This piece is a continuation of our exploration of the Melbourne-based comic publication Glom Press. If you’re interested in their titles, I suggest you read part 1 before continuing.
Marc Pearson – Fiancé Cove No. 1
Fiancé Cove provides another romp in the mind of Glom Press’ founder, Marc Pearson. Our protagonist, “Long necked bird” is on the run after stealing a “Gammon” (a large, amorphous creature) from a local farmer in the town of puddle. Running parallel to their elopement, Bird’s friend, Algon, has also left Puddle, searching for his friend, alongside a new life. The escapees find themselves at fiancé cove, a place full of lovers and hyper-sexual inhabitants. In spite of the Gammon being described as livestock by some, the two share a romantic relationship, and hope that their new environment will house their love.
It’s impressive how Pearson is able to establish a new world within 24 pages. We are introduced to a bizarre environment within a matter of seconds, built around the travels and dialogues of our characters. Many of the places mentioned the reader never sees, but by reiterating their existence throughout the comic, we feel as though there is more to this world than the few places we’ve been in. Drawn in a matter of days for Sticky Institute’s Festival of the Photocopier Fair, with the theme of ’Synonyms for Passion’, the book was partially inspired by the soap opera Passions, and more specifically the fan-fictions it led to.
While far more explicit than the traditional drama seen on television, the intensity of scenes, and the emotional polarity, does share a resemblance. The dialogue also seemed to share the same level of hysterics, with lines such as “will I ever visit your steaming pits again?” and “look, I just wanted us to be safe”. Utterances that would never be said in conventional dialogue (though I wouldn’t necessarily call any dialogue between a bird and a blob “conventional”).
Pearson is aware that melodrama can put readers off a story if not done correctly, and so he balances out true drama (the couple’s elopement), with self inflicted drama, which still complicates the story, but in a humorous way. For example, when asked by a bell-boy for her name during a hotel check in, Bird struggles to create an alias, settling for “Belle Boye”. Pearson has a knack for taking traditional forms of storytelling, pointing out the absurdities within them, while subtly modernising their outdated aspects. Much like its inspiration, Fiancé Cove ends on a cliffhanger.
Sexy Female Murderesses – Eloise Grills
It would be easy to dismiss this book as some vindictive form of comic literature that condones female serial killers and violence towards men. But when you look past its initial polarity, you find an intelligently written piece that uses highly confronting events to discuss the role of gender in society, and the toxicity that enforcing degrading social roles can produce.
While the murders themselves are brutal, there are several other aspects of this piece that unnerve. For one, it’s littered with many untrue and misguided utterances by men on women. The importance of female docility, subordination and loyalty to men are repeated time and time again, and to reject such norms was seen as a form of deviancy. As such, the explanations around female behaviour are skewed at best, and delusional at worst. The murderesses in these situations almost embrace these misconceptions, using them as a form of empowerment. As aptly expressed by Grills, “a woman’s place is in the kitchen, between the uppers and the arsenic”. It reclaims the descriptions of docility, and intends to describe how the confinement of women is the source of these actions, not a preventative measure. There may even be the suggestion that, historically, murder was the only way in which some women could find control in their lives.
After researching many of the figures mentioned in this piece, we are further exposed to instances of trauma, unique to the female gender – sexual assault, de-humanisation and discrimination – verbalised in the quotes from men. Towards the end of the piece, Grills diverges from talking about murderesses, and begins discussing many of her dreams, all of which are somewhat linked to vapid, and unsustainable gender constructs. This, a beautiful piece of prose, was incredibly powerful, and allowed me, a male, to understand the anxieties that come from being part of the opposite gender, worries that (fortunately for me) will never materialise into experiences in my life.
Mystical Boy Scout – Aaron Billings
The way in which one deals with injustices is based around what coping mechanisms are most effective for that person. For some, its anger, for others withdrawal. Aaron Billings uses humour as a form of empowerment, emphasising the homosexual resilience in a time where acceptance still isn’t universal.
In response to the marginalisation and discrimination of the LGBT+ community, the mystical boy-scout was born. The manifestation of integrity, courage, and durability, the MBS aims at aiding the gay community as they continue to “live under straight law”. Our story begins with the current reincarnation of the MBS, who lives with his boyfriend Alex in a share-house that is scheduled for inspection. Their only hope of passing is through the use of MBS’ powers, required for cleaning the various messes in the house, born from rule-breaking. MBS, whose code includes “securing safe and affordable housing for queer youth’, must use the powers bestowed upon him to pass this inspection, though his suspect attempts often complicate the matter.
While some of the inspectors’ comments about his tenants are justified, the story does play into the anxieties of a marginalised community; can unfair treatment be given based on intolerance? The character’s reactions to their situation lends itself humorously to this piece, where the stakes are low, and the absurdity of its scenes high. But substitute certain elements of the story for real life events, and its outcome becomes much more tragic.
However, the story is less of a warning and more a reminder. Not matter how prejudicial society can be, whether that remains as petty opinions, or bleeds into physical violence, there is nothing stronger than the spirit of the queer community. Discouragement will never result in resignation; it can only unify, and mobilise.
Sleep’s Corridor – Michael Hawkins
Sleep’s Corridor, a piece created by Glom’s co-founder Micheal Hawkins, sits in the more experimental pile of the press’ work. In it, our protagonist takes us through a day in her life, which, while grounded in reality, seems to constantly drift from it. Her narration never leaves her mind – the illustrations possess no dialogue, with the character’s thoughts written in a black text-box at the bottom of each page.
The only time writing is present in the panels themselves is through the expression of music, lyrics blasting from speakers. In other words, only the physical world is present in the drawings themselves, with the accompanying semantics for further elaboration at the bottom. This puts the reader in a unique position – in subsequent re-reads, they can experience the entire comic without reading the text, leading to a new experience. Once you’ve read the text, and have insight into the narrator’s thoughts, you can see it in her movements, in her body language.
The narration itself provides with it dialogue on many relatable topics; the mundanity and arduousness of modern living, our relationship with technology and the strain of being emotionally unavailable. Descriptions will never do such an intimate piece justice – the best way to understand the significance of the narrator’s reflections is to read them for yourself. Often, they trigger introspection unconsciously, as the content jabs at the anxieties of most modern readers.
And with that, we conclude our exploration of one of Australia’s most exciting comic publishers. Glom Press does not suit one aesthetic; instead, it is drawn to innovative, highly creative works that truly explore the human condition. Comparing all these pieces would be impossible, as each situates itself in completely different genres. But what is true of all of them is that they have something to say. Whether it be a warning, a frustration or a feeling, the included authors are not afraid to mould these inklings into highly compelling (and often challenging) pieces, many of which unconsciously send the reader into intense reflection after reading. It’s also a testament to Glom that all these artists find a home under the publisher – it shows that there are still some out there that truly care about the medium, and the impact it can have on others.