EXHIBITING AT BCZF!
Shane Melisse’s profile on the London small press scene is inextricably linked with his place as part of the Backwards Burd collective; a collaborative group of creators responsible over the years for anthologies like F*ck You! Kitty Jenkins and also, of course, for their own individual projects. Melisse has a flexible cartooning style that can veer from the grim fantasy of The Knight (reviewed here at Broken Frontier last year) to the more exaggerated caricature of his most recent offering Shane Faced: True Made Up Stories, a collection of often self-deprecating autobio strips of varying lengths.
True Made Up Stories begins with Melisse in the midst of a month-long abstinence from alcohol for ‘Sober October’ with his detoxing determination being somewhat undermined by the unhealthy alternatives he finds to alcohol. Over the course of this comedic slice-of-life offering we observe his slacker moments, his battles with self-confidence and motivation in regards to his work, his love of gaming and gain insights into his creative process. It’s well-trod ground in terms of comics autobiography, of course, but it’s the vitality and sense of animated vigour to his approach to the genre that gives the comic its very amiable quality.
Perhaps the strongest element of Melisse’s storytelling is his eye-catching use of colour which positively pops with energy; the deep hues draw us into his pages and ensure a far closer connection between reader and his on-page alter ego’s antics. His often wide-eyed, bobble-headed depiction of himself endears him to his audience and gives us a Shane whose foibles are instantly forgiveable thanks to his childlike interactions with his environment. One extended sequence where he contends with the anthropomorphic incarnation of his doubts impresses in pacing as it builds up to a game-based, dramatic, metaphorical conclusion.
Where True Made Up Stories is perhaps weaker is in its structure. It feels a little disjointed in places without enough of a thematic throughline to tie all the individual narrative sections together. As a showcase for Melisse’s imaginative cartooning, though, it’s a fun, breezy offering that never takes itself too seriously and yet also has its own moments of subtler character insight. It’s available this coming Saturday at the Bristol Comic and Zine Fair.
Review by Andy Oliver