By Pat Grant
Publisher: Top Shelf/Giramondo
Blue is the story of a childhood spent by the sea, where childish naivety is slowly challenged by local changes and more adult perspectives.
Itís set in Australia, home of the author, Pat Grant, and as he acknowledges himself, contains a smidgin of autobiographical detail. Heís quick to point out that the similarities in parts of the story with Stephen Kingís The Body (filmed as Stand By Me) but stresses that he and his friend did indeed follow a train line to discover the grisly remains of an accident.
But thereís much more to the story than that. One of the driving elements is how the country copes with its influx of immigrants bringing their own food, culture and traditions. Grant portrayís them here as blue alien-like figures, but thereís little doubt as to who heís comparing them to.
Although the three lead characters are somewhat unsavoury, you except theyíre on the border of adulthood and are making mistakes. Grantís triumph is to still make them sympathetic.
What really tipped the scales for me is Grantís delicious artwork, featuring a plethora of snub-nosed, piggy-eyed grotesques and all exquisitely coloured in blues and browns. In one particular scene they come across a hideous teenaged hoodlum attempting to smash up some enormous machinery sheís found. Her motivation is simply sheer boredom. But the cartoon, filling the entire page, is lovingly crafted with absurd machine parts and pipes, nonsensical cables and cogs, against a background of odd foliage - itís all very, very Dave Cooper, and in my book thatís absolutely no bad thing at all.
As a little added bonus the back of the book is given over to Grantís memories of the Australian comic and cartooning scene, with a particular focus on surf comics. He goes into it in some detail, and itís clearly a huge inspiration and ongoing passion.
Blue touches on heavy political and social themes, but itís really about friendship, childhood and fun. Very much a worthy addition to your bookshelf.
And if you liked that: Grab yourself a copy of Suckle by Dave Cooper.