Review: Permanent Press

Review by David Ferguson

Created by Luke Healy

There is plenty of opportunity to be impressed by independent comics as there are plenty of impressive ones out there but this is the first one, in a while, that has impressed me through its uses of the tools of the medium. I’ll be going into that in a bit. Permanent Press definitely has an autobiographical element as the creator’s own struggles and issues related to the life of a creative, intertwine and almost overtake two really interesting stories. This is not a criticism as, I think, it is Luke Healy’s way of showing how his life has a big influence on his work perhaps through no control of his own. Again, I’ll explain what I mean as I go along. I am hoping I manage to get across what makes this great. I won’t be touching on everything as I want people to go into it with a fresh mind and to be surprised the way I was.

The first story, The Unofficial Cuckoo’s Nest Study Companion, interested me with the concept alone. A comic with format elements of a play about a director trying to adapt a book into a play immediately captured me with its ambition alone. What really pleased me though was the use of caption boxes. It had become the fashion at some point in the 2000s, in mainstream comics at least, to move away from captions in order to create a more cinematic feel. There are arguments for the use of this style for certain stories but Cuckoo’s Nest is definitely a case for returning to a tool that cannot really be utilised in other media. Luke uses it in several ways: to tell rather than show (where showing would mean unnecessary additional panels), to express the character’s inner feelings and to express a narrative that is often contrary to what the characters are telling us and each other. It is Comics 101 but it is really nice to see it applied so successfully. The story is intriguing look at the creative process and its pitfalls, from following up an initial success, the mysterious ways in which awards are allocated and trying to interpret the work of a creative. I smiled at his poking fun at the awards and how organisations and mainstream media reward certain works over others. Often in ways that seem to illogical to those looking from the outside.

The second story, The Big And Small, has more of a prose feel to it as Luke uses captions to tell the story of two pretty different characters, who happen to be neighbours, using stats about the characters to play up their differences. Both characters use YouTube to show the world strange parts of their lives. I don’t know if this is Luke playing up the often puzzling things that people get famous for doing on YouTube but it reminded me of it. It is during this story that panels about Luke begin to intertwine more with the main story he is trying to tell. Prior looks at his life had been seen before Cuckoo and between it and The Big And Small but now they are coming up in the middle of the story. Maybe this is telling us that the work is more mixed up with Luke’s real life or maybe it is showing that the work is overtaking his life. There are so many things to look at and ways to look at this book. It is definitely about the struggles of a creator but it is also about life’s struggles, which we can all relate to. In this review, I was mainly looking at the books look at the life of a creative but the book is also a look at many different relationships. I haven’t even touched on a lot of elements but, as I said in the beginning, I was trying to leave some things for the reader to find for themselves. I hope this book gets some awards and recognition. For the universe to do otherwise would be illogical.