summit, I red: Disco Cry

Posted in comics, criticism

Review
15/11/16

Disco Cry by Marianna Serocka
Published by Centrala £16.00
130 x 170mm; 240 pages; ISBN: 978-0-9933951-3-0

‘based on a true story

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The size, heft and physicality of Disco Cry has quite a role to play in the reading of the book, so using phone snaps rather than scans for this review seems to suit the story and the product.

I was struggling to write a review of this interesting little-thick-book. The story is integral to the delivery, but it’s such a small story that I worried I’d do the comic a disservice in the description. Then something happened in front of me that helped contextualise it…

Heading home from a day in London visiting the Abstract Expressionists exhibition at the Royal Academy and enjoying Art Spiegelman’s comics/jazz talk Wordless! at the Barbican ~ plus beer and chat with a friend or two ~ I witnessed a small human tableau.

It was 1:50am on a chilly Friday evening in November and an altercation on the other side of the road broke through my earphone-bubble. I looked round to see a taxi driver in loud animated ‘conversation’ with a young man. I thought at first that he had caught a fare dodger, or something similarly ‘studenty’, but it quickly became apparent that he was trying to calm down a distraught and very drunk person.

Snatches of what the taxi driver was saying drifted over as he restrained his passenger from throwing himself in front of a slowly passing car: “Don’t think like that… Let’s get you home… Think about your brother… You don’t need money…” On and on, reassuring, calming ~ hugging and talking.

They were not family, I think. This was one human looking out for another who had drunk to excess and needed bringing down. I made it clear that I was near in case he needed help, but stood back quietly and watched as Taximan eventually got through to his passenger, got him to relax, got him in the car and took him off for home.

That young man was so overwhelmed with emotion and the night that his world was distorted. He was shouting Suicide but behaving more Aargh! That cocktail of emotions, hormones and circumstances magnified everything and amplified all his pain and love and fears. Most adults have been there in the past. Some of us are still struggling with that sort of situation.

That is what Disco Cry is about!

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The pattern-making and decorative stylings in this book will appeal to many alt-comics readers. 

The narrative follows a single protagonist through one emotionally taut night, chasing love, lust or comfort through the city’s discos; misconnecting and missing someone else. It’s coarse stuff and, thankfully, the sort of story that’s faded from my world, but even so it twangs some ancient memory and will resonate deeply with others living on that heightened, slightly hysterical, precipice of yearning.

So the story shouldn’t really matter for the comic except (maybe) as a trigger to the making. But it does! The manner of the telling is so perfectly reflective of that passionate and histrionic non-story that it couldn’t work as well on a more biographical, slice-of-life tale.

Marianna Serocka draws like a diary, obsessively detailed, endlessly repeating personal motifs and feeling desperately spontaneous. It’s the ugly-beautiful stuff that you may also have drawn in your school books aged 15. But this is 240 pages! It builds and condenses in to a densely realised visual world.

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At first glance Serocka’s drawings seem unsophisticated, but hidden in the manic decoration there are some clever bits of cartooning ~ like this sideways glance ~ that belie that naive feel.

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If I was shown one or two pages independently, I might fail to be engaged with Marianna’s work, but committed to read a review copy, I became involved, the engrossed. Repelled by seeing echoes of a life I once lived and a manner of presentation I never wanted (or was brave enough) to try, but compelled to stick with it.

The pages were obviously drawn as landscape spreads and fitting them into a portrait book works ~ but only just. There are numerous examples of important or interesting detail disappearing down the gutter between pages. Sometimes I’m convinced this is a deliberate obfuscation… it certainly helps make the reader work for their story and makes them personally connected to it. But on other occasions, it just seems to be a case of printing something that was not actually designed for print ~ something that would have needed a serious amount of pre-production work to keep the key elements in view, but being comics was just printed as is.

I’m not convinced it was an aesthetic choice, but sometimes it works… Centrala books are invariably nice packages, well-printed and a pleasure to hold, so I just don’t know… see for yourself:

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There is something appealing about the binding of Disco Cry being so tight that seeing the pictures clearly is a painful, nigh-impossible effort…
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…but, because I love you, I broke the spine of my copy to show the quality of drawing (almost) on display.

It would be inaccurate to say I enjoyed this book. But it is a good book and worth your time.

I just hope that if you and Marianna are living through these sorts of times at the moment, you get through it all in one piece.

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