Reviews: Imaginary Gumbo

Published On January 24, 2013 | By Richard Bruton | Comics, Reviews

Imaginary Gumbo 

By Abby Ryder and Dave Bulmer

Mini-comics. 8 pages of scrappy b&w stuff stuck together A5 size….. or maybe not. These Imaginary Gumbo comics are definitely mini-comics, but not the mini-comics I remember. Truly we’ve moved so far forwards, gone is the daft idea of small press, and instead we have mini-comics like these; full-colour, professional, perfect little packages.

Now, admiration for the packaging over with, how about what’s inside these beautifully made all-ages adventures…

Well, the only real problem is the length. Because everything else is pretty much spot on. There’s a delightful voice running through them both, and frankly I can’t summarise it any better than Abby and Dave do on the back covers…

8-year-old Charlie has become lord and master of the mighty warrior-knight Gumbo, and with him comes a vast fantasy kingdom for her to explore. Even though she’s pretty sure he isn’t completely real, Charlie drags Gumbo along with her from one adventure to the next. And they fight monsters.

Yep, you can just visualise the tone of the comic can’t you? It’s really beautifully done as well, two little adventures, full of sweetness and fun. First up there’s “The Great Voyage Of Pegleg Piggage”:

(Page 1 of Imaginary Gumbo and the Great Voyage of Pegleg Piggage by Abby Ryder and Dave Bulmer)

Gumbo may be able to defeat those giant piggish looking monsters he’s faced with, but poor Charlie can’t get the memory of her school’s Guinea Pig out of her mind. The turn of phrase and dialogue works really nicely, Gumbo continually breaking into warrior speak to talk of the fallen warrior that was Piggage, and between them, they come to a fitting tribute to a much-loved pet’s life. Fitting, and more than a little sad. Just as it should be.

(Imaginary Gumbo and the Great Voyage of Pegleg Piggage by Abby Ryder and Dave Bulmer)

There’s a clever mix of moods played out, the sadness never thrust too far forward, but allowed to percolate through in Charlie’s words. It also rewards the reader who pays close attention – just seeing how Gumbo gets his broken sword back – lovely little effect thrown in alongside the story.

Likewise, the second mini “The Bright Idea” plays on the whole fantasy elements, along with a child’s set ideas of right and wrong, good and bad, and just exactly how a hero should go about beating a baddie. There’s a complexity in the interaction of Charlie and Gumbo, whether in relation to the real world events of the Great Voyage or the pure fantasy land stuff with Professor Nebulous here. It all has a Calvin & Hobbes vibe going on, and it simple doesn’t matter if Charlie happens to be an arch fantasist or not, as it’s all part of the delightful fun.

(Imaginary Gumbo and the Bright Idea by Abby Ryder and Dave Bulmer)

Like I say, the only problem I have with these is their too short, and I can’t quite work out what they’re meant to be doing; a print showreel perhaps? or a vanity thing? Personally I’d prefer something thicker, perhaps putting these two together, maybe adding a third tale, building up to something bigger, or maybe next we’ll see Ryder and Bulmer extend their storytelling? That would be something good I think.

As an extra treat there’s a webcomic on the Imaginary Gumbo site for Christmas. It might be a touch late me telling you about it now, but still a fun little read:

Imaginary Gumbo comics are available through the Dumpy Little Robot website.

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About The Author

Richard Bruton
- Started in comics retail aged 16 at Nostalgia & Comics, Birmingham. Now located in Yorkshire, he's written for the Forbidden Planet International Blog since 2007. Specialising in UK Comics and All-Ages comics, Richard's day job in a primary school allowed him to build the best children's graphic novel library in the country.

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