By Zarina Liew
Back in 2010 I mentioned Zarina Liew’s Le Mime 2-pager as a fave from the Publish You anthology. Since then she’s continued the adventures of the rosy cheeked silent one online, and in 2012 collected the first two years of Le Mime webcomic in a very polished looking 6inch square little book.
Each page has a standard 2×2 grid, and explores the world of Le Mime and his supporting cast…. just like this:
It’s not quite the wordless strip you might expect, although Le Mime keeps strictly to his profession’s silent vow throughout. Wordage comes from the supporting cast:
Soni Bumblebee, arm in a cast, part weird, part sweet, may have a thing for the mime, but easily distracted in her affections;
Toby Club-Chaing, celebrity mime, turns everyone’s head, including the aforementioned Suni – much to the Mime’s annoyance…. or maybe that’s just professional jealousy?;
Felicity Club-Chaing, Toby’s twin-sister, a clown, has her very own slapstick, and causes no end of trouble encouraging the others in their foibles;
and finally Roban Yogajam, cynical mystery man, doesn’t seem to like mimes, but looks just like one….
Artistically there’s a simplicity here that I do really like. I love the thin lines, the extended, stylised body shapes, even down to red lines of varying size, thickness and shape of Le Mime’s top. I was reminded somewhat of Margaux Motin’s beautiful style of But I Really Wanted To Be An Anthropologist. It’s not quite got the easy style, the beautiful elongated shapes of that, but it’s in that sort of neighbourhood, and a pleasure to look at.
And conceptually it’s got a lot going for it. At its very, very best Zarina uses the context of Le Mime to play with ideas; of the mime as a physical thing AND of the comic representation of the Mime, just like this…
That’s brilliant. Loved that. Very clever, very interesting.
But the problem is that this level of brilliance isn’t the norm, and the occasional glimpses serve to point out what the rest of the book lacks at times. Because of the way Liew has assembled her tale; the hints at background, the relationships (past, present, and future) of the cast, it’s obvious she wants this to be considered as an ongoing narrative, but it never quite takes off the way it should, and I was left feeling that too often it reached but didn’t quite join up the way Liew wanted it to.
The cuteness and quirkiness of Le Mime and the small cast is there all the way through, and there are some genius concept moments, and some beautifully realised emotional moments, subtle things captured in body language or facial expression.
But when put together in this collection, those moments just aren’t enough to hold it all together. It is that most frustrating of things; something perched on the brink of greatness yet not quite able to fly there yet. Zarina Liew is a talented and interesting cartoonist, her creation is something fun and interesting. I have no doubt that she’s capable of making that leap to greatness, but here we’re still perched on that edge. I look forward to watching her fly, I hope it is sometime soon.