Comics Features

REVIEW : Orful Comics, Volume 5 from Rob Cureton

Written by Patrick Smith

Orful Comics is an autobiographical web-comic, chronicling the minutiae of the life of as a designer, living in North London. Rob Cureton’s been faithfully publishing weekly online helpings of Orful Comics since November 15th, 2008 and periodically collects and releases collected editions of his work. Now this is a good time to be taking a look at his latest volume, which is published, just in time for this coming weekends’ Thought Bubble Comics Festival, in Leeds.

The renowned writer, Iris Murdoch once said, ‘One of the secrets of a happy life is continuous small treats.’ In essence, that’s exactly what’s delivered here in each of Cureton’s weekly chapters, each consisting of a single slice of regular life. What becomes rapidly apparent as one reads each page in a collected format however, is the broad scope of possibilities available to the storyteller, in terms of observation, commentary and humour.

This being a series that focuses on his life, of course the views are very much from Cureton’s perspective. One particularly enjoyable theme that is revisited throughout this edition is his dedication to long-distance running, in spite of the inevitable trials and tribulations. Whilst providing recognizable takes on the highs and lows, there is some fine craft in the execution, which certainly brought a smile to this reader whilst reminiscing on a particular painful pulled muscle or the agony and ecstasy that pervades the final stages of a run.

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Other fine segments in this book address such crucial topics as appropriate gifts for scary youngsters, the fun and frolics to be had at beer festivals, the perils of the London tube network and quite naturally, the concern of a friend, realising that a shared moment will very likely be making an appearance in a certain web-comic!

You can be utterly assured that Orful Comics is free of navel-gazing indulgences. Where Cureton does choose to be self-referential, there’s a wit and a purpose. Yet, his spotlight continually shifts, providing diversity as well as much entertainment. Some of the tales for which I found a particular resonance are those recounting the delights and occasional dilemmas of one’s social life. His portrayal of his interaction with his buddies is endearing, often incredibly funny and like pretty much all of his work, spot on in terms of authenticity and in hitting the mark. Whether it’s the earnest complications of gaining entry into a music festival with one’s booze intact, the shared experiences of teeth extraction or the ironic amusement in an organized day in the countryside that goes awry, all are delivered with a visual flair that belies the initial simplicity in the presentation.

His observations are not restricted to himself or his nearest and dearest, with droll vignettes on the world around him. We’re not talking global warming or the validity of nuclear deterrents here. Cureton, rather cleverly adheres to the social world of which we’re all a part. For example, I really chimed with his take on ‘the beard phenomenon’.

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Every so often, a creator will add a particular detail to his or her work, that while of itself, seems a trifle, ultimately adds an individual value to the work as a whole. In this instance, at the beginning of this volume, Cureton lists a soundtrack. Whilst having a narrative connection to the opening ‘act’, it adeptly adds another sense to the mix and gives you a specific feel for this work as a whole.

As I mentioned, Rob will be presenting his new volume of Orful Comics at the Thought Bubble Festival this weekend, and if you’re remotely within travelling distance, I recommend you pay it a visit. It really is one of the finer UK festivals dedicated to this most excellent medium.

I should add that this is not Rob Cureton‘s sole work, he also writes and draws Scene City, editions of which you can find here. There is much joy to be had from the Orful Comics catalogue, which you can find right here!

Please let us know if you’ve had the good fortune to read Orful Comics, or indeed, your impressions on this year’s Thought Bubble Festival!

About the author

Patrick Smith