If you’ve been following Philippa Rice’s My Cardboard Life over the last few years as we have you’ll already be aware of just how much pure, unadulterated fun it is.
If you haven’t then this 118 page collection of comics from the first two years of My Cardboard Life should fill a fun sized gap on your shelves quite nicely I’d think.
Here’s just a little of what I’ve already said about it:
“It’s such a simple idea, bold, bright and joyful. But somewhere in between the idea and the finished product there’s a little magic to create the nicest little thing I’ve seen for a long time. ……quirky delights …… where the concept, the idea and the physical nature of the idea as an object have equal weighting and equal appeal.”
“But My Cardboard Life, whether online or in print is much more than a cute and quirky idea – the strips are genuinely funny as well. Rice takes the simplest of concepts and creates clever, whimsical strips from them, some are funny in and of themselves and some are funny down to those few simple lines Rice adds to give a complete dimension of expression. But the very best of them play with the very nature of the strip’s form – making use of the cardboard and paper elements of the main characters. It’s very clever stuff.
(My Cardboard Life #1 & 2. Rough in comparison to Rice’s later work, but still with the essence of the strip on display)
And this collection encapsulates everything great about My Cardboard Life. It’s a collection from the very beginning, with Rice only altering the order slightly, but it’s far from a complete archive, for that I’d recommend you head to the MCL website.
However, in the pages of the book, you’ve everything you need to get up to speed with the world of Cardboard Colin, Paper Pauline and their 2-D friends.
What is interesting is how quickly Rice settles down into the work and instead of simple gags around the physical form like you’ve just seen she establishes that these characters have … well… character.
Paper Pauline and Cardboard Colin are her stars and she quickly sets up the dynamic between confident, flighty and just a little cruel Pauline and terribly insecure Colin, so obviously in unrequited love with Pauline and the butt of so many of the strips gags.
It may be funny, but there’s a nasty streak running through MCL at times, always with Colin on the receiving end… the comedy of embarrassment, of cruelty… poor, poor Colin.
(Poor Colin. Repeat over and over and over.)
The introduction of a sizeable cast of characters keeps the whole thing remarkably fresh and interesting, each bringing something different to the strip, whether it’s the simple annoyance of Colin’s family, the slightly lecherous and never take no from Pauline for an answer Dr Bandaid or the silent, bullying, perhaps misunderstood (no, probably not) Polar Bear.
But what really makes My Cardboard Life so impressive is how quickly Rice settles into a strip that provides not only entertainment but also seeks to play around with the very nature of the work, where the form and function mix and combine, where she begins to experiment with just how far she can take the simple 2-D nature of what she does with her collage work and gets really both metaphysical and metafictional to a brilliant and always funny effect.
Obviously you don’t get some of her more recent forays into really playing around with the very idea of what a comic can be in the digital age, or some of her fantastic three-dimensional work, but what you do get in the pages of The My Cardboard Life Book is just a perfect collection of funny, whimsical, beautifully crafted comics from someone doing some very clever things with the medium.
And just to end on a high point, the bonus material features not only Rice’s sketches and layouts for the strip, but her comic convention highlight dioramas:
And finally, as if to remind us how far she’s come in a few short years and how much she’s managed to refine and sharpen her artwork in those years, there’s a 3-page story about Colin and Pauline’s barbecue in space, with some really, really impressive artwork… a hint of the things she’s doing now, and a promise that whatever happens, the adventures of Colin, Pauline and all the rest will only be looking better and better in future:
Philippa Rice’s My Cardboard Life webcomic is updated regularly. She’s also online at her Juzzard blog, has a great Flickrstream and everything that’s available to buy can be found at her My Cardboard Life shop, including this fine, fine collection.