Friday 10 January 2014

Notes from the Small Press 16: Sky in Stereo #2 by Mardou (Yam Books, 2013)

I'm briefly reviving my Notes from the Small Press series (the last instalment was over a year ago; whether the series will continue beyond this point remains to be seen) because this popped through my letterbox on New Year's Eve:

The second issue of Mardou's semi-autobiographical comic Sky in Stereo, kindly sent by Mardou herself. I reviewed the first issue, which Mardou self-published, in 2012, but since then the series has been picked up by a US small press publisher, Yam Books, who issued #2 mid-last year. It received positive reviews from Chris Mautner at Robot 6 and Andy Oliver at Broken Frontier and others, so there's little point in my reviewing it as well, especially since I'm so late to the party; but I like Mardou's work a lot – I've been following it (and her) for getting on for ten years now – and Sky in Stereo is developing into the best thing she's done, and so here, for what they're worth, are a few notes and thoughts on this second issue.

I was struck by individual panels this time round, and found myself dwelling on some of them – partly because of the confidence of the line and how they work as lovely little pieces of art and text, but also the truth of them, or what seemed to me to be the truth of them.

These small moments, almost narrative asides, are, I think, a big part of why Sky in Stereo is so good. In a formal or structural sense they're not intrinsic to the story, and yet they make the story. They add depth to the character of Iris – Mardou's fictional stand-in – but not in a conscious or overly considered way; they simply speak to the truth of being seventeen and awkward and uncertain in Manchester in 1993.

I did wonder if that specific milieu was why the comic worked for me; I'm older than Mardou – or should I say Iris – but only by about five years or so, and I was at college in Manchester close to when Sky in Stereo is set. But there were jolts of recognition for me even beyond those similarities of background: watching telly during an acid trip and seeing actors "leave holes in the scenery behind them"; a mention of the rotating lands atop Enid Blyton's Magic Faraway Tree and how you could get stuck in them if you weren't careful; a glimpse of a Teenage Fanclub Bandwagonesque poster on a bedroom wall. Those points of reference and scenes, plus positive response from American reviewers (and publishers), suggests to me a resonance far beyond those of us who happened to be in Manchester in the early 1990s.

Something I was chuffed to see was that my review of #1 has been excerpted on the back cover of #2, although that particular bit of my review does make me sound insufferably pompous.

(Then again, you could probably pick numerous other parts of numerous other reviews of mine and reach the same conclusion.)

Lastly, in a meeting of minds between two of my favourite comics creators (and people), my friend Martin Eden – he of Spandex and The O Men fame – did a nice piece of Sky in Stereo fan art, which Mardou posted on her LiveJournal at the end of last year, and which I'm reposting above.

Previous Notes from the Small Press:

Notes from the Small Press 1: Fast Fiction Presents the Elephant of Surprise

Notes from the Small Press 2: Monitor's Human Reward by Chris Reynolds

Notes from the Small Press 3: Small Pets

Notes from the Small Press 4: Anais in Paris by Mardou

Notes from the Small Press 5: The Curiously Parochial Comics of John Bagnall

Notes from the Small Press 6: Ed Pinsent's Illegal Batman and Jeffrey Brown's Wolverine: Dying Time

Notes from the Small Press 7: The Comix Reader #1

Notes from the Small Press 8: A Help! Shark Comics Gallery

Notes from the Small Press 9: Some Gristavision Comics by Merv Grist

Notes from the Small Press 10: Some Sav Sadness Comics by Bob Lynch

Notes from the Small Press 11: a Review of Illegal Batman in the Moon

Notes from the Small Press 12: The Sky in Stereo by Mardou

Notes from the Small Press 13: First by Tom Gauld and Simone Lia

Notes from the Small Press 14: Planet 4, a Monitor Story by Chris Reynolds

Notes from the Small Press 15: Spandex #7 by Martin Eden


  1. This is a nice review. It's neat when something tickles our nostalgia bone like that. I always felt an affinity for Enid in GHOST WORLD, and a lot of that was because I recognized the milieu, and some of it was because I recognized HER. Sometimes she didn't make any sense, made such weird, inconsistent choices, but so did I when I was struggling to figure out who I was.

    I also really liked the fact that Peter Bagge's HATE comics, as silly as they were, were soooooo hipster '90s. I knew ALL those people, for better or worse.

  2. Thanks Kelly. Have you read any other Dan Clowes stuff? I think David Boring is my favourite.