Silent comics. Not new, and a wonderful method of delivering a story without worrying about language. And Poland seems something of a trailblazer for silence in comics.
Much of my assumption here is down to Piotr Nowacki, whose work we’ve featured several times on the FPI Blog, most recently with his graphic novel (along with writer Bartosz Sztybor) It’s Not About That. Along with that graphic novel his publisher Centrala sent along several other graphic novels, a couple translated, and this, a huge lego brick looking thing of a book, 500+ pages long but just A6 in size – tiny yet chunky. In fact, depending on your monitor, the cover above is about actual size.
Inside you’ll find a selection of 80+ works from the International Silent Comics Competition from 2012, part of the Ligatura International Comics Culture Festival and was curated and selected by Eric Kriek, Tim Malloy, and Tom Gauld (of You’re All Just Jealous Of My Jetpack and Goliath)
Although seeing as there are 80+ pieces here and 168 entries from 39 countries the selection process seems a little easier than most, sort of one in, one out really.
As for what’s in here, well I just don’t know. The sheer mass of work in here is something at least, and in terms of craft at least it’s mostly of a pretty high artistic standard. But overall, I was more disappointed than impressed with Silence, feeling that too many of the comics in here failed to really fly. Interesting enough, but very few absolutely essential. And several of the contributors just failed to grasp the essential visual storytelling needed for a completely wordless comic (compare that with the aforementioned Piotr Nowacki and Bartosz Sztybor and their book It’s Not About That).
I read through it all in one sitting first time round, which is absolutely not the best way to do it. The eyes get tired, the incessant rhythm of new strip, new strip, new strip, and with most of the strips being ten pages or less, that rhythm was a fast, fast, fast one. In fact, it’s no coincidence that some of my favourites are the longer tales in here, all the better to develop themes.
The small size of the book doesn’t help either. Old eyes sure, but at A6 size a few too many of the works seemed tight and cramped, too small to have the impact they were after. A5 or bigger would certainly have served the artwork better.
However, a second read through over last week, bit at a time, and I was feeling more charitable about it. Below I’ve put a selection of some of my most memorable works from there
In the end, I suppose the best way to think of this is as a worthy experiment, an attempt to break the language barrier and create a body of truly international comics. That it fails is unfortunate, but there’s something to be said for something that at least tries to do it differently.
The Last Playboy by Maik Hasenbank (Germany). My favourite in here, and probably not coincidentally, one of the longest works in here as well; neurotic, paranoid, art perfectly twisting and bending to get every manic, psychotic moment of this bunny’s despair. Sex, drink, and guns all play a part. Dark and nasty, but brilliant as well.
Carnivores by Daniel Csordas (Hungary). Another favourite, reminiscent in tone and style of Prohas’ brilliant Spy Vs Spy. Great little nonsense story, kinetic and makes absolute sense – great visual storytelling.
Afternoon Drama by Julita Mastalerz and Kinga Bulsiewicz (Poland). Closeup romantic drama with a funny twist at the end of it. Looks a bit Phil Jiminez-y at points as well.
Labyrint’s Kids by Nel Suarez Lope (Spain) – Really liked this one; a windy mazey, meaning packed adventure using the coloured pathway as so many different things; slide, launchpad, river, mountain, stairs, even a Kafka-esque detour. Very nice nonsense sort of story.
Fox and comet by Magda Boreysza (UK). A perfect case of why the book’s size doesn’t bring out the best in its contents. Fox and Comet was a story from Magda Boreysza’s brilliant little comic Toasty Cats #6 that I really enjoyed when reviewing it. But here, although it’s good, it’s nowhere near as impressive, it needs the size to work, especially as one of the key story pages is broken down into tiny panels that made absolute sense in the bigger comic but here are unreadable.
Cal by Jonathan Sauvebois (France). Oh, what a surprise, a minimalist landscape-y piece that I love. I’m getting predicatable I fear.
But the landscape beauty is only the start of this trippy little tale; the bird-faced figure drifts across the landscape to a settlement and something cathedral-like in size. Ghosts, visions, psychedelic moments abound, transformation, destruction, death and just a hint of rebirth. THIS is exactly the sort of large scale sort of epic you can do with wordless if you do it right.
Untitled by Magdalena Rucinska and Szymon Kazmierczak (Poland). This one got me from the very first couple of pages, that light, fluid, bouncy artwork, an nice sense of storytelling following a man wandering through the busy city, conversations flying all around, but he remains an observer until a single act of kindness opens up a world (and a world of colour as well) that he’d never seen before.