Jonathan Edwards is what might be called a veteran comic maker, about to celebrate 20 years of comic making since his first publication in Deadline in ’93. However, he’s also one of those comic artists who spends too much time in the worlds of design and illustration, earning money rather than making comics and starving. This, as I’m about to show you, is a pity – the not making more comics bit, not the feeding himself bit obviously.
Part of this design and illo work involves working with Felt Mistress Louise Evans on the design of the spectacular creatures she brings to felt life, as featured in the new book Creature Couture. It was a pleasure to meet Jonathan and Louise at the recent Thought Bubble festival, where I got to pander once more to my increasingly obsessive love of landscapes and buildings….
I’m not an art guy, never really have been. I’m into comics for the storytelling, the narrative experience more than the art. Not that I’m averse to gorgeous art, absolutely not. But it’s definitely more about the story for me. It’s one reason why I spent a while over the last couple of years deriding the need for the Drawn & Quarterly petits livres series of art books, wondering aloud if they were merely ego pieces that served no purpose other than to act as a gallery sampler, certainly not justifiable as a comic.
Which is why I found it slightly unusual that I decided, from the moment I saw Jonathan Edwards’ sketchbook volume online, that it was something I simply had to have.
I think my growing obsession with landscapes is beginning to get out of hand.
I suppose I could do a little hand-wringing and excuse it as being simply a sketchbook volume, rather than the finished art experience that the petits livres books were pushed as. Or I suppose I can just out and out say it that everything about Jonathan Edwards’ art blows away everything I saw in those other examples. It’s simply more to my taste.
Because the works inside Imagined Landscapes are quite simply gorgeous, organic shapes masking futuristic buildings, artificial lines flowing into nature seamlessly, beautifully. I can sit and stare at it over and over and over again, it simply doesn’t get tired…. see…
That’s just a few examples of what I’m talking about. Beautiful, striking, playful work. Loved it. Absolutely loved it.
There’s frankly very little else one can say really at this point, you’ll see the art and respond to it, or you wont. But just in case you begin to think that Edwards has great art but no storytelling ….
Here’s a comic from 1999 that I picked up from Edwards at Thought Bubble…..
by Jonathan Edwards
Okay, it’s the same age as my daughter. I vaguely recall the whole ‘les cartoonists dangereux’ collective from the time, and certainly remember Charlie Adlard and Robbie Morrison’s White Death from the group. But this one must have slipped me by.
Which is a shame, because I’d have been raving about this in ’99. As it is, 13 years on, it’s still very, very good, but overtaken somewhat by others doing the same or better work. But in ’99, this would have been, should have been jumped on as brilliant.
It’s a crime comedy caper that owes so much to Jacques Tardi in the artwork (no bad thing at all), but is still stylish on its own, and more than anything, manages that rarest of things for a comedy caper – makes me laugh. A lot. And out loud. It’s just plain funny.
Here’s the setup – ‘Da Boss’ asks (in that way mob bosses do) idiot henchmen Ronnie and Earl to look after dear little Aunt Connie. Simple? Oh, if only…. because Aunt Connie has a …. thing…
Okay. It’s all in the timing here isn’t it? The gap from page to page, the moment just after Earl coming out with the clown line, turn the page, silence. Then a second panel of silence. The unmistakeable moment when everyone in the room, except the person in question, realises that there’s an idiot in the room. And then the collective exhale, the collective roll of the eyes, and ‘Da Boss’ giving our boys a mission that should be fairly simple.
Yes, timing. Perfect comedy timing. Simple to talk about, so difficult to do this well. Just 32-pages long, Aunt Connie and the plague of beards has so much to laugh at, something practically on every page.
Again, how about this two-panel sequence, after the obviously always going to happen transformation has happened…
That’s both laugh out loud funny, and ridiculously clever in its gag delivery, ignoring all aspects of reality to deliver a perfect cartoon moment worthy of Tom and Jerry. Brilliant.
Yes, it may be over a decade old, it may be Jonathan Edwards working in someone else’s style, but there’s so much here that’s so very good. It would be so great to see him doing more comics today. Fingers crossed something comes along. In the meantime I suppose I’ll simply be staring in rapt pleasure at his illustrations.