Attending the various comics and small press fairs in the calendar, we live in hope of those moments when you pick up something you’ve never seen before and fall utterly in love. I had one such moment reading The Adventures of Team Pom Volume 1: Squid Happens at Roxas’ table at ELCAF this year. It was the only item of her wares that could really be called a comic, and I think this is the first time she has tackled the medium.
An Illustrator from the Philippines, now based in Brooklyn, Isabel’s practice is diverse in medium but consistently whimsically wry and instantly recognisable through the round, minimal faces and cannily observed body language of her characters. Her grasp of visual communication is on point and loses nothing to timing in the comic book format. Illustrators turned comic artists sometimes struggle with panels and pacing, but there are no such issues here; the narrative fitting elegantly and smoothly into the page format.
Squid Happens is a short comic printed in two colours on risograph. A very yummy paper production with smooth thick pages, endpapers and a dust jacket, although only 16 pages of story. The light touch textures the artist has employed with this medium make the two colours do a lot of work, easily rendering swimming pool water with a graphic impact worthy of Hockney. Swimming pools are the main locations for the action as the three young female protagonists are a culturally precocious synchronised swimming team.
Ruby; “resident genius, armchair philosopher and aspiring botanist”, Roberta; “little boss, pugilist and list fanatic” and Agatha; “lover of potato chips, dogs and shiny objects” have little in common on paper according to those descriptions, but are united by their love of the TV show Diving Divas, it would seem a Glee or Bunheads-esque minisoap with lashings of ambitious aquabatics that I wish really existed. Their characters and their world are instantly believable and the idiosyncratic interaction of the three girls is deeply recognisable as that certainty of identity we never quite get back after puberty.
In the grand tradition of kids sports movies as well as the aforementioned television genres, this team of misfits are, at the beginning anyway, not terribly successful. Team Pom’s rendition of Waiting for Godot in the medium of swim, earns them a score of 0.125 – barely recognisable – from the judges at the opening meet, causing Ruby to bemoan that “no one appreciates the theatre of the absurd anymore.” I have to say that when I read this at ELCAF, I didn’t know if this was a plausible synchronised swimming routine theme or not. A little light googling later and I can tentatively report that it probably is. At least at the international level, themes in the sport do seem to be as pretentious and diverse as the imagination of the teams in question will allow. Myths and epic ballets are often chosen as are more obvious themes like mermaids and animals of Australia. This knowledge hasn’t spoiled my enjoyment of the absurdity in Squid Happens, rather it has enhanced it.
I’ve yet to tell you about the elephant in the room, or rather the squid in the municipal pool. Which does happen. But I don’t want to give too much away except to say that visually, the turquoise and orange interplay of tentacle and swim lane marker is a visual joy. How will said squidcident impact Team Pom’s competitive edge? I desperately hope that volume 2 arrives soon to tell us more.
Isabel Roxas (W/A) • Studio Roxas, $8.00