Sometimes I’ll read something and not have any reaction at all to it and sometimes I’ll love or hate a comic with a passion. Rarely do I finish a comic and have to ask myself what I’ve just read.
That’s what happened with Blue Rider, the début piece from Andrew David Murphy, a graphic novel based on the life of master swordsman Miyamoto Musashi. It’s just speaking a visual language that’s many times removed from what these tired old eyes are used to; a combination of street art, manga and video game styling just completely threw me off. But there’s definitely something about the book that made me want to find out more, work out why I didn’t just reject it out of hand as something too far out of my comfort zone. There’s a rawness to his work that’s very fresh and eye catching, with loads of influences, all fighting their way out. I see Tank Girl, I see Jim Mahfood’s stuff, I see Brendan McCarthy, I see Jamie Hewlett. In fact, I’d be willing to bet I see a load of influences that Andrew just didn’t even know when he did it. His influences will be stuff I have no idea about; esoteric manga artists, his favourite grafitti stars, some video game designer or other. There’s just too much of an age gap here for me to be able to even try to identify with the work on Andrew’s level, on Andrew’s terms. I feel like some 50 year old circa 1976 hearing punk for the first time and just not being able to process it. So I have to do it on my own terms.
Okay, from Andrew’s Blue Rider website:
The city of Miyamoto, a place of light and noise ran by a self-elected group of youths called The Screaming Stars – a clan of teenage assassins bred from an early age to kill and party. Shin, former leader of the Screaming Stars, returns to the place he once called home to find that some things change and some things just stay the same. After a failed attempt on his life by his old clan, Shin searches for old friends and answers to questions long left buried in his past. And, a bit of revenge.
The tale of Miyamoto Musashi is reborn for a new generation in ‘The Blue Rider’ – a largely made up, semi-true, sort-of accurate portrayal of his famous duel with long time rival, Sasaki Kojiro. Taking in music and video games as ammo, and the myspace generation as it’s target, this is the first of what will be a three part series of arse kicking, robot smashing, kung fu nonsense. Your world is gonna end!
That at least gave me something to go on. The battle between rival gangs, the Samurai styling, I’d worked that out. But a little background research on Musashi helped matters. I piled into the Blue Rider with renewed vigour and this time came out with a lot more.
But I’m still not sure about The Blue Rider. And how much of that is just my sensibilities failing to appreciate what Andrew’s trying to achieve I don’t know. I really like his artwork; the frenetic, kinetic pace of it, the incredible use of colour in places, the continual switching of background colours, the everchanging, hand written text. But there’s part of me thinking that I’d like to see him tackle something in a slightly more linear, slightly less confusing narrative. BUT, and I realise this sounds like a terrible cop-out, that might just be because I’m too old to appreciate it. If you have a skating, graffiti loving, Manga reading teen in your house, please give it a try – and let me know what they think. Because that’s the audience I think will really connect with it.
To give you an idea of what I’m talking about, here are some sample pages (remember – these are pages, not panels – rarely does Andrew limit his art on a page with panels) from The Blue Rider:
Richard Bruton is wondering if at his age he is more Easy Rider than Blue Rider