Something Reductive – the comic diaries of James Nash continue….

Published On September 6, 2011 | By Richard Bruton | Comics, Reviews

Something Reductive – Diary Comics 2010

By James Nash

We looked at James Nash’s diary comics The Present Is Not A Purgatory (Diary Comics 2008) and Speaking Not Knowing (Diary Comics 2009) last year, and I was very impressed, both with his innovative “skyscraper format” (as coined by Matthew Craig) of A3 sized sheets folded lengthways and his carefully constructed, scratchy solid strokes describing a day in three panels.

With his 2010 diary strip collection Something Reductive Nash has changed format and now presents his work, still as three-panel per day diary entries, but in a broadsheet newspaper format:

(Nash’s back cover to Something Reductive – huge! And looks so good)

I’m really impressed with the new broadsheet format, and just looking at the front and back cover promises so much. His art is really enlarged here, and it looks so very good at this bigger scale.

The problem comes when you open the paper up. Nash has kept his column format – so each broadsheet page has two columns, to be read separately. There’s a small problem retraining the comic reading eyes to stop going across the whole width of the page, but a more serious problem is that his broadsheet pages are just crammed full of his art, there’s little space between the columns, and it all seems too cramped with 20 strips per double page spread:

This may well be because Nash draws his strips in the 3 panel format and this is the only way he can get them all into one comic.

But there’s a double page spread in the middle of the paper where he alters it slightly and there are just 8 strips on the double page and it looks so much better and really shows off his art to it’s best.

However, let’s stop looking at what might be, stop concentrating so much on the formatting and actually look at the work itself.

Nash’s autobiography is pretty much a standard thing, as he recounts various moments of his life, with all the risks of sounding like a self-absorbed whiner that come with it. And although there is an awful lot of sitting around and bemoaning, it’s very well done sitting around and bemoaning.

But more than that, Nash is exhibiting an increased awareness of his life, and consequently his work. Nash actually acknowledges it right at the start – opening up to a stranger (and his audience) about his embarassment over his miserable 2009, and his dislike for the strips that came from that period:

(First strip of the year in James Nash’s Something Reductive)

Nash always has a sense of self about him. He’s almost hyper aware of his failings, and is never slow in bringing them up. Sometimes it feels a little too whiny, but most of the time he’s spot on, just skating that thin line between whiny and astute, truthful observer. Again, because of the snapshot, episoodic nature of doing a diary strip – sticking to two/three panels per day, you don’t get a full picture of the artist here, merely pieces of a life, intriguing, inviting you to piece together moments around the carefully chosen events.

But somewhere very early on the tone changes and it’s no longer Nash making a comic about his life, instead it’s become Nash making a comic about his life making a comic. It’s something that’s infiltrating everything he does, is never that far from his thoughts, and starts to overwhelm him (and us) at times. It’s something of the autobiog artist’s nightmare in a way. The comic becomes everything. Not only are you obsessing over it, but amongst your intimate circle – family, friends, relationships – they all read your work as well. So suddenly it stops being something observational – a sort of Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle of comic autobiography.

It adds a fascinating extra element to Nash’s work. Yet it’s also a very dangerous place to be, both personally and creatively. Go too far and the work (and your life) becomes dreary and uninspired. Thankfully, somewhere around halfway through Something Reductive Nash begins opening up again, both in topics and, quite wonderfully, in his artwork. His observational style, his obsessing about comics settles down somewhat towards the end of the year, his diary strips reflect more on music and relationships again.

(Something Reductive by James Nash – 06/11/2010 – lovely body language in that second panel, lovely lines, smooth and flowing yet angular as well)

I talked about the development his art showed in between 2008 and 2009. And it’s still improving all the time through 2010. His lines are refined, his figures more flowing yet still angular and interesting, his backgrounds more detailed and defined. But that in itself causes problems, especially trying to fit 10 strips to the page. The art here is definitely outgrowing the small scale, tightly packed panels he uses throughout most of Something Reductive.

Towards the end of the year there’s a noticeable increase in space, as Nash opens up, really begins to utilise the negative space more in his art, there’s a lot more white, blank space here, a lot more chance to see how lovely his art actually is. Like I pointed out at the start, some of the very best stuff happens on the pages where Nash ditches his 3 panel, double column layout and simply expands his art to fill the whole page – then you really have to catch your breath, as his thick black line art really becomes something so simplistic, so powerful.

(Something Reductive 16 & 17 Nov 2010 – a more striped down style developing towards the end of the year, and it’s a very nice development)

I’m hopeful that 2011/12 will see much more from Nash – not just another set of diary comics, but hopefully something longer, maybe a concentrated burst of autobiog rather than the day by day work of the diary comics, maybe something else. I certainly think he’s got much, much more waiting to burst out, and I’ll be around expectantly to see it.

Something Reductive is available from James Nash at his website and shop.

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About The Author

Richard Bruton
- Started in comics retail aged 16 at Nostalgia & Comics, Birmingham. Now located in Yorkshire, he's written for the Forbidden Planet International Blog since 2007. Specialising in UK Comics and All-Ages comics, Richard's day job in a primary school allowed him to build the best children's graphic novel library in the country.

4 Responses to Something Reductive – the comic diaries of James Nash continue….

  1. Matt Badham says:

    I’m going to have to pick this up. I love Nash’s stuff.

  2. James Nash says:

    Thanks Steve for the time and attention given to my comic, really cool to have it on the FP site. Fair comments and criticisms of the work that I have, of course, already thought a lot about given my ‘hyper-awareness’ regarding it…

    I must admit that it has been very difficult trying to present the mass of content of this project in a format in which I can afford to produce and sell at a fair price. It has been a mentally back-breaking amount of work that I have done in order to explore the concept of a daily diary comic over the past 6 years and it has always felt unjust to shrink it and cram it into an often barely ledgible print format, but it is a curse based in the budget of a small-press artist I guess. I could have reduced the content and increased the production but was trying to do something fully formed and conceptually correct within my means.

    As with your last review of my comics I had anticipated the limitations of this edition and am constantly attempting to experiment and progress with my work. I love making comics and hope to continue to put work out there.

    This edition was published in June in a limited run of 200 and near to selling out with no plans to reprint. I would like to thank anybody reading this who has bought my comics or who I have met during any of the fairs and things that I have attended in the last couple of years.

    Love.

    Thanks,

    JN

    • Richard says:

      Uh…. James……

      Steve?

      Who the hell is Steve?

      Am I blacking out at night and having Fight Club moments with Steve being my comic reviewing alter-ego?
      To be honest, if I did have an alter-ego I’d like to think he did more with his nights than review comics!

  3. James Nash says:

    Ha – I was midway through emailing someone called Steve whilst writing that – sorry Richard!