Credit where it’s due : cartoonist Hiller Goodspeed’s 2018 Perfectly Acceptable release Simple Things makes perfectly clear what it is going in — from its title to its pared-down cover aesthetics, you know what you’re getting into with this one before you ever even open it up. Here’s the thing, though — as any seasoned reader of small press and self-published comics knows, there’s a whole lot out there that’s deceptive in its simplicity. Or, perhaps more accurately, complex in its simplicity.
John Porcellino is the first name that leaps to mind, of course, his legendary King-Cat Comix utilizing the most basic line art to communicate conceptual, emotional, and even physical depth with a wistful touch and wry sense of humor — but the distinguished Mr. Porcellino himself would be the fist to admit that there are those who preceded him on this particular path, the most notable probably being Jenny Zervakis of Strange Growths renown. And at first glance, Goodspeed’s work seems to follow in the noble tradition of these artists, and others.
Goodspeed also has the same affinity for nature’s simple gifts as the two cartoonists aforementioned —rocks being a recurring theme, for instance — but that’s about the point at which the similarities end. That’s because there’s an intriguing frisson of absurdity running though this series of drawings, giving them a sense of playfulness and even an occasional note of gentle self-mockery, as if to remind readers that, hey, at the end of the day, these are still “just” comics.
Which is undoubtedly true, of course — but they’re also fundamentally solid comics, and utterly unpretentious, which is something of a rarity when a cartoonist is clearly aiming to produce “charming” work. But charm is one of those entirely subjective things that’s difficult to quantify above and beyond the old “you know it when you see it” standard — fortunately, Goodspeed makes sure you see plenty of it in the banana- yellow pages of this aesthetically-pleasing little book.
The riso-printed color palette utilized on this ‘zine is deliberately limited but entirely effective, oranges and greens and blacks deployed with a kind of intuitive precision that makes it look easy when it’s anything but — and therefore entirely in keeping with the book’s overall sensibility. The scope of this project is admittedly limited in its scale, yeah, but the extent to which Goodspeed consistently “nails it” is nevertheless damn impressive.
And there’s something to be said for that, isn’t there? I’ve always thought so, at least — in fact, it’s not even about a “return to basics” when those basics are done with such exemplary skill. Rather, I think it’s about throwing those basics into sharp and stark relief and showing how much more inherently expansive they are than we’d previously, or consciously, realized. You can communicate universes with a handful of clean, simple lines — with those titular “simple things” — and the fact that Goodspeed manages to do so while making you chuckle at his humor, scratch your head at his sense of the absurd, and quietly marvel at his sheer technical expertise , marks this as a wildly successful, and entirely unassuming, little art ‘zine. Put your cynicism in a lock box for a little while and give this one a go.
Simple Things is available for $10.00 from Perfectly Acceptable Press at https://www.perfectly-acceptable.com/item/simple-things/
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