Scenes from an Impending Marriage
I have gone through a number of comic book phases in my life. Growing up, like most kids, I loved comic books. I’d read whatever I could get my hands on, from Roy of the Rovers to 2000AD to Spiderman. I’d try and draw my own comics, with varying degrees of success. And periodically that interest has resurfaced.
In my teens there was a comic book shop on my way to school, The Edge of Forever, which I would visit from time to time, although the cost of imported US comics meant I was often limited to the bargain racks. But buying comics month after month, and keeping up with all the storylines, just seemed like too much of a commitment.
In adult life I’ve wandered into comic book shops now and again. The best one in London, for my money, is Gosh Comics, right by the British Museum. I think comic book shops are second only to independent record shops in the intimidation stakes. Yet Gosh is a friendly, accessible place. They are happy to help and seem genuinely pleased to facilitate visitors’ interest in comics.
When I worked near there I’d often wander in at lunchtime and gawp at the mix of the mainstream and the weird and the offbeat. The best comic I picked up there was called Watching Days Become Years by Jeff Levine. I only ever got the first issue, and Levine now seems to have disappeared from the internet, which is a real shame as he’d archived a lot of his work on his site.
I found that comics need not only be about men in spandex, they could also be a really powerful medium for articulating more adult themes and thoughts.
So, anyway, yesterday I popped into Gosh on my way home and picked up Scenes from an Impending Marriage. Regular readers will know this is rather appropriate book for me to be picking up.
It is a rather lovely, if slight, book. The author, Adrian Tomine, relays a series of vignettes from the planning of a marriage, using a mix of single frame cartoons, and nine-panel grids reminiscent of old newspaper funnies.
I think he nails the anxieties and quirks of wedding planning, whilst still keeping an incredibly warm tone. Let’s face it, people getting married can be incredibly annoying and self-centred. Tomine is not afraid to acknowledge that, yet still keeps his characters likeable.
He also avoids the pitfalls of falling into wedding clichés. The groom-to-be is just as neurotic and obsessed by detail (if not more) than the bride-to-be. The concerns about invites, venues and music are spot-on.
The book is evidently autobiographical, and reading the final pages, along with the copyright blurb, it becomes clear that in an earlier form this book was the favour given to guests at Tomine’s wedding. That seems like such a perfect, personal gift.
I’m glad he and his wife then decided to share it with the wider world. And I may well be using it as a point of reference over the next couple of weeks!