SLCZF WEEK! Something I have most certainly missed in the two-plus years since I was last able to attend a comics fair is picking up work that is less about involved narrative, and more about collecting together short strips, illustrations, and endearing graphic meanderings on a given theme or subject. Hannah Lee Miller’s The Pigeon Diaries: A Pigeon About Town very much fits that category with its urban reflections from a distinctly avian perspective. It’s also a very different example of Miller’s practice if your only exposure to her comics in the past has been her graphic medicine offerings Dementia Dad and Ambiguous Loss.
The Pigeon Diaries is a compilation of vignettes, some of which provide social commentary by inserting the birds into the roles of their human counterparts (memorably in a scene of them as cramped London commuters), others comedically spotlighting our relationship with them (particularly the way in which we see them as “flying rats”), and some also managing to evoke familiar city sights (who hasn’t seen a pigeon tangled in string and plastic wrappings and not wanted to free it from what will inevitably lead to its demise?).
Each strip or illo flows into the next in a semi stream-of-consciousness way; there is material that acts as anthropomorphic allegory and entries that don’t attempt to be more than just slapstick humour (the inevitable unfortunate fecal delivery from the sky splattering on an unfortunate individual below). A recurring friendship between city pigeon and urban rat is rather sweet as the pair reflect on their lot and how they are perceived, while some of the more obvious comedy can be notably dark at times.
What’s also interesting about The Pigeon Diaries is the way in which it displays the many facets of Miller’s artistic versatility. Where appropriate her cartooning has a jaunty and light-hearted feel but she can easily shift to something more caricatured when necessary or art that is starkly realised to capture the mood of a sequence (a late strip which is told simply via the spartan outlines of tree and speaking birds, for example). A short compilation of work that feels as much genuinely zine as minicomic, you can pick up The Pigeon Diaries from the SLCZF organisers’ table this weekend at the South London Comic & Zine Fair.
Hannah Lee Miller (W/A) • Self-published
Review by Andy Oliver
Hannah Lee Miller is at Table 1 at the South London Comic and Zine Fair this Sunday July 10th.