If, like me, your perception of time has become so skewed since March 2020 that a few months ago can seem simultaneously like years ago and also yesterday afternoon, then you may appreciate that my reviews backlog pile can take on an oddly timeless quality. Take Ali Hodgson’s Jumping Mouse, for example, a graphic-memoir-in-progress that was both longlisted for the LDComics Prize in 2021 and also featured on Broken Frontier last summer as one of the spotlighted comics from our Small Press Day “One-Tweet Reviews” event on Twitter. I had meant to cover this impressive first chapter some time ago at BF but, like so many deserving self-published projects submitted for review, it has taken me far longer to get to it than I would have liked.
My advice to those working on longer-form work who have yet to caught a publisher’s eye has always been to get a sample of that project out there in print. Self-published comics can lead to reviews, reviews can lead to a buzz around a book, which in turn on occasion can lead to creators being picked up for publication. If that sounds unfeasible it’s not. I know all too well how that chain of events can progress from publishers who have told me over the years that they discovered artists through BF reviews.
This, then, is the route Hodgson has chosen to go with her autobio comic Jumping Mouse. What we have here is essentially the first chapter of a longer story. One that details a critical point in her life when health and personal issues left her at a low point, with the aim of “depicting the journey of how letting go into our deepest fears can set us free.” Returning to the refuge of her parents’ home in the remote Scottish countryside she begins a process of recovery and recuperation that is supplemented by the comfort of her father reading stories from mythology to her at night. One such tale is the American Native legend of the Jumping Mouse, one which she finds parallels to in her own life and develops an affinity for.
Hodgson is quick to acknowledge worries of cultural appropriation in a text piece in the back of this first issue and that she has approached depicting the effect this story had on her life with “the upmost gratitude, respect and good faith.” It’s not my place either given my position at the very centre of the Venn Diagram of privilege to decide what isn’t cultural appropriation. But it’s at least clear that what Hodgson is attempting to do here is not to exploit the myths of another culture but to learn from the wisdom of their allegories and recount how those teachings impacted her life in a positive way. Which presumably is why they were originally written in the first place.
Back in 2021 when I commented on Jumping Mouse, as part of the aforementioned Broken Frontier Small Press Day event, I said of its visuals: “This is beautifully illustrated. The visual metaphor, the quieter moments where an image says far more than words ever could, the symbolism and the subtle but expressive physical characterisation.” Indeed this first twenty pages or so are haunting in their pacing, taking us into the very heart of Hodgson’s mindset at the time with a delicate and fragile melancholy. The dark, eerie artwork is highly evocative throughout whether it be depicting Hodgson’s depressive mental state or the captivating bleakness of rural Scotland.
While this is a mere taster for a larger work to come, Jumping Mouse Volume 1 shows huge promise and its competition recognition so far is much deserved. Those wanting to investigate further are directed to Ali Hodgson’s online store here.
Ali Hodgson (W/A) • Self-published, £6.50
Review by Andy Oliver