Five is most definitely not comics. It’s very much an illustrated book, or possibly, by virtue of it’s length and style, a simple, but rather lovely illustrated poem.
So why is it on here, on the FPI blog? It’s not comics. Not really even close. But it is part of a movement that sits alongside comics, running parallel to comics and encompasses a lot of comic artists.
It’s the handmade, self publishing movement. Like so many small press comic artists right now Solon and Chapman have decided that if they’re publishing this book themselves, then they can take the time and effort to make it a truly beautiful, handmade object.
I’ve been thinking about this for a long time and it seems to me that the handmade works could easily be seen as a separate area of comics altogether, far away from superheroes and without the big publisher need of the mass produced literati style books of Clowes, Seth, Ware et al. The recent trip to the Birmingham Zine Festival merely cemented the idea in my head – this is a different way of doing things, and it’s no wonder that the comic artists partaking of this whole handmade thing chose to ally themselves with fellow handmade artists rather than comic artists – they simply have more in common with them.
That’s why, when I received Five, unsure of whether it would really fit onto the blog, I figured screw it, why not. It might not be comics, but it’s appeal to certain comic fans will be strong. So here it is……
Even getting the package open shows you how seriously the two artists involved are – the handmade, handsewn book comes in a card sleeve, with matching bookmark and a custom fitted card frame to make sure it reaches the intended recipient in perfect condition. That obsessiveness and attention to detail is what makes the handmade movement so appealing – everything is precious and full of passionate attention to getting the little details right. That and the beautiful, individual books they make of course.
Five is all about dreams, and about flights of fantasy. We start in the bath, with a mind just wandering away. And then we’re set free with the bather, and begin a lyrical and poetic trip across the world, free as the birds that fly from her fingers. With it’s simple ideas of a near transcendental journey and it’s sparse, lyrical style, it reminds me rather of the work of the great Michél Gagne. High praise indeed.
Chapman’s black and white pencil drawings across the pages of Five are tight, intricate things, and quite lovely to look at. With so little text the pictures have to do the heavy lifting, have to charge the mind with images and fill it with ideas. And Chapman’s lovely work does just that. You meander over them, absorbing the details, letting the sparse words play across the images.
It might not be comics, but it’s still a lovely little book, put together with immense passion for the work. Solon and Chapman are talking about more self published works – they will be a pleasure to see.