Killjoy …. a boy’s tale, beautifully documented, emotionally lacking….
By Robert Brown
Tom Humberstone picked out Robert Brown as one of his picks to watch in 2012. And after reading this first issue I can see why. Visually at least it’s really lovely.
Killjoy Issue 1 tells the story of Brown’s very first cub camp, the longest he’d been away from family in his young life. Killjoy is all part of Brown’s ongoing attempt to document his childhood in a series of cartoon vignettes, and I have to say, like many of us of a certain age this really resonated.
I can remember my first cub camp as well, and it went down pretty much the same way Brown’s did. All the joys, all the independence found, all the uncertainty, all the tears, the homesickness, the strange surroundings, the trying to get on with the other kids – it’s all here, perfectly documented.
But Brown’s spot on documentation of the experience of that first cub camp in Killjoy is also my main problem with the comic, it really is just that little bit too perfectly documented. I read it and really enjoyed it, but all the way through I was wondering when it would really kick in, when the reportage would give way to the emotional subtext Brown is always hinting at throughout.
There’s a little too much straightforward storytelling going on here, flat reportage, and not enough emotive stuff. It’s such a difficult line to tread, getting the emotional context across whilst still moving the narrative forward, but here I think Brown is all too concerned with laying out the events and in doing so rather loses the emotion of the moment.
There are moments you think it’s going to go deeper, going to kick in, going to become something more. But each time, whether it’s the unexpected moment empathising with the older boy whose abseiling experience went wrong, or the unfairness of taking the blame for destroying another groups bivouacing attempt, or the moment around the final camp get together when the older kids are obviously whispering about him, it’s never really expanded upon.
And although this may be the point of Killjoy, to leave those emotional moments open and raw, to be filled out by the reader, I couldn’t help but feel that Brown was missing something here. He’s done all the hard work, done all the set-up, it just lacked the final pay-off in each case.
Artistically it is very, very nice indeed. His style is absolutely easy on the eye. He captures such simple emotion in the eyes of his characters. Just the three examples here show you that. Brown’s wide-eyed excitement at his first camp, the tears of the older boy, the feeling of being the subject of someone else’s malicious gossip at the final camp gathering – all so very well done.
I really like the look of Brown’s Killjoy, and I always find I’m left feeling crappy when I have to take a talented self publisher to task for his or her faults as I see them. Me, talentless non-artist that I am. It always feels harsh. But Killjoy has so much going for it, and Brown’s definitely one to watch. A small step-up, and I’d have loved this. Next time? Hopefully.
You can buy Killjoy #1 from Robert Brown’s shop here.