One very grumpy Polar Bear playing with the comic medium….

Published On April 26, 2011 | By Richard Bruton | Comics, Reviews

The Polar Bear: Comics From My Cardboard Life

By Philippa Rice

I’ve talked about Phillipa Rice’s comics before a few times on the FPI Blog, and safe to say I thought they were rather good:

“My Cardboard Life starts out as cardboard, paper and scrap material collages featuring Cardboard Colin, Paper Pauline and a host of other delightful and wonderfully silly characters, which are then scanned and uploaded to the My Cardboard Life webcomic.”

“….My Cardboard Life, whether online or in print is much more than a cute and quirky idea – the strips are genuinely funny as well. Rice takes the simplest of concepts and creates clever, whimsical strips from them, some are funny in and of themselves and some are funny down to those few simple lines Rice adds to give a complete dimension of expression. But the very best of them play with the very nature of the strip’s form – making use of the cardboard and paper elements of the main characters. It’s very clever stuff.”

And, here, with her latest collection Rice keeps on doing what she does very well. It’s another delightful, quirky, interesting, fun AND funny collection.

As you might expect from the title and that cover this one deals with a Polar Bear. A very grumpy and often just plain downright mean and rude Polar Bear. Having the focus on the Polar Bear means we see less of Cardboard Colin and Paper Pauline this time round, they’re relegated to supporting roles.

Having the Polar Bear as the main character brings a subtle but interesting shift in Rice’s My Cardboard Life. Because the grumpiness frees Rice from the need to deliver gag after gag, gets rid of the oft repeated notion of Colin’s unrequited love for Pauline and allows her to play around with the notion of a grumpy Polar Bear in a series of situations. But then again, maybe he’s not really grumpy, maybe just misunderstood?

We’re well past the simple idea of physical objects scanned onto the comic page here. In that strip above there’s a great sense of playing with the very physicality of the medium – made all the more so because we know that Polar Bear (or at least Rice acting on his behalf) is really tearing the background, is really putting it together and is really making roses from it, all before it gets scanned in.

And as she goes on Rice finds new and ever more interesting ways to play with the reader, with her characters and with the medium itself. Take these two strips:

Now maybe I’m too easily impressed, but the cleverness implicit in the idea of writing on both sides of the note to Colin allowing us readers to see the gag but not a hapless Colin is, to me at least, just a great thing.

All in all, The Polar Bear, just like the rest of Rice’s work, really does work, as both simple and delightful slice of fun and also as something that takes a clever approach to the physicality of comics.

My Cardboard Life as a print comic is great, a lovely physical object to fall in love with, to share, to give to lots of people who don’t necessarily like comics. And most of the time it’s far better (at least for this old reader) than reading them onscreen.

But occasionally, there are strips that only work online, ideas unique to a virtual world. The last page of The Polar Bear is one of these. Taken on it’s own it’s a suitably grumpy, low key end to the comic, but when placed in context, as a midpoint to a great little online “follow the Polar Bear” series of strips, pictures and videos that took us through every possible bit of social media it’s just brilliantly clever. For the fun of that start here and follow the link under the strip.

The Polar Bear, along with other My Cardboard Life comics and goods is available from Philippa Rice’s webstore.

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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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