Nelson edited by Rob Davis & Woodrow Phoenix

Nelson
edited by Rob Davis & Woodrow Phoenix
Blank Slate Books, 2011

An ambitious project involving 54 UK artists who have collaborated to illustrate the life of a single character year-by-year from her birth in 1968 to the present day. The artists are an impressive collection of editorial cartoonists, children’s book illustrators and comic book artists, and there’s some very fine work here – Philip Bond brings some Tank Girl grunginess to 1982, while Kate Charlesworth displays her mastery of layout in 1987. Talented NZ expat Roger Langridge does his best with four different locations in five pages in 1998 (including Heaven and Hell) while (his possible influence) Hunt Emerson brings some typical Knockabout chaos to 2001. The venerable Posy Simmonds appears to have been a bit busy to fully participate, breezing in and out of 2008 with a single lacklustre panel.

Despite the wildly varying styles, the story hangs together well, the only clanger a desire to shoehorn historical events into the storyline, which results in the characters climbing the Berlin Wall in 1990, asserting “Oh, poor Kurt! I was a wreck when I heard” in 1994, and (cringingly) booking a flight to New York in September 2001.

The artist biographies are presented in an entertaining way, with their photographs in chronological order from 1967 to 2010, so we get baby photos from the 1960s, orange 1970s children, snotty punks from the 1980s, awkward Gen-Xers from the 1990s (including an unmistakably New Zild snap of Langridge) and professional artist shots from the 2000s.

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