Hippy Jonny and the Banality of Life


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Hippy Jonny and the Banality of Life


  • Words: Ryan Dodd
  • Art: Ryan Dodd
  • Inks: Ryan Dodd
  • Publisher: Tabella
  • Price: 10.95
  • Release Date: Sep 11, 2011

The UK comics scene gets its very own slacker hero in creator Ryan Dodd’s spirited debut graphic novel.

Hippy Jonny and the Banality of Life is an original graphic novel from indie publishers Tabella that continues the publisher’s track record of introducing new creative voices to the market. Jonny is something of a drifter figure who begins the story being fired from his 9-to-5 job and spends much of the rest of it avoiding a return to the rat race. Jonny’s co-conspirators in this existence of shiftless indolence are his chums Ezekiel and Ray, who join him in his escapades dealing with the world of the unemployed. Into this reality comes the mysterious Nelly B, a young woman whose influence will have a profound effect on Jonny finding his true calling in life…

The easiest genre label to give Hippy Jonny is slacker comedy: think Kevin Smith meets Men Behaving Badly; if all the characters in the BBC sitcom were Tony. Dodd is clearly inspired by the work of a number of indie creators whose comics have touched on similar themes. Most overtly, I would single out Bryan Lee O’Malley’s Scott Pilgrim as a graphic novel that I suspect has clearly influenced Dodd’s approach to his work. If loosely veiled semi-autobiographical comics dealing with the minutiae of everyday life appeal to you, then you are likely  to find an engaging charm to the adventures of Jonny and his cast.

One of the great joys of the book is that, although there is a determined narrative destination, the story has a propensity for random humorous diversions from its main flow. There’s some neat early observational comedy about various office stereotypes that anyone trapped within the commuter-worker lifestyle will recognise and appreciate. An ongoing joke about the double entendres inherent in a TV angling show called “Rod and Tackle” is also a lot of fun, and peculiarly British in its delivery. It’s the characters’ occasional Reginald Perrin-style flights of fancy, though, that particularly resonated on my initial reading.

Tabella’s press releases describe Dodd as a self-taught artist. While there is, indeed, an air of a creator learning his craft here, that does not detract from the work in any way. On the contrary, the slightly raw edge to Dodd’s art actually enhances the urban vibe of the story, bringing a down-to-earth, slice-of-life texture to the story. The blocky layouts have an almost woodcut print quality to them which gives Hippy Jonny a distinctive and pleasingly naïve feel to its visuals.

Hippy Jonny and the Banality of Life is a welcome addition to the Tabella catalogue and a promising introduction to Ryan Dodd’s approach to graphic storytelling. Simultaneously relevant and fanciful, Hippy Jonny may be a comedic journey of self-discovery but its central premise has a topicality that is both pertinent and reflective. I shall await Ryan Dodd’s next project with much interest.

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