“I say tomato, you say tomato…” – Malcy Duff’s It’s Just Ketchup
It’s Just Ketchup,
Written and illustrated by Malcy Duff
When you pick up a new comic from Malcy Duff you can never be sure what you’re going to find between the covers. Yes, there may be some elements you recognise from earlier works, but the actual story and the ideas behind it could be completely different and that’s one of the reasons why they are something to look forward to.
In Malcy’s latest, “It’s Just Ketchup”, there isn’t a straightforward, linear narrative being spoon-fed to the reader; in that respect it is very Malcy: there is a notable flow to events, but while these suggest a sequence, a narrative, the actual interpretation is very much open to the reader. We start with several pages each laid out with six, equally sized panels, taking us from a simple support stick to a plant growing up around it, blooming into life, tomatoes appearing on the vines. The regular spacing and layout creates a convincing feel of animation as your eyes scan over the frames. Even the cover gives a nice feeling of simple animation – turn it over and see the simple design slightly changed, a before-and-after moment, almost a two-frame animation, the reader’s brain supplying the idea of movement to static images, which is, after all, what we do with actual animation.
(panels from “It’s Just Ketchup”, (c) Malcy Duff)
The tomato plucked, we meet a man, or at least a man-shaped character, which leads us onto a stage; as with The Blackest Gnome (discussed here with Malcy) this gave me a feeling of openness and exposure, but that aside the general vibe is quite different from that work. Our un-named protagonist, who gives the impression of being partly constituted of tomatoes himself, attempts to climb the Cardboard Mountain as more tomatoes are hurled from the audience. Unlike A 52 Second From Topsy (reviewed here) there is actually a small amount of dialogue brought in around here, as the frames move to wider formats, opening the panels out as the stage imparts a feeling of openness. Not wanting to ruin the rest I’ll restrict myself to saying that there is a journey, a moment for respite and thought and an act of transformation.
The thing is, trying to tell you the story from one of Malcy’s comics is awkward; it isn’t an act in futility to try to describe some of it, but as I said Malcy creates works which encourage the reader to use their own imagination, which by its very nature means every single reader will have their own, unique interpretation of the story. Is it about personal growth? About pondering important events in our lives and the roles others play in them (and the roles we take on ourselves)? Is it about growing and changing, evolving, transforming? Yes. And no. As I said it depends very much on the reader (and I know better than to ask Malcy, because he will say, quite rightly, figure it out), which means each individual interpretation is going to be correct for that reader. It is one of the aspects of Malcy’s work I really enjoy – treating the reader with some respect, assuming they as readers have a brain and imagination, then serving them something which will stimulate that imagination. Quite how Malcy does this in a short, deceptively simple-looking comic, I don’t know, but he keeps doing it and I’m glad he does. “It’s Just Ketchup” has just been published by Malcy and is available now from his Missing Twin website, in addition to some of his previous work I’ve blogged about before and some original art which Malcy has been adding to his online shop.