Bushels of Coalsmoke and Double Woodwork

Posted: Tuesday, October 18, 2005
By: Darren Schroeder

Cover of Bushels of Coalsmoke and Double Woodwork Writer(s):
Artist(s): John Bagnall

UK comic auteur John Bagnall continues his documentation of the quirky aspects of English life that are gradually disappearing.

One of the hardest things to do in any medium of creative expression is to depict people behaving in amusing ways without belittling them. These comics manage to record the oddities of working class England on just the rite side of parody They include a good dose of comics covering Johns usual interests: disappearing turns of phrase, kids who give adults lots of cheek, sharp tongued house wives, and the foibles of the Catholic church.

The dialogue that John conjures up is a treat to read, capturing what I think is a Northern dialect. The characters all live tough lives. Money is short for these factory workers and their families, and the only pleasures are a few pints at the pub. The teenage kids hope to better themselves at polytechnic and occasionally take on airs and graces and need to be put in their place.

There's a grimness that sits just under the surface of the cheeriness of the characters which come to the fore in the wordless images of 70's brutilist architecture and rows of terraced houses. While John's artwork animates the drabness of the settings, there's still a grittiness about the locations that makes me think of British crime films such as Get Carter.

John seems to have absorbed every 50s and 60s Formica and wall paper design and recreates the world in their image in his drawings. The pages are an absolute joy to look at. For a taste of British culture that is guaranteed to raise a chuckle these books can't be beaten.

In a Word: Jocund Larks.

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