Joe Decie’s debut with The Accidental Salad was a wonderfully thing, delightful and beautifully drawn. With The Listening Agent that we’re treated to more of the same, Decie’s superbly confident, wonderfully lush ink washed artwork and sublimely languid and utterly charming storytelling better than ever.
Again, as with The Accidental Salad there’s no narrative here, just a collection of moments, many pulled from Decie’s What I Drew website.
Decie Jnr. features throughout the book, and Mrs Decie crops up often. They make a wonderful team, their lives collected together here as an accumulation of minor events. You get something of a story, affectionately describing Decie’s world, his family, wife and child, with a special skill in taking the mundane and creating wonder, finding a surreal spin to put on everyday life, taking a moment of reality and spinning it into some fantastical moment or other, exaggeration working so well.
But I have to admit, that although I really enjoy the unusual twists, my absolute favourite moments come from Decie’s special knack for capturing wonderful family moments, just like this…
Absolutely, utterly charming.
Like observational comedy in stand up, observational comedy in comic form relies on recognition and awareness, the cartoonist being capable of evoking our memories or understanding with a few simple lines. It’s something Decie does easily, and quite perfectly. With The Accidental Salad review I compared him to a mellow Eddie Campbell, and it’s still a very valid comparison. Decie’s observation is gentler, more sentimental, but the Campbellian touches are all there. And Decie’s getting better and better and better, the timing is perfect, the mix of reality and exaggerated surreality is spot on.
The parent in me recognises everything Joe throws our way, but having children isn’t required for enjoying everything Decie throws at you, just an understanding of the world about you and the sometimes chaotic effect smaller people can have on the world. Likewise you don’t have to be married to understand Joe’s particularly precarious position as chief trouser wearer. Well, he may occasionally think so, but every bit of evidence here has wife and child smiling knowingly, watching daddy managing to put the trousers on backwards, or failing to find them at all at times (his side of the bed does look like Mrs Decie is living with a teenage boy after all).
“What about these bits leftover?”
Perfect timing, little Sam managing to completely destroy daddy’s moment with one little question.
One real advantage to seeing Decie’s work in print rather than just on screen, especially in Blank Slate’s new hardback Euro-album format, is being able to linger over the quality of his artwork. His figures are so good, again the observational eye is spot on, capturing every little moment, every little expression perfectly.
There’s one page in particular that impressed when first seen, and with the enlargement of the printed page it’s even more impressive; drawing architecture from such lovely angles….
Gorgeous, gorgeous, gorgeous street scene.
I’m even able to say that there’s one Joe Decie moment in The Listening Agent that I was actually present for, at last years British Comic Awards. Joe was there, as were wife and child. Child was especially chuffed that daddy’s work was up for the ‘Best Comic’ award…
Child is obviously a chip off the Decie block, the timing to catch that short moment between end of announcement and beginning of applause was perfect, the agony so poignant and heartbreaking.. you could feel everyone involved, committee members and judges shuffling just that little lower in their seats! After that Sam managed to pull off the best (the only) heckle of the night. He’s sat through all the awards, got over the upset of the before, when Luke Pearson’s Hilda cover flashes up on screen, his second nomination this year.
The audience is silent, in that pause before clapping. And all we hear, from Sam’s direction… “AGAIN?”.
Brilliant comedy timing. Mr and Mrs Decie – you have a wonderful son. But you already know that. And I reckon he knows what a wonderfully talented daddy he has as well.
One more moment to share with you, a heartwarming father and son scene, perfect in every way, we’ll send you away to buy the book knowing that it’s a perfect mix of sentimentality, observation, and fine comedy…
The Listening Agent is published by Blank Slate Books, and should be available from all good comic shops, including all FPI stores and our webstore.