What did I get in the mail recently?
Courier: The Adventures of Geraldine Barker by Angie Spice. Why haven’t I heard of this comic earlier? It’s right up my alley. But it’s funny how some projects just fly under the radar somehow. Even when you spend hours upon hours looking for comic projects to flesh out the Long List for the Ledger Awards each year, you still find gems that were missed. This is one of them. A project that you know is the beginning of something. Both for the character and the creator.
The first three issues feature the “Maydena Town” story arc. Maydena is a real place on the edge of Tasmania’s wilderness. This tale is set in 1940 and tells of a young woman, (a dead ringer for Katherine Hepburn) who works for the old Post Master General (PMG) as a courier. The first issue kicks off when Geraldine gets sidetracked while in the middle of her latest delivery (a photo op of a Tasmanian Tiger!) in the tall wilderness forests outside the logging town. With her erstwhile companion, Purbly (a cat), she ends up staying with a local family, the Crafers, for the night. By the third issue (and the end of the night), she gets involved with the family’s three children and some local louts, all who think the mysterious stranger is something she isn’t. There’s hints of indigenous spirits and some mysterious currawong intervention thrown in that alludes to some deeper “spiritual” goings on. We are also introduced to the support cast at the PMG back in Hobart, who are concerned when our heroine doesn’t check in. There’s everything here that makes for a great little drama. As well, proceedings are laced with a deftly handled sense of humour that underlines the personality of her Hepburn-like heroine. As I say, it’s the beginnings of something.
Spice’s manga influenced artwork is slightly rough around the edges, but still bursting with vibrancy and earnestness. She wants you to be involved and drag you in to the story. The art is a bit muddy in places (particularly in the first issue), and uneven across the three issues. Her layouts can be a bit too frenetic for the eye, but you can see that she’s learning as she goes. And learning a lot. The first issue is rendered in ink and wash (or grey Copic marker, from what I can tell) and by the second and third issues, she uses digital toning that helps to clarify things.
The three covers are spot on and very eye-catching. They piqued my interest when I saw them online, particularly the moody first issue’s second edition wraparound cover of the main character reclining on a chaise lounge loveseat surrounded by Thylacines. Wonderful!
I really loved where this series is going and I’m keen to read more. Though its early days yet, this courier delivers. (Sorry.)
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On the other hand, working on the Ledgers also allows one to discover so many hidden gems – like Ada Louise, A Life Imagined by Lee Whitmore. I didn’t know anything about this until (I think) Tim McEwen brought it to my attention. The artwork reminded me of Raymond Briggs. Bonus points.
In contacting the creator, asking about the project, she replied, “I self published it and Kate Grenville launched it at Gleebooks in May 2016. It was on sale there for a while. I only printed a limited run of 100 copies and have sold most of them.”
Ada Louise is a big and dense book, coming in at a whopping 600 pages!! It’s beautifully drawn in charcoal and the story “follow[s] Ada from when she is about fourteen to just before she dies in 1956. Ada’s family fortunes are varied – both amazing and entirely ordinary. In many ways she belongs to a forgotten class of society whose stories are no longer told. Stoic to the end Ada survives by her wit, tenacity and resourcefulness. Ada Louise is a warm interior and very personal story.”
It’s a lovely, unrushed read that is a beautiful reminiscence of a beloved family member. I fell in love with it. Sometimes, I wish I was a Ledgers judge. This would have got a vote from me.
Lee Whitmore has worked as an artist, animator and production designer on many Australian films including Newsfront, The Winter Of Our Dreams and Looking for Alibrandi.
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The 2014 Bronze Ledger winning An ANZAC’s Tale, written by Ruth Starke and illustrated by Greg Holfeld, will be released in French in October as Un Australien à Gallipoli. Read more about that at Greg’s site. Congrats! It’s an amazing book worth tracking down in any language.
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Finally, what else did I get in the mail but the latest batch of stuff from Frew Publications. The Phantom #1785 features the first part of Chris Sequeira and Jason Paulos‘ “Phantom By Gaslight”… in colour! I also got #1790 for the gorgeous cover by Glenn Lumsden and the second chapter of “Phantom By Gaslight” (this time in black and white). Lastly, Kid Phantom #2 by writer Andrew Constant and artist Paul Mason. I haven’t read any of them yet, but I shall report back when I get the chance.
Credits from the top:
Cover art to Courier: The Adventures of Geraldine Barker #1, second edition, by Angie Spice.
Interior page from issue one, art by Angie Spice.
Cover to Ada Louise: A Life Imagined by Lee Whitmore.
Interior page by Lee Whitmore.
Cover to the upcoming French edition of An ANZAC Tale by Ruth Starke and Greg Holfeld, Un Australien à Gallipoli, art by Greg Holfeld.