22 Aug

Oh man, there are so many ways I could start this review of Rufus Marigold by Ross Murray. I could talk about the representation of mental illness, how real-life-relatable the content is, the quality of the jokes, the colours, my friendship with Ross or that indeed the flowers are very well drawn.  

I am paralyzed by choice and this whole situation is beginning to feel like a Rufus Marigold strip. I have too many tangly thoughts and I am worried my writing will be confused and crappy and I am appalled at myself for once again venturing into the Aotearoa comics public arena but I feel compelled and I care about what people will think of this review but wish I didn’t and will Ross mind that I described him as a friend in the opening and should I make the obvious joke about Earth’s End releasing yet another comic by a man that in some form’s already been published1 and it’s hard not to excessively use semi-colons because they are my favourite piece of punctuation and I hate how the electronic copy of Rufus Marigold automatically opened in Microsoft Edge my nemesis browser and I think I have drunk too much coffee and I should probably get out of bed and is this whole paragraph is too much and it doesn’t matter because no one reads my blog anyway and I am scared of Covid and now my chest hurts. In short, I am having the kind of anxious experience the book describes.  

(You likely didn’t notice but I got so overwhelmed by the above that I had to go and have a circuit-breaking shower. I think now I am ready to proceed and cover things in a sensible fashion).

*Clears throat* I have had much to say on comics about mental illness.2 One of those things was that my own stuff is all singular and rah-rah Indira. But actually it isn’t and I now need to say – in a genuine way – rah-rah Ross and Rufus Marigold. 

There are lots of reasons to say this. One is about how Rufus Marigold captures the simultaneous pain and ridiculousness of extreme anxiety, that feeling of finding something brutal and funny at the same time. When I look back at one of my deep-down-insane-in-a-bipolar-alternate-universe episodes, this is also what I see. Rufus Marigold is accurate and I admire Ross for making it so. I especially admire him for including the daftness and the jokes. In mental illness comics this is often absent - avoided, unseen, unfelt, taboo? I don’t know, but I do know I always miss it. I guess arrogantly I thought I was the only one who felt like this, the only one who could not cope with the earnest personal-journey approach and that this was why my own comics were soooo special. But boom! I am not and they are not.

So I feel the Rufus Marigold form but also a lot of the content. When I am unwell I am shit-scared of the phone (but unlike Rufus do not answer it. He is brave). I sometimes drink to excess and I am truly revolting when I do. I get insomnia and worry about getting insomnia while I have insomnia. And once when I was a school principal I hid under my desk (true story). Reading Rufus Marigold gave me memories and I cried but this was OK. Genuine reactions to comics are rare and precious.

Ross kindly said to me once he felt our fucked-in-the-head comics had a ‘kinship’ and I think this is true. But obviously they are also completely different. Rufus Marigold is flash. The chimp is the same in every panel, all the things look like things, there are backgrounds and perspectives, the frames are all straight and crisp, the colours are tasteful and it is a properly printed book. Ross is great at what he does, but normally, personally this aesthetic would turn me off. I would sigh and try to read whatever it was but I’d find no visual grip and my eyes would slip off the page (this is a real physical experience. Something cellular I guess). 

But with this comic, it’s cool. No worries. I didn’t mind any of it and my eyes gripped the pages just fine. This is because I felt so connected to it in the other ways I’ve described. These are the things my head and heart responded to and so these are the things I saw. Also in the book Ross makes fun of his own drawing and I very much love this.

At a less intense level I appreciate that the comics are short – strips rather than any kind of opus, and how they each end with a punchline. That meta-bit where Rufus is drawing the comic within the comic is also aces. And I do for-real think the flowers are gorgeous.

I dunno, probably I’ve talked about myself too much in this review but I did not know how else to say what I think. This comic is important to me and I just wanted to explain why.

You can get a copy of Rufus Marigold here.

1I will never not say this stuff. I feel a moral imperative. If/when there is evidence to the contrary I will be the first to publicly applaud!  

2Anxiety ambush- will Ross mind me describing his comic as being about mental illness? It seems that way to me but is my own experience clouding things and I can’t think of another word and faaark.  

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