It goes without saying that 2020 has been a year replete with diary-style comics documenting the strangest nine months of our lives. In time, of course, they will be an invaluable document of this period providing first-hand accounts that will be all the more resonant for the emotional immediacy of the comics form. Their multiple approaches – from pithy and poignant observational humour to longer-form graphic reportage of lockdowns and unprecedented restrictions – have ensured that their social relevance will long outlive their topicality.
Simon Moreton’s Minor Leagues #10 takes us back to those very early days of lockdown, a time of dreamlike uncertainty when our very existences were suddenly and abruptly redefined around us. For those who may be unaware of Moreton’s practice Minor Leagues is his autobio, medium-crossing zine collection of comics, prose, visual essays and illustration. After a multiple issue run serialising his passion project ‘Where?’ it returned this year with a tenth issue of collected work spanning that unforgettable period of January-April 2020.
This latest compilation begins with images of domestic ephemera and a stream-of-consciousness monologue that takes us back with a jolt to those weeks when the world changed forever. The pandemic is not quite all pervasive in these pages but nevertheless its spectre is always at least lurking in the background. An essay on Moreton and partner Ali’s trip to the States in January inevitably feels as much a reflection on the last days of normalcy as it does a holiday journal; his illustrated wanderings are framed in the terms of their brief release from the strictures of lockdown; and even a short collaged comics piece on a fox raiding bins seems to remind us of a world outside that continues apace but is now detached from our own.
Minor Leagues in variations of this, its original format, always feels to me somewhat like the family Christmas letter. But more frequent, and with an honesty and connectivity with its intended audience that replaces the performative nature of those Yuletide missives. A prose piece on the social realities of adapting to the consequences of our new circumstances is personable and relatable, covering everything from home haircuts and polite but tense queueing to an understandable rejection of those early carpe diem-style proclamations to reframe lockdown as some kind of creative opportunity.
Interestingly, Moreton has been foregoing his trademark stripped-back, minimalist style of late for one that is still largely representational but busier in layout. It employs a level of visual characterisation very different from latter SMOO Comics work but one that feels most appropriate for the subject matter here. What hasn’t changed is those recognisable motifs of the intersections of place, time and memory. There are a number of allusions to and excursions into the realms of topophilia but perhaps the standout piece here is ‘Trash Talk’, Moreton’s text and images investigation into artefacts rescued from a skip outside a house renovation. It’s a fascinating piece of writing, fragments of a long forgotten past embodied in the burnt remains of an 80-year-old letter and a cigarette box, pieced together by meticulous research from Moreton.
Comics material is just one aspect of Moreton’s current work and much of this issue’s content is presented in other formats as well. But for self-publishing/zine aficionados his practice remains an essential read. That he creates the work he wishes to create without concession to commercial considerations or audience expectation gives it the authenticity and relatability that has defined his place on the small press scene. Entirely self-contained and accessibly priced, Minor Leagues #10 is a gateway into the world of Simon Moreton for anyone who has yet to experience his unique approach to autobiographical work.
Review by Andy Oliver