VerityFair Issue 4
By Terry Wiley
I’ve waffled on plenty in the past about Terry Wiley, about his collaborations with McKinnon and Kermode, about how Sleaze Castle is something of a lost epic. (Luckily, lost no longer – see details at the end of this piece.)
Well, this is VerityFair, and VerityFair is Terry Wiley’s one man show of a comic, featuring jobbing actress Verity Bournville; a waster, a mess, too loud, often too drunk, full of hang-ups, and prone to crippling nightmares. But she’s also the star of the show; exaggerated yet so believable character, witty, effervescent, flawed, wonderful …. yet another one of a series of well rounded, perfectly realised female characters Wiley has been responsible for. He seems to have a genuine knack of catching the style, the dialogue, the mannerisms so very well.
In the first three very impressive issues (1, 2, 3) you got to see Verity land a new agency that actually seemed to be able to provide work, including a slot on a certain well known TV music show that lets us see some of her past as “Pose Girl” (think New Romantic 80s Bez). Things look good, but life for Verity seems to have a habit of screwing her over, and her past comes back to haunt her, her nightmares send her to an old friends bed and back to a shrink she hasn’t seen for decades. These are bad nightmares, or, as Verity puts it….
“We are talking piss-the-bed, panic attack, lights on ’til dawn here. One of those – if you pardon the expression – fucks me right up.”
So…. a rounded character, full of easy conversation, often directly to the readership, full of the highs, lows, little triumphs, and life changing tragedies of real life, and just like real life there’s a mass of ridiculous comedy running through it as well. But this is Terry Wiley, so there’s also a riotous amount of over the top madness going on, and a massive amount of connection to so much he’s done before.
But don’t be afraid, although Wiley references, continues, flashbacks, and integrates characters from both Surreal School Stories and Sleaze Castle, you don’t need to know anything about those books to enjoy this great comic.
By issue 3 we we’re flashing back to Verity’s (surreal) school for a tragic, and unsolved death, that may still have a part to play in future issues.
This time we’re back to the present, although still locked in the past, as another Surreal School chum has died (confusingly another Lucy), lost to drugs long ago, a sadly overdue death this. Friends assemble, there’s a magnificent wake after an uncomfortable church service – always a bad idea, a church service for one of the former girls of Tycho’s; like Verity says… “They don’t know we vewwy well, do they?” before we get to see the old school motto; “Secular, Elitist, Agnostic“. Funny, funny stuff.
Wiley is expertly, delicately weaving all manner of tales in here, flashbacks slot in easily, without confusion, monumental moments revealed without fanfare, making them all the more important.
We even get to see just what caused the monumental “nuclear bust-up” between Jo and Verity that meant they haven’t spoken for over 20 years. It’s just after this wonderul moment when Jo fills Verity in on the whole Sleaze Castle experience:
Suffice it to say, even the thought of a reunion at the funeral is enough of a worry to send Verity back to the shrink. And if that’s bad, then the events post funeral, with a very squiffy Verity heading home post wake may well be enough to get her sectioned. I’m certainly not going to blow the ending, but it’s weird, it’s funny, it’s surreal, it’s vintage Wiley.
Add it all together; the funny stuff, the all too believable dialogue, the great characterisation and an all too human lead character and this really is proving to be a great comic from a great artist. And even better, I have no idea where Wiley is taking this one, but I know I’ll be here to find out.
VerityFair #4 is available from Wiley at Bristol Expo, and online from Wiley after that (firstname.lastname@example.org for orders & Paypal). It’s ridiculously cheap at £2.50 b&w, £5 colour.
Sleaze Castle Etcetera – The Incomplete Final Cut, published through Markosia and featuring work by Wiley, Dave McKinnon, and Adrian Kermode, is slightly more expensive, with the limited hardcover available for £35, online and at Bristol and London’s Kapow Con. After that, there’s a paperback Sleaze Castle coming out for July, also at £35, and frankly, whatever format, it’s perhaps the best £35 you’ll spend for quite a while.