This Wasn’t the Plan by Nick Mullins is quietly honest. Consisting of three stories, the anthology collects different pieces of realistic and relatable moments in ordinary people’s lives. It explores the struggles of creatives, and the resistance to growing up and moving on. Stagnation is a big theme and it’s one that will probably hit close to home for many of us. But it’s not the only theme. The over one-hundred-twenty pages consist of life lessons and musings. There’s so much sentimental value in each and every page that reading through them, that the pages just fly by. It leaves a bittersweet feeling of wanting to read more, and understanding.
Water colors in saturated pastels define the tone of the anthology. There’s a sense of desertion as the dull hues project sadness and the absence of life. The art is very The Waitress-esque. Each face has its own individual twist, crease and line, giving each character a unique look. But they all stem from the same simplicity of the chosen style. The bodies are also realistic, which is an uncommon feat in this modern day and age of comics. Overall, the art exudes the feel of nostalgic cartoons, the likes of As Told by Ginger, Rugrats and Recess, amongst other things.
The first story is ‘Phantom’. A boy discovers a Playboy magazine while riding his bike and takes it back home. His parents host a party and forces him to stay in his room. Therefore, he sneaks out to spy on the guests. While crawling around, he meets an honest old man, making conversation with him, before his dad finds him and sends him back to his room. This comic uses an interesting style of dialogue. It cuts off and obscures conversation bubbles, as if they’re whispers not meant to be heard; much like how the main character isn’t paying attention to them. The main moral of this story is of growth, and the divide between adults and children. Growing up is inevitable, and so is the corruption that comes with it. Rushing this process breeds regret.
‘Defrost’ is unlike ‘Phantom’ in terms of color; there’s a sepia tint to it. The anthology borrows its title from this story. It follows an artist who moves into a new apartment, and struggles. Her roommate bails on her so she has to pay the rent herself. She doesn’t have a stable job, and she’s rejected on the one job she applied for. This piece is characterized by one-sided conversations where you don’t read the full story. Then, when the phone is down, the speaker on the reader’s side lets out their real feelings and inner frustrations. The rain is continuous and her drawing is constant. There’s a line which specifically summarizes ‘Defrost’ perfectly: “I didn’t get the job. Whatever. It wasn’t really what I wanted anyway”. We all make excuses for ourselves whilst blaming everyone else.
The last piece is ‘Sink’, about a struggling writer. He’s too proud of his work, but there’s still that strong sense of self-loathing with everything he writes, and the ever-present imposter syndrome. All of this cause a rift in every other aspect of his life—his marriage and social life. This further emphasizes the question of wasting time for nothing, and working towards nothing. One page from this one-shot that I find particularly fascinating is page ninety-five. It’s such a pretty sketch with energetic strokes, creating life in something so monochromatic. The rest of ‘Sink’ is in color. But for some reason, this page in all its blue and black ink, is the most vibrant page of them all.
Ever felt stagnation as a creative, as if this wasn’t what you had thought up for yourself? Well then, This Wasn’t the Plan is the perfect read for you! It’s available on Google Books and might just be exactly what you need. If you like it, let us know if you can relate to it over on Twitter and Instagram.