By Alasdair Stuart
Cinema is magic. I grew up on the Isle of Man, which is the thing the weather forecaster always stands in front of on the UK weather map and cinema was my first way off the island. There were three entire screens (Two in one building! A MULTIPLEX!) and I was in one, or two of them, basically every weekend. One was a catastrophically awful screen buried in a leisure complex that still broke the movie for an intermission. The other two were the only parts still active of a failed casino and had exactly the sort of faded grace and grandeur that you secretly hope old cinemas have.
I remember, when the first Batman movie came out, being amazed at the fact the entire cinema was full. I remember the standing ovation Star Trek VI, another packed house, got. I remember the worst date of my life, watching Mermaids, alone aside from my date and her four friends.
Sitting behind us.
In a 1200 seat cinema.
And most of all, I remember the joy. The sense of being transported up and out of your seat and into the movie that always happens, even when you’re scared it doesn’t. That sense of escape, of moving out into fictional space defined me as a person and still does. When I’m pissed off or stressed, I’ll go see a movie. It always makes me feel better.
Cinema is magic. Owen Johnson knows that too, and that’s where Reel Love comes in.
Johnson’s having a great year. As part of the GHOSTS collective he’s exhibited in London and Raygun Roads, his last title, is held as a high watermark of what the UK indie scene is capable of. Reel Love is his first work as writer and artist and it continues the twin themes of Johnson’s work; abiding love for pop culture and a keen eye for emotional detail. The series is planned for three issues, each corresponding to both an act of the dramatic structure and an age of the character. The framework of film, the love of story, is encoded into the book at the genetic level and it gives every page both immediacy and elegance. Jeff Lemire, whose Essex County is a definite influence, said:
I loved Reel Love. Energetic artwork and heartfelt storytelling make Reel Love a real winner.
Then there’s the jokes, that manage to be beautifully referential and geeky without ever feeling superior or needlessly snarky. This is a funny book in both senses. Johnson wraps the twin visual narratives of comics and film around one another and ties them together with memories that any kid who grew up at the movies will recognize. It’s all here, from the wide eyed joy to the despairing rewatch. His experiences are our experiences, a story unfolding next to ours in the darkened theatre. It’s all familiar yet all fresh, expressive and joyous.
Like I say, cinema is magic.
Reel Love debuts at the Glasgow Comic Con this weekend and costs £4 for 44 black and white pages. It’ll be available from the 7th of July as a digital comic from DoGooder Comics for £1. If you can’t make the show, pick that up, it’s more than worth it.
Alasdair Stuart is a freelance writer. His first film experience was the movie version of Oliver! Which, he’s still reasonably sure, was a print that had been abandoned on the Isle of Man and they just used it any time a new movie didn’t show. The last film he saw was Edge of Tomorrow which he really enjoyed aside from the ending. Find him on twitter at @AlasdairStuart