by Jayden Leggett, Assistant Editor
A social commentary. An opinion piece. A journey of self-expression. An autobiography told through panels. Prepare yourself for a series that is vastly different to what you probably normally expect from the comic book medium. There are no spandex-clad superheroes here. Digested is Australian comic creator Bobby N.’s outstanding example of what comic books can truly be.
The book itself is in a unique 6.5 x 7” size, which just on its own indicates that this comic is going to be something that deviates from the norm. Each issue is a collection of many different creative pieces. Every issue so far always contains the ongoing story titled Oxygen, as well as other non-related short stories. Issue 2 even contains a collection of short poems, while other books include Bobby’s interviews with other Aussie comic artists such as Tom Bonin and Paul Bedford.
Oxygen begins in Issue 1 with a man returning home from his evening jog… and that’s it. However with each passing issue more information is revealed, and eventually via a retelling of the main character’s childhood and consequential events of his life, it becomes evident that it is an insight into the mindset of Bobby N. himself, and about the events that shaped him and the opinions that he holds about life. In particular what comes through is his observations of how not long after childhood we are all expected to conform to conducting our life the same as everybody else (told via an interesting use of a gas-mask motif), and by breaking out of the stifling confines of the gas-mask you can truly achieve personal freedom. At least, that’s how I interpreted this story, and I could be horribly wrong, but I think enough evidence is there to back up my claim.
The short stories (appropriately named Shorts) are overall more heavily based in realism (with maybe one or two exceptions), and can range anywhere from one to several pages long. One of the appealing aspects about some of the short stories contained within Digested is how I could relate to what Bobby is communicating, whether it be something as frustrating as getting fed up with the way his place of work constantly expects more of him than what was agreed to in their work contract, or from simple yet astute observations of how various strangers conduct themselves in public (I particularly share a bitterness towards the type of selfish jerks who push past everybody else around them to look out only for themselves, as is the basis of Pavlov’s Dogs) . Of course, I would be lying if I said I have ever witnessed a break-up argument between a little girl and her swearing teddy bear, or if I had ever been on a first date with a lady who clearly has a vegetarian’s take on having a hungry sexual appetite…
Bobby’s personality and thoughts really shine through in his writing, and his honesty in his views make the book all the more endearing. It is clear that these stories are about his observations of every day life, as he provides his own uncensored commentary on events he has seen, things that piss him off, and the various circumstances that have happened to him and shaped the way he now chooses to live his life by creating comics. Family, work, relationships, public transport and more are the subjects of his tales. The result is clearly a labor of love and passion about creating comics, and one that is also inspiring for aspiring artists, as it shows that if you put in the time and effort, you too can do this if you truly wanted to.
I found both Oxygen and the shorts to be very enjoyable, each for different reasons. Oxygen’s sequential nature and it’s immensely intriguing story content constantly keep me wanting more and waiting in anticipation for each new issue to come out, while the (mostly) self-contained Shorts offer many delightful “slice of life” scenarios that were either quirky, funny, heart-warming, frustration inducing or a combination of the above.
While the various narratives of the book are great, they alone would not have anywhere near as much impact if it weren’t for the beautiful artwork. A cute and charming cartoony style is used, all drawn in lovely black and white. Facial expressions are the highlight, with character’s displaying a range of visual emotions that are instantly identifiable without the need for dialogue or thought balloons (something that many “mainstream comics” struggle to achieve). Also, when I previously described the art as being “cartoony”, please do not make the mistake of thinking that this means “simple”. The art is very detailed, with quite a lot of intricate cross-hatching used to provide the tonal work in some sections, which is also used in conjunction with areas of solid flat color (or rather black, white and the various shades of grey in between). I would defy anyone to be able to flip through this book and not be compelled to purchase it, the visuals are truly enticing.
Digested Issues 1 – 5 were a true joy to read, and one of those rare reading experiences in which I actively engaged with and pondered about what was happening in the narrative, as opposed to simply cruising through on auto-pilot like I do with so many superhero comic books. My only complaint is that I want more, especially with regards to Oxygen, as I really want to see what further directions this story will take.
ComicsOnline strongly recommends this book to aspiring artists and serious comics fans alike, and if you are too far away to purchase it from a local store such as our Aussie team’s favorite All Star Comics, then the best place to grab a copy is directly from the Madman Entertainment website (you can follow the link here).
ComicsOnline gives Digested Issues 1 – 5 4.5 out of 5 Vaseline-soaked cucumbers.
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