by Francesca Cassavetti
Striptacular is Francesca Cassavetti’s latest comic, 36 A5 pages with 9 stories of delightful comic work. I’ve looked at Francesca’s mini comics here and her excellent book about being a new parent; The Most Natural Thing In The World here and it’s no surprise that her latest is just as enjoyable.
Striptacular has a mix of strips, with Cassavetti subtly altering her art style for each one. Some are tight and clear, others looser, but either way, the narrative flow of Cassavetti’s work is always impressive and her open, relaxed art is very easy on the eye.
The best strip here has to be “A Foreign Country”, which was Cassavetti’s entry for the 2008 Observer Graphic Short Story Competitition. It’s an interesting fact about the Observer competition that it’s forced a lot of cartoonists to really raise their game – the lure of the prize and the relative fame really forcing cartoonists to work a lot harder than they would have done otherwise. It’s a common pitfall in the small press and self publishing movement to get a little trapped in one style, to produce solely for yourself and a select few friends, without really pushing your work forwards. Not that I’m accusing Francesca of that, far from it, each of the 9 strips here shows a growth and willingness to adjust her style and try new things. But in “A Foreign Country” I feel I can definitely see the pressure of producing something for competition has pushed her on, made her consider every word, every line.
(The opening to Francesca Cassavetti’s A Foreign Country, her Observer Graphic Short Story 2008 entry.)
So “A Foreign Country” is a gentle tale of the all too common occurrence nowadays of revisiting old friends and old loves online and the inevitable disappointment when you finally meet and realise that they, just like you, have grown older, balder, fatter and are just as sadly middle aged as you are. It’s done in Cassavetti’s lovely, open style and just like her relaxed artwork, the story is easy and free flowing, conversational and very real. Observational comic strips at their best.
The other work in Striptacular varies from 2 to 8 pages and, like I’ve already said, sees Cassavetti working in a variety of styles across a series of stories, some fiction, some autobiographical. Personally I prefer her autobiography as I find her voice when observing the daily goings on around her to be a soothing, immensely enjoyable feeling laced with some gentle observational humour. The fictional strips are fun enough, particularly the whimsical “Dan Lester’s Beard” story (if only for the image of a beard drunk on a park bench wanting to be on Alan Moore’s chin), but it’s Francesca’s tales of her own life I find the most enthralling.
So whether it’s the simple recounting of a Sunday alone in the house managing to waste a day not making comics, the funny results of a shopping trip for a school bag, the hilarious and clever work of a mom cunningly manipulating her son out of holding a party in their house or a rather bizarre dinner party Cassavetti’s observational eye for detail and quiet, everyday humour is an absolute joy.
(Party Politics from Francesca Cassavetti’s Striptacular. Sometimes the grown up can win after all – as you can find out on the next page in the comic.)
There is one disturbing strip though; the final two pager where she recounts her convention experiences. Do her and yourself a favour; next time you pass the “shitty indie comics” force yourself to give one or two a try; you’ll be very pleasantly surprised at the quality and the enjoyment you’ll discover.
(Don’t do this. It’s rude and ignorant and most importantly means you could be missing out on something quite lovely. The Convention page 1 by Francesca Cassavetti from Striptacular.)