So last year I went to the Graphic Festival in Sydney and I met Pat Grant, a hipster looking cartoonist dude with thick black framed glasses (not unlike my own) who travels in vaguely the same pretentious young writer circles as some of the people I know.
While I was far more excited to be meeting Scott McCloud (sorry Pat) I was seriously impressed by Pat’s cartoon workshop, which was awesome fun, and the presentation of his upcoming book Blue.
For my birthday this year my special someone went to Impact Comics and bought me the copy of Blue I had on order and I have just read it in one sitting on my couch on a Friday night with a cup of tea and a slice of leftover birthday chocolate cake… hello happening social calendar and breakfast radio exhaustion.
Blue is more than what I expected.
The illustrations are amazing, the storyline engrossing, the characters compelling and the not at all subtle but smack bang on target depiction of racism and xenophobia in Australia has put my mind on edge and raised my hackles in precisely the way it should.
But more importantly it is completely familiar to me.
I know these characters. I know this landscape.
I was these characters. I lived there.
And then I read the essay at the back of the book and I wanted to scream into my empty apartment “OMFGIKNOWWHATYOUARETALKINGABOUTHOLYSHIT”.
While I think you should read it yourself (the essay is at the end of the book, which is also a webcomic free online – the only reason I didn’t read it online is because Pat talked so much at Graphic about how amazing the printed version was going to look) I will paraphrase badly: superhero comics are not something Pat read much of, he didn’t get into them and didn’t have a comic store near his hometown, so his exposure to comics was through strips in Aussie surf mags.
His talk about Australian comics and what Australian means in comics has really got me thinking – what has influenced me and why? What on earth has made me so into graphic novels and underground comics and zines? I’ve never read Batman.
Way back when, aside from picture books, what comics did I see?
While I grew up on the beach in Tasmania and Pat grew up on the north coast of NSW, we’re about the same age and I’m pretty sure we knew the same people at school because they’re in his book.
It’s that style speaks that to me.
My Mum (who is an artist) and Dad (who is American) had a giant collection of old Farside and The Wizard of Id books, which are probably some of the first cartoons I read, but one other thing my Mum had was a framed 1970s comic Christmas card illustrating an Australian hippy version of the night before Christmas.
I loved that thing. I thought it was funny and cool and the style was not that dissimilar to the surfer comics of Mombassa, Raglus and Pat.
The clothes we wore in Hobart in the 1990s, the magazines we read, the graphics on TV programs like Recovery and decorating the albums we bought, were frequently Reg Mombassa-esque surf influenced cartoons.
If my memories of growing up were illustrated they would be in this style.
And Blue? It’s like Pat took the 1990s surfer cartoons I used to see everywhere when I was at school and used them to illustrate a story of some kids I knew.
It perfectly describes that world both in story and form.
Awesome work. Go read it. Buy it. It’s well worth it. Rant ended.