HCZF MONTH! Joe Callanan’s work often explores softly sinister and whimsical lands, full of richly imagined environments and characters that feel both nostalgic and contemporary. While there’s no doubt that the protagonist of Burrow lives in just such a world, they’ve clearly not seen it in a while. Instead they reside deep in a cosy hole under a forested futurescape, where the exit hole is blocked by a slowly advancing plug of unidentified ooze.
Described as “A comic about anxiety, procrastination and ooze”, Burrow wears its metaphorical resonance on its sleeve, but is no less affecting for that. If you’ve ever put off something that you know you should be dealing with, allowed yourself to hide from the world’s problems by pootling about on your phone, or tried to get abstract help with a problem you don’t know how to put into words, this comic will be all too familiar. And the lovingly rendered lines make this troubled little guy all the more sympathetic. One detail I found particularly poignant is the line that seems to represent a chin, or perhaps a belly, always floating at the bottom of the spherical creature’s form, but that often looks like a smile, when their mouth is closed. This resting happy face could represent the mask presented to the world in anxious times, whether intentionally or subconsciously.
The ending is also satisfyingly anti-climactic in that way that only the most deeply dreaded unimportances must always be. If this pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that we’re very very bad at understanding what kind of danger we’re actually in, and what we should actually do about it, but that very humanity is not without its charm. There are obvious parallels here with being stuck inside, but the metaphor holds up for wider experiences too. I also love that this comic is offered in both physical and digital download form – for those of us with bulging bookcases of unread ephemera, or inversely those physical media fetishists, all are catered for.
You can find Joe in Hall Two at Hackney Comic + Zine Fair.
Joe Callanan (W/A) • Self-published, £3 physical £2 digital
You can also find Joe’s online store here.
Review by Jenny Robins