Propaganda on Ben Powis: Whale Hunts, Turtle Guitars and Bitter Herbs

Published On September 28, 2008 | By Richard Bruton | Comics, Reviews

Whale Hunt : An Adventure On The High Seas

by Ben Powis (2007)

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Whale Hunt is another British small press comic that manages, once more, to expand the scope of what the small press is all about. Because this defies all expectations you may have about what a small press comic should be. It’s a lovingly presented black and white tale adapting Moby Dick. But there’s no spin, no twist, no embellishing, modernising, altering or general mucking about with it. It’s just the simple tale of a boat going out to track down a whale. It’s actually more illustrated story than comic to be honest but hopefully we’re big enough to be able to get around that little classification problem and move along?

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It’s a strange yet beautiful book. Or should that be strangely beautiful? 21 pages of just lovely drawings, one per page, with text sitting underneath telling us of the sailor’s journey and their hunt.  So many things contribute to making it such a satisfying thing. Start with the cover; with a laminate feel and the look of a strange children’s book. Or the font; Travelling Typewriter, which gives it a unique old fashioned feel in this modern age of computer fonts. Then there’s the artwork. Nearly every page is a barren sky and a simple sea, just a few concise lines to distinguish the two, with the whale picked out in line and the ship a harsh blot of ink on the page. Simple yet  beautiful.

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But whatever it is, and it’s most likely all of the above, Whale Hunt is just part of a growing body of quite wonderful work by Ben Powis, as I discovered when I visited his website. I found myself clicking away and getting more and more impressed at the talent of this young newcomer to comics.

As lovely and inventive and beautiful as Whale Hunt is, his more recent full colour work is more. His 8 page Turtle Guitar from earlier in 2008 is available in full at his website; it’s a gorgeous tale of a farmer tending his dying, barren land who discovers a turtle whose song is so beautiful it can bring life to dead earth. A simple and slight tale but the artwork is just spectacularly good (rather reminiscent of Maurice Sendak I thought).

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(Art from the Turtle Guitar, 2008 (c) Ben Powis)

There’s an awful lot more examples of Ben’s artwork over at his website, a few examples of which are below, but his latest comics work is Where Grows The Bitter Herb, this time he’s attempting a 36 page full colour comic. I’ve yet to see the finished article, but the cover and the sample pages look just as good as Whale Hunt and Turtle Guitar, possibly better. Ben Powis looks very much like one to watch for the future. I shall be keeping you updated. In the meantime go to his website and tell him we sent you.

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(Second Time by Ben Powis, from his website)

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(Late Dinner by Ben Powis, from his website)

Richard Bruton

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About The Author

Richard Bruton
- Started in comics retail aged 16 at Nostalgia & Comics, Birmingham. Now located in Yorkshire, he's written for the Forbidden Planet International Blog since 2007. Specialising in UK Comics and All-Ages comics, Richard's day job in a primary school allowed him to build the best children's graphic novel library in the country.

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