Partially due to my shock at the amount of stuff I had to box up and transport to Australia, and partially out of budgetary measures, I joined the library shortly after landing in Brisbane.
The city-wide system is pretty well-stocked with graphic novels and trade paperbacks, so I've been able to continue following some characters and teams that wouldn't have been quite worth buying the monthlies of. I've also been able to dive into a few series that I've heard a bit about, but never got around to reading. I've concentrated on books from the Big Two because there's a lot of stuff there that I haven't read.
Some of these books I'm only reading because they are part of the 'grand narratives' of their respective universes, and a lot of their deficiencies jump out at me. See if you can spot when I get to those...
1 call number:YA GRAPHICNOV ID:34000066490616
Alec : the King Canute crowd / Eddie Campbell.
It took me a while to start using the ordering system, so at first I was happy to pick up whatever was on the shelf that took my fancy. Campbell is a creator I have huge respect for, even though I haven't shelled out too much of my dosh buying his stuff. The last book of his I got was called The Dance of Lifey Death and one story was about a particular round-the world trip he made at one point to push his books. I was amused to see that at the end he comes gratefully back to a little Queenslander style house in Brisbane and his Australian wife, so I have that much in common with him at least.
Anyway, The King Canute Crowd is a semi-autobiographical collection of anecdotes about Cambell's time amongst the colourful characters of the King Canute pub, outside the centre of London.
I found it fascinating, because Campbell was trying to do something that I've wondered about for a while. How do you convert the experience of living and socialising into a comicbook? People come and go from the story without much artistic 'sense' and the fact that these are mostly drinking stories mean that the actual characters and dialogue often don't make much sense. Most of my own happiest times have been in the pub or 'enjoying a few' with friends, so it brought back a lot of memories. Alcohol can add a lot of 'significance' to the most mundane of encounters and Campbell captures that too.
Then there is the fact that it is very autobiographical. Campbell calls the main character Alec, but everything else seems pretty close to what happened. This does mean that he has to respect the privacy and dignity of the characters in the story, so we see that some events with certain people are shown as important but we only have a sketchy idea of what is going on. There is a woman that Alec becomes fascinated by, but she seems to have some kind of tragedy in her past that isn't expanded on. Alec's best friend in the book, a highly intelligent charismatic working class forklift driver, has some kind of bust-up with Alec at the end, but again Campbell is too respectful of the real-life person to flesh it all out.
If you can stand a meandering slice of life that doesn't really go anywhere, this is a great book. Campbell really pushes how far you can go to make a period of your life into some kind of shape that the feel of it can be translated into 'art'.
I think the sequel to this - the further adventures of Alec is contained in the collection 3-piece Suite. I'll have to get my hands on it someday.