t fully quell the idiosyncratic nature of his writing. This is a jolly good book of comics.
Beautiful pictures that make you think. What a splendid idea!
© 2004 Brian Bolland except The Princes & the Frog/The Prince and the Witch, The Kapas 1999 DC Comics. All Rights Reserved.