Embracing the true spirit of the minicomic in size and format, Anna Readman’s Noodle Wranglin’ is a collection of this year’s Observer/Faber Graphic Short Story Prize winner’s Hourly Comic Day 2023 strips. Hourly Comic Day – where artists create a short comic to depict each waking hour of February 1st each year – is always fun to watch play out across social media. However, the reality is that much of the material can feel either ephemeral in nature or unlikely to be memorable outside of the confines of the day. As one would expect from the ever inventive Anna Readman, though, Noodle Wranglin’ is very much an exception to that rule, as these twelve short strips attest.
The ironic and strangely contradictory juggling act surrounding Hourly Comic Day is that if an artist goes down the traditional diary comics route they have to balance depicting everyday routine with the reality of making the mundane entertaining. It’s an intriguing creative conundrum. How does one make a day where very little may actually happen compelling to a potential audience?
Of course, to a degree, the ethos of Hourly Comic Day is probably more about participating in an artistic exercise than it is about satisfying a readership. But Readman achieves both by making her and her partner’s dog Wendy the actual star of the show, albeit it in a subtly tangential way. It’s only by the end of these twelve pages that one realises just how much the pair’s day actually fits around canine needs and desires.
And so we observe as Wendy’s presence shapes Readman’s efforts to toil away at the drawing board. Anthropomorphised in terms of attitude and communication if not in physicality, Wendy’s knowing control over her “owners” disrupts their day in a series of four-panel strips that have a worldweary but gentle humour to them. Readman’s detailed art shifts effortlessly from a form of cartooning reality to animated exaggeration where necessary, with Wendy’s controlling visual characterisation being particularly amusing in portrayal.
At just £2.00 plus postage and packaging this is a fantastic starting point for anyone wanting to introduce themselves to the work of this incredibly versatile comics storyteller (and Broken Frontier 2019 ‘Six to Watch‘ creator). One whose star is very much in the ascendancy at this moment. We can only predict huge things for Anna Readman in 2024. And they will, as ever, be much deserved.
Anna Readman (W/A) • Self-published, £2.00
Review by Andy Oliver