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Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Affairs of the Heart. Patrick Wade. William Heinemann Ltd (1985)


Beautiful art and a savage humour create a glorious collection of cartons about love, sex and relationships. The cartons nicely sidestep the frequent cliches of domineering or overly enhanced women and submissive or sorry looking men. The cast look like humans and there is a strong sense of personality about them that adds force and depth to the punchlines. The writing is very vivid and matches with the art to create a pitch perfect balance. A rather faded looking man on the phone to a retailer complaining that he had ordered a Victoria Principal blow-up doll, on the bed behind rests a Margret Thatcher doll. What gives the multiple punchlines in the cartoon a real lift is that it has been done without malice, the man is not treated as a social inadequate, he is allowed be an annoyed customer first.
While the cartoons that have straightforward punchlines are excellent, the best cartoons in this collection are the ones which hint at a greater context outside of the moment in time spotlighted by the cartoon. A man caught is an absurdly compromising position calling out to his wife that he "can explain almost everything." That almost is the stamp of greatness, it allows the reader into the situation in the most vivid and direct way and gives the situation a life beyond the page.
A cartoon called "The Conversation Piece" is bitingly funny, the body language of the cast is eloquent. It also highlights one of Patrick Wright's astonishing skills, he can draw clothes than drape and fold naturally, suggesting the body underneath in fluid and subtle way. This masterful collection is a joy, funny and observant, biting without cruelty, astonishing.

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