The universal theme of imagination and how it manifests in the outer realm is the pivotal theme within each of NUA Comic Society’s short graphic stories. A definite sense of childhood nostalgia is echoed throughout the pages, which also causes the reader to reminisce on their own imaginary journeys as a child.
The group, which formed at the eponymous Norwich University of the Arts (NUA), consists entirely of students at the school who share a mutual interest in comics and graphic novels. Founded by Faye Stacey in the fall of 2011, the Comic Society met fortnightly to discuss, share, and collaborate on various projects. In 2012, with Rosie Packwood now co-leading the group as the official secretary, the art students decided that they should produce their own comic anthology to show off their work and thus Imaginary Friends was born. Debuting the anthology at this May’s MCM Expo in London, the group hopes it will be the first of many to come.
Due to the minimal use of words, the individual style of each artist guides each story, much in the same way as Manga comics. I feel that some of the stories could have used some dialogue, as it was at times a struggle to interpret what was happening. However, in most cases the artwork makes the time spent deciphering the true message that much more enjoyable.
The comic begins with Faye Stacey’s story of an adult’s perspective into her imaginary journeys with a scarecrow. The lead character directly addresses the scarecrow and contemplates on their adventures, which each reader would have encountered: scaring birds and running through fields. Each picture includes a written thought from the main character. Stacey creates a very strong feeling of empathy for the reader through dislocating the lead character’s bond with her scarecrow friend. Once she regretfully reveals that she misses her childhood, the twist begins, Stacey gives the scarecrow dialogue and the inanimate becomes animate. The end of this story leaves the reader with a sense of hope, as the scarecrow is still a part of her life, despite that the main character feels indifferent from those memories.
Laurel Pettitt, presents the reader with a visual representation of imaginary friends. The twist being that the mythical creatures created by the boy in the illustrations become real. Since the story is purely images, the reader can interpret it in several different ways.
VH Chalmers story contains black chalk illustrations depicting the power of the imagination during a boy’s dream. As incredible as the artwork was, I found it quite challenging to understand what was actually happening in the story. Because of the ambiguity of the plot, it also makes the reader feel the same emotional turbulence that the dreamer is experiencing in the nightmare. The darker shades on the left of the story and the haphazard presentation of the pictures catapults the reader into the uncertainty and awkwardness of the dream.
A complete transition begins on Tim Wood‘s “Dastardly Steve”, since the reader is shown the power of the imagination within the mind of a fish. The story begins with 5 pictures showing the desire for world domination; the last 3 illustrations reveal the punch line, narrated by his friends that he is goldfish named Steve. This is a clever addition in the comic, as it takes the reader away from the pathos in the other stories and lightens up the tone and theme.
Rosie Packwood leads the reader back into the human’s perspective into the imagination. The dilapidated and lonely landscape opens the story with a possibly orphaned or homeless child. This character is so engrossed with the tin can toy he is playing with that he seems to be unaware of the hostile environment. As soon as the toy breaks, reality breaks through for him, as he begins to break down into despair. Yet, the sorrow breaks once a fox befriends the boy. Because the story was divided up onto the left and right, the sorrow and loneliness on the left, and the hope and companionship on the right leaves the reader thinking that the boy could not have manifested the creation of the fox if he did not imagine it with the tin can toy. On a deeper level, it is perhaps an artistic representation of Albert Einstein’s, “imagination is everything, it is the preview of life’s coming attractions”.
The last story by Amy Gilbert, is a lighter and more playful story. The reader is brought into a child’s carefree world. The girl’s friend is not another child as she sees in her own mind, but rather an actual toy.
Imaginary Friends is a pleasant, yet deep and insightful glimpse into the imagination. I found that I had to reread it several times in order to understand the themes. It is a comic which is ideal for those who want to absorb and question what is happening to their own imaginations as they progress through each story.
Find out more about the NUA Comic Society on their official Tumblr page here: http://nuacomics.
If you would like to purchase Imaginary Friends, send an email to Laurel Pettitt on firstname.lastname@example.org (it’s only £1!).