I’ve loved Howard’s work since first getting hold of Badger; his adorable all-ages work dealing with a very, very sad and very lonely Badger.
But his new series The Lengths couldn’t be further from that if it tried. The Lengths is a story of the world of male prostitution, of dangerous obsession, of bad choices and of love taken too far. And based on the evidence of just this first issue it’s looking like it might be stunningly good.
This is what I said a while back:
Whilst taking a bit of a break from the wonderful Badger, Howard Hardiman has started a new webcomic: The Lengths. It’s another change of style from Howard, somewhere between the cute animal art of Badger and sketchy realism of Polaroids From Other Lives (it rather reminded me of Martin Wagner’s Hepcats – albeit darker).
Howard: “I’ve been working on a new comic project, The Lengths, which is based on interviews I did with men selling sex to men in London a few years back. It’s a story about a guy who falls for an escort and gets drawn into a world of sex and drugs before reaching a point where he’s not sure if he’s gone too far to go back to the ordinary life he’s been running from.”
I knew it was going to be a challenging and different piece from Howard, just after reading his pre release words and seeing those first few images. But I didn’t think it would be this challenging.
It’s basis in real life merely lends it the authenticity necessary to really tip this into the realms of hugely impressive and important works. This could, quite simply, be a wonderful series.
(Eddie’s/Ford’s obsession with Nelson will lead him to a dark, dark place. From Howard Hardiman’s The Lengths Issue 1)
Initially I had a slight issue with Howard’s storytelling. Things seemed too indistinct and unclear on a first read. But on a second and subsequent reading I realised that Howard was simply using everything he’d got to tell this story and it requires a little thought to decipher it’s complexity.
Once that thought is applied however, The Lengths becomes something multi-layered, complex and simply wonderful in it’s storytelling.
In The Lengths the main character Eddie is leading a double life; as Eddie he’s a fairly straightforward art school dropout, looking for love and a relationship, which he may have found with the rather geeky Dan. But Eddie’s leading a dark and sinister double life. His alter ego Ford is a male prostitute – and it’s this life of illicit meetings and sex for cash that gives The Lengths it’s dark and provocative heart.
(Weird Hours. Oh yes, that’s just the start of Eddie’s problems. From Howard Hardiman’s The Lengths Issue 1)
Along the way we get to venture inside Eddie’s thoughts and memories, discovering a messed up young man whose past has come back to haunt him. We see his first entry into the seedy world of prostitution, his growing obsession with fellow male prostitute Nelson and watch as he struggles to deal with what he’s becoming.
Howard successfully takes us inside the thoughts of Eddie, and his constant struggle to separate his life as Eddie from his life as Ford. I haven’t the slightest idea where Howard will take his story in subsequent issues but I do know I’ll be eagerly awaiting each issue.
This wont be for everyone. But I found it to be a compelling piece of quality storytelling from an artist who just gets better and better. My initial comparison to Hepcats still holds (although how many of you actually remember that and gain anything from the comparison?) – the anthropomorphising of the characters is never distracting, and whether we see them as dogs or people doesn’t matter – Howard’s storytelling makes this a very compelling tale whatever species he’s dealing with.
Howard Hardiman’s The Lengths may just be a comic that really has potential to be huge, and it’s certainly the moment when Howard steps up and produces something with a very hard-hitting subject that he’s handling so very well. To do something this dark and this challenging is a huge undertaking. But for my money, it’s the best he’s done so far and quite simply something that could turn into a major work from an artist who’s developing into a major talent.
The Lengths Issue 1 (of a planned 8 ) is available from Howard Hardiman at his webstore, priced just £3.