By Dan White
It’s about time. It really is.
I fell in love with Dan White’s wonderful Cindy and Biscuit the moment I saw them in New British Comics #3. The manner in which White used just 7-pages so well was wonderful. Not just introducing two wonderful characters but to take us through a grand adventure, full of slapstick comedy, and ending with something deeper and darker, an unsettling twist. That made me sit up and take notice.
Then along came Cindy and Biscuit Issue 1, and that really, really impressed:
“Cindy & Biscuit really has something delightfully magical about it, and White has delivered a great comic, with a depth that surprises and adds to the experience.
It’s sweet, funny, action-packed but there’s an emotional layer in there as well, a rather heartbreaking reading into the comic – and it’s that duality that made me absolutely fall in love with Cindy and Biscuit. It’s only May, but I really think I’ve just found another best comic of 2011″
And that first paragraph actually finds its way onto the back cover of Cindy and Biscuit #2. Rightfully so. It was incredible. A fun romp of a story, great art, yet there’s such a sombre element, a hint of near heartbreaking sadness that anchors these incredible adventures in sad reality.
And now, at last, I have a copy of Cindy and Biscuit issue 2 in my hands. It’s familiar in many ways, not just because two of the four stories have already seen publication online, but because White’s characters are so familiar by now, it’s almost as if I were revisiting old friends. But these 44-pages are the first time the previously published stories have seen print, and lets face it, something as lovely as Cindy and Biscuit really deserves print, really deserves you settling back and enjoying it all. And with Cindy and Biscuit, that familiarity just means falling in love with our little tomboy and her dog all over again.
The previously published work is Biscuit Beyond (which you can see here) and Cindy & Biscuit in the Snowman (here at Mindless Ones). Both are great, here’s something from Biscuit Beyond, as Cindy’s canine companion has a strange, cross dimensional, Ditko-esque chase with a cat:
And here’s Cindy from Cindy and Biscuit in the Snowman, where our heroine starts to get a tad suspicious about the snowman outside the house. Violence ensues…..
That look says it all about Cindy really. That steely determination in the face of life’s troubles, whether they be weird alien things, malevolent snowmen, monsters of all kinds, or just her crappy homelife with a mom whose motivations and personality White always leaves rather uncertain, all the better for us to put our own ideas and thoughts onto the story that way.
In fact, so much of Cindy and Biscuit is about facial expression;
So much there. Steely determination, a sense of fear, of trepidation, of regret, of being belittled once more, and yet, somewhere in Cindy and Biscuit there’s always that moment of wonderful joy, that hint of a smile, that beautiful moment when Cindy’s world opens up just a little, where the marvels of her world register, where she’s at peace, and just as with that final panel, you’ll find yourself almost cheering in your shared happiness.
Like this panel below from the opening strip in Cindy & Biscuit Issue 2; Cindy & Biscuit and the Secrets of Summer. Cindy and Biscuit are having a fun time just splashing about in the pond. It opens with a warning, but the quiet is shattered by a joyous Cindy, unaware of the dangers she may soon be facing in this delicately told little tale of ghostly threat.
And here she is, caught in that moment before the realisation that something dark is here to threaten her perfect moment, a Cindy happy…..
White is so very good at giving us moments of quiet threat punctuated by a little girl enjoying herself. It’s just so joyous, so happy, and that makes the subsequent reveal of the threat so much more unsettling.
But in Cindy & Biscuit Issue 2 the standout story has to be the 18-page Cindy Vs The Sea. It’s got everything that makes me adore Dan White’s comics in it. Cindy finds herself alone, Biscuit-less, on a school trip to the seaside. And being Cindy, she manages to get into a huge scrap with a vicious sea-hag. There’s violence, incredible bravery, as Cindy does what’s right and brave and good. Yet in the end, she’s just going to be on the receiving end of more bitchiness from her friends, just like she is right at the start of the story:
That’s both beautifully drawn and yet so heartbreakingly real. I don’t know, perhaps it’s the fact that my Molly is right in the middle of the same cusp of teen-dom moments of navigating through treacherous waters of friendships made and friendships broken, but I saw the pages where Cindy finds herself an outcast amongst her peers so terribly affecting.
And that’s perhaps what makes White’s comic so damn good. For every moment he makes us thrill to the exploits of his heroine kicking butt and taking down the bad guys, there are moments of quiet sadness, that our experiences tell us are all too terribly real. In Cindy & Biscuit Issue 1 it was the realisation that whatever she did, no matter what monstrous threat to the human race she vanquished, she still had to go home to a critical look and disparaging remark from a mom too busy to care. And here it’s the realisation that she can do so much good and yet still, when she gets back on the school bus, she’s the outcast at the back, teased and picked on by her peers.
So sad, so beautifully sad,and so beautifully real. Go and but Cindy & Biscuit issues 1 & 2. Go and fall in love with Dan White’s work. Is it too early to say that I’ve just found one of my best of 2012?