It’s A Man’s Life In The Ice-Cream Business Part 2
By Rob Jackson
This is exactly what I love about the UK comic scene – you wouldn’t really expect one issue of a self-publishers expansion into the home-made ice-cream business, and now we get the second issue of Rob Jackson’s comic about his adventures at various markets around his home town of Bolton.
I looked at part 1 back in 2011 and had this to say:
“It’s fascinating, it really is…. just like any well written, well observed autobiog comic can be. Regardless of the subject, if it’s well done, you’ll be drawn into it. And so it is with “It’s A Man’s Life In The Ice Cream Business“.
You’ll read all about the pros and cons of ice-cream manufacture, the variety of markets around Bolton, the sheer hard work involved in the business for Jackson and his family. There’s none of the comedy or farce that Jackson’s utilised so well in the past, but it doesn’t matter. Just having the details presented straight in front of us is enough.”
And underneath a really impressive looking cover, part two gives me more of the same. Just like this:
Yes, Jackson’s tale of his adventures in ice-cream carries on. Although his product range gets more diverse here. Ice-creams, cheese, black peas. This time there’s even soup!
It’s the ongoing minutiae of the situation I fond rather enthralling, this is almost catalogue comic-ing; the endless procession of markets, the setting up, the listing of the products taken, what sells, what doesn’t, and why, the weather and its effect on trade, the gazebos, the people, the competition. It’s all here, and it’s all very enjoyable.
As usual, Jackson’s art is rough, but it’s a roughness that appeals, and his tight, dense panels (10-14 per page usually) suit the style of his story here so well. The routine of dense panel pages is occasionally, and refreshingly broken every so often by a larger panel or two, and suddenly the freedom produces some really lovely moments such as this; with the backdrop to the sign, the washed-out stand and the cut to a glum Rob working so nicely:
Or this, with Rob’s mom setting up the hot black peas:
All in all, it’s a surprisingly satisfying comic, on a completely unexpected topic. But Jackson’s autobiog storytelling is such a relaxed, easygoing thing that I’d imagine pretty much anyything he turned his hand to would work just as well.
The advantage with this ice-cream comic is the absolutely unexpected nature of the subject. We’ve all read autobiog from comic artists talking about how miserable their comic making lives are, how that girl in the coffee house will have nothing to do with them, how life just isn’t the way they hoped and all that. But autobiog about trying to make your way in the cut and thrust world of homemade food markets? Now that is interesting and unusual.
And yes, cut and thrust world – right at the end of this one we get the added threat of competition – someone trying to break into Rob’s patch with ice-cream and cheese as well. What next for Rob and his fledgling business? Putting up with it, changing products, or possibly a Bolton ice-cream war to match the one in Glasgow in the 80s?
We’ll have to wait for the next issue to find out. And it may be a little longer to wait this time (Jackson notes he’s rather sick of drawing gazebos), which is a genuine disappointment.