In an ideal world this is where I would have written about revisiting Orbital comics to see their current exhibition ‘Stripped‘; a collection of artworks ‘celebrating the iconography of comics as well as physical objects themselves‘. However when I visited London yesterday it seemed luck wasn’t on my side.
After being mercilessly shortchanged by the underground’s Oyster system – a beast I dare not argue with – arriving at Orbital I puzzlingly found the exhibition barricaded off with staff milling around inside sorting a pile of comics. Questioning one I was told that they had a delivery in and would as such be closing the area for the day while it was used as an improvised stock room (either that or the stock room was being used as an improvised exhibition space). I’ve generally got nothing against Orbital Comics; they all seem nice enough and they’re usually cheaper than places like Forbidden Planet, but you’ll forgive me if I extend a most sarcastic thankyou to them for not bothering to mention the exhibition’s temporary closure on their website.
Anyway, wanting to make the best of a bad thing I strolled a short distance to the British Museum to cool off and besides rediscovering my childhood fear of Egyptian mummies, found something of at least some relevance to my work.
The museum had a small but distinctly offbeat exhibit of art and drawings from the Japanese manga Professor Munakata; a crime/mystery solving affair featuring the titular character – a caped detective figure who I can’t unsee as Oliver Reed – in a one-off story to foil a theft at the British Museum.
The creator and artist Hoshino Yukinobu actually collaborated with the museum to research the setting for this and as such was granted full access around the place, the resulting details of the exhibits in his drawings being astoundingly accurate. Putting aside this novelty though, looking at the displayed sketches and pages in various stages of production gave me some interesting insight into the process by which they are made; Yukinobu, a professional and industry veteran of over 30 years clearly knows his way around a comic displaying crisp efficiency in character design along with precise background work and compelling layouts. Aesthetically speaking his work also struck me as reminiscent to Naoki Urasawa, something which can only be a good thing given the quality of the latter’s output.
The manga’s contents were clearly more adventure mystery than gumshoe or noirish (let alone hard sci-fi) and given the largely digital nature of my work the far more traditional approach of a typical ‘mangaka‘ is a world away from my own technique. Regardless, it felt like a good experience all the same for the sake of seeing things differently and being reminded once again of how diverse the comics medium is, while as with just about anything comics related there are little touches which are of almost universal relevance to any approach.
Not a complete waste then! I’m back in London next week for a Graphic Art Fair at Somerset House so I may give Orbital’s exhibit another shot then, between that and forgetting the mummies’ terrifying shrivelled faces everything should be good…