Artists: Takayo Akiyama, Krystina Baczynski, Dan Berry, Joe Blann, Stephen Collins, Paul Harrison Davies, Joe Decie, John Cei Douglas, Oliver East, Nick Edwards, Marc Ellerby, Paul Francis, Katie Green, Isabel Greenberg, Howard Hardiman, Ste Hitchen, Tom Humberstone, Joe List, Lizz Lunney, John Miers, Kathryn Newman, Luke Pearson, Edward Ross, Philippa Rice, Jenny Robins, Alison Sampson, Anna Saunders, Matthew Sheret
Edited by Tom Humberstone
(Just part of Stephen Collins‘ personalised tube map cover to Solipsistic Pop #4)
Solipsistic Pop started off, 2 years and more ago now, curated and designed by Tom Humberstone with the express intent not only of showcasing the absolute best of the UK comic scene but doing so in a product designed to celebrate the beauty and unique tactile quality afforded by print.
It’s an anthology designed to be experienced, touched, pored over, to represent the best of the best at that present moment. It aims so high, and incredibly, most of the time, it gets somewhere near where it wants to be.
And with each individual volume, Humberstone and the selected artists really pushed the boundaries of the anthology, tailoring both design, colour and content to the selected theme for the issue. We’ve had an inaugural issue, a slightly disappointing second blue tinged volume, a return to form red-toned kids volume 3, and now with volume 4, we have a bright, light green and perhaps the most intriguing theme yet – Maps.
(Joe Decie – Always / Never – a cartographic delight, journeying with the artist through his life, against a backdrop of all those things to do/not do)
Volume 4 is all about maps, about direction, about finding a way through, about travel, about journeys. From historical journeys, genealogical uncoverings, biographical investigations of the famous map makers, simple wanderings, space exploration, social commentary mapping our lives, physiological and psychological cartography of the brain…. there’s so much in here. And so much of it is excellent.
It’s the most ambitious collection of comics yet for Solipsistic Pop, and all wrapped up in the most ambitious packaging as well. Before you get to the comic itself there’s a folder, postcards and dustjacket to look at – all tied into this concept of maps, of cartography, of creating that connection of words and pictures to trace a route, to find a way, to discover. We’re playing with the idea of interaction, of experiencing both the comic and the world at all times with these extras, something Humberstone is determined to exploit – making Solipsistic Pop something that simply cannot be experienced in any other form than print.
Once past the folder and the extras, the actual comic is wrapped in Katie Green’s dustjacket “Maelstrom I” – an insanely large, ridiculously detailed piece, something to experience as a poster, to fully appreciate all that Green has packed into it. But there’s more, as it ties in with Green’s “Maelstrom II” right at the end of Solipsistic Pop 4 – it’s a beautiful piece, detailed, intricate, referential, funny, self-depreciating and introspective – a delight.
(Katie Green – Maelstrom II – a mapping of everything that went into the fold-out dustjacket of Solipsistic Pop #4)
Once you’re actually inside Solipsistic Pop #4 there’s actually almost something akin to a feeling of anti-climax. But that’s possible just a natural reaction – the extras have built it up so much, and at this point, my experiences with Solipsistic Pop have practically attenuated my critical judgement.
My brain simply expects it to be brilliant and cutting edge UK comics work throughout. Solipsistic Pop’s consistent (near) excellence is it’s curse. I simply expect the best, expect almost the impossible, so that any failing in here seems magnified. First read through I was genuinely disappointed by a few of the strips and I finished the book thinking it a flawed thing.
A bit of thinking, a quick slap or two to my expectations later, and I was back in reality. The beautiful, and the great far, far outweighs the flawed, and just because there are flawed, weaker works here doesn’t, shouldn’t diminish the brilliance of Solipsistic Pop.
Here, have a few examples of the great….. I could have picked many more:
(The Ways by Paul Harrison Davies – mapping roots through life from child to adult, and a beautiful, content realisation that whatever way happiness lies is just fine.)
(Maps To Live By – family history mapped as cartography by Filmish’s Edward Ross and father Peter. Generations of his multi-cultural family mapped across time and continents. Lovely, sentimental work yet never saccharin sweet)
(The Labyrinth by Dan Berry – relaxed artwork that manages to make vivid green look sundrenched and perspective shifts that make anyone feel quesy)
(You Are Here by Matthew Sheret and Tom Humberstone – memories of the riots of 2011 mapped against personal experience and recollection, just two pages, but so effective, and so beautifully drawn by Humberstone)
(Stephen Collins delivers a page mapping the life of Phyllis Pearsall, inventor of the A-Z, simple, yet clever in its layout and styling)
(John Cei Douglas’ Footnotes is another strip mapping relationships, and the ups and downs that we can draw out from them. Beautifully drawn, with a deft, light touch.)
(Luke Pearson’s two-pages are stylisticly so sharp you may cut yourself on his lines. Feel of Rian Hughes here, as Pearson maps his room in microscopic, obsessive, playful yet eye-straining detail.)
But special mention has to go to the Juno loving, artist / architect Alison Sampson, she of the ever informative and visually stunning Space In Text. Her strip “Small World” is just 4 pages long, yet does so much, most of it breathtaking. Following the loss of her job, she finds her room; packed with art, packed with books, packed with the life she’s lived, to be her world and she surveys and maps that world with both an artist’s and an architect’s eye. It is simply beautiful:
(Just part of Alison Sampson’s room, her world in four walls. She discusses her reasoning and motivations more at this CBR mini feature/interview.)
Solipsistic Pop has become, after four volumes, a shorthand for artistic delight, and a triumph of style AND substance. Consistently the benchmark to which other anthologies have to strive.
Solipsistic Pop #4 is available from selected comic shops and from the Solipsistic Pop website.