AVAILABLE AT THOUGHT BUBBLE!
One of the great joys of Joe Decie’s comics is that they have always sat in their own unique, hard-to-define niche. Where would you place them in a traditional awards structure for example? After all, they straddle autobio and fiction without fitting squarely into either area. We probably need a new category just for Decie’s work – Best Approximation of Something Vaguely Approaching Reality-Based Work perhaps? We’ll think on that for the Broken Frontier Awards this year…
Decie has a new compilation of his short comics debuting at this year’s Thought Bubble under the collected title of Telepathy Practice. For those coming to his work for the first time the Brighton-based artist mixes slice-of-life anecdotes with bizarre sidesteps into a parellel Decie-an world; superficially the same one we live in but where the rules of cause and effect always frame reality in a far more interesting, albeit fantastic, light. Last year’s Collecting Sticks from Jonathan Cape – detailing the misadventures of the Decie family while on a camping holiday – took that approach to a longer-form presentation and received widespread critical acclaim.
Telepathy Practice follows Decie as, once again, his on-page incarnation attempts to make sense of the world around him. Sometimes the one-page, four-panel strips are purely and endearingly autobiographical – the titular account of Decie, and his young son playfully attempting mind-reading, a look at the realities of exercise as middle-age approaches, or a recognisable reminder of however old we get, in the company of our parents we still always revert to childhood.
The majority, though, take the real world as a starting point and then digress into wonderfully strange daydream-like reverie. Joe’s unlikely career in the fashion world, his new business delivering takeaway leftovers to the breakfast crowd, or his exploits as an algae farmer. Often the contrast of everyday images and bizarre ideas, alongide his dry wit and laidback delivery, adds to the delightful detachment of Decie’s strips.
What connects us to Decie’s comics on a more fundamental level is that so many of these wild flurries of unlikely imagination contain elements of truth about modern living, or occasionally quietly observant social commentary about our post-millennial world. The online world, unsurprisingly, is a popular subject for his ruminations and upcycling, material acquisition and aspirational living all also have their moments in the spotlight.
As ever, Decie’s visual style perfectly mirrors his slightly languid, hazy worldview – realistic yet unreal, authentic but fanciful, recognisable and simultaneously whimsical. If you know Decie’s work already this will, of course, be a Thought Bubble must-buy. If you’ve yet to experience his distinctive comics perspective then Telepathy Practice should be at the top of your list of TB debuts to check out in Leeds.
For regular updates on all things small press follow Andy Oliver on Twitter here.
Review by Andy Oliver