The latest addition to my teeny tiny comic collection is Eyes Peeled by Grace Wilson.
EP is a 2013-2014 series of observational comics and drawings which span two continents and three cities – Edinburgh, London and Stockholm – with a couple of other exotic excursions in between.
To say that this is a comic overflowing with ideas and details would be a huge understatement: every page is crammed with illustrations. Beautiful, disgusting, surprising, familiar illustrations of real life and real people. Candid little snapshots of the daily lives of a fascinating cast of characters just being themselves in their familiar haunts.
I suppose that’s what’s most engaging about this kind of social commentary. It’s a very immediate and personal transcription of events as they happened or felt at the time without much in the way of a filter.
From the youth spewing his guts up on the train, to the Scotsman relieving himself against a wall, chips discarded on the pavement, to the judgmental air hostess – the author makes no apology and allows many of the drawings to simply speak for themselves; take away what you will.
I found it interesting to discover characters I’ve come across in my own travels, transplanted and quite at home in a far off land like Sweden. Small world. Or the situations I’ve found myself in, and places I’ve been, proudly put on display here, warts and all, with unashamed honesty.
As the author hops around we rediscover a London ailing from the recession yet still building out and upwards (much to the inconvenience of everyone else). We’re taken to familiar places like Brick Lane where the curry houses are over-eager to welcome you in to their establishments, and corner shops that won’t take Scottish notes. In Edinburgh the awful tourist shops with their useless tat don’t miss out on a mention, nor does the referendum on Scottish independence, and I was amused to see Wetherspoons described exactly as I know it.
I loved that about Eyes Peeled – it’s not trying to pull the wool over our eyes with the typical romanticised take on tourist hotspots, instead it’s down in the nitty gritty of daily life. The odd little scenarios we’ve all come across. Little nods here and there that locals will instantly recognise. I have the benefit of having resettled in London after growing up in Edinburgh and having done my fair share of travelling in between so I could relate to Eyes Peeled a lot.
What I’ve failed to mention and cannot hope to do justice to here is the humor of Eyes Peeled. Sprinkled throughout lies a running commentary by the author (and several cameo appearances in the comics themselves) with witty insights and little anecdotes. It’s also seamlessly bilingual with Swedish throughout but without ever leaving you guessing. I found these parts the most interesting because of the cultural differences and similarities. I’m also very fond of enjoying works in their original language so was happy to try wrapping my mouth around the strange words here.
As someone who loves animation but has yet to properly scratch the surface of comics, I found Eyes Peeled readily accessible. It’s a proper adult narrative delivered in a wonderfully crafted, engaging art style which I think would appeal to people of all ages.