Reviews: Young Hairy Mary and her pals… multi-colour delights abound
By Craig Conlan
I picked this one up at the recent Thought Bubble comics festival, something I’d seen around the interweb. Interestingly, I’d seen far more than I’d read of it, something important that I’ll get to later.
Because the look of this is quite delightful, eye-popping, candy-striping colour work, all bold shapes, hyper-bright, super-cool looking stuff…. like this… page 1, panel 1:
Yep, big, bold, bright, a fun multi-coloured journey into the past for Conlan’s Hairy Mary character. Interestingly enough, it’s also a trip to my own past, as I’m absolutely convinced we had some Scary Mary in Nostalgia & Comics late 90s courtesy of Pete Ashton sending out some of the Pete Pavement Slab O’Concrete titles.
But this is very much of the now, all bright colours and all-ages stuff, and quite gorgeous it is too. And silly, and funny, and sweet, and fun.
Meet Hairy Mary, the multi-coloured girl who holds her head high in the crowd. But it wasn’t always like that, oh no, and in the first story you’ll discover how Hairy Mary got her name, and more importantly how Hairy Mary grew into the attitude she exudes so wonderfully today….
This first story is the highlight of the book, a delightful tale of a girl taking control, with the help of a friendly passing pink cloud, learning all about her imagination powers, learning how to control her hair, learning how to control herself, as we see the crazy haired Mary learn to control her hirsute nature, learning that she has the power to determine who she is, what she looks like, how she uses these great powers. A lovely, powerful little parable of growing up and developing self-confidence.
And whilst Conlan doesn’t quite nail it, doesn’t quite deliver the full gamut of emotion that you feel could come from such a wonderfully empowering origin story, there’s enough here to make this a really enjoyable tale. I mean, just look at this, the wonderfully empowering moment of Hairy Mary’s realisation that all need not be the way it is……
But as good as that is, it’s the final response of Hairy Mary to her newfound control that makes it great, as Conlan ramps it up to another level through Mary’s self-aware, perfect body image response to realising she can be just like everyone else.
This first story nearly, but not quite, got me singing from the rooftops, but it was just that smallest doubt, that small lack of engagement that meant I felt distanced from it slightly. Difficult to put my finger on it exactly, but I know it has something to do with Conlan not quite getting the child’s voice right. Again, only slightly out, but it’s an important leap, from great to sublime perhaps.
So within touching distance of brilliance and perfection in that first story, and I was hoping, fingers crossed, to find that bigger emotional range in the second. Unfortunately the second half of this comic is a poor relation to that great first story. Gone is the empowerment, gone is the self-discovery, and in its place comes a fairly run of the mill adventure tale. Yes, it’s a fun adventure tale, and it’s just as beautifully colourful and well drawn as the first, but it feels rather empty compared to part one.
Still, maybe I’m simply reading too much into this, maybe I’m looking for emotional depth in a comic equivalent of a pop record? Does there have to be the grand emotional response, or is it enough to deliver a great, fun little story of a girl having weird adventures? Pretty to look at. Perhaps not enough. Personally I’d have loved so much more. Potential, but …. oh, if only, if only.
Both Young Hairy Mary stories can be read online at Conlan’s website. But better than that, they can also be purchased, in one book, right here at his webstore.