The highlight of Gestalt’s recent Flinch anthology for me (and many others) was Withheld, Bobby N’s short story on a man leaving prison.
In just a few pages he skilfully managed to concoct a suspenseful, surprising tale, and in his Digested series, the writer/artist continues to show how much can be done with a low page count and a wild imagination.
Out now from Gestalt are the first two issues in this new series. They’re black and white, and just over half the size of a standard comic book, but they punch above their weight class. The thinner first issue kicks things off with Oxygen, a silent tale of a night jogger returning home. Yes, that’s about it, but thankfully it’s continued in #2. It’s an intriguing way to start this slice of life series, and really shows Bobby N’s remarkable skill at just using just 3 colours, and 4 panels per page. Train Ride focuses on two girls talking as girls do, with “ohmygod!”, “y’know?” and “So I’m like” littering their dialogue, all filled with too much information for the strangers around them. Like the other tales in these two issues it’s a great reminder that Mr. N has seemingly taken snippets of his daily experience and turned them into engrossing mini-dramas. First Date finishes things off and is one of the funniest punchlines ever committed to sequential art. Also included is an honest introduction from the creator about how this series came about and what it takes to fit artistry within the confines of making a living, as well as a conversation between Bobby and fellow creator Tom Bonin. To any wannabe comics creator this is an interesting and honest read.
Digested #2 thankfully contains more pages than #1. Oxygen continues here, with the story of the lonely runner going in an unexpected direction involving a huge, tentacled plant, his gas mask wearing neighbours and a childhood fantasy. It doesn’t make sense – yet. Lions and Cubs tells of a man’s recollection of his time years ago venturing to the beach with his father and the realisation of the importance of such times. Unbearable is by far the funniest in this second volume, and almost seems like Toy Story via Ren and Stimpy. Great stuff. The Final Round will speak to anyone who’s experienced the quiet obligations of a relationship breakup, while Pavlov’s Dogs will resonate with any public transport sufferer.
The final two tales, Modern Housepets and Yes Men appear like poetry with pictures attached. Both are one page stories focused on the observations of those around us. Rounding out this 62 pager are 4 poems, the final part of Bobby’s conversation with Tom Bonin, and a few e-mails rightfully praising Bobby’s work in this series.
I hope we get to see more from this Aussie creator. His work as a graphic designer shines through every page, making the most of the limited page space with superb pacing, great characterisation with few lines and a mastery of black and white art. There’s brilliant use of space in each panel and page which adds up to a polished and strangely enchanting work. Seeing stuff like this that is so obviously made with heartfelt earnestness gives me hope for the future of comics. Bobby’s deft combination of realistic environs and events with the occasional glimmer of the fantastic creates a real accessibility. This is the kind of work you can proudly give to anyone to reveal the possibilities of sequential art. I hope to see more Digested soon.
Both these books, and many more goodies are available at Gestalt’s site. You can check out Bobby N’s site here and read about him in his own words here (which will resonate with any fellow creative type).