THOUGHT BUBBLE FORTNIGHT! One of the most important traditions of Thought Bubble in recent years has been the annual unveiling of Fraser Geesin’s latest exploratory foray into the forbidding narrative landscapes of nihilistic wit and bleak yet bizarre humour. In previous years we’ve featured the finale to The Cleaner: Man of Destiny, IKEA-themed anthology Kiosk, and the eclectic, fragmentary vignettes showcasing his signature peculiar worldview in Journey to the Surface of the Earth. If you took my advice a couple of months back and picked up Speckle & Ash, Geesin’s contribution to Strip for Me’s horror series A Pocket Chiller, then Thought Bubble debut Purple Hate Balloon, a collaboration with co-writer Laurie Rowan, should be high on your list of must-buy books.
Purple Hate Balloon is the story of Roger and his pet Susan, the first of a breed of new genetically engineered floating animals known as Labralloons who feed on anger. Given this, Roger has had a valve fitted to his head to let off the excess pressure of being in a state of perpetual rage to satiate Susan’s hunger. Susan’s soothing flatulence on digesting anger though is manifested in the comforting aromas of fabric conditioners, freshly baked bread, and satsumas at Christmas, providing a sense of catharsis for those around her.
It’s when Roger’s neighbour Darren starts making a pest of himself, though, that everything quickly deteriorates. With Roger increasingly irate about Darren using Susan as a therapeutic release from his own troubled past, tempers become frayed and domestic dispute quickly morphs into international incident…
Geesin and Rowan’s 20-plus pager is set in a world of incongruous and yet casual absurdity. One where a creature that is “a cross between an air freshener and a therapist” can exist in a the most mundane of urban sprawls, and where characters speak in an idiomatic vernacular that embodies both the erudite and the abrupt (“I should violence your face!”). One scathingly funny sequence where Darren interrupts Roger’s sports viewing is especially memorable and one suspects directly reflects Geesin’s own documented distanced relationship with football (“I’m watching the ball sport. It’s a particularly tense trimester.”)
You can certainly look for social commentary in Geesin and Rowan’s story, or even project some on it if you want. I’m sure there are parallels and analogies to be drawn. Or you could just absorb it at face value as a self-contained tale with a darkly comedic appeal that is both sublime and delicious in its delivery. This is also some of Geesin’s very best cartooning to date with often cramped panels and slightly distorted characters adding to that skewed sense of a world like ours that has gone off-kilter.
There are some memorable visual storytelling tools employed too. A sudden end to a dream in one segment as it segues into reality may not be an original device but it’s all in the cleverness of the execution, and one scene of Darren looking for an excuse to be in Roger’s house takes the reader on a fleeting multi-panel tour of the front room that underlines Darren’s stumblingly inept deception with precision. In Geesin and Rowan’s Purple Hate Balloon we have the strongest work from Fraser Geesin since The Cleaner: Man of Destiny, and certainly the most polished. Circle Table 27B-28 in the ComiXology Originals Hall as one of your must-visit destinations at Thought Bubble this month.
Fraser Geesin and Laurie Rowan(W), Fraser Geesin (A) • Self-published
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Review by Andy Oliver