by Jessica Martin
This was one that the whole Bruton family were looking at when we saw it at the recent Thought Bubble, where actress, comedian, scriptwriter, voice artist and singer Jessica Martin was there with her first comic at only her second comic event.
It’s actually two comics in one, the cover star is Clara Bow, the legendary silent era It Girl, the perfect face for her times, a life of tragedy and trouble, this comic details her impressive and rapid rise to the ranks of the mega-star, plucked from obscurity to star in 1927’s “It“, a precursor to the It girls of more modern celeb fare.
The other tale is Martin’s original, currently being worked up as a graphic novel, Elsie Harris Picture Palace; another evocation of a time gone by, of crinoline pinnies and servitude, of crushes on silent film stars, and of a young girl’s life in 1936 working at Lyons of London, a nippy, a waitress, all elegant art deco class masking the troublesome times underneath.
The first tale of Clara Bow may be brief, but it definitely delivers, Martin may be a débutante, but she certainly knows what she’s doing, as just ten pages are all she needs to summarise and detail Bow’s life, capturing a lot of the vulnerability and childish demeanour that made her an instant star, yet not shying away from the more troubled moments in her life, her difficult childhood and her subsequent media driven fall from grace. It’s an awfully quick read, but it also manages to feel thorough, that it’s capturing the important moments of Bowes life within the limited page count.
Artistically Martin promises a lot more than she manages to deliver, and I was really expecting a more polished comic than I found. The cover is a great seller for the comic, a very iconic image pulled from inside. But I found Martin’s visual representation of Bowes just a little too inconsistent, a little too loose at times to really enchant. That isn’t to say I didn’t enjoy what I read though, but I wanted something a little more iconic, a little more stunning, a little more of what the cover promised.
After the Clara tale, we’re treated to a preview of Martin’s graphic novel, Elsie Harris Picture Palace, which evokes all those ideas of the roaring 20s and 30s, all those moments of black and white style, the glamour, the film star beauty, but sets it all in a very down to earth life of Elsie Harris, a 16-year old girl working a simple waitress job at Lyons of London, one of the famous nippy girls. It’s actually far more successful than the Clara Bows tale, unfettered as it is with the iconography that is always associated with Bows for anyone that knows her tale. Instead we get something that feels, and looks, absolutely right, genuine and real, full of iconic images sure, but also something that smacks of its time….
On the basis of the work here, the forthcoming graphic novel looks like something well worth checking out on publication. Jessica Martin appears to be a talent that will only get better with time, and I’m very pleased to see these first steps towards what may well be new talent emerging from the left field.