Australasian Comic reviews by Philip Bentley
Four Comics by Chris Gooch
51% 1 & 2 (Optic Pop, 2013 &14)
Hidden (self-published, 2014)
Gasoline Eye Drops (self-published, 2014)
At just 20 years of age Chris Gooch appears to be a comic creator in a hurry. On top of these four books he has also had a short graphic novel 1792 in 2013. Years ago he probably would have started out by besieging whatever anthologies were around, but these days it is just as easy to publish the strips individually, either by yourself or through one of the small local publishers. Given all of these books are smaller than regular comic size I suppose you could call them mini comix, but all have design elements that lift them out of the ruck and Gooch’s work has a creative presence that is greater than that found in your usual mini.
Page from Gasoline Eyedrops.
Gooch seems to have stories he wants to tell. He seems drawn to those featuring elements of unease – often the uncertainty associated with young love, or with tropes drawn from horror genre, sometimes both in the same strip.
His art is a simple but generally well realised ‘indie style’ that seems to be still developing as he employs a number of variations on it in these various strips, although the styles are consistent within the strip. Hidden and Gasoline Eye Drops are embellished with a second colour – something of a tradition in indie circles, but not one I think works all that well most of the time. Simple grey tones would probably work better. That said the bright canary yellow chosen for Hidden does strike an effectively jarring counter-intuitive note in what is meant to be a dark and brooding piece.
Page from Hidden.
All four of these books have had the input of others 51% being published by Brendan Halyday’s Optic Pop, the other two being financed by an RMIT arts initiative. Of note is Gasoline Eye Drops which has been mentored and edited by Mandy Ord as part of a gallery exhibition. This move is particularly heartening as I have long lamented that the absence of a local industry has deprived budding creators of the guidance of more established artists (even if it may have spared us a surfeit of commercial crap). Perhaps not coincidentally Gasoline Eye Drops is also the stand out story of the bunch. A raw and honest look at what the emotions of young love can produce told via some sophisticated continuity.
So I welcome Gooch’s arrival and will follow his future trajectory with interest.
51% Number one