Two Of A Kind, But Different (Part Two) : Mike Shea-Wright’s “Beach”

The second of Mike Shea-Wright’s new self-published minis dedicated to celebrating pre-COVID social get-togethers that would now properly be classified as “super-spreader” events, Beach, represents perhaps a greater flight of fancy than its de facto “twin” release, Venue, in that the events depicted in that comic could — indeed, often do — happen pretty much as depicted, while the events depicted in this one really aren’t likely to at all, but hey, what do I know? Maybe Shea-Wright just frequents far more interesting beaches than I do — and maybe you do, as well.

In short, this is a wordless story about an afternoon at a beach that becomes one big naked party and, as such, the goals of the author are perhaps a bit broader here than simply showing the purported “joys” of a large gathering of people : indeed, the “all bodies are beautiful” and “de-stigmatize nudity” messages he’s getting across would be crystal clear even if Shea-Wright didn’t write them out in those exact words on the inside front and back covers, respectively. Which he does. Just, I suppose, in the interest of avoiding confusion or misinterpretation.

All subtlety, then, is out the window in this ‘zine, but that’s okay : this is such an inherently jovial and joyous work that a late-innings rainstorm not only doesn’t dampen anyone’s spirits, it elevates them. As with its companion comic, no words are necessary here to communicate mood, atmosphere, and intent, but unlike that one all activity herein is inherently non-confrontational and in no way tinged with the desperation of people dying to blow off steam or pent-up rage in order to have a good time. Granted, a good number of folks on Shea-Wright’s beach are people you likely wouldn’t be too terribly interested in seeing gettin’ nekkid (although, hey, I guess you never know), but what the fuck? They’ve got the same right to take pride in their bodies as anyone else in theory, they’re only prevented from doing so in practice.

Short, tall, fat, thin, young, old, able-bodied or otherwise, everybody gets in on the good time here — and before you go jumping to conclusions, in the course of events only one couple is seen having a sexual encounter, and it’s about as far from prurient or tawdry as you could conceive of. In fact, it’s as au naturel as anything else going on — so much so that nobody really pays it any mind, and honestly, why should they? As such, then, this provides perhaps the most succinct, if understated, example of the key difference between Shea-Wright’s pair of new comics : if Venue is an idealized version of what life can be, then Beach is an idealized vision of what life should be.

Am I being too grandiose for my own good here? I suppose an argument could be made that I am — and it certainly wouldn’t be the first time. But I think the distinctions are worth pointing out and examining because they means that while yes, these comics are linked, they each stand on their own as discrete, self-contained works, as well — which is why I resisted the perfectly natural urge to just write about both of them in one review. They’ve eared the right, in my opinion, to be considered both together and separately.

That being said, I’ll be absolutely blunt and tell you that I think you’d be making a huge mistake if you didn’t buy both. But you certainly needn’t necessarily read them together in one sitting!

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Beach is available for $5.00 from Mike Shea-Wright’s webshop at https://gumroad.com/mikesheaindustries?sort=price_desc

Also, this review — and all others around these parts — is “brought to you” by my Patreon site, where I serve up exclusive thrice-weekly rants and ramblings on the worlds of comics, films, television, literature, and politics for as little as a dollar a month. Subscribing is the best way to support my continuing work, so I’d be very appreciative if you’d take a moment to give it a look by directing your kind attention to https://www.patreon.com/fourcolorapocalypse

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