Crossing Borders: Swimming With The Cods


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Part medieval fever dream with Robert Ball’s Winter’s Knight, part nostalgic look at the sixties fishing community in Will Morris’ The Silver Darlings, CB looks to the past to predict the future.  

Winter’s Knight: Day One by Robert M. Ball

As a graphic designer in a professional capacity, I can sniff out a fellow-in-arms in comics in a minute. One of the pitfalls of designers / artists is that they tend to lose themselves in the compositions of the page and art to the detriment of the narrative but Robert M. Ball hits the right balance jin his self published Winter’s Knight: Day One.

On Robert’s site are many examples of his expert usage of vector illustration to create beautifull imagery. He transposes this style to sequential storytelling with great effect. By telling a wordless tale of a medieval quest with a twist, he creates a feverish and haunting crusade of a roaming knight stuck in a nightmare. The sequentials are easy to follow and breathe a nice rhythm, allowing space for intertwined panels, full page splashes and quieter moments. His designs are both beautiful and nightmarish - f.e. look at the wolf and the stag - while his colours enforce the emotional content of each scene. He drowns the nightmare scenes in dark greens or reds and utilises the abundance of snow in landscapes to create some beautiful imagery with negative space.

In Winter’s Knight: Day One, Robert M. Ball takes his illustration skills one notch further up the creative ladder. By composing a nightmarish crusade with a mysterious medieval knight, he has orchestrated a symphonic narrative out of colour and line work. Very nicely done.

Winter’s Knight: Day One by Robert M. Ball is a self published full colour A5 comic. It counts 56 pages and check out a preview and buy the book right here.

The Silver Darlings by Will Morris

Blank Slate Books is a UK publisher that has a sixth sense for new talent. Though you certainly can’t tell from The Silver Darlings, creator and artist Will Morris is freshly graduated from college, already displaying his first professional graphic novel on the racks.

Ayrshire, 1967. It’s avid photographer Danny’s last summer in his home town before he heads off to Glasgow and to college. But before he leaves the ailing fishing community he has a long week in prospect on board his dad’s fishing boat, The Silver Darling.

Presented beautifully in an oversized hardcover format, the gray washes of Morris pop out and his vistas of the salty seas are absolutely stunning. His angular yet loose linework obviously lends a quite a bit from italian master Gipi and more especially from his 2006 Angoulême award winning book Notes From A War Story. Apart from the similarity in style, both artists use gray washes in their respective stories. Nevertheless Morris holds up his own and I can think of far worse artists to emulate. The difference is in the details: Morris’ style is more angular and more controlled with clean backgrounds and a rigid adherence to style. Gipi obviously has years of experience over Morris, prone to take more chances in his storytelling and experimenting more with his linework and his approach.

The coming of age tale in the setting of a small town fishing community never becomes overtly rosy-coloured candy sweetness. Morris makes the smart move by introducing a limited set of characters with a solid focus on protagonist Danny. His fishing trip on his dad’s boat takes a leisurely pace with text and captions always giving ample room for the drawings to shine. His character arc is small and sweet and typical for a young man setting off to explore the world, pushed into one final reminder of the old world. In terms of story and pacing everything proceeds at a leisurely and light pace though there is an overabundance of medium sized shots. For a story taking place mostly at sea, I would have liked the camera to step back a tad more, providing more of an overview of the empty environment of the sea. By building in some larger panels, Morris would have effectively emphasized the mental isolation of Danny a bit more in a visual manner. Chalk this up to experience, I think.

Nevertheless, Will Morris’ The Silver Darlings is the perfect reading material for a dreary day. This young yet skilled artist will transpose you into the past and let you taste the brine on the hull of days gone by. 

The Silver Darlings by Will Morris is published by Blank Slate Books. It is an oversized full colour hardcover clocking in at 60 pages. It retails for £9.99 and is available right now.

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