Edited by David Ziggy Greene
First off, an apology – I backed the fundraiser for the first issue of Save our Souls as well as the second, enjoyed the hell out of the first and fully meant to post a review on here. Time (of the short variety) and too many other things to deal with meant I never got a proper chance to do more than tweet a few pieces on the first one. But I enjoyed it so much I happily put my money down for the fundraiser for the next issue, so I think you can take that as a good recommendation!
As with the first issue this isn’t strictly comics per-se, but a magazine, a journal, which combines a lot of comics and cartooning folks along with prose writers and other pieces, something of a smorgasbord, but given it comes via editor David Ziggy Greene (creator of, among others, the quite brilliant Scene & Heard reportage comic strips in Private Eye) there is a a strong art sense here, with not just the comics material but a bountiful supply of illustrations for the written articles, so you have visuals on pretty much every page.
Of course as with any anthology-type publication it’s a bit of an assortment and naturally some pieces will appeal more to some readers than others (and still others will prefer a different set of articles and strips, such is the nature of taste). That can be a weakness, but as someone who has grown up since childhood with the British comics model of the regular anthology, I prefer to see it as a strength, as it means you are always bound to find several items that appeal to your own individual tastes, and, being brief, if there is one you don’t like so much, well, there’s another right behind it. I also like to think of collections as having another strength – in my experience, be it a journal like the venerable Interzone (still a great home of short science fiction), short story anthologies or even our long-lived 2000 AD each week, it’s a very good way to come across new authors in handy little bite-sized chunks, letting you get a taste for their work and see if you want to seek out more in other places.
(Lee Gatlin’s short four-panel piece had me giggling)
I’m not going to go through every single piece in the second issue, but I will pick out a few that made a particular impression on me. It was good to see Robert Ince (comedian and star of the brilliant Radio 4 show The Infinite Monkey Cage) on the subjective nature of comedy and the way some audiences react very negatively, including threats and, sadly an all-too-common thing these days, people being abusive online. Richard Pendleton’s article on the Christian organisation he works with on the street, often helping people who have over-indulged and gotten themselves into a mess, simply because it’s the right thing to do, was a nice reminder in these days when we seem to see nothing but awfulness on the news that there are still good people trying to help.
Gabby Schulz had several strips of his “Little Findley” cartoons, in which the unfortunate little cherub comes to a number of horrid ends, like Gorey’s wonderful Gashley Crumb Tinies but visually crossed with Steadman, VV Glass’s four-pager Ark was a clever commentary on doomsday prepping, cultism and the ever-increasing appropriation of all resources by a small, wealthy elite at the expense of every one else, while Lee Gatlin had me chuckling with one quick four-panel piece.
(an example of Gabby Schulz’s delightfully nasty Little Findley strips)
The two which left the deepest impression for me though were a couple of illustrated reportage pieces, the sort of work creators like Sacco pioneered and, I think, showed how powerful (and accessible) a tool illustrated/comics journalism can be. Dan Peterson’s SOLAS (Saving Of Life At Sea) reported from the ongoing tragedy of desperate refugees trying to cross the Mediterranean in often totally unsuitable, overloaded vessels, leading to great loss of life. Dan reports from the engineering marvel of HMS Bulwark, and advanced Royal Navy ship with its own landing decks, hangers, floodable docks to launch its own vessels from, here being used not for amphibious assaults but to rescue innocent civilians. Dan does what the best examples of comics reportage do and speaks directly to some of those involved, giving them a voice, face, making us see individual human beings, not statistics that some politician uses to scare voters with (see below for a look).
Similarly Richard Johnson’s Fieldwork carried quite an emotional impact. More a series of illustration carried out in the field (as you’d infer from the title) rather than comics panels, each sketch accompanied by his notes on when and where he was and what he was drawing, from Iraq to Afghanistan to the Central African Republic. In many ways it is like the classic photojournalism pieces of some of my photography heroes like Robert Capa. Some may wonder in an age of photography and video that can go anywhere, is there still a role for the “war artist”, to use an old phrase? It’s a bit like asking why bother with photos when you can have video. Each medium has a particular strength to it – video is great on TV news but a well-timed (or lucky, which is often the same thing) photograph gives us time to absorb a still image, soak in nuances lost in rapid motion. Similarly a good illustrator isn’t just reproducing a scene, they are putting a large human element into it, in a way photography or video just cannot do so well (and I say that as a serial photographer). And by god Johnson captures the human, emotional elements here, like Peterson making those people be people to us, not just another soldier or serial number, an individual person dealing with traumatic events (see an example below).
SoS is still something new on our Brit comics/journal landscape, trying to bring us an interesting array of articles, illustrations and comics works, and it is to be commended for striving to do something new and interesting, and to do so in actual print (joy of joys!), not just on a tablet, and for doing so in a way that sees those involved not doing it for “exposure” (as some publications, print and digital, try to get writers and artists to do – Huff Post et al, we’re looking at you) but they actually get paid for it. Which makes it all the more important we support it – I’ll be putting up my few quid for the next fundraiser for any third issue and I’d heartily recommend picking up the first two to any of you.